The stranger smashed the b.u.t.t of his rifle through the gla.s.s pane in the door. He reached in with a gloved hand and unlocked the dead bolt. He stepped into the kitchen in his black western boots and swaggered over to the old man. He patted his lifeless body and found the hand-rolled cigarettes in his pocket. He retrieved one and rolled it between his fingers for a moment, before lighting it. Satisfied, he stepped over Frank's body and strolled into the living room.
He stepped out onto the front porch and looked at the mess that lay before him. Two of his a.s.sociates were lying on the porch dead and the third was spitting and coughing up blood. He removed the Beretta from his shoulder holster and rested it against the dying man's head. The man began to sob and beg for his life, but it mattered not. The man in the black boots squeezed the trigger as if he was putting down a lame dog. The body slumped onto the porch.
The porch creaked noisily as he walked down to the corner and peered at Jake's house. No signs of anyone at home. The a.s.sault had turned into a full-on disaster, no question about it. He took one final drag of the cigarette and tossed it into the yard. He reckoned it was time to find the old woman and force her to open the vault. And if she refused, he would just have to kill her and open it himself. Either way, it really didn't matter.
He strolled back into the living room and down the hallway. His footfalls were loud on the pine floor. He let his fingernails sc.r.a.pe against the hallway wall as he walked. The intruder pushed the doors open with the tip of his barrel of his rifle. He casually swept the rooms, each in turn, before proceeding. The man in the black boots smirked as he reached the final door of the long hallway. He stepped inside.
She was sitting in a rocking-chair in the far corner of the room. It had been her grandmother's once, long ago. The craftsmans.h.i.+p was apparent. It was built to withstand the tests of time. The walls around her were covered with hand-made crafts of her own and her foremothers. In her lap rested a beautiful, half-finished quilt.
She wore a baby-blue dress with a pattern of smiling, yellow chicks. She had made two others just like it for her sisters. Sometimes they would all wear their dresses while they were out together. The complements they received about the outfits from strangers always made her smile.
The man in the black boots had forced himself into their home and killed the only man she had ever loved. He was a man who could be hard and rough because his life had been, but Frank always tried to be gentle with her. The intruder had taken the spiritual leader of their home. For the firs
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