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Found 11 results

  1. 'Chiseltown' is completed. It is an intensely personal story, although it has nothing to do with me personally, as odd as that may sound. It's about a fictional filmmaker and a movie, from the first phone call to the last. That's how movies are made. I suppose it's not so different in other walks of life. Somebody calls, you do something, there's another phone call to find out if they liked whatever it was that you did. A producer calls, a movie is made, and then there's another phone call from a preview screening to report average Jane and John Doe audience response, in Fresno traditionally. Audience cards don't matter. What matters is whether the movie made them laugh and gasp and cry real tears, because movies should do that. Along the way, 'Chiseltown' presents a detailed, accessible education in filmmaking, how a script is written and funded and translated into actors and location shoots and sound stages with forced perspective to create a convincing night exterior scene, or an apartment, or a repair shop. Bruno Heckmeier is making a low-budget movie. There are severe obstacles to overcome. He has an unusual home life. There's an enormous amount of comedy for light entertainment purposes. Some of the story is serious literature. Some is slightly adult. I found that I cared very deeply about the 7 or 8 principal players in this story. There are many more bit players, and if it seems unusual to have so many characters, please consider that the movie Bruno makes involves a production company of fifty skilled professionals, stunt men, two very capable stars, and an unusual supporting cast. It's a very short schedule, six weeks to organize it, six weeks to shoot everything, and six weeks of post production. Trust me, that's working at lightning speed. It's a personal story in two respects. I had to write the movie for Bruno to make. And I had to live in Bruno's shoes (and those of all the other characters) with honesty, humor, drama, and a deep understanding of the men and women who call themselves "show people," no matter what their specialty or contribution to a motion picture is. Camera grip, driver, bookkeeper, electrician, set decorator, or seamstress -- they are people who sacrifice much to work a few weeks on a movie, a collaborative art that cannot be created without them. I've done many "below the line" production jobs for an hourly wage, in addition to "above the line" writing, producing, and directing. You have to take my word for it. Directing is a high privilege. It's done by lots of different men and women. 'Chiseltown' is directed by a talented, goofy, warmhearted, intelligent middle aged guy who got stuck on Poverty Row doing low-budget movies, while others did studio pictures with an average budget of $75 million. Bruno has to conceive and execute a feature film on 1/5 as much money, and he wants it to succeed, not only at the box office, but critically as well. Being an "indie" confers a great deal of freedom. No studio moguls, Teamsters, or IATSE work rules. The whole of Los Angeles as a locale, in a "period" setting that's fun to shoot. I always experience emotional awe when I've finished a story. 'Chiseltown' is in a class of its own, among all the stories I've written, among all the fictional characters that I loved and still love, of course. The story of making a movie is a personal confession of my lifelong passion. 'Chiseltown' is a movie I didn't get to make, and it's deeply gratifying to have directed its fictional creation. Many of the characters are based on people who I knew and worked with and loved and respected. Please buy a copy ($5 at and review it. Thanks.
