Larry paid no attention to the eight motorcycle boots approaching and continued to work underneath the motor home. He came to Quartzsite eight years ago and began his business on a shoestring. The majority of his work was during the winter months, providing service to the snow birds camped in the desert surrounding Quartzsite. He was quite successful in business simply because he was one of the best mechanics in the entire southwest. However, he was not the most even tempered person. The townspeople would describe him as a little prickly, but "if you want the job done right, Larry's the man to do it." Although short on temper, he was long on generosity. Molly and Gaf had known Larry for just a few hours when he had offered them the use of his yard to park their rig. And he would extend this generosity to anyone, including the rag tag bikers he spoke of to his wife, Julie. He had seen a lot of desert rats come through Quartzsite, but these men were different. At this time of year, Larry's shop was overflowing with RV's needing repair. The simple truth was that he would have hired a gorilla if he thought it could be taught to use a wrench. He didn't trust the bikers, but he was desperate for help. The man that had promised to bring him a mechanic now peered under the motor home and said,
"Bert's here, you wanna talk?"
" Yeah, I'll be right there." answered Larry.
Within a few minutes Bert found himself with a job. Larry wasted no time and immediately set Bert on the task of rebuilding a transmission. He kept a close watch on the man and the project. The other three bikers were assigned to clean up the yard and organize all the used parts from previous jobs. It didn't take Larry long to realize that Bert not only knew what he was doing, but he did it with class, style and efficiency. The other three also seemed enthusiastic as they set upon their task. The four friends were actually grateful for the opportunity to get their minds off the events of the past two days.
Although they hadn't said it to each other they were sure Sal wasn't going to make it. And all were working furiously in order to keep the image of Frank and Jennie out of their heads. The burial was supposed to take place at sunset. At the end of the first day, Larry offered to give Mort, Jake and Eddie the van and new parts for 10 days of work helping him and Bert. The work on the van would be done after hours. They were satisfied with the arrangement and accepted the offer. Bert would be paid, in cash, a full mechanic's hourly wage at the end of each day. Watching them walk out to the desert at the end of the day, Larry wondered if he might be making a mistake with these four desert rats. They were hard workers, but he didn't trust them. 'What the hell,' he thought. 'they can't steal that much.'
The walk back to camp was made in near silence. Even the usual talkative Eddie said very little. They had all buried friends in the past and it was starting to grate on them. However, the hard physical labor had released much of the tension felt by the four men. The mouth watering aroma of food and Jezebel greeted them as the sun was setting over the camp.
During the course of the day Juniper, Sandy and Molly had gathered wild flowers for a burial and ceremony honoring the young couple that had died. Hank and Don stacked rocks at the back of the mine to cover the bodies. However, it was also decided that the section of tunnel containing the graves would be collapsed. Old timbers and chain found in the mine were used to create a pulley system which would collapse the mine walls surrounding the graves without closing the main tunnel. The bikers had just returned from Larry's mechanic shop, when Hank and Don walked out of the mine. The scene, as food was served and events of the day discussed, seemed almost familial.
When they were finished eating they followed Ben into the mine for the burial. The three women arranged bunches of flowers over the bodies and then the men stacked rocks over Frank and Jennie. Eddie began to tell anecdotes about Frank and how he and Jennie seemed to hit it off as soon as they met her. As often happens, one story lead to another and the somber atmosphere dissolved into a joyous harmony. When it was time to leave, Ben read aloud, from his bible, the first four verses of Psalm 61.
Don stayed behind in order to pull the support beams from the ceiling and collapse the walls around the burial place. When he joined the others, the fire had grown. Pink clouds to the east and orange flames from the west framed the sky as the stars winked into the twilight. Peace and a strange kind of contentment settled over the assorted group of souls. Ben came out of the motorhome and announced that Sal's fever had broken. As the four bikers ran over to the trailer, he cautioned them to enter singly so as not to 'shake him out of bed'. Bert was the first one to enter. Sal's eyelids flickered as he said," Where the hell am I?" Bert attempted to explain what had happened after Sal became unconscious. However, in Bert's enthusiasm, most of the story had few details and left Sal in a state of confusion.
Gradually, each of the bikers related what had happened and Sal was finally able to piece together the events of the last two days. He was still weak and the conversation was tiring. Seeing the exhausted look on his face Ben told them it was time for them to leave, they could return in the morning. Sal was grateful for the reprieve and slipped quickly into a deep sleep. Sandy and Juniper volunteered to take shifts watching Sal. Sandy would take the first shift. Jake laughed, "All right! I knew he was too mean to die! Let's get some bikes together tonight and we can leave in the morning. I'll strap Sal to my back, if I have to."
