Runaway! - Cover


Copyright© 2017 by Ernest Bywater

Chapter 03

More Follow Up

David waits until the Walkers leave the area before he starts to ask around about someone he can talk to in law enforcement in Texas. He’s very careful about who he asks and how he asks them because of his concerns about what he suspects from the records he’s read.

On a Tuesday evening in mid December Jerry Fasthorse, the police officer who lives down the street, drops in to talk to David. He says, “I found a contact for you. To talk to them we have to attend a meeting near Albuquerque on the weekend. The introduction is through my old college room-mate who’s now in the Texas Rangers. One warning about Jackson. Don’t tell him anything you don’t want the world to know by the next night! It’s his partner you need to talk to as she’s good. I do not want to know what you’re up to! Just take care and see it doesn’t come back to haunt either of us.” David goes to speak so Jerry adds, “The fact you want a very quiet and private meet with someone in Texas law enforcement investigating organised crime is enough to let me know it’s something dangerous, so be very careful. OK?”

“Thanks, Jerry. I’ll be careful. What’s the meet about?”

“Oh, I almost forgot. I’ll be waiting here when you get back from school on Friday and we’ll leave right away. Tell Long Arrow to have the pistol and rifles you shoot with packed and ready to go. Since they’ll be in my car and you’ll be with me we’ll be legal. It’s a shooting meet with events for teams of law enforcement people with a civilian on the team. You’re the Window Rock civilian on the team.”

Jason walks in on the tail end of this so he butts in with, “I want three hundred on your team taking out the trophy.” Jerry gives him an odd look; but then, he’s never seen David shoot. “You’re taking in a ringer so you’ll win, and I want to bet on a sure thing.”

“David’s good?”

“Better than good! Heck, he’d qualify as a Designated Marksman or a Sniper in the Corps. He’s deadly accurate with both pistol and rifle.”

“I heard the others say he was good but I didn’t realise he’s that good! Then we should do well!”

“Don’t be surprised if he walks off with all of the medals. He usually gives a perfect shoot, or only a few points short. I’ll pack my Barrett for the heavy rifle and he can use his Winchester twenty-two for the light rifle. I’ll loan you my Beretta M nine for his pistol work. He’s familiar with all of them and he’s very good with all of them.”

“Right! I’ll be here when I finish my shift on Friday. Have everything he needs ready to go.”

David joins in with, “No! You come here and have it all ready to go when I get back from school. We’ll toss it all in the back of my truck and take that. That way we can sleep in the truck if we want to. And we’ll have food and drink on hand too.” Jerry grins as he nods his agreement.

On the Friday afternoon David is quick to leave school to go home. He packed everything except the guns last night, so his clothes, food, and drinks are ready to go. He stops beside Jerry’s truck. Jason and Jerry are sitting on the tailgate with the guns and Jerry’s bags are in the back of the pickup truck. David stops, walks through the truck, and he opens the back door. In seconds he’s packing the guns away as Jerry tosses his bags in one of the cupboards. Within a minute they’re on their way. They need to be fast because they have to do a qualification shoot tonight and it’s a long drive to the location of the meet.

They take turns driving and arrive at the meet with enough time to get ready for the shoot. The rest of their team is on hand and have done their qualification shoot, so it’s just Jerry and David to qualify now. The shooters are ranked on their skill and then marked against the others in their group with the team score being the combined score of the whole team. Jerry is ranked as an expert while David is ranked as an expert marksman because he has the highest qualifying scores for the day.

After they clean and put their guns away Jerry introduces David to his old friend Jackson Barnes and his partner Pauline Myers. Jackson wants to go drinking with Jerry so David says, “Jerry, why don’t you go with Jackson in his car while I talk Pauline into escorting me to dinner. That way you guys can go anywhere you like to eat and drink while you catch up. We’ll eat somewhere else as I can’t go near the booze.”

Pauline turns to David, “How old are you?”

“I’ll be seventeen in March.”

“Heck, and you shoot like that! How long have you been shooting?”

“My guardian started teaching me to shoot back in June. Now, do you know of a nice place to get a good meal at this time on a Friday night and not have to worry about drunks? I’ll buy.” She grins as she names a franchise place with a good reputation for decent steaks. It’s not long before they’re sitting down at the restaurant and ordering their meals.

