Danni California, Part 18

Continued from Part 17, here.
Start the story here.

* * *

When I next awoke, I was able to sit up, groggily lifting up my hand to press it against my forehead.  My eyes scanned around and I saw that I was still in the same room, still sprawled out across the same rough bunk, as where I last remembered being, just as Danni…

Danni had kissed me!  My mind seized onto that fact, clung to it like a drowning sailor clings to a spar of wood.  There were a million other thoughts circling around the periphery of that fact, a million ways to interpret it, but I didn’t let them emerge from the shadows.

Looking around, my eyes caught a flash of red-orange hair.  There she was!  But as I turned towards her, I immediately saw that something was wrong.

Danni was crouched down by the closed door leading out of the shack.  Now that I could sit up and look around, I saw that we were in a single-room cabin, shoddily constructed and with stars visible through the cracks in the wooden boards.  Aside from the bed on which I lay and a small, uneven table, there was no other furniture inside the shack.  The roof looked to be made of tin boards, more rusted than bolted together.

My eyes, after making this quick circuit of our location, returned to Danni.  Such was the extent of my grogginess that it wasn’t until my second glance at her that I realized that, in her hand, she held my revolver.

“Danni,” I whispered, and the girl practically leapt a foot into the air.

She moved quickly, rushing over to my side, one hand rising up to press briefly against my lips before she withdrew it.  My eyes went to hers, and I saw fear reflected back at me.

“I think there’s someone outside,” she whispered to me, her voice barely audible.  “Jasper, I’m scared.”

Before I could respond, I heard the snap of a twig echoing in the silence outside.

Praying that my muscles would respond, I forced myself up from the bed.  I could feel soreness and stiffness in my limbs still, but my arms and legs moved as my mind commanded, and I sat up on the bed.  I slid forward, down onto my knees on the floor beside Danni.  My hand reached out to her, and she handed me my pistol.

There was definitely someone outside.  As I scanned around, straining to see through the cracks in between the boards of our ramshackle shelter, I caught a flash of movement.  By the time I had the gun up and pointed, though, I didn’t know if the intruder outside was still there.

As soon as I pulled the trigger, I would lose the element of surprise.  I only had one shot.

Next to me, I felt Danni lean in close, her eyes wide as she looked around.  I couldn’t pull my eyes away from scanning the cracks, but for a moment my concentration was broken as the young woman put her arms around me.

I knew that I just had to be patient.  The person outside was cautious, patient, but they didn’t know that I was inside and waiting for them.  I took a deep breath, following my training.

There!  Even before the thought had crystallized fully in my mind, the gun was up, my finger tightening on the trigger.  The revolver cracked as a heavy slug punched out, straight through one of the boards in the shack’s wall.

And a second later, we both caught the thud of a body hitting the ground outside.

Danni leapt to her feet, but I reached out, catching her wrist.  When she looked down at me, I held up two fingers.  There could be another person out there, a partner.  She reluctantly sat back down, and we sat in silence for ten more agonizing minutes, listening.

We heard nothing.  Finally, after I felt reasonably confident, I stood up, and we stepped outside.

The body wasn’t hard to find.  The man had been dressed in black, but his pistol was silver, glinting brightly even in the dim moonlight.

I used one foot to turn the body over, even though I knew what I would find.

The eyes of a Priest stared sightlessly up at the night sky as a dark stain spread outward from the hole punched in the center of his chest.

To be continued . . . 

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