Death on the High Lonesome (28 page)

BOOK: Death on the High Lonesome
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“That'll do just fine.” Calvin was standing in the open doorway, gun in hand, the whole time.

“Calvin, you can't do this,” Marian said.

“Sure I can.” Calvin almost smiled. “You gave me no choice, Marian. Like I said, it's all your fault.”

Charlie started moaning.

“What's his problem?”

“It's his broken ribs. When he lies down, they seem to hurt more.”

Charlie tried shifting in the bed.

“What did they do for that in the hospital?”

“My pills, my pills,” Charlie said, moaning louder.

“Get him to stop. Give him something.” Calvin sounded agitated.

“I don't know,” Marian started to respond. Charlie moaned louder.

“My pills, my pills,” he said again, pointing to the night table next to Virgil. “Give me my pills,” he said in a louder voice. “In the drawer.”

Marian looked at Virgil, shaking her head while Charlie started moaning again. “In the drawer,” he said again.

“Get the goddamn pills. Give him the goddamn pills. I don't want to have to listen to him while I'm finishing up here. Get them out of the drawer.”

Virgil turned to the table, bent over it, then slid open the drawer.

“I don't see any pills in here, Charlie.”

“In the back, Virgil. Way in the back.” Virgil slid his hand in farther. Then he felt the familiar barrel of a pistol.

“I think I feel the bottle,” he said. “Charlie, why did you put them so far back?”

“Safety, safety,” Charlie said.

“Just get them, then give him a dozen,” Calvin said.

Virgil slipped his hand to the grip, started to bring his arm
out, flipping the safety on the gun as he did. He knew he'd only have one chance. He swung around, the gun gleaming in his hand. The look on Calvin's face was worth a thousand words. Virgil squeezed the trigger. The blast echoed, reverberating through the house. Calvin stood in the doorway, a puzzled expression on his face. He looked down at his chest. The red stain there got bigger and bigger. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but then sank wordlessly to the floor.

38

V
irgil sat in his kitchen, staring down at the empty glass along with the set of keys he had given to Ruby as he was leaving the Black Bull that last day they were together. It seemed like a thousand years ago or a day. From his seat he glanced out the window into the darkness beyond. Again, he thought of his father, and the idea of trying to maintain the peace in his little corner of the world. Today, he had killed a man to do that. He knew he had no choice, even the man's sister and father told him that. It didn't make it any easier to swallow. A life is a life. It was a high price to pay. Sitting in the quiet of his own home, listening to the wind that blew in the night, he heard the voice of the old house. Creaks and sometimes whisperings as if the old house were rebelling against the wind-driven currents that were trying to find a way in. Virgil had heard the sounds before. He could hear the voice of his mother telling him as a small child that they were the
voices of all the people who had come before and lived in this place. She had told him not to be afraid, because they were saying to the night that we are still here. There is life in this house.

In a way it was comforting to hear them now, remembering her words. He had been trying, not too successfully, to process what had happened at High Lonesome, along with what the key he was fingering on the table meant in the great scheme of things. He thought that in trying to understand the darkness that causes people to do the things that they do, the darkness that he was trying to confront, maybe it was important to understand the voice of the old house. That by doing what he did, he also was saying no, there is life here.

He got up from his seat at the table when he saw the headlights of a car pull in, then come to a stop by the corral. He slipped the keys into his pocket and walked to the door. It was biting cold standing out on the porch. The wind sounded like a coyote's howl. He walked down the stairs over to the car. A figure was standing by the corral fence.

“Hey, Jimmy.”

“Hey, Virgil.”

Like Virgil, Jimmy stood coatless. “That was something today. I mean, I just. His own mother, and brother. Virgil, I just don't . . . I don't understand.”

“You know, Jimmy, neither do I. I've been sitting in my kitchen trying to figure it all out. But I'm thinking that's a mistake. No matter how hard we try, we'll probably never understand. Kind of like I said to you the other night when you were wrestling with why you walked away and Vernon didn't. Life is just too damn random. I guess when you are faced with
something like this—death and dying—it's best just to walk away. That's what you and I are going to do right now. I'm going to get my coat. Then you and I are heading to the Lazy Dog for a couple of beers and burgers. Then we're going to talk about tomorrow and the day after
that.”

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BOOK: Death on the High Lonesome
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