When the waitress leaves with their orders David says, “Pauline, I’m told you’re in the Organised Crime Unit of the Texas Rangers, is that so?” She frowns while nodding her head yes. “I was given some advice that no one tells Jackson anything they don’t want the world to know about by the next day. You may want to let your bosses know that. I gather he’s good at his work but he’s a gossip.” Her eyes go wide while she slowly nods her head. “I do a lot of hiking across the desert near where I live and on a recent hike I found some interesting things I wish to pass on to someone working organised crime in Texas, but without leaving any official link to me. I can give them to you but I’d like you to find a way to account for receiving them that doesn’t lead back to me in any way at all.”

“I’d have to go through a lot of effort to do that. Do you think what you have is worth my time and trouble?” They stop for their soft drinks and bread rolls to be delivered, and for the waitress to leave them.

David simply says, “You judge. Nick Marks and Bob Mitchell.”

She looks up, her eyes wide, “You’ve got something on those two?”

“I’ve got some records that mention those names, among others. I think they relate to illegal activities but I don’t know enough to be sure.”

“Where are these records?”

“In my truck. I can give them to you when I run you to your hotel room or I can give them to you on Sunday morning. I think that may be best because my truck is secure! Is your hotel room secure?”

“How’s your truck secure?”

“It started life as a tactical combat vehicle with light armour and I installed high security locks. Also, Jerry and I are sleeping in it.”

“I’ll speak to you on Sunday morning and I’ll get them then.”

“We can say goodbye at the truck and I’ll give you something to eat on the way home with them in the bag. OK?” She nods her agreement. They go on to discuss the competition while they enjoy their meal.

Due to David’s young age many of the competitors think his scores on Friday were pure luck. They accept he’s good but they don’t think he’s that good while they think he’ll fold under the pressure of the main contest. So the Window Rock team members are able to find people to take bets of fourteen hundred dollars on a straight ’our team against your team’ basis; five hundred of David’s, three hundred of Jason’s, and two hundred each from Jerry and the other Window Rock policemen. In all the bets the team with the highest aggregate adjusted score of the two four person teams wins the bet. The scores have a ranking adjustment based on the capability levels of the competitors on it.

When the final scores are posted on Sunday the Window Rock team is the clear winner, both on adjusted aggregate scores and on ranking score where the people rank within their competition group. Many are surprised at the consistently high scores David posts in all of the events. He gets first place for his rank in all of the rifle events and all of the pistols events except the combat decision event. He’s third place in it because the winners of first and second place are a little quicker than he is for the same actual scored points on target.

The Window Rock team are accused of bringing in a ringer just to win the event. Most of it is in good fun. David does one final winning event just after the presentation ceremony at lunchtime on Sunday. He has a member of each team stop by his truck to collect a box with some soft drinks and sandwiches he made for them to have on their way home. When Pauline gets her box she also gets a bag of extras with it.

The Window Rock Navajo Nation Police place their 1st Place Team trophy from the shoot on prominent display in their main office.

Neither David or Jerry learn exactly what is in the records, but four months later they get unsigned ’Thank you’ cards in the mail with a clipping from an Austin, Texas, newspaper about a big organised crime bust by the Texas Rangers. Both are able to work out what the cards are about and Jerry wonders how David was able to help them with it, but he never asks David because he really doesn’t want to know.

Christmas Holidays

One of the biggest differences between Australia and the USA is the Christmas holiday period. Christmas in Australia is a summer event and it’s often a hot day. It’s also in the middle of the main school holidays so the students have several weeks of school holidays with the Christmas public holidays as part of them. However, Christmas in the USA is in the middle of winter with only a week or two as school holidays and the amount of time off school varies with the State school calendars.

At the personal level Christmas shouldn’t be much different for David because since he started living with his great-grandfather it was just the two of them for several years and living with Jason means it’s just two of them again. However, it’s not the same with Jason because he’s a lot more active in the local community than Dave was. Thus the two of them end up spending a lot of time during the Christmas holiday celebrations with other members of their local community.

With Jason the gift collecting and preparation starts in early December when the two of them go out hunting together. Suitable game is found, killed, and taken back to Jason’s house. The game is dressed, butchered, and placed in a chilled storeroom of the local butcher. On December 23 Jason and David take large cuts of the game from storage and deliver it to the homes of those in their community who are having major financial troubles. The gifts of good meat means the family will have a good meal on Christmas Day.

The bulk of Christmas Day is spent helping to cook a large hot meal at a community facility. It’s the Christmas Dinner for all of the elderly locals who don’t have any family in the area. This way they spend the day in a semi-family atmosphere together. David enjoys the Christmas period, but in a different way to how he enjoyed the holidays with Dave.

