Monday, January 31, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 18 - Part IV

“Listen to me. I’ve dug more Anasazi burials than anyone in the damn state. I’ve even dug some around the Paria here. So I know what I’m talking about.”

Jenny stepped back and walked over to the haphazardly-dug grave. Even with her life hanging in the balance, she couldn’t help being captivated by the elaborate trappings of this extravagant burial. This was, by far, the most impressive prehistoric grave she had ever seen on the Arizona Strip. The Anasazi did not go in for fancy tombs as a general rule. In fact, that was one of the many mysteries surrounding the Ancient Ones: few of their graves had ever been discovered. For some unknown reason, many Anasazi were never buried at all. Burials had been found under the floors of houses, under trash pits, in the bottom of kivas, under plazas, and outside their living structures in the middle of nowhere. It seemed like any spot in the ground was as good as another when it came to burying their dead. But given the central role of the kiva in Anasazi religious life, only a powerful medicine man or priest would get buried underneath the biggest kiva inside the largest pueblo on the Paria Plateau. To excavate a burial of this significance was a lifetime opportunity. Such a burial could answer many riddles about the Anasazi.

“You guys don’t even begin to know what you’re dealing with here. This is something like the Burial of the Magician.” The name had suddenly come to her like a vision. “I’ve never seen anything that comes near this sucker. And I’m warning you, you’re going to break twice as much as you find if you keep digging blindly without my help. Only a fool would throw away millions of dollars simply because he already had plenty, and you don’t strike me as a fool.”

B.T.’s face remained a blank mask, impossible to read. “Why would you help us dig this grave?”

“You might let me live, but, if not, what do I have to lose? If I have to die, then I’d like to get the chance to uncover a dream before I have to leave this life. I don’t expect you to understand what I am feeling, but something like this is what we archaeologists spend our whole lives looking for. And when you find it, you feel like you have found the Holy Grail. You saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, didn’t you? Well, it’s like that.”

B.T.’s smile came back on like a bright light. “I do know what you mean, Red. And I also believe that you know your shit when it comes to this excavating stuff. You could probably help double our profit.”

“So you will let me show you how to dig this thing the right way?” asked Jenny with excitement. She found she didn’t care about her life anymore; in relation to this royal burial, her life seemed almost insignificant. Everyone had to die, but few could die happy. Jenny would be happy if she could first have a crack at unraveling the secrets of the Burial of the Magician.

B.T. shook his head with respect. This lady had more nerve than he had seen this side of the Mekong River. By employing her talents, not only would they make more money, but he and the boys could learn a lot. It would be like going to school and would undoubtedly help them with their future digs. And they wouldn’t have to search blindly any place else on the plateau. They could get a whole goddamn shipment out of this one stinking kiva.

“You’re on the team, Red.” B.T. turned to the other two diggers and waved his gun in their faces. “This lady is off limits. I don’t want to see either one of you trying to poke her, or I will personally rip off your fucking cock and then make you eat it – RAW! You boys got that?”

Both of the bikers made faces like they had just gotten a whiff of something dead, and they spoke almost in unison. “We hear you, B.T.”

Jenny breathed a sigh of relief. All was not yet lost. And she still had a couple of aces hidden up her sleeve.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 18 - Part III

Jenny looked up and recoiled in fear. Standing above her were three rugged-looking men from straight out of a biker movie. Two of them were dressed in leather and chains, and the other – the man with the gun – looked like a wild animal.

The gunman smiled like a man possessed. “Well, what have we here, boys? Looks like we caught ourselves a lady.” He laughed. “Hey, lady! No women allowed in the fucking kiva. That’s the rule.”

The bigger of the leather boys, an oafish-looking brute over six feet tall and weighing close to three hundred pounds, stared hungrily at Jenny. “Can we keep her, boss?”

The other leather boy, a short, mutant-like devil with a head the size of a beach ball, grinned idiotically at Jenny and literally drooled. “Yeah, whaddaya say, B.T.? We can have her ass for dinner.”

Jenny knew she had really screwed up this time. If she got out of this trap alive, she was going to be damn lucky. She suddenly had a vision of herself being dumped into the grave when the men were finished abusing her. Coming down here alone had been a really bad idea.

The leader had darting green eyes that drilled into Jenny. He had an unnerving habit of smiling all the time, and even if he hadn’t had a loaded 9mm in his hand, Jenny thought he still would have been scary as a nightmare.

