Los Campecinos Fieros (The Fierce Peasants)
I always held a deep appreciation for that place…the mountains where I was born and raised…so dry. The desert below stretches out for hundreds of miles. It is sometimes 110 in the shade, but I am in love with the desert.
After mama and big sister died, daddy and I spent ten years up in those mountains looking for the cave where legend said that Ponce de Leon had stashed Chief Watala’s gold after skinning his children alive in the Chihuahua public square.
Actually, I think that was most likely a piece of historical barnyard substances. But, there is no doubt that outlaws were always stashing some kind of loot up there in the mountains. More often than not, they got themselves killed before they could come back and retrieve it.
In the early days, when I was a young boy, there was the tortoise, but later they disappeared, even the scorpions thinned out as the years rolled by. The gradual encroachment of civilization, they said. But most likely it was the military/industrial complex and their many poisons.
My daddy refused to let those bastards take his little piece of land for their government firing range. They wanted to buy it but daddy refused to sell.
“This is my place and it is not for sale,” he told them.
“It is a matter of National Security,” they said.
He actually stood them off with his rifle. Eventually, they just gunned him down after he had shot and wounded a couple of them.
I was only sixteen at the time and trying to make a living on the road playing rock and roll. I didn’t hear about it until I got a phone call when we were playing up in Santa Fe.
It was embarrassing to the army because daddy called in the reporters early on. He considered that as an American Citizen he had a perfect right to stay on his own land which he had bought and paid for.
So, the army just waited until all their bad publicity had died down and no one was looking. It was a matter of National Security. We no longer lived in America but a National Security State.
I just wanted to kill somebody. It took me awhile to get past being that furious but I am still far from compatible with that Empire of Tyranny and human slavery.
I got bitten one time by one of those Durango scorpions, right on my ankle. My God, I never felt anything so painful. Those damn things will put you in hell. My ankle puffed up like a balloon about to burst and I was miles from any help. So, I cut it open with my pocket knife and tried to bleed out as much of the poison as I could. I was screaming the whole time and just pouring sweat. I had to stop and puke a few times. From doing that I damn near lost my leg.
That Durango scorpion bite hurt even worse than the time when Jack Davis stabbed me in the shoulder. He was all liquored up on tequila and thought I was the Viet Cong. Somehow I was able to bleed out enough scorpion poison to survive that night in the desert. Arturo found me the next morning. I owe him my life.
I only had a few friends growing up, but later, in my early twenties, I fell in with some real hard-core outlaws. They liked to appropriate big equipment such as military trucks, farm machinery, cranes, back hoes or whatever they could make off with. Hell, they once even stole a tank but had to abandon it after driving it at full speed across the desert and tearing the left tread off when they crashed through some equipment at a railroad junction. So, after that, they stuck to items a little easier to move on the black market.
They would tear off the serial number plates of whatever they were able to heist and then a mousey little round guy with thick glasses, who they called The Professor, would counterfeit new number plates and then weld them on.
This whole line of work was for me and I fit right in. At first we called ourselves Los Hombres Fieros which means, The Fierce Men. However, several of our girlfriends became involved so we changed it to Los Campecinos Fieros and the name stuck.
Our Mexican fence, Chano Reyes, would pick up the equipment from Arturo’s ware house and pay a few thousand dollars for whatever we had.
We would go out and buy some ganja and get completely stoned. We’d get a hundred kilos and sell lids for ten dollars up at the high school and all over town including city hall.
We had the Police, the Feds and the Judges paid off and two of our Los Compecinos Fieros were Border Patrol Agents.
Regularly, I would take off with eighty kilos and drive to New York City where I could get a thousand dollars a kilo. I really hated New York and did my business as fast as possible so I could get back to the Southwest.
The rest of the money went into the enterprise, and, of course, to retain Enrique Chavez, our very elegant and slick lawyer, in case anyone should ever get busted, which no one did.
Field work that sometimes required muscle of various quantity and quality was carried out by two very excellent and wise Chinese martial artists, Chan and Fengu. They were actually quite skillful in keeping people alive while persuading them to accept a new point-of-view which was more in harmony with the goals of our independent enterprise.
And the amazing thing about them is that they were not thugs in any American sense of the word. They were extremely polite. I used to spend hours with them discussing Chinese philosophy. I really learned a lot.
But, it was the frog pond that really grabbed me that afternoon. I never heard such wonderful music in all my life as what I heard out there after eating six dried peyote buttons. I was just sitting on a little dock that jutted out into the pond which was surrounded on three sides by water. The sun was waning. It was late afternoon and I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, when suddenly the bass bull frog began a beat. He was followed by the tenor sax frog, the trumpet frog, the flute frog and the electric guitar frogs along with the bongo croakers and what eventually sounded like a million other ribbits and stringed instruments, all of them perfectly coordinated. I mean orchestrated! For what seemed like an eternity I was taken away like an undead Shaman on the wind by the most incredible, the most intricate weaving of tones and colors imaginable.
I guess I was just high, but it really seemed profound and significant at the time.
Looking back on it now, I know it was one primary factor that completely changed my life.
At some point during that froggie episode, my buddy Raul came and sat down next to me. He could not relate to what I was experiencing. It must have been just too much for him because after a few minutes he seemed very uncomfortable, got up and left.
We always had our pistols with us, living the highly dangerous life and being the independent operators that we were. And, I have to admit, that as young men in our twenties, we certainly had a highly overblown image of ourselves as macho banditos.
After I finished listening to the frogs and tripping out completely in several unknown worlds, I went to retrieve my Colt Python which I had hung on a certain cottonwood tree earlier. It wasn’t there. I began to quickly and intensely refocus my thinking in order to counteract the icebergs forming all too quickly in my guts. Now, either I put it somewhere else or…? I sure didn’t want to entertain that possibility. I was pretty sure that neither the three buddies with me nor Martinez’s girlfriend, Rosita, would take my pistol. Why should they, we had access to guns anytime. But, damn, it made me uncomfortable.
The guys and Rosita had built a fire out of mesquite and I joined them and heated up a bean burrito. “Hey amigos,” I said, “any of you seen my piece? I’m pretty sure that I hung the holster up on that cotton wood tree over there by the arroyo, but now it has gone missing.”
“No, we didn’t see it,” everyone said. “Maybe you actually hung it somewhere else?”
“Could be,” I said, “I’ll look carefully at first light.”
It was nearly dark by now. Then the thought occurred to me that I might have left it in Arturo’s truck. I went over and checked it out. No Colt. I was just shutting the cab door when I saw a green flash of light out in the desert. It was just a quick flash and I wondered if I might still be hallucinating from the peyote. I kept straining for about ten minutes to see something more but all that did was give me a headache.
When I came back they were all pretty much just staring into the fire and happily listening to Rosita play her flamenco guitar. The moon was up and the cicadas were singing. Arturo was smoking a joint and passing it around.
We all nearly jumped out of our skins when two loud shots boomed through the night not too far away.
Three seconds later everyone was either flat on their belly, gun drawn or trying to disappear down a rabbit hole. In one motion Rosita had covered her guitar with a poncho and was lying in prone position holding her AK-47.
Oh man, I thought, I sure hope that aint my Python somebody is misusing out there.
A coyote sang across the mesa. The moon was so bright we all felt unusually vulnerable. The desert is surreal on a night like this. It can get cold in the desert at night. Strange shapes seem to rise up out of nowhere. We just waited and listened quietly.
I was really glad no one got nervous and itchy trigger happy.
All my companions had come up from the south, Peru, Venezuela, El Salvador, Oaxaca, Beliz, Mexico and other countries. They were all fleeing despotic puppet dictators who had been manufactured by US policy. They were schooled and programmed to be US “friendly” and continually fed and maintained by US financing. This was accomplished through the covert political manipulations of the good ‘ol CIA.
They never talked about what happened to them nor how they felt about it. The only thing which is blatantly obvious is their considerable trauma. Most came here originally as illegal farm workers. I must be the only native born North American among them. One of the things that Los Campecinos Fieros decided early on was to only speak english and do it well. It would be much easier to blend into a variety of places and situations here in the North. Somehow we all got stuck here together. I never cease to be amazed at the patience and restraint my compadres are capable of showing, even in very dangerous situations. Most of them had some guerilla training in their countries of origin.
Another coyote began a duet with the first. I was now extremely concerned about my missing Colt and those shots fired nearby. My God, someone had to have been no more than fifty feet away judging by how loud the shots were. What the hell were they shooting at?
Arturo motioned for me to follow him. I got my big flashlight and we crept out of camp toward the east. But the moon was bright and there was no need for flashlights. I knew what the strategy was, so we didn’t have to say anything. The idea was to get out beyond whoever might be lurking there. We circled wide and then began to close in from the rear. Nothing. So, we made a very wide circle 360 degrees around where we had our fire. Arturo took the east side and I took the west. Raul was on the north by now and we acknowledged each other’s signals. We all began to close in slowly, being fully aware of where each of us were moving. I had no pistol so I didn’t have to worry about shooting someone by mistake but then again if I surprised some intruder bent on mischief, I did have my machete ready for action but certainly didn’t relish having to hack someone, except in the most extreme case of self-defense.
Then I heard a voice. “Just relax man.” It was Arturo. A few seconds later Raul also came up, having completed his search. Arturo handed me his rifle.
There’d be no sleeping for me tonight and Arturo already knew it and sensed that I was volunteering to keep watch.
As everyone else settled down as best they could, I decided to situate myself under the cottonwood tree where I had hung my holster earlier. It was not very far from the fire but just over a little ways, where someone coming up on the camp would not see, unless they were looking very carefully. I’d see them first anyway.
Why in hell am I doing all this? The thing about being a criminal, even a successful one, is that stress is the name of the game. I really just want to let it go.
When Arturo found me after my night of scorpion hell, we were total strangers. He took me in and nursed me back to health and that wasn’t easy.
Over the mountain, I see the moon. It is not anxious. It is the peace I yearn for. I felt so close to peace and happiness when I met Elena, Arturo’s beautiful sister. From the moment I laid eyes on her I could think of nothing else. During our first kiss, I found myself rearranging my entire life priorities, all I could think about was being with her. I never felt that way about anybody until that moment. All the women I had ever known up until then were no more than convenient relationships. I wanted a life with Elena and she wanted a life with me, but it was never to be.
I begged her and Debbie not to try and rob that bank in Las Cruces. It was Mafia money. They don’t take kindly to independent operators.
I was the only one without some kind of outstanding warrant, so identifying their bodies was up to me. I was numb…must have been some kind of defense mechanism that kicked in. I was just senseless. I couldn’t feel anything. There I was staring down at their corpses riddled with bullets. It didn’t seem real. It wasn’t them. They weren’t there. I wasn’t either.
Being so numb did enable me to be of some help to Arturo during that time when he broke down completely and even had to be taken to the hospital. He had been living with Debbie for over a year and had hope for some kind of fulfilling life but when you live the way of a desperado there is no such thing.
