Sunday, February 27, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 22 - Part I

B.T. wound through the moonscape terrain of smashed and crumbling rock with sure-footed grace, the surrounding pinnacles of sandstone glowing like giant luminarios. The moon was sinking in the west as a sliver of sun pierced the eastern horizon. He stopped in front of a small rocky overhang. This looked like a place where the soul magic would run deep. He took a deep breath and got a whiff of the morning wind, a powerful smell laced with cedar and dust and a million dead spirits all rolled into one. Yes, this was the spot where the Ritual must be performed.

B.T. faced the outline of an ancient rock wall. Flat sandstone blocks had been carefully arranged along the outside edge of the natural shelter. Some of the Ancient Ones had once called this home, and their power would still be here, just waiting to be tapped. About a mile away, the rising sun outlined the fortress-like walls of the pueblo where his team was excavating the Burial of the Magician after the strangest of nights.

The cocaine had turned them all into the diggers from hell, but Jenny Hatch had become a woman possessed. She assumed the air of a drill instructor, screaming like a banshee when they damaged an item in their haste. As more and more of the Magician was unearthed, Jenny had become increasingly obsessed with "Digging this thing right!" Before long, she was carrying on a heated discussion with the yellowed skeleton of the Magician, and it was clear she believed the Magic Man was telling her things she needed to know. She sat down in the dirt and caressed his cracked skull as if he were some lover from her past. It was creepy in a compelling sort of way; after a while, B.T. and the boys became curious about what the Magician thought of their digging style. Jenny said he wasn’t too thrilled.

For ten hours they had peeled back each layer of the Magician's grave, uncovering more Indian loot than B.T. had ever seen in one place. In the Magician's nose they found two plugs of dark red argillite with buttons of bright blue turquoise glued to each end. Encircling his neck was a fantastic necklace inlaid with pieces of purple chert and green obsidian, depicting an abstract bird, perhaps an eagle. B.T. had snagged that one immediately for his own special collection. Around the Magician’s right wrist, they discovered a bracelet decorated with red-tinted rabbits' teeth and quartz crystals. Hell, they could have filled a museum with what they had already found, and the digging was only half complete!

Jenny was a natural teacher; she commanded a respect that inspired the men to do whatever was necessary. B.T. had left the dig without saying a word and no one even noticed as he climbed the ladder.

The early morning walk across Pinnacle Ridge had given B.T. his first opportunity to sort out the events of the previous day, a day which had begun with the murder of professor Ken Jarvis, then the capture of Jenny Hatch, and finally ended with the excavation of the most elaborate burial ever discovered in the whole Southwest. His team had performed well under pressure and he figured the Judge would be proud of the way he had handled the details of this mission. But there was still some unfinished business: Linda Joyce. Tonight, when the moon was blood-red full, B.T. would pay her a visit.

But the soul of Ken Jarvis still hung in the balance. B.T. felt a cold shiver run up the back of his neck as he stepped over the dilapidated wall of the rock shelter. He grasped his leather bag tightly to his chest, and tried to calm his racing heart. The Gods would be watching his every move. One screw-up, and his own spirit would be forfeited. He knelt down to face the back wall of the rock cave. He laid his knapsack in the dirt and removed the tools of his soul-catcher's trade: red parachute chord, hypodermic needle, heroin, the feather from an eagle, the feather from a raven, and the hair from the victim. B.T. carefully placed each item on the top of a flat, weathered slab of sandstone. He could feel a slight trembling in his hands and he willed the fear away. The Gods respected only strength. He made a circle of rocks on the floor of the cave, but it would be up to the Gods to light the fire.

He removed Ken Jarvis' hair from the bag and separated a single hair from the clump. Placing it horizontally on the rock table, he vertically aligned the two gleaming, Bald Eagle feathers, one black and one white, along with the remaining hair. Once he had them arranged together, he tied the entire collection together like a fly fisherman's lure, using the tiny human hair as the binding string. B.T.'s fingers were large, but he tied the knot with the agility of a craftsman. He made a loop on the end of the parachute chord; slipping the feathered bundle inside the noose, he pulled the knot tight. It looked very much like the pahos, or prayer feathers, waved by the Pueblo Indians during their ceremonial dances.

The time for salvation was at hand. B.T. rolled up his right sleeve, using a piece of surgical hosing to wrap a tourniquet just above his elbow. He opened and closed his hand rapidly and fought to keep his breathing regular as the hushed whispers of the Gods swirled around him like a ghostly mist. The heroin solution was milky brown and thick as plant sap. The dosage was moderate, enough to give the big man a dreamy buzz. He took a deep breath and then slowly inserted the cold steel needle into his arm. He felt an intense exhilaration, and the muted voices of the Gods quickly turned to laughter. A world of infinite possibilities swirled before his eyes and B.T. smiled as the heroin warmed his blood with the fire of sweet redemption. He withdrew the needle after injecting only half of the solution – the rest was for the Gods. B.T. stuck the syringe through the top of the parachute chord and into the roof of the cave, directly over the center of the rock circle on the floor. He watched as the spirit bundle spun lazy circles over the fire ring, and he slowly drifted off into a world long forgotten ...

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