Private Conversations

privateconversations.jpgPrivate Conversations
By Sheldon Doyle
Lulu.com ID# 1319048
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Copyright 2007 by Sheldon Doyle


 

Prologue

July 29th, Meeker, Oregon Parker’s Ranch

The barn’s roof was gone. One of the walls had been disintegrated. All that was left after the bomb went off was a burning shell.Embers swirled like fireflies as pillars of fire leaped skyward turning low hanging storm clouds a ruddy shade of orange.All around him the ground hissed and coughed as a wall of heat rushed through the forest. Swaying pines exploded into flames, jetting blue and white streamers of burning resin. Nearer the ground scrub brush crackled then curled and died.What was left of his car lay several yards to his right, a twisted hunk of useless metal. It had been hurled through the near side of the barn, leaving a gaping hole through which he could see Parker’s house setting unscathed in the distance.It was a surreal sight to behold, moreso as bits and pieces of the burning barn corkscrewed out of the darkness like wayward missiles.Utterly beautiful, McMillan thought. A real testament to his ingenuity.The exploding barn couldn’t have come at a better time. He had taken a disastrous moment and turned it around in his favor. Not only had he killed the man he considered responsible for turning his life to shit, he had foiled their others’ vengeful plans. Covering his escape unnoticed was an added bonus.

 “Focus, McMillan! Faster! The fire’s cutting us off!”

McMillan ignored the annoying voice in his head. Speed wasn’t important. He faced another problem. In all this smoke and fire it was impossible to know exactly where the gentle slope stopped and the ground fell away to the river. A misstep now could be disastrous. If anything, he needed to be cautious and take his time.

“Choose, damn you! The flames will trap us!” “Shut up! I need to think.”Which way to the embankment? In all the chaos he couldn’t remember. Left or right?While he considered the options he wiped at his eyebrow and winced. When he pulled his fingers away they were covered in blood and glowed eerily in the fire’s glow.

He touched it again lightly and wondered how much damage the bullet had done after creasing his skull. The fact that he wasn’t dead suggested little, but that was before the fight with Murin or the barn exploding. Now it felt like his head might explode in a violent blast of its own.

He tied the damp cloth around his face. Left. He decided to go left.

The smoke in that direction wasn’t as thick and only a few small fires burned. More importantly he could still see the remains of barn over his right shoulder, the same place it had been before it exploded.

He set out at a fast trot, zig-zagging through openings as they closed ranks with the inferno burning behind him. He was making good time, but overhead the fire was moving much faster, leaping from tree to tree as though racing him to the embankment.

Ahead a stand of tall pines burned brightly, their tops swaying fitfully in the fire’s cyclonic winds. Several snapped in half and tumbled down through the raging canopy. He veered left to avoid being hit.

Sparks showered down around him. He cut left again, deeper into the smoke. A smoldering windfall blocked his way and he leaped it blindly.

As soon as he landed on the other side, he realized his mistake instantly. In the chaos of staying ahead of the fire he had become lost and not only misjudged the direction, but the distance to embankment as well.

Now in free fall down the embankment’s steep incline, he flailed frantically for anything to slow his descent. He tore out a bush, a small sapling then found a small shrub that held. Grabbing it with both hands he managed to pull himself upright as the inferno boiled over the ledge towards him.

He braced for the impact, but the surge knocked him over and sent him cartwheeling down the mountainside. He caught another brace and righted himself amidst burning debris that hurtled past him at killer speed.

The heat was intense and the smoke so thick it was hard for him to see the broken pieces barnwood and shattered timbers rocketing past his head.

Something hot and burning hit him in the gut. He coughed and stooped, holding his stomach. He never saw the hefty staff that knocked him senseless, driving him headfirst into the ground.

Damn you, McMillan! Get up! Get your ass up and run!

Stunned, McMillan rolled over onto his knees and staggered upright, convinced that death had found him at last. His skin was puckered with blisters and acrid smoke burned his lungs, but he did not fear dying. Instead he welcomed it and spread his arms in anticipation of the end. If he was meant to die on this mountainside, then so be it.

You idiot! What are you doing? You didn’t kill Murin. He’s still alive.

