Friday, October 29, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 11 - Part 3

Jason cleared his throat. "Mrs. Meeks, I noticed you have a new truck and the house looks like you've been sprucing it up real nice. I was wondering where you got all the money? Did it come from the job your husband was working on with Charlie Tizno?"

Ruth sniffled and nodded her head.

"And who did he say they were working for?"

"Miners," said Ruth softly.

"Which miners?" asked Jason.

"Uranium, I think. Willie didn't talk about it. He just said the miners needed him and Charlie because they knew the land real good."

"And they only worked part-time? Is that right?"

Ruth blew her nose loudly. "Yes. Maybe two, maybe three days a munt'."

Three young children crept into the living room and sat down on the floor to listen quietly. There were two cute little girls with long black braids, and the shy boy who had first answered the door.

"Your husband seems to have been paid real well for part-time labor," said Jason.

"That's because they found what the miners were looking for," replied Ruth as she rubbed the hanky under her nose.

Both Jason and Dwayne knew enough about uranium mining to know that the business didn't work that way. Drill rigs located ore deposits, and the field hands who worked on a rig made no more than ten dollars an hour, tops. Whatever Willie and Charlie were doing for the miners couldn't have had anything to do with uranium. If they were being employed to loot prehistoric Indian sites, that would explain the high wages.

All three children seemed to be enthralled with Dwayne and his rumpled cowboy hat. Dwayne didn't seem to be paying any attention to the conversation. He was mugging at the kids.

"Can you ever remember seeing your husband with a large white man who had long red hair and a bushy beard?" Jason asked.

Ruth shook her head. "No. My husband didn't like white men. He said they were all crazy. Him and Charlie always went to work alone."

"Did Willie ever bring back any old pots or baskets he might have found while he was out digging for the miners? You know, Anasazi stuff?"

"Never," said Ruth without hesitation. "I know what you think. You think my Willie was robbing graves. Well, that's not true. He knew that the spirits would get him if he bothered the dead. Willie was no fool. He was just a man trying to put food on his family's table. That's no crime."

"Nobody has accused your husband of doing anything wrong. All we're trying to do is find out who killed him. Personally, I don't care what he was doing before he was murdered, unless it can help me find his murderer. What we have here is cold-blooded murder, ma'am, and I promise you that I'm going to nail the person who fired that gun."

Dwayne spoke for the first time since entering the house, his question directed at Willie's son. "Is that your helicopter?"

Dwayne pointed at a new model helicopter sitting on a rickety end-table. He recognized it immediately as a Chinook. In Vietnam, Dwayne had flown in many such choppers.

The Paiute boy nodded his head up and down.

Dwayne smiled. "Did you put that baby together all by yourself?"

The boy rose to his feet and walked over to the toy model. "My dad bought it for me at K-Mart and I put it together in a week."

"Did you really?" drawled Dwayne. "Ain't that something! You did all that in just a week? That's pretty good, son."

The boy smiled proudly and fingered the model's floppy rotor blades.

"Have you ever been for a ride in a helicopter?" asked Dwayne.

The corners of the boy's mouth sagged. "Not me. But my daddy used to go for rides all the time. He told me that I could go with him when I got older."

Jason thanked Ruth Meeks for her trouble and told her how sorry he was that she had lost her husband. Ruth took no notice of his words; her grief went deeper than the sympathy and promises of a white policeman.

Ten minutes later, Jason and Dwayne were heading back to Fredonia, their spirits buoyed by their first real break in the case.

"You know damn well that those two Indians had to have been working for Arizona Strip Nuclear," said Dwayne as if he was stating some immutable scientific law.

"Pretty safe bet," agreed Jason.

"So what're you gonna do about it?"

"I'm gonna drop you back at your office, and then I'll pay a visit to ASN and see what they have to say for themselves."

Dwayne nodded as he adjusted his cowboy hat. "I've gotta go out and tie in with Billy Mangum. That's where I was heading yesterday when I ran into Linda. Seems ol' Billy had some more of his range fences cut and he's as pissed as I've ever heard him get. Says he's gonna start shooting anybody he sees on his grazing allotment from here on out."

