“Back so soon?” Turcot asked, pulling on his coat as the sheriff burst into the cabin.
“They found us,” Bear panted.
“I see that. How?”
“Not sure. Maybe they bugged Kennesaw’s cruiser. What are you doing?”
“I’m getting the hell out of here. What does it look like?”
Bear grabbed Turcot’s arm. “They’re already here. You won’t get far.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
“If you go out there, I have no idea what they’ll do. At least in here, we can turn it into a standoff. It’ll buy time until help comes.”
“How long before they get to you and you hand me over?”
“I won’t do that,” Bear promised. “Close those windows over there. Turn that lantern down, and stay low.”
Engines growled and whirred back in the trees.
“Listen to that,” Bear said. “They’re stuck in the mud.”
“I can’t see anything.”
“See over there? Move that bookcase in front of that window.”
The two men wrestled with the bookcase, hauling it into place. Once the window was covered, Bear and Turcot slid the sofa, barricading it up against the door.
“What if they’re coming up on foot?” Turcot asked as he looked out the window again. “It’s too dark to see anything.”
Bear picked up his rifle, went to the other window and opened it. He pushed a magazine into the receiver, yanked the charging handle back, aimed out the window into the ground, and fired three times. The reports echoed through the trees until they faded, leaving only the rumble of the DEA vehicles’ engines.
“Did you see them? Are they coming?” Turcot shouted.
“No. I’m just letting them know that we’re armed.” Bear fired again. “That ought to send the message. Close those windows there. Pull the curtains.”
When the cabin was finally locked down, the sheriff crouched on the floor by the front window. Turcot sat on the floor in the kitchen, making sure to keep himself out of sight in case the agents were looking in with infrared scopes.
“What do we do now?” he asked in a low voice.
“We wait,” Bear answered in the darkness.
Twenty minutes passed before the Tahoes closed in on the cabin. The engines went silent, and spotlights swept the cabin windows, illuminating the interior. As Turcot and the sheriff listened, several doors opened and men exited their vehicles. Footsteps crunched in the snow as the agents encircled the cabin, taking up firing positions to cover every exit point. It sounded like five or six in total. They could hear a few of the men moving around to the back, but there was no back door and no windows on that side. No one was entering or leaving that way.
“Do not approach the cabin!” Bear shouted. “We are armed!”
“This is Sheriff Bear Ellison! I repeat, do not approach the cabin! We will open fire if you try to enter!”
The footfalls stopped. The spotlight beams fixed on the windows, lighting the ceiling, the back wall, and the kitchen cupboards.
“Sheriff Ellison,” a tinny voice replied on a PA. “We know Turcot’s in there. Come out now, and we’ll get everything straightened out. Don’t make a mess out of things. All we want is Monte Turcot. It’s time for us to take him in.”
“You need to back off!” shouted the sheriff. “You don’t have my authorization to be here.”
“We don’t need your authorization. We have a federal warrant.”
“You need my authorization in my county. Now back off.”
“Be reasonable, Sheriff. You’re outnumbered.”
“You’ve got what, six men? Your odds aren’t that good.”
“We’ll have a dozen more soon enough.”
“And so will we,” Bear answered.
“You’re harboring a fugitive, Sheriff. Send him out now and we can work the rest of this out…without the use of force.”
“Just leave the rifle,” Turcot whispered. “Leave it with me and go. No sense in both of us getting killed.”
“There’s no sense in either of us getting killed, Monte,” Bear replied. “I don’t think Acevedo’s a lunatic. They won’t do anything rash. They’ll wait until they get a battalion up here before they even think about trying anything. Kennesaw will bring help by then.”
“We have your deputy,” added the speaker on the PA.
The sheriff cursed under his breath, then feigned indifference. “Yeah? So what? What are you holding him on?”
“Obstruction and resisting arrest.”
“You go ahead and hold him, then. He wasn’t following my orders.”
“We’re coming in there, Sheriff.”
“I’m warning you, I will open fire if you try to come in! I mean it!” Bear turned to Turcot in the shadows. “Get down, over by the stove.” Turcot didn’t budge, remaining by the cupboards. Footsteps sloshed and crunched through the mud and snow. Another spotlight turned on, brightening the window to their left. Shadows of running men crossed the beam. Bear nestled the butt of his rifle high into his shoulder, pointing the barrel at the door. Boots thumped on the porch, and agents whispered commands to each other.
“Don’t come in here! I will open fire,” the sheriff shouted again. The agents shuffled around, taking their positions. Bear slid over to the recliner to get a better angle on the men.
A grenade burst through the window with a crash. It stopped in the middle of the floor, framed in a patch of reflected searchlight. Without hesitation, Turcot lunged for the smoldering explosive, grabbed it, and tossed it back out the front window, shattering the other pane. Just as it broke through the glass, it burst with a deafening pop and a blinding flash of brilliant white.
“Motherfucker!” someone squealed outside. A gun barrel jabbed through the side window. Muzzle flash. Several rounds went off. Bear spun towards the shooter and fired blindly four times in response. A hail of gunfire erupted as bullets ripped through the cabin. Outmatched, he ducked down as low as he could and covered his head. Turcot and the sheriff were caught in the middle of the agents’ crossfire. Several dozen rounds zipped overhead. Splinters of wood and shards of glass exploded in every direction, and bullets pinged off the stove.
Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the firing paused. For a moment, the only sound was the trickling, dripping of fluid. A bullet had punctured the kettle and water was leaking out, running off the stove and spilling onto the floor.
“Agent down! Agent down!” shouted a voice from outside.
“Pull back! Pull back!” another commanded.
Footsteps stumbled off the porch. The spotlights switched off. It was pitch black inside the cabin, save for the squares of midnight blue sky that filled the uncovered windows. Bear caught his breath.
“Turcot,” he whispered. “Turcot, are you all right?”
“I’m hit,” groaned Turcot. Bear couldn’t see him.
“I don’t know.”
The sheriff crawled through broken glass and fragments towards Turcot’s voice. He was balled up in the middle of the floor.
“Where is it?” Bear asked. “Show me.”
“Right here.” Turcot rolled over, clutching at his side.
“Yeah, you’re bleeding pretty bad,” the sheriff said. “Keep pressure on the wound. Can you crawl?”
“I think so.”
“Let’s get you over there.” Ellison helped Turcot drag himself into the back corner of the cabin, behind the stove. “I can’t see what it looks like.”
“I should have run for it when I had the chance,” Turcot murmured faintly.
“Do you have a flashlight in here somewhere?”
“I think it’s in the kitchen drawer, left of the sink.”
Hunched over low, Bear scurried into the kitchen with his rifle. He worked his way along the cabinets and bullet holes and debris until he reached the sink. Pulling the drawer open, he felt around for the flashlight, grabbed it, and darted back to Turcot. He clicked on the light to assess the injury.
“It’s serious, isn’t it?” Turcot asked.
“Every bullet wound is serious,” answered the sheriff. “Just keep putting pressure on it.”