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.