McMillan grimaced. What the voice said was impossible. He had seen Murin fall at the crack of the gun, felt the connection between them wink out the instant the bullet struck. Yet he could not deny the possibility the maligning voice had some how got it right.

Tentatively he opened his mind and sought Murin’s familiar essence in the cosmic river of sensations. Here in this ethereal world of mysticism, where sight went beyond merely seeing with the naked eye, they were bonded for life by an unknown power. One a cop, the other a surviving identical twin, one good, one evil, opposite life forces that flowed through the river’s currents.

When he found that Murin’s still hummed faintly with life, he cursed.

“Damn him!”

In one fluid motion, McMillan turned and dove headlong into the flames below.

Chapter One

October 1st, Fifty miles west of Hermosillo, Mexico

Do you hear that, McMillan? They’re talking about us again.  

McMillan ignored the voice. He didn’t feel like arguing with it again. He was hot and sticky and felt like crap. Lying in the pitiful excuse they called a bed, his face completely encased in gauze except for his eyes, nose and mouth, he contented himself with listening the Mexican gibberish outside his room.  

“Hombre,” caught his attention.No doubt the voice had caught it too. It was always suspicious. A monstrous other self he called ‘the fury’ cared for nothing but survival. Whether it valued his life as well, he wasn’t sure. Lately it had changed, become more aggressive, taking an active roll in what he did.

When their snickering chortles seeped through the walls, the voice sneered, They’re plotting against us.

McMillan rolled over and stared out the window. It was decidedly better to study the landscape for the umpteenth time, than listen to prattling voice’s suspicions.

“Where the hell is that doctor?” he grumbled.

Beyond his tiny window, the desert was still dry and barren as ever, an unchanging terra firma of burnt brush, blistering sand and swirling dust devils. It hadn’t changed one iota in the three months since he stumbled into Hermosillo, Mexico.

That wasn’t completely true. Lately the villager’s had been acting differently. Their usual day-to-day routines of apathetic struggles to survive had gone to furtive avoidance of the hospital. It seemed they all were preoccupied with something more than the drought.

All except the two boys near the community fountain that occasionally sputtered to life, filling its basin with a murky brew that had never looked refreshingly healthy. They continued to kick their tattered ball back and forth, rising plumes of dust as they played soccer.

Seeing their enjoyment did little to bolster his vile disposition, and as much as he tried to ignore their laughter, he silently wished they’d dry up and blow away like everything else.

 Why are you waiting? It’s foolish to stay any longer. You can take the bandages off yourself. He disregarded the voice and popped two more painkillers in to his mouth, washing them down with the suspect water as more plotting laughter filtered through the paper-thin walls. His patience was wearing thin. Maybe the voice was right?He bit back the anger that bubbled on the brink of explosion. The voice was right. He had been here too long. If the doctor didn’t show up soon, those who laughed and plotted would quickly find themselves screaming in terror. Of that he was certain. Especially if lost control and ‘the fury’ escaped.The crunching of baked sand and dirt outside his window drew him back to what might be troubling the villagers. The battered squad car had returned and stopped out front. Miguel was back.

Shit! He’s back again. Be careful.

For once McMillan agreed with the voice. He didn’t trust the fat policeman and watched him closely as he sauntered pass the window, smug in his innocent efforts to see inside the room.

Lately he had been visiting a lot, varying his routine so he could return at different times of the day. But he always watched the window, squinting to catch a glimpse of the stranger inside.

When he disappeared through the entrance doors, McMillan slipped out of bed and pressed his ear to the wall.

The laughing stopped abruptly. He could hear Miguel’s rapid-fire questions, the staff’s hesitant answers, and the nervousness in their voices when they spoke.

Moving to the door, he pressed his ear against the jam. The voices were clearer. His suspicions growing. Maybe Miguel had figured out who he was? Maybe Miguel and the doctor were working together? Maybe they were plotting against him?

When ‘Gringo’ and ‘California’ seeped through the walls, his hands curled into tight fists. He kept a tight rein on the anger rising from somewhere deep inside his mind. Soon ‘the fury’ would want to be set free. Maybe he should. Maybe he should let ‘the fury’ hunt Murin.

