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The Monkey Wrench Gang 42


  “Which one did he shoot down?” Sam asked.

  “That big one from Public Safety. What they call a civilian Huey, I think. Only he didn’t really shoot it down. Just nicked the tail rotor and put a hole through a window. Nobody got hurt but they had to set it down for a while.”

  “Where exactly is he anyway?”

  “Out there on that point.” The journalist raised his field glasses to his eyes; Sam did the same. “He’s bunkered down in a joint in the rock, between those two bushes out there. About five or six hundred yards, I’d guess.”

  Sam focused his glasses. He could see the two shrubs, both of them almost leafless, and half branchless too, stripped apparently by rifle fire, but he saw no sign of the fugitive. “How do you know he’s still there?”

  “He fired two shots an hour ago, when they tried to drop grenades on him. Damn near got the pilot of the other helicopter.”

  They watched; from either side, a little below and in front, occasional rifle shots snapped out, cracking like whips.

  “What are those men shooting at?”

  “The bushes, I guess. Maybe they figure a lucky ricochet will get him. It’s a way of killing time.”

  Without hurting anybody, Sam thought. “How long’s he been there now?”

  The reporter looked at his watch. “Six and a half goddamned fucking hours.”

  “He’s probably out of shells. Might be a good idea to rush him before it gets dark.”

  The reporter smiled. “You want to lead the charge?”

  “No.”

  “Nobody else does either. They have a respectable sharpshooter out there in that crack. He might be saving up for some last shots. They’ll just wait him out.”

  “They better watch close,” Sam said. “That Rudolf has a funny way of disappearing over canyon rims. Are they certain he’s not already down inside the Maze?”

  “They put two men down on that butte out there, on the other side of the canyon. It’s a five-hundred-foot drop-off where Rudolf is, nearly straight down. Sheer sandstone, no way to climb down it. Even if he tries they’ll see him. And if he falls he’d bounce into the biggest flood they’ve had go down Horse Canyon in forty years, according to the sheriff. I’d say your Rudolf is screwed.”

  “He’s not mine, thanks. But he’s got a long rope.”

  “Not anymore. They found his rope too.”

  The rifle fire continued, all one-sided.

  “I’ll bet he’s out of ammunition,” Sam said. “Maybe he’ll surrender.”

  “Maybe. If he was a regular criminal that’s what you’d expect. He must be plenty thirst by now. But the Public Safety boys say they have a real weirdo on their hands today.”

  “That I can believe.”

  Sam lowered his glasses. As he played with them, wondering what he was doing here, he heard a shout from nearby. A fusillade of gunfire burst out from the entire length of the firing line: a dozen or more automatic rifles in rapid fire. Streams of bullets converged on one target.

  “My God,” Sam muttered. He raised the glasses again, searching for the object of this concentrated interest. He looked and quickly found the target out on the point, within a few feet of the extreme edge of the cliff, a stiff awkward semihuman figure rising to the waist out of what appeared to be, from Love’s angle of vision, a solid mass of stone. He saw the yellow billed cap, a bristly shaggy sort of head, the shoulders, chest and torso of something clothed in faded blue denim, exactly as he remembered Rudolf’s garb from their hasty encounters before. The man’s arms seemed to be holding, or to be wrapped around, a rifle. At so great a range, however, even though he was looking through field glasses, Sam could not be certain, could not be absolutely certain of identification—yet it surely must be the same person. Had to be. But with one obvious and significant difference: this man was being torn apart before his eyes.

  Sam Love had led a sheltered life, minding mostly his own business; he had never personally witnessed the physical destruction of a human being. Horrified, sickened and fascinated, he watched Rudolf’s figure seeming to crawl or slide sideways, half in and half out (for the love of God, why?) of the crevice, saw him swept with a storm of bullets, the body ripped and fragmented, chips, rags, splinters, slivers flying off, the arms flopping as if broken, the rifle dropped, the head itself shattered into bits and pieces—the collapsing wreckage of what could have been, seconds earlier, a living, laughing, loving, red-blooded American boy.

  Sam stared. The riddled body hung on the rimrock for a final moment before the impact of the hail of steel, like hammer blows, literally pushed it over the edge. The remains of Rudolf the Red fell like a sack of garbage into the foaming gulf of the canyon, vanishing forever from men’s eyes. And women’s too. (For indeed, the body was never found.)