Bert responded with impatience, "Not so fast, we have to be sure he's in good enough shape to travel. Ain't that right, Ben?"
" It sure is, Bert. Sal has lost a lot of blood and will probably need at least a week of bedrest."
Tyler now returned after walking out in the desert since early that morning. After five years of life as a hermit, the noise generated from even this small group was difficult for him to handle. He knew he would require periods of solitude in order to accomplish keeping this group together. It seemed things were happening much faster than he had anticipated. Chaos was increasing and for reasons yet unknown to him, it was important for these people to remain as a group. Just as Tyler was about to speak about his concerns Juniper in her usual naive way said, "Even if Sal were able to travel where could you possibly buy motorcycles at this time of night?"
Stunned, the men started to laugh and Jake mocked her with a falsetto voice, "Well, my dear, I thought we'd just run down to the Midnight Auto Mall."
Seeing the perplexed look on Juniper's face, Molly said, "They don't want to buy the bikes, dear, they plan to steal them."
" You can't be serious," Juniper said," There aren't any motorcycles around here, maybe a mo-ped or two. Besides, even if you found some bikes, don't you think you would be safer here?"
" Safe? What's 'safe'?" Eddie replied, suddenly serious, "Nobody dares mess with us, and if they were stupid enough to try, it'd be the last time, little girl." Juniper felt a sudden twinge of fear and instinctively backed up a step, her fingers touching her throat.
" Good evening, Gentlemen" Tyler spoke softly, "and ladies," he continued, nodding to Juniper and Molly. "I think the young woman may have a point. I've been walking all day, and I haven't seen a single motorcycle. However, in my travels today, I have become aware of a strong and sudden shift in the desert's vibration. The normal rhythmic cadences of the desert is being violently disrupted. I suspect that something in the human collective is effecting its tonal vibration. There may be more to your situation than hiding from the law. Until we can learn more about what is happening, I'd advise that we stay together. This is definitely not a good time to act without consideration. Also, your friend Sal is not out of the woods yet, Ben's right he'll need at least another week to recover."
Mort didn't understand anything Tyler had said except for the part about Sal's condition and said, "No big deal, Jake, I say we hang here a while."
Bert checked on Sal once more and then announced that he was going to sleep for a few hours and then head into town before the sun rose.
Jake, Eddie, and Mort followed without speaking.
The night turned cold. Juniper said goodnight and went into the motorhome. Sandy came out a few minutes later then she and Hank also retired. Molly got a blanket and wrapping it around her shoulders, she set a pot of water on the fire. She asked Tyler if he'd eaten and suggested a hot cup of coffee or tea when he declined her offer of food. "What was all that talk about tonal vibrations and violence? Molly asked, "You seem to be suggesting that the desert is reacting to something violent. Can you be more specific?"
" Not really, I just know that the desert and the whole planet often react to the emotional tone of the human collective." Tyler responded.
Don put down a newspaper that he and Ben had been re-reading with a flashlight and said, "Well something is certainly happening. It says here that people in the cities are taking only what they can carry and leaving in record numbers. It seems roving gangs are looting stores and setting fire to anything that will burn. If you can believe this reporter, there's panic everywhere. That may be what Tyler is talking about. Personally, I can't believe anything I read anymore since I saw what the newspapers said about us. How can we tell the difference between what's really happening, and what's just been made up?"
Molly started pacing around the fire as she began to speak, "The news media seems to take great delight in stirring up emotional responses. The country is constantly being divided by fear, hate and revenge. Neighbors argue against each other over petty political issues. Some don't know what to do and most of us just want to enjoy our families and be let alone. Even people who claim to practice christianity speak out against other christians. The other day I saw a bus covered with messages of destruction and hate. No one seems to be able to focus on simple messages of love and caring. They say that's too simple. The 'bad' people must be destroyed, the only thing is no one is really sure who the good guys are or even if there are any left."
Tyler expanded further, "Now with the price of gasoline doubled, the activities of anti-government terrorists has escalated. Damns and railroads are being sabotaged with increasing regularity. If the damage caused to power plants continues this summer, people in cities such as Phoenix will be dying like flies; everyone needs air conditioning to survive, not to mention water. Grocery costs have more than doubled because the large trucking companies have had to hire armed escorts in order to insure the safe arrival of food."
Don began to nod, "The last time I talked to my cousin, Angelo, he mentioned that roving gangs have been causing a lot of misery for folks around Monticello, Utah. They seem to be searching for food and money and not caring how they get it. He and few of his neighbors are planning to get together to see what they can do to protect themselves and their families, just in case." Then as an afterthought Don added, "He also told me that they were having electrical brownouts and some kinds of food was getting scarce, especially sugar."
