Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 21 - Part 1

The moon danced crazy circles round the Burial of the Magician while the diggers worked with the rapaciousness of lions at a fresh kill. John and Billy Ray had arranged Coleman lanterns around the ever-widening pit in the kiva floor, but once the moon came into view, they turned them off and basked in the glowing weirdness of the subterranean scene.

Under Jenny's guidance, they had carefully uncovered the first two feet of the Magician. He had been buried in a sitting position, his head leering at them while they worked; the dirt in front of his cracked and broken skull bore hundreds of tiny turquoise and argillite ornaments. Most were the size of small stones, and B.T. and his men hadn't even noticed them at first, but Jenny spotted them right away. Now, the men hooted and howled when they found another one, holding it up to the moon to see if they could figure out what the thing was supposed to be. Jenny recognized ear bobs, pendants, and nose plugs, but some of the pieces were a mystery, and when she couldn't tell them what they were looking at, the men simply made up their own interpretations.

Five hours of excavating had proven to B.T. that Jenny Hatch was true to her word. She had already made them a million dollars richer, and they were just getting started. B.T. could have kicked himself in the ass for not getting a professional archaeologist for the digs earlier. God, what a difference it made! The Judge was going to be amazed when he saw the loot they were coming up with. Pots and baskets were the least of it. They were finding stuff like inlaid sea shells, turquoise bracelets, and beaded skull caps. Rare and exquisite artifacts like these could turn the pre-Colombian art world on its ear. The Judge could set his own price, and the collectors would have to meet it.

B.T. was so pleased with the way things were going, he decided to give everyone a short break. They all certainly had earned it. "It's Miller time, ladies and gents. If you drink beer, Red, I'm buying."

Jenny pushed her matted hair off of her forehead with the back of her hand and stood up straight for the first time in hours. "Ohhh, man, my back feels like a question mark." She leaned back and slowly stretched out her tired muscles. "A beer sounds good."

B.T. led her to the aluminum ladder they had dropped down into the kiva. "Let's go out to the trucks and get some fresh air."

He went up first and then stood at the top, holding the ladder. As Jenny climbed up the ladder, she felt someone grab her by the ass and squeeze it. She didn't look back to see who it was. What difference did it make?

B.T. hooked his arm in hers and they walked away from the pueblo like they were out for a little stroll in the moonlight. The others followed.

"You did real good back there, Red."

Jenny said nothing. The man's words barely registered.

B.T. opened the top on an ice chest in the bed of his pickup truck and grabbed four cold beers. "The bar is officially open." He passed out the longnecks, opening Jenny's for her before handing it over. "Let's drink to our new teacher. She just made us all a potful of fucking money, boys."

John and Billy Ray giggled like fools and slapped five, their favorite way of expressing joy and pleasure. "Let's do some lines then!" hooted John.

"All in good time, my friend," replied B.T.

Even though Jenny was so tired she could barely stand, she already missed the dig. She wanted to be back in the grave of this important man from beyond recorded history. He had so much to tell her, and there was so little time.

B.T. looked at John and the little man instantly froze. "You need to relieve Otis at the lookout post. When I called him at sunset, I told him we'd have someone there by eight or nine. If you leave right now, you can even be on time, John-boy."

John nodded his head and threw his half-empty beer on the ground. "Billy Ray ain't gonna like me going and all, but you can probably keep him in line."

"I imagine so," agreed B.T. with a wide grin. "Be sure you bring some cold beers for Otis. He's pissed-off about being left out there so long without anything to eat or drink, but he'll calm down once he gets a few cold ones in his gut. And take your sleeping bag and camping stuff along, because you're going to be spending the night out there."

John spit in the dirt. "That's fine by me, boss. Hell, I'd rather sit on my ass watching for cars than fuck around with this grave any day. This here's hard work, and I don't much care for digging up dead people, anyway. Y'all might like it, but I can live without this kinda shit." He cackled at his own joke. "Yes sir. I can goddamn well live without it."

B.T. smiled sadly, as if he felt sorry for the shorter man. "Take enough food to last you through tomorrow. And stay on the ball, John."

"It's tough to miss a truck going by in a bumfuck place like this, B.T."

"It is indeed, amigo. That's why I wouldn't even listen to your excuse if you did. I'd have to have Billy Ray kill you, and you know damn well that would drive the boy nuts."

Billy Ray looked confused, like he was having difficulty understanding the way this conversation was heading. "I wouldn't kill John."

"Course you wouldn't, Billy Ray,” cackled Billy Ray. “ B.T. was just making a joke. Weren't you B.T.?"

B.T. grinned and said nothing.

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