|More of the Rio Puerco Valley|
Courtesy of geoinfo.nmt.edu
Last week, we met Mack Macklerod, an Albuquerque engineer on vacation in the Rio Puerco Valley just as a vision seemed to rise from the waters of the Rio Puerco... to his mind, a local Aphrodite in need of help. Mack is perfectly willing to go to her aid, but circumstances dictate that they spend the night together in his camp beside the river. Let’s see what comes after a night of energetic love-making in the conclusion. I’ve included the closing chapters of last week’s post to ground us in the story again.
RIO PUERCO APHRODITE (Conclusion)
I’d claimed I wasn’t a savage, but I morphed into one as soon as she turned to me in the tight confines of the sleeping bag and planted a wet kiss on my mouth. I’ve had my share of sex, but no one had ever given me a ride like Linsey. And she barely let me get my wind back before she came for a second helping. I went to sleep with her murmuring “Thank you” in my ear.
Sometime later, I came half-awake as she started squirming around.
“Sorry,” she said. “Call of nature. And it can’t be denied.
The campfire was dead, but she was silhouetted against a starlit sky as she performed a delicate dance pulling on her shorts and tank top.
“Brrr!” she said. “Can I borrow your boots and parka?”
“Sure. You don’t have to be bashful. I won’t peek. I’m going back to sleep.”
“Thanks, cowboy, but I like my privacy. I’ll go over by the Jeep.”
I was almost back to sleep when a common ordinary noise I’d heard a thousand times brought me upright in the fart sack. The sound of an engine struggling to turn over and catch. Disoriented, I reached for my keys where she’d thrown them last night on my pack. They were there. I shook my head, trying to make sense of things. Had someone driven in at this time of night?
Then the engine caught, and I recognized the sound of my own vehicle. I held the keyring up to the starlight. It didn’t take long to realize that the long, distinctive key to the Wrangler was missing.
I came up out of the bag and scrambled to find my boots.
My boots! She had them. As she did my flashlight and my vehicle. Bright lights stabbed the night, blinding me and revealing my nakedness. I thought I caught a wolf whistle just before the Jeep slammed into gear and began moving.
Infuriated, I tried to give chase, but was reduced to hurling rocks at the retreating vehicle. Through a red haze of anger, I realized to give chase barefoot in the darkness was to invite cutting up my feet and possibly crippling myself. It was going to be hard to maneuver the rocks and weeds when the sun came up. In the dark, it was impossible.
Still muttering to myself, I crawled back into the sleeping bag for some warmth. No way would I get any more sleep this night.
But I must have because I woke later that morning to a clear, beautiful day. Then remembering what had happened a few hours earlier, I charged out of the bag swearing a blue streak. After venting my rage, I settled down and accepted my situation. It might be days before anyone wandered within hailing distance. I’d have to figure out how to save myself.
My backpack gave me a couple of pair of thick socks to put on my feet to make walking easier. But this volcanic rock would soon shred wool socks to pieces. So I sacrificed my backpack by cutting out two hunks of canvas to fashion into sandals. I always carried spare laces, so I had a way to bind them to my feet. That took an hour, but I had a little mobility now. Enough so that I could at least try to walk back up to the mesa where there would be more people moving about.
I had just finished eating a breakfast of cold cereal—that I didn’t really want but ate to keep up my strength—when I caught the sound of a helicopter. I made my careful way to the river bank and spotted the craft high in the western sky. Although there was little chance they’d see me, I waved my arms until they were out of sight.
An environmentalist to the end, I hid my things in a clump of juniper, keeping only those items I needed for survival… such as my half-full canteen. The Rio Puerco is a dirty river, meaning that it carries a high amount of suspended particulate matter. Nonetheless, I would have to fill my canteen before starting on my difficult journey.
As I knelt at the riverbank to accomplish that chore, a horrendous racket momentarily transfixed me. I twisted around in time to see an olive green helicopter clear the mound behind me and pass overhead so close that the wash from the rotor toppled me over. I caught myself with my right hand, but the canteen became dislodged and began to float away. I recovered my balance and grabbed at the strap, but it eluded me and went on its merry way to join the waters of the Rio Grande.
