All Righty. Yall know that until a book has a number of reviews on Amazon, it’s almost impossible to give it away. SO… I’m giving it away. For a limited time, email me at claylindemuth at gmail dot com for a PDF of TREAD. If you dig it enought to write a quick review, well I’ll appreciate that a lot.
You can get a sense of the writing by checking out Chapter One below. I love the way this novel starts, the pace, the voice. I hope you do too.
Now available on Amazon…
Also on Kindle…
On the run from an unplanned murder of a law enforcement officer at his camp outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, Nat Cinder blazes to Phoenix on his Triumph Rocket. Soon he stumbles onto a packet of photos showing Governor Virginia Rentier lustily paired with three high-ranking women in state government.
Though Cinder and the Governor clashed sixteen years before when his wife died in a car accident, Cinder prefers to keep his dislike of Rentier focused on her politics. He’s too busy blaming himself for his wife’s death, fighting his way back into his son’s life, and leading a crew of lazy secessionist misfits to become involved in an intrigue about the Governor’s sex partners.
But when the bullets fly, Nat asks questions, and learns that his sudden war with the Governor traces back sixteen years. And that the photos were put in his path by a provocateur who knows Nat Cinder’s a rough-hewn rebel with enough weaponry cached across Arizona to start a revolution, and that the secret at the bottom of his wife’s death will turn him into a powder keg.
TREAD is what fans of Clayton Lindemuth’s “thrilling, visceral, and unsparing” prose (Publishers Weekly) have been waiting for: a novel that pairs his lean noir voice with the explosive tempo of the modern political thriller.
Flagstaff at sundown. I drink a quarter of my flask of Jack in two gulps. There’s a crew of secessionists in the cabin behind me, bitching about the same old. It’s endless, and that’s why it’s got to end.
I’m on the porch wondering when I should tell the boys to get lost. They got guns but won’t use them. They got the same reasons to be pissed as I do. A tax code seventeen thousand pages long, for shit’s sake. But they’d rather suck beer and fart than defend themselves against the almighty Machine. And what am I doing? Sitting here drinking whiskey and thinking about a dead woman’s feet.
One more gulp of Jack and I’m going in. The only one that has any stones is George Murray—the bastard’s lugging around a set of cannonballs. The IRS closed his bait shop and he’s stockpiling black powder. He’s raising a fuss and I want to hear it.
“We ought to firebomb ‘em,” Murray says. “Hit the IRS, courthouses, Fish and Game. Then they’ll know what we’re about.”
I stand at the door beside a floodlight swarming with moths. Murray and Charlie Yellow Horse, a white man with a sixteenth of Apache blood on his mother’s side, are nose to nose.
“Fucking moron,” Yellow Horse says.
“Talk! Talk! Let’s blow some shit up!”
It’s about damn time they show a little spirit. So far all the boys have done is snivel. They come from all over. One smokes Dominican cigars and the rest chew Copenhagen, but when it comes to bearing arms, they each take their panties off one leg at a time and when their asses are bare, they bend over.
Except Murray. Praise Jesus.
The fire lights surrounding trees in an orange glow. I get the feeling we’re not alone. Might be a chipmunk in the leaves, but this kind of group attracts attention. All we do is talk, but it’s the wrong kind of talk.
Tree branches break the outline of the moon and the breeze carries a storm. The sky flashes but no clap follows. Electric is in the air.
Murray talks and my head snaps back to the show.
“I’m sick of being a goddamn government mule,” he says. “Any of you ever have the IRS chain your shop shut? Pay this, pay that! I’m sick of it!”
“Why don’t you do something about it, shithead?”
“Well, well. The Indian who dyes his hair black is talking tough. Why don’t you reach down and see if those wampum nuts of yours are big enough to join me?”
“Behold the modern White Man,” Yellow Horse says, and jabs Murray’s shoulder with his closed fist. “Talk.”
