The Squatters (#10)
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by Anthony Wolff (Ming Zhen Shakya)
Part 10: The final split-up
Rick had seen that the kind of all-purpose nylon zip ties that Dawson used were the light weight ties that could be purchased in any hardware store. He knew the well publicized technique of putting the knot in the center of his bound hands, getting his body in a slightly bent position, and then raising his hands above his head as if he were bringing his shoulder blades together and while bending his arms at the elbow and holding them outward like wings, bring his hands and elbows down in a hammer blow against his hip bones while pulling his hands apart so that all the force had been transmitted to the knot, breaking it. But all this depended on his ability to bring his hands from behind and in a stooping position to step through his ams until his hands were in front of him. Helena was so agile, he thought, she could free herself from any of these amateur restraints. But not so with her husband. True, Rick had lost a considerable amount of weight maybe… just maybe he could do it. Before Begay was tossed inside for a second time, Rick struggled in the closet. He stooped and squatted but his hands refused to step under his feet and come up to the front. A shim. He needed a shim or a stiff piece of metal like a woman’s beret that he could adapt. It was dark in the closet and he could find nothing that could serve the purpose of a shim.
Well then, he’d look around for something to cut the nylon band with. There was nothing. He was hoping that he had left an old guitar in the closet. He could use one of the strings as a cutting tool, but no… he had moved the guitar. There were no sharp things and not anything he could sharpen. He had lost weigh… maybe if he got the knot in the middle he could perform the same breaking technique using his behind as an anvil instead of his hip bones. But the closet was so narrow… not at all like a bedroom closet. With his knees he cleared a place on the floor, made sure the knot was in the middle of his hands, and stood up and tried to balance himself on one foot.
His head scraped the coat hangars and rainware that nobody ever wore. He bent in a kind of semi-squat with his behind out as far as he could get it while standing on one foot with his ankles bound. He raised his hands behind him and brought them down against his behind. His hands bounced off the rear and he lost his balance and fell forward on his knees. His head struck Helena’s “gardening” coat… a raincoat she used when she had to dig in the dirt. She liked the long coat because she could kneel on it when planting bulbs or.pruning suckers from the base of trees and shrubs. could she have left pruning shears in her coat? . Before he could explore the coat with his mouth, Begay was tossed inside again, this time to wait for Morgan to finish in the bathroom.
“Enough is enough, Markovitz,” Begay said disparagingly. “You lead a dangerous life.” He calmly stepped through his hands, bringing them to the front of his body. “What’s the matter? Too many pounds on you? I’ll sponsor you to join the Health Club at the hotel.”
“Unlike you,” Rick replied in his effete voice, “I have been bound in two places. The degree of difficulty is exponentially greater.” He noticed that when Began stepped through his hands, he had turned Helen’s coat and the outline of the pruning shears showed. “Since you’re so nimble, would you be kind enough to hand me those shears… right behind your head… in my wife’s pocket? I’ve been wanting to get to them, but it’s been one interruption after another.”
Begay pulled the shears from Helena’s pocket. Rick turned his body and held out his hands. “It will be so much easier for you to free me and then for me to free you.”
“Yes. I figured that out by myself,” Begay said, snipping through Rick’s wrist tie. Then, without asking, he cut his ankle restraint. Rick immediately took the shears and cut Begay’s tie.
They could hear footsteps coming towards the closed. Rick whispered, “Hold the tie in place so that it looks as if it’s still restraining you. I’ll keep my hands behind me.”
As Andy led Morgan by the collar back into the living room, outside, near the front door, a casino security guard took out his S&W semi-automatic and holding it behind himslf, rapped lightly on the window.
“See who that is,” Dawson ordered. “I’ll keep my gun on the driver.” He motioned to Morgan. “Get over here beside Mrs. Begay.” Morgan sat on the couch.
“Who is it,” Andy yelled.
