بخش 04

کتاب: جایی برای پیرمردها نیست / فصل 4

جایی برای پیرمردها نیست

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بخش 04

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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He was asleep in his bed and it still mostly dark out when the phone rang. He looked at the old radium dial clock on the night table and reached and picked up the phone. Sheriff Bell, he said.

He listened for about two minutes. Then he said: I appreciate you callin me. Yep. It’s just out and out war is what it is. I dont know no other name for it.

He pulled up in front of the sheriff’s office in Eagle Pass at nine-fifteen in the morning and he and the sheriff sat in the office and drank coffee and looked at the photos taken in the street two blocks away three hours earlier.

There’s days I’m in favor of givin the whole damn place back to em, the sheriff said.

I hear you, said Bell.

Dead bodies in the street. Citizens’ businesses all shot up. People’s cars. Whoever heard of such a thing?

Can we go over and take a look?

Yeah. We can go over.

The street was still roped off but there wasnt much to see. The front of the Eagle Hotel was all shot up and there was broken glass in the sidewalk down both sides of the street. Tires and glass shot out of the cars and holes in the sheet-metal with the little rings of bare steel around them. The Cadillac had been towed off and the glass in the street swept up and the blood hosed away.

Who was it in the hotel do you reckon?

Some Mexican dopedealer.

The sheriff stood smoking. Bell walked off a ways down the street. He stood. He came back up the sidewalk, his boots grinding in the glass. The sheriff flipped his cigarette into the street. You go up Adams there about a half a block you’ll see a blood trail.

Goin yon way, I reckon.

If he had any sense. I think them boys in the car got caught in a crossfire. It looks to me like they was shootin towards the hotel and up the street yonder both.

What do you reckon their car was doin in the middle of the intersection thataway?

I got no idea, Ed Tom.

They walked up to the hotel.

What kind of shellcasins did you all pick up?

Mostly nine millimeter with some shotgun hulls and a few .380’s. We got a shotgun and two machineguns.

Fully automatic?

Sure. Why not?

Why not.

They walked up the stairs. The porch of the hotel was covered in glass and the woodwork shot up.

The nightclerk got killed. About as bad a piece of luck as you could have, I reckon. Caught a stray round.

Where’d he catch it?

Right between the eyes.

They walked into the lobby and stood. Somebody had thrown a couple of towels over the blood in the carpet behind the desk but the blood had soaked through the towels. He wasnt shot, Bell said.

Who wasnt shot.

The nightclerk.

He wasnt shot?

No sir.

What makes you say that?

You get the lab report and you’ll see.

What are you sayin Ed Tom? That they drilled his brains out with a Black and Decker?

That’s pretty close. I’ll let you think about it.

Driving back to Sanderson it began to snow. He went to the courthouse and did some paperwork and left just before dark. When he pulled up in the driveway behind the house his wife was looking out from the kitchen window. She smiled at him. The falling snow drifted and turned in the warm yellow light.

They sat in the little diningroom and ate. She’d put on music, a violin concerto. The phone didnt ring.

Did you take it off the hook?

No, she said.

Wires must be down.

She smiled. I think it’s just the snow. I think it makes people stop and think.

Bell nodded. I hope it comes a blizzard then.

Do you remember the last time it snowed here?

No, I cant say as I do. Do you?

Yes I do.

When was it.

It’ll come to you.

Oh.

She smiled. They ate.

That’s nice, Bell said.

What is?

The music. Supper. Bein home.

Do you think she was tellin the truth?

I do. Yes.

Do you think that boy is still alive?

I dont know. I hope he is.

You may never hear another word about any of this.

It’s possible. That wouldnt be the end of it though, would it?

No, I guess it wouldnt.

You cant count on em to kill one another off like this on a regular basis. But I expect some cartel will take it over sooner or later and they’ll wind up just dealin with the Mexican Government. There’s too much money in it. They’ll freeze out these country boys. It wont be long, neither.

How much money do you think he has?

The Moss boy?

Yes.

Hard to say. Could be in the millions. Well, not too many millions. He carried it out of there on foot.

Did you want some coffee?

Yes I would.

She rose and went to the sideboard and unplugged the percolator and brought it to the table and poured his cup and sat down again. Just dont come home dead some evenin, she said. I wont put up with it.

I better not do it then.

Do you think he’ll send for her?

Bell stirred his coffee. He sat holding the steaming spoon above the cup, then he laid it in the saucer. I dont know, he said. I know he’d be a damn fool if he didnt.

The office was on the seventeenth floor with a view over the skyline of Houston and the open lowlands to the ship channel and the bayou beyond. Colonies of silver tanks. Gas flares, pale in the day. When Wells showed up the man told him to come in and told him to shut the door. He didnt even turn around. He could see Wells in the glass. Wells shut the door and stood with his hands crossed before him at the wrist. The way a funeral director might stand.

The man finally turned and looked at him. You know Anton Chigurh by sight, is that correct?

Yessir, that’s correct.

When did you last see him?

November twenty-eighth of last year.

How do you happen to remember the date?

I dont happen to remember it. I remember dates. Numbers.

The man nodded. He was standing behind his desk. The desk was of polished stainless steel and walnut and there wasnt anything on it. Not a picture or a piece of paper. Nothing.

We got a loose cannon here. And we’re missing product and we’re out a bunch of money.

Yessir. I understand that.

You understand that.

Yessir.

That’s good. I’m glad I’ve got your attention.

Yessir. You have my attention.

