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Mojave Mud Caves by Robert Essig Book

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Mojave Mud Caves by Robert Essig Read Book Online And Download

Overview: A group of young Spring Breakers headed for Lake Havasu take a sudden detour in the middle of the Mojave Desert. It will be a quick stop, he said. It won’t take long, he said. It’s hot. Over 100 degrees, and no one really wants to meddle around some sweaty desert caves a mile off the highway. Then something goes wrong and no one knows what to do.

Needles, California, a town in regression, home of semi-retired truck driver Big Vic. He’s made a lot of mistakes in life and has vowed to make a change, starting by spending more time his adult daughter who has suddenly gone missing. Is it drugs, a kidnapping, murder? His investigation teams him up with an unlikely ally and he finds that tapping into his rough and tumble past is the only way to get answers.

In the desert of Southern California is something of a phenomenon. Tucked away from passersby on Interstate 40 and widely unknown, a series of tunnels crisscross through the mountains, but they’re not mine shafts or caverns. They’re not teaming with bats and stalagmites. These tunnels are deliberate. Festering with something ferocious, something deadly. Something evil.

What lurks within the Mojave Mud Caves?

Mojave Mud Caves by Robert Essig Book Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
Mojave Mud Caves by Robert Essig Book

Mojave Mud Caves by Robert Essig Book Read Online Chapter One

The red Dodge Ram tore down highway 95 like desert driving was a competition. Considering the boat trailing behind the Hemi, it was amazing and frightening how bold Matt was when passing semi trucks and slowpoke drivers on two-lane blacktop. Matt and his friends were young enough to retain some of that youthful energy and lack of recognizing one’s mortality as a fragile thing.

“Jesus-fuck!” Matt said, flashing a toothy grin. “Another caravan of sheeple trailing behind a puttering big rig. What’s up with that? How the hell can so many people stand going so. Fucking. Slow?”

Sammy, Matt’s best friend since they were monstrous little heathens riding bikes and taunting little girls, rode shotgun. “What’s the record?” He swiveled to face Nikki, Shawna, and Ollie, all sitting on the bench seat in the extended crew cab.

Nikki said, “Four, I think.” She raised her eyebrows in disinterest.

“Yeah,” said Ollie. He had his arm around Shawna. They were the type of couple who thrived off public displays of affection, driving the rest of the truck crazy with kisses and the occasional baby talk. “We passed a semi and some cars an hour ago.”

Sammy looked ahead at the tail of cars behind a silver eighteen-wheeler. “There’s no way you can do that. Too many cars.”

Matt grinned, cocked his sunglasses. “Oh yeah?”

With a friendship as deep as that between Sammy and Matt, Sammy knew what he was getting into after such a comment. Matt was the kind of guy who never stepped down from a challenge, whether offered or implied. He was the all around baddass who felt like he always had something to prove, and prove it he would, regardless of the consequences, which tended to get him into trouble from time to time. And the people who associated with him. He’d been kicked out of bars, ballparks, restaurants, banned from entire malls, and arrested a few times for outrageous pranks the likes of which would cause the maniacs behind the Jackass movies to cringe. Thing about Matt was that he could talk himself out of even the most sticky situation, which was the only reason his rap sheet didn’t have its own filing cabinet. His family thought that PTSD after his stint in the military was to blame, but Matt had always been a wild one. He just seemed to get crazier with age. He lived his twenties like the challenge was to become incarcerated or killed before thirty.

As soon as the solid double yellow line turned into a single broken line indicating that they were safe to pass (not that Matt always abided that particular rule of the road), he pulled the truck to the left to get a good view of any oncoming traffic. His grin deepened as the train of cars he was to speed past came into view. The road was clear as far as he could see. Behind the semi truck were at least six vehicles, one of them a motorhome.

Matt’s grin stretched across his face like there were hooks buried in the corners of his mouth with invisible fishing lines being yanked in opposite directions. This was a grin Sammy knew well. This was the grin Matt had when they first smoked weed, drank a beer, egged the principal’s house, smashed car windows with garbage cans when they first got driver’s licenses. It was an intoxicating smile with enough influence to cause a holy man to kiss the devil’s ass.

“Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen,” Matt said. “We’re going to see what this hemi can do!”

