The tuxedoed men in the casino anxiously watched, but no one interfered. No one dared get in the Judge's line of fire. Flora, however, giggled and ordered a bottle of Black Knight Bourbon from the bartender.
Karina looked at Paladin, then at the Judge. "Well," she purred. "Which is it? Paladin or Matthew Blake?" Her blue eyes narrowed to slits.
The Judge wagged his gun at Paladin. "I've gotten drunk with Matthew Blake. I've been shot down by Paladin Blake. And I'm tellin' you: this ain't Matthew." He glared with his one good eye.
Flora sauntered across the room, holding her bottle by the neck and halted by the Judge's side. "He's right," she said and clutched onto the Judge's free arm to steady herself.
"Flora, no," Paladin whispered.
"That's my brother," she slurred, "...Pal'din. He told me he'd break my neck if I tattled."
"Indeed," Karina said and looked Paladin over. "It appears, Mr. Blake, that we have met before." She collected the cards on the table and squared them. "And it appears that our business is not concluded after all." She balled her white-gloved hand into a fist. "Judge, take him to the green room. Get the doctor. We will then have an extended conversation with our guest."
Paladin didn't like the sound of that.
He had to do somethingbut there weren't many options. He couldn't dodge the Judge's aim at this range, and he was too far away to grapple with him. He could grab Karina, use her as a shield...and get mobbed by every man in the casino.
Flora laughed hysterically. "Brother dearest, you are a pain in the ass, but I still adore you." She reeled back and swung her free armalong with the bottleand landed a blow on the back of the Judge's head. Glass and liquor sprayed across the Persian rugs on the casino floor.
The Judge stood still, staring at Paladin. The pirate took a step forward...then collapsed in a heap.
No one moved. Everyone fixed upon slender Flora, singularly elegant in her black satin dress and glimmering emeralds, the jagged bottle neck still grasped in her delicate her hand as she stood over the fallen giant.
Paladin broke the spell first; he stood, gabbed his chair and threw it at the windows on the western wall. They shattered, and razor sharp shards rained onto the ground below. Men and women scattered around the room. In the confusion, Paladin ran to the ledgeskidded and turned for Flora.
She backed away. "Go," she whispered and raised the serrated bottle. "You're not taking me anywhere. I belong here."
Paladin had come to Le Coeur du Minuit to get his sister out of the snake pit. That wasn't happening tonight. He no longer had the luxury of trying to "save" his sister. He had to save himself.
He jumped through the broken window.
Silvers of glass sliced through his tuxedo, his cheek, arms, and legs. Paladin flailed through the airthree storiesand landed on a rose hedge in the sunken garden below.
He pulled free of the thorns and got his bearings. From the broken windows of the colonial mansion people stared and pointed at him. On the rooftop he heard the racking of machine guns. He looked for cover: there were fountains, and a hedge maze. Behind him was the roar of a car engine. Paladin turned and saw a silver limousine mowing down topiary animals.
The car skidded to halt next to him. Tennyson popped open the driver's door and slid over. "Get in. Hurry!"
Paladin shouldered himself behind the wheel and stomped the gas pedal to the floor.
Bullets pinged off the trunk. The limo fishtailed over a fountain basin, knocked over marble planters with night blooming magnolias and crashed through plaster Greek statues. The wheels caught and the limo rocketed back over the topiary animalsbumped over a sidewalk, scattering pedestrians, and then screeched onto the cobblestone boulevard.
Paladin smoothly accelerated toward the hills and the airport on the other side of the island.
"What happened to Miss Flora?" Tennyson asked.
Paladin gritted his teeth. Flora took out the Judge by herself and bought him a split second to get away. She had saved himwhen he'd come to save her. He owed her one for that. He was going to return the favor and get her out of her...even if he had to straightjacket her first.
"Flora has her own plans," Paladin said. "We'll be back for her soon enough."
He glanced in the rearview mirror. There were no cars behind them on the winding road. "We're home free. By the time they catch up to us, we'll be up in the air and halfway back to the mainland."
Lights flashed in the mirrorfar away but directly behind them. Paladin had to slow as he took the corners, switchbacking up the hillside road. The lightno matter which way he turnedstayed on his tail, and was closing fast.
Paladin kept one hand on the wheel, turned and squinted into the darkness. Those lights were at the same level as their car, floating a half-mile out.
"What the hell?" Paladin muttered. "That's no car, its"
Fifty-caliber bullets tore into the limo's trunk and top, ripped through the velvet-upholstered seat between Tennyson and Paladin, and then sprayed and sparked across the hood.
A Devastator thundered overhead, arced up, and banked.