  Sam felt ill. For a few minutes, as the reporter and all the others ran forward, shouting, he thought (as his daughter would say) he was going to toss his cookies. But he did not; the visceral revulsion passed, though the memory of this horror would taint his dreams for months and years to come. He drank water from his canteen, ate some soda crackers from his lunch bucket, and after another minute felt well enough to join the police, the sheriffs of three counties and their deputies, the assistant superintendent of a national park, two rangers, three journalists and the residue (four members) of the San Juan County Search and Rescue Team, out on the far end of the point of rock.

  They found no trace of flesh or bone. But there was a generous trail of blood across the stone, leading to the rim. They found Rudolf’s rifle, the splintered remnants of a once-beautiful scopemounted Remington .30-.06—with one cartridge, unfired, still in the chamber. Some wondered at that, while others inspected the bullet-shredded vestiges of the cliff-rose and the juniper, which had given the outlaw, through the long afternoon, what little concealment they could when he lifted his head to fire.

  Others examined the bullet-pocked sandstone, the smudged patches of fire and powder where the grenades had exploded some distance away, and idly kicked a few stones into the crevasse which divided the main body of the point from its ultimate tip. The stones clattered down into the shadows, disappearing, and clunked and thumped onto the accumulated debris of centuries at the bottom.

  The captain of the state police company radioed his men on the opposite rim and confirmed that Rudolf had clearly and beyond dispute fallen into the canyon. Two men had observed the whole length of the body’s descent, had seen it carom from a crag and vanish beneath the roiling waters of the flood. Furthermore they had observed the dismembered limbs of the body, still clad in denim, rise to the surface downstream and bob away out of sight around the first bend. The pilot of one helicopter attempted but failed to follow the course of the remains down over the falls to the river.

  The captain gathered up the broken rifle and the spent shells. All the men walked slowly and thoughtfully, not talking much, back to the camp at Lizard Rock.

  All but Sam Love. Last to arrive at the death scene, he was the last to leave. He lingered and lingered, not knowing why, staring down into the roaring canyon. Bemused by the sound and a little frightened—for he felt the eerie pull of the depths—he backed a few steps, raised his eyes and looked out over the walls and canyons and tablets of the Maze, that grotesque labyrinth of stone gilded by the glow of the setting sun. Longing for distance and a sense of detachment, he gazed northward at the remote Book Cliffs, fifty miles away by line of sight, and east to the snow-dappled thirteen-thousand-foot peaks beyond Moab. Finally Sam turned and looked back the long way that he (and Rudolf) had come, past Candlestick Spire, past Lizard Rock, toward the unexplored Fins, the little-known depths of the Standing Rock country, all of it darkened now by the vast blue shadow of Land’s End.

  Sun going down. Time to get out of here. Sam knelt to peer one last time into the deep dim slot of the crack in the rock. He tried to see to the bottom. Too dark, too dark.

  “Rudolf,” he said, “are you down in there?” He waited. No re
ply. “You can’t fool everybody, son. Not all the time.” Pause. “You hear me?” No answer but the silence.

  Sam waited a moment longer, then stood and hastened after his friends and neighbors. They had a wearisome long and roundabout drive ahead of them, all the way back to Blanding by way of Land’s End, Green River and Moab. (The shorter route, past Hite Marina over the Colorado, had been temporarily closed by the Highway Department for what were identified as “routine bridge repairs.”) But Sam was feeling better, his stomach was feeling better, he felt the return of a healthy man’s almost normal appetite. He and the lofty vulture, so high as to be nearly invisible, shared a common emotion:

  Time to eat.

  EPILOGUE

  The New Beginning

  The lawyering was long and tedious. Seldom Seen Smith, having been captured in Wayne County, was jailed first in the county seat of Loa, then transferred after two days to the San Juan County Jail in the town of Monticello. Ms. Bonnie Abbzug and Dr. A. K. Sarvis were there waiting for him, right next door, in fact, in adjoining cells. Their patient, Bishop Love, was off the critical list, though recovering slowly.

