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Undying Love
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-003-5
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 304 Pages
Published: November 2002
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

"Undying Love" is an erotic love story, set in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico. Would-be author Richard Curry and his friend, John are camped on the western edge of the Sangr? de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico. Fifty years ago, while camping in the area, Curry discovered a hidden valley, nestled deep in the mountains - a valley that doesn't appear on any map - where he found a village of strange folk who have had no contact with the outside world since the wagon train arrived in 1850. There, he met the village Healer's daughter, Eve, a beautiful, sexy, apparent 18-year old.

This is the story of how they met, fell in love, and ultimately were separated, how Curry devoted his life to trying to return, and the awesome secret of Blessed Valley that the rest of the world must never learn: neither Eve, the settlers, nor the tribe of fair-skinned "Indians" at the other end of the valley have aged since they arrived.

WARNING: This book contains adult situations with descriptive sexual content.



Undying Love (Excerpt)


Chapter One

May 24?Around the Camp Fire

The sun dropped between the tops of the trees and the slope below them. Richard Curry stared at the sky as it changed from blue to orange, then to deep purple, and finally to charcoal gray. The coffee in his cup grew cold. Absently, he stroked his dog's head. Billy pressed his head against Curry's hand and stretched to prolong the contact. Curry turned to his companion.

"I never tire of watching the sunset, John, especially up here, away from the rest of the world," he said. "That's the one thing in my life that hasn't changed in all these years since?" His eyes misted, and he turned away so his friend wouldn't see.

There was an awkward pause when neither spoke. Billy nudged Curry's leg, hoping for another stroke.

"Rich, are you OK?" John Linebarger asked.

The two sat next to their campfire. A pot of coffee soaked up the remaining warmth from the coals. The glowing embers looked like it would generate warmth for several more hours.

The camp was on the western slope of the Sangr? de Cristo mountain range, due east of Questa, New Mexico. At about 8,000 feet above sea level the forest was mostly pine and aspens that pushed closely together as if they guarded some deep secret.

They were in a small clearing thirty feet in diameter. They had arrived early enough to set up the tent and roll out the sleeping bags. Then they had dinner and now the food was settling in their bellies. All that remained to do was lie back and enjoy the cool night air, the starry sky, and the sounds of the mountain wildlife.

Curry swallowed the last of his cold coffee. "I was just remembering times long gone. Maybe later."

He shifted his weight on the rock and grimaced. He'd been sitting too long and his tired old joints had stiffened. He rose and walked painfully around the fire a couple of times, his boots stirring up small dust clouds. There hadn't been any rain in the mountains for more than a month and he'd had to get a special fire permit for this trip. Billy watched for Curry to resume his seat and continue stroking him.

John persisted. "Come on, Rich, I?ve known you for almost twenty-five years. I know when something's bothering you."

Curry turned to him with a haunted look in his eyes. "John, you know I take these camping trips every chance I get. Haven't you ever wondered why I always come to this same area? Never anywhere else?"

"Yes, especially when you load up the truck with, of all things, backpacking gear. You're seventy-five years old. Backpacking is a young man's sport. Why not rent an RV? There are plenty of great camping places in this state. Why come here?"

John looked around. They were high in the range, accessible only by a rugged dirt road, and with no ?improved? facilities. It had taken them the better part of the afternoon to get this far into the mountains and set up camp, and Curry had told him they were backpacking the rest of the way tomorrow.

"You always set out alone, just you and the dog. You seem so eager to get out of town, really looking forward to the trip. Every time you leave you seem ten years younger. Every time you come back you look exhausted, and you're an SOB to be around for weeks. Why do you keep doing it?"

Curry poured another cup of coffee. He stirred the embers of their dinner fire, and it flared, the light making him look even older than before.

John Linebarger had first met Richard Curry when Curry came into his Santa Fe studio and bought a small landscape he'd done of the Sangr? de Cristo range. They'd struck up a conversation and discovered a mutual love of fishing. It was late in the day and John had offered to buy coffee across the street. They sat for hours getting to know each other. In short order they were friends, and began going places together.

