Thursday, September 30, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 9 - Part 1

Linda walked down the quiet streets of Fredonia, admiring the neat rows of cottages. Each one was freshly painted, the filigree trim a reminder of a time gone by. Even though Fredonia was technically in the middle of a desert, it looked more like a little piece of New England. There were elms, oaks, chestnuts, and hickory trees everywhere. Front yards were planted with marigolds, mums, and petunias. Linda wondered if there was some sort of flower-growing contest going on in town. The air smelled of lilacs and the sound of honey bees could be heard. There was a peaceful orderliness about this tiny Mormon town that she couldn't help but respect.

She remembered Dwayne's dire warning about not going back up on the mountain, and she knew he was probably right, but she had thought a lot about this problem last night and she was convinced she had come up with a reasonable solution. She would stay away from the west side of the Kaibab, where the pothunting and killing was going on, and where the killer would be looking for her. The North Kaibab mountain was a big place, well over half a million acres. If she moved her study area to the east side of the Kaibab, she was sure she would avoid running into trouble. She had originally hoped to include this flyway in her Grand Canyon study, but hadn't been sure she would have the time. Linda had intended to tell Dwayne about moving to the other side of the mountain, but when he started ordering her around, she had lost her cool. She was glad she had walked to the garage. It had helped her to organize her thoughts. And she had come to the realization that she owed Dwayne an explanation. He deserved that much.

She was informed by the silver-haired man, Arden Judd, the owner of Judd Auto, that he would not accept any payment from her– not for the tow, nor for the new distributor cap.

"We know how much you've been through, ma'am," he said as if apologizing. "And we're sorry this sort of thing had to happen to you while you were paying us a visit. I just want you to know that whoever it was you saw down there in Jumpup, he weren't no local man. Folks 'round here might have their faults – same as any place else, I guess – but there ain't a murderer in the whole bunch. Everyone comes in here and buys their gas, so I know 'em all, believe me."

To argue about paying the bill would obviously hurt the man's feelings. It was just hard to believe that a total stranger could be so generous.

"Well thank you, Mr. Judd. Everybody I've met so far in this town has been a good Samaritan like yourself."

Arden nodded. "Yes ma'am, I know for a fact that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Pratt will go out of their way to help a person in need. And they'll find this damn Indian killer, too, you mark my words. So don't you worry none, okay?"

Linda kissed the grizzled mechanic on the cheek. Arden blushed and pointed to the front lot. "We left your truck out there and she's all gassed-up and ready to go. The keys are in it."

As Linda passed the pay phone, she thought it might be a good idea to give her roommate a call, just to let her know she was alright, but she remembered that Amber worked on Wednesday mornings, so she wouldn't be home. Calling her at work was out of the question because she waitressed at Flagstaff's busiest restaurant.

Linda wanted desperately to talk to someone she knew about her terrible ordeal. She could call Ken Jarvis, her on-again, off-again boyfriend, but she wasn't sure she really wanted him involved in this matter. There was no way to predict how he might react. He was always so self-absorbed. Could he be supportive? It was time to find out.

It was immediately obvious by the tone of Ken's voice that this call had been a big mistake. He sounded like he had been interrupted from a meeting with the Pope. And his impatience didn't waver once he knew that it was Linda on the other end. Linda almost hung up the phone right then, but she stayed with it. Walking away wasn't the answer here. She gave Ken a Cliff Notes version of the murder in Jumpup Canyon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 8 - Part 2

When Dwayne picked up the phone, he could hear Jason giving orders to one of his deputies. "Whatcha got for me, Jason?" asked Dwayne as he took off his cowboy hat and laid it on his desk.

"I got a whole lotta nothing is what I've got, Dwayne. I don't know whether you've heard the news yet, but we finally found out who the dead man in Jumpup was. It turned out to be Willie Meeks from up at the Paiute Reservation. So now we're looking at two murdered Paiutes. We don't know yet whether they were friends or ever worked with each other, but that's something we'll look into. I just talked to Joe Taylor of the Paiute Police, and he's gonna meet me out there in two hours. I thought you might like to go along for the ride."

