The Mayor’s son was a bastard. In what was to become the most recent event in Arivaca lore that could be considered scandalous—a hard term to earn in a town full of outlaws and ex-pats—Jesse had offered herself in the midst of a blackout to every poor soul who happened to be in the Double Barrel at closing time one night about twelve years ago. It was the night before Jack left town, and although he’d been there—something he’d never told Jo—he had no recollection of it. In fact, though there seemed to be a measure of pride, held among the townsmen of Arivaca, in the notion that one was among the potential fathers of Jesse’s child, there seemed also to be some conspiracy of silence about the events themselves, some lacuna in the communal memory, as though the desert night had just reached out and reclaimed what was rightfully hers. Over the years, Jack had had occasion to ask a few of the would-be-fathers more about what had happened, if only to fill in his own blanks, but had received the typical shrugs and grunts.
Jack sat alone in the office, signing paychecks. Should the kid’s ignoble origins be taken into account when granting a battle name? It was practically the only thing he knew about him. When Jo had first suggested Jack do something like this, she’d suggested that, given his blood line, an act of imagination on his part could very well be considered an authentic tribal stance. They had a good laugh about that one. The truth was, the whole thing bordered on heresy, or whatever the Seminole equivalent might be. He finished the paychecks and folded them into the pay box.
“Mr. Lightning?” a voice called from outside.
It was Archie, and Jack looked down at him from the open office door. The kid was sweating and dirty, no doubt having come straight from the field, and held his flip- flops in one hand.
“What’s up, Arch.”
“I was wondering if maybe I could be the mole,” he said.
Jack looked over the kid’s head toward the Run, where Angel was dragging a rake over dirt beside a nearby berm. He waved, though Angel didn’t see him. Archie made Jack nervous.
“Why are you carrying your flip-flops?”
“I think I could really get ‘em involved,” Archie persisted. “They just need to see someone psyched about it so they feel more comfortable up there.”
“Well, that’s the idea alright. I’ll tell you what,” Jack said. “Give me a little time to work out the details. I haven’t even thought about it, yet, but when I get things straightened out I’ll let you know. Okay?”
Archie looked skeptical, and searched Jack’s face for some sign of commitment. Jack didn’t know what his face might say, so he tried to make it say as little as possible. Then, remembering the checks, he reached in and grabbed them from the box. Archie waited until Jack handed him his pay, then skulked off toward the utility shed. Jack tried to remember whose kid he was, but couldn’t. It seemed like there were all kinds of kids around these days with no family to speak of. But he probably just didn’t put enough energy into putting names to faces, and vice versa.
Jack walked out to the parking lot to see how set-up was coming. He’d already had to tell Sunshine and an overzealous Dex to move so the tour bus could get in and out, and as he turned the corner he saw that he’d probably have to station someone to keep people in line: a man known only as Gramps was setting up a stun gun shooting range right in the bus path. There were two stun guns laying on a table at one end, and Jack walked over and picked one up as Gramps was trying to fasten a Road Runner to another table standing on end in front of June’s massage stand about ten yards away.
“Is that Road Runner alive?” Jack called to the man.
Gramps answered without turning, his task requiring all his attention.
“Sure is,” he said. He jostled it, and the bird’s head swung at the end of its loose, bent neck. “A little sleepy, maybe.”
“Gramps, I’m gonna have to ask you to move this operation over to the side of the lot.”
The old man turned and looked at Jack. He was sucking his teeth, and he spat into the dust.
“Damn it, Jack. I just about got all set up.”
“And I appreciate that, I really do. But you see, there are two problems here. The first is that you’re right where the tour buses park. The second is that if someone misses your target, they’re liable to hit an innocent man, woman or child looking to get a massage from one of June’s brothers over there.” Jack waved to June, who’d been listening in. The woman nodded eagerly, having come to similar conclusions already.
“Thank you, Jack!” she called. One of her brothers—Jack could never keep them straight—smiled, then pulled June’s hair.
Gramps finally agreed after Jack promised to officially recommend his stun gun range to the tourists, and started putting the doped-up bird back in its rusty cage. Jack made a mental note to put someone on bus patrol, then wandered over to see how Jo was doing.
Marci wasn’t a very pleasant person, normally, but Jo had always managed to handle her well. Around Jo, she could still be abrupt and off-handedly rude, but she didn’t seem as nervous. He watched them interact as he approached, and saw that Jo was under Marci’s direction: she simply stood beside the woman, placing what looked like scraps of wood and clay onto the tables before them. She was staring across the lot at Micah when he got to the booth.
“I’d say he’s getting along well with the natives,” he said.
Jo turned suddenly and a few scraps flew off the table to their feet. “Those better not be broken,” Marci complained.
“Shit, Jack,” said Jo. “That’s a bad habit.”
Jack watched as Marci gathered them up.
“What are they, anyway?”
Marci grunted ambiguously, and Jo knelt down, picked up a piece beside her foot, and placed it in Jack’s hand. “They’re from Desmonda’s Inn. I mean, they are the Inn.”
“No shit?” He turned a piece over in his hand. It was a good idea, he thought.
Who didn’t have a fond memory of that place?
“Remember,” Marci said, standing back up with the remaining shards, “when your dad scared the shit outta Lonesome Jim?”
Jack looked askance at Marci. Was this an innocent recollection or was this revenge? He hadn’t told Jo many of the old stories, mostly because they didn’t paint too kind a picture of the old man.
“Scared him good, I hear,” Jack said.
“Who’s Lonesome Jim?”
“Fella who lived out in the hills east of town,” Marci said. “Didn’t see him much unless there was a job to be done.”
“He was the fastest roofer around.”
“Anyway, Jack’s daddy rides out the wrong way after a night of drinking, and stops by a shallow gully to unload a clip from his .45 for no apparent reason other than it seemed like a good idea at the time. Well, he forgot all about it come morning, but he happened to have hired Jim for a roof job, and when Jim didn’t show up in the morning, he—”
“Oh Christ,” Jo said, giving Jack a look of shock mixed with disgust. Jack shook his head.
“So he went out to round him up, and when he came up on his house—not much more than a shack, really—Jim called out, telling him to keep away or else.”
Here Jack took over. “Turns out,” he said, “Jim had been out in that gully for a moonlight walk, and thought my dad was gunning for him because he hadn’t finished the roof yet.”
“Scared him half to death,” Marci said.
“I guess,” said Jo.
“’Course, he finished the roof, didn’t he?”
“I believe so,” Jack said. “Once everything was sorted out.” “Yep.
That Lonesome Jim always finished what he started.”
The three of them stood shaking their heads, Marci with an almost wistful smile, Jo stricken, and Jack unimpressed. Then Jack thanked Marci for coming, and motioned for Jo to follow him. He’d found his bus patroller.