  2. I finally cracked last night. Tears filled my eyes and blurred my vision of the laptop. I gambled everything and lost my wife, bank accounts, credit cards, health, dignity, friends, reputation. I wrote material that no one likes, no one buys. My inbox is empty. The phone never rings. There's no undoing it. I self-published because I couldn't depend on anyone to preserve my work, can't rely on an old laptop that has screen cancer and a weak battery, don't trust heirs to perceive any value in my legacy. So, the work was uploaded to POD. My books are overpriced by a wide margin. Nothing to be done about that. Net royalty from selling a book is a few cents. If someone decides to buy a copy, those pennies would flow to a bank account that was closed, overdrawn. Fair's fair. Chase Bank owns whatever pittance my books might earn. I have a dozen titles in print, an honorable term used loosely, because nothing exists except digital text files and crappy cover art. I don't mind being hated. I don't mind being old and poor. Eventually, I will find a minimum wage job, so I can eat, buy gasoline, pay insurance. It would be better to sell the car. I don't entirely trust myself to drive at highway speed, although I need to drive an hour to get the dog shaved for the summer, so he doesn't suffer. All winter I trimmed his silky hair with a scissors that became too dull to cut effectively. I need new scissors. Absolutely do not trust myself with a gun. Hemingway ended his life that way. Fitzgerald and O. Henry were destroyed by alcohol. I'd rather not amplify further punishment for the crime of writing. Poverty is plenty of torture, thanks. I can't afford to buy alcohol or drugs. It's been years since I bought a dead man's shirts and shoes at a resale shop in Houston. I regret being ugly and disfigured. I used to be handsome, charismatic. I don't regret my characters, Chris and Peachy (The Case Files of Cable & Blount), Janet and Archie (The Good Walk Alone), or Harry and Laura (Mars Shall Thunder). I don't regret being a dinosaur who sees the world as the dominion of heterosexual men and women who discover romantic love and earn it with passion and courage. I don't regret their patriotism and valor, putting their lives on the line for justice. All of my nonfiction stuff addresses the notion of justice, also, but justice is unsaleable and unwanted in the modern world. That's why I broke down and wept last night, the first time it came home to me, that my work is unwanted. If it were a matter of incompetence -- awful, klutzy writing that fails to clear the lowest possible literary hurdle -- it wouldn't hurt so deeply. What hurts is being punished for the good, the real and true, the beautiful and thrilling. The Tar Pit puts the issue as clearly as anyone could, that official police and governments of every description are incapable of doing justice. They always try, always fail. What matters is private actors, private action, private desire and daring and danger and determination. Not a Politically Correct mechanized mob with guaranteed pensions. No matter what happens, Chris and Peachy were worth it. They love each other.
  3. Self-explanatory in this video. I decided to write a speech, on the off chance of being invited to speak somewhere, someday. full text of The Speech at my blog
  4. I've recorded a series of video lectures to express my ideas about government, the rule of law in a free society, self defense, and aspects of family life. The material is presented as concisely as possible. It's an opportunity to meet me in an intimate setting and to consider whether it makes sense to explore my novels and nonfiction books. I do not expect to do more video. This is it, a lifetime of creative thought. More than once I have wondered whether my ideas will do more harm than good, if widely accepted. In the past, I answered that question by saying that the American Revolutionary War of Independence was perceived as painful by most people. Thomas Paine ridiculed and damned Philadelphia's wealthy Quakers who refused to fight, remained loyal to England, didn't contribute a farthing to advance liberty. I would much prefer to devolve and dissolve the government incrementally, selling off its assets in reverse value, the worst junk first, leaving open the matter of military power to be considered in fine detail, although I would argue for immediate auction of overseas bases. The sensible ancap goal is defense of the United States, to be determined and provisioned by a consortium of commercial enterprises. The videos explain why.
  6. latest romantic adventure with Chris and Peachy available $0.99 on Kindle
  7. Hi, A few words about my latest, the second in my series with Chris and Peachy, a modern Nick and Nora Charles. Sometimes authors use images to help them see the characters, or waste time while facing another blank page. 200 blank pages is sort of a big deal, though not as big a deal as The Fountainhead, right? The mind boggles what Rand might have looked at. The Tar Pit is 80% less sex and 100% more crime mystery by popular demand. Anyway, meet Chris Cable It would be swell to have a review on Lulu or Amazon. The cheapest is Lulu, if you'd like to buy a paperback.
