Otis understood he was being put on sentry duty because Billy Ray and John Lee, the two bikers from the Verde Valley in Arizona, were inseparable; B.T. had used the chopper to scout the pueblo they would be digging, so he was the only one of the group who knew where the site was situated. That left only Otis to guard the entrance road. But knowing the reason didn’t lessen the hurt. Otis felt like low man on the totem pole. After all, he knew more about digging Anasazi ruins than both of the motorcycle morons put together. It just wasn’t fair.
Otis was lounging in a ten-room pueblo that sat astride the dirt road like a crumbling fort. This site had been pothunted many years ago by locals. In fact, some enterprising person had actually brought a small backhoe up to the ruin and had excavated the whole area from top to bottom. Very little of the original structure was left standing, but one could still see the rock outline of the outside perimeter, and the wall which faced House rock Valley was still pretty much intact.
Otis sat in a folding lawn chair, gazing out through a large hole in the rear wall, less than ten feet from the lofty edge of the plateau. He was not a hard worker by nature, and the sitting part of this assignment was easy enough to get used to. But he still though that taking this type of precaution was a waste of time. Nobody lived on the Paria. The tourists were on their way to the Grand Canyon or the national parks of Southern Utah and didn’t even know this place existed. And all of the cattle had been moved off the plateau a few weeks back, with the coming of winter. Now that the cowboys were out of the way, there was no one else to worry about. It wasn’t on the way to anywhere. The roads were sandy and mostly impassable. The only source of water was an alkaline pond which the cattle used. There were no services; there were no hiking trails; nothing except cactus, stone, and the long-abandoned rock houses of the Anasazi.
Otis stood up. He was thirsty for a beer, but the others had taken his truck. There was no good place to stash a vehicle near the lookout post, so Billy Ray drove it to the dig site. They would relieve Otis at sunset. Until then, he would have to make do with only a gallon canteen of water. He spit over the wall of the pueblo and looked down into the valley below. He couldn’t believe his eyes. There was a green Forest Service truck coming slowly up the road to the top of the plateau. The truck was still at least a mile away, just beginning the long steep climb up the switchback mountain road, but it would pass by his position in less than fifteen minutes. He stared apprehensively at the government truck and fidgeted with the gun on his hip.
Otis stashed his lawn chair behind a large pile of rubble and got out his binoculars. He hunched down behind the broken wall of the pueblo and focused intently on the Forest Service rig. It was still pretty hard to make anything out, but when it rounded a turn, he could see the driver was a woman with bright red hair. Otis chuckled. This might be interesting.
Otis turned on the walkie-talkie and called the boss.
“B.T., this is Blondie. Do you read me? Over.”
He repeated the message at ten-second intervals as he marked the progress of the approaching government truck.
After about a minute, B.T. responded. “Go ahead, Blondie.”
“We got company, B.T.”
“Give me a description.”
“Well, it’s a Forest Service bitch in a truck. She’s alone. And she’s definitely coming all the way up on top. Over.”
“Good eyes, my friend,” answered B.T. “Lay low. Don’t let her see you. If she does, hold her there and give me a call right away.”
“I’ve got you covered on this end, B.T.”
“Use your head, Blondie. Let he go right on by. If she takes the turn to Pinnacle Ridge, we’ll have a nice reception waiting for her here at the dig. But if she doesn’t come by in the next fifteen minutes or so, then we’ll know she went over to Poverty Flat, and we’ll go looking for her later.”
“I hear what you’re saying, B.T.,” replied Otis with excitement.
“Then hear it ALL, my friend. Under no circumstances do I want that truck to leave this plateau. Is that understood?”
“She comes in, but she don’t go out.”
“That’s a big ten-four on that, Blondie. We’re counting on you, buddy.”
Otis glowed with pride as the radio went silent. He un-holstered his gun and crouched down out of sight. The sound of the Forest Service truck grew louder as it neared the crest of the Paria Plateau as Otis licked his lips. Let the games begin.