The loud, whacking noises persisted, drawing my attention back to the chopper. The machine now hovered twenty feet above the swift-moving river. The big white letters on the side spelling out the word “Police” were reassuring until two men in camouflage gear appeared at the rear door bearing mean-looking rifles. One of them spoke into something at his mouth.
“On the ground now, Haynes!” ordered an amplified voice struggling to be heard over the roar of the big machine’s motor.
I waved my arms. “I’m not—”
“Now!” the voice roared, clearly audible now. “Or we open fire!”
I dropped into the mud and had to support my torso on my hands to keep my head out of the water. I heard rather than saw the two men splash into the shallow river and slosh toward me. In a moment one stood on each side of me. Arms caught me beneath the shoulders and hauled me to a sitting position. Now my butt was in the water.
“Where are your weapons?” one man demanded as he turned to give a thumbs-up signal to the helicopter hovering over the river. The machine immediately whacked its noisy way off to the north.
I blinked into the face of the speaker, a weathered man with a hawk nose who carried an air of authority. “Weapons? I don’t have any.”
“Yeah, right. Take a look, Gilpin.”
His companion took time to cuff my hands behind my back before complying.
“W-who are you, and why are you holding me prisoner?” I struggled to put some strength in my voice.
“Sergeant Joe Mora of the New Mexico State Police. And you know damned well why you’re in cuffs, Hastings.”
“Hastings? Who’s Hastings.”
“You are, and don’t try to deny it. Where's your partner?”
“What partner? And my name’s not Hastings. It’s Macklerod.”
“Right, and that’s not your red Nissan Xterra disabled in the middle of Leaping Frog Arroyo a mile north, either. Right?”
“That’s right. My Jeep Wrangler’s somewhere on the way back on its way to Albuquerque or wherever with the woman who stole it last night.”
It’s hard to sound indignant when telling a take-charge, go-get-um cop you got snookered by a pretty woman.
One of the two men dug around in my pocket and extracted my wallet. A moment later, he confirmed my ID said I was Macklerod.
Mora released my hands from the manacles. “Okay, get up.”
I rose and started trying to swipe mud off my face and clothing.
“Hands up. Hold still.”
“But you have my—”
“IDs can be phonied.” He held up a photograph, stared at it, and then transferred his steely-eyed stare to me. “Okay, so you aren’t Julian Hastings. Put your hands down and tell me what happened.
During the telling of my tale, we heard the chopper clatter back and land nearby. Another couple of officers approached through the trees as I finished.
“Found Hastings in the Nissan. Dead.”
Mora relaxed a bit. “Shot?”
The officer who’s helmet had the letters P-I-L-O-T painted on it nodded. “Yep. The witnesses were right. The guard shot him during the escape, but why didn’t Breckers leave him at a hospital somewhere. I didn’t have her pegged as a callous killer.”
“She’s a trained nurse, remember. Maybe she was going to treat him herself. Besides, they were being pushed hard. APD wasn’t far behind her until she finally gave them the slip in Rio Rancho.”
“Breckers?” I asked. “Was her first name Linsey?”
All four law enforcement officers turned their attention back to me.
“That’s the name she gave me, anyway.” I explained.
“Yeah, Linsey Breckers. That’s the name she’s going by now. Who knows what her real one is.”
“What’s she done?”
Mora ignored me and turned away to take care of the business of broadcasting a description of my vehicle, but his headset wouldn’t reach, so he snared the pilot to give him some altitude in order to accomplish that chore.
Before leaving he turned back and answered my question. “Jewelry store heist. One that turned deadly. Hastings shot the guard when he blundered in on the scene from a coffee break. But the guard got off a round and apparently hit his killer. Tit for tat, I guess. Was Breckers carrying anything when she showed up on your doorstep?”
