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.