Monday started bad. Tuesday ended worse. He barely remembered Wednesday. Hump day involved stitches, bandages, and a dozen pleading phone calls to his soon-to-be-ex-wife. Thursday bled into Friday. Now, plucking porcupine quills out of his forearm, he wondered if this special torture anticipated the events of the coming weekend.
Every tiny fishhook barb pulled taut against his flesh, stretched up in a pyramid of skin before breaking loose. Each felt light as a wasp sting. After the twelfth he almost welcomed the burst of sensation. The prick overrode the growling of his empty stomach and the persistent ache for fluid in the back of his throat. Breathing filled his mouth with red pulverized dust.
A groan punctuated his task. He looked over, flicked a blood-tinged quill on the prone man’s cheek, and allowed himself a small victory smile.
David Chase would not run again.
Helicopter blades whumped a rhythm overhead and Alonzo aimed the last quill toward the dry streambed. The previous twenty-four hours had taken a physical toll but vital fluid no longer seeped around the perimeter of the ragged field dressing.
Goddamn he felt tired. He craved sleep.
His prisoner gasped loose a rattling moan.
Alonzo shifted in the rust colored dirt and eyed the fugitive. Spasms rocked the man’s body, the marks of sweat rivulets ran down his exposed skin. No moisture remained to excrete. Coma would come soon enough. He wanted the bastard dead, so Alonzo waited.
Natural causes proved a bad way to die.
Deep in the backcountry, God directed the wanted man across his path.
The helicopter roared above them again. Closing his eyes against the swirl of dust, he estimated the machine obliterated signs of passage. Bless the Feds and their toys.
Years of living in Albuquerque failed to erase Alonzo’s ingrained knowledge of the terrain. He sniffed the air. The complete lack of humidity in the canyon lands, the late summer heat, and the sweep of dry winds desiccated a man swiftly. Even animals avoided the dried remnant of husk.
A pair of emergency flares, shoved inside his shirt sleeve, would signal the whirlybird. A necessity, since he lacked the stamina to hike out. First he’d make sure the court system earned no second chance to screw things up.
His thoughts returned to Rachel. Brain too sluggish to reject the images, Monday’s ugly scene played back like a jerky 8mm handheld film. She’d waited in the condo doorway. The credit card statement fisted in her hand, the charges for the Cozy-8 Motel and the Chinatown Inn circled in thick black bands of ink. She’d screamed insults in English, Spanish and Croatian.
He deserved them.
Dressed in a form-fitting white sleeveless mini dress, she looked better than women half her age. He admired her tight ass when she sashayed down the stairs and exited his life. Amused neighbors watched, viewing the spectacle like an episode of local reality television.
Frozen in the doorway, fumbling to respond, he swallowed his denials. They were lies anyway.
He drank much and slept little.
Then bedlam exploded.
Through a clerical error of monumental proportions, the department released a notorious violent spree-killer from custody. The thrilled media pounced. News talkers gleefully reported how the cops let a killer go free. The ass-kicking started among the top brass and traveled downstairs until nobody’s butt escaped the departmental gangbang.
A thrashing gurgle caught his attention.
Alonzo shifted his gaze to watch the man convulse. He fingered the slash mark along his ribcage. He’d cornered David Chase outside a convenience store but the man escaped into the desert in a stolen car.
Guilt bit sharp.
Those teenage girls would never be the same. The three numbered among the reasons he held vigil. David Chase died for them and his other victims. Memory played the images in startling detail.
Alonzo’s shouted warning came too late.
The trio turned in synchronized motion like dancers in a choreographed show. Chase slashed each in his sprint to the driver’s seat of the minivan. Pink Dress collapsed. Tiny rows of scarlet flowers blossomed obscenely from her chest wounds. Blue Jeans blocked the knife with her arm, deflected the blow and lost two fingers for the effort. Yellow Shirt took a slice across her exposed midriff. An aborted C-section type scar marred her perfect smooth flesh.
Chase gunned the engine. Alonzo caught the door, wrapped an arm around the side mirror and clung. Pain danced down his side. The vehicle lurched toward the road. The blade leaped again and thrust hard in Alonzo’s shoulder. He fell amid the huddle of stunned targets. Weeping and terrified, the girls gathered around and staunched one another’s wounds until the EMT’s arrived. Blood puddled on the asphalt in a shining oil slick under the afternoon sun.
An APB located the van in the parking lot of the Ak-Chin Casino complex on the outskirts of the Sinagua reservation. Everyone groaned. Multijurisdictional squabbling allowed the quarry to slip through the law enforcement net.
Things complicated fast. The pursuit became a Federal game. Major crimes division brought the FBI.
The public didn’t know details but Detective Alonzo Rodriguez knew about Chase’s desperate need for insulin.
The thrashing stopped. The shallow movement of the man’s chest, rising and falling in the evening light stilled. No dramatic denouement occurred. David Chase died quietly. Painfully.
Alonzo discarded the corpse under the salt cedars. He climbed to his feet, swayed in the deepening gloom and stretched stiff limbs. Cocking his head, he listened to the chopper shift direction for the return sweep. He walked carefully between the rocks, following a barely discernible game trail. A half mile, he estimated, to the mesa top where the bird might land.
He stumbled, swore and recovered his balance. For a moment he thought about his wife and missed her, but mostly he felt thirsty.
Flash Fiction Challenge: That Poor, Poor Protagonist @ www.terribleminds.com