Shane could hear Barbara's screams coming from the back of the house, so he moved in that direction. He came through the bedroom door just in time to see Ray Molar hit his slender, blond wife in the solar plexus with the butt end of his black metal street baton. Then, as she doubled over, he expertly swung the nightstick sideways, catching her in the side of the head with a 'two from the ring' combat move… a baton-fighting tactic taught to every recruit at the Police Academy. Shane stood frozen, as Barbara, her head bleeding badly, slumped to the floor, almost unconscious.

'Ray…' Shane's voice, a raspy whisper, cut the temporary silence like a sickle slashing dry wheat. 'What's the story here, buddy?'

Ray Molar swung around. He was at least six-four and weighed over two-forty, with huge shoulders and long arms. He had bristly blond hair and a corded, muscled neck. Adding to these Blutoesque dimensions was a huge jutting jaw and almost total lack of a forehead. 'Get the fuck outta here, Scully. We don't need the Boy Scouts,' Molar growled, his pupils round points of focused hatred.

Shane had seen that look in the street many times before and had come to fear it. 'Let's just back off, slow down, and give it a rest, Ray.' Shane was moving slowly toward him, not wanting any part of the fury and craziness he saw on his ex-partner, but feeling compelled to get close enough to protect Barbara if he swung on her again. When Ray lost control, he could turn instantly murderous. He spewed white rage without thought, violence without reason.

'You got anything to eat?' Shane said, trying to refocus the energy in the room. 'I'm starved. Missed dinner. How 'bout I get us a beer and a sandwich, something… We chill out a little… Cool out… Talk it down… Get solid…'

'You wanna eat somethin'? Eat shit, Scully!' He was halfway between Shane and Barbara, still brandishing the black metal police baton.

'Ray, I don't want trouble, but you can't go hitting Barbara with the nightstick, man. You're gonna fuck her up bad.'

Then Ray started toward Shane, swinging the metal stick in a lose arc in front of him. 'Yeah? Who's gonna stop me, dickwad?'

'Come on, let's stay frosty here, Ray. Let's… let's ' And he stopped talking because he had to duck.

Ray swung the nightstick. It zipped through the air an inch from Shane's ear. As he was coming back up, Ray swung a fist, hitting him with a left hook that landed on Shane's right temple, exploding like a pipe bomb, sending him to the floor, ears ringing. Then Ray yanked a small-caliber snubby out of his waistband. It looked to Shane like an off-brand piece, a European handgun of some kind, maybe a Titan Tiger or an Arminus.38, definitely not standard police issue. Ray always kept a 'throw-down gun' on him to drop by a body if some street character got funky and had to take a seat on the sky bus.

'Put it away, Ray.'

'You fucking this bitch, too? You fucking her? 'Cause if you ain't, you should get in line everybody else is.'

'Come on, Ray, that's crazy. I never touched your wife; nobody's messin' with Barb, and you know it. Why're you doin' this?'

'She's been getting snaked by half the fuckin' department.'

He turned back and glowered at her. 'Am I right, baby? Tell him 'bout all the wall jobs you been doin' in the division garage.'

Barbara groaned. Ray, turning now, aimed the gun at Shane, pulling the hammer back. Shane watched the cylinder begin to rotate on the center post as Ray applied pressure on the trigger. He was strangely mesmerized by the hole in the barrel; a dark eye of damnation, freezing his stomach, dulling his reactions. He was seconds from death… Almost without realizing it, his right hand slipped down to his ankle, fingers encircling the wood-checked grip of his 9mm automatic. He slid the weapon free.

Shane dove sideways just as Ray fired. The bullet thunked into the wooden doorframe behind him. Shane was operating on instinct now, with no control over what happened next, going with it, not questioning, rolling, coming up prone, his Beretta Mini-Cougar gripped in both hands.

As Ray turned to fire again, Shane squeezed the trigger. The bullet hit Ray Molar in the middle of his simian brow.

Huge head jerking back violently.

Brainpan exploding, catching the 9mm slug.

Then Ray looked directly at Shane as the gun slipped from his meaty paw and thumped onto the carpet. Ray's pig eyes, bright in that instant, registered hatred and surprise, or maybe Shane was just looking for something human in all that animal ferocity.

Ray Molar took one uncertain step backward and sat on the edge of the bed. Even though his heart was probably still beating, Shane knew that his ex-partner was already dead. But the street monster sat down anyway, almost as if he needed a moment to consider what he should do next or where he should go, momentum and gravity making the decision for him, toppling him forward, thudding him hard, face first, onto the carpet.

Shane looked over at Barbara, who was staring at her dead husband, her mouth agape, her puffed lip split and bleeding.

'Whatta we do now, Shane?' she finally asked.

Chapter 3


In the seconds after the shots were fired, the bedroom seemed so quiet that he could almost hear dust settle. Then the sharp smell of cordite, mixed with the coppery smell of blood, began to fill his nostrils. Barbara was still on the floor not ten feet from Ray's body. Shane moved first. He stood slowly, feeling his knees shake as he rose. He stumbled to the dresser and leaned on it heavily, propping himself up for support. They were both trying to digest it, understand what had just happened and comprehend how it would alter, in a ghastly way, events stretching before them. Then, from the floor, Ray Molar farted. Shit ran into his pants as his bowels let loose. The perfect punctuation mark for the past few minutes.

'We need to get a story, Barbara,' Shane said. 'This isn't going to go down smooth. You know how they all feel about Ray.'

'I don't know… I don't know… He just…'


Her eyes were darting around the room in a desperate escape dance. Her face was also beginning to swell where Ray had hit her on the right side, distorting her natural beauty.

'Tell me,' he prodded softly, 'what set him off?'

Somewhere in the distance they could hear the faint wail of a police car.

'Already?' she said, referring to the sirens.

'You were screaming, shots were fired, you've got neighbors. Nine-one-one response time is supposed to be less than five minutes. If something more is going on here, I need to know, Babs. You and I, we're not completely clean, if you know what I mean.'

'I know.' She pulled herself up on the bed and sat. He could see that her hands were shaking as she brought the back of her wrist up to wipe the blood oozing from the corner of her mouth. Her hand came away with an ugly red streak on the back. 'He… he just… I don't know.'

'He just what? Let's go, there isn't much time. What set him off?'

'I got i call yesterday from a woman. She asked me if I'd seen the video. Ape yet.'

'What videotape?'

'I don't know. That's the whole point. I haven't got any tape, and I told her. She sounded like she was crying. Then she said it was coming in the mail, and it will show me what a cheating bastard Ray was.'

'Who was she?'

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