"Go, go, go!" yelled Skinny, as he jumped into the car. "Let's get outta here!"
He slammed the door closed. The car accelerated onto the highway.
"What's the matter Skinny?" It was Stafford. He was driving the car. It was he who had sent Skinny in to take care of Bertrett.
"We heard the shot. What's the matter?"
"I didn't get him."
"Waddya mean you didn't get him? How could you fucking MISS? Skinny, you fuck ... if you chickened out ..."
"No. No. Didn't chicken out. Blanks. No bullets. Blanks. The box had blanks. No hole. No hole in the floor. Blanks."
"SKINNY!! Calm down. Take a breath and calm down. Now what the fuck are you talking about?"
"I told him ... to turn around ... he wouldn't do it ... thought I wouldn't shoot ... I put a round into the floor ... show him I'm serious ... only ..."
"Only WHAT, Skinny?"
"Only there was no hole. In the floor. The bullets were blanks. He took my gun. Took my gun and the next thing, I'm staring at his .45 and he don't look none to happy with me, I'll tell ya, and he GIVES ME THE GUN BACK and then he tells me ta run before he puts a hole in me and I better get new bullets before I try ta shoot somebody else and I come here and now we gotta get outta here because Jake knows. He KNOWS!!"
"That's not good. Now we're gonna hafta find a way ta kill 'im. And he knows we're gonna be gunnin' fer 'im. He's gonna go to ground somewheres. We gotta figure out where. Who know where he lives?"
One of the three men in the back seat spoke up.
"I do. He got a trailer about a quarter mile off this road to the left. 'Bout a mile or so up. Ya can't miss the turnoff - there's a mailbox there with a bullseye painted on the side."
"I know the one. Shit. Bullseye, huh? Well, that's downright prophetic."
The car came to a stop across the road from the mailbox.
Stafford turned to the three men in the back seat.
"You guys get your weapons out of the trunk. And some of the TNT. I want to you take up positions outside that trailer. If he comes back tonight, kill him. If he doesn't come back by morning, I want one of you to go through that trailer and look for anything you can find that might tell us where he would hole up. In either case, I want you to blow that trailer to kingdom come. With or without his body in it. I'll be back here at 0700 to pick you guys up. Any questions?"
There were no questions and the three of them got out of the car, opened the trunk, took out their weapons and the TNT.
"Don't forget to take some canteens. It's gonna be a long night."
The three of them crossed the road and disappeared into the deep desert night.
"I'm sorry, Staff."
"Don't worry 'bout it Skinny. When ya stop and think about it, it's really not a bad idea to have to hunt somebody down out here. It'll be good training for the men. I kinda hope he don't come home. If he goes to ground out here then we have to find him. And that'll be a good thing. It's just too bad it has to be Jake. He's a good man. But more than that, he's a very dangerous man. This won't be easy."
"No, it won't."
The car eased onto the road again and started down the highway.
"Now tell me about blanks, Skinny. How the hell did that happen?"
"Well, I had my gun. Empty, like always. Everybody was outside and I looked for some bullets. There was a box on the shelf. I opened the box and loaded my gun and then I stood behind the door waitin' for Jake. They jus' looked like reg'lar bullets. How was I s'posed ta know?"
"You're right Skinny. You had no way to know. I'm glad, really. Because if I thought for one minute, that you chickened out .. that you turned tail and ran like a gutless COWARD ... well you didn't, that's the important thing. Right, Skinny?"
"Yah, Staff. Right."
And it began to dawn on Skinny, in the deep dark recesses of his rather dim mind, that there might be a threat there, in those words, somewhere.
That he had dodged a bullet. This time.