Sandy and Hank approached the campfire and Sandy said, "We couldn't sleep, and overheard your conversation. I haven't heard of any food shortages in Salt Lake, in fact, if the Mormons had any more sugar, they could ski on it."
Ben had been listening to the conversation as he scanned the newspaper. He stopped abruptly as he read a small notation buried on an inside page. It seemed that several homes in Monticello, Utah had been pillaged and burned a few days ago, the families slaughtered.
" Uh, Don, maybe you should read this," Ben said. He handed the paper to Don and held the flashlight over the small paragraph.
" Oh God!" Don exclaimed, "I've got to call him, I have to go there!"
Ben put a hand on Don's shoulder and said," Why don't I see if I can reach a friend of mine on the radio. We can get the facts about what happened there without giving out any information about you."
Ben and Don headed for the motorhome where Ben got on his amateur radio and made a few calls. Ben got the names of the families involved and Don was relieved that the Carpino family was not on the list. However, he was still determined to go to Monticello as quickly as possible and announced to all that he was going in to town and catch a ride with a trucker. Ben tried to talk him out of it telling him that he would be of no help to his family if the police found him.
"Don, today I saw you riding on an old dirt bike heading north, you had just passed the border into Utah," Tyler interrupted.
"You'll find it behind the Snowbird Visitors Center in town. The keys will be in the ignition, it's a green Yamaha with an Oregon license plate."
" I know that bike! It belongs to Joe, he's been trying to sell it for months." Ben shouted. Looking blankly at Tyler, he said," How did you know about it?"
Tyler answered, "The information was just given to me."
Ben tilted his head and decided that he didn't want to pursue the subject. "Let's go find Joe," he told Don and they got in the truck and headed for town. Joe was a crazy old hippie, his mind was blown out by drugs, Ben explained to Don as they pulled into the parking lot. Indeed, a grizzly looking old man with long gray hair and a beard answered the door. Ben briefly told Joe of Don's emergency and his need to get to Monticello. When Ben began to dicker on the price, Joe said, "you can't buy this bike, Ben, but you can have it. You've bailed me out of some tough situations, including jail. The bike's yours. The key's in the ignition, now come on in and we'll tip a few." Ben declined with a friendly wave, "you know I can't drink that shit anymore, I'll see you tomorrow."
Don couldn't believe his luck. He gratefully accepted the bike with a promise to pay Joe when he could. Ben explained that Don needed to come back to the camp for a bit before he got on his way because he felt sure that Sandy and Juniper might want to send a message to their parents, in Price. As they arrived back at the camp they were greeted by Sandy. She asked Don if he would be able to get to Price and make contact with her parents who in turn would let Juniper's family know that they were both safe. Of course, she knew that their parents would have difficulty believing the news reports, but she wanted to let them know that their daughters were safe. Don assured Sandy that he would get a message to their families. Molly strapped a packet of food to the bike, and Ben gave Don a list of Ham radio operators between Page, Arizona and Price, Utah, explaining that these were trustworthy people who would help Don if he ran into trouble. "Tell them that you're a friend of mine and mention my call letters KC7JGV". Don planned to get a few hours rest and leave at first light. Just before he fell asleep he thought, 'The key was in the ignition, it was just as Tyler described.'
Before leaving early that morning the bikers entered the motorhome to check on Sal. Sal was awake and alert. Although weak from loss of blood, he sat up and told them to get a hold of some bikes so they could leave as soon as he was a little stronger. Bert told him of his job and said they could have a VW bus in exchange for the others helping out. Sal would have told his friends to just rip off some bikes, but he knew in order to recover, he needed Ben's help. They agreed to work the 10 days for the bus, then Mort, Jake, and Eddie would head out and bring back some bikes.
Bert would remain with Sal and work for Larry. When they all had bikes, they would leave together. As the four left the rig, Sal shouted, "And mine damn well better be a Harley!"
"No other kind!" They shouted back and headed off to work.
