Rose Capital Of The World




Alex had bragged to his army buddies about this belt of agriculture between L.A. and San Francisco. No boasting though about his hometown. Like many others, it lay stymied and neglected amid the immense fields. The sky had clouded, and far out above the land, a streak of gun-metal gray threatened rain. Alex listened as the endless crops hummed an undertone that matched the pickup’s tires. Somewhere in this very landscape his mother and father had toiled as youths, each of them waifs in their own way, both determined to rise above the labor camps.

A black Bronco passed him at high speed. He watched it slow down and come to an angled stop that blocked the off road leading to Anson’s acreage. Rather than squeeze past it, he braked next to its left rear tire so he could study the driver. This sudden ambush showed him who was running the methamphetamine trade around here.

Alex opened his door and held it like a shield. “You following me, Troy?”

Troy Ledbetter fingered granny-sized dark glasses and grinned. “Just in hopes we might do some business, Villarreal,” he said, “And to welcome you back.”

A dry gust riffled Alex’s hair. He heard the faint howl of a hound. Above, a hawk dipped. He smelled smoke and beer breath, and from his truck’s glove box, a whiff of gun oil. Every spot around him looked like a good place to shoot somebody.


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