Brian Paul Davis

The Official Web Site


by Brian Paul Davis

Chapter 1 - Shots 

Sand and grit crunched as each stride and each foot, landed and pushed off again. The gravel maintenance road along side the Arizona Canal was empty. It was a busy running, walking, and cycling path, but not at five a.m. Daniel liked it that way for his morning run. It was a run in slow motion, but still a run.

The air was bone dry and in the upper seventies. Anything under eighty was chilly for Phoenix in June. So was anything under ninety for that matter.

Daniel ran east toward the sunrise. Ahead the sky began to wake with a soft warm glow. Sunrise was fifteen minutes away. He timed it that way. Before the sun peaked over the horizon, Daniel would turn around and head home.

There were a few early risers, but Daniel was mostly alone with his thoughts. That was sometimes good and sometimes bad, but often just mundane.

At the start of each run, he would focus on the movement of his legs—the extension forward, the landing on the dirt path, and the push off. He could barely outrun a couple of plus sized walkers but it didn’t matter. At least he was out there doing something.

The path and the canal passed behind his home. Most of the canal was elevated above the surrounding ground, built not by digging a big ditch, but by mounding and compacting two ribbons of dirt and clay to hold the fresh drinking water flowing between them.

The water in the canal flowed silently. The only sound was the crunching under his Asics and the light hum of early morning traffic nearby on Schoolhouse Road.

The monologue in his head would inevitably drift to thoughts of Nadine Russo. She was the reason he ran. He ran not to please her, but because she inspired him. His runs were only for thirty minutes at best, three days a week, but that was enough for Daniel.

He missed Nadine.

He longed for the for the sight of Nadine emerging from the concourse and crossing the airport security checkpoint, with her flowing black hair, long body lines, and electric smile.

She could be surrounded by dozens of fellow travelers coming off the same plane from the "show-me" state, but Daniel would only see her.

She would drop the handle of her rolling carry-on in the middle of the corridor, spread her arms, and reward Daniel with a big hug and a long kiss.

They first met in the New Orleans airport, and they continued to rendezvous at airports, mostly Kansas City and Sky Harbor International, as much as they could.

He would be lucky to feel her magic touch every other month or so. Unlike Daniel's simple day-to-day routine, her life was complicated. She didn’t seem to have much time for a long distance romance, but they went for it anyway.

If her ongoing divorce didn’t tie her up, her teenage son did. Add an occasional trip to visit her daughter at Columbia University, and she didn’t have too many openings for Daniel.

Daniel wanted more of Nadine, but he wasn't sure she could give more. He wasn't sure she wanted more.

The crunching stopped as Daniel stepped on the concrete sidewalk and on to 54th Street. He ran silently across the ARFC pavement—asphalt rubber friction course—commonly known as rubberized asphalt. A few hundred yards ahead and in ear shot was the Arcadia Falls.

The Falls as locals called it, surrounded a natural twenty foot drop in the canal elevation. Architects remade the non-descript drop, and site of an old power generating station, into an artistic conglomeration of small waterfalls. Water was diverted through four separate chutes creating multiple unique water features and waterfalls.

A footbridge crossed above one set of falls leading pedestrians to a platform between two other mini waterfalls. The platform was directly in front of the fourth waterfall. The fourth waterfall fell in front of a rock wall to a small pool, which then drained under the platform to the awaiting canal below.  It was a complex system for a simple elevation drop. It was exactly what he expected from and architect and the opposite of what he would expect from an engineer.

Even so, he liked it. Daniel liked the complexity and the cooling effect of the moving water. The concrete bench on the platform was a favorite resting place for Daniel. He didn’t stop this time. Maybe he would stop on the way back.

Daniel ran along the south side of the canal. The canal bank and the canal itself was elevated above the surrounding ground for much of its route, particularly upstream of the falls. To the right and below him was the parking lot for a small park that sat between the canal and Schoolhouse Road. The park looked peaceful and empty.

A lone white pickup sat in the corner of the small parking lot. It was a small pickup and didn't look like a City Parks truck or a SAGRID truck, the owners of the canal.  SAGRID stood for the Salt and Gila River Irrigation District. Most people just called the agency SAG, although SAG officials didn't think much of the nickname.

White light began to spill over the east horizon. Daniel was no longer alone. Two shirtless twenty-something men powered along the canal path on the north side of the canal. They looked familiar as did many of the canal regulars. He recognized many faces, but rarely spoke to them.

Daniel couldn’t miss the petite young women, in black shorts and a white top, running in front of him. Her long dark ponytail flopped from side to side with each stride. She must’ve just hopped on the canal. He wasn’t sure how she got there without him noticing.

He noticed now.