The man unlocked a drawer in the desk and took out a steel box and unlocked that and took out a card and closed the box and locked it and put it away again. He held up the card between two fingers and looked at Wells and Wells stepped forward and took it.

You pay your own expenses if I remember correctly.

Yessir.

This account will only give up twelve hundred dollars in any twenty-four hour period. That’s up from a thousand.

Yessir.

How well do you know Chigurh.

Well enough.

That’s not an answer.

What do you want to know?

The man tapped his knuckles on the desk. He looked up. I’d just like to know your opinion of him. In general. The invincible Mr Chigurh.

Nobody’s invincible.

Somebody is.

Why do you say that?

Somewhere in the world is the most invincible man. Just as somewhere is the most vulnerable.

That’s a belief that you have?

No. It’s called statistics. Just how dangerous is he?

Wells shrugged. Compared to what? The bubonic plague? He’s bad enough that you called me. He’s a psychopathic killer but so what? There’s plenty of them around.

He was in a shoot-out at Eagle Pass yesterday.

A shoot-out?

A shoot-out. People dead in the streets. You dont read the papers.

No sir, I dont.

He studied Wells. You’ve led something of a charmed life, havent you Mr Wells?

In all honesty I cant say that charm has had a whole lot to do with it.

Yes, the man said. What else.

I guess that’s it. Were these Pablo’s men?

Yes.

You’re sure.

Not in the sense that you mean. But reasonably sure. They werent ours. He killed two other men a couple of days before and those two did happen to be ours. Along with the three at that colossal goatfuck a few days before that. All right?

All right. I guess that will do it.

Good hunting, as we used to say. Once upon a time. In the long ago.

Thank you sir. Can I ask you something?

Sure.

I couldnt come back up in that elevator, could I?

Not to this floor. Why?

I was just interested. Security. Always interesting.

It recodes itself after every trip. A randomly generated five digit number. It doesnt print out anywhere. I dial a number and it reads the code back over the phone. I give it to you and you punch it in. Does that answer your question?

Nice.

Yes.

I counted the floors from the street.

And?

There’s a floor missing.

I’ll have to look into it.

Wells smiled.

You can see yourself out? the man said.

Yes.

All right.

One other thing.

What is that.

I wondered if I could get my parking ticket validated.

The man cocked his head slightly. This is an attempt at humor I suppose.

Sorry.

Good day, Mr Wells.

Right.

When Wells got to the hotel the plastic ribbons were gone and the glass and wood had been swept up out of the lobby and the place was open for business. There was plywood nailed over the doors and two of the windows and there was a new clerk standing at the desk where the old clerk had been. Yessir, he said.

I need a room, Wells said.

Yessir. Is it just yourself?

Yes.

And for how many nights would that be.

Probably just the one.

The clerk pushed the pad toward Wells and turned to study the keys hanging on the board. Wells filled out the form. I know you’re tired of people asking, he said, but what happened to your hotel?

I’m not supposed to discuss it.

That’s all right.

The clerk laid the key on the desk. Will that be cash or credit card?

Cash. How much is it?

Fourteen plus tax.

How much is it. Altogether.

Sir?

I said how much is it altogether. You need to tell me how much it is. Give me a figure. All in.

Yessir. That would be fourteen-seventy.

Were you here when all this took place?

No sir. I only started here yesterday. This is just my second shift.

Then what is it you’re not supposed to discuss?

Sir?

What time do you get off?

Sir?

Let me rephrase that. What time is your shift over.

The clerk was tall and thin, maybe Mexican and maybe not. His eyes darted briefly over the lobby of the hotel. As if there might be something out there to help him. I just came on at six, he said. The shift is over at two.

And who comes on at two.

I dont know his name. He was the dayclerk.

He wasnt here the night before last.

No sir. He was the dayclerk.

The man who was on duty the night before last. Where is he?

He’s not with us anymore.

Have you got yesterday’s paper here?

He backed away and looked under the desk. No sir, he said. I think they threw it out.

All right. Send me up a couple of whores and a fifth of whiskey with some ice.

Sir?

I’m just pulling your leg. You need to relax. They’re not coming back. I can pretty near guarantee it.

Yessir. I hope to hell not. I didnt even want to take this job.

Wells smiled and tapped the fiberboard keyfob twice on the marble desktop and went up the stairs.

He was surprised to find the police tape still across both of the rooms. He went on to his own room and set his bag in the chair and got out his shavingkit and went in the bathroom and turned on the light. He brushed his teeth and washed his face and went back into the room and stretched out on the bed. After a while he got up and went to the chair and turned the bag sideways and unzipped a compartment in the bottom and took out a suede leather pistolcase. He unzipped the case and took out a stainless steel .357 revolver and went back to the bed and took off his boots and stretched out again with the pistol beside him.

When he woke it was almost dark. He rose and went to the window and pushed back the old lace curtain. Lights in the street. Long reefs of dull red cloud racked over the darkening western horizon. Roofs in a low and squalid skyline. He put the pistol in his belt and pulled his shirt outside of his trousers to cover it and went out and down the hallway in his sockfeet.

It took him about fifteen seconds to get into Moss’s room and he shut the door behind him without disturbing the tape. He leaned against the door and smelled the room. Then he stood there just looking things over.

The first thing he did was to walk carefully over the carpet. When he came across the depression where the bed had been moved he swung the bed out into the room. He knelt and blew at the dust and he studied the nap of the carpet. He rose and picked up the pillows and smelled them and put them back. He left the bed standing quarterwise in the room and walked over to the wardrobe and opened the doors and looked in and closed them again.

