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I shot anyway.
Maybe it was the pistol's fault, but, in retrospect, I doubt it.
The effect of the shot on Gurnsey, though, was a sight to behold. He literally leaped a yard in the air—like a slightly overweight, heart-shot stag—and then flopped down behind a tree-trunk. He got off a wild shot at me, then sprang to his feet and sprinted up the ridge. "You can't believe how I felt," he told me later. "I figured no one could be there, not in a million years. By my figuring, you should have been up by Yellow, tangling with someone else. You scared the wee-wee out of me."
After Gurnsey disappeared up the ridge, I waited a few minutes, figuring he might circle back and try to ambush me in turn. Instead, another figure appeared on the ridge above me, threw a shot that flew high and wide, and then—as I shot back—took off sprinting toward the south. I later discovered it had been Jerome Gary, following his "no conflict" strategy and running like hell. Good thing he couldn't shoot straight at long range. He had already "killed" Ken Barrett—a fellow deer stalker and the first man to fall—after Barrett had laid an ambush. He caught Gary along a stone wall, hit him, but was unable to mark him because his "bullet" failed to explode on contact. While Barrett was reloading, Gary simply ran up to him, popped him at close range, said "Gotcha!"—and took off in high gear.
Worried that Gary might now be lying in wait for me near Yellow, I headed northeast along the wooded ridge toward Green. I spotted the flag judge's red shirt from the top of the ridge, about 50 yards below me. The whole area was heavily grown with ferns and thick with blown-down trees. Boulders jutted like fangs gone green and black with age. A dangerous place: ambush heaven. Maybe Atwill was down there, plotting my demise as if I were General Giap himself.
I eased my way down the slope, feeling the camouflage paint on my face beginning to run under the heat. The protective glasses demanded by Gaines were no good at all. They fogged the moment you put them on. Well, to hell with it. The chances of getting hit in the eye were minimal. Besides, after what I had seen, I figured that even to hit a man in the body would be tough enough with these pistols. I could afford to walk boldly toward anyone I spotted and shoot at him from five or 10 yards without fear of being hit farther out. All of which doesn't account for the way my back crawled as I made my way down through the ferns.
There was no one waiting. I pulled a green flag from the tree limb and moved off about 10 yards to consult my map for the route to the Blue station, somewhere northwest of me. As I did so, I had an eerie feeling that someone was watching me—and it wasn't just the flag judge, whom I could see sitting on a nearby rock reading a paperback.
Hiding behind a thick maple trunk, I scanned the woods to the east. Sure enough, a man with a camouflage net covering his face was taking aim at me not 20 yards away. The net made his head look huge and misshapen, like that of some outrageous troll or bug-eyed monster out of a nightmare. I took a double-handed grip on my pistol, rested the butt on a maple root and sighted in on him. He shot first, but his bullet flew high overhead. I shot back and was wide to the right. I charged toward him, flopping down five yards closer behind another tree. Reloading was slow—you had to work a short bolt and allow a paint-filled ball to fall down into the receiver—and by the time I was finished I saw him aiming again, and shooting—again wide. This time I knew I had him: his knee was protruding from behind the tree. I fired and saw my shot smack his knee.
And bounce off, unexploded!