David sees all this as just an extension of all the work he and Jason do for those in their community who need some help. Cutting firewood, a few simple plumbing repairs, fixing furniture, providing meat, it’s all a part of looking after the wider family they’re part of in this community.

Spring Surprise

Time and life move on, Christmas and the new year arrive and are celebrated. The seasons change. During this time David takes a few hikes through the winter landscape, and he likes the differences he sees while he learns from them and how each season has its own dangers.

On a Friday night in spring David is leaving Window Rock on foot to go north to the Indian Service Road 12 meeting point. He walks across the north part of town in a north-eastern direction to follow Rocky Ridge Road into New Mexico before he’ll turn to go due north. He’s only a few miles out of town when he stops to make camp in some scrub on the top of a rise overlooking a dry watercourse. When making this hike in this direction he usually stops here because it’s far enough from the outlying houses to feel like he’s right out of town while his path in the morning is due north from here.

A couple of hours after David beds down he’s woken up by a car driving into the wash below his camp. He puts his boots on and he goes out to see what’s happening. A pickup is stopped in the flat and some people are starting a camp-fire. He gets out his monocular to see them better. Four local teens with some cases of beer. He gets a good look at the girls, turns, gets his .22 rifle, and he walks down the slope. He knows the girls as both are neighbours of his and both just turned fifteen. There’s no way they should be out here drinking at this time of night.

David is just outside the light from the fire when one of the boys says, “Now it’s time for you girls to strip and get ready to be f•©ked!”

One of the girls replies, “We never agreed to being f•©ked.”

“Either you f•©k us or we leave you out here in the desert to freeze.”

They all jump when David says, “You’re wrong about that! Now toss your shit back in the truck and piss off.”

One of the boys squints toward where he thinks David is, “Who the f•©k is that?”

“This is a camper angry with some drunken scum for waking him up. Now get out of here before I give your truck the Swiss Cheese look by shooting lots of holes in it, and you too if you don’t leave now.”

One stands up, but the sound of David’s lever action rifle working to put a round into the breech has the two boys moving fast to hop into the truck and drive away. David gets out his phone to call 911. When they answer he gives his name, location, situation, and says, “The two boys just left here in a pickup with beer in it. They’ve been drinking and have open cans in the truck. You may want to stop them before they cause an accident.” The operator agrees, then David can hear her place the radio call to the police before she comes back on the line to thank him and to tell him a car will be out to take the girls home.

David walks further into the light and the girls recognise him so they thank him for stopping what the boys planned to do. David tells them off for allowing it to get to this point. Then he notices one of them is swaying a bit too much. He looks into her eyes and he doesn’t like what he sees. He asks, “How much beer have you had, Mary?”

The other girl replies, “Mary has just finished her beer but it was only the one. I hardly touched mine. Why?”

David helps Mary sit down, gets out his phone, calls 911 again, and says, “This is Light Arrow again. Upgrade the call to pick up the girls to very urgent and add an ambulance. I think the girls may have been given drugs in their beers. One finished a single can and is out of it.”

“Right, Light Arrow, will do.” She knows him and she knows he’s well trained in first aid so she doesn’t argue. Better to send help that isn’t needed than not to have the help there when needed. She also calls a first responder she knows lives near to where the camp is.

A few minutes later a roaring truck and bright lights sweep up the desert from the dirt track called a road. After a moment more the truck is up to them. It stops with the headlights on the trio.

The two people in the pickup get out and walk up to David while one says, “Right, Light Arrow, what have you got?”

David knows this paramedic and says, “Long Fox, Mary here has had one beer but she can’t stand and I don’t like the way her eyes look. Also, she’s not responsive.”

The paramedic and his partner, in life and work, move over to Mary to check her out. Within a minute or so they have her on a drip and are constantly checking her vital signs while Long Fox is on the radio issuing orders. He turns to David, “Any idea of what they gave her?”

“None at...,” then he turns and goes to where the girls’ beer cans are to pick them up. He hands them over, “The empty is what she drank. The nearly full one was given to Debbie so it may have the same drug in it.”

Long Fox smiles, “Good! I hope it does! That’ll help us identify it.” He talks on his radio some more, and he’s still on the radio when a police car and an ambulance come racing up to them. The two beer cans are placed in a plastic bag each, the girls and bags are put in the ambulance, then it leaves, going faster than when it arrived.

