back and we go in.” Manny, loading the shotgun, nodded and gave him a thumbs- up.

Ray pointed at Rick. “Just take it fucking easy. If you’re clear when you get to the door, take off the parka so they can see the DEA jacket. They’ll piss and moan, maybe they’ll try to hide, but no one’s going to draw down on a Fed unless he’s fucking insane, and then we got a bigger problem.”

Manny smiled. “Which is how to get the hell out fast.”

“If they shoot, run. This’” Ray pointed at the Python in Rick’s hands. “This is for show. You’re not a Fed, you just play one on TV, get it? This ain’t worth nobody getting a bullet in the brainpan. Not even those shitbirds up the hill. Plus the whole fucking place is liable to burn like a furnace you shoot off a gun in there. They’re meth cookers. The fucking place is full of acetone and ether and Christ knows what- all.”

Manny laid the shotgun down on the floor and went into his pocket for a glass vial. He pulled an old piece of rearview mirror out from under the seat and shook out three rocky lines of off-white powder. He took a flat piece of cardboard out of his pocket and pulled a single- edged razor blade out of it. He chopped the three lines into six. He rolled up a twenty and handed it to Rick.

“Oh, man, thanks.” He did two lines and passed the twenty to Ray, who did the lines and then opened one of the water bottles and poured a little out into his palm and then snorted the water out of his hand.

“That is some nasty biker crank.”

When they were set, Ray got behind the wheel and drove slowly past the property, pointing up the tree line he’d be walking. “I’ll be heading straight up this way.” He drove past the driveway to the fence on the other side of the property and stopped. Manny and Rick got out, guns out of sight under their parkas. They slammed the doors, and Ray angled the van over to turn around, awkwardly jockeying it back and forth until it was headed back up the road.

He parked again in the little turnoff and looked at his watch. Eleven o’clock. Grabbing the bag, he turned off the ignition and dropped the keys under the seat. After a minute of running through things in his head, he took a deep breath and stepped out of the van. He stuck the Colt in his windbreaker pocket and made his way up the hill, moving slowly in the black.

HE KEPT SLIPPING in the grass. He walked for what felt like forever and didn’t seem to be moving far from the van. The night and rain turned him around, and he had to keep looking back down the hill to get his bearings. The line of trees seemed wider somehow and the ground more uneven than he remembered it. In a couple of minutes he was struggling, his own breath roaring in his ears under the parka and sweat pouring down his back. The bag weighed a ton, and he looped the strap over his shoulder.

After what seemed like an hour, he crested the hill and saw the lights of the house. He couldn’t see the dog and thought that a good sign. He was panting now and dropped to one knee to catch his breath. There were lights in the house and one on upstairs in the barn, which he didn’t expect. He had thought the building was a padlocked wreck and hadn’t paid much attention to it. He took the binoculars out and put them on the barn window, but the dark made them about useless.

He put the binoculars away and moved toward the house along the driveway, then crouched behind the blue van, breathing hard. He felt exposed, the lights in the barn were throwing him off. His shaking hands were slick with sweat and rainwater and he kept sticking them under his parka and wiping them on his jeans. He moved around the van and then walked fast to the barn, keeping to the side away from the house. Now that he was close he could see the caved- in doors were open, and he swore to himself.

The black, empty doorway felt like a mouth waiting to close on him. He slowly crossed in front of the sagging doors and then edged around the building, stopping once to pull the Colt out of his pocket. When he came to stairs leading up inside the barn, he stood for a long time, listening, but heard nothing from inside. There was a hiss- click, loud in his ears from the walkie- talkie, and he jumped and almost pulled the trigger on the pistol.

He put his hand on his chest and willed his heart to stop racing, then moved quickly across the driveway to the side of the house away from Manny and Rick. He inched across the front, keeping low, ducking under a dark window to reach the porch. He pulled the parka off over his head and threw it behind him. He pulled the walkie- talkie out his bag, dropped the bag on the porch, and pointed the big Colt at the door. He keyed the mike twice and threw the walkie- talkie down and kicked the door in with a steel-toed boot.

