The Best Bad Dreamby Robert Ward
From award-winning novelist Robert Ward, a story about an FBI agent who falls in love with a glamorous snitch who leads him straight into trouble.
FBI Agents Jack Harper and Oscar Hidalgo are burned out from too many cases so they schedule a two-week vacation. Jack plans to hang out with his son, Kevin, then go fishing in Baja: surf, sun, and son . . . a great combination.
Then Jack gets a phone call from his snitch and on-again-off-again girlfriend, the sexy and unpredictable car thief, Michelle Wu. Her sister, Jennifer, has been kidnapped. Frantic, terrified that Jennifer will be killed, Michelle begs Jack to come to Santa Fe at once. This is the last thing Jack wants to do but he owes Michelle big time for saving his life. Michelle is pretty sure a biker named Lucky Avila had something to do with Jennifer’s disappearance. She also admits she did a little business with Lucky, who might be angry at her. Jack goes out to see Lucky, hoping for a simple end to the case, but he should have known better. Anything in which Michelle Wu is involved is bound to be complex, dark, and wild. Soon Jack is up to his neck with bikers, Mexican gangs, and a giant pet Razorback hog named Ole Big, who may offer a major clue to finding the missing girl.
Meanwhile, the innocent Jennifer Wu is trapped in a cell by a man wearing a black rubber suit and a terrifying mask. While Jack is struggling with Ole Big and some very hard criminals, he begins to discover some of the shocking secrets of an exclusive spa for the elderly called the Blue Wolf.
Back at home, Jack’s son is having his own little adventure with the very hot local librarian—a teen-aged boy’s dream come true—while her brutal husband is away. Out of his mind with lust, he, too, is making all the wrong moves.
The Best Bad Dream is fast paced, tough, funny, hip, and filled with unexpected twists and turns.
They drove up Route 285 from Santa Fe as the sun went down, Michelle Wu and her younger sister Jennifer riding their matching metallic gray Suzuki B-King cycles over one hundred miles per hour.
“C’mon,” sis, Michelle yelled as she cruised past her sister. “You’re standing still out here.”
Competitive since they were kids, Michelle expected Jennifer to shout back and speed by her. Instead, she just turned her head in a moody way and looked straight ahead at the dark road.
Michelle groaned. She’d thought getting out the bikes would cheer her sister up but it was obvious Jen was still furious with her. So maybe she could make it up to her by taking her to the Tewa Pueblo at Taos. At least Michelle prayed it would. Because when Jen got into a serious sulk it could last for days.
Michelle geared down and waited for her sister to catch up.
“Follow me. The next left. I’ll race you there.”
She shot ahead, hoping Jennifer would rise to the challenge, but it was no use. Her sister moped behind.
What a waste of horsepower.
That it was her own fault made the whole thing even more annoying.
Ahead of her, Michelle saw the turnoff to the ancient pueblo. In the fading afternoon light it seemed an ancient magical place. Built a thousand years ago, the village glowed with a golden light.
But as they got closer, Michelle could see how barren and poor the pueblo really was. It was muddy outside the adobe walled buildings, and the Tewa people had to climb rickety ladders to go from the first to the second story, and from the second to the third.
Now Michelle worried that Jennifer, too, would find the whole trip a drag, and she’d be even more disgruntled than before.
There was a big Indian man standing at the base of the bleak dirt parking lot, selling tickets. He wore a cheap, torn, plaid cloth coat, and his pockmarked skin and big belly weren’t exactly the romance novel idea of a native warrior. He looked exactly like what he was: a guy hustling his way through a tough, unforgiving life.
After they parked their bikes on a small side street, he sold them their entrance tickets and stamped their hands as though they were teenagers going to Disneyland.
Still, Michelle didn’t want to be cynical. Two thousand people lived on this reservation in three-story adobe buildings. They warmed these rooms with fire, the old way, and raised their children with their grandparents close at hand. They made their own cornmeal, and sang the songs of their ancestors.
In a faked-up, bullshit world of fast food, McMansions, and jive there was something authentic and appealing about the pueblo, something even holy.
Jennifer walked slightly ahead of her, not yet finished being furious. Michelle wanted to poke her and say, “Snap out of it,” but she knew her sister better than that. Better to wait until the rage wore off.
Then she could talk to Jen, explain what went wrong. It wasn’t really her fault anyway. It was just the way things fell. You tried to do the right thing but sometimes—too many times—you ran into ming, or what Westerners called fate.
She had learned as a girl that ming often ran counter to puny human wishes and the way to deal with it was to forget it, and to act nobly anyway.
But Michelle wasn’t really that much like her Chinese ancestors. She was American Chinese and wanted very badly to control ming, to make things work out. She could hear her dead grandmother laugh at such a thought.
“Ming is as controllable as the wind or the rain. How do you control either of them?”
She believed in ming, yes, but she also believed in happy endings. Happy endings achieved by any means necessary. Michelle had learned a long time ago that you had to cut corners to make things work. And when opportunities presented themselves you should strike and strike hard.
Surely Jen would understand all this. Though the sisters were different, they weren’t that different. She’d understand it, and then they could get back on the right track.
The two of them climbed the ladders, walked hunched through the cramped adobe rooms, and Michelle wondered how anyone could stand living in so small a place. Smoke from the fireplaces gave all the rooms a deep musty odor that Michelle couldn’t decide if she liked or not. Maybe if she got used to it.
As they went into a souvenir shop, she asked Jen how she had liked the tour but her sister rolled her eyes at her.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m really pissed at you.”
Michelle took that as an opening and laughed.
“What’s the matter, babe, you think I’m not sensitive?”
that got the smallest of smiles.
