They walked in with a shotgun and stole the prisoner out of the courthouse. Blood Land.

More chapters from Blood Land

A VG Serial: Blood Land

Chapter 16 – 2

Judge Butler convened trial Monday morning in order to grant the motion for continuance. It had been agreed in chambers the prosecution would first put the change of counsel into the record and after it being so ordered would then submit the motion for a two-week continuance.

“Mr. Stanton, I understand you are proposing to take over the case from Ms. Jorgensen, is this correct?” Judge Butler said to the prosecutor.

“Yes, Your Honor,” Stanton said. “I filed the official paperwork this morning before court.”

“So ordered.”

“Thank you, Judge.”

“You also have a motion for continuance before the court.”

“Yes. Due to exigent circumstances the State feels it needs some extra time to, uh, familiarize with the case.” Stanton looked nervous, even though he knew he’d get his continuance.

“Two weeks should suffice, I would think,” Butler said.

“Yes, sir. Two weeks is good.”

“Any objections from the defense table, Mr. Hanson?”

“None, Your Honor.”

“Court will then reconvene…”

The two main doors to the courtroom exploded open at the same time, both doors behind the bench opened quickly and two armed men with jean jackets and black ski masks slipped in behind Judge Butler. One put the muzzle of a side-by-side shotgun against the judge’s throat while the other disarmed the bailiff and tied his wrists behind him with zip-tie cuffs.

Two other men, one armed with two 9mm pistols and the other with a pump action shotgun and a silver .38 caliber stuffed in his belt, stormed down the aisle, controlling the crowd. Both had similar ski masks. The one with the two pistols came straight for Pruett, one barrel pointed between the sheriff’s eyes.

“Off with that gun belt, Sheriff,” the man said, trying to keep his voice gruff and unrecognizable.

“Fuck you, Rance,” Pruett said and spat on the floor. “Yeah, I know it’s you. You going to shoot me here in front of all these witnesses, are ya?”

“I said the gun belt or I put a hole in ya the size a Kansas, old man.”

“My hands will stay where you see them, but I won’t disarm myself. Not here. Not ever.”

“Drop one a them hands a fox hair, Sheriff and you’ll be sorry.”

Pruett kept his eyes locked on Rance McIntyre’s. The cowpoke looked scared. Like he’d already failed part of the plan and was now busy calculating what would go wrong next.

What went wrong next didn’t take all that long.

LaRue Hilton was an old rancher whose family had lived in the Green River valley since long before Wyoming was anything but Indian territory. One of the true pioneers of the land. He was eighty-nine years young and as ornery as any man in Wind River. He was also a friend of Judge Butler. Their families had been intertwined since LaRue could remember and he wasn’t going to miss his friend presiding over the trial of the century.

Like many other residents of Wind River (and of Wyoming in general), LaRue was armed. He was armed when he picked up his groceries, armed at the Post Office mailing letters to his granddaughters in Spokane and Hurt, Texas, and he was damn sure armed that day in court.

And he didn’t care for seeing his friend sweating bullets because of a side-by-side Winchester pressed up into the folds of his neck. LaRue eased the Colt Navy .38 out of the holster slung over his frail shoulder and strapped to his chest. He was a crack shot with that pistol and had a clear line on the back of the masked man behind the bench. He looked over at the two men to his rear and they were busy controlling the crowd, not paying attention to some old geezer down at the end of the front gallery. LaRue decided God wasn’t going to give him another opportunity to do the right thing

The old man stood and pointed the Colt at the back of the masked man’s head and he pulled back the hammer. “Don’t move, you fucking shit,” LaRue said.

For Pruett the whole room slowed down at that moment. He’d caught the movement in his peripheral when old Long Pole LaRue came to his feet, gun drawn, and he knew there wasn’t going to be any time to undo the ugliness that was about to unfold. He’d seen it too many times—it was one thing when you had a standoff with a bunch of well-trained participants. But this small handful of McIntyres and God knew who else were about as nervous as you ever wanted to see armed men with guns be.

The man with the shotgun pressed into Judge Butler would later be identified as Carter Lee Holcomb through examining the remaining third of his face. In the movies when a suspect hears something like “freeze” or “don’t move, you shit” they don’t make a move, unless it’s to put their weapon down or raise their hands dutifully in the air. In the real world a gunman like Carter Lee Holcomb isn’t considered “dangerous” because he’s armed—it’s mostly because he’s cagey and stupid and probably more than a little bit tuned up on whatever poison he thinks puts courage in his veins.

Carter Lee heard LaRue’s command all right but he damn sure didn’t comply. Holcomb spun (in slow motion, or at least that’s how Sheriff Pruett saw it all go down) and just got the loaded barrels halfway to LaRue when the first .38 slug tore off all of his cheek and the top half of his skull.

The concussion was so profound it spun Carter Lee back around, like a lifeless side of beef doing an awkward pirouette. Judge Butler just missed being the second gruesome casualty of the morning when he dropped to his knees and the blast of Holcomb’s shotgun shaved the top of his thinning hair—the gun having gone off by the death spasm that contracted Carter Lee’s finger on the hair trigger.

Rance McIntyre had let himself get caught up in the action at the front of the courtroom—like a man drawn into a television program, where everything else around him goes dim. And it was only for a second or two. But when he turned back toward the sheriff, his eyes had a fear in them that meant he’d just realized even a second or two was too much, and that he’d lost the upper hand.

Pruett already had his revolver leveled on McIntyre and before Rance could get even one of his barrels turned on the sheriff, the lawman put three slugs into the man’s heart.

Pruett looked up front in time to see the remaining two gunmen running with a handcuffed Ty McIntyre between them, exiting out the judge’s private hallway, where there was a rarely used exit to the rear of the courthouse.

“Need an ambulance and all officers to respond at the County Courthouse,” the sheriff said into his shoulder mic. “Shots fired, two perps down. Maybe more civilians. Two suspects have Ty McIntyre and are leaving out the back of the courthouse.”

Pruett put up his free hand and tried to calm the crowd. “Everyone, please, quiet down. Stay where you are. If you can sit, SIT. Do not try to leave.”

The sheriff walked slowly over to the body of Rance McIntyre and felt for a pulse. He then walked down the aisle to the front of the courtroom. Carter Lee Holcomb was clearly dead. He was missing more than half his head. Pruett looked around, scanning for other injuries. He couldn’t be sure how many shots he’d heard.

Several townsfolk tended to LaRue Hilton, who had taken a slug in the shoulder from the assailant closest to the deputy—one of the two who had escaped.

Having determined there were no other injuries, Pruett ran for the back hallway where the men who abducted his prisoner had escaped.

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.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,