The Pot Thief Who Studied Billy the Kid

BOOK: The Pot Thief Who Studied Billy the Kid
3.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

 

 

 

The Pot Thief

Who Studied
Billy the Kid

 

 

J. Michael Orenduff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aakenbaaken & Kent
             
             
             
             
New York

 

 

The Pot Thief Who Studied Billy the Kid

 

Copyright 2013 by J. Michael Orenduff, all rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations for use in articles and reviews.

 

Aakenbaaken & Kent
             
             
             
             
             
New York

 

[email protected]

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance of the fictional characters to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

 

ISBN: 
978-1-938436-06-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

 

 

To my
sister Pat who explored the Lincoln County C
ourthouse and other haunts of Billy the Kid
with me
when we were kids
.
And to Richard
, my brother-in-law and friend
.

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

 

Many of you know that the working title of this sixth book in the series was
The Pot Thief Who Studied Lew Wallace
. I changed it to
The Pot Thief Who Studied Billy the Kid
for reasons that
should be evident
in the story.

As always, I want to thank
my life-long gencon partner Lai without whom none of my work would ever be completed.

I am also grateful to
my daughter Claire and to
Linda Aycock
and
Ofélia
Nikolova
for
t
he
i
r editing support
.

Special thanks to
Mike Norman, author of the
Sam Kincaid
and J. D. Books mysteries, two excellent
series
. By some quirk of fate, Mike was a professor in the criminal justice program at Weber State University in Utah, and I was his dean.
Mike’s J.
D. Books is a Park Ranger, and M
ike is fond of saying that his
protagonist
would like to put mine in jail.

Mike has allowed me to piggyback on his research. Which makes sense because he was
an excellen
t teacher and scholar, and his
decision to become a writer was a loss to the academic world.

I
was not an excellent researcher. I
like to think that my move from academia to mystery writing improved both areaslowd both .

Finally, I want to thank the legions of Hubie fans. The royalty checks are nice, but your letters and emails are the best reward for my writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“I would rather write another book than be rich.”
-
Lew Wallace

“Amen.” – J. Michael Orenduff

 

 

 

I was on a ledge
three
hundred feet above
the Rio
Doloroso
violating two federal laws, one on pur
pose and the other by accident.

I felt
l
ike
I
ndiana Jones
. Ex
cept I
was afraid to approach the
precipice.
But m
y
acrophobi
a didn’t stop me from digging.
I’d been told there were ancient pots here, and I knew they would be
back
in the ruins,
not out on the
rim
.

I’m not a professional archaeologist and I didn’t have a permit to excavate, so
the first law I was breaking
was the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).

So what?

Because of the American Bar Association
,
it would be impossible today for Abe Lincoln to be a lawyer
.

Because of the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, it would be impossible today for
Thomas Edison
to b
e
an electr
ical
engineer
.

And thanks to the Archaeological Institute of America,
it’s also impossible for me
to
hunt for artifacts
legally
.
Which
was why I was digging under
cover of darkness.

E
very association of ‘professionals’
wants to
exclude amateurs.
So
Congress
caved in
to the wishes of professional archaeologists
back in the eighties
and passed A
RP
A
.

My name is Hubert Schuze
, and
I’m a treasure hunter.
Congress
redefined me as a pot thief, but
it
also passed
a health
care program with a price tag of
/fo/span>940 b
illion dollars
and
called
it the
‘Affordable H
ealth Care Act’
. T
hey aren’t exactly experts when it comes to truth in labeling.

Here’s a message for my representatives in Washington

Health care is not affordable and
most
archaeological resources do not need p
rotecting.

If they
’re
re
sources,
we should exploit them.
That’
s what I do, and I’
m positive that’
s what the peop
le who created them would want.

I’m a
p
otter myself
. A
fter I’m long dead,
I don’t want the p
o
ts I
ma
d
e mouldering in the gr
ound like Joh
n
Br
o
wn
’s
body
.
I want some enterprising lad like myself to dig them up, appreciate them, and make a few bucks in the
p
rocess.
Maybe he can earn enough to see a doctor.

