Organized Discipline: The Wanderer pt.2

“The more successful general is not the one who triumphs on the battlefield, but the one who is able, through strength of discipline and inner power, to triumph without spilling blood.” ~

Aditsan mounted Shrek and started back up around the outcropping, heading south to find whatever it was he was being guided towards. The sun was high overhead, just a little past noon and not a cloud in the sky. They were in the monsoon season, at any time a storm could sweep out of nowhere, but that didn’t seem to be the case today. He and Shrek plodded along at a steady pace despite the urge to move faster; a silent clock ticking somewhere in the back of his mind was keeping time with the unknown. Under the blazing sun, he could see waves of heat rolling across the area, many small animals were scrambling to find shelter. Not because of the sun, but to stay out of the open, the Raptors were always hunting.

He pulled his wide-brimmed hat down to better shade his eyes, even with sunglasses on, the bright sunlight seemed to find the smallest cracks in his defenses. “Hootie!” His brother had started calling him, too many hours in the sun looking for stones and mapping out sections of desert had caused lighter patches to develop around his eyes, giving him an owl-like visage. He always pretended to hate the nickname because it made his little brother giggle but decided to start wearing a hat anyway.

Most of his friends thought he was touched in the head, spending days on end picking through dirt, rocks, and sand to find long lost “relics” they believed weren’t worth the metal they were made from. For him they were tiny links to the past, maybe not about his tribe, but about the others that had lived here. Add to that, he spent his nights talking to the only elders in the community, learning from them and teaching them things he learned about the world. He was a regular goody-two shoes, the “old-fashioned” native continuing down a traditional path of learning; completely counter to many in his age group who wanted and lived more progressive lifestyles.

Then there was Joe. He liked hanging out with Joe, who wasn’t of the tribe or even from the area. Many in the community worked with people in the cities and surrounding towns and had developed friendships with the “locals” but like many natives, they reserved close relationships for people in the community; a practice that was slowly changing. Joe had moved into the area less than a year ago and taken up residence with her sister’s family after her mother passed away. She was a strangely dressed, rapid speaking New Yorker with customs and rituals that were hard to understand sometimes. But she made him laugh, they told each other stories, and most of all each other’s secrets.

Add to that, she was creepily intelligent, she seemed to know something about everything but didn’t have a desire to do anything with her life. She always talked about traveling the world and living in different lands, her passion it seemed was anything new. He met her at the market when she had come with her sister Mandy and her two kids, Mila and Andrew. He liked Joe because most of all, she was a “what you see is what you get” kind of person, he never felt like he had to be anything for her or around her. She seemed happy just to hang out and learn.

He pulled the hat back to gaze up into the sky, not too far off in the distance he could see the birds circling, probably a wounded coyote or some other animal dead or dying. He would check it out, just in case. He had found a few hikers over the years, lost and confused. It was so easy since most of them had no idea what it was like to hike around or down into the canyon. For them it was some great adventure they could brag about to all their “city” friends. The canyon, like the desert, was not a nature hike. They would get out here and nearly die from exhaustion or dehydration because they underestimated the heat or the distances they had undertaken. He wondered again what Joe was doing, it was unlike her to not show up after he missed meeting her. Maybe, just maybe, she had found a job in one of the nearby towns.

He was getting closer to a large overhang, it was an odd thing, the way it sat out here seemingly scooped up out of the ground from somewhere. Maybe the hand of some long ago god had shaped it, then left it sitting on top of the small plateau; he smiled at his silliness. He looked up at the circling birds again, whatever was over there, it was probably very near death. He stopped and got off Shrek letting the reins drop; he wouldn’t wander far, they had an understanding. He’d thought again about giving Joe a ring again but she’d want to know where he was and he hadn’t found what he was looking for yet but the feeling he was about to was getting stronger.

