Don looked away from the road for a moment to check the time. The drive was taking a lot longer than he had planned. For one thing, he had forgotten how hard it was to drive long distances on a motorcycle, also the small bike made it impossible to drive at regular highway speed. Not long after leaving Quartzsite he was reminded when the wind from a passing truck almost blew him into a wash. At the Lake Havasu Wal-Mart he purchased a rain poncho, a blanket, and 3 plastic containers. After filling the smaller container with water, he filled the other two with gasoline and refueled. Don strapped the containers to the back of the bike and checked his gear. Mounting the Yamaha, he continued on his way.
Fond memories of the Harley hog he used to own floated through his mind as he accelerated the bike onto Interstate 40, heading east toward Kingman. It had been over five hours since he had left Quartzite and a light rain was beginning to fall. Don's motorcycle offered no protection from the wet road. Road signs advertising steaming hot coffee at the Williams Cafe seemed to intensify the whine of tires against the road. Squinting his eyes against the cold wind, Don could see the old railroad track leading into Williams. During better times, an ancient remodeled steam engine carried tourists on a scenic tour that ended at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The rain and mist rising from the surrounding pine forest gave the town a quasi-mirage appearance. With a smooth sweeping curve the highway exit deposited him on the outskirts of town.
The Williams Cafe was nestled behind a stand of pine trees just across from the interstate exit. To the side of the cafe Don noticed two gas pumps. 'Good,' he thought. He'd be able to get some coffee, refuel his tank and the containers that he had picked up in Havasu. 'One stop shopping'. He groaned painfully as he gingerly got off the motorcycle. Except for the owner and his daughter, Megan, the cafe was empty. Ted MacDover and his wife Alice had purchased the cafe nearly twenty-four years ago when they immigrated from Scotland. Last summer Alice had died from congenital heart disease. Although they could not afford the cost of a heart transplant, the hospital had put her name on their waiting list. However, each time a heart was available it seemed that it went to someone with money. The hospital always gave seemingly reasonable responses to Ted's questions, using terms of diagnoses that Ted didn't understand. Alice would console her family with assurances that these things were"in God's hands". Just before Alice died the Phoenix newspaper was filled with news of the rich and famous psychic from Sedona who had received a heart transplant after waiting only one month.
" Good Day to you sir," bellowed Ted as Don entered the cafe."What can I get to warm you up on such a cold and rainy day?"
" Just some hot coffee," answered Don," with lots of real sugar, if you have any. I've heard that it's getting a little scarce."
" That it is," Ted replied,"Perhaps you'll settle for some of the artificial stuff and a sweet smile from my beautiful daughter, Megan. One glance at her sweet face has been enough to brighten the day of many a good lookin' young lad, such as yourself."
With a broad grin, Don seated himself at the counter while a blushing waitress poured him a steaming cup of coffee."And do I get the promised smile with that, pretty lady?" asked Don. "
It was my father who made the offer and the boast. He can give you the smile. From me you'll get hot coffee." Looking at her father she said,"I'll run over to Esynick's now and get the vegetables for the supper stew while you entertain our customer." Megan untied the apron from her tiny waist and left through the kitchen.
'Pretty feisty for such a small package,' Don thought, he guessed her height to be no more than 5 feet. " A little snippy these days, but the light of my life." Ted said, looking after his daughter."How about a piece of Megan's delicious banana cream pie to go along with that coffee? Made from scratch just this morning, that's why we're a little short on the sugar."
" Sounds good, I am a little hungry" Reaching over the counter, Don offered his hand out of habit, temporarily forgetting about his fugitive status,"Don Gilleto is the name."
" Ted MacDover, here." The two men shook hands and Ted cut two slices of pie. " I've been waiting for her to leave so I could cut into this pie, it's my favorite." Ted confided. After setting the two plates on the counter, he gave Don a refill and poured a cup of coffee for himself. As Don thanked him and put a forkful of pie in his mouth, he heard static from an amateur radio located on a corner shelf. Ted excused himself and spoke into the receiver for a few moments.
While Ted was occupied, Don pulled from his wallet the list that Ben had given him earlier. Ted's name, call letters, and location was on it. " I see you're a ham radio operator." Don said when Ted returned."You might know a friend of mine, Ben Lawson."
Ted then launched into a long conversation about his old buddy and expounded on the joys of amateur radio operation. Suddenly, Don's face paled and he stared out the window into the small parking area. A highway patrol car had just pulled up and the officer was speaking into the small hand microphone. Puzzled, Ted followed Don's fixed gaze. Seeing the questioning look on Ted's face, Don said,"I don't have time to explain just now, but Ben said you'd help me." He then showed Ted the list of radio operators that Ben had given to him. Ted immediately recognized his friend's handwriting and only hesitated a moment before he ushered Don through the kitchen and into the cellar.
Megan breathed deeply of the fresh, cold air as she walked the few blocks to Esynick's for the supplies they needed. She regretted the sharp tone that frequently edged her comments to her father, lately. The grief she felt over the loss of her mother was something she kept to herself. Her efforts in trying to cheer her father were becoming increasingly difficult. When her mother had told her of her condition, she had also expressed to Megan her wish that she go on with her singing.
