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The Monkey Wrench Gang 41


  Smith sighs and turns away, closing his eyes. “All right, but just lemme get a little more sleep. I am really tired, boys. Just a little more …”he mumbles, fading off.

  “Get up.”

  “Go to hell,” he whispers dreamily.

  “Get up!”

  “Zzzzzzzz….” Smith slumps sideways, relaxing into the warm and friendly corner of the rock.

  The rangers look at the sleeping Smith, then at each other.

  “Why don’t I just Mace the bastard?” the second ranger says. “That’ll wake him up.”

  “No, wait a minute.” Ranger Abbott pulls a set of the new disposable plastic handcuffs from his belt. “We’ll handcuff him first. We won’t need the Mace.” Quickly, deftly—for this was one thing he’d been well trained in at the Park Service’s Horace P. Albright Ranger Training Academy at South Rim, Grand Canyon—he loops the bands around Smith’s wrists and draws them tight. Smith stirs feebly, growling in his sleep, but does not resist. Does not even wake up. Does not even care anymore.

  Ranger Abbott and his assistant hoist their prisoner to his feet and haul him, his relaxed legs dragging in the duff, back through the woods to the road and their patrol truck. Where to put him now? They prop him up between them in the middle of the pickup’s single seat. Smiling in his dreams, snoring softly, Smith sags against the man on his right.

  “Heavy bastard,” the assistant ranger says.

  “Don’t worry.”

  “What’d we do with that chicken?”

  “Left it back in the woods.”

  “Don’t we need it? For evidence?”

  Ranger Abbott grins at his companion. “Forget the chicken. We have the real chicken right here. Can’t you figure out who this man is?”

  The other, shifting uncomfortably under Smith’s dead weight, says after a moment, “Well, I was wondering about it. I was thinking he could be. That’s why I thought we should just go ahead and Mace the bastard first. You mean we got Rudolf the Red?”

  “We got Rudolf the Red.”

  Ranger Abbott starts the engine, picks up the mike and radios news of the capture to his chief.

  “Congratulations, Abbott,” the chief ranger replies, through heavy static, “but you didn’t get Rudolf the Red. They shot Rudolf the Red an hour ago. You got somebody else. Bring him in anyhow. And don’t forget your time-and-activity report.”

  “Yessir.”

  “Shee-it,” says the assistant.

  They are about to turn around and drive off when a tourist car pulls alongside. The couple inside look anxious. “Oh, ranger,” the wife calls.

  “Yes ma’am?” says Abbott.

  “Would you tell us, please”—the woman smiles in faint embarrassment—“where the nearest comfort stations are?”

  “Yes ma’am. The comfort stations are beside the parking lot at Maze Overlook and also at Land’s End Viewpoint. You can’t miss them.”

  “Thank you very much.”

  “You’re welcome.”

  The visitors drive away, carefully (wet surface conditions). Ranger Abbott guns his engine and performs a screaming U-turn, rear end sashaying all over the road. Gobbets of mud splatter the roadside pinyon pines.

  “I like this work,” he says, roaring off to district headquarters.

  “Yeah, me too,” the assistant ranger says.

  “You get so many opportunities to be helpful to people.”

  Ten thousand square miles of wilderness, dreams Seldom in his dream, and not a pot to piss in. Comfort stations! George Hayduke ol’ buddy, we sure need you now. Rudolf the Red is dead.

  30

  Edge of the Maze: The Chase

  Concluded

  Well, it all depends on your point of view, thought Hayduke as he paced through the rain toward the last-observed location of Lizard Rock. If you look at it from the buzzard’s point of view the rain is a drag. No visibility, no lunch. But from my point of view, from the guerrilla’s point of view—

  He had only a mile and a half to go, rounding the heads of a branchwork of ravines in the slickrock, dark little canyons deeper than wide, all of them starting to run with water now, red-brown silt-laden stuff, a foamy spongy bubbling liquid too thick to drink, too thin to walk on.

  He halted behind a wet bedraggled bush (cliff-rose) to let a pair of jeeps go by, their amber headlights burning through the downpour. Regained his breath and strength, getting the second wind, and jogged on, across the muddy jeep trail and far around the helicopter encampment, approaching the side of the secret supply cache. When the tent and vehicles and helicopter became visible through the rain, he got down on knees and elbows and crawled another fifty yards and stopped.

