Chapter Five: Ashe
Dave came out of the barn carrying a tool box. "Wanna set her up over there?" He pointed to a concrete slab next to the barn, stained with what looked like motor oil. "That's where I work on my hawg."
"Sure. What kinda bike do you have?"
"It's a Fat Boy, midnight blue with chrome trim. It was my Daddy's."
"Nice." Ashe would take a good German bike over a Harley any day, but he was too polite to tell Dave that.
"So what did it do?"
"What?" Ashe had lost the thread of the conversation.
"Your bike, when it died."
"It sputtered and quit. It's an old bike."
Dave set down his tools and rubbed the dirt off the side of Ashe's bike. "Honda, huh? Never was much for foreign bikes. You have a lot of trouble with her?"
"Sometimes, yeah, but like I said, it's an old bike."
"Give me a couple minutes to look it over. If I can't figure out what's wrong, I can always take you up to Tucson on mine."
Ashe nodded. "I'd appreciate that."
Dave set to work on the bike. He seemed like a decent-enough guy.
Ashe wandered off to the edge of the driveway, looking out over the property. The land was wide open and empty out here. The Sonoran Desert was generally a "wet" desert, lush as far as arid lands went, but you wouldn't have known it from Compton Ranch.
An open meadow on the far side of the barn might once have been a cultivated field. A stand of mesquite trees to the north indicated the presence of a wash, where the rain water was channeled down through the desert land during the monsoons. The sky had been scrubbed clean and blue.
Ashe glanced back at Dave every now and then as the man worked. The cowboy had taken off his own shirt, and sweat glistened in the sunshine off of his tanned back. Though he wasn't in the mood for sex, it never hurt to enjoy the view.
He found a rock to sit on, and took a deep breath, realizing this was the first chance he'd had to truly relax since he'd found his father on the floor of their trailer the day before.
His mind went back to the scene. The intruder had been looking for something. He and his father were dirt-poor, so either the thieves had struck at random, or they had been searching for something that had no monetary value.
He closed his eyes and took another deep breath, exhaling and letting himself enjoy the peace and quiet. Soon enough, he'd be thrown back into the thick of it with his father and his medical prognosis. For just a moment, he let himself drift in the quiet peace of the desert, the sun warm on his back, no sounds but the breeze and the occasional whir of one of Dave's power tools.
"Found your problem."
Ashe opened his eyes. He'd been in deep. "What?" He glanced up—Dave was standing there, the sun creating a halo behind his head.
"I found your problem with the bike. Someone put something in your tank. Sugar, if I had to guess." He wiped his greasy hands off on an old rag. "I cleaned it out, and cleaned the filter too."
What the hell? First the trailer, now this. Ashe stood, dusting off the back of his jeans. "Guess someone was playing a prank on me," he lied, looking over at his bike.
"Helluva prank to play on a guy whose Daddy's in the hospital."
"Yeah." Ashe looked at the cowboy with new respect. "Thanks for fixing it. I owe you. I don't have a lot of money, but I can give you a little something."
Dave visibly cruised him. "I'd be happy to take it in trade," he said with a grin, pushing himself up against Ashe, his hand on Ashe's crotch.
Ashe turned away. "I'd like to. Really. But my father…"
Dave snorted. "No charge, then. We'll put it on your tab for the next time you're in town." He adjusted himself, shooting one last longing look at Ashe. "Let me get you some gas, at least. I've got a five gallon can inside for emergencies."
Ashe nodded. "I'd appreciate that. Otherwise I'd have to walk her back to town."
Dave flashed him a thumbs up and vanished inside the house.
There was a crash from inside the barn. Ashe glanced at the adobe home. Dave was still inside.
He should leave it well enough alone. Whatever was going on inside the barn was none of his business.
But his curiosity got the better of him. He slid the barn door open and looked around. It smelled foul, like a unicorn stall that hadn't been mucked out for ages.
There was something big in the far corner. He stepped inside, and his eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. It was an iron cage, a fairly large one, at that. When he saw what was inside, he stepped back with a gasp.
The man had trapped a xiuhcoatl. A fucking dragon.
It was a baby, to be sure. It was coiled like a snake, maybe twenty feet from end to end, with a beautiful turquoise blue tail that whipped back and forth nervously. It slammed into the front of the cage again with another crash.
He stepped up to look at the magnificent beast. It looked neglected. Its scales were dull, and there was something drawn and tired about its eyes. He knew it was only an animal, but those eyes looked sad.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Ashe spun around.
Dave was standing at the doorway, holding his gun.