The Judge beamed. “The situation is not as bad as I had first envisioned. We are still in an excellent position to accomplish all of the objectives of the mission, including several we had not intended. We no longer have any partners to worry about. The authorities have no one to question – with Linda Joyce out of the way, any evidence is circumstantial, at best.”
“As soon as I waste Joyce, I’m heading straight to Vegas, cutting the hair and beard, buying a nice silk suit, and catching a plane to Belize. I’ve got some friends down there in pirate country where I can hide out. And I’d recommend that you do the same. Leave the country and lay low until the goddamn dust settles. I don’t want to be seen anywhere near the Arizona Strip for the next couple of months – maybe longer. Fuck, I may never come back to the ol’ U.S. of A. It’s a big world out there, my friend.”
The Judge mulled over plans. “That sounds like a very good idea, Mr. Saunders. And extended trip to the Bahamas would allow me to deposit the money from Saturday’s auction in untraceable offshore bank accounts, while also avoiding the probing questions of the law. Yes indeed, I believe such a vacation is just what the doctor ordered.”
B.T. opened the passenger door and climbed out of the helicopter. “You better get going now. I’ll handle Joyce. You fence the artifacts. And we’ll meet in two weeks down at the Hilton, in Nassau, and get the money situation straightened-out.”
The Judge saluted his comrade. “I will have my secretary make the arrangements, Mr. Saunders. There will be a suite reserved in your name two weeks hence.”
“The first round’s on me, Judge,” replied B.T. as he returned his commander’s salute. “Hey, it’s not like we’re dealing with the Viet Cong here. These people are fucking Mormons.”
The Judge laughed as he started up the engines on the Ranger. “Good point, Mr. Saunders.”
“Wait until I make sure my bike is still there and starts, before you take off, Judge.”
The Judge raised his right thumb as B.T. jogged over to a thick clump of gambel oak and retrieved his Harley. A thin sheen of brown dust and yellowish oak pollen coated the chopper but the bike seemed untouched. B.T. climbed aboard the motorcycle and tried to kick-start the engine. The shotgun wound in his leg rebelled and brought tears of pain to his eyes. B.T. gritted his teeth and pumped the foot pedal again. On the fifth try, the roadster’s engine came alive in a blast of hot noise, so loud that it drowned out the sound of the helicopter. B.T. goosed the hand-throttle as black smoke poured out of the Harley’s chrome-plated exhaust pipe, and he waved to the Judge.
The chopper rose effortlessly from the ground and flew off toward Kanab.
One of B.T.’s favorite pastimes was riding his Roadster on deserted forest roads. Sometimes the dirt tracks got a little dusty, especially in the early fall, but it was still a great way to unwind. The roads seemed to go on forever. He had once heard that there were more miles of dirt road on the North Kaibab Forest than there were in the entire nationwide interstate highway system. That seemed a little hard to believe, but there was no denying that a man could ride for days and never see another human being, which was exactly what B.T. was hoping for today – smooth sailing and a trouble-free ride. His extensive knowledge of the forest’s transportation network was going to come in handy. He intended to stick to back roads all the way to Fredonia.
He cruised slowly up the bumpy road and did his best to avoid hitting the rocks and potholes. His wounded leg throbbed in agony every time he hit a rough spot. He could see the smoke rising from the lumber mill on the outskirts of Fredonia, perhaps fifty miles away. On a crystal clear day like this, it was easy to imagine that the Arizona Strip was the very center of the universe. B.T. chuckled at the thought. Only the Indians and local Mormons could really be at home with such a silly-ass notion.
Several hundred feet ahead was a cattle gate blocking the road. B.T. was surprised to see it closed; on his past trips, the gate had always been hanging open. Cattle gates were rarely, if ever locked on the forest.
B.T. gingerly climbed off the Harley, flipped down the kick-stand with the toe of his boot, and approached the rickety gate comprised of four strands of barbed wire strung across a rectangular frame of one-by-fours. A large brass padlock attached the flimsy fence to a metal post that had been driven deeply into the ground. The brown lock had a Forest Service insignia on its side. Why would the Forest Service close off Buckhorn Point? And how the hell was he going to get around the locked gate?
B.T. scanned right and left down the fence line, looking for a breach in the wire trap. Some sections looked like they had recently been re-strung. Lately, bad luck seemed to follow him wherever he went; it was hard for him to escape the thought that, for some inexplicable reason, the gods had turned against him.
The Mac-10 would make short work of the government padlock. B.T. fired a quick burst at the lock and watched it blow apart into small pieces of twisted metal. The gate slowly swung open. So much for government interference on the open range.
B.T. holstered his gun and glanced up at the turquoise sky. Above him soared a solitary golden eagle, gliding on the high-noon thermals that rose off the Grand Canyon. B.T. gazed admiringly at the great bird of prey and longed to soar above his worldly problems, to be rid of locked gates and nosey cops. Soon – by tomorrow at the latest – he would be flying high in a jumbo jet on his way to the islands. No one would be able to touch him there.