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Chapter 24

Dawn broke with frost on the window and a rapping at our door.

“Hey,” a voice outside whispered. “You guys up?”

I padded over to the door, shivering, wondering what the hell the Party Kids had done this time.

Luis and Scott were outside, blowing into their cupped hands. It was so early, the sky was still amilky coffee color. The roosters hadn’t even started crowing.

“Want to sneak in a run?” Scott asked. “Caballo said we’re on the road by eight, so we’ve got tohit it now.”

“Uh, yeah. Okay,” I said. “Caballo took me on a great trail last time. Let me see if I can find himand—”

A window flew open in the cabin beside us. Jenn’s head popped out. “You guys going for a run?

I’m in! Billy,” she called back over her shoulder. “Get your ass up, dude!”

I yanked on some shorts and a polypro top. Eric yawned and reached for running shoes. “Man,these guys are hard-core,” he said. “Where’s Caballo?”

“No idea. I’m going to look for him.”

I walked to the end of the row of adjoining cabins, guessing Caballo would be as far from us as hecould get. I rapped on the door of the very last cabin. Nothing. It was a pretty stout door, though,so just to be sure, I gave it a good hammering with the side of my fist.

“WHAT!!!” a voice roared. The curtains ripped open and Caballo’s face appeared. His eyes werered and puffy.

“Sorry” I said. “You catch a cold or something?”

“No, man,” he said wearily. “I was just getting to sleep.” Barely twelve hours into this operation,Caballo was already so stressed that he’d spent the entire night tossing and turning with an anxietyheadache. Being in Creel was enough to put him on edge in the first place. It’s actually a pleasantlittle town, but it represents the two things Caballo despises most: bullshit and bullies. It’s namedfor Enrique Creel, a land-raping kingpin of such dastardly magnificence that the MexicanRevolution was essentially thrown in his honor. Enrique not only engineered the land grab thatousted thousands of Chihuahua peasants from their farms, but personally made sure that any feistyfarmers ended up in jail by moonlighting as the head of a spy network for the Mexican dictatorPorfirio Díaz.

Enrique slithered into exile in El Paso when Pancho Villa’s rebels came thundering after him(leaving behind a son who had to be ransomed from the revolutionaries for a million dollars), butonce Mexico went through its inevitable correction and reverted back to contented corruption,Enrique returned in all his scheming glory. In a fitting tribute to the region’s greatest human virus,Enrique Creel’s namesake was now the launching area for every pestilence afflicting the CopperCanyons: strip-mining, clear-cut logging, drug ranching, and big-bus tourism. Spending time theredrove Caballo nuts; for him, it was like staying at a bed-and-breakfast on a working slaveplantation.

Most of all, though, he wasn’t used to being responsible for anyone besides the guy inside his ownsandals. Now that he’d had a look at us, his chest was squeezing tight with apprehension. He’dspent ten years building up the trust of the Tarahumara, and it could come crashing down in tenminutes. Caballo envisioned Barefoot Ted and Jenn yapping into the ears of the uncomprehendingTarahumara … Luis and his dad flashing cameras in their eyes … Eric and me pestering them withquestions. What a nightmare.

“No, man, I ain’t going for a run,” he groaned. He snapped the curtains shut.

Soon, the seven of us—Scott, Luis, Eric, Jenn, Billy, Barefoot Ted, and I—were on the pine-needled trail that Caballo had taken me on before. We came out of the tree canopy just as the sunwas breaking over the giant standing stones, making us squint as the world turned to gold. Mistand glittering droplets swirled around us.

“Gorgeous,” Luis said.

“I’ve never seen a place like this,” Billy said. “Caballo’s got the right idea. I’d love to live here,just living cheap and running trails.”

“He’s brainwashed you already!” Luis hooted. “The Cult of the White Horse.”

“It’s not him,” Billy protested. “It’s this place.”

“My Little Pony,” Jenn smirked. “You kinda look like Caballo.”

In the midst of this banter, Scott was busy watching Barefoot Ted. The trail was snaking through arock field, but even though we had to hop from boulder to boulder, Ted wasn’t slowing down a bit.

“Dude, what are those things on your feet?” Jenn asked.

“Vibram FiveFingers,” Ted said. “Aren’t they great? I’m their first sponsored athlete!”

Yes, it was true; Ted had become America’s first professional barefoot runner of the modern era.

FiveFingers were designed as a deck shoe for yacht racers; the idea was to give better grip onslippery surfaces while maintaining the feeling of shoelessness. You had to look closely just tospot them; they conformed so perfectly around his soles and each toe, it looked as if Ted haddipped the bottoms of his feet in greenish ink. Shortly before the Copper Canyon trip, he’d comeacross a photo of the FiveFingers on the Web and immediately grabbed the phone. Somehow, heconnived his way through the thicket of switchboard operators and secretaries and got on the linewith the CEO of Vibram USA, who turned out to be none other than …Tony Post! The onetime Rockport exec who’d sponsored the Tarahumara at Leadville!

Tony heard Ted out, but was extremely doubtful. Not that he didn’t love the idea of relying on footstrength instead of super cushioning and motion control; once, Tony even ran the Boston Marathonin a pair of Rockport dress shoes to demonstrate that comfort and good construction were all youneeded, not all that Shox/anti-pronation/gel-support jazz. But at least Rockport dress shoes hadarches and a cushioned sole; the FiveFingers were nothing but a sliver of rubber with a velcrostrap. Still, Tony was intrigued and decided to try it out for himself. “I went for an easy little one-mile jog,” he says. “I ended up doing seven. I’d never thought of the FiveFinger as a running shoe,but after that, I never thought of anything else as a running shoe.” When he got home, he wrote acheck to cover Barefoot Ted’s trip to the Boston Marathon.

We’d run six miles along the mesa top and were heading back into Creel when, in the distance, athin black shadow broke from the trees and started moving toward us.

“Is that Caballo?” Scott asked.

Jenn and Billy peered, then shot toward him like hounds off the leash. Barefoot Ted and Luis wentafter them. Scott stayed with us, but his racehorse instincts were making him itchy. He glancedapologetically at Eric and me. “You mind if I…?” he asked.

“No problem,” I said. “Run ’em down.”

“Cool.” By the time the “-ool” was out of his mouth, he was a good half-dozen yards away, hishair bouncing like streamers on a kid’s handlebars.

“Shit,” I muttered. Watching Scott surge off suddenly reminded me of Marcelino. Scott wouldhave gotten such a kick out of that kid. Jenn and Billy, too; they would have loved mixing it upwith their teenage Tarahumara triplet. I could even imagine what Manuel Luna was feeling. No,that wasn’t true; I was just trying hard not to. Evil had followed the Tarahumara here, to thebottom of the earth where there was no place left to run. Even while mourning his magni............
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