PART SIX: THE LOTUS BLOOMS
“Nil Sine Numini. (Nothing without Providence.)” —Latin Proverb
Deb Ashemoore rolled down her car window, muttering a vulgarity as the burst of hot air blew the ashes of her cigarette back into her face. Not only did her latest lemon on wheels have piss-poor air conditioning and a busted tape deck, she couldn’t get the ashtray drawer open. Deb checked the temperature gauge for the tenth time in an hour, then the gas gauge. At just under half a tank, she hoped she could find a service station before she ran out of fuel. From the looks of her immediate surroundings, she felt anything but certain.
The two-lane roadway meandered through the desert as if of its own accord, winding this way and that when a straight line would have sufficed. The sun hung like a giant white pearl overhead, polished to blinding radiance, with the sky a dome of cloudless blue so vast it was almost intimidating. All around her, the sand reflected the sunlight, making Deb squint even behind her sunglasses. In the distance, a few mesas stood like great rocks dropped from the sky by gods.
At length, Deb passed a sign on the roadside, its colors bleached pale by the sun, the wood wrinkled and paint flaking from the desert winds. Deb drew in a deep breath. “Oh, please, God,” she said.
COYOTE’S TRADING POST KACHINA DOLLS—MEDICINE BAGS—JEWELRY—BOOKS NEXT RIGHT
The next right proved to be several miles ahead, and the road that led to the little store another few miles. The building, clapboard painted white with a narrow porch, stood in the shade of a small hill, or a massive boulder, whichever it might be. Deb parked in the front, the sole vehicle, noting the efforts someone had made to create a flowerbed of blooming cactus. A window unit air-conditioner hummed, supported by a two-by-four, dripping condensation. Deb stepped inside.
“How do?” A man sat behind a counter, looking up from a paperback. He smiled.
“Hi,” Deb said. She took in the one room, the shelves of books and Indian pottery, the cases of unusual stones and rusted antiques, the tiny leather bags hanging everywhere, mandalas and dream catchers on the walls. Then her gaze returned to the proprietor, who was still smiling. “Are you Coyote?” she asked.
“Shit,” Deb said.
The man chuckled. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“No, it’s not that,” Deb said. “It’s just that I was looking for someone else. I guess my lead was dead wrong.”
“Who are you looking for?” he asked.
“An older man,” Deb answered. “A man named Davidovitch.”
“Oh,” Coyote said. “Well, he’s dead, I hear. Least the Feds seem to think so.”
Deb raised an eyebrow. “Do you, um, know anyone by that name?”
“Lots,” he said. “Though I’m afraid they’re all deceased.”
“Did you know a man named Sidney Davidovitch?” Deb asked.
“Used to,” he said. “Why do you want to know?”
Deb smiled. At least this guy was somewhat handsome, in a Davey Crockett sort of way. She turned on the charm.
“I’m a writer,” she said. “I’m working on a book, about an actual incident. It involved Mr. Davidovitch. I had hoped to get his story, in his own words. It sure would be helpful if you could tell me anything.”
“A book about what?” he asked.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” she said.
“Give me a try.”
Deb shrugged. “Well, not too long ago, the world almost ended,” she said.
“Oh,” Coyote said. “That. Well, close only counts when you’re playing horseshoes, right?”