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Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 02]

BOOK: Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 02]
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Dance Hall of the Dead
Tony Hillerman
The Third Leaphorn and Chee Novel
1973 Edgar Award Winner

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers

East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y.

Copyright © 1973 by Anthony G. Hillerman

A hardcover edition of this book was published in 1973 by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc..

Cover illustration by Peter Thorpe

For Alex Atcitty and Old Man Madman and all the others who agree that Custer had it coming

Author's Note

In this book, the setting is genuine. The Village of Zuñí and the landscape of the Zuñí reservation and the adjoining Ramah Navajo reservation are accurately depicted to the best of my ability. The characters are purely fictional. The view the reader receives of the Shalako religion is as it might be seen by a Navajo with an interest in ethnology. It does not pretend to be more than that

Chapter One

Sunday, November 30, 5:18 P.M.

SHULAWITSI, the Little Fire God, member of the Council of the Gods and Deputy to the Sun, had taped his track shoes to his feet. He had wound the tape as Coach taught him, tight over the arch of the foot. And now the spikes biting into the packed earth of the sheep trail seemed a part of him. He ran with perfectly conditioned grace, his body a machine in motion, his mind detached, attending other things. Just ahead where the trail shifted down the slope of the mesa he would stop—as he always did—and check his time and allow himself four minutes of rest. He knew now with an exultant certainty that he would be ready. His lungs had expanded, his leg muscles hardened. In two days when he led Longhorn and the Council from the ancestral village to Zuñi, fatigue would not cause him to forget the words of the great chant, or make any missteps in the ritual dance. And when Shalako came he would be ready to dance all the night without an error. The Salamobia would never have to punish him. He remembered the year when he was nine, and Hu-tu-tu had stumbled on the causeway over Zuñí Wash, and the Salamobia had struck him with their yucca wands and everyone had laughed. Even the Navajos had laughed, and they laughed very little at Shalako. They would not laugh at him.

The Fire God half fell onto the outcropping of rock that was his regular resting place. He glanced quickly at his watch. He had used eleven minutes and fourteen seconds on this lap—cutting eleven seconds off his time of yesterday. The thought gave him satisfaction, but it faded quickly. He sat on the outcrop, a slender boy with black hair falling damp across his forehead, massaging his legs through the cotton of his sweat pants. The memory of the laughing Navajos had turned his thoughts to George Bowlegs. He approached these thoughts gingerly, careful to avoid any anger. It was always to be avoided, but now it was strictly taboo. The Koyemshi had appeared in the village two days ago, announcing in each of the four plazas of Zuñi that eight days hence the Shalako would come from the Dance Hall of the Dead to visit their people and bless them. This was no time for angry thoughts. Bowlegs was his friend, but Bowlegs was crazy. And he had reason to be angry with him if the season did not forbid it. George had asked too many questions, and since George was a friend he had given more answers than he should have given. No matter how badly he wanted to be a Zuñi, to join the Fire God's own Badger Clan, George was still a Navajo. He had not been initiated, had not felt the darkness of the mask slip over his head, and seen through the eyes of the kachina spirit. And therefore there were things that George was not allowed to know and some of those things, the Fire God thought glumly, he might have told George. Father Ingles didn't think so, but Father Ingles was a white man.

Behind him, above the red sandstone wall of the mesa, a skyscape of feathery cirrus clouds stretched southward toward Mexico. To the west over the Painted Desert, they were flushed with the afterglow of sunset. To the north this reflected light colored the cliffs of the Zuñi Buttes a delicate rose. Far below him in the shadow of the mesa, a light went on in the camper near the site of the anthropologist's dig. Ted Isaacs cooking supper, the Fire God thought. And that was another thing not to think about, to avoid being angry with George. It had been George's idea to see if they could find some of the things made by the Old People in the Doctor's box of chips and beads and arrowheads. He would make use of it on a hunting fetish, George had said. Maybe make one for both of them. And the Doctor had been furious, and now Isaacs would not let anyone come anymore to watch him work. Crazy George.

The Fire God rubbed his legs, feeling a tightening in the thigh muscles as breeze dried the sweat. In seventeen more seconds he would run again, cover the last mile down the mesa slope to where George would be waiting with his bicycle. Then he would go home and finish his homework.

He ran again, moving first at a slow jog and then faster as the stiffness left. Sweat again dampened the back of his sweat shirt, darkening the stenciled letters that said "Property of Zuñi Consolidated Schools." Under the angry red sky he ran, into the thickening darkness, thinking of crazy George, his oldest and best friend. He thought of George collecting cactus buttons for the doper at the hippie commune, and eating them himself in search of visions, of George going to the old man at the edge of Zuñi to learn how to become a sorcerer, and how angry the old man had been, of George wanting to quit being a Navajo so he could be a Zuñi. George was certainly crazy, but George was his friend, and here now was his bicycle and George would be waiting.

