Ocho, Eight

The crickets in the undergrowth raised a cacophony of chirping as the night set in. The patriarch of the Collins family reclined in a rocking chair a couple of feet from Nestor, who took up the middle of the top step to the front porch. Light shone through the den windows, hung with old lace and silk curtains. A comfortable lapse in communication hovered betwen them.

The younger Collins telephoned in the afternoon and recalled Mark Tucker to the office off of Guadelupe two blocks west of the university. Mark always stared out the window as co-eds streamed by on their way to class. He gladly left his co-worker in Hill Country to return to his favorite pastime. Nestor and old man Collins bade him happy trails on his way out.

The moonlit sky cast distilled light upon the half tamed country outside the ranch. Rounds of coyote yips and yowls fringed the pulsating ebbs and eddies of insectoid humming. The dog on the porch, a mixed sheep dog with one blue eye, lick the top of one of her paws. A small amount of leftover gravy from the human meal plopped there during her zealous wolfing.

"Tomorrow morning my business partner will be here. He's coming from Flagstaff in a helicopter, if you can believe," Collins told Nestor.

"That's a long way."

"I think it's a big helicopter."

"Are you sure he's coming all the way from Flagstaff?"

"No. That's what he said though."

"That must be some helicopter."

"I reckon so."

Almost invisible to the naked eye a jet skimmed the stratosphere's lower reaches. Nestor noticed its blinking lights twice. Then the haloed lunar periphery obscured it.

An owl took wing in the tree line. Jibbie pricked up her ears. Like a flash she tore off growling across the drive. Collins right hand closed around his L. C. Smith shotgun. His sliding thumbprint on the polished grip would have been visible in the light. He pampered the shotgun.

"That's not coyotes, Nestor."

The hispanic man moved more dextrously than the enunciation. A dull gleam momentarily reflected from Nestor's Colt 1911 A-1. He held it at arm's length, fully standing, before his name left the old man's lips.

A bevvy of shots ripped through the wood of the steps the Mexican national vacated. Splinters of the planks scattered across the porch decking. Collins forced his aging bones into a somersault as the report of automatic weapon fire exploded in the peaceful night. All other sounds vacated the vicinity, leaving nothing but a vacuum before the next barrage.

A loud snarl from Jibbie wrested a curse from someone in the treeline. A second spray of slugs traced a high ascending crescent across the front wall of the house. In a remote corner of his perceptions Nestor heard the first miss pass by his ear.

Jibbie yelped loudly at an unseen response to her attack. Nestor honed in on the location, barely fifteen feet away from the end of his rapid advance into the gunfire. He squeezed off two careful shots at chest level. The boom of the forty-five eclipsed the fearful percussions of the fully auto. A man's dying scream whipped out before the deafening pronouncement of the Colt desisted.

In two breaths Nestor one-handedly hurdled the fence and stood over the man's body. Jibbie slunk back, stunned by pain and the unmistakable adrenaline echo thudding from the two humans. Heavy breathing was the only sound remaining.

The man was still alive. He had a thin, pencil moustache and very dark, tanned skin. His western style clothes may have come from a Good Will. Even as his lifeforce ebbed the man scanned Nestor's features.

"I found you, Torres. Everyone is going to know where you are now," he said. Nothing in the statement betrayed the damage to his lungs and heart. He closed his eyes upon completion of the statement. A final smile played across his features.

"Are you alright, Nestor?" Collins asked. He leaned on a fence post, the shotgun straight by his right leg. His chest rose and fell like a metronome, completely unaffected by the turn of events.

"Si, señor. Jibbie's alright too," Nestor responded.

"I heard him speak. What did he say?"

"Trouble's coming," Nestor said.

The two men stood under the Texas stars and surveyed the world before them with the expanded lucidity triggered only by the death of one of God's children. Jibbie wagged her trail and trotted over to her master. Nestor backed up, took his cowboy hat off and wiped his brow.

"I'll get started on the hole," Nestor said.

"Take your time. Do you want some tea?"

"No, gracias."

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