"He just _thinks_ his gun into his hand?"
"Faster than anyone could ever draw it?"
"Inconceivably faster. The time element is almost non-existent."
I got up, feeling worse than I'd ever felt in my life. "Come on," I said. "Let's see what happens."
As if there was any doubt about what was bound to happen.
We stepped out onto the porch and over to the rail. Behind us, I heard Menner come out too. I looked over my shoulder. He'd wrapped a towel around his head. Blood was leaking through it. He was looking at Buck, hating him clear through.
The street was deserted except for Buck standing about twenty feet away, and, at the far end, Sheriff Ben Randolph coming slowly toward him, putting one foot ahead of the other in the dust.
A few men were standing on porches, pressed back against the walls, mostly near doors. n.o.body was sitting now--they were ready to groundhog if lead started flying wild.
"G.o.d d.a.m.n it," I said in a low, savage voice. "Ben's too good a man to get kilt this way. By a punk kid with some crazy psychowhosis way of handling a gun."
I felt the professor's level eyes on me, and turned to look at him.
"Why," he said, "doesn't a group of you get together and face him down? Ten guns against his one. He'd have to surrender."
"No, he wouldn't," I said. "That ain't the way it works. He'd just dare any of us to be the first to try and stop him--and none of us would take him up on it. A group like that don't mean anything--it'd be each man against Buck Tarrant, and none of us good enough."
"I see," the professor said softly.
"G.o.d...." I clenched my fists so hard they hurt. "I wish we could think his gun right back into the holster or something!"
Ben and Buck were about forty feet apart now. Ben was coming on steadily, his hand over his gunb.u.t.t. He was a good man with a gun, Ben--n.o.body around these parts had dared tackle him for a long time.
But he was out-cla.s.sed now, and he knew it. I guess he was just hoping that Buck's first shot or two wouldn't kill him, and that he could place a good one himself before Buck let loose any more.
But Buck was a d.a.m.n good shot. He just wouldn't miss.
The professor was staring at Buck with a strange look in his eyes.
"He should be stopped," he said.
"Stop him, then," I said sourly.
"After all," he mused, "if the ability to perform telekinesis lies dormant in all of us, and is released by strong faith and desire to accomplish something that can be accomplished only by that means--then our desire to stop him might be able to counter his desire to--"
"d.a.m.n you and your big words," I said bitterly.
"It was your idea," the professor said, still looking at Buck. "What you said about thinking his gun back into its holster--after all, we _are_ two to his one--"
I turned around and stared at him, really hearing him for the first time. "Yeah, that's right--I said that! My G.o.d ... do you think we could do it?"
"We can try," he said. "We know it _can_ be done, and evidently that is nine-tenths of the battle. He can do it, so we should be able to.
We must want him _not_ to more than he _wants_ to."
"Lord," I said, "I want him not to, all right...."
Ben and Buck were about twenty feet apart now, and Ben stopped.
His voice was tired when he said, "Any time, Buck."
"You're a h.e.l.l of a sheriff," Buck sneered. "You're a no-good b.a.s.t.a.r.d."
"Cuss me out," Ben said. "Don't hurt me none. I'll be ready when you start talking with guns."
"I'm ready now, beanpole," Buck grinned. "You draw first, huh?"
"_Think of his gun!_" the professor said in a fierce whisper. "Try to grab it with your mind--break his aim--pull it away from him--_you know it can be done! Think, think_--"
Ben Randolph had never in anyone's knowledge drawn first against a man. But now he did, and I guess n.o.body could blame him.
He slapped leather, his face already dead--and Buck's Peacemaker was in his hand--
And me and the professor were standing like statues on the porch of the Once Again, thinking at that gun, glaring at it, fists clenched, our breath rasping in our throats.
The gun appeared in Buck's hand, and wobbled just as he slipped hammer. The bullet sprayed dust at Ben's feet.
Ben's gun was halfway out.
Buck's gunbarrel pointed down at the ground, and he was trying to lift it so hard his hand got white. He drove a bullet into the dust at his own feet, and started to whine.
Ben's gun was up and aiming.
Buck shot himself in the foot.
Then Ben shot him once in the right elbow, once in the right shoulder.
Buck screamed and dropped his gun and threw out his arms, and Ben, who was a thorough man, put a bullet through his right hand, and another one on top of it.
Buck sat in the dust and flapped blood all around, and bawled when we came to get him.
The professor and I told Ben Randolph what had happened, and n.o.body else. I think he believed us.
Buck spent two weeks in the town jail, and then a year in the state pen for pulling on Randolph, and n.o.body's seen him now for six years.
Don't know what happened to him, or care much. I reckon he's working as a cowhand someplace--anyway, he sends his mother money now and then, so he must have tamed down some and growed up some too.
While he was in the town jail, the professor talked to him a lot--the professor delayed his trip just to do it.
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