Almost before she was able to speak, Megan had sung. Often, the little girl sang, in rhyme, almost everything she said. Her parents had encouraged her natural gifts and as she grew into womanhood, her voice developed the deep haunting tones of a true Scottish balladeer. The songs she wrote reflected not only society as it existed, but also expressed the hope for a new age to come when all would exist in joy, bound by harmonious cooperation; a true evolution of the human species. As her mother's illness and her father's melancholy escalated, Megan would not deny her feelings of protective responsibility. Despite the urging by others to pursue her songs and poetry as a career, Megan stubbornly stayed with her father.
As she returned to cafe with her purchases, she saw Jack's patrol car. She liked the man, and smiled as she entered through the front door to greet him."Jack! It's about time you came to see us! I'll be back just as soon as I take care of the groceries." Megan said, on her way out to the kitchen. Quickly, she washed the vegetables and threw them into the pot of simmering meat. She could hear everything that was said out front quite clearly from the small cooking area and sighed with resignation as she heard her father rave about her ability to cook."She'll make some lucky man a wonderful wife." he bragged. Megan knew he worried she would die an old maid after wasting her life on 'the old man,' as he called himself. She enjoyed Jack's company, but was not interested in marrying anyone. Jack changed the subject by asking," Where's your other customer?"
" Oh, you saw the motorcycle out front? It's for sale, the owner left it here for Megan and me to try out." Megan heard her father's jovial voice explain further,"Megan has been thinking of getting something that gets better gas mileage than that old Chevy. A very practical little girl, my Megan."
" There she is! How ya doin,'doll?" Jack exclaimed, as Megan joined the two men."I hear you're going to become a biker babe."
" Not hardly," Megan responded,"How have you been? We haven't seen you around for a while."
Jack proceeded to give them an account of recent events. It seemed that one of his co-workers was in the hospital after being shot by a sniper while on duty 10 miles east on I-40. The random acts of violence on these isolated portions of the interstate were increasing, he warned. Over pie and coffee, the three of them discussed the news and ways to defend themselves if it became necessary. Thirty minutes had passed before Jack got in his patrol car and drove back onto the freeway.
" Well?" Megan asked her father as she folded her arms across her chest,"What's this about my wanting a motorcycle, and where is the man that was here when I left?"
" We'll find out together," Ted explained, as he led her back to the kitchen and opened the cellar door.
Don related what had happened over the last few days, stopping only to answer an occasional question from Ted. Megan sat at the table, listening quietly as she observed the man. He was obviously tired and his fear seemed genuine, but his story was really far fetched. However, her somewhat gullible father seemed thoroughly entertained. Megan stopped the conversation only once, cautioning Don that what he said could be overheard in the front. Business was very slow, she explained when she returned after giving a woman directions and a coffee 'to go'. She wondered why the government would be after him and who would attempt such a daring rescue of so many people. Suspicious, Megan asked him just that when he finished speaking. The sun was low in the sky when Ted offered Don supper and a bed for the night. Gratefully, Don accepted.
Megan, thinking to turn the supper conversation to more pleasant subjects, asked Don where he was headed. He spoke about his cousin and the young family that lived in Monticello. He was glad that their home was not one of the homes that was burned, but he still wanted to see the situation with his own eyes.
" Don't you think the authorities will have the place staked out, or something?" Ted asked.
"I plan to sneak in after dark."
" I've heard on the radio that the residents in and around Monticello are armed and have a neighborhood patrol. You be careful that some jumpy farmer doesn't shoot your ass off. By the way, what do you think of the fine stew prepared by my lovely Megan? The lass will make some lucky man a fine wife!"
" Dad! Stop saying that!" Turning a lovely shade of pink, Megan abruptly stood up and cleared away the super dishes. 'It just might be time to leave home,' Megan thought as she said good night, left the kitchen and closed the cafe. With a conspiratorial grin, Ted explained his efforts at getting his daughter to stop worrying about him and pursue a singing career. Megan would become famous as the most beautiful singer and songwriter in the world, he prophesied.
Before dawn the next morning, Don was on his way. His stomach, his bike and the two extra gasoline containers filled, compliments of the MacDovers."You can pay me by doing the same for some one else. In the hard times to come, I expect you'll have plenty of opportunities." Ted had replied when he had tried to pay him. Megan felt relief when the stranger left.
As Don continued on his way to Monticello, he reflected on the number of people that had appeared in his life to help him, just in time.
The rays of the sun shown bright and long in the east, it looked like the weather would be with him for the rest of the day.
The Carpino children, a boy and a girl, crept silently down the hall to their parent's bedroom. Unable to keep silent, the little girl squealed with laughter as the two of them jumped in the middle of the bed where their father lay sleeping. Colleen laughed at the noise from the morning ritual, as she prepared breakfast for her family. The shrill sound of the telephone startled her. Everyone had been jumpy since the raid last week. Wiping the flour from her hands on the back of her jeans, she answered after the third ring. After speaking briefly into the receiver, she returned to the counter and put the biscuits into the oven and started frying some bacon.
"Who was on the phone, Hon?" Angelo said, as he affectionately brushed the small flour hand prints from his wife's behind.
" Mornin,' sleepy head. That was Mongo, he'll be here in about an hour. His jeep is giving him trouble again. He said it stalled on him while he was on patrol last night."
" Whoa!" Angelo shouted, as his daughter Theresa tackled him. Her brother was in hot pursuit and she was screaming at the top of her lungs. This behavior was becoming much too common, Colleen explained to her husband.