The night wears on and I snuggle into my poncho, backed up against the cottonwood tree. The sound of Rosita’s guitar stirs me awake. Dawn is breaking. Raul is up and headed out into the desert probably to take a piss. I get to my feet and stretch.
“Jesus Christ! Get over here,” Raul is shouting.
We all scrambled over to where he was staring at something on the ground. My heart almost stopped. I had to sit down. It was a body, a man. There was a gaping hole in his chest and another one through his forehead. He had been gagged and his hands tied behind his back.
“Execution style,” said Rosita.
“Does anybody know who this is?” Arturo asked.
Martinez was already nodding his head. “Oh yeah…”
“Well, who the hell is it?”
“Don’t you recognize him? Enrique Chavez, our lawyer.”
None of us could say a word. As I walked back over to the camp, I saw my holster now hanging from the cottonwood tree. I could even see from a distance that there was no Colt Python in it. I had been set up.
We wanted to get out of there pronto. “We need to have a council,” Arturo said.
What to do with this body was the question. “Probably the best thing to do with it is simply leave it be,” said Rosita.
“What do you think?” Arturo asked me.
“Oh man, I feel like somehow I am at the center of this horse shit. Somebody is trying to set me up with a murder I didn’t commit and to tell you the truth it makes no sense whatsoever.”
“You know…that’s right, said Martinez. Maybe this is some kind of game of intimidation trying to…I don’t know…get us off balance or something.”
Arturo nodded. “Well, whatever it is, the psy-ops part of it is pretty blatant.”
In the end we decided to just leave the body. It would be better not to touch it. No doubt there are two slugs in it that came from my registered Colt Python but really if someone had wanted to pin this murder on me why not just steal the Colt, commit the murder somewhere else and leave my gun at the scene. All this smacks of a mind fuck.
We loaded up our gear and headed back to Piute mesa. Arturo had an inconspicuous ranch up there and it was only about five miles away from his warehouse at the corner of Cadmill junction and forty five highway.
Arturo was broodingly silent. I tried to talk to him but he made it clear that he needed to think some things out.
Later that afternoon, our two Chinese friends Chan and Fengu arrived followed shortly by Phoenix and Singingwolf, two beautiful Navajo girls who brought three cases of beer and all the makings for chicken enchiladas. To tell you the truth, I really had my eye on Singingwolf but after my heartbreak over Elena and that violent ending, I was real hesitant to open up. She would change that.
“What you been up to Chan?” I asked.
“We got good business. No confusion, no Confucius.” He smiled while at the same moment his stiletto shot across the room and stuck in the wooden door jam, vibrating like the bass note of a harp.
“Comeon Chan,” I said, “don’t try to tell me that you are a cadre of Chairman Mao or some such bullshit. You love Confucius and the clearness of his mind. You are always telling me that.”
“My mother love Confucius, my father love Chairman Mao, Chairman Mao love Confucius, Confucius never even know Chairman Mao. We Chinese take a more subtle approach than you Americano Kaboys and Latino Frito Banditos. Master Fengu says, never use violence except as a last resort but only after being sure that your intentions are pure. This means, for example, if you are going to rob a bank, be sure you are doing so for the right reason.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “And what would that be?”
“Why, the loot, of course.”
I laughed heartily and heard Phoneix and Singingwolf giggling. They had overheard the conversation.
Arturo and Master Fengu came in and Arturo said, I have called a gathering of the council in thirty minutes. Master Fengu has important new intelligence information.
This should be interesting, I thought.
Somehow, I had felt really good about Phoenix and Singingwolf giggling along with Chan’s joke. We had shared something together. Something fun, something light hearted…humor. Not much humor, just a little joke, made funnier by this Chinese martial artist’s particular cultural perspective, one of so many different ethnic convergences here in Los Campecinos Fieros.
What I was soon to learn at the council gathering would change everything and bring a harrowing adventure at a time when I would rather be snuggled up next to a fire with Singingwolf in my arms.
We were all sitting in the room behind the barn where we usually have important meetings. Master Fengu sat beside Arturo and all of us, about fifteen, sat in a semi-circle on the wood floor.
“What’s going on Arturo?” I ventured.
Arturo looked at me. “The setup is not just you, but all of us. It’s the same old story of the cops threatening to take us down unless we start lining their pockets considerably more. Fengu here was back out there this afternoon and says he saw definite signs of a helicopter. And Enrique’s body was gone.”
Did any of you guys see a bird? We are trying to determine if the bird was out there when you guys were.
I sure didn’t hear or see any helicopter. Raul shrugged and everyone looked at each other shaking their heads. “I didn’t see no bird,” said Rosita.
“Did anybody see anything at all suspicious or out of the ordinary?” someone asked.
Everyone just looked at each other shaking their heads.
Looking back now, I guess I saw an opportunity to flirt a little with Singingwolf, remembering how she had responded to Chang’s little bit of humor before, so I glanced over at her making very brief eye contact and said, “well, that’s a loaded question, I was on several planets at once with a huge conclave of jamming frogies from every pond of life and the bass croaker was giving me music lessons while the alto sax frog kept popping out of the tenor bell and a soprano sax froggie kept popping out of the alto bell. I would say that was a bit out of the ordinary, but suspicious? I guess it depends on your perspective.”
Most everyone, including Singingwolf did giggle slightly but Master Fengu didn’t think it was funny. He learned over and whispered into Arturo’s ear.
“Look folks,” said Arturo, “this is really serious. Our whole family is being threatened. Our success has depended upon bribing the police. Now, they are getting ridiculous. They want seventy five percent of our operation and we simply cannot do that.”
A few wows and gasps could be heard among the rumblings.
“If we go to war with them, we are completely outgunned and we will all go to jail. They think they can get away with this by using threats.”
Master Fengu spoke up. “However, Enrique Chavez had a file. It was documentation of every crooked and corrupt action done by the police and the FBI concerning our operations. Enrigue had the evidence to bring them down in a court of law. It was insurance.”
“Is that why they killed him?” Martinez asked.
“Exactly,” said Arturo motioning Phoenix to give him a light. “And now we are without a lawyer and Enrique’s file is missing.”
Then I remembered something. “Wait a minute! I did see something suspicious. I saw a brief green flash that night. I thought it was probably residual Peyote at the time.”
“No no, that is significant,” said Fengu, “it might have been a green signaling laser carried by someone on the ground.”
But we never heard a helicopter.
Master Fengu rocked back and forth slowly and it seemed like a long time before he spoke. “Most significant,” he said.
“Why is that?” asked Singingwolf.
“Because…if they are bringing in equipment with such advanced silent technology, it means that higher agencies are involved and it also indicates that we have inadvertently fallen into a tangled mess of which the full significance is completely unknown to us. After all, we’re just a bunch of petty amateurs compared to them. They are probably tired of us cutting in on their action. Or, they are afraid of something that we might uncover. Otherwise, why didn’t they make such demands years ago. They could have. There is something new in the picture.”
“By higher agencies, you mean like the CIA or NSA or even the ONI?” Arturo was hoping for more information.
Master Fengu only continued to rock back and forth slowly. “I wish to thank you all. Working with all of you all these years has really been a priviledge for me. Yes, we made money. Sometimes significant money, but what has kept me going with you is your great heart. In China we understand the Campecinos, the people of the land, the peasants. We know that those who live and work on the land are invaluable members of society. All the world revolutions for justice begin on the land. Here in America you of the land are second class citizens, if that. Our Chinese government is corrupt, there is no doubt about it. Criminal behavior and violations of human rights is endemic in China. The people have no say about anything, except they are allowed to sell whatever little they can produce to stay alive, without much regulation. But I have never seen anything as vile as what is taking place here in the United States. I will say no more about that. You know what I mean. We need to get Enrique’s insurance file back. I think there is something in there that we don’t know about.” Master Fengu turned his head and looked straight at me. “Will you do it?”
I never had such a surprise in my life. I wanted to say, why me? or how the hell do you expect me to do that? However, being in Fengu’s incredibly profound presence, I found myself rocking back and forth right along with him. “Sure,” I said, “I love all you dear ones more than my life.”
The moment I said it, I knew within my deepest heart that it was true.
Master Fengue nodded and smiled slightly, “you will have all the help you need and anything you may require.”
Before I knew it, Arturo had me living at a hotel up in Durango Colorado. He told me that I had to just lay low for a couple of weeks while Chan prepared my new identity papers. I didn’t have the slightest idea how to go about getting Enrique’s file, which was probably already destroyed by the authorities, since it was evidence against them.
Arturo said that Enrique was no fool and had probably made duplicate copies and it was even probable that the copy which his murderers acquired from him was not even the original.
Arturo assured me that Chan was hard at work formulating a possible plan of action for me once I had my new ID. He said my role would be to do an investigation into the events surrounding Enrique’s murder and do so as an outsider not associated with Los Campecinos Fieros. The goal was to get hold of that file, hopefully the original. Someone had to know where it was and Enrique would certainly have left some clue.
Also, I needed to disappear for a while in case they filed a warrant against me because of the gun. Of course, Arturo wanted no heat to come down on his rancho. In many ways it was the very center of our business transactions.
So here I am…driving a slick and crisp new/used Buick Rivera, wearing expensive designer clothes with my hair cut short and ten thousand dollars cash for any possible expenses hidden away in a secret compartment built into one of my suitcases. I wear a new Glock 45 automatic in a shoulder holster under my jacket and have a laptop. There are also two pounds of dynamite ganja grown in the mountains of New Mexico by communal hippies and stashed inside fake 7UP cans that were all inside a regular 7UP case sealed in plastic, but with secret access. And, last but not least, six porn magazines which Raul absolutely insisted that I take.
The whole damn thing made me nervous as hell and my heart really skipped a few beats when I got a phone call from Arturo, after being in Durango only 36 hours, that Master Fengue had gone missing.
“We don’t know. He was headed out to the site where you guys found Enrique’s body. He said he needed to look for more evidence. That’s the last we ever heard from him. No Fengue and no car. Our beloved mentor vanished without a trace.”
“Do you think they got him?”
“It sure looks that way. Try not to worry about it, just hang tight. Take a vacation. Enjoy Durango. Chan will drive up there when he has everything ready.”
“How long do you think that will be?”
“Oh…probably less than two weeks. If there are any further developments I will call you from a new secure cell phone.”
So, now I had some time to kill. What the hell does that mean anyway? Time to kill. I guess it means you are anticipating something important and possibly dangerous to happen in the future and in order not to be stressed out about it, need to distract yourself?
I walked out onto the balcony and looked out over the little town of Durango. It was really a replication of a frontier village with false front buildings, trading posts, saloons, beautiful high mountain scenery and apparently right at the beginning of the tourist season.
