Thursday, June 9, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 30

      Jason arrived at the Fredonia police station as the sun was starting to burn off the frost from the previous night.

      After alerting Dwayne about the possible danger to Jenny and Linda he had stayed in Hurricane, looking for clues about what Saunders was up to and what his next move might be.

      They had searched the Saunders' home until five in the morning. By the time they finished, they had filled two police vans with illegal contraband, not including the prehistoric artifacts. A professional archaeologist would have to be called in to deal with the incredible collection. They had uncovered an amazing arsenal of weapons, including automatic pistols and rifles, several rocket-powered grenade launchers and grenades, some plastique explosive, a shoulder-held missile launcher, and countless small arms. If B.T. Saunders had been home that night, he could have held off an attack of the Utah National Guard. There were also drugs scattered all over the house. In the kiva, they discovered a pound of cocaine and five ounces of heroin; in the bedroom, methamphetamine; in the living room, marijuana; and in the bathroom, barbituates, from Qualudes to Thorazine. All in all, B.T. Saunders had enough drugs to qualify as one of the largest pharmacy in southern Utah. Jason had never seen such an assortment of weapons and drugs in his entire career as a lawman. But they found nothing that might indicate where they could find B.T. Saunders, and nothing that might lead them to believe that he was hunting for Linda Joyce,

     Barry had taken all the evidence with him back to Cedar City to be analyzed and held until Saunders was brought to trial. Jason had promised to keep Barry informed as to what was happening on his end.

      Jason hadn't slept in over twenty-four hours and his head felt like it was being squeezed inside a slowly tightening vise. A devout Mormon, he could seek no temporary relief from caffeine. He grimaced with fatigue and stress. How long could he continue to run on just adrenaline?

      "Morning, Sheriff. Long night, huh?" said Deputy Tom Mutz as Jason entered the police station.

      "I don't have time to go over it with you right now, Tom. But I need you to tell me about your search of the ASN chopper."

      "The preliminary report is on your desk, Sheriff. But there's nothing real conclusive. We gathered some clothes fibers and hair samples. And there was a little dirt in the cargo bay that might match up with the dirt from the potted site in Jumpup Canyon. It's way too early to tell yet. We got a whole bunch of prints from various places inside the chopper, but it's gonna take a while to sort 'em all out. We didn't find any blood or anything like that, if that’s what you wanted to hear."

      Jason patted his deputy on the shoulder. "I'm sure you did your best, Tom. How about giving the Forest Service office a call. Talk to Ben Tissaw; find out if Dwayne and the girls have called in on the radio this morning. I need to go clean up, but I'll meet you in my office in about ten minutes."

      "I'll see what I can find out, Sheriff."

      A few minutes later, Jason looked up from the airport report and greeted a smiling Tom Mutz. "Please tell me they called in and everything's alright?"

      "Yeah, Jenny Hatch just radioed in a few minutes ago. Ben took the call himself. He said Jenny sounded tired, but she'd be coming home late this afternoon."

      "Did he talk to Dwayne?"

      "Well, I don't think so. At least, he didn't mention it."

      "How about Linda? Did he talk to her?"

      "To be honest, Sheriff, I didn't ask."

      Jason frowned. "Well, try using your brain the next time, Tom. Now, you go call Ben back.  I want all three of those people accounted for. You tell him to raise 'em on the radio and confirm that they're all safe and sound. Understood?"

      Tom felt like a fool. He left hurriedly, determined not to let his boss down again.

      Jason went back to reading the report, but his mind was elsewhere. Why would Jenny call in to the office, rather than Dwayne? It didn't make sense that Dwayne would go all the way out there in the middle of the night to check on Linda and Jenny, and then not call in himself. Something wasn't right here. He started to rise from his chair at the same moment Tom returned, slightly out of breath.

      "Okay, I just got off the phone with Ben and he can't raise anyone but Jenny. She says that Linda has already gone off to work, and that Dwayne has gone with her to provide protection. Ben tried to radio Dwayne and there was no response, so he's either away from his radio, or in an area where he can't hit a repeater to transmit his signal over the mountain."

      "Yeah, or it could all be a crock."

      Tom looked like Jason was speaking a foreign language. "Why would Jenny Hatch say that everything was going well, if it wasn't?"

      "Hard to say, but I'm going out to House Rock Valley to check things out for myself.  Want to take a ride?"

      Tom smiled. He wanted very much to get out of the office and get some fresh air. "You bet, Sheriff. You mean right this minute?"