As Don gulped a cup of coffee and headed toward the bike, Ben took him aside for some fatherly advice. "Look son, if something happens up there and you need to go back south, head for Kaibab Lake, it's about two miles north of Williams on old highway 64, you'll pass it on your way. The entrance to the lake and campground was blocked off when the forest service had to close the Grand Canyon to visitors due to the combination of budget cuts and eco-terrorist threats. There's no way we'll be able to stay here during the summer. In about two months the desert will be much too hot; then I'll take Molly up there, the others too, if they want to go. Tyler thinks we should stay together as much as possible, and I agree with him. Don hugged the old man and thanked him for his help. As he rode down the dusty wash he looked back once at his new friends and wondered if he would ever see them again. As Molly watched the smoky pink clouds roll across the desert and follow the trail of dust from Don's motorcycle, she reflected on the changes she and Gaf had noticed over the years. They had often speculated on and had projected an outcome very similar to what she now saw in the newspapers.
Due to pressure from citizens who feared for their safety and the rising rate of violent crime, every state in the union had finally repealed their concealed weapons law. In its place governments established highly regulated licensing of all firearms. In effect, this established each citizen as part of a local militia. Anyone with a criminal history was denied a firearms license and would be prosecuted if found in possession of a firearm. The average law-abiding citizen was now able to carry a concealed weapon and could defend themselves and their families against the onslaught of the massive gang activities which threatened to bring every city to its knees. As projected by concerned citizen groups, these laws deterred many random crimes of violence, however, the number of 'crimes of passion' remained stable. Companion laws were passed at the same time to protect the would be victims from prosecution by narrow minded District Attorneys who were more concerned about the rights of criminals than the right of decent citizens to protect themselves. Cases which were questionable were reviewed by a neighborhood panel of peers who based their judgements on moral intent. It was up to the victimizer to demonstrate to the panel that they were not involved in criminal activity.
Court proceedings were often bypassed on the judgement of the panel. Of course, this ran counter to the traditional court procedure which insisted that it was up to the court to demonstrate guilt, not the accused to demonstrate innocence. If the panel believed that the shooting was justified, it was recommended to the county attorney that the act not be prosecuted. County attorneys who failed to follow the advice of the panel soon found themselves among the ranks of the unemployed. None of these maneuvers by legislators had any major impact on reducing crime. These methods were used as band aids for a society that was no longer able to protect its own citizens. The slaughter predicted by the liberal left never occurred because everyone knew that everyone else might be armed. There was a noticeable decrease in the abuse of women, rapes in particular. Of course, the decrease did not occur until after the body count of males with questionable intent had significantly increased.
At the end of the 90's many neighborhoods wound up fencing themselves in and hiring private security systems. This was especially prevelant in the more affluent cities such as Flagstaff, Arizona. Unfortunately, the cost of buying housing in a secured neighborhood was beyond the means of the average citizen. This resulted in 'shanty town' types of sub-cities surrounding these secured communities.
Typically, blue collar workers lived outside these secured neighborhoods and had the most responsibility for protecting themselves and their families. Many projected that by the beginning of the 21st century, the images of these arrangements would be similar to the ancient fief system. Most governments averted serf revolt by insuring massive quantities of food on the store shelves, however, this was fast becoming difficult to maintain.
Living in a city was, in fact, relatively safe compared to living in rural areas, the cities did afford some protection of the citizens. Because of the state governments inability to provide a wide coverage of protection, many stretches of interstate in the western United States became known as 'bad man's land'. Truck hijacking was common and RV'ers traveled only as a caravan. The casual Sunday drive became extinct because of fear and the extreme cost of gasoline. Molly did not remember a time when she had seen newspapers so filled with 'real news'. Of particular interest to her and her friends was the inability of local police forces to cooperate with federal and state law enforcement due to the lack of manpower and funding. In addition, the constant attack by snipers on the Highway Patrol significantly reduced the State's ability to maintain law and order on the highway system. It was common knowledge that these snipers were essentially roving bands of criminals. However, the media, encouraged by federal and state governments, reported these incidents as the modus operandi of State militias. Everyone seemed to have a clear understanding that the federal government was not only bankrupt, but out of control. The Federal government, in attempting to regain control used subversive methods which circumvented constitutional rights. One of most recent examples to reach national news was the use of United Nations troops to aid the California National Guard in quelling the riots in east L.A. This was done against the advise of the governor of California.
However, the President of the United States insisted that it was beyond the capability of the National Guard to recapture order. In one newspaper account the president was quoted as stating that "the fires burning out of control in Los Angeles are a threat to the security of this Nation." The rioting was not the explosive type as seen in the 60's.
It was an act that had gradually become a nightly ritual of burning and looting a few stores. Over time, some neighborhoods developed the appearance of a war zone. It was primarily the street gangs that instigated the rioting.
