An incredible Arizona sunset was in progress over the surreal expanses of Lake Powell as the two men sat quietly on the patio of the Wahweap Lodge, sipping their drinks and taking in the spectacular view. The setting sun had turned the whole world pink and a giant harvest moon rose over Navajo Mountain, a breathtaking gift from the gods.
The Judge used a red swizzle stick to stir his gin and tonic and smiled contentedly. He was in his mid-sixties and looked like a British general from the days of colonial expansion. He wore a bush jacket and matching khaki trousers. His face had a ruddy complexion and, though nearly bald, he sported a long, waxed mustache that curled up at both ends. He was in excellent shape for a man of his age, and his posture and mannerisms were militarily precise. He had the air of a leader, what he had always been. After graduating from West Point, he had taken his law degree from Arizona State. During the Vietnam War, he served as a full bird colonel in the Army; then as a mercenary commander under the direction of the C.I.A, in such hotspots as Angola and El Salvador; and finally, as a Federal Judge of the District Court, in Phoenix. He was now retired, and had investments in myriad money-making schemes which spanned the globe.
The other man nursed a beer as he watched the scarlet reflections ripple across the water of the lake. He lounged in the wicker deck chair that barely contained his massive frame. His long red hair was tied back in a ponytail and he was dressed in shorts and sandals.
The Judge took a sip of his drink and spoke with the deep, cultured voice of a patrician. "Let us hear your report, Mr. Saunders."
The bearded jaw tightened and the Killer's eyes hardened as he straightened, placing his beer on the glass-topped table. He didn't really care too much for the Judge's style, but after serving under him in Vietnam, and later, in the C.I.A., B.T. Saunders was used to it. He knew the Judge didn't mean to be a snotty asshole, it was just his way. Still, B.T. didn't like playing second fiddle to any person, and he definitely didn't like being talked to like a subordinate.
"Piece of cake, Judge," said B.T. as he lit a Camel with a Zippo lighter emblazoned with the Special Forces logo. "Our Paiute friends have been terminated. I popped Charlie in a honky-tonk dive called the Buckskin – no witnesses; the cops don't have a fucking clue. And Willie-boy is MIA; I buried him in a wash where he and Charlie had last been digging."
B.T. decided to let the little matter of a possible witness remain on the back burner for the time being. The Judge was in high spirits and there was no sense pissing him off right away. "Man, you talk about a fucking mess. Those idiots left piles of dirt all over the ruin. It was sloppy, Judge, real sloppy."
The Judge nodded in regret. "It was clearly a mistake to have hired them in the first place. Indians simply can't be trusted to work alone. They need close supervision. I would suggest to you that we can avoid this type of unpleasant situation in the future by keeping the entire operation in the family. I think it would be best if we avoided the western area of the Grand Canyon altogether for the time being. The digs have been quite profitable there, I grant you – we have collected a very nice assortment of artifacts – but all good things must one day come to an end. It is time we focused our attention elsewhere. Specifically, the Paria Plateau." The Judge pointed at the dark looming shape of Navajo Mountain and took a sip of his drink. "Go east, young man, go east."
"I hear you loud and clear, Judge. Enough of these little chickenshit cliff dwellings. It's time to hit the big pueblos. That's where the real loot's at. I've scouted some places over on the Paria with the chopper that are like little cities! Nobody lives on the plateau, so we don't have to worry about being seen. And these goddamn Anasazi houses are right on top of one another. Imagine the kind of shit we'll find there!"
The Judge removed a wallet-sized computer from his jacket pocket and began accessing information. He held the tiny device in the palm of his hand so that B.T. couldn't see what he was doing.
"I have taken the liberty of working up a tentative ops plan for this mission. You will undoubtedly wish to make your own modifications. But I think it would behoove us to consider all of our options and finalize the logistics while we are both together. Time is of the essence."
"Let's hear what you've got, Judge," agreed B.T. with a wave of his hand. "Let's see what that new little Jap toy of yours can do."
The Judge smiled condescendingly. He loved gadgets – the smaller the better. Saunders was a peasant, a very valuable tool when held in the right hands, but not a man of upbringing and taste. It was a shame, really, because the Judge genuinely cared for the big assassin.
"Let me preface this briefing by saying that this is going to be our most ambitious endeavor to date."