markwildyr.com, Post #102
|Courtesy of Wikipedia.com|
Some of you have asked for more of Huntinghawk, so I’ve gone back to my series of stories featuring Curt Huntinghawk. There are six of them, so we might spend some time with the big Indian. Whenever you tire of him, let me know. Here we go with the first part of the first story I wrote about him.
Curt Huntinghawk found the print in soft sand between fragments of tufa. He almost missed the mark left by a boot with a deep gash in the heel because it was in the shadow of a cholla spine. It was clear though. Almost too clear. He lifted his head and searched the ridge as the hair on the nape of his neck bristled. The Phantom, or El Espectro, as he was known by the rest of the group, was too canny for a mistake like this. Hawk had his own private name for the drug-runner… Wolverine, after the pugnacious, tenacious, tough beast of Hawk’s own north country.
A member of a group of Native Americans—a term he detested since anyone born in America was one—Huntinghawk was employed by the Border Patrol to track smugglers along the Mexican border. Dubbed the “stragglers” or “slowpokes” by the locals because they followed along behind people they tracked, the unit adopted the name Rezagados Colorados… Red Stragglers.
Hawk, as everyone dubbed him, considered the year he had been with them the most interesting and challenging in his life. Of course, prior to this, that had consisted mostly of some logging and warming the benches in various employment offices while he tried to stay out of trouble.
Right now, Hawk figured he’d found new trouble. Wolverine would know someone was on his trail learning his habits and slowly closing in on him. As Wolverine was almost certainly a local, he could not permit this. Hawk scanned the flats of the Lower Sonoran desert. A smuggler’s road ran five miles to the north. A mile to the west was an unmarked water source located in some rocky hills called the Dragon’s Back. The Mexican border lay south, and ten miles to the east lay the closest town. It was mid-day, so town was not an option for the Wolverine. The print pointed north, but Hawk was betting on the water, a clear, pure spring that bubbled up in the hilly rocks and trickled through an arroyo a mile or so before evaporating beneath the hot Sonoran sun.
The Rezagados were not peace officers; they carried government ID’s as protection instead of side arms. Most of them lugged a personal hunting rifle when tracking traficantes as a more substantial shield against harm… for snakes, they claimed when questioned.
Hawk rested his Winchester in the crook of his arm, tugged his broad brimmed hat more firmly on his head and turned his steps westward, traveling fast. The closer to the waterhole he got, the more his hackles raised. In the grip of some internal alarm, Hawk suddenly dropped to the ground and wiggled his way to a small boulder that provided better than the thin cover of the surrounding mesquite and paloverde. Crawling around the rock he halted abruptly. Coiled in the shade of the rock was the granddaddy of all rattlesnakes. Obviously irritated by his presence, the snake struck with barely a warning rattle. Hawk threw himself backwards, snatching his hat from his head and throwing it straight into the dripping fangs. Something slammed him violently in the head, and he rolled unconscious into an arroyo.
Noises penetrated his foggy brain, setting nerves on edge. Damn, can’t a man get some sleep? Sleep? He fought his eyes open and winced from the brilliance of the late afternoon sun. He was flat of his back on the floor of a shallow gulch. Standing almost at his feet, staring at him with bugged eyes, was a young man. When Hawk struggled to his elbows, the youth turned and fled down the wash. Shit! No wonder the kid ran. Hawk was as naked as the day he was born.
“¡Ven!” he croaked. “¡Ven aqui! No estoy La Migra.” The kid was almost certainly an illegal, and Hawk tried to assure him he wasn’t looking for wetbacks.
A cautious head appeared around a bend of the arroyo. Slowly, the kid stumbled forward, and Hawk saw the youth was in little better shape than he was.
“¿Quien esta?” the boy asked. “¿Porque lo desnudo?”
Hawk crawled uncertainly to his feet, too groggy to worry about his nakedness. “Sorry, don’t speak your lingo. Just a few words.”
“Oh,” the boy said. “Who you are?” he asked in heavily accented English. “Why you no clothes?”
“Bad guy shot me,” Hawk explained, not sure that was true. Maybe Wolverine got close enough to simply club him. “Stripped me and left me to die.”