The eight year old Theresa would pick at and bait her mild mannered brother until he became irritated enough to grab at her. Then the little girl would squeal with delight as she ran to her daddy, pleading for safety. Donato, two years older, was a carbon copy of his father, in looks only. His mild temperament, and soft spoken voice was a legacy from his mother. Angelo and his wife were both raised with rigid family structure. However, their son Danny never seemed to need disciplining, and Terry usually was able to charm her way out of any situation that might result in punishment. Breakfast was eaten and plans for the day discussed. Colleen went down to the cellar to check the supplies, taking the mischievous Terry with her. Danny followed his dad out to the mechanic shop where he would learn the trade in the same manner as his father had learned from his grandfather.
It was late morning before a jeep pulled up to the open double doors. It jerked and sputtered for a few moments after the engine was turned off.
" Hey, Mongo! I thought you were stuck somewhere by the side of the road. Me and Danny were just talking about getting into the truck and searching for you." Angelo said to his boyhood friend.
Mongo jumped out and replied,"Naw, just took me a little longer than I thought. Before I left home, Harvey called. He chased some drifters off his land last night, but no one else has seen any one. We're pretty sure that they've moved on by now. Everything cool over this way?"
" Haven't seen a thing." Angelo replied as he examined the engine area of the temperamental jeep."Later today, I'm going to set a few booby traps along the edge of the road out back. After supper I'll meet you and the others to coordinate the patrol assignments."
" Have you heard anything more about your cousin?" Mongo asked."I can't believe they're talking about the same Don Gilleto that I know."
" Yeah, the story sounds pretty far out, but when I called his shop in Salt Lake, Bud answered and said he had agreed to watch the shop for a few days while Don went to Nevada to help out some friends of his. We've had a couple of calls from people asking if we've heard from him or know where he is. I told Colleen that all we can do right now is wait for him to contact us." Angelo raised up from the jeep,"Well, it will run OK for a while, but I'll pick up a couple of new parts at the Jeep dealer when I go to Price for supplies. It's impossible to get anything delivered out here anymore, what with all the hijacking and sniper activity. It seems like the whole world has gone nuts."
The rest of the day was spent by the Carpinos securing the safety of their home and preparing for the long term survival of their family.
It was close to midnight when Don crested the hill overlooking his cousin's home. Hiding his bike in a gully underneath some juniper bushes, he strapped on a pack and crept down the hillside. Don watched the house over an hour before he crossed the little stream at the rear of his cousins property. Suddenly, he tripped, his body twisted to the side. Don's right hand reached out to break the fall, but he landed hard on his butt. Searing pain burned through his entire body and he screamed.
Involuntarily, he attempted to jump to his feet after falling on what he thought was sharp nails or rolls of barbed wire. However, he was unable to move. He felt the wetness of his own blood as it trickled between the fingers of his right hand. His jaw clenched tightly as he lifted the palm of his hand from a board. As he was pushing his body up in an attempt to free his right hip and thigh he felt a hard object hit the back of his head.
"Move and I'll blow your head off!"
Angelo warned, trying not to pull the trigger of the shotgun he held against the intruder's forehead."Where are your friends?"
" What? Angie, is that you?" Don cried.
"It's me, don't shoot! Jesus Christ!"
The circle of light from Angie's flashlight wavered shakily on Don's face. Angelo was unable to speak as he knelt by his cousin and shown the light on Don's prone body. Then anger surfaced and Angie jumped up and said,"God damn it, Don! What the hell are you doing wandering out here in the dark? I almost killed you!"
The two men stared at each other for a moment in shock before they embraced."Let's get you to the house." Angie said, as he put his arms around Don's chest and lifted him from one of the traps that he had set earlier in the day. Angie almost carried his cousin onto the kitchen porch as he shouted for his wife to open the door. Colleen got some towels and water and then called Dr. Sherman.
Angie helped Don remove his jeans, helped him to the couch and began to wash away the blood. This entire episode was not only painful for Don, but also embarrassing."What the hell kind of trap was that?" He yelled at Angie.
"An asshole trap, and anybody dumb enough to walk around in the dark is an asshole. Now shut up and lets get you cleaned up. Besides, you know damn well what's been going on around here. Did you think I would just sit on my ass?" Angie then added with a grin,"Like you're not gonna be able to do for a couple of weeks."
" Yeah, you're right, but that don't make this pain in my butt any easier to take. Shit, I always knew you were a pain in the ass."
By the time Dr. Sherman arrived the two children had joined their elders, excited to see their favorite cousin. Colleen, in motherly fashion, was explaining that there had been an accident, but everything was fine now. She instructed them to say good night and ushered them back upstairs to bed.
" Well, Don," Dr. Sherman said as he cleaned the wound and gave him something to ease the pain,"I hear you're in a bit of a jam with the law. 'Course, it's none of my business, but I'd like to help you, if I can.
I don't believe everything I read in the paper anymore and the news on TV is a joke."
" I appreciate your help, Doc, I'm innocent of the charges, but I don't want to involve anyone any more than I have already. Maybe the less you know, the better off you'll be." Don looked up at Angie and Colleen as he continued,"I just thought I'd sneak in quietly and see you guys after I read the news story on what happened here last week. Just how many families were involved? Anyone I know?"
