Janet Pierson felt left out. She was at ease with them, she liked them; but she didn't feel with them. Nor did she feel as close to Bren now. Bren and Dana Moon and his wife had shared something, had lived through an experience during another time that did not include her.
She was aware of the news reporters waiting outside the house, the crowd of them that had followed Moon and his wife here. She liked his wife, Kate; she felt she had known her a long time and the feeling surprised her. For some reason she could sympathize with her; though the young woman did not seem to need or want it. She could also sympathize with the news reporters and knew what they were feeling. She imagined-after Bren and Mr. and Mrs. Moon were gone-the reporters standing at the door asking her questions. What are they like? What did you talk about?
She imagined herself saying, Oh, they're very nice people. Polite, well-mannered.
But what did they talk about?
Nothing in particular. Old times mostly.
Did they get in a fight over the situation?
No, they're friends.
Come on, did they have words?
No. (Not exactly.)
Did they talk about any of the men they'd killed?
No, of course not.
Do you know how many those two have laid to rest?
They would get onto something like that and she would try to close the door.
Did Moon chew tobacco in the house?
We hear his wife is a tough customer.
She's very nice.
Did she have anything to say?
Of course. She is not timid. She told me about their house.
Was there much tension between them, Early and Moon?
No, it was a very pleasant visit. Mr. Moon described his duties as an Indian agent. (“Through the office of Indian Affairs…handle all relations between the federal government and the Indians…direct the administration of tribal resources…supervise their ‘trust’ property…promote their health and physical welfare…guide their activities toward the attainment of economic self-sufficiency, self-government and the preservation of Indian cultural values.” Bren said, “And what exactly does that mean?” And Moon said, “Try to keep them from doing what is most natural to them, raiding and making war.”) While Mr. Early explained his responsibilities with the company. (“You get a big stockholder out here a thousand and some miles from home, what do you think is the first thing he wants to see?” “An Indian,” Moon said. “That's the second thing,” Bren said. “A whorehouse,” Mrs. Moon said. “Correct,” Bren said, and they had a good laugh over it.)
What else might be asked? Janet Pierson wondered if her name would appear in a newspaper or in Harper's Weekly. “In an interview with Mrs. Pierson, a close friend of the”…legendary, celebrated, renowned…famous…“the well-known figures who are playing important roles in the controversial land war…” What? “Mrs. Pierson stated they are very polite, well-mannered people.”
She said, “I don't understand it at all. I don't. How can you sit there like it's just another day and completely ignore what's going on?”
Bren put on a concerned frown. “Honey, we're just visiting; catching up's what we're doing. You know it's been over three years?”
“Yes, I know it's been three years. You date everything you talk about,” Janet Pierson said. “Sonora in eighty-seven. St. Helen's, some stagecoach station in eighty-nine. The wedding three years ago…”
There was a silence. They seemed content to let it go on, patient people, used to quiet; the Moons sitting together on the sofa could be on the porch Kate had described…Bren with a leg over the arm of his chair. Coffee cups on the end tables…News reporters outside dying of curiosity: Were they at each other's throats or plotting a way to kill Sundeen?
Bren said, you want some more coffee? The Moons said, no, thank you.
Janet Pierson, hands gripping the arms of her chair, said, “Would you like to hear about my past life, my marriage? How I came to live here? My husband, Paul, was a mining engineer. He designed and built the crushing mill up at the works that one day, when he wasn't feeling well and should have stayed in bed-I told him, in your condition you should not be walking around that machinery…”
Finally Kate Moon said, “Do you want them to talk about the situation? What do you want?”
“These two-” Janet Pierson began, almost angrily and had to calm herself. “These two, the heroic figures-some people must believe they're seven feet tall-what are they doing?”
“They're resting,” Kate Moon said. “Ask them. Dana, what are you doing?”
“Wondering if we shouldn't be going.”
“I'm sorry,” Janet Pierson said. “I'm the one acting strange. I'm sincerely sorry.”
Kate said, “Bren, what are you doing?”