  Squinting through the rain from behind a pile of rubble fallen from the crags of Lizard Rock, he scans the scene. Two armed men in ponchos stand beside a fire, guarding a coffeepot. Another sticks his head out of the nearer olive-drab military wall tent. The big gray helicopter—Department of Public Safety, State of Utah—rests on its skids, useless in the rain. Department of Public Safety, that’s the new and sweeter name for State Police, which has too much of a—well, regimental sound.

  “Coffee ready?”

  “She’s almost.”

  “Well, bring it in when it’s ready.”

  The head retires within the tent. Hayduke looks to the right; two men with shotguns sit smoking in one of the DPS four-wheel-drive vans. The other vehicles are empty. He looks along the talus of Lizard Rock toward a certain jumble of debris—near that snaggle-toothed juniper, right?—where they cached the supplies. Food and water. First-aid kit. Clean socks. And ammo, two full boxes; he’d packed that himself, taking no chances.

  What to do what to do; the same old question. That cache so near and precious remained beyond his reach, hidden only a hundred yards from the tents and campfire. What to do? We need a diversion here. The rain drummed down on his patient head, pouring like a cascade off the bill of his cap. He could wait, of course, wait for them to do something, go away, leave him in peace. But obviously they wouldn’t move with that helicopter until the rain slowed down. Or leave it behind unguarded. Lose too many helicopters that way. He could crawl back, move off to another side, snap off a couple of shots, attract attention, circle around back here and move in on whoever stays behind.

  He backs off, crawling on his belly, over the wet sand until out of sight of the camp, then moves up the talus under the cliff and takes shelter under an overhanging alcove. Sits there in the dust and bones and old coyote turds and tries to think of what to do. Should have made Smith come along. How? Should have kept his backpack on his back, where it belongs. Should never have thrown that backpack away. But he had to. But shouldn’t have done it. But he had to do it. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do. But they never had a chance to go back. He can’t quite convince himself. Of this, that or much of anything. The hunger in his hollow arms and legs, the echoing cavern of his belly, makes all else seem unreal, speculative, relatively unimportant. Academic.

  Got to eat. He gnaws on his knuckle, tentatively. God, he thinks, a man really could get a little nourishment, some, just nibbling on his fingers. You can always get along with one hand, if you have to. Maybe. With help. Not out here, though. Not down in there. He stares toward the Maze and sees, through the silver screen of the rain, a bewildering jungle of rock: domes, elephant backs, potholes and basins, cut and carved and divided by canyons, side canyons, side canyons to the side canyons, all of them winding like worms, all sheer-walled and apparently bottomless. What a mess, he thinks. A man could get lost in there.

  Safe for the moment, though starving and without a plan, hungry Hayduke unslings his rifle, takes the coil of rope from his shoulder and lies down to rest for a few minutes, again. He dozes off at once into dreams. The dreams are quick, erratic and uncomfortable, waking him. God, I must be getting weak, he thinks. Can’t stay awake. He drifts back into slumber.

  He wakes up to the sound of racing motors. The rain has slac
kened off. Maybe that’s what woke him. Quiet followed by action. Groggy and uncertain, Hayduke picks up the rifle and stumbles to his feet. The police camp is hidden by the wall of Lizard Rock. He stumbles down the loose talus, nearly falling once, and reaches a vantage point.

  He can see them now, the men, the tents, the smoldering fire, the vehicles and the revolving rotors of the helicopter. They’re warming it up. Two men sit in the open side door of the machine, checking their weapons, smoking. They wear brown-green camouflage suits, like bow hunters or combat soldiers. One has binoculars dangling by a strap from his neck. Both wear crash helmets and also, judging from the stiff bulge of their suits, bulletproof vests.

  Hayduke studies them through the telescope sights of his rifle, the cross hairs aimed first on one man, then the other. On their faces: one needs a shave, looks a bit red-eyed and tired; the other wears a bushy mustache, has the moist nose, thin lips, heavy brows, sharp restless roving eyes of a hunter. At any moment he’ll be leveling those 5-by-50 eyes up this way, the sombitch. And when he does he gets it, right in the neck.