It had been an unusually cold winter around the Quartzsite area. However, cold for Quartzsite usually meant night time temperatures hovering around 30 degrees. In the past, the rock and mineral shows would attract nearly 1 million people. Originally, Quartzsite catered to an informal giant flea market, people from around the country would flow into the little town in January and February to sell their wares. These were anything from handcrafted items to inexpensive leather and pottery goods imported from foreign countries. The flea market atmosphere was almost carnival-like. During those times the townspeople of Quartzsite were content to enjoy the prosperity brought in from vendors from around the country. However, in true capitalistic fashion, business fees, parking, and RV hookup rates gradually increased to the point at which it became prohibitive. There was a slow decline at the end of the 90's and the flea market, once enjoyed by all, fell under the greedy ax of Quartzsite citizens. Not being content to prosper with everyone, their greed for money soon turned the Quartzsite area back to a small hamlet of resentful and vicious people. Many of their old friends had not returned; some had died and others had just gotten too tired to travel. In addition the recent inflation had made it too costly for many. 'Including me,' she thought, remembering the loss of everything she owned. Fear of being caught and prosecuted for trumped up charges of murder and drug involvement now prevented her from accessing her own bank account. Molly did not want to take advantage of Ben's kindness much longer. Like most older people he lived on a very limited retirement income. She began making a mental list of ways she might support herself.
" Whatcha thinkin' about, Molly? You look pretty far away." Ben voice interrupted her thoughts.
" Actually, I'm not far away. I've been thinking of what I should do next; ways that I can earn a little money, you know, things like that." Molly responded, trying to sound optimistic.
"Well, have you thought about drumming up a little business doin' some of your fortune telling? You and Gaf always enjoyed doin' that stuff so much you'd never accept any pay. How would you feel about doin' that for money?
We'll make you a new sign."
" I hadn't thought of that, but you're right.
Maybe I'll brush up on my psychic skills. Of course, I'll need some new tools. I can make runes, and gather crystals from here, but I'll need to buy a tarot deck. I know it's legitimate to accept money in exchange for that type of service. Unfortunately, so many unscrupulous 'new agers' have made a good deal of money feeding on the misery of others.
We never felt comfortable profiting from people who are searching for spirituality.
However, I realize that now I'll need to charge a reasonable rate or offer readings in exchange for food or gasoline. Now that Gaf's dead I've got to do something. The best way to ease my loss is to keep busy and concentrate on others."
Tyler looked up from his coffee cup and said," Gaf isn't dead, Molly."
" What? How do you know?" Molly responded quickly. "Do you know what happened to him? Where is he?"
" The information I'm receiving is that he isn't dead, but I don't know what he's doing. I sense darkness, shifting images and varied scenery." Tyler said as he looked into the fire.
" A dream that I had a few days after his disappearance left me thinking he was dead. But often dreams aren't what they seem to be." Molly said. "People start thinking about the dream as they begin to wake and by the time they wake fully, parts of the dream have already been altered by the mental process of changing symbolism and emotions into words. I have found it very hard to accept Gaf's death as a fact, it seemed like he just disappeared. If I had my cards I could prove to myself that he lived, and maybe even find out where he is."
" I have some in my backpack," Tyler said.
"I'll get them."
Molly accepted the deck of tarot cards that were handed to her. She looked out into the desert as she shuffled them and said, almost as if she were alone, "There's only one card that I'll accept as proof." After several moments of silence Molly chose one card and placed it face down on the ground. Then taking a deep breath, as if to receive courage from the air around her, she turned it over.
"Oh, God, It's true. Gaf is alive."
Puzzled, Tyler looked at the card and said," The Knight of Cups?"
Laughingly, Molly almost danced as she stood and said, "Let me tell you a little story."
Molly described how, when she had first met Gaf, he had been somewhat of a rebel. He often talked of the necessity for revolution and the need to destroy what was, in order to build on a new foundation. Others later described a violent side to Gaf that she had never seen. One night Molly and Gaf had been visited by a friend, Rowan Snow. She expressed her fears of what Gaf might do in the future and asked him what path he was going to choose. "I'll let the cards decide for me right now!" Gaf had said as he shuffled Molly's cards. Dramatically, he pulled one card from the deck and placed it to his left. "This is the outcome of my path as a revolutionary". And to the right another card he announced as "life in quiet retirement with Molly." The position of violence was "The Five of Swords".
The card that Gaf turned over reflecting what his life would be like if he chose a quiet retirement was "The Knight of Cups". Gaf announced to Rowan that there was no question that he would choose the life of a traveling philosopher over defeat any day.
Molly had been confused over the tears that sprung to Rowan's eyes as Gaf made his choice.