“I don't know,” Bren said. “Passing time? It does seem funny sitting here like this.”
Moon looked at him. “What are you gonna do?”
Bren frowned again. “What do you mean, what am I gonna do?”
“Your man lynched my man.”
“He isn't in any way my man.”
“You both work for the same company.”
“I don't work. I told you that. I draw money for my claims, that's all.”
“All right, you're both paid by the same company.”
“I don't have anything to do with this situation. What do you expect me to do, quit? You want me to walk out with them still owing me seventy thousand dollars?”
“I'm not your conscience,” Moon said. “I'm not telling you what to do.”
“You bet you're not.”
There was a silence again.
Kate said to Janet Pierson, “You like it better now?”
“Please-I'm sorry,” Janet Pierson said. She was; though she did not feel guilt or remorse. She had to hear what they thought, if she was going to understand them.
Bren rose from his chair. “I'm going to the latrine-if it ain't full of newspaper reporters.”
“You still call it that?” Moon said.
Janet Pierson said she wanted to fix them something to eat and followed Bren out to the kitchen.
When they were alone, Moon said, “What are we doing here?”
“Be nice,” Kate said.
“I am nice,” he said. “That's all I'm doing, just sitting here being nice. I wonder what that son of a bitch Ison is doing. Probably having a drink and a good laugh with the judge and that other lawyer in his new suit.”
“You knew what was gonna happen,” Kate said. “Don't act so surprised.”
He patted her hand. “I'm glad you're so sweet and understanding. I hope Ison and Hough run again next year so I can vote against them, the asskissers.”
“Well, our old friend Sundeen would've got off anyway,” Kate said. “What did they have to convict him with? Nothing.”
“Let's go home.”
“If she's fixing something, we should stay.”
Moon looked toward the kitchen door. “Do you suppose he's living here with her?”
“It's his house,” Kate said. “He either bought it for her, or so he can say he owns a bigger house than yours-”
“Jesus Christ,” Moon said.
“I'm not sure which,” Kate said. “But she's a nice person, so don't look down your nose at her.”
“I'm not looking down my nose.”
“I like her,” Kate went on. “She's a feeling person, not afraid to tell you what she thinks.”
“Or what other people think,” Moon said. “You two should get along fine. You can tell us what's on our minds and save us the trouble of talking about it.”
“She's worried about Bren; can't you see that?”
“Bren? Christ, nobody's shooting at Bren. He isn't even in it.”
“That's what bothers her,” Kate said. “He won't take sides.” She looked up and smiled as Janet Pierson came into the sitting room. “We were just talking about you.”
“I don't blame you,” the woman said.
Kate made a tsk-tsk sound, overdoing it, shaking her head. “Why worry about what people think? You know what you're doing.”
“Sometimes I guess I say too much.”
“Sure, when you run out of patience,” Kate said. “I know what you mean.”
Moon's gaze moved from his wife to the woman, wondering what the hell they were talking about. Then looked toward the door at the sound of someone banging on it, three times. There was a pause. Janet Pierson didn't move. Then came three more loud banging sounds, the edge of somebody's fist pounding the wood panel hard enough to shake the door.
When Bren appeared again in the backyard, coming from the outhouse, the reporters on the other side of the fence in the vacant lot called to him, come on, just give us a minute or so. What were you talking about in there?…Debating the issues or what?…When's Moon going to meet Sundeen?
Then there was some kind of commotion. The reporters by the fence were looking away, moving off, then running from the vacant lot toward the front of the house. Bren went inside. There were onions and peppers on the wooden drain board in the kitchen, a pot of dry beans soaking. He heard the banging on the front door.
Janet Pierson was standing in the middle of the sitting room, saying, “They're not bashful at all, are they?”
Bren walked past her to the door, pulled it open and stopped, surprised, before he said, “What do you want?”
Deputy J.R. Bruckner stood at the door. Looking past Bren at Moon sitting on the sofa, Bruckner said, “Him. I got a warrant for the arrest of one Dana Moon. He can come like a nice fella or kicking and screaming, but either way he's coming.”