"You bet I would, Jason," replied Dwayne as he hastily checked his appointment calendar. He didn't have anything scheduled, but he knew he ought to make an effort to meet with Billy Mangum today to discuss the damage to the rancher's fences. Billy and his hired hands would be out mending fence along the Indian Hollow Road, so they would be easy enough to find. "You got any other good news for me today?"

"Nah, not really," said Jason. "I've had the boys run some checks on that helicopter, but without a better description, it's pretty tough. There are about a hundred helicopters registered within three hundred square miles of here – which is the average cruising distance for a chopper. But we can't investigate every one of them. A large number of the choppers are registered to independent mining outfits who use 'em to transport their material and men. All ten of the uranium outfits operating on the Strip own their own choppers. Most of the choppers in this area are owned by tour operators who fly tourists over the Grand Canyon. There are only a small handful of privately-owned choppers, so we'll look into those first, just because the numbers are more manageable. But I think we're gonna need something more concrete to go on before we figure out who owns the helicopter that Linda saw down in Jumpup. Right now, it doesn't look too promising."

"Well, keep plugging, Jason," said Dwayne. "It's still early."

"Not if you've been up half the night like me," complained Jason. "By the way, how's our star witness doing?"

For the second time that morning, Dwayne explained how he had managed to lose Linda to the birds. He made it clear to Jason that Linda had made her mind up and that nothing short of physical restraint was going to keep her in town.

"Doesn't she know that this guy'll kill her if he knows she's out there? You know how fast word travels around a town like this; there are already a whole bunch of folks who saw Linda come in from the murder scene with us. All that guy needs to do is see her truck, and she's dead."

"Look, Jason, I told her that, and it was like telling somebody to watch out for the sun. She's the independent type and she says she's got commitments. Unless you're prepared to lock her ass up, then she's gonna go right back out to western Grand Canyon and look for hawks and eagles."

"If I tried to put her under protective custody – and I'm not even certain I have the authority to do that if she resists – then this guy who killed Willie and Charlie is going to hear about it, because there's no way I could possibly keep that sort of thing out of the public eye. So all that would end up happening would be that I'd attract a lot of attention to her, and then get ordered by a judge to cut her loose. My hands are tied, Dwayne. But you're free to cover her."

Dwayne started to lose his cool. "Look, Jason, I told you – "

Jason cut his friend short. "Look, nothing. You're the one who sat in my office last night and said you weren't going to let this woman out of your sight. You're the one who said he was taking this whole thing personally. You're the one who promised me that you were going to be responsible for her safety. Okay, fine. So the way I see it, you got two choices: either you talk this lady into staying in town where she'll be safe, or you follow her up on the mountain. I'm sure Ranger Ben will let you be her bodyguard under the circumstances. The last thing the Forest Service wants is another murder on the forest, right?"

"You're right, Jason," said Dwayne with resignation.

"I knew you'd see the light, Brother Johnson," said Jason. "I'll be by to pick you up about 8:30. In the meantime, you try and talk some sense into the Bird Lady’s head – or heart – whichever works.”

"I'll do my best," replied Dwayne.

"That's why we're here, my friend, that's why we're here."

"Christ, I know we're in trouble when you start preaching, Jason."

Shortly after Dwayne hung up the phone, Peggy Myers came in. "Billy Mangum called to say that he and his men will be fixing their fences out near Buckhorn Point today. He said he'd like to have a talk with you; said he might be able to help you out with the murder at Jumpup Point. And Jenny Hatch just called to say you better not leave the office this morning without checking in with her. She found some real interesting stuff out there at the pothunted site in Jumpup Canyon and she wants to go over the archaeological report with you."

