Friday, August 6, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 2 - Part 3

Five minutes went by before Linda dropped her arms to her sides and peeked through the hole in the rocks. The killer had strapped Willie's bloody body to an Army-issue litter carrier and was getting ready to haul him away. But first, the big redhead used his knife to hack away a hank of bloody hair from Willie's shattered head. He tucked the gruesome memento inside a plastic bag and stuck it in the pocket of his jacket. He stowed a folding shovel inside his backpack. As he stared around to get his bearings, he smiled like a man at peace with the world. His eyes stopped at the rock pile concealing Linda.

Linda froze. Those emerald eyes seemed so inhuman, the emotionless eyes of a hunting bird or prey. The probing eyes finally moved on. Linda exhaled softly in relief; she had been so scared, she had stopped breathing. The killer hadn't seen her. The man hefted his pack onto his back and took the handles on the litter, dragging the heavy body down canyon toward Jumpup Spring. He whistled as he went.

Linda lost sight of the killer within seconds. She leaned back against the cold stone and shivered with fear. Soaked with perspiration, her hands shook as if from a chill. She played back the events of the last few minutes. She was dead if the killer had seen her. She tried to think clearly, but was too scared to focus. Brain-freeze had set in. The killer had gone to bury the dead Indian. But how far away? What if he came back while she was making her escape? What if he was within sight right now? What if he had already seen her and was just playing some sort of crazy game? Eagles often did that when hunting: they would spot a victim and then fly past the target like they hadn't seen anything special. When the prey darted from cover, the eagle came in for the kill. Was she no smarter than a silly rabbit?

Linda crawled out from her rocky hiding spot and raised her head gradually. There was no one around. If she was going to make a break for it, now was the time to do it. Her truck was parked back at the old Jumpup Cabin, over a mile away. The faint sound of metal against rock stopped her dead in her tracks, her heart beating madly in her chest. She clenched her fists and tried to fight back the tears, but it was no good; they came anyway. She leaned her head against a smooth brown boulder, polished by thousands of years of flash flood water, and cried silently. She heard the sound of a raven. It reminded her of laughter. Then she heard whistling. He was coming back. She creeped back into her stone cubbyhole and peered again through the peephole.

There he was, smiling like a man out for a day hike in his favorite canyon. He opened the pilot-side door of the helicopter and deposited his gear, then removed a large shovel and headed over to the cliff dwelling. He threw the shovel up to the stone pueblo and climbed up to the ledge. In spite of his large size, the man scrambled up ten feet of sheer rock wall like he was on a ladder. He stood up in the small opening, surveying the inside of the littered ruin. He whistled with what sounded like admiration, or maybe surprise, then picked up his shovel and began digging.

Linda watched the murderer in fascination. First he killed a man like he was shooting a stray dog. Then he buried him like a bag of trash. And now he came right back to the scene of the murder and went pothunting. The only thing bothering this dangerous man was that he might leave behind any valuable Indian relics. It took every ounce of will-power to stop herself from screaming. She bit her lip and drew blood.

The killer dug through the Anasazi ruin for another hour. By then, the wind had picked up from the north and the sun was sinking. He had unearthed a collection of grey, plain ware pots and a few small, tan-colored baskets.

These artifacts would fetch an easy ten grand on the open market, but there was nothing special about any of them. The killer's own collection back at home, in Hurricane, contained nothing so ordinary. But the Germans and Japs would scarf this kind of shit up like it was priceless. He placed his loot in a mesh bag and lowered the booty to the ground with a rope. He climbed down from his perch and stowed his gear in the helicopter, then hopped aboard. The engines came on with a high-pitched whine, the over-sized, floppy rotor blades turning sluggishly. The turbos kicked in with an almost deafening roar and the chopper lifted off the canyon floor in a cloud of dust.

Linda stole a look skyward. She couldn't see anything, but could he? The chopper finally zoomed away, its sound drifting off to the east. Linda came out and watched its departure. Then it hit her. The chopper was heading toward the Overlook where her pickup truck was sitting out in the open. There was no way the pilot would miss it. The helicopter circled above something that she couldn't see, but had to be her truck. When the chopper landed at the trailhead, Linda screamed, "No, goddamnit! Leave me alone!" But there was nothing she could do to stop this man.

Fifteen minutes later, the chopper took off from Jumpup Overlook and came back down the canyon toward Linda, who scampered back to her rock shelter. He was hunting for her now. He knew she was out there somewhere. The search continued for the next thirty minutes, the chopper flying over Linda’s rocky sanctuary more than once. But he never landed. The killer finally banked west, heading off toward the setting sun.

When she could no longer hear the noise from the chopper, Linda came out. It was time to get away from this deadly place. As she ran up the canyon, Linda had no doubt that the Indian killer would be coming back for her.

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