The Second Saladin (76 стр.)


“You’re only getting what you deserve,” said Danzig pleasantly. He reached to adjust his dark glasses, which were not quite big enough to obscure the purple blotch that even yet surrounded his eye. Chardy must have really whacked him, Miles thought. Jesus, Chardy, you really are a piece of work. Hitting Joe Danzig. Jesus!

Danzig’s injury had quite naturally inspired a great volume of rumor, made worse by the fact that at an unguarded moment a free-lance photographer had gotten a good close-up of it, and subsequently sold the picture to

“You’ll do well, Miles, I know you will,” Danzig said.

“Thank you. I’ll work hard, I know that.”

“I know you will.”

“I was very lucky I didn’t go down with Sam.”

“You are a survivor, Miles. I could see it from the start.”

Miles nodded. He was. It was true. Miles’s true gift: landing on his feet.

“Look, I wanted to thank you for the help you gave me,” Miles said.

“It’s nothing. Please. You embarrass me Ah, the wine.”

It was served. Miles watched as Danzig was offered a sip, took it, and approved.

“Very nice,” he said, without looking at the steward.

Miles’s glass was filled; he took a sip. It

“I’m sure you don’t,” said Miles, wondering where this was going.

“I’m a relatively young man, after all. I feel I’ve got a lot to

“I might want to be actively involved at some level — either officially or unofficially. Do you see?”

Miles did not. But then he did. Yes, of course he did. Miles suddenly realized an alliance was being offered. So that was how these things worked: you help me, I’ll help you. But what could he —?

He could do a lot. He saw it now: a lot.

“Yes,” he said. “I agree, Dr. Danzig. I just want you to know you can count on me.”

Danzig raised his glass, and paused for just a second. He seemed to consider the meal that lay before him, and perhaps the afternoon as well, or perhaps even beyond.

“Miles,” he said, “to the future. It’s really ours, you know.”

There was a counterpoint to this tête-à-tête, a somewhat less swanky one, which took place on the same day nearly two thousand miles away and involved two other participants in the affair of the Kurd.

One of these, Reynoldo Ramirez, much recovered in health and glossily attired in a shiny new polyester suit, leaned forward and peered squint-eyed through a filthy windshield aglare with heavy sunlight and declared, “There! There it is!”

His companion, Paul Chardy, merely nodded.

The drive through the desert, down from Tucson, had passed swiftly and the town was upon them with a suddenness that almost drove the pain from Chardy’s head. He could see it: the hills beyond the wire fence littered with the shacks of the poor, in blue and pink and other hopeful colors. Over the automobile-inspection booths and the pedestrian turnstile hung a bulky green bridge of offices. Cars were jammed up in both directions and a hundred people loafed on either side of the wire.

Chardy gazed on the scene without interest. It had all begun here months ago: so what? The sense of circle, of completion, of ending, held no magic for him. Yet, still, he’d wanted this job: to take the Mexican back and set him free, another survivor.

Chardy pulled the car over to the curb eighty yards up the slope of the avenue from the border.

“Okay, chum. It’s all yours. Go on.”

Ramirez lurched from the car. He must have had a thousand stitches in him. He was like some old, dented Mexican ’52 De Soto, rusty and scabby, beaten to hell, with a gray fender and a blue door and a bumper wired on, but running smoothly after 300,000 miles. He moved ahead toward the gate and seemed to slow, as if he felt dizzy or nauseous. He stopped to gather himself.

Chardy got out.

“You okay?” he called, reaching for the trembling arm.

“Sure, sí. Reynoldo’s fine.”

“You’ve got your money?”

“You bet.”

In his pocket Ramirez had a nice stake for the future, courtesy of the American government.

“Go on. What are you waiting for?” Chardy asked.

Chardy sat on the fender and watched him go until he lost him among the crowds of pimps and Indians and souvenir sellers and Exclusivo cabdrivers and young girls.

Chardy tried not to think of another man he’d hoped to take to a border and tell, Go on. You’re free. Get out of here. He also remembered a woman — and a dreamy young man. They’d all gotten fucked trying to get across borders.

The sun was bright and the wind blew loose sheets of newspaper through the air, whipped up eddies of dust, swirled girls’ dresses up to show their white thighs, but Chardy could not see the Mexican at all. He was gone. He was definitely gone.

Chardy turned back and climbed into the car. He thought he might find a bar and kill a few beers, a few hours. There was no hurry.

Black Light, Dirty White Boys, Point of Impact

Time to Hunt . He is also the chief film critic for The Washington Postand the author of a collection of criticism, Violent Screen . He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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