  8. It bothers me, and it undoubtedly annoys readers, that my published work past and present is full of cursing, especially the F word. My latest novel has 44 F bombs, which is quite a lot, almost all of them spoken by honorable men and women. Why on earth? I rarely use the F word in conversation nowadays, although I admit having said it frequently as a young man at war with the world. Later in life I kept company with a Russian who used it in every sentence, as bizarre as that may seem. Orlin Grabbe once chastised me for overuse of the F word and suggested that I "use another adjective, please." I retaliated by putting his words into a character's mouth, mocking him, and he probably cursed me when that chapter of The Good Walk Alone went to press. I had 40,000 readers following a weekly serial loaded with bad language and outrageously graphic sex scenes, another signature foible. What the fuck is up with me as an author? (so to speak) I fear there is more wrong than overuse of bad language. My people carry weapons and kill. They recognize no power greater than individual judgment and autonomous action, entirely divorced from legal process and lawful authority. This is the reality of warfare. Warriors are hardened and truculent. Confronted by an unexpected obstacle, a fierce enemy or sudden surprise by politicians, they are apt to curse. "You can stuff that fucking Leavenworth snake back in your pocket," Chris says to his father in A Portrait of Valor, and he means it. How else should one express contempt for that kind of threat, to be imprisoned if he refuses a deadly and unwanted assignment? Suppose it was said more politely. What sort of hero says: "Oh, father, I don't wish to do that, please don't threaten me with prison, I dislike it." In The Tar Pit, my latest, African American detective Ellie Vereen uses the F word constantly, almost every sentence of her dialogue. "Fuck no," she grouches when Chris suggests another black p.i. could back her up on a dangerous assignment. Ellie would be an entirely false and ridiculous character, if she replied: "No, thank you, Chris, I prefer to handle this individually, rather than worry about Mr. Little's propensity to screw things up and blow my cover." Book editors complain about more serious literary problems, concerning multiple points of view and sudden lapses of mood. Written largely in first person past tense, I indulge textual liberties: Ow. (an existential reaction) Shut up, Cable, and go eat a hamburger. (self-talk) That's why I'm stuck with the ignominy of being self-published. Bad languge and bad grammar go hand in hand, a freedom of expression that enlivens story, gives it verisimilitude and authenticity. What I write is largely preposterous. There are very few autonomous heroes. My chief concern is believability. I have little to offer except the hard business of courage under fire. My people are not geniuses or "cosy" elderly women suggesting with a wink that the butler may have tinkered with the grandfather clock and threw a candlestick in the duck pond. It is an unhappy truth of life that people in Hollywood curse, especially private eyes and LAPD homicide detectives. In comradeship and frustration, at the scene of a grisly murder, a cop is likely to say: "Aw, fuck you. You know what I mean." This is how men speak to one another. So -- here we jolly well are -- unable to fix anything without diluting its truth. I apologize for terrible coarseness. My F bombs annoy and interrupt the flow, unless you too know about death and danger, ill-equipped to stop the horror of a serial killer who leaves no evidence of his identity at crime scenes. The police are baffled. The FBI are baffled. Tempers flare. Better to read another author, I guess.
  9. A letter from Wolf DeVoon to a friend I've been active here for some years. It's one of the few places I enjoy, although I've had to take time away for reasons that I've forgotten. Recent discussions prompted me to write an essay for Brant Gaede. He's been exceedingly kind to me in book reviews, uniquely so. But there's some space between us on questions of the first order. Perhaps I've failed in the past 500,000+ words to express what I think of Rand's legacy. I'll try again. I have nothing to say about Ayn Rand as a student in Russia, or her experience in America. It was contemptible that her private life in New York was exposed; worse that Peikoff became an "intellectual heir." Rand was a novelist. To the best of my knowledge, no one else alive today could be compared with her as a storyteller. I'm aware that Miss Rand wrote a great deal of nonfiction. I read most of it long ago. Very nice, especially The Ayn Rand Letter and her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Tremendous personal achievements. But it remains that Ayn Rand was a novelist. Consider We The Living. Leo becomes a wastrel, a cynical playboy, playing a dangerous game for the hell of it, because