“I said you stay out of this.”

“We all fought the good fight, didn’t we?” the sheriff said. “I appreciate the help you gave us. I appreciate your saving the life of my deputy R. C. Bevins. No one here should judge you, sir.”

“You should have stayed in politics.”

“I am in politics. I hold an elective office. How about it, partner?” the sheriff said. “A time comes when you have to lay down your sword and shield.”

Jack could feel the fingers of his right hand tightening on the pistol grip and the Thompson’s trigger. The rain was sliding down the cellar window and swirling through the door that opened onto the outside stairwell. Inside the steady drumming of the rain and the coldness seeping into his back, he realized the mistake he had just made and the price he would pay for his anger and pride.

He had forgotten about the chief deputy, the one called Pam Tibbs. In spite of her wounds, she had eased her. 357 Magnum from her holster and stepped behind him and pointed the muzzle into a spot one inch above his hairline. He heard her cock the hammer into place.

“Put your weapon on the floor,” she said.

“What if I don’t?” he said.

“I’ll cut all your motors,” she replied.

“Do as she asks, Jack,” the sheriff said.

“He already has,” Pam said, ripping the Thompson from Jack’s grasp with her bad arm. A surge of pain twisted her mouth out of shape, and she let the Thompson clatter to the floor.

“Y’all don’t know who your friends are,” Jack said. “I’m fixing to torch the place and fry Josef’s bacon. He’s hiding up there on the roof someplace. If it hadn’t been for me, your heads would be on a pike.”

“You’re done. Get out,” Pam said.

Jack turned and looked at her numbly. “Do what?” he said.

“Be gone. Into the darkness, where you belong,” she said.

He continued to stare at her and at the smear of blood on her cheek and at the wounds in her arm that had painted her shirtsleeve red and at the steady rise and fall of her breasts and at the loathing in her eyes.

“I he’ped y’all,” he said. “I made up for-”

“For what?” Pam said.

“The past. All of it. I ate out of Dumpsters and bathed with ash and sand. I wore the rags I pulled off a scarecrow.”

“Lose your revolver and turn out all your pockets,” she said.


“I collect car keys,” she replied.

“That’s all you have to say, you fat bitch?” he said.

She pulled his revolver from its holster and slung it into the pile of empty cartons. “Don’t go near any uncapped tubes of roach paste,” she said.

Hackberry and Pam watched Jack Collins walk into the rain, glancing back at them like an errant child being driven from the school yard. “Where to now, boss?” Pam said.

“We blow Dodge and head for the plane,” he replied. “I have a first-aid kit in my duffel. How are you doing?”

“I think the bullet that exited my shoulder didn’t hit any bone. Anyway, it’s numb now. Hack, you don’t look good.”

“I never do.”

“Is the round still in you?”


“How can you tell?”

“I can’t. But it’s time to go home.”

“I think you’re bleeding inside. Maybe we ought to wait it out. R.C. must have a fix on us. He and Felix and the others might be coming any minute.”

“I think the Mexicans found the GPS,” Hackberry said.


“Because Collins has contempt for the Mexicans. He never would have relied solely on them. Had they not found a GPS, he would have searched us and our gear himself.”

“Look,” she said, pointing into the rain.

Hackberry realized he was about to witness one of those moments when evil reveals itself for what it is- insane in its fury and self-hatred and its animus at whatever reminds it of itself. In this instance, the medieval morality play had a cast of only two characters: Josef Sholokoff running through the rain for the safety of the barn or the cornfield or the pecan orchard, and Preacher Jack Collins in pursuit, driven from the light by his fellow man.

The two of them came together in the yard, sheets of rain sweeping across them at they struck and clawed at each other. Then Jack Collins picked up a stone and swung it hard into Sholokoff’s head. When Sholokoff fell backward and got up and tried to run toward the cornfield, Collins hit him twice more in the back of the head, then dragged him, fighting, past the slop bucket that still lay on the grass. In the roll of thunder that sounded like cannons firing in diminishing sequence, Hackberry watched Collins strike Sholokoff again and again with the stone, then lift him up and throw him over the top slat of the hogpen.

The squealing and snuffing sounds of the hogs in the pen were instantaneous.

“Holy God,” Pam said.

“They may not have been fed in days,” Hackberry said. “Let’s get everybody together. I’m going to carry the Thompson. It’s not a good idea for Krill to have access to any weapons. He still has a capital charge hanging over him in Texas.”

“What do you want to do with him?”

“That’s up to him. If he wants to take off, let him go.”

“You don’t want to hook him up?”

“We’ll probably never see Noie Barnum again-the guy who started all this. Why lay all our grief on this poor bastard?”

“Look at me.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Your eyes are out of focus.”

“No, I see fine.”

“Your face is white, Hack. You can hardly stand up. Grab hold of my arm.”

“I’m right as rain,” he replied, the horizon shifting sideways.

The four of them walked out into the storm, the soaked countryside trembling whitely each time a tree of lightning printed itself against the clouds. The hogs had all moved into a corner of the lot in a half circle and were snuffing loudly, their heads down, their hooves churning in the liquescence around them, the bristles of their snouts coated with their work. Hackberry held his forearm tightly against the hole in his side and tried to keep his eyes on the horizon and put one foot after another, because the gyroscope inside him was starting to sway from side to side and was about to topple over.

He had learned to march in the infantry and sometimes even to sleep while he did. It was easy. You kept your eyes half-lidded and swung your legs from the hip and never struggled against the weight of your pack or your weapons. You just got in step and dozed and let the momentum of the column carry you forward, and somehow you knew, out there on the edge of your vision, there was always one to count cadence. You had a good home when you left, you’re right. Jody was there when you left, you’re right. Sound off, one, two, three-four! You’re right, you’re right, you’re right! Reep! Reep! Reep! Sound off! One, two, three-four!

It was a breeze.

“Hack, hold on to me. Please,” Pam said.

“Miss Anton is walking barefoot. You don’t think I can cut it?” he replied.

“I should have popped him,” she said.

He didn’t know what she meant. They had entered the barn and should have been grateful for the warmth and dryness it offered them. Then he saw the firelight flickering in the midst of the pecan orchard. He set down the Thompson and the shotgun and walked to the open doors and stared at the flames swirling up from the interior of

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