A QUICK TRIP TO MOAB 6. Let’s just keep being lucky; Is anybody looking?

Part 6 of the novel A QUICK TRIP TO MOAB

11. Let’s just keep being lucky

“I don’t know. I had kind of a plan, but now that I see where their camp is and where they’ve been driving and patrolling, we can’t go that way. We are in a pretty good spot here for a little bit. We can watch the roads and their camp and see if we can figure out what’s going on — where they send vehicles, that sort of stuff. Maybe they’ll think we got away. Think we made it back to the highway. That would be the best — the highway’s less than 10 miles away. And the interstate’s not much farther.” I was pacing. Lecturing. Shit. I always do that when I’m nervous. Anxious.

“Why don’t we then?” Lily asked. “Leave now. Let’s go. Get the hell out. Back to the world.”

I made myself stop moving. I sat down on a low juniper branch and faced Lily. “I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, it’s tempting. If nothing happened, if we didn’t run into, well, those pirates, we could walk out in less than a day. But they’d see us. They would, and we’d be screwed. Too open, too obvious. I’m thinking we should head north. More walking — like 25 miles or so, but no roads or trails. Well, a few, but not many. And I know of a spot we can head for where my friends might try to look for us. A spot that, well a spot kind of like this, with water and shelter, but a long way from the pirate camp, and a place my friends might stake out in case we go there.”

I stood and walked toward the trail up and out of our little shelter. “We could go up to the top and look around with the binoculars, and just see what we can see. Watch the enemy. We can take turns. Lay low and just watch. We’ll let things settle down a bit, and plan to take off, say in a day or two. What do you think?”

“Why not just head out now?” Lily said. “Why wait? What are we waiting for?”

“Well, we could. We don’t gain that much by waiting. Seems like it might keep raining for a while, and traveling would be rough in the mud. And we’d leave a big trail. Maybe they’ll start to forget about us after a day or two. If they are even looking for us now. I don’t know. I mean, it’s just an idea. I’m not telling you what to do. We’re in this together. I’m just making it up as we go. Shit. Everything I can think of seems flawed.” I sat down again and shrugged. “What do you think?”

Lily looked down and took a deep breath. She shook her head, pursed her lips, and looked up at me. “You’re probably right. I mean, the faster we get out of here and back to the real world the better. But, well, if we do something stupid and get caught, that won’t be good. Might be suicide. Avoid bad moves. That’s the most important thing. Avoid mistakes.” She turned and looked toward the fire. “Can we eat some of those beans?”

We ate the beans in silence, passing the aluminum pan back and forth.

“They’re not bad,” Lily said. “Filling. Could use some tabasco. Or Sriracha.”

“I think we’re stuck with pretty plain food for a while. Lucky to have this,” I said.

“Ummm hummm,” Lily said, finishing the last few bites. “I think I’d like to rinse out these clothes. See if I can get some of this, this blood and stuff out of them.”

“I’ll go on up and see what I can see,” I said. “I’ll come back down for you in a couple hours.” I took a water bottle, the binoculars, my rifle and started out, then walked back to my pack. “Here, you’d better take this,” I said, handing her the 9mm. “Do you know how to use it?”

Lily took the handgun and looked it over. “Israeli Military. A Baby Eagle, right?”

I nodded, surprised at her familiarity with the handgun.

“I know how to use it,” She said. “Craig, he was into shooting and guns. He wanted me to know how to use all kinds of weapons. Course I grew up around hunting — me and my brothers shot .22s and shotguns all our lives. Yeah, this is a good weapon.” She released the clip and saw that it was full, then pulled back the action to see if there was a round in the chamber. She slid the clip back in, looked the handgun over again, and slid it into its holster. “Hasn’t been shot too much,” she said. “Is it new?”

“No, I’ve had it for a while. I don’t really shoot very much.”

“Seemed like you knew what you were doing with that black rifle of yours,” she said, nodding toward my AR-15.

“The first time I used it I was close and the guys I was shooting at didn’t know I was there. I got lucky,” I said. “And at the camp where you wrecked I was shaking so much I almost blew that guy’s head off.”

“I wish you would have,” Lily said. “That guy is the worst. I hope we never see him again. Well, unless he’s in chains and we’re testifying against him. Only then.”

“Maybe I should have shot him,” I said. “I don’t know. Maybe an act of kindness will help us. Or, shit, I don’t know. I don’t know anything any more.”

“Well, let’s just keep on being lucky,” Lily said. “Um, when you come back down, holler something so I know it’s you. Just say CaCaw CaCaw or something.”

I smiled. “That’s exactly what me and my friend Bill always joked would be our secret call. CaCaw it is. See you in a while.”

12. Is anybody looking?

The clouds appeared to be breaking up over the mountains to the west, but I could see some larger thunderheads building behind them. Probably an hour or two until they get here. Enough time to look around. Even though the rain had stopped, I was soaked from the wet leaves and branches I brushed up against by the time I reached the top of the ridge. Staying low and keeping Speck close to my side, I slipped in under the limbs of the piñon tree at the crest. I scanned in all directions and could see traffic moving steadily on the highway in the distance to the east. Smoke came from several spots in the area of the pirates’ camp. I could see that it consisted of a cluster of what looked like camp trailers, trucks, and tents in a fairly large meadow near the bridge over Dancing Water Creek. Lily and Craig’s semi and trailer were on the near edge of the camp. I figured it was about five miles away. Seven or eight miles if you walked, taking into account the ridges and steep canyons you would have to circumvent. Too far to easily see a person unless you had a good telescope or binoculars and were looking directly at them. I felt fairly secure in my vantage spot under the tree, and knew that our little rock shelter down under the second ledge was not visible at all from the camp or the road.

