Jonathan Afful stopped too, and his mind was on the fact that they had not lied about the man Chris Bawa. He looked at the hard, muscled body in front of him, the pectorals developed to fine proportions; the perfect coordination of that lithe body, the extremely handsome face made even more appealing, surprisingly, by the jagged scar running across that right cheek, and even though Chris was obviously still struggling under the poison in his veins, he still exuded supreme confidence and ability.
Afful had heard of how this man, as a teenager, had ruthlessly beaten a man called Tiny who had been twice his size, and then proceeded to put down three deadly gunfighters, the notorious Spencer Brothers. He had also heard of how this man had taken down Ted Bawa. Afful had always believed the stories had been exaggerated, but looking at Chris now he felt a sudden unease, and realized that it was a good thing they had come on this venture.
The prospect of this man coming to town, hearing the ugly rumours about how Afful treated Ruth, and coming after him suddenly seemed frightening to Jonathan Afful. Jonathan was no coward, and he had never run from a fight, but he knew that it would take an extremely capable man to put Chris Bawa down. He suddenly flinched when he found that Bawa’s eyes were now turned toward him, measuring him up.
“And you must be Jonathan Afful, the skunk messing up my sister,” Chris said in that same deep lazy voice, and Afful went absolutely still, his fear a sudden blast of coldness that numbed him at first, and then filled him with rage. He reached up and ripped the red bandana from his face, and then he grinned with deliberate nastiness.
“You got me, brother-in-law,” he said softly. “Such a pity we have to meet under such stressing conditions, right?” Bawa said nothing, but his dark eyes suddenly shone, and Jonathan Afful received that terrible stare that had made many a man shudder. He was no exception; he felt the concentrated venom in that stare, the pure evil and malevolent violence that spewed out of it, and much against his will he looked away from those evil eyes.
Jonathan Afful set his jaw aggressively and pushed his rifle forward in a vain effort to assert himself. Not many men succeeded in making Jonathan Afful feel jittery, and even though this man was obviously at a disadvantage he managed to portray an air of confidence and supreme capability, and it made Jonathan very angry at that. If he had had his way, he would’ve pumped Chris Bawa full of bullets and gotten the whole thing over and done with.
Rupert Henderson knew the advantage was slipping. His adversary was now looking at the third man coldly, and Rupert knew just what that look was capable of doing to the third member of his team. Bawa’s identification of himself and Afful was bad enough, and if he was able to make out the third man Rupert was sure bullets would fly before he could prevent it. So he moved forward, his shotgun trained on Chris Bawa’s heart.
“I sincerely wish we could’ve gotten the time to get to know each other more, my friend, but alas we don’t have the time,” he said with a casualness he didn’t feel. “Please turn around and get down on your face, hands underneath your body. You even twitch for a second and believe me I’ll kill you. If you refuse to obey me I will kill you where you stand.” Bawa looked into that face, and he knew Henderson meant every word. If they wanted to kill him they would have done so by now, but it seemed that for a reason he could not fathom out they wanted to render him unconscious first. Several reasons occurred to him, but he discarded them in a cold calculated way. Fear was not an emotion that formed part of him, and he continued to weigh his options rapidly. If they had come a little closer his swift reflexes and amazing fighting skills could’ve ensured that his advantage, even in the face of death, would’ve been much better, but they stayed away from him.
Obviously, once he was prone on the ground one of them would attempt to tie him up, or hit him, and that would’ve been the opening he sought. If there had been only two of them he could’ve made a move for the one that came close and used him as an advantage to attack the other one, but there were three of them, and they were jittery. If he made any move, they would definitely cut him down without thinking about the safety of their partner. It would be suicidal to dash back into the river because the currents were too strong, and even if they failed to pick him off at their leisure the currents would definitely drag him down to the crazy Mezac Falls, where the sheer drop to the death rocks below would definitely cut him to shreds.
That drop, once referred to as The Devil’s Drop during the short mining history of New Mount, was a hundred-foot drop to terrible formations of knife-edged rocks. It had been the horror of the mining folk because human beings and animals that had fallen over the edge had ended up so shredded by the killer rocks below that some had been completely unrecognizable.