Curry had once told Linebarger about his childhood. Richard Curry was born in El Paso, Texas in 1927, an only child. His father operated a service station; his mother was a homemaker. Curry attended El Paso High School, graduating in 1945. His grades were average and he graduated in the middle of his class.

After high school he attended The University of New Mexico in Las Cruces, New Mexico, commuting home on weekends. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, with a minor in English.

In 1950 his folks moved to Las Cruces, wanting a smaller community. The next two years were rather lean, while his father got his new station established. Curry went to work for him in exchange for room and board, and a small allowance. During this time, Curry began writing articles for the local paper and science fiction pulp magazines. He never acquired a regular column in the paper, but almost all his work was accepted and published therein. It generated very little money, but Curry felt the exposure was good for his career. Several short-short stories sold to Amazing and If.

During high school his girl friend was Sharon Gillespie. They met at church and dated occasionally. He attended the prom with her and they both lost their virginity that night. Curry never discussed how the romance ended. He acquired his first vehicle, a 1936 Chevrolet Coupe, during his senior year in high school. It was banana cream pie yellow.

His parents attended First Baptist Church of El Paso where his mother was active in the Women's Missionary Union, and his father was a member of The Brotherhood and an usher on Sunday mornings. Curry attended from early childhood. He sang in the choir sometimes, and taught Sunday school as a Junior and Senior in high school. When his family moved to Las Cruces, he dropped out of the church scene.

Curry today was a writer of sorts. His once promising career as a novelist had fizzled out in the 60's, and since then he'd bounced from job to job writing articles for local newspapers and doing research for other writers. One thing that did seem to animate Curry was talking about northern New Mexico and its history. He would hold forth for hours on the legends of the Sangr? de Cristo's Indian tribes, the history of the Conquistadors in New Mexico, and great fishing spots in the mountains. Then, without warning, he'd get quiet. Linebarger didn't understand why, but had never pushed Curry to talk about it.

One morning, eight years ago, Linebarger had opened his studio and discovered a stray dog in the alley out back. He took the animal in, fed him and gave him water. However, his apartment prohibited pets, so he picked up the phone to call Animal Control. At that moment, Curry walked in and the dog cautiously walked over to Curry and sniffed. It was as if they had been friends long ago. In moments, they bonded and Curry took the animal home. Billy went everywhere with Curry, riding either in the front seat or in the bed of Curry's old pickup truck. When Curry went out to eat he always took scraps home for Billy. They were inseparable.

"You've been coming here for twenty-five years that I know of," John said.

"A lot more than that. It was fifty years ago yesterday when I first set foot in this camp. I've been back as many as four times a year since then. I've never missed an anniversary of?" He stopped and sipped his coffee.

"Fifty years? Why, Rich? What the hell draws you here? I mean, this is a fine campsite, away from the crowds, and the scenery is great, but why here? Especially since I know your health is not what it should be. For God's sake, Rich, you had a heart attack last year!"

"It wasn't a heart attack. It was a TIA, a Transient Ischemic Attack - kind of a mini-stroke. There's a big difference between stroke and heart attack. Heart attack kills heart muscle tissue and then things usually go downhill from there. A TIA causes minor brain damage, but the brain is a marvelous organ, John; it can recover, given the right circumstances. Doc said if I recovered from the minor weakness in my right arm within three months the chance of a full-blown stroke dropped significantly. I had full use in just a couple of months. There was almost no damage. Doc said I didn't need to worry, just continue to watch my weight and get more exercise.

"But my health is one reason we're here together. I got some bad news and I thought I might need someone with me this trip. Just in case."

"Is it your heart again? What do you mean bad news?"

"No, it's not my heart. But all the same, I'm going to die’soon." Curry's eyes closed for a long moment. "I have pancreatic cancer, John. It's a death sentence; no cure, and even the most extreme treatments help only about fifteen percent of time. I have only weeks. It was already eating me alive when they found it." He sighed. "If only I had a little more time, maybe?"