Cowboy boots shuffle on the plank floor as fat men slide back in a hurry. Yellow Horse shoves Murray through the screen door. Murray stutter steps past me and falls off the porch. He’s a heavy man, but Yellow Horse has thrown him. He rolls and leaps to his feet.
Yellow Horse steps outside and they square off in front of the fire.
Someone cries, “Whooo-hooo!”
Yellow Horse is quiet now. He wishes he was a real Apache starving on lichens and grass, killing men with knives, flitting across the rocks like a ghost. Instead, he’s a grad student at ASU writing papers about the evils of assimilation, wearing a leather necklace with a silver arrow as the jewel.
Murray puffs his chest and throws his shoulders back, fists high, arms parallel, like an Irish pugilist. And I know Yellow Horse is praying to Red Cloud to make him a man, just one damn time.
Murray has the pounds, but Yellow Horse is sinewy and lithe, his stance like a coiled spring. His hair catches firelight and the illusion is strong. He circles Murray.
Yellow Horse lunges. They lock arms on shoulders and dance around the fire.
“Gittim Murray!” Merle cries.
In a minute they’re gasping tired and I imagine this fight will reach the back-slapping, good-buddy stage before anyone bleeds. Sure enough, Murray steps back and drops his arms.
“You don’t know when to stop running your dick-licker,” Yellow Horse says, and drives his fist into Murray’s jaw. “Maybe if I bust it, they’ll wire it shut.” He throws another and the sound is wet with blood.
Murray touches his mouth and his hand goes to his chest like a man patting a wallet he can’t feel.
Yellow Horse sends a flicker of a look to me. Our eyes lock.
Yeah, I saw it.
I watch the woods again; hair stands on my neck. You get a sixth sense as a Ranger; I have a seventh.
Yellow Horse charges and grabs Murray by his arms and jerks him forward. Murray falls and throws him with a practiced move—the kind you see on TV. They roll and Yellow Horse is back on top with his knees pinning Murray. Yellow Horse punches him below the right eye. Murray bucks, but can’t marshal the strength to throw him. Yellow Horse thumps him again.
Maybe there’s hope for this group.
I take a couple slugs of Jack. I’ll need a refill soon. I’ve felt like I’ve been in a river for the last fifteen years, sucked along to a destiny that includes this kind of action. Maybe these men have something to do with my end, after all.
Yellow Horse sits on Murray’s chest and gives him a sudden jerk like a dog snapping a rabbit’s back. Murray’s shirt rips open and a flat black rectangle is taped to his chest.
Yellow Horse tears it off and tosses it to me.
“Gee, Murray. This ain’t too good,” I say.
“It’s a voice recorder,” Yellow Horse says.
“You didn’t get this gizmo at Radio Shack, didja?” I say.
Murray coughs bloody spit and hocks it to the side. “Just trying to protect myself.”
“I was afraid y’all’d say I was instigating shit here.”
Yellow Horse pops Murray in the jaw. His knuckles glow red when he pulls back and wails one more time.
“You was the one talkin about blowin shit up. Wouldn’t that be entrapment? Murray?”
Yellow Horse looks at me and his eyes pass to the group behind me.
“You’re under arrest for conspiracy and sedition,” Murray says.
“Sedition? They didn’t even get the Rosenburgs for sedition,” Yellow Horse says. He grins; he’s holding a law enforcement officer’s life in his hands. He’s lost himself and in this moment has a chance to measure against an old standard.
The group has ten members. We haven’t named ourselves a militia or printed some redneck banner to fly on our Jeeps. We haven’t voted for leaders, though they all know I’m the one with the dough. None has ever taken action on behalf of the others, save springing for a kegger. And yet the central government—the Machine, as Yellow Horse calls it—finds us dangerous.
It’s the worst confirmation. My country’s made me its enemy.
It’s formal, now.
Yellow Horse watches my face as fire reflects little orange dots in his eyes. His jaw is frozen: a white man transforms himself into the savage he always wanted to be. He’s fluttering on the cusp of metamorphosis, and just when I think his courage will fail him and leave him with nothing but a good story, his hand falls to his side.
