Chapter 20

Up the stairs, through the door, I came out into the kitchen and headed for the back door which we’d used to enter this place when something caught my eye and I stopped.

The shotgun that I’d leveled on Cashman while we were driving, the thing I had given him and which he had used to knock me unconscious, lay on one of the prep tables. The ejected shells were conveniently lined up beside it.

I hurried over and inspected the shotgun. It had been easy ejecting the shells; loading them would be another story.

Fooling with it, I kept glancing at the basement door, expecting Nancy or what had become of Nancy to make an appearance.

My hands were shaking. Blood pounded in my ears.

Finally I managed to insert one of the shells, lock it into place, then added three more.

Before I left I glanced back, expecting the door to open, expecting for some reason my parents do be there staring back at me, dead.

A second passed and nothing happened.

I went outside.

The day had worn on, the sun almost gone from the sky. I glanced at my wrist instinctively but I wasn’t wearing a watch.

The shotgun in my hands, I made my way down the alleyway toward the main street. I could see a few cars already passing by. Heavy bass thumped from one of them.

I came around the building to find the parking lot deserted. Maybe this was a speakeasy and maybe it wasn’t. Whatever the case, at least Cashman’s truck wasn’t here.

I stepped out on the street, looking back and forth for any traffic. That heavy bass had faded and now there was that constant and palpable silence that inhabits most cities.

Right then an engine growled down the street. Headlights appeared.

I started walking in that direction, trying to keep the shotgun concealed behind my back. The last thing I wanted to do now was spook a potential Good Samaritan and wished I’d left the weapon back inside.

With my free hand — my right hand, the one without the silver ring — I waved to the oncoming vehicle.

I stood there for maybe five seconds, waving frantically, until the shape of the vehicle became distinct.

An old red Ford pickup truck.

Cashman’s pickup truck.

Without thinking I brought the shotgun around and aimed it at the oncoming headlights, the engine now a ferocious roar, and fired.

The shotgun exploded and the windshield splintered but the truck didn’t slow.

It was coming for me, swerving right in my direction — fifty feet away, forty feet — and though the silver ring made me invincible I wasn’t going to take the chance.

I dove out of the way at the last second.

Hitting the ground hard, rolling, jumping back to my feet, I turned just as Cashman slammed on the brakes and spun the truck around to face me again.

We were less than fifty feet apart now.

Cashman was hunched over the wheel, glaring back at me. He kept revving the engine.

I lifted the shotgun, ejected the spent shell, and aimed it straight back at him.

A moment passed.

Another moment.

Then Cashman placed the truck back into gear and the tires squealed and it was racing toward me, coming closer, closer, closer, and I waited another second and then pulled the trigger, ejected the spent shell, pulled the trigger, ejected the spent shell, pulled the trigger, all in one fluid motion, like I was a natural, and I stepped out of the way just as the truck moved past me, the windshield completely shattered, glass raining down everywhere, Cashman slumped dead over the wheel.

The truck kept going though; Cashman must have still had his foot on the gas. It slowed speed but kept going, across the street, up over the curb, and then — bang — went right into the side of another abandoned building.

I stood still for a couple seconds, breathing hard. I looked down at the shotgun in my hands, tried to remember how many shells I’d put into it. But I knew it didn’t matter. Cashman was dead.

Still, as I approached the pickup, I did so slowly, keeping the shotgun aimed even though I was now certain it would do me no good if I truly needed it.

Even though it had crashed into the side of the building, Cashman still had his foot on the gas, making the engine growl.

Stepping closer, raising the shotgun, I moved into a position where I would come up right beside the driver’s window.

There was no movement inside. He was definitely dead.

Keeping the shotgun aimed, I opened the door, reached in, and pulled Cashman out. His body flopped down on the ground with a dry thud. His foot no longer on the gas, the truck’s engine quit its whining and went suddenly silent.

I stared down at him, this man who had done everything he could to get his hands on the silver ring.

He was dead and I felt no remorse and I wondered briefly what that said about me, whether I could still be considered a good person.

I stepped over him, climbed up into the truck, slammed the door shut. The engine had stalled so I had to turn it again and again until it finally caught. Then I backed out, glanced one last time at Cashman, and punched the gas.

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