"Why didn't you tell me? How long have you known?" Linebarger's words choked from his throat. "This can't be. Are they sure?"

In twenty-five years they had spent many happy times together. They shared an appreciation of classical music, and had often gone to the symphony together. Linebarger was an artist of sorts, though he couldn't make a consistent living at it. In his spare time, he worked as a Web site designer, just often enough to keep the wolves from the door. The rest of his time?his ?real? job?he spent painting landscapes and portraits of the Native Americans of the Southwest. Curry thought he was quite good, not that the critics had ever taken notice. He sold work from his studio in and had some small reputation throughout the area, but didn't have the recognition to get his work invited to the important gallery showings.

Both men were currently single. Linebarger had been married once, but as far as he knew, Curry had never married. Each had gone out with women, on occasion, though Curry always had to be set up. Linebarger would find someone for him, arrange the date, and then Curry would show no interest. Oh, he was always pleasant and the ladies always liked him, they just never heard from him after the date. Linebarger had gotten on him about his disinterest in the fair sex and the only explanation Curry gave was that he just wasn't interested in a relationship. Eventually, Linebarger gave up. They went to dinner several times a week, to movies occasionally, and then last week, Curry had called.

"John, Billy and I are heading up into the Sangr? de Cristo's next week, for a few days. Want to go? I could use some company and Billy likes you."

Linebarger tried to demur when he learned it was a backpacking trip. He was in good shape for the age of 62, and occasionally camped overnight, but three days carrying everything on his back seemed a bit much. Finally, he agreed. Friday at noon, he put a sign on the door of his studio and locked the door just as Curry drove up in his battered old truck. Billy was tied down in the back. Curry had provided everything they'd need, except the clothes Linebarger would need for a couple of days in the wilderness.

The ride was uneventful, passing through the sleepy community of Espa?ola, and then the even smaller Enbudo, and finally Taos, where they stopped for gas and sandwiches. A short ride up the road, and they turned into the mountains at Questa. The forest service road up into the canyon of the Red River led them eastward into the hills. When that road turned north, Curry slipped the pickup off the road, headed south, and followed what looked like an improved goat path. Quickly, the forest surrounded them. It took two hours of twisting, turning, and rut jumping to reach the campsite.

When they arrived, Curry laid out all the gear: food, first aid, cooking, and hiking gear, two packs, two bedrolls, the tent, and a harness so Billy could carry some of the gear. He even had ultra lightweight fishing poles and tackle. They organized everything and packed it away. Except for their coffee cups and pot, the bags, and the tent, everything was ready for the next day's trek.

Curry's voice brought Linebarger back to the present.

"Yes, I got the word several weeks ago. The doctor gave me a month then. I guess this is my last trip. I asked you to come along, even though these trips are’special to me. I've never had someone with me here before, but I felt it might be best to have help, just in case."

"Are you sure you want to hike tomorrow? We could just sit and enjoy the view. This is a remote spot. Let's just relax and get refreshed before we return to civilization."

"I'm not going back." Curry said quietly.

"What?"

"I'm not going back. I'm going to find what I'm searching for or die here on the mountain." He bowed his head and put it in his hands. "This is my last chance. I've put my whole life into my search. I have to try one more time. The effort will take everything I have and I need you to help me."

"This is madness. Of course, you'll go back. I won't let anything hurt you. If need be, I'll carry you back," Linebarger said.

"You don't understand. I've tried all my life. There won't be another chance to?"

"To what? You're not making any sense. What are you searching for?"

Curry settled himself against a small boulder. Billy snuggled up close beside his leg. Curry's eyes took on a glazed look as he finished his coffee and set the cup on the ground beside him. His hand sought out the warmth and softness of Billy's fur. Billy shivered at the contact.

"It's a long story, John. I've never told anyone this story, not once in fifty years. Get comfortable. I'll explain everything."