The truck swerved into the opposite lane. Ollie and Shawna looked back as if fearing the boat trailer would become unhinged and cause a wreck in their wake. Shocked awe turned into smiles as Matt pushed his foot down on the pedal. The truck didn’t lag a bit, just plowed forward with a jump from the RPM dial and a steady rise in miles per hour. They passed two cars. Matt gritted his teeth, muscles clenched. Hands gripped “oh shit” handles. Shawna clutched Ollie tighter. A third car and then a truck. The hemi threatened a hundred miles per hour, a speed that was frowned upon with or without a trailer. The truck ate dust and soon the motorhome, which was the last vehicle before the eighteen-wheeler.

“Sammy!” Matt said, pointing across the cab toward the passenger window, “moon these motherfuckers! They’re the ones causing the backup.”

Sammy hesitated, as if what was being asked of him took a moment to register in his mind, and why not? It had been at least five years since they’d driven around the many communities of San Diego County smashing mailboxes and mooning people. It was sophomoric, childish even, so Sammy, finding himself caught in the moment and raging with adrenaline, unbuckled, twisted himself around, and pulled down his shorts, pushing his ass cheeks up against the window, his balls hanging like a hairy cyst. Though Sammy was of Indian descent, his butt cheeks were pale in comparison to his dark skin tone. As they sailed by the motorhome, Matt tapped the horn. The truck erupted into laughter at the wide-eyed shock of the retirement-case sitting behind the wheel of the Weekend Warrior.

And then Matt screamed, “Oh fuck!”

Sammy scrambled to straighten himself out; expletives were slung like confetti. Up ahead, coming straight for them, was another eighteen-wheeler, sun gleaming off the polished chrome, black smoke piping from the huge exhaust pipes that protruded from either side of the cab like cylindrical steel ears. From this frightening vantage the front of the big rig resembled a menacing face, the grill a massive set of teeth ready to chew wrong way drivers and leave the wreckage on the sandy sides of the road.

Matt pushed the pedal to the floor. The engine picked up and the truck lurched forward. Without regard for the trailer, Matt yanked the truck back into the right-hand lane in front of the eighteen-wheeler just seconds before being creamed. The driver laid on his horn to which Matt laughed as he struggled to keep the Dodge from fishtailing as the boat trailer swung back and forth. The truck’s rear tires screeched. Matt regained control and left the caravan in a blast of desert sand.

“You’re crazy, Matt!” Nikki said without the slightest remnant of adrenaline-fueled glee she possessed only sixty seconds ago. She was pissed. “You’re a fucking asshole, you know that. You could have killed us.”

“Coulda, woulda, didn’t,” Matt said, laughing off Nikki’s concern. She punched him in the arm. “Oh come on!” Matt smirked into the rearview mirror. “Live a little, huh. Don’t tell me you weren’t enjoying that before we almost slammed into that Mac truck.”

“New rule,” Sammy said. He was pale, shaken up. “No more passing unless it’s, like, three cars max, ‘kay?”

“Ah whatever, man. We’re almost there anyway.”

“Almost there?” Shawna said, eyes of confusion looking in the rearview mirror from the back seat, but unable to see if Matt was returning her questioning looks due to his shades.

“Oh, I didn’t tell you? We’re going on a little excursion before we get to Lake Havasu.” Matt’s jaw dropped in mock surprise. “Ollie didn’t tell you?”

Shawna glared at Ollie. He said, “Come on, Matt, I didn’t know about this. What are you talking about, man?”

“Bullshit,” Sammy said. “We talked about it at the Renegade that other night.”

Shawna elbowed Ollie in the ribs. “You went to the Renegade?”

“Uh oh,” said Matt, “someone’s in trouble.”

“Babe, I told you we went to the bar.”

“I don’t remember that?”

Nikki said, “So, what, was this something the boys decided without the girls?”

“Naw,” said Matt, “just something we chatted about. My idea really. Ever heard of the Mojave Mud Caves?”

Nikki wrinkled her nose. “Mud caves?”

“Yeah, mud caves. In the mountains.”

“We’re in the desert. Where’s the mud come from? And what’s a mud cave?”

“There are hot springs all over the desert. What’s a mud cave?” Matt put both hands up and shrugged. “Fuck if I know, but I heard they’re really cool, and—” Matt squinted. “I think this is our road.”

Matt slowed the truck as he took the unmarked exit that brought them to a dirt road that ran perpendicular to the highway 95, stretching either direction into shivering heat waves. The truck headed north toward the mountains.

