VOL. 1 – This is Where the Cowboy Rides Away
Billy “Ice Cream” Scafidi drove up to the Canada-US border crossing with a smile.
No one could possibly know who he was.
Everything about his physical appearance had been altered and his fake ID and fake Internet hits had been impeccably rendered.
Nothing was going to happen between him and the Canadian border guards.
And nothing did.
He was asked a few standard questions, his ID and passport and Nevada license plate checked against the online database, and he was whisked through.
Behind him, a pickup truck of teenagers was ordered to pull over.
He grinned, checked his GPS, and made his way through southwestern Alberta, through the Rockies on Highway Three, and once he was in BC he used back roads to wind his way north and east. He used a motel three times over the next few days. The mountains got taller and the fall air colder. Finally he parked at a trailhead, threw a small pack over his shoulder, and walked in for a mile through the bush until a small rough-hewn log cabin came into view. The bark hadn’t been peeled off any of the logs.
“Home sweet home.” He grinned. “Thank you, Jesus.”
He spent a few minutes looking for signs of life.
He even sniffed the air.
A man wearing a cowboy hat and brown leather coat was sitting at a table in the middle of the cabin.
“Howdy, Billy,” he said.
“Grayden St. Cyr.” Billy froze. “You can’t be that good.”
“Well, now, it’s a funny thing, Billy. A murderer can lay low for two years and get his fingerprints removed. He can get a plastic surgeon to remake his face. Grow a beard and make his hair another color completely. Heck, he can even have eye transplants if he’s got the money. Yes, sir, he can come out with an absolutely new identity. But, you know, some things you have to work on just a bit harder – the cars you like to drive, the brands of clothes you like to wear, how much you tip a pretty waitress, your gait when you walk, how you laugh, how you sneeze, how you pick out gristle from between your teeth after a meal – even if you’ve paid for a new set of teeth on top of it all. I must have looked at a thousand miles of tape from surveillance cameras in stores, at gas stations, in restaurants, at border crossings, airports, Greyhound depots, you name it. And one hunch would lead to another hunch, one break to another break, a lucky guess to another lucky guess, and here we are, together again.” Grayden nodded with his head. “Your right shoulder droops as if you’re carrying a heavy pack. Which you aren’t. I guess you’ve had that condition since you were in high school.”
Billy dropped his small pack on the floor. “So what now? A long hike back to the trailhead? A really long drive back to the Canada-US border?”
“Billy.” Grayden put his SIG pistol on the table. “I’m not bringing you in.”
“What are you talking about?”
Billy hesitated. “You’re gonna kill me.”
“Or you’re going to kill me.” Grayden tugged a Glock out of his coat pocket and tossed it to Billy. “I’m just tired of chasing you. And I know you won’t serve more than a few years what with your gangsta lawyers and all.”
Billy held the Glock in both hands with its barrel pointing down. He checked to be sure it was loaded. “Why didn’t they send a US Marshal after me?”
“Because we figured you’d cross the northern border.”
“So what’s wrong with the Mounties?”
“They’re too nice.”
“Too nice. Hell, even Raylan Givens is nicer than you.”
“Yes, sir. Nicer. But not faster.” Grayden took off his hat and set it crown down on the table. “The other thing is, he’s an actor and he’s TV. I’m not.” His blue eyes stayed locked on Billy’s. “If anything, I’m your reality show.”
“You like the hunt, don’t you?”
“Let me run. Give me a five minute lead and let me run. Make it fair.”
Grayden snorted. “Billy, I’ve already tracked you through ten states and two provinces. You’ve had your run. And I’ve had my hunt. Now it’s time for the kill.”
Billy suddenly clenched his fists on the Glock and almost snarled. “Wounded grizzlies charge.”
“I paid my debt to society, St. Cyr. More than paid. That’s why I jumped bail. Just leave me be and I’ll let you walk out of here.”
Grayden smiled. “I think you’re confused about what paying your debt to society means to me. And exactly who’s in a position to dictate what to who.”
“It’s done with. It’s over.”
“Not for the five widows of those Texas Rangers. Or their kids.”
“I’m not going back!”
“No. You’re not.”
“Don’t mess with me!” Billy jerked up the Glock. “I’ll put a hole in your head, a hole in your heart, and a hole in your Stetson!”
He began to fire.
One bullet clipped Grayden’s shoulder and ripped open his coat. Another cut open his cheek and sprayed blood in all directions. A third and a fourth slammed into the log wall behind his head.
That was all the shots Billy got off.
Grayden picked up his SIG and fired once.
Billy flew back through the door, across the porch, and sprawled in the dirt and grass.
He was still holding the Glock.
Grayden stood up, blood running across his cheek and down his neck, put his hat back on his head, and walked outside, gun in hand.
Billy lay completely still and his eyes were open and blank.
“It’s not a Stetson,” Grayden said. “It’s a Serratelli. And I’m grateful to you for missing it. But then you always specialized in shooting your victims in the back and in the dark, didn’t you?”