Ray groaned. It made his head hurt even more. The sun drilled right through his closed eyelids and set off little pain pinwheels. Jesus, he was one sorry son of a bitch. Whatever it was he drank had a kick like . . . He touched the back of his head, and his hand came away wet. A kick like the butt end of a double-barrel.
Southern Illinois, prisoner dropoff, okay. Radiator leak. Abandoned farm, Fraser said water -- Fraser. Shit. He'd gone around the other side of the stable.
No gun, no phone. Double shit. They'd even grabbed his boot gun. He looked around, squinting the world back to single.
There was nothing in the empty farmyard that he could use for a weapon, not even a hunk of two-by-four or a rock.
There was a no-horses-allowed door open on his side of the stable. He levered himself up and staggered over, wishing for a handy guillotine, and peered around the doorframe. When his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he could see the place was scoured clean. Didn't any self-respecting barn have at least a pitchfork? This joint looked like Martha lived here.
Inside -- that was the ticket.
He couldn't see anybody between the rows of stalls, but somebody had to be here somewhere. Unless they'd taken Fraser. He wouldn't think about that. Yet.
He tried to walk through the door, but his feet didn't work too good. With a lurch, he grabbed for the doorframe and just hung there. Big mistake. Something came off in his hand with a low sickening squeal, and it was so heavy he almost followed it to the ground.
Banging back against the wall, he looked down to see an old rusty horseshoe in his hand -- from a big honkin' horse. He was pretty sure horses gave him hives, but it was the only thing he'd seen even closeto a weapon. They said close counted, but he'd have killed for a hand grenade right now.
Voices filtered down the aisle between the stalls.
" . . . Mounted Police and the Chicago Police Department will not rest until -- " Fraser, and he could still talk, thank Christ Jesus.
Ray said shut up too, sometimes, but he was damned if he was gonna let anybody else say it.
He could see them now, and crouched lower. The corridor opened onto a big, low-ceilinged room. Two scraggly guys stood sideways to him about twenty feet away. Pasty and sweating, they looked as bad as Ray felt. As he inched forward, fingernails digging into the bare boards, he saw Fraser. He was backed up against the wall. Blackie had the shotgun, Blondie was waving Ray's 9mm, and they were both so wired they might shoot Fraser by accident if Ray fucked up.
He must've made a noise, because Fraser glanced at him for a split second; Ray thought he could see a flash of relief on that set face even this far away.
There was no best way to throw the shoe, and hefting it made him light-headed, but he had to do something before they did. Now the trailer trash twins were arguing, and under the cover of
". . . can blow the whole place!"
". . . don't have enough!"
". . .how stupid ya think . . ."
he stuck a hand out past the cornerpost.
Three fingers. Two. One.
As he stepped into his throw, he stuck two of those fingers into his mouth and let out a piercing blast. It echoed off the cement floor as he winged the rusty hunk of junk as hard as he could.
The horseshoe hit Blackie in the ribs, but Fraser'd already managed to dive between them and somersault into the clear. The boom of the shotgun deafened him; the load hit the ceiling in a shower of dust and wood bits. Ray watched with dazed approval as a trap door, jarred by the impact, fell open and flattened both men in its path. His life was complete when a smelly mess burst out of the hole in the ceiling. In six seconds, the two stooges were buried under a ton of moldy hay.
The last thing he heard as he slid down the rough boards was Fraser, rummaging around in the hay.
Urgent but gentle, the Ray Ray Ray Ray felt good in his ears. He opened his eyes a little, and sure enough, there was Fraser. Fraser was all he could see, as usual. Soft furry voice, pretty blurry face, warm worried eyes. It was almost enough to make his head stop hurting.
"Ray." Sheer relief in that one word.
He meant to say hi, but it just came out as a croak, putting little lines in Fraser's forehead. There was something else he needed to say, but he couldn't remember what it was; it kept getting lost in the concern radiating from Fraser's eyes.
He tried again.
"Tell you." His voice was paper-thin. Fraser, even with bat ears, wasn't close enough to hear him. His hand was way too heavy, but he still managed to get it around the back of Fraser's neck. Soft. Nice. He thumbed into the plush hair. "Important," he whispered.
"Yes, Ray." Soft. Nice.
As the worried eyes began to fade again, he managed to say what most needed to be said.
"Fraser. Do not drive my car."