Thursday, June 11, 2020

Grove – A Curt Huntinghawk Story (Part 1 of a 5 Part Series), Post #120

As promised, this week I’ll bow to a little pressure and give you some more of Curt Huntinghawk. I call this a series rather than a short story because after cutting it from near novella length, I still ended up with 5 installments. Beyond that point, I wasn’t willing to go.

A Curt Huntinghawk Story

          Four vultures circling over the hot Sonoran Desert caught the two Red Rezes attention. As Curt Huntinghawk and Grover Whitedeer watched, more birds joined the quartet and set up a slow spiral descent.
          “Whatever it is, it’s big,” Grove observed, gunning the four-wheel drive vehicle across the hard desert pan. They were only two hours into their patrol of a stretch of the Mexican border on the lookout for drug runners.
          Hawk’s deep baritone filled the cabin. “Hope to hell it’s not another illegal.” His biceps rolled as he tossed a twig he’d been idly chewing out the open window. The pair seldom used the air conditioner because it made exiting the vehicle more insufferable.
          Grove flapped a hand toward the twenty or more buzzards now wheeling in the sky like a black-feathered tornado. “Where’d they all come from?”
          “They’re just trying to earn a living, Grove,” Hawk joked grimly.
          After Grove halted the truck at the top of the rise, they got out with rifles at the ready. Fifty yards down a wash, something lay unmoving. One turkey vulture contemplating it from a perch on a nearby rock dropped to the ground. Hawk fired his rifle into the air, but the carrion bird only retreated to a more remote roost.
          “Oh, shit!” Hawk said as they drew closer.
          As two-year veterans of the Rezagados Colorados, or Red Rezes, an elite unit of Indian trackers used by the Border Patrol to hunt drug runners along the Mexican border, they had seen dozens of wetbacks left to die on the desert by their coyotes or guides. But this was different. The man lying in the arroyo had been murdered, his chest ripped apart by a high-powered rifle.
          Hawk went back to the truck to radio his boss Amadeo Tomé to contact the county sheriff. While they waited for the deputies to arrive, Grove remained close to keep the vultures at bay while Hawk walked a big circle. By the time Sheriff Adam Reed arrived an hour later, they had a story to tell.
          “The bad guy parked up here, Sheriff,” Hawk explained, indicating indistinct tracks in the hard pan. “After he shot the man, he walked down the slope to the body, keeping to the rocks. On his way back up, he wiped out all his tracks. You can see smudges but not a clear print.”
          The Sheriff grunted. “Left us nothing, huh?”
          “There’s something over here,” Grove said. The something was a three-foot length of tire track where the killer crossed a sandy spot.
          “This far out in the desert, had to be a four-wheel rig,” the lawman observed. “You fellows see any sign of one on your patrol?”
          “Nothing. Not even a dust plume,” Hawk replied. “But see that chink out of the tread. We’ll know that tire when we see it again.”
          Sheriff Reed glanced down the slope to his men working the crime scene. “So you figure the victim was shot first, then the killer went down to the body… for what? To make sure he was dead?”
          “Wouldn’t have climbed down for that,” Grove said. “He’d just pump another couple of rounds into the man. He went to get something.”
          “Drugs,” the sheriff suggested.
          “That’s what we figure,” Hawk confirmed. “We didn’t get too close to the body; didn’t want to mess up the crime scene. But when your people are finished, we can take a look for signs to read.”
          An hour later, the two Rezes searched the area, now thoroughly trampled by sheriff’s deputies and the medical examiner’s people. Hawk was the one who found an impression almost obscured by the deputies’ footprints.
          “Something about the size of a duffel bag was dropped here. That’s what the killer came for.”
          “How you know?” a deputy demanded.
          Hawk eyed him coolly. “Because it’s not here.” Their unofficial part of the investigation over, the two Indians resumed their patrol.
          “Hey, bro,” Grove broke the silence after a mile or so. “Aren’t you tired of living like a monk? How about we go across the border tonight.” To Grove ‘going across the border’ meant only one thing…poontang, as the southeastern Woodland Indian called it.
          Hawk recognized a ploy to get a gruesome murder off his partner’s mind. “You ever think about settling down?”
          “What’s the matter with us. Man, we’re twenty-three years old—”
          “Not me, Tonto. Still a young buck at twenty-two.”
          “Yeah, for another month or so. Seriously, why haven’t we found somebody to get serious about and settle down. You know, have kids.”
          “Overrated,” Grove quipped.
          “You got any kids?”
          “Not that I know of. No matter how drunk I get, I’m kinda careful about that.”
          “Don’t gimme that, I’ve seen you ride bareback.”
          “Yeah, if she’s using something.”
          “That’s putting a lot of faith in somebody.”
          “Ain’t that the truth. How about you?”
          “Kids, you mean? Nah.”
          Hawk glanced out the window to study a pile of rocks known as Dragon’s Back where he’d met and fallen in love with a young illegal Mexican national. Ramon Aquila had introduced Hawk to his secret life. Hawk spoke in a near whisper. “Wonder if we’re looking in the wrong place?”
          “What do you mean?”
          Hawk’s mind returned to the truck from wherever it had gone in time to cover his gaffe. “Crap, we find them in bars and on the streets.”
          “Where you wanna find them? In church?” Grove seemed his question serious consideration. “You figure church chicks fuck?”
          "You’re impossible! Every conversation ends up about screwing.”
          “Answer my question? You wanna go across tonight? We’ve got the weekend off.”
          Hawk pumped enthusiasm into his words, but his heart wasn’t in it. “Sure, let’s go.”