He went into the bathroom. He ran his forefinger around the sink. A washcloth and handtowel had been used but not the soap. He ran his finger down the side of the tub and then wiped it along the seam of his trousers. He sat on the edge of the tub and tapped his foot on the tiles.

The other room was number 227. He went in and closed the door and turned and stood. The bed had not been slept in. The bathroom door was open. A bloody towel lay in the floor.

He walked over and pushed the door all the way back. There was a bloodstained washcloth in the sink. The other towel was missing. Bloody handprints. A bloody handprint on the edge of the showercurtain. I hope you havent crawled off in a hole somewhere, he said. I sure would like to get paid.

He was abroad in the morning at first light walking the streets and making notes in his head. The pavement had been hosed off but you could still see bloodstains in the concrete of the walkway where Moss had been shot. He went back to Main Street and started again. Bits of glass in the gutters and along the sidewalks. Some of it windowglass and some of it from curbside automobiles. The windows that had been shot out were boarded up with plywood but you could see the pocks in the brickwork or the teardrop smears of lead that had come down from the hotel. He walked back to the hotel and sat on the steps and looked at the street. The sun was coming up over the Aztec Theatre. Something caught his eye at the second floor level. He got up and walked down and crossed the street and climbed the stairs. Two bulletholes in the windowglass. He tapped at the door and waited. Then he opened the door and went in.

A darkened room. Faint smell of rot. He stood until his eyes were accustomed to the dimness. A parlor. A pianola or small organ against the far wall. A chifforobe. A rockingchair by the window where an old woman sat slumped.

Wells stood over the woman studying her. She’d been shot through the forehead and had tilted forward leaving part of the back of her skull and a good bit of dried brainmatter stuck to the slat of the rocker behind her. She had a newspaper in her lap and she was wearing a cotton robe that was black with dried blood. It was cold in the room. Wells looked around. A second shot had marked a date on a calendar on the wall behind her that was three days hence. You could not help but notice. He looked around the rest of the room. He took a small camera from his jacket pocket and took a couple of pictures of the dead woman and put the camera back in his pocket again. Not what you had in mind at all, was it darling? he told her.

Moss woke in a ward with sheeting hung between him and the bed to his left. A shadowshow of figures there. Voices in Spanish. Dim noises from the street. A motorcycle. A dog. He turned his face on the pillow and looked into the eyes of a man sitting on a metal chair against the wall holding a bouquet of flowers. How are you feeling? the man said.

I’ve felt better. Who are you?

My name is Carson Wells.

Who are you?

I think you know who I am. I brought you some flowers.

Moss turned his head and lay staring at the ceiling. How many of you people are there?

Well, I’d say there’s only one you’ve got to worry about right now.

You.

Yes.

What about that guy that come to the hotel.

We can talk about him.

Talk then.

I can make him go away.

I can do that myself.

I dont think so.

You’re entitled to your opinions.

If Acosta’s people hadnt shown up when they did I dont think you would have made out so good.

I didnt make out so good.

Yes you did. You made out extremely well.

Moss turned his head and looked at the man again. How long have you been here?

About an hour.

Just settin there.

Yes.

You dont have much to do, do you?

I like to do one thing at a time, if that’s what you mean.

You look dumbern hell settin there.

Wells smiled.

Why dont you put them damn flowers down.

All right.

He rose and laid the bouquet on the bedside table and sat back in the chair again.

Do you know what two centimeters is?

Yeah. It’s a measurement.

It’s about three quarters of an inch.

All right.

That’s the distance that round missed your liver by.

Is that what the doctor told you?

Yes. You know what the liver does?

No.

It keeps you alive. Do you know who the man is who shot you?

Maybe he didnt shoot me. Maybe it was one of the Mexicans.

Do you know who the man is?

No. Am I supposed to?

Because he’s not somebody you really want to know. The people he meets tend to have very short futures. Nonexistent, in fact.

Well good for him.

You’re not listening. You need to pay attention. This man wont stop looking for you. Even if he gets the money back. It wont make any difference to him. Even if you went to him and gave him the money he would still kill you. Just for having inconvenienced him.

I think I done a little more than inconvenience him.

How do you mean.

I think I hit him.

Why do you think that?

I sprayed double ought buckshot all over him. I cant believe it done him a whole lot of good.

Wells sat back in the chair. He studied Moss. You think you killed him?

I dont know.

Because you didnt. He came out into the street and killed every one of the Mexicans and then went back into the hotel. Like you might go out and get a paper or something.

He didnt kill ever one of them.

He killed the ones that were left.

You tellin me he wasnt hit?

I dont know.

You mean why would you tell me.

If you like.

Is he a buddy of yours?

No.

I thought maybe he was a buddy of yours.

No you didnt. How do you know he’s not on his way to Odessa?

Why would he go to Odessa?

To kill your wife.

Moss didnt answer. He lay on the rough linen looking at the ceiling. He was in pain and it was getting worse. You dont know what the hell you’re talkin about, he said.

I brought you a couple of photographs.

He rose and laid two photos on the bed and sat back down again. Moss glanced at them. What am I supposed to make of that? he said.

I took those pictures this morning. The woman lived in an apartment on the second floor of one of the buildings you shot up. The body’s still there.

You’re full of shit.

Wells studied him. He turned and looked out the window. You dont have anything to do with any of this, do you?

No.

You just happened to find the vehicles out there.

I dont know what you’re talkin about.

You didnt take the product, did you?

What product.

The heroin. You dont have it.

No. I dont have it.

Wells nodded. He looked thoughtful. Maybe I should ask you what you intend to do.