Daniel never caught up to anybody running, especially not someone young and fit. She was both.

Her strides were fluid and effortless. He didn’t mind following her, if only he could keep up with her. She wore a belt with a water bottle on her back, and was probably out for a long run.

Maybe that was slowing her pace down.  

It would be the only way he could keep up with her, or more realistically, it would be the only way she would not leave him in the dust like he was standing still.

How far was she running--five, ten, fifteen miles? Daniel was going not quite three miles, which was plenty. Five miles would be a stretch for him, but a marathoner would be just getting warmed up after three miles.

Her steps on the gravel made a delicate crunching sound--much quieter than most runners.

“Oooh,” he heard from ahead. She pulled up limping.

The young runner stiffened her left leg and began to walk.

She stopped in front of a large steel high-voltage power pole and began rubbing the back of her thigh.

A hammie! A pulled hamstring!

Daniel caught up to her and stopped. “Are you okay?” He recognized her. He’d never spoken to her before, but he’d seen her many times running on the canal bank.

“Just a cramp, I think,” she said. “I’ll be okay in a minute.”

Her Hispanic accent was slight and pleasant. It reminded him of Linda Cristal on the late 1960’s High Chaparral TV show.

“You sure?” Daniel asked. “Do you have far to go?”

“A little.” She propped her right leg on the raised concrete foundation for the power pole, revealing more thigh than a man in a committed relationship should see. She began to stretch her other leg. “I just need to stretch a little.”


It whizzed by Daniel’s ear. The noise reverberated off nearby buildings. He jerked his head around toward the other side of the canal.

POP! Ping!

It hit the power pole. She ducked and looked up at the pole.


Daniel's Arizona Diamondbacks hat leapt off his head as though someone yanked it off with a string tied to it. He ducked and grabbed the top of his head.


She twisted and curled to the ground, grabbing her good leg. Daniel dropped to the ground next to her.


A puff of dust and a chip of concrete flew off the concrete foundation for the pole.

“Quick! Down the side,” he said.

They crawled to the edge of the path and slid part way down the side of the steep canal embankment.

The slope was loose sand and dirt. Like Arizona most of the year, the dirt was dusty, gritty, and dry, topped with some crisp leaves and twigs from the nearby Eucalyptus trees. Daniel dug his heels into the dirt to stop his slide. His head stopped about two feet below the top of the slope.

The girl was a few feet away. She rolled over to her back.

The gunshots stopped. Either the shooter was done or he was waiting for his targets to re-emerge. Daniel wasn’t going anywhere.

He looked at the young injured runner.

She looked over her hands. The palms of both hands were brown from the dirt. The dirt clung to the moisture on her skin. Spots of red peaked through the brown dirt.

A softball sized brown dirt spot covered the front side of her thigh. Red streaks ran down from the edge of the brown spot.


“You need an ambulance,” Daniel said, stating the obvious.

“No, it’s okay.” She grabbed her water bottle from her belt, brushed the dirt off the bottle, and squirted water on to the dirt spot. The dirt and the blood began to rinse off. She emptied her bottle, exposing a jagged gash in her thigh.

Daniel handed her his bottle to finish the rinse. She then rinsed off her hands.

“It’s only a scratch,” she said. “It’ll be okay.”

“That’s more than a scratch. It’s still bleeding. You need medical …”

“No!” She placed her hand over the gash. “I’m okay.”

Familiar crunching sounds emanated from the path above them. It sounded like multiple footsteps from multiple runners. “Shit, we need to warn them. Didn't they hear the shots?”

Daniel turned over to all-fours to climb up. His hands and feet plowed the loose dirt down the hill as he inched his way up. He peered over the edge to see the backs of a foursome, two men and two women, running at a good pace. There were no more gunshots.

Daniel returned to his back. “We need to call the police. You wouldn’t happen to have a cell pho …”

The look in her eyes froze the last few words in his throat. Her dark eyes bore through him. She looked terrified. He felt the panic. Was the gunman behind him?

He turned to look. No one was there.

“No police!" She trembled.


“I want to go home,” she said.

“You can do what you want. I’m calling the cops as soon as I find a phone. There’s a wacko with a gun out there,” Daniel said.

“There are wackos all over.”

“Yeah, well, this is a first for me,” he said.

“No more shots,” she said, “you think the coast is clear?”

“Possibly. He hasn’t shot at any of those other people.” He pointed his thumb over his shoulder toward the sound of another group of runners. "Should we wait a little longer?"

She stared ahead into the tall Eucalyptus trees shading their hiding spot.

