Kill or be killed. He wondered which of the two outcomes was more honorable? Blood Land.

More chapters from Blood Land

A VG Serial: Blood Land

Chapter 6 – 2

Ty lay on his back, snoring loudly, his right arm splayed into space. The dishes sat on the floor next to the cot, food half-eaten. Pruett unlocked the jail door and picked up the tray. He turned to face the cell entrance and held the tray as if he were carrying it away, then walked quickly and slammed his forehead into the steel frame. The blow caused an explosion of light in his head as Pruett launched the tray and its contents into the corridor. The empty milk glass shattered against the far wall as Pruett fell to the ground. The collision of skull on steel hurt more than he planned. Blood ran from a gash on his forehead, coloring both his uniform and the tile floor. As coherence returned, he pushed the blood around some on the floor: the smears of a struggle.

Ty’s inert body was heavy, corded muscle hidden beneath the orange County jumpsuit. Pruett wrapped a kerchief around his own forehead and slung Ty over his shoulder in a firefighter’s carry. He kept most of the blood off the unconscious man’s clothing but made sure he left behind full fingerprints from the escapee: on the keys, the screwdriver, and on each door leading out of the jail, into the office, and down the back stairs to where the sheriff’s Suburban waited.

This time leaving the office, Sheriff Pruett turned on the overhead red and blues. He drove fast, as a sheriff would after an escaped prisoner, spewing gravel as he fishtailed out of the parking lot and leaving black marks where he took to Main Street.

* * *

The moon cast a day glow on the forest. The air was crisp, the winds silent. Ty McIntyre woke slowly, clacking his dry mouth, thick with thirst and head as heavy as a bowling ball, Pruett guessed.

“Where the fuck…” Ty said, trying to get up on an elbow.

As he became more aware of his surroundings, Pruett knew, he’d stop struggling against the effects of the tranquilizer in his system. Ty McIntyre was smarter than he came off. He lay in the dirt, no doubt waiting for his senses to come back to him. He moaned a little.

“Shut up,” Pruett said. “Don’t let your mind give you too much courage, Ty. I’m armed, and I can see you just fine down there, mulling it all over.”

Ty remained on the ground. The slur in his speech real. “Shhuriff. Pruett. Fuck’s goin’ on?”

“Ain’t Sheriff tonight,” Pruett said, pining hard for a shot of anything. He’d known he couldn’t afford for them to find alcohol in his system, whichever way this went. The twelve-hour lack of booze welled up inside him like a dry-heaving geyser and he put a boot into Ty’s ribs.

“AHHH, shit,” Ty shouted, curling into a fetal ball and grabbing his side.

“Came here to break a promise,” said James Pruett. “Sometimes a man’s got to, Ty, if he’s going to make things right.”

“The fuck happen to yer skull,” Ty asked, looking up, squinting at the dried blood around Pruett’s wound.

“You attacked me when I was taking your food out.”

“Hell if I did,” said McIntyre.

“Oh, you did, Ty. Sure as you murdered my Bethy, you shoved me into the cell wall, stole the keys, and drove your sorry ass up here to beat trail into the wilderness.”

“Fuck that. Never stick, Sheriff. You had to drive my carcass up here. Cain’t explain that, I imagine.”

“Nope. Not unless your truck got here before me.”

Ty looked up, the puzzlement on his face evident in the moonlight.

Pruett continued. “Down in the parking lot. Seems after you worked me over, you broke into the locker and got your keys. The rest ain’t hard at all to figure.”

“You call the others?” Ty said.

“Funny thing,” Pruett said, standing now, gun pointed at Ty McIntyre’s head for the second time in as many months. “Radio in my Suburban got itself sabotaged. Seems you thought of everything before you broke yourself free.”

“Might as well get the thing over with,” Ty said.

“Need you on your feet,” Pruett said. “Can’t have any bullet trajectory theories chasin’ after me. Caught you on the run, as you probably guessed. I don’t suppose you’d mind getting to your feet. I’ll give you a little head start and…”

Ty rolled quick, three times, barreling into Pruett’s shins and toppling him so hard it reopened the cut on the big man’s forehead. Pruett hit the hard forest ground with a loud thud of dust and a pinecone struck him in the kidney. His hand was suddenly empty, pistol flying through space into the perimeter of night.

The old cowpoke kept bull rushing him, digging his boots into the ground, never giving Pruett the opportunity of space to get his bearings or an advantage. Soon the sheriff was flat on his back, Ty on top of him with iron legs holding Pruett’s ribs like he was a bronco. Then Ty’s fists went into a terrible windmill of punches, most connecting with the body as the sheriff turned his head away and down. One of Pruett’s arms was pinned, but when Ty slowed the barrage, the other reached for a thick branch and brought it straight into the side of Ty McIntyre’s head.

The force of the blow would have finished the fight in most men, but Ty McIntyre was a tough-as-turpentine, bull-riding cowboy. The branch did move his position off balance a little, though—Pruett could feel it—so the sheriff rolled with Ty’s body instead of against it. The sheriff felt the balance of power shift in his favor. He put his arm around Ty’s neck and tried to get him in a chokehold—Pruett’s only chance now against the younger, tougher opponent, but before he could lock up, Ty grabbed him by the shirt lapels, and used the force of gravity on the downhill portion of the forest floor to go into a backward somersault.

Pruett saw his world flip over and suddenly his opponent had those vise-like legs wrapped around his shoulders and neck. Ty then began squeezing the life out of Pruett. The sheriff struggled, swinging haymakers impotently through the cold night air, but as the velvety blackness washed in around the borders of his vision, Pruett stopped.

Kill or be killed.

Of the two outcomes, this one was the more honorable.

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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