markwidlry.com, Post #99
The following is an excerpt from the beginning of my unpublished novelette called Red Rez. It’s the second mini-book I’ve written about Curt Huntinghawk and his partner, Grover Whitedeer. They are running partners in their work as warriors in a modern-day organization of Native Americans deputized to keep watch along the Arizona-Mexico border. Let’s take a look at the opening to the novelette.
Hip-sprung and sweat-stained, Curt Huntinghawk sought the shade of a paloverde before scanning the twisted, tortured panorama spread out before him. The Sonoran Desert, sliced and diced by an endless web of arroyos, hills, and boulders and arguably the most forbidding territory on the planet, cut a wide swath from southeast to northwest. Something was always poised to bite, sting, rip, tear, or puncture a man at his first misstep. An unseen army of traficantes, coyotes, illegals, brigands, or just plain citizens might linger over the next ridge, secure from discovery unless rooted out by the laborious process of tracking them down on foot.
Senior members of the Rezagados Colorados, an organization of Native Americans deputized by the Border Patrol to keep a drug watch along the Mexican border, Hawk and his partner, Grover Whitedeer, searched for drug mules. The work was hot, exhausting, dangerous, and the most satisfying and challenging either man had ever undertaken. The skill, strength, endurance, and downright stubbornness required of the job put them in spiritual contact with the warrior clans of their ancestors, even if they were working for the white man. The Red Rezes, as the group was popularly labeled, accounted for over half the drug interdictions in the territory, a record of which they were justly proud.
Grove, two inches shorter and twenty pounds lighter than Hawk’s six-foot, hundred-sixty-pound frame, motioned with his chin. “Some Border Patrol flyboy’s up.”
Hawk studied the growing speck in the distance. Piper Cub. Better move out in the open so he can identify us. Otherwise, he’s liable to call out the Border Patrol to chase its own tail.”
The two Indians stepped out into the harsh sunlight, confident their tan uniforms would identify them satisfactorily. The Piper buzzed overhead and circled back toward them.
“What’s the stupid motherfucker doing?” Grove asked.
“Damn!” Hawk yelped as the pilot roared low overhead and waggled his wings. “He might as well drop smoke on us. If there’s any bad guys out there they know exactly where we are.”
“Did you get the dumb-ass’s tail number?”
“Naw. I was too busy disbelieving what I was seeing. Can you believe that dumb shit?” Hawk said. “I’m gonna get to high ground and report in. Amadeo might want us to shoot the son-of-a-bitch down if he comes back over.” Amadeo Tomé was the Red Rezes’s head man.
“Let’s do it anyway!” Grove grinned, transforming him from merely handsome-as-hell to devilishly good-looking.
“Quit daydreaming and go get the Jeep.” Hawk turned and made his way up the jumble of rocks behind them. As he reported in on a hand-held radio, a wisp of drifting dust caught his attention. Curious, he scanned the rough, wrinkled terrain through the small binoculars hanging around his neck. Nothing.
A careful man, Hawk stood motionless in the burning sun for a full fifteen minutes before spotting the dust tail moving west-northwest. Probably making for Dragon’s Back, a huge hogback of rugged, decaying rock that sheltered the only natural water source in the area. Dominating the horizon no more than five miles as the crow flies to the west, the hogback was more like twenty through the washes and arroyos.
Grove had the four-by fired up by the time Hawk dropped into the passenger’s seat. “Dust trail moving pretty fast toward Dragon’s Back. Couldn’t tell if it’s two-legged, four-legged, or motorized.”
“Man, we might be chasing a dust devil. And you know those things twist your face up something awful when you get caught in one of them.” Grove made fast and loose with one of the local legends.
“Uh uh. That dust devil waited until the plane was out of sight before he moved.”
Three washes south, they found tire tracks in the sandy bottom. It was unusual for traficantes to use vehicles on this stretch of desert, but the bastards tried everything sooner or later. The two Rezes followed the tracks at speed, holding onto the door posts for support as they bounced wildly around the interior despite seat restraints. Risking his head to ironwood spines and catclaw hooks, Hawk snatched off his hat and hung out the window trying to hear the truck they were chasing. They always drove with the windows down on the blazing desert; it was too enervating to bail out of an air-conditioned vehicle to chase bad guys on foot in the desert sun. Chances were the occupants of the other vehicle were more interested in comfort, which would give them an edge… provided the drug couriers didn’t spot the dust plume on their rear. That wasn’t likely given the rooster tail the fugitive vehicle was raising.
When they began to overtake the dust kicked up by the truck in front of them, Grove threw the Jeep in four-wheel drive and abandoned the sandy wash, bouncing over a crumbling tufa mound. The way was shorter, but hell on the kidneys. As they climbed, Hawk caught a glimpse of the other truck in the arroyo below them.
“Cripes! What the hell is that?” he exclaimed.
Grove breached the top of the hill and braked to a halt. “For crying out loud! What the hell is that?” he parroted.