The guard did not know what Rick’s last name was. “I’ve got a special delivery for Mr. Markovitz.”
Dawson said, “Ask him who sent it.”
“Who’s the sender?” Andy asked.
Again, the guard could think of no other meaningful name. “Dodge Rosewall.”
Dawson hissed, “I knew that son of a bitch was in on it! First I’ll put the women in the closet and then you can let him in,” Dawson pulled Anita and Helena to their feet and marched them to the closet. “Get in there!” he said. Rick heard him and, expecting the closet door to open, went from a kneeling position into a squat. His bulk shoved Begay to the side. The moment Dawson opened the door, Rick tackled him, and Dawson stumbled and skidded backwards, falling face-up on the floor. Rick held his legs and Helena leapt up and jumped on his chest, knocking the wind out of him. As he gasped for air, she jumped onto his right arm and Rick grabbed the gun from his hand. Anita kicked his head so forcefully that it was possible to hear something snap in his neck.
Clive began to whine. “Ain’t somebody gonna answer the door? I’m gonna lose my eye!” His sleeves were filled with blood from using them to wipe his face. He headed to the front door. “Make them take me to the hospital first!” he shouted at Andy. Clive’s gun was still stuck in his belt in the small of his back.
Andy stood in the foyer not knowing what to do. “Open the door!” Orren yelled, and Andy automatically turned the lock and let the guard in. Rick jumped up, grabbed Helena and pulled her into the closet behind him, pushing her onto the floor on top of Begay. As soon as the front door opened, the guard pushed Andy away and, seeing Rick with a gun that appeared to be pointed at Anita, he fired at Rick, grazing his right shoulder. The slug buried itself itself into the coset wall.
Rick had no way of knowing who the guard was or what he was doing there. He could not imagine that any friend or guard of his would try to shoot him. As he grabbed his wounded arm, he shouted,”Here!” and tossed the gun to Morgan. “Protect Anita!” He stepped in front of Helena. “Stay down!”
“Hold your fire!” Morgan shouted as he caught the gun.
“He’s my body guard!” Begay stood up, dumping Helena on the floor, and yelled at Rick as if to reprimand him.
Clive had staggered back into the living room and the guard looked at him as if to say that he wasn’t worth wasting a bullet on. He grabbed the back of Clive’s head and forced him down onto the rug. He removed the gun from his waist.
Rick looked at Begay. “Kindly tell your guard to be a bit more respectful of my rug!” He went to pick up Clive. “Get your stupid ass into the garage!”
The guard had turned toward Andy and pointed his weapon at him. “Get down on the floor and put your hands behind your head! he shouted. Andy dropped to his knees and then flopped forward, burying his face in the deep soft pile of Rick’s $60,000 Persian rug.
“Get those shears!” Begay shouted, trying to help his wife. But Helena had already gotten them and was cutting through Anita’s restraint. Dawson was unconscious. Clive stumbled into the garage, and sat on the floor, hosing himself down with the same hose that Rick had used the day before.
Paulina Sue had had enough. She marched into the living room and checked Olivia’s jaw. “It doesn’t seem to be broken, but it sure didn’t help those teeth. We’ll getcha’ more cloves and cotton.” She reached into Dawson’s pocket and got the $10,000 he had taken from Rick. She held up the money. “I’m gonna take half of this,” she said plaintively. “Let me give half to the kid. Maybe he can find a cheap doctor to fix his face.” Rick nodded. She divided the money in half and tossed half to Orren. “Do what you can with this, kid.”
Orren mumbled, “Thanks, Aunt Paulina Sue.”
Paulina Sue stood like a warrior goddess in the center of the room and gave incontestable orders. “Now,” she said to Babs, “put the kids and the vets in the van. We’ll drop the vets off at a shelter. We’re heading east. Put pillows in the passenger’s seat for Olivia and put the seat all the way back.” She turned to Helena. “You got any pain pills you can give her?”
