When Curt Huntinghawk, a twenty-two-year-old Northern Plains Indian, hooks up with the Colorados Rezagados, a group of Southwestern tribesmen contracted by the US Border Patrol to hunt drug runners along the Mexican border, he recognizes it’s a necessary move to save himself from a life of alcoholism, but he has no idea he’ll turn out to be one of the best at his new profession. Dangerous? Yeah, but it’s as close to living the life of a warrior as he can find, and that restores his self-respect and sense of honor.
But when he saves a young man trying to cross the border across the deadly Sonoran Desert, he doesn’t suspect the youth’s intimate way of showing his gratitude will shake his woman-chasing way of life to its foundation. But that carries its own dangers. How will his running buddy Grove Whitedeer react should he find out about Hawk’s sexual deviancy? How will all the Red Rezes, for that matter? One more danger to face while playing cat and mouse with a deadly drug runner he calls Wolverine.
Vultures circling over the hot Sonoran Desert caught the two Red Rezes attention. As Curt Huntinghawk and Grover Whitedeer watched, the birds began a slow spiral descent.
“Whatever it is, it’s big,” Grove observed, gunning the four-wheel drive vehicle across the hard desert pan. They were only two hours into their patrol of a stretch of the Mexican border on the lookout for drug runners.
Hawk’s deep baritone filled the cabin. “Hope to hell it’s not another illegal.” His biceps rolled as he tossed a twig he’d been idly chewing out the open window. The pair seldom used the air conditioner because it made exiting the vehicle insufferable.
Grove flapped a hand toward the twenty or more buzzards now wheeling in the sky like a feathered tornado. “Where’d they all come from?”
“They’re just trying to earn a living,” Hawk joked grimly.
After Grove halted the truck at the top of the rise, they got out with rifles at the ready. Fifty yards down a wash, something lay unmoving. Army ants were already at work, and one turkey vulture contemplating the cadaver from a perch on a nearby rock dropped to the ground. Hawk fired his rifle into the air, but the carrion bird only retreated to a more remote roost.
“Oh, shit!” Hawk said as they drew closer.
As two-year veterans of the Rezagados Colorados, or Red Rezes, an elite unit of Indian trackers used by the Border Patrol to hunt drug runners along the Mexican border, they had seen dozens of wetbacks left to die on the desert by their coyotes or guides. But this was different. The man lying in the arroyo had been murdered, his chest ripped apart by a high-powered rifle.
Hawk went back to the truck to radio his boss, Amadeo Tomé, asking him to contact the county sheriff. While they waited for the deputies to arrive, Grove remained close to keep the vultures at bay while Hawk walked a big circle. By the time Sheriff Adam Reed arrived an hour later, they had a story to tell.
“The bad guy parked up here,” Hawk explained, indicating indistinct tracks in the hard pan. “After he shot the man, he walked down the slope to the body, keeping to the rocks. On his way back up, he wiped out all his tracks. You can see smudges but not a clear print.”
The Sheriff grunted. “Left us nothing, huh?”
“There’s something over here,” Grove said. The something was a three-foot length of tire track where the killer crossed a sandy spot.
“This far out in the desert, had to be a four-wheel rig,” the lawman observed. “You fellows see any sign of one on your patrol?”
“Nothing. Not even a dust plume,” Hawk replied. “But see that chink out of the tread. We’ll know that tire when we see it again.”
Sheriff Reed glanced down the slope to his men working the crime scene. “So you figure the victim was shot first, then the killer went down to the body ... for what? To make sure he was dead?”
“Wouldn’t have climbed down for that,” Grove said. “He’d just pump another couple of rounds into the man. He went to get something.”
“Drugs,” the sheriff suggested.
“That’s what we figure,” Hawk confirmed. “We didn’t get close to the body; didn’t want to mess up the crime scene. But when your people are finished, we can take a look for signs to read.”
An hour later, the two Rezes searched the area, now thoroughly trampled by sheriff’s deputies and the medical examiner’s people. Hawk found an impression almost obscured by the deputies’ footprints.
“Something about the size of a duffel bag was dropped here. That’s what the killer came for.”
“How you know?” a deputy demanded.
Hawk eyed him coolly. “Because it’s not here.”
Their unofficial part of the investigation over, they resumed their patrol.
“Hey, bro,” Grove broke the silence after a mile or so. “Aren’t you tired of living like a monk? How about we go across the border tonight.” Going across the border meant only one thing to Grove, a Southern Woodland Indian ... poontang.
Hawk recognized a ploy to get a gruesome murder off his partner’s mind. “You ever think about settling down?”
“What’s the matter with us. Man, we’re twenty-three years old ...”
“Not me, Tonto. Still a young buck at twenty-two.”
“Yeah, for another month or so. Why haven’t we found somebody to get serious about and settle down. You know, have kids.”
“Overrated,” Grove quipped.