Saturday, August 20, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 35 - Part III

It took several seconds for Dwayne to realize the fighting was over. Saunders and his partner were fleeing the scene. Dwayne had won the battle, but as he watched the chopper grow smaller on the western horizon, he wondered whether he had lost the war.

“Dwayne? Are you there? Did they all leave?” cried Linda from behind the cover of the bullet-scarred pinnacle of red rock.

“Yeah, you can come on out, Linda. Saunders and the guy in the bush jacket got away.  But the rest of them are dead.”

Linda dropped her shotgun in the sand and ran to greet her friend. “Thank God you’re safe!”

Dwayne threw his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. “We made it.”

Linda hugged Dwayne tightly. “I couldn’t ever really see what you were doing. But when you started shooting, everything seemed to happen all at once. I was covering the two men by the chopper, but then I looked over and saw that Saunders was getting ready to fire in your direction. I was so surprised, I almost didn’t do anything. At the last second I got off a shot in his direction. But I didn’t really have time to aim, so I missed him. Once I fired at Saunders, they all knew where I was and they kept letting me have it. I got off a few shots and tried to stay flat against the rock – God, I was too afraid to even move a muscle. I knew I should do something, but I just couldn’t get up enough courage to fight back. They had me pinned down. And those machine-gun bullets blasting off the rock where I was hiding were the loudest things I ever heard in my life – I couldn’t think straight.  I just kept praying that you’d get them off my back. And you DID, Dwayne!”

Dwayne suddenly had a chilling thought. “Oh shit! I forgot all about Jenny.” He pulled himself away from Linda.

“They didn’t kill her?”

“No. They shot her full of drugs, but they didn’t kill her – yet. I left her behind the far wall of the pueblo, so she wouldn’t get caught in the crossfire.”

“You’re sure the other three men are dead?” asked Linda warily.

Dwayne nodded his head, almost as if he were ashamed of the truth. “When you hit somebody with a 44-magnum – with only a couple of feet between you and them – it makes a pretty damn big hole. They all looked dead to me, but I didn’t have any time to check.”

Dwayne decided to just leave it at that. There was no reason to go into the attempted rape, or the grisly details of each murder. Those were all images that Dwayne would rather not remember, much less relate. And surely Linda had already witnessed enough brutality for a lifetime.

“Well, let’s go make sure,” said Linda as she picked up the shotgun.

The smaller biker John lay spread-eagled on the ground, his mouth agape in a death mask of pain.  Dwayne crouched down and felt for a pulse. “Yeah, this one’s dead.”

“Good riddance,” said Linda coldly. “Let’s see how Jenny’s doing.”

As they came around the corner of the ruin, they were greeted by a smiling Jenny Hatch.  She had propped her back against the wall of the stone building and was softly humming an unintelligible song. Her head swayed from side to side. Her shirt and pants were ripped open and she was covered with red dirt. She looked like she had been to hell and back, and enjoyed the ride.

“Jenny!” cried Linda as she broke away from Dwayne and ran over to the archaeologist.

Jenny did not seem to take any notice of her new company, and continued to sing her song in a high, sweet, whispery voice.

Linda crouched down in front of the dazed woman and then she realized just how wrong things were. Dried spittle hung from the corner of Jenny’s chapped mouth and her eyes had the glazed glint of madness.

“What have they done to her?” screamed Linda to Dwayne.

He kneeled beside Jenny and took her left hand in his own. He checked her pulse and gazed down at his watch. “Her pulse is racing out of control. I don’t know what they shot her up with, she may be dying for all I know.”

Jenny stopped singing and stared directly at Dwayne. “Wrong hand, Cowboy.”

“Say what?” asked Dwayne.

“It’s in the other hand,” said Jenny with a wink as she opened her right hand. Resting in the palm of Jenny’s hand was the handle from a large Anasazi pot. It was several inches long and tan in color. Jenny smiled triumphantly as she gave Dwayne the handle.

“Here. The Magician says that you should have this. It will stop the pothunters.”

Dwayne did not have the heart to tell Jenny that Saunders had escaped. He stared at the ancient handle and tried to think of an appropriate response. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned a fellow named the Magician. Who is he, Jenny?”

Jenny smiled as she closed her eyes and began to tell her story. “There’s an incredible kiva inside this pueblo. We found the Burial of the Magician under its floor. It was treasure. And the more we dug the grave, the more the Magician came to life.  God’s honest truth.”

Jenny’s eyes blinked open. “Look at me, Dwayne. You’ve gotta believe me!”

“I do, Jenny,”replied Dwayne. “But it looks to me like you’ve been through a helluva lot and I think we better try and get you to a doctor now.”

Jenny grabbed Dwayne by the shirt. “I tried to do what was right with the burial, and maybe I did. Who knows? But now it’s your turn. You gotta use that pot handle to nail those fuckers. And then we have to return all the stuff they stole; put it back in the kiva where it belongs. Otherwise, the Magician will not survive in his world.”

Jenny strained to take in air as she desperately squeezed Dwayne’s blue denim shirt.  Jenny let go and slumped against the wall. Her breath came in ragged gasps and her whole body began to shake uncontrollably. “Promise me, Dwayne!”

“I promise, Jenny,” said Dwayne as he fought back tears. “You know you can count on me.”

Jenny began to smile and cry at the same time. “You’re a top hand, Dwayne Johnson.”

Linda picked up one of the syringes from the ground. “Do you know what kind of dosage was in here, Jenny? Was Saunders trying to kill you with this?”

Jenny licked her lips. “I don’t know. We had been doing coke for the past couple of days – I lost track – so we could stay awake. But we had always inhaled it before. This last time, Saunders had us all inject it.

“Did he do any?” asked Linda.

Jenny shook her head. “I can’t remember. I’ve been pretty out of it lately.”

“Here, let me see that needle.” Dwayne squirted a drop of the milky liquid onto his finger and tasted it, then spit in the dirt. “That’s cocaine, alright.”

Dwayne stood up and walked toward the front of the pueblo, out of Jenny’s earshot. “I think we better try and find the keys to one of these boys’ trucks and get her back down to a doctor real quick.”

Linda wrapped the syringe in a red bandana and placed it in her jacket pocket. “Oh, god, Dwayne, if Saunders gave her an O.D., there’s no telling how long we’ve got until her heart and liver shuts down.”

Dwayne pocketed the old pot handle and dashed off toward the pothunters’ trucks. He prayed that he could find the looters’ keys.

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