Troy laid the revolver in her palm, and she closed her fingers around it. The metal shape felt heavy, businesslike, ominous.
"Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot. I know you've handled sports guns on the ranch, but this is different. You want to remember most gunfights are three, three, and three. That is, it takes about three rounds, at less than three yards, and last approximately three seconds. So don't worry about a reload."
Deecey held the gun between both hands, pointing it experimentally first at a spot on the wall opposite, then the door to the lanai, then the TV. "Three and three and three? That's pretty cute. Do they have personnel somewhere in cop jobs thinking up these things?"
"Cops are good at slogans. You're supposed to remember them." He came over to stand beside her. "Do you think you can use it?"
She lowered the gun. "Do you mean, do I know enough about this gun to be able to fire it? Or do you mean, would I actually use it against someone?"
"Both. You've been in a car-jacking, the guy had a weapon. Which Ace tells me he stuck into your side and kept there all the time he was in the car. He meant business."
She looked away. "Well, it felt like a gun. I didn't actually see it. I didn't actually see his face, either."
"That doesn't matter now. You were at risk, that's what counts. When you drive the car, I want you to take the thirty-eight out of your purse and put it on the seat beside you. That's so you can pick it up and have it ready if you need to use it. When you get out of the car, especially in places like the parking lot downstairs, I'd prefer you carried it in a pocket. Wear clothes with pockets so you can keep your hand on it."
She turned and looked up into his face. "All right, you can tell me now. I mean, what is it you know that I don't know?"
"What are you talking about?"
"What happened to Mrs. Harris and her crowd? Ace told you, didn't he, that all the Gypsies are gone, all their fortune telling places closed up? Is that why you're giving me a gun to carry and shoot my way out of ... of ... my parking lot at night?"
"It's not funny, Deecey." He turned away and went into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator door to get another beer. He stood at the counter, looking through to the living room. "I don't know what happened to Ace's Gypsies, I'm a Fernando County deputy, Palmasota isn't in my jurisdiction. My guess is they're hiding out somewhere on the east coast, maybe Ft. Lauderdale or Miami where there are other Gypsies. And no, I don't know why they left."
"But you've got a good guess."
"Actually, there's not much to guess at. Right now the talk on the street is that there's something new operating."
She pointed the gun in the direction of the kitchen. "Something new? What does that mean?"
"It's all rumor. Fernando County swaps information with other county law enforcement; sometimes it's just chatter, usually about drug networks. Be careful, Deecey," he told her, "that's a lot of gun. You have to make sure it's unloaded if you're going to fool around pointing it at things."
"Hah, I knew you were going to say that. 'Be careful.'" She put the gun up to her eye and sighted along its short barrel. "Just like the sheriff always said in 'Gunsmoke.' "
He picked up his beer and came into the living room and sat down on the couch close beside her, resting his arm along the back. "It wasn't the sheriff who said it. It was his girlfriend, Miss Kitty. She always said, 'Be careful, Matt,' when he went out to round up the bad guys."
Deecey spread the ammunition out on the coffee table and began to load the gun the way he had showed her. Troy put his hand on the back of her neck. "You know," he said, "I wouldn't want anything to happen to you."
Stan Lord's words, at the ranch. She shifted on the couch, pulling away. Almost as quickly Troy wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back against him, then down against the cushions. They lay stretched out as he rolled part of his weight on her to hold her down and touched his lips against hers. "Donna Christine," he said softly against her mouth, "baby."
He ran his tongue against her upper lip as he kissed her and Deecey tasted beer. She put her arms around his neck. At the same time his hand dove down in the cushions and under her, cupping her bottom, pulling her body against him. They fit together as always, warm and easy and sensual.