The last vestiges of twilight and afterglow disappeared into the night sky and the stars came out. A full moon would soon crest the mountains behind them. The fire crackled and the embers shifted freeing an explosion of bright sparks that rose like orange fireflies into the night.

The warm glow cast deep shadows on both men's faces, emphasizing the sunken hollows of Curry's cheeks. Billy's eyes drooped and closed. Linebarger realized how haggard and worn his friend looked. How had he missed the change these past few weeks, months?

Around the small clearing of their camp the trees soughed lightly in a cool breeze, and a cricket started his evening performance. Linebarger poured the last of the coffee and set the pot off to the side of the fire. He reached in his pocket and dug out his pipe and tobacco. In moments, he had the bowl stoked and tamped for the long haul. He drew a long pull and blew a fragrant cloud of blue smoke over the fire. Billy wrinkled his nose in his sleep.

"Fifty years ago I had great dreams, John. I was going to be a writer. I had short stories out to several pulp science fiction magazines, Galaxy, Worlds Beyond and Science Fantasy, a few others. You know, the ones that got the genre going in the early fifties.

"I'd run across a couple of tales about this area and had begun researching them hoping I could build it into a real story I could sell. You may have heard some of the stories. The locals tell of a lost community in these mountains, of strange people wearing old-fashioned clothes and talking with odd accents."

Linebarger nodded. Everyone in the area was familiar with the legends.

"These weren't your 'lost city of gold' stories, just rumors of a small village in the hills that no one knew how to find. Everyone seemed to know someone who knew someone who once ran into someone that had talked to someone who had seen the village. But I could never track down the source of any particular tale.

"There were so many of them, though, that I figured there must be some basis in fact. I studied maps of the area, looking for places where a village could exist but would be unlikely for someone to run into accidentally. This range is narrow enough that such a 'hidden valley' would have been discovered long ago.

"There were two basic tales I ran into. The first was of white settlers who came to the area about 1850, got lost, and settled up in these mountains. Some said that they came down from the mountains every year to trade, then disappeared back into the hills. Others said that no one from the lost community ever left it, and only the occasional explorer ever ran into them. One guy I talked to told me he'd seen some coins belonging to a friend of a friend that were from the 1850's and that this person had found them while exploring up here.

"I ran into my first good telling of that tale from a rancher near Las Cruces. That guy looked older than I am now and had about a mile of wrinkles in his face. I met him in a store while I was talking to the storekeeper about the legends. The rancher overheard the conversation and interrupted. Said his brother had found the village back in 1925. After finishing with the storekeeper, we sat outside and he told me the story.

"His brother was up in the Sangr? de Cristos northeast of Taos, looking for a fishing spot. He'd backpacked in from Questa and was wandering up a valley. He came over a ridge and there below him was a valley with thin columns of smoke rising near the south end. Staying along the ridge he moved toward that end of the valley, and eventually got a good look at the community there. He said there were a number of old wooden homes, what looked like a church, a meetinghouse, and fields around the village. He claims he saw people going about their chores, but they were all wearing long dresses and bonnets for the women, and plain homespun work clothes for the men. There were old wagons outside of town that he said looked like the kind pioneers used coming across America in the nineteen century. Anyhow, the brother looked for a way down, but everywhere he turned the ridge was a sheer drop into the valley. He finally gave up and headed back."

Linebarger drew in and exhaled a puff of tobacco smoke. "So what happened? Did they go back?"

"Yep. The rancher tried on several occasions to find the valley, but never did. He's convinced his brother was nipping from the bottle and it was just a hallucination.

"The other tale was about a lost Indian tribe that's been up here for like 400 years. No one seemed to know which Indian nation, but the name Athapascans popped up and I tried to research them.

"The Athapascans arrived from the north sometime before 1590 and later divided into two related groups: Apache and Navajo. As the tribes sorted out territorial differences through trading and raiding a new element entered the cultural mix: the Spanish arrived. They came with soldiers accompanied by priests: the well-known combination of the cross and the sword.