Maybe I should ask you.

I dont intend to do anything. I dont have to. You’ll come to me. Sooner or later. You dont have a choice. I’m going to give you my mobile phone number.

What makes you think I wont just disappear?

Do you know how long it took me to find you?

No.

About three hours.

You might not get so lucky again.

No, I might not. But that wouldnt be good news for you.

I take it you used to work with him.

Who.

This guy.

Yes. I did. At one time.

What’s his name.

Chigurh.

Sugar?

Chigurh. Anton Chigurh.

How do you know I wont cut a deal with him?

Wells sat bent forward in the chair with his forearms across his knees, his fingers laced together. He shook his head. You’re not paying attention, he said.

Maybe I just dont believe what you say.

Yes you do.

Or I might take him out.

Are you in a lot of pain?

Some. Yeah.

You’re in a lot of pain. It makes it hard to think. Let me get the nurse.

I dont need you to do me no favors.

All right.

What is he supposed to be, the ultimate bad-ass?

I dont think that’s how I would describe him.

How would you describe him.

Wells thought about it. I guess I’d say that he doesnt have a sense of humor.

That aint a crime.

That’s not the point. I’m trying to tell you something.

Tell me.

You cant make a deal with him. Let me say it again. Even if you gave him the money he’d still kill you. There’s no one alive on this planet that’s ever had even a cross word with him. They’re all dead. These are not good odds. He’s a peculiar man. You could even say that he has principles. Principles that transcend money or drugs or anything like that.

So why would you tell me about him.

You asked about him.

Why would you tell me.

I guess because I think if I could get you to understand the position you’re in it would make my job easier. I dont know anything about you. But I know you’re not cut out for this. You think you are. But you’re not.

We’ll see, wont we?

Some of us will. What did you do with the money?

I spent about two million dollars on whores and whiskey and the rest of it I just sort of blew it in.

Wells smiled. He leaned back in the chair and crossed his legs. He wore an expensive pair of Lucchese crocodile boots. How do you think he found you?

Moss didnt answer.

Have you thought about that?

I know how he found me. He wont do it again.

Wells smiled. Well good on you, he said.

Yeah. Good on me.

There was a pitcher of water on a plastic tray on the bedside table. Moss no more than glanced at it.

Do you want some water? Wells said.

If I want somethin from you you’ll be the first son of a bitch to know about it.

It’s called a transponder, Wells said.

I know what it’s called.

It’s not the only way he has of finding you.

Yeah.

I could tell you some things that would be useful for you to know.

Well, I go back to what I just said. I dont need no favors.

You’re not curious to know why I’d tell you?

I know why you’d tell me.

Which is?

You’d rather deal with me than with this sugar guy.

Yes. Let me get you some water.

You go to hell.

Wells sat quietly with his legs crossed. Moss looked at him. You think you can scare me with this guy. You dont know what you’re talkin about. I’ll take you out with him if that’s what you want.

Wells smiled. He gave a little shrug. He looked down at the toe of his boot and uncrossed his legs and passed the toe under his jeans to dust it and recrossed his legs again. What do you do? he said.

What?

What do you do.

I’m retired.

What did you do before you retired?

I’m a welder.

Acetylene? Mig? Tig?

Any of it. If it can be welded I can weld it.

Cast iron?

Yes.

I dont mean braze.

I didnt say braze.

Pot metal?

What did I say?

Were you in Nam?

Yeah. I was in Nam.

So was I.

So what does that make me? Your buddy?

I was in special forces.

I think you have me confused with somebody who gives a shit what you were in.

I was a lieutenant colonel.

Bullshit.

I dont think so.

And what do you do now.

I find people. Settle accounts. That sort of thing.

You’re a hit man.

Wells smiled. A hit man.

Whatever you call it.

The sort of people I contract with like to keep a low profile. They dont like to get involved in things that draw attention. They dont like things in the paper.

I’ll bet.

This isnt going to go away. Even if you got lucky and took out one or two people — which is unlikely — they’d just send someone else. Nothing would change. They’ll still find you. There’s nowhere to go. You can add to your troubles the fact that the people who were delivering the product dont have that either. So guess who they’re looking at? Not to mention the DEA and various other law enforcement agencies. Everybody’s list has got the same name on it. And it’s the only name on it. You need to throw me a bone. I dont really have any reason to protect you.

Are you afraid of this guy?

Wells shrugged. Wary is the word I’d use.

You didnt mention Bell.

Bell. All right?

I take it you dont think much of him.

I dont think of him at all. He’s a redneck sheriff in a hick town in a hick county. In a hick state. Let me get the nurse. You’re not very comfortable. This is my number. I want you to think it over. What we talked about.

He stood and put a card on the table next to the flowers. He looked at Moss. You think you wont call me but you will. Just dont wait too long. That money belongs to my client. Chigurh is an outlaw. Time’s not on your side. We can even let you keep some of it. But if I have to recover the funds from Chigurh then it will be too late for you. Not to mention your wife.

Moss didnt answer.

All right. You might want to call her. When I talked to her she sounded pretty worried.

When he was gone Moss turned up the photographs lying on the bed. Like a player checking his hole cards. He looked at the pitcher of water but then the nurse came in.

