Wallace was running with his hands in the air when he was shot. Dropped to his knees with the weight of a feedbag, his palms still facing the Wyoming sky talking to God, when another bullet opened up his ribcage. A man had barged in on Wallace’s family sitting around the supper table, and interrupted Alma, the eldest child, saying grace —us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from—. Neither the children nor his wife had known the true account of how Wallace had so recently come upon a small fortune; just last week he, himself, had burst through that front door with parcels wrapped in brown paper, a calico dress for his wife, books for Alma, candy for the twins. His wife knew they hardly had enough to eat and were about to default on another bank payment. Wallace held the dress up against her frame and danced her around the kitchen until her shoulders relaxed. He kissed her cheek loudly in a clownish way and had said: Don’t worry. McAlister let me in on a business proposition that can’t lose. The back of Wallace’s shirt was soaked through with sweat.
Now Wallace’s wife was left with three screaming girls, a body to bury, and more debt than she’d ever known. She retched out there in the yard when the man who shot her husband slowed his horse to canter beside her:
“Ma’am, I’m sorry you and your family had to see it like this. My name is Morris Greene and I am sorry for your loss.”
Though he went to this trouble, he never bothered to remove his hat when he consoled the widows. His bowler and shirt were black, his pants the same colour as the dust that lifted off the roads. Greene’s horse made a noise that rumbled over the sound of Alma, now hysterical, reciting grace over and over at the top of her lungs. The three daughters in a twisted huddle halfway between their mother and the porch: the Wallace clan making an archipelago of crumpled bodies over his spent and meagre parcel of land.