nothing matters to him any longer, not even Kira. An honorable and powerful man, Comrade Taganov, is destroyed by love. Comrade Sonia and her ilk win. At the time We The Living appeared, it was seen as anguished criticism of Soviet communism, with little comment on the soap opera story she told about a love triangle, a woman who sold her body to save a man she loved. Please note that Kira, Leo, and Andrei were actuated by private passions, acted outside the agreed rules of morality, political advantage, and government. The narrative achievement of The Fountainhead lay in honoring a man who wished to build something beautiful and original and paid a heavy price for it. Three men helped him: Heller, Enright and Lansing. Only one woman loved him. She couldn't bear the struggle he faced as a great man shunned by the world in which they lived, threw herself away, sold herself to the lowest bidder. She did not expect Gail Wynand to fall in love, hard. The novel is littered with private actors who twist levers of power, casually manipulating government officials. Roark's trial is totally unreal, acquitted 12-0, excused from bombing a big public housing project by jury nullification. If I wrote such fantastic hooey, I'd be too embarrassed to publish it. Yet the story of The Fountainhead became intensely important to me as a young filmmaker, offered a moral justification for intransigent devotion, an inspiration that sustained me for decades as a pioneer, price no object. Please note that The Fountainhead is a story of private action, little or nothing to do with government or lawful behavior. Rand didn't care. Her talent as a storyteller consisted of showing us private life. In the same period, she wrote a play that had two endings, and she didn't care whether Karen was convicted of murder or acquitted. It did not matter what the law said or what a jury decided. Karen loved Bjorn, period. "The Strike" (Atlas Shrugged) began as a simple idea, that the world is moved by private men and women, a few who create something new and are beset with opposition, exclusively by government officials and the masses who grant them arbitrary power. Ayn Rand was devoted to the proposition that private life matters, government does not. I acknowledge that Atlas Shrugged also contains a theory of metaphysics, clear-eyed defense of reason and science, firm rejection of "social justice" and politics. It is important to see that all of it failed to make the slightest dent in American political history, and I regard all of her subsequent efforts to elaborate a cogent theory of government as a product of seduction by Branden and other acolytes who were enamored of The Fountainhead and something else, far less respectable. The novelist quit writing fiction, became a guru of ethics and political theory, hoping to attract academic interest in right and wrong, a project that failed to achieve anything except a fussy battle with Rothbard and tenured pranksters like Block and Hoppe. Rand's intellectual legacy doesn't bother me. A is A, agreed. Evil requires the sanction of the victim, agreed. I lived in Galt's Gulch for 7 years, entirely free of government control. I am entitled to say with conviction that man has a fundamental right to liberty. I will not repeat myself concerning the rule of law, except to say again that Ayn Rand did not consider it. She saw the world as an ethical landscape apart from technicalities of due process or common law, although she might have agreed with an ancient common law decision that held "A dead thing can do no felony" (knives and swords cannot be blamed for killing), an English precedent that took hundreds of years to seep into American jurisprudence. In the Massachuetts Bay Colony, a canoe was blamed for murder, deemed an instrument of Satan. So. We have a slightly different view of Ayn Rand. She told stories about passion and genius and romance threatened by vicious fags (ahem, lifelong bachelors) like Ellsworth Tooey and Wesley Mouch, who wanted nothing for themselves as individuals, the root of all evil. They craved government of others, slave masters detached from responsibility, totally unearned, which gays and their welfare state allies achieved in California and New York and Supreme Court decisions that will never be revisited. Government rules with an iron fist, has title to your property and happiness for the satisfaction of looters, civil servants, and queer folk. I sketched a method of providing for national defense by a publicly-traded corporation and a constitution that guaranteed an enduring right to be heard, to sue or be sued, to complain of rights violation, etc -- an organizing principle for the private practice of law and the lawyers chosen to quit private practice and sit as impartial judges to uphold fundamental fairness. It doesn't matter whether you or anyone else see merit in those ideas. Likewise, it doesn't matter a hoot what any of us think about