He remembered as a kid taking a week with his brand new wood burning set to create it for the door as a Father’s Day present. It read, "TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT - SOLICITORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN!" He smiled at that, remembering the first attempt at it he’d spelled "trespassers" wrong.
He never saw eye-to-eye with his dad since coming out of the closet when he was 20. His threat that kept his father from testifying against Twist for some asshole in Texas forged an even larger wedge between them.
He’d always intended to make peace with his old man but never got around to it and with his father’s recent death it was sadly too late now.
Over the years the portable office trailer had become rundown and moved around to other locations a few times and now it sat empty in the back parking lot of a new strip mall behind a just-opened auto parts store.
He grinned at the ugly door with its peeling faded paint in three or four different shades of blue. He used to sneak here at night and spray paint graffiti on it, just so his old man would pay him to repaint it the next day.
Back in 1976 his friend Laura stuck a "Carter for President" bumper sticker on it just before the paint dried too and he got paid twice in one day for touching it back up.
His watch chimed 10:00AM and he hoped Laura would hurry up as he sat down on the entry steps to wait. He had to be up on the mountain in a couple of hours.
John-Jack Aguirre grew up to be the one thing his father hated most - a Brokeback Mountain fire warden/forest ranger enforcing the laws his daddy spent most of his life trying to get around.
At a young age, he started asking people to call him "Jack" after he found out that that’s what President John F. Kennedy was nicknamed. He never quite put it together that it was because of Jack Twist that his father refused to call him that, and never would.
He looked up at the sound of a white Signal city Plymouth Gran Fury police car pulling around the back of the store with a female officer at the wheel and stood up as it stopped beside him.
"Hey gorgeous!" she grinned jumping out of the squad car with her walkie-talkie squawking. Her long blond hair was tied back in a neat pony tail. Out of force of habit she reached back in for her nightstick, rolled her eyes, and tossed it back on the seat.
Officer Laura Olsen in her well-pressed uniform and black khakis looked about 28 even though she’d just turned 35 and while she knew it was hopeless, she always flirted with her best friend Jack, touching hips or giving him a sexy come-on look.
Aguirre smiled at her pouting lips as she blew him a kiss and he asked, "Did’ya bring it?"
She showed lots of teeth and sarcastically remarked, "No, dumb ass, I just come to flirt with ya!"
Jack mouthed a silent "Oh" and nodded his head as she headed to the trunk and pulled out a big pair of bolt cutters. Reaching them to him, she squeezed the trigger on her shoulder mic and called the desk to say she’d be busy for about 10 minutes.
Looking expectantly at him, she watched Jack turn and squeezed the long wide handles together piercing the ancient master lock holding the door closed in its hasp.
Handing them back, he said, "Thanks."
She nodded, tossed them in the trunk, closed the lid and then joined him on the stairs as a loud overhead siren on a tall pole began blaring a few blocks west of them. Someone needed the volunteer fire department.
She glanced at her friend and said, "That’s probably going to need me, so hurry the hell up!"
Jack picked up an old cardboard box and pulled on the office door. It protested on long unoiled hinges and they climbed the three steps to enter.
The old familiar trailer was musty and dark, the windows papered over some time ago, so they set out pulling yellowed newsprint down. Looking around she noticed the wood paneling had been warped from a roof leak and it smelled moldy in here. "Anything we’re looking for in particular?" she asked.
Jack just shook his head; "We haven’t used this thing in years. We’re selling it for scrap, so I figured I’d check for old family photos and stuff."
All but one of the drawers of the desk had been pulled out and were empty except for useless pieces of scribbled-on scrap paper. The old black dial phone still sat on the desk with its cord wrapped around it several times, as did the ancient desk lamp and a half-full old Bakelite ashtray of cigar butts.
Outside the siren wound down as the sound of a fire truck went screaming from left to right down the road heading south.
The walls were bare of photos and the file cabinets stood empty.
Jack walked around the old desk and pulled out the middle drawer. With a grin, he grabbed a handful of old bic pens, "Hey Laura, you’re always complaining about losing pens right?"
