Read The Cobra Online

Authors: Richard Laymon

Tags: #Mystery, #Adventure, #Short Stories

The Cobra (2 page)

BOOK: The Cobra
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He opened his door. Its surprising weight jerked the handle from his grip.

The door flew wide, slamming into a black van parked a yard downhill. He climbed out. Lana didn't even try to push open the passenger door. Instead, she slipped across the seats and got out on Blake's side.

"This way," Lana said.

He followed her up the sidewalk. Turning around, she took a few backward steps and smiled at him. The breeze blew her long hair across her face. Returning her smile, Blake felt a pang of regret. Such a shame, he thought. She's so beautiful. He could easily get to like her. But how could he like a cold-blooded terrorist?

"She's a snake,"
Decker had said.

She didn't look at all like a snake.

But Blake had a job to do. He would do it, no matter what she
looked
like.

He followed her across a walkway to the entrance of the house.

I
n front of the door, she pushed a button for one of the apartments. "It's Lana," she said into the speaker.

"Who's that with you?" asked a man's rough voice. He must have seen them from a window.

"He's okay. He's one of us. He's someone you know."

"I
don't know him," said the voice.

"You know
of
him," Lana said. "It's all right. Open up."

A buzzer sounded, and Lana pushed the door open. Blake stepped into the foyer behind her. Stopping at the foot of the deserted staircase, he pulled the pistol from under his drab green jacket.

Lana looked at him. She narrowed her eyes. "What's that for?"

"I haven't stayed alive this long by being careless," Blake said. He pressed a button to drop the magazine from the pistol's handle. As the flat, metal container slid down, he felt himself break into a sweat. Had he emptied it at Hunter and McBain? Of course he had. But he hesitated. What if he was wrong? What if a single blank cartridge was still there and Lana saw it?
I'm not wrong,
he told himself. But he turned away from her, just in case. He dropped the magazine into his hand. It was empty.

He took a fresh magazine from his pocket. This one held live rounds. He slid it into the automatic, and jacked a cartridge into the firing chamber. He made sure the safety was off.

"You're not very trusting," Lana said.

"That's right. How do I know one of your pals isn't really an undercover cop? The Cobra would be a big prize for him. I'm worth more than the rest of your little group put together. He wouldn't mind blowing his cover for a catch like me."

Lana stared into his eyes.

For a moment, Blake felt close to panic. He'd gone too far. He shouldn't have brought up the subject of undercover cops. He shouldn't have planted the thought in her head. But it was too late to call back the words.

"You don't have to worry," Lana said. Her voice trembled slightly. "Come on," she said.

Blake's legs felt weak as he climbed the stairs behind her. The pistol was slippery in his sweaty hand.

Get out of here!
he thought.
You can't face all of them. They'll be waiting with guns, just in case. Lana will give the word, and it'll be all over.

But he couldn't allow himself to back down. He followed Lana to the top of the stairs, and up to the door of room 2B.

T
urning to him, Lana said, "You'd better put the gun away. If you walk in with that in your hand . . ." She shook her head.

"Right," Blake said. He pushed the slim barrel under his belt.

Lana knocked on the door. A moment later, it swung open. He followed her into the apartment. Across the room stood a skinny, long-haired man with an M-16 automatic rifle. The muzzle was aimed at Blake. He pictured himself leaping aside, rolling, drawing his pistol. But before he could act, Lana said, "It's all right, Willie. Put down the gun. Meet the Cobra."

Willie looked amazed. He lowered the rifle and propped it against the wall. "The Cobra?" he asked.

Irma Getz looked up at him from a card table where she was playing chess with a strong-looking bearded man.

The door slammed shut behind Blake. He turned around and looked into the eyes of Blitzer Hogan. Blitzer pushed his revolver into his shoulder holster. "You're the Cobra?" he asked.

Lana answered for Blake. "He's got the Walther with the snake. Show him," she told Blake.

It could be a trick to disarm him, he thought. But this wasn't the right time to try to take them. They were too spread out, and too close to their weapons. He decided to play along. He pulled the pistol from his belt and handed it to Blitzer.

As the man stared at the ivory snake on its handle, Lana said, "He saved me from the cops. That's how we met." She opened her purse.

"I was about to have supper at Bestburgers, and . . ." Then she pulled out an automatic and aimed it---right at Blitzer Hogan's stomach.

"Drop it, Blitzer," she said.

"What the . . . !" he said with shock on his face.

"NOW!" Lana yelled.

The Walther fell from his hand. Willie leaped for the M-16. Lana turned and fired. He grabbed his side and fell. She swung her pistol toward Blitzer again. "Don't move! FBI! You're under arrest! You're all under arrest!"

Getz and Leonard, at the card table, looked at Lana with disbelief. She waved her pistol at them. "Don't even think about moving!"

Blitzer made a try for her. Blake drove a knee into the man's belly, then dropped to a crouch and grabbed the Walther.

Lana's small weapon swept toward him.

"Don't shoot!" he snapped. "Douglas, San Francisco Police!"

Her eyes went wide. She said, "Holy smoke."

A
t least we took four of them out of the picture," Blake said later over a cup of coffee at the station.

Lana shook her head. "I thought I was getting the Cobra, or I would never have blown my cover."

"Sorry," Blake said.

"Oh, it's not your fault. There's never been any good communication between our agency and the local police." She shrugged. "Anyway, I guess I'm glad to be out of it." She looked at him with her clear blue eyes. "And I'm awfully glad you weren't the Cobra. I liked you. Right away, I liked you. It made me sick to think you were a killer."

Blake felt the warmth of a blush spread over his face. "Hey," he said. "You never did get to eat supper. Hungry?"

"You bet."

"How about Bestburgers?" he asked.

"I can't stand their food," Lana said, grinning. "I only ate there because my field contact works the counter."

"Well, you name the place, then," he said. "It's the company that's most important, anyway," he said, smiling.

BOOK: The Cobra
13.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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