In a previous post, My Scene, a story line began as a writing exercise. I thought the character was interesting and mixing urban fantasy with a western novel flair made me curious to write more of the story. So, I’m writing it a in series of flashes and I plan on this being a short story when completed.
The next few scenes introduce the protagonist with his client and gives a little more information on the conflict he has to overcome.
I turned the jeep off the highway onto a county road and followed it for about a half mile. The road snaked through several rock outcroppings. The ever-present sagebrush dotted the rocks and gave off a wonderful wet aroma that permeated the air. The earlier shower had knocked down any dust so I opened the windows on the jeep to let the fragrance in. As I came around a sharp turn, I hit the brakes. At first, it looked like a tree branch had fallen in the road. Then the branch began to slither across the warm pavement. I watched as the four-foot long rattlesnake made its way to the safety of the shoulder.
“You certainly are a big one,” I said to it as I continued past.
A few hundred feet further, the road dead-ended in a turn around. Off to the right, set into two large adobe pillars, was an iron gate across a paved driveway. This matched the description I was given of the gate to Ms. Hatcher’s ranch. A seven-strand fence ran off from each pillar and continued out of sight in either direction. I pulled up to the gate and saw a smaller pillar housed a call box and a camera. Hanging on center of the gate was a deer skull. Half of it was painted blue, the other half white. A black lightning bolt separated the two colors. There seemed to be other symbols painted on the skull, but I couldn’t make them out without closer inspection. Feathers, beads, and stones hung from leather thongs tied to the skull and antlers. The effect was both beautiful and sinister.
It took me a moment to realize that the hair on my arms and the back of my neck were standing out straight. I could feel conflicting energies at work. I recognized the skull as Puma’s work. It was part of his protection wards. There would be three other skulls with similar decoration attached to the fence surrounding the property at the cardinal compass points. I also heard a low hum coming from the fence and quickly located the insulators that indicated the fence was electrified.
There was something else. A feeling of dread. Nature is about balance and I could feel when things were out of balance. My father and Puma had taught me to be sensitive to Nature’s balance during my training as a shaman. That sensitivity had been refined by my stepfather as he taught me to draw upon and use Nature’s energies to cast spells. Something was definitely out of balance here and not toward the positive side of the scale.
I reached out and pushed the button on the call box. A few seconds went by before a man’s voice came through the speaker.
“Yes,” the voice said.
I leaned closer to the speaker and looked directly in the camera.
“I’m here to see Amy Hatcher. I’m Derek Nantan.”
The voice hesitated for a moment then asked, “You the U.S. Marshal?”
I smiled at that. My area of responsibility for the Wizard King was primarily in the United States, but I did not answer to the U.S. Government. Trying to explain it to someone over a speaker would only confuse them and most likely, not get me through the gate.
“Yes,” I said.
“Okay. Drive up to the house and someone will meet you.”
“Thank you,” I said to the now silent box.
The gate swung open and I pulled forward. I felt the power of Puma’s wards part as I passed through them. Had I not been granted access and tried to force my way in, I would have most likely been burned to a cinder. The driveway curved around a boulder the size of a small house and then started down into a little valley. I got my first glimpse of the house. A sprawling Spanish-styled hacienda, the main house was large, but used typical construction for the area, white adobe with a red tile roof. The landscaping used local plants and was immaculately maintained. The pavement changed from asphalt to blue flagstone as I pulled the jeep into the main parking area. So far, Ms. Hatcher’s ranch looked exactly as the article I read in a celebrity gossip magazine had described it.
I parked the Jeep next to a burgundy Escalade. I stepped out and started for the front door. Before I took five steps, the Marlboro Man came out and waved at me.
“Howdy. You must be Mr. Nantan,” he drawled. “Ms. Hatcher sent me to fetch you back to the garden.”
“Yes I am,” I said. “Please call me Derek.”
“Fine, Derek,” he said. “Bill Hanna’s the name. Pleased to meetcha.”
He took my hand in a strong handshake. Heavy calloused hands confirmed he not only looked like a cowboy but he was probably the real deal. Puma said that this was a working ranch and that Ms. Hatcher had a large staff.
“I’ll show ya the way,” Bill said as he turned and headed back toward the main entrance. “I sure hope you can figure out what’s going on around here. Ms. Hatcher’s plenty scared. She sent most of the staff away on account of all the carcasses showing up. County sheriff says there’s nothing he can do. The animals are all varmints and there’s no law against killin’ em.”
Bill shook his head and opened the huge double oak doors that lead to the house. He waved me through and checked to secure the door.
“It just ain’t right. Sheriff also said until there’s an actual threat against someone’s life, he’s pretty much hog-tied. He seems to think it’s just some kids messin’ around and they’ll get tired of it and quit on their own.”
Bill led the way through a large entry way and into a courtyard.
“What do you think it is?” I asked. “You don’t seem to agree with the sheriff’s take on it.”
Bill stopped and looked me in the eye. “Mister, I’ve seen a lot in my sixty-two years.” Bill’s voice matched his hard stare. “But I’ve never seen a bunch of kids mutilate animals that way. It looks to me like whoever is doin’ it, enjoys it. Some of the notes been left are just plain evil sounding. No kid’s gonna say those things.”
Before I could ask him to explain, we came to a raised adobe garden. A woman was bent over pulling some weeds from the flowerbed.
“Ms. Hatcher, this here is Derek Nantan,” Bill announced. “He’s the marshal been sent to help out with the goin’s on.”
The woman stood up and turned toward me. She wore jeans and a loose denim shirt over a white tee shirt. The denim shirt was embroidered with flowering cacti. Long brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail showing simple stud earrings in her ears. Large brown eyes looked red and her oval face showed lines of worry around her eyes and mouth. I recognized the thirty-three year old actress, but just barely. This was not the red carpet at the Academy Awards and Amy Hatcher wasn’t wearing makeup. She looked dead tired. She wiped her hands on her jeans reached out to shake my hand.
“Mr. Nantan, thank you for coming.”
I shook her hand. Her grip was firm and she too had callouses. Apparently, she worked the ranch and didn’t just own it. That was good to know. My father used to say, “A little hard work never hurt anyone. If they love it enough to work it, then they must be attached to it.”
“Ms. Hatcher, it’s my pleasure and, please call me Derek,” I said as I let go of her hand.
“Derek, call me Amy,” she began. “We’re not in Hollywood out here.”
“That’s a fact,” I replied. “You have a gorgeous property.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I hope you can help keep it that way.” She turned to Bill and said, “Bill, would you please check with Maria and see if lunch is ready?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said the ranch foreman. Bill turned and left the courtyard through a side entrance.
“Ms. Hatcher, I will do everything I can make your problem go away.”
“Call me Amy, please”
“I’m sorry, of course. Maybe you should start by telling me what’s been going on.”
I’d heard Puma’s story, but sometimes the victim can give you insight no one else can. Just as Amy began to speak, an Indian boy, maybe thirteen years old ran into the courtyard.
“Ms. Hatcher. Come quick,” he said panting as he turned back the way he had come. “Ben found another one.”
“Shit,” said Amy as she started after the boy.
I broke into a run to catch up.
“This one was by the pool,” the boy said over his shoulder.
Amy stopped in her tracks. I almost ran into her as I tried to dodge to the right.
Amy’s face went grey and she looked up at me.
“This is the first one inside the main compound.” Her voice cracked.
I touched her shoulder and together we ran off after the boy.
Check out the previous scene at, Actress and the Warlock.