You aint goin far, he said. You may think you are. But you aint.
He quit the track altogether and walked out to the highest ground visible holding the H&K under his arm with the safety off. He glassed the country to the south. Nothing. He stood fingering the boar's tusk at the front of his shirt. About now, he said, you're shaded up somewheres watchin your backtrack. And the chances of me seein you fore you see me are about as close to nothin as you can get without fallin in.
He squatted and steadied his elbows on his knees and with the binoculars swept the rocks at the head of the valley. He sat and crossed his legs and went over the terrain more slowly and then lowered the glasses and just sat. Do not, he said, get your dumb ass shot out here. Do not do that.
He turned and looked at the sun. It was about eleven oclock. We dont even know that all of this went down last night. It could of been two nights ago. It might even could of been three.
Or it could of been last night.
A light wind had come up. He pushed back his hat and wiped his forehead with his bandanna and put the bandanna back in the hip pocket of his jeans. He looked across the caldera toward the low range of rock on the eastern perimeter.
Nothin wounded goes uphill, he said. It just dont happen.
It was a good hard climb to the top of the ridge and it was close to noon by the time he got there. Far off to the north he could see the shape of a tractor-trailer moving across the shimmering landscape. Ten miles. Maybe fifteen. Highway 90. He sat and swept the new country with the glasses. Then he stopped.
At the foot of a rockslide on the edge of the bajada was a small piece of something blue. He watched it for a long time through the binoculars. Nothing moved. He studied the country about. Then he watched it some more. It was the better part of an hour before he rose and started down.
The dead man was lying against a rock with a nickelplated government .45 automatic lying cocked in the grass between his legs. He'd been sitting up and had slid over sideways. His eyes were open. He looked like he was studying something small in the grass. There was blood on the ground and blood on the rock behind him. The blood was still a dark red but then it was still shaded from the sun. Moss picked up the pistol and pressed the grip safety with his thumb and lowered the hammer. He squatted and tried to wipe the blood off the grips on the leg of the man's trousers but the blood was too well congealed. He stood and stuck the gun in his belt at the small of his back and pushed back his hat and blotted the sweat from his forehead with his shirtsleeve. He turned and stood studying the countryside. There was a heavy leather document case standing upright alongside the dead man's knee and Moss absolutely knew what was in the case and he was scared in a way that he didnt even understand.
When he finally picked it up he just walked out a little ways and sat down in the grass and slid the rifle off his shoulder and laid it aside. He sat with his legs spaced and the H&K in his lap and the case standing between his knees. Then he reached and unbuckled the two straps and unsnapped the brass latch and lifted the flap and folded it back.
It was level full of hundred dollar banknotes. They were in packets fastened with banktape stamped each with the denomination $10,000. He didnt know what it added up to but he had a pretty good idea. He sat there looking at it and then he closed the flap and sat with his head down. His whole life was sitting there in front of him. Day after day from dawn till dark until he was dead. All of it cooked down into forty pounds of paper in a satchel.
He raised his head and looked out across the bajada. A light wind from the north. Cool. Sunny. One oclock in the afternoon. He looked at the man lying dead in the grass. His good crocodile boots that were filled with blood and turning black. The end of his life. Here in this place. The distant mountains to the south. The wind in the grass. The quiet. He latched the case and fastened the straps and buckled them and rose and shouldered the rifle and then picked up the case and the machinepistol and took his bearings by his shadow and set out.
He thought he knew how to get to his truck and he also thought about wandering through the desert in the dark. There were Mojave rattlesnakes in that country and if he got bit out here at night he would in all likelihood be joining the other members of the party and the document case and its contents would then pass on to some other owner. Weighed against these considerations was the problem of crossing open ground in broad daylight on foot with a fully automatic weapon slung across one shoulder and carrying a satchel containing several million dollars. Beyond all this was the dead certainty that someone was going to come looking for the money. Maybe several someones.
He thought about going back and getting the shotgun with the drum magazine. He was a strong believer in the shotgun. He even thought about leaving the machinepistol behind. It was a penitentiary offense to own one.
He didnt leave anything behind and he didnt go back to the trucks. He set out across country, cutting through the gaps in the volcanic ridges and crossing the flat or rolling country between. Until late in the day he reached the ranch road he'd come down that morning in the dark so long ago. Then in about a mile he came to the truck.
He opened the door and stood the rifle in the floor. He went around and opened the driver door and pushed the lever and slid the seat forward and set the case and the machinepistol behind it. He laid the .45 and the binoculars in the seat and climbed in and pushed the seat back as far as it would go and put the key in the ignition. Then he took off his hat and leaned back and just rested his head against the cold glass behind him and closed his eyes.
When he got to the highway he slowed and rattled over the bars of the cattleguard and then pulled out onto the blacktop and turned on the headlights. He drove west toward Sanderson and he kept to the speed limit every mile of the way. He stopped at the gas station on the east end of town for cigarettes and a long drink of water and then drove on to the Desert Aire and pulled up in front of the trailer and shut off the motor. The lights were on inside. You live to be a hundred, he said, and there wont be another day like this one. As soon as he said it he was sorry.
