No country for old men, p.5
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       No Country for Old Men, p.5
 

          
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  This other thing I dont know. People will ask me about it ever so often. I cant say as I would rule it out altogether. It aint somethin I would like to have to see again. To witness. The ones that really ought to be on death row will never make it. I believe that. You remember certain things about a thing like that. People didnt know what to wear. There was one or two come dressed in black, which I suppose was all right. Some of the men come just in their shirtsleeves and that kindly bothered me. I aint sure I could tell you why.

  Still they seemed to know what to do and that surprised me. Most of em I know had never been to a execution before. When it was over they pulled this curtain around the gaschamber with him in there settin slumped over and people just got up and filed out. Like out of church or somethin. It just seemed peculiar. Well it was peculiar. I'd have to say it was probably the most unusual day I ever spent.

  Quite a few people didnt believe in it. Even them that worked on the row. You'd be surprised. Some of em I think had at one time. You see somebody ever day sometimes for years and then one day you walk that man down the hallway and put him to death. Well. That'll take some of the cackle out of just about anybody. I dont care who it is. And of course some of them boys was not very bright. Chaplain Pickett told me about one he ministered to and he ate his last meal and he'd ordered this dessert, ever what it was. And it come time to go and Pickett he asked him didnt he want his dessert and the old boy told him he was savin it for when he come back. I dont know what to say about that. Pickett didnt neither.

  I never had to kill nobody and I am very glad of that fact. Some of the old time sheriffs wouldnt even carry a firearm. A lot of folks find that hard to believe but it's a fact. Jim Scarborough never carried one. That's the younger Jim. Gaston Boykins wouldnt wear one. Up in Comanche County. I always liked to hear about the old timers. Never missed a chance to do so. The old time concern that the sheriffs had for their people is been watered down some. You cant help but feel it. Nigger Hoskins over in Bastrop County knowed everbody's phone number in the whole county by heart.

  It's a odd thing when you come to think about it. The opportunities for abuse are just about everwhere. There's no requirements in the Texas State Constitution for bein a sheriff. Not a one. There is no such thing as a county law. You think about a job where you have pretty much the same authority as God and there is no requirements put upon you and you are charged with preservin nonexistent laws and you tell me if that's peculiar or not. Because I say that it is. Does it work? Yes. Ninety percent of the time. It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people cant be governed at all. Or if they could I never heard of it.

  The bus pulled into Fort Stockton at quarter to nine and Moss stood and got his bag down from the overhead rack and picked up the document case out of the seat and stood looking down at her.

  Dont get on a airplane with that thing, she said. They'll put you under the jail.

  My mama didnt raise no ignorant children.

  When are you goin to call me.

  I'll call you in a few days.

  All right.

  You take care.

  I got a bad feelin, Llewelyn.

  Well, I got a good one. So they ought to balance out.

  I hope so.

  I cant call you except from a payphone.

  I know it. Call me.

  I will. Quit worryin about everthing.

  Llewelyn?

  What.

  Nothin.

  What is it.

  Nothin. I just wanted to say it.

  You take care.

  Llewelyn?

  What.

  Dont hurt nobody. You hear?

  He stood there with the bag slung across his shoulder. I aint makin no promises, he said. That's how you get hurt.

  Bell had raised the first forkful of his supper to his mouth when the phone rang. He lowered it again. She'd started to push her chair back but he wiped his mouth with his napkin and rose. I'll get it, he said.

  All right.

  How the hell do they know when you're eatin? We never eat this late.

  Dont be cussin, she said.

  He picked up the phone. Sheriff Bell, he said.

  He listened for a while. Then he said: I'm goin to finish my supper. I'll meet you there in about forty minutes. Just leave the lights on on your unit.

  He hung up the phone and came back to his chair and sat and picked up the napkin and put it in his lap and picked up his fork. Somebody called in a car afire, he said. Just this side of Lozier Canyon.

  What do you make of that?

  He shook his head.

