Sunday, December 18, 2016

From the Mountains to the Barrio (part 1) Fugitive Recovery

Just over a year since my exile, and I found myself living at one of my favorite places on the whole planet. Big Cat Mountain was the place I had climbed with Lucky Tailor, passing the crosses of those who did not make it along the way. It's the place where The Professor and I saw the Woolly Saber Toothed Coyote. It was also the stomping grounds of the famous bandit El Gato and his legendary treasure. On the map of places sacred to me, this one is prominent.

My wife and I had traced the travels of Casteneda to this desert, and believed we had found the restaurant where he and Gorda worked, losing their personal importance. Losing one's personal importance isn't very good for a marriage. We were thinking about doing something different. She had already had to spend a few months in Key West to escape my folly. Then I had an encounter that brought me on board to her desire to move into town and leave my beautiful desert.

We lived in a trailer behind the restaurant, along with about four other trailers, all housing employees of the restaurant and other associated businesses like the general store and video rental. There was one wealthy retiree in the very back. I was Robert then, and the trailer behind us housed a guy named Robert as well and his wife. He washed dishes at a steakhouse down the road. His wife was a waitress with my wife at the Greek place where I cooked breakfast.

I was working stone on the side back then, as a lapidary, and incorporating the stone in sculpture and jewelry. On Tuesdays, I would hike through the lower Tucson Mountains along an old stage coach route into Tucson, where I would ply my wares. I had a route through the downtown where I left things on consignment and picked up money and custom orders each week. On my way home, I would cut through the town of South Tucson and purchase my grass for the week. I would return by hitch hiking the old Ajo Highway, rather than cross the remote mountain trails, populated by all manner of rattlesnake and large cat, at night. I would have my sales cases with me, and occasionally drummed up additional business from the people who gave me rides.

One of my best accounts in town was a new age shop. I had a place near the Mexican border where I was mining Selenite crystals with muddy inclusions. I worked these into wands and stone blades with cactus wood handles and leather trim.

On a fateful Monday, My wife was working, and I took Robert for a hike up Big Cat Mountain and told him about my history there and about El Gato. To my surprise, although he had lived behind the restaurant for over a year, he had not explored the area or hiked the desert at all. He had a banner day, and expressed that to me before he went to work that night. I went in to my house and smoked a joint and watched a couple of episodes of Doug on Nick at Night.

After resting from the morning's climb, and having lunch with the wife, I strapped my machete on and headed out to find some Cholla Cactus wood for the order I had to fill for the new age shop this week. I was maybe five steps from my front door when a white pickup came thundering into the lot and stopped nearest my trailer.

At first I assumed it was somebody I had hitched a ride with, coming to check out my stock. Maybe I was going to make a sale. Neither the wife or I socialized of even had any contact with people outside of the restaurant and the five trailers behind it. Then the door opened and had an insignia on it and the words “Fugitive Recovery”. Before I could even think a dude rolled out in a crazy movie sideways somersault and came up with a big freaking gun pointed at me. “Drop the weapon!” he shouted. He was maybe fifty feet away.

This was the early days of my fugitivity, when I never went to sleep without an escape plan. I was hyper paranoid anyway, and expecting something like this. Subsequently, I never carried weapons, for fear of going down in a hail of gunfire from some overzealous bounty hunter. I was confused. I said “I don't have any weapons!”.

He told me to lose the machete. I told him it was a tool, not a weapon, as I lowered it carefully to the ground. He charged me, and with his gun to my head he rushed me the twenty feet or so to my trailer and sandwiched my head between his pistol and the front door. He said “Robert Mortimer, you are under arrest for evading prosecution (so far so good, but Mortimer? I was Robert Weaver) in Kansas on a charge of burglarizing a pharmacy.”

Well shit, I have only just passed through Kansas. I delivered a few pounds of grass and mushrooms to a motel in Topeka, but certainly had not burglarized a pharmacy. I told him this, with his gun in my temple, leaving out the part about Topeka. “And who the hell is Mortimer? I am Robert Weaver!” “You better have ID”, he replied.

I yelled in to my wife to find my ID. She, of course, told me to get it myself. Still with a gun to my temple, I explained the situation. She soon appeared with my fake swap meet ID claiming I was Robert Weaver. The officer called in my fake social security number and it came up clean. Then he noticed my trailer number was one and he was looking for trailer two. He said “I need to use your house”, and lowered his gun and hastily entered my living room.

I followed. I had left a half ounce of pot in a baggie on the coffee table. As he walked past it to the opposing window, I reached down and batted it onto the floor. Without even turning around he said “I'm not even worried about that”. Then he noticed the number two on the door of the neighboring trailer and rushed off to terrorize the other Robert's wife. She took him to Robert's job where he was arrested for the pharmacy job in Kansas.

The next day she knocked on my door and told me Robert was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. I went to her trailer and he told me the story of how he was paid to lower himself from the skylight at a Kansas pharmacy and steal Dilautids, and he left fingerprints. He said our hike was the best thing that happened to him since he fled and that ultimately it was his wife who turned him in. “It's always a woman that gets you caught” he warned me (although he didn't know how close to his situation I was). He gave me his reclining heated massage chair. I loved that chair. His wife immediately moved in with a wealthy retiree she had been cleaning house for.

I couldn't live there anymore, of course. The wife would have her way and we would eventually move back to the city.

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