He got his flashlight from the glovebox and climbed out and took the machinepistol and the case from behind the seat and crawled up under the trailer. He lay there in the dirt looking up at the underside of it. Cheap plastic pipe and plywood. Bits of insulation. He wedged the H&K up into a corner and pulled the insulation down over it and lay there thinking. Then he crawled back out with the case and dusted himself off and climbed the steps and went in.
She was sprawled across the sofa watching TV and drinking a Coke. She didnt even look up. Three oclock, she said.
I can come back later.
She looked at him over the back of the sofa and looked at the television again. What have you got in that satchel?
It's full of money.
Yeah. That'll be the day.
He went into the kitchen and got a beer out of the refrigerator.
Can I have the keys? she said.
Where you goin.
Get some cigarettes.
Yes, Llewelyn. Cigarettes. I been settin here all day.
What about cyanide? How are we fixed for that?
Just let me have the keys. I'll set out in the damn yard and smoke.
He took a sip of the beer and went on back into the bedroom and dropped to one knee and shoved the case under the bed. Then he came back. I got you some cigarettes, he said. Let me get em.
He left the beer on the counter and went out and got the two packs of cigarettes and the binoculars and the pistol and slung the .270 over his shoulder and shut the truck door and came back in. He handed her the cigarettes and went on back to the bedroom.
Where'd you get that pistol? she called.
At the gettin place.
Did you buy that thing?
No. I found it.
She sat up on the sofa. Llewelyn?
He came back in. What? he said. Quit hollerin.
What did you give for that thing?
You dont need to know everthing.
I told you. I found it.
No you never done no such a thing.
He sat on the sofa and put his legs up on the coffeetable and sipped the beer. It dont belong to me, he said. I didnt buy no pistol.
You better not of.
She opened one of the packs of cigarettes and took one out and lit it with a lighter. Where have you been all day?
Went to get you some cigarettes.
I dont even want to know. I dont even want to know what all you been up to.
He sipped the beer and nodded. That'll work, he said.
I think it's better just to not even know even.
You keep runnin that mouth and I'm goin to take you back there and screw you.
Just keep it up.
That's what she said.
Just let me finish this beer. We'll see what she said and what she didnt say.
When he woke it was 1:06 by the digital clock on the bedside table. He lay there looking at the ceiling, the raw glare of the vaporlamp outside bathing the bedroom in a cold and bluish light. Like a winter moon. Or some other kind of moon. Something stellar and alien in its light that he'd come to feel comfortable with. Anything but sleep in the dark.
He swung his feet from under the covers and sat up. He looked at her naked back. Her hair on the pillow. He reached and pulled the blanket up over her shoulder and got up and went into the kitchen.
He took the jar of water from the refrigerator and unscrewed the cap and stood there drinking in the light of the open refrigerator door. Then he just stood there holding the jar with the water beading cold on the glass, looking out the window and down the highway toward the lights. He stood there for a long time.
When he went back to the bedroom he got his shorts off the floor and put them on and went into the bathroom and shut the door. Then he went through into the second bedroom and pulled the case from under the bed and opened it.
He sat in the floor with the case between his legs and delved down into the bills and dredged them up. The packets were twenty deep. He shoved them back down into the case and jostled the case on the floor to level the money. Times twelve. He could do the math in his head. Two point four million. All used bills. He sat looking at it. You have to take this seriously, he said. You cant treat it like luck.
He closed the bag and redid the fasteners and shoved it under the bed and rose and stood looking out the window at the stars over the rocky escarpment to the north of the town. Dead quiet. Not even a dog. But it wasnt the money that he woke up about. Are you dead out there? he said. Hell no, you aint dead.
She woke while he was getting dressed and turned in the bed to watch him.
What are you doin?
Where are you goin?
Where are you goin, baby?
Somethin I forgot to do. I'll be back.
What are you goin to do?
He opened the drawer and took the .45 out and ejected the clip and checked it and put it back and put the pistol in his belt. He turned and looked at her.
I'm fixin to go do somethin dumbern hell but I'm goin anyways. If I dont come back tell Mother I love her.
Your mother's dead Llewelyn.
Well I'll tell her myself then.
She sat up in the bed. You're scarin the hell out of me, Llewelyn. Are you in some kind of trouble?
No. Go to sleep.
Go to sleep?
I'll be back in a bit.
Damn you, Llewelyn.
He stepped back into the doorway and looked at her. What if I was to not come back? Is them your last words?
She followed him down the hallway to the kitchen pulling on her robe. He took an empty gallon jug from under the sink and stood filling it at the tap.
Do you know what time it is? she said.
Yeah. I know what time it is.
Baby I dont want you to go. Where are you goin? I dont want you to go.
Well darlin we're eye to eye on that cause I dont want to go neither. I'll be back. Dont wait up on me.