THE HALLWAY WAS dark. There was a stink of ammonia and acetone and charcoal, the wet, catpiss reek of meth labs that made his eyes water. He heard Manny shouting that they were federal agents and did the same. He moved into the open space, wheeling left and right with the pistol. Somewhere in the house the dog barked, crazy to be let out. There were two dark and empty rooms on either side of the hallway and stairs leading up. He ran down the hallway screaming, “Down on the ground; get down!”

At the end of the hallway he turned right and saw Manny standing over Ponytail, who was on his knees with his hands behind his head.

Ray pointed at Rick with his empty hand. “Cuff him.”

Rick stuck his pistol into his jeans and pulled a wire wrap from his belt. He pushed Ponytail onto the floor face first and jerked his hands up behind him, fumbling with the wire wrap. He rubbed his knee and winced. “Hold still, you dumb Piney fuck.”

Ponytail screamed into the floor. “You got to read me my rights. You like to broke my nose.”

Rick pulled the pistol out of his belt and smacked the barrel against the back of the prone tweaker’s skull. “Shut the fuck up, hillbilly, or I’ll break your head.”

There was a piercing scream from the doorway, and the thick-waisted woman stood there in a yellow T-shirt and cutoffs pointing a long- barreled shotgun. Rick jumped up as Manny and Ray aimed their guns at her. The dog was going insane behind a door somewhere, the barking like a scream over and over.

“Drop the gun!”

“Federal agents!”

She swiveled the gun at Ray and Manny in turn, her eyes wild and full of tears.

“You leave him be!”

Ray pointed his pistol at the floor and held one hand out. “Calm down, for Christ’s sake. No one’s hurting anyone.”

Ponytail tried to raise his head. “Charlene, go get my cell phone and call my brother!”

Ray bared his teeth, trying to smile. “Don’t move, Charlene.”

Ponytail’s voice was hoarse, lisping through rotted teeth. “It’s the Zionist occupying army. They come to put them chips in us.”

“Chips? What?” Ray heard a loud metallic click and turned to see Rick pulling back the hammer on the big revolver, the gun at Ponytail’s temple.

“Drop that’” was as far as Rick got before Charlene’s shotgun went off, deafening Ray. The blast spattered Rick and Ponytail and a yellow refrigerator with buckshot. Ray dropped his pistol, and Manny pulled the trigger on his scattergun, knocking the woman back into the hallway. Rick howled on the floor, rolling in blood and brains from Ponytail’s shattered head and what looked like milk leaking from a half- dozen holes in the refrigerator.

Ray felt like his skull was cracked, his ears ringing. He took two steps into the hallway to see Charlene’s staring eyes and caved- in chest. Manny stepped to the side door and vomited into the rain. Ray picked up his cold pistol and stuffed it into his belt. “Everyone be calm,” he said to no one.

Rick moaned and turned in circles on the slick floor, trying to stand up. The air was full of blue smoke. Ray smelled burned gun-powder and the meaty tang of blood. He pulled a chair onto its feet and sat down in it. “Everyone just stay put.” He felt insane.

There was a cracking somewhere and a rush of feet and the dog was in the room. Ray jerked at the pistol at his waist, but the animal careened through the kitchen and out the side door, knocking Manny off his feet and leaving a trail of bloody paw prints.

Rick sat back on his haunches, bleeding from his arms and his chest. “Jesus, my arm’s broke.” His eyes rolled back white and he fainted, falling into the corner against a pie safe. Urine splashed out of his pant leg as he breathed one last terrible, gargling breath, a sound like water emptying from a copper pipe. The dog’s barking dwindled as it disappeared into the storm.

Manny lurched back into the room, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Ray shook his head, not believing any of it. He said, “We gotta go.”

“Fuck that. I’m not doing this for free.” Manny stepped across the kitchen, trying to avoid the mess on the floor.

Вы читаете The Dope Thief
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату