Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

"It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."

— Voltaire

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oh, That's How Obama Does It

In case you're wondering, the movie is The Ghost Breakers and yes, Bob Hope really said it. It's not dubbed or anything.

BTW, there used to be another line, "America has got Bob Hope, Stevie Wonder, and Johnny Cash; [insert socialist slave state as applicable] has got no hope, no wonder, no cash.

With the ballooning deficit and two of them dead (and the same year, too) I'm beginning to wonder…

God forbid that anything happens to Stevie Wonder.

Because even with Hopenchange in the White House (or more precisely, particularly with Hopenchange in the White House), America needs some sort of a wonder to get hope and cash back.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Chapter Two

Begin with the beginning.

Chapter Two

The Hotel California

It was dark. It was night. It was late. At least too late to be riding around a highway winding through some Indian reservation, without any definite idea where they were going.

Before nightfall, Jennifer and Traynor had visited another tourist attraction, El Morro National Monument, also known as Inscription Rock. It was another ruined Anasazi village, this one atop a sandstone promontory that was covered with inscriptions left by the Anasazi, the Spanish, and American pioneers. However, tourist attraction or no tourist attraction, now the highway ahead and behind them was deserted.

"Where the hell are we?" cursed Jennifer over the country music wailing from the radio of the roadster.

"On some kind of a road or a state highway or some such thing called 53, according to this map," Traynor replied wearily.

"We might already be in Albuquerque if not for that stupid pileup and detour on the Interstate. Welcome to Gallup — The Drunk Driving Capital of America."

"So much for Amarillo by morning. But on the Interstate we'd have missed that El Morro Anasazi thing."

"Fuck the Anasazi."

He grinned. "Wasn't that funny when that ranger told you that you need 'sturdy walking shoes' for that trail? I'm not the kind to go, 'I told you so,' but I told you so."

"Shut up." She looked straight ahead.

"I mean, there's nothing funnier than two government agents duking it out. Former government agent, in your case. Can you tell me who exactly of you two had the monopoly on the legitimate use of force back there?"

"Shut up."

"Do you think he should have shot you for your own good when you simply ignored him and walked up that trail anyway?"

"Shut up."

"To play the devil's advocate: What about property rights? Doesn't the government get to make the rules on government property?"

"Shut the fuck up."

"Best thing is that the Interstate's got to already be open again. Otherwise we'd have more company. This is the only road paralleling the Interstate."

"Do you want me to turn around?"

"No. Sooner or later we've got to end up on the Interstate again, according to the map."

"To hell with your stupid map."

Traynor looked up from his stupid map. On the radio, Emmylou Harris observed, "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." He looked around. Obviously, Emmylou was right.

He cocked a brow. "Not the end of the world. But if it weren't dark, we could see it from here."

If anything, the darkness was emphasized by the light of the full moon. It only made one think what might lurk in the shadows between the silvery silhouettes of trees and bushes. Ahead, beside the road, a butte rose steeply into the sky. On its apex, outlined against the white disk of the moon, stood the black silhouette of an Indian horseman, like a ghost from a time long gone by. Despite the deceptive moonlight, Traynor was sure it was an Indian, not a cowboy from a nearby ranch. The figure did not wear a war bonnet like a plains Indian, but he did not wear a cowboy hat, either. Traynor thought he got a glimpse of the savage garb. Most tellingly, however, the shadow held a bow instead of a rifle.

Traynor nudged Jennifer. "We've got company."

She blinked her eyes in fatigue. "Huh?"

He pointed out the silent, immobile figure in the sky.

She shrugged. "It's a reservation, after all."

"We've got to be a couple miles out of that reservation already."

"So do you wanna climb up there to tell Chief Moth Eaten he's out of area?"

"Not necessarily. It's a free country."

"By the way — how the hell did he get up there?"

"Maybe there's a path on the other side." He grinned wryly. "Still, a bit creepy with that bow — one would think today's Indians pack rifles. Like he's on the warpath, ready to command some unseen army to attack…"

That moment, a flaming arrow burned through the windshield of the Auburn, hitting Jennifer's eye. At least that was what she felt. As the automobile sped towards the needle of light, the needle grew into a speck, then into white neon letters advertising: "Hotel California." The sign sat on the roof of a single-story building. In front of it was another light, a flashing blue neon sign announcing: "Vacancy." It was not actually a hotel; Motel California would have been closer to the truth. From a row of rooms sprouted a more spacious wing, probably the office and maybe a restaurant, with two gas pumps and a diesel pump in front of it. That was all. Jennifer pulled into the parking lot between the vacancy sign and the motel.

"Gas. Food. Lodging." Traynor frowned. "Not exactly the Plaza."

"Let's get that real straight right now. I'm about to fall asleep at the wheel. And you're not exactly the world's greatest driver. You'll understand that I'm not too keen to have you drive my Auburn at night. So we're kind of running out of options. Either we'll be sleeping in my car, or we take a chance on this Hotel California."

There did not seem to be too many guests. Only a handful of other vehicles sat in the parking lot in front of the rooms. Jennifer stopped the Auburn in front of the motel office.

When they entered, they found a middle-aged couple behind the front desk. Both of them stood a bit taller than either Jennifer or Traynor. Apparently, they were discussing some business matter. As Jennifer and Traynor checked in, the four of them got involved in a conversation. It turned out the other couple owned the motel. They said their names were Irv and Maxine Goldman. Eventually, Jennifer and Traynor realized they were not only very tired but also very hungry.

"Well, I've already closed the kitchen for tonight, but I can get you some apple pie," offered Maxine.

"That would be wonderful," Jennifer sighed.

They moved to a booth in the diner. Now the New York couple saw that there was more to this wing than just front desk, office, and diner. A spacious room next to the diner was a veritable general store selling souvenirs to tourists and groceries to the few locals living out here. This place had to be the supply depot and gathering place for ranches far and wide.

While Maxine got the apple pie, Goldman volunteered to mix them drinks. Some strands of his receding gray hair escaped from under his Stetson. His face was tanned like leather, and his stout frame was dressed in a flannel shirt and worn blue jeans.

"You guys are Eagles fans?" asked Traynor.

"Eagles? Oh, you mean because of Hotel California?" Maxine brought the apple pie and sat down at their table.

Her hair was still black — possibly dyed. However, the first thing one noticed about her were her big, questioning eyes that seemed to wonder at something inexplicable. She looked a little slimmer than her husband, although that was hard to tell due to her flowing floral-print dress.

The apple pie smelled delicious. However, Traynor knew that that meant nothing. But when he tasted it, it proved to be delicious, without that chemical aftertaste of factory pastry.

Goldman served the tequila sunrises Traynor had ordered, got himself a beer from the refrigerator under the counter, and joined them. "No, we were actually on our way to open a hotel in California when we came across this here place. The guy who had built it wanted to get rid of it badly, so we bought it for a song, and opened our hotel here instead of in California. But we named it for our formerly promised land. You know, we're originally from Chicago. As the saying goes, we saved our pennies and saved our dimes — to build our own hotel someday."

"Maybe we should have moved on… After all, when we found out why he had to sell…"

"Shush, Max."


"Let's not worry our guests."

Jennifer frowned. "But? What is it?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

"Irv, you know it's one of these nights…"

"Max! Enough is enough."

Although he was curious himself, Traynor thought it more important to avert marital discord. "That reminds me… Could I get another tequila sunrise?"

Jennifer rolled her eyes. "Take it easy, desperado…"

Buy the full story.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Fully Fascist-Free Airport

Had enough of the jackbooted airport thugs? Try this:

But then it's a German model airport, so I bet they have miniature nazis somewhere in there.

Cool, though.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Chapter One, Part Three

Begin with the beginning.

Some miles down the highway, Traynor was looking at the road map. "There are supposedly some kind of Indian ruins at the end of that dirt road over there."

"Yeah. Read about them in my guidebook last night. Wanna have a look?"

"Sure, why not?"

Jennifer turned onto the dirt road. "They were called the Anasazi. The Indians, I mean."

"How do you spell that?"


"Very funny. The other guys."


"You sure that's not supposed to rhyme with nazi?"

"Quite sure. After all, I'm the language expert here. Anasazi means 'enemies of our fathers' in Navajo, I think."

"Yeah, I read about them. Some mysterious Indian tribe that vanished during the Dark Ages. They left ghost pueblos all over the place, but no one really knows anything about them: who they were, what they did, what they believed, how they lived, why they vanished, where they went, or what became of them."

Traynor unzipped the black leather jacket that protected him from the airstream. It was late fall, but unseasonably warm. When Traynor and his friends had busted a terrorists plot some months before, one of the instigators had confessed that he had invented the global warming hoax as a ruse to guilt Americans into submission to the world community. Now, Traynor was wondering whether that son of a bitch had merely been bragging. In any event, if this was global warming, he loved it.

They left the Auburn at the end of the dirt road and walked along the winding footpath that had to run to the ruins. The path meandered up to the saddle between two hills, overlooking the ruins on the barren moonscape. It was a fairly large complex of interconnected hovels or rooms, different shades of orange, brown, and sand in the sunlight. Their roofs gone, all the hovels were open to the sky. The walls, some of them half-collapsed, had been heaped up from thin stone slabs of irregular size. A perimeter of roughly rectangular rooms protected round ones in the center like shrines. They walked on, down to the ruins.

In her Indian outfit, Jennifer looked like one of the hippies who infested Indian ruins to seek some kind of ersatz spirituality. Like a vulture, one of the requisite gurus taking advantage of them swooped down on her. This specimen was a rather seedy old man with a white beard; he was wielding a pendulum.

"May I introduce myself? I'm Grunzgurk — Dr. Gregory Grunzgurk, energy scientist. I'm in charge of the archeological dig here. May I give a lovely lady like you a tour of the place?"

"You may," Jennifer replied icily, taking Traynor's arm.

Grunzgurk appeared a bit disconcerted at this turn of events. He looked from Traynor's cowboy boots up his blue jeans to his open leather jacket revealing a white cotton shirt — and a glimpse of the holster holding his .45 Colt M1911 pistol. Traynor sure was no hippie.

The witch doctor pointed out the round rooms. "We believe kivas were temples — our physicists found they were important shrines radiating concentrated fields of electromagnetic energies."

Grunzgurk waved to a busty brunette in rumpled shorts and a brown deerskin jacket similar to Jennifer's. "May I present, Laura Popoff, the renowned investigating physicist — and fortunately, also my assistant."

The "investigating physicist" nodded a welcome to the visitors, then produced a dowsing rod, pretending to investigate something.

Grunzgurk continued his narrative. "All natural stones are polarized by the magnetic field of the earth. If they are assembled haphazardly into a building, this results in an unhealthy environment. Look at the size of these stones. Kivas are huge generators of negative energy. Sensitive people can feel that. In their hands, a pendulum will swing clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on the prevailing polarity of energy — positive or negative.

"I believe kivas were used for healing. Hundreds of people would assemble in them to radiate energy to the sick. The negative radiation of disease would go out, and the sick person's battery would get recharged."

Traynor snorted. "If the Anasazi were such great, um, engineers and such great, um, doctors, why didn't they even manage to build new towns when they had to move from here due to drought?"

"It was their own technology that did them in. Hundreds of kivas created a great energy updraft over the valley, which dispersed clouds, leading to the widespread drought."

"Surely, a supply of tinfoil hats would have saved them, poor things."

Grunzgurk gave him a quizzical look. "I don't believe that that would have helped in this particular case. Be that as it may, when the drought came, the Anasazi lost faith in their priests who had failed to predict the times for planting and harvest — and to preserve harmony with the gods. They lost faith in their religion."

"They lost faith in their religion? At least one step in the right direction."

"Do you think so? After all, it was their knowledge that failed them. They learned that nature is unpredictable. They found that their culture had grown too complex. They were afraid they had created a monster they could not control, and therefore they returned to a simpler way of life. There seem to have been numerous cultural collapses of this kind in America."

"Why don't you talk turkey? Whatever theories you come up with all amount to nothing more than to: Give up, give up, give up, give up. You're gleefully wallowing in the failure of the Anasazi 'civilization' and praising them for returning to a simpler life — to the primeval muck. You're insinuating it's happening again. You believe all that nonsense because our culture — which by my standards is not yet very complex — is too complex for a nitwit like you. The moral you're insinuating is that we all need to return to a simpler way of life — because you don't wish to confess to yourself that you're the only one who is so primitive that he has to return to a cave. In other words, your motivation for making up all this hocus-pocus is that you're an idiot too stupid to live."

Offended, Grunzgurk turned to Jennifer. "We can test that scientifically. Stretch out your arm horizontally — yes, like this — and make it very strong. You see how strong the field is here? Very strong!"

The "scientist" led Jennifer into a ruin. "Now make your arm strong again. You'll see here it collapses completely, upon the slightest touch, because of the negative field… I said it collapses completely!" The "scientist" tried to push Jennifer's arm down with all his strength, but could not make it budge.

"Doesn't work if I don't play along, huh? Maybe you can do that with your suggestible assistants, but not with me. Listen, you big wuss: You're not a doctor. You're not a scientist. You don't feel anything of any consequence. And people don't have batteries."

The big wuss still kept pulling Jennifer's arm, his pendulum oscillating frantically. "I'll show you, lady."

"Let go of my arm."

"Just another second," he smiled.

"Don't touch me."

"Don't worry. It won't hurt."

"It will hurt."

The big wuss gulped.

Traynor was steering the Auburn down the highway at speed. He looked into the rearview mirror. No highway patrol. He glanced for a second at Jennifer, who sat sullenly beside him. "I guess you had to make him swallow his stupid pendulum?"

"Shut up and drive."

Read on…

Or buy the full story.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Chapter One, Part Two

Begin with the beginning.

Then, earlier today, they had seen Ship Rock, a huge reddish rock formation whose several peaks must have reminded early Spanish explorers of the masts and sails of their sailing ships. Now Traynor looked past the green weeds and brush near the shoulder of the highway, across the yellow, sandy desert, to the red and brown buttes and mesas in the distance, under the pale blue New Mexico sky. He snapped some pictures with his FirstAmCam digital camera. Time and again, he was fascinated by this dry wilderness that was so different from the skyscraper canyons of his native New York City. But this fascination never lasted long with him — before long he was longing to return from these wonders of nature to the even greater wonders of man.

He sighed at the miles and miles of Navajo reservation flying by. "This has got to be the highway to hell."

"You mean because it was once numbered 666, the Number of the Beast? In fact, they even used to call it the Highway of the Beast. But then they renumbered it for conceivable reasons. Still, there are all kinds of scary stories. Sometimes drivers see the ghost of a girl in her underwear…"

"In a nightgown, actually. You're not the only one who likes to read that kind of stuff."

"Whatever. Anyway, she'll vanish if you give her a ride."

"That's nothing. When the moon is full, a phantom truck will appear and try to force you off the road. It will bear down on you at a hundred-odd miles an hour with flames shooting from its stacks and sparks flying from its wheels. And if you stop to let it pass, a pack of demon dogs will eat your tires."

"I thought they're called hellhounds."

"Then, a skinwalker may pop up in the backseat of your car — out of thin air."

"That's why I bought a roadster!" laughed Jennifer. "A skinwalker, as in 'Indian werewolf'? Cute. I'll put him on a leash and dazzle my neighbor Lars, you know, the guy who walks his python every night."

"Actually, a skinwalker is a shaman with the power to shape-shift into animals. Not only into a wolf but also into a coyote, a fox, a bear, an owl, and a crow. Into any animal. Or into nothing. That's why you don't see him coming."

"I thought if you don't see it coming, it's a fast moving train."

"No, if you don't see it coming, it's Jennifer Jordan."

"No, it's Kevin Traynor. Be that as it may, this highway will take us straight to I-40 at Gallup — even if I've got to flatten a couple of shamans and ghosts to get there. From Gallup, it'll be a walk in the park to Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and more photos."

"Amarillo by morning, huh?"

Jennifer braked. "Speaking of photos, I didn't buy any souvenirs at the Four Corners. Look there."

From some ramshackle stall beside the highway, a business-minded Navajo Indian was selling allegedly handcrafted pottery, wickerwork, and clothes.

"Well, we have got my photos."

She pulled onto the shoulder of the road. "They're only pixels on a chip. You know what happened to Dina Langdon. I'd like something tangible, too."

While Jennifer got out, Traynor remained seated.

"He'll cheat you. That stuff comes straight from some factory in Hong Kong."

Unimpressed with Traynor's warning, Jennifer looked over the displayed merchandise, and returned with an Indian deerskin jacket and a pair of moccasins. Everything was covered over and over with fringe and beads.

"What do you think?" she asked, still unperturbed by his warning.

"Would be OK without all those useless beads. To quote the gentleman we overheard on the riverboat in Pittsburgh, 'Who needs beads? I need beads like I need — cancer.' "

Back then, neither Jennifer and Traynor nor the gentleman and his companion had showed too much interest in the beads handed out at the nightly New Orleans themed party — Traynor, for one, had been more interested in nighttime views of the Golden Triangle.

She inspected the jacket in good light. "I rather like this stuff."

"You'll be sorry if you buy it. You'll never wear it, and have it gathering dust and mildew in some closet corner."

"Wanna bet?"

"Sure. If I ever see you wearing that pseudo-native junk, I'll gladly pay for it. I bet you won't wear it for a year. What will you do if I'm right?"

"Nothing. Because you lose." She took off her cowboy boots and her faded sweatshirt and stuffed them into the golf bag hatch. Then she slipped into the Indian jacket and moccasins. "Now get out and pay that gentleman."

Traynor snorted at seeing a glimpse of her "I Love New York" T-shirt under that savage garb. "Either you love New York or you love this kind of stuff. You can't have it both ways."

"I didn't say I love this stuff. Just souvenirs."

Traynor accepted the fact that he had been had. He walked over to the stall to pay the Indian.

Read on…

Or buy the full story.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Chapter One, Part One

Begin with the beginning.

Chapter One

The Enemies of Our Fathers

Somewhere on US Highway 491, the twenty-first century.

Jennifer Jordan grinned.

"This time you won't escape me, Kev," she addressed Kevin Traynor, who sat beside her in her new Auburn.

The paint of the sports car shimmered as golden as Jennifer's hair. First American Motors manufactured these replicars. Its body was an exact copy of that of a 1936 Auburn Speedster. However, under its long, slender hood roared a supercharged Northstar V-8 engine, its pontoon fenders concealed a Chevy chassis, and its old-fashioned split windshield, tapered tail, and suicide doors belied its state-of-the-art safety features.

"You sure?" Traynor's angular face mirrored her grin, and his blue eyes below his dark-blond hair sparkled.

Back in New York, Traynor Tower was rising faster than the Empire State Building had gone up — as fast as First American Building had. As everything went swimmingly, Traynor had left his engineer, Steven "Steel" Gunnarson, in charge and taken some weeks off — as had Jennifer from her job as security boss of First American Corporation. They had been driving her new automobile across the country from New York to Arizona via Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver, to photograph new skyscrapers.

Somewhat against their nature, they had been cooped up in motels along the way. If experience was a judge, they would once more end up in a cramped motel room tonight. That was quite a change from their life in New York, where they both made sure they had enough breathing space and elbowroom.

That had provoked Jennifer's dig at the horrors he went through every time she facetiously suggested she might move in with him. She conveniently ignored the fact that she preferred to have her own place as well. Not having one would not have been a good idea. Girlfriend or no girlfriend, she knew she would be in for serious bodily harm if she ever damaged a vintage volume in his library. Of course, to be fair, she could not blame him — because, boyfriend or no boyfriend, she would do the same to him if he ever damaged a model in her toy, um, model ship collection.

Yes, Traynor was too cheap for two rooms. Almost every cent he made, he plowed back into his business. Most of the time one room was more than enough for them, and he figured that, if push came to shove, they could always get a second room when they were on the verge of killing each other.

Traynor grimaced. "I once knew a girl… I shared a hotel room with her for a week… When we checked out, our relationship was through."

"You probably didn't really love her when you checked in."

"And vice versa."

On their way west, they had not had time to visit the Four Corners or the Grand Canyon Dam, as they had been on their way to attend the opening party of the First American Mining Building in Jenkinsville, Arizona. It had gone up in a matter of months after Traynor had rescued the town from a phantom train. He had introduced Jennifer to Connie Chandler, whom she had been curious to meet. Jennifer had been wondering what her boyfriend's lover was like.

It had turned out that Connie was a lot like Jennifer. She had taken that as a compliment. Finally, they had toured First American's new Jenkinsville Railroad Museum. Afterwards, on their way back to New York, they had made a detour to finally visit the completed Grand Canyon Dam with its steadily filling reservoir, which Jennifer had not seen before, either.

And they had visited the Four Corners — the point where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona collide. Standing in four states at the same time proved fun. Traynor wondered if anybody had ever made love in four states simultaneously. At any rate, the presence of other tourists — and of some Navajo and Ute Indians, who claimed ownership of the land — had prevented Jennifer and him from establishing a historical first.

Read on…

Or buy the full story.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Louise May Slaughter Constitution, Republicans Not

Three would-be members of Congress were never sworn in yesterday, including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, which could have an impact on when the health care repeal bill is brought to the floor.

The Texas Republican is a member of the Rules Committee, which has been engrossed all day in debating how to bring the health-care repeal bill to the floor. Debate on the bill is supposed to begin tomorrow, and it is supposed to be voted on Wednesday.

But the news that Sessions — who participated in debate and votes today in committee — wasn't sworn in could throw a wrench into that timeline.

However, Ranking Member of the Rules Committee Louise Slaughter (D-NY) wasn't so sure the problem was fixed. Slaughter said that she was "anxious" about the process and did "not want to be in any risk on anything that could go against the Constitution." She told Dreier that the Committee should "recess and start over."

Hey, Louise, where was your respect for the Constitution when you voted for Obamacare?

No, wait, don't tell me, I know. You're keeping it in a Tic Tac box so you can draw it whenever it's politically expedient.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Prologue, Part Four

Begin with the beginning.

Adams looked up from the corpse of his partner. He had heard hoofbeats again. The Indians were coming, all screaming their wild war whoops now. Once he saw them, he knew they were too many. He wanted to call out to the men, but it was not necessary. They had already taken cover behind the cabin, behind trees, and behind boulders, aiming their repeating rifles, which they fortunately kept handy.

The first volley erupted like a line of volcanoes. The Indian vanguards fell from their horses. While his men chambered new rounds, Adams dived into the cabin to get his rifle. Reemerging, he found cover behind a boulder, and they all fired again. Smoke wafted across the narrow canyon, beginning to fill it like fog.

Although most of the Indians shot arrows, some had rifles. The Adams party singled out the rifles first and succeeded at shooting all of them down before they did much harm, except for some flesh wounds. Still, no matter how many Indians the men shot, the archers kept coming. The Indian infantry had arrived. Maybe the tribe had run out of rifles and horses, but certainly not out of Indians.

A single arrow might not kill or incapacitate a man if it did not hit an artery or a vital organ. However, within minutes, several of Adams' party received multiple arrow hits. Those men still able to move about retreated into the cabin, running, limping, or creeping.

Don't do it… "No!" Adams shouted his warning. "Not into the cabin!"

But they did not listen. He knew that they were cornering themselves in a lethal trap: The rough cabin had no windows. The men would only be able to fire from the door. Behind their backs the Indians could do pretty much what they liked. Shooting everything that moved, Adams retreated as well — not into the cabin, however, but under the trees beyond.

Back in the cabin, the situation went from bad to worse: The men soon ran out of rifle cartridges and had to fall back on their revolvers. They shot as fast as they were able to reload their wheel guns. Due to the shorter range of revolvers, the Indians were able to move in closer. Even when the defenders scored hits, they usually needed more than one of the less powerful bullets to kill an assailant. A single hit did not even necessarily incapacitate an Indian, or shoot him from his horse. The only upside was that the archers did not know how to shoot a gun, so they did not pick up their fallen brothers' rifles.

When the Indians finally thought of a less suicidal plan than the good old frontal assault, there were still more than enough of them left to carry it out. While the archers in front of the cabin pinned down the defenders inside, other savages prepared flaming arrows in the woods behind it. Adams shot down as many of them as his supply of rifle ammunition permitted. Then he moved closer to the Indians and began to exhaust his revolver cartridges as well.

The warriors did not bother to expend many arrows on him. They remained absorbed in their task of preparing a rain of fire. The trees provided enough cover to convince them he could never exterminate them all. They simply absorbed his bullets, absorbed them with their bodies. Still, there were plenty of savages left, and more were arriving from above the waterfall.

Already, before Adams was able to shoot them, some archers had succeeded at lighting their arrows, shooting them, and setting the cabin on fire. Smoke began to rise from the shake roof, mingling with the gun smoke. Little had the prospectors thought about the danger posed by the highly flammable roof covering, particularly in Indian country. Now their lack of foresight, and the recklessness with which they had challenged the Indians, came back to haunt them.

With the materials the wilderness provided, they had not been able to build a structure that was fireproof in any way, shape, or form. Their inadequate arsenal of guns and ammunition could not cash the check their rash foray above the falls had written. Already, the roof was fully involved. Inside, it was getting hotter and hotter.

Both the fire and the situation were out of control, literally too hot to handle. Sheets of flame began to flow down the log walls of the cabin. The prospectors trapped in there were in for a fiery death, if smoke inhalation did not finish them first. They were running out of options.

One man after another sallied from the blazing cabin and ran for it, while those remaining in there provided covering fire. But invariably, each of the fugitives was shot down by the easily replenished line of archers in front of the cabin. Already, the ground was littered with corpses that looked like wire brushes.

Meanwhile, Adams had run out of ammunition. There was nothing left for him to do. Any unarmed attempt to help his partners would have amounted to suicide.

He turned to flee into the woods. There was no way he could escape on horseback. A single Indian was enough to block the narrow canyons they had come in through. The only way was to climb the canyon walls and hike for it. The cries of his wounded, dying partners haunted him, dying down behind him, as the distance increased, and they bled or were burned to death.

Suddenly, Adams thought he had heard a twig break — but not under his own boot. He looked around. From under the trees beside him, three Indians stepped forward. Two were half-naked like the others, but one of them was fully dressed in hides and bedecked with jet and turquoise gems. Adams realized he was faced with the chief of the tribe. While the chief's bodyguards were aiming arrows at Adams, the chief himself brandished an antique flintlock musket.

He glowered at Adams. "Medicine man tell me you leader of palefaces. You not sneak away. You die."

The chief aimed and fired the rusty flintlock. Adams wanted to try and get out of the line of fire, but he knew he was not faster than a bullet. It was all over.

With a big bang, the flintlock exploded into the chief's face. He fell to the ground like a felled tree. The two other Indians raised a dreadful hue and cry over their fallen chief. Adams took the opportunity to run away before they would recover and shoot him with their arrows. As he climbed the canyon wall, he was sure the murderous savages were still tracking him.