Colleen look down sadly before answering,"The Barkers, and the O'Malleys." Tears sprung to her eyes and the lump in her throat prevented her from saying anything more. Don's eyes closed for a moment in a sympathetic response, O'Malley was Colleen's maiden name."Your brother's family." Don guessed, correctly. The O'Malley and the Carpino families had immigrated to southern Utah over a century ago. About that same time, Don's great grandfather had settled in the Salt Lake Valley. Angie's Aunt Maria, had met Don's father at the University in Salt Lake City.
Although Don had been raised by his paternal grandparents, he had remained close to his mother's family and thought of Angie as a brother.
Dr. Sherman left after advising all of them to get some rest. Too excited to sleep, Colleen made coffee while Don explained the events that lead up to his current predicament and his promise to go to Price. The medication was taking effect and when Don nodded off in the middle of a sentence, the couple quietly covered him and went upstairs to bed. It was quite late before they rose the next morning.
Spring was beginning to blossom and even the high plateau of Monticello had snow melting in the morning sun. At breakfast Colleen and Angie decided that when he went to Price, Angie would deliver Don's message to Sandy's parents. When they told Don he resisted, but only temporarily. He knew that it would be nearly impossible for him to travel until his wounds healed. He could barely sit on a toilet seat, let alone ride a motorcycle for the three hours it would take to get to Price. Angie promised that he would not make the contact at the Day home, but in a place that would not arouse suspicion.
The trip to Price was uneventful. After arriving in Price, Angie found the address of Sandy's parents home in the telephone book. He drove by the house a few times before he was able to follow Mrs. Day on her way to the grocery store. He followed her into the store and was able to make contact while she was looking over the produce section. Somewhere between lettuce and carrots he approached her and simply stated that he had a message from her daughter. The Day's had become accustomed to sporadic contact with their somewhat rebellious daughter. However, they did not for one minute believe that she could have been involved in a murder. She understood that there was no way for either her or her husband to contact their daughter. She gratefully accepted the message of Sandy and Juniper's innocence and current safety. She thanked Angie for taking the time to find her and promised that she would pass the message on to Juniper's parents.
Over the next six months Don lived in Monticello with his cousin. He stayed out of sight, helping with the business of repairing cars and farm equipment. Few people were aware that he was in the Carpino home. The bright sunny days of summer healed the wounds of winter. However, it could not stem the winds of chaos which would sweep away the autumn leaves; taking with it the heart of the Carpino family.
The sun glittering off the chrome of the Harley was blinding. Sal was becoming restless and the news of hijackings had made him aware of the lucrative opportunities that he and his friends were missing. Jake, Eddie, and Mort had arrived late the previous night. During the time of their departure, Bert had worked steadily at Larry's shop. Sal worked steadily at planning the road he would travel to find targets of opportunity. Periodically for entertainment, he would tease Juniper mercilessly, making her livid. Molly spent much of her time trying to explain the criminal mind to Juniper. However, Molly understood that Sal's baiting of Juniper was not intended to be malicious and commented to Ben that opposites often attract. Tyler drifted in and out of the camp, often disappearing for weeks at a time. Juniper, Sandy and Hank, lulled into a sense of security after six weeks of not being mentioned in the news, were now on edge because of a recent addition to Sunday newspapers all over the country. Because of the escalating crime rate a group of businessmen and corporations had created 'The Bounty Sheet'. Fugitives from the justice system were listed, beginning with the highest bounty offered. A list of names, along with a description of the 'crimes committed against the people,' was provided from each state in the union.
The bikers had quite a reunion through the rest of that night. The beer stimulated outrageous plans for many hijackings, however it was all in jest because the only plan that would be put in motion would be from Sal. Over the past twenty years Sal had made it his business to gain acceptance from the many gangs along the west coast. He did this by paying tribute to the major gang leaders. Sal had been asked many times to wear gang colors, but he refused politely stating that he would prefer working as an independent. Independents that did not work in gang territories were often used by gang leaders to settle disputes. In a way, they were mediators who could work independently, but only if they paid for the privilege. This allowed freedom to roam the highways without interference from gang members. Often, Sal would plan a hijacking and send all the proceeds to a local gang headquarters. This arrangement worked well for all concerned and gave Sal total freedom as a highwayman.
Late that morning as Sal and his friends were preparing to leave. Juniper was busy in the craft area of the tent. She ran up to Sal gave him a hug, kissed his cheek; then reached out and hooked something to the right hand mirror. The words she spoke were drowned out by the noise of five Harley engines. Totally perplexed by her behavior he did not notice the amulet she had strapped to his mirror until he was miles away. His gloved hand touched the crystal, bound with copper wire, when he noticed it glittering in the late afternoon sun. Then shrugged his shoulders and forgot about it until late the next night. Unable to sleep, he paced the perimeter of the camp.
The moon shown bright as day on the small crystal as it hung patiently from his mirror. Sal walked over to his bike, stared at it for a moment, and then untied the amulet and placed it around his neck. The thin rawhide strap felt strangely familiar, like something he used to have, but lost a long time ago. Looking up at the night sky he relieved himself in the bushes and then crawled into his sleeping bag. Sal slept with the innocence of a baby for the rest of the night. Before noon the next day, four of the men were stationed at different points along a delivery route from Cedar City to St. George, Utah.
