Mescal peered at the fifteen women assembled on the mesa—
They sure got that boy aroused. Not because they sprawled half-dressed ….
But because they lay there dead.
Me? I grabbed the Canon looped around my neck—and rabidly fired pictures. I knew from prior visits we had no phone reception here.
The sun sat high in a July sky. And sweat raced down my cleavage. But tempering my adrenalin, I cranked the camera’s ISO and exposure down as well. We didn’t get much crime out here in Pinjon County. But once this shit-storm hit the press, life wouldn’t be so balmy. As the elected sheriff in these parts, best I got things right.
This un-named mesa squats serenely over Crooked Canyon—just outside the northern tip of New Mexico’s Brokeoff Mountains. While thirty miles due east, the celebrated Carlsbad Caverns smugly hug the local landscape.
The Crooked also intersects with the grueling Chihuahuan Dessert.
Pronounced by some as chay-hojaun, our continent’s second largest desert rakes southeast Arizona, scourges neighboring West Texas—then languishes further south, exhausts in Mexico.
People call this place a wasteland. But twenty years I’ve called it Home.
I motioned to Mescal. The cat had certainly snatched that poor boy’s bewildered tongue. Though I respected his somber silence.
We trudged resolutely to my dust-caked Silverado—
Spiraled down into Lucita … not far from Devil’s Den.
I called the FBI field office over in Los Cruces. And asked for Billy Evans. The man was ten times tougher than a two-dollar steak. And a hundred times more prickly than any of the Chihuahuan’s two-hundred cactus species. Not just short on empathy, he also lacked imagination.
Shit. I had to settle for VM.
Evans has a penchant for wanting to shoot the messenger—
I kept my message short not sweet.
Instead of calling me back, Evans turned-up on my doorstep: harvest moon clearly visible, sky ablaze with stars.
“I wanna talk to your wit—the one who found the bodies.”
“Sure,” was all I said.
“Let’s go then. Time’s a wastin’—where does Mescal live?”
“Lives right here with me.”
Evans glared: “Well? You gonna fetch ’em?”
I waved him in the house; he let my aging screen door slam.
“No need to fetch Mescal—boy’s sleeping on that sofa.”
“You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me. Mescal’s a Golden Retriever?”
I poured a coffee black for Evans, slid a folder off the counter. The agent didn’t speak. Just squinted at the pics …. Laid ’em neatly in a grid across my kitchen table.
At the risk of sounding pompous? Those photos came out sweet.
I downed a welcome shot of Patrón tequila, embraced its loyal warmth. “We need a copter,” I said to Evans.
“Why we need a copter?”
“I’ll show you once we’re up there.”
Evans locked his jaw—like he was set to argue. But okay was all he said.
I didn’t say a word to Evans ….
But the one who’d killed these women—lived right here in little ’ol Lucita.
And I knew how to deal with her.
“Couch is yours if you want. Sheets in that there cupboard.”
Bony fingers drummed the table. “Beats another night at a musty Motel 6. I got a suitcase in the Blazer.
“You sharing that Patrón?”
The copter banked a U-turn over the yawning canyon—then hovered like a bee above the honeyed amber mesa. Though embarrassing to admit, I found this aerial view so stunning I erotically creamed myself.
The pilot deciphered the scene before agent Evans did. “Well I’ll be a fly on an armadillo’s ass—
“Those bodies form a pentagram.”
I photographed the mesa with a hunger I’d never known. That pentagram-shape meant diddley.
Evans ended his call.
“Thanks for dragging me into your crazy circle jerk.
“The anthropologist has confirmed what we already knew: ain’t no way in hell this is a tribal burial plot—
“But she does think some of these vics were interred a decade earlier.”
“If they been here all this time,” said the pilot, “then why’d the killer dig ’em up—and display ’em now?”
“Cuz someone’s finally showing off,” I said, trying to banish the image of a circle jerk on the mesa. Plumbing issues aside? Not my kinda gravy train.
Different strokes for different folks.
Though my fingers yearned for action.
Back on terra firma life seemed so mundane ….
Evans marched besides me toward my baking truck. Sweatin’ like a bottle of ice-cold Dr. Pepper, he swiped his dirt-streaked brow. Crevices rimmed his face just like they laced the canyon. But not a single laugh line. “You still retiring in a month?”
Hands tucked in my back pockets I brushed his stony shoulder twice. Let him feel a bit of tit. South of the equator, his Levis aptly stirred. “Indeed, I am, Billy. Movin’ north to Utah. Gonna explore the canyons there.”
“Lucky you, Lucita.”
Lucky me, for sure. Unfettered from this job?
Bet I can seduce at least two women a year.
I’ll certainly miss my trophies … but I’ve got scores of gorgeous pics.
The original version of “Lucita’s Salacious Secret” first kindly appeared at Story and Grit.
Addicted to tawdry tales that sometimes make her blush, Jesse Rawlins typically writes crime, mysteries, and humor. You’ll usually find her stories on the wrong side of the tracks, including flash-zine Shotgun Honey, Horror Sleaze Trash, and The Rye Whiskey Review.
She dazedly accepted the publishing and editing torch for 11-year-old online crime mag The Flash Fiction Offensive in February 2019—and her murderous band of writing cohorts keep Jesse on her “Heels.” Wanna say, “Hello?” You can vist Jess on Facebook, or swing by her website where some of her stories are free to read: https://www.facebook.com/jesse.rawlins.583