He had the explosives and was ready for plan B. There was no plan A. Blood Land

More chapters from Blood Land

A VG Serial: Blood Land

Chapter 16 – 5

Pruett thumbed the wheels until they read 7002499, left to right. He looked at Whitefeather, who was staring at the soaked brim of the sheriff’s hatband.

“The secrets of my wife’s murder are likely inside this box.”

“You familiar with the story of Pandora?” Whitefeather said.

“Why do you think I’m sweating so hard?” said Pruett.

“’Cause you’re either gonna find them secrets or you’re goin’ to find her.”

“Amen,” said Pruett.

He pressed the rust-spattered lever down and the small deadbolt clicked audibly. He never doubted it would.

Pruett steadied himself and looked at Whitefeather for the go-ahead.

Whitefeather smiled and nodded; he looked like he was waiting for the songbird on the end of the porch to pick her next tune. The old Indian picked up his herbal tea and took a sip. The cup wasn’t shaking at all.

Pruett slowly lifted the lid. The hinges creaked loudly and scared away the bird. The sheriff almost pissed himself. Whitefeather took another sip.

As the lid opened fully, the two men saw exactly what they expected to see: a fairly new Russian OMZ-72, snugged against the side of the lockbox with two heavy Velcro straps.

Alongside the mine were a pile of folded papers, envelopes, and what looked like a padlock key. There was nothing beneath the mine; it rested snugly on the bottom of the box.

“I want this thing disposed of,” Pruett said. “And that’s all I can tell you about the situation.”

“I’d take those papers and things out of there, then, and we’ll take ‘er out back in the trees and make sure this bitch never hurts anyone ever again,” said Whitefeather.

Pruett gathered all the contents and they closed the lockbox tightly again. Whitefeather led the sheriff around back where they walked a hundred yards into the dense pine forest.

The Indian knelt and with his hands clawed out a small hole up against a giant rock that was three-quarters underground.

“Place it in there; make sure I can still reach the pin. That boulder’ll help contain the blast and the trees will absorb the bulk of the shrapnel.”

Pruett placed the box backwards in the hole. Whitefeather waved him back and then slowly removed the safety trigger.

The two men double-timed it back to the house and Whitefeather brought out his .280 Remington.

“It don’t look like much,” Whitefeather said. “But it’s a sweet little game rifle. Bagged me a deer and a cow elk last year, one clean shot each.”

As he spoke he removed the standard cartridges he kept loaded in it and placed them gently, methodically into a box of similar shells. When he had completely unloaded the weapon he set aside the ammo carton and reached into his shirt pocket, producing a bullet that looked as if it were made from silver, so smooth, glistening, and perfect it was.

“Hunting werewolves?” Pruett said.

“It ain’t silver,” Whitefeather told him as he chambered the one round. “Nickel-plated brass. I like stuff that’s harder to find and beautiful. Like us Indians.”

Pruett smiled. “And that slug,” he said, pointing to the bluish tip on the ammunition.

“Incendiary tip,” Whitefeather said. “Makes a nice little explosion. Fun for beer cans and such.”

“Or Bouncing Bettys.”

“Among other things,” he said, and handed Pruett a pair of earmuffs. “Even at this distance, your ear drums are gonna thank you.”

Pruett put on the headgear, as did Whitefeather. The old Blackfoot rested the barrel of the Remington on a tree branch and looked through the scope. Without taking his eye off the target he said, “You sure about this, Sheriff?”

“Yep,” Pruett said, and Whitefeather squeezed off the round.

Both men had seen battle and both of them had witnessed countless explosions, from mortar rounds to hand grenades to every kind of shoebox bomb ever built. But you never got used to the profundity of a detonation. Like a car crash. People saw them all the time on television, and may have even been involved in one when they were younger and forgotten. But that sound of metal on metal, of glass imploding or exploding—there was nothing like it in the world.

And there was nothing like an honest to God Betty when she let loose her fury. No man or woman ever got used to that kind of sheer force, nor the thought that always followed:

What if that’d been ME?

* * *

Pruett took the papers, envelopes, maps, and small ledger and drove not toward his own home but toward Timber Lake and the Townsley cabin. He had rethought everything after seeing the complexity of the weapon in that lock box. The detonation in the forest behind Malcolm Whitefeather’s place had awakened the soldier in him. Pruett felt alive again. His senses danced and tingled. He felt as if he could see a thousand miles in all directions.

His own property wasn’t safe. He didn’t fear for Hanson, not yet, but he needed to get word to him and, more importantly, he needed to bring his daughter to him. The tactician in him said the last place anyone would look, place a wire, or watch would be the Rory McIntyre murder scene.

He avoided town and any of the primary roads. He had the element of surprise and he intended to keep it as long as possible. Clearly whoever opened that lockbox would have died—vaporized along with every shred of evidence that made the truth plausible. Ty would have already been tortured into telling Warren about the explosive trap, his carving of the numbers, and his assumption that Pruett had gotten to the box. Pruett hoped that meant Warren assumed his job had been accomplished for him, as to getting rid of the sheriff.

Pruett had made certain he wasn’t followed to the Whitefeather property. He also kept his wits about him and made certain there wasn’t anyone surveilling the Townsley property (although that required him hiding the Suburban down a secondary cabin driveway and hiking a mile of stealth approach through the trees and hillsides).

Once inside the cabin, Pruett’s cell phone chirped and he froze. He flipped it open and stared at it like he was the first man to discover fire. He silently cursed himself for shunning technology. He brought up the text-messaging screen, where there was an incoming message from J.W. Hanson’s cell number. He frowned when he read the message:

Changing meet. Saw two dark vehicles parked on your road, just sitting around. Lookouts. Can we meet at the Townsley cabin?

Pruett had no idea if text messages could be tapped or not

He replied:

Done. Make sure you’re not FOLLOWED.

Understood. Wendy’s at the hotel, napping. We’re good.

Pruett then dialed a different number on his phone. “Are you organized?” he said to the voice on the other end of the line.

After hearing what he needed, Pruett climbed back into the trees. His gut told him things had gone sour and the preferred vantage point was from above. But he checked his cell phone and had lost all but one lousy signal bar. If he had to give the go-ahead…

A black SUV that looked Government-issued eventually came rolling down the drive toward the Townsley cabin. He couldn’t see through the opaque windows but he now worried who might be inside. The timing was off. If things were off-schedule that meant anything was possible. It meant his gut was right and things had gone fiercely wrong.

Malcolm Whitefeather had given the sheriff a pair of M33 fragmentation grenades and a Claymore, the combination of which was meant to constitute Plan B. Of course there really was no Plan A. Pruett figured on working one out with Hanson, legal-like.

Chapters of the serial are published Monday through Saturday.

You can learn more about R. S. Guthrie’s novels on his Amazon Author’s Page.

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