Yet, he made it to the desert beyond the canyon without seeing any Indians. Immediately, he set out on what he thought was the way to Fort Wingate. But without a horse or a guide it was a completely different matter. When he had worn holes into the thin leather soles of his old cavalry boots, and his feet were all blistered and bloody, he dropped to his knees. On hands and knees he crept on until they were raw and bloody as well. When he felt he had worn his hands and knees down to the bone, he dropped to his stomach and wriggled on like a worm, mile after mile. Hours — or days? — later, his shirt and jeans were all in tatters and he was leaving a trail of blood.

Finally, when he was about to give up and die, thirst-crazed, there appeared riders on the horizon. Indians? He was past caring.

As the riders approached, he saw they were not Indians. He recognized the blue and yellow uniforms of a Cavalry patrol. The Cavalrymen rode up to him.

The officer tipped his hat. "Lieutenant Standish, US Cavalry, at your service, sir."

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Prologue, Part Three

Begin with the beginning.

Once, they crossed a wagon trail, which looked like it was hardly traveled at all. The Mexican warned them to memorize that spot, as they would have to follow that trail to get to "the fort in the Malpais rocks" on their way back to civilization. When the prospectors asked the name of the fort, he said he was not sure, maybe Fort Wingate. They continued, finally climbing to a plateau with abandoned Indian fields of corn, beans, and pumpkins. As the sun was setting, they decided to spend the night in the pumpkin patch.

In the morning, the Mexican led them across the plateau and into a canyon. Suddenly, the box canyon ended at the foot of a reddish bluff. Even without horses, climbing it would have been about as easy as scaling a glass facade.

But Gotch Ear just rode around a big boulder. It concealed a narrow passage opening into a zigzag canyon. Eventually, they arrived in a valley that tempted them to rub their eyes in disbelief. The sight of a stream framed by meadows and trees was such a change from the barren, hostile landscape they had traversed.

Now, the Mexican pointed out two rounded mountains towering beyond the far end of the valley. "See those two piloncillos? Those two sugarloaves?"

"The haystacks?" frowned Adams.

"Sí. From here, it's not far. The golden canyon is below them two mountains, above that waterfall at the end of the valley. We should get there tomorrow."

Adams led the party down to the creek to set up camp and water their horses. His eyes grew wide: Through the crystal-clear water sparkled nuggets, and the banks seemed to contain more gold than sand — it was the richest gold deposit any of the prospectors had ever seen. They rushed forward to the creek, into the water, snatching the golden nuggets. After a couple of minutes, each of them had gathered a sizable pile, and they assembled on the bank. There, they deliberated what to do now.

Eventually, Adams addressed their guide, who had been looking about rather restlessly since their arrival in the canyon. "Listen, you don't have to show us the mother lode. There's more gold in this here canyon than we ever hoped to see. You have more than earned the reward we agreed on."

The Mexican accepted the reward they had promised him. Wasting no time, he got into the saddle and rode away. To Adams he looked as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

The next morning, the miners began to chop down trees to build a cabin. While most of the Adams party were busy building the cabin, a group of half-naked Indians approached them from the waterfall. At first, Adams thought they might be Apaches — but then he was not so sure anymore. In good light, they did not look like any Indians he had ever seen. Adams wondered whether any white man had ever met this tribe before — and if yes, whether he had lived to tell the tale.

Adams addressed the lead Indian. "Hi, my name's Adams. Mighty nice to meet you, chief."

"I am no chief…" replied the Indian, who was the resident witch doctor of his tribe.

"Who or what are you then?"

"You do not need to know. You palefaces are too curious anyway. How do you say? Curiosity killed the cat? It certainly will kill you, if you do not obey. Compromise: You may stay here in Hot-Ta-Pi-Wit Valley as long as you desire and gather all the gold you wish. But listen, strangers: You must not — you must never advance past those waterfalls. Beware of the Sno-Ta-Hay! The revenge of the Sno-Ta-Hay is terrible!"

Adams did not know what to say, so he just nodded. Without another word, the Indians turned around and walked back towards the waterfall. He shook his head. Indians. What above the falls could be so important to them? The mother lode? But Indians did not care for gold, or did they? And what the heck was a Sno-Ta-Hay?

He resumed his work; so did the other men. When the cabin was finished, everybody started prospecting. Soon, they had amassed a hundred thousand dollars' worth of gold, hidden under the cabin floor.

Some days later, Adams was awakened early in the morning by a commotion outside the cabin. Tired from the hard work of the last few days, he only grumbled, tossed, and fell asleep once more. When he finally got up later that morning, he left the empty cabin. Outside, he beheld only a handful of his men working.

"Where are the others?" he yawned.

Davidson turned to look at him. "A wonderful good morning to you, too. Hope you slept well. The others? They're scouting above the falls."

"What? Those Injuns warned us to stay away from there!"

"Keep your pants on. A peek or two won't do no harm. They left in the early morning twilight — should be back any minute now. The Injuns will never know they were there."

"Sure, raise hell and put a prop under it. What if they do find out?"

"They'll turn them back, what else could they do?"

A young man, rather a boy, came forward. "Adams, I… I tried to keep them from… But they wouldn't listen."

"It's alright. I hope."

"You two cowards… Look there, they're back!"

Indeed, they all heard hoofbeats approaching from under the trees lining the creek.

"But… It's only one horse!" gasped the boy.

Indeed, it was only one horse, and its rider did not look like a human being anymore. He reminded Adams of a porcupine — he was bristling with arrows. The black stallion galloped towards the group of men, reared, and threw the body at their feet.

