‘Okay guys, you know the drill.’
Mallory was first. He opened his eyes and stared down at his folded slip.
‘Go on Mal, get it over with pal,’ said Gonzales.
Mike Mallory opened the slip. All eyes were on him. He looked to heavens, then exhaled slowly and held up the L.
Gonzales was next. Always the wise guy. He opened it like a sweet wrapper … and showed another L. ‘Hey guys, what I tell ya, you can’t touch–
‘–shut up, Gonzales. You’re up next Matty.’
Young Matt Davey’s hands trembled and his green eyes darted from face to face, before resting back on Peters.
‘I can’t do this Wilson, just can’t do it.’
‘You gotta Matty,’ he said. ‘Go on kid.’
‘You know the numbers don’t work, Matt. Man’s gotta eat,’ drawled Gonzalez.
‘I said SHUT IT Gonzalez.’
Davey looked again at the skeletal faces. They’d nothing left to offer him. He held out a shaking hand to Peters, the slip waving around like a tasty small fish on the hook.
‘You do it for me.’
Wilson Peters leant forward and snatched the paper. He slumped back, opened it and then stared into the distance. Beyond his men, beyond the boat and to a point on the empty horizon where blue met blue. The breeze had stilled now and the sun was a glimpse of hell. He curled the piece into a small ball and flicked it overboard.
‘You’re all right, Matty. It’s ok,’ he said.
Peters composed himself and roused his lean body to sit up, one more time.
‘Guess it’s me then,’ he said and opened the last slip, giving its L the merest of glances before screwing the paper into his fist. He gave them a resigned nod and held out his other hand.
‘Give it to me, Mike.’
‘No way, let’s see that paper first, Wilson,’ Mallory said.
‘I said, GIVE IT ME NOW!’
Mike Mallory shook his head, but then threw the revolver across anyway.
‘Wilson, I’m still all right ain’t I? AIN’T I?’ Davey’s green eyes were moist now, pleading.
‘Sure Matty. it’s alright kid, it’s alright.’
Peters put the gun to his head and cocked the hammer.
Then, another noise – faint at first – but unmistakable - aeroengines.