Jake had stayed behind in Las Vegas to steal a van. That evening, they camped a few miles off Interstate 15. Quail Creek road lead to a primitive camping area that the group had used before. It gave them privacy but was also close to the towns of Mesquite, Nevada and St. George. Around a small campfire, they compared notes and decided that they would 'hit' the United Parcel Service truck on one of the first stops it made the next day. Sal and Bert would double up on Sal's bike and Mort, Eddie and Jake would wait in the camp with a van for their return. Sleep for Bert that night was full of dreams of Indian drums, the haunting voice of a woman singing and the far off howl of coyotes. At midnight, Jake nudged Eddie, asking him if he could hear 'some broad singing'. Eddie whispered,"Aw it' probably just the wind." as he stared cautiously up into the shadows of the rocks above them. Mort jumped up from a deep sleep and began yelling about Indians. Sal abruptly told them to shut up and be still. He was going up to the top and check it out. With stealth, Sal pulled his gun and crept up to the top of the ridge. The moon, now full, sparkled in the amethyst crystal that hung from Sal's neck. The silence was deafening. His heart beat with the same rhythm as the ancient one who had stood in this very spot hundreds of years before. Sal felt an unfamiliar sense of pain and loss as he surveyed the empty valley before him. Like a misty fog, a vision shifted below him of death and destruction, and then disappeared quickly with a touch of his hand as he rubbed his eyes in disbelief.
Sal stomped down the hill and yelled,"There ain't a goddamn thing out there. If I get up one more time looking for spooks somebody is gonna end up being a spook."
Bert mumbled sleepily,"what's all the yelling about?"
"Go back to sleep!" Bert's four friends yelled in unison.
The rest of the night passed very slowly. Everyone could still hear the singing, but no one was going to test Sal's warning. Sal never mentioned his vision and spent the night questioning his sanity. Early the next morning, Sal drove into Cedar City and after spotting the brown UPS truck at an intersection, followed it to a nearby motel. As the driver went in to make his delivery, Sal quickly entered the truck and hid among the packages. Bert stayed with the bike and followed the truck as it continued on the route.
" Shit!" The driver exclaimed as he felt the gun at the back of his head.
" You can live if you stay cool" Sal whispered menacingly.
" Don't kill me. Take anything you want. Jeez!
This is the third time this month that the company's been robbed."
" Yeah, buddy, that's tough. Just cooperate and you'll be fine." Sal responded without sympathy.
The UPS truck turned off at Quail Creek road and after a few moments, the driver was instructed to pull over to the side, then bound and blindfolded. Sal then drove up the road 2 more miles to where the van was parked. Packages were efficiently transferred without comment. Unable to identify anything but Sal's voice, the driver was left unharmed. The loaded van carried the men down to where the Mort was watching over the bikes and they were on the road. Jake would meet them in Los Angeles, after fencing the UPS truck and its contents in Phoenix. Two weeks and several small robberies later, the five were gathered in a favorite saloon in east L.A.
Morosely, Sal stared into his beer. Bert noticed the solemn atmosphere that lately seemed to surround them. He tried to lighten up the mood by suggesting that they go find some girls. Sal told Bert to go have a good time and Eddie and Jake waved him on. Mort mumbled grumpily that things just weren't the same as they used to be."Didn't we used to have a lot more fun?"
" Maybe we should go down the street and start a fight or something." Eddie suggested brightly, as a familiar face approached them.
" Where the hell you guys been?" slurred the heavily bearded face, as a beefy arm grabbed Sal around the neck. Instinctively, Sal drew his knife, turned in one motion and had the man's arm jammed up into his shoulder blades and the knife blade at his chin.
" You know better than to sneak up on me!"
Sal said warned as they greeted their old friend Vinnie, 'the face'. As they returned to their seats, Bert and Jake told Vinnie about the strange happenings at Rachel, Nevada.
Eddie took over the conversation with the description of their totally unexpected rescue.
Sal remained quiet as the conversation progressed to Quartzsite, Frank and Jennie's final resting place. Vinnie pointed questioningly at the amulet that hung from around Sal's neck. Sal started to tell him about"Polly Pureheart," but his little poke at Juniper was drowned out by the yelling at the bar. He turned toward the burly man that was hassling two dwarfs about their little blue hats. Sal told him to quiet down and said," I'm havin' a conversation here, ya dumb ass." The man, over 6 foot and 250 pounds, snarled obscenities at Sal and started over in his direction. Before the man walked two steps he found himself lying on the floor, Sal's knife between his ribs. Sal removed his knife from the big man's heart and wiped the blood away on a bar rag. Two men silently came out from behind the bar and removed the body to the alley as Sal returned to his seat and continued the Quartzsite story at the point where he had been so rudely interrupted. Vinnie nodded his head when the 'new age' activities were mentioned. It seemed that Vinnie also had a few stories to relate regarding a group of people that lived on the beach,"But they're just a bunch gays and lesbos," he said disapprovingly. The bar tender sloppily set two pitchers of beer on the table mumbling," compliments of those two" and tipping his toward the exit. The two small men waited for Sal to look at them for a few moments, then tipped their hats and disappeared simultaneously.
"Did you see that?" Eddie yelled, as he grabbed Mort's arm with one hand and Jake's shoulder with the other.
" Nope!," responded Vinnie, and Bert.
" Aw they must have just slipped out the door," said Mort. Not wanting to seem"off his tree," Eddie said,"Oh, yeah, I must not have seen 'em open it." However, one look from Sal, told Eddie that his first assumption was correct.
