by Grasshopper

Chapter 20

Eons ago, Niyol had whispered with the voices of the dead. Before the Siberian hunters had traveled the land of Beringia, crossing the glacial ice in search of the caribou, the great mammoths, the saber-tooth cats and the bison, moving into the new world, Niyol had carried the voices. As they moved further and further into North America, Niyol had watched and guided, first the Eskimo, then the tribes of the Creek, the Iroquios, the Cherokee, the Sioux, the Seminole, the Kiowa, the Delaware. . The tribes of the longhouses and lodges, the hogans and adobes heard her sighs at night. She whistled down into the teepees and the wickiups, along the mesas and the plains. Everyone was her child, and all under her protection. She sighed and groaned, muttered and shrieked as the white man invaded and tore at her beloved land. So many lost souls in her voice now.

Niyol had seen so many evil ones and had felt their terror at the last. She knew the righteous and destroyed the wicked. Fate had brought this one to her and her desert would be his destruction.

"Watch him, little eyes," she commanded the kangaroo rats and the iguanas. "Let him fall further and further into our arms. He has chosen his fate."

"Watch him, winged ones," she commanded the golden eagles and the red tailed hawks. "Let your eyes be ours."

"Watch him, legged ones," she cried to the javalinas and jack rabbits. "He will hurt no other living creature."

The sun burnt down and the sand whipped in rising circles, hiding the peaks and craggy hills. Their prey would not leave them now.

MacKenzie Jeffers was totally disoriented. No matter which direction he tried to look, his eyes were immediately filled with sand. He tried to see the sun to get his bearings, but the wind blocked his vision with bits of sage and wolfberry.

He was regretting his decision to attack Jase McBride from the desert side of the ranch. It had seemed such an easy plan. Just walk up and slide the knife into his guts, ripping upwards until the man fell dead at his feet. Leave the body for Dakota to find and then swoop in to get what belonged to him. Dakota and the boy, Davy, would be easy pickings when they saw what he could do to them.

Maybe he should just get back to the car and rethink. He turned in a circle, realizing with a frown that he had no idea where the goddamn car was. He felt the first trickle of apprehension run down his back. Where the fuck was he?

He saw a dark shadowy object through the sandy curtain and staggered towards it. Finding a boulder with his hands, he felt along trying to find the leeward side but he traveled all around, he realized, with a start, that there was no leeward side, no side out of the wind. The wind was whipping him from every direction. That couldn't be right. He slid down the rock to sit hunched over, his forehead pressed against his arms.

Niyol kept blowing and raging. The voices were angry. "Kill him. Kill him. Mother, kill him now."

She sighed, "Be patient. He deserves more than a quick death. He must feel as helpless as he has made others feel. Only then will I let him leave this place. Only then will I relent."

Jeffers felt more than saw the sun go down. He had lost all track of time. He tried to see his watch, but the sand had torn it from his wrist without his even knowing. The howl of a coyote not far off made his skin crawl. A city dweller, MacKenzie Jeffers had no understanding of the laws of the desert.

The wind died down and he could just make out an opening in the side of the rocks to his left. He did know enough to get out of the night and into a shelter. Rising stiffly to his feet, he shuffled the eight or nine feet to the slender aperture carved into the side of the low cliff.

Regretting the size of his belly born of too many drinks and too much food, Jeffers sucked in his gut and pushed to squeeze through the opening. The rock seemed to give way to his girth and swallow him into the darkness. He would just sit right by the doorway so he could see the moon. No flashlight, no cigarette lighter, he was beginning to feel the first creeping fingers of fear at the dark and the strange squeaking sounds he could hear faintly coming from behind him. Holding onto the outer rim of the opening, half in, half out, he could see nothing in the blackness but more night. Squinting his eyes, he tried to see anything, but there was nothing. He sensed small movements but told himself that it was just small creatures and this was their den.

"I won't hurt you," he said aloud, shakily. He still believed that he was in charge. He still believed he could hurt what lay in wait for him. A high-pitched squeaking echoed from somewhere below him.

Just as he decided that this was not the best place to stay, the ground under his right foot began to crumble. His fingers scrabbled for a hold, but came away bloody. Later, if there had been a later, he would have sworn that someone, or something pushed him. He began to fall, down, down a chasm in the ground landing with a thud in pitch darkness, his left arm bent under him, radius sticking out through the skin. Whimpering now, MacKenzie Jeffers knew he was in a very bad place. He didn't hear the wind die down. He didn't feel the sand storm ease. He didn't see the opening in the rock disappear as if it had never been. The darkness consumed him.

Davy came back out onto the back porch, his face puzzled. "Cody, Jimmy asked his dad and Shiye means son."

Cody sat very still, all the pieces coming together in his mind. Kajika had been blinded by a bad man and his father had felt disgraced for loving a white woman. It was too much of a coincidence and Cody didn't believe in coincidences, not where his family was concerned.

"You thinking what I'm thinking?" Jase asked, concern in his voice.

"Oh, yeah."

"Charles Taylor's spree didn't stop with people I loved," Jase said slowly. "He shot your father and left him for dead."

"But," Cody whispered, "He didn't die. His voice has never whispered to me in the wind. He was never dead. Oh, Jase............."

"What are you gonna do?"

Cody's mind was frantically running over options. "I need to call Mother. No, wait, I can't do that until I know for sure. Elijah...............Oh, Jase."

"I know, baby. Take a deep breath. If this Kajika is your father, he has his reasons for not ever telling you. Hold off until you talk to him."

Cody jumped out of the rocker and walked quickly out toward the desert to stand at the edge of the barnyard. Jase followed him to wrap his arms around his beautiful Indian.

"You can go see him tomorrow. You've waited twenty-two years, another night won't change anything."

"I'm just so psyched. My father!! After all these years. I thought Charles Taylor was my father and I lived with the fact that my own father never loved me. Now, I find out that my real father is alive. That I've met him twice and he hasn't said a word."

"Maybe he doesn't know," Jase asked quietly, the doubt loud in his voice.

"How could he not know?" Cody asked, turning in Jase's arms and looking up at him. "I handed him the pendant and told him about my mother. He knows, Jase."

"Then, he has his reasons. We all have secrets, remember? You just have to let him know what you believe him to be and see what he says."

"What if he denies it?"

"Then he will be the one who loses. He has two beautiful sons and a woman who still cares. I wonder just how deep the pain goes in him?"

"Charles Taylor must have shot him after he and my mother met out in the desert that summer. She thought he didn't care. Oh, Jase."