“We’re not going to have time for fucking around like that. She’ll just get in the way, and you boys will be fighting over her. And I don’t want to have to deal with that sort of bullshit.”

The two leather boys looked sorely disappointed but did not argue.

“So, what the hell are you doing down there in our hole, lady?” asked the grinning man with the sleek black pistol.

“It’s not your hole,” replied Jenny defiantly. “This kiva, and all the rest of this pueblo are owned by the people of the United States.”

B.T.’s smile widened. He knew redheads were stubbornly fearless, and he immediately admired the woman’s courage.

“So what do you care? What are you, the taxpayers’ watchdog, or something?”

“I’m the district archaeologist for the Kaibab National forest, and it is my job to investigate every case of cultural resource damage that occurs on the forest.”

B.T.’s eyes arched in surprise. “You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re an archaeologist?”

“That’s right,” barked Jenny as she leveled an accusing finger at the gun man, “and you and your friends are all in big trouble!”

B.T. shook his head and laughed deeply. “Man, do I have some shitty luck lately, or what?”

Jenny’s heart pounded as she struggled to stay in control. This man was going to shoot her so that he could get back to digging the burial, and the power of the federal government wasn’t going to do her much good.

“You’re the fool who destroyed the cliff ruin in Jumpup Canyon!” she blurted. “A witness said you had long red hair and the killing eyes of an eagle.”

B.T. did a double take. Linda Joyce sounded more and more interesting all the time. “I have many things I would like to discuss with Linda,” said B.T. almost sensuously.

Now it was Jenny’s turn to be surprised. How could this man know Linda’s name? Jenny’s mind started to spin off into terror. She had never felt so vulnerable and frightened in her life.

“How could you know about Linda?”

B.T. looked at Jenny with cold eyes gone dull. “I make it my business to know.”

Jenny wanted to kick the egotistical sonofabitch right in the balls; take that smug smile off his face. “Yeah, well you don’t know much about digging a prehistoric site – especially a burial like this. You’re making a bigger mess with this grave than you did with the cliff dwelling in Jumpup.”

B.T. laughed indifferently. “There’s so much loot in this one burial, it doesn’t matter. In the space of an hour, we’ve already hauled about twenty items out of here, each one worth a bundle.”

Jenny looked down into the littered grave. “No doubt. But surely you must know that if you took your time and went at this systematically – you know, figure out where the body is, dig an inch at a time, that sort of thing – you could really make a killing.”

“What the hell do you care, Red? We aint paying taxes on this shit.”

The other two looters burst out laughing and slapped five. The big one kicked the dirt with the heel of his left boot and almost fell backwards into the kiva. His slobbering little friend reached out and caught him at the last second.

“Yo! Billy Ray! Where you going, buddy?” cackled the dwarfish thief as he pulled the bigger man back from the kiva’s edge.

“Thanks, John! That was a close one!” blurted the clumsy giant, throwing his arms around his pint-sized pal.

Jenny had one chance to stay alive. If she could convince the gunman that she could make them a lot more money if allowed to show them how to properly dig the burial, she could at least buy herself some time. To excavate this grave correctly would take at least twenty-four solid hours of hard work. If she could last that long, then maybe Dwayne and Jason would have time to find her.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 18 - Part II

The pueblo was immense, close to seventy-five rooms. Several hundred prehistoric people had called this place home sometime around 1000 A.D. The structure was laid out in a long rectangle atop a narrow sandstone hill. It commanded an unobstructed view of the entire ridge. All around was red slickrock with smoothly-polished pothole depressions. These natural cisterns had been used by the Anasazi to catch rainfall, and even now, almost two weeks since the last measurable rain, most of the basins contained at least some water.

Jenny had led some field trips to this pueblo housing complex before; she knew it as the Big Boy site. There was only one other pueblo larger than this, on a rim overlooking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The walls of this spectacular pueblo had been constructed by skillful masons, using the surrounding sandstone material as their building blocks. With the aid of hard river stones, like quartzite, they hand-chiseled the softer pieces of sandstone into one-foot by six-inch bricks which they laid on top of one another in measured rows. The mortar was muddy clay found along some of the nearby washes, to which they added small pieces of wood and crushed stone to give strength and consistency. The walls were almost twenty feet tall and straight as an arrow. Much care had gone into the making of this magnificent pueblo and its masonry was as good as any brick work done by skilled European craftsmen more than five hundred years later.