“So where did you hear about these mud caves?” Nikki asked with a hint of concern.

Matt shifted in his seat. “There are all kinds of secrets out in the desert. There’s supposed to be this secret little pool of water in a covered concrete tub with little solar panels that keeps the water cool.”

“What’s the point?” Shawna said, wrinkling her brow.

“Dunno.” Matt shrugged. “Just some shit some really smart people did for fun I guess. I heard of the mud caves on the Internet. They’re supposed to be in the wall of these mountains. There’s a crevice that leads to an area in the middle of the mountains that you can’t see from the desert. That’s where they’re at.”

Shawna sighed. “So we’re going to hike in this heat? Are you crazy?”

“I did the research. How do you think I found this place? It’s not much of a hike, and supposedly the mud caves are in the side of the mountain. It should be cool inside.”

“Oh great. You have us going into caves now. Awesome. You know what’s in caves? Bats. When I was a little girl my family went on a trip and saw the Carlsbad Caverns. You go deep into these caves and get to this big room or whatever. Then the tour guide turns off the damn lights. I screamed so loud.” Shawna shivered at the thought. “I’m not going inside. No way.”

“Oh come on, don’t be a grouch. It’s not like we’re going to camp out here or something. It’ll be fun to look around.”

“You realize it’s over a hundred degrees out there, right? That’s why we’re going to the lake, to cool off and have fun.”

“Let’s not stay here too long,” Ollie said. “I’m not exactly looking forward to exploring mountains in hundred degree weather either.”

Matt pulled the truck to a stop at the base of the mountain. “Alright kids, grab your water bottles and walking sticks, this is where our search for the mud caves begins.”

When they opened the doors the heat attacked them like an invisible blanket of molten lava. “Oh god,” Sammy said. “I think I’ll just wait here in the air conditioned truck.”

“Don’t be a pussy,” Matt said as he pulled a cooler from the bed of the truck that was hidden beneath a tarp. “I loaded this thing up with water and ice. We’re gonna need it.”

Nikki looked worried as she stared up at the rocky mountain. “I don’t like this, Matt. Seriously. People go hiking at Three Sisters and Green Valley Falls back home in ninety-degree weather and have to be rescued due to dehydration and exhaustion. Do you really think this is a good idea?”

“Christ, people, when did you all turn into a group of limp-wrist pussies. Jeez, if we’re burning out we’ll leave. We’re not idiots. That’s what all the water’s for. C’mon. Right around the corner here should be the crevice. Might even be shady.”

Sammy smirked. “So what’s that, a hundred in the shade, one-ten in the sun?”

“Something like that,” Ollie said.

Matt took the lead without even looking back, and his friends followed, sipping water and already looking miserable. The sand beneath their shoes and flip-flops was firm enough so that they didn’t struggle to walk. What little wind blew felt like an oven with a fan inside. Lizards danced by standing on kitty-corner feet and switching when the sand became too hot for even a cold-blooded reptile.

Ollie and Shawna took up the rear, walking far enough away from the others to talk privately.

“Matt’s such an ass,” she said, voice just above a whisper. “Why’s he gotta be like that?”

“That’s just Matt. He’s had a bit of a complex since we were kids. I always figured it was better to be on his side than to have him against you.”

“So you guys really went to the bar? When did this happen. Why didn’t you say something?”

Ollie paused. He wasn’t a great liar, couldn’t think quick enough to talk bullshit and own it. It was his hesitation that told Shawna he was about to make something up, or come up with a plausible reason for his actions, not that going to the bar was the worst thing ever. Shawna had a tendency toward jealousy, and though Ollie had been told by his friends that he was pretty much pussy-whipped and should “be a man,” he loved Shawna. His grandfather once told him that when people love one another they will overlook the small things, deal with the embarrassing things, and cherish the wonderful things about the one they love. Shawna’s jealousy was a small thing, as far as Ollie was concerned, but he still felt awkward about things she disapproved of, such as going to the bar with friends. It wasn’t so much that he went to the bar with the boys (she was cool with that if he told her ahead of time), but that he hadn’t told her. She would be worried that there was a reason he hadn’t told her.

“I just forgot. We were having beers over at Matt’s and then we headed to the bar to talk about the trip.”

“So you knew about this little detour we’re on?”

