Still holding my gun, on unsteady legs, I walked to the back of the barn and emptied my gut, splashing my boots in the process. I heaved everything I had in me and then some. When I was done, I wiped my mouth with the sleeve of my coat. On that fiery-hot day, in the middle of nowhere, in a godforsaken patch of desert, I learned that it is not easy to kill a man. It’s not easy at all, even if the man needed killing.
The cold February air passes through Devin’s coat and chills him to the very bone. He sits huddled with two other men on a flat car carrying machinery. They’re crouched behind a large slab of metal in an attempt to block the wintry wind, but it does little good. Well, at least it’s not snowing. The whipping wind and the clacking of the steel wheels upon the steel tracks preclude conversation.
Devin hugs himself tightly as the countryside slides by. The bare, leafless trees stand as silent sentinels in fields of snow, patiently awaiting spring. Here and there, a lonely cow or horse stares at the train as it passes. But none of that makes the slightest impression on Devin. He’s thinking back to the boardinghouse and the last time he spoke with Mary Callahan.
The reflected firelight flickered across awestruck faces and mirrored in the eyes of those who listened as stories were told of yesterday’s indignities and tomorrow’s aspirations. The look in those yearning eyes spoke of hopes and dreams. The laughter heard around the fire conveyed a sense that somehow it would all work out. For a few short hours, on Saturday nights, in the deep woods of a place none of them had ever heard of before, the constant fear that lived within their hearts was banished from their lives.
In time, they would prevail. Their sons and daughters would one day stand straight and tall as proud Americans, as proud as their fathers had been to be Irish.
We rode in under a cloudless, blue-vaulted sky that seemed to go on forever. I glanced toward the arroyo. Sunlight glistened off a dozen rifle barrels. The sight of those guns gave me hope. Maybe I’d live long enough to see Luke Short in prison. I’d sure hate to die in this scrub patch while Luke was down in Las Cruces, drinking and whoring it up.