The visitors were climbing up to the watchtower, Archie among them, and Jack could see Angel standing at the Northwest corner of the field. This would all be over soon. He tried to remember the night before he left for Los Angeles, the night he drank himself stupid at the Double Barrel, but couldn’t. He could picture himself walking toward it at dusk, and he could remember taking a seat at the bar, and he could remember ordering a beer, but beyond that nothing. Beyond that a missing piece. His mind flooded with images of the bar he’d accrued both before and after that night, and they swam in his vision, taunting him with their similarity. It couldn’t have been much different from any of those nights but for that one thing.
On his way to the Jeeps, Micah waved him over from beside the bus. It was quiet right there, all the tourists in the Tower, and the shade from the bus felt good. Micah seemed bashful, like a scolded child, but there was a job to be done.
“I’m sorry about that back there, Jack,” he said.
“Over and done with. I’m a father.”
He wasn’t sure why he told Micah, other than the fact that it felt like he couldn’t say it enough, to anyone who’d listen. For his part, Micah seemed completely taken aback. He looked Jack in the eyes. He no longer looked bashful.
“I see,” he said. “So she told you. What else did she say?”
“What else? I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I mean… Does this change anything?”
“It changes everything,” Jack said. What the hell was he getting at?
Micah looked over Jack’s shoulder toward the show, and seemed quiet, still. The wind spit sand against his face, and he frowned. Jack realized he needed to get to that Jeep. He nodded toward the trucks.
“I’m assuming Jo told you about the change of plans,” he said. “I’m going to go get Che out of there myself,” he said.
“I see. You sure you want to do this, Jack?”
Jack left him standing there and walked up the small rise to the field, where he climbed behind the wheel of the Jeep he’d chosen. He looked back to wave at Micah, signaling that everything was in place, but he wasn’t by the bus. He was standing out in the middle of the lot, talking to Paco. They were gesturing, and both seemed upset. Jack thought about driving over quickly to try and get Paco to leave Micah alone, but he realized that with Paco distracted by Micah’s shoplifting, he might be less likely to notice anything else out of the ordinary. Perhaps, he thought, Micah had planned it that way the whole time. This notion gave him new appreciation for a man he already liked, and renewed confidence in the mission.
Jack pulled out the picture Micah had given him. In it, Che looked different than he’d seemed when Jack had first seen it. He was smiling, but there was a serenity, an ease to the expression that had escaped him before. His eyes had a depth he’d not noticed. This was a man who knew what he was doing, involved in a small, amusing distraction. This was a man who was right with his conscience, right with the world. Jack brought the picture to his lips, then folded it up and stuffed it safely back into his pocket.
The wind picked up just as the show started, and as the other Jeeps began to crawl through the gate into the field Jack watched them disappear into swirling dust. Jack put on a facemask and put the vehicle in drive. He wondered how exactly he’d make sure Che got in with him. Would he be compliant or defiant? What if he resisted Jack’s help? He thought of an argument he’d had with Jo years ago, in Los Angeles. She’d come back from a day trying to sign people up for free healthcare, frustrated by the lack of interest.
“What if they just don’t want healthcare?” Jack had asked.
“Sometimes,” Jo had said, “people don’t know what’s best for them.”
This had not sat well with Jack at the time, but now, sitting in a Jeep trying to think of ways to hustle an illegal alien into his Jeep, he completely understood. Yes, people do not always know. He wondered, in fact, if they ever did.
Though he couldn’t see them, by now his men would already be trickling into the play field at the south end. He pictured them as he’d seen them so many times from above, and tried to imagine which general strategy they were observing. Were they fanning out right away, or staying single file until the first sign of patrol? He let the other Jeeps go on ahead, determined to hold back and approach Che’s breaching point slowly. He didn’t want to hit the man for Christ’s sake. The sandy path before him stretched into nothingness, and he pushed forward, barely able to see.