About mid morning a pickup and two ATVs left the camp and came east on the main road. I spotted them shortly after they left the camp and followed their progress as they came toward the ridge I was on, following the main road as it wound through the dissected canyons and hills, up toward the edge of the uplift, finally crossing the rim about two miles south of my position. Lost them for a few minutes when they reached the rim, but I figured they stopped there to scope the lowlands to their east between them and the main highway. After a short while I could see them making their way east, along the same road I had driven on fleeing the first pirate truck just three days before. It seemed like an eternity ago. I watched them closely and could tell that the roads were very muddy and slick, as the ATVs slid and threw up high muddy rooster-tails behind them as they made their way toward the more well-maintained county gravel roads. They turned north and passed below me, about a mile away, apparently heading toward the spot where my truck was wrecked. When they reached the truck they stopped for about ten minutes, then left, one ATV heading north, and one east, toward the highway. The pickup headed south, and another pickup headed back along the road toward their camp. They’re leaving guards out over night. And they’re looking for us. The ATVs swept back and forth, covering an area of about ten miles by five miles, each stopping occasionally, apparently to check something on foot for a few minutes, then continuing on. They kept this up for about two hours, and then came together with the pickup near the wash where I had shot the first two pirates who were chasing us. They spent a few minutes there, then the ATVs headed together back toward the main pirate camp. The pickup stayed, keeping watch. They were surely looking for us, or anyone. Waiting to ambush some unsuspecting fool like me. Maybe they have decided that we escaped. With the rain obliterating any tracks, maybe they will stop looking. Maybe they will forget about Lily and me and go back to whatever they usually do. Planning the revolution, praying, saying the pledge of allegiance, declaring war on the federal government, who knows.

I thought about Chris. I wonder what she is doing. Is Chris pestering everybody she can think of to come out and look for me? Have they decided that I’m dead? Is anybody looking for Craig and Lily? Have they spotted their semi and my truck and concluded that we are goners? Will some special forces team come helicoptering in and rescue us? How would they know where we are? Shit. I really don’t know what to do other than to stay hidden. Stay hidden as long as possible, and maybe we’ll have a chance of being rescued. I hope Lily and I can get along and work together. We need to. We really need to. A clap of thunder told me that it was time to come down from the ridge. I looked at my watch. One-thirty. I headed down toward our camp.

The path on the way back down was not as muddy as before, and the brush and grasses were not as drenched, but the moisture made the going quiet, as if the vegetation was hushed by the humidity. I could hear an airliner high overhead, and wondered, as I often do, about the people in it, heading for some business meeting, vacation, adventure, family visit, or even perhaps a funeral, or a birth, or a wedding. My mind did not dwell on the occupants of a fleeting plane however, it returned with a snap to the reality of the moment. I was amazed, and had been since this whole nightmare began, at how my mind took control, and I did as it instructed, as new and terrifying things unfolded around me.

I had never shot and killed anything in my life, but when it became necessary, I did as I knew I must, as directed. Somehow the indecisiveness that characterizes nearly every moment of my life was swept aside, vanquished, banished as unnecessary and counter productive, damaging even, when seconds count. I had noticed it on several occasions, first when driving, and later, nearly every time action or quick decision-making was needed. Somewhere, deep inside of me there was a control center that was taking charge, determining what needed to be done, and seeing that it was undertaken with complete dedication and concentration.

I thought of the ancient figure painted on the wall of the rock shelter that had become my, our, home. Two little creatures hovered over his shoulder. Maybe they were looking after him, instructing him, telling what he needed to pay attention to, what he ought to do. In a way, I felt that there was something like that following me around, helping me out, watching, seeing, guarding. Speck, too, seemed to have special kind of attentiveness. She knew that things had turned serious. Usually her consciousness was dominated by her obsessive devotion to her profession of chasing and returning anything thrown, and doing it over and over until she dropped from exhaustion, or her thrower, usually me, hid her ball, or ignored her long enough that she resigned herself to waiting until the next opportunity. Speck seemed to be a different dog, one with a different profession. She stuck by my side, alert to everything around us, not a playful companion looking for a toy or asking for a treat, she had become a partner, a teammate, a comrade. I knew now how and why people and dogs had evolved together. When life became meaningful, when knowing what was going on around you was critical, we enhanced each other. At this moment I felt a bond with Speck like I had never felt with another creature, human or otherwise. Maybe she was the watcher I was thinking about earlier. Or maybe we were both being watched and helped.

A QUICK TRIP TO MOAB is being published on Medium.com in short sections on a regular basis. Please recommend or share with your friends if you find it interesting or enjoyable. For a discussion of the story and related topics, and to leave comments, please visit my blog at http://www.utahjones.com.

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