"That's all we need right now, Brother Johnson," moaned Jason. "A range war on top of murdering pothunters. My god, what's next? "

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 11 - Part 2

They drove down a wide dirt road that was cluttered with run-down houses, their doors wide open. Each home seemed crowded with young children, most of whom sat in the dust like unattended plants. Jason was struck by the contrast between Fredonia and Paiuteville on its doorstep. It troubled him greatly. He knew there were a million reasons for the sub-standard quality of life on the Reservation. But the bottom line was: they had no pride, not as individuals, and not as a people. The Mormons had proven that you could rise from the dirt with nothing, and end up in Zion, if you had a sense of pride. Jason wondered how the Paiutes lost their pride.

They pulled up in front of a dilapidated double-wide trailer. There was a large black satellite dish in the front yard that looked so out of place that it made Dwayne laugh. Four small children rolled in the dirt with a litter of mongrel puppies. A new Ford truck was parked only inches from the front steps. The front door of the trailer had been removed from its hinges and lay smashed on the barren ground. A blaring TV could be heard from inside the living room and a woman's voice hollered in anger. Dwayne noticed a shiny new bass boat on a trailer behind some rusty trash barrels.

"New car, new boat, new dish, looks like Charlie's been getting paid real well lately," observed Dwayne.

"Sure does," said Jason as he scanned the surroundings.

A heavyset woman in her early thirties appeared in the doorway with a baby in her arms. Her eyes were swollen and she had the look of an angry pitbull. As they neared, Jason realized that the woman's face was bruised and scratched, the victim of a recent beating. Jason felt pain at the brutal conditions of this poor woman's life.

"Cops, and more cops," screamed the Paiute mother as she shifted her baby to her other beefy shoulder. "When Charlie beat my ass, I don't see no one! Cops busy. None of their business. Then he dies and you over here like flies. I told you what I know. Charlie got what he deserved. You ought to pin a goddamn medal on the white man who killed him. I won't help you find him. And I got nothing more to say." Mrs. Tizno turned around and walked back into the house.

Joe Taylor laughed. "Maybe we should just leave it be, boys. Willie's wife ain't nearly this bad, and I've already told you everything of value that this one had to say, anyway. So screw it. Let's move on."

Jason and Dwayne looked at one another and nodded in agreement.

When they pulled up in front of the Meeks homestead, the scene was a little better. An attempt at home improvement had been made there. Five scraggly cottonwood trees had been planted around the small, cinderblock house, which had a fresh coat of turquoise paint. A large clay flowerpot full of petunias had been placed by the doorstep. There was a new Ford Bronco in the driveway.

A boy answered the door, his eyes widening in fear when he saw the uniforms and guns. "Mama, it's the police again," yelled the boy as he stepped back from the open door.

A short woman with long jet-black hair appeared. Her eyes were puffy from crying. She motioned to the men to enter.

The men took off their hats and sat down in the small living room, dark as a cave. The curtains had been drawn and there were no lights on. It took a moment for the men to adjust their eyes.

Joe Taylor took the lead. "Ruth, these men are investigating the murder of your husband and they'd like to ask you some questions, if you don't mind."

Ruth pulled a Kleenex from her pants pocket and shrugged her shoulders.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 11 - Part 1

As they drove to Paiuteville in Jason's Ramcharger wagon, Dwayne filled Jason in on Jenny's report, confirming the pothunters were pros, and explained the camping arrangement between Jenny and Linda.

Jason wasn’t happy to hear that their star witness was heading back into the field, but he knew Jenny Hatch, and she was one tough cookie. It sounded like Linda would be safe. And what was the chance that the killer would find them on the other side of the mountain in the middle of nowhere?

