Ignacio Perez, known as Nacho, is a modern-day private detective in San Antonio, Texas. Before the end of the year, I expect to put up on Amazon in Kindle format a compilation of four stories: “Badger Game,” “San Antonio Blues,” “In Search of El Dorado.” and “Whiskey’s for Drinking.”
In the meantime, here’s a taste from “In Search of El Dorado”:
I drove out of the ranch compound and headed back down the winding ranch road to the highway. My A/C labored in the heat, and road dust infiltrated into the car. Fifteen minutes into the trip, I rounded a hill and came to a cattle trailer blocking the way. One side was jacked up, and a wheel lay on the ground. I stopped well short of the trailer and walked up to investigate.
As I drew near, four men, two on each side, came around from behind the trailer. All of them had ax handles. My .45 was in the glove box. My getting to the car before they got me wasn’t likely, but you go with what you’ve got. I made a break and tried to sprint to the car. Moments later, an axe handle knocked my feet out from under me. Pain erupted in my shoulder. I curled into a fetal position with my arms around my head as blows from ax handles and boots rained on me. It was all an agonizing blur until I passed out.
Mother of God, it hurts. What happened? Where am I? I wriggled my limbs. It was excruciating, but everything except my left arm seemed to work. I dozed. Pain again. There was only a faint glow of light in the sky. It’s evening now. I’ve lost most of the day. I lay in a daze, and my entire body throbbed in agony. My tongue was swollen. Water. God, I need water.
I ’ve got to get up. I rolled to try to get to my right hand and knees. I gasped. Like a knife in my sides. Damn, broken ribs. I caught my breath, braced myself, and tried to rise again. Lord have mercy.
I was on knees, leaning on one hand. My left arm hung limply, my entire body screamed, and I fought the impulse to retch. I stayed in that position until I got the pain under control and then pulled one knee forward. The small additional weight on my right shoulder nearly made me collapse on my face. I paused again to get control. I heard a rustling in the brush and turned my head. Armadillo.
Lifting myself to a kneeling position was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Pained surged through me, and I nearly fell, but I willed myself to stay erect. I fought again to control my breathing. I stayed in that position until the pain in my knees was worse than the pain throughout the rest of my body.
The sun hung low above the horizon, but it was noticeably higher than before. Not evening. It’s morning. I’ve lost a whole day and a night. I already felt the sun’s heat, and I knew worse was coming. All I could see around me were scattered mesquites and prickly pear with occasional juniper. God help me, I’ve got to get up.
I braced myself and rose to my feet. The experience was horrific, and I was dizzy, but I stayed up. Again, I gagged, nearly vomiting.
Even from my feet, all I could see was thin brush and parched ground. No building, no power line, no pipeline, nothing. I staggered to a mesquite and grasped a branch for support. The sun was getting higher and hotter.
Water. I felt in the watch pocket of my Levis. The bastards at least left me my pen knife. Thank God the blade’s got a knob so I can open it with one hand. A clump of prickly pear was just a few feet away. Nopal. I trimmed at the thorns from a pad. With just one hand, the effort was clumsy and not entirely effective. Even so, I chewed it for the moisture. Damn. I missed some of the little thorns. It was disgusting stuff anyway. I’d never been a fan of nopalitos.
I staggered down barely visible vehicle tracks. The earth swayed under and around me. Mesquites appeared as apparitions, but I somehow kept on my feet and on the path of the vehicle that had brought me to this Godforsaken place.
As the sun neared its zenith, I took shelter under the spare shade of another mesquite, chewed more nopal, and tried not to think about pain. Or thorns. Or food. Flies buzzed in my face and ears. Agony was constant and fatiguing, and I wanted nothing as much as I wanted to lie down, to give up. If I do, I’ll die.
The sun moved on, and I did, too. The heat was suffocating. My exposed flesh blistered. Onward, one foot in front of the other. I paused for nopal. And onward again. I couldn’t even find a stick to help me walk.
I kept staggering down the tracks, hoping to find something. To my right, I heard a sound like someone slightly turning the valve of a full scuba tank. Cascabel. A long, fat diamondback lay ahead and to the side. At least something prospers out here. I veered away from it.
When darkness approached, I found a sandy spot and descended as gingerly as I could. Pain kept me awake most of the night, but I must have drifted off sometime. Birds woke me at dawn.
Getting up was not as bad as the day before, but it‘s nothing I care to relive. I cut at nopal and not only chewed but swallowed. Then I resumed my trek.
I found a north-south gravel road and turned right. I had been north of the highway when they waylaid me. Half an hour later, I came to a dead end at a pumpjack. It was pumping. Praise the Lord. People still come here.
I turned around and headed back. Flies clustered around my eyes and mouth and in my popped sunburn blisters. During the morning, I passed at least two more pumpjacks. Just before noon, I heard the sound of an engine. I staggered on and heard voices. I croaked for help, but the volume of my voice was pitiful, and there was no sign they heard. Moments later, I saw men up a side road working on another pumpjack. I collapsed on the spot.
Please watch for when the rest comes out on Kindle.