"Thanks, Peg. I'll handle both of 'em directly," answered Dwayne. He jotted down several reminders and hoped somebody would soon provide the break in this case they so desperately needed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 8 - Part 1

Dwayne screeched into the parking lot of the Forest Service District Office in Fredonia fifteen minutes late for work. He was not a happy camper. When Dwayne told Linda that morning to make herself at home, Linda said what she really needed was a ride over to Judd Auto so she could pick up her truck. Dwayne asked her what the big hurry was. Linda replied that she had to get back to work. Dwayne lost his temper and told her she should start worrying more about herself and less about the goddamn birds. The birds had done just fine for millennia without the help of any humans. It was she who was on the threatened and endangered list at this particular moment. Linda had ended the discussion by simply walking away; Judd's was only a couple of blocks from Dwayne's house. Dwayne was left standing in front of the house, ranting about how dumb some women were.

As Dwayne parked his battered Chevy truck in the employee lot, he was joined by the District Ranger, Ben Tissaw, a big, strapping man with a thick black mustache and a loud baritone voice. Ben was not a Mormon. He was originally from Stillwater, Oklahoma, and he had been the North Kaibab's District Ranger for less than a year. He was a friendly enough guy – he liked to think of himself as a sort of office cowboy, and he and Dwayne had always gotten along well.

"How goes it, Dwayne? D'you get that lady from Jumpup all taken care of last night?"

As they entered the building, Dwayne gave his boss a brief run-down on the events of the last twenty-four hours, including his recent disagreement with Linda Joyce.

Ben frowned at the news. "Well I s'pose it's a free country and all, but sometimes you gotta wonder why folks are so damn thick-headed." Ben gave Dwayne a friendly slap on the back. "You can't let it get you down, my friend. You saved that lady's hide once. You offered to protect her and she refused your help. So what more can you do? Let Jason handle it. That's why he gets paid the big bucks and carries a badge."

Dwayne shook his head. "If I couldn't talk any sense into her, you can be sure that Jason ain't gonna convince her to stay here in town. This lady has got a one-track mind when it comes to studying these birds of hers. I tell you, Ben, it's almost like she's forgotten all about what just happened to her. Now how the hell do you forget that you were almost murdered? You know what I think? I think some folks just have a goddamn death wish."

"It’s a big club, my friend,” whispered the big man as if sharing a secret. “So, what's the latest on these murders? Any new leads?"

"I don't know. I haven't talked to Jason since yesterday evening. I did explain to him that the Forest Service has a big interest in the Jumpup murder because it took place on Forest Service land. He promised to keep us informed and work with us in every way he could. But I'll be honest with you, Ben; this whole thing stinks. It looks like we got professional pothunters looting sites on the Kaibab. They've got choppers and automatic weapons. And it don't look like they mind killing anybody who gets in the way. Now I don't know about you, but I don't have a whole helluva lot of experience dealing with people like this. And to be honest with you, neither does Jason."

The two men were interrupted by the office receptionist, Peggy Myers. "Excuse me, Dwayne, but you've got a call from the Sheriff at your desk. Do you want to take it right now?"

“I’ll take it my office,” said Dwayne and headed quickly down the hallway.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 7 - Part 2

The "anonymous tip" the police referred to came from Linda Joyce. The Judge had done some additional digging and discovered that Linda was a freelance wildlife biologist on-loan to the Arizona Game & Fish Department. She was to be eliminated, posthaste. If it was not immediately possible to accomplish that task, then B.T. was to proceed with the dig first and the girl would have to be dealt with later. The Judge had ended the message with a military salute from their past: "Be like the wind".

B.T. reached for the telephone and dialed Linda Joyce's number. He picked up a note pad and pen, prepared to take down anything of importance. The phone kept ringing and ringing; the woman evidently didn't have one of those infernal answering machines. B.T. was just getting ready to hang up the phone when an out-of-breath female voice answered.

"Hi! Sorry it took so long, I was in the shower. Who's this?"

"Linda? Linda Joyce?"