What the hell was the date anyway? I looked at my new Rolex. April 20. It was still cold here with patches of snow on the ground. Then in the distance I heard a steam whistle. Ah yes, Durango has an old fashioned railroad, the Durango and Silverton. It is a three foot narrow gauge line that takes tourists from Durango to Silverton and back again using beautiful old fashioned equipment.
I put on my overcoat and took a walk down to the railroad yards which were in the center of town. It is like walking back a hundred years. There is the roundhouse with several 2-8-2 narrow gauge steamers, the passenger and freight equipment stored in the yards. A beautiful old caboose perfectly restored, the water tower, the coal tower, and here comes the evening train puffing into town. Those outside frame locomotives, are fascinating to watch. You know that you are seeing a synchronized mechanical marvel as valves, gears and drivers open and close pouring out white steam in coordination with the thick black smoke puffing from the stack through the wire spark arrestor. The Durango and Silverton runs on soft Colorado coal and the smoke from it is inky black.
So, after my railroadana tour, I find myself back in my hotel room packing my glass pipe with ganja and puffing like a K-36 blowing smoke through my nose and out my ears.
I rustle through my suitcase and pull out one of Raul’s porn magazines. This one was really hard-core. The title in bold red letters was “ASS.” And there they were, all those beautiful females. Young, gorgeous, naked, hot, available, pleasure bent and horny. And there I was getting very interested.
I read once that all it takes to stir up a male’s sexual response is a simple mathematical diagram which is two parentheses with the bulges facing toward each other forming an hourglass. That “hourglass” shape, you know instinctually. Of course, when this basic shape is elaborated upon the results are unpredictable. I found myself becoming aroused.
Then I began to look at their faces. Wait a minute. There is something wrong here. I got out my pocket magnifying glass and looked closer at the facial detail. They were all very young girls, probably underage. Their smiles were not genuine. Their eyes…there was sorrow in their eyes. In some it could be called…fear.
I wondered how their mothers and fathers would feel if they could see these pictures of their precious child. Then I thought, well, probably some of their mothers and fathers don’t give a damn about them and that’s exactly why they are here trying to make a living showing their ass in public.
What is this anyway?
Young girls trying to make a living probably because it was the only way they could keep from becoming homeless and stay alive.
This absolutely reeked of exploitation and not just exploitation but human slavery. No doubt many of these girls, if not all of them, were kept on a leash by unlimited supplies of hard drugs.
I began to think about the people I had known that were addicted to really hard drugs such as cocain. Cocain users, and especially crack users, told me that the pleasure of the high could not be maintained no matter how much they used. And, what these addicts hated most about their drug experience was that as they became more and more addicted and required more of the drug, their perceptive view of other human beings radically changed.
They said that they began to loose all feeling for their friends and even their relatives. A guy I met when I was in jail once told me that one day he woke up and realized that he considered all the people in his life to be nothing but meat. When he looked at them he saw only dead objects to be used and manipulated for his own purposes. He would have no trouble betraying a friend or throwing a girl out on the street after having sex with her and he could perform the most brutal acts of violence without even a twinge of conscience.
I think the fact that he was able to recognize his condition is why he was able to overcome his addiction. But, it took him five years to do it.
I looked back at “ASS” and all the distraught faces with phoney expressions. I thumbed through it. A little further along it looked as if a peeping tom had been hiding in the toilet taking snap shots of the users.
I ripped the magazine in two, went over to my suitcase, got the other five and ripped them all into tiny pieces. I then put all the pieces into a sack, went out onto the balcony, dumped some of the ripped up paper into the barbeque sphere, squirted lighter fluid on it until it was soaked and threw a match in. For the next ten minutes or so, I fed more and more paper into it until all six magazines had been transformed into ashes and smoke.
Another tenant of the hotel was out on his balcony across from me. What the hell are you burning over there?
“Just cremating a corpse,” I said.
I felt quite good about that blazing bit of purging and it set my mood for the next week which was full of considerable happiness with little worry. I took the train to Silverton and back, visited Mesa Verde and saw the ancient Indian sites.
But, the most wonderful day I had was when I spent a day riding a horse named Beverly down into the canyon. What a beautiful mare! She was light tan with blonde mane and tail, a truly fine horse. She was a huge animal and totally responsive to my every guidance. She was uncannily gentle. Simply laying the reins against one side of her neck or the other would turn her and she was so sensitive that when I wanted her to run all I need to do was squeeze her a little with my legs. When she galloped it was absolutely smooth and being such a huge animal, she could go up and down mountains and in places I would never have tried to go with a smaller horse.
I found a beautiful spring in a secluded region with a cave off to the side which I explored and found fists full of indian artifacts, arrowheads, some pottery, a rock tool which I later found to be the perfect item for skinning a chicken.
And there were cave paintings and carvings on the walls and stick figures, both animal and human. Interesting spirals were floating up into the sky with something streaming out from the center down to the ground and a Shaman was pointing up towards the high mountain where the mountain goats were playing.
I wondered what all these drawings meant or if they were just creative art work. Being somewhat more familiar with Indian art after my tour to Mesa Verde, most likely it was both.
I wanted to go do that again but the next morning there was a knock at my door just as I was getting out of bed. It was Chan. He had arrived a little earlier than I had expected.
“How is everyone?” I asked.
He just nodded his head and smiled.
“Any news about Master Fengue?” I asked.
“No…our hearts are broken…we may never see him again.”
We sat at the table there in the room and Chan pulled out a folder. “Here I have your new I.D. driver’s license, credit cards, passport, gun license and curriculum vitae.”
“Wow, you thought of everything,” I said. Then I looked at the new driver’s license and about fainted. “Radley Hikeldorff!? Chan you gotta be kidding! Where in hell did you come up with an idiotic name like that?”
“I’m sorry,” he replied, “this was the only name with the history we needed that was available to us. You are a journalist writing a piece on rural crime in New Mexico. You actually have a traceable background, and that’s why we had to use the name. The real Mr. Hikeldorff died six months ago and had no kin.”
“Oh, my God. How will I ever live this down? Radley Hikeldorff? I know, I’ll just go by Rad. Rad for radical. Oh, my God. My image is ruined forever. Radley Hickeldorff.
“Well,” said Chan, “to tell you the truth, Arturo, Raul, Martinez, Rosita, Phoenix and Singingwolf literally rolled on the floor laughing in tears.”
I moaned. I groaned. What a way to start a hopeful relationship with Singingwolf. But, after I got over the shock and rolled the name off my tongue a few times, I began to own it. Just saying it seemed to bring out a half British, half German accent which must have been lurking there in my sub-conscious all along.
“My name is Radley Hikeldorff and I’m writing an article for Mien Kampf on rural crime in New Mexico.”
Chan grinned. “Actually, Mr. Hikeldorff, you work for the British magazine Alternanet and they do not even know that you are dead, since you were on a very long term assignment and not required to check in. Now, Rad, Arturo and I have been going over some ideas.”
For the next hour Chan got very serious. “What you should probably do first is contact Enrique’s widow, Marcy. Her address is listed on the procedure sheet. Fortunately, you never met her, so she will believe you to be who you say you are, Radley Hikeldorff. The thing is to emphasize that you are working with lawyers to find justice for Enrique and expose the corruption in the New Mexico State Police and the FBI. And you can even give her a list of those lawyers. You have to convince her that you are on her side and want justice for Enrique. And that shouldn’t be hard, since it is 100% true. If Marcy will lead you to that file, which I fully believe she will (if she knows where it is or how you might go about finding it) you are to break off all activity at that point. Now, your base of operations to locate the file and acquire it is Santa Fe but there can be no contact between you and Los Compecinos Fieros at all during that time.”
“Why is that?”
“Because, there are some very big players who will do anything to keep that file out of our hands and there is very likely to be super surveillance both on you and us. They won’t move in because they want us to locate that file. They want to know about any stray copies floating around. They are scared to death of it. Finding out why is what we want to know. The really dangerous part is when you do locate that file. So, at that point you must drop everything and drive back up here to Durango where I will meet you. Here is a cell phone and charger that is only to be used when you find that file. Be sure to keep it charged. It is all set and ready to go and you will reach me immediately. Now, when you acquire the file and drive back up to Durango I want you to check into a different lodging. There is a motel out on highway 46 and I will want you to use yet another I.D. which is in this envelop.”
Chan handed me the envelop and I opened it. It was a Colorado Drivers license and the name…Nakarema Mytosa. “My God, Chan, don’t you have any John Brown’s or Tom Smith’s?”
“Sorry, Rad, Nakarema Mytosa is a distant relative who deceased ten years ago.”
It was really good to finally get some handle on what I was supposed to do. It made me feel better at having volunteered. By the time Chan left, I was feeling fairly confident.
I loaded up my glass pipe and toked up, french inhaling through my nose. I went through all the documents Chan had given me and carefully looked them over. Radley Hikeldorff alias Nakarema Mytosa. I started to chuckle. Through the swirling clouds of smoke, I could hear the Judge at my trial mangling the names…Rawley Pickeldwarf alias Noxzema Murosis.
It seemed strange going down to Santa Fe and not being able to see my compandres. I didn’t like that part. I thought about how I would contact Marcy Chavez and really had my fingers crossed that I could establish a raport with her and a trust that would enable her to open up about Enrique’s mysterious insurance folder. I wondered what the hell was in there. There had to be more than the payoffs we made or the times they looked the other way. That stuff is so common and petty and easy for a good lawyer to circumvent that it is strong indication that Enrique had something of considerably more important significance.
As I drove down the Mountain from Durango it was a gorgeous and peaceful day. Overhead, white and gray cumulus sailed under a deep blue sky. To the far east raged a dark thunderstorm with bright shards of lightening. It looked like it was headed on east to Texas.
I wanted to be back where I was the other day, riding Beverly through unexplored canyons. I really love being out like that away from civilization and faced with the starkness of the mountains and sky. And finding that Indian cave was really an unusual adventure that whetted my appetite for more. I looked over my shoulder into the back seat of the Buick Rivera and glanced at the box containing the artifacts I had found. I don’t know why, but it just made me feel so happy.
I wanted to share my happiness with Singingwolf and the thought entered my mind that when I got to Santa Fe, I’d sneak off some night out to Piute Mesa and see if I could find her, maybe out at her family’s adobe shack in Rio Corillo. I didn’t dare go around Arturo’s ranch and let anybody see me. Then I thought, what a stupid idea, that could just blow everything. I will just have to be patient and get this job accomplished first, but I sure would like to get it over with and get on with my life.
Then, just as I went pass a huge grain silo, I had a flat tire. It was the right rear. I glided the Rivera to a safe stop over on the shoulder. There is really no use to being pissed off and frustrated when stuff like that happens because you can count on it in the normal course of events. So, I took my time, got out, opened the truck and set to work.
I had the old tire removed and was about to put on the spare when the New Mexico State Highway Patrol pulled up a little ways behind me on the shoulder.
The purple and red lights were cycling on and off like a drunk Christmas tree. There was something peculiar about the timing of those lights that was extra irritating and jarring. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I had never seen them look quite like that before.