The Paiute Indian Reservation was a 200 square-mile rectangle of high desert land – land which nobody else ever wanted. The Paiutes occupied only a very small amount of the total acreage; they preferred, instead, to crowd themselves into large subdivisions of gaudily painted prefab houses. There were no trees, no grass, just dusty sagebrush flats littered with trash and abandoned machines. Like most American Indians, the Paiutes had been herded together on land that was marginally habitable and given a monthly survival check by the federal government. More than half of the villagers didn't work because there were no jobs. The tribe operated a campground and general store, the sole commercial business venture on the entire reservation. A tiny handful of families ran cattle and sheep on land which had been over-grazed by the turn of the century. The vast majority of those who lived on the Reservation had no past, no present, and no future. They spent most of their days and nights watching television and slowly killing themselves with sugar and alcohol. The Paiutes of Northern Arizona were a hopeless case that would one day simply vanish. Sadly enough, most had already given up.

They were met by the head of the Tribal Police, Joe Taylor, a short, stocky Paiute with a very dark brown complexion and an almost permanent scowl. Joe had already visited Charlie and Willie's families, and had unearthed some intriguing information. The two dead men had been working together for the past year. Their wives didn't know details of the arrangement, but were certain that their husbands had been digging for a uranium mining company; they weren't sure which one. They knew the general vicinity where their men had been working, out near the Kanab Creek Wilderness Area. The job had only been part-time, a couple of days a week at the most. As for a large Anglo with a red beard and long hair, the women said they had never seen such a man with their husbands.

Taylor chewed tobacco and he spit a black stream of juice onto the hard-baked ground in front of his patrol car. "If you want to know what I think, they were bone-diggers for those goddamn miners. They didn't know any better. And they got what happens to everybody who goes messing with the dead. I say, good riddance."

Dwayne and Jason were surprised by the Indian's callous indifference to death. They knew Joe Taylor to be a hard man, but one who cared about the plight of his people.

"The gods, or the spirits of the dead, didn't kill Charlie and Willie," said Dwayne as he wiped the sheen of sweat from his forehead. "What we have here, Joe, is murder. I don't give a shit whether they were robbing banks with this white man. The fact is, the sonofabitch killed 'em like they were nothing more than dogs."

"Maybe he knew 'em better than you," said Joe caustically. "Maybe he knew that grave-diggers are worse than dogs."

"You're being pretty tough on your own kind, Joe," observed Jason. "Sometimes life deals you some hard choices."

Joe squinted up at the sun and chuckled sadly. "My kind, eh? Hard choices, you say? Shit. You open up a man's grave, scatter his bones across the ground like garbage, you're asking for more trouble than you can even begin to understand. That's what my people believe, and there ain't any hard choices involved. So go ask your questions, and track down your red-haired white man. But it don't matter, 'cause before long, this guy is gonna end up just as dead as Charlie and Willie." Joe Taylor winked as he let fly with his tobacco juice. "Death deals out its own share of hard choices."

Taylor got into his patrol car and leaned out the window. "If you boys want to follow me, we'll start with Charlie Tizno's family." He didn't wait for an answer but simply started the engine of his battered truck and backed up in a cloud of dust.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 10 - Part 3

Dwayne shifted gears. "Me and Jason are gonna go out to the Paiute Reservation this morning and have a little talk with Willie and Charlie's families."

Jenny squinted. "So, you're going under the assumption that the two were digging together and that they somehow crossed this pothunter and he bumped them off?"

Dwayne shrugged his shoulders. "That's my guess. What's up next for you?"

"I did a damage report on the Jumpup site while I was out there yesterday. It turns out that the structure had already been recorded back in the early seventies, but no excavation work was ever done. I did a complete inventory of surface debris and filled out all the appropriate forms, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a closed book. I've got other work to move on to. In fact, I'll sort of be working for you again."

"Doing what?" asked Dwayne.

"Well, I have to head over to the Paria Plateau and finish up the clearance project that I started last week for your range people. Steve Bowman is putting in two new water tanks and I've got to make sure there aren't any arch sites where they're going in. He's also proposing a small juniper push to clear more forest land for grass, so I'm looking at about two days of survey work on the Plateau. I've decided to just camp in the area, rather than drive back to the office at night. Otherwise, I'll spend almost four hours a day just driving back and forth, and I don't need that crap. Better to just camp for two nights and get the whole damn thing over with in one shot."

