October 7, 2022

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He touched the heavy shape of his father’s target pistol in his jacket pocket. Bullets were no good against them except maybe silver ones-but a shot between the eyes would punch that Straker’s ticket, all right.
He touched the heavy shape of his father’s target pistol in his jacket pocket. Bullets were no good against them except maybe silver ones-but a shot between the eyes would punch that Straker’s ticket, all right.
He slept the rest of the night with the desk lamp on and left the tongue-depressor cross that had vanquished Mrs Glick on the table by his right hand. His last thought before sleep took him was to wonder if Susan was all Tight, and safe.
She was going to pass his tree on the right. As she drew closer, he began to slide carefully around his tree to the left, avoiding any small twigs that might pop and give him away. At last the synchronized little movement was done; her back was to him as she went on up the hill toward the break in the trees. She was going very carefully, he noted with approval. That was good. In spite of the silly snow fence stake, she apparently had some idea of what she was getting into. Still, if she went much further, she was going to be in trouble. Straker was at home. Mark had been here since twelve-thirty, and he had seen Straker go out to the driveway and look down the road and then go back into the house. Mark had been trying to make up his mind on what to do himself when this girl had entered things, upsetting the equation.
‘We’ve told you everything we know,’ Jimmy said with quiet firmness. He looked directly at McCaslin. ‘If we could tell you more, we would.’
He saw a flash of color and shrank back against the tree, peering around the rough bark with one eye. A moment later he got his first clear glimpse of the person climbing the hill. It was a girl. He felt a sense of relief mingled with disappointment. No henchman of the devil there; that was Mr Norton’s daughter.
His gaze sharpened again. She was carrying a stake of her own As she drew closer, he felt an urge to laugh bitterly-a piece of snow fence, that’s what she had. Two swings with an ordinary tool box hammer would split it right in two.
‘You’re lyin’ to me,’ McCaslin said patiently. ‘I know it, these deputies know it, prob’ly even ole Moe knows it. I don’t know how much you’re lyin’-a little or a lot-but I know I can’t prove you’re lyin’ as long as you both stick to the same story. I could take you both down to the cooler, but the rules say I gotta give you one phone call, an’ even the greenest kid fresh out of law school could spring you on what I got, which could best be described as Suspicion of Unknown Hanky-panky. An’ I bet your lawyer ain’t fresh out of law school, is he?’
McCaslin looked back at him, just as keenly. ‘You’re scared shitless,’ he said. ‘You and this writer, both of you. You look the way some of the guys in Korea looked when they brought ’em back from the front lines.’
He turned away and went upstairs.
‘You’re lyin’ to me,’ McCaslin said patiently. ‘I know it, these deputies know it, prob’ly even ole Moe knows it. I don’t know how much you’re lyin’-a little or a lot-but I know I can’t prove you’re lyin’ as long as you both stick to the same story. I could take you both down to the cooler, but the rules say I gotta give you one phone call, an’ even the greenest kid fresh out of law school could spring you on what I got, which could best be described as Suspicion of Unknown Hanky-panky. An’ I bet your lawyer ain’t fresh out of law school, is he?’
He slept the rest of the night with the desk lamp on and left the tongue-depressor cross that had vanquished Mrs Glick on the table by his right hand. His last thought before sleep took him was to wonder if Susan was all Tight, and safe.
He slept the rest of the night with the desk lamp on and left the tongue-depressor cross that had vanquished Mrs Glick on the table by his right hand. His last thought before sleep took him was to wonder if Susan was all Tight, and safe.
He decided they had to team up. Anything would be better than going up to that house alone. He had already sampled the poison atmosphere that enveloped it. He had felt it from a half a mile away, and it thickened as you got closer.
‘You’re lyin’ to me,’ McCaslin said patiently. ‘I know it, these deputies know it, prob’ly even ole Moe knows it. I don’t know how much you’re lyin’-a little or a lot-but I know I can’t prove you’re lyin’ as long as you both stick to the same story. I could take you both down to the cooler, but the rules say I gotta give you one phone call, an’ even the greenest kid fresh out of law school could spring you on what I got, which could best be described as Suspicion of Unknown Hanky-panky. An’ I bet your lawyer ain’t fresh out of law school, is he?’
Perhaps she was going to be all right. She had stopped behind a screen of bushes and was crouching there, just looking at the house. Mark turned it over in his mind. Obviously she knew. How didn’t matter, but she would not have had even that pitiful stake with her if she didn’t know. He supposed he would have to go up and warn her that Straker was still around, and on guard. She probably didn’t have a gun, not even a little one like his.
He decided they had to team up. Anything would be better than going up to that house alone. He had already sampled the poison atmosphere that enveloped it. He had felt it from a half a mile away, and it thickened as you got closer.
Straker’s car backed down the driveway-she would have a much better view from where she was; he could only see the Packard’s black roof-hesitated for a moment, and then went off down the road toward town.
The deputies were looking at them. Ben and Jimmy said nothing.
Straker’s car backed down the driveway-she would have a much better view from where she was; he could only see the Packard’s black roof-hesitated for a moment, and then went off down the road toward town.
McCaslin sighed again. ‘Go on.’ get out of here. I want you both down to my office tomorrow by ten to make statements. If you ain’t there by ten, I’ll send a patrol car out to get you.’
The deputies were looking at them. Ben and Jimmy said nothing.
His eyes shifted downward momentarily to the roughly cylindrical shape propped against the tree, wrapped in an old piece of toweling. There was a woodpile behind his house, half a cord of yellow ash stove lengths which he and his father had cut with the McCulloch chain saw in July and August. Henry Petrie was methodical, and each length, Mark knew, would be within an inch of three feet, one way or the other. His father knew the proper length just as he knew that winter followed fall and that yellow ash would burn longer and cleaner in the living room fireplace.
He touched the heavy shape of his father’s target pistol in his jacket pocket. Bullets were no good against them except maybe silver ones-but a shot between the eyes would punch that Straker’s ticket, all right.
McCaslin looked back at him, just as keenly. ‘You’re scared shitless,’ he said. ‘You and this writer, both of you. You look the way some of the guys in Korea looked when they brought ’em back from the front lines.’

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