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Think the next time before you leave the heavily traveled highway and drive off into a small, isolated, town. You are now a stranger. Could you become an innocent victim? A victim of circumstance, cut off from the real world?
Monday 4:30 A.M.
A cool breeze worked its way down through the foothills south of Flagstaff. It bore a slight trace of fragrance from the pine covered mountains to the north. A small gust blew gently down the dark, deserted, main street of the old town. Carried on the breeze, a piece of newspaper slowly tumbled past the time worn buildings lining the narrow street. Finally the dusty paper came to rest against a steel post. At the top of the post, blinked a small neon sign that read:
Huddled behind the sign post, a line of small cabins ran into the darkness. The first cabin had “Office” painted above the door. Behind each window of the wood frame buildings hung dark brown, time worn, drapes. Drapes that appeared to hide empty rooms, except for cabin number 8. In the darkness, the drapes seemed to part slightly, then close.
In the silent, musty, shadows of number 8, a figure moved about the room. Gloved hands searched through a suitcase, throwing the contents to the floor. They emptied the contents of an old beaded handbag, and pulled several dollars from a small change purse. The figure then moved to the bathroom and grabbed a hand towel. Faucets, doorknobs, glasses, a whiskey bottle, were all calmly wiped clean. Reaching the cabin door, the figure paused, turned and surveyed the room. Gloved hands throw the towel to the floor, and slowly cracked open the door. The night was silent and empty. Number 8 door opened and closed quietly. Hesitating for a second, the figure looked up at the eastern sky. The first traces of the sunrise would soon begin to lighten the horizon. Into the darkness between the cabins, the figure disappeared. Cabin number 8 still held the only occupant of the Prosperity Motel, except for the office cabin. Inside number 8, from under the twisted bed sheets, a long slender leg protruded.
Monday 7:30 A.M.
The highway sign read, “Prosperity, next exit.” Simon turned off of the interstate, onto the wide blacktop off ramp. An off ramp, which in a short distance, narrowed down to what remained of the old highway. The dusty, old, two lane strip of concrete, still served as the main street of Prosperity. As Simon braked for the first stop sign, he looked down the street at what appeared to be the towns only stoplight. On the corner of that intersection, also appeared to be the towns only gas station. Pulling away from the stop sign, he noticed the street sign on the corner. It read, “Main Street.” Simon thought, well that certainly is original.
The pickup truck stopped beside the two faded red gas pumps that seemed to stand guard in front of the old station. One look at the price on the pumps, and Simon knew for certain that the purchase would be just enough to get him to Flagstaff. He stepped out of the truck, stretching his legs. It was then that he realized a trip to the rest room would probably be a good idea. The morning coffee was making its presence felt. He stood waiting for someone to come out of the station office. The building seemed deserted, as did the intersection. The stoplight giving the green light to an empty street, and the red light to an equally deserted side street. At one end of the old station building was a grease rack. On top of the raised lift, sat a mud splattered Jeep. Simon’s eyes searched the dirty windows of the office. Just as he was about to head for the office door, he noticed some movement behind one of the smudged windows. Out of the door stepped a young man, who obviously was in no hurry. He appeared to be in his early twenties, tall, thin, with a wild crop of sandy hair. As he slowly approached, wiping his hands on a rag, Simon saw a name tag sewn to his work shirt. It read, “Les.” He stopped by the pumps. After thoroughly checking out the red pickup, he said, “Well, who the hell are you? What do you want?”
Simon’s years spent in the white man’s world had taught him many things. One being, how to avoid confrontation with trouble. And he sensed that, for whatever the reason may be, this “Les” character was trouble. Maybe he just didn’t like Native Americans, who knows? Simon didn’t really care, he just wanted some gas.
“I could use some gas. Ten dollars of the regular, please. Also I need to use the rest room. Where is it located?” asked Simon.
Les got a smirk on his face. “What’s the matter? Any man who drives a sharp truck like this, ought to have enough money to fill the damn tank.” Simon smiled, “I believe ten dollars will do the job.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Les. “That’s not enough to get you back to your reservation.”
Simon now knew what Les’s problem was. “I’m stopping in Flagstaff, so ten dollars will be enough. I didn’t catch where you said the rest room was?” “That’s cause I didn’t say. The damn toilet is around back,” Les said, as he jammed the pump nozzle into the gas tank.