  He ate. He drank the last of his coffee. Come go with me, he said.

  Let me get my coat.

  They pulled off the road at the gate and drove over the cattleguard and pulled up behind Wendell's unit. Wendell walked back and Bell rolled down the window.

  It's about a half mile down, Wendell said. Just follow me.

  I can see it.

  Yessir. It was goin real good here about a hour ago. The people that called it in seen it from the road.

  They parked a little way off and got out and stood looking at it. You could feel the heat on your face. Bell came around and opened the door and took his wife's hand. She got out and stood with her arms folded in front of her. There was a pickup truck parked a ways down and two men were standing there in the dull red glare. They nodded each in turn and said Sheriff.

  We could of brought weeners, she said.

  Yeah. Marshmallers.

  You wouldnt think a car would burn like that.

  No, you wouldnt. Did you all see anything?

  No sir. Just the fire.

  Didnt pass nobody or nothin?

  No sir.

  Does that look to you like about a '77 Ford, Wendell?

  It could be.

  I'd say it is.

  Was that what the old boy was drivin?

  Yeah. Dallas plates.

  It wasnt his day, was it Sheriff.

  It surely wasnt.

  Why do you reckon they set fire to it?

  I dont know.

  Wendell turned and spat. Wasnt what the old boy had in mind when he left Dallas I dont reckon, was it?

  Bell shook his head. No, he said. I'd guess it was about the farthest thing from his mind.

  In the morning when he got to the office the phone was ringing. Torbert wasnt back yet. He finally called at nine-thirty and Bell sent Wendell to get him. Then he sat with his feet on the desk staring at his boots. He sat that way for some time. Then he picked up the mobile and called Wendell.

  Where you at?

  Just past Sanderson Canyon.

  Turn around and come back.

  All right. What about Torbert?

  Call him and tell him to just set tight. I'll come get him this afternoon.

  Yessir.

  Go to the house and get the keys to the truck from Loretta and hook up the horsetrailer. Saddle my horse and Loretta's and load and I'll see you out there in about a hour.

  Yessir.

  He hung up the speaker and got up and went down to check on the jail.

  They drove through the gate and closed it again and drove down along the fence about a hundred feet and parked. Wendell unlatched the trailer doors and led the horses out. Bell took the reins of his wife's horse. You ride Winston, he said.

  You sure?

  Oh I'm more than sure. Anything happens to Loretta's horse I can tell you right now you damn sure dont want to be the party that was aboard him.

  He handed Wendell one of the lever action rifles he'd brought and swung up into the saddle and pulled his hat down. You ready? he said.

  They rode side by side. We've drove all through their tracks but you can still see what it was, Bell said. Big offroad tires.

  When they got to the car it was just a blackened hulk.

  You were right about the plates, Wendell said.

  I lied about the tires though.

  How's that.

/>   I said they'd still be burnin.

  The car sat in what looked like four puddles of tar, the wheels wrapped in blackened skeins of wire. They rode on. Bell pointed at the ground from time to time. You can tell the day tracks from the night ones, he said. They were drivin out here with no lights. See there how crooked the track is? Like you can just see far enough ahead to duck the brush in front of you. Or you might leave some paint on a rock like that right yonder.

  In a sandwash he got down and walked up and back and then looked away toward the south. It's the same tire tread comin back as was goin down. Made about the same time. You can see the sipes real clear. Which way they're a goin. They's two or more trips each way, I'd say.

  Wendell sat his horse, his hands crossed on the big roping pommel. He leaned and spat. He looked off to the south with the sheriff. What do you reckon it is we're fixin to find down here?

  I dont know, Bell said. He put his foot in the stirrup and stood easily up into the saddle and put the little horse forward. I dont know, he said again. But I cant say as I'm much lookin forward to it.

  When they reached Moss's truck the sheriff sat and studied it and then rode slowly around it. Both doors were open.

  Somebody's pried the inspection plate off the door, he said.