Jenny hunched down as she walked through a small doorway which led into the interior of the grand pueblo. The Anasazi were tiny people by modern standards, and rarely grew to be more than five feet tall. The hallway opened on to a small, square plaza. In the center of the plaza was a large circular hole in the ground that had been bricked in like the rest of the building. This was a ceremonial kiva, a combination social hall and church. The kiva was about the size of a small garage and had been dug out nearly fifteen feet underground. The men of the village, the only people allowed into the smoky depths of the kiva, reached the bottom by climbing down a wooden ladder in the center of a mud and thatch roof. The roof and ladder were long gone.

As Jenny carefully looked over the side of the kiva, she could see large holes in the earth where someone had recently been digging. Smashed pieces of pottery lay exposed in the fresh piles of dirt. From where she stood, the bottom of the kiva looked like it had been hit by a hand grenade.

Jenny shook her head with disgust and looked around the gloomy inside of the giant pueblo. There were rooms everywhere she looked. In many places, large sections of the walls had been smashed and she could gaze into the home of an Anasazi family from the time of Christ. Most rooms were no larger than a large closet, and yet had been home to three or four people. Jenny was always reminded of a dog kennel whenever she looked at such cubbyhole houses. The Anasazi had obviously been a very gregarious lot; they liked to live right on top of one another.

Many of the rooms of this pueblo had been previously vandalized. Weathered piles of earth littered the interior, but Jenny didn’t see any fresh signs of digging other than the dirt in the big kiva. But just to be sure, Jenny took an inspection tour of the entire pueblo, checking for signs of recent pothunting. There were none.

She returned to the central kiva and stared into the open pit, searching for a way down into the deep hole. Sure enough, there were muddy footprints along a buckled seam in the wall where some vandal had climbed in. If she was careful and took her time, she could probably use the same route.

As Jenny got down on her hands and knees and then reached her leg tentatively over the edge of the hole, she wondered if this was the smartest thing for her to be doing. What if she fell? What if the pothunters came back? She would be in a very precarious position.

Jenny looked around at the crumbling interior of the pueblo and brushed her long red hair back along her shoulders. She did not have to take this kind of risk; it sure as hell was not in her job description. In the end, she let her indignation get the best of her and she climbed into the kiva. She was going to nail these pothunting bastards.

The climb was easier than she expected; there were plenty of hand holds for her to grab. She jumped down the last couple of feet and landed next to the bottom half of a brightly-decorated water vase. The symmetrical black and white triangles adorning the outside of the jug were clearly the work of the Kayenta Anasazi.

Jenny bent over to pick up the shattered pot and her eyes settled on a large excavation partially uncovering a burial unlike and she had ever encountered. She walked around the dirt that had been shoveled out of the elaborate grave. Inside the tomb was a burial fit for a king. There were the broken tops of water jugs and baskets, stone animal effigies, and grass mats of many colors and sizes. And there were items which Jenny could not even begin to fathom, things she had never seen – not even in pictures. Many of the visible pieces had been smashed by the shovels of the impatient looters. The entire tomb seemed to be packed with ceremonial artifacts, but only the first foot or so had been unearthed.

Why would anyone abandon such a treasure trove of Indian wares? They wouldn’t! Not unless they were interrupted by someone.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 18 - Part I

The arrow on the water gauge was dangerously close to the red; Jenny debated whether to stop by the bulldozed ruin on her left and give the Ford a chance to cool down. She decided against stopping; she was already running ridiculously behind schedule. Jenny was fairly familiar with this stretch of the plateau and she knew that if she could just kept the truck moving along at a steady clip on the flat stretch of road, and avoid getting stuck in the sand, the engine would cool down on its own after the long, tough climb.

Jenny hardly glanced at Otis’ hiding place, reacting to the vandalized ruin much in the same way people consciously make an effort not to look at a dead dog lying along the shoulder of a road.

As Jenny steered the big Ford down the two-track road, barely wider than the truck, she could clearly make out the fresh tracks from several vehicles. Two, maybe three, vehicles had very recently come down this same road – and they hadn’t come back out yet. It was probably just Steve Rich, the rancher who had the grazing allotment on the plateau. Who else would be up here?

