So, here it was. This, then, would be the night.
The Blazer trailed a rising mist behind its rear tires, geysering little sheets of standing water to its flanks. Lance Bradford’s grip was sweaty on the leather-covered steering wheel behind the monotonous thwack of windshield wipers on low against a persistent drizzle; his gaze steady over the twin beams of both foglights and headlamps slashing futilely into the pea soup of the night. Grant Corbett was at Darlene’s.
The rage within Bradford had been growing, nurturing upon itself like some cancerous sore, festering just below the surface, waiting to explode its evil malignancy in a torrent of hate.
Past the initial shock, he wondered how this ogre - - this hate - - could have taken such a grip upon him. He had always pictured himself a steady, level-headed person. He should have been able to accept the fact that a man had struck his son, and it should have been as simple as that. Reason for enmity but not this!
But Lance Bradford saw it as a lot more. It was a Corbett who had struck his son - - a man with a name synonymous with grief over the past few months. He knew in his heart that a Corbett had killed his wife’s father and that, somehow, the murder had taken his own mother. How? He didn’t know. But he thought he was sure.
The deed, too, had gone beyond a mere blow. It had been a savage, brutal, merciless sucker-punch, designed to do the optimum of damage, delivered by an experienced, powerful, full-grown mountain of a man with malice aforethought. Delivered on a stripling youth, hurt and blinded by his own blood, blood that had been put there by this very man.
Grant Corbett. Such had become his hatred that the very sound of the name almost made him ill. And he was at Darlene’s.
Bradford silently cursed the fog as an icy resolve began to assume control of his actions.
Gone were considerations of family, friends, his business, the law. Gone, too, for this moment, was what he had once called his common sense. In essence, his very sanity. For there was only his lust for vengeance.
Darlene’s Tavern was awhirl with activity, rock music pulsed and crashed, smoke hung on the air like a stifling blanket, nearly as thick as the fog outside.
Lance Bradford had been in his share of fights in his younger days but they had been mostly spontaneous, heat-of-the-moment affairs. This, however, was completely different - - thought out, planned, premeditated. He viewed the situation almost as a man detached; coldly calculating, sure of his next move.
The first thing was to get rid of Wesley. He wasn’t at all positive that he could handle Grant alone, but there was no questioning the outcome if he must contend with both brothers. Lance reached into the right hand pocket of his down vest and fingered the reassuring lump of weight there. It was a five-dollar roll of dimes, wrapped black and tight with electrical tape.
Bradford provoked a few raised eyebrows as he elbowed his way into a position directly behind Wes Corbett. That individual sat spraddle-legged over a reversed chair jammed in between two of the card players, his elbows resting on the back of the chair. On the far side of the table, back to the corner, sat Grant.
Grant Corbett reached past an ashtray full to overflowing, grinning and starting to rake in a trick. Then he saw Bradford and his hand froze over the table. His eyes slitted, suddenly wary; he remained motionless and the smoke wreathed around his head. It became quiet in that corner.
"‘Lo, Bradford", he said when it became clear that the other wouldn’t be the first to break the silence.
"‘Lo, Corbett." At this, Wesley, realizing something was coming off, started to get up but Lance had a commanding position above him. Using his free left hand, he vised down hard on that spot where neck junctioned with collarbone and leaned forward into Wes’ back, using his weight to keep him seated. It need be but for a few more seconds.
Across the table, Grant digested this and tensed, like a big, bearded cat, ready to spring. "You want something?" he demanded.
"Yeah, mother-f------. I want you!"
Instinctively, Grant Corbett lunged backward from the glowing cigarette butt that came arcing harmlessly at his face and, in the same instant, Lance Bradford brought the bottom of his nearly full beer bottle crunching down with all the force he could muster right on the point of Wes’ shaved skull.
He threw a hip and shoulder into a man who was standing too closely as he jerked his dazed victim savagely, by the collar of his shirt, to his feet and spun him around. The bottle had been jarred from his hand by the force of the blow and now his fingers closed on the roll of dimes in his pocket.
Bradford had his back to the table now and was only vaguely aware of falling chairs, muffled curses, a glass breaking, milling bodies, a stunned scream. Then all that was lost as he sent a looping right smashing hard into the middle of Wes’ face. Blood slatted, Bradford felt the tingle to his elbow as Corbett went backward in a long, stumbling fall behind the bar, bringing a whole row of liquor bottles cascading and shattering down around him. And now, the playing field leveled, he set his sights on Grant Corbett . . . . .
Mallory managed to shower Ward purposely as her naked body emerged from the water and she threw herself down on a spread towel, wrapping her arms around bent knees, her back to him. He traced a finger down her lower back into the cleavage of her buttocks. He felt her stiffen.
"Don’t touch", she demanded imperiously.
He sighed wearily, lay back with a grunt. "Christ, you’re a spoiled, stubborn little broad. I pity the poor bastard who gets stuck with you."
She looked over her shoulder at him icily. "Well, apparently you don’t want it to be you."
"Humph", he grunted again, pretending to be looking at the stars but really studying her out of the corner of an eye, liking the way her hair hung wet alongside the oval of her face; the way tiny silver droplets of water beaded against the silken lines of her skin; the way her firm, pink nipples, stimulated by the cool of the lake, stood straight from the soft beckoning of her lovely young breasts. <