She chuckled and took them from him, leaving the trailer to put them in her glove compartment.
Outside she listened to see how far away the sirens had gone; they seemed like they were headed a few miles out of town at quite a distance. She could neither smell nor see smoke.
Climbing back into the trailer, she noted that Jack now had some Business Association plaques and awards in the box and seemed to be staring at a tiny newspaper clipping that had been raggedly torn out.
"What’s that?" she asked.
Jack looked incredibly sad and with a frown said, "It’s an obituary."
He impatiently replied with sarcasm, "What; he brought it here from the grave?" then he continued with a note of gloom, "No… it’s for a guy I spent a summer with up on Brokeback when I was a kid… uh the summer of 1962…"
Laura’s car radio squawked. She turned and glanced out the door, "Gotta go… You okay?"
Jack nodded and said, "Sure. Get out of here."
She grinned and jumped in her squad car.
He rushed to the door and yelled, "Thanks for the cutters!"
She beeped her horn and waved as she turned the corner.
Jack noticed a copy of the Crook County News from way up north, the newspaper the clipping probably came from.
He remembered that Twist said that he grew up up there. He looked down on the little piece of newsprint and as he pulled the door closed with the box under his arm, he looked again at the obituary, all of three lines long.
Aguirre’s father had only died last week and according to the death notice Jack held in his hand, Jack Twist had died last month. He didn’t think his father still came here, but how else could this clipping be in his desk… and why?
A far away look crossed his face as he locked up and said softly to himself, "Jack Twist," shaking his head. Though he’d known it was impossible, through the years he held a hope that there was a chance they’d get together and talk about old times, and a part of him was deeply sad.
Hardly a week went by when he didn’t remember that summer, or his first love…
...Laura was within a mile of her radio call at an outlying ranch when a brand new Ford sedan literally flew past her in the opposite direction doing at least 100 MPH or more going airborne at an upraised 4-way stop without even pausing.
Like an expert, she pumped the brakes twisted the wheel in a perfect "bootlegger’s turn" and went after it in hot pursuit with siren and lights blazing…
He’d driven north determined, but he changed his mind at the country cemetery and headed back home.
As the sun cleared Brokeback Mountain on the horizon, he crossed Signal’s city limits.
He paused at Higgin’s gas station for a cup of coffee and another tank of gas and was on his way by 10:30 AM after using the payphone to call Carl Stoutamire to tell him he couldn’t make it in to work today but got no answer up at the main ranch house.
About half a mile from home he began smelling smoke and rolled the window down to sniff. There wasn’t anything around here but…
He floored the gas as up ahead through the building haze, a couple of fire trucks were in the wheat field surrounding his house putting out what was left of a very large grass fire.He bounced down his dirt road and slammed on the brakes. His current home of five years was a pile of smoking embers, flames still flickering from the charred mound. Behind it the old horse barn was in the same condition.
Up ahead a police car blocked the lane so he pulled over into the grass and got out to stride the distance. From what he could see, there was nothing left to hurry about.
A handsome dark-haired cop in his late twenties in a black county uniform came hiking up to him as he surveyed the damage. It looked like a total loss.
"Mr. Del Mar?" the officer asked carrying a clipboard with a sheaf of papers on it.
Ennis absently nodded, still staring at his destroyed home.
Behind him in the field fire fighters sprayed down the grass yelling instructions to each other. About 50 yards in all directions was flat, black, scorched and smoking.
Suddenly his eyes widened in panic and he yelled, "The horses!"
The officer grabbed Ennis’ arm as he turned to run, "Whoa! They’re okay, they’re okay; they’re safe Mr. Del Mar!"
Ennis let a relieved sigh escape him and seemed to deflate.
As the fire squad got control of the last of the grass fires, the trucks moved over and started working on soaking down what was left of his house.
The cop got del Mar’s attention again. "Where have you been Mr. Del Mar?"
Ennis blinked a puzzled look at him, "Uh, up north in Lightning Flat; I had some business up there; uh why?"