Daniel wasn’t ready to move yet. In front of them, under the shade of the trees, was the small park. The park occupied a small triangular plot of land between the canal and Schoolhouse Road—a main east-west thoroughfare. There was a single young man walking into the park. Daniel’s eyes traced his movements closely.

The two of them were hidden from the other side of the canal and much of the trail above them, but they were in plain view of anyone in the park. The young man walked to the small building housing the restrooms, unlocked the doors, and walked out.

Daniel relaxed a little, but he still wasn’t ready to move.

“I’m Daniel,” he said, stalling, not ready to vacate their seemingly secure spot against the embankment. “What’s your name?”


“I’ve seen you running here before.”

“Me too,” she said still trembling.

“Most people I see are regulars.”

She nodded. “I always thought it was safe here.”

“Safe? Yeah, right.” False security, it turns out.

“You think it’s safe to go yet?” she asked.

“I thought it was safe before.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“We gotta move sometime. How is your leg?” Her hand still covered the wound on her thigh.

“Fine.” She lifted her hand. It looked like the bleeding stopped. There was a two-inch long jagged slice, surrounded a reddish shadow the size of her hand.

“Do you live far from here?”

“Couple miles,” she tipped her head to the east.

“You must’ve started early. Were you headed back home already?”

She nodded.

“Let’s get outta’ here.” Daniel lifted his heel out of the soft embankment and began a slow slide down the hill. He shook the dirt out of his shorts and brushed off his behind. He picked up his hat, lying at the bottom of the slope.

He stared at the top of his hat and rubbed the top of his head. His hands became clammy at the sight of his hat. The button on the top was nearly torn off. It was hanging by a small flap of cloth.

In the movies, it was sometimes good comedy when a bullet blew off someone’s hat. He couldn’t laugh. He couldn’t even think about it.

Did a bullet really come that close? He shuttered. Daniel shook his head, arms, and shoulders to shake off the image.

Cara released her heels and slid down after him.

“I think I’ll hit the restroom.” He put his torn hat back on.

“Me too.”

They walked together to the restroom. Daniel scanned ahead to the right. Cara looked around to the left.

Daniel looked down at her right leg. A trail of red trickled down her calf. “That’s bleeding again. You gotta get that looked at.”

“I have no insurance.”

“Go to one of those walk-in clinics. How much could that cost?”

She didn’t answer.

Daniel began waving his hands in the air. A police cruiser pulled over a sports car on Schoolhouse Road.

“What are you doing?” She grabbed his right arm and pulled him back.

“Police car,” he said pointing.

“No!” she yelled. “No police,” she said more calmly.

“I don’t get it. No doctor? No police? Why don’t we just pretend it never happened?”

She silently traded looks between Daniel and the police car, a football field away.

“I’m going over there,” he said, gently rubbing the top of his torn hat, “unless you got a real good reason.” He started walking toward the flashing lights.

“Wait!” she said.

Daniel stopped and turned.

“I’m not legal,” she said.

“Don’t take this personally, but you look underage or…” He stopped. “Oh.” He got it. She was an illegal immigrant, undocumented, to be politically correct. “That kind of legal.”

“Yeah, that kind.”

He thought for a moment. “So! This has nothing to do with that. You got protections just like everybody else.”

“They’re rounding us up and sending us back.”

“Who, the cops?”

She nodded, yes.

“You mean the sheriff. Phoenix police doesn’t do that.”

“How do you know?” She asked.

Daniel wasn’t sure. This was another first. “So what if somebody got killed? You just run off and hide and do nothing?”

“I was six when we came here. I can’t go back now. This is all I know.”

He was beginning to understand. “Are you able to work?”

“I have an ID I bought, but I lost my last job when employers started doing those e-checks.”

“Okay, I’ll go later.” He looked again toward Schoolhouse Road. The police car drove off.

“Please don’t tell them about me,” she pleaded.

“You weren’t even here,” he said. “Just me and my hat.”

The trickle of blood ran all the way down to her sock.

“I live pretty close to here,” Daniel said, changing the subject. “You may have run by my place. I’ve got two tall palms in the back corner. They lean toward each other and the ends of their fronds touch like they’re holding hands.”

“Romantic,” she said dryly.

“Anyway, I can run home, get my car, come back here, and drive you wherever you want to go.”

“I’m not sitting around here, I’ll start home. I’m fine.”

“Or,” Daniel continued, “I live less than a mile from here. If you can walk that far …”

“I can walk. I can walk as far as I need to. I’m not crippled.”

“Just offering. I thought a mile walk was better than two of three or however far you need to go. The sooner you stop moving your leg, the sooner it’ll stop bleeding.” Daniel realized she wasn’t limping on the right leg like she was on the canal path. “How’s you other leg?”

“My other …? Oh … it’s fine now.”

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