The police officer takes David’s statement, takes photos of the site, then he helps David to clean it up and to put the fire out before saying, “We caught the boys going through town. Both are eighteen, been drinking, but not yet drunk. However, since they aren’t legal for any alcohol they’re in trouble. And even bigger trouble because of the drugs and the girls’ ages. It’s a good thing you were out here tonight!”

David says, “Considering what I heard and how well set up they were, I wonder if those boys have hurt other girls before now!”

“My thoughts too! We’ll see what we can find out. Thanks for being here for the girls and for getting them the right help so fast. Now go and get some sleep. I know where to find you if we need to speak about this again next week.”

The rest of the trip goes well without any issues. David and Jason call in at the hospital on their way home. The girls are still there due to the doctors wanting to keep them in the hospital under observation. The beer cans had evidence the girls had been given the rave drug ’ecstasy,’ but it was not pure and Mary had a bad reaction to the odd mixture of the drug. If she hadn’t been treated so quickly she would’ve died. It takes a few weeks but she does have a full recovery from the drug. After that night both of the girls are very careful about who they go out with.

When faced with the possibility of attempted murder charges the boys tell the police who they got the drugs from, and the investigation results in the arrest of the distributor of the drugs plus the manufacturer of the drugs as well as the alcohol seller. It all results in a safer community.

Note: There’s a policy of no alcohol at all on the reservation so having any beer at all is unlawful, let alone being under the age for drinking allowed by the US Federal and State laws on alcohol.

After three serious events in such a short period David wonders how often events like those will happen in the rest of his time living in Window Rock. Over the next few years he’s pleasantly surprised to have nothing more eventful than avoiding a snake on the dozens of other hikes he has in the desert. It’s as if the desert tested him and found him up to the task of dealing with the oddities of life in the desert.

However, other events do happen to David while living in Window Rock. Some are good and some are bad, while some are just interesting.

Summer School

Both the classes David wants for summer school are cancelled due to not enough people signing up to justify the cost of running the courses. The other classes he’d like to do are already full so he’s faced with no summer school or adding something extra. In the end he decides to extend his first aid training from his current level as an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) through an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) to being an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT) via a concentrated combined summer semester course in Fort Worth, Texas. It also includes Wilderness Emergency Treatment (WET) training. One advantage David has with this is Jason had him upgrade his first aid qualifications to an EMR when he arrived. David finished the course just after the incident with the girls. The EMR took some fast talking due to David’s age. He’s really too young for the courses but the registration for the EMT, AEMT, and WET courses are accepted since he’s already an EMR. Having the support of the Navajo Nation Police helps as well.

The drive to attend the course is a long one: Route 264 from Window Rock to Yah-ta-hey, US 491 to Gallup, Interstate 40 to Amarillo, Texas, then US 287 to Fort Worth. Eleven and a half hours on the road to cover the 785 miles, then add on fuel and food stops to make it nearer to thirteen hours of travelling. David is thinking about doing it over two days but he ends up sharing the driving with a local wanting to do the training who had been waiting for a closer course due to transport problems. When she learns David is going she asks about going with him and then registers for the course. With two drivers to share the work it’s not a problem to make the drive in one long day. The only downside is her two daughters have to go with them, making it four people in the car. There are daycare services in Fort Worth she’ll use for their care and entertainment during the day while she’s in college learning.

Having the girls in the car helps with the boredom of the drive due to their constant chatter and wonder at all the new sights they see. This is the first time either of them has been further from Window Rock than Gallup. The two girls, ten and eight years old, are excited about going so far away from home and to stay in the big city for weeks while their mother attends the course. It’s too far to drive back for weekends so all of them are staying in Fort Worth for the full length of the course.

They arrive at the college where the course is being held, confirm the arrangements for attending class, and hit their first problem. David plans to live in his truck at a nearby camp-ground but Bright Rabbit had registered to use a two bedroom dormitory for her and the girls. It’s only when she goes to get the keys they tell her all of the dorm residents have to be eighteen or older, thus the girls can’t stay there. She has to cancel the dorm booking and they credit her reservation fee against the final payment for the courses, but it leaves her without any accommodation. To make matters worse all of the cheap hotel and motel housing is full of people doing summer courses and holidays. After a long talk they agree to stay in the truck with David; it’ll be awkward at times, but liveable. The camping fees for the extra people are a lot lower than the dorm was going to be so it’s a cheaper option too. David arranges with the camp manager to have a sign put up reserving a spot close to the ablutions block because they’ll need to drive the truck during the day. That gives them reasonable access to the toilets and showers each evening.

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