Chapter 43

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Barlow turned and found Howie Boy leveling a shotgun at his face. If he pulled the trigger, it would blow his head clean off. He had underestimated the man, figuring he would get in his vehicle and flee. Barlow did the only thing he could do at the moment and raised his arms in surrender.

Howie Boy's expression remained totally neutral, same with the tone of his voice. "Here's what's going to happen. You're going to pick up the lady and carry her downstairs. As long as you're carrying her, you won't be able to do anything stupid."

"Carry her where?"

"I'll tell you. Let's go. Be quick about it."

Barlow turned to Pet, slid one arm under her legs, the other under her shoulders. She shuddered when he lifted her and started sobbing.

Barlow tried soothing her. "Shhh, put an arm around my neck."

She couldn't manage even that much and went quiet. Barlow guessed she had passed out from whatever pain she suffered. Although Pet was slender and had a great physique, she was dead weight. For the first time in his life, Barlow silently thanked his father for making him haul heavy bundles of shingles up ladders. It had developed his upper body strength making it possible for him to move her.

He carried her down the staircase taking care to not trip. Howie Boy followed behind. When they reached the bottom, he motioned with the end of his shotgun toward the door. "Outside."

So far, that was exactly what Barlow would've done in getting help for Pet, but he wasn't naïve enough to think Howie Boy would volunteer to drive them to the hospital. He stepped onto the porch. Three inches of snow had now accumulated on the grass, and it continued to fall relentlessly.

"Across the meadow, toward the far corner," Howie Boy ordered.

Barlow guessed the plan. Howie Boy had dug a hole as a grave. He meant to shoot them and bury their bodies. The knowledge should have filled him with fear. Instead, it gave him purpose. He had to figure a way out during the time it took to walk through the snow to the hole in the ground.

He could think of only one thing to do, and as tactics went, he knew it was pretty lame. But it was his only move. "I need to stop to take a rest. Pet is getting heavy."

"Keep walking," Howie Boy ordered.

"Seriously, man, I'm afraid I'm going to drop her." After saying that, Barlow faked like he was stumbling and went to his knees. Gently as possible, he laid Pet on the ground. He wasn't out of breath but pretended like he was and panted.

Pet moaned and trembled. Her eyes remained closed.

Barlow looked up at Howie Boy, gauging the distance between them. About ten feet. The man still had the shotgun pointed in his general direction, but he seemed more relaxed, as if confident. "Let me take off my coat and put it on her. She won't last long out here in the condition she's in."

"Pick her up," Howie Boy said with more heat in his voice than before. "In a few minutes she's not going to feel anything."

"I don't suppose there's any sense trying to reason with you."

"I said, pick her up."

Barlow sighed, faking resignation. "Okay, okay." He reached for Pet. While sliding his hands toward her, he scooped hands full of the wet, clumpy snow. They made tight, compact snow balls in his fists.

He swiveled his head toward Howie Boy. "Before you kill us, I'm hoping you'll do me the courtesy of answering one question." Barlow had no question. His statement was meant to mentally distract the man.

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