It seemed that Rowan and other friends had often expressed their concern over the possibility that Gaf might become a calloused destroyer of life in the name of 'rebirth of the country'. Her tears had been tears of joy at his choice of peace over violence. Even now, Molly had a difficult time imaging that the violent and volatile person they described and the gentle man she had chosen to spend her life with, had existed in the same body. Molly had entered Gaf's life when he was at a turning point; a definite fork in the road where it was possible to choose between two clearly defined positions; war and peace.
Sandy, Hank, and Juniper had sat down by the campfire just as Molly was explaining the choices Gaf made based on two tarot cards.
Juniper had been raised in a very traditional christian world and had only superstition regarding the pagan world. In fact, the very word 'pagan' created images in Juniper's head of human sacrifice and demons. In typical christian fashion she assumed that her personal knowledge of the metaphysical was credible and reliable. Therefore, her self-righteous and pompous remark regarding the Tarot was not unexpected by Molly.
"How could anyone make a serious life choice based on drawing from a pack of cards?," asked Juniper.
" Do you believe in the power of prayer?," asked Molly.
" Of course," said Juniper.
" How is belief in finding answers through prayer any different than belief in the relationship of the tarot deck and a person's life?," asked Molly.
" Because," answered Juniper. "Prayer is something we project to a higher power, not to a bunch of paper cards."
Serenely, Molly asked, "How do you know there is a higher power?"
" Well, I just believe there is. Doesn't everyone?"
" Everyone believes in what they feel. If you know for a fact that you'll get the answers you need from prayer, then you will. The important thing is not the tool one chooses, but the surety that the answer exists and is available. Prayer, or use of a tarot deck; each is simply part of a belief system. Without belief, neither would fulfill our expectation. I know you believe that the power of communication with your god is more real than my belief in the tarot deck as a tool of communication between me and the universe. I do not disbelieve in your god, I simply have found a more personal connection to the universe." Molly responded. "I receive information from what I see and feel around me and inside of me. That's not too different from the answers you get from praying, is it?"
"No, I guess it isn't." Juniper said.
" It's time for people to focus, not on our differences, but on our similarities. Harmony will bring peace and prosperity to our planet, not discord." Molly continued. "I've seen evidence that people are gathering for just that purpose."
Tyler then interjected, "I agree, What difference does the color of your skin or your religious preference make? Fear of that which is different spreads, creating violence, which in turn creates more fear. Whereas gathering in peace, and sharing the gentle intentions we all have in common generates harmonious vibrations that are in tune with each other, the earth, and the universe."
" Earlier, you mentioned 'new agers'" Sandy spoke up, "Aren't the ideas you are discussing very old?"
" They are," Molly answered. "Many, unfulfilled by the structure of organized religion have returned to the simple paganism of early mankind. And even this simple belief system is often tainted by the discord of 'difference'.
In the search for answers it is easy to apply a rule or structure to a process, creating a belief that 'my way is better,' or 'my belief is the only one that is really TRUE'. Believers in the 'New Age' are no less subject to this human failing than are christians, or any organization. In fact, many 'new agers' have fallen into the very old trap of giving the tools or the ceremony undue importance. They forget that these items or rituals were only created in order to show their intention and focus on spiritual issues."
Ben had been listening intently and was become frustrated at the turn in the conversation. Apparently, Gaf was alive, but no one knew where he was. All this chatter about philosophy was giving him a headache and it certainly didn't answer the question about Gaf's whereabouts. Rather sharply, Ben said, "Enough of this crap already! Where the hell is Gaf in all of this?"
" Yes," chirped Juniper. "If it weren't for Gaf and Molly, I would be home in bed instead of sitting in the middle of a desert investigating questions that have no answers."
Molly said, "You are here because you chose to be here."
" Right," answered Juniper. "Just what I wanted to do. Get chased and shot at and top it off by being dirty and hungry. The dream of every bank executive."
Hank broke in the conversation then and said quietly, "Well you did want to get your purse back. Anyhow, who do you think those guys were that rescued us. Man, I couldn't believe it when those guys started shooting, I thought they were going to shoot us."
Sandy had never heard Hank say so many words in one breath in all the time they had been together. Stunned she stammered, "Yeah, how about that? It was like the cavalry showing up. And why did they bring us here. They had gear for us, too. Somebody must have known of our situation and planned the whole thing.
But who do you think it was?"
Tyler said, "There are many forces at work in the universe. As Molly mentioned earlier, people of similar intent are gathering. However, all of these groups are not entirely in agreement. Lines are being drawn and sides taken.
For many years, the major events in the lives of the majority of mankind, the 'common man' if you will, have been strategically planned by a small group of power mongers. The tide is about to turn with the help of 'off world' intelligence. What was will no longer be, and what will be is negotiable."