"We'll find out tomorrow."

"You'll come with me?"

Jase leaned down and kissed Cody softly on his cheek and then on his trembling lips. "I will be your support for the rest of our lives. You'll never have to do anything alone."

Davy called from the porch, "Hear Ole Three Paws singing goodnight?" They all listened to the call of the coyote, followed by the voices of at least four more. "I wonder what he's up to tonight?"

Namid stood atop the bouldered chasm that now imprisoned the evil one. He howled to Niyol that he was on guard. He wished he could rip out the throat of the evil one, feast upon his flesh, his blood, but he would do the wind's bidding. He felt the cool fingers of Niyol caress his muzzle.

"Stand guard through the night, Namid. He tried to hurt your boy. He will not escape the desert."

Namid snuffled softly to his pack. They encircled the empty space where the entrance had been and lifted their heads to yip that they were on vigil and no one would leave tonight.

Jeffers curled his body into a fetal ball, sobbing as his broken arm dragged across the wet sticky floor, his fingers running through a thick stinking substance. His mind was screaming, but he was numb and his mouth wouldn't let the sounds burst out. The hilt of the sharp knife poked into his groin and he shifted to escape the pain.

No light. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them to nothing. Not a single glow from any direction. "I need light to find my way out of this fucking pit," he groaned.

Feeling the slime under his body, he brought his hand up to his nose. The fetid putrid smell teared up his eyes and sent a series of gagging reflexes down his throat. Everywhere he hesitantly felt with his fingers was the same nasty feel of something animal. He was glad for a second that there was no light.

Rising painfully to his knees, Jeffers felt out in all directions, his one good arm waving in the black air, the broken arm clutched to his chest. Nothing! He was in a black pit in the middle of the desert kneeling in fuck knew what. For the first time in many many years, Mackenzie Jeffers a nameless fear.

"Hello? Hello?" he called out into the dark, not knowing whether he was more afraid of hearing or not hearing an answer. His voice echoed off the damp walls, bouncing the 'hello' 'hello' 'hello' upwards in a spiral. The sound of the echoes brought on a flurry of whispering, high pitched shrieks from the walls of the pit. Before he could fall to the floor and cover himself, Jeffers felt one, two, ten, a hundred hard slaps of large leathery wings and tiny mouths snipping at his shoulders, face and arms. "Bats!" he shrieked. As the hungry vampire bats, awakened from their sleep, descended upon the creature making the noise, Jeffers tried to cover his head with his one good arm, screamed uselessly, and began to lose his mind.

Jase woke up in the night, his senses tingling without a name. He lay still, trying to feel the trouble. Sliding over quickly, reaching out for Cody, he found the pillow cold.

Naked, he padded quietly down the hall, looking left and right and coming to a halt in the soft glow of moonlight tracing across the kitchen floor. The beginnings of worry flooded his heart. Jeffers was out there somewhere. Cody needed to be safe. Safe in their bed where Jase could protect him.

Picking up the shotgun from the rack by the back door, Jase opened the screen and slipped out onto the porch. He sighed his relief when he saw Cody's outline standing at the edge of the drive. He was huddled, his bare arms hugging himself as if the night air was cold, quietly rocking back and forth.

"You shouldn't be out here, Angel," Jase said softly, as he slid his arms around the smaller man.

"Do you hear it?" Cody whispered.

"I don't hear anything," Jase answered.

Cody sighed, "I know. Feel the stillness. The desert is silent. Niyol is asleep."

A year ago, Jase MacBride would have snorted and make a joke about the wind and fairy tale stories, but after all that had happened in their lives, he trusted Cody's instincts. He believed in the desert. Cocking his head, he heard nothing.

"What do you think's happening?"

"I don't know," Cody whispered. "I only know that Mackenzie is out there somewhere waiting to hurt one of us and Niyol isn't speaking to me." Jase felt Cody's entire body shiver. He felt the fear, the nameless fear of not knowing from what direction the danger would come.

Turning his love in his arms, Jase rubbed Cody's arms with his hands, pouring in his warmth. Pulling Cody's face tight into the heat of his neck, Jase murmured soft words of comfort, security. "I will never let anyone hurt you. Not ever again. I would kill him right now with my bare hands, but then I would have to leave you. If he comes near you, threatens you, know that he's a dead man. Know it, my little Indian."

Cody shuddered, his fear real and alive. "I feel like he's watching us right now."

Jase turned his head and looked out over the dark, silent sands. "The desert doesn't trust him, Cody, anymore than we do. I don't hear anything. You're safe here with me." He murmured in the same soft tone that he used when he was comforting Davy. "You're safe, love."

"You don't know what he's capable of," Cody said so softly Jase had to strain to hear the words. "He's a monster."

"Cody, there's an old saying, 'What goes around, comes around'. We may not be the ones to punish Mackenzie Jeffers, but he will be punished. He will have a day of reckoning. Trust me." Jase stared out over the top of Cody's head into the gloom, wondering where Jeffers was tonight and what he was planning.

The bats slashed with their sharp incisors, slicing, holding on tight with tiny claws, to lap the blood that roiled to the surface. The low slurping sounds buzzed in Jeffer's ears. He had finally stopped trying to beat them away and just lay in the guano, willing this to be a nightmare that he'd wake up from to find himself back in his apartment with a lovely boy and a champagne cocktail.

Suddenly, it felt as if all the air was being sucked out of the dark pit and the bats began to flap nervously, rising up off the bloody man. As is they had been called, they flew silently up and up, finding a way out of the depths to shriek an eerie high pitched sound as they careened across the night sky. Jeffers let out a long breath, wiped blood out of his eyes and tried to peer up, searching for a glimmer of light. If the bats could get out, so could he.

Early morning light found Cody and Jase tangled together in their bed, Cody's smoky hair lying across their bodies like ribbons of desire. Jase woke slowly and lay still, just listening to Cody breathe. There was nothing he wouldn't do to keep Cody safe. He realized that he'd never felt this way before....his life was not as important as Cody's. Only with Davy, when Charles Taylor has taken him, had Jase felt this all consuming rage.

The kitchen phone rang just as the coffee began to perk. Cody shifted in his arms and snuffled further down into the covers. "Sleep, Love," Jase whispered and brushed the silky black hair off Cody's cheek to kiss him softly. He slid out of the warm bed and walked quickly down the hall.

"Jase McBride," his sleep rusty voice growled into the phone.

"Hey, Jase. Walt Crisp here. Sorry to be calling so early."

