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."

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