Sal rose from his seat and announced that he was going back to the camp as he walked out into the night. The waning moon, a crescent high in the sky, strangely, reminded Sal of a finger nail clipping. He mounted his bike and sat there for a moment as the bike engine idled. His right hand reached around the crystal at his chest. In his mind's eye he could see it as it lay clutched in his hand, pulsating softly, like a living thing. Releasing the amulet, Sal put both hands on the handle bars, the Harley engine roared out of the parking lot, the wheels squealing as he sped onto the highway. Without thought or feeling, Sal drove for two hours. The eastern sky was turning a soft shade of pink as he crawled into his sleeping bag and fell into a deep sleep.
Gaf awoke and realized that he must have been sleeping. The inside of his mouth tasted like swamp water. Looking down at his right hand he saw red stains and what appeared to be a droplet of blood on the tunnel floor. Thinking he had cut himself, Gaf searched for wounds, but found none. Slowly, a thin line of mist rose from the blood on the tunnel floor, almost like steam. A shape began to form from the mist and the blood. With slow deliberate motion, the shape formed itself into a woman.
Awed by the stunning beauty before him he backed up a step, stumbling slightly.
" Hello, Gaf. You don't remember me, do you?" She spoke as she came closer and held out her hand as if she expected him to kiss it. The soft low voice was like honey dripping from a hot dinner roll. Taking a deep breath, the woman sighed as she took a hold of his hand and said,"Come, sit by the lake with me and we'll talk."
Gaf followed, focused on the sight of the two globes of flesh as they moved to the rhythm of the woman's breathing. Tipping his head back slightly, he checked out the rear and grinned; recovering his composure, he said," Sure, why not?" From behind them the sound of a lone wolf's howl echoed.
Looking up for a moment, Gaf noticed the silver sliver of the moon rising over a jagged range of rocks to the east. The woman walked with the grace of a gazelle to a patch of deep grass on the beach, sat and pulled him down beside her."Now, tell me all about your adventures." Gaf was unable to turn his eyes away from her as he began to speak of falling into the cave, eating fungus, meeting Rendell and Saint Michael. Deep concern for him showed in her face as she placed a cigarette in his mouth. Cupping her hand to shield the flame from the slight breeze, she touched the match to the tip of the cigarette. Gaf gratefully inhaled the smoke deeply. Feeling relaxed now, he lay back and stared at the night sky."Damn, I love watching the stars, I'd like to be up there.
What do you think of when you look at them? Do you have a name?"
" A name for the universe, or a name for me?" She responded, impishly.
" Both." Gaf said. He felt the stirring in his loins that had plagued man from the beginning of time as he looked at this woman.
"The Universe is much too vast to name. As to your second question; my name is Ekleipsis, you know it well, as we have met before."
She reminded him. Her hair seemed to float outward from her face like a halo, as she watched him intently. Without thinking, he reached out and touched her cheek lightly," Are you for real?" he said, as if to himself. He caressed the soft warm skin on her face. She bent forward slightly and touched her lips to his mouth."Very," she answered as she lay next to him, her hand on his chest."Now, tell me, isn't this much more pleasant than wandering around the tunnels of a dusty, dirty old cavern?"
Gaf found it impossible to concentrate when she touched him. Something seemed to be tugging at his brain. The idea that there was something he had forgotten was quickly replaced by the primitive urging of his physical body. Ekleipsis' lovemaking aroused in him sensations that he had never felt before. He felt his soul was being very slowly manipulated out of his body and into hers, as hers was entering his. The shared passion intensified as this exchange of energy continued to ebb and flow. Much later, he lay by her side; his body totally depleted. Without speaking she stood, smiled, then reached out to him. They walked as lovers, hand in hand, along the starlit edge of a glass topped lake. Gaf gazed at the lovers' reflection from where they stood on a thin peninsula. The stars were just as clear and bright below him as they were above him. Remembering Ekleipsis' remark about the universe being too large for her to deal with, he found that he did not agree. In fact, he found her answer to be evasive. No sooner had this thought entered his conscious mind, than he saw what seemed to be dark spots appearing in the water. As the spots grew, pieces of the picture disappeared, replaced with nothing, but an empty void. Behind them, a lobster crawled up on the shore. Again, the lone wolf howled in the distance. Gaf looked around and found he was completely alone, back in the cavern. He wondered if he would still be in that lovely scene, if he had not questioned the motives of his 'perfect woman'."Yes," he said, answering his own question,"And I could return there now if I chose."
Juniper didn't understand just why she had given Sal her crystal. The week before he left, she had lovingly wrapped thin copper wire around it in a spiral pattern, then attaching it to a thin strip of leather, put it around her neck. Proudly, she had shown Molly and Sandy the amulet she had made. The two women encouraged her to make more of them. Juniper searched with enthusiasm through the jar of crystals that Molly handed to her. Sandy suggested that they start making all kinds of jewelry to be sold as they traveled. Ben said that the competition would be pretty stiff, but most of the materials were free,"courtesy of Mother Nature" so it wouldn't cost very much to make a few"baubles". A week after Sal and his friends left the desert, the small troupe packed up their gear and traveled slowly through Arizona toward New Mexico. Tyler traveled with them, but still moved in and out of their life, keeping to himself. This past week, they had been performing at the Los Alamos county fair, and had done very well in the large tent they rented from the fair committee.