Adams stooped. The man was not dead yet. He tried to speak, but only bloody foam welled from his mouth. His face contorted, and his body writhed with convulsions.

Finally, he managed to force his mouth open once more. "The golden canyon… The city… The city in the sky!" His head fell to the side and he was dead.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Prologue, Part Two

Begin with the beginning.

The other customer frowned. "I'm no Injun, partner. My parents were Mexican. The Injuns murdered them. But they adopted me into their tribe and raised me as an Injun."

"What's your name — partner? Mine's Adams."

"I've got no name. Or rather, I've got four names. The Injuns called me Picked-up-by-the-Wayside. The Mexicans call me Injun, and the Anglos call me Greaser." The young Mexican touched his ear. "And some call me Gotch Ear." Obviously, he did not care for that moniker, either.

"Tough luck." Adams took another swig. "What are all those prospectors doing here? What the hell is up here?"

From a crate, Cash produced another bottle for himself, for his liquid lunch. "You can ask questions. What will draw prospectors? A gold rush, that's what."

The man with no name laughed. "Some rush. I don't know what they rush for."

"Nuggets. Gold. You think that's not worth rushing for? Have you vegetated among the Injuns so long you don't appreciate gold anymore?"

"I like gold well enough. Only that they get excited over those tiny nuggets… I know a place where the nuggets are as big as hen's eggs."

Several prospectors had joined them to buy their lunchtime whiskey from Cash. Most of them snickered at the Mexican.

"I thought you Injuns can fry in the sun all day long without any ill effects — but you sure got sunstroke," chuckled one of the newcomers. " 'Cause…"

"Not so fast, sir," interrupted Cash. "This man is not an Injun. He's a greaser, and he's exceptionally levelheaded for a greaser. Lemme tell you, sir, that this man is among the most honest people I know. Not that I know too many honest people."

"Damn right I'm honest. I do know a golden canyon. With the Injuns, I used to live in a canyon like from solid gold. You can take your pack horse there, load him up with gold where he stands, and go home as rich as Astor and Vanderbilt at night…"

The prospectors still did not believe him. "As rich as Astor and Vanderbilt in a day. Hah! I…"

And thus it went back and forth for some minutes, until Adams began to question the Mexican carefully and logically. It turned out the Mexican knew his tale well. He was able to describe the trail to the canyon and the geology of the latter without contradicting himself.

"Listen, senores," continued the Mexican. "I don't want no gold for myself. I will guide you to that canyon, and if I have spoken the truth, give me two horses, a saddle, a rifle with ammo, and a hundred dollars cash. And if you find that I lied to you," he added in half-jest, "I'll be at your mercy and you can kill me."

So much modesty and selflessness convinced the prospectors.

Adams, on the other hand, smelled a rat. "Well, compadre, why would you be willing to risk getting shot dead in case you get lost — only for the chance to get two horses and a rifle? After all, you might just return to the canyon alone, gather as much gold as you can carry, and retire to your own ranch. Even if it's too far to walk — why would you refuse to pick up a fortune for yourself once we take you there? Maybe you're a bit loco? Or suppose you don't wanna stick around that canyon 'cause you know it's a dangerous place for some reason?"

"If you have to know, I had to kill some Injuns during my getaway from the tribe. I reckon it'll be better for my scalp if I fight shy of Injun country these days. That's why I want that stuff from you, to get out of here rápido."

Was that really the reason why the Mexican was afraid of the gold canyon? Adams remained skeptical.

That afternoon, when Adams had loaded his horses with provisions, he saw that a bunch of prospectors had completed their outfits as well. Some of them had been with the crowd in the back room, but there were others as well. Apparently, some of Cash's customers had brought their partners, brothers, and friends. Back in the store Adams had recognized some familiar faces, but been too busy buying his own stuff to greet them. Some of them had joined the prospecting party. Now they were preparing to quit the village, but seemed to be short on horses. Those they had were already staggering under their loads, while additional sacks remained stacked on the ground.

"Adams, you old rattlesnake!" a voice boomed from the group across the street that very moment.

Davidson. Adams crossed the dirt street to greet him.

"Hey, Adams, why don't you join us?" asked another.

Adams nodded at the store. "Guess I better buy a pan then."

"Ain't got no pan to fry your chuck in?" wondered Davidson.

"I sure do. I mean a pan for gold washing, you greenhorn."

"According to Gotch Ear here, we ain't gonna wash no gold. You don't want a pan, you want a shovel and many, many sacks. We'll give you all you need, and an equal share of the gold, in exchange for horses."

Adams grinned. "OK — partners. I'm kind of, uh, underemployed anyway since the Injuns burned my wagons."

So the party of explorers set out into the wilderness. At first their guide headed east, up the Gila River. Adams saw peaks and mountain ranges in the distance. However, he did not recognize most of the landmarks. After all, he was a teamster, not a scout, and this was not his regular route to Tucson.

They traveled day in, day out. Up, up they went into the mountains, and back down again on the other side, crossing the Continental Divide. While they were traversing a plain, the Mexican suddenly turned north. The others wondered how he had known where to turn, as there were no landmarks or trails. But he only smiled.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Prologue, Part One


The Lost Adams

Arizona, 1864.


Adams was awakened from sound slumber. What a morning. His camp was swarming with Indians — Apaches stealing his horses. How could that happen?

Well, it had to happen, as his shotgun rider had deserted him back in Tucson to prospect for gold. Adams kicked away his blanket, drawing one of his two .44 Colt Army Model 1860 revolvers from his belt. Some of the Indians packed rifles, but they all were much too busy unhobbling and rounding up his horses to pay much attention to him. Too bad for them.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

One rifle-wielding Apache had just been turning around to Adams. He shot that Indian in the chest, and two others in the back. All three fell from their horses.

