Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 21 - Part II

Jenny drank her beer in silence and thought about the Magician. Who was he? Why had the Anasazi buried him so royally? Several times during the excavation, Jenny had caught herself looking into the eye sockets of the Magician and sensing life. It was almost like he was studying their work...and smiling in amusement.

B.T. hitched his thumb toward Otis' truck. "Get on with it, John. If you have any problem, give me a holler on the radio. It doesn't cost anything, so don't be afraid to use it."

"Don't worry, B.T. you'll be the first to know if there's any trouble out there," said John as he patted Billy Ray on the back. "Come on, Shit-fer-brains. Give me a hand loading up the truck."

Billy Ray followed his friend over to their beat-up old GMC truck. "Sure, John. We going somewhere?"

John laughed loudly and slapped his friend roughly on the shoulder. "I'll 'splain it to you while we pack up my shit."

B.T. shook his head. He liked John and Billy Ray. They were sort of like two hunting dogs from the same litter, except that hunting dogs were probably a bit smarter. With the right supervision, they were perfect for a job like this. They didn't notice much, they never asked questions, and they did what they were told, especially the big one, and he was too stupid to ever complain. Billy Ray followed John's lead in everything, and John got off on being superior to a man who could crush him like a beer can. They made a very interesting pair indeed.

B.T. turned to Jenny, who was starting to doze while standing up. "So tell me, Red, how often are you supposed to call in on that truck radio of yours?"

It took a few seconds for his words to sink into Jenny's scrambled brain, but once they did she was wide-awake. "Oh, it's just there for emergencies," Jenny lied as casually as possible.

B.T. snickered. "Well, what would you call this?"

Jenny looked at the fanatical killer in confusion. Surely he wasn't suggesting that she call in to tell the authorities what was happening up here on the Paria, was he?

He opened the cooler and got two more beers. "See, it's like this, Red. I was in the military off and on for over ten years, so I have a pretty good idea how the government works. And I can't believe they'd let you come up here all by yourself and not expect you to check in at the end of the day. I mean, Christ kill me, there was a fucking murder on the forest, girl. Remember? Things aren't safe around here for man or beast. So let's cut the bullshit. I'm sure they'd love to hear from you. You folks have a dispatcher, or what?"

Jenny's heart sank as she nodded her head. "Yeah. There's a dispatcher out of the headquarters in Williams during the day; at night people take turns monitoring their own districts."

"Isn't that nice. What do you say we give them a call and let them know that everything's just fine and dandy up here on the ol' Paria?"

Jenny shrugged her shoulders and said nothing. Her chance of escape was slipping away from her like a lost dream, and she couldn't think fast enough to figure out what her next move should be. The smiling face of the Magician danced across her thoughts and melded with that of B.T.'s, until Jenny wasn't sure which was which.

"Here, I thought you might like this back," said B.T. as he handed Jenny the now empty .22 that had been sitting in her truck. Jenny groaned as B.T. laughed in her face. "What the hell did you think you'd do with that little piece of shit? Man, you kill me, Red." B.T. turned on the Forest Service radio and held the microphone. "Don't get cute, Red. This could get ugly real fast if you try and play the hero. Just tell them everything's cool and then sign off." He turned toward Jenny with a smirk that went skeletal in the wink on an eye. "Otherwise, I'll let Mutt and Jeff take turns on you before I give you one of my own special lessons in pain – the kind of pain that leaves you begging for death. Don't make me do that to you, Red. You want to see what else we can find down there in the Magician's hole, don't you?" He handed the microphone over to her.

Jenny closed her eyes and tried to gather her thoughts. She was pretty sure that it would be Dwayne answering her call. How could she alert him to her predicament without getting herself brutally murdered? Her hands trembled as she held the microphone.

"Three-Zero, this is Jenny Hatch. Over."

Dwayne's twangy soprano, now amplified comically by the short-wave radio, came on immediately in response. "Hatch, this is Three-Zero. Go ahead. Over."

Jenny was riveted to B.T's eyes as she considered what she was going to say next. She turned slightly to her left so she didn't have to look at him while she talked. B.T. reached out quickly and spun her back so she was staring him directly in the face. He pointed his index fingers at his eyes which seemed to absorb the light of the moon. Jenny knew that she couldn't lie around this man. He would know. And then it would be over. All of it. Her life, the dig, everything.

"Sorry I'm a little late calling in, but things have been pretty hectic out here with work. But everything is okay on our end. Over."

"I copy. I was getting worried about you, Jenny. How's Linda? Over."

"She's fine, Dwayne. She working on dinner right now. Over."

"I copy. Y'all take care of yourselves, and be sure to call in the morning. This time, try doing it on time. Okay? Over."

Jenny smiled at Dwayne's concern. She was going to miss the goofy Mormon cowboy.

"You're a good mother hen, Dwayne. And I promise I'll call in at eight o'clock sharp tomorrow. Over and out."

B.T. switched off the radio and took the microphone from the rattled woman. "You're the champ, Red. Undisputed. That performance will definitely get you back into the amusement park." He pointed at the pueblo, now lit up like a Halloween funhouse by the moon. "But before we get back to work, I want to hear more about Linda."

Jenny cringed. "Oh, I don't really know her very well. I just met her for the first time this morning."

B.T. nodded his head thoughtfully. "Sounded to me like he thought the two of you were camping together."

Jenny said nothing and looked away.

"So where's my girl Linda tonight? And don't tell me you don't know, 'cause that's bullshit. And don't try and steer me wrong, 'cause I don't have time to waste on any wild goose chases. I already know she's moved over to House Rock Valley and your radio conversation just confirmed it. So tell me where she is and we can get on with the dig."

Jenny stared intently at the ground as she tried to figure out how to save her own skin without giving Linda to this maniac.

B.T. seemed to read her thoughts. "If you try and lie to me, I'll feed you to the boys, Red – right fucking now!"

Jenny was too tired to fight anymore. "She's camped over at Bighorn Buttes."

B.T. grinned. "That's not very far from here. Will she still be there tomorrow night?"

"I think so," whispered Jenny softly.

B.T. smacked his hands together. "That's great! I'll just have to drop in on her tomorrow night and see how she's doing. But in the meantime, let's see what else we can find in that burial."

Jenny felt her blood race as her bladder did a bank turn. "I need to go to the bathroom first."

"I feel the call myself," said B.T. "Let's go water the junipers."

Jenny didn't bother looking to see whether he was watching her or not. He obviously wasn't going to give her the opportunity to run away. She wasn't worried about him ogling her body; it was her soul that she didn't want him looking at. They walked back to the ruin in silence. Nervous anticipation took hold of Jenny's imagination. What secrets would the Magician give up this time around?

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