I jump. “No!”
With blurring speed Yellow Horse unsheathes a boot knife.
His arm whips forward and he slices Murray’s throat. Murray writhes and gargles blood; Yellow Horse flips the blade in his hand and drives it into Murray’s forehead. He stands and turns to the rest of us, trembling with courage.
“Jesus,” I say, though the Almighty had nothing to do with it. One of the boys behind me throws up on a lounge chair.
Murray is dead but shaking. I smell piss and blood and remember Gretchen, my wife, suspended above me in a flipped Ford Bronco.
The smell just about breaks me and I turn aside.
Yellow Horse watches me. I finish my flask and wipe my mouth with my sleeve.
“Well,” I say, “they’re on us. This group is done.”
By dusk the temperature had fallen from mid-afternoon highs of one hundred-twenty to a reasonable hundred-five. The crowd cheered Governor Virginia Rentier as she cut the yellow sash. It fluttered to the ground and she stepped to the surveyor’s mark, cognizant as kiln-baked clay pressed pebbles against her soles.
Mick Patterson, Chief of Staff, placed the handle of a round nosed shovel in her palm. The crowd stilled.
“Here?” She indicated a stake with a pink ribbon. A bronze man with day laborer shoulders and a black five o’clock shadow nodded.
Holding the shovel vertical, she dropped it. The earth rejected the point without a chip.
“Eh, Meez Governor—you wan mi hombre bust ee dirt?” A different man from the crowd spoke. He wore ragged flannel and his back was stooped. Even in the purple street-lamp glow, his face was crinkled like the scorched clay underfoot. Rentier followed his eyes, trod a few steps, and returned holding a pickaxe level at her hips.
The second man nodded at her. The first grinned.
She swung the pick overhead; her left hand slid along the shaft and she whipped her back and buttocks. Her heel broke. A small cloud of dust popped free as the metal shank plunged to the rounded swell of the handle. Vibration stung her hand.
Holding the man’s eyes, she lifted with her knees and pried loose a heavy chunk of baked clay.
The stooped man smiled wide and his compadres cheered.
Rentier held their eyes, pair by pair, until she owned them. Finally her gaze settled on Dick Clyman. The Republican Minority Leader of the Arizona House stood with the others, his pale Anglo face distinct from the Hispanic throng, his mouth lopsided in a Dick Cheney grin.
This wasn’t his kind of event, and Rentier was suddenly aware that she stood lopsided.
Her fingers closed toward an old burn scar high on her right cheekbone. She swept the willful hand through her hair, waved, and kicked off both shoes. The group erupted. Photo bulbs flashed white under the streetlamp glow. She steeled herself to step across the sharp pebbles.
A frenzy of cheers silenced her.
She passed the pick to Patterson, took the shovel and tossed aside a spade of loose dirt. Camera flashes sparkled like a Flagstaff snowstorm.
“I am honored,” she said, and waited for their whooping and clapping to subside. “I am honored to break ground for the Arizona Center for Undocumented Americans. Across the street, the Chavez Center stands as a proud reminder of the Hispanic community’s contributions to Arizona. Now the ACUA will join the fight to expand the civil rights of the Undocumented, hear their voice, and amplify their voice.”
“The Arizona legislature will soon pass the Vallejo Bill, and I will sign it. I will take your fight all the way to the White House. May God, Arizona, and the United States bless you!”
She stepped away. Patterson and a contingent of state police security men shepherded her toward the limousine.
It was Clyman.
Chief of Staff Patterson stepped forward to deflect the minority leader. A state trooper opened the limousine door and Rentier slipped to the seat. She watched Patterson and Clyman between elbows and torsos that gathered at the vehicle until Patterson leaned close to the window, his blank eyes searching the darkened glass. She lowered it.
“Clyman wants a meeting tomorrow morning,” Patterson said. “It’s urgent.”
“I can’t. You know that. I’m with the Girl Scouts tomorrow morning.”
“Governor, you need to see him.”
