Bill Todd -- Klaus: A Railway Novel
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 Chapter 32

At the Amusement Park

Lagonda Beach, Florida, March 6, 1942

Hans moved abruptly, telling Charlotte to wait. He didn't quite run, but was almost to the trees when a bullet hit one of them. He was on the ground under the trees when the next two shots rang out. By the time he had crawled to a favorable position and looked out, he expected to see a man with a gun stalking him. Instead, there was a commotion between the path and the trees with a crowd gathering. There was no sign of Charlotte or Marie-Claude. No doubt they had slipped away in the other direction. Hans supposed that the guard, whom he hadn't seen, must be searching for him in the crowd. Thinking himself lucky to have gotten away, Hans made for the shack.

In back, the shack was partially open, and there was a bare bulb lighting the interior. As Hans had expected, there was an old automobile engine powering the generator. He started by pouring the entire bag of sugar into the fuel tank. Reasoning that it would take a little while for it to begin to reach the carburettor, he went to work on the generator with the sand. He then came back to the engine, removed the oil filler cap, and poured the rest of the sand down the pipe. A little surprised that he hadn't been caught in the act, he ducked out into the shadows. While the lights were, as yet, undimmed, he could already hear the changed sound of the machinery.

Bubba Howard was operating the ferris wheel when he heard the shots. He immediately cut the switch and ran. The people up in the air would just have to stay there for a while. The other people around didn't seem to have heard the shots. Bubba was thus able to negotiate his way through the crowd easily, but it was difficult to know from just which direction the shots had come. He then considered. Either someone had brought a pistol into the park and fired it, or Manning had fired the shots. The latter seemed much more likely. He then remembered that he had told Manning to keep an eye on the generator shack.

When Bubba saw a clump of people looking down and Manning standing awkwardly, looking lost, he knew that he had arrived on the scene of the shooting. The people were standing around a man who was down half-way between the path and the shack.

It seemed to Bubba that that was always the way. Wherever there was blood, people would gather around, but no one would touch. On more than one occasion, Bubba had been the only one willing to aid an accident victim by attempting to stop the flow of blood. As he rushed up, he surmised that Manning had shot someone poking around the generator shack. He hoped only that the victim was non-white, and that he was only hit in an arm or leg.

It turned out to be a woman. She lay on her back with her knees up, her blonde hair coming loose as she twitched her face from side to side. It was, of course, the woman who had wanted his lights turned out.

Bubba dropped immediately to his knees, speaking reassuringly as he felt for the wound. The woman had her hands about her midsection, and by gently moving one hand, he found that she had been shot in the left side, just about at her waist. When he found the exit wound on her other side in back, he wondered why he hadn't seen it immediately. It must have been because of her brightly colored dress. Her own right hand was wet, and, when he replaced it with his own hand, it felt as if half her right side had been blown away. Why, Bubba wondered, had he ever let a retard like Manning wander around with a forty-five?

Even though the bullet had travelled entirely through the woman's body, was no blood at her mouth, and he could feel her breathing. She didn't speak, but he knew she could hear him. He told her a lot of lies, among others that a doctor was on the way, all set to fix her up. She did seem to relax a little, and it wasn't long before she stopped moving her head.

Bubba figured he was legally responsible to a certain extent, but wouldn't go to jail. Everything else would go to pay damages and lawyers. At that moment, as if to underline this conclusion, all the lights began to dim. Within a minute, everything was dark.

Bubba momentarily remembered the people on top of the ferris wheel, now with no power to get them down. But other people, including Manning and himself, were in worse shape. They'd get the people down somehow, but Bubba didn't figure that the lights would ever come on again at the Happy Holiday Amusement Park.

Bill Todd -- Klaus: A Railway Novel
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