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M D (Shorty) Thompson is a little U. S.  Marshal that President Hayes sends on the dad-gum’dest jobs.  And this one in west central, New Mexico Territory, is enough to drive a sane man crazy as stepped on tumblebug.  Over three- dozen young women and girls are missing from, and around Fort Wingate, New Mexico Territory.  If the whole darned army can’t find these girls, how in the world do they expect only two men, him and his partner to do it?

Brilliant, deafening lightning strikes from a clear blue sky, an old Indian and a beautiful Bald Eagle, keep him steered in the right direction.  He thinks he’s losing his mind the closer he gets to solving this mystery.  Cavalry, hot Malpais, (mal-pie) and naked girls, make him react just like a mule kicked dog, nervous and jumping at anything that moves.  The Malpais are a jagged pile of lava-strewn mountains and hills, laced with Pine, Piñon and Juniper, covering several hundred square miles in west central, New Mexico Territory.  Ancient lava flows hundreds of feet high, run for more miles than the eye can see.  It’s awful hard on man and horse alike.  Crippling a good horse is always a possibility.  One wrong step can send you crashing into a hollow lava tube that can kill you both in a skipped heartbeat and a half.  Unless you drop into one of the many ice caves and freeze to death.  Then that could take awhile, lying there with broken bones.  

Shorty needs more than a little luck this time.  That Bald Eagle and old Indian that keep showing up just might be the key to this whole case.  If only his mind will let him accept some of the things he sees and hears before he goes completely nuts, he’s got a good chance of solving this one.


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