" What?" Juniper stood up, now totally disgusted, "Off world intelligence'. You mean little green men from Mars or something? I'm going back in the motorhome and check on Sal."
Hank immediately thought of the two men with the blue hats that seemed to be following them in Nevada. He then described his version of the trip from Salt Lake City to Warm Springs, Nevada. He also included the strange game of 'Deja Vu' that Sandy and Juniper had been playing. Tyler correctly assumed that the two life forms Hank was speaking of were Llondell and Albendell. The 'blue hats,' as Tyler thought of them, had politely introduced themselves one morning about a month after Tyler had begun his 'wait' in the desert of Nevada.
" Now wait just a darned minute." Ben said, trying unsuccessful to keep his blood pressure from rising. "You're off on another tangent! The question is, 'where is Gaf?' Do you have any idea where he is, or not?"
" I don't, but Sal does." Tyler answered in a voice of assurance.
" How could Sal possibly know anything about Gaf?" Molly asked.
" You'd have to ask him, and he'll probably say that he doesn't know what you're talking about. I suspect that the man who walks out of Ben's motorhome won't be the same man that we carried in there." Tyler responded.
Ben said with exasperation, "You're talking in riddles, just say what you mean."
Walking back out to the desert, Tyler said, "I always say what I mean. It's up to you to understand."
" Well, I'm going in and speak to Sal."
Molly said. With determination she walked over and entered the motorhome just in time to hear Juniper explain to Sal why he shouldn't smoke. Apparently Sal saw fit to threaten Juniper with her life if she didn't get him a cigarette. Ben, who was following right behind Molly spoke, "According to Bert, Sal doesn't smoke, why would he want a cigarette?"
Juniper began to cry and said, "Well just give him one, who cares if he smokes himself right to death!"
Molly walked between Juniper and Sal and said," What did you say to this young woman? You won't get anything by bullying."
" Aw shit, all I wanted was one lousy cigarette and she starts bawlin'."
" You threatened to rip out my jugular! What kind of person are you?"
Molly interrupted their argument, "Sal, I'll get you a cigarette, but before I do I want you to tell me about any dreams you had while you were delirious."
" Dreams! Are you nuts, lady?"
"Think about it, I'm patient."
Sal wasn't sure what Molly was searching for. It also bothered him that he wanted a cigarette and he didn't know why. He was smart enough to know that he wasn't going to get a cigarette unless he talked to this woman who looked strangely like his mother. "OK, the only thing I remember is women dancing and then suddenly I was in some kind of tunnel. The walls and floor kept moving around and there was this really strange looking old dude with a beard and a funny hat."
" Describe the hat."
" It was an old dark green hat with something sticking out; a black feather I think."
" And the beard?"
" It looked like something my ma would scrub pots with. Can I have a smoke now?"
" Sure. Juniper, why don't you go ask Sandy if Sal can have one of her cigarettes? One other thing, Sal, do you have any idea where you were?"
" Yeah, it must have been somewhere in Mexico, 'cause all these Mexican broads were dancing and I remember how strange they looked wearing those funny black hats."
Juniper came in and held out the cigarette to Molly without looking in Sal's direction. Wordlessly, Molly took it and handed it to Sal.
" I don't want to chew it, I want to smoke it!"
Again, without saying a word, Molly reached for some matches from the cabinet. The more Sal spoke, the more she was aware of his choice of words. He was sounding amazingly like Gaf. That last sentence, in fact, was one that she had heard Gaf say many times. Gaf was never known for his tact. Molly's thoughts were interrupted by Sal's fit of gagging and coughing. She took the cigarette from him and took it outside. Sitting down at the campfire, she tossed in the cigarette and watched its trail of smoke take shape in the form of a raven. The black image hovered in the flames for several minutes before circling three times and flying into the southern sky. Molly's head remained tilted back for some moments before she looked down again and into the fire.
"What's the message, Gaf?" Startled by the sound of her own voice she realized that she had been in a trance state.
Stumbling forward, Gaf nearly fell to his death, but caught himself just as he was about to step into a bottomless abyss. At the same time he could see the tunnel walls on each side shift into an image of a raven's wing. The form was familiar because it was exactly the same raven image he had painted on his staff.