"No, she's not here. Who's calling?"

"The name is Bobby James, B.J. for short, and I work for the Arizona Game & Fish Department. I'm doing a field study and I was supposed to meet Linda Joyce yesterday and she never showed up. I was just wondering if she had changed her plans, or what?"

"Oh! This is Amber. I live with Linda. Well, I don't live with Linda – I mean, we like share this place, you know?"

B.T. rolled his eyes. "Linda did mention that she had a roommate. But you say she's not there?"

"No, she isn't. See, Linda's doing one of her bird studies on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and she'll be gone for the whole month of October."

"That's why I'm calling. She was supposed to meet me out at Timp Point yesterday and she never showed. Has she called in or anything?"

"No. I haven't heard a peep from her since she split last week."

"Do you have any idea how I might go about reaching her?"

"Well, there's no telling, really. She like camps out most of the time. I guess you could try Ken Jarvis. He's a college professor up at some school in southern Utah. What's the name of that place? Southern Utah State College, I think. Linda's been dating him on and off for the past year and she might have told him where she'd be."

"Do you have his number handy, by any chance?"

"Sure, it's around here somewhere. Here it is: 643-2273, and, remember, that's up in Utah."

"I'll remember," said B.T. gratefully. "You've been a big help, Amber. Thanks."

B.T. hung up the phone and whistled softly. He'd pay a visit to this professor later this morning. The college was on his way to the Paria Plateau where he was meeting his excavating crew at three. Maybe Linda would be there with her boyfriend, or maybe she had called him; B.T. might get lucky and discover her whereabouts right away. If not, she could wait. Why rush it? There would be plenty of time after the Paria digs to do away with Miss Linda Joyce. Then he could take his time and play some games with her. And if she was pretty – well then, that would be even better.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 7 - Part 1

B.T. Saunders awoke with a start on the ragged couch of his Hurricane, Utah home. He had fallen asleep reading his mail after the long drive back from the lake. He turned his head to look out the lone living-room window and his neck muscles screamed in pain. It occurred to him that he ought to buy a bigger couch, but then he laughed at the idea. He probably didn't spend more than five days a month at his home, so why worry about a stupid couch? He could see the faint yellow glow of sunrise beginning to light up the eastern sky. He rubbed his eyes and forehead; he felt like shit.

There were prehistoric Indian artifacts everywhere: ornately designed baskets, agave leaf sandals, wedding vases, arrowheads in dozens of sizes and shapes, stone bead necklaces, sea shells from Mexico, and several stick-twig figurines. None of these items were in protective cases; they lined every inch of shelf space in the room. The pieces were dust covered and had been haphazardly lumped together on top of one another and then forgotten. The good stuff – the stuff that really mattered– was down in the kiva, where The Ritual took place. There was a small collection of B.T's most treasured possessions down in the basement room where he gave the spirits of the dead back to the gods. Everything down there was super-special. He even stored his drug stash down in the kiva. Power begat power.

The Judge would have been shocked to see B.T.'s amazing collection, a collection which far outshone the Judge's own. But then, the Judge had never seen his accomplice's house, so he had no way of knowing that his partners were skimming off the top before he got a chance to do the same.

B.T. felt there was very little difference between selling illegal pots and selling illegal narcotics. B.T. had been doing the latter ever since he returned from Vietnam with a cultivated craving for good stimulants. He dealt drugs so that he could have them around and not have to pay for the privilege. And in the drug trade there were certain customs that were simply a natural part of doing business. Rule #1 was that everybody took a cut off the top before passing the product on down the line. When it came to dealing Indian loot, B.T. merely applied the time-honored tradition of the drug world and snagged a few of the items he liked best. He also let his digging buddy, Otis, cut a small slice, so he would have no incentive to say anything about the practice. Not that B.T. really cared how the Judge might feel about this particular habit– or his drug habit, for that matter. B.T. assumed the Judge was doing the same thing before delivering the goods to the faggot art dealer in Denver. That was just the way things were done.