VI

Young people anymore they seem to have a hard time growin up. I dont know why. Maybe it’s just that you dont grow up any faster than what you have to. I had a cousin was a deputized peace officer when he was eighteen. He was married and had a kid at the time. I had a friend that I grew up with was a ordained Baptist preacher at the same age. Pastor of a little old country church. He left there to go to Lubbock after about three years and when he told em he was leavin they just set there in that church and blubbered. Men and women alike. He’d married em and baptized em and buried em. He was twenty-one years old, maybe twenty-two. When he preached they’d be standin out in the yard listenin. It surprised me. He was always quiet in school. I was twenty-one when I went in the army and I was one of the oldest in our class at boot camp. Six months later I was in France shootin people with a rifle. I didnt even think it was all that peculiar at the time. Four years later I was sheriff of this county. I never doubted but what I was supposed to be neither. People anymore you talk about right and wrong they’re liable to smile at you. But I never had a lot of doubts about things like that. In my thoughts about things like that. I hope I never do.

Loretta told me that she had heard on the radio about some percentage of the children in this country bein raised by their grandparents. I forget what it was. Pretty high, I thought. Parents wouldnt raise em. We talked about that. What we thought was that when the next generation come along and they dont want to raise their children neither then who is goin to do it? Their own parents will be the only grandparents around and they wouldnt even raise them. We didnt have a answer about that. On my better days I think that there is somethin I dont know or there is somethin that I’m leavin out. But them times are seldom. I wake up sometimes way in the night and I know as certain as death that there aint nothin short of the second comin of Christ that can slow this train. I dont know what is the use of me layin awake over it. But I do.

I dont believe you could do this job without a wife. A pretty unusual wife at that. Cook and jailer and I dont know what all. Them boys dont know how good they’ve got it. Well, maybe they do. I never worried about her bein safe. They get fresh garden stuff a good part of the year. Good cornbread. Soupbeans. She’s been known to fix em hamburgers and french fries. We’ve had em to come back even years later and they’d be married and doin good. Bring their wives. Bring their kids even. They didnt come back to see me. I’ve seen em to introduce their wives or their sweethearts and then just go to bawlin. Grown men. That had done some pretty bad things. She knew what she was doin. She always did. So we go over budget on the jail ever month but what are you goin to do about that? You aint goin to do nothin about it. That’s what you’re goin to do.

Chigurh pulled off

of the highway at the junction of 131 and opened the telephone directory in his lap and folded over the bloodstained pages till he got to veterinarian. There was a clinic outside Bracketville about thirty minutes away. He looked at the towel around his leg. It was soaked through with blood and blood had soaked into the seat. He threw the directory in the floor and sat with his hands at the top of the steering wheel. He sat there for about three minutes. Then he put the vehicle in gear and pulled out onto the highway again.

He drove to the crossroads at La Pryor and took the road north to Uvalde. His leg was throbbing like a pump. On the highway outside of Uvalde he pulled up in front of the Cooperative and undid the sashcord from around his leg and pulled away the towel. Then he got out and hobbled in.

He bought a sack full of veterinary supplies. Cotton and tape and gauze. A bulb syringe and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. A pair of forceps. Scissors. Some packets of four inch swabs and a quart bottle of Betadine. He paid and went out and got in the Ramcharger and started the engine and then sat watching the building in the rearview mirror. As if he might be thinking of something else he needed, but that wasnt it. He put his fingers inside the cuff of his shirt and carefully blotted the sweat from his eyes. Then he put the vehicle in gear and backed out of the parking space and pulled out onto the highway headed toward town.

He drove down Main Street and turned north on Getty and east again on Nopal where he parked and shut off the engine. His leg was still bleeding. He got the scissors from the bag and the tape and he cut a three inch round disc out of the cardboard box that held the cotton. He put that together with the tape into his shirtpocket. He took a coathanger from the floor behind the seat and twisted the ends off and straightened it out. Then he leaned and opened his bag and took out a shirt and cut off one sleeve with the scissors and folded it and put it in his pocket and put the scissors back in the paper bag from the Cooperative and opened the door and eased himself down, lifting his injured leg out with both hands under his knee. He stood there, holding on to the door. Then he bent over with his head to his chest and stood that way for the better part of a minute. Then he raised up and shut the door and started down the street.

Outside the drugstore on Main he stopped and turned and leaned against a car parked there. He checked the street. No one coming. He unscrewed the gascap at his elbow and hooked the shirtsleeve over the coathanger and ran it down into the tank and drew it out again. He taped the cardboard over the open gastank and balled the sleeve wet with gasoline over the top of it and taped it down and lit it and turned and limped into the drugstore. He was little more than halfway down the aisle toward the pharmacy when the car outside exploded into flame taking out most of the glass in front of the store.

He let himself in through the little gate and went down the pharmacist’s aisles. He found a packet of syringes and a bottle of Hydrocodone tablets and he came back up the aisle looking for penicillin. He couldnt find it but he found tetracycline and sulfa. He stuffed these things in his pocket and came out from behind the counter in the orange glow of the fire and went down the aisle and picked up a pair of aluminum crutches and pushed open the rear door and went hobbling out across the gravel parking lot behind the store. The alarm at the rear door went off but no one paid any attention and Chigurh never had even glanced toward the front of the store which was now in flames.

He pulled into a motel outside of Hondo and got a room at the end of the building and walked in and set his bag on the bed. He shoved the pistol under the pillow and went in the bathroom with the bag from the Cooperative and dumped the contents out into the sink. He emptied his pockets and laid out everything on the counter-keys, billfold, the vials of antibiotic and the syringes. He sat on the edge of the tub and pulled off his boots and reached down and put the plug in the tub and turned on the tap. Then he undressed and eased himself into the tub while it filled.