Pleasantly tired from the entertaining the group had done that evening, Juniper retired to her tent.
That next morning the heat from the summer sun forced her awake. She stumbled over to the camp stool and sat. Half asleep, she surveyed her surroundings and concluded that things looked much cleaner when viewed in the light of a campfire. Juniper longed for a nice long shower, but knew she would have to be satisfied with a dip in the little creek that ran through the camp ground. She had become somewhat accustomed to this life lived"close to the earth" as Molly described it, however, had no intention of living this way for much longer. A self confidence regarding her physical attractiveness to the opposite sex had come as a result of her dancing.
Juniper had become adept at flirting and enjoyed every minute of the attention she received from men of all ages. However, she was well aware that any one of them might recognize her from descriptions in the newspapers. It was this thought that kept her at a distance from any of them. Both Ben and Molly had given her warnings to be careful of whom she spoke to. However, since Hank guarded her and Sandy nearly 24 hours a day, she had little chance to talk to anyone. Juniper's loss of the successful life she enjoyed in Salt Lake was always at the back of her thoughts. This regret over what was, prevented her recognition of what could be. Molly realized the struggle that Juniper was experiencing.
However, it would have been difficult to engage Juniper in a conversation concerning the varied aspects of vertical and horizontal growth. She knew what she wanted to say, but thought that it was better said in"Seat of the Soul". In true" Celestine" fashion, Molly found a used copy of Zukav's book and presented it to Juniper and Sandy, suggesting that they read it to each other. Neither one took it very seriously, but not wanting to displease Molly or appear disrespectful, they graciously accepted the gift. The troupe was leaving today and moving west, back into Northern Arizona. Their next performance would be at the prison in Winslow. As Juniper washed her lithe body in the stream, she reminded herself to ask Molly about the distinguished looking older gentleman sitting in the front row last night. He was obviously someone important enough to be surrounded by four bodyguards. After the performance, he had nodded to one of them and the man had tossed a hundred dollar bill in their donation basket.
Next, while his men waited outside, he went in Molly's tent for a reading, she presumed.
Sandy's laughter drifted through the morning air as Juniper approached her friends.
"Hey, what about that man with the bodyguards?
Is he someone you know, Molly?" Juniper asked.
" We were just teasing Molly about him."
Sandy replied."She's not talking. Get the rubber hose, we may have to beat it out of her."
Puzzled, Juniper asked Molly,"What possibly could have happened that you won't discuss it with us?"
Coming to her defense, Hank spoke,"She didn't say she won't, she just said, 'not now'." Then he returned to the sleeping bags he had been rolling and tossed them in the back of the old Volkswagen van the bikers had given them when they left Quartzsite last April.
Molly was becoming a little irritated by her young friends teasing,"I'm really not trying to be mysterious. The man asked for a reading, and I gave him one. Now let's get this gear packed so we can be in the Cibola forest before dark."
"Are you people still jaw jacking?" Ben said as he approached,"Let's get the show on the road; no pun intended."
The informal life of a nomadic entertainer brought out the best in Hank. All of them had noticed that Hank was becoming more talkative. The other evening, as the group gathered around the campfire, he mentioned being able to 'know things, sometimes' when he handled an object. He had been severely punished as a small child when his mother had discovered this ability. She warned him that people would think he was crazy and lock him up. Nightmares of living in the 'loony bin' and 'burning in the fire of eternal damnation' interrupted his sleep for almost a year after he ran away from home in his early teens. Now, as he checked the oil of the VW bus, he felt a chill run up his spine. Bert's face, contorted in agony replaced the bus' engine. Hank didn't know the meaning of his brief vision, but knew that he would see the man within the next week. He also knew that it was pointless to try to guess the outcome or meaning of these occasional episodes. Hank added a quart of oil, got in the drivers seat and he and Sandy and Juniper followed the motorhome that carried Ben, Molly and Tyler. They planned to get gasoline near Anaconda before heading into the forest for the night. The trip to Anaconda was made in good time and without incident. After camp was set up, they practiced for the show in Winslow. They had purchased a tape recorder and played back the previous show along with the response from the audience in order to improve on their vaudeville type act. Hank was excellent in his role as a 'straight man' and Ben was enjoying his roll as the 'M.C'.
That night Juniper walked quietly away from the camp fire to her tent in order to cry in private. The loss of her way life and her family was overwhelming, she missed her mother especially. After about 30 minutes had passed, Sandy went to her friend to offer comfort. As Sandy reached for a tissue from the pack that hung from a tent pole, the dog-eared book Molly had given them fell out and hit Juniper on the head. Trying not to laugh, Sandy had suggested that this might be one of the 'signs' that she had heard Molly and Tyler speak about. Sandy picked up the book and casually thumbed through the pages.
"This is pretty heavy stuff, what do you want to read about first? Evolution or Karma?"
Juniper blew her nose before replying,"Start at the beginning. I'll probably fall asleep before you finish the first page."
Not only did Juniper stay awake through the first chapter, but took her turn reading the second. The two friends continued reading through most of that night. Over the next few days they spent all of their free time reading and discussing the book. They both had many questions and followed Molly around until she was exhausted from giving her esoteric interpretation. Their appetite for knowledge of the 'new age' had been whetted by what the two young women had absorbed over the past few days, Molly decided to share the last Tarot reading she had given.