The officer jotted down something on his clipboard as Ennis’ boss Carl Stoutamire came driving up in his new white Chevy pickup.
Slamming the door closed he surveyed the damage at a run towards them.
They’d made up as friends again after Stoutamire had split up with Cassie. It was impossible to tell if he was being sarcastic, pissed, or concerned as he asked midway to them, "You been smoking in bed, Ennis?" scratching his handlebar mustache.
Ennis turned to the cop, "When did this happen?" he asked, as Carl joined him.
Stoutamire looked over at the house and nearby barn in ruins. "Looks like ya lost everything… Well… we lost everything."
The cop looked up from his writing, "About 45 minutes ago," and returned to scrawling something on the page.
Ennis squinted suspiciously at the officer, "What’s with all the questions?"
The young deputy looked up, set eyes on Ennis and said, "Arson."
Both men backed up half a step in surprise.
Before either could respond, the cop added, "According to the lieutenant over there, someone barricaded the doors, doused the house, the barn and the surrounding grass with kerosene and lit it." As that sank in, he went further, "Whoever it was, let the horses out before torching the place, so he was gunning for just you; Mr. Del Mar."
Carl looked over at Ennis, "Who’d want to burn ya out, or kill ya?"
Before he could reply the cop reminded, "You own the house Carl; can you think of anyone that might be gunning for you?"
Stoutamire opened his mouth to reply as the cop’s walkie-talkie squawked and he turned his back to speak into it.
Mystified Ennis only shook his head at his friend in answer.
Carl looked over to watch the firemen rolling up their hoses and storing them on the trucks. "What’d ya lose?"
Thinking back to the two shirts and a toy wooden horse and rider in a grocery bag that never left his truck, he replied, "Weren’t nothin' worth stealin' really; just changes of duds, a spare saddle, 'n a cheap stereo 'n even cheaper TV, 'n some old record albums." After a pause, a sad look bordering on tears crossed his face and his jaw dropped as he added, "…and Casper…Ssssshit."
…and Jack’s old post cards he realized silently to himself.
Carl shot Ennis an equally heartbroken look and said, "Aw shit, I really took to that..."
The sound of a car approaching caught everyone’s attention and they turned to see a white Signal city squad car approach. Coming to a stop at their knees, a pretty blond cop in her early 30s got out, leaving a dark figure sitting quietly in the caged back seat on the driver's side.
The county cop remarked, "I think we’re about to find out a few things," nodding his head toward her prisoner.
She ushered the men out of earshot of her car, "Hey Bob," she smiled at the officer, to which he replied, "Hey Laurie."
Glancing over she asked, "Either of you Ennis del Mar?"
Ennis nodded, "I am."
She handed the cop a sheet of paper. He read it quickly and his eyebrows jumped. With a questioning look he nodded to her Plymouth and the man sitting in the back.
She nodded, "In his pocket. I brought him up here because I stopped him in a rental car for speeding about five minutes ago and he had 6 five-gallon gas cans in the back seat, all of them empty."
The cop handed the paper to Ennis as she showed the officer the prisoner’s driver’s license.
Ennis’ couldn’t believe his eyes and his jaw dropped open; it was a photocopy of Riverton court records showing the encircled address where he was mailing child support payments from.
In a rage, Ennis yelled, "Monroe ya son of a bitch!" and they all grabbed him before he could stalk over to the squad car.
Breathing hard, he shook loose and stood still, red faced, shaking with rage and muttering, "Son of a bitch - Son of a bitch" over and over.
Laura frowned, "Monroe?"
The two officers looked at each other.
Both grabbed one of Ennis’ elbows, looking back at Carl to join them in case they needed help.
The horseman was livid; convinced Monroe had just gotten revenge for threatening him and Alma that thanksgiving… “That cain’t be right - Monroe knows where I live. What the hell?”
As they paced back to the left of her squad car, del Mar was instructed to look only down and away from the car, which he did.
Reaching it, she said softly, "Okay, Mr. Del Mar, I want you to turn slowly and tell me if you recognize this man."