"No problem," Jase cleared his throat and reached for a cup. "I hope you've got some news."

"We do and we don't. Jeffers is staying at the Drift Inn Motel there in Drifter under the name Jefferson. The waitress at the Good Luck Café identified him. He's driving a rental, a 2004 gold Lexus. The manager at the motel said he had an attitude a mile long."

"So, you just go in and arrest the fucker, right?"

"I wish it was that easy. He didn't return to his room last night. His things are all here, clothes and toiletries, maps of New Mexico and," Walt sighed, "Some photographs of Cody."


"Yeah, I've got them in a folder, Jase. I won't use them unless I have to."

"You mean...?"


Jase blew out a heavy breath of air. The anger boiled. There was no way this fucker was going to go into the US judicial system. No way!

"So, do you have him or not?"

"We will as soon as we can find him. This is where we're going to need your help."

"Just tell me and I'm there."

"We located his car, the Lexus. Looks like Mr. Jeffers was about to pay you a visit last night. The helicopter saw the sun glinting off the gold paint job early this morning. The car is parked about six miles north of you out on an old mining road. We're on our way out there now."


"I've got a new partner," Walt said quietly. Jase remembered the happy open face of Agent Parsons and the horrible way he had died.

"What do you need me to do?"

"You know this area better than anyone. If he's not at the motel and you didn't run into him last night, and I'm assuming you didn't......," Crisp made the statement into a question.

Jase laughed, but it was hollow and tired. "If I did, you'd never know, but no, I didn't. I'll meet you at the car."

"Want us to swing by and pick you up?"

"Nah, I'll ride Sazi. I'll let Cody and Davy get gone before I head that way. I'd rather he didn't know how close Jeffers is."

Hanging up, he got Davy going and whispered in Cody's ear, "Rise and shine, Sunshine. You've got a job, remember?"

Cody grinned and stretched like a black cat on a satin cover. "Don't want to get up. Want you back here. Come back to bed, Jase," he sighed seductively and ran his fingers along the zipper of Jase's jeans.

"Cody, want me to fix my own lunch?" Davy's voice giggled from the doorway.

Ideas of morning delight squished, Cody groaned, and Jase laughed, ruffling Davy's long hair. "I'll help you, Davy Boy. Cody's having trouble staying up this morning."

"I heard that," Cody chuckled. "We'll just see about that later."

Over breakfast, Jase told Davy to be extra careful at school today. "If you see anyone you don't know, tell Mrs. Bailey right off. You hear me? We'll pick you up at 2:30. You stay in the office until I come in for you."

"Yes, Daddy," Davy promised with wide solemn eyes.

Jase hated that Davy had seen so much in the last few weeks. When this was all over, when Jeffers was gone, life would get back to normal, boring and dull. God, how much he missed boring and dull.

"I wish I could just drive straight to Kajika's this morning," Cody sighed.

"I'll be there at noon and we'll go together. Remember, Cody, he has his reasons for keeping secrets if, in fact, he is who you think he is."

"I know, but I want to know NOW!"

"Hold your horses. It's been out there for twenty-two years. Another four hours won't make that much difference."

Cody rolled his eyes. "Who was that on the phone?"

"Walt Crisp."

Cody's shoulders hunched down. "Any news?"

Jase didn't want to lie, but saw no sense in telling what hadn't happened and scaring Cody and Davy. "Yeah, they have some leads and they'll let us know as soon as they find him."

"I need that to be over, Jase."

"I know, baby."

Jase stood watching the old truck as Cody drove off, Davy sitting closer to him than usual in the truck cab.


"Yeah?" he watched the emotions flutter across the boy's face.

"The bad guy that put the scorpion in the box.......was it to hurt me?"

Cody gritted his teeth. "No, Davy, it was to hurt me. The FBI agents will find him and everything will be fine."

"But, the box was for me, Cody."

Cody pulled Davy into his side with his right arm. "Sometimes, people try to hurt the ones we love to hurt us. Does that make sense?"

"Not really. He loves you?"

"No." Cody didn't know how to explain what Mackenzie Jeffers felt towards him. It wasn't love. It wasn't hate. It was more lust mixed in with possession. A sick greedy appetite for something forbidden.

"He wanted me to belong to him, Davy. He's not a nice man."

Davy frowned. "People can't belong to other people, like dogs and horses."

"You got that right, buddy," Cody sighed, "Now to get that man to understand that."

Davy squeezed himself up under Cody's arm. "We kinda all belong together though, right? You and me and Daddy?"

"Yes, we sure do."

"And Uncle Lijah and Mz. Ally?"

"Yes, Davy, they're your family now."

Davy got real quiet, then looked up from under long dark eyelashes, "Like Kajika?" he said softly.

Cody jerked the wheel. "What?"

"He's part of our family too, isn't he, Cody?"

"Why are you saying that?"

"Sometimes, at night, the wind whispers to me, Cody." Davy ducked his head down. "Last night, it got really really quiet. Did you hear it?"

"How could I hear it being quiet?" Cody chuckled.

"Cody!! You know what I mean."

"Yeah, sorry Davy. I noticed it too last night. Niyol was silent."

"When Niyol gets quiet, I can hear my Mommy. Last night, I heard my dad, Quiet Water. He whispered to me. He told me that there was one who felt lost. That we had to help him. I knew who it was, Cody."

"Your daddy and I are going to go see Kajika today. We'll see what happens, okay, Davy?"

"Okay, Cody. I like it though."

"What? What do you like?"

Davy thought for a second. "It was sad before you came, just sad Daddy and me. Then you came....then Grandma Soft Wind and my dad, Quiet Water. Now, my Mommy talks to me and the family gets bigger and bigger. I like it a lot."

Cody's heart ached for the little boy who had lived for years alone and frightened, wanting only for his daddy to love him, missing his Mom and not being able to fix anything. "We're a family, kiddo. Count on it."

Jeffers tried to find a handhold in the slick walls. He didn't even think about the broken arm or that he had fallen over 200 feet straight down. He could see that faint glow of light and he wanted out. He had things to do, places to be. He was too wrapped up in himself to realize that this was the place he was and he wasn't going anywhere.

A faint breeze touched his face, just a brush of fingers, warm, almost caressing. Jerking his head, he listened for sound. Nothing! Then, off to his left, a rustle, a sigh and the soft sound of breathing.

"Who's there? Answer me! I know you're there. I have money. You can have all of it; just get me out of here." He swung his body in every direction, circling, listening for movement. "Where are you?"