" I have a puzzle of my own to solve," Molly began as she withdrew a cloth and the deck of Tarot from her pack. She placed three cards face up on the cloth spread before them."These three cards; Judgement, The Devil, and The Tower, appeared together in the reading for the 'mysterious' man that you were so curious about when we were packing to leave. This particular spread answers 'The Issue,' the card to the seekers right; 'The Challenge,' is the card in the center; and the 'Action Required' is the last card to the seekers left." Molly explained."He did not introduce himself, nor did he give me any information regarding a problem or a question he wanted answered. In a very straight forward and business-like manner he demanded a simple reading. Now, I'd like you to look carefully at the pictures on the cards, keeping in mind the position they occupy, and let your intuition come forward."
" What did you tell him?" Juniper questioned,"How can you tell anything from just three cards?"
Molly answered,"Just look at the cards, their meaning, and their position. Sometimes the cards are so direct that the message seems to shout out to you. One of the mistakes that I made in the beginning was that I saw Tarot reading as a very complicated process, looking for complicated answers only clouds the intuitive process. Even though the two of you are unable to look into the eyes of the man who sought the reading, the meaning of these cards is quite clear."
" Which is?" Sandy prodded.
" Awakening is being challenged by the Devil and the action necessary is total destruction."
" What kind of awakening, and destruction of what?" Juniper asked."That seems pretty heavy duty!"
" It feels pretty heavy duty!"
Molly responded,"You should have been in that tent with me. You could have sliced through the air with a knife. But, to answer your question; because these are all cards of the major arcana, and also, the aura of power that surrounded the seeker, I believe that the awakening is of Universal importance. I don't know what needs to be destroyed, however that man definitely did and he was very satisfied with the reading."
" Who do you think he is?" Sandy asked.
" Must be pretty important to travel with four body guards." Juniper added.
" I don't know, but I have a feeling that he knows who we are and everything about us." Molly said aloud, and then to herself, 'and he knows where Gaf is, too.' Pulling a fourth card out of the deck, she placed 'The Star' before her friends and said,"Very curious about the reading and the man that had come to me, I drew this card. This one has really got me puzzled, I'm not sure how to interpret it according to my question regarding my meeting that man at this particular time. My intuition is conflicting with the meaning of the card. To me, this card means Illumination, the energy of thought; Hope and the Collective Unconscious. My intuition tells me that this man is ruthless and dangerous.
Overhearing his friends discussion, Tyler said," The Tarot, Star, just answered your question. You're just pronouncing it wrong. He's one of the Illuminati."
" Illuma whati?" Asked Sandy.
" Of course," said Molly."I should have seen it sooner. But can that really be? Why would one of them be interested in us?"
" I suspect," said Tyler,"that he may have been responsible for our rescue out of Rachel."
" Wait a minute," Juniper interrupted.
"I don't know what you're talking about. Back up and explain it to me."
" A preacher named Texe Marrs, had a lot to say about the Illuminati. According to preacher Marrs, a group of very powerful and wealthy men have been playing 'monopoly' with countries and governments. Apparently, their aim is to create chaos, then jump in as heros and restore order. Of course, the cost of social order is loss of individual freedom. Their goal is to gain absolute power and authority over all of humanity. Preacher Marrs believes that one of these men will rise as the 'Anti-Christ'. Personally, I believe he is correct, except the 'Anti-Christ' is more likely one of the offspring of the Illuminati."
" Why would one of these powerful men pay so much attention to us? We have nothing any of them would possibly want." said Sandy.
" I'm not sure," answered Tyler."but we certainly do have their attention. What is puzzling is why anyone of them would lend us aid. It implies a rift in the Illuminati."
" Are you saying that we are on the verge of Armageddon?" Juniper asked with disbelief.
" Not on the verge, my dear. We are right smack in the middle of it, and have been for a number of years. Witness the economy and escalating atrocities here and all over the world. And more recently the 'finger pointing' between Christian religious leaders. They accuse each other of deceit and teaching a false gospel. Some have preached violence against those they consider 'doing the work of the devil'."
" That's for sure," said Molly."The incidents of harassment towards people like myself have been steadily increasing."
" What do you mean by people like yourself?," asked Juniper.
" Pagans and those that practice paganism." Tyler responded on Molly's behalf."The Christian does not understand it and believe it is of the devil. Many Christian religious leaders now preach openly to their congregations about ridding their towns of this influence. They think they are doing the work of God. For now it is just harassment. If the economy gets any worse or chaos increases on the planet the harassment will develop into full scale witch hunting."
" That's ridiculous." said Juniper.
"Do they think pagans are responsible for the misery of the world or their own personal problems?"
" Actually, it's a great deception," answered Tyler," and one that Satan enjoys. The simple fact is that pagans are more likely to practice the teaching of Jesus than are Christians. Pagans respect the planet and all things on it. They advocate harmony and peace and turn away from violence. As has been done over the centuries, some Christian leaders preach violence against what they consider the enemies of Christ and in so doing play into Satan's game. They have been deceived and will likely ride the 'white horse of the Apocalypse' into the bowels of hell."
" Do you think there will be a second coming of Jesus, as is spoken of in the Christian bible?" Asked Molly.
" If you mean as 'The Christ,' I think that depends on whether or not he can be found."
" Is he lost?" Asked Juniper
Sadly, Tyler shook his head,"No, we are."