My hammer was lying near the neatly coiled hose. I looked up at the face of the wall I was going to blow. Tom, my helper had done a good job of marking. Fifteen streaks of silver against the grey walls showed where he'd tapped out my markings. I attached the hose to the hammer, let it take a couple of snorts to clear it and turned to Beemish.

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He was standing against the wall watching me. The taut skin of his face looked leaden, and his eyes were slits of glowing ice. His hands hung limply at his sides. He coughed a sigh and said: "How long before Sorensen gets here?"

I shrugged my shoulders and bent over the cases of Hercules. A fifty foot coil of fuse and four boxes of caps lay beside one of the cases of dynamite. I knelt down and slipped my knife out, began to notch the fuse into two foot lengths.

Suddenly I felt him standing over me. I turned my head and looked up at him. He was grinning, tight-lipped at me. It was an odd grin, twisted, bitter, vengeful.

"What the hell did you think you'd gain by telling me that Sorensen will be here?" he asked.

I started to stand and that hand, delicate and small as a woman's, went to his shoulder holster with a deadly speed.

"Stay put, Sorensen," he snarled.

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I felt cold all of a sudden, and it wasn't because there was a chill in the air. Just the look on his face was enough. It was a death's head looking at me.

"What do you mean, Beemish?" I asked.

"Did you think you were fooling me," he asked, "by dyeing your hair black, losing weight and scarring your hand up that way. I've been on your trail too long. Three years."

I got tired of kneeling so I twisted over and sat, my back against the pile of muck. His hand had come out. There was a short-barreled automatic in his palm. The black hole from which death was going to come at me looked like the finger of doom.

"No," I said slowly, "I didn't think I was fooling you. Nor did you fool me. You look like your brother. The same features, though he was heavier. But not meaner. But tell me, why did you put your two cents in at the restaurant? And back there when we were coming to the bus station?"

"Because I wanted it like this," he said. "And that bullet wasn't meant for either you or me. Someone was just shooting for some reason. But I thought I'd throw your mind off any track it might take leading to suspicion."

I laughed, though I didn't feel like laughing. It's hard to be gay when death is standing beside you. And this guy was a killer.

I needed time. I had to have it. Talk was one way of gaining it. I talked.

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Neural Network Novellas: Wanted - Dead Man #9