Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Monument Valley Incident, Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Mandy was driving too fast on the narrow, two-lane blacktop that wound through the Northern Arizona landscape. She was tired, woozy from too much wine the night before at the Best Western Canyonlands in Moab, Utah.
 She was desperate to get to Scottsdale where her former husband, Mark, was in intensive care. A friend had tipped her off that Star, Mark’s new trophy wife, had rushed him to the hospital. Mark was critical and Mandy did not have the new version of Mark’s will. Mandy feared she was zeroed out of her former husband’s latest testament.
Tightening her grip on the steering wheel of her white Lexus SUV, she pulled the visor down with her right hand as the sun was low to the east, often blinding as she sped through the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. She nervously searched for a gas station or a convenience store as she desperately wanted a cigarette, a habit she had kicked ten years ago. But all she saw were the crimson mesas and sandstone towers in the distance. Turing her attention to the road, she was suddenly aware she was up to 90 mph and the road swerved. With a gasp, Mandy yanked the steering wheel to the right.
Settled at a safe 65 mph, Mandy breathed easier. The strong desire for a smoke was gone. To her surprise, off to the right she saw a lone figure standing on the side of the road with his right arm out, signaling for a ride. Normally Mandy would have sped by and left the hitchhiker in her dust. But on this trip she needed company and pondered the tall figure as she slowed on the empty desert road. He had long brown hair and beard, even a staff. She smiled as she envisioned a prophet. Trusting her instinct she pulled off on the side of the road, watching in the mirror as the stranger walked to her car and opened the rear door. He tossed in his walking stick and backpack, and then got in the front, peering at Mandy with deep-set brown eyes.
She asked where he was going and the man just pointed ahead where the road undulated like a black snake, then slowly climbed into the red, sandstone buttes that define Monument Valley. Mandy nodded, strangely at ease with her silent rider. She slowly pulled onto the road and smiled as they both stared at the beauty of the empty desert and the valley of rocks on the horizon.
In a flash they were climbing the rise that ran between two sandstone formations standing as sentinels. As they came over the rise, Mandy gasped and put her right hand to her throat.
The hitchhiker put his left hand on her shoulder and pointed with his right hand. “Behold.” He said.

The state trooper stepped back as the tow-truck driver attached a chain to the wrecked Lexus. They watched as the emergency vehicle roared off toward Moab, even though it was too late for the patient.
“A petite blonde, a real looker, but banged up.” The tow-truck driver commented. “Paramedic said it looked like a broken neck.  She must have come around the curve too fast and then overcorrected to the right, flying off the butte.”
        The state trooper shook his head as he stared at the totaled SUV. “Why such a hurry?” He muttered.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Man on the Bench, Hillside Park, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The state troopers cautiously approached the man on the park bench. Surprisingly, he was out after 6 PM and using his clam-shell cell phone. Jenny, the senior officer and a tall, broad-shouldered trooper with a blonde pony tail, went forward and sat next to the startled man. Brian, the acolyte was medium height with a dark flattop hair cut, hung back in case there was an ambush. It had been known to happen.
          As Jenny sat down the elderly man looked up, putting away his cell phone.
“Where am I?” He asked in confusion. Jenny stared at him, and then put her hand on his leg.
          Brian gazed around the quiet, darkening park, but nothing appeared untoward. It was past six in the evening and curfew was in effect, an offense for the man on the bench. Worse, he had been using his cell phone in public, a class-two felony.
          Jenny talked quietly to the old man, who seemed unclear about his location, or what he was doing in the park. The elderly man had reasons to worry as Brian recalled the woman they found last week in the Cross of the Martyrs Park who had been out after curfew, swilling a bottle of Cabernet on the grass. Jenny had ordered Brian to cuff the woman for his first arrest. Out past six and drinking in a public park was a compound felony.
 They took the woman to Central in the back of their cruiser. She was disoriented and incoherent; babbling that she was Mary and had permission to be out past curfew. She claimed she was doing the “good work” and just taking a few sips of wine to renew her spirit. As Brian helped her out of the back of the car, she looked at him with sad brown eyes, saying: “It is finished…isn’t it.”
          Brian shook off the troubling memory of Mary and asked his superior, “We’re taking him in?”  He nodded toward the confused man on the bench.
          Jenny waved and shook her head, throwing Brian a glance as she continued to talk to the man on the bench. A chill ran through Brian as Jenny had discretion, meaning if she deemed someone a threat or a burden to society, then she could execute the offender of the spot.
          Brian stiffened as the old man and Jenny stood up. But she patted the gentleman on his shoulder and guided him to the park path with a quick hug and a gentle nudge. The two troopers watched as the senior toddled across the park toward a large, solemn looking brick building.
          “He’s from the institution, so we send him on his way.” Jenny said.
          Brian raised his eyebrows.
          “He reminds me of someone.” Jenny said, reading the question.
          Brian smiled. “Lucky guy. Remember Mary from Cross of the Martyrs?”
          Jenny turned, cocking her head. “So?”
          “They hanged her this morning.”