Most of the remaining Indians started to ride around his wagons in circles. Taking cover behind the wagon that had protected his sleep, he shot down two more Indians. Adams holstered the empty six-gun, which had only contained five beans in the wheel, and drew its twin. He carried two of them not because he used to shoot them simultaneously, but on account of that pesky reloading process. With the other Colt, he shot the remaining armed Indians from their mounts.

Yet, already two Indians had reined in all his draft horses, making away with them. Another Apache had with difficulty subdued Adams' own mount, and was trying to get away as well. Adams whistled. His trusty stallion Pegasus threw the savage hijacker who had boarded him and kicked the Indian's head, smashing his skull. Holstering his other Colt and grabbing his double-barreled shotgun, Adams jumped into the saddle. Yes, keeping your horse saddled at night is a good idea, particularly in Indian country.

By now, the horse thieves had gotten quite a start. Spurring Pegasus into a gallop, Adams gave chase. The hoofs were thundering across the barren plain. Dodging the saguaro cacti infesting the place, their mad rush had them heading towards a towering red cliff.

When Adams came close enough for the shotgun, the Indians had already reached the mouth of a canyon bisecting the cliff. He pulled alongside the trailing Apache and, at close range, blew his stomach out. The Indian in the van was still too far away to kill instantly with the shotgun, but Adams at least succeeded at blasting him from his horse. When he had repossessed all his horses, and the two Indians' mustangs to boot, he turned back to his camp.


Ought to have thought of that, he rebuked himself. A column of smoke was rising where his camp should have been. Those abominable savages he had failed to kill back there had taken their chances while he had been chasing the horse thieves.

"Gee up!"

When Adams got back to his camp — or rather to what remained of it — his wagon and trailer were blazing out of control. It had just been too good to be true. He had safely delivered his freight from Los Angeles to Tucson, without even seeing so much as a hostile Indian. Now, on his way back to LA, the inevitable had happened. His wagons were being reduced to ashes and his provisions had been stolen.

So when would the government finally finish those savages for good? Fortunately, there were friendly Indians as well. The Pima, for example, were enemies of the Apache. On the nearby Pima reservation he would be able to supply himself with food.

A couple hours later, Adams got to a village on the reservation. He had a notion that this village was Sacaton, but he could not be sure. There were many Pima villages in this neck of the woods, geography was not exactly his strong suit, and there was no "Welcome to Fabulous Sacaton, Arizona" sign or anything. Of course, he could have asked a native, but actually he did not care what the place was called. He would buy supplies and be back on the wagon road to LA in no time. He would never have to come here again.

The Pima called themselves the Akimel O'odham, which means "river people." When white men asked them the name of their tribe, the answer was "Pima," which translates to "I don't know," or "I don't understand." They were not only friendly but also quite civilized. They irrigated their fields, and besides more than a hundred straw huts this village boasted some frame houses. Such a dome-shaped straw hut — which the Pima called a ki — consisted of a frame of bent poles, covered with woven straw, usually plastered with mud. Many occupants sat on their "porches" in front of the low entrances, preparing food. The Pima males wore breechcloths; the squaws, some sorts of skirts.

Presently, the village was bustling with strangers, most of them whites. Judging by the equipment Adams saw on their pack horses, most of them were prospectors. In one of the frame buildings he found what passed for a saloon in these parts; it doubled as the local trading post.

Giant letters on a huge false front proclaimed that this was Cash's Super Mega Hyper Emporium. Below these letters, an advertising slogan was painted: "If Cash ain't stock none of it, no one nowhere ain't liable to stock any of it — if it exists at all." Another sign warned: "No charge, no checks, absolutely no paper currency." That was why everybody called the trader Cash.

Adams tied his horses to the hitching rail. He crossed the porch, thrust his body through the swinging doors, and walked up to the counter that doubled as a bar. Some customers, red and white, were sipping water, milk, or sarsaparilla. Others inspected the supplies for sale. The tall, buckskin-clad fellow polishing the bar had to be Cash.

"Bourbon," ordered Adams.

Cash's weathered face above his grizzled beard frowned. "Sorry, no firewater."

"No firewater — for the Injuns. What's your problem? I'm as white as you are."

"It's the law. No sale of liquor on this reservation."

"That's a stupid law. There will always be some bootleggers selling whiskey to the Injuns. Such a law only boosts their profits. And when the Injuns do get a hold of alcohol, they'll get roaring drunk. How are friendly Injuns to become responsible citizens if they aren't even allowed to learn how to drink responsibly?"

"Maybe they aren't supposed to become responsible citizens. Or citizens at all. Want a sarsaparilla?"


"Anything else?"

"No. I guess I'm done here." Adams wanted to turn and leave; there had to be a more hospitable place to buy supplies.

"Hey, wait." Cash's voice turned into a whisper. "It's my principle to never sell alcohol to Injuns, but I always keep a couple of bottles in the back room for my white customers. But I don't want the Injuns in here to see I got whiskey."

Adams followed Cash into a back room piled high with crates, barrels, and sacks. A deeply tanned man with shiny black hair and a mangled ear sat at a table, drinking bourbon from a bottle.

"Much obliged," Adams nodded as he bought a bottle of the same: He really needed a drink after this morning.

Adams uncorked his bottle, took a swig, and then nodded at the man with the mangled ear. "But you do sell firewater to this here Injun?"

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