The figure which stepped from behind the boulders in the red darkness was not George. It was a Salamobia, its round yellow-circled eyes staring at him. The Fire God stopped, opened his mouth, and found nothing to say. This was the Salamobia of the Mole kiva, its mask painted the color of darkness. And yet it was not. The Fire God stared at the figure, the muscular body in the dark shirt, the bristling ruff of turkey feathers surrounding the neck, the black and empty eyes, the fierce beak, the plumed feathered topknot. Black was the color of the Mole Salamobia, but this was not the mask. He knew that mask. His mother's uncle was the personifier of the Mole Salamobia and the mask lived at a shrine in his mother's uncle's home. But if it was not the mask…

The Fire God saw then that the wand rising in the hand of this Salamobia was not of woven yucca. It glittered in the red light of the twilight. And he remembered that Salamobia, like all of the ancestor spirits which lived at the Zuñi masks, were visible only to members of the Sorcery Fraternity, and to those about to die.

Chapter Two
Monday, December 1, 12:20 P.M.

LIEUTENANT JOE LEAPHORN was watching the fly. He should have been listening to Ed Pasquaanti, who, perched on a swivel chair behind the desk marked "Chief of Police, Zuñi" was talking steadily in a quick, precise voice. But Pasquaanti was discussing the jurisdictional problem and Leaphorn already understood both the problem and why Pasquaanti was talking about it. Pasquaanti wanted to make sure that Leaphorn and McKinley County Deputy Sheriff Cipriano ("Orange") Naranjo and State Policeman J. D. Highsmith understood that on the Zuñi reservation the Zuñi police would be running the investigation. And that was fine with Leaphorn. The sooner he got away from here, the happier he'd be. The fly had distracted him a moment or two earlier by landing on his notebook. It walked now, with the sluggishness of all winter-doomed insects, up the margin of the paper toward his finger. Would a Zuñi fly deign to tread upon Navajo skin? Leaphorn instantly regretted the thought. It represented a slip back into the illogical hostility he had been struggling against all morning—ever since he had been handed, at the Ramah chapter house, the message which had sent him over here.

Typical of the radio messages Leaphorn received from Shiprock, it said a little too little. Leaphorn was to drive over to Zuñi without delay to help find George Bowlegs, fourteen, a Navajo. Other details would be available from Zuñi police, with whom Leaphorn was instructed to cooperate.

The radioman at the Raman communications center grinned when he handed it over. "Before you ask," he said, "yes, this is all they said. And no, I don't know a damn thing about it."

"Well, hell," Leaphorn said. He could see how it would work. A thirty-mile drive over to Zuñi to find out that the kid had stolen something or other and had disappeared. But the Zuñis wouldn't know a damn thing about the boy. So then there would be the thirty-mile drive back to the Ramah reservation to find out where to look for him. And then… "You know anything about this George Bowlegs?" he asked.

The radioman knew about what Leaphorn had expected he would. He wasn't sure, but maybe the boy was the son of a guy named Shorty Bowlegs. Shorty had moved back from the Big Reservation after something went wrong with a woman he'd married over there around Coyote Canyon. This Shorty Bowlegs was a member of the High Standing House clan, and one of the boys of Old Woman Running. And once, after he had come back from Coyote Canyon, he had applied for a land use allocation with the grazing committee here. But then he had moved off somewhere. And maybe this was the wrong man, anyway.

"O.K., then," Leaphorn said. "If anybody wants me, I'll be at the police station in Zuñi."

"Don't look so sour," the radioman said, still grinning. "I don't think the Zuñis' been initiating anybody into the Bow Society lately."

Leaphorn had laughed at that. Once, or so Navajos believed, initiates into the Zuñi Bow priesthood had been required to bring a Navajo scalp. He laughed, but his mood remained sour. He drove down N.M. 53 toward Zuñi a little faster than he should, the mood bothering him because he could find no logical reason to explain it. Why resent this assignment? The job that had taken him to Ramah had been onerous enough to make an interruption welcome. An old Singer had complained that he had given a neighbor woman eight hundred dollars to take into Gallup and make a down payment on a pickup truck, and the woman had spent his money. Some of the facts had been easy enough to establish. The woman had retrieved almost eight hundred dollars of her pawn from a Gallup shop on the day in question and she hadn't given any money to the car-lot owner. So it should have been simple, but it wasn't. The woman said the Singer owed her the money, and that the Singer was a witch, a Navajo Wolf. And then there was the question of which side of the boundary fence they'd been standing on when the money changed hands. If she was standing where she said she had been, they were on Navajo reservation land and under tribal-federal jurisdiction. But if they stood where the Singer claimed, they were over on nonreservation allocation land and the case would probably be tried under the New Mexico embezzlement law. Leaphorn could think of no way to resolve that problem and ordinarily he would have welcomed even a temporary escape from it. But he found himself resenting this job—hunting a fellow Navajo at the behest of Zuñis.

Pasquaanti's voice rattled on. The fly took a tentative step toward Leaphorn's hard brown knuckle, then stopped. Leaphorn suddenly understood his mood. It was because he felt that Zuñis felt superior to Navajos. And he felt this because he, Joe Leaphorn, had once—a long time ago—had a Zuni roommate during his freshman year at Arizona State about whom he had developed a silly inferiority complex. Therefore his present mood wasn't at all logical, and Leaphorn disliked illogic in others and detested it in himself. The fly walked around his finger and disappeared, upside down, under the notebook. Pasquaanti stopped talking.

BOOK: Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 02]
2.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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