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Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 01]

BOOK: Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 01]
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The Blessing Way
Tony Hillerman
The First Joe Leaphorn Mystery

scanned, proofed and formatted by MollyKate for the Prooflist, v.1 html 11-13-2002



A division of

The Hearst Corporation

Madison Avenue

New York, New York IOOI


Copyright © 1970 by Anthony G. Hillerman

Published by arrangement with Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number. 73-96009

ISBN: 0-380-39941-5

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

For information address Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022.

First Avon Printing: September 1978




While ethnological material as used in this book is not intended to meet scholarly and scientific standards, the author wishes to acknowledge information derived from publications of Willard W. Hill, Leland C. Wyman, Mary C. Wheelwright, Father Berard Haile, Clyde Kluckhohn, and Washington Matthews; and the advice and information provided by his own friends among the Navajo people.

Chapter 1

Luis Horseman leaned the flat stone very carefully against the piñon twig, adjusted its balance exactly and then cautiously withdrew his hand. The twig bent, but held. Horseman rocked back on his heels and surveyed the deadfall. He should have put a little more blood on the twig, he thought, but it might be enough. He had placed this one just right, with the twig at the edge of the kangaroo rat's trail. The least nibble and the stone would fall. He reached into his shirt front, pulled out a leather pouch, extracted an odd-shaped lump of turquoise, and placed it on the ground in front of him. Then he started to sing:

"The Sky it talks about it.

The Talking God One he tells about it.

The Darkness to Be One knows about it.

The Talking God is with me.

With the Talking God I kill the male game."

There was another part of the song, but Horseman couldn't remember it. He sat very still, thinking. Something about the Black God, but he couldn't think how it went. The Black God didn't have anything to do with game, but his uncle had said you have to put it in about him to make the chant come out right. He stared at the turquoise bear. It said nothing. He glanced at his watch. It was almost six. By the time he got back to the rimrock it would be late enough to make a little fire, dark enough to hide the smoke. Now he must finish this.

"The dark horn of the bica,

No matter who would do evil to me,

The evil shall not harm me.

The dark horn is a shield of beaten buckskin."

Horseman chanted in a barely audible voice, just loud enough to be heard in the minds of the animals.

That evil which the Ye-i turned toward me

cannot reach me through the dark horn,

through the shield the bica carries.

It brings me harmony with the male game.

It makes the male game hear my heartbeat.

From four directions they trot toward me.

They step and turn their sides toward me.

"So my arrow misses bone when I shoot.

The death of male game comes toward me.

The blood of male game will wash my body.

The male game will obey my thoughts."

He replaced the turquoise bear in the medicine pouch and rose stiffly to his feet. He was pretty sure that wasn't the right song. It was for deer, he thought. To make the deer come out where you could shoot them. But maybe the kangaroo rats would hear it, too. He looked carefully across the plateau, searching the foreground first, then the mid-distance, finally the great green slopes of the Lukachukai Mountains, which rose to the east. Then he moved away from the shelter of the stunted juniper and walked rapidly northwestward, moving silently and keeping to the bottom of the shallow arroyos when he could. He walked gracefully and silently. Suddenly he stopped. The corner of his eye had caught motion on the floor of the Kam Bimghi Valley. Far below him and a dozen miles to the west, a puff of dust was suddenly visible against a formation of weathered red rocks. It might be a dust devil, kicked up by one of the Hard Flint Boys playing their tricks on the Wind Children. But it was windless now. The stillness of late afternoon had settled, over the eroded waste below him.

Must have been a truck, Horseman thought, and the feeling of dread returned. He moved cautiously out of the wash behind a screen of piñons and stood motionless, examining the landscape below him. Far to the west, Bearer of the Sun had moved down the sky and was outlining in brilliant white the form of a thunderhead over Hoskininie Mesa. The plateau where Horseman stood was in its shadow but the slanting sunlight still lit the expanse of the Kam Bimghi. There was no dust by the red rocks now, and Horseman wondered if his eyes had tricked him. Then he saw it again. A puff of dust moving slowly across the valley floor. A truck, Horseman thought, or a car. It would be on that track that came across the slick rocks and branched out toward Horse Fell and Many Ruins Canyon, and now to Tall Poles Butte where the radar station was. It must be a truck, or a jeep. That track wasn't much even in good weather. Horseman watched intently. In a minute he could tell. And if it turned toward Many Ruins Canyon, he would move east across the plateau and up into the Lukachukais. And that would mean being hungry.

The dust disappeared as the vehicle dropped into one of the mazes of arroyos which cut the valley into a crazy quilt of erosion. Then he saw it again and promptly lost it where the track wound to the west of Natani Tso, the great flat-topped lava butte which dominated the north end of the valley. Almost five minutes passed before he saw the dust again,

"Ho," Horseman said, and relaxed. The truck had turned toward Tall Poles. It would be the Army people who watched the radar place. He moved away from the tree, trotting now. He was hungry and there was a porcupine to singe, clean, and roast before he would eat.

