Hung a left so I’d have a straight line to Schroeder’s car.

And ran within reach of the three rottweilers.

One of the dogs leapt at my throat. I brought my hands up. The barrel of the nine-millimeter caught him on the snout and deflected his leap, but that was dumb luck. His weight and the suddenness of his attack knocked me off balance. I went down hard on my shoulder. The dog hit the ground at the same time. Only he was quickly on his feet. I didn’t even have time to stop bouncing before he came at me again. This time I clubbed him on the skull with the hard muzzle of my gun on purpose. He didn’t seem to mind. He went for my hand and caught the sleeve of my sports jacket instead. It took a lot of effort to shake the sleeve out of his mouth. By now the other dogs were on me, too. One became frustrated when his teeth clamped down on the Kevlar protecting my chest. The other happily took hold of my ankle as I rolled away. I kicked him three times in the head before he would let go. I kept rolling until the chains holding the rottweilers grew taut, their barking, snarling jaws only inches from my face.

They jumped back, startled, when the ground directly between us exploded, showering them with debris. A hole appeared, like a divot in a sand trap. I saw it before the sound of a gunshot registered in my head. I heard another as I rotated my prostrate body toward the door of the pole barn. Dogman-G’s brother was shooting at me with a .40 automatic. He was holding it sideways like they do in the movies and shooting it with one hand, which helped explain why he missed at such close range. I brought both of my guns up and fired three rounds. Two shattered the door frame, and the third round seemed to disappear into the heart of the barn as the brother dove back inside.

I rolled some more, scrambled to my feet, and resumed running. I circled the dogs that kept barking and snarling and leaping at me and headed for the far side of the farm house. The pain in my ankle surged all the way to the top of my head and then recycled itself with each step, slowing me down. I heard another gunshot and felt a bullet skip off the Kevlar vest over my left shoulder. It felt as if I had been hit by a fastball. The blow knocked me off stride and nearly spun me around. Nausea rose up from my stomach to my throat, and my legs threatened to buckle. It seemed necessary to show no fear, to keep running. I had gained the side of the house when two more rounds thumped into my back. They seemed more powerful than the first, as if someone were hammering me with a baseball bat. I went down, sprawling face-first into the scrub brush. I managed to hold on to both of my guns. They did me no good. I couldn’t move my arms or my legs. It was as if everything below my shoulders were paralyzed.

I turned my head and saw Dogman-G and the second black man running toward me, their guns leading the way. Dogman-G was smiling. He shouted something. I couldn’t hear what he said over the sound of a machine gun. Both men halted abruptly. Half a dozen red volcanoes erupted across their chests and stomachs. They twisted and contorted and fell backward against the hard ground.

A hand grabbed the collars of my shirt and jacket and yanked upward.

“Get on your feet,” a voice said. “Get up, dammit. Are you hurt? Can you walk? Go, go.”

I was numb yet ambulatory. The hand pushed me forward, and I made for the car, stumbling, nearly falling, the pain in my ankle almost a delightful memory compared to the way the rest of my body now felt. Schroeder walked backward beside me, his MP7 sweeping the ground between farm house and pole barn, searching for a target that never materialized.

When we reached the car, Schroeder propped me against the front passenger door. He removed the guns that I was still grasping tightly in my hands, deactivated them, and tossed them into the backseat. He kept an eye on the farm house as he opened the door and shoved me into the front passenger seat. He circled the car, took one more look at the house and pole barn, tossed the submachine gun into the backseat, slid into the car, and drove off.

We went north and east, ending up near Pine City, about sixty miles from the Cities, before Schroeder was satisfied that we weren’t being followed. I was doubled over and staring at the blood that oozed from my torn ankle onto my white socks and sneakers; only the safety belt kept me in the seat. I was still nauseous, but I managed to keep it to myself. I felt like crying and would have except I didn’t want Schroeder to see.

“How you doin’, McKenzie?”

“I’ve been better.”

“Those slugs musta hurt like a sonuvabitch.”

“Dog chomping on my ankle didn’t help, either.”

“We’ll get you back to the office. Clean you up.”