The patrol car looked like it had just come off the assembly line and had every piece of super technology available with antennas, tinted windows and search lights on both sides.
There were two officers wearing smokey-the-bear hats and mirror sunglasses. When they dismounted from their shiny steed, I could see their high black leather boots with trousers tucked in, their crisp brown uniforms with lots of leather straps, bells, whistles, handcuffs, night sticks, tazers, and of course very large caliber pistols that looked like one shot could easily take your head off.
I can’t say that I felt no fear because, yes it was a bit disconcerting, however, the way I looked at it, this would be the first test of my new life as Radley Hikeldorff Esquire.
“Greetings gentlemen,” I said brightly, “so glad to see you.”
“Are you doing okay?” asked the one on the right.
“Oh, absolutely sir, and you?”
“Do you need any assistance?”
“Why no, but thank you, that is very kind of you.”
“We will need to see your driver’s license and registration papers, said the one on the left.”
“Of course, I understand. May I slip the spare tire on first?”
The two patrolmen glanced at each other. The one on the right said in a louder-than-necessary voice, “we are very busy and need to see your papers right now.”
“Of course, of course, officers. Let me get them. Oh, here’s my driver’s license while I retrieve my registration from the glove compartment. And I will tell you up front that I have a Glock 45 automatic in its holster in the glove compartment as well as all the papers including a carry permit.”
“Thank you for telling us ahead of time,” said the officer on the right.
I had gotten out my wallet and gave the license to the one on the left. I started to go over and open the right passenger door.
“Stand where you are sir and do not move. My partner will get it.”
The patrolman on the right went over and began to rumage through my glove compartment while I could feel the other glaring at me behind his mirror sunglasses. His right hand had slipped over near his pistol.
Then he said, “sir, I have to ask you to sit in the back seat of the patrol car while we radio in your information for a background check and wait for headquarters to give permission for you to proceed.”
I almost protested, however, I cheerfully said, “thank you officer it will be far more pleasant in your car. That sun is getting rather warm.”
I was already headed for the patrol car. The officer opened the back door and I slipped inside. The back door closed softly, which was remarkably unexpected, and I immediately heard the sound of an automatic lock. I couldn’t see what was going on over at my Buick Riviera because there was a wire barrier installed between the back seat and the front of the patrol car. It had some translucent material behind it. I could see through it a little bit, but certainly not well enough to see what was going on. Also, the inside of the patrol car seemed to be completely sound proof. In other words, I was effectively in an isolation cell. However, the air conditioning system was working well and it was cool.
Holy Christ, I thought, abandoning my Radley persona, what the fuck is this?
Nothing happened for quite a while. Too long. What could be going on? No one had come back to the patrol car to radio in. Of course, they might have done it on their mobile units. I couldn’t hear a thing in the back seat of that patrol car. I was getting more nervous by the second and working hard at staying calm.
My ganja was carefully put up in a case of fake 7UP cans in the trunk. Could they have discovered it? Were all the papers Chan gave me in order? A million possibilities were running through my mind.
Then I heard the automatic lock click and my door opened. One of the officers was standing there. I couldn’t tell which one. They both looked the same.
“You are free to go Mr. Hikeldorff, everything is in perfect order.”
“Well, thank you officer. I will just finished putting on my spare and be on my way.”
“Sorry for the inconvenience, sir,” said the other one, handing me back my driver’s license.
“Oh, no problem at all,” I smiled, “and thank you for the good protection you give to the citizens of our state. Take care and have a safe journey.”
“You too sir,” said one of the officers as they were getting into the patrol car. They wasted no time and immediately pulled away.
I was greatly relieved to say the least and immediately went back to getting the spare on. While I was working on it, I thought the incident over. Something didn’t seem right. After finishing up, I checked out everything in the car. All seemed well. The papers were all neatly in place. My Glock was in the glove compartment. Everything seemed to be in order. The case of fake 7UP cans in the trunk had not be touched and still had the plastic wrap sealing it. I turned the case over and took the tape off a hole in the bottom and slipped out one of the cans through it, opened it up by unscrewing the bottom, took out three joints and put them into my shirt pocket snapping it shut. I screwed the lid back on the can in its place and closed the trunk.
Damn, I had an uneasy feeling. I got my shoulder holster with my Glock from the glove compartment and put it on with my leather jacket over it.
I lit up a joint, pulled back onto the highway and headed for Santa Fe.
I hadn’t gone very far before I started hearing a metal against metal tap coming from underneath my Buick. Sounds like my exhaust pipe is rattling against something, I thought, I’ll check on it next time I stop.
There was little traffic that afternoon. The road wound up a mountain and at the top was a rest stop, I turned into it. It was a high look-out point and I could see the road I had been traveling for miles winding back down the canyon from which I had just come. I got out my binoculars and looked back down the road to see if anyone might be following me. I couldn’t see anyone. I remembered that I needed to check on the exhaust pipe to see what it might be banging against, so I got my flashlight and crawled under the car a little ways and began to shine the light around.
What I saw stopped my heart.
There directly under the driver’s seat was a large round object that shouldn’t be there. It was huge, about two feet long. To the side of it was what looked like some kind of electronic timer.
“My God, a bomb!”
Without even thinking I rolled out from under the car and right down the side of the mountain through brush and cactus and over some rather sharp rocks. Even before I stopped rolling there was a tremendous explosion so powerful that it lifted me right up off the ground with a tremendous pressure wave which catapulted me to the bottom of the mountain and deafened me temporarily. While tumbling through the air in slow motion, I caught a glimps of the fireball engulfing my Buick, blasting it into tiny pieces with such force that, when I examined it later, all I could find was a few pieces of metal scattered all over the mountain and a four foot crater in the ground where the car had been.
A piece of flying metal had opened up a gash in the side of my head. Had its trajectory been an inch to the left there would now be a hole clear through my brain. I tied my handkerchief around my head as tight as I could but I was covered in blood.
At the base of the mountain I found a little water in an arroyo and was able to clean up a little. I had to treck back up the mountain to where the car had been. There was absolutely nothing left of it. A huge crater in the ground was all that remained.
Had I been in that car, I would have literally been vaporized. They certainly planned to do a thorough job. I wouldn’t have even been identified for weeks or possibly never. I was trembling from head to foot. So, I just sat down up there and watched the sun set. That calmed me down a bit.
Early in the evening an old Indian truck came rattling up. It looked like it was held together with chewing gum and bailing wire and sounded like it too. “Hey hombre, you okay? Been in an accident?”
“I’ll say, amigo. You’re looking at the luckiest man on earth.”
“Get in and I’ll take you to a doctor.”
“Thanks man, I am very glad you came along.”
We rattled on into the night. Neither of us spoke for quite a while. I kept applying pressure to my head wound and was feeling weak from the loss of blood.
“Como se llama?” He asked.
“Dice solo poquito espanol. Just call me Rad.
“Rad? Strange name. I never heard that name before. I am Tomas. Where are you from?”
“Santa Fe area. Thanks for stopping, Tomas.”
“You’d do the same for me.”
“How do you know that?”
“You are right. I do feel a strong bond with the people of this land because I am one of you, but I would have stopped regardless. Like you, I remember the time when people always helped out when someone was in need. The harshness of this land requires it and besides, it is just good manners.”
“I feel a little weak having lost so much blood.”
“Here,” he said, handing me a jug of water. I took a long drink and felt instantly better. The water tasted incredibly good, almost sweet, and it seemed to perk me up and clear my mind.
“Thanks friend.” I put the jug back on the floorboard. I looked at Tomas and he was smiling slightly. “Is it a long way to a town where I can find a doctor to sew me up?”
“I know someone,” he said.
“Nearby?” I asked.
“Nearby. About fifteen miles from here.”
Pretty soon the old truck turned right onto a bumpy dirt road and we were bouncing along up the mesa. When we got up to the top, Tomas pulled over and stopped. “Wait here,” he said.
He stepped out of the truck and disappeared off into the night. After a couple of minutes, I saw a light and two men approaching. It was Tomas and another man who was holding a lantern. They helped me out of the truck and Tomas supported me as the other man led us a little ways to what I can only describe as a hogan made out of sticks and brush plastered over with adobe. We had to stoop down to go inside.
It was round, about thirty feet in diameter. The place was a bit smokey but it was cosey. From the moment I stepped into that space my mind seemed to focus and I looked around the little hut.
In the middle of the dirt floor was a small wood stove with a patched up pipe that ran up through the low ceiling. A large ceremonial drum sat over to one side. There were several openings in the wall that seemed to be covered from the outside with beautiful blankets of Navajo design. There were many items hanging from the wall and ceiling. I saw several sets of antlers, an iron skillet, a large flashlight, a dented coffee pot, some eagle feathers, a Winchester, which looked like it was a hundred years old, a large hunting knife in a leather scabbard, which was decorated with beads and small feathers, a low hammock strung up over to the side near the drum, a tortoise shell painted with animal designs, an Indian mattock, a horse skull, a gas can, a tire iron, a machete, a large bag with fringe, smaller bags, some pottery half buried in the dirt floor and bunches of plants, roots and herbs hanging from the ceiling.
The other man had very long grey hair and a brightly colored leather band around his head inlaid with gemstones. He opened the little stove and put in some sticks while Tomas helped me to sit down on a thick blanket. I was glad for the warmth because, even at this little bit of altitude above the desert floor, it was quite cool at nights this time of year. Tomas helped me to get my coat off and saw my shoulder holster with the Glock.
“You a cop?”
“No, no,” I said, “a journalist with a carry permit.”
Tomas undid my shoulder holster and placed it over to the side. He took out the Glock and gave it to the other man who tucked it into his belt.
Tomas spoke to the other man in an Indian tongue which I had never heard before. It definitely wasn’t Navajo, Hopi or Crete.
“What language is that?” I asked.
“Eagle Man does not speak English,” Tomas answered, “that is the dialect of the White Mountain Apache. He speaks a little Navajo and some Spanish but Apache is his native speaking.”
“A beautiful tongue,” I said and really meant it. “The words seemed to roll off his lips like sweet agave.”
Tomas said nothing. The other man spoke to Tomas who ducked back out of the hogan and returned a few seconds later carrying a bucket of water. Eagle Man pulled out a rag from somewhere and handed Tomas the large flashlight which he had retrieved from its hook.
Eagle Man poured out a little of the water into what looked like a miners tin pan, soaked the rag and began to carefully clean my cut, speaking in Apache to Tomas who was aiming the flashlight on my wound.
“Is that going to need any stiches?” I asked.
Tomas spoke in Apache to Eagle Man who answered with a couple of short sentences.
Tomas looked at me and said, “Eagle Man says he can fix up your wound without any sewing.”
“Okay,” I said.