His leg was black and blue and swollen badly. It looked like a snakebite. He laved water over the wounds with a washcloth. He turned his leg in the water and studied the exit wound. Small pieces of cloth stuck to the tissue. The hole was big enough to put your thumb in.

When he climbed out of the tub the water was a pale pink and the holes in his leg were still leaking a pale blood dilute with serum. He dropped his boots in the water and patted himself dry with the towel and sat on the toilet and took the bottle of Betadine and the packet of swabs from the sink. He tore open the packet with his teeth and unscrewed the bottle and tipped it slowly over the wounds. Then he set the bottle down and bent to work, picking out the bits of cloth, using the swabs and the forceps. He sat with the water running in the sink and rested. He held the tip of the forceps under the faucet and shook away the water and bent to his work again.

When he was done he disinfected the wound a final time and tore open packets of four by fours and laid them over the holes in his leg and bound them with gauze off of a roll packaged for sheep and goats. Then he rose and filled the plastic tumbler on the sink counter with water and drank it. He filled it and drank twice more. Then he went back into the bedroom and stretched out on the bed with his leg propped on the pillows. Other than a light beading of sweat on his forehead there was little evidence that his labors had cost him anything at all.

When he went back into the bathroom he stripped one of the syringes out of the plastic wrapper and sank the needle through the seal into the vial of tetracycline and drew the glass barrel full and held it to the light and pressed the plunger with his thumb until a small bead appeared at the tip of the needle. Then he snapped the syringe twice with his finger and bent and slid the needle into the quadriceps of his right leg and slowly depressed the plunger.

He stayed in the motel for five days. Hobbling down to the cafe on the crutches for his meals and back again. He kept the television on and he sat up in the bed watching it and he never changed channels. He watched whatever came on. He watched soap operas and the news and talk shows. He changed the dressing twice a day and cleaned the wounds with epsom salt solution and took the antibiotics. When the maid came the first morning he went to the door and told her he did not need any service. Just towels and soap. He gave her ten dollars and she took the money and stood there uncertainly. He told her the same thing in Spanish and she nodded and put the money in her apron and pushed her cart back up the walkway and he stood there and studied the cars in the parking lot and then shut the door.

On the fifth night while he was sitting in the cafe two deputies from the

Valdez County Sheriff’s Office came in and sat down and removed their hats and

put them in the empty chairs at either side and took the menus from the chrome

holder and opened them. One of them looked at him. Chigurh watched it all without turning or looking. They spoke. Then the other one looked at him. Then the waitress came. He finished his coffee and rose and left the money on the table and walked out. He’d left the crutches in the room and he walked slowly and evenly along the walkway past the cafe window trying not to limp. He walked past his room to the end of the ramada and turned. He looked at the Ramcharger parked at the end of the lot. It could not be seen from the office or from the restaurant. He went back to the room and put his shavingkit and the pistol in his bag and walked out across the parking lot and got into the Ramcharger and started it and drove over the concrete divider into the parking lot of the electronics shop next door and out onto the highway.

Wells stood on the bridge with the wind off the river tousling his thin and sandy hair. He turned and leaned against the fence and raised the small cheap camera he carried and took a picture of nothing in particular and lowered the camera again. He was standing where Moss had stood four nights ago. He studied the blood on the walk. Where it trailed off to nothing he stopped and stood with his arms folded and his chin in his hand. He didnt bother to take a picture. There was no one watching. He looked out downriver at the slow green water. He walked a dozen steps and came back. He stepped into the roadway and crossed to the other side. A truck passed. A light tremor in the superstructure. He went on along the walkway and then he stopped. Faint outline of a bootprint in blood. Fainter of another. He studied the chain-link fence to see if there might be blood on the wire. He took his handkerchief from his pocket and wet it with his tongue and passed it among the diamonds. He stood looking down at the river. A road down there along the American side. Between the road and the river a thick stand of carrizo cane. The cane lashed softly in the wind off the river. If he’d carried the money into Mexico it was gone. But he hadnt.

Wells stood back and looked at the bootprints again. Some Mexicans were coming along the bridge with their baskets and dayparcels. He took out his camera and snapped a picture of the sky, the river, the world.

Bell sat at the desk signing checks and totting up figures on a hand calculator. When he was done he leaned back in his chair and looked out the window at the bleak courthouse lawn. Molly, he said.

She came and stood in the door.

Did you find anything on any of those vehicles yet?

Sheriff I found out everything there was to find. Those vehicles are titled and registered to deceased people. The owner of that Blazer died twenty years ago. Did you want me to see what I could find out about the mexican ones?

No. Lord no. Here’s your checks.

She came in and took the big leatherette checkbook off his desk and put it under her arm. That DEA agent called again. You dont want to talk to him?

I’m goin to try and keep from it as much as I can.

He said he’s goin back out there and he wanted to know if you wanted to go with him.

Well that’s cordial of him. I guess he can go wherever he wants. He’s a certified agent of the United States Government.

He wanted to know what you were goin to do with the vehicles.

Yeah. I’ve got to try and sell them things at auction. More county money down the toilet. One of em has got a hot engine in it. We might be able to get a few dollars for that. No word from Mrs Moss?

No sir.

All right.

He looked at the clock on the outer office wall. I wonder if I could get you to call Loretta and tell her I’ve gone to Eagle Pass and I’ll call her from down there. I’d call her but she’ll want me to come home and I just might.

You want me to wait till you’ve quit the buildin?

Yes I do.

He pushed the chair back and rose and got down his gun-belt from the coatrack behind his desk and hung it over his shoulder and picked up his hat and put it on. What is it that Torbert says? About truth and justice?

