Chapter One The Sonoran Desert, MexicoThe devil rose up, and spun, and seemed to hiss at Francisco before settling back into dust. It was just a dust devil, a swirl of desert wind, but to Francisco, the desert's uninhabited places had always seemed invisibly peopled -- and dust devils were a hint of that secret life.He muttered an unfelt prayer to the Holy Mother and turned back to the dump, not so very far from Chihuahua, where more than a dozen humanbasureroscrept about under the overcast afternoon sky. They were scavengers -- like Francisco himself -- the poorest of the poor, hunched over among the moraines of trash, picking at it the way field workers plucked at strawberries in the harvest up north. But here they searched for saleable clothing -- especially shoes -- pieces of copper, batteries that could be sold to the unwary as if they were new, appliances that could be repaired or might seem to be intact, even bits of edible food.Families. Children digging through trash alongside rats and crows and sometimes turkey vultures. Theninossometimes getting sick from the things they rooted about in: poisons from old computers, dumped chemicals. Syringes. Tainted food. It was dangerous work, but you never knew...Once, Francisco had found some money in an old purse, enough for a whole evening'schido caballo,the best heroin he'd ever had. Remembering the purse, he bent over, poked gingerly at a Styrofoam cooler. Last month, opening one of those, a swarm of wasps had come up and stung him so much he was sick for a week. Still...The cooler was empty but for a few dead flies.Francisco sighed. He'd found nothing that day but a pair of mildewed tennis shoes he doubted he could sell. The dump was pretty much picked through.He shivered, thinking about heroin. He was too poor to sustain much of a habit -- the withdrawal was over long ago. But all he thought about was getting more. The relief of dope; the end of pain, until the dose wore off.There had to be a way to get out of this life. He had tried everything he knew since his mother had died and his father had abandoned him, not far from here, at the age of twelve. How many years ago? Twenty? He had even lived for a while as achapero.But he couldn't deal with being a whore for homosexuals. He wasn't like that.He straightened, looking at the tennis shoes, tied together, dangling in his left hand. Useless, grayed, full of holes. Not even good for replacing Francisco's taped-together cowboy boots. He tossed the tennis shoes away, muttering, "No tengo ni un puto peso..." He had found nothing, had not a fucking penny."Ay, Francisco! Mi hijo. Que pedo?" That was Herve, a squat, rag-clad older guy, mostly toothless -- maybe not so much older, it was hard to tell, with his hair so patchy, his skin reddened from days outdoors picking through the dump with the other scavengers. He'd had a bad glue-sniffing habit, too. He might not really be much older than Francisco but he acted like his old man. Nothing but asanguijuela. A leech."I'm not your little one, Herve, and where's that dope you promised me when I gave you that radio?" Francisco asked, in Spanish."It's coming, my boy! Hey -- you see that old church across there?""Church?" Francisco squinted through the swirls of dust at the horizon. He could just make out a cross, crooked against the sky, not much else. Maybe a quarter mile off, maybe more. "Nothing but a hole where there was a church.""I heard there was a man asking about it -- asking over at the village who owned the land. He said he was a professor, some kind of history thing, he thought there was something there to find. If we could go there before he buys it..."Francisco was intrigued -- but suspicious. "Why do you ask me about this? If you think there's something there" -- he approached Herve, lowering his voice so the others wouldn't hear -- "why wouBrodbin, Kevin is the author of 'Constantine', published 2005 under ISBN 9780743497558 and ISBN 0743497554.