"We're right here, evil one."

The voice was low, almost the sound of the death rattle, as if it came from a mouth of one long dead.

"I....I.....," he spluttered, tiny sparks of fear making his voice catch.

"You.....nothing," the voice moaned. "We wait for your death."

Without even realizing it, he fell to his knees. "I'm not going to die in here. This is all a mistake. I have money. I have power. I can...............,"

The laughter echoed from a million long lost souls. "You are wrong. WE have the power. You are like a grain of sand in our desert. You mean nothing to us."

"What do you want? I didn't do anything to you." He still didn't understand. Mackenzie Jeffers still believed that his evilness was a secret. "Who are you?"

A hush, then a gathering burst of wind. Jeffers felt the push of hot air and was thrown sharply against the wall of the pit. The wind swirled, bits of rock and pieces of bone flew up to cut and scrape and slice.

"I didn't do anything," he shrieked. "What do you want? Who are you?" He tried to cover his face with his one good hand and felt blood pouring from deep cuts on his cheeks.

"We are Niyol. We are the wind. We are here for you."

Jeffers struggled to his pocket and pulled out the sharp scalpel. Holding it in front of his body, he thrashed his arm back and forth. The wind pulled it from his hand and spun it in circles around his head. It slashed and sliced until his shirt hung in tatters and his back and chest were dark with blood.

Collapsing onto the sticky rock floor, his arm bent over his head, Jeffers searched his mind for escape. "What do you want from me? Just let me go.

I promise to be a better person. I swear I'll do whatever you say. Just let me go."

"You lie. We know better. And the boy? What of the boy?"

"What boy?" His mind crashed around inside his head trying to remember. "Oh, the Indian? I don't need him. It was all a game. You want him? Is that it? Some kind of Indian shit? Take him. He's nothing, just a piece of trash I found one night. There's more where he came from."

Jeffers felt the change in the air. He heard a low moan coming from the very walls. He sensed the building anger of the spirits that had captured him. Standing painfully, he heard a soft slithering around his feet. Backing to the wall, he squinted in the thick gloom trying to see what was on the floor. Something slid over the toe of his shoe; something heavy. Something began to ease itself up his leg, twining around his ankle, then his calf. He batted at it with his good hand and felt a sharp bite on his thumb. Something was curling itself along the line of his other leg, slithering slowly up under the fabric of his torn slacks. He could feel the smooth pinching skin as it moved closer and closer, up to his knee, his thigh. He felt it brush against his balls and he screamed as two sharp incisors dug deep.

"What boy you say? WHAT BOY??? Niyol shrieked, the sound of rage ringing against the rock walls, bringing a rain of stone down. "You will suffer for all you have done, evil one. There will be no more."

Jase saddled Sazi and rode out to the north, watching the helicopter circle in ever widening paths. He saw the gold Lexus, the paint riddled with huge scrapes as if it had been keyed by a giant, sand piled up to the tire rims. He saw Walt Crisp standing, white short sleeved shirt open at the neck, his badge glittering in the sun, head bowed down towards a much smaller figure.

Tying Sazi in the tiny bit of shade of a large saguaro, he walked over quickly. "Morning."

Walt smiled and put out his hand. "Morning, Jase. Jase McBride, this is my new partner, Agent Sharon Fletcher. She transferred in from the Reno office."

Jase smiled at the fresh-faced young woman, tipping his hat. "Mornin', Agent Fletcher."

She offered her hand, "Good to meet you, Mr. McBride. I wish the circumstances were better."

Jase glanced over at the torn Lexus. "The desert did a number on it, right enough."

Walt shook his head, "That happened all in one night? It looks like it's been sitting out here for weeks."

Jase thought back about last night, the silence of the wind. How did the sand do this much damage with no wind?

"No tracks?"

"None. We've walked a widening pattern but nothing."

"If he had headed toward my house, I'd have seen some sign on my way here," Jase said. "If he got turned around and headed out into the desert, he's in a shitload of trouble. Pardon, Ma'am."

Sharon Fletcher smiled, her face lighting up. "I have five brothers. I feel right at home."

"We've searched in a range of approximately five miles with the copter, but only about a mile out on foot. Are there caves or sinkholes, anything like that where he could have taken refuge or fallen in?"

Jase squinted his eyes out toward the deep desert, "Yeah, the old ones left Kivas out here. The desert has covered them over, but sometimes people still fall in accidentally."

"The old ones?"

Jase frowned, "It should be Cody telling you all this. He's taught me more than I ever knew about this land." He sighed and answered the question. "There was a tribe of Indians whose lands stretched from Colorado through the Four Corners."

Agent Fletcher interrupted, 'The Four Corners?"

"Yeah, there's only one place in the United States where four states intersect at one point. Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado all come together and the area is called The Four Corners. These Indians were called the Anasazi. They were basically farmers and basket weavers."

"Like the Navajo?"

"Pretty much. They were the pueblo dwellers like the Hopi. They disappeared rather suddenly. Most scientists blame it on drought, but others believe it was the draw of other religions like the Kachina. No one knows for sure, but the land is haunted, the wind full of the whispers of the old ones."

Walt Crisp shaded his eyes with his hand as he looked hard at Jase McBride.

"We losing you to the mystical side of New Mexico, Jase?"

Jase cracked a slight smile, "Let's just say the more Cody talks, the more I hear, the more I believe that not everything we understood or believed is real." He shook his head as if to clear away the magic of the wind and get back on track. "If Jeffers fell into one of the pits out here, we'll never find him unless he has the strength to climb out."

"We'll keep searching for a few days. There must be a trace of him, some clue."

"The desert covers its tracks," Jase sighed softly.

Glancing down at his watch, he said quickly, "Let's do one sweep and then I've got to go meet Cody over in Shiprock." Climbing back into the saddle, he tipped his Stetson to Agent Fletcher, "Good to meet you, Ma'am. You've got a good partner there."

Looking back at Walt, he said, the anger tipping the surface for a minute, "We have to find him, Walt; dead or alive. We don't and he tortures Cody's dreams forever. That, I will not accept." Wheeling Sazi, Jase rode out taking a northeast path.

Watching him ride off, Walt sighed. "All those two have been though, we've got to find this this creep."

Agent Fletcher asked, "This Mackenzie Jeffers....a total sociopath, right?"

Walt nodded, "He wants Cody Taylor. He has no guilt. He doesn't think like you or me, like a normal civilized person. He has no empathy, no guilt, no compassion."