He appreciated the artifacts' value on the open market and he knew that most of the relics were of special significance, but at this point in his life he had more important things to deal with – like serious narcotics and saving souls. His Anasazi collection was like money in the bank, accruing interest every day, and when he decided to unload it, he knew it would be worth a bundle.

There was lots of work ahead. Maybe another murder. The police reports he had listened to on his drive across the Arizona Strip the previous night said there were no witnesses, but B.T. knew that the piggies never told the truth. He rose stiffly from the couch and headed for the bathroom. What he needed now was a hot shower and one of his patented speedball fixes.

Twenty minutes later, B.T. emerged from his bedroom dressed in clean clothes. He had tied his long, wet, red hair in a pony tail, and combed his beard. His cheeks were flushed and there was a devilish smile upon his face. He was high as a kite. His eyes darted around the room as if looking for trouble and settled on the fax machine. B.T. retrieved the instructions from the Judge and went into the kitchen. He put the kettle on to boil and sat down at the table to see who would be up next on the hit parade.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 6 - Part 2

The Judge opened the display case and gingerly removed a 3,000 year old stick-twig figurine that had been uncovered by his men in a small cave along the Green River. It was one of the oldest artifacts ever found in the southwest. What an extraordinary work of art it was, thought the Judge, turning it slowly in his hand. Money paled to insignificance when matched against this animal effigy from the past. One day the Judge would own the finest Anasazi collection in the world. With each shipment they put together, the Judge added to his collection. Saunders and Stiles didn't know what he was up to. Once the Judge took final delivery of a load, he could sift through the assortment, take a few of the nicer pieces, and no one was the wiser. The peasants got their money, and the Judge got both money and the irreplaceable wonders of a lost age. The Judge felt power and glory flowing through him as he delicately returned the stick figure to its case.

The phone rang. He finished closing the display case.

The caller had the information. The owner of the pickup truck was named Linda Joyce. Her address was 7576 Kachina Boulevard, Flagstaff. There was also a phone number. She was not married and she had no outstanding debts or traffic tickets. The Judge smiled triumphantly. The Plan was coming together rather nicely.

He looked at his gold Rolex and saw that it was eight o'clock – time for the news. Using a remote-control switching device, he turned on the AM/FM radio and dialed the frequency of the country/western station in Kanab. Not surprisingly, the murder in Jumpup Canyon was the big story of the evening. The victim, a Paiute, had been shot to death. The body had been discovered through an anonymous tip. The police thought the murder was connected to the Friday night slaying of Charlie Tizno at the Buckskin Tavern. The police welcomed any help the public might be able to offer. Sheriff Jason Pratt was quoted as saying, "We are small-town people, good Christian people, and we're not used to this sort of terrible violence. But let me tell you this, we're gonna catch whoever's responsible for these killings, and they're gonna wish they never set foot on the Arizona Strip."

The Judge walked out onto the rear observation deck of his houseboat. A flock of high cumulus clouds moved in from the west like large wooly sheep. One cloud drifted slowly across the moon, its fluffy edges turning a burnt blue as it began to blot out the gleaming light. Lone Rock darkened gradually and a gust of wind whipped across the lake. The Judge felt a chill and walked back inside.

He took a sip of his brandy. The girl would have to go. The police probably had her in protective custody. The Judge would fax a copy of the girl's vitals to Saunders to wrap up that loose end. Saunders liked killing women. He claimed it was even better than sex.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 6 - Part 1

The Judge sipped a brandy and stared out at the monolithic Lone Rock, a 400-foot tall wall of Navajo sandstone towering above his chic houseboat. The boat was sixty feet long and was named "TET", after the successful, yet often maligned, American offensive in Vietnam. The Judge liked nothing better than relaxing aboard his home on the lake; it was the perfect place to conduct business in private. He was alone, no servants on board, free to wheel and deal. Business was the name of the evening's game.