Jenny managed to avoid all of the sand traps for the next few miles, and as she came into a dwarf forest of ancient pinyon and juniper trees, she stopped at a fork in the road. The right fork was what passed for a main road on the Paria Plateau; it led to her project area at Badger Tank. The left fork was a very sandy trail which meandered into the most isolated region of the Paria, an area known as Pinnacle Ridge.

She stopped the truck and got out. The air was warm and smelled of cedar. There was no wind and it was deathly quiet. The truck tracks followed the Pinnacle Ridge Road and she began to doubt her original assumption that the rancher had made the tracks. Pinnacle was a wide peninsula of water-polished rock crowned by weirdly-shaped sandstone pinnacles. There wasn’t enough forage on that stony ridge to feed more than a handful of cows at the most. No one used Pinnacle Ridge for anything but pothunting, or maybe hiking and exploring. This area, no more than twenty square miles, had once been populated by over ten thousand Anasazi, and many archaeological raiders had tried their luck their over the years. Most of the destruction had taken place near the turn of the Twentieth Century, when several mining and ranching outfits regularly used the plateau. Since the 1950s, no one had lived or worked on the Paria except a single Mormon rancher, and the pothunting had dropped off noticeably.

Jenny knew from past experience that the Pinnacle Ridge Road was treacherously sandy. If she got stuck, she would have to radio back to the District Office for help, and then someone would have to drive out to the plateau and winch her free. And what if the people who left these tire tracks were pothunters? What was she going to do if she ran into them? Write them a ticket? That might work with the locals. But what if this was the red-haired Indian killer?

She reached for the .22 in the glove box of the truck and laid it on the seat. It was her responsibility to investigate any potential incident of pothunting on the Kaibab, but she didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. She pulled out a roll of survey flagging from her jacket; pink was the color designated by the forest archaeologists to mark the boundary of a prehistoric site. Jenny tied a long piece of the pink plastic ribbon to the branch of a misshapen juniper tree near the edge of the left fork in the road to alert her fellow workers which way she had turned.

The Pinnacle Ridge Road was worse than she remembered and she almost buried the Ford on several occasions; but each time she managed to pump the clutch and rock the vehicle out of trouble. She came around a sharp bend in the road and was greeted by a sight that took her breath away. Rising up from the sand, like a reincarnation of a biblical temple, was a colossal Anasazi pueblo. The sun struck the massive structure and made the brown rock walls glow as if illuminated from within. Jenny had seen this pueblo before, but never in this particular light.

The tire tracks went right up to the northern wall of the ruin and stopped, but they also continued straight. The people she was following had evidently stopped here before continuing down the Pinnacle Ridge Road. Jenny noticed fresh piles of dirt outside the walls of the magnificent pueblo. The pothunting pigs had just been digging this site! Jenny scanned the area but saw no signs of life.

Jenny parked the truck and counted the tread marks: three large trucks. The Jumpup Canyon killer used a chopper to get around. Jenny examined the footprints. There were three distinct sets of tracks; each person was driving a vehicle. This looked more like the work of some ignorant locals, and local boys wouldn’t harm her if they got caught.

Jenny considered radioing in to the office to let them know the situation, but what would she tell the dispatcher? That somebody was somewhere up on the Paria Plateau, doing something? No. That wasn’t the way to handle this case. Once she knew what she was dealing with, then she would call into Fredonia with the details. She debated whether to take the pistol with her. Guns made her nervous and the vandals had obviously left the scene of the crime, so what was the point of playing Macho Woman? She slid the Ruger under the seat of the truck, out of sight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 17 - Part II

The Judge had nothing but disdain for people like Todd Krieter. He had dealt with them his whole life. In Vietnam, they had been the military leaders who demanded victory but warned against committing atrocities. During covert C.I.A. operations, they were the ones who wanted to overthrow unfriendly governments but didn’t want to violate any laws in the process. The Judge had learned that the best approach to take with these spineless bastards was to avoid the truth and simply tell them what they wanted to hear.

“Saunders had nothing to do with the murder of the Paiute Indian. He was doing some freelance exploratory field work for me. And I think it best that we just leave it at that.”

Todd’s voice took on a whine. “I still think it would be better if you and your friends avoided using our company helicopters.”

“Need I remind you, Mr. Krieter, that the company helicopters you refer to were purchased with my money?”

