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back to the cave. Jak would get there ahead of the others, so they'd know she was coming.
Keeping her pistol close to her, Mildred used her other hand to slap branches and brush
out of the way as she ran. She didn't think she had much of a chance of outrunning the
men behind her, but she had to try.
An attacker came out of the brush ahead of her with his pistol already raised.
Without hesitation, firing on the fly, Mildred put a bullet into the man's throat. He went
over backward, blood gouting out the front of his neck.
Two shots cracked around her. At first she thought she'd been hit. But there was no pain,
no numbness. A heartbeat later a green-clad man dropped from a tree in front of her. He
landed in a loose-limbed sprawl, the top of his head missing.
"Jak," she said, because it had to have been him. The fear was working in her, feeding her
adrenaline as the fight-or-flight instinct kicked in. She vaulted the dead man in front of
her.
Before she had time to touch down on the other side, a man hurtled from the brush,
driving a forearm deep into her side. Her breath came out in a rush, and it felt as though
her ribs snapped. She slammed against the ground, but she managed to keep her fist tight
around her blaster. Rough bark and splintered branches lacerated the side of her face.
Blood spit into her eye as she tried to roll over on her stomach and bring the .38 up at the
same time.
"Alive!" a deep voice snarled.
Mildred moved, trying to find the man who'd blind-sided her. She spotted one man
almost twenty feet away, hidden by the tall grass. Knowing he couldn't have been the
man who'd given the order or the one who'd hit her, she still set herself for the shot.
Then a foot came out of nowhere and smashed into her face. An inky black cloud formed
in her vision and took her away.
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JAK SPILLED the empty casings from the .357 and slammed home a fresh 6-round load
as bullets continued chipping away at the tree and boulder he was using as shelter.
Footsteps pounded at him, and he knew enough of a team had reformed to set a trap for
him. He glanced around and sized up the terrain. His position wasn't ideal, but neither
was it without resources.
He fisted one of the leaf-bladed knives and waited.
The running man hesitated for a moment. Jak's keen ears could detect the break in the
rhythm. He guessed the man was puzzled by his prey not trying to flee or fight. The
albino slid the .357 into leather and flipped the restraining thong over the hammer,
securing it into place.
The hunter came around the boulder cautiously.
Jak was flattened back against it, the knife low and ready in his fist. He waited for the
man to notice him, depending solely on his speed and skill.
Jak took in the bolt-action Remington in the man's hands at a glance. Uncoiling lithely,
the youth batted the rifle barrel to one side with his free hand and slid up behind his
attacker.
"Help me!" the man yelled.
The albino pressed the teen edge of his blade over the man's carotid artery. He used the
man as a shield, blending in to his back like another layer of skin. He was only a couple
inches shorter than his victim, and holding him in that position was uncomfortable.
"Move with," Jak warned in a low voice, "not against. You choose against, you die." He
pulled the knife in meaningfully.
"Yes," the man said. "By Lugh Silverhand, I shall not try anything. Just please don't kill
me."
"Like you didn't kill my friend?" Jak asked. He'd seen Mildred go down and stay there.
Men had swarmed in on her position, then vanished. There'd been nothing he could do to
help. They'd been overrun too quickly.
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Beyond the boulder, eight green-clad men stood up, keeping their eyes and weapons on
Jak. Several of them were talking to one another, and a few made what had to be religious
gestures.
"I didn't kill her," the man said.
He held his hands up to the others. He raised his voice to plead. "Don't shoot, he'll kill
me."
For the moment that seemed to be working as fine as Jak could have hoped. Trouble was,
it left his back unprotected. He tugged backward, making the man walk with him. He'd
chosen his spot deliberately. Here the terrain butted up against a flat face of the mountain
range, and there was no way up for almost twenty feet. Jak was hoping that it would buy
him enough time to rejoin Ryan and the others. The gunshots couldn't have gone
unnoticed.
"What you want with us?" Jak asked. The green-clad men were staying back, their
weapons trained on them.
"Looking for a boy," the man gasped. "Tarragon."
"Don't know him."
"He came this way," the man insisted. "Spent all night out looking for him."
As the other men started to follow, Jak kept the blade at his hostage's neck and drew the
.357 with his free hand. Without hesitation, he put a round through the heart of the man
nearest him. The others dropped back into hiding.
"Oh, blessed, sweet Lady," the man whimpered, touching his forehead with his fingers,
"be gentle as you take me into your embrace."
"Ain't dead yet," Jak said, pulling back again. "Just him." A quick glance at the mountain
face behind him told him he was less than twenty feet away. "Who are you people?"
"Celts."
"Not heard of you." Jak slid the .357 away. He glanced back where he'd seen Mildred go
down, but he still wasn't able to see her fate.
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"You're poaching on our lands," the man said. "That deer you took wasn't yours to have."
Jak didn't waste his breath arguing. Anyone claiming to own such obviously free land had
to be out of his mind. Even the most power-hungry baron never tried to lay claim to a
bigger ville than he could control. That was triple stupe. So was the man's thinking.
"Pepper!" [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]