Eagle Man produced a large and very scratched ceramic mortar and pestle, then reached into one of his little bags and put something into it. Then he went to several more bags and put in some of their contents, declaring something in Apache each time. He then performed some kind of ritual to the six directions and began the process of grinding with the heavy mortar. All the time he was chanting and moving around in a kind of slow rhythmic dance. He almost seemed to be in a trance state.
Suddenly, he picked up a glass and threw some foul smelling warm liquid directly into my face.
It was as if I had gone back and forward in time all at once. Images flashed before my eyes, a man scratching in the earth with a stick, a full moon, a sand storm, distant drums, flashes of lighting and the roar of thunder. I saw dead people, women and children bleeding in the dust, miners coughing up blood and collapsing on the ground. Huge machines strip mining the earth. I saw the blinding flash of a themonuclear explosion and I looked down at my own skeleton amidst the stench of a mushroom cloud. Thousands of scorpions rushed up from a great hole in the earth and were swarming over everything. They scampered like endless soldiers over human faces with their eyes swollen shut morphing into the rabid drooling snouts of dead coyotes.
My whole life flashed before my eyes and I saw the agony of my father, heard the screams of my mother and the ocean filled with thick black ink as whales and dolphins strangled to death amidst a hurricane of liquid fire. I wept with great heaving sobs of despair. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? I could not stop crying. I was flying and dying, circling with the hawks and I saw the forest below.
Somehow, I made my way there.
The trees were huge, ancient Sycamores, Elms and Oaks amongst the towering Pines. The lovely meadow flowers rolled on beneath the gigantic trees and up in the branches were interwoven structures and ramparts and fountains emptying into crystal lakes with boats of leaves and candle lanterns floating out over a waterfall, down down through misty rainbows of golden light flowing into the breasts of Singingwolf bathing in the lagoon. I love you.
And then there was Eagle Man applying a thick brown sticky substance to my wound.
“Bark of the Ogala tree and many herbs,” Tomas said, as he held the flashlight. “This will knit the wound together and it will heal without a scar.”
And then I was to lie down on animal skins under a bright wool Navajo blanket.
“Drink this,” said Tomas giving me a sip of water from his jug.
Eagle Man threw open the flaps and I could see the moon and stars. His rattle and soft chanting was the last thing I heard before the peaceful dreamless sleep overtook me.
The flies awakened me. Between sleep and consciousness I could hear their frightening loud buzz. It sounded as if they were boring into me. I felt their tiny hairy legs running back and forth across my face, on my lips, humming in my right ear. That side of my head was throbbing. My right eye was swollen shut. I was burning up and as the cloudy sky slowly came into view through the open flap above me, nothing seemed real. Floaters swam across my vision like vultures across the moon. I was breathing heavily. My whole body ached and a ringing from the right side of my head undulated like an ice pick slowly driven through my brain.
I vomited all over myself.
I swatted and clawed at my face to get the flies away. They were everywhere. Finally, I managed to sit up. Everything seemed strange.
“Help me,” I said weakly but there was no answer. I looked around with my good eye but could see no one. Trying to get onto my feet was difficult and when I did, I lost my balance and fell down onto my knees.
“Tomas,” I whimpered. There was no answer. I could see the water jug a few feet away and crawled over to it, poured water onto my head and drank a little, then dropped the jug spilling its contents onto the dirt floor. I picked up the jug and there was still a little water left inside. I struggled to my feet. I poured the remaining water down my front to clean off the vomit and kept crying out for Tomas. Maybe they were outside.
I stumbled through the opening out into brightness. Immediately I could see the truck and knew Tomas had not left.
“Tomas!” I called out loudly. There was no answer. No one seemed to be around. In the daylight now I could see a horse corral with a water trough so I made my way over to it and dunked the top half of myself into it, covering myself with water down to my waist. Then I shook off what water I could and continued to look around. No one.
I made my way back inside the empty hogan. My shoulder holster was on the dirt floor where Tomas had laid it the night before. It was empty. Then I remembered Tomas giving the Glock to Eagle Man who stuck it into his belt. I checked around and saw that the Winchester, the hunting knife and the machete were missing. I was without any kind of protection. I saw my leather jacket where Tomas had laid it and immediately went through the pockets. My wallet with all my money was gone. That was about two thousand dollars and now I had no I.D. No drivers license, no passport, nothing.
I was almost delirious with fever and went back out to the horse trough to splash more water on my face and the right side of my head. The wound was full of pus and swollen so badly that the entire right side of my face was puffed out, and I could not see out of my right eye. I looked up, there was a grey pony staring at me.
I had a terrific fever but my guts were cold as ice and sheer terror was rising up into my throat. An ice cold vise seemed to tighten around me. My head was spinning with irrational thoughts.
The night before flashed across my mind and I remembered feeling so warm and cozy and enchanted by Eagle Man, who I assumed was trying to help me. I remembered him throwing something into my face and having vivid hallucinations and then putting that tarry substance on my wound and Tomas tucking me under the blanket, then peacefully going to sleep. And now, I seemed to be in hell.
What’s going on? What’s going on? What is happening to me?
There I was, out on an unknown mesa, lost and alone, no weapon for protection, no I.D., no money, no wallet, no passport…I was scared to death and just crumpled up into a miserable heap. A severe chill overtook me and I shook from head to foot. I writhed in the dust. Flies were still everywhere and I could no longer keep them off my face and head wound. Some time passed. I do not know how long. The sun came out and the flies gradually went away. I called out again for Tomas. Nothing.
Finally, I struggled to my feet and walked over to the truck. The keys were in the ignition which immediately made me feel better because at least there was a way out. I pulled out the keys and put them into my pocket for safe keeping. Then I started to look around for Tomas.
I have never been so scared in all my life. I fought the panic. I walked in a circle out around the hogan and behind the corral. No sign of anyone.
Got to think. Got to think. My head was muddled.
I went over to the edge of the mesa and looked out over the desert below. Something caught my eye right below me on the side of the mesa. I couldn’t tell what it was but it was only fifty or so feet below, so I began climbing down to it. As I neared, I could see that it was a body, so I hurried.
“Tomas, Tomas!” I yelled. I could hear his moans. He was still alive.
When I got to him, I could see blood everywhere. A trickle of blood was coming out of his mouth. It looked like he’d been shot or stabbed in the stomach. I put my arm around him and lifted up his head. He moved his lips but could not talk. I put my ear down close to his face and could barely hear him whisper… “lo siento mi amigo…lo siento…un brujo…un brujo.” Then he died in my arms, still staring up at my face.
I gently closed his eyes and laid him back down and then scrambled back up the mesa, but before I reached the top a shot rang out, hitting the rock in front of me and throwing grit into my face and my only good eye. I rolled to the side and another shot rang out. It hadn’t hit me but I had no idea where it was coming from and figured that the next one would not miss, so I took a chance and rolled further to the left while frantically trying to dig the gravel out of my left eye. Finally, I could see a little and glanced around. No one was in sight. I had rolled up next to large rocks which offered some protection, depending upon where the shooter was firing from. I was so glad that I’d taken the keys out of the truck, If Eagle Man was firing at me, at least he could not take the truck and run. Maybe he thought he had gotten me.
I clutched the biggest rock I could handle to use as a weapon and lay perfectly still. In spite of how sick I felt, my adrenalin was pumping like an oil blowout. I lay there for what seemed like hours but it was probably only a few minutes. Then I heard someone moving down the mesa toward me. Okay, he was coming to make sure I was dead.
I could hear the gravel on the side of the mesa sliding a little and knew he was approaching. I knew I was going to die and could only think of the first line of a prayer I had leaned as a child, our father who art in heaven…our father who art in heaven… our father…our father…he was getting closer. Then he was standing over me. He carried the Winchester in his left hand and his machete in his right. Out of my squinting left eye I could see him raising his machete to chop me in the neck. I had nothing to lose.
Suddenly in an unexpected burst of final energy I roared and shrieked like a panther at the top of my lungs leaping to my feet. It startled him just long enough for me to smash him squarely in the face with the large rock I held with both hands. It took him completely off guard. He yelled, dropped the rifle, lost his balance and went over backwards down the mountian, still clutching his machete. I quickly picked up the Winchester and started pumping bullets at him as he rolled down the mountain. I rushed down after him firing all the time until the rifle was empty. When he finally quit rolling, I could see that I had hit him twice, once in the chest and once through the forehead. I collapsed next to his corpse, rolled over and threw up.
It must have been an hour before I even stirred. When I did, every muscle in my body shouted at me. No part of my body was free from pain. I remembered something I had put into my shirt pocket, carefully snapping it for safe keeping. I fumbled in the pocket and lo and behold, two joints of premium ganja. They had been dampened by water from the horse trough but had now completely dried out in the desert heat and, although a little funky, seemed ready to burn.
I will save one for later, I thought. I dug into my pants and found a lighter. Pretty soon I was sitting up there on the side of the mesa breathin’ in marijauna smoke. It really settled me down. I was hurting but just didn’t care and for the first time that day could objectively examine my situation. I was somewhat elated for having prevailed over Eagle Man. It had been sheer luck.
I began to think about it. I had never killed anyone before in my entire life. Now, I had taken a human life in self-defense, but somehow, once you kill somebody, an invisible line is crossed, and you know in your guts that it will be easier the next time and the next. I did not relish that at all because sooner or later it would be me taking the bullet. I wanted that part of my life to end now and forever. But, I sure was glad that I had that rifle.
I had just taken a long pull on the joint when something up in the sky caught my eye. It was a dark speck that just seemed to be hovering there. At first I thought it was another floater swimming by, so I blinked a few times but it was still there.
“What the fuck?”
Then it moved in closer, dipped down a little and streaked off to the northeast. It never made a sound. Not even a tiny hum. I wondered what the hell it was. Could it be one of those silent black helicopters, a UFO or what? Perhaps it was a government surveillance craft.
I wondered if they had seen me. They were pretty far away but with all their super scopes and such… But, how the hell did they know I was out here? Could it be that all the things which had happened since yesterday were not a coincidence?
I was on to something big, no doubt about it. Somebody did not want me investigating this and was trying very hard to erase me from the picture all together. Apparently they were observing every move I made or were at least trying to.
This really disturbed me, so, in spite of my weak condition I resolved to find out what the hell was going on. I had to get out of there and down to Santa Fe. If they had seen me walking around alive, they could have just come by and taken me out with a sharp shooter or a machine gun, but now they were going away. Maybe it meant that they hadn’t seen me. That might be possible, but I couldn’t count on it.
“Who the hell is “they” anyway?”
First, I searched Eagle Man’s body. My Glock was not on him. It was not tucked into his belt nor anywhere else. Then I wondered if it possibly fell out of his pants when he tumbled down the mountain, so I retraced his roll. Sure enough right below the edge where he had fallen off, there it was. It had fallen a ways and hit some very hard granite. I checked it over and it was inoperable. It had not survived the impact. Something major was busted. It was useless but I stuck it into my belt anyway. I picked up the old Winchester and took Eagle Man’s hunting knife and machete.
