EXCERPT: 'Last Night in Twisted River'

They didn't really comprehend the gravity of the demonstration until Ketchum got to the part about the two kinds of ammunition. "This here is buckshot. You keep the Ithaca loaded at all times with buckshot." Ketchum held up a big hand in front of Paul Polcari's flour- whitened face. "From back there, where I was standing in the kitchen, the buckshot would make a pattern about this size on a tar¬get standing here." They were getting the idea.

"You just have to see how it goes. If Carl is believing your story— and you all have to tell the cowboy the same story— maybe he'll leave without incident. No shots need to be fired," Ketchum was saying.

"What story is that?" the cook asked his old friend.

"Well, it's about how you walked out on this lady," Ketchum said, indicating Carmella. "Not that even a fool would, mind you—but that's what you did, and everyone here hates you for it. They would like to kill you themselves, if they could find you. Do any of you have trouble remembering that story?" Ketchum asked them. They shook their heads— even the cook, but for a different reason.

"Just so there's one of you back in the kitchen," Ketchum contin¬ued. "I don't care if the cowboy knows you're back there— just so he can't quite see you. You can be banging pots and pans around all you want to. If Carl asks to see you, and he will, just tell him you're busy cooking."

"Which one of us should be back in the kitchen with the gun?" Paul Polcari asked the woodsman.

"It doesn't matter which one of you is back there— just so you all know how to work the Ithaca," Ketchum answered. "You know Carl will come here, I suppose?" Dominic asked him.

"It's inevitable, Cookie. He'll want to talk to Carmella most of all, but he'll come here to talk to everyone. If he doesn't believe your story, and there's any trouble— that's when one of you shoots him," Ketchum said to them all.

"How will we know there's going to be trouble?" Tony Molinari asked. "How will we know if he believes our story?"

"Well, you won't see the Colt forty- five," Ketchum answered. "Be¬lieve me, he'll have it on him, but you won't know there's going to be trouble until you see the weapon. When Carl lets you see the Colt, he intends to use it."

"Then we shoot him?" Paul Polcari asked.

"Whoever's in the kitchen should call out to him first," Ketchum told them. "You just say something like, 'Hey, cowboy!'—just so he looks at you."

"It would seem to me," Molinari said, "that we'd have a better chance just to shoot him— I mean before he's looking in the direction of the shooter."

"No, not really," Ketchum told him patiently. "If the cowboy is looking in your direction, assuming you take aim at his throat, you'll hit him in the face and chest— both— and you'll probably blind him."

The cook looked at Carmella, because he thought she might faint. The busboy appeared to be feeling sick. "When the cowboy is blind, you don't have to be in as big a hurry— when you take the empty shell out and put the deer slug in. The buckshot blinds him, but the deer slug is the kill- shot," Ketchum explained to them. "First you blind him, then you kill him."

The busboy dashed for the kitchen; they could hear him barfing in the overlarge sink the dishwasher used to scour pots and pans. "Maybe he's not the one to be back in the kitchen," Ketchum said softly to the others.

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