The Picture Ranch 50
We followed Mulvaney to Fulbright’s office. The light was visible through the fanlight, but the door was locked. Shultz knocked on the gilt lettered glass until it shattered, then put his arm through the hole and unlocked the door with the key in the other side. Fulbright, seated in his captain’s chair, looked flushed and the collar of his tunic was undone. A cadet was at attention beside the desk. Fulbright cleared his throat and said,
‘William, I, ah...’ He cleared his throat one more time. From the look of the boy I reckoned he was the one struggling to swallow. Fulbright finally dismissed him.
‘I need both boys, Beauregard.’ Mulvaney grunted, probably because Schultz had jabbed his gat in his kidneys. I was beginning to believe he might not be Stepfather of the Year.
‘B-b-both?’ Beauregard Fulbright’s mouth was opening and closing long after he’d finished speaking.
‘Is that a problem, Steamboat Willie?’ Schultz winked at Miss Gräfenberg.
“Admiral” Fulbright started to bluster. I was getting a bad feeling. Mulvaney said, ‘Just get the boys.’
‘We’d better go to them.’ Fulbright pushed his chair back and went for a desk drawer. Schultz shot a hole in the ceiling and told him he’d better not bring out a gun. Fulbright kept one hand high above his head and slowly withdrew his hand from the drawer. He held up a highly polished brass key. It looked like it belonged to a cathedral door.
‘I’ll take you, is it all of you?’ He glanced at Miss G and me.
‘You bet your sweet patootie,’ I said.
We trooped out of the office, Fulbright in front, Mulvaney behind him, still with Schultz’s pistol in his back. Miss G and I followed Schultz, whilst Lipowitz brought up the rear to keep an eye on us. I was a little surprised that my client and I were still armed. We passed all the administration offices, including the late Father O’Herlihy’s. We eventually turned into the Assembly Hall. At the far end there was a fancy lectern, all gilded bald eagle and solid oak. Behind that were 8 high-backed chairs you might find in a fancy gentleman’s club or an Officers’ Mess. There was no seating; no folding chairs, no benches faced them. Cadets most likely had to stand at ease whilst whichever of the Academy’s top brass pontificated at them, probably more than once a day. Fulbright went over to the lectern, put a fatty shoulder to it and tried to shove it backwards. I thought Schultz was going to tell Lipowitz to take over, but he nudged Mulvaney with the gun barrel and said, ‘Get to it.’
Mulvaney pushed it and it moved like it was made of balsa, the two tiered dais behind it and all. There was a neat, chamfered hole in the floor, about 6 feet square. It was dark. I got hold of Miss G’s shooting hand before the gun went off. Fulbright screamed, but nobody took a bullet.