“I already told this asshole everything I know about it,” Sam said, pointing a finger at Evan. “If you’re a policeman, I think you know who I work for. We’ve always heard about it, but never knew what they were up to. So we assumed it was a clever way for someone else—people like this little shit and the men he works for—to sneak drugs through the desert. And that’s competition.”
“So why elect Evan to be your spy?”
Sam seemed reluctant to talk. He looked Max over with suspicion with a nervous stare. “How do I know you’re not wired?”
“I told you, I’m off duty.” He lifted his shirt to reveal that there were no wires or hidden devices underneath. “This isn’t a police matter. This is a personal thing. However, being a policeman, if you don’t cooperate, I can make sure that you’re properly checked out the next time you come into town. Or I can keep checking the highways and make up all kinds of reasons to search your car. You follow me?”
Sam nodded in defeat, the nervous glare once again replaced by an expression of pure hatred. “We made him check it out because his boss apparently tried to pull one over on us. He paid for the merchandise with marked bills.”
Max glanced back to Evan, wanting to ask about this but not wanting to get off of the topic at hand. “And you had no idea what really happens on that bus?” Max asked.
“You?” Max asked, looking beyond Sam and to his silent companion.
“Nothing. None of us do,” the quiet man said.
“And you’re both with the Tribe, right?”
Both Sam and his friend nodded.
Max took a moment to think things through and finally turned back to Evan. “How are you doing?”
“I’ve been tons better.”
“You still with me on this?”
“Do I have a choice?”
Max grinned, shaking his head. “No.” He then turned to Sam and his partner, the look on his face all business. “Saddle up, boys. We’re going for a ride.”
“Where?” Sam asked.
“I want to go see what your little group is all about. I want to go see the Tribe.”
“Well then go,” Sam said. “But I will not go with you. I can’t possible willingly take a policeman and a customer who tried to swindle us onto the grounds.”
“I’m not stupid,” Max said. “I know that outsiders aren’t allowed on the grounds unless invited. The only other way is with en escort from the Tribe. So, as I said, saddle up.”
Sam and his companion shared an uneasy look. The companion sighed and shrugged. An intense worry came over his face, as if he knew that he was about to get into a lot of trouble.
“Why do you want to go there?” Sam asked.
“I want to speak to your elders about what goes down on that bus.”
Evan spoke up now, almost in a whisper. “Max, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Why would you want to get more people involved in this? It’s confusing enough as it is.”
“Because the Tribe has been on these lands for a long time. I find it hard to believe that they wouldn’t know about something like the ritual that you and I have seen.”
“What ritual?” Sam asked, genuinely interested.
Max took another moment to look around the room. He nodded to Evan and then to the gun in the corner. “Pick that up, would you?”
Evan nodded and did as he was asked. With the gun in his hand, it took every ounce of willpower within him to not turn it towards Sam and take off his head. Or maybe just an ear. Anything to make him suffer slowly.
But he did nothing of the sort. He tucked it away into the waistband of his pants, casting a mimicking look at Sam as he did.
Then, ignoring Sam’s last question, Max opened the door and waved the other three men outside. “Let’s go,” he said. “Time’s a-wasting.”