As soon as Saunders had departed, the Judge put in a call to one of his many well-placed police contacts. He asked his friend in the Department of Public Safety to track down the owner of the truck. The Judge emphasized that it really wasn't very important; it had something to do with a minor hit-and-run accident. The police officer was more than happy to help an old friend and said it would only take an hour or so to run a check on the tag number.

Next, the Judge turned his attention to the Star Sign Gallery and its proprietor, Derek McCracken. Now that everything was finalized with Saunders, the Judge wanted to make sure that McCracken wasn't getting cold feet. The man was a whiny homosexual, scared of his own shadow. The Judge worried that he might become a problem unless he was properly encouraged. Their conversation had turned into a little pep talk, with the Judge playing the role of the head cheerleader. "This will make your gallery famous the world 'round," he predicted.

"I do wonder if we aren't perhaps taking too much of a risk with such a large shipment," said the gallery owner. "The authorities are liable to get curious when they see how many items we are auctioning off, you know?"

The Judge wanted to pull the stupid twit right through the phone receiver, but he remained dignified and courteous. "Oh nonsense, Mr. McCracken. We needn't worry about the federal government in this matter. The antiquities laws state that one can not remove artifacts from the public lands, however, there is nothing to preclude us from collecting on private land. I own a great deal of private land around the state of Arizona and Utah. And if I say that all of these artifacts you will be selling have been dug from my property – and I supply the written provenance as the federal law requires – then where does the risk lie?"

"As long as we are careful to authenticate each piece's origin as being from your private property, then I suppose we're golden," agreed McCracken.

"To say the least, Mr. McCracken," chuckled the Judge. "We are about to make each other very, very golden. Using conservative estimates, your cut should net you close to two million dollars. How does that sound to you?"

"Unbelievable!" McCracken exclaimed. "As I told you last week, I already have all the buyers lined up. Most of them will be bidding anonymously over the phone, or will have designated representatives at the auction – ninety percent of our buyers are from Germany and Japan. Many of them have dealt with me before, and I've never had a drop of trouble with any of my clients. As long as the article is genuine, they go away happy."

"I can assure you that the origin of all the artifacts in this consignment are either Grand Canyon, Kayenta, or Virgin River Anasazi. You should get ready to receive my shipment no later than Friday evening at seven."

"Oh, that's marvelous, that will leave me plenty of time to prepare the artifacts for Saturday's auction."

The Judge hung up and watched the changing play of moonlight upon the silvery waters of the lake. He felt the rush of power that always accompanied the planning of a complicated and highly dangerous mission. It was in his blood, like a drug. While serving in the military, he had become addicted to the intoxicating flavor of the high-risk, life-and-death gamble, and this pothunting business allowed him to continue the high.

He walked to a large glass case which held a collection of Anasazi pots and baskets. These were some of his most prized possessions. His home in Scotsdale housed a veritable museum of Anasazi, Sinagua and Hohokam relics, but this cabinet on the houseboat held the finest and most well-preserved pieces of the lot.

He had ventured into the pothunting trade late in life, by chance, really. It was Saunders who had originally gotten him interested in this illegal pastime. The Judge had helped get his old war buddy an early parole from a drug conviction, and in return, Saunders had proposed that the two of them form a partnership dedicated to the looting of archaeological ruins. Saunders had met Otis Stiles while at The Point, the maximum security prison in Salt Lake City. Stiles was from southern Utah and claimed to know where there were thousands of sites just ripe for the picking. That had been three years ago.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 5 - Part 2

Linda Joyce was Jason's only hope of getting any leads on these vicious homicides. She hadn't balked at returning to the area where the killing had taken place. She had answered Jason's questions with earnest patience, although she had obviously been through the wringer. Unfortunately, her willingness to help didn't shed much additional light on the crime. She had been so frightened by the murder that she had blocked most of the details out of her mind. Her recollection of the killer was vague, at best. He was big and bearded. She thought his hair was red, but couldn't be sure. His green eyes were the only thing she clearly remembered. Linda's description of the helicopter was even weaker. She remembered it as being large, and loud, and scary, and it might have been fairly new, too. Jason had hoped that the frightened biologist's memory might return once she got back to town, but the change in scenery hadn't made any difference.

