"It shouldn't be a win on my record," he told the reporters. "It was the biggest loss of my career, of my life. I just wish I'd thrown more punches...." He was talking death to death, letting out his grief in a public, acceptable way, a way no other Ruelas had ever found.
One task remained, the one Gabe perhaps dreaded most of all. No, he wouldn't go visit Jimmy again—he was afraid Jimmy might die right in front of him, and he had decided to lock in his mind an image of Jimmy alive, in the ring. But Jimmy's mother, Carmen, who had stayed home and prayed in a church in Barranquilla, Colombia, rather than go to the fight, had just arrived in Las Vegas to see her son before he died. She, too, Gabe decided, he must face.
He got on an airplane nine days after the fight, his insides turning. On a stairwell outside the Top Rank offices, he found her. Such a small woman, middle-aged but already graying. When he looked at her, he saw only his own mother.
He reached out to take her hand, but Carmen shrank away, sobbing, staring at his hands. He pulled them back. He wished he could stand on them. Then she turned her back on him.
Beside her, Jimmy's sister Ludys wailed, "Oh, my Jimmy!" Gabe thought he had imagined the worst that could happen that day, but no, this was even worse.
"You can hit me," he said to Carmen. "I'll understand."
"When I look at those hands," she said, "I see the hands that killed my son."
"Please, you must understand...."
"I told his father not to let Jimmy fight you. People in Colombia told us you have knives for hands."
Gabe blinked. Did she know she was killing him, too? Had she planned each one of these blows?