Rand's proposals for government, or her assertions of legal right and wrong. My constitutional law professor in Madison was fond of repeating that an assertion is not an argument, said it in class almost daily. Rand was ignored by the American electorate, smeared by gays like Gore Vidal and Chris Sciabarra, and pilloried by John Aglialoro's wretched movies. Paul Ryan had to disavow her influence. Game over, as they say in queer dominated Silicon Valley. What Rand achieved was superb portraits of private valor and sorrow and romance. Her ideas about government were incoherent assertions, belied by Roark and Ragnar and Francisco, men who went to war as lawless pirates, fighting armies of innocent bystanders. Galt starved millions to death, destroyed a nation. It paled in significance to his love affair with Dagny. How quaint, a heterosexual love story. Boy meets girl. - Wolf DeVoon Gore Vidal (Esquire, 1961) Sciabarra on Ayn Rand
  10. Hmm. Money Map Press started a radio advertising campaign, overblown 30s on the Mark Levin talk show. I almost went to work for them. Their HR gal phoned me. Some people think I'm a business writer, specialized in the energy space. The Money Map office is in Baltimore, part of the Agora empire. I was vaguely disposed to apply, because Agora bought Laissez Faire Books, the venerated national bookseller that sold Rothbard, Freidman, von Mises, and a bunch of latter-day free market morons. LFB was previously owned and operated by Andrea Millen Rich, a gal I liked very much, an Objectivist. She liked me, went to bat for me with the late Bill Bradford, who I reviled. Ancient history. Nothing to do with Agora bunco. Anyway, living in such a remote location with very spotty cell service, weather permitting, I never got to talk at length to the Money Map Press babe, and was thus saved from selling my body and soul to a ridiculously absurd gang of hucksters in Baltimore. Every time I think the word, it sends a chill down my spine. Baltimore. Fifty times worse than Boulder. I am grateful to not be sold into bullshittery. I did it four months at Hart Energy, enough to last anyone several lifetimes. Corporate writers author ridiculous hokum and rubbish, not a word of truth in it. I am extremely grateful to be unemployed, for that reason. It would have killed me, six figure income notwithstanding. There would have been no Chris and Peachy. I am transcendantly satisfied with Chris and Peachy. To understand them, you have to consult A Portrait of Valor, where they meet and - WHAM - fall hard for each other. Chris is forced to propose marriage to get her to safety, sending her away, because he and Nick are about to go into action at a nightclub, an extremely dangerous operation. Chris makes it a condition of marriage that when shit comes to holler, Peachy has to obey him without discussion. It fails to work that night. Peachy shows up in the middle of a gun battle, and explains: "We're not married yet!" defying Chris's order to stay away. I think A Portrait of Valor is misunderstood. It's not a detective story. It's a love story. Funny, I don't regret being a bad writer, or rather incompetent to write as beautifully as Scott Fitzgerald, who I admire very sincerely -- although I do regret the fact that Fitzgerald went to bat for Hemingway, got him a debut at Fitzgerald's publisher Scribners. I despise Hemingway, every word. We all have weaknesses, and it's easy to blame Fitzgerald for being cheerful. He was drunk most of the time. And the mood of the time was Naturalism. It's not inexplicable that Fitzgerald thought Hemingway was interesting. WWI and heavy drinking informed the mature Scott Fitzgerald, although it's odd to call a 30-something author "mature." See? -- something else to be happy about. I'll be 67 soon. I outlived Scott Fitzgerald, and I'm not chained to Naturalism. Rand freed me to write about heroes and heroines, folks who are better than I am, or you are, or anyone has any right to expect from life; truly exceptional in terms of courage and genius (his and hers, respectively). What a duo! -- and how natural they should fall for each other, WHAM. Hot water seeks its own level. I know that to be true from personal experience. It happens in reality. Chris is a war hero, likewise happens in reality. Peachy made her own way in the world, a highly intelligent babe. I know such women. I believe Chris and Peachy will find an audience. I had a creative thought today, that I need a publicist. More than I need a car, or a job, or food, for that matter. Maybe I'll launch another Kickstarter project, to fund publicity. There are such services. I've researched it. Nice people who do it professionally. Selling my car could pay for it. To hell with the electricity bill. Bottom line: I am very happy to be fiercely devoted to Chris and Peachy. Go, Tar Pit, go. I will summon the same ruthlessness that Chris's father was famous for, frontal attack, all forces.