"So, you're sure you had never seen this man before?" asked Jason again. He was tired of asking the same questions over again, so he knew Linda had to be sick of hearing them, but at that moment he just didn't have any other ideas.

Linda kneaded her hands in her lap; she was running on empty. She had nodded off several times during the drive back to town. But every time she closed her eyes, she saw the glowering eyes of the Killer looking back at her. Dwayne was there to hold onto when she jolted herself awake, but no matter how hard she tried to see the killer's face, all she could ever make out were those hunting eyes.

"Believe me, Sheriff, I would definitely remember it if I had ever seen the man in the helicopter before. I'm sorry I didn't pay closer attention – I had enough time to draw you a damn picture. But I wasn't thinking straight. I'm afraid that all I could think about was staying alive."

"Well, I think we've pretty much hashed this thing out as much as we can, Miss Joyce. You've been a giant help; I mean, without you we'd have nothing. We're just glad that you managed to hide from this lunatic. I thank God that He brought you back to us safe and sound. That's what's important here. And right now, I think we should just get you a motel room so you can clean up and get some rest. How's that sound to you?"

"Thank you, Sheriff," said Linda with a tired smile. "I feel like I'm in good hands with Dwayne and you."

"You are, ma'am," Jason nodded with deep conviction. "We'll place a round-the-clock guard on you, just in case this fella decides to come back and pay you another visit."

Dwayne shook his head as he took Linda's hand. "I don't think that'll be necessary, Jason. I'm gonna put Ms. Joyce up at my place. That way I can keep a close eye on her all the time. And that'll also free up more men to hunt this sonofabitch down."

"Sheriff, could I use your bathroom?" Linda stood up slowly.

"Why sure, ma'am." Jason rose from his chair and pointed at the office door. "Just go out and take a left. It's down at the end of the hallway, on your right. Can't miss it."

The men waited for Linda to leave before continuing their conversation.

"Seems to me you've kinda taken a personal interest in all this, Dwayne."

"That I have, Jason. I feel real bad about this whole mess and I don't want to see anything bad happen to her again."

"I can appreciate that, Dwayne," said Jason. "She's been through an awful lot. And that's why I'm wondering if maybe we shouldn't let the Sheriff's Office handle this case."

Dwayne gripped the arms of his chair and worked his jaw with nervous energy. "Listen, Jason, this crime took place on Forest Service land, that means I got jurisdiction. But to hell with jurisdiction. I've got a real bad feeling about this goddamn thing."

"I do, too, Dwayne. We've got – "

Dwayne cut him off. "A nightmare is what we've got, Jason! We've got a professional pothunter, some guy with big money. We've got a helicopter. We've got a cool killer with an arsenal of weapons which includes machine guns. We've got two dead Indians who probably was our neighbors. What we've got here, pardner, is a pack of trouble. And we're gonna need all the goddamn help we can get, brother. Count on it. My God, Jason, what the hell would bring this brand of violence to Fredonia?"

"I don't know, Dwayne. But I ain't gonna stand by for this sort of craziness happening where I live. I don't even let my children watch this kinda stuff on the television." Jason's face darkened with anger. "So you can be sure I'm gonna be on this case with everything we've got. This character has to get fuel for his chopper somewhere, and that means somebody we know has already seen his face – probably has a credit card receipt with his name on it. We need to get the word out to the people of this town that we need their help. The only problem is: we don't have a lot of info to give 'em right now. But we will, Dwayne, we will. Strangers stand out around here. And when we finally get a break– maybe out at the airport, or the hardware store, or wherever– we're gonna teach this man about what happens to murderers on the Arizona Strip. And you can damn well count on that!"