          Hawk and Grove frequented Mama Maria’s when they looked for a woman across the border in Mexico because her prostitutes were inspected regularly and thoroughly. They picked a couple of decent looking women of a proper age and got their ashes hauled. On the drive back across the border, Hawk felt prickly and vaguely dissatisfied. While he’d been in the middle of the act with the girl, his thoughts strayed to Ramon. And—he turned to glance at his partner—to Grove.
          God, he looked great! Nothing better’n a good-looking Woodland Indian. Unless it was a good-looking Plains Indian, or… oh, hell, a good-looking Indian.
          “What?” Grove asked.
          “You were thinking about my girl tonight. You wished you were with her instead of the one you ended up with.”
          Close, but not on target. “She did seem like a hot tamale.”
          Grove grinned. “She had a hot little twat, I can tell you.”
          “Hot what?”
          Hawk laughed aloud.
          Grove went defensive. “It’s good word. What we called it back home, anyway.”
          Hawk snickered. “What are you, a redskin or a southerner?”
          “Both! No law against that.”
          Hawk’s morale took a nosedive as soon as he opened the door to the rented adobe house where he lived alone. He almost regretted turning down Grove’s invitation to the Blue Mesa, a bar many of the Red Rezes frequented. He’d been afraid to go. Given the wild thoughts filling his head, he couldn’t chance alcohol unleashing his tongue.
          He missed Ramon Aquila… longed for the boy with every fiber of his body. But Ramon was gone and wouldn’t be back. He was a fugitive from the INS, and risked prison if he returned. So Hawk had sent him back to Durango, Mexico, ending that sweet part of his life forever.
          And now? Now, he was slowly, but surely falling for his best friend. Although Grove was adventurous and might do a lot of things out of curiosity, something like that would get in the way of his macho self-image. Danger lay in that direction.


It’s pretty clear that Curt Huntinghawk, the man usually in control, has a problem. How’s he going to handle it? Let’s see next week.

As usual when I have a three-part or more story, I’ll post weekly until it’s ended. Then I’ll return to first and third Thursday of the week.

Tell your friends to order a copy of Cut Hand and Johnny Two-Guns from Dreamspinner Press. I’d like to convince them to publish the rest of the Cut Hand Series, including the unpublished manuscript Wastelakapi… Beloved, 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:
Twitter: @markwildyr

The following are buy links for CUT HAND:

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 each Thursday until the story is finished. Then we’ll return to first and third Thursday of the month..

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