She frowned, "So, he has no need for friendship or love?"

"No, he feels no need."

"Then, can he be lonely?"

Walt thought. "I don't know. I don't know what he can feel, but I do know that if he's been swallowed up by the desert, he must be feeling fear. Not even a true sociopath could be that unfeeling."

What Jeffers was feeling was pain, intense pain as poison began to surge through his body. The rattlesnakes had nipped and plunged their fangs into his flesh, teasing him, flirting in a way, lets him know that he was no longer in charge.

"You can't kill me," he cried out to the walls. "I don't believe in you. This is all a nightmare."

"Oh, you will not die yet, evil one. Not until the pain you feel can be seen by the eyes you tormented."

"What? Seen by what? I don't care what you say...fuck you. I am Mackenzie Jeffers. I am the Head Curator of the New York Modern Museum of Art. I have more money than God. You can't hurt me. "

Niyol laughed, the sound filling the pit, rising out to spiral into the air. The coyotes gathered at the opening and raised their voices.

"He is nothing....less than a grain of sand....He understands nothing."

"Kill him," the little eyes whispered.

"Kill him," the winged ones sighed.

"Kill him," the legged ones cried.

"Mother, kill him," the voices of the ancient ones pleaded.

Niyol gathered all their souls together, felt the beating of their hearts, heard the pain and anger in their voices. "As it has been, so will it be," she murmured. "He will die, but not yet....not yet."

Cody stood outside the locked front door of the Helaku Arts and Crafts Store. He glanced at his watch for the gazillionth time, peering down the street. Flipping out his cell, he punched in the #1.

"Stop calling me," Jase laughed. "I won't get there any faster."

"I'm dying here."

"Well, hold on about two minutes more. I had to stop to pick up something. I'm almost there."

"Pick up something? What? Jase, this is important. What was more important than this?" He looked off down the street and watched the big black truck pull around the corner. He saw Jase's honey colored hair glinting in the sunshine. Just as the truck pulled to a stop, he grinned.

"Hey Cody," Davy laughed. "I'm the something."

"You're something all right," Cody laughed.

"I just thought if we knew where he was, we could concentrate on this better," Jase smiled.

"You're right," Cody nodded. "You have lunch, Davy?"

Davy shot a glance at Jase. "Not yet."

Cody rolled his eyes. "Jase....."

"Okay, okay, let's shoot through the drive thru at Chat N' Chew and grab some chili burgers for the bottomless pit."

As Davy gobbled down his chili burger and chili cheese fries washing it all down with hot tamale shake, Jase reached across the back of the seat to touch Cody's shoulder.

"It's gonna be fine. Whatever happens, you're gonna be fine."

"I know," Cody mumbled, "It's just that all these years, Jase. If what we think is true, then all these years he's been alone."

"His choice, Cody. Don't forget that. We all have to live by the choices we make."

They bumped along the rutted path out into the sun drenched sand. As the black truck pulled up to the front of the small adobe house, Cody felt an emptiness. "He's not here, Jase." There was no Hok'ee barking, no sense of Kajika in the air. "He's gone."

"Maybe he went out searching for rocks," Jase offered.

They climbed out of the truck and Cody walked up to wooden door, knocking softly. No answer.

Davy ran around the boulders to check the spot where they had last seen Kajika. He came back slowly, his face puzzled. "All his tools are gone."

Cody felt the tears begin to well in his eyes. "Jase," he began, but then just turned his face into the taller man's chest and clung. The words muffled, he mumbled, "He knew. He knew and he left me. He doesn't want to know me."

Jase felt the slow roll of anger. Didn't anyone know how to treat this boy? Couldn't Cody just catch one break?

A small sound caught their attention, and all three sets of confused eyes turned upward to the small rocky hill behind the house. Sani, the old one, hobbled to the edge of the plateau looking down at them. "You look for Kajika." It wasn't a question.

"Yes," Jase said loudly, his patience about gone. "We need to talk to......,"

"He was afraid. He has gone into the mother's heart to find courage."

"Where? Where has he gone?" Jase yelled out.

Cody touched Jase's arm lightly. "Sani, I need to speak to my father. I know why he's afraid. Please tell me where I can find him."

Sani's eyes filled with a sorrowful smile. "He will be found when he wishes.

He cannot yet speak of the past."

Cody felt a small hand slide into his. He squeezed Davy's hand tightly. Asking the hardest question he'd ever asked, Cody felt the love of this man and this boy holding him tight. "Does he want to know me?"

Sani sighed and the sound carried in the breeze. "He wants that with all his heart but must find the courage to face you. Let him find you in his own time."

Jase gathered Cody into his arms, Davy clinging to Cody's hand. "He needs time, Cody, the blindness, the fear, the loss. Give him the time he needs."

Cody looked back up the hill but there was no on there. Sani was gone. The breeze picked up and a tumbleweed rolled across the path, colliding with the unpainted fencepost. There was no one here. What Cody wanted wasn't here. He would have to wait.

Walking to the door, he opened it and peered inside. Spartan and tidy, the only color was in the woven rug hanging above the fireplace. The brilliant reds and oranges glowed in the rush of sunlight through the open door. On the wooden table, a stone on a leather thong lay catching the light. Cody picked it up and stared at the intricate carving of the sun rays dancing across a cactus, the bloom full and ripe. Such workmanship. He turned it over and gasped.

Helaku - Shiye Engraving was carved into the stone.

"Jase, look." He held the pendant out for Jase and Davy to see.

Jase took the leather thong gently and watched Cody lift his heavy mane of black hair. He dropped it over Cody's head and watched his hair cascade down around his beautiful face. The necklace fell across his chest and the stone fell beside his heart.

"My father wants me," Cody sighed, his voice a whisper in the dark room.

"Who would not?" Jase replied, his voice rough with emotion.

"I want to find him, Jase. I need to.....,"

"Cody, respect him. He will find you. We'll go now and he will find his courage in the desert. The desert gives strength. Let him have his way in this."

Cody stood very still and then, with a sigh, replied, "Yes."

Kajika stood still, as only the desert people can. He could not hear the words, could not see the faces, but he could feel the heart of his son across the sands. He felt the moment the pendant touched the flesh above his shiye's heart. Kajika was going to the place where he had met his love. Hok'ee lay silently at his feet.

"We go to the bluffs, Hok'ee. I will find the spirits there and perhaps I will find the courage to face life again."

