The Judge picked up a leather briefcase from the copilot’s seat and returned to the rear storage bay. “I am afraid you might find the authentication papers a bit technical, especially in light of the fact that you are not familiar with the actual area in question.”
Barry laughed out loud. “I’ve been fishing the Tropic Reservoir since I was a boy, and I’ve taken many a horse ride from Bryce National Park to Tropic, so I have a pretty darn good idea where we’re talking about, Judge.”
“Yes, I’m sure, but you have never been to my ranch,” replied the Judge. “And without a Geologic Survey map to refer to, the geographical coordinates are meaningless.”
Barry thumbed through several sheets of paper which listed the specifics of where the shipment had been obtained. As the Judge had warned, the location legals meant little without a map. The prehistoric artifacts had been excavated from a pueblo, pithouse, granary, and rock shelter, all of which were located in the Navajo Sandstone formation. Barry knew enough about local geology to know that it was a pretty safe bet that anything of a prehistoric nature in Southern Utah was going to be found in the Navajo Sandstone layer. The formation extended for a hundred square miles, and included the Paria Plateau and the town of Tropic, sixty miles to the north. The dirt from both areas would be the same, so there was no way to definitively trace the original location of this shipment. Navajo Sandstone was Navajo Sandstone, no matter where it was sampled; it had no particular signature or fingerprint that could indicate a specific spot on the map. The Judge’s provenance papers painted a very believable scenario, one with which Barry could not argue.
“I notice that you name is on each report. That means you personally dug up these relics, right,” asked the obviously frustrated Sheriff.
The Judge gave a mock bow. “That is indeed correct. I excavated each of these treasures. They are like my children. And this plane load of Anasazi riches represents several year’s worth of digging on my part.”
“And the gun permit?” asked Barry as he passed the authentication papers back to the Judge.
“Why do I get the distinct impression that you do not trust me, Sheriff?”
“Probably because I don’t,” answered Barry without missing a beat.
The Judge visibly winced as he showed the Sheriff his Federal Firearms Permit. “Ever since my early years on the bench, I have carried a pistol of one kind or the other. We judges get our fair share of death threats, as you might well imagine, and I have always taken my personal protection very seriously. One can never be too careful, especially out here in the wilds of the Southwest.”
The permit was perfectly legitimate; Barry could not poke any holes in the Judge’s story. Unless he found something of an illegal nature pretty soon, he was going to have to let the Judge fly the coop.
Barry began a laborious search of the jet which lasted for almost an hour. But after going through every inch of the plane, he had nothing to show for the effort – no drugs, no weapons, and no undocumented Indian artifacts.
The Judge knew the Sheriff had lost his momentum and confidence. “I trust that you have satisfied your curiosity, Sheriff, now that you have turned the entire contents of my plane upside down? May I say that this has certainly been an eye-opening experience for me – and one which I will undoubtedly share with the Governor of your fair state in the very near future. However, as I stated to you when you first arrived on the scene, I have a pressing business engagement in southern Arizona, and now I really must insist that you allow me to leave.”
Barry looked down at his dusty boots in resignation. He had played all of his cards. As much as he hated to admit it, he was beaten. And the thing that really got to him the most was the fact that he knew the Judge was lying. From the first second he had laid eyes on the man, he was sure he was facing bullshitting evil. And when he discovered the artifacts just like Sheriff Pratt had predicted, he figured he was definitely getting close to busting the pothunting and murder case wide open. He had the big fish nailed dead to rights.
But an hour later, he was standing there with his hands in his pockets, feeling like a fool, knowing the Judge was going to make his life a living hell with the state Attorney General. “We appreciate you cooperation with all of this, Judge. And I am deeply sorry for any inconvenience I might have caused you.”
The Judge smiled condescendingly. “Save it for someone who cares, Sheriff. You have treated me like a common criminal. And you have conducted yourself in a thoroughly unprofessional manner. Now that your suspicions have proved completely unfounded, please do not assume that I will forgive or forget your inexcusable behavior. Rest assured that you have not heard the last of me. Now, if you will remove your fat ass from my airplane, I can get on with my business.”
Barry cringed at the Judge’s harsh words and wished he had never followed Jason Pratt’s orders. “Well, like I said, I’m sorry for the trouble. I was just trying to do my job.”
“Just get out of my sight, Sheriff,” growled the Judge.
Barry hopped down from the cargo bay. “You have yourself a good day now. You hear?”