Luis Horseman had chosen this camp with care. Here the plateau was cut by one of the hundred nameless canyons which drained into the depth of Many Ruins Canyon. Along the rim, the plateau's granite cap, its sandstone support eroded away, had fractured under its own weight. Some of these great blocks of stone had crashed into the canyon bottom, leaving behind room-sized gaps in the rimrock. Others had merely tilted and slid. Behind one of these, Horseman knelt over his fire. It was a small fire, built in the extreme corner of the natural enclosure. With nothing overhead to reflect its light, it would have been visible only to one standing on the parapet, looking down. Now its flickering light gave the face of Luis Horseman a reddish cast. It was a young face, thin and sensitive, with large black eyes and a sullen mouth. The forehead was high, partly hidden by a red cloth band knotted at the back, and the nose was curved and thin. Hawklike. He sat crosslegged on the hump of sand drifted into the enclosure from the plateau floor above. The only sound was the hissing of grease cooking from the strip of porcupine flesh he held over the flame. The animal had been a yearling, and small, and he ate about two-thirds of it. He sprinkled sand on the fire and put the remainder of the meat on the embers to be eaten in the morning. Then he lay back in the darkness. The moon would rise sometime after midnight, but now there were only the stars overhead. For the first time in three days, Luis Horseman felt entirely safe. As he relaxed, he felt an aching weariness. He would sleep in a little while, but first he had to think.

Tomorrow, if he could, he would build a sweat house and take a bath. He would have to get a Singer somehow when it was safe and have a Blessing Way held for him, but that would have to wait. A sweat bath would have to do for now. It would take time, but tomorrow he would have time. He had what was left of the porcupine and he would have kangaroo rats. He was sure of that. He put out twelve or thirteen deadfalls baited with blood and porcupine fat and he thought the chant had been about right. Not exactly, but probably close enough. He would not think beyond tomorrow. Not now. By then they would know he had not gone back down to the Tsay-Begi country, to the clan of his in-laws, and they would be looking for him here.

Horseman felt the dread again, and wished suddenly that he had his boots and something that would hold water. It was a long climb down into the canyon to the seep. They would be looking anywhere there was water and even if he covered his tracks, there would be a sign—broken grass at least. The porcupine stomach would hold a little water, enough for a day. He would use that until he could find something or kill something bigger. But there was nothing he could do about his feet. They hurt now, from all day walking in town shoes, and the shoes wouldn't last if he had to cover much country.

Then Horseman became aware of the sound, faint at first and then gradually louder. It was unmistakable. A truck. No. Two trucks. Driving in low gear. A long way off to the west. The light night breeze shifted slightly and the sound was gone. And when it blew faintly again from the west, he could barely hear the motors. Finally he could hear nothing. Only the call of the nighthawk hunting across the plateau and the crickets chirping down by the seep. Must have been in Many Ruins Canyon, Horseman thought. It sounded like they were going down the canyon, away from him. But why? And who would it be? None of his clan would be in the canyon. His Red Forehead people stayed away from it, stayed clear of the Anasazi Houses. The Ye-i and the Horned Monster had eaten the Anasazi long ago—before the Monster Slayer came. But the ghosts of the Old People were there in the great rock hogans under the cliffs and his people stayed away. That was one of the reasons he had come here. Not too close to the Houses of the Enemy Dead, but close enough so the Blue Policeman wouldn't think to look.

Horseman felt his knife in his pocket pressing painfully against his hip. He shifted his weight, took it out, opened the long blade and laid it across his chest. Soon the moon rose over the plateau, and lit the figure of a thin young man sleeping, barefoot, on a hump of drifted sand.

Horseman was at the seep a little after daylight. He drank thirstily from the pool under the rock and then cleaned the porcupine stomach sac thoroughly with sand, rinsed it, knotted the tube to the intestine and filled it with water. It held about two cups. The sweat bath would have to wait. He couldn't risk building the sweat house here. And, if he built it in the protection of his camp, he had nothing large enough to carry water to pour on the rocks after he had heated them. He erased his tracks thoroughly with a brush of rabbit brush, and kept to the rocks on the long climb back to the canyon rim.

Four of his deadfalls had been sprung but he found dead kangaroo rats under only two of the stones. Another yielded a wood mouse, which he threw away in disgust, and the other was empty. He glumly reset the traps. Two rats were not enough. There were frogs around the seep, but killing frogs would make you a cripple. He would try for the prairie dogs. A grown one would make a meal.

The place Horseman had seen the prairie-dog colony was about a mile to the east. He used thirty minutes covering the distance, remembering the sound of the truck motors and moving cautiously. Maybe another of those rockets had fallen. He remembered the first time that had happened. It was the year he was initiated and there had been Army all over. Trucks and jeeps and helicopters flying around the valley, and they had come around to all the hogans and said there would be $10,000 paid to anyone who found it. But nobody ever did. Then they cut that road up Tall Poles and built the radar place and when the next rocket fell a year ago they had found it in two or three days.

BOOK: Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 01]
10.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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