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Maggie knocked back the hammer with the heel of her hand and fired again, lower this time as his body sunk on weakened legs. The bullet missed, instead tearing splinters from the porch. Panic washed over her but she had practiced rapid firing time and again and the action came without any thought. Her third bullet hit him in the face, shattering his nose and taking out the back of his head in a spray of splintered bone and pulped brain.
Behind him, Sonny Bomer felt the heat of the same bullet as it skimmed his leg. Older and more experienced, a veteran of the war, staring down the barrel of a gun hardly seemed to faze him. Instinctively, he reached for his belt gun, turning his body as he fired.
Maggie’s shot missed. Sonny’s didn’t. The .38 caliber slug hit her in the shoulder. For a couple of seconds, she didn’t realize. She tried to draw back the hammer for another shot but the gun slipped from her grasp as a strange tingling numbed her hand. It hit her then. Excruciating pain. Burning through her like the red-hot tip of a branding iron. She started to sway, sure she was dying as hot blood poured down her back and her strength drained away.
Before she could fall, Sonny grabbed her by the hair and lifted her chin with the muzzle of his gun so that she could see his cold and impassive face.
‘You killed a couple of good men tonight, girl. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t have thought you had it in you but …’ He stroked her cheek with the cold steel. ‘Hey, I’ve never understood women.’
She tried to stay focused on what he was saying but all she could think about was the blood. Hot and flowing. And the inevitability. For seven years she had lived with the promise of death never more than a day away. I’ll kill you tomorrow, Frank used to say. As the years had gone by, Frank’s bedtime warning had turned in to a habit, but she had never stopped believing it. For some reason, she was glad it wasn’t him that would finally pull the trigger.
The click, click, click of the hammer being drawn back sounded loud near her ear. A countdown to death.
‘Close your eyes,’ Sonny ordered. ‘It’ll be easier that way.’
She ignored him and swallowed hard, desperate to say one last thing. ‘Killing … should never b-be easy.’
For a second, he contemplated her words then his brow furrowed. He seemed angry as he stepped back a few paces and leveled the gun towards her.
‘I meant dying,’ he said, roughly.
Weakened by loss of blood and without his hand to support her, she started to sway. She wondered how much time had passed since her encounter with Walt McLean. It had been mid morning. Now she was struggling to make out Sonny’s features through semi-darkness. Yet there was Frank, standing right behind him.
She chuckled mirthlessly. ‘Better close your eyes, Sonny.’