"Although there were several attempts at exploring the northern New Mexico wilderness, the most successful one was organized by Don Juan de O?ate. In 1598, his retinue arrived at Caypa, one of two Pueblo villages at the intersection of the R?o Chama and the R?o Grande, north of present-day Espa?ola. He moved across the river to a pueblo he renamed San Gabriel del Yunque. It was the first Spanish capital of New Mexico.

"Somewhere in that time frame this small group of Indians, who hated the Spaniards, left and disappeared into the mountains north of Taos. No one ever heard from them again. Some say they were a group of White Mountain Apaches. Originally, they came from far to the north, migrated into the West Texas and New Mexico plains areas, and assimilated into the Apache Nation. There were priests then who thought they might be the lost tribe of Israelites.

"There were variations on that tale. Some said that these Indians were hostile, killing any whites found in the mountains. Others told tales similar to those about lost settlers, that the Indians came down to trade periodically, spoke Spanish, and offered furs and obscure herbals in exchange for guns, bullets, etc.

"Although the tales were everywhere I could never seem to find any hard evidence. Nothing you could hold in your hand, no pictures, nothing. Any 'evidence' I found was unverifiable and much of it was suspect. What I did discover was that these tales had been around for a very long time. I found written records more than a hundred years old purporting to be first-hand tales. I even found some that dated back to the time of Se?or O?ate. I ran into tales as far away as Phoenix. I interviewed that woman by mail.

"Any legend this persistent must have some basis in fact, and I decided I was the one who would find the truth. I was convinced that whether the tales were true or not, the search would be interesting, and I could write a book about it to further my career. I wrote proposals to several publishers, hoping one would come through with an advance, but had no luck with that. Any searching I did would have to be on my nickel.

"Since I was not well off financially, I'd have to limit my research to a small geographic area and would have to do it all myself. It might take several trips to come to any conclusion about the truth of the tales.

"My parents thought I was crazy. However, the bug bit me, as they say. I had to find out about the legends. I acquired detailed maps. I haunted the libraries. I did telephone and mail interviews. Then I studied my notes.

"They all seemed to point to this one small area of the Sangr? de Cristo Mountains. When I looked for common patterns in the tales, I found that almost all the sources pointed to the West side of the range. I started planning an expedition."

Curry paused and stretched. Billy looked up, asking for more attention. Curry patted his head. Linebarger put some more wood on the fire and fanned it into flame.

"You want some more coffee?" he asked. He emptied the previous grounds and started another pot. "So when was this?"

"That was the spring of 1952, just about two years after the North Korean Army invaded South Korea. I was scared to death of the call, since there was a draft then, but I managed to escape. I always wondered how that happened. Seemed like everyone I knew was on his way overseas during that spring. I had decided if they called me I'd go fight, but no way would I volunteer.

"I'd just bought a Ford pickup and was fixing it up. I figured it would be useful off road up here in the hills, certainly more than my '36 Chevy. Over a period of several months, I acquired, bought, and borrowed everything I could think of that might be helpful. That was no easy task back then, either. There were no camping stores to go to, no big discount stores with sporting goods departments. Only oddballs went camping. Most men had had their fill in the war and had no desire to 'rough it.'

"So I haunted every war surplus store I could locate. Found some real bargains on stuff, too. I still have some of it. I've been using it several times a year for fifty years. Back then manufacturers designed things to last; nothing was disposable. People bought a cigarette lighter and they bought flints and fluid at the same time to refill it. Military stuff the same way. Contractors gave good value for what they charged Uncle Sam. I've never regretted the money I spent on military surplus gear.

"So, I put together about a hundred pounds of equipment for camping out. Then I planned the first trip. I'd start in the foothill communities along the highway, from Taos north, and then find a way up into the mountains. I hoped maybe someone right at the base of the mountains might have a better tale to tell or perhaps something tangible as proof. That was a long time ago, but I remember that first trip like it was yesterday."