Cody was quiet after dinner as he watched Davy brush Sassy. He sat with his feet tucked up under him on a pile of clean hay. Jase had been out on Sazi this morning and the big stallion was whinnying for more attention. Cody absentmindedly ran his hands through Sazi's mane as the big horse dipped his head over the stall rail.

"Hey, big guy. You go out in the desert this morning?" He scratched between the wide brown eyes. "Hey, Davy, why was your dad in the desert today?"

"Don't know, Cody. He never said."

Jase walked into the barn with a handful of carrots. Sazi snuffled at his arm and Jase grinned. "Here, boy."

"Jase, why did you go out into the desert today?" Cody asked, a sudden bad thought popping into his head.

Jase wanted to lie. He wanted to shield Cody from hurt, but a lie was a lie and no way to live. Phrasing it so that Davy wouldn't react, Jase said, "Walt called. He needed a little help." He watched Cody's shoulders hunch and his head lower.

"Out in the desert?" Cody's voice was soft.


"You gonna help more?"

Jase could hear the trembling in Cody's voice. No one should ever be afraid like this.

"I don't know. Walt said he'd call tonight on any news."

"What are you guys talking about?" Davy asked, confused, "Why does the FBI guy need your help, Daddy?"

"Nothing big, Davy. Just someone lost in the desert north of here. He wanted some help looking."

"I hope they find whoever's lost," Davy said sadly. "It must be scary to be lost in the desert, especially at night."

Jase looked at Cody, all huddled into himself, and hoped with all his heart that the desert was scary as all hell tonight.

Mackenzie Jeffers could feel the poison running through his veins, swelling his hands and feet, his face. He could hear the soft rattle of the snakes as they crawled over each other and nestled in his lap after he had slid down the wall.

"Who will save you now?" Niyol hissed, her voice the same slithering sound of the snakes. "All your evil finds you here, caught in the darkness. Will you admit your evilness?"

"Will you let me go if I do?" he groaned. Part of his mind, the part that was still on the fringes of sanity, knew he should be long dead.

"No. You will never go free."

"If you're not going to let me go, I haven't got a fucking thing to say to you, Bitch."

A sigh, the sound of souls in despair, rode the dripping walls.

"Let me," begged the bat, with dripping fangs.

"Let me," cried the tarantula, his bite lethal.

"Let me," screamed Namid, protector of the boy.

"Be quiet, my children. There is one last thing that must be done, then the shifting sands will claim him. Wait for the sunrise. Wait for the dawn of this day."

The wind whistled down the arroyos, and flew over the dry mud plateaus. The wind had a voice. That voice cried for vengeance. Every creature of the Four Corners listened to Niyol tonight.

The coyotes guarded the house. The barn owls sat hidden in the saguaros watching over the sleeping ones. Quiet Water, Charity McBride, Soft Wind, Edgar Taylor; all the dead, victims or not, cried through the roar of the wind. Helaku, the sunny one, would not be harmed. The man who loved him and his son, the little Pakwa, would not be harmed. They would wait for the sunrise, but on this day, evil would die.

Kajika found the rocky cliffs that had bound him forever to the beautiful Allison. He had walked through the night, as the darkness could not claim him. Hok'ee bounded out in front, warning him of possible dangers. He felt an electricity in the air as the dawn began to break. He heard the voices in the wind and his heart told him his son, his shiye was in danger.

Climbing the rough path to the top of the peak, his hands bloody from grabbing onto sharp rocks, Kajika knew, from the pictures in his mind's eye, that he was above the shallow canyon where he had first seen Allison Taylor. He could still 'see' the fall of her hair, still smell the scent of her skin. He could still feel their bodies joined.

It was here that he had been shot, had fallen into the rocky crevise below. It was here that Sani had found him three days later, dying from the wound and exposure. It was here that he needed to be now. He was following his heart and searching for the courage he needed. His eyes were blind, but his heart was coming alive for the first time in all these long years. Perhaps there was a way to be loved. Perhaps there was a chance.

He listened to Niyol as she whispered and sang, as she urged the morning to begin. He felt an urgency, a gathering of souls. The old ones were calling in the wind. He felt a warm breath of air caress his face, heard voices whisper his son's name. He felt in his satchel for the sharp knife he used to carve. Something was not right; something was happening to Helaku. Kajika crouched low behind a tall boulder, Hok'ee silent by his side.

Walt Crisp had called and reported that they had found no sign of Mackenzie Jeffers to the northeast of the abandoned car. The search would fan out to the northwest today. He told Jase to keep a close eye on Cody and Davy today until the FBI found the suspect. He had tried to put two agents at the house but Jase argued that it would scare Davy.

"We'll be fine," Jase assured his friend. "He comes here and I'm gonna blow his fuckin' head off."

Walt sighed. "Jase..."

"Really, Walt," Jase tried to sound like he'd been joking. "It's Saturday. No school and Cody's job hasn't really started yet. We'll all stick close to home and wait for your call."

Cody listened to the call and let out a long breath when Jase hung up. "I want this over."

"I know you do, baby. They'll find him today and it will be done. He watched the emotions fly across Cody's face. "Let's fix the loft floor in the barn today, the three of us."

Davy tapped on the bedroom door and then peeked in when Cody called out. "I'm hungry, Cody. Want me to make breakfast?" he said, his big eyes all innocent.

"Yeah, right, munchkin, like I want Fruit Loops for breakfast," Cody laughed as he hopped out of the bed, his fingers trailing under the sheet, over Jase's belly. "I'll make Mexican omelets and then some sandwiches if we're gonna be outside working."

Jase listened to Davy asking where they were gonna be working; what they were gonna be doing; what kind of sandwiches Cody was gonna make; what tools they needed, and on and on. He smiled as he listened to Cody patiently explaining, teasing Davy. Jase so loved those two people in his kitchen. He loved them more than his own life. He knew he would die for either of them, no questions asked.

They let the horses out into the corral and sat on the rail fence for a few minutes watching Sazi kick up his heels.

"We won't go too far from the house today," Jase said quietly, "And both of you stay where I can see you."

Cody flinched at the words. He knew Jase was trying to make this a normal day, but Jeffers was out there somewhere and just the thought of him made Cody afraid, not just for himself but for Davy, for Jase.

"It is time," Niyol cried into the pinks and blues of the morning sunrise. "Time for him to face his truths. We have kept them safe through the long night and now it is time."

Jeffers heard the words of the wind, his mind almost gone. "You will never beat me," he screamed. "I am better than he is, that worthless boy; he walked right onto my web. What a stupid little shit. I'm an important man."