Ennis looked up, laid eyes on a complete stranger about his age with a dark well-trimmed beard, and shook his head no.
The man frowned out the closed back window. Through the cage between the seats and the open passenger window, he asked in an unsure tone, "Yer Ennis… Ennis del Mar?"
Perplexed, del Mar frowned and nodded.
Flashing into a rage, the man in the car began struggling in his cuffs trying to kick out the passenger side rear door window with the heels of his cowboy boots. "Son of a bitch - you killed Jack! He killed Jack that son of a bitch!" as he kicked even harder and kept repeating his accusation.
The car rocked back and forth on its springs as they all jumped back.
Laura swiftly and smoothly pulled a little bottle from her belt and jumped into action, squirting pepper spray through the open front window and into the back.
As he kept screaming and coughing out his claims, everyone turned to Ennis.
"Murderer!" the man whimpered.
The county cop asked Ennis, "Want to tell me who he is now?"
Carl looked over at Ennis quizzically because the implication from the cop’s tone was that Ennis was lying about not knowing him.
Totally aghast Ennis only shook his head unable to take his eyes off the stranger still struggling in the back of the rocking car, "Ain’t never seen him a day in my life."
They turned to Carl, "You?"
Stoutamire only shook his head not taking his eyes off of del Mar.
Laura handed Ennis a Texas driver’s license. The name on it was Randall K. Tanny… Ennis caught his breath - hadn’t Old Man Twist called Jack’s new lover Randall?
"YOU KILLED JACK YA SON OF A BITCH!"
Ennis spent the next hour or so answering questions and his boss assured him that records could be produced to prove del Mar's presence at the Stoutamire ranch.
Ennis was warned not to leave town...
...After the police, fire crew and Carl left, the ranch hand spent the rest of the afternoon poking through the smoldering and soggy ruins.
Near where his bedroom was, he discovered the burnt remains of the del Mar family Bible. In the middle of it was a long-forgotten old and singed piece of paper. As a boy, Ennis had carefully written down the del Mar family tree, and carried it with him from town to town in hopes of finding a new home and family when he and K.E. set out on their own from Sage.
At the time he considered this one of his most important possessions.
Later while sitting in his truck, Ennis found a pen in the glove compartment and added his own family's branch to the note, then carefully tucked the paper inside his Stetson
In the silence that strange double beep sound he'd heard on and off chimed again. He hadn't touched the paper sack since Jack's mother gave it to him for the shirts except to bring it home.
He rummaged through it now and discovered a small paper sandwich lunch bag at the very bottom of it containing Jack Twist's expensive gold Rolex watch and his wedding ring...
...He was right, Jack had been murdered on his parent's ranch and not out on the road in Texas. How else could his parents have these things instead of his wife?
All sorts of paranoid thoughts raced through del Mar's mind. Had the jewelry been planted on him by Mrs. Twist to suggest he'd killed Jack in a botched robbery?
Ennis remembered back years ago to a camping trip with Jack where he asked; "You ever get the feeling when yer in a bar or someplace in public… that people know yer secret? 'N when ya get out on the pavement, they’re all lookin' at ya like they all know too?"
With all the rumors and everyone in town just assuming that Ennis might be "one of those" anyway, del Mar refused to confirm or deny it when he was asked. Let 'em figure it out for themselves.
Jack Twist had offered to help Ennis move to Texas but del Mar turned him down.
As with all people who lose a loved one, he was still being tortured with "what if." What if he’d taken Jack up on the offer, what if he’d shown Jack how much he loved him, what if he hadn’t walked away from him without a word the last time they spoke?
Tanny’s yelling fit and accusation were to try to distract the cops from looking too closely into his own past but it didn’t work.
Officer Laura Olsen discovered that in Idaho Randal Tanny’s alias was Malloy, and as it turned out his real name was Malone. He and his wife were con artists who hustled rich couples into having sexual affairs and then blackmailed them out of anything they could get.
Tanny-aka-Malone had been on the run for five years after being convicted of murder in Idaho and escaping en route to prison with the help of his "wife" who it turned out was actually his sister.