For the second time that day, Todd knew that he had pushed too hard.

“That’s undoubtedly true, Judge. And we all certainly appreciate the contributions you have made so that this mine could go on-line according to schedule.”

“And I have asked very little in return, Mr. Krieter. That is why your superiors in Laramie have bent over backwards to make sure I remain a happy man. I have pumped a million dollars of my hard-earned money into a mine that is at least several years away from showing a profit. Now, why do you suppose that I have shown such generosity towards you and your people?”

“Because you have a deep and abiding affection for nuclear energy, right?” said Todd sarcastically.

Both men burst into laughter. The Judge momentarily reconsidered his appraisal of the dull engineer.

“I see you have a sense of humor, Mr. Krieter. I like that in the people whom I trust with my money and my secrets.”

“I have always tried to protect your interests, Judge.”

“As well you should. Those old Anasazi pots enable me to bankroll your interests. So, the next time you have a talk with the Sheriff, please make sure you have your priorities straight. I hope that I am making myself perfectly clear?”

“I just pray you know what you’re doing, Judge. I’d hate to see a lot of innocent people get hurt because of your carelessness.”

“Or yours,” said the Judge icily.

Todd swallowed hard. This was not the way he had envisioned this conversation would go. He had expected the Judge to quickly back down in the face of trouble. Instead, Todd found he was walking on shaky ground. But what could he do? ASN was his life, and he had always been a faithful follower. And if he didn’t know what was going on, then wasn’t that proof that he was without guilt?

“You concern has been duly noted, Mr. Krieter. All you need to worry about is making sure there is a helicopter waiting for me at the Kanab Airport when I arrive on Friday morning.”

“That’s already been taken care of, Judge. We sent the blue chopper in on Tuesday for a maintenance check, and it will stay there until you pick it up. The mechanic promised it would be ready to go by Friday morning.”

“Good thinking, Mr. Krieter. Safety first. Safety should always be our primary concern.”

The irony of the Judge’s words was not lost on the troubled mine manager. Todd realized that he was even more frightened of the Judge than he was of Sheriff Pratt. The Judge could aim that madman Saunders at him. And that was the last thing in the world that Todd Krieter ever wanted to happen to him.

“What time should we be expecting you, Judge?”

“I should be there by noon.” The Judge suddenly had a brainstorm. “You know, the more I think about what you said, the more I concur with your position that we need to maintain a low profile. So I will land the helicopter at the test pad area where you hope to be drilling next year. It is near the mine, but no one will be able to see my arrival because the view will be blocked by Bullet Butte. You can drive out there and pick me up, and no one will be the wiser. I’ll radio you when I am on my approach. See you on Friday, Mr. Krieter. I will be looking forward to seeing you again.”

Todd Krieter hung up the phone and he felt a cold chill run up his back as a cold wind whistled outside and rattled the sides of the office trailer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bay Cleanup 101

20 Questions about the Bay’s New Cleanup Plan

With these plain English answers, you’ll know as much as the experts (Of course nobody knows if it will work)

There have been a lot of headlines lately about how we’re finally going to start cleaning up Chesapeake Bay. Most feature the non-word TMDL.

Q What is this TMDL thing that everyone keeps talking about?

A TMDL stands for Total Maximum Daily Load. It’s a fancy phrase for measuring and establishing limits on what’s polluting the Bay, specifically nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment. The primary sources of nitrogen and phosphorous are sewage treatment plants, farms and stormwater runoff.

The Environmental Protection Agency explains TMDL as “the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water may receive and still meet its water quality standards, with a margin of safety. Pollutants are anything that prevents a water body from attaining the national goal of being ‘fishable and swimmable’.”

Local Category 5 Waterways

LITTLE PATUXENT RIVER: Suspended solids, phosphorous, cadmium, zinc, unknown pollutants

MAGOTHY RIVER: Nitrogen, suspended solids, phosphorous, PCBs in fish, contaminated sediments, low fish and mud critter numbers, unknown pollutants

PATUXENT RIVER: Nitrogen, suspended solids, phosphorous, PCBs in fish, contaminated sediments, low fish and mud critter numbers, fecal coliform, cadmium, mercury, atmospheric deposition, unknown pollutants

RHODE RIVER: Nitrogen, phosphorous, unknown pollutants

SEVERN RIVER: Nitrogen, phosphorous, PCBs in fish, low fish and mud critter numbers, fecal coliform, unknown pollutants

SOUTH RIVER: Nitrogen, suspended solids, phosphorous, PCBs in fish, contaminated sediments, low fish and mud critter numbers, unknown pollutants

WEST RIVER: Nitrogen, suspended solids, phosphorous, PCBs in fish, contaminated sediments, low fish and mud critter numbers, unknown pollutants

Q Why nitrogen and phosphorous?