No remorse, no regret.....for all the boys he had led into that dark room at the end of the hall. For all the boys he had broken and tossed away like cigarette butts into the dirt. Niyol heard and her heart was as a stone.

"My creatures destroy to live, to eat; you destroy to suck the life force from the innocent. You are unacceptable." She struck out at him with swirls of power, the air rich with anger of the old ones.

Niyol called the coyotes, "Go now. It is time."

The coyotes, with Namid at the head of the pack, raced down the cliffside, unaware, in their haste, of the crouching Indian, long shining hair with a startling white streak. He held tightly to the knife and the scruffed neck of the growling dog.

"Daddy, look. Ole Three Paws is standing right over there watching us." Davy pointed out the back double doors of the barn, his finger shaking a bit at the sight of a pack of seven coyotes standing in a military line across the horizon with Ole Three Paws standing front and center.

Jase reached for his rifle.

"No, Daddy. Wait," Davy pulled on Jase's arm as they watched Ole Three Paws pad quickly up to the barn doors. His yellow eyes burned out at them.

"Daddy, I think he's trying to say something."

"Davy, stay back. Coyotes don't talk. You're putting too much stock in him, son."

Cody stood still, watching. Suddenly, the breeze grew stronger and he felt the soft warmth of a hand on his cheek. "Jase, something's going on."

A year ago, Jase McBride would have shot first and listened later, but now, with what he knew now, with what the desert had taught him, he edged closer to Cody, watching the coyotes. "What's happening?"

Before Cody could answer, Jase felt Tommy. He felt Tommy wrap his essence around him. He could smell his skin, feel the heat of his body. His eyes grew wide and he grabbed for Cody.

"Tommy?" Cody asked, his voice a whisper.

Jase just nodded.

Davy cocked his head toward Ole Three Paws, as if he was listening. "Daddy, he wants us to come."

Cody was listening to his grandmother, Soft Wind, sighing in his ear. "Jase, there's something we have to do. Grandmamma says to trust the coyotes."

Jase was staring at Cody, unsure what the hell they were feeling, when he heard Davy's voice from the yard.

"Daddy, Cody, its okay. Look. He wants us to come with him." Jase twirled to find his son standing out in the yard, his hand on the big gray coyote's head.

"Good God!" he cried, "Davy!"

"It's okay, Daddy, really. Ole Three Paws protects me. It's really okay."

"But the others? We don't know the others."

Davy looked out at the other six coyotes. "They're safe, Daddy. Ole Three Paws is the boss, right?" he said ruffling the fur on the big coyote's neck.

"Cody?" Jase asked for an explanation.

"I don't know either," Cody murmured under his breath, "But the wind is talking really loud today and I trust my grandmamma. You trust Tommy?"

Jase felt the caress again. "Yes," he answered.

"Davy, you stay here," Jase said firmly.

"But Daddy.....,"

"I don't want you hurt. I think I know what's happening, and you don't need to be part of it."

Ole Three Paws growled and took Davy's hand in his mouth gently.

"Oops, Daddy," Davy tried to look scared, but was failing miserably. "I guess he wants me to go, huh?"

"Let him go, Three Paws." Jase took a few steps toward his son and the coyote growled low in his throat.

"It's okay, boy. Daddy won't hurt you. We better go see what he wants to show us, Daddy...Cody."

Cody stepped up beside Jase, his hand on the rifle. "Let's go, Jase. I know what you're thinking cause I'm thinking the same thing. Let's go see if the desert has something it thinks we need to see."

Above the peaks and below the gullies, around the adobe ruins and through the winter rain washes, the wind called out. It was time to end the evilness; Niyol, the gentle breeze, Niyol, the teasing whispers, Niyol, the harsh punisher. Which today? The ancestors, the old ones, the Anasazi, the ones who came before, the ones from whose blood the Hopi, the Navajo, the Indians of the Four Corners sprang. All the voices raised to protect their child.

"They come," called the eagle, his wings spread to catch the gusts that Niyol blew for him, his eyes searching the land below.

No one would recognize Jeffers now, his expensive clothes ripped and torn, his body mottled with red blotches, his face swollen with venom. Still, he fought. Still, he denied. Still, even now, it was the fault of the boy.

He felt the earth below him buck as if a giant hand had slapped the earth. A streak of light crossed his face and he saw, through puffy eyes that there was a crawl space above his head. Holding his broken arm close, he pulled himself up and toward the opening. Reaching the slice in the rock, he realized with a shock that it was the same opening he had climbed through two nights ago. His mind couldn't wrap itself around the fact that he had only been a few feet away from the surface. He still thought he could comprehend and control his life.

Crawling out the small opening, dragging his legs behind him, he didn't even wonder why that loud bitch wasn't stopping him. He just congratulated himself for escaping. He would find a way to get somewhere for help. He was so strong that not even snakes could kill him. His ego was boundless. He would get fixed up, cleaned up and then....then Jase McBride would pay for all of this. It was their fault, McBride's and Dakota's. Perhaps he would just take the small boy. Perhaps............."

"Oh my God!" Cody gasped as they rounded the corner of the cliffrocks. "Davy, stay back."

Jase lifted the rifle, but took a good look at Jeffers and lowered it to his side.

The coyotes lined up on the cliff top, their eyes watchful. Namid stayed by Davy's side. Davy backed up, his shoulders against the rock of the cliff, his eyes wide. The man on the ground was so bruised and swollen that he terrified Davy just looking.

Cody knew who this was; he knew what this man had done, but his compassion overcame his desire for vengeance. "Oh, God, Jase. What do we do?"

Jase knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to shove the rifle up against Jeffer's head and pull the trigger. For all the pain he had caused Cody and who the fuck knew how many other boys, he wanted to blow him away. But, he knew that wasn't what Cody wanted to hear and he knew that his son was standing right behind him.

"Davy, take Three Paws and go for help. Get to the house and call the number written on the pad by the phone. It's Walt Crisp's cell. Tell him where we are." He couldn't believe he was saying this, but, "Stay with Three Paws." Somehow, Jase trusted now that the coyote would put himself between Davy and danger. He'd proved it.

Davy took off running, the big gray coyote at his side. Jase watched the small Indian boy, his hair growing long like Cody's, as he flew across the sand with his protector by his side.

Cody hadn't taken his eyes off of Jeffers.

Jase turned back. "Jeffers, can you hear me?" He squatted down beside the disfigured man.

"I can hear you just fine," Jeffers spit out through cracked lips. "Get me to a hospital, asshole."