Patterson’s Marine Corps bearing, like his flat top haircut and Hitler mustache, touched a nerve. His cropped grey hair often made her think of the day her father burned her—it was one of the reasons she kept Patterson around.
She touched her cheek. Plastic surgery, concealer, foundation, powder, and still her fingertips found the shiny-smooth cigarette scar.
“Mick, it just struck me you look like Adolph Hitler. Shave your moustache.”
“Tell Clyman to get in. He can ride back to the tower with me.”
Patterson’s jaw clenched.
“What?” she said.
He turned away.
A moment later Clyman was beside her. His arms poked from his barrel chest like legs on a blood-gorged tick. He’d escaped a childhood in Jerome, Arizona with his closed mind intact—before gays, bikers, and painters made the mountain copper town chic. He was a lineman on the Sun Devil football team in the seventies, then matriculated to a Catholic law school in Pittsburgh. Now he was a fat Republican who panted after climbing into a car seat.
He was too close. He regarded her with wide-set eyes that lorded a secret.
She drew her knees together. “I hope this isn’t about Vallejo.”
His lips thinned and the right side curved upward. She’d seen that look years ago, when he defeated a minimum wage increase she’d asked a junior representative to submit on the House floor. The same leer graced the front page of the Phoenix Times when he lambasted her for visiting Mexican President Vicente Fox. Behind those pinprick eyes, his brain was as tight as a sparrow’s ass. Why did conservatives elect such ugly men?
Clyman shifted. “I have information that might help you avoid a public relations problem. Thought we might come to an understanding.”
She caught the driver’s glance in the rearview mirror. “Mitch, I’m sorry. Will you raise the divider?”
The window climbed and nestled to the roof.
“What are we talking about, Dick?”
“No way. That bill has a long history, and I’m going to be the governor that signs it.”
“It’ll kill the state.”
“Only a Republican would say more power in the hands of the people is bad. Or are they the wrong kind of people?”
“Why make it good for illegals to be here? Why make it easy?”
“We’ve disenfranchised these people while living off their sweat. They pay the same taxes you do. Some fight your party’s wars. You don’t have anything that can make me rethink this, Dick.”
“Who franchised them in the first place? They broke our laws coming here, and aren’t entitled to a damn thing, Virginia. They don’t have a stake.”
The limousine swept through a turn and she cast her hand to the seat. He looked at it too long.
“We’ve argued this to death in the papers. Talk radio. The House floor. Why stake a pro-slavery position? Twenty-two states in the past had no citizenship test to vote. The country did fine.”
“That so? I have a different story. My mother—seventy-five years old—comes home from the grocery store. Finds two spics busted in. They knock her around, tie her so tight her hands turn blue and rob her blind. When the police catch the perps, not only are they illegals—they’ve been caught and released twice before! Like goddam fish!”
“I didn’t know about your mother.”
“She had gangrene. Doctors had to amputate her hand to save her life.”
Rentier drank water. Stared forward, then at Clyman.
Clyman’s face changed. “We can be friends.”
She waited. The car turned to a highway onramp and accelerated.
“There’s photos floating around,” he said, “and I hear someone blackmailed you. You know, compromising photos. Queer stuff. If word gets to other Republicans—hell, Democrats—they’ll cry for impeachment. That’s the last thing I want. I think you and I can work together. Am I communicating with you?”
Rentier studied his face. Clyman smiled.
The Secretary of State—who became governor if Rentier became incapacitated—was a Republican. Clyman didn’t want her removed because he thought he could control her.
“And you can make this problem go away?”
“No; I don’t have the photos. I’m not even sure they exist. Let’s say if you and I were allies on Vallejo, you might assume my help in this matter.”
It was her fault, in a way. Heat flushed her face; her scar pulsed.
“Put those pictures in your personal collection, right next to the Vaseline. It’s the best use you’re going to get out of them.”
The limo stopped at the glass doors to the entrance to the Executive Tower. She rapped the glass divider and it lowered. “Park in the garage and call a cab for the Minority Leader to get back to the Capitol.”
