Are they going to get their friends? Holly says nervously, looking back at the place where we both had almost been killed. We are a good distance down the road.
IDK, I say.
After we’re a mile from town we leave the road and ride till we come to a river. It is almost dark when we sit on a gravel bar and watch the horses drink from the river and Holly says, Got any bright ideas, Chad?
Maybe if we just give them our horses they’ll leave us alone.
Bullshit, I say.
They wont wait till morning, she says. Will they?
You know what they’ll do to us?
I have a fair idea, I say. Give me the .45 ACP.
Just give it here. I want to look around. And I’m afraid that when I get back you’ll get spooked and shoot me.
I should go with you.
You’ll make me too nervous to do anything. Stay here. Don’t light a fire or make any noise.
I’m not simple, she says.
When I get back it is very late but she is wide awake and scared. I am on fire with nerves and hysteria and I start undressing her. She says, No, no. But I wont stop and she relents.
We get into the sleeping bag and she says, I love you, little daddy.
I start to say something but she hushes me and says, Go to sleep, lover.
In the east the sky is light gray. I keep the pistol inside the sleeping bag with me and the shotgun close but covered with old newspapers.
This is a scary place, I say.
I know it, sweetie. Go to sleep.
It is very still. Then there is a noise and she starts.
What do you hear? I say.
Nothing. Just a little animal. Go to sleep.
The ganaderos do not bother us all that night or the next morning. We ride along the river north and I am thinking we might actually make it to San Agustin without trouble. I leave her in the woods and take the horses to drink.
The Appaloosa looks up and whinnies.
Shut up, I say to the Appaloosa.
I have been somewhere like this before. Deja vu. This is bad. I lsten. The horse nickers again.
God damn you, I say to the horse.
Ganaderos. About a half-dozen coming single file along the other side of the river.
Quietly as possible I get on the horse and swing it around and put it into a lope. I get away from the river and head out to the plain. The upper branches of the cottonwoods are in sunlight.
Holly’s eyes are very big when she sees me. Without words she knows what to do. Less than ten seconds and we are away from there. We go into a dark glade and I think maybe we are safe.
The rifle shot sounds from clear across the river. And there is red splattered all over me.
I’m hit, she wheezes. I’m hit, I’m hit, oh God it hurts…
I know it does, honey. I’ll get you to…
A ganadero pushes through the trees and stares at us. The others join him quickly and I look at Holly and pray for a quick and painless death for both of us.
Que? I say to him. He ignores me and points the shotgun at Holly and blows her head off.
I am so stunned I do not react but I expect I will be next.
I’m wrong. The ganadero does not take his eyes off me but slowly withdraws from the glade and the others follow him and they all ride off.
Enraged, I get the shotgun and slug through the trees and take aim and blow the head off of the man who killed Holly. The others stop and look at me and seem puzzled. I shoot the next one and expect them to shoot me but they ride off out of range of my weapon.
The one I shot is writhing on the ground. He is gut shot and screaming. I kick him hard. Then I take a piece of wire from my shirt and ram it hard into his ear and scrape the tympanic membrane. I see to it that he does not stop screaming till he dies.
At least she didn’t suffer. I guess. The first shot hit her in the chest, puncturing the pleura. The second had blown her head off. I am wondering how to keep the vultures away from her till I bury her when I realize it was her they were after, not me. I have been here long enough they were used to me. But her presence was an anathema to them. They had to kill her, like white cells after an antigen. The ganaderos are white cells.
I call Joaquim and he tells me to get to Tierra del Fuego. For some reason the helicopter cannot land here. The only way to get Holly’s headless corpse there is to tie her to the horse and carefully walk it carefully along the road as I ride the Appaloosa. There is a ghost town in front of me, half overgrown, half abandoned. Naked slagheaps dark against the sky. I cross RR tracks and a mile from the ruined town four horsemen silently peel away from the trees by the road and block my path. I only see them by the light of the ancient, bone colored moon.
Quien es su amigo? One of them says and the others laugh at the headless corpse. They are not ganaderos. Just filthy-ass thieves. I say nothing.
Que tiene alla? He says, more seriously.
El cadaver de mi esposa, I say stonily.
They look at each other.
Vaya a ver.
No! I say.
Es un viajero, he says. He gets off the horse and walks toward me and I get the .45 from the saddle.
You evil son of a bitch, I say under my breath. And I blow his head off.
The Appaloosa turns and stamps and backs away, sawing his head. Holly’s Pinto starts trotting away and the others laugh nervously. I shoot one of them right in his open mouth. That does it. They ride off and splash through the river and are gone.
I catch up to Holly’s horse in the blue light of near dawn. It is standing in the woods with the corpse on the ground, hanging from the saddle by one leg. The ride has loosened the rope I tied her with. Now I am close to losing it as I get her off the ground and back into the saddle and tie her in, I hope, better. I lead the Pinto back to where the Appaloosa is standing nervously in the road.
I am afraid to stop now or I will lose it. As the sky lightens I call Joaquim and he gets a fix on my cell and in a few minutes the big helicopter lands in the middle of the road.