T Jefferson Parker


The border Lords

Prologue

"Charlie, Gravas here. Reporting live from the Wild West."

"Good to hear from you, friend."

"My machine gun peddlers got a whiff of something. Me waiting there with my cash and meth like a dude with flowers and chocolates. They stood me up. How's my Seliah?"

"She sounded great like she always sounds."

"She doesn't tell you how hard this is for her."

"Neither do you."

"I feel strong, and clear in the eye. I want someone bigger than those machine gun punks anyway. I want someone with heft. I'm making some contacts out here. I'll get within spitting distance of Carlos Herredia if it kills me. Maybe I shouldn't put it that way."

"You're where you need to be. And when it's done you're out and rolling home."

"If Seliah needs something, she's going to call you."

"As always."

"I keep coming back to her, don't I?"

"You're supposed to come back to her."

"Gotta go now. Bad actors, incoming."

"Vaya con Dios."

"Yeah. I always go with God when I waddle around in hell."

1

Just before sunset the first bat fluttered from the cave and came toward him, wobbling and breeze-blown, like a black snowflake ahead of a storm. It rose and navigated between the trunks of the banana trees, then climbed into the magenta sky. Another flew, and then another.

The priest stood facing them, his feet together and his back straight and his hands folded before him. The reeking cave mouth yawned and the bats spilled out. He watched them come at him, then veer abruptly.

From the first few, he heard faint chirps but soon there were too many and all he could hear was their muffled flight. Then the air was heavy with them, a great dark blanket of membranous wings and small faces and tiny feet. One of them brushed his cheek and another glanced off his hair and another screeched at him in fear. Some of them dropped guano that tapped against his windbreaker but the priest stood motionless and let the flood of hair and skin rush past. My music, he thought. He considered the centuries and still the flood rushed.



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