Once they neared the accident site Frank and Titus switched off their respective engines and headlights and coasted to the side of the road.
‘Fuck,’ Joe whispered. ‘We don’t have a flashlight.’
‘We won’t need one,’ Frank answered softly, pointing to a black van with its parking lights on. It was backed up into the woods. Titus followed them to the vehicle and motioned for the Hardleys to take the left side while he covered the right. They could hear someone dragging a heavy object and saw a faint light further down the path.
‘Guns,’ Titus mouthed, and he and Joe drew their .38s, while Frank pulled out a .22 Titus gave him. The size of the gun angered Frank at the time. ‘Why do I get the short one? ‘ he had asked Titus at the Arsenal.
‘The girls call you Stubby, don’t they?’ Titus replied. Now Frank remembered his brother’s choked laughter. He held the gun with forced authority.
As they came around the van, they spied Phil pushing a trunk into the back of the van. He picked up his flashlight and shut the van door.
Titus jumped out, gun drawn. ‘ Hey fucko!’ he yelled. ‘Freeze!’
Phil reacted instantly. He already had his .45 ready, and fired towards Titus. The bullet barely missed and lodged itself in the van. Phil turned and sped down the path, turning off the flashlight.
‘ I got a bead on him!’ Frank yelled, and fired haphazardly. The bullet hit a branch that fell into the barely lit trail. Titus, running at full speed, tripped over it, and sailed into the bushes.
‘Motherfucker!’ he screamed. ‘My fuckin’ ankle!’
The Hardleys ran toward him, but he shooed them away. ‘Get that son-of-a-bitch!’ he yelled. They continued down the trail, but it only grew darker.
‘Hold it,’ Joe said. ‘Let’s listen for him. We can’t find him if we can’t see or hear him.’
They held their breaths and listened to the silent forest for almost a minute. Something crackled in the brush twenty yards ahead of them, and they could make out a dim figure running across the path.
‘Stop!’ Joe yelled. He fired into the brush. They heard a thud and a groan. Then Phil’s gun flared and a bullet embedded into a tree behind the Hardleys.
‘Shit!’ Frank yelled. ‘He’s off to the left!’
They tore through the thicket, ripping their skin and clothing. Suddenly the sky opened up before them, and the moon shone down on a clearing. Phil whirled around with his gun ready, but the moonlight lit his features while the Hardleys were partially cloaked in darkness.
Frank fired first, hitting his target in the abdomen. Phil screamed in pain, stumbled backwards, and disappeared.
‘Where’d he go?’ Joe yelled.
The rushed into the clearing, and fortunately screeched to a halt when they saw the cliff. Twenty feet down, Phil’s body lay in a crooked and unnatural position.
‘I don’t think he’s going anywhere anytime soon,’ Frank said, blowing on the sub-nosed barrel.