I
do
feel bad about the second law I wae="ond laws
breaking
,
the
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
(NAGPRA). Who other than a ghoul would violate that
one
?

But it wasn’t my fault.
I was digging in a ruin of residences.
Prehistoric
tribes didn’t bury their dead
in their living quarters
. So you can imagine my surprise when I stuck my hand in
to
the hole I’
d dug and grasped another hand.

I’d been hoping for an
artifact
, not a handshake.

It gets worse.

One of the tools I use is a piece of rebar. Knowing this would make professional
archaeologist
s
bite the bristles off their
little bitty
brushes
. But t
he success rate is low in treasure hu
n
ting
. I can’t
afford to
waste time digging in dry holes. So I use the rebar to probe through soft soil
and
discover
whether there is anyth
ing solid below the surface.

When I feel
the slightest
resistance, I set the rebar aside and dig with my hands. I
d
on’t want to damage any potential merchandise. Usually what I find is a rock
or a root.

The rebar
had
bumped a pot shard in the first
area
I dug. It wasn’t big enough to be marketable
.
But i
t
had a
n unusual
design I’d never seen
and
a long graceful curve
I wanted to see if I could duplicate. I pocketed it
.

As I was about to start
a second
hole
, some sand pelted me from the
overhang
above
.
I yell
ed
up to Geronimo to stay away from the edge, but he never listens to me. And it could just as easily have been a crow or a chipmunk.

Too bad I didn’t move after the sand hit me. For it
was in the second
location
that
my rebar’s advance through the
s
oil
was impeded by the aforementioned
hand.
I had accidentally desecrated
h
u
man remains.

I felt woozy.
The
chorizo
I’d wolfed down for energy gurgled up my esophagus
.
I swallowed hard to keep it down.

Then I
heard an even louder gurgling.

It wasn’t my tummy rumbling. It was t
he familiar rurrer-rurrer-rurrer of the starter motor on my Bronco. Most people don’t know what a starter motor sounds like. They turn the key and hear
only the reassuring roar of the engine coming to life
.
They have shiny new cars.

But a thirty-two-year-old
Ford
Bronco
doesn’t jump to life. Li
k
e its forty-something-year-old owner, it take
s
more time getting started than it used to.

I had left
Geronimo
with
the Bronco. And while he sometimes displays a certain canine cunning, I didn’t think he was capable of starting the thing. But couldn’t he at least
have
bark
ed
at the car thief?

It wasn’t that I minded
much about
losing the vehicle. But the rope that had lowered me down to the ruin – and by
means of
which I planned to ascend back to the surface – was attached to the
winch.

I was stranded in a prehistoric
cliff dwelling
three
hundred feet above the
river
below and thir
ty feet below the ground above.

Thirty feet is not that far. If it isn’t too steep, you could just walk up it. But then your enemies could come down it just as easily, which would defeat the purpose of
a cliff dwelling
.

Even if it were a perfectly vertical cliff, you could perhaps work y
our way up
using little rock fissures as hand and toe holds. But when the cliff is
past
vertical, when it slants away from the direction you want to
go, the only way up is by rope.

Like the one I had just watched disappear.

Of course there was another way out. There would be a path
cut into the
cliff that
would
take me
to a point where the terrain allowed a narrow switchback
climb
up to the surface.
A
ncient cliff dwellers sought places with an overhang for protection and a narrow entrance path that could be easily guarded. One man can hold off an entire
raiding party
if they have to approach single file. He just
stands
behind a
big
rock next to the nar
ro
west
p
art of the path and pushes them over the edge as they creep along.

BOOK: The Pot Thief Who Studied Billy the Kid
3.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Ophelia by D.S.
All In: (The Naturals #3) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Deception Creek by Persun, Terry
Stuart by Alexander Masters
Kidnapped and Claimed by Lizzie Lynn Lee
Going Rogue by Robin Benway