Randall’s plan was to get Jack to leave Lureen, then empty his savings and open a joint account with him. Then he’d get John and Martha Twist to turn management of their ranch’s finances over to him, and then kill Jack and his parents for their money. Their bodies would probably never be found out there in the boondocks.
After finding out that Lightning Flat had become a ghost town without a police department, the Twist ranch would be an ideal long-term hideout until the search for him cooled down. Disposing of John and Martha should’ve been the perfect crime… until he was told by Lureen about some regular fishing buddy/best friend that Jack was really close to that might come poking around looking for him.
He tried to salvage part of the plan by attempting to frame Ennis for Jack’s unexpected death. Then he tried to kill del Mar before he could come to trial so it’d be assumed that Ennis had killed Twist taking attention off of Malone.
When he found out Ennis wasn’t at work that day he went poking around his house and heard him inside doing something.
He went and bought kerosene, snuck back, still heard him in there and then barricaded all the doors and torched the house with Ennis inside it, setting the fields and barn ablaze to make it look like a prairie fire.
The noise he heard was a playful ten-week old puppy named Casper. After Ennis gave Jack's horse Trusty to his nephew, Stoutamire gave del mar the affectionate little dog a couple of weeks after he’d heard about Twist dying, hoping it'd cheer his friend up... which it did.
Heartbroken Ennis loved the rare little white German shepherd to pieces and had been keeping him in the house until he was sure he wouldn’t run away.
Randall pled guilty to the charges of arson in the burning down of Ennis’ house and to attempted murder, and was sentenced to 25 years but only to follow his life sentence for the Idaho murder.
His babbling sister Lashawn was never heard from again and is still wanted to this day.
The police investigated Malone's murder accusations and found them groundless. Del Mar had dozens of witnesses willing to testify that he’d been on Stoutamire’s ranch for a shipment of horses and then was involved non-stop helping to birth calves for five solid days without leaving once, covering the time of Jack’s death. After that his crew was busy setting up for haying operations.
Crook County re-opened the coroner’s investigation into Jack’s death, which had originally been ruled an accident.
A week later it was mysteriously closed again. Rumor had it that some rich relative of theirs in Texas had used his political influence to see that it ended quickly, "For the sake of the still-grieving Twist family." Sketch-artist renderings of the two young men who’d found Jack’s body were circulated statewide, as well as in Montana, the Dakotas and Kansas after it was discovered they’d used fake identifications, but the manhunt went nowhere.
Without a body to exhume, there wasn’t much point.
Now that the case was settled, Ennis began wearing Jack's watch and if anyone asked, he told them it was a birthday gift from an old friend.
Jack’s worn and nicked wedding ring went on a chain around Ennis’ neck.
While writing a check for some supplies at a Monroe’s store, the cashier frowned at his name and asked if he knew a Kyle del Mar Jr.
Ennis replied carefully, “Uh, yeah… he’s a distant relative. I ain’t seen him in a month of Sundays. Uh you know him?”
She nodded her head, “He got himself fired after he decked his foreman over at Brokeback Tool & Die. I hear tell he picked up stakes and moved his brood to Cheyenne ‘bout a year ago.
Him ‘n his wife ‘n six kids was always afightin’ here in the aisles so loud, ‘n the brats was holy terrors bustin’ up stuff to the point that the boss kicked ‘em out a couple a times. Folks useta say if him ‘n Carol Sue weren’t yellin’ at one another ya’d never hear a word twixt the two of ‘em.
After his wife bounced a coupla more checks here, Mr. Monroe banned ‘em from ever comin’ in lessin’ they brought cash…
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Important notice about this novel: This adaptation of the original short story was
written by Vernon "Jet" Gardner © 2005-2012 and contains enhanced versions of all of the original's events written by Annie Proulx, Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana in red/black/green.
All text in blue written by Vernon "Jet" Gardner published here ©2005-2013.
Reproduction in any form or use of unique characters is
forbidden without permission of the author.