  Hayduke lowers the cross hairs a touch to read the name tag on the chest. They all wear name tags these days. And every man has a number. The name is Jim Crumbo and his hand, holding what looks like—Hayduke sharpens the focus—a Browning 3-inch magnum 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun (the bastard!), is steady as a vise. His number he probably wears on that ID bracelet on his wrist, and that leather-holstered badge in his zippered left breast pocket. He looks like a fucking officer.

  Oh it’s ‘Nam again all right all over again. Nothing missing here but the weed and Westmoreland, the whores and the Confederate flags. With me as the last VC in the jungle. Or am I the first? In the jungle of silence and stone. Take off, you swine; what’re you waiting for? Hayduke, impatient, roves round the camp with his telescopic eye, the anarchist voyeur, looking for something to shoot, something to eat.

  Less rain. Visibility up to five miles. The pilot appears in the cockpit. Crumbo and his mate swing inside the helicopter, close the doors, and the machine, bellowing, rises into the gray-green drizzle of the air. Hayduke crouches deep among his rocks, watching the copter’s pilot through the telescope. Pale face behind Plexiglas. Metallic, helmeted, mike at mouth, grimly goggled in Polaroid glareproofs. Looks semihuman in that rig. Not a friend.

  The helicopter merges with the mist, south toward the Fins, and disappears for the time being. Hayduke returns his full attention to the camp.

  Two men are driving off in a four-wheel-drive pickup, heading down the slimy trail toward Candlestick Spire and the Standing Rocks. All gone? He examines the scene with care. Two vehicles remain, and the wall tents, the smoky fire. No humans apparent. The others, perhaps, have gone off on a foot patrol.

  He waits, nevertheless, though the hunger lust is whistling in his ear. (Gawd! that peanut butter! that jerky! them beans!) Waits for half an hour, or so it seems to him. Nobody in sight. He can wait no more.

  Carrying the rifle, Hayduke moves down and across the talus slope, toward the hidden cache. He takes concealment where he can, behind balanced boulders and under junipers, but there is not much cover.

  He gets to within a few yards of his objective, a hundred yards from the camp, when—Jesus Christ!—a dog comes bounding out through the flaps of the near tent, barking like a maniac. It looks like an Airedale puppy, black and tan, half grown. Spotting Hayduke at once, the puppy runs toward him, then stops halfway, uncertain, barking and wagging its stub of a tail at the same time, doing its duty. Hayduke curses—goddamn dog!—as two men come out of the tent holding coffee cups, looking around. They see him. Caught in the open, Hayduke acts reflexively, snapping off a shot from the hip that shatters a window in the nearest truck. The men dive back into the vain shelter of the tent. Where their weapons are. And the radio.

  Hayduke retreats. The puppy pursues him for another hundred feet and stops, still barking, wagging its foolish tail.

  Hayduke runs toward the rim of the Maze, the first and only shelter he can see or think of. Never been there before. He doesn’t care. Goddamn pet dogs. Ought to feed them all to the coyotes, he thinks, pounding along. Avoiding the wide-open rimrock, he runs through a growth of junipers down a peninsula of stone that thrusts like a pointing finger into the heart of the Maze. The finger is long, two miles long, and the cover meager. Halfway to the end of the rock, he hears that sound again, the air-shattering rotors of a helicopter. Glances back, can’t see it yet; he keeps on running, though his ribs are cracking from the pain, his throat burning for more air, more space, more energy, more love, more anything but this.

  But this is it, he thinks in wonder, sprinting down the shining rock, while one stray sunbeam, falling through a break in the rolling clouds, follows him like God’s own spotlight (There he goes!) across the esplanade of stone, beyond the last of the trees, stage left, down below the galleries of the cliffs, into the open-air theater of the desert. Hayduke at last is sole star of the show, top banana, alone and exposed.

  He runs across open slickrock toward the nose, the point, the tip of the peninsula. Sheer canyons close in on either side a hundred feet away, four hundred, five hundred feet deep, with walls as clean and straight and sheer as the flanks of what Bonnie calls the Vampire State Building.

  Hopeless? Then there’s nothing to worry about, he remembers, gasping like a marathon runner down the final lap. This is it, I’ve done it now, they’ll shoot me down like a dog, there’s no way off of here, no way, I don’t even have my rope anymore—forget the rope!—and the situation is absolutely hopeless and there’s not a fucking thing to worry about and furthermore I got six shots left in the rifle and five and twenty for the .357.