Chapter Two

An hour later McMillan watched Miguel drive away, trailing behind a plume of Mexican dust. By the time his battered squad was reduced to a shimmering mirage, the headache had returned and was raging out of control again. It was all he could do to stumbled back to the nightstand and down more painkillers before his eyeballs exploded out of their sockets.

A voice through the door said, “Senor, McMillan?”

It was Vicki the cute little nurse. The only saving grace to this shit hole they called a hospital. He had grown accustomed to her visits and craved the sound of her voice. It was fragile like crystal, seductively low and the source of his countless fantasies.When the door swung open and she stepped into the room, all fantasies vanished in a heartbeat. She was frowning and that bothered him.

“Miguel was asking about you again. “So many questions for which I have no answers,” she nervously quipped. She carried his neatly folded clothes draped across her arm and held them firmly against her chest.

“That’s good,” McMillan said casually. “Why don’t we keep it that way? The less he knows, the better.”

The direction seemed to bolster her confidence. The frown turned more serious.

“I would hate to see my favorite patient running into the desert dressed in only a hospital gown. Not after I’ve spent so much time nursing him back to health. Perhaps you should keep these in your room. Just in case.”

McMillan tensed and glanced out the window. He expected to find Miguel watching, the big gun he carried low on his hip pointed at his chest and a toothy smile anticipating a foolish move.But there was nothing there he found suspicious. Only the two boys kicking their ball and ever present parade of dust devils twirling across the courtyard behind them.

“What do you mean?” he said, taking the clothes. He tossed them on the bed and settled on the corner to wait her out. She refolded her arms across her breasts and moved closer to the window chewing her lower in lip.

“Miguel said he knows why you are here, what you did in the United States. He says there are many people looking for you, maybe even the Mexican Army.” She anxiously wrung her hands as she turned and continued. “Before you leave, I would ask a favor?” McMillan didn’t answer. He kept his face bland and unreadable. Even if she did know the truth, which he doubted, Miguel would never stop him. None of them would.Undaunted by his silence, she started across the floor until she stood before him. He could smell the light scent of her perfume, its delicate fragrance stirring his desire. But still he didn’t react. He needed to know what she was up to first.“My husband took my family to Arizona and was coming back for me when the Army caught him. They thought he was smuggling drugs and killed him. Now, I have no one.”Reaching for the bottle of painkillers, McMillan popped two more tablets into his mouth. “And?” he prompted throwing back his head. He didn’t like where this conversation was headed. She was hinting at more than money. Swallowing the pills, he chased them with water that tasted hot and heavy with the unpleasant flavor of mud. “You want what?”

“I would make a bargain,” she said following him up as he stood. “I can help you crossover the border safely. Please Senor, I do not want to stay here any longer. I know the way. Please, take me with you!”

She sounded desperate, yet he suspected she wanted more than just his help. What, he wasn’t sure. She was standing so near, his senses were reeling. He fought the urge to throw her on the bed and tear her clothes off.

“What else? What aren’t you telling me?”

Her saucer black eyes glistened with tears, yet she wiped them away before they began to trickle down her cheeks. She surprised him when she stepped in closer, sweeping her long black hair behind her ear as she laid a hand upon his chest.

“Miguel is a pig. No one will stop him and no one dares complain. That would only bring the more police and then everyone would suffer.” She stopped and stood straighter, her voice dropping to almost a whisper, “I know you are leaving soon. Please, I’ll do anything. Take me with you.”

McMillan’s mind was already imagining what it would be like crossing the desert with this woman in tow. And it didn’t look promising. He doubted she was capable of hiking in the desert heat, much less surviving on scant amounts of food and water.

But now, she presented another problem. One misspoken word uttered in anger could turn this quiet little village into a blood bath if she decided to help the cop or those searching for him. Cautiously, he nodded, “Come back tonight when it’s safer and we’ll talk. I’m not going anywhere until these bandages come off, so we’ve got some time before deciding anything.”

When she stepped back and eyed him suspiciously he lied. “We’ll talk, I said.”

After she left, he mulled her offer, picking it apart for inconsistencies. At the moment he had two options; the least troublesome was to cross the border alone, homing in on Murin as he had planned. A difficult task now that he was aware the Mexican Army was prowling the border for him. The alternative was to let her tag along and as she said, help him safely across the border.

But he was still suspicious. There was something more she wasn’t telling him.

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