I jumped behind the tree an' checked my ammo. I was low, real low. No way I was gonna be able to hold out long, but I wasn't gonna give up. Not now. It was too late to stop this now. It was years too late.
"BA!" Hannibal's voice carried across the cold clearing. "BA this is getting out of hand. I want both of you to knock this off right now. Before someone gets hurt."
"Someone's gonna get hurt, Colonel, you can count on it," I shouted back. "And it's gonna be that crazy fool." I looked around but couldn't see any sign of Murdock. As low an ammo as I was I needed to know were he was hiding if I had any chance of getting him before Hannibal could find a way to stop this.
"It's been buildin' for years, Hannibal. You know that. That crazy fool has pushed me too far this time. I'm gonna do somethin' I shoulda done long ago." It felt good to finally say it. "I'm gonna make sure he don't ever mess with anyone ever again."
"BA..." Hannibal's voice had that annoying wheedling quality that he always had when he was tryin' to get me to do somethin' I didn't wanna do.
"Forget it, Hannibal." We'd talked too much, Murdock had probably circled around an' had me in his sights. I had to move. I double checked my ammo, then made a quick dash for another group of trees. I heard two sharp thumps, and the tree I had just been standing by took the brunt of the attack meant for me.
"Murdock!" Hannibal's voice was closer now but I didn't waste any time looking to see where he was. I knew from the hits on the tree where Murdock musta been standing an' I circled around, tryin' hard not to make any noise as I sprinted across the hard packed snow.
"Murdock, damn it, you got to stop this." Hannibal was usin' the tough approach to handlin' Murdock, I noticed. Sometimes that worked. "Do you hear me, Captain?" Of course, if it didn't stop him, it was guaranteed to get him talkin'.
"Aw, come on, Colonel," Murdock's voice floated out into the cold about twenty feet to my left. I silently changed direction and headed toward that spot. "You know that this is inevitable. It was just a matter of time before me and the big guy had it out."
I worked my way between some trees, guessin' that even Murdock wouldn't be crazy enough to stay put after revealin' his location like that. I could hear Hannibal swearing somewhere off in the distance but all this was beyond even his control. This was justice, pure and simple.
A minor squeak of snow just ahead of me gave me pause, then I saw a glimpse of leather and I could see the back of Murdock's head. I carefully took aim, but I just couldn't do it. No matter how much he deserved it, I could do it. Not like that.
I carefully adjusted my stance and silently slid to the right to get a clearer line of fire. I checked my aim once, then...
"Murdock!" I shouted the name as loud as I could.
Murdock spun, kicking snow up as he did so. He made no attempt to run or fight and I smiled. I had him dead to rights.
The first snowball hit him square on the nose and Murdock let out a howl that ended abruptly when my next snowball clipped him in the jaw. He went down with a choked cry and I rushed him, burying him in the snowbank and washing his face with the cold snow. I felt like a seven-year old back in Chicago, having a winter fort-fight in the empty lot next to the tenement.
"BA!" Hannibal was pulling at me. "You're going to kill him."
"No, I'm not," I protested, but I let him pull me off Murdock. "I couldn't be so lucky."
Murdock clawed his way free of the pile of snow, sputtering angrily but grinning from ear to ear. "I'm fine. We're just havin' a little fun, Hannibal."
Hannibal just shook his head and walked away muttering, "I don't even know why I bother."
I glanced over at Murdock and we both laughed. It sounded wonderful in the cold winter air.