First Two Pages From Arizona Grit
She ran as if her life depended on it. It did.
Mesquite branches slashed at her arms. A cholla cactus pod grabbed one ankle
and rode there for several long strides before it broke off, leaving a dozen
needles embedded in her flesh. She stumbled, pitched forward, and heard the
first bullet rip past her head. A withered fruit bulb atop a nearby barrel
cactus exploded into a yellow mist.
She screamed, lurched to her feet, and ducked
down into a sandy dry wash. The dull rumble of a motorcycle off to the right
made her turn left.
She was young and athletic, and her strides
lengthened now that she had a clear path. Arizona’s late afternoon sun threw
a racing shadow against the far bank of the wash, urging her on. Her lungs
pumped the dry air. Her bare feet skimmed over the hard-packed sand.
She didn’t hear the second shot. That one
The silence that followed was broken only by
the soft sound of approaching footsteps. The sound stopped ... then receded.
The biker found her face down in the sand at
the bottom of the dry wash. He idled his 1952 Harley-Davidson, one leg braced
against the wash’s dirt bank, while he took it all in: the bits of blood on
the soles of the woman’s bare feet, the blond hair that cascaded down the
back of her white blouse, and the small bullet hole between her shoulder
He studied the few tracks in the sand that had
not been obliterated by his arrival. The footprints were far apart; the woman
had been running before she fell.
Finally, the biker killed the Harley’s engine.
He stepped off the heavy machine and leaned it against the exposed root of an
overhanging mesquite tree. The sudden silence disturbed him. He looked around
and then cocked his head to listen.
The evening breeze carried no sound except the
far-off call of some agitated mourning dove summoning her mate. The sun
slipped below the far horizon, and the fading light that washed over the
scene failed to illuminate any cause for concern.
Satisfied he was alone with the body, the biker
moved to the woman’s side and knelt on one knee. He raised her tan skirt and
placed a dirty hand on her thigh. With a gasp, he jerked his arm back.
The body was still warm. He rolled the woman
over onto her back and stared into sightless eyes. They were a pale, pale
blue, truly the color of a robin’s egg he’d seen once long ago. She was
young, maybe twenty-five, and beautiful—as pretty as any of those women in Playboy.
The thought captured his imagination. After all, there was no exit wound to
mar the woman’s appearance.
The biker stepped back to his motorcycle,
fumbled in one of the black leather saddlebags, and brought out a brand new
Argus C44 35mm camera. He fiddled with its settings, still somewhat
unfamiliar to him, and framed the body in the viewfinder. Then, with another
quick look around, he knelt by the woman’s body and began to remove her
* * *
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