"I'd do the same thing." Dwayne pulled a Kaibab Forest map from a drawer. "But look, since we had this last murder, I'm a little jumpy about people camping out alone on the forest. So what I'd like you to do is show me on this map where you intend to be working and camping while you're out there."

Jenny rose from her chair and came around the desk to look at the map with Dwayne.

There was a knock on the office door. Dwayne and Jenny looked up to see Linda Joyce standing timidly in the doorway.

"I was hoping you'd come by before you left for the mountain," said Dwayne. "I still have some more things I want to scream at you about. Quick, Jenny, get some rope and we'll tie her to the chair so she can't leave."

Everyone laughed politely and Linda stepped into the office. "Nice to see you again, Jenny."

"Hi, Linda. I hope Dwayne hasn't been driving you crazy. You know how cowboys are."

Linda shook her head. "No, I'm afraid it was me who has been the problem. Dwayne is upset because I've decided to continue with my field study on the mountain."

Jenny's forehead wrinkled with concern as she spoke. "It's not really any of my business, Linda, but do you think that's wise?"

"Well it wouldn't be if I went back to Jumpup. But I'm going over to the eastern side, around House Rock Valley. I'm sure it'll be safe. The Kaibab's a big place and that's about as far away from Jumpup as you can get. If you think about it, Fredonia's no farther away, really."

"You can gather data over on the east side, too, huh?" asked Jenny. "What are you doing exactly?"

Dwayne listened, fascinated, as the two women chatted about their jobs. He gained a much greater appreciation for Linda's work. It suddenly struck Dwayne that Linda and Jenny were talking about working in virtually the same area of the forest. He started smiling like a man who had just been dealt the fourth queen in the deck. He would have preferred that Linda simply stay put in town, but if she had to return to the forest, then this was probably the safest way to do it, especially if Jenny Hatch was there to keep watch on things.

"Jenny, as long as you're doing your survey work up on the Paria Plateau, can you check in on Linda down in House Rock?"

"Sure. We can camp out together. You know, you're pretty quick sometimes, Cowboy. I bet you could have really done big things if that horse hadn't kicked you in the head when you were a boy."

Linda liked this dynamic red-haired woman with the smart mouth. Jenny seemed to have an answer for everything. It would be fun to camp out with her. It would also make the prospect of being alone in House Rock Valley at night much less frightening, and she could sleep a whole lot easier. After consulting the forest map, it was decided they would rendezvous at a place known as Bighorn Buttes by dark. Jenny would have a portable radio in her truck so they could check in with the office at the end of the day and first thing in the morning.

"Jenny, I think it would be a good idea if you took a gun along with you," Dwayne added.

"I'm way ahead of you, Cowboy. I already stashed my .22 in the truck."

"Keep it close by," warned Dwayne. "If this guy ever finds out that Linda's in House Rock Valley, you're gonna have to use it."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 10 - Part 2

Dwayne leaned back. "Okay, Jenny, you saw the site. What did you make of it?"

Jenny referred to her notes as she spoke, the glasses used only for reading resting on the edge of her nose. "Well, this guy might be a pro when it comes to killing Indians, but he doesn't know his ass from the wall when it comes to digging a prehistoric ruin. The site looked like somebody had dropped a bomb on it. He broke as much as he probably found because he dug the site with a pick and large shovel; he ended up smashing some really nice pots in the process. He trashed a Kayenta black-on-white ceremonial vase that would have fetched at least $30,000 if he had been a little more careful. The guy's a pig."

Dwayne nodded thoughtfully. "So why do you think it was a commercial job, not some fella who just likes to pick up a few pots while he's out murdering people?"

Jenny pushed her glasses up higher on her nose. "Oh, this is definitely an industrial-strength operation. I mean, the guy left four unbroken pots at the site – they were Tusayan corrugated."

"Don't go getting technical on me, Jenny," said Dwayne. "Keep it simple. Okay?"