Yellow Horse drives a pick into the ground. We’ve been up all night and I’m running on fumes. We took Forest Road Forty-Four deep into the woods outside Flagstaff; I looked at his gas gauge to make sure we’d make it out. We came to a place so arbitrary and lonely it seemed fit for a clandestine burial.
The pick wedges between a rock and a root. “Son of a bitch,” Yellow Horse says. He pries it loose.
The body rests under a tarp on the ground, one leg splayed and visible in the moonlight.
I didn’t used to be like this. Before Gretchen died I managed a section at Honeywell. Had an MBA and a secretary named Cyndi.
I left for work at four a.m. and always kissed Gretchen’s forehead. That last morning she had her leg kicked out from under the blanket. I passed around the bed in the dark and her toes caught my suit pant. I rubbed her sole and along her outer arch. Her feet always hurt, maybe from the weight of being pregnant. Her foot was soft as her inner thigh. She died that night.
I kick Murray’s leg under the tarp.
“You could’ve let him go,” I say.
“And let the Machine grind me to dust? Inject my veins with poison?”
“They don’t do that for talk.”
“It was the wrong kind of talk.”
I drink from my flask. “Keep digging. It’ll be dawn soon.”
Murray’s blood has curdled in the bed of the truck; the clots glisten like cherry pie filling flung with a spatula and worked with an oil rag.
“No problem,” Yellow Horse says.
“They have chemicals that make blood show up.”
“Not after I take a torch to it.”
“You might try Clorox.”
He shakes his head and his eyes light up; they don’t fit the face of a man that just murdered another. “This is a 1972 F-150,” he says. “It gets burned.”
“I figure you have a couple of hours. I’m surprised they weren’t on us when you stuck him.”
“It was a recorder, not a transmitter,” he says.
Yellow Horse grabs Murray’s arms and I get his feet. His ass drags as we work him to the pit. The body’s getting stiff. We drop him in.
“You better pull that blade out,” I say.
I can’t think of a reason but it doesn’t seem right to send him off with a knife in his forehead, so I jump in the hole and yank at it. His jaw falls open and each pull pumps dead air through his lungs. It stinks. I climb out.
Yellow Horse shovels dirt on Murray. I suppose he thinks he’ll be able to tuck away the killing in a corner of his mind. Or maybe he thinks he’ll revel in it. But human beings aren’t built that way. He’ll be running from the law and himself the rest of his life.
We cover the grave with dirt and pine needles and soggy oak leaves, then get in the truck and head back to Flag. Last night’s storm fizzled at the damp wind stage. Wet air collects on the windshield.
I look at Yellow Horse and wonder if he’s plotting his next moves, maybe running to Mexico this afternoon.
I’m going to sleep. No one but Yellow Horse knows me as Nat Cinder. The secessionists think I’m Tom Davis. When I get out of this truck, I disappear.
“You can drop me off here.” I say. Yellow Horse pulls to the curb two blocks from the house where I left my bike—where I plan to spend the morning in the arms of a skinny blonde named Liz. She lives with Rosie, a big-boned woman liable to quote the Constitution the way some women quote psalms. I hear “we the people in order to form” and I get a chub like to club a seal. Liz and Rosie are rednecks, bar women prone to throaty laughter; they view tattoos as the same kind of vanity as big earrings and big hair. They embrace all three.
I stand beside the truck with the door open. The sun’s been up for hours but the air is brisk and damp.
“You’d best get out of town,” I say. “See what shakes out.”
“There were a lot of witnesses,” Yellow Horse says. “Eight, counting you.”
“And half of them fairly new to the group. We’re gonna have to start over. One person at a time. Work in cells.”
I expect him to turn away when I open the door, but his eyes are narrow. “You gonna be alright?”
“What do you mean, Charlie?”
“Last night. I don’t want to have to worry about you.”
“Wait a good while until you get in touch,” I say.