A These are the two ingredients that most contribute to dead zones.

Q What is a dead zone?

A That’s where the water column contains no oxygen, killing any animals within its depths.

Q How do nitrogen and phosphorous create dead zones?

A They speed up the growth of algae on the surface of the water. This algae lives a fast life, then sinks to the bottom where it eats up all of the oxygen as it decomposes.

Q Who’s responsible for reducing nitrogen and phosphorous?

A All local governments in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Every city and county from upstate New York to Virginia Beach, as far west as the Appalachian Mountains and east almost to the Atlantic Ocean.

Q Who is in charge of making sure this program is successful?

A The federal government, under the EPA, is responsible for enforcing the Clean Water Act — and for holding the feet of local government to the fire.

Q What is a watershed?

A A land area that drains into a body of water. For example, the Severn River watershed runs from near Fort Meade in the west to Ritchie Highway in the north and Generals Highway and Forest Drive in the south.

Q What is a watershed diet?

A The Bay states have been working with the feds for the past few years, taking water samples in every river and major tributary throughout the watershed to measure the amount of dissolved oxygen, pollutants like heavy metals and sediment contamination. Next came fish surveys. If fish numbers and dissolved oxygen levels are down, and if chemical pollution levels exceed healthy limits, that combination puts a river on the list of impaired waters.

When a river is listed as an impaired waterway, the local government responsible for land use within that watershed will be put on a nitrogen and phosphorous diet. In current draft form, the dietary total daily maximum load cuts nitrogen and phosphorus by 25 percent and sediment by at least 16 percent.

Q How long will the diet last?

A Pollution control measures to fully restore the Bay will be in place by 2025, with 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017.

Q How do the regulators determine each waterway’s diet?

A Waterway by waterway, they use scientific data, like water samples and computer models, to determine how much the nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment levels must be reduced to sustain healthy conditions.

Q What is an impaired waterway?

A The federal government rates all rivers on a one to five scale. Categories one through three mean the river is healthy or there is no data to assume otherwise. Category 4 means the river is unhealthy for certain uses, like swimming, but not so bad as to need a TMDL. Category 5 means the water is unsanitary and contaminated with harmful levels of pollutants. Category 5 waterways go on a TMDL diet.

Q When will the federal government put local governments on their diets?

A The EPA draft plan was reviewed in December, with the final version completed on New Year’s Eve. In June of 2011, the states will submit their Phase II cleanup plans to the feds for approval. Final plans will be approved in November.

Q Why is this happening now?

A After environmental groups sued the EPA for not enforcing the Clean Water Act, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order for the Chesapeake. The May 2009 Order required EPA to come up with a scientifically based restoration plan for the Bay.

Q What is this going to cost?

A It will ultimately cost billions of dollars to clean up Chesapeake Bay. As a good-faith gesture, the president has proposed $491 million for the Bay in fiscal year 2011. If Congress approves the funding, it would be divided among all six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia.

Q How is all this going to work?

A It will be very challenging to engage over 3,000 different local governments in this monumental task. Each state has its own way of doing business. In Pennsylvania, townships call the shots. In Maryland, counties rule and towns take a back seat. In Virginia, you can’t do anything without approval from the state legislature. And in D.C., it’s often hard to know who’s in charge.

Q What happens if a local government doesn’t stick to its diet?

A The feds could deny sewage discharge permits, which would stop all further development.

Q So what will all of this mean to the average person living in Anne Arundel or Calvert county?

A No one has the slightest idea.

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

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 17 - Part 1

The telephone startled the Judge, who was doing a New York Times crossword puzzle on the aft patio of his houseboat. He grumbled as he headed over to an elaborate end-table where the streamline portable phone was lying under a copy of the Arizona Republic.

“Judge Keating here.”