We dedicate ourselves anew daily. Somethin like that.

I think I’m goin to commence dedicatin myself twice daily. It may come to three fore it’s over. I’ll see you in the mornin.

He stopped at the cafe and got a coffee to go and walked out to the cruiser as the flatbed was coming up the street. Powdered over with the gray desert dust. He stopped and watched it and then got in the cruiser and wheeled around and drove past the truck and pulled it over. When he got out and walked back the driver was sitting at the wheel chewing gum and watching him with a sort of goodnatured arrogance.

Bell put one hand on the cab and looked in at the driver. The driver nodded. Sheriff, he said.

Have you looked at your load lately?

The driver looked in the mirror. What’s the problem, Sheriff?

Bell stepped back from the truck. Step out here, he said.

The man opened the door and got out. Bell nodded toward the bed of the truck. That’s a damned outrage, he said.

The man walked back and took a look. One of the tiedowns is worked loose, he said.

He got hold of the loose corner of the tarp and pulled it back up along the bed of the truck over the bodies lying there, each wrapped in blue reinforced plastic sheeting and bound with tape. There were eight of them and they looked like just that. Dead bodies wrapped and taped.

How many did you leave with? Bell said.

I aint lost none of em, Sheriff.

Couldnt you all of took a van out there?

We didnt have no van with four wheel drive.

He tied down the corner of the tarp and stood.

All right, Bell said.

You aint goin to write me up for improperly secured load?

You get your ass out of here.

He reached the Devil’s River Bridge at sundown and half way across he pulled the cruiser to a halt and turned on the rooflights and got out and shut the door and walked around in front of the vehicle and stood leaning on the aluminum pipe that served for the top guardrail. Watching the sun set into the blue reservoir beyond the railroad bridge to the west. A westbound semi coming around the long curve of the span downshifted when the lights came into view. The driver leaned from the window as he passed. Dont jump, Sheriff. She aint worth it. Then he was gone in a long suck of wind, the diesel engine winding up and the driver double clutching and shifting gears. Bell smiled. Truth of the matter is, he said, she is.

Some two miles past the junction of 481 and 57 the box sitting in the passenger seat gave off a single bleep and went silent again. Chigurh pulled onto the shoulder and stopped. He picked up the box and turned it and turned it back. He adjusted the knobs. Nothing. He pulled out onto the highway again. The sun pooled in the low blue hills before him. Bleeding slowly away. A cool and shadowed twilight falling over the desert. He took off his sunglasses and put them in the glovebox and closed the glovebox door and turned on the headlights. As he did so the box began to beep with a slow measured time.

He parked behind the hotel and got out and came limping around the truck with the box and the shotgun and the pistol all in a zipper bag and crossed the parking lot and climbed the hotel steps.

He registered and got the key and hobbled up the steps and down the hall to his room and went in and locked the door and lay on the bed with the shotgun across his chest staring at the ceiling. He could think of no reason for the transponder sending unit to be in the hotel. He ruled out Moss because he thought Moss was almost certainly dead. That left the police. Or some agent of the Matacumbe Petroleum Group. Who must think that he thought that they thought that he thought they were very dumb. He thought about that.

When he woke it was ten-thirty at night and he lay there in the half dark and the quiet but he knew what the answer was. He got up and put the shotgun behind the pillows and stuck the pistol into the waistband of his trousers. Then he went out and limped down the stairs to the desk.

The clerk was sitting reading a magazine and when he saw Chigurh he stuck the magazine under the desk and rose. Yessir, he said.

I’d like to see the registration.

Are you a police officer?

No. I’m not.

I’m afraid I cant do that sir.

Yes you can.

When he came back up he stopped and stood listening in the hallway outside his door. He went in and got the shotgun and the receiver and then walked down to the room with the tape across it and held the box to the door and turned it on. He went down to the second door and tried the reception there. Then he came back to the first room and opened the door with the key from the desk and stepped back and stood against the hallway wall.

He could hear traffic in the street beyond the parking lot but still he thought the window was closed. There was no air moving. He looked quickly into the room. Bed pulled away from the wall. Bathroom door open. He checked the safety on the shotgun. He stepped across the doorway to the other side.

There was no one in the room. He scanned the room with the box and found the sending unit in the drawer of the bedside table. He sat on the bed turning it in his hand. Small lozenge of burnished metal the size of a domino. He looked out the window at the parking lot. His leg hurt. He put the piece of metal in his pocket and turned off the receiver and rose and left, pulling the door shut behind him. Inside the room the phone rang. He thought about that for a minute. Then he set the transponder on the windowsill in the hallway and turned and went back down to the lobby.

And there he waited for Wells. No one would do that. He sat in a leather armchair pushed back into the corner where he could see both the front door and the hallway to the rear. Wells came in at eleven-thirteen and Chigurh rose and followed him up the stairs, the shotgun wrapped loosely in the newspaper he’d been reading. Halfway up the stairs Wells turned and looked back and Chigurh let the paper fall and raised the shotgun to his waist. Hello, Carson, he said.

They sat in Wells’ room, Wells on the bed and Chigurh in the chair by the window. You dont have to do this, Wells said. I’m a daytrader. I could just go home.

You could.

I’d make it worth your while. Take you to an ATM. Everybody just walks away. There’s about fourteen grand in it.

Good payday.

I think so.

Chigurh looked out the window, the shotgun across his knee. Getting hurt changed me, he said. Changed my perspective. I’ve moved on, in a way. Some things have fallen into place that were not there before. I thought they were, but they werent. The best way I can put it is that I’ve sort of caught up with myself. That’s not a bad thing. It was overdue.

