Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 32 - Part 1

     B.T. heard the chopper approach long before he could see it. He didn't need to look at his watch to know that it was ten o'clock; the Judge was always on time. When the chopper became visible, B.T. signaled to his men to clear the area. 

     "Have a seat, Red." B.T. pointed to a lawn chair situated well away from the landing area; Jenny obediently followed his instruction. "The rest of you get back inside the pueblo and start policing the area. We don't want to leave anything behind. Otis, you make sure the kiva is all cleaned up. You hear? Nothing gets left behind. I mean, not a goddamn thing, comprende?"

      Otis glanced out of the corner of his right eye at Jenny before replying. "Do you want us to fill in the burial?"

      B.T. immediately caught the drift: that was where Jenny would be buried. "No. Leave it for now. My main concern is that we don’t leave anything the pigs could trace."

      Otis tipped his ratty-looking baseball cap in salute and headed for the entrance to the pueblo with the other two men.

      B.T. was startled by Jenny's ragged appearance. Three days of digging the Magician's Burial had turned her old and somehow smaller. She looked like one of those crazy bag women who pushed shopping carts around the streets of Phoenix. Her hair was matted with red dirt and her eyes had lost all their fire. She slouched in the aluminum chair and stared indifferently at the ground.

      "You look tired, Red. The coke is wearing off, huh?"

      Jenny slowly raised her head as if she was lifting a great weight. "I feel like – " She closed her eyes and swallowed with apparent difficulty. "I just want to go to sleep."

      B.T. rarely felt pity for another human being, but there was something about Jenny Hatch that demanded sympathy. "Look, we'll shoot up some coke in a little bit. That'll get you back on your feet again. But right now I have to deal with the Judge. He'll be here any minute now. I'll try to convince the ornery sonofabitch that we should keep you, Red. I know you could teach us a lot – hell, you made us an easy couple of million on this one dig alone – so that should be worth something. But I'm not promising you anything; he can be pretty damn hard-headed at times."

      B.T. looked over in time to see Jenny's head slump forward on to her chest. She was sound asleep and hadn't heard a word he said.

      The Bell Ranger hovered overhead like a giant cicada and B.T. pointed at the neatly stacked row of boxes to his left. Ignoring the shooting pain in his leg, he jogged over to the clearing where the chopper would put down. Dust clouds billowed around the whining aircraft as it set down with a final lurch. The engines went silent as the rotor blades continued to spin lazy circles in the air.

      The Judge climbed out, beaming widely as he walked up to B.T. and vigorously shook his hand. "Everything certainly looks in order here, Mr. Saunders. Congratulations on a job well done."

      B.T. met the gaze of his partner and smiled proudly. "It went pretty smoothly, Judge. We had a few glitches, but I think you're going to be real impressed with this shipment. It's the best one we ever put together, by far." 

      B.T. pulled the three smallest sword-swallowing wands from the inside pocket of his jacket. "Take a look at these babies and tell me what you think."

      The Judge's eyebrows raised in interest as he inspected the strange prehistoric treasures. "What are they?"

      "Red says they were used by the tribal magician during some sort of sword-swallowing ceremony."

      The Judge looked curiously at B.T. "Who?"

      "The Magician. See – "

      The Judge cut him short. "No. Who is Red?"

      B.T. felt his stomach flutter as he pointed over at the sleeping woman. "Her name is Jenny Hatch. She's the Forest Service archaeologist from Fredonia."

      The Judge shook his head as if he couldn't believe his ears. "I beg your pardon. Did you say Forest Service archaeologist?"

      "It's a long story, Judge. See, she was doing some sort of project out here and stumbled on to us by accident. We were going to kill her straight off, but then she told us she was an archaeologist."

      The Judge was not at all happy with what he was hearing. "And what does that have to do with anything?"

      "That's what I thought at first, too, Judge. But we were digging this burial, see, and we were breaking a lot of stuff in the process ‘cause we didn’t have a clue how to do it right. Anyway, she showed us that we had uncovered a burial of real big importance. Jenny's an expert on Indian burials, and she claims this is the best one she's ever seen in the whole goddamn Southwest."

      "And you believed her?" said the Judge condescendingly.

      "You bet your ass I believed her," countered B.T., his voice rising in anger. "This whole fucking shipment came out of one, single grave; and I'll tell you something else, if we hadn't had the help of Red here, we would have busted up half the shit without even knowing what we were doing. That lady is worth her weight in gold, Judge."

      The Judge turned the wands over in his hands. "Sword-swallowing wands, you say?"

      "That's what she says."

      "Very interesting, Mr. Saunders. I am, indeed, impressed. And what do you intend to do with this rare find of yours?"

      "You mean Jenny?"

      "Precisely," said the Judge as he pocketed the wands.

      "That's up to you, Judge. Personally, I think Jenny could easily double our profits. She knows this Indian stuff inside and out."

      The Judge cast an appraising glance in Jenny's direction. "You'll pardon me if I'm a bit skeptical, Mr. Saunders. What have you done to her?"

      "She hasn't slept since Tuesday. I've been filling her full of coke so she could keep up the digging, but she hasn't had any yet this morning because I wasn't sure what we were going to do with her. I figured I'd just let her sleep while we worked that out. She's earned a break, that's for sure."

      "What makes you think this woman would continue to help us?"

      "Drugs," replied B.T.

      "Say again?"

      "If we get her hooked on drugs, then we won't have to worry about her running away.  And if she turns out to be more trouble than she's worth, then we can always dump her."

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