By the time Friday night came, plans had been laid and wheels were turning, and they all zeroed in on Mike like it was one of the unwritten laws of the universe that every now and then, his world had to be turned upside down.
Over at Fort Hall Jay carefully placed a change of clothes into a rucksack. He was curious about the events of the following day, and keen to try some new junk. But the prospect of staying in the mountains overnight, not so very far from where the bodies of guys about his own age had started turning up thicker than ticks on a coyote, gave him an eerie feeling. 'Dad!' he shouted.
'Don't yell!' yelled Nathan from the porch.
'Can I pack your piece?' he shouted louder.
Nathan's slow footfall grew louder until his large frame filled the doorway to Jay's bedroom.
'Worried about the murders?'
'You can take my hunting rifle. But don't be worrying. The bodies are dumped in the desert. They're killed somewheres else.'
Nathan returned to the porch and watched the sun settling down. He chewed on a toothpick and tried to dislodge a fibre of beef stuck between his molars. At least, that's how it started. The meat particle had long since gone, but his mind was in the mountains, so he kept picking. Those murders. Just as he'd thought, the FBI had taken over the investigation. Special Agent Richard Marshetta headed the team. Nathan knew a little about him from an article the agent had written in the August issue of the Law Enforcement Bulletin. Wrote like a hotshot with a dozen law degrees flying out of his ass; acted like a regular guy. Nathan liked him. He never did have to tell him to piss up a rope.
Those murders. They worried Nathan real bad. There was one fact he knew, that nobody else seemed to. There was Stevie. There was Vinnie - they identified him from dental records. And then there was the skeleton of a few months back. The court gave an order of exhumation and once again, dental records proved to be a winner. Those bones, when they stood, had carried the flesh of twenty-two year old Juan Mendoza. Drifter. Lived local for a while. Disappeared. No fuss, no panic, no Federal case. At least not until now. Stevie, Vinnie and Juan shared various aspects of height, build and lifestyle, they were all the same age within four years. And. And. Nathan hated to think about the 'And'. He was burdened by it, as if he was the only one who possessed the knowledge. And. And at one stage or another, they had all lived with the Wilburs.
Jay turned in early. He wanted to write up an assignment before heading off to the mountain to meet Johnny and the others.
Johnny and Mike drank some beer and watched a little TV, but they too were mindful of events to come. Mike felt a sense of expectation as he got undressed. He heard Johnny's zip snick and the jeans sliding down. He dare not look over his shoulder, so his imagination worked a double shift. He felt the tingle of arousal as he let his own pants hit the floor. Stepping out of them, and frightened his feelings would give out a signal in the form of the obvious activity in his boxers, he held himself down and quickly slipped under the blankets. Looking over he caught the length of Johnny's thigh in the moonlight an instant before it was covered by duvet.
Johnny settled, and when his breathing became regular and heavy, Mike stretched out his arm in the darkness where the moon couldn't see. He silently sought, and found, Johnny's boxers - still warm. Mike suddenly wished he were sleeping on the moon, or at least a thousand miles from Johnny. He grabbed his jeans and wriggled into them not bothering to put any strain on the stitching by doing up the zip. Johnny turned to face him and Mike hoped he was going to lift a corner of that duvet and say hop in.
'You okay, Mike?'
'Sure. Just need to use the can.'