Then I went back to Tomas and searched him thoroughly. There was nothing there. I wanted to at least drag both bodies up to the top of the mesa but I simply was not able to do that in my condition.
After seeing that craft in the sky I knew they’d probably be out here pretty soon. I had to hide. That was for sure.
This shit is making me paranoid as hell, I thought.
Getting out of there was my priority, but first I needed to check everything out thoroughly to see if some clue could be found. So, I made my way back up the mesa and went back into the hogan. I began looking through everything, all the bags, all the pottery, everything hanging on hooks including the herbs. I found an empty bag and collected samples of the herbs I had seen Eagle Man use the night before. I needed to find out what had been used on me. My head throbbed and seem to be oozing. I cleaned it off the best I could with a rag and continued looking.
I spied a large heavy hemp bag hanging from a hook and looked inside. It was full of money, hundred dollar bills, five hundred dollar bills, twenties, tens, even some race-track twos. It was jammed full of thousands of dollars. I counted it. It was fifty thousand.
Wow. Where in hell did Eagle Man get forty eight thousand, assuming that two thousand of it was the money Eagle Man had stolen out of my wallet?
I continued looking and when I looked in one of the pottery jars, there was my billfold with all my papers, folded up neatly inside, right on top of the corn meal. The two thousand was still in the billfold so Eagle Man had gotten fifty thousand from somewhere else. Maybe it was his payment for taking me out. I certainly wasn’t worth fifty thousand…was I?
I wondered if Tomas had been in on it. He had to have been. Maybe he hadn’t suspected that it would be a hit on me and certainly not imagined that Eagle Man would kill him too. Maybe Eagle Man was suppose to split the money with Tomas for bringing me up to him and decided to keep it all for himself. Anyhow, it is all speculation.
I had all kinds of speculations but no proof. So, I really didn’t know anything for sure.
I slung the large hemp bag over my shoulder, picked up my shoulder holster and put the broken Glock into it. Then I put everything I had collected, along with the bag of money, behind the truck seat. I stashed the rifle, knife and machete there too along with the rifle ammunition I had found in one of Eagle Man’s bags.
On a final sweep of the hogan I saw the water jug on the dirt floor and picked it up. Something inside of it rattled. I upended it and a small piece of pure quartz crystal fell out. It had been right down in the water I had been drinking. I wondered if it had anything to do with the unusually good taste of the water. So, I put the piece of quartz back into the water jug, filled it up from the pump at the horse trough, and took it with me.
I was still burning up with fever and looked around to see if there was anything that could be called an antibiotic. I did find a box of aspirins and swallowed four. But, I couldn’t find anything more and felt very pressed to leave, so I took the gas can and poured all the gas right into the truck. Then I started the engine and began bumping back down the mesa on the dirt road which headed back to the highway. I was looking for a good place to hide the truck until dark. Then I would drive on down to Santa Fe at night. It was about six hours away. I wanted to go right then but it was too risky to be driving down the highway in broad daylight.
I saw two old tire tracks going off to the right toward an arroyo and followed them, being very careful not to get stuck in the sand. I came to a place with lots of tumble weeds and pulled the truck in amongst them. I got out and covered the truck with the brush so that it could not be seen from the air nor from the road. Then I got back inside to wait until dark. I was so tired that I dosed off for awhile and awoke suddenly with the cry of a hawk circling overhead. It was blistering hot and I was sweating. I retrieved the Winchester and cartridges from behind the seat and loaded the rifle. I wanted to be ready for anything.
I leaned back and waited. Then, I heard a vehicle coming up the mesa. I froze. It went past where I had pulled off. “Oh shit,” I said out loud. “Now they will find the two bodies and start searching for me!”
I wondered if I could get away with driving the truck through the desert back to the highway. Maybe if I stuck to the side of the arroyo or even right in the arroyo, if I was careful enough not to get stuck in the sand. It was really risky but I decided it was the best I could do. So, I waited a while longer and mid-afternoon I threw all the brush aside, climbed back into the truck, and started off down the winding arroyo toward the highway.
The going was very slow and several times I had to stop and go back to find a better route.
Finally, after a couple of hours, I saw the highway up ahead. Now, the problem was that it was still daylight and being on the highway would mean that I was completely exposed. So, I pulled the truck up behind some large boulders, which kept me mostly out of sight, and just waited.
Being so exhausted, I dosed off and when I snapped to, it was completely dark. I had no idea how long I had been sleeping. I tried to look at my watch but somewhere along the way I had lost it. I immediately switched on the headlights and started for the highway. I did feel a little better but my right eye was still swollen shut. However, my wound was not screaming quite so loud. Apparently the aspirin had done me a little good. Driving with one eye was a challenge and I had to really fight to stay awake. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my last joint and fired it up.
What the fuck is going on? I kept asking myself. I wondered what was happening down on Piute Mesa with Arturo and the gang. What would I do now? I really needed some medical care. What to do. What to do.
I went through several little towns and finally resolved to stop at the next one to get gas and eat something, if I could. I was so weak that I was concerned about my driving.
I pulled up into a gas station and café and filled up the tank. Then I parked the truck in front of the café and went in. I sat down. The waitress came over to me and I could see that she was absolutely horrified.
“You look terrible mister, do you need some help?”
She was reeling backwards at my appearance. I had forgotten how bad I must look.
“No, I’m all right, I said, I’ll just clean up a little in the bathroom. Could you bring me a cheesburger and a cup of coffee?”
Sure mister. “You’d better go take care of yourself.”
I went into the bathroom. It was a crumbling and stinky mess but when I looked into the mirror I knew I was the same. I had dried blood all down my front and with the head wound I looked like a ghoul come back from the dead.
My God, I had no idea it was this bad.
I washed up as best I could, went back and sat down. I started getting very paranoid that the Highway Patrol might come in, so I ate quickly, paid the waitress, leaving her a ten dollar tip, then went back out to the truck.
It was starting to rain so I turned on the wipers. I decided that I should no longer use my Radley Hickledorff alias and fumbled with one hand through my wallet to find the other one. I was probably pretty stupid to keep both I.D.s in my wallet even though Nakarima was in a hidden compartment with black wax over the font which I had to scrape off with my thumbnail. I glanced at the secondary I.D. “Nakarima Mytosa.” All that existed for Nakarima was a New Mexico Drivers License. I held the wheel with two fingers while I ripped up all of Radley Hikledorff, driver’s license, credit cards, passport and curriculum vitae. Frankly, I was glad to be rid of him. What an arrogant ass hole he was! I fluttered the pieces of paper and plastic out the window.
So, now I am Nakarima Mytosa. What a name! I guess its Nak for short.
I finally pulled into the La Quinta in Santa Fe as the sun was coming up, checked in as Nakarima Mytosa flopped down on the bed and went out like a light.
I couldn’t move. The sweat on my pillow smelled foul. Time seemed completely distorted. I was burning up. Somewhere in my delirium I heard a loud knock on the door but there was no way I could get up.
Later I found out that it had been Chan. He had found me and became very concerned when I didn’t open the door, so he went and got the motel manager who unlocked it for him and there I was near death. He phoned an ambulance and somehow I managed to inform him about the truck parked outside but I don’t remember when that was or how I was able to say anything rational.
I kept swooping and diving through all kinds of images. I kept returning to see Eagle Man’s face as he lay up there on the mesa with glazed eyes. I was zooming in and out from him and I could hear the throbbing of distant drums. Tomas and Eagle Man came to me. They were almost transparent. Tomas kept whispering lo siento, lo siento and Eagle Man snarled curses in Apache and periodically spit brown stringy goobers on the floor. Their faces kept morphing.
I saw a stark white room with people moving about. The hateful face of an Indian woman appeared right in front of me shouting murderer murderer but was blown away bit by bit in a roaring sand storm with blinding grit. I couldn’t see.
Feelings of hopelessness swamped by soul. No money, no car, no gun, no driver’s license, no friends, no changing my shirt, which was sticking to my chest with blood and puke. Needles were being poked into my arm. Someone was putting a tube up my dick.
I tossed back and forth but every time I moved, searing pain shot through my body. It always started from my throbbing head wound and flowed down through my whole being. Stinking pus ran down my face. The pain came in waves. Someone was bathing my body with ice. In my mind’s eye I saw all my friends in Los Campecinos Fieros in a blur. They were very sad and shaking their heads. Phoenix was comforting Singingwolf who was distraught. Arturo was slapping himself in the face and counting money. Chan was throwing his stiletto into the door jam over and over.
This went on forever and I was in complete terror for eternity. In the backmost part of my mind I was in hell but I didn’t even have the ability to think about it nor understand why. I couldn’t remember anything. My heart was pounding and I thought it would burst. I could hardly breathe and was in a constant state of panic because I was choking, strangling.
Then there was a mask over my nose and mouth. The periods of complete blackness would have remained unknown to me except for the terror when falling into them and the panic when coming back out into a world of confusion where nothing made any sense at all. I have no idea how long those spells went on.
They say I went into a coma for two weeks. I found out later that somehow Chan was able to convince the doctors at the hospital that he was a distant relative and had managed to prevent the hospital staff from calling in the police. I don’t look anything like a Chinese but my face was so swollen that they probably couldn’t tell.
Then I opened my eyes and saw Chan’s face hovering over me. He smiled slightly and I heard a voice from the bottom of a well say, “good thing you had the money to pay for all this.”
It took me another two weeks to recover enough to finally leave the hospital.
Chan drove me up to Piute Mesa. Arturo, Martinez and Rosita were outside waiting for me.
“Well,” said Arturo, “sure is hard to kill you off.”
“Pretty close,” I said.
“How you feelin’,” Rosita hugged me.
“Better,” I said, “much better.”
“Let’s go inside and get you something to eat,” said Martinez.
“Yeah,” said Arturo, “and we gotta talk.”
“Is everyone else inside?” I asked.
“No,” said Rosita, “everyone but us is camped out down in the canyon next to the caves, laying low until we decide what the fuck we are going to do next. All the hangers on are now gone…scared off. It’s just the eight of us now. No more wannabes. Phoenix and Singingwolf are really in with us now. Those two even stole a front loader from the copper mine about a month ago.”
I nodded. I was glad they were still around. Things just might work out.
“We didn’t want too much activity going on out here right now,” said Martinez. “Rosita and myself only came up here because you and Chan were coming in.”
Over a delicious meal of cheese enchiladas, jalapenos, beans, rice and tortillas along with some cold Pabst Blue Ribbon out of an ice chest, I told them all about what had happened. They were astonished.
“Fuck, this changes everything,” said Arturo, “something real big is going on.”
Chan nodded vigorously and looked over at Arturo, “we must contact Marcy Chavez right away. It is urgent for us to know what’s going on as soon as possible.”
Arturo looked me right in the face and said, “we need to talk alone out in the meeting room.”
“Let’s go,” I said.