Marcus flung himself into his easy chair and propped his feet up on the table. His mud and shit speckled boots leaving spots all over the polished surface. Taking a swig of his beer, he listened to the anchor on the news talk about how one candidate had coined a new nickname for his “crooked” counterpart. “another bitch that don’t know her place” Marcus grumbled, taking another drink. He flipped through the channels, he was starting to feel the oxy kick in, starting to “relax”, he smiled to himself, nobody would ever know. He had to piss but wasn’t ready to pop the cork just yet; one more then he’d go upstairs. His eyes wandered that way, across the room, towards the stairs. The living room had been cleaned up, the toys that were usually haphazardly strewn all over the place, were in neat piles against the wall by the couch. The floor had been vacuumed and the tile section over by the door mopped. His eyes stopped at the hole in the wall where he had slammed the bat, barely missing Mandy’s head the other day after she had refused him. She had ducked, so he punched her in the eye instead, he smirked, she wouldn’t do that again. He realized then that he hadn’t heard the kids since he got home. It was about damn time she figured out how to keep them fuckin brats quiet!

Why did she get knocked up so easy? His life was shit and it was all her fault. If she hadn’t got pregnant, fuck he would be off livin the life killin rag heads in the desert and making real money. That recruiter had told him he would be good at that, could see him as a sniper, like that guy in the movie. But he had lost his chance, his piss test came back positive for heroine, he ain’t never tried no fuckin heroine, popped a few oxy here and there but no heroine. That recruiter had to be lyin or that bitch put something in his food to keep him here; slowly roastin in this god forsaken desert. She deserved everything she got and he had a new trick for her ass tonight, something he learned from Joe. He giggled but it came out sounding like a croak. He sat back in the chair to finish savoring his beer, somehow he had ended back on Fox News channel again. They knew the score, always tellin it like it is…keepin the av’rage Joe on the up-n-up!

Yeah, he had a new trick…

The television was watching him as he sat in the easy chair, face slack, eyes glazed and staring off in the distance. It was what happened when he drank too much on top of whatever he had been taking “while out the boys”. Mandy had crept down a few stairs after she had sat waiting for nearly an hour. She had put the kids to bed and taken a quick shower, crying silently, trying to bolster her courage because she knew what was coming. But after waiting and not hearing him stir, she had got up and crept down the front stairs to where she could peek into the living room. Marcus sat in his chair, beer bottle shoved between his legs — he’d never let that fall over, eyes trained out the window. She said his name, quietly at first, when he didn’t even blink she knew he was gone. She didn’t know how long he would be out but she wouldn’t be there when he came back. She backed up the stairs, taking pains to not make any stray noises and went to the kid’s room.

When she opened the door she was surprised to see they were both staring at her with wide eyes. Somehow they knew, she got them dressed and put on their shoes and jackets. Picking up the littlest one, she led them down the back stairs, quiet as she could, heart hammering in her chest, sweat gathering under her arms and around her waist. When she reached the bottom of the stairs she peeked around the corner where she could see through the kitchen into the living room. Marcus was still sitting there, staring out into nowhere. Prying open the back door, she took the kids out, neither said a word or made a sound as she turned and pulled the door close, locking it. If he checked, which she knew he would, he would find the door locked, making him check the house again for her and the kids. Giving her a few more precious moments to get closer to town.

They started that way, hopefully she would make it to town and near the sheriff’s office before he realized she had gone and came looking for them. He wouldn’t dare do anything in sight of anybody, he would try to bully her into the truck but he wouldn’t lay a hand on her out in the street. She tightened the hand holding Andy’s, he was quick and tall for his age, so he was able to keep up as she stepped up her pace, nearly running towards the trail she took into town. She didn’t think he knew about this trail, she never said anything to him about it and didn’t remember the kids ever saying anything either. It was a round-about way to get to town, but it dipped and curved around the outer edges of the area, the best part being you couldn’t see it from the road.

She had found it one day, while out walking with the kids, they had chased what looked like a big-eared rabbit down a cubby hole. She later found out from that Cheyenne boy that it was something called a desert cottontail. She had explored the trail, taking it further every day until she’d figured out where it let out in town. Even if Marcus knew about it, there were enough blind lanes along the way that he wouldn’t know which way to go. They hit the trail and started making their way down and around the first bend when she realized she didn’t have any light, the stars and moon were bright but snakes were another thing all together.