I frowned in concentration. “Yeah. She had a bag. You know, the usual kind women carry. It had a shoulder strap.” I paused. “It wasn’t that big. Maybe 8x12.”
“Doesn’t take much to carry a million dollars’ worth of diamonds and rubies and gold,” the pilot responded.”
I cast nervous eyes skyward as the helicopter lifted off and gained some altitude. I needed a ride out of this joint, but Mora wouldn’t leave his own men stranded here, would he?
As I puzzled over this, one of the remaining two state troopers wearing a name tag reading Wilson grabbed me to identify anything Linsey Breckers had touched. Unfortunately, I’m a neat camper and the mess gear she’d eaten from was already sand-scoured and washed clean. When he learned she’d spent the night—or part of one, anyway—in my sleeping bag, Wilson confiscated the sack so the lab could look for DNA. Oh, lord! What else would he find in there after our energetic romps?
Eventually the state police were finished on the Rio Puerco and condescended to give me a lift to their office in Albuquerque. No one seemed inclined to offer me a ride to my house, so I called a taxi.
As I was paying the cab driver, my neighbors, Dennis and Bunny Wharton came flying out of their house and halted abruptly on their way to the orange Chevy Blazer sitting in their drive.
“Mack! You’re okay?” Dennis shouted.
I dropped my gear on the driveway and walked to meet them.“Yeah. Shook up, but okay. Why?”
“We got a phone call a few minutes ago saying you were stranded over in the Rio Puerco.”
I felt my eyebrows climb. “You did? Who called?”
Bunny spoke up. “Some woman. She didn’t identify herself. Just said you were stranded and needed help. There wasn’t any caller ID. Blocked, it said.”
“How long ago?”
“Not more than five minutes. I just took the time to check the computer for your email message before heading out to find you.”
Dennis and I habitually informed one another of our camping plans whenever we went off alone on a jaunt. Our emails usually included a Google Earth map of our planned route.
Goosebumps prickled my back. Promising an explanation later, I raced for the front door. I fumbled my way inside and checked every room. No one was there, but someone had been.
Linsey had taken time to heat one of the Healthy Choice frozen dinners in my freezer—and confiscate a couple of others for the road. She’d also left me a note on the kitchen counter.
Lovely home. Didn’t see any sign of a woman in your life, though. Shame, you’re so good at taking care of one. Wish I’d met you before… Well, before.
You’ll find your Jeep in the garage, if you haven’t already. Undamaged and a bit cleaner than I found it. Used the garage opener to gain access to your house. You really should install a home alarm system for frustrate people like me.
Thanks for your help, even if it was unwilling help. Wish things could be different. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll look up and there I’ll be, standing right in front of you with a big smile on my face. And there would be if my eyes were looking at you.
For the record, I didn’t simply abandon Julian. He kept insisting he’d be okay until we reached a safe spot. I should have suspected he was hurt worse than he thought when he fell silent. I’ll always feel guilty about not halting—even in plain sight of the police—and helping him survive.
I didn’t abandon you, either. I took the liberty of getting your neighbor’s phone number from your Rolodex. I’ll call them later when it’s safe to do so and let them know you need help.
The Jeep Wrangler sat in the garage scrubbed cleaner than it had been in some time. She’d gotten my address from the insurance card in the glove box and put my car where the cops would never have found it. They’d be scouring the roads and highways thinking she was fleeing in my vehicle. But it was hidden in my garage before the police helicopter ever found me. How had she made her way from my house to wherever? She was a clever gal who apparently found a way.
I wrestled with my conscience for a good quarter of an hour before concluding I needed to turn the note over the police. But I was tired and needed sleep. I’d do it after I snatched a few hours of zzzzs.
Was that what you expected for the concluding part of the story? It wasn’t for me… and I wrote it. It’s a case of characters grappling control from the author’s hand and doing whatever they want. It seems that way sometimes, at any rate.
I hope you enjoyed this little tale. Let me know what you think of it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New posts published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.