The banging itself wasn't what brought Blow fully awake. He'd heard it before. It partially woke him hours earlier on the stinking couch where he'd crashed and fallen instantly asleep. Startled to imagine it might be Rust or Salzwedel returning after some mishap in their mission to take the wounded Donnie to the mainland, he struggled to his feet in a somnambulant daze and shuffled to the door. A quick peek outside revealed nothing but the same blackness and blasting rain that had made the journey from Rust's boat to the house a living nightmare. He still heard the banging but consigned it to something loose on the house the wind was torturing.
He shut the door and rammed the iron bolt home. His return trip included a check on Sarah, who seemed still in a deep sleep. He bent to cover her with the blanket, much of which had slid off and lay crumpled next to her, and saw that she still gripped the wooden stock of the shotgun. Her sleeping innocence gave the impression she was clutching a strange protective teddy bear. Blow gently tugged at the weapon. He stopped and held his breath at one point when, moaning, she rolled away from him toward the kerosene heater, trying to pull the shotgun with her. The idea occurred to him to tickle her nose with a corner of his blanket in the hope she'd release the gun to tend to the itch. He decided he was too sluggish from sleep to bring off so intricate a maneuver and opted instead to simply jerk the gun free regardless of consequences. As if complicit, her grip relaxed of its own accord enabling him to slide the lethal “teddy bear” away without ado. He briefly considered trying to turn off the gas lantern, dropping that idea when he realized more harm could come from fumbling with the unfamiliar apparatus than to let it burn up its fuel.
Differences in the banging this time are what drew his consciousness to full flower. It sounded nearer and came in flurries now instead of the earlier steadier beat. More telling was the silence behind it: no longer the wind's whistle across the building's sharp edges or its tenor groaning through the branches of nearby trees. Instant clarity arrived with the voice.
“Police! Open up!” It was a woman's, because, Blow quickly grasped, Rust must have told them of Sarah's rape allegation. The presence of a female deputy also would seem to confirm Donnie's possible criminal record. Blow thought of this with a measure of relief.
“Alright, we hear you. We're unarmed. Can you wait until we're decent? Won't take more than a minute.” He looked across at Sarah. She was sitting up, clutching the blanket tightly around her. Only her head was visible, face contorted with startled confusion, auburn curls like dark flames in the heater's orange glow. She could be portraying a volcano in a middle school play. A hand poked through the blanket and patted around on the floor.
“Sarah!” Blow spoke in a stage whisper. She looked up and he shook his head, pointing at the door. “Are you dressed?” She froze, stared intently at him a moment, slowly nodded.
“Open up right now! Place any weapons on the floor in front of the door. Unlock the door and step back. Do it now!” A man's voice. Blow already had guessed the female was Connie Rodriguez. This would be her sergeant, the aggressive hardass Phillip Teach. Oh boy.
“OK, officer. We're complying.” Sarah continued staring at Blow as he slid the shotgun from under the couch and carried it across to the door. He set it down carefully, pointing the barrel away from both the door and Sarah. He opened the bolt on the door, and walked backwards, crabwise, until he was standing beside Sarah. He told her to remove the blanket and stand. She did, and grabbed his arm standing partially behind him. “OK, officer. Door's unlocked. Shotgun's on the floor in front of it. I don't know if it's loaded. We're standing back. We're in the middle of the room.”
Without warning a brazen whack and the door flew open, so hard it bounced off the adjoining wall. Something small skittered across the floor apparently having broken off the door frame or its latch. The doorway was empty save for the gray of dawn. Blow saw rain streaking down. At least the wind was gone, he thought with little cheer. Before he'd fully articulated the thought in his head two bright yellow forms materialized just inside the doorway. They were crouching, each pointing a pistol into the room, gripped with deadly resolve in both hands.
“ON THE FLOOR! NOW! BOTH OF YOU!” There were two voices, each shouting something similar, but the dominant one came from the larger bright yellow form. Rainwater dripped off both of them and pooled on the floor at their feet.
Sarah pressed herself tightly against Blow, trembling violently. She squeezed his arm so hard it hurt, and frightened little sounds escaped from her throat. Blow scanned the faces of the two cops, what was visible of them under their dripping, wide-brimmed Smokey Bear hats. The big cop, whom he assumed was Sgt. Teach, projected a cold-eyed intensity that denied even the warmth from the kerosene heater between them. Rodriguez's, round and pretty but set in a stone mask of determination, was fixed on Blow's. She dropped her gaze when their eyes met, and he saw that she'd tilted her pistol barrel toward the floor.
Blow tried to keep his voice steady. “Officers, I'm undressed under this blanket. My clothes are drying on the chairs over there.” He pointed with his chin. “I am an officer of the court. I assure you we are unarmed. The only weapon I know of in this house is that shotgun on the floor by the door.”
“ON THE FLOOR! BOTH OF YOU! NOW! AND SHUT YOUR GODDAM MOUTH YOU FUCKING PEDOPHILE!” This time only Teach spoke, moving forward as he did so and pointing his pistol directly at Blow's face. Rodriguez, who'd lowered her arms, raising one hand from her weapon as if motioning for attention, started to say something. Teach cut her off with a snarl: “DEPUTY!”
As if in echo, a different, deeper voice entered the discussion. It came from, Blow saw, a new form in the doorway, a humanoid mountain under a slick black poncho. “Deputies!” Though not nearly so forceful in decibels, this one, a confident baritone, clearly overrode the other with the authority in its timbre. “Let's skip the theatrics, Sergeant. These people are no danger to you. Mr. Blow is a respected attorney, as he said, an officer of the court, and the young lady here is obviously terrified. She's been through a terrible trauma.”
“Sir, Mr. Gladstone, please do not interfere with our job! We are following procedure here.” Teach remained crouched, pistol still pointed at Blow, but the muscles in his shoulders appeared to relax some.
Gladstone added a little steam to his voice. “Young man, as a career FBI special agent I was following procedure before you delivered the first kick in your mother's womb. There's an element in procedure you seem to have missed in your training. It's called judgment. You have no call to point your sidearm at these two people.”
“Sir, all due respect, sir, I'm in charge here.”
“That may be technically true, Sergeant, but if you don't stand down this very instant you risk being seen in the international media as the world's biggest asshole of the moment. Unless of course you plan on shooting me, too, which may well be beyond your skill set to explain considering I'm the one who woke up a judge at four o'clock this morning to get your boss the search warrant you came here to serve.”
The shoulders relaxed completely, the gun came down and returned to its holster, but the cold-eyed intensity of the face, locked on Blow's, had hardened into something quite murderous.