Arturo picked up a couple of Pabtz Blue Ribbons out of the ice chest and we went to the room out in back of the barn. He opened the windows and we sat on blankets spread over bales of hay.
“Are you up to this?”
“I don’t know.”
“We’ve lost a whole month and you’ve been through hell.”
“I’m still pretty weak but I want to find out too. This has gotten real personal.”
“Okay. The entire enterprise has been completely on hold for the last three weeks. We need money. So, we have a bank job planned.”
“Jesus H. Christ! What happened to the money I got from Eagle Man?”
“Oh fuck man. It all went to pay your hospital bill!”
“Fifty thousand dollars!?”
“Chan had to use some of it to bribe the medical staff to not call in the police, and the medical bills were absolutely horrendous. They had to fly in two specialists to deal with your bizzar toxins. No one here knew what the fuck it was.”
“Jesus Christ. Where do you plan to do a bank?”
“Alamagordo, the First Bank of New Mexico. We don’t have to fool with the vault. They will be keeping thousands of dollars in the drawers in order to cash the pay checks of the civilian workers over at White Sands Missle Range when they start coming in about mid-morning on Thursday. We plan to hit the bank just as it opens Thursday morning.”
“Goddamnit, Arturo. Do you remember the last time our renegade girlfriends tried that down in Las Cruces?”
“That was different man. That was a Mafia bank.”
“And how do you know this one isn’t? Who the hell is crazy enough to do this?”
“Me, Martinez and Rosita.”
“What about Raul?”
“He’s chicken shit.”
“No, he’s smart. Oh fuck, I can see it now. Rosita blasting her AK-47 at the ceiling screaming, on the floor you chinga madres!
“Let’s hope that’s all the blasting she has to do.”
“Jesus Christ, Arturo, you mean that you crazy fucks would mow people down in a bank!?”
“Naw man, it won’t get to that. Anyone there will just be shitting their pants and groveling on the floor trying to stay alive. We’re in and out in seven minutes.”
“I tell you one thing brother, if we loose that beautiful flamenco guitar music, I am holding you personally responsible.”
“Don’t worry man. It’ll be okay.”
“Okay, I guess there is no use in trying to convince you how utterly stupid this is. Why not let me make a run to New York City with a hundred kilos?”
“No time man.”
“Look, Arturo, I’ll steal one of those large mining trucks. That should get us a few thousand.”
“Too dangerous. We may be under surveillance.”
“Oh great! We may be under suveillance and you silly asses are going to rob a bank!?”
“It’s way outta town man and the Feds won’t even know that we’ve left.”
“I sure do.”
I just shook my head. “By the way, what happened to that piece of junk called a truck I was driving when Chan found me at the motel.”
“It’s safe man. We have it stashed down in the canyon in one of the caves.”
“And all my stuff that was in it?”
“In a trunk hidden under the floorboards of the barn.”
“My Glock is busted, you know.”
“Yeah, but Chan fixed it.”
“That fucker better work.”
“Chan knows what he is doing.”
“Apparently so. How did he find me?”
“He paid a Mexican boy named Pascal to keep phoning all the possible motels you might stay in asking for Radley Hickeldorff. He got only nos. Then he took a chance and asked for Nakadima Mytosa and bingo, you were at the La Quinta.”
On the way back out we went through the barn and Arturo pryed up the floorboards and pulled up the trunk. He retrived my Glock in its shoulder holster and handed it to me.
“What the hell are all these herbs?” Arturo asked.
“I have no idea and it no longer matters anyway.”
He pulled out the hunting knife and machete and laid them aside before closing the trunk.
“Probably a pretty deadly concoction,” he said.
I felt sick inside. I wanted out. For the first time I just didn’t want to continue with this life. Too much fieros for me, not enough campecinos. But, I was committed. I had given my word and going back on my word was not my thing either. So, I felt that I had to play it on out.
We could hear Rosita’s lovely flamenco guitar as we approached the house.
My God, I thought, I cannot stand to loose that.
Arturo and Chan thought it was best for me to go down the canyon to where the others were hiding out near the caves. Chan gave me another cell phone to contact Marcy Chavez and told me to use the new I.D. but tell her I was a journalist, as was the cover story for Radley Hinkeldorff. I felt like holding off to contact her and would later be very glad I did.
The hideout where Martinez, Rosita, Raul, Phoenix and Singingwolf were dug in was the first room of a very convienient cave up on the side of the canyon. No one knew about this labyrinth of caves and underground areas except the ancient Indians who once lived here called the Anazasi. They had disappeared suddenly hundreds of years ago and no one knew exactly why. Their spirits seems to prevail everywhere.
I felt like being alone, so I camped in another much smaller cave which was a little above and to the north of the main encampment. My Glock was fully loaded and I took it with me to the top of the mesa where I fired a few magazines to be sure it was working properly. Chan had fixed it well and I was really glad to have it back in good condition. Then I just went back to my cave. I had to think.
I would put off contacting Marcy Chavez as long as I could. Building a little fire outside the cave entrance kept the smoke away and I just sat down for awhile. I had just stashed my gear inside the cave but decided to sleep outside keeping that Glock right by my side.
The wind whistled down through the canyon, stirring up the occasional dust devil and coyotes could be heard calling to each other in the night. The moon was nearly full and there was only one day before the planned bank robbery in Alamagordo. It was Tuesday. I felt very uneasy. The time had really come for me to reconsider my life. I wanted out. Where this was going no one knew and it seemed very ominous.
I had lost interest in the whole thing and just wanted to run off somewhere with Singingwolf and start a new life. Nakadema Mytosa didn’t fit. It wasn’t me.
Who am I anyway? The law has to be on my tail. What law? Who? I just didn’t much care. The whole thing seemed insane and that was driven home by Arturo planning to rob a bank in Alamagordo at gunpoint. My God, has it come to this? I tried to figure out a way to escape but the promise I had made to Master Fengu kept pulling my mind back. Chan had told me, while driving me down to the hideout, that no one had ever heard a thing about Master Fengu. They now had to assume he was gone for good. He was probably killed by some faction, maybe the Feds. Who knows? So, did my promise to Master Fengue still mean anything? Oh, shit. It was really a promise to the whole group. Jesus help me.
Tossing and turning in my sleep I could still feel some physical pain. At least I could see out of my right eye again and each time I rolled over I could see the moon and stars.
I finally seemed to reach a higher plateau and dreamed of the black bear I had once seen trying to grab a sack of food that a camper had tied up in a cottonwood tree. That bear tried everything. He stood on his hind legs and stretched as far as he could and was finally able to barely grab the sack but not get any kind of grip on it to bring it down. He would pace around the tree and it looked as if he was trying to think of how to get that sack. He kept sniffing. It must have smelled delicious to him. Bears aren’t real good at climbing trees but finally that bear gave it a try and after slipping a lot managed to get up to the limb where the food was tied and crawl out on it. It must have been about twelve feet off the ground. He ventured out further and further to where the food was tied, hanging on for dear life. The branch looked like it would hold and didn’t bend much but it was a pretty dried out piece of cottonwood and suddenly it snapped with a loud crack. Bear, branch and foodsack crashed down to the ground. I could hear the sound of breaking glass.
The bear rolled down the hill a ways but galloped back up to where the sack had fallen, ripped it open and pulled out what looked like some barbecued ribs and began stuffing himself. Then after a minute or so, he stood to his feet and stretched his body toward the sky, held up a side of rib bones and roared triumphantly. His cry echoed down the canyon and he seemed to do a little victory dance on one foot and then the other. Then he went back tearing into the foodsack and came up with a loaf of bread which he ripped apart and consumed in a second, some mayonaze from a broken jar, a plastic package of cheese and some chocolate cake, which he wolfed down getting the melted chocolate icing all over his snout. I had to quietly laugh. Then he stood back up and swiped at his snout with his paws licking them off, did a final stretch toward the sky standing tall, grabbed the sack in his teeth and bounced off out of sight on all fours, dragging the sack behind him.
That’s me, I thought and felt like crying. I don’t know why.
A desert owl flittered very close and I could see the sun coming up over the eastern mountains.
I made some coffee and watched the sun. Its rays crept up the side of the canyon and I could see the dark openings of many caves. A jack rabbit ran for dear life down an arroyo. She zig zagged to throw off the coyote which was chasing her. She escaped into the brush and down a hole somewhere, leaving the coyote scratching his head, then trotting back the way he had come to try again later. A skinny and scruffy lot, those coyotes, and I always see them with their tongues hanging out panting hard. They work hard for a living and are only successful a small percentage of the time.
The mountains were not too far away and I daydreamed of the meadows which transitioned up into the dark forest. Birds were everywhere and the wildflowers appeared thicker and thicker as one headed up into into the cool mountains where clear springs bubbled up through the rocks and poured down in little rivlets that became rushing torrents when it rained. Down down they went toward the desert, finding arroyos to guide them. And then the hot sun evaporated them quickly, except for the smart water that dove under the sand. They could save a person lost in the desert, if they knew to dig down into the shadows on the inside curve of the channel.
Then, far off, I could hear the sound of a truck. It was coming up the canyon following the arroyos. When it came into view below, I knew it was Chan so I started down toward the big cave where the others were just starting to get up.
It was Chan all right and he had a woman with him. It was Marcy Chavez. She was dressed in English tan riding pants and jacket with a bright red scarf around her head and dark sun glasses. Chan introduced me as Nakadema. Nak Mytosa, he called me. We all went into the large cave and sat in a circle fairly close to the entrance where the morning sun was streaming in.
Marcy Chavez was all business and after introductions and the many condolences offered by us, she began to talk.
“I know who murdered my husband and why,” she began. “It was the Office of Naval Intelligence along with the CIA and they murdered him because he found out about something in this area which is supposed to be top secret. They wanted to involve Los Campecinos Fieros simply because they want you out of this area and they figured this was a good way to finally bust all of you and round you up. They have a swat team prepared to invade Arturo’s place and come down here to get you too. They will probably murder all of you because they sure don’t want their big secret to leak out.”
“Oh shit,” said Chan.
“What secret?” I asked.
“An underground train.”
Raul looked like he was about to jump up to his feet.
“An underground train? What the fuck does that mean?”
“I’ll tell you what it means. It means that they have secret underground facilities all through this state extending clear up into Colorado and all the way down to Texas at least and who knows where else, and they have a high speed underground train connecting them.”
“Holy shit!” Rosita shouted.
“Well, how the hell did Enrique find out about it?” Martinez asked.
“Some of Enriques relatives live up on the reservation about fifty miles from here and they kept hearing some humming sound coming up from the ground. Enrique thought they were just imagining things until he went and checked it out for himself. Then he began his own investigation trying to find out what the hell it was.”
“How did he find out?” Singingwolf chimed in.