  Abbzug, Sarvis and Smith were arraigned in the County District Court on the following charges: assault with a deadly weapon, a felony; simple assault, a misdemeanor; obstructing justice, a misdemeanor; arson, a felony; aggravated arson, a felony; and conspiracy, a felony. Bail for each of the accused was set at $20,000, which Doc promptly arranged to have paid. After a few days of liberty the three were hailed into Federal District Court, Phoenix, Arizona, and charged with the following Federal offenses: conspiracy, arson and aggravated arson, unlawful transportation and use of explosives, and escape from official custody, all felonies, and interference with an arrest, a misdemeanor. Bail was $25,000; Doc paid the bonds.

  After months of the usual delay the Federal court waived priority and allowed Utah to try the defendants first. The case of the State of Utah versus Abbzug, Sarvis and Smith came to trial in the District Court of San Juan County, Monticello, Judge Melvin Frost presiding. The prosecutor was J. Bracken Dingledine (a distant cousin of Albuquerque’s own W. W.), newly elected county attorney and a friend, associate and business partner of Bishop Love. A recovered but oddly modified Love, by the way. His convictions were no longer so clear, and his heart, under intensive care, had softened.

  For the defense Doc retained two attorneys, the first a young graduate of Yale Law School with good family connections in both Arizona and Utah, and the second a native of San Juan County, the descendant of Mormon pioneers, an elderly, successful, highly esteemed and cool-mannered gentleman named Snow.

  The first ploy of the defense was plea bargaining. All three defendants were willing to plead guilty to the misdemeanors if the felony charges were dropped. The prosecutor refused to bargain; he was determined to nail the defendants on all counts. Dingledine, like the former Bishop Love, had political ambitions. Doc’s attorneys, therefore, worked carefully with the jury panel and succeeded in getting two closet Sierra Clubbers and one obvious crank (a retired Paiute and active wino from the village of Bluff) seated in the jury box. The trial began.

  It quickly became evident that the prosecution did not have an airtight case. There was no hard evidence, such as fingerprints or eyewitnesses, to connect any of the defendants, beyond all reasonable doubt, with the crimes. The incriminating materials in Smith’s truck and Hayduke’s jeep were not in evidence, since neither of those vehicles could be found. Smith said his truck had been stolen. Although Bishop Love (summoned and under oath) and five of his Teammates testified that they had seen and pursued somebody driving Smith’s truck on two separate occasions, none could positively assert that they had seen Smith himself or the other defendants in the truck at the time. The most powerful case against the defendants proved to be the fact that they had fled the scene of a crime at least twice, evading and apparently resisting arrest. All denied any knowledge of the rock-rolling incident north of Hite Marina and of the shooting that took place during the night along the jeep trail to the Maze, where, according to Doc, he and his friends had been enjoying a moonlight cross-country hike from Land’s End to Lizard Rock. The defense attorneys furthermore pointed out that none of the defendants had a criminal record and that two had voluntarily come to the aid of the stricken Bishop Love at his time of direst need.

  After three days all testimony was heard and arguments concluded. The jury retired to consider its verdict. They failed to agree. Two more days of sequestered wrangling could not produce a verdict, although the secret Sierra Club members later revealed that they both had voted for conviction on all charges. The jury was hung. A retrial was scheduled, to take place four months later.

  Again Doc’s attorneys attempted plea bargaining. This time they were successful. After weeks of private negotiations the following solution was reached: Doc took up serious study of The Book of Mormon and let it be known, through his lawyers, that he was preparing for conversion to membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; he and Ms. Abbzug were married by Bishop Love himself (a new man!) in a simple outdoor ceremony at Valley of the Gods, near Mexican Hat, Seldom Seen Smith acting as best man, Sam Love as a witness, and Smith’s teenage daughter as bridesmaid; all three defendants pleaded guilty to the misdemeanors and to one felony each, the conspiracy to destroy public property.