Helena, had just finished putting on the dress she had been attempted to model when the trouble began. “Yes, I do. I’ll get them. She’ll sleep.” She went into the medicine chest and emptied the unused half of a pain prescription into a handkerchief and brought it to Paulina Sue who thanked her. After we go, you can call the cops and they’ll pick up the three musketeers and take ’em back to jail.”
Considering that their fingers had been in contact with all the food that was in the kitchen, Helena said, “Here, take the food with you from the kitchen. You’ll need to feed the kids tonight.”
Paulina Sue carried a cardboard box of food into the living room. She helped Olivia get into the van and returned to the living room. She looked at the stunned group of people who stood and stared at her. Nobody objected. As Babs, the vets, and the children filed out of the house and got into the van, she turned to Anita. “Hagoonee’,” she said.
Anita answered. “A’aa, hagoonee’.”
“What did all that mean?” Helena asked.
“Nothing,” Begay answered. She said, ‘Goodbye’ and Anita answered, ‘Goodbye to you, too.'” He sighed. “I need a drink.”
Helena returned to the kitchen and called, “A gimlet?”
“Make that two,” Rick answered.
“If you wouldn’t mind, sir….” Morgan had started to tremble in a kind of post traumatic response.
“Bring a whole pitcher in.” Rick called. He looked at his rug. “Oh, hell, let’s all go in the goddamned kitchen.”
The security guards fanned out to guard the perimeter as the van, driven by Paulina Sue, backed out of the garage.
Orren had sat quietly at the side of the garage. He made no move to go to the van. Rick dumped Dawson’s unconscious body next to him and Begay led Andy, now cuffed, into the garage. Rick had called the Sheriff’s Department and a car was on its way..
In five minutes, Orren, Rick, Begay, and Morgan were the only males in the house; Anita and Helena, the only females. Begay’s and Rick’s guards patrolled the area.
Orren looked at Rick. “Please don’t call Child Welfare on me.”
“Wait a minute. Wait a minute,” Rick said. “What’s this business about Rosewall?”
“Uncle Don gave him $4,000 to get his money back from you. He says Rosewall didn’t do nothin’ for Four grand.”
“I gave him ten times that, and he didn’t do anything for me either,” Helena said.
Morgan interrupted the discussion to explain Orren’s roll in the rescue. “I didn’t want to believe him at first, but my gut told me he was an honest kid.”
Rick laughed. “Son, you are so much better off without those vermin.” He told the others how Orren had got his scars and how he and Helena had been victimized.
“Jesus,” Begay said. “You know,” he joked, “now that I look at him, he looks a little Navajo to me. I’ll tell you what. There’s a surgeon who comes to the Rez and works pro bono. Let’s have him fix the boy’s face. I’ll square it with him. Orren can stay with my folks until he’s finished with the surgery. Then he can make a decision about where he wants to live and go to school.” He looked at Rick. “Then we’re square about Anita’s portrait?”
“Ask my wife,” Rick answered.
“Sure, if you’ll also let him get himself some new clothes,” Helena said. “Actually, I did the portrait as a gift.”
“When the surgery’s finished we can enroll him in a boarding school off the Rez,” Anita said. “A boy needs an education.”
“If you put him in a boarding school,” Rick said, “I’ll cover the cost.”
Begay shook his head, considering the squatters. “Who the hell would believe a story like this? Squatters! Deliberate dog bites! It’s unbelievable!”
Anita sighed. “If my mother thinks we’re making this up to keep her from getting her portrait painted, my life will not be worth living.”
Helena smiled. “You just send your mother to my studio. Have her call me to discuss the time. I’ll see to it she’s painted as regally as she likes. Should I put the feathered band on her?”
“No!” Begay snarled. “And don’t put that band on anybody else! That band is sacred! Only my wife can wear it.”
“Darling,” Anita said, “there is no band. Helena made it up.”
Begay began to laugh and the others joined in.