He fell silent and doubled over as someone punched him in the stomach, then toppled completely as someone else shoved him. And then, suddenly, there was a cry—a cry that sounded as though it had come from Ank and yet utterly different from any Williams had ever heard. A warbling, frightened, pitiful cry—the kind an animal might make if it were sinking into tar while surrounded by predators.
"Marshal?" said someone. "That came from the Lonestar Corral."
"Then that means we've got 'im cornered," said Rimshaw, and shouted, "Johnson! Let 'em into the armory! Let 'em all in!" And to everyone else he said: "Get your weapons and meet me at the corral. And someone fetch Creebald and Teller. I don't care how sick they are. I want them by my side."
"But, Marshal, I just came from there," said Johnson, pausing. "And they're plumb gone."
"What do mean, gone?" snapped Rimshaw.
"I mean they ain't there. They're not at the Rio Grande. No one's at the Rio Grande."
Williams craned his neck on the ground to observe Rimshaw's reaction, and what he saw sent a chill up his spine, for it all but confirmed what he'd begun to suspect. For as Rimshaw stared at the man coldly, his eyes black as coals and his face pale as the dead, his tongue slipped between his lips like a snake's and was just as quickly sucked back in.