“Oh,” the youth said again, stepping closer and peering at Hawk’s forehead. The Indian put a hand to where the boy’s brown eyes were focused: it came away with dried blood.
“Damn!” Hawk breathed. That was a close thing. He had been shot. The bullet must not have actually struck him, but passed close enough so that the concussion did the damage. He looked around and found a smoldering pile of ashes, all that remained of his clothing. There was no sign of his boots, but his billfold lay nearby, identification and credit cards intact. Half buried in sand behind a two-hundred-year-old saguaro, Hawk found the rifle Wolverine had not seen. He steadied himself by leaning on the barrel and tried to assess the situation. A finger tapping his broad chest brought his attention back to the boy.
“¿Agua?” the boy asked, moving his finger to his dry lips. “Wa…ter?”
Hawk pointed his chin to the west. “Over there. Not far. Half a mile. But it’ll be slow going.” He opened the breech to the rifle and blew out dirt. Satisfied, he levered in a cartridge and turned to find the boy studying him. Hawk was reminded of his nakedness, but there wasn’t much he could do about it until he got to the waterhole where he had emergency supplies stashed… if Wolverine hadn’t plundered them.
Hawk led the way, going slowly to avoid prickly pear and thistles and sharp rocks… and that damned rattlesnake! Once the boy stumbled against him, and Hawk pulled him into the hollow of his arm for mutual support. It took over an hour to reach the spring. The boy fell to the side of the small pool and lapped greedily at the cool liquid. Hawk allowed him a decent drink before pulling him away.
“Not too much, you’ll get sick. Wait a few minutes and then take another drink, okay? Understand? “¿Comprende?”
“Y-yes,” the boy stammered. Hawk took a good look at him. He’d thought the kid was around fourteen or so because of the beardless cheeks, but now decided he was older.
“My name’s Hawk,” he said, holding out his hand. The kid staggered to his feet and accepted it in a faltering grip.
“Ramon. Ramon Aquila. You are indio… Indian, no?”
“Yeah. I’m a redskin. You sneaking over the border all by yourself, Ramon?”
“No, no! Six! But we see green truck and coyote, he run off. Ramon get separated. Think Ramon die here by himself until see smoke. When find el guapo in arroyo, I think we die together.
Hawk started at the term. Trips across the border to visit some señoritas taught him guapo meant handsome. Reminded once again of his naked condition, he padded over to the place he’d buried his cache. It was still there. He drew out clothing, including a worn pair of boots, some dried and canned food, and a couple of blankets. They’d spend the night to rest his sore feet and allow the kid to get his strength back.
Hawk stood in the thin stream of cold water below the pool and soaked his cut and bruised feet for fifteen minutes before soaping himself all over. The bath improved his outlook a thousand percent. He dressed and tended his cuts from the small first-aid kit in his stores. Deciding fresh air would be preferable to socks and boots at this point, he spread the blankets and put together something for them to eat while Ramon took his own bath. Hawk paused a moment to study the boy’s rangy body in the dying light. He had mocha skin like those girls Hawk sometimes visited. The boy went awkward when he saw he was being watched.
Hawk didn’t speak until after they finished eating and the area was policed. “We’ll have to spend the night,” he explained, “but I want to move away from the pool because animals come here to drink at night. Don’t want to keep them from water. Tomorrow we’ll head for my truck.”
“What… what happen to Ramon?” the boy asked uncertainly.
“I’m not a man-hunter… not for illegals, anyway. I’ll take you to my place until we can figure out what to do, okay?”
The boy nodded. “Okay,”
“It’s going to get cold here tonight, Ramon. I only have two blankets, so we’ll have to sleep close together.” The boy nodded again.
Hawk experienced a strange night. His head ached from the wound, but he didn’t think that what kept waking him. Some large animal slaking its thirst—maybe a panther down from the Sierras—pulled him from his sleep once, but something else was disturbing him. Finally, he decided it was the pressure of the boy’s sleeping form molded against him. He’d never slept with a man before except when he and some of his buddies piled into a single bed at the height of a drunk. By then they were more passed out than sleeping. A couple of times Ramon whimpered and pulled himself against Hawk as if seeking protection.
So now Hawk and Ramon have found each other, and Hawk is experiencing some strange things. What will come of it. Let’s see next time.
Now a renewal of my tired plea for 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.