  Thus Hayduke, his ruminations, as gunfire breaks out like a high-decibel heat rash in his rear, as the helicopter returns, as a dozen men on foot and a dozen more in radio-equipped patrol vehicles stop and turn and head this way, converging all of them on one exhausted, unfed, lone and lonesome, trapped and cornered psychopath.

  Late afternoon. The sun breaks brighter than the ragged mass of storm clouds, more natural golden searchlights play over the canyon country, as Hayduke, spotted by the helicopter, stumbles unprepared to the final point of rock and teeters on the edge, arms flailing for balance.

  He looks down over the brink and sees, five hundred vertical feet below, a semiliquid red frothy mass of mud hurling itself in a torrent down the canyon floor, a wall-to-wall flash flood hurtling around the bend, thundering over the jump-off, roaring toward the hidden Green River some five or twenty-five (he has no notion of the distance) miles away. Rolling boulders clash and clack beneath the surge, logs float past, uprooted trees pitching on the waves—he’d be not much worse off jumping into a river of lava.

  The helicopter approaches in a wide circle. Hayduke slips into a crack in the rimrock, a jagged, curving crevice barely wide enough to admit his body, so deep and warped he cannot see to the bottom. A cliff-rose on one side, an infant juniper on the other. There is nothing to support his feet; he wedges himself in the crack, back against one wall, knees against the other, chimney-style. Jammed between the mass of the peninsula and the split-off block, only his eyes and arms and rifle above the surface of the ground, he waits for the first assault.

  Is he afraid? Hell, no, he’s not afraid. Hayduke has gone beyond terror. Scared finally shitless, purged and purified, he is now at last too tired for fear, too exhausted to think of surrender. The foul stench rising from the seat of his jeans, the warm loose structurally imperfect mass drooling down his right pant leg, hardly seems a product of himself. He, Hayduke, has found a simpler realm, centered on the eyepiece of his scope, resolving itself simply to the coordinate precision of forefinger and trigger, eye and cross hairs, muzzle point, windage and lead time. His mind, now clean as his bowels and clarified by fast, is sharp and eager.

  The helicopter rattles in for the kill. Without thinking, as trained, Hayduke places his first shot through the pilot’s window, accid
entally missing the pilot’s face. The helicopter veers off suddenly, wildly, and the multiple shotgun blasts from the side-door gunner flail the sandstone a comfortable ten to twenty yards from Hayduke’s position. The bird’s tail toward him, he places his second shot into the gearbox of the rear rotor. The helicopter, more insulted than injured, limps back to camp for minor repairs and a coffee break for the crew.

  Hayduke waits. The men on the ground keep a cautious distance, six hundred yards away across the open slickrock peninsula, and wait for reinforcements and field command. Seeing that there is going to be a slight technical delay in the proceedings, Hayduke finds a more secure niche in the rimrock crevasse and pulls off his stinking pants. He believes he is willing to die today but he is not willing to die sitting in his own shit. After getting them off (the rifle at rest on the rock in front of his chin) his first thought is to drop the pants and the mess down the chute below him. But then he has a better idea. Nothing else to do at the moment anyway. He breaks a small branch from the cliff-rose, its lovely orangelike perfumed blossoms now going to seed. He scrapes the shit out of his pants. Why? Under the circumstances, why bother? Well, thinks George Hayduke, it’s a question of dignity.

  Leaving the pants off to dry out a bit, he waits for the next assault. Four rounds left in the rifle: two for the next helicopter charge, two for whatever’s next, and the loaded .357 for whatever’s last.

  It shouldn’t be long.

  Sam Love arrived late for the first of the action but not too late for the fun part. It would have made no difference in any case. He was no longer in charge of anything, including his own baffled curiosity. The time was twenty-four hours past when he’d launched his raving brother off in the helicopter, attended by Doc and Bonnie, to a bed in the Intensive Care Unit of the Moab hospital.

  Sam was merely an onlooker now, a bystander and a spectator, and glad of it. He and a newspaper reporter from Salt Lake City sat on a block of stone and watched the scene of the battle. Lit by the falling sun, the wide and rosy proscenium of the Maze faced them like a great stage, with red pinnacles, purple buttes and blue mountains serving as backdrop. In the foreground, downstage, a light but steady crackle of rifle fire proved that where there’s life there’s hope. Two helicopters and a spotter plane buzzed about uselessly off toward the wings, wasting gas.