Jenny smiled. "Sorry, Dwayne, I sometimes forget that I'm dealing with cowboy heathens. Tusayan corrugated pottery is about as plain as it comes. The irony is, they are much older than the painted wares, which happen to be much more recent. The dealers and buyers don't want some dirty gray pot with cross-hatched ridges and a rough exterior – even if it's a thousand years older. They want the smooth stuff with all the bright, fancy designs. So professional pothunters often just leave the corrugated plain ware. That's why you can tell that this guy is a commercial pothunter. If a lone wolf had done this, they would have taken everything they found. They'd never even think about leaving an undamaged artifact behind."

"Okay, so if the killer is in the business of pothunting, how do you figure Willie Meeks fits into the picture?"

"I'd say that Willie was digging that cliff dwelling for the Anglo who killed him. There was more than one set of tracks up in the site. In fact, there were three. I don't know whether one of those belonged to Willie or not, but I'd guess yes."

"And I'd guess that the other pair belonged to Charlie Tizno. How's that grab you?"

Jenny shrugged her shoulders. "That's certainly a possibility. The tracks are hard to read because the whole overhang is now a mess from all the digging. Whoever it was, they were lazy. They just threw the dirt right over the side and down into the drainage below. I found a re-worked arrowhead from the early Archaic Period, which means it was originally made by a person who lived 2,000 years before the time of Christ."

Dwayne whistled. "I'll be damned."

"No doubt," grinned Jenny. "But the point is, these people only know pots – probably baskets, too. I didn't find anything but pieces of baskets on the site, but that doesn't mean that these guys didn't haul away some good ones before I got there."

"Wouldn't Indians do a better job than that?" asked Dwayne.

"Probably not. Paiutes are not the descendants of the Anasazi. They're different people altogether, with completely different customs. And they're not familiar with the Anasazi burial habits, any more than a good Mormon cowboy like yourself would be. The Anasazi had many contrasting ways of burying their dead – hey, I did my Masters thesis on this, so don't get me going – but there aren't fifty people in the whole damn west who are really qualified to dig a burial without causing much damage."

"Are you?" asked Dwayne.

"You bet," grinned Jenny. "I've done quite a few around Lee's Ferry and the Paria River. And every burial has a twist that makes it special. I love digging burials, but there's never any money for it– unless, of course, the government happens to build a road through one, or somebody strikes uranium underneath one."

Dwayne's face scrunched in distaste. "Yeah, well, to be honest with you, I don't think I'd care too much for digging up some poor bastard's grave."

"That's because you Mormons are more superstitious than the Navajos. The burials are where we find the things the Anasazi wanted to travel into the spirit world with. Their spirit treasures."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 10 - Part 1

Dwayne's next call was from the Arizona Republic's crime reporter, wanting to know what the Forest Service was doing to apprehend the killer of Willie Meeks. Dwayne explained to the man that all inquiries were being referred to Sheriff Pratt because he was coordinating the investigative efforts. The reporter was curious whether the F.B.I. had been called in on the case and Dwayne told him again to call the Sheriff's Office and hung up.

The calls just kept coming. From a TV station in Tucson, the paper in Flagstaff, from a radio station in Las Vegas, another newspaper in Salt Lake City; it seemed like everybody wanted to know what the hell Dwayne Johnson was doing about the Jumpup Canyon murder.

Dwayne finally reached the limits of his patience and just left the phone off the hook. He walked out of his office and headed for the main switchboard. Peggy looked at him and rolled her eyes.

She placed her left hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and chuckled. "It's President Bush, and he wants to know whether you've found the killer yet?"

They both laughed.

"Tell him we're just gonna call it a suicide and leave it at that," whispered Dwayne.

Peggy convulsed with laughter. "No, it's really from some clown who works for the Associated Press. What do you want me to tell him?"

"Tell them ALL the same thing. I'm not here. And Sheriff Pratt's office is handling any questions. I ain't talking to anybody I don't know. Ten-Four?"

"Ten-Four, boss."

As Dwayne made his way back to his office he ran into the forest archaeologist, Jenny Hatch. Jenny was a tall, strikingly beautiful woman in her mid-thirties. She had an angular face dotted with freckles. Her straight red hair rode the middle of her back and she had piercing green eyes.

