For two long, deep breaths, silence and suspense reigned in the crowded, smoke-filled bar. No one spoke, no one moved. Then Langton acted.
His hands flashed to the table, wrenched it up and over. Golden eagles rippled on green felt, clinked and rolled crazily on the floor. Hands reached for silver and bills, bodies pushed each other pell-mell in a greedy rush. Leslie grabbed for his gun, pulled trigger as the table crashed into him, pinned him on the floor. His bullet chinked into the ceiling.
Langton threw a bottle at the chandelier, smashing the gas bulbs, plunging the room into smoky gloom. Tongues of fire from the broken lamps licked and danced on the bar and floor. Glass smashed, fists began to fly, chairs crashed, hands reached for the booze and cash behind the bar. Cam Dineen swore, his attempts to reach Langton thwarted by the crazed, drunken crowd. The ransacking had begun. It could not be stopped.
Langton dove over the fallen table, clambered over sprawled bodies, and snatched the redhead from her seat at the bar. She struggled, her head rocked as Langton backhanded her on the mouth. He lifted her limp form onto his shoulders, rushed behind the bar and out the back door into the alley.
There was no one in sight. He lifted her off his shoulders, pinned her against the rough brick wall. Slapped her. Again. She came to, venom in her eyes, curses on her lips.
"Talk, lady. Who set me up?" shot Langton.
"Dineen. He said you'd be coming here, I said I'd set the trap. The rip-off was my idea."
Langton swore inwardly. He has underestimated his nemesis. Cam Dineen. Had fallen into the trap. Again, as always, women were his downfall.
"Where are the diamonds? When are they coming in?" He bunched her hair in his hand, pulled it back. He felt no pity. The woman had almost cost him his life.
He applied more pressure, pushed her harder, higher against the rough brick wall.
"Talk, lady, I haven't got all night."
She winced, spoke between clenched teeth.
"In two days, on the Seattle train. By armed courier."
"How many men?"
"You sure?" He twisted her hair, pulled tighter.
"Yes, yes! God!"
He slackened his grip. Running feet pounded near the alley entrance. He turned to peer that way.
He turned back almost too late. She writhed, her arm whipped up, the knife slashed his shirt, as he turned to avoid the brutal swipe. He slapped the knife hand, and the blade clattered to the ground.
Orange gouts of flame blossomed in a roar of cordite at the alley's mouth, the bullets missing Langton and the woman by inches. He pushed her to the ground, as human shapes spilled into the alley. He drew, spaced two, three quick shots of his own at the flashes, saw one shadow drop, heard it moan, as the others cringed, retreated around the corner.
Langton vaulted a small fence at the back of the alley, and eluded his pursuers in the dark, twisting streets.
|Chapter Six: Hartley of 12 chapters|