In that brief moment, Raven had not seen me, and she did not look back again. I stripped off my windbreaker and tossed it aside as I ran, pulled out the Tokarev and racked back the slide.
The new man was faster than Susyn. He sprinted ahead, closing the gap on Raven as I closed on Susyn. Raven was moving well, and he was only marginally faster. Perhaps she would make it to Flam before he caught her. We could not be far above the village now.
Then Raven rounded a curve and pulled up, faltered, and headed off to her left across the grass. The stranger turned with her and then I saw why. Skinny Alan had come up from below to block her path.
The grass was knee deep in the fullness of it’s summer growth. Raven was having hard going. Her pursuer was gaining fast, and Skinny Alan was moving up at a diagonal to cut her off. He looked over his shoulder to call to Susyn and saw me. He almost fell over his own feet in his hurry to straighten up and change direction. Susyn looked over her shoulder and I was right there. I smashed into her as I passed, knocking her rolling across the meadow. Alan was pulling out a pistol. I raised the Tokarev, thought better of it, and took a forward roll. I had no bullets to waste on a moving target. Alan sprayed the air, triggering one of those double stacked wonder-nines as fast as he could pull the trigger. It was one step below a submachine gun. I went flat, hugging the earth and scuttling sideways.
Then silence. Alan would be reloading. The grass was half a meter high, and I could not see him without raising my head. I shoved the Tokarev in front of me and gently parted the grass, moving it from the roots with my left hand. I saw blue cloth, probably Alan’s shirt. He moved out of my sight to my left and I slid carefully to the right.
There was motion behind me and Alan fired again. I heard Susyn’s scream of fright and anger; then I jerked upright and fired once into Alan. He spun on me, raising his pistol and I had to fire again, taking an extra fraction of a second to line up the sights. He jerked mightily, firing again into the air, and fell back into the grass.
Susyn screamed in rage and I dove for the ground as she fired in my direction.
The long summer grass saved my life. Susyn’s bullets were like steel bees as I scuttled away, belly flat. The air smelled of decaying vegetation, that sweet mushroom smell of a wild, wet meadow. After a hundred feet of wild scrambling, I chanced a backward look. Susyn was kneeling beside Alan, and the stranger she had brought with her was watching impassively, waiting for orders. The revolver in his hand looked businesslike. He glanced up, then back to Susyn. He was alert and ready, unhurried and unworried. more tomorrow