As Simon walked around to the back of the building, he thought about people like Les, or whatever his name was. Only on a few occasions had he run into any hostility in Tucson. He remembered what his boss at the welding shop had told him when he first arrived in town, “This old world is full of a lot of good people, but from time to time, you will run into an ignorant, intolerant, ass. Just ignore them.”
When Simon reached the rear of the station, he opened the rest room door. The stench was overwhelming. If there had been some bushes in the field behind the station, he would have taken his chances there. After finishing his task, as he walked back to the front of the station, he wondered if Les used that rest room. Probably so, it seemed to fit into his life style.
Simon was anxious to get to Flagstaff, and pick up the used welding equipment that was being held for him by a friend. The quicker he got to the reservation, the quicker he could start his own business. He hoped that he could find a good location around the Tuba City, or Kayenta, area. He smiled as he thought of the sign he would put up. It would read, “Horn Welding.”
The smile on Simon’s face disappeared as he reached the front of the gas station. He stopped dead in his tracks, as he stood staring at the two gas pumps. Just two old red pumps, standing alone. For a second his mind went blank at the sight. Two gas pumps, and no red pickup truck. He ran over to the pumps and stood looking in every direction, as if someone may have hidden the truck. Someone playing a little game. But Simon knew that this was not a game. He turned and walked rapidly toward the office door. A dirty wooden desk sat in the corner of the empty office. Several shelves on one wall held cans of oil. Under the shelves, stood a metal rack full of road maps. Behind the old desk sat a vacant swivel chair. Simon stood looking at the empty office, and then back out at the two gas pumps. He said to himself, “What the hell is going on here?” Suddenly he heard a noise in the grease rack area. It sounded like someone dropping a wrench on the cement floor. He stepped through an office side door, and saw a figure wearing mechanics coveralls standing under the raised Jeep. It appeared that the oil was being drained. The coveralls slowly stepped out from under the Jeep. That crop of sandy hair, stood wiping his hands on an old rag. He looked over at Simon, and then out at the gas pumps.
“Where the hell did you come from? And what the hell do you want?”
“What do I want?” said Simon. “I want to know where my truck is?”
“What truck are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the truck you were putting gas in while I used the rest room,” said Simon. “The red pickup, that not more then ten minutes ago, was parked by those gas pumps.”
“Look mister, I don't know what your problem is, but I ain’t seen any red pickup around here. I sure as hell didn’t put gas in one, and I never laid eyes on you before.”
Simon lost what little patience he had left. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t know what kind of joke you think you’re playing, but it’s not funny. I want that truck back out by those pumps, and I want it right now.”
“Hey, sounds like you are about ready to go on the damn warpath. I don’t know what you’ve been smoking, or drinking, and I don’t care. I’m gonna tell you for the last time, I don’t know anything about any red pickup, and I don’t know where you came from. In fact I don’t give a shit, but you had better get your ass back on the road. The interstate is just about a half a mile back down the road. I think you better head for it.”
Simon kept control. “No, the only place in this town that I’m heading for is the nearest police station.”
“Well, I think that is one fine idea. You just follow me and I’ll show you which way to head.”
As they walked out to the street corner, Simon was still amazed at this whole scenario. Here was someone who quite obviously knew what happened to the truck, and now he was going to point the way to the police station. If he didn’t take the truck, then he knew who did. How in the hell did they expect to get away with it? Simon glanced down the street, as they reached the corner. In the next block, he could make out a sign that hung from an old stone building. It read, “Town Marshal, Prosperity, Az.” He saw two black and white patrol cars parked in front of the building. He said, “Never mind, I can see the station from here.”
“Well, good for you, Tonto. Just go on down there, I’m sure they can give you directions to the damn interstate.”
Posted August 12, 2001
Satisfying--The plot is captivating and moves along at a fast pace. I couldn't put it down as it was an exciting read right up to the end. Joe Faust has a gift for story-telling, capturing contemporary feeling about native indians, small towns, and mystery.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2001
Joe Faust has succeeded in designing a Novel of murder, secrecy, duplicity and human debauchery. In no time at all, it becomes absurd that one can stop reading before the end. Just as you think you have Simon Horn's dilemma figured out, the author presents a new twist. I can hardly wait for the next book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2001
From the moment I began reading this book, I found it exciting and mysterious and couldn't put it down until finished. Joe Faust has a good sense of the modern Native American culture and some small town mentalities. The ending was a complete surpriseWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 9, 2001
This was a fun easy book to read! It made me think about what may happen the next time I stop at a small strange town to fill up my car. The story had a great ending with a few really neat twists.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.