"Just the man I was looking for," exclaimed Jenny with a big smile. "How you doing, Inspector? Found any bad guys yet?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, we did," replied Dwayne as he held his office door open for Jenny. "And I sent 'em over to your house. Okay?"

Jenny laughed. "Why sure, Dwayne, I'd love to meet this character who flies around raiding ruins and shooting Indians. He sounds like a real charmer."

Jenny sat across from Dwayne's desk. She became all business as she sifted through her thick pile of papers.

"I spent all yesterday afternoon out at the murder scene and I've worked up a preliminary report."

Dwayne didn't get to work very much with Jenny, but he knew she was very good at her job. She wasn't raised in Southern Utah and wasn't a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, but she had deep roots in the area. In the late 1930's, Jenny's grandfather had homesteaded in Marble Canyon, near Lee's Ferry, the place where the float trips into the Grand Canyon began. A year ago she had become the Kaibab's archaeologist and moved back to Marble Canyon and into the circular rock house which had originally been built by her granddaddy. She was a very independent woman, obsessed by her work. Jenny probably knew more about the Anasazi Indians than any person alive, although she was far too modest to admit it, and totally disinterested in fame. But when Jenny Hatch talked, people listened.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Boat Shows Are Coming!

Putting Wind In Your Sails, Power In Your Engine
The U.S. Boat Shows are a wondrous spectacle like nothing else in the world!

Folks around Annapolis have for years debated the differences between sail boaters and power boaters. Every October, the annual United States Sailboat and Powerboat Shows intensify the debate by bringing thousands of both to town back to back.

Sail boaters take over Annapolis October 7 to 11. The sailboat show draws the Topsiders crew with their bright foul weather gear and sporty sunglasses on a string. Sailing is more cerebral and tactical. It’s serious business, and everyone has a story. In addition, sailors don’t complain about the rain. Of course as a sailor, I’m biased.

Power boaters roll in the following week. Power boating is more about simple recreation and fun in the sun. So the powerboat show attracts a less nautical-looking bunch. They are a little older, richer and more jovial. It’s upscale, but slightly gritty, because, to be honest, driving a boat is kind of like driving a truck or any other motorized vehicle. It isn’t an elite club, and its members are not pretentious or aloof. Think Rodney Dangerfield powering around in Caddy Shack, and you are getting close to the type of people who like to come to the powerboat show.

Ask almost any local store owner who they like best, they will always tell you it’s the power boaters: They are very friendly, and they like to spend money.

The boat shows are ultimately about making money. They impact Annapolis and beyond in lots of ways besides the obvious boost to the local maritime and food businesses. Many people feed off the boat shows.

My old buddy Pip Moyer used to live in Eastport near the bridge. The lot next to his house was vacant. He and his boys would park cars for $10, and pay their property tax with the money they made.

Local schools like Germantown Elementary raise money for student activities each year by parking cars on the surrounding playgrounds.

Many people rent their homes out for the boat shows. A nice place near downtown can fetch at least five grand.

Taxis, tour groups, printers, caterers, hotels, shopping centers, grocery stores and businesses large and small benefit mightily by the Annapolis boat shows. For many it’s the difference between profit and loss for the year.

That said, most Annapolitans steer clear of the boat shows. They complain about parking and crowded streets. They’re missing a great show, and it starts way before VIP Day, October 7.

Biggest, Best? Whatever, It’s a Great Show

Heading down to Port Annapolis Marina to go sailing, I bumped into the owner of the show, 83-year-old Ed Hartman. Hartman and his merry band were scurrying around the staging area at Back Creek Nature Park, putting together all the floating docks and other contraptions that make the United States Sailboat and Powerboat Shows the biggest floating boat show on earth.

I wonder who measures these things? A quick search of the Internet shows that Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, the Great Lakes and even Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, all claim to have the biggest on-water boat shows. I guess we’ll have to ask the Guinness Book of World Records to make the final ruling.