“Judge, this is Todd Krieter, from ASN. I hate to bother you like this but I think we need to have a talk. The Grand Canyon County Sheriff was just here asking some very sticky questions.”

The judge winced. “Such as?”

“Well, he wanted to know about those two Paiutes that were murdered. Their wives told him that the men had been working for us. So Sheriff Pratt came to the mine to find out what their jobs were.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“I told him the truth. ASN never hired those Indians. But the point is: Sheriff Pratt is on to the fact that the Indians were working for somebody around here.”

“That’s of little concern,” replied the Judge impatiently. “Those Indians were always paid in cash. There is nothing on paper. Any information the police have would be hearsay.”

“Hearsya or not, the Sheriff knows more about this whole affair than just who those boys were working for. He knows that the person who killed the second Indian was using a chopper to get in and out of the area.”

“He told you that?”

“Yes he did.”

“Why in the world would he give you information like that, Mr. Krieter?”

“Because at the same time he was asking me to explain how we ran our helicopter operation.”

“I hope you told him it was none of his goddamn business,” growled the Judge.

“I couldn’t do that without drawing even more attention to this company. You can’t act uncooperative like that to the people around here – especially the police. But I did emphasize in no uncertain terms that ASN would not stand by and be accused of using our choppers for any type of illegal activity. I laid it on real thick – maybe too thick, in fact. He was pretty persistent and wanted to know stuff like whether or not the choppers stick to a particular travel route. And he was very curious about who had access to them. I told him that the pilots are free to go where they like, within reason. I also ended up giving him a list of the pilots.”

“You gave him my name?” asked the Judge incredulously.

“No, of course not. I told him that some of the owners are permitted to fly our choppers when they come in for inspection tours, but he seemed to be concentrating his attention on the regular pilots. Your friend Saunders in on that list.”

“That is indeed unfortunate, Mr. Krieter.”

“Yes. I didn’t think you’d be too pleased with the news.”

“I would have preferred otherwise, but sometimes it is better to give the police something to nibble on when they are hungry. I will discuss this matter with Saunders when I see him.”

“You’re still planning on coming here to the mine on Friday?”

“Why certainly. Nothing has changed.”

“Look, Judge, this is really not my business, but I don’t think either you or Sanders should be using the company’s helicopters while things are so hot with the police.”

“Nonsense, Mr. Krieter. I see no reason whatsoever to alter our plans.”

“Your plans, Judge,” corrected the manager. “I mine for uranium. I don’t know what it is you do.”

“You don’t?” asked the Judge with amusement.

“Yeah, well, I do what I’m told. But I’m not a pothunter.”

“Who said anything about pothunting?”

“That isn’t chipped beef you and Saunders have been running through the mine, Judge.”

The Judge snorted. “Looks can be deceiving.”

“Ahh, come on, Judge. I know an Anasazi pot when I see one.”

“But you do not know where those artifacts came from. Do you, Mr. Krieter?”

“Well, no, that’s true.”

“For all you know I may have purchased them at an auction, or dug them up on my own private land. Isn’t that true?”

“You tell me,” said the young engineer. He was tired of being toyed with.

“You are the one who is making the accusations, Mr. Krieter.”

“All I’m doing is telling you that I’m not taking the fall for you or Saunders when it comes down to something which I had nothing to do with. The police are curious about this matter, and it looks to me like they’re focusing in on ASN. Frankly, Judge, I’m worried.”

“Rest assured that the police would have demanded your presence at their headquarters if they had any evidence that could tie ASN to a capital crime. That’s the way the police do business. But when they come to you, they are merely fishing. They talk to as many people as possible and try to trick each person into saying something that might be incriminating. However, from what you have told me, they have gained very little from their little meeting with you.”

“They got Saunders’ name.”

“I assume the police are requesting pilot lists from all of the outfits who fly in this region.”

“Yes. Sheriff Pratt said they were asking everyone.”

“So Mr. Saunders name will now be added to an already long list.”

“But Saunders was flying one of our choppers on the day the second Paiute was murdered.”

“The police don’t know that.”

“No. But I do.”

“Are you making a point, Mr. Krieter?”

Todd Krieter chose his words very carefully. “I don’t know what Saunders was doing with our helicopter that day.”

The Judge interrupted the man abruptly. “Do you want to know?”

There was silence on the other end of the line. “God, I just hope he didn’t kill that goddamn Indian, Judge.”