  The numbers is on the frame.

  Yeah. I dont think that's why they took it.

  I know that truck.

  I do too.

  Wendell leaned and patted the horse on the neck. The boy's name is Moss.

  Yep.

  Bell rode back around the rear of the truck and turned the horse to the south and looked at Wendell. You know where he lives at?

  No sir.

  He's married, aint he.

  I believe he is.

  The sheriff sat looking at the truck. I was just thinkin it'd be a curious thing if he was missin two or three days and nobody said nothin about it.

  Pretty curious.

  Bell looked down toward the caldera. I think we got some real mischief here.

  I hear you, Sheriff.

  You think this boy's a doperunner?

  I dont know. I wouldnt of thought it.

  I wouldnt either. Let's go down here and look at the rest of this mess.

  They rode down into the caldera carrying the Winchesters upright before them in the saddlebow. I hope this boy aint dead down here, Bell said. He seemed a decent enough boy the time or two I seen him. Pretty wife too.

  They rode past the bodies on the ground and stopped and got down and dropped the reins. The horses stepped nervously.

  Let's take the horses out yonder a ways, Bell said. They dont need to see this.

  Yessir.

  When he came back Bell handed him two billfolds he'd taken from the bodies. He looked toward the trucks.

  These two aint been dead all that long, he said.

  Where they from?

  Dallas.

  He handed Wendell a pistol he'd picked up and then he squatted and leaned on the rifle he was carrying. These two is been executed, he said. One of their own, I'd say. Old boy never even got the safety off that pistol. Both of em shot between the eyes.

  The othern didnt have a gun?

  Killer could of took it. Or he might not of had one.

  Bad way to go to a gunfight.

  Bad way.

  They walked among the trucks. These sumbitches are bloody as hogs, Wendell said.

  Bell glanced at him.

  Yeah, Wendell said. I guess you ought to be careful about cussin the dead.

  I would say at the least there probably aint no luck in it.

  It's just a bunch of Mexican drugrunners.

  They were. They aint now.

  I aint sure what you're sayin.

  I'm just sayin that whatever they were the only thing they are now is dead.

  I'll have to sleep on that.

  The sheriff tilted forward the Bronco seat and looked in the rear. He wet his finger and pressed it to the carpet and held his finger to the light. That's been some of that old mexican brown dope in the back of this rig.

  Long gone now though, aint it.

  Long gone.

  Wendell squatted and studied the ground under the door. It looks like there's some more here on the ground. Could be that somebody cut into one of the packages. See what was inside.

  Could of been checkin the quality. Gettin ready to trade.

  They didnt trade. They shot each other.

  Bell nodded.

  There might not of even been no money.

  That's possible.

  But you dont believe it.

  Bell thought about it. No, he said. Probably I dont.

  There was a second mix-up out here.

  Yes, Bell said. At least that.

  He rose and pushed the seat back. This good citizen's been shot between the eyes too.

  Yep.

  They walked around the truck. Bell pointed.

  That's been a machinegun, them straight runs yonder.

  I'd say it has. So where do you reckon the driver got to?

  It's probably one of them layin in the grass yonder.

  Bell had taken out his kerchief and he held it across his nose and reached in and picked up a number of brass shell-casings out of the floor and looked at the numbers stamped in the base.

  What calibers you got there, Sheriff?

  Nine millimeter. A couple of .45 ACP's.

  He dropped the shells back into the floor and stepped back and picked up his rifle from where he'd leaned it against the vehicle. Somebody's unloaded on this thing with a shotgun by the look of it.

  You think them holes are big enough?

  I dont think they're double ought. More likely number four buck.

  More buck for your bang.

  You could put it that way. You want to clean out a alley that's a pretty good way to go.

  Wendell looked over the caldera. Well, he said. Somebody's walked away from here.

  I'd say they have.

  How come do you reckon the coyotes aint been at them?

  Bell shook his head. I dont know, he said. Supposedly they wont eat a Mexican.

