The Sound of Thunder

A Novel by Wilbur Smith

..The second novel in the Courtney series brings us further into the ever growing family, introducing us to Micheal and Dirk while expanding on the shattered relationship of the Courtney twins. While all of the characters are developed, the story mainly focuses on Sean and his struggle to rebuild a life that was once filled with friends and fame. Sean hasn't changed much though, he still enjoys a good old fashioned fist fight when he is feeling down.

..Two pat hands against his small straight; and from the suit distribution, Sean's four Clubs, one of them would certainly be a flush. With a queasy feeling in his stomach Sean knew he was in trouble, knew his hand to be a loser.

..Break the straight and go for the other Club, still not a certain winner, but the only thing worth trying.

.."I'll draw one." He tossed the six of Diamonds into the welter of discards, and dealt to himself from the top of the pack.

.."My bet. " Number one's face was glowing with confidence. "I'll raise the maximum-another forty. Cost you eighty pounds to look at me, boys. Let's see the colour of your money."

.."I'd like to push you-but that's the limit. I'll call." Horse Odour's expression was completely neutral but he was sweating in a light sheen across his forehead.

.."Let me go to the books." Sean picked up his cards and, from behind the other four, pressed out the corner of the card he had drawn. It was black, he opened it a little more-a black six. Slowly he felt the pressure build up within him like a freshly fired boiler. He drew a long breath and opened the card fully.

.."I'll call also." He spoke on a gusty outgoing breath.

.."Full house," shouted number one. "Queen's full-beat that, you bastards!"

..Horse Odour slapped his cards down viciously, his red face crumbling in disappointment. "Goddam it-of all the filthy luck. I had an ace-high flush." Number one giggled with excitement and reached for the money.

.."Wait for it, friend," Sean advised him, and spread his cards face up upon the table.

.."It's a flush. My full house beats you," protested number one.

.."Count the pips-" Sean touched each card as he named them, "six, seven, eight, nine and the ten-all Clubs. Straight flush, You come second by a day's march." He lifted number one's hands off the money, pulled it towards him and began stacking it in columns of twenty.

.."Pretty hot run of luck you're having," Horse Odour gave his opinion, his face still twisted with disappointment.

.."Yes," agreed Sean. Two hundred and sixty-eight pounds. Very pretty.

.."Funny how it comes to you on the big hands," Horse Odour went on. "And especially, when you're dealing. What did you say your profession was?"

..Without looking up Sean began transferring the stacks of sovereigns to his pockets. He was smiling a little. The end to perfect evening, he decided.

..Satisfied that the money was secure Sean looked up at Horse Odour and turned that smile full upon him.

.."Come along then, laddie," he said.

.."It will be a pleasure." Horse Odour shoved his chair back and stood up.

.."It will indeed," agreed Sean.

..Horse Odour led down the back-stairs into the yard, followed by Sean and the entire clientele of the canteen. At the bottom he paused, judging Sean's footstep on the wooden stairs behind him-then he spun and hit, swinging his body into the punch.

..Sean rolled his head, but it caught him on the temple and went over backwards into the crowd behind him. As he fell he saw Horse Odour jerk back the tail of his jacket and bring out the knife. It shone dull silver in the light from the canteen windows - skinning knife, curved, eight inches of blade.

..The crowd scattered leaving Sean lying on the stairs, and Horse Odour came in to kill him, making an ugly sound, bringing the knife arching down from overhead, a clumsy, unprofessional blow.

..Only slightly stunned, Sean followed the silver sweep of the knife with ease and the man's wrist slapped loudly into Sean's open left hand.

..For a long moment the man lay on top of Sean, his knife-arm helpless in Sean's grip, while Sean assessed his strength-and with regret realized it was no match. Horse Odour was big enough, but the belly pressed against Sean's was flabby and large, and the wrist in Sean's hands was bony without the hard rubbery give of sinew and muscle.

..Horse Odour started to struggle, trying to wrestle his knife arm free, the sweat dewed on his face and then began to drip- he had an oily, unpleasant smell like rancid butter that blended poorly with the odour of the horses.

..Sean tightened his grip on the man's wrist, at first using only he strength of his forearm.

.."Aah!" Horse Odour stopped struggling. Sean brought in the power of his whole arm, so he could feel his shoulder muscles bunching and writhing.

.."Jesus Christ! " Shrieking, as bone cracked in his wrist, Horse Odour's fingers sprang open and the knife thumped on to the wooden stairs.

..Still holding him, Sean sat up, then came slowly to his feet.

.."Leave us, friend." Sean flung him backwards into the dust of the yard. He was breathing easily, still feeling cold and detached as he looked down and watched Horse Odour scrabbling to his knees, nursing his broken wrist.

..Perhaps it was the man's first movement towards flight that triggered Sean-or perhaps it was the liquor he had drunk that twisted his emotions, aggravated his sense of loss and frustration and channeled it into this insane outburst of hatred.

..Suddenly it seemed to Sean that here before him on the ground was the source of all his ills-this was the man who had taken Ruth from him.

.."You bastard!" he growled. The man sensed the change in Sean and scrambled to his feet, his face turning desperately from side to side as he sought an avenue of escape.

.."You filthy bastard!" Sean's voice rose, shrill with the strength of this new emotion. For the first time in his life Sean craved to kill. He advanced upon the man slowly, his fists opening ant closing, his face contorted and the words that spilled from his mouth no longer making sense. A great stillness had fallen upon the yard. In the shadows the watchers stood, chilled with the dreadful fascination of it. The man was frozen also, only his head moved and no sound came from his open lips-and Sean closed in with the weaving motion of a cobra in erection.

..At the last moment the man tried to run, but his legs were slack and heavy with fear-and Sean hit him in the chest with sound like an axe swung against a tree-trunk.

..As he fell Sean went in after him, straddling his chest, roaring incoherently with only a single word recognizable-the name the woman he loved. In his madness he felt the man's face breaking up under his fists, felt the warm spatter of blood thrown in his own face and on to his arms, and heard the shouts of the crowd.

.."He'll kill him!"

.."Get him off!"

.."For Chrissake give me a hand - he's as strong as a bloody ox."

..The novel is packed with non-stop action, romance, and hatred. It is as tough to put down as any other book Wilbur Smith has written, and you will discover 'The Sparrow Falls' in your hands soon after you finish.

'The Sound of Thunder' Smith, Wilbur. Published by Ballantine Books. New York, 1992.