markwildyr.com, Post #128
Last week, Grove flew away into the wild blue yonder to see his mother, recently struck down by cancer. Then Hawk’s boss Amadeo assigned him a temporary partner… who turns out to be a handsome, eager young man with a bad case of hero worship. How will that work out? The last we saw of Hawk, he was heading around behind the Blue Mesa Bar to have another beer with Robert his new partner.
INTERREGNUM, A Curt Huntinghawk Story, Part 2
Hawk made his way around the building to a half-crumbled adobe wall at the rear of the property. Normally there’d be two or three groups sucking down beer, preferring the calm of the night to the noise of the bar. Tonight there was no one. “Shit!” he cursed softly.
Robert brought a six-pack and stood hip-sprung while Hawk perched on the crumbling wall. They talked about the Rezes, and Hawk shared a few experiences, including the Wolverine shootout and the death of the rogue INS agent who had been murdering traficantes.
“I heard you got shot,” the boy said.
“Just a graze across the forehead. That was Wolverine.”
“Man! How’d it feel to get shot?” Robert moved closer. A horned moon left the night dark. Occasionally the boy’s eyes gleamed; otherwise, he was a black silhouette.
“Like you’d expect. Hurt. Had a headache for a week. Still have a little scar across the forehead.”
“Yeah, I noticed it.” Robert shifted his weight. “And then you tracked down the guy and killed him.”
“No, I discovered who he was and reported it. The Feds set up the ambush. We were a part of it, but I didn’t put a bullet near him.”
“Didn’t you want revenge?”
“Just wanted him caught. Turned out I knew him and… liked him.”
“Man, that’s rough.” The young man took an audible gulp of his brew. “Hawk, I wanna thank you for taking me as your partner.”
“Don’t thank me, thank Amadeo. When Grove comes back, we’ll go back to partnering.”
Robert moved to the wall at Hawk’s side. His hip brushed Hawk’s leg. He moved away, but only slightly. “Well, anyway, thanks for letting me sub for him. Here, have another beer.” The youth set the cold can on Hawk’s thigh, allowing his hand and forearm to rest there.
For a long, awkward moment, the boy’s flesh burned through the denim of his trousers. Hawk moved to rise. “Save it for another time, Robert. I’m going home and hit the hay.” As he came off the wall, Hawk’s groin pressed against Robert’s hand holding the beer. For one infinitesimal moment, neither man moved. Then Robert backed away.
The rest of the week was uneventful. The big desert was quiet and empty of human life. Robert overcame his nervousness over what happened behind the bar. Hawk was glad; he was physically attracted to the youth’s rangy looks, but he foresaw problems with a relationship when Grove returned. And nothing was worth jeopardizing what he had with Grove.
The following Monday, they got some action when Robert slammed on the brakes. “Tracks!” he called, bailing out of the four-by.
Three men. At first it looked like two because one “walked under,” that is having another smuggler walk in his footsteps, but they’d made occasional mistakes. It’s hard to walk under with so few people. They were traficantes, not illegals. He reported their position by radio, and Amadeo promised to send a team to close off the other end of the trail. The two Rezes locked their vehicle, hefted rifles and canteens and started off at a fast walk.
Since one of the traficantes was trying to hide his presence, he was probably important; someone key to this end of the supply chain. That made him dangerous and Hawk more cautious. He voiced his suspicions and changed his methods.
Determining the general direction of the trail, Hawk abandoned the tracks for the low ground, walking in large circles whenever they failed to cross the trail. It cost precious time, but was safer. Ultimately, it paid off.
The traficantes suddenly bore northeast. Hawk understood immediately they were heading for the Dragon’s Back and water. Realizing these were no ordinary smugglers and might carry a radio, he had Robert report on the hand-held to Amadeo in their native tongue. Then Hawk abandoned stealth for speed. The men would make Dragon’s Back before them. He set off at a trot, keeping to a network of arroyos and gulches leading to the jumble of rocks that resembled a dinosaur’s tail. Safely at the base, Hawk slung his rifle over his shoulder and began a hand-over-hand climb. Robert had no sling, so stuck his weapon through his belt where the barrel rode the crack of his butt.
Three-quarters of the way up the rock, Hawk heard a motor. He kept up his steady pace, knowing that it was too soon for Amadeo to have another team in the area, but taking comfort in the fact that the best vehicle approach was on the other side of the hills. He slipped over the top with Robert on his heels.
Below them, three men were filling their bellies at the pool created by the spring rising from the rocks. If they’d been drinking all this time, they’d be waterlogged, but it was something he could not count on. He needed to make his move before the traficantes’ confederates arrived in the approaching vehicle.
The men were of some interest. Two were mules and muscle. They’d lugged heavy packs across the desert, which meant they were thugs to be respected for their strength and endurance. The third was dressed casually but carried an air of authority. They rose when the distant growl of the motor penetrated the natural hollow where they hid.
“Keep your head down and your eyes open,” Hawk whispered. “If they make a break for it identify yourself as a federal officer and pin them down.” Robert nodded nervously.
It took Hawk ten minutes to work to the other side of the crest. The vehicle, a black Lincoln SUV, was barely within range. He laid the rifle along his cheek and put a bullet into one headlight. Two people piled out of the car, weapons flashing in the sunlight. They didn’t look to be long rifles, so Hawk figured they had a problem…did they abandon their compadres or come give a hand in the face of a long-range shooter? He put another slug through the grill. Gunfire behind him let him know the others had made a break. He turned back to give Robert a hand.
From his high vantage point, he saw the three had scattered. There were only two ways out of Dragon, up the steep sides or to the south in plain view of Robert. Two opted for cover at the base of the cliff below the Rez rookie; the third edged around for a break or a shot. Robert got edgy, exposing his position in an effort to see where the other two were. The thug sprayed the rock with an Uzi before Hawk dropped him.
“You all right?” he shouted to Robert.
“Yeah. Took some meat off my arm, but I’m functioning.”
Hawk showed himself and motioned threateningly with his rifle, ordering the traficantes on the ground. Robert edged around to where he could guard the two while Hawk went to check on the Lincoln. It was limping back over the hard desert pan spewing steam, but wouldn’t make it. Three Rez four-bys zeroed in on a collision course. Hawk raised them on his hand-held and apprised them of the situation. Within fifteen minutes, four healthy drug smugglers and one with a shattered leg were in custody. One vehicle stood by until Hawk got Robert down off the rock. His wound was a little more than he’d let on.
“Well, you asked how it felt,” Hawk said when they were near the bottom. “Now you know.”
“Not much fun, is it?” Robert grimaced. Suddenly, he halted in his tracks. “Hawk, about the other night at the Mesa. Don’t know what got into me. Never acted like that before with a guy.”
Hawk grinned. “You were so damned pretty I almost took you up on it.”
Robert accepted it as a joke, and they joined an anxious Amadeo at the pool. Declining a ride back to his vehicle that would delay getting Robert to the clinic, Hawk slung his rifle and retraced his steps. He’d seen something from the top of Dragon’s Back he wanted to check.
* * * * *
Well, well, it didn’t take long for temptation to rear its head. What was it, a week? Next week, let’s see what happens. And what did Hawk spot that he wants to check out?
Website and blog: markwildyr.com