He walks, sound of boots on pavement. Around a bend, a bright, shimmery light. The stars out, moon high in the sky. Hot red-light glaze warms the cool paleness of the cold night sky.
He pauses, his thumb pushing the hat back on his head, listens. Nothing but the soft crackle of fire.
Grit under heels, he runs. His breath short as he rounds the corner and sees the car, crumpled against concrete abutment. Passenger door open, body lying half-in, half out. Hair on fire. Smell of cooked meat.
Flames lick through broken windows. He walks closer, eyes narrowed against the dark oil-smoke, hand reaching for pistol, smooth walnut grip.
Hair flame gutters out, skeleton with ash clothing, black arms outstretched, a pattern of finger bones.
He squats, eyes narrow, silver bracelet among wrist bones. Bowie knife flashes, point dips and lifts, silver crescent slides down the blade, clinks against brass finger guard. A half-moon silver, perfect spheres cap each arm, plain, no ornamentation, simple. It's the symbol of the dragon ascending. Gunfighter's bracelet. He knows it from a dream.
He slips it around his wrist. Spheres rest against Artists Arch and Mound of Venus. A perfect circuit. He stands, puts the fire to his back and walks.
Miles away, hours later, the shade of a Saguaro. He wakes under a thin blanket. Takes inventory. Two sets of loads for the pistol. Knife. Whip. Possibles bag. Duster. Hat. Boots. Pants. Shirt. Bracelet.
He walks into Holbrook, past the Red Carpet Inn, past the Jerry's, up the gravel shoulder. Empty Pockets Saloon on the left.
He pushes through the wooden door into cool and dark. Exactly the same as two years ago. Ugly-meep bartender. She's gained a few. Still mean. She ignores him.
He hangs his possibles on the bar stool and plants his meep across the strap. Waits.
What'll ya have?
I only got the one glass.
I don't care what glass you put it in.
What I'm saying is I have to wash it every time.
I ain't particular.
Three or four of those and the buzz starts. Five or six and he stumbles into bright sunlight, rocky gravel shoulder, back the way he came, big rigs Doppler past.
Red Carpet Inn. Pretty girl smile behind the counter, pierced nose. Dark skin. Dark hair. Money. Key. Bucket and ice. Green-plastic diamond says 63. meep-brown door says 63.
Two beds. Sink. Possibles: right here. Green box. Two tablets. Cold water splashes across silver wrist. Silver winks, pale moonlight through window. Bed closest to door, stiff sheets.
Where's my pistol? Here. Take off the damned boots.