Saturday, April 2, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 27 - Part I

At midnight, Jason and Sheriff Barry Smoot cautiously approached the front walk of B.T. Saunders' tiny bungalow in the sleepy town of Hurricane, carrying a federal search warrant for illegal Indian artifacts, narcotics, and weapons. What Jason really wanted was B.T. Saunders.

He had a ten-man SWAT Team in full battle gear. Technically, this was Barry Smoot's jurisdiction, but Jason was running the show, since he was the most familiar with the case and had the biggest stake in the whole affair. They had surrounded the residence, but so far there had been no sign of activity; the lights were off, there was no vehicle in the driveway.

The outside of the building was completely covered with wild grape and bougainvillea. In spots, the flagstone exterior of the walls could be seen underneath the jungle vegetation, but, for the most part, it looked like a huge mass of clinging vines. The effect was very dark and cave-like, with a thick, black oak door, complete with ornate brass fixtures that would have been at home on a Scottish castle.

Sheriff Barry Smoot, a tall, beefy man in his late thirties, had one of those expressive faces which showed great emotion and seemed to be constantly changing shape. He kept wiping his brow and adjusting his cowboy hat. Although Mormon, he often used profanity and liked to down a beer or two after work. His professional reputation was pretty marginal; many considered him lazy and stupid. "Along for the ride" best described Smoot's presence, not to mention his attitude toward life. Barry looked up at the grape vines hanging from the roof. "The guy's a helluva gardener, huh?"

"Probably reminds him of Vietnam or something," whispered Jason.

"I never saw a door like this, the whole time I was in 'Nam, Jason."

"I think it'd be a good idea for you to stand off to the side here while I knock on the door. That way, he only gets one of us if he comes out shooting."

"You really think he's home?"

"Probably not, but we should assume that he is. That way there won't be any surprises."

Jason rapped loudly. "Police, open up!"

No response.

Jason tried to turn the knob, but it was locked. "Come on, Barry, let's go see if we can find another entrance into this jungle house. We'd need a stick of dynamite to get through that door. There's got to be an easier way."

All the windows were covered by the creeping canopy. Saunders obviously was more interested in privacy than viewing the outside world.

The back door was more to their liking.

"This shouldn't be too much trouble," observed Barry as he tried to turn the door knob. "It's locked, Jason. You want to break it down, or what?"

Jason peered through the lone window. "No, I'm gonna smash the window and then reach in and flip the lock. Stand back and cover your eyes."

He used the butt-end of his 357 Magnum to break the glass, and cleared away the remaining shards from the edges of the window.

Jason reached through the window hole and tried to unlock the door. "Darn! I can't quite get it. You're taller than me, Barry, why don't you try it."

"No problem,," said Barry as he holstered his gun and hitched up his pants.

Jason stood to the right of the door, with his gun held cocked and ready. Barry squeezed his beefy arm through the window and felt around for the lock. He finally found the latch and gave it a yank ; there was an audible click as the lock disengaged. Barry turned the outside know and stepped back. The door squeaked as it slowly opened outward.

An sound came from inside the house, like a string being played, followed by a dull report. An arrow came whizzing out the door at chest height and lodged in a silver maple tree at the edge of the lawn.

"Jesus Christ! What the fuck was that?" hollered Barry.

Jason aimed his gun through the open door, ready to fire. He had been peeking around the edge of the doorway as it had opened, rather than standing where a visitor would normally be located. Jason had been expecting some sort of trouble since they first walked up to the house, but not a booby-trapped door.

"It was an arrow, like from a crossbow, I think," said Jason as he stepped through the door, spinning left and then right, his pistol held in front, his finger firmly on the trigger. There was no one in the hallway or kitchen, and Jason returned outside to inspect the arrow that had barely missed hitting him in the face. He pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and used it to grasp the arrow and pull it free from the tree. They immediately smelled the distinct odor of feces.

"My fucking God!" bellowed Barry. "The sonofabitch dipped that arrow in shit! Man, I haven't seen that since Vietnam. The VC used to rig their traps the same goddamn way. You wouldn't even believe the kind of infection you'd get from a wound like that, Jason. This guy Saunders is a real goddamn sicko."

"There's a method to this boy's madness. Check out the way he set up the trap." The two sheriffs walked into the house and inspected Saunders' handiwork.

"Didn't you say Saunders was Special Forces?"

"That's right."

"Well, this is just the kind of toy those boys liked to play with. Hell, they could make a bomb out of dog shit and cereal."

Jason flipped on the kitchen light and exhaled loudly. "Well, just be careful what you touch, what you open, what you pick up, and especially what you step on. There are only four rooms in the house. We'll take 'em one at a time, starting with the living room."

"First, I'm gonna go out and tell the other men what's happening. Do you want more help with the search?"

"I'd feel better if it was just you and me, Barry. You get a bunch of big-footed cops lumbering around in a little place like this with a chance of booby-traps, you're asking for trouble."

"I'll tell 'em to sit tight, unless they hear an explosion." Barry winked as he headed outside.

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