Jase recoiled. Damn, this was gonna be hard. He wanted to.....but never mind what he wanted. He stood up and reached for Cody's hand.

"You okay?"

Cody shook his head. "How can this be okay? What happened to him, Jase?"

"The desert happened. He looks snake bit to me, and those fang marks are vampire bats."

"I didn't think they lived around here."

"I never heard of it either but there's the proof."

Cody had brought a bottle of water in his back pocket and he knelt down beside Jeffers and tried to lift his head to offer him a drink.

"Don't touch me, you little shit," Jeffers growled. "This is all your fault. I should have killed you when I had the chance."

Cody jerked his hand back and scrambled away from the man, the water spilling to the thirsty sand.

The wind began to whisper through the cracks in the rocks and rustle the sand at their feet.

"Will you ask forgiveness?" Niyol demanded. "You will die if I lift away the veil from your eyes. Ask and mercy could be yours. The boy is here. It is but for you to ask."

Mackenzie Jeffers had never apologized for anything in his life. He never conceded that he was wrong. He had only done what he found amusing and, if boys found themselves weak, why was he to blame?

"I have nothing to ask forgiveness for," he snarled. "Shut up, bitch. I'm still alive. You can't harm me. This boy is nothing. He was one of hundreds, thousands who wander the city streets looking for someone to care. He made the mistake of thinking that would be me. No one cares about him. He is nothing. He had no family when he met me. He has no father now."

Cody bowed his head, the old feelings of worthlessness roaring up in his head. Maybe Jeffers was right, maybe he was nothing.

A voice rose from the top of the cliff. "He has a father. He is loved. Helaku is my shiye....my son. He is my blessed son."

Niyol sighed, a smile in the sound. Kajika had finally let his heart open to the sun. She hadn't accepted his soul when the desert had pronounced him dead those twenty-two years ago. She had pushed his soul back into his body and breathed for him until Sani had found him. She knew the day would come when Helaku would need to hear the words "my son, my blessed son".

"It is time to let the evil one go. He will be met in death by others like him to spend all eternity defending his actions. He, like all other truly evil men, will never see the wickedness. They deserve to be bound together forever."

Niyol gathered all the old ones around her, into her arms and dropped the veil from his eyes.

Jeffers felt the poison shoot through his body. He felt every cut, every slash, every ounce of pain. His mouth opened in a scream full of death. His eyes rolled in his head as he grappled for something to cling to, but there was nothing.

"Jase!" Cody cried. "Do something!"

Jase pulled Cody back, away from the dying man. "There's nothing we can do for him. The desert is paying him back for all the pain he has caused. Let Niyol exact her punishment."

Cody turned away into Jase's arms, his heart too tender to watch. He slowly raised his head to look over Jase's shoulder, up toward the plateau. His father! Cody stared at Kajika and slowly, a smile as bright as the sun broke across his face.

Kajika felt his son fighting the need to save even one such as this man. His Helaku was truly a warrior of the Dinee', the Navajo people. He sat down quietly to wait for Niyol to end the suffering. His unneeded knife dropped to the sand.

Mackenzie Jeffers ended his life as he had lived it, a minimum of feeling and a maximum of pain. His last breath was not a sigh, but a gasp as if he was being jerked into whatever place in hell was reserved for him.

"It is done. Perhaps now all these loving hearts can find peace. Come my children, we have other work do be done." The wind sighed and reached out to touch the faces of the people they loved. Soft Wind, Quiet Water, Charity....all the old ones.

"Don't forget us," the voices called.

Cody felt his grandmother's arms just as he had when he was small. Jase felt the touch of Charity's hand on his heart and the press of Tommy's lips on his mouth. Jakita felt the soothing fingers of his ancestors as they blessed him. Davy would tell them later that as he ran back toward the cliffs, Ole Three Paws at his side, he felt his mother and his father running with him, laughing, loving him. He had never felt so loved.

"What just happened, Jase?"

"I don't think we'll ever really know," Jase said quietly, 'But maybe now the fear and frustration we've had will leave."

Cody smiled through his tears, and pointed up toward Kajika sitting silently.

"Go," Jase gently pushed Cody. "Go to your father."

Cody climbed the cliff path, his hands shaking. His father! He walked over and leaned down to scratch Hok'ee's ears. He had no idea what to say.

Kajika tilted his head and said softly, "Sit, my shiye. I have many things to say to you." Cody knelt down, then sat cross legged in the sand beside his father.

Jase, looking up was shocked at the resemblance. Why had Cody not seen it when he first met Kajika? This was truly his father. He heard Davy calling and moved quickly to keep the boy from the sight of the dead man.

Kajika spoke softly, as if the words had been in his heart for so long that they had rusted. "I never knew, Helaku. I loved your mother. She was as if the sun had become part of my soul, a blazing glory. I never knew you were made of that love."

Cody smiled. So much Kajika didn't know. "Not only me, father. You have another son. His name is Elijah. He looks like our mother."

"And you?" Kajika asked, wanting to reach out and touch his son's face.

"Me? I look just like you." Cody reached for Kajika's hand and guided it to his long hair. Kajika ran his fingers down the charcoal strands and then hesitantly to Cody's face. He traced the planes and angles, the curves and felt the dimple in the corner of Cody's mouth. Kajika smiled as he traced the small dent. Cody saw in that smile a matching one on his father's face.

"We have so much to say. I need to tell Mother. I need to call Elijah. They will...........................,"

Kajika gripped Cody's arm. "Helaku, go slowly. I have just found you, I need time to understand."

"Okay, sure, I understand," Cody answered. "They will be so excited, but I can wait until you say it's okay."

"Your mother? She will not be angry?"

"Angry? She will................," Cody broke off. This part wasn't his to decide. "She will be happy to know you didn't just walk away from her all those years ago."

"I did not. I would never have left her."

"When you're ready, she will want to hear that." Cody smiled, thinking, 'Oh yeah, will she want to hear that'.

The sound of helicopters and ATVs filled the air. The next hours were spent telling the story, such as they could, to Walt and Agent Fletcher.

The body was bagged and taken away. The autopsy would find that Mackenzie Jeffers had enough poison from rabid vampire bat bites and rattlesnake bites to kill an entire small town. How he had lived as long as he did would forever be a mystery...............to the FBI. Whenever Cody or Jase or Davy thought about it, it seemed like a dream, but then the wind would blow or they'd hear the howl of Ole Three Paws and his pack and they'd remember. Remember how much they were loved and how the desert takes care of its own.

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