  11. Long shadows crept across the valley. Big yawn. I flexed a few muscles and carefully arched my back against the trunk. Sitting in a tree sucks, no matter how nicely trimmed and dressed with a machete. Oh well. Another half hour and I can wrestle everything down, walk over to the quad and go home empty-handed again. Danny and I have been doing this every Wednesday, waiting for the beer truck to wallow over Quebrada Bridge. Danny has it worse than me. He was draped in camo under the bridge like a troll. If they came up the dry gulch, which we expected, Danny would be a sitting duck if they saw him and started shooting. I was 30 yards away with a carbine, supposedly backing him up, which was total bullshit and we both knew it. He put me in a safe position. I could sweep the road but couldn't see under the bridge. The gulch was a long black pit. No use arguing with him. Dan's hard as iron. Ex-cop, ex-MP, cheerfully silent and inscrutible like a brick wall. Volunteered to risk his life for $50 an hour that the Civic Association is reluctantly paying to do something about armed robberies on this stretch of road, mostly commercial trucks who carry cash, but also two carloads of tourists who got held up at gunpoint last month. The cops patrolled this stretch at sundown for a while, then somebody shot one of them dead, picked him off a slow motorbike. No more patrols. Another big yawn rattled my shoulders, trying to stifle it. I got up early this morning to answer the phone. A girl at the beach called to tell me that Andre was back in town. Made some coffee and drank a cup, dunked a roll in it for breakfast, then strapped on my steel asp and headed for the beach mad as hell. I drove that stupid fucking junkie out of town yesterday, gave him money for a room and something to eat, and told him emphatically to stay put until I got in touch with the consulate to ship him home. Seventeen years old and stoned every day, on the run from a father who beat him and blackened both of his eyes, he was persona non grata in Cristo for breaking into cars, panhandling the tourists and talking shit to the Great and the Good, who long ago formed the mistaken idea that anything to do with Russians was my personal responsibilty and I was supposed to fix it, free of charge. Tabby was waiting for me at Olga's. Very strange chick, maybe 30 years old. I met her for the first time in one of the comfy old suites above the Iguana Restaurant, smoking pot with a vacationing grower from Michigan, a guy we ultimately had to throw out for being such an asshole. Maybe Tab was sleeping with him to get high. Couldn't blame her if she was. He had a big bag of big green buds. I smoked a lot of pot that year. Everybody did. It was one of those golden dry seasons when the beach was dotted with strong bronze surfers, pale stockbrokers and airhead supermodels from New York, trading big smiles in skimpy attire with live music and seafood at the resorts every night, drinking and smoking and laughing and nuzzling til dawn. Tabitha was a mystery I never bothered to unravel. She spoke with a whistle, like an old guy with false teeth. Not bad looking, buxom, thick brown hair that she kept behind her ears and spilled over soft muscular shoulders. A little plush around the middle. Not my type, but she kept popping up wherever I went, always asking if I knew anyone who could give her a job. She wanted to stay. So I took her to Rick and she handled board rentals and sold trinkets for a while. Then to Olga's for the wet season, serving beer and washing dishes. She was shacked up in one of the squatter ranchos, a dirty palm leaf hut full of mosquitos. No running water. I didn't like it, but Tabby was pretty stubborn and got her wish to stay more or less permanently. Illegal of course. There were plenty of expat beach bums who came on three-month visas and never went home. When the Immigration Police made a desultory and predictable sweep at the end of the tourist season, they ran for the hills or hid out in somebody's closet, unless the bum in question wore out his welcome and was dutifully tossed to the Migration goons. Like this asshole. Tabby lifted an eyebrow and pointed at him with her nose. He was slumped over a table in the sun with a half dozen empty brown bottles, two of which were horizontal in a puddle of buzzing flies. I flicked the asp open and strode over to his table. Andre must have heard me crunching gravel and looked up. "Tex..." he mumbled stupidly, "I couldn't stay there, so I came back." I ordered him to get up, and when he opened his mouth to spew another paragraph of bullshit excuses I wapped him on the thigh and the top of his head for good measure. We marched over to my car and I shoved him in the back seat. He had enough sense to keep his mouth shut while we drove to the Rural Guard shack in town. "Lock him up and keep him here until the bus comes," I growled at the dope on duty and threw a $20 bill on the desk. The Consul agreed to pick up Poor Little Lost Andre on the other end and fly him home to his mother in Moscow. She was worried; he belonged in school. Once in while these comic soap operas turn out halfway right, but I had more important things to do today, like getting shot at. Bang - THWAP - a chunk of bark hit my head, another loud bang stung my upper arm and I jumped for the ground, a disorganized, flailing leap of eleven feet with a rifle in my hand that ended in a hard bellyflop