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datatime: 2022-09-25 13:34:11 Author:PwwEPxTm

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.

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.

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.'

McCaslin looked at him mournfully and shook his head. 'You ought to write books with better sense. Like the guy who writes those Travis McGee stories. A man can sink his teeth into one of those.'

'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 at him mournfully and shook his head. 'You ought to write books with better sense. Like the guy who writes those Travis McGee stories. A man can sink his teeth into one of those.'

Now he ran lightly up the carpeted incline and put his hand on her shoulder. He felt her body tense, knew she was going to scream, and said, 'Don't yell. It's all right. It's me.'

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 son, who knew other things, knew that ash was for men-things-like him. This morning, while his mother and father were out on their Sunday bird walk, he had taken one of the lengths and whacked one end into a rough point with his Boy Scout hatchet. It was rough, but it would serve.

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 fetched a deep sigh from his not inconsiderable belly, flipped his notebook closed, and stored it in the depths of his hip pocket again. 'Well, we'll put the word out, Jimmy. Doubt if we'll get much on this unless the kook comes out of the woodwork again-if there ever was a kook, which I doubt.'

'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 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.

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 was pondering how to make his presence known to her without having her scream her head off when the motor of Straker's car roared into life. She jumped visibly, and at first he was afraid she was going to break and run, crashing through the woods and advertising her presence for a hundred miles. But then she hunkered down again, holding on to the ground like she was afraid it would fly away from her. She's got guts even if she is stupid, he thought, approvingly.

'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 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?'

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.

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.'

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.

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.'

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.

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.

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