The beat of the helicopter grew louder until it sounded directly overhead. Its powerful engine reverberated in the confines of the canyon like thunder in a barrel. Linda cringed at the roar. She smelled dust and prayed that the chopper would go away. Instead, it came in delicately, like a space ship landing on a alien planet. The rocks strewn across the canyon floor made landing a difficult proposition. Whoever was at the controls was either a damn good pilot or a suicidal fool.
Linda bent forward to peer through a baseball-sized crack in the jumble of stones. She had an unobstructed view of the cliff dwelling and the area in front where shriveled moon flowers danced in the downdraft from the helicopter and dust clouds swirled around the canyon like stinging fog. The helicopter was landing right on the spot where she had been standing. She tried to steady her emotions. What the hell was going on here?
When the whining engine on the Bell helicopter stopped, a heavy silence settled over Jumpup Canyon. Two men climbed out. The pilot was a bear of a man with a thick beard and long red hair. The other was a dumpy, middle-aged Indian. The pilot pointed up at the prehistoric house and the Indian nodded. The two men stood beneath the site like inspectors on a construction project.
At first, Linda could only catch bits of their conversation, but from the sound of it, something was very wrong. The redhead yelled at the Indian. The Indian never raised his voice, but the other man's growling baritone kept rising and falling in anger, his speech punctuated by profanity. Evidently, the white man was angry at the dirt and rubble left on the canyon floor.
"Why don't you take a fucking ad out in the goddamn paper, telling everybody that you've been digging out here?" he screamed.
Linda couldn't hear what the Indian replied, but it sent the white man off like gunpowder.
"Pull your fucking head out of your ass, Willie!" the pilot yelled. "The Judge expects his people to be careful, not idiots who are too goddamn lazy to clean up their mess when they're finished. The Judge has rewarded you and Charlie real well over the past year, and this is how you repay him? You shit right in his face? Is that how friends treat friends?"
Scared, the Indian stared at the ground, avoiding the eyes of the menacing white man.
Then the big man blew up. "This isn't some kind of fucking game! This is business, for Christ's sake, serious business. The judge's ass is on the line, so is mine, and so is yours, Willy."
The Indian shrugged his shoulders, shuffling his feet nervously, and turned away from his antagonist. Like his former digging partner, Charlie Tizno, Willie Meeks never saw the death train come.
But Linda did. When she saw the white man pull a pistol out of his jacket pocket, she almost yelled out a warning to the poor Indian, catching herself at the last second. She gaped in horror as the pilot raised the gun, pointed it at the back of the unsuspecting Indian's head, and fired. The confines of the steep-walled canyon amplified the loud discharge, and Linda recoiled. The vision of Willie's head blown apart at point-blank range was almost enough to send Linda off the deep end. She wrapped her arms tightly around herself and squeezed, tears streaming down her dirt-streaked face as she rocked back and forth like an autistic child.