"I have a routine inspection trip planned to the ASN uranium mine on Friday morning. As a part owner in the mine, I make it a point to receive bimonthly progress tours and it will provide the necessary cover for our transportation requirements. I'm scheduled to fly into Kanab at nine A.M. in my jet. The ASN people will have a helicopter waiting there for me to use. I will immediately proceed to the Paria. Expect my arrival at the dig site no later than ten. That should leave sufficient time to load the shipment on the chopper and allow me to fly on to the Shivwits Mine for my brief show-me tour." He wiped his mustache with his index finger, combing it into place. "Can you be ready to transport according to this time frame?"
"I don't see any problem," replied B.T. "We'll be ready to go by ten; whatever we have is whatever we have. If necessary, we'll haul the rest of the shit out by truck later."
"Then ten A.M. it is," the Judge said officiously. "Mr. McCracken will pay me on Monday for my generous contribution to the art world, and on Tuesday we will meet here at the marina again, at which time you will be paid for your services. I will make delivery of the cocaine this afternoon. You will spend three days on the Paria Plateau, plus the two additional days spent dealing with our two troublesome Indians. That comes to ten ounces of cocaine."
The Judge bent over and removed a nondescript package from beneath his seat and handed it across the table to his smiling partner. "You will find a full pound of uncut Colombian cocaine inside this box. My associates in Mexico assure me this is the finest quality cocaine available. I threw in a few extra ounces to sweeten the pot and show my appreciation."
"That's a helluva bonus, Judge. I can step on this shit three or four times and make a fucking killing."
"Undoubtedly," the Judge replied contemptuously.
B.T. rolled his eyes. "Look, Indian pots or drugs, it's all the fucking same, Judge. You might not like to believe that, but we're all grave-diggers in one way or another."
The Judge's face flushed with anger. He held up his hand like a stop sign. "Please spare me the philosophy lesson, Mr. Saunders. In business we are often forced to make unpleasant decisions. My concern over the cocaine is for your personal well-being. As for your customers, I have no pity whatsoever. My long experience on the Federal bench showed me the absurd pointlessness of all drug laws. Drug addicts are losers who care only about their pleasure. They either die from their addiction, or end up in jail, where I found you. So before you decide to teach, remember your own lessons."
"You know what we ought to do, Judge? When this thing's all over, we should grab us a couple of fine-looking young ladies and head out on to the lake in that big fucking houseboat of yours. Just stay gone for a week. Do some bottom-knocking, like in the old days. You remember Bangkok, Judge? Those little fifteen year old whores dressed in their pink mini-skirts? God, those were the days, weren't they?"
The Judge's rigid expression melted into a melancholy smile. "They were, indeed, Mr. Saunders. But I don't think it's wise to think about R & R until after we have accomplished our mission. Do you have anything else to discuss before I go?"
B.T. swallowed hard. This was the moment he had been dreading; he would have to let the Judge know about the loose end that he had left out at Jumpup Canyon. B.T. became all business. He related the specifics of the Willie Meeks assassination, including the mysterious vehicle parked at the Overlook.
The Judge listened intently, his face a blank mask. "You never saw anybody at all?"
B.T. shook his head. "Just the truck."
The Judge groomed the edges of his mustache as he considered this new piece of information. "You did get the license number, I assume?"
"Of course," said B.T., giving the number to the Judge.
"That's good, Mr. Saunders," replied the Judge with a humorless smile. "I have a contact in the police force who will run the number through N.C.I.C. and tell us with whom we are dealing. If it turns out that this person did, in fact, witness the murder, then you will be obliged to eliminate him or her, post haste. Understood?"
B.T. felt his pulse quicken at the thought of redemption. "I always clean up after myself, Judge. You know that."
"Be sure you do, Mr. Saunders, be sure you do. Tomorrow morning I will fax you a copy of the information I have received about the truck owner. In the meantime, I will be paying close attention to the local police reports, as should you."
B.T. knew that he was now walking a razor edge, because losers were expendable. Failure meant certain death. B.T. smiled dreamily as he remembered his deepest, darkest secret. The Ritual would help him save his skin; it could turn death back into life. And not even the Judge knew the Ritual.
B.T. felt his pulse quicken at the thought as he reached into his pocket and fingered the two plastic bags containing the hair of the two dead Paiute Indians he had murdered. Life and death. It was all the same.