Regaining his balance he scuffed the floor kicking a few pebbles ahead of him and behind him. Minutes passed and still he did not hear a sound. The pebbles had either not hit bottom or he had gone deaf. Attempting to test his hearing he snapped his fingers and heard nothing, however, the tips of the raven's wing fluttered. He looked in the direction of his hand in disbelief, it was not there! Instead, he stared down the long sweeping curve of his own wing. Aghast, he wanted to scream in terror, but the sound echoing back was the grating, raucous call of a raven. Looking down he could now see the image of Molly sitting at a campfire watching him. Desperately, he tried to call to her, but her only response was to stare blankly at him. Staring now at his own hands pressed against the tunnel walls he heard her voice, "Who is it that asks the question?"
"Molly, are you OK?" Sandy asked.
Sandy and Hank were looking at her with obvious concern.
" I'm fine, actually, I feel better now than I've felt for days." Molly responded with a smile as she picked up the coffee pot.
"Gaf is definitely alive, he's made contact with me and I intend to find him."
" Where do you think he is?" asked Hank.
" I'm not sure, but I will be as soon as I find some dancing Mexican women wearing black hats."
" You're not making sense, Molly." Sandy said.
Molly explained the conversation with Sal and his use of phrases and voice inflections similar to words and tones commonly used by Gaf. She told them of Gaf's affinity with ravens and what she had just experienced near the fire.
"Now it's just a matter of waiting and watching for the message."
" What message?" Sandy asked, "I'm not sure that I understand."
" It will be something I see, or something I hear. I'll know it when it comes and it will give me information regarding Gaf's location." Molly answered.
Juniper stomped over to the three of them and complained about Sal's continued crude behavior. It seems that he was the most obtuse and irritating man she had ever met in her life. Hank interrupted her tirade with the more practical issues that faced them, such as money and food. "We gotta eat, and that means finding work. But how do we do that without giving ourselves away?"
" There's no easy solution," said Molly.
"I can make some money with tarot readings or if nothing else, exchange readings for food."
" Well, some of these people might want some entertainment, I could sing for my supper." Sandy laughed.
" Actually, I think we could do quite well. How about the three of us becoming an entertainment troupe?" Molly suggested.
Juniper quickly exclaimed, "Hey, what about me? I can dance."
" I'm not sure there's a big demand for classical ballet in these parts." Sandy grinned.
" Not ballet, but maybe some old-time gypsy dancing. Vanna and her dance of the seven veils or something." Molly said. "I think between the four of us we could provide enough entertainment to survive on."
" I'm not going to become a stripper! I'd rather starve." Juniper said primly.
" You just may do that anyway, we all might." Hank added, "But it's worth a shot."
The four began to plan the hunt for crystals, runes, materials for costumes and instruments. It turned out that Hank had some background from high school in art. It was agreed that he would make original posters and Juniper would take the responsibility for having them printed. The posters would advertise a traveling troupe and they would pass out handbills with the date and location of their performance. Ben joined them and excitedly volunteered the use of his motorhome and his help. He said that this reminded him of the stories told to him by his father; of bands of entertainers that traveled the country during the previous 'great depression'. What Ben didn't know was that the current economic depression was on the verge of making the crash of '29 look like a minor recession. By the time the weather turned hot in Quartzsite, the five would be ready to take their show on the road. The idea was to head for a small town, inquire about permits and then seek the help of local churches for available space in which to perform. Eventually, they would head for Kaibab Lake. Their plans were meticulous, except for one minor flaw; they had no idea what Sal was going to do. They assumed, incorrectly, that he would simply drift away once his friends returned with motorcycles.
The view from Katrina's New York penthouse was gloomy, at best. She often regretted the collective's plan for having her relinquish her first born son at birth. She knew this was truly the only way he could receive a practical education that would keep him in tune with the needs of the common man. True to their prophecy, he succeeded in life and was now an internationally famous billionaire. His pioneering skills in computer software and hardware development were practical, as well as astounding. Indeed, the world beat a path to his doorstep and waited for the emergence of his latest efforts. Even his books received world acclaim and were printed in ten different languages. Now she held in her hand his greatest gift to the collective. A miniature computer no larger than a match. It could store all necessary information on an individual's life. However, its greatest advantage was that it could also record and transmit new information as it occurred, such as heart and breathing rate as well as galvanic skin response. In effect, anyone carrying this miniature computer would fall under the immediate scrutiny of its lie-detecting capabilities. Of course, the advance features of this computer would not be divulged to the public until such time as it was carried by every living person on the planet. It was through this vehicle that the collective expected to achieve its ultimate goal of absolute control of humanity. Innocently, and without forethought, her son would provide the final shackles of the common man. Looking at the back of her son's wizardry in the reflected light from her living room, she read aloud to the universe, "Ordo Ab Chao". Only the passing vultures could see the shadow of a man forming at the top of Mount Zion.