From the Dusty Mesa – Pt. I

The wind blows through the canyon and into the cracks and holes, whistling.  The valley walls are red, but become paler the higher they go.  The upper bands aren’t even visible under the squat pine trees that cover the top of the buttes.  I sit cross-legged in a small indention of a butte, a ponderosa pine shading me.  Al Rescha is setting behind me, the glare from the red dwarf shielding me from being spotted.

My legs had gone numb hours ago, but I couldn’t move.  I’m a hunter stalking my prey.

The valley is still.  The only sound is the whistling of the wind and the only movement are the ponderosas waving back forth in the wind.  There are no birds, and lizards and snakes are not known for their singing.

The Huvasu River cuts through the bottom of the canyon, but this high up, I can’t hear the roar of the rapids.  A narrow mule trail runs down the valley, a terrifying maze of hairpin turns and switchbacks.

There’s movement down below.  I raise my rifle and look down the scope.  There’s a mule train making its way down the canyon.  A dozen mules tied together and loaded down with unmarked wooden boxes.  I count seven guards.  Some are walking in front of or behind the mule train.  Other are riding the mules.  They can’t walk beside the mules because the trail is too narrow.

I pick my targets.  I’ll start with the back and work my way forward.  I squeeze the trigger and the rifle kicks.  The gunshot echoes across the canyon and the mules panic.  I shift targets and squeeze again.

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