"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.