When they’d finished eating, Micah suggested they move to Jack’s place to talk business. The suggestion created a more somber mood, and they bid people goodnight as they passed from the lot but fell silent and inward as they reached the head of the path. It was finally dusk, leaving colorful bands of light stacked above the western horizon to their right. As the disordered sounds of day faded along with the light, they were replaced by the melodic night sounds, the invisible, isolated birdcalls and underbrush rustlings that gave darkness its distinctive texture in the desert. It was a kind of haunting, Jo had always thought, and she returned to this idea now, feeling somewhat possessed herself. As if in accord with her feeling, the distant sound of drums and chanting resumed when they were halfway down the path, presumably from the continued burial ceremony, and Micah said they should expect it to continue throughout the night.
“Micah speaks Navajo,” Jo said quietly.
“Actually, I can’t speak it at all,” he said. “And I can understand only some of it.”
“From what I hear,” said Jack, “it’s an extremely complex language.”
“Harder than Seminole, that’s for sure.”
“You speak Seminole?”
“Well, Creek,” Micah said.
Jack made a small sound of acknowledgment, and Jo suddenly felt sorry for him. He knew so little about Seminole tradition—only what bits and pieces he’d been able to trick his father into passing along—and he’d never been happy about his ignorance of the language. His father had apparently known some, but refused to speak it. They were not in Seminole country; there had been no one to ask, to learn from.
When they came to Jack’s house he disappeared inside, returning with a bottle of whiskey and a blanket. He nodded toward the hill, and together they climbed back up to where they’d started their day.
“I thought that if we’re going to talk about immigration, we should have views of the Run,” he said, “and the Wall.”
He handed Micah the bottle, flapped the blanket out over a clear, flat patch, then sat. Micah followed suit, leaving Jo to gaze over the quickly darkening land. But she didn’t look at either Jack’s park or the border. She looked north at the fires that now burned again, as they had the night before, among the Navajo and Tohono O’odham tee- pees and tents. From this vantage, she could see that even since the afternoon their numbers had grown considerably. The camp stretched both east and west along the road, and farther back than their rendezvous point with Paco.
Jo had to admit that, despite Paco’s role in trying to buy Jack’s land, she’d always considered him an ally. Or maybe more to the point, she never saw him as capable of serious betrayal. He was part of the landscape, good or bad—he’d grown up here, and though he’d ended up on the wrong side of the law, she’d always assumed that his allegiances were in the right place, that the regular attempts to carry out his duties were somehow all part of an elaborate charade. That he was keeping up appearances. It was only upon seeing him in the car that afternoon, in fact, that she’d realized just how seriously she’d been mistaken. How strange, to think you’re seeing through a façade, then to realize that you were only imagining that something lay behind.
Right at this moment, thought Jo, Che Guevara was tunneling underground with the purpose of leading people—what people, she did not know—toward some better future, and here she was helping people like Paco prevent that from happening. It wasn’t difficult to see what that made her. She imagined herself down there with him, pulling away the dirt and stones and clay that stood between herself and a great cause, a cause worth risking everything for. In this way, of course, their paths were alike.
“Where’s Rockette?” she said.
“Around,” Jack said. “Maybe she made friends with that other Aussie.”
Jo thought of its silent stare. “Weird to see another one.”
“I think Paco sold it to that Navajo man just yesterday. Kind of amazing how quick it took to him. Remember how long it was before Rockette took to us?”
“Wait,” Micah took the bottle from Jack, “is this the man who lost his son we’re talking about?” He took a long pull from the bottle and handed it back to Jack, who was nodding.
“Paco is a Fed out of Tucson. Dog breeder we got Rockette from. He came through here yesterday morning, talking about how queer it was, selling an Aussie to an Indian.”
“He’s an asshole,” said Jo, and met Micah’s eyes.
“Well,” said Jack, “he’s determined alright.”
Micah appeared to be lost in thought. “But this Navajo, I mean. Did either of you happen to hear how that child died?”
Jo hadn’t. It hadn’t occurred to her even to ask, she realized, and wondered why this was. It was normally the first thing on her mind when she encountered death, the how and why being somehow a comfort, as though by mastering the reasons you could avoid the result. Perhaps death just seemed too inevitable out here to attempt to avoid it. She turned the conversation back to Paco.
“He’s been trying to buy Jack’s land for years.”
“Well,” said Jack, “he’s been bringing ImPass in. Babysitting, really.”
Micah waved his arm in the direction of Jack’s house. “Good piece of land.”
“Last border land in the state they don’t own,” Jack said. “And I intend to keep it that way.” He paused, looking back and forth between Micah and Jo. “In fact, I probably wouldn’t be helping you out otherwise. No offense.”
“Oh? How’s that?”
Jack stiffened a bit. “Well,” he said, “I have a theory. Turns out the Feds have been sniffing around the last couple days.”
“So I heard. Now, ImPass has been after this property for so long, and I’ve been so unwilling to sell, that maybe the Feds have grown suspicious of my reasons for keeping hold of it. Paco brought someone by with an offer just yesterday, and said it might be their last.”
Micah stiffened. “Well, it doesn’t sound like this Paco character is someone you trust though, am I right?”
“Point is,” Jack continued, “if the Feds caught wind of what was going on, they’d have to assume I was involved in it from the beginning. They’d have the law on their side. They could just take the land. And of course ImPass would be right there to take it off their hands.”
Jo looked, finally, at Jack, in time to see him take a long swig of whiskey.
“If this fucker is coming out of the ground either way,” he said at last, “I’m going to make damn sure everything runs smoothly.”
Micah was unnaturally quiet.
“I mean, it’s just a theory.”
Jo felt a wave of nausea run through her body. This was a double-cross.
She must have looked stricken, because Jack chuckled, then reached over and nudged her.
“Aw, come on, Jo. You knew what you were getting yourself into,” he said. “But don’t worry, we’ll get him through. I’ve got a couple tricks up my sleeve.”