The staging of such a complex event, getting all the boats docked in their proper sequence and location, is like ballet. There is a precise order to the grand mix of vessels. You can’t have a Boston Whaler next to a Grand Banks or a Comet next to a large catamaran. The folks who put on the boat show each year have the whole thing down to a science. As I stopped along Edgewood Road to watch the gear assembled for transport by land and sea, I was reminded of a carnival coming together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Like a carnival, the boat shows must be put up and taken down quickly. On the Monday after the first weekend, boat show organizers have to remove all the sailboats safely and as quickly as possible, while the myriad vendors who sell clothes, cleaning products, electronics, navigation devices — and whatever else some clever soul has dreamed up to use on a sailboat — shut down their tents to make way for the powerboat sales people and their must-have gear.

Once the sailboats have been motored or trucked away, in come the powerboats, little ones first, biggest ones last. By Thursday, they look like they have been here all the time. It’s a show in itself to watch the intricate maritime maneuvering.

As a true Annapolitan — meaning I was lucky enough to be born here — I promise you haven’t seen the real Annapolis until you have wandered to the end of the floating docks and looked back at the hundreds of brand new boats of all shapes and sizes sitting side-by-side along Spa Creek with their flags streaming in the blue sky as the sun sets behind the capitol dome. There’s nothing like it in the world.

© COPYRIGHT 2010 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 9 - Part 2

"I heard about this on the news last night, but I didn't hear your name," said Ken, almost as if he doubted her involvement.

"Always the professor," whispered Linda. "The police withheld my identity so the murderer wouldn't know he had been seen."

"How clever of them," replied Ken. "But you are all right?"

"I'm coping, Ken. But it's been pretty hard to handle. If it wasn't for the police and some of the other people here in Fredonia, I don't know how I would have made it. I was a basket-case by the time they rescued me."

"Well, at least it was only an Indian that got killed, and not my favorite girl," said Ken with a chuckle.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Just that I'm glad you weren't hurt, for god's sake. That's all. I suppose those were a poor choice of words. I'm sorry."

"You should be."

"Listen, Linda, you're obviously under a lot of pressure, surrounded by the Mormon inbred down there in Fredonia. Why don't you come up here to the college and spend a few days? There's a faculty dinner on Wednesday night and I'd very much like you to be here. It will be my first chance to tell everyone about this new government grant I'm working on and it would be nice to have you by my side. It would mean a lot to me, and it would probably be good therapy for you."

Linda bristled with indignation. "WORK is the only therapy I need, Ken! You know, you aren't the only person in the world who deals in government grants. You want one. Well, I have one. Remember? And I don't intend to drop my research and come up to your college and play Mrs. Jarvis for you and your friends."

Ken's voice took on a superior tone. "Surely you don't intend to go back to where you were conducting your research. Please tell me that you have that much sense."

"Don't patronize me, Ken. Of course I'm not going back to Jumpup Canyon. I plan to put at least sixty miles between that murdering sonofabitch and me. I'm moving my base camp over to the House Rock Valley, across from the Paria Plateau."

"Why don't you try growing up for a change, Linda? You aren't in some silly Grade B western movie. Your precious hawks and eagles will wait another year for you to come back and count them."

Linda blew up. "You listen here, Ken. What I'm doing up here on the Arizona Strip might help bring several species of animals back from the brink of extinction. It's important – every bit as important as your hot gas study. In fact, you should tell the Bureau of Land Management that they ought to check out one of your lectures if they really want to find some untapped gas reserves." Linda slammed down the phone.

At least Linda knew where she stood now. She had gone to the man she was supposedly in love with, at the most difficult time in her life. And what was he worried about? Government grants and faculty dinners.

That left only one person she could turn to for support: Dwayne Johnson. And she had just dropped him like a child might drop a toy that had ceased to be of interest.

Linda got into her truck. The keys were in the ignition, not under the seat as she expected. But then it hit her. Who would steal anything in the neighborly little town of Fredonia? As insignificant as it was, Linda felt comforted by the idea that her vehicle could sit on Main Street with the keys inside and nobody would touch it. Linda started up the truck and headed for the Forest Service office. For the first time since the murder, Linda felt like she really knew what was going on. She was positive that her decision to move to the House Rock Valley was a good one. And she was sure that Dwayne would agree, once she took the time to calmly explain it to him. She smiled. Things were definitely starting to look up.