that smashed the wind out of me and broke my glasses, which is all I remember. I woke up with Danny ripping my shirt apart and pulling my pants down. "Are you hurt anywhere?" he asked angrily. I said I was hurt everywhere. He picked me up in a fireman's carry and started running. "Put me down!" I tried to shout. He was bouncing my guts, making everything hurt a hell of a lot worse. So I smacked him in the kidneys, to no effect. He kept running. We got to the hillside where the quads were hidden and he flopped me down on the ground, out of breath and gleaming with sweat like a racehorse. "Can you drive?" he panted. I nodded and pulled myself up fumbling a key in my hand. Danny opened my rifle case and slammed it shut. "Follow me!" he yelled as he gunned his machine, heading straight up a rough jungle path over the hills to the beach. I began to get the idea we were in trouble and had to be elsewhere pronto. We raced across wet sand with the tide coming in. In an hour our tracks would be gone. At Rock Point, Danny stopped, ran and threw his Sig-Sauer and Steve's .45 in water that was too dangerous to surf or swim. He waved me in the direction of town, like a stern traffic cop at the scene of a car wreck, then spun around and went the other way. That was the last I saw of him. A week later, they called me to pick up his quad, one of four in the company fleet. It was parked upside down in the river near Tres Gauchos, about twenty miles away, out of gas. I watched Danny disappear into the jungle and sort of melted slowly into a pile of sore bones and trembling flesh across the steering bar of a red hot machine that was starting to sputter. It took a long time to find the reserve tank knob. I burned my hand on the engine with a wrong guess. In town I decided I needed a drink and pulled into the little lot at the front of The Dice Bar. It took a long time to stand up and throw my bad leg over the saddle, switch the motor off. I could barely walk, just limped through the wide front arch. It was Happy Hour, fifteen or sixteen lazy drinkers and loud music. I stumbled against a table and made it to the empty end of the bar near the back wall. Tony grabbed the Dewars and poured a drink for me. I asked for more ice and fished a couple cubes out of the glass with my left hand and pressed them against the rip in my sleeve near the shoulder. "You okay, Tex? You look like shit," he worried. Unless my eyes were playing tricks on me in the dim light, the bar owner was sweating and shaking. Tony was the one who looked like shit tonight. "Never mind me. What's up with you?" His hands twisted a bar rag as he leaned over to talk privately, like it was an emergency. "Jesus, Tex, I gotta have a gun. Can you get me one? There was three guys in here a little while ago. Never saw 'em before. They were casing the joint, and I gotta stay open til 2. It's a game night." I nodded and unbuckled the fanny pack around my waist, laid it on the bar, fumbled with the zipper, got my cuffs out and put them in a back pocket. "It's single action," I explained. "You have to cock it every time. Loaded with .22 magnum. Do yourself a favor and get some .22 shorts. Kicks like hell unless you hold the barrel down with your other hand. Can you remember that?" Tony nodded. "Yeah. Thank you. How much?" "Nothing. If anyone asks, I was in here about 4 o'clock and had lunch." I drove through town in second gear somewhat inaccurately and made it home, got off and started to fumble with the gate latch. My wife came running across the patio in that cute way girls have of tiptoeing at top speed. I got back on the quad and she opened the gate, then latched it shut behind me. "What happened?" she wanted to know. I let her help me inside, into a bedroom, into bed, where she took off my clothes. There was a little cry of anguish when she saw the deep red groove on my upper arm. I vetoed the doctor idea and asked for crema blanca. "Just treat it like a burn," I mumbled and then blacked out, safe and snug behind a perimeter wall and cameras, with a partner who was better and faster with a long .38 than I was. I think I slept a night and a day and another night before I hobbled around a little and sat on the couch a while to eat soup and a sandwich. The next day I felt good enough to putt putt putt downtown for a newspaper. The crowd at the grocery store froze and gave me a wide berth at the checkout. The store owner asked politely if there was anything Mr. Tex needed. I gave him a buck for the English language paper and opened it. It was there, page one. Four dead, all of them known to the cops, two out on bond pending trial for robbery. A beer truck driver saw bodies in a field near Quebrada Bridge, called 911 and got detained for questioning because the cops found a 9mm pistol in his cab that "may have been recently fired and reloaded." He was booked for resisting arrest. And there was another police item, continued on page 8 with a photo of a rental car in a ditch near the new suspension bridge that put the ferries out of business. Friends said that Tabitha Oberlin was on her way to see a baby doctor in the capital. She was five months pregnant. They shot out her tires and stole her belongings, leaving her for dead. But she wasn't dead yet. Broken vertebrae bounced in a Red Cross ambulance eight or nine hours to a government hospital where she died from infection after surgery. It still makes me sick whenever I think about it.