“I’m going to take a little walk, Michelle. I’ve got some thinking to do. They say the village’s big religious room, the kiva, is down that way. Meet me there in, say, twenty minutes. Okay?”
Okay, Michelle said. She wondered what she would do for the next twenty minutes. She was already getting a little bored. Michelle didn’t dig history all that much. She had spent most of her life trying to live in the now. Her own family history was filled with remorse, drunkenness, and violence. She didn’t want to remember it. But she knew that turning her back on her history was probably superficial and dumb. So she tried, even though looking at the past, hers or anyone else’s, made her jumpy and nervous.
Now she watched as Jennifer left the little pueblo gift shop and headed down to the kiva, a couple of short, muddy blocks away. Michelle looked at a few Indian dolls—strange little things made of wood, feather, and bone—then checked the pocket of her leather cycle jacket.
There it was, a joint. Just what she needed to get through all this native culture.
She walked outside and climbed up to a second-floor balcony. Coming toward her was a tall, thin man with a black coat and . . . what was that… a white collar? A priest? The sight jolted her a bit.
She had suffered at the hands of priests when she was a girl, the beginning of a long series of betrayals.
As the man drew nearer she could see that he had Indian features, high cheekbones and a reddish color to his skin. He looked up at her, stared at her for a second, then walked on. He wasn’t a priest at all, just a man wearing a collarless shirt.
After looking around to make sure no one could see her, she lit the J. She inhaled deeply a couple of times, then peered down at the burnt-orange valley and fell into a fantasy that she was actually an Indian maiden, living a thousand years ago. Hey, maybe she was wrong. When you were high, history became a lot more lifelike. The image was so interesting she felt as though she were a different person. She must have been a warrior woman, she was pretty sure. No sitting home waiting for the braves to come home shot up by the Spanish or, later, the Americans. She would go out with her own band of hand-chosen women and use their sex to ensnare the Spanish commandant. She could feel herself dancing wildly, mesmerizing the older man. Then, while making love to him, she’d stab him in the throat and be a heroine to her people.
The fantasy was so real that she indulged it again, and then a little wind came over the pueblo. She lay back on the cool adobe wall, her feet hanging over the ledge, and in seconds fell fast asleep.
When Michelle woke up, she looked down at the lonely pueblo street and saw only a few orange streetlights down by the big kiva.
God, she had gotten stoned and nodded off. Well, no wonder. The last few days with Lucky Avila had been totally stressful. The lying, cheating bastard.
She climbed back down the ladder and checked her watch. Oh man, she was ten minutes late. Not all that long in reality, but too long when your sister was already pissed off at you.
She walked down the creepy street to the kiva. Only two other tourists were there, a middle-aged man wearing an Ohio State football jacket and sweatpants and, at his side, a young, honey-blonde woman with eyes as blue and vacant as two plastic buttons.
Michelle started to look inside the round mound of adobe, the big kiva, but there was a sign on the wall that said, NO TRESPASSING.
She gave an irritated sigh, walked a block past the meeting spot, and came back but there was still no sign of her sister.
Finally, starting to worry, Michelle approached the Ohio couple.
“Hi, I’m looking for my sister. You didn’t happen to see a Chinese girl around here a few minutes ago, did you?”
The man shook his big head and assumed a worried look.
“Chinese? No, ma’am. Nobody like that.”
The woman made a face like she was sucking on a lemon.
“Naw, there was some Indians here. At least I think they was Indians, but they weren’t Chinese, no way.”
“Thanks,” Michelle said, feeling a little uneasy.
She turned away and headed back to the parking lot.
As she left Phil looked at his wife, Dee Dee.
She was a Chinese, the man said,
“So?” Dee Dee responded, fury in her voice.
“Well, it’s just that I have some trouble telling the Asian races from one another. Like I was in line at Buckeye Noodles once in Columbus and there were people in the line who were, I am pretty sure, your Koreans and Japanese and maybe even your Chinese and I am somewhat ashamed to admit I could not tell them apart.”
“Why am I not surprised by that?” Dee Dee said.
“Well, I suppose you can tell every damned Oriental from every other,” he replied.
“Oh for Chrissakes, Phil. You are such a freaking hick.”
Phil wanted to say something vicious back but he didn’t have the heart for it. Instead he said, “You know what? I think I’ve had about enough of this Indian village. Why don’t we get back down to the Blue Wolf? Must be around happy hour there now.”
Dee Dee thought it was a good idea. But she wasn’t going to give him credit. No way. She was sick of his jive, his ideas, and truth be told, pretty much sick of everything else about Phil, too.
She gave him a hard little smile, and they headed across the street toward their metallic gray Hummer.
Just outside the pueblo, Michelle walked past the adobe outer wall and turned onto the unpaved lot where they’d parked their bikes. She figured if Jennifer’s bike was gone, then she’d just taken off and they would probably meet back in Santa Fe at their hotel, La Fonda. But if the bike was still there . . .
And it was. The two choppers were sitting there side by side, gleaming, ready to be ridden hard back down the starlit highway to Santa Fe.
But no Jennifer.
Michelle felt something turn in her stomach. Of course, Jen could still be wandering around the pueblo, but Michelle doubted it. No matter how mad the two sisters were at one another, it wasn’t like them to play games. They had always been two against the world, even when they were young; each knew that she couldn’t survive without the other.
She had to go back to the pueblo and look around some more. Maybe Jen had gotten lost in the dark streets.
Then she found herself doing a very uncharacteristic thing, yelling, “Jennifer, hey Jen, it’s time to go, girl. Jen . . .”
But her words were lost in the cold, clear air. Only an old, wrinkled Indian woman smoking at the parking lot entrance looked her way, but she didn’t say a word.