“He took a close relative with him. They took some digging equipment with them and went down into a cave near the reservation. Down at the end of a certain tunnel they cleared out a passageway and finally broke through to the train tunnel. It was very well lit and full of very advanced technology. They could see a good half mile in each direction. They patiently waited a few hours until they saw the high speed train coming way down the line at the end of a curve and they began snapping pictures of it. It’s some kind of super mag-lev train and goes so damn fast it just went by in a whoosh. He said it must have been going two or three hundred miles per hour at least.”
“Oh Christ,” I said, “no wonder its top secret. Do you still have the photos?”
“No. The Feds got them when they went through his things. I had no idea where he had hidden them. I had to split in a hurry and have been staying with some friends down in Albuquerque hiding under an assumed name. You couldn’t have gotten me anyway at the old number. It is now totally monitored by the Feds who are ready to trace anyone who might call it. This has the full financing of the U.S. Government, you know. I have hired some boys to keep track of what is happening. I was able to take Enrique’s cash before I had to split.”
“What do you think Chan?” I asked. Anyone could tell that we were all at a loss as to how to deal with the situation.
“We’re in some deep dodo, Nak. Arturo fled the rancho as soon as he found out about this and said he would come by and get Martinez and Rosita tonight for the bank job in Alamagordo tomorrow.”
“This really has me upset,” I said.
“Hey man,” said Martinez, “we want to do this job and have agreed. Case closed.”
“Ok man, Ok.” My head was spinning. As Marcy droned on, it became clear that we would have to high tail it. But where? How?
“Marcy, why the hell does the government have all these underground facilities? How could they be doing such things and no one know about it?” As soon as I asked the question I wish I hadn’t. I didn’t really give a shit what, why or how. I wanted to be rid of the whole damn thing and start a completely new life. My mind began to click into the gear of finding out how to do that.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” she said, “there are all kinds of speculations from underground weapons laboratories to genetic manipulation to alien research facilities to underground bunkers in case of nuclear war. No one really knows for sure, but whatever it is definitely smacks of very high importance to them, which no doubt means that they are up to no good.”
“If Enrigue was able to get photos, maybe we can too and bust this thing wide open,” said Chan.
“You’re insane! I said loudly, who the fuck cares? I just want out of it.”
“Well look partner,” said Raul, “there is no out of it now. We are about to be rubbed out!”
“Maybe you are Poncho, but none of this interests me at all.”
“Look guys,” said Chan, “we’ve got to be smart and consider how best to handle this. I say, get a photo of that train and bust them wide open.”
“You’re a fool Chan,” I said, “the U.S. Government has many ways of covering up and anything you might do will only get us killed faster.”
“We’ve got to do something, said Chan, “we are about to become erased!”
“Look, the U.S. Government covers up things all the time. Several years ago my father tried to protect his own land and they just murdered him and stole it in broad daylight with full media coverage! There is no justice nor law where the U.S. Government is concerned. They are fucking thieves and criminals!”
“Hey motherfucker, you are too!” Rosita was blazing.
“Oh shit yes!” I shouted. “Yes, I too am a criminal but goddamnit I don’t deceive a whole country for the sake of my own selfish agendas!”
“Oh, I see, you are a good criminal, huh!? Do you still have any loyalty to your friends!?” Rosita spit on the ground.
I could say nothing. I just got to my feet and went back up to my little cave.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt. When I look back now now that many moons have come and gone, I felt absolutely devastated at the time. I did not know then but I would never see Rosita again. I would never again hear her beautiful flamenco guitar.
We should always try to reconcile broken relationships as soon as possible. One never knows what will happen. Always be at peace whenever you must separate from those deep in your heart. You never really know if you will ever see them again. I never got to say goodbye.
I just went back up to my little cave that day and sat down on a rock. My mind was tormented. I had now decided to leave permenantly that night, but ask Singingwolf if she would come with me. Could we have a life together? I had no idea if she would be willing. I hadn’t gotten to know her that well. But, she was deep in my heart.
The desert sun beat down upon my head but I just sat. Toward evening I heard another truck winding up the arroyo and knew that it must be Arturo coming to pick up Martinez and Rosita for the bank job. I never went back down to see them off. I do regret that now. We had been dear friends for a long time and had experienced so many things together. We had always protected one another. I relived those years and the many seasons of peril. Such happiness was expressed around our campfires. We lived a rough life together, but had a lot of fun. Rositas flamenco music haunted me. I can still hear it in the night.
I didn’t find out until several weeks later what had happened. Rosita had fired her AK-47 into the air and demanded that everyone get down on the floor. Then, a security guard hiding behind the counter put a bullet through her forehead. As she tumbled backwards, Martinez caught her and at the same moment took two bullets in the face. They lay in blood, Matinez still embracing her.
Arturo tried to escape and had gotten clear out the door before he caught three bullets. Two in the back and one in the neck. The Soccoro Newspaper said it was a bloody mess. I wasn’t at all surprised. Somehow I had sensed that such a desperate and hasty move could only end badly.
I didn’t find out until three years later what happened to Chan through a friend of Marcy Chavez. Evidently Chan was still bent on photographing that undergound government train hoping to get some kind of leverage. I guess he still thought that something could be redeemed from the terrible situation. He had found the cave where Enrique had broken through and gotten his photos. But an army intelligence team captured him and took him to some government facility. There they tortured him and apparently did some kind of mind-control experiments. They made a manchurian candidate type assassin out of him. When he tried to murder the New Mexico State governer, he was killed in a car crash as he tried to get away after botching the job.
Master Fengue’s disappearance was never solved.
Phoenix went back to live with her grandmother and committed suicide a year later by drinking drano. She had become an alchoholic and was in a state of hopelessness and despair.
I had sat on the rock all day right through Arturo coming to pick up the three. I watched the red and orange rays of the setting sun in the west and felt the wind against my face. Los Campacinos Fieros was no more.
Soon, the moon was high. I still waited. After I knew that the four remaining below, Chan, Marcy, Phoenix and Singingwolf had gone to sleep, I carefully made it down to the big cave. I quietly nudged Singingwolf and she took my hand and followed me off into the night where we could talk.
I poured out my soul to her. I spoke as I had never spoken to anyone in my entire life. I told her that I loved her and wanted to be with her and spend the rest of my life with her. She said that she too had strong feelings for me. When we finally kissed and held each other, there was no longer any doubt. I have never felt such a moment of beauty, hope, confidence and sheer pleasure in all my years.
She knew where they had hid the truck that had belonged to Tomas and we found it covered up with brush inside one of the little cave. The keys were still in the ignition. Together we cleaned off the brush and rolled it quite a ways down the arroyo before I felt that we were far enough away. It had about a half a tank of gas. When I looked behind the seat I was surprised that Eagle Man’s old Winchester was still there. I had wondered where it was when Arturo pulled up the trunk where he had hidden my things. I still have that old Winchester to this day.
Something else was behind the seat too. It was the water jug with a quartz crystal in it. I wondered why Tomas had a crystal in his water jug.
Later Singingwolf’s father, Red Eagle, would smile and tell me an ancient legend about how a Navajo man had become lost in the desert with no water and no food. Finally when he could go no further, he climbed across some rocks and down into a little depression where he found a tiny spring coming up out of the ground. When he looked at the little pool of water, it was covered with bugs on top. He knew that meant the water was not poisonous and with his two hands moved the bugs aside, put his face down right into the water and began to drink. Then he noticed something shining down in the water. He reached down with his hand and brought up a beautiful quartz crystal. Then he realized that he was no longer hungry nor thirsty and felt completely refreshed and strong. In fact, he felt completely renewed. New strength flooded him that he had never experienced and later that day was able to find an encampment of his people and was saved. He kept the quartz crystal and found that when he placed it in an open jug of water and kept it out in the sun, it became very powerful medicine. Since then, some of the Navajos do this. I do it myself now all the time.
But that night I had no idea about such medicine as we drove that old clanking truck up to her parents place. It was as if Singingwolf and I had known each other all our lives. She spoke of her life with her parents, her hopes and dreams and I told her as best I could what I had gone through and how there was no doubt that this was the time for a major change.
As we rattled along, I undid my shoulder holster, took out my Glock, wiped any fingerprints off with my handkerchief, put the gun back into the shoulder holster and flung it out the window into the desert.
Her Navajo parents are two of the greatest and most wonderful people I have ever met. They fully accepted me right away. Her father, Red Eagle, wears his long grey hair with a red handkerchief tied around his head. He is a master flute maker. Her mother, Namalte, who died only last year, continually made all kinds of Indian crafts. She made moccasins in many different styles, did beautiful paintings on hand made pottery, created all kind of items out of leather, silver and bone and specialized in Indian jewelry. Singingwolf learned to do the same over the years and is now as good as her mother ever was. She and her father sell their items in Santa Fe and eventually started a successful business online. Red Eagle’s Indian flutes became the choice of many recording artists. Singingwolf makes me a new pair of high top moccasins every year.
And even though Red Eagle became successful, he continues to live in that hand-made adobe house up on the mesa. Red Eagle put up an electrical generator five years ago. It is operated by solar and wind power. He now has a satellite disk and two computers. Out back, there is still the corral with nine horses and a deep well.
Singingwolf and I lived out back in a run down shack when we first arrived. We stayed there until we moved up to the foothills where I built a nice hogan. It is only fifteen miles away from her father’s adobe house. We travel back and forth on horseback. I own no car nor truck and never will.
I go up into the mountains and hunt, poach would probably be a better word. I lay traps and bring many skins and furs down to Singingwolf exactly as I did to Namalte when she was still alive.
Singingwolf and I discovered many things up in these strange mountains. On horseback we found a very lush area carved out by a bubbling spring. There I planted corn, beans and squash according to the Hopi tradition. A little higher up, I planted apple trees. I was alive for the first time in my life. Singingwolf gave birth to our daughter Misa and then a son whom we named Tomas.
Grandmother Namalte saw to it that they were well educated in Santa Fe. My son, Tomas learned how to make fine flutes from his Grandfather and also became a wonderful musician. I hear him playing in the night while the coyotes sing down the canyon. Somehow Rositas lovely guitar is superimposed upon my soul.
I have to remain on the lam. I can never go back into American society again and don’t want to. I grow old and will stay here. We live off the land which blesses us with everything. There are many friends among the people.
I was formally adopted into the Navajo tribe a year after we arrived at her parent’s place.
One night, I burned Nakadema Mytosa. It was at the end of a peyote ceremony with Red Eagle, Namalte, Singingwolf, my son and daughter, several friends and some members of the Native American Church down from Arizona.
The Shaman was painted from head to foot in red, black and ochre. I had never met him before. None of us had. He ceased his medicine dance and walked over to me. I was sitting on the ground. Everything went totally silent. He grabbed my arms and pulled me up to my feet. With his hands on my shoulders, he gazed into my face with frightening wide eyes for a long time. Then he slowly backed away with an expession of awed amazement, raised both arms out in front of him, fingers pointing at me. And then, with a loud voice which all could hear…Standing Bear!