She paused, looking around, fear nearly stalling her steps, deciding she would rather die from a snake bite than a baseball bat she started moving again. She wouldn’t go back and she wouldn’t dare take the road, the last thing she needed was to have him pull up next to her or worse yet run them over and keep going. We’ll be fine she thought, hugging her little girl to her tighter; not sure if she was reassuring the children or herself. Mila had her face buried in her shoulder, her little arms in a strangle hold around her neck. She could smell the baby shampoo and fabric softener drifting to her on the slight breeze. She should have done this ages ago, at least last week when he had tried to hit her with the baseball bat. Instead he had punched her in the eye and strangled her until she passed out. She woke up half naked on the floor at the bottom of the stairs, he had done what he wanted anyway.

She should have left that next day, but she had been scared, terrified that he really would kill her like he loved shouting in her face every time he got mad about something. She was so ashamed, people would call her stupid for being afraid, her friend Betty was always saying that “any woman that let herself be hit is just plain stupid!” so how could she tell Betty. Pretty Betty that always had new clothes and went into town to get her hair done. Smart Betty that knew the ways of the world and how to get men to buy her nice things. Courageous Betty that never ever let a jackass put his hands on her more than once because she knew Jew-doe! Whatever the fuck that was!

Marcus would always calm down after his rages, drink a beer, smoke some pot, or pop a pill and then sooner rather than later, his lights would go out and she’d have peace. Something had happened either the day before Joe went missing or the next day because he had come home in a rage, breaking stuff, throwing things around and babbling about “some bitch” and “fuckin’ desert rat”. She figured it was Betty, he hated her but she was the receptionist at his job and he couldn’t do anything about that. Days had gone by and he had become less irritable, but still on edge. Maybe it was a new bill, those always made him mad, but he wasn’t really angry. Something else had changed.

Earlier, as she stood in the tub, looking at all the scars and bruises that marked his love and devotion she realized that he would kill her if she didn’t go, eventually he would run out of money, then no more beer, pot, or pills to calm him down. He would go into one of his rages and kill her and her kids. Something in his eyes always said he could. But tonight, tonight that smile, down in the kitchen sent ice down her spine…it said he would. She realized couldn’t wait for Joe, maybe the sheriff could call her phone, after they were safely away from Marcus. She pulled Andy along, heart still hammering in her chest, her arm growing tired, she knew she couldn’t stop moving, they had to make it to town. If Marcus caught her anywhere between it would surely be her lights that went out for good.

Sheriff Lu-Anne Thompson sat in her office contemplating the mess that had fallen in her lap. She had never seen anything like it in her decade of being in law enforcement, but out here that wasn’t exactly strange. Most of the communities and towns in the area didn’t have a lot of crime, not the kind that went on in the cities north and south of her little piece of heaven. Maybe a town drunk every now and again or a lost hiker but never this. When she got the call earlier in the afternoon, she thought Nancy was making some sort of sick joke, but when she heard that it was Aditsan that had called it in, she knew it was real. That made two in less than a week. State Police and an ambulance had been dispatched but she wanted to get out there and see it for herself. She knew it was a sick impulse, she needed to see it. Firsthand accounts would go a long way with the judge if they ever caught the son of a bitch!

Whoever she was, she had a strong will to live, there was no way she thought she’d be able to survive what that poor girl must have gone through. They didn’t know who she was, her face had been a mess, mangled, bruised and covered in dried blood. No one knew how long she had been out there, a few days maybe, there were beer cans and cigarette butts everywhere. Someone had been with her, maybe a few someone’s before they had eventually left her to die. She was sure they would pull enough DNA off her to match whoever it was; unlike the other girl, she was still in a coma. There was no way, the perps wouldn’t be in the system, nobody does that fresh out the gate.

Her head was throbbing; she messaged her eyes and temples, pulling stray hairs back behind her ears before putting her face in her hands. She had been up for nearly 36 hours. Dave, one of her deputies was over in Tempe with the State Police waiting for more details and Jack was off on vacation. Hopefully she’ll come around soon and they’ll get more information. If Dave didn’t call in the next half hour she would call him before going home to get some rest. She felt herself drifting. Getting up from the desk, she stretched, yawned, and decided to take a short walk out in the night air.

Glancing back at the stacks of paper on her desk along with the Polaroids of the girl they found, she shivered. Who would do something like this? …Someone that hated women that was for sure. Shaking her head she grabbed her hat on her way out the door, this will still be here in the morning…

To be continued…The end is nigh

 Live, Love, & Learn ♥

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