Forty Feet Between Them, Pt. 8

The bullet hit the ground a few yards away and to the right of John Quinn, just like he thought it would. Red was right-handed, and he’d drawn too quickly and overcompensated. John Quinn had stood completely still, his shoulders squared to the other man to present as broad a target as possible.

After all, Red’s shots hitting the armor he’d been wearing for twenty some years now was far more preferable than those bullets penetrating a weak spot under his arm because he’d tried to be clever and present a narrow target.

With his feet firmly planted, John Quinn brought his revolver up and aimed carefully, lining the front post up with the notch cut into the hammer and aligning the whole thing with Red’s grimacing, determined face. A moment before John Quinn pulled the trigger, Red did something he hadn’t expected at all.

He turned to the side and ran towards the crowd, his left arm raised to block his head, his right arm hooked across it and firing wildly in John Quinn’s direction.

Men shouted. Women screamed. Children cried. John Quinn dropped to the ground and swore, fired without looking, thought, “Stupid, stupid, stupid. The only spot on you he can hit now is your head. Stupid.” But it didn’t matter; Red’s shots were coming nowhere near him, were disappearing into the crowd.

“Christ almighty,” John Quinn thought. “He doesn’t give a damn who he hits. He’s just covering his escape.” He fought the urge to return fire the same way, but couldn’t bring himself to. The bastard was five feet from the crowd now, the angle was spoiled, and he was showing no signs of stopping. In fact he was heading for Smythe’s Supplies, it looked like.

Smythe’s, with its boxes of cartridges cast and loaded by local smiths, with its food and its drink, with the easily barricaded back stockroom. With its roof access. If he could block the door in the back, get it boarded and nailed up, there would be quick way to get him out of the building.

Short of burning the damn thing down. Standing outside with a bundle of lit torches, screaming threats and promises at ears too scared or too stubborn or too simple to believe them. Glass bottles full of kerosene to get the fire going, to break and splash on anyone dumb enough to get too close to a window. A loaded revolver. Another one, so there’s no need to reload when the first one runs empty. A third, just to be safe. A heart as cold and as lifeless as stone.

John Quinn shook his head. “Not again,” he snarled. “Never again.” He leaped to his feet. He charged forward. A cloud of dust appeared ahead of him and to the left. “Move,” he silently willed the few townsfolk who still hadn’t fled yet. “God damn you, move!”

A shot rang out. A man dropped. Dark hair, tan skin. Was it the one from the poker game? Enrique? No time to check. Push on. Red was at the door to the store, pushing it open, throwing it shut behind himself. John Quinn was only a few steps behind him, lowering his shoulder to smash through the door, praying the kid kept running, that he wasn’t smart enough to dive behind a counter, turn, and leave his gun trained on the door.

He wasn’t. Instead, John Quinn found Grant Smythe standing behind the counter, confusion painted across his wizened old face. “What in Hell’s going on?” the old man shouted, but John Quinn paid him no mind. He raised his gun, held it at the ready. His eyes swept across the room, the counters and shelves and displays, the few confused and cowering customers. There was no sign of Red.

“Where is he?”

“…can’t just come barging in here! You’re going to scare my customers! You–”

John Quinn roared. “Where is he?”

Smythe’s face went pale. He stuttered, tripped over his words. “There. In there.”

The old man was pointing at the stockroom. Of course he was. It couldn’t be any other way.

John Quinn slowly advanced. He moved to the side of the door, strained his ears to hear whatever he could through the other side. There was the sound of something heavy being moved, wood scraping against wood. But that was fine. If Red Peterson was trying to establish some defenses for himself, then he couldn’t be watching the door that closely.

John Quinn shifted to stand in front of the door. “Crouch,” he thought. “Square to the door, as small a target as possible.” He took a deep breath. He paused for a moment, aimed for the lock, and kicked as hard as he could.

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