He pulls away and I walk toward the house. Under leafy maples, shade outweighs light and brief splashes of sun warm my skin. I need sleep and I think of Liz. It ain’t love but she beats Miss Palm and her sisters. I see her like I remember her, legs spread, and just as I can damn near smell her musk, tires squeal and two brown sedans swerve front and back of Yellow Horse’s truck. They skid to a stop. Four guys in suits jump out waving guns. They wear sunglasses in the shade and they converge on the driver’s side door.
Yellow Horse bolts from the passenger side and sprints across a lawn to the woods behind. The men fan out and chase. After a few seconds the trees hide them, but their shouts mark their paths.
There’s no one on the street either direction; no parked cars. I trot across a lawn and behind a house. A Rottweiler lunges but a chain jerks him short. I jump a half-rotted fence that almost collapses and cross a lawn to a parallel avenue. FBI men bellow in the distance. Yellow Horse used to be a distance runner and I have the feeling these patent-leather chumps will be sucking wind inside a mile.
Liz and Rosie live in a small house with sooty white siding and a rusted bike collection under the eaves. I approach from the back yard and push my Triumph from the porch. It’s a cold-blooded machine and I choke it. While the engine steadies out, I rap the back door.
Liz stands in her underwear and a shrunken t-shirt with a mug of coffee. Her legs bear the sheen of a fresh shave and I take a third of a second to debate taking her back to the room.
“You better clear out,” I say. “FBI was layin’ for Yellow Horse. They’ll be checking houses if they don’t get him. They were outside, so they know this place.”
“You takin’ off without a goodbye kiss, Tom?” Liz says. Rosie watches from the kitchen window, her face illegible.
I give Liz a peck on the lips and she grabs my mess. She smells of cigarettes.
“Get out,” I tell her, and drink from the mug.
“How much time do we have?”
“Well stick around. Can’t I ride with you?”
She slams the door and the pane rattles.
I told her my name was Tom Davis when I met her at a bar a couple years ago. Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson Davis. I’d been scouting Flagstaff to get an understanding of grassroots thinking on secession. I had the time and the bucks, and figured other folks saw the same freedom meltdown. After Ruby Ridge and Waco, you don’t let government know who you are or what you’re doing. I set up a fake name and did a few credit card transactions to support it. I have two more identities in Phoenix.
One more gulp of coffee and I climb on the bike—a Triumph Rocket. It has a car-sized engine but no cup holder. I take a final drink and toss the mug to the lawn, then cut a mark across the grass and over the sidewalk.
At the junction with Maryland Street a black sedan pulls to the corner on my right. A suit watches me from inside. I drive straight and the car turns left. He stays in the open, an FBI harassment technique. It’s also what disinterested strangers do, but I know better.
I take Madison and then Santa Clara; the car falls back but remains in sight. He weaves. There’s no traffic so I figure he’s fiddling with the radio or a cell phone. Checking his email. One more turn and I’m on the road to Interstate 17. I’ve made a loop and I’m parallel to where Yellow Horse left his truck and sprinted into the woods. If it was me, I’d be sticking to the flat ground and making distance. He’s covered a mile and a half, if I’m right.
Soon the houses thin to one every hundred yards and the macadam weaves between a dirt bank on the left and a hollow on the right. Tall trees choke the undergrowth with permanent shade. It’s like driving through the dank air of a tunnel.
Yellow Horse runs like a raped ape to my right. The air whips his hair and I recall last night, when the illusion was strong. He’s in his element. If he lives only ten minutes, he’ll be glad these were his last. I’m not quite so exhilarated.
Three men follow at a distance; their white shirts flash through the trees. I bump my horn and Yellow Horse angles to the bike. The sedan behind me accelerates.
We meet fifty yards ahead. I skid on the pavement and Yellow Horse leaps aboard, rocking my balance. I pop the clutch and the bike rights itself. The engine screams like an dago tenor with a wine bottle rammed up his ass. I yell, “hang on!” too late and Yellow Horse claws at my side to keep from falling off the back. The bike explodes. The rear tire chirps; the front tire lifts. It’s as close to instant travel as man can come. I push it hard—the car is right on us and there’s a hand with a gun sticking out the window.
