Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Cop and A Con--PG 13 excerpt

A Cop and A Con by Deirdre O’Dare.
It will also be available on the main Amber Quill page for awhile as a new release along with the other four Strip Away the Badge PAX © tales.


Alamo County, NM
Late November

Cold, so damn cold. Isaiah “Ike” Hernandez stumped along the side of the winding two lane highway, half blinded by the stinging mixture of windblown snow and sand that slashed at him. He’d long passed teeth chattering and shivering. Now he was just numb. He only knew when each foot hit the ground by the jolt that ran up his leg. The thin shoes they had given him provided little protection and no bounce.
With a near-frozen hand, he pressed the thin jacket closer to his chest and supported the small dog curled against his body, the one spot almost warm. He’d found the half-starved little mutt two days ago, the third day of his journey northwest from a horrible prison in south Texas where he’d spent the past several years. Leaving the pen, his one thought had been to get home —even though it would not be the home he’d left.
He knew that while he’d been away the town had been razed to make room for a new open pit mine that now was nearly closed due to the economic problems and environmental issues. The town of Esperanza was no more, but where else could he go? At least he had to see for himself that it no longer existed before he could go anywhere else.
At first he wasn’t sure if the pup’s matted hair covered a male or female. Now he knew the little red scrap of canine was male, and he’d decided it was a mix of dachshund and Chihuahua—but with a shaggy ancestor somewhere in the past as well. He’d kicked himself for picking it up. He could hardly feed himself, much less a dog, but he couldn’t leave it crouched by a highway, whimpering, hungry  and cold.
Now several hundred miles later, hitching, walking and hoping, he was sure he’d made it back into New Mexico. Even so, his goal still seemed impossibly far away. Then this storm had swept in, an early but a vicious one.  In prison all he’d had was time. Now that he was free at last, it looked like time had run out.
Even his thoughts seemed gelid, ill-formed and jumbled, mixing in his mind. Memory told him the ground was hard and cold. Despite that, it looked soft, comforting. He wanted to lie down, let the snow and dust drift over him while he went to sleep. He’d die. And probably the little red dog would, too. Ever dogged himself, he could not let that happen. At least he would not roll over and play dead until he really was. He put a foot forward one more time.

Perry Parker gripped the wheel of the Alamo County Sheriff’s Department SUV and squinted into the swirling maelstrom of snow and dust that all but obscured the two lane highway he followed. The vehicle bucked, fighting the wind. Wheels slipped as he took one of the sharper curves. He eased off the gas and let momentum carry the car for a few yards.
If those fucking meth dealers are out in this, they’re crazier than I am. At least I’m getting paid. Not much, not enough, but it’s a living. Well, maybe they will be too if I can’t catch them. But hell, why on a night like this? I can’t even see them unless they’re standing in the road.
As one of the too-few deputies patrolling the remote county not far from the Mexican border, he had plenty of experience with drug dealers. Now, damn the luck, even local kids were caught up in cooking meth, suddenly considered cool because that damn TV show was so popular. What were they thinking, making a meth dealer a hero, for God’s sake?  Still, border crashers or locals could be out tonight peddling their product although they were risking death in a wreck as well as the normal hazards of their illegal business.
Beside him in the passenger seat, Badger gave one plaintive whine. Although the county did not have canine officers, Badger had been his partner for several months. He’d adopted the funny looking critter from the county shelter when the animal control man said he was going to have to put her down soon. Perry figured the dog was Pit Bull and Blue Heeler.
Although most folks would say she was the ugliest dog they’d ever seen, Perry noticed the intelligence and some other special nameless quality in her mismatched eyes, one blue and one nearly black. He had to save her. Because she was both brave and tenacious, Badger seemed like the right name.
With her riding shotgun, he wasn’t quite alone. She’d picked up a few commands and become protective very fast. She even seemed to have a nose for drugs. Out on the long dark nights alone, she was the best partner he could ask for.
            “Okay, gal. We’ll be back in town in about thirty minutes and get us some coffee, maybe some chow and a treat for you. It ain’t pretty out but I’ll get us there. I know this road like our back yard.”
As he straightened the wheel and eased down on the gas again, something loomed ahead, right on the edge of his lane. What the fuck? A man, walking? He hadn’t seen a car or any sign of life for the past twenty miles or more. Who would be out in this weather? Probably some poor sap who’d been sneaked across the border and dumped to fend for himself. Perry despised the coyoteros with the pitiful living traffic they abused as much as he hated the drug dealers. Still, he could not pass a fellow human, one for whom death could come almost any moment out here on a night like this.
Feathering the brakes, he slowed, stopped and then shifted the SUV into reverse. He’d gone maybe twenty yards past the walker. The person had stopped, raised his—or her—head and waited, as if numb and dumb. Perry put the car in park and got out.
“Hey man, do you need a lift? Where you heading?” He spoke first in Spanish and then when the other person did not respond, repeated it in English.
The reply came faint, muffled, slurred and hoarse. “Yeah, I s’pose I do. I was going home--to Esperanza--but I think I took the wrong shortcut. Things look different now.”
The man staggered, as if disoriented or exhausted.  Maybe both. Perry grabbed his arm. Through thin, worn garments he could feel bone with very little flesh over it. The guy was not in good shape. He stumbled as Perry tugged.
“Come on, I’ll get you to town—that’s Riata, about twenty miles down this highway. Esperanza doesn’t exist anymore. Didn’t you know? You stay out in this much longer and they’d find your carcass after the storm blows out. No hope out here for now.”
The stranger nodded. “Yeah, yeah. You’re right, but I’m not leaving my dog.”

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