  They awaited sentencing, which had also been prearranged through Judge Frost. Here Abbzug and Smith created fresh difficulties by refusing, at the last hour, to completely recant their crimes, both of them grumbling that, in Smith’s words, “Somebody has to do it.” The probation officer assigned to the case to make a presentencing report to the judge was severely troubled. He consulted with Doc, the judge, and Doc’s attorneys. Doc assumed full responsibility for the acts and attitudes of his co-defendants, insisting that he was the arch-conspirator, that he and he alone had influenced, indoctrinated and knowingly misled his younger colleagues; he guaranteed that he would retread their brains, socialize their hearts and bring them back to Christ. He also promised they would not do it again. And he willingly agreed, at the judge’s suggestion, to practice the art of medicine for at least the next ten years in a southeast Utah community of less than five thousand population. Settled. The judge pronounced his sentence.

  Abbzug, Sarvis and Smith were sentenced each to concurrent terms of not less than one year and not more than five years, to be served in the Utah State Prison (where death by firing squad is still a feasible option). He then suspended the prison sentences, considering the defendants’ records and other circumstances, but ordered all three to be confined for six months to the San Juan County Jail and thereafter to serve four and a half years each on probation, contingent upon good behavior and strict fulfillment of agreed-upon stipulations. In addition, Smith separately was fined the maximum (for a misdemeanor) of $299 for rolling rocks and ordered to make restitution to Bishop Love for the full value of the bishop’s Chevrolet Blazer, which had been flattened, all agreed, flatter than a chinch bug. But the new Love forgave the debt.

  The Federal District Court in Phoenix, taking note of the action of the Utah Seventh Judicial District Court and of Judge Frost’s recommendations, tentatively dropped the charges against Abbzug, Sarvis and Smith for crimes allegedly committed in the State of Arizona, taking into account that the prime suspect involved in those matters, a Caucasian male identified only as one “Rudolf the Red” or “Herman Smith,” was known to be dead.

  County Attorney Dingledine, although privately if reluctantly acceding to this resolution of the affair, exhibited in public the symptoms of scornful indignation, as was only natural. Encouraged by many statements of outrage at the leniency of the courts, the coddling of criminals and the permissive attitude of society at large, Mr. Dingledine won a seat in the Utah State Senate on a program of rigorous law enforcement, expansion of the state prison system, Federal subsidies for the mining industry, completion of the Utah wilderness freeway system, tax relief
for large families and fiscal responsibility in government. He was elected by an overwhelming plurality over his sole opponent, a retired Paiute whose entire political platform consisted of one plank: free peyote.

  There were a few further ramifications. Both Love brothers quit the Search and Rescue Team. Poor Seldom Seen, already a convicted felon, was sued for divorce by his first wife and immediately after by his second; only Susan, the Green River girl, remained loyal. Upon receiving the news in the San Juan County Jail, Smith attempted to make light of this added batch of legal difficulties by saying, “Well, I hope both them gals get married again soon, because then I’ll know there’s gonna be at least two men sorry I got throwed in the slammer.” A pause. “But what the hell should I do about them ambiguity charges? Doc?”

  “Be of good cheer,” said Doc. “Christ is the answer.”

  Dr. Sarvis sold his house in Albuquerque. He and Mrs. Sarvis selected the town of Green River (pop. 1200 counting dogs) as their new and legal residence. Doc bought a sixty-five-foot houseboat and moored it at the boat ramp on the shore of Smith’s hay and melon ranch. He and Bonnie moved in within a week after completing their jail sentences. Bonnie cultivated a floating garden of marijuana, easily launched downriver, in case the need should arise, by casting off a single light line. Doc attended (for about a year) the Wednesday night meetings of the ward Mutual Improvement Society and went to church (for about a year and a half) each Sunday; he even tried wearing the official, sanctified, regulation Mormon undershirt, although his actual ambition was to grow up to be a jack Mormon, like Seldom. His wife refused to convert, preferring to retain her status as the only Jewish gentile in Green River. Doc rented an office in town, ten miles away, where he and Bonnie practiced medicine. He did the medicine; she practiced. Though the clientele was small and sometimes paid their bills in watermelons, Doc’s services were much appreciated. His nearest medical competitor lived fifty miles away in Moab. He augmented his income, when necessary, by occasional knife jobs in Salt Lake, Denver and Albuquerque. They both liked life on the river and work in a small town, and enjoyed the company of their only neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Seldom Smith. Doc even learned how to run a hay baler, though he refused to go near the tractor or drive a car. He and Bonnie always bicycled to the office anyway.