  Them over yonder aint Mexican.

  Well, that's true.

  It must of sounded like Vietnam out here.

  Vietnam, the sheriff said.

  They walked out between the trucks. Bell picked up a few more casings and looked at them and dropped them again. He picked up a blue plastic speedloader. He stood and looked over the scene. I'll tell you what, he said.

  Tell me.

  It dont much stand to reason that the last man never even got hit.

  I would agree with that.

  Why dont we get the horses and just ride up here a ways and look around. Maybe cut for sign a little.

  We can do that.

  Can you tell me what they wanted with a dog out here?

  I got no idea.

  When they found the dead man in the rocks a mile to the northeast Bell just sat his wife's horse. He sat there for a long time.

  What are you thinkin, Sheriff?

  The sheriff shook his head. He got down and walked over to where the dead man lay slumped. He walked over the ground, the rifle yoked across his shoulders. He squatted and studied the grass.

  We got another execution here Sheriff?

  No, I believe this one's died of natural causes.

  Natural causes?

  Natural to the line of work he's in.

  He aint got a gun.

  No.

  Wendell leaned and spat. Somebody's been here before us.

  I'd say so.

  You think he was packin the money?

  I'd say there's a good chance of it.

  So we still aint found the last man, have we?

  Bell didnt answer. He rose and stood looking out over the country.

  It's a mess, aint it Sheriff?

  If it aint it'll do till a mess gets here.

  They rode back across the upper end of the caldera.
They sat the horses and looked down at Moss's truck.

  So where do you think this good old boy is at? Wendell said.

  I do not know.

  I would take it his whereabouts is pretty high on your worklist.

  The sheriff nodded. Pretty high, he said.

  They drove back to town and the sheriff sent Wendell on to the house with the truck and the horses.

  You be sure and rap on the kitchen door and thank Loretta.

  I will. I got to give her the keys anyways.

  The county dont pay her to use her horse.

  I hear you.

  He called Torbert on the mobile phone. I'm comin to get you, he said. Just set tight.

  When he pulled up in front of Lamar's office the police tape was still strung across the courthouse lawn. Torbert was sitting on the steps. He got up and walked out to the car.

  You all right? Bell said.

  Yessir.

  Where's Sheriff Lamar?

  He's out on a call.

  They drove out toward the highway. Bell told the deputy about the caldera. Torbert listened in silence. He rode looking out the window. After a while he said: I got the report from Austin.

  What do they say.

  Not much of anything.

  What was he shot with?

  They dont know.

  They dont know?

  No sir.

  How can they not know? There wasnt no exit wound.

  Yessir. They freely admitted that.

  Freely admitted?

  Yessir.

  Well what the hell did they say, Torbert?

  They said that he had what looked to be a large caliber bullet wound in the forehead and that said wound had penetrated to a distance of approximately two and a half inches through the skull and into the frontal lobe of the brain but that there was not no bullet to be found.

  Said wound.

  Yessir.

  Bell pulled out onto the interstate. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. He looked at his deputy.

  What you're sayin dont make no sense, Torbert.

  I told em that.

  To which they responded?

  They didnt respond nothin. They're sendin the report FedEx. X-rays and everthing. They said you'd have it in your office by in the mornin.

  They rode along in silence. After a while Torbert said: This whole thing is just hell in spectacles, aint it Sheriff.

  Yes it is.

  How many bodies is it altogether?

  Good question. I aint sure I even counted. Eight. Nine with Deputy Haskins.

  Torbert studied the country out there. The shadows long on the road. Who the hell are these people? he said.

  I dont know. I used to say they were the same ones we've always had to deal with. Same ones my grandaddy had to deal with. Back then they was rustlin cattle. Now they're runnin dope. But I dont know as that's true no more. I'm like you. I aint sure we've seen these people before. Their kind. I dont know what to do about em even. If you killed em all they'd have to build a annex on to hell.

 
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