It’s still a good payday.

It is. It’s just in the wrong currency.

Wells eyed the distance between them. Senseless. Maybe twenty years ago. Probably not even then. Do what you have to do, he said.

Chigurh sat slouched casually in the chair, his chin resting against his knuckles. Watching Wells. Watching his last thoughts. He’d seen it all before. So had Wells.

It started before that, he said. I didnt realize it at the time. When I went down on the border I stopped in a cafe in this town and there were some men in there drinking beer and one of them kept looking back at me. I didnt pay any attention to him. I ordered my dinner and ate. But when I walked up to the counter to pay the check I had to go past them and they were all grinning and he said something that was hard to ignore. Do you know what I did?

Yeah. I know what you did.

I ignored him. I paid my bill and I had started to push through the door when he said the same thing again. I turned and looked at him. I was just standing there picking my teeth with a toothpick and I gave him a little gesture with my head. For him to come outside. If he would like to. And then I went out. And I waited in the parking lot. And he and his friends came out and I killed him in the parking lot and then I got into my car. They were all gathered around him. They didnt know what had happened. They didnt know that he was dead. One of them said that I had put a sleeper hold on him and then the others all said that. They were trying to get him to sit up. They were slapping him and trying to get him to sit up. An hour later I was pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy outside of Sonora Texas and I let him take me into town in handcuffs. I’m not sure why I did this but I think I wanted to see if I could extricate myself by an act of will. Because I believe that one can. That such a thing is possible. But it was a foolish thing to do. A vain thing to do. Do you understand?

Do I understand?

Yes.

Do you have any notion of how goddamned crazy you are?

The nature of this conversation?

The nature of you.

Chigurh leaned back. He studied Wells. Tell me something, he said.

What.

If the rule you followed led you to this of what use was the rule?

I dont know what you’re talking about.

I’m talking about your life. In which now everything can be seen at once.

I’m not interested in your bullshit, Anton.

I thought you might want to explain yourself.

I dont have to explain myself to you.

Not to me. To yourself. I thought you might have something to say.

You go to hell.

You surprise me, that’s all. I expected something different. It calls past events into question. Dont you think so?

You think I’d trade places with you?

Yes. I do. I’m here and you are there. In a few minutes I will still be here.

Wells looked out the darkened window. I know where the satchel is, he said.

If you knew where the satchel was you would have it.

I was going to have to wait until there was no one around. Till night. Two in the morning. Something like that.

You know where the satchel is.

Yes.

I know something better.

What’s that.

I know where it’s going to be.

And where is that.

It will be brought to me and placed at my feet.

Wells wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. It wouldnt cost you anything. It’s twenty minutes from here.

You know that’s not going to happen. Dont you?

Wells didnt answer.

Dont you?

You go to hell.

You think you can put it off with your eyes.

What do you mean?

You think that as long as you keep looking at me you can put it off.

I dont think that.

Yes you do. You should admit your situation. There would be more dignity in it. I’m trying to help you.

You son of a bitch.

You think you wont close your eyes. But you will.

Wells didnt answer. Chigurh watched him. I know what else you think, he said.

You dont know what I think.

You think I’m like you. That it’s just greed. But I’m not like you. I live a simple life.

Just do it.

You wouldnt understand. A man like you.

Just do it.

Yes, Chigurh said. They always say that. But they dont mean it, do they?

You piece of shit.

It’s not good, Carson. You need to compose yourself. If you dont respect me what must you think of yourself? Look at where you are.

You think you’re outside of everything, Wells said. But you’re not.

Not everything. No.

You’re not outside of death.

It doesnt mean to me what it does to you.

You think I’m afraid to die?

Yes.

Just do it. Do it and goddamn you.

It’s not the same, Chigurh said. You’ve been giving up things for years to get here. I dont think I even understood that. How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life? We’re in the same line of work. Up to a point. Did you hold me in such contempt? Why would you do that? How did you let yourself get in this situation?

Wells looked out at the street. What time is it? he said.

Chigurh raised his wrist and looked at his watch. Eleven fifty-seven he said.

Wells nodded. By the old woman’s calendar I’ve got three more minutes. Well the hell with it. I think I saw all this coming a long time ago. Almost like a dream. Déjà vu. He looked at Chigurh. I’m not interested in your opinions, he said. Just do it. You goddamned psychopath. Do it and goddamn you to hell.

He did close his eyes. He closed his eyes and he turned his head and he raised one hand to fend away what could not be fended away. Chigurh shot him in the face. Everything that Wells had ever known or thought or loved drained slowly down the wall behind him. His mother’s face, his First Communion, women he had known. The faces of men as they died on their knees before him. The body of a child dead in a roadside ravine in another country. He lay half headless on the bed with his arms outflung, most of his right hand missing. Chigurh rose and picked up the empty casing off the rug and blew into it and put it in his pocket and looked at his watch. The new day was still a minute away.

He went down the back stairs and crossed the parking lot to Wells’ car and sorted out the doorkey from the ring of keys Wells carried and opened the door and checked the car inside front and rear and under the seats. It was a rental car and there was nothing in it but the rental contract in the doorpocket. He shut the door and hobbled back and opened the trunk. Nothing. He went around to the driver side and opened the door and popped the hood and walked up front and raised the hood and looked in the engine compartment and then closed the hood and stood looking at the hotel. While he was standing there Wells’ phone rang. He fished the phone from his pocket and pushed the button and put it to his ear. Yes, he said.

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