Secondly, the girl’s drug was still running through his veins, and he felt so dizzy and tired, and he could barely move a limb. He just couldn’t coordinate an attack on them. Chris knew he was well beaten, and he seethed with furious wrath at his cowardly enemies and that snake of a girl called Eyram.
Chris Bawa turned and dropped flat with his hands clamped under his belly. It was a most effective way of rendering him temporarily powerless, and his fury at Henderson seethed. He heard the swift steps and realized that whilst the other two kept him covered with their rifles, Henderson was moving up on him.
Chris Bawa tensed his body, but when the butt of the shotgun smashed against the back of his skull he felt the sharp pain. Rupert smashed the butt of the rifle quite hard and cruelly again, breaking Chris’ skin behind his ear. Chris Bawa became unconscious! Rupert Henderson stepped back and tore the bandana from his face. He was breathing hard, and there was a smug smile on his face as he surveyed the inert form of the huge man at his feet. Lord, it felt good hitting out at Chris Bawa, the unfortunate legend of Little Rock. He looked at Jonathan Afful and saw that the giant was grinning too.
“Went out like a sack,” Afful said with a sneer. “Got a human skull after all.” The third man lowered his gun and turned away. He didn’t look back as he pulled off his bandana and wiped his face and the back of his neck. After a few feet he stopped near the bundle of saddlebags and guns that had belonged to Chris Bawa. Suddenly he turned and vomited onto the soft grass. He wiped his mouth and continued up into the trees, and never once did he look back. The other two looked after him, then exchanged amused glances.
“Well, bring the raft and let’s get this over with,” Rupert Henderson said. Jonathan Afful disappeared into the trees and reappeared shortly. He was dragging a rope at the end of which were three logs lashed together crudely to form a makeshift raft. Once the raft was near the edge of the river Jonathan Afful bent and, heaving and grunting, piled the heavy bulk of Chris Bawa on it. Even in the fading light both of them silently admired the sleek lines of sheer manhood on the raft. Henderson shook his head sadly.
“Such a fucking waste, Mr. Chris Bawa,” he whispered. “You should’ve stayed clear of Little Rock.”
Jonathan Afful stepped into the river and pulled on the ropes of the raft. It moved into the river and floated after him. The strong currents immediately whipped at it and threatened to tear it out of his hands. He held on grimly, thrashing wildly toward the centre of the violent river. The strain on his arms became too much when he was chest high in the river. With a final grunt he let the raft bearing the body of Chris Bawa go. The raft shot off like a bullet, borne by the strong currents of the malevolent river, and dragged toward the edge of the fall where the water was a roiling, boiling, savage and furious roll. Jonathan swam back to the bank and got out. Already the raft was getting to the final plunge into the rocks. They could see the inert form of Chris still on it.
“It’s a pity he’s out,” Jonathan Afful said savagely. “He wouldn’t know that final terror when death grips him.” You’re a sick man, Rupert Henderson thought, but he sensibly kept it to himself. And then the raft was violently pulled over the terrible waterfall in one great whoosh of water. It would fall deeply into the sharp rocks! The two men exchanged glances again.
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“No one will suspect murder,” Rupert said as he lighted a cigarette. “They’ll say he camped here, tried to swim, and got dragged over by the currents.”
“Neat,” Jonathan Afful said with a wolfish grin. “Real neat. You’ve a sick mind, you bloody gringo!” Henderson nodded without a smile and turned away.
They went through Bawa’s things. A few sets of clothing, the guns, some supplies – mainly canned foods, sour bread and jerked beef. Jonathan Afful was impressed with the Winchester rifle, and he took it. If they had found money they would have taken it. As it were they left everything else intact although Henderson eyed the new six-shooter in its holster enviously. He could do with a gun like that.
“It’s done,” Henderson said at last, and there was not even the faintest trace of remorse in his voice. “Let’s get out of here.”
Jonathan Afful was grinning as he trudged toward the trees where their horses were waiting. They rode away separately, just as they had ridden in. Chris Bawa, they knew, was dead! No man could survive the drop and the viciousness of those horrible knife-edged rocks below!
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