The contraption wasn’t quite a tank, but it was close. The drug dealers had taken an old army surplus four-wheel-drive deuce and a half and fortified it with sheet metal. Gun barrels bristled like porcupine quills.
“Shee-it!” Grove groaned. “Call in the cavalry!”
“They probably have a receiver. They’ll hear us if we do. Get us in front of them. That sucker travels on rubber; it can be stopped.”
Grove put the truck in gear and made his way down the far side of the rise. More than once Hawk feared they had overcome their center of gravity, but his companion was a good driver and kept the vehicle more or less on four wheels. Eventually they crawled down a steep, rocky into the wash well ahead of the monster laboring up the arroyo.
“You wanta block them with the Jeep?” Grove asked.
“No. I want it turned around and ready to get the hell out of here. We’re lighter than they are and have better ground clearance. We can go over the rocks…they can’t.”
“Then what, Tonto?”
“Then we flatten every tire they have.”
“And then what?”
Hawk shrugged. “We’ll play it by ear.”
Grove shook his head. “You’re betting my ass on your ear?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of that ass. It belongs to me, you know.”
“I only lend it to you part time, Redskin.”
“Maybe so, but it’s as precious to me as it is to you,” Hawk laughed, taking the time to pat his partner’s hip lean fondly.
“Yeah, but will you love me when I come home with half of it shot off?” Grove grumbled as he maneuvered their vehicle into a side wash where it was easily accessible. “You gonna stand out there and give them the old ‘halt in the name of the law’ routine?”
“No, but I’ll cover you while you do it.”
“You’re daydreaming, Cowboy. I’m not gonna risk this perfect red skin. Aren’t you afraid some lawyer’ll stand up in court and yell about probably cause?”
“It’s probable cause, Dumbo. And if armor-plate and gun ports aren’t enough probable cause, then tough shit!”
Collecting their old-fashioned, lever action rifles from the gun rack, the two Rezes cast around for decent positions. Hawk crossed the broad, sandy arroyo and sought the cover of a solid boulder. Grove lay behind a natural earthen berm. They waited patiently until the big vehicle crawled clumsily around the bend. When it was laboring through the deep sand no more than forty yards away, Hawk gave the signal.
They popped both of the front tires, but the behemoth came plowing on. It took half a dozen copper-jacketed shells before the self-sealing chambers shredded. The big truck ground to a halt, the front end dropping like some gargantuan creature brought to its knees.
The return gunfire was sporadic and confused. No one had spotted them yet. Methodically, the Indians worked on the double rear tires until they gave up the ghost, too. The truck was now immobilized. Most of the traficantes’ weapons were at the sides or rear of the vehicle. Head-on, they were only able to bring to bear a couple of ineffectual side arms. Shifting to the windshield, partially protected by a steel grate, Hawk shattered the glass and sent two figures ducking. Grove worked on the radiator until he punctured its shield. The overheated motor spewed scalding steam straight up the arroyo.
Hawk couldn’t believe the dumb fuckers had left their most precious asset, a big canvas water bag, hanging over the bumper to allow evaporation to cool the liquid. He gave a grunt of satisfaction when it split and spilled its contents into the thirsty sand.
Finally deciding the safety of a disabled, armor-plated truck stranded in the blazing desert was illusory, three men piled out of the rear of the vehicle, spraying the countryside indiscriminately with automatic weapons fire. Hawk cursed and gathered his feet beneath him. He hadn’t faced Uzis since they ambushed the notorious trafficker, Wolverine, a year back. He sent some shots zinging down the arroyo and breached the ditch on his shoulders like a gymnast. Once he joined his partner, they emptied their weapons at the deuce and a half and scrambled for the Jeep. The vehicle was halfway up the side of the rocky hill before the bad guys knew they were leaving. The four-by took a single bullet through the back window. It snagged a seat and ricocheted up through the canvas roof.
Once they were a safe distance away, they radioed Amadeo to report their location and situation. Then they headed for Dragon’s Back to deprive the traffickers of water. Within minutes the Piper circled overhead to watch the drug runners from a safe altitude. The pilot waggled his wings again, expressing approval of their work. By the time the heavy reinforcements arrived an hour later, the two young men had stripped, washed off in Dragon Back’s clear, cold stream, and made wild, noisy love, their emotions heightened by the recent violence.
I don’t know about you, but I find Curt and Grove to be an interesting couple. They live action-packed lives I sometimes dream about but would never attempt. Maybe I’ll give you another look into them next week.
Now a plug for my work. Amazon permits you to read a short passage of my novels, Cut Hand and Johnny Two-Guns. I also believe the STARbooks-published River Otter, Echoes of the Flute, and Medicine Hair are still up. I sure would like to get the final book in the Cut Hand Series, Wastelakapi… Beloved, published, but it’ll take some help from readers to get Dreamspinner interested.
My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:
Website and blog: markwildyr.com
The following are buy links for CUT HAND:
DSP Publications: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/cut-hand-by-mark-wildyr-420-b
And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!
Until next time.
New posts at 6:00 a.m. on the first and third Thursdays of the month.