“Matt mentioned it, but—”

“Here’s the crevice,” said Matt. “Keep your eyes out for sidewinders.” The glee in his voice indicated the pleasure he got dragging his friends on such a seemingly mundane and exhausting adventure.

Shawna stopped at the giant crack that seemed to split the mountain in half. Ollie held back with her after the others followed Matt down what looked like an almost labyrinthine trail with huge walls of granite reaching for the sky at either side. It was shaded, but that was little respite from the sweltering heat.

“Look,” said Shawna, “I really don’t want to do this. It’s stupid.”

“I know, I know. I’m not big on desert hikes myself. We all want to get to the lake. I’m sure Matt’ll want to turn back soon enough. He wants to go to Lake Havasu more than any of us. I’m kind of surprised he actually brought us here.”

“What’s with you guys, doing whatever Matt says like he’s some kind of messiah?” Shawna rolled her eyes. “The guy’s a dick. I’m sorry, but it’s true. He’s a fucking asshole.”

Ollie gave her a knowing grin. “You’re not the first to say that. I kind of always liked having the guy on my side though.”

Shawna wiped her brow and adjusted her sunglasses. “He isn’t on your side, he’s pushing you and Sammy around for his own amusement. Sammy doesn’t seem to mind, but I can tell that it gets to you.”

“Matt and Sammy have been best friends since before I even met the big ol’ meathead.” Ollie shrugged and tilted his head. “Matt’s not so bad. He’s like beer. An acquired taste.”

Shawna tossed her empty water bottle. “I need another water.”

“I’ll lead the way. Not like we have keys to the truck anyway. We’re kind of stuck out here.”

“That’s a comforting thought.”

Together they slipped into the ages-worn crack that split the mountain. The sides of the massive fissure were lined with minerals that gave a glimpse into the age of the mountain like stripes of filling in a cake. The shade felt nice on their hot skin. Both Ollie and Shawna had their eyes on the ground scanning rocks and little dark hollows.

Ollie said, “Good thing is they’ve already gone through. If there were any snakes they’re probably frightened off.”

“I hope they didn’t take some kind of turn.”

“Just remember,” Ollie’s voice deepened like the announcer for a horror movie trailer, “the hills have eyes.”

Shawna slapped his arm. “Knock it off, Oliver.”

Ollie groaned. He hated when people addressed him as Oliver. That wasn’t even his name. His parents were real hip skater types back in the eighties. He figured he was lucky his name wasn’t kickflip or something. Shawna only called him Oliver when she was trying to get a rouse out of him. It used to really get his goat, but now he pretty much groaned it off.

“What happened to Nikki?” Ollie said. “She barely knows Matt and Sammy.”

“Nikki doesn’t need to know anyone very well to play along, especially boys.”

“What are you trying to say, she’s a skank?”

“You know Nikki. We weren’t friends for years because she stole two of my boyfriends in junior high. Oh, I hated her for that. She was such a slut in high school it was sickening. I guess part of it was just jealousy. She seemed to get any guy she wanted. I don’t know if she was fucking them or what, but that gives a girl a reputation. But we reconnected in college.”

“Oh yeah, you told me about that. She changed, right?”

“I guess. You tell me.”

“What do you mean? You asking if she’s made a pass at me?”

“Deep down I still have a little resentment. I kind of figured a weekend at Lake Havasu aught to tell me what kind of person Nikki really is. Doesn’t surprise me she took off with two guys she hardly knows.”

“Shawna!” Nikki’s voice echoed through the winding rock walls. “Shawwwwna!”

Nikki didn’t sound particularly distressed, but both Shawna and Ollie picked up their pace. After a couple of sharp curves in the rock the mountain opened up into a tiny valley where the ground widened and desert shrubs grew in abundance. The sand became softer here, and up ahead at the other end of the plane was a huge wall of the mountain so unusual in appearance that both Ollie and Shawna stopped and stared, awe-struck.

“We found it!” Matt’s voice was small coming from across the little valley. His excitement was palpable.

“I thought we lost you guys,” Nikki said.

“Holy shit,” Ollie said. “What the hell is this?”

The mountain ahead rose into the sky like some primitive building. On its face were huge holes with what looked like mounds of dried mud freckling the massive façade. There was no wind, no animal sounds, nothing but desert quiet and this strange sight before them.

Matt’s voice carried through the valley, dwarfed by the spectacle before Ollie and Shawna. “I present you with . . . THE MOJAVE MUD CAVES!”

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