He pulled in at the filling station under the lights and shut off the motor and got the survey map from the glovebox and unfolded it across the seat and sat there studying it. He finally marked where he thought the trucks should be and then he traced a route cross country back to Harkle's cattlegate. He had a good set of all-terrain tires on the truck and two spares in the bed but this was some hard country. He sat looking at the line he'd drawn. Then he bent and studied the terrain and drew another one. Then he just sat there looking at the map. When he started the engine and pulled out onto the highway it was two-fifteen in the morning, the road deserted, the truck radio in this outland country dead even of static from one end of the band to the other.
He parked at the gate and got out and opened it and drove through and got out and closed it again and stood listening to the silence. Then he got back in the truck and drove south on the ranch road.
He kept the truck in two wheel drive and drove in second gear. The light of the unrisen moon before him spread out along the dark placard hills like scrimlights in a theatre. Turning below where he'd parked that morning onto what may have been an old wagonroad that bore eastward across Harkle's land. When the moon did rise it sat swollen and pale and ill formed among the hills to light up all the land about and he turned off the headlights of the truck.
A half hour on he parked and walked out along the crest of a rise and stood looking over the country to the east and to the south. The moon up. A blue world. Visible shadows of clouds crossing the floodplain. Hurrying on the slopes. He sat in the scabrock with his boots crossed before him. No coyotes. Nothing. For a Mexican dopedealer. Yeah. Well. Everbody is somethin.
When he got back to the truck he left the trace and steered by the moon. He crossed under a volcanic headland at the upper end of the valley and turned south again. He had a good memory for country. He was crossing terrain he'd scouted from the ridge earlier that day and he stopped again and got out to listen. When he came back to the truck he pried the plastic cover from the domelight and took the bulb out and put it in the ashtray. He sat with the flashlight and studied the map again. When next he stopped he just shut off the engine and sat with the window down. He sat there for a long time.
He parked the truck a half mile above the upper end of the caldera and got the plastic jug of water out of the floor and put the flashlight in his hip pocket. Then he took the .45 off the seat and shut the door quietly with his thumb on the latchbutton and turned and set off toward the trucks.
They were as he'd left them, hunkered down on their shotout tires. He approached with the .45 cocked in his hand. Dead quiet. Could be because of the moon. His own shadow was more company than he would have liked. Ugly feeling out here. A trespasser. Among the dead. Dont get weird on me, he said. You aint one of em. Not yet.
The door of the Bronco was open. When he saw that he dropped to one knee. He set the waterjug on the ground. You dumb-ass, he said. Here you are. Too dumb to live.
He turned slowly, skylighting the country. The only thing he could hear was his heart. He made his way to the truck and crouched by the open door. The man had fallen sideways over the console. Still trussed in the shoulderbelt. Fresh blood everywhere. Moss took the flashlight from his pocket and shrouded the lens in his fist and turned it on. He'd been shot through the head. No lobos. No leones. He shone the hooded light into the cargo space behind the seats. Everything gone. He switched off the light and stood. He walked out slowly to where the other bodies lay. The shotgun was gone. The moon was already a quarter ways up. All but day bright. He felt like something in a jar.
He was half way back up the caldera to his truck when something made him stop. He crouched, holding the cocked pistol across his knee. He could see the truck in the moonlight at the top of the rise. He looked off to one side o
f it to see it the better. There was someone standing beside it. Then they were gone. There is no description of a fool, he said, that you fail to satisfy. Now you're goin to die.
He shoved the .45 into the back of his belt and set off at a trot for the lava ridge. In the distance he heard a truck start. Lights came on at the top of the rise. He began to run.
By the time he got to the rocks the truck was half way down the caldera, the lights bobbing over the bad ground. He looked for something to hide behind. No time. He lay face down with his head between his forearms in the grass and waited. Either they'd seen him or they hadnt. He waited. The truck went by. When it was gone he rose and began to clamber up the slope.
Half way up he stopped and stood sucking air and trying to listen. The lights were somewhere below him. He couldnt see them. He climbed on. After a while he could see the dark shapes of the vehicles down there. Then the truck came back up the caldera with the lights off.
He lay flattened against the rocks. A spotlight went skittering over the lava and back again. The truck slowed. He could hear the engine idling. The slow lope of the cam. Big block engine. The spotlight swept over the rocks again. It's all right, he said. You need to be put out of your misery. Be the best thing for everbody.
The engine revved slightly and idled down again. Deep guttural tone to the exhaust. Cam and headers and God knows what else. After a while it moved on in the dark.
When he got to the crest of the ridge he crouched and took the .45 out of his belt and uncocked it and put it back again and looked out to the north and to the east. No sign of the truck.
How would you like to be out there in your old pickup tryin to outrun that thing? he said. Then he realized that he would never see his truck again. Well, he said. There's lots of things you aint goin to see again.
The spotlight came on again at the head of the caldera and moved across the ridge. Moss lay on his stomach watching. It came back again.
If you knew there was somebody out here afoot that had two million dollars of your money, at what point would you quit lookin for em?
That's right. There aint no such a point.
He lay listening. He couldnt hear the truck. After a while he rose and made his way down the far side of the ridge. Studying the country. The floodplain out there broad and quiet in the moonlight. No way to cross it and nowhere else to go. Well Bubba, what are your plans now?