Thursday, July 2, 2020

Grove – A Curt Huntinghawk Story (Part 4 of a 5 Part Series), Post #123

Is Hawk’s friendship with Grove lost? At least, Grove didn’t come out swinging when he caught Hawk coping a feel. Maybe Hawk can convince him he was just testing to see if he was conscious or not? Yeah, right. And how close are they to catching the rogue INS agent? Let’s see what happens today.

A Curt Huntinghawk Story

          Monday afternoon the sheriff intercepted them as they returned to headquarters. “Can we talk a minute, fellows?” They joined the lawman in his big Crown Victoria. “Got a little intelligence from south of the border. Supposed to be a big shipment coming through here tomorrow morning early. What’s the likeliest way through the desert?”
          “Big Willow Wash across to Dragon’s Back. From there, they could go two or three directions. That’s the way I’d do it,” Hawk replied.
          “You guys been right so far, so I’ll bet on you again. Can you go out on patrol early tomorrow?”
          “Sure. Any luck tracing that tire?”
          “It’s the same tire the INS uses on all their vehicles. Saw the track in the parking lot a couple of times, but so far we haven’t spotted the vehicle it’s mounted on. But it might be too late. Some of my people have shown a lot of interest in the vehicles at INS, so the guy might have wised up.”
          “By dawn, we’ll be in a place above Big Willow where we can park and not be seen easily,” Hawk said.
          “That within radio range?”
          “Yeah, but what good’s that going to be if the guy’s INS? He’ll have all our frequencies. If we need you, we’ll call on our cell phones.”
          It was quiet again the rest of the way to headquarters. After telling Amadeo they were going to patrol early the next morning at the sheriff’s request, Hawk drove Grove home. They agreed to meet at four a.m. in the headquarters parking lot.
          Hawk slept surprisingly well and was rested when he pulled into headquarters in the darkness early the next morning. They loaded into their Rez four-by and headed for the desert. It was breaking light when they parked in a draw that gave a good view to the south. Grove pulled the vehicle into some mesquite bushes to break up the outline of the truck.
         Grove opened a thermos and offered coffee. Hawk gratefully accepted. His hand brushed Grove’s when he took the cup. The electricity was still there. They watched in silence until full light. Grove got out once to piss, and then Hawk took his turn. He was just getting back into the truck when Grove spoke.
          “Hawk, I’ve been thinking—”
          Hawk held up his hand as the sound of a motor became audible, growing steadily louder. A green INS four-wheel vehicle passed within a hundred yards of them and slowly motored to the southwest.
          “I’ll check it,” Hawk said, easing out of the truck. “Not the same vehicle,” he told his partner a minute later. “Or else he got wise and changed tires. They look like a new set.”
          The INS four-wheel hove into sight as it climbed a slight incline. To their surprise, it halted behind a small embankment sheltering it from the south, but in plain sight of them. A tall figure got out of the vehicle and stood peering over the embankment. They took turns with a pair of binoculars.
          “Can you tell who it is?” Grove asked.
          Hawk shook his head as the agent settled down to wait.
          “Uh oh,” Hawk said after an hour. “He’s spotted something. Damn, I can’t see, can you?”
          “No. Yeah! One…two…three…no, four men coming up out of Big Willow. Man, they’re loaded down. If that’s all cocaine, it’s worth a lot of money. Hey! What’s he doing?”
          The INS agent had returned to his vehicle. He drew a rifle from its rack and steadied himself against the embankment. Grove hit the horn and held it down, but the ambusher held steady and fired. One man fell; the three others broke for the wash. The killer didn’t hesitate, he swung around and fired. Something crashed through the trees and starred the truck’s windshield.
          “Mo-ther-fuck-er!” Grove sang, scrambling out of the car. Hawk bailed out the other side. Both men turned rifles on the distant target as the killer broke for his car.
          “He’s running! Put some holes in the vehicle so we can ID it.”
          “Rather put holes in that son-of-a-bitch!” Grove yelled, throwing shots rapidly.
          Both of them emptied their magazines, and the four-wheel seemed to lurch before it disappeared over the rise. “We got a tire, I think,” Hawk yelled, scrambling into the truck.  While Grove tore out of the wash after the wounded vehicle, Hawk got on the raido to relate events on the sheriff’s band, then switching to the Rez wavelength to bring Amadeo up to date. Hawk banged on the dash for Grove to stop and went to help the man who was down. Grove was off again before Hawk even slammed the door.
          There was nothing Hawk could do for the traficante; he was dead. From his armaments, the man was the group’s guard, but they’d been so greedy they’d loaded him down with drugs as well. He hadn’t had a chance.
          Gunfire sent Hawk racing up the long slope. He knew exactly what had happened. The rogue agent had abandoned his vehicle, backtracked, and was trying to take Grove out. It seemed like an hour before he covered the long mile to where the volleys were coming from. He eased up to a big rock at the top of the rise and took in the situation. The agent held the high ground behind rocks and a clump of juniper. Grove had taken refuge behind their four-by. Nobody was hurt, but the Rez vehicle looked disabled.
           Hawk reloaded his empty weapon and poured four rounds into the clump of rocks and bushes where the killer hid. Immediately, return fire came his direction. Grove took the opportunity to shift positions. When he started firing from a new direction, the agent retreated, working his way northwest. Probably where he’d left his stricken vehicle. When Hawk heard a sluggish motor turn over and catch, he raced from cover and gained sight of the INS vehicle as it slowly started to limp away. Hawk threw his rifle to his shoulder and started punching holes in the hood. The four-by stalled.
          More gunfire struck the truck from the back. Grove aimed for the gas tank, and moments later liquid soaked the sand and rocks at the rear of the vehicle. Lead began striking rocks sending up innocent looking sparks as Grove tried to ignite the gasoline. He succeeded. The flames were almost invisible when they first caught but grew and turned orange. There was no explosion, but the leaking gasoline fed the fire until the rear of the vehicle was engulfed.
          Hawk was working his way around to the front when a single gunshot sent him into the dirt. Cautiously, he raised his head and spotted a man was slumped in the front seat of the INS truck. Wary of a trick, but prompted by the flames, Hawk came down out of the rocks and approached the front of the car. Grove reached the open driver’s side door at the same time he did. An INS agent they both knew and liked lay forehead to the steering wheel, not bothered in the least by the building inferno. Several wounds were evident on the man, but the shot through the bottom of the jaw from the revolver still clutched in the dead man’s hand had been what killed him.
          Wordlessly, they pulled the corpse from the burning vehicle and laid it a safe distance away. Then they worked to make certain the flames didn’t spread. The sheriff had just pulled up and crawled out of his vehicle when the back end of the burning four-by gave a loud pop and split itself open. Thereafter, the flames began to die.


It looks as though the killer INS agent has been called to account. But we still don’t know why the man went rogue. Pursuit of that killer was the last thing holding Hawk’s friendship with Grove together. What happens now that it’s resolved? Next week, we finish the story.

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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