      Jason drummed his fingers on the top of his desk as he tried to organize his thoughts. "I'd like to get on the road by nine o'clock at the latest. I need to phone home and let my wife know what's been going on. I was gone all last night and she'll be worried sick. I also want to call the D.P.S. office in Flag, and see if we can get their chopper up here for the day. House Rock Valley is a big place, and it would help to have a chopper."

      "I'll order us some sandwiches from Nedra's."

      " Good idea. I haven't eaten since dinner last night. Get me two of everything. I'm starved. And I’m sorry I yelled at you Tom. The pressure and no sleep are driving me nuts."

      "Don’t think nothing of it, Sheriff,” said Tom with a wave of his hand. "We’re all on pins and needles. That’s for sure. And you being in charge and all, it’s a wonder you haven’t blown a gasket yet."

"Thanks, Tom. I appreciate everything you and the boys are doing. Please let them know that."

      Jason picked up the telephone. His first call was to his wife June. She told him she and the children were worried about him and that he better be careful. If he got hurt, she was going to paddle his big behind. That made Jason smile. His family had always been his rock.

      The request for helicopter assistance was turned down by the Police commander in Flag. There had just been a multi-car collision on Interstate 40 and the police chopper was being used to ferry the seriously injured to hospitals in Phoenix. When it finished, it was scheduled to help search for some backpacker missing after an overnight hike on the San Francisco Peaks.

      Jason put on his windbreaker and left his office. Tom was standing in front of a cluttered desk, having a heated telephone conversation. Jason checked the duty roster to see who was working the day shift today. Deputies Pratt and Lamb were presently out on patrol, but they could be called if needed. Velma Jensen, the office secretary and dispatcher, was handling the switchboard. She looked as harried and over-worked as Jason felt.

      "How's it going, Velma?"

      "It's going nuts, Sheriff. That's how it's going."

      "Well, hopefully this will all be over soon. Now listen closely, Velma. Tom and I are going to take a drive out to House Rock Valley. We'll probably be gone most of the day. I'll call in every hour on the hou with our locationr. If I don't, here's what I want you to do. First, you alert the main office in Flag and tell them to send help up to Bighorn Buttes just as fast as they can. You hear? Then you send both our deputies to seal off both ends of House Rock Valley Road. Tell them not to let anybody in or out. Tell them to treat every car as armed and dangerous until proven otherwise. Search everyone and everything. I mean everybody! Then call Ben Tissaw over at the Forest Service Office, and let him know what's happening. But under no circumstances, do I want anymore of his people to go into that area." 

Jason pointed a warning finger at Velma. "You follow those instructions to the letter, Velma. And if you don't hear from me on the hour, then you call out the cavalry. If there's a change in plans, I'll give you the details over the radio. Understood?"

      Velma Jensen was a very nosey person by nature, and it was clear that she wanted to ask a million questions; but she held her tongue and kept it simple.

      "Did you call your wife, Sheriff? You know how she worries about you."

      Jason laughed as he gave the heavy-set Mormon woman a wink. "I just checked in with June a few minutes ago. She told me I better not miss dinner again like I did last night."

      Velma nodded solemnly. "She's a fine lady, your wife. And you'd better do as you're told, Sheriff, if you know what's good for you."

      Jason smiled and shook his head. "I'll try my best to get home by seven, okay?"

      "Don't you be late when you call in on the radio, either, Sheriff.  I’d look pretty darn silly if I got everybody in a snit, and then found out that you just forgot to call in."

      Jason rolled his eyes. "You have my word, Velma. Every hour on the hour, just like the news on the radio."

      Jason walked over to Tom, waiting by the bulletin board. Tom looked agitated.

      "I just got off the phone with Art Shaw, from up at the Kanab Airport. He called to say that the ASN chopper was just picked up by some fancy-pants retired judge. The guy's name is Keating. He had an Arizona driver's license and lives down in Scottsdale. I wrote the number and the address down."

      "I forgot all about the chopper, but a judge isn't going to have anything to do with pothunting and murder," said Jason as he headed for the front door.

      Tom followed his boss. "Yeah, well, maybe. But Art told me to tell you that they tracked the chopper for the first few miles, like you asked ‘em to do, until they lost it on radar. And it wasn't heading southwest toward the ASN mine."

      Jason stopped and spun around to face his deputy. "It wasn't? Which way was it going?"

      "Southeast, Sheriff. Straight for House Rock Valley."

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