We bank right and left and when we’ve gone a mile I swerve on a left fork and press the bike again. The wind has fists and bugs feel like sling-shot rocks. Yellow Horse doesn’t have sunglasses and he buries his face to my back. I come to another turn and take it. We’ve lost our pursuers and I skid to a stop.
“If I was you I’d visit Mexico,” I say.
“If I was you I’d get rid of that yellow flag.”
I look at the back of the bike where I’ve mounted a small yellow pennant—the Gadsden flag—with a coiled rattlesnake and the words, DON’T TREAD ON ME.
Yellow Horse slaps my back and disappears into the woods.
I figure every federal dick in Flagstaff and Phoenix is scouring the land looking for a Triumph Rocket. They have cars, motorcycles, and thanks to Janet Reno, Abrams tanks. They probably have helicopters after us by now and I won’t be shocked if the NSA offers up a satellite.
The sum of the facts is I’m not taking Interstate Seventeen back to Phoenix. I wouldn’t make it to Mund’s Park.
I head down 89A through Oak Creek Canyon toward Sedona and mix with tourist traffic. The famous red rocks stand bright in the sky; emerald grass ripples as cars pass. The double lane winds along the creek. I’m behind a string of cars a mile long—people that saw the Grand Canyon yesterday and will visit the O.K. Corral tomorrow—when a helicopter flying NAP of the earth pounds overhead. I hunker down without thinking and when I look up I’m under heavy tree cover.
The bird continues along the road and by the time it banks right it looks more like a dragonfly than a chopper. I can’t see any markings. Mountain-sized boulders block the left, Oak Creek the right. Every turn dead-ends in fifty feet. I go straight but watch the sky.
One of the witnesses called the FBI. Like Yellow Horse said, Murray wore a recorder, not a transmitter. Unless it had some kind of GPS, which I wouldn’t put past the wily sonsabitches, there’s no other way they know Murray’s dead.
I could turn on Yellow Horse and save my ass, but what kind of choice is that? When I break things down to black and white, the grays are obvious for what they are.
Two miles before Sedona, on the right, a stone wall gaps at a driveway with a twelve-foot gate. The top of the worked iron rolls into an eagle crest, wings spread as if braking for prey; outstretched talons hanging ready to rend whoever passes unauthorized through the gates.
A hundred yards distant, at the top of a knoll, a log cabin with a wraparound deck peeks through the trees. It dates to 1891, built by one of the first settlers in Sedona. A later owner planted an orchard on the field to the right, and between us, Oak Creek gurgles over rocks.
The governor of Arizona, Virginia Rentier, escapes the desert here. She could be inside right now, cutting a deal with another political cutthroat or scoring a business transaction. A security element patrols the cabin whether she’s there or not.
I’ve mused about this ranch.
In Sedona, tourists fight for parking spaces and wander with cameras and plastic shopping bags, searching for meaning at souvenir shops, tarot readers, psychic healers, and food service joints. Want a genuine Navajo trinket? Here, from China with love. Mexican blankets and Baja jackets, five bucks each, also from China. Who knew China was so racially diverse?
Nobel Prize-winning economists tell us the global economy is a positive thing; it isn’t a zero sum game. But deep inside, I can’t help but think there’s something good about being able to make our own trinkets.
Tree cover thins after Sedona. I follow 89 to Cottonwood and cut across to Jerome. The old copper town tugs at my heart; climbing the switchbacks I pass eight biker bars. The air chills and my hands grow stiff. I stop at the rest area at the crest and take a leak, then replace the lost fluid with fresh Jack Daniel’s from my flask. Back in the midst of trees, I park the bike in the sun and think. I’d be smart to hole up. I’m confident they don’t have my name, but my bike marks a trail like fresh blood on snow.
I have a place near my trailer on the outskirts of Phoenix. Maybe I’ll make it.