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.