Authors: jpg] Skinwalkers (v1) [html
"However," Leaphorn added, "we know something about it. And from what we know, the FBI hasn't a clue about motive." Nor do I, Leaphorn thought. Not about motive. Not about anything else. Certainly not about how to connect three and a half murders whose only connection seems to be an aimless lack of motive. "Maybe this list Irma had would help. All Navajo names, you said. Right? Could you think of any of them?"
Jenks's expression suggested he was probing his brain for names. All the homicide victims were still alive when Jenks had seen the list, Leaphorn thought, but wouldn't it be wonderful and remarkable if…
"One was Ethelmary Largewhiskers," Jenks said, faintly amused. "One was Woody's Mother."
Leaphorn rarely allowed his face to show irritation, and he didn't now. These were exactly the sort of names he'd expect Jenks to remember: names that were quaint, or cute, that would provoke a smile at a cocktail party somewhere when Dr. Jenks had become bored with Navajos—when too few of them drove wagons, and hauled drinking water forty miles, and slept in the desert with their sheep, and too many drove station wagons and got their teeth straightened by the orthodontist.
"Any others?" Leaphorn asked. "It might be important."
Jenks put on the expression of a man trying hard for a recall. And failing. He shook his head.
"Would you remember any, if you heard?"
Jenks shrugged. "Maybe."
"How about Wilson Sam?"
Jenks wrinkled his face. Shook his head. "Isn't he that guy who got killed early this summer?"
"Right," Leaphorn said. "Was his name on the list?"
"I don't remember," Jenks said. "But he was still alive then. He didn't get killed until after Onesalt. If I remember it right, and I think I do because they did the autopsy at Farmington and the pathologist there called me about it."
"You're right. I'm just fishing around. How about Dugai Endocheeney?"
Jenks produced the expression that signifies deep thought. "No," he said. "I mean no, I can't remember. Been a long time." He shook his head. Stopped the gesture. Frowned. "I've heard the name," he said. "Not on the list, I think, but…" He paused, adjusted the headband. "Wasn't he a homicide victim too? The other one that was killed about then?"
"Yes," Leaphorn said.
"Joe Harris did the autopsy too, at Farmington," Jenks said. "He told me he got a dime out of one of the wounds. That's why I remembered it, I guess."
"Harris found a dime in the wound?" Harris was the San Juan County coroner working out of the Farmington hospital. Pathologists, like police, seemed to know one another and swap yarns.
"He said Endocheeney got stabbed a bunch of times through the pocket of his jacket. In knifings we're always finding threads and stuff like that in the wound. Whatever the knife happens to hit on the way in through the clothing. Buttons. Paper. Whatever. This time it hit a dime."
Leaphorn, whose memory was excellent, recalled reading the autopsy report in the FBI file. No mention of a dime. But there had been mention of "foreign objects," which would cover a dime as well as the more usual buttons, thread, gravel, and broken glass. Could a knife punch a dime into a wound? Easily enough. It seemed odd, but not unreasonable.
"But Endocheeney wasn't on the list."
"I don't think so," Jenks said.
Leaphorn hesitated. "How about Jim Chee?" he asked.
Dr. Jenks thought hard again. But he couldn't remember whether or not Jim Chee's name was on the death date list.
it was almost dark
when Chee pulled into the police parking lot in Shiprock. He parked where a globe willow would shade the car from the early sun the next morning and walked, stiff and weary, toward his pickup truck. He had left it that morning where another of the police department willows would shade it from the afternoon sun. Now the same tree hid it from the dim red twilight in a pool of blackness. The uneasiness Chee had shaken off at Badwater Wash and on the long drive home was suddenly back in possession. He stopped, stared at the truck. He could see only its shape in the shadows. He turned abruptly and hurried into the Police Building.
Nelson McDonald was working the night shift, lounging behind the switchboard with the two top buttons of his uniform shirt open, reading the sports section of the Farmington
. Officer McDonald glanced up at Chee, nodded.
"You still alive?" he asked, with no hint of a smile.
"So far," Chee said. But he didn't think it was funny. He would later, perhaps. Ten years later. Crises past, in police work, tended to transmute themselves from fear into the stuff of jokes. But now there was still the fear, a palpable something affecting the way Chee's stomach felt. "I guess nobody noticed anyone tinkering around with my truck?"
Officer McDonald sat up a little straighter, noticing Chee's face and regretting the joke. "Nobody mentioned it," he said. "And it's parked right out there where everybody could see it. I don't think…" He decided not to finish the sentence.
"No messages?" Chee asked.
McDonald sorted through the notes impaled on a spindle on the clerk's desk. "One," he said, and handed it to Chee.
"Call Lt. Leaphorn as soon as you get in," it said, and listed two telephone numbers.
Leaphorn answered at the second one, his home.
"I want to ask you if you learned anything new about Endocheeney," Leaphorn said. "But there's a couple of other loose ends. Didn't you say you met Irma Onesalt just recently? Can you tell me exactly when?"
"I could check my logs," Chee said. "Probably in April. Late April."
"Did she say anything to you about a list of names she had? About trying to find out what date the people on that list died?"
"No, sir," Chee said. "I'm sure I'd remember something like that."
"You said you went to the Badwater Clinic and picked up a patient there and took him to a chapter meeting for her and they gave you the wrong man. And she was sore about it. That right?"
"Right. Old man named Begay. You know how it is with Begays." How it was with Begays on the reservation is how it is with Smiths and Joneses in Kansas City or Chavezes in Santa Fe. It was the most common name on the reservation.
"She said nothing about names? Nothing about a list of names? Nothing about how to go about finding out dates of deaths? Nothing that might lead into that?"
"No, sir," Chee said. "She just said a word or two when I got to the chapter house. She was waiting. Wanted to know why I was late. Then she took the old man in to the meeting. I waited because I was supposed to take him back after he had his say. After a while, she came out and raised hell with me for bringing her the wrong Begay, and then he came out and got in and I took him back to the clinic. Not much of a chance for chatting."
"No," Leaphorn said. "I had some dealing with the woman myself." Chee heard the sound of a chuckle. "I imagine you learned a few new dirty words?"
"Yes, sir," Chee said. "I did."
A long silence. "Well," Leaphorn said. "Just remember that a little while before she was shot she showed up at the pathologist's office at the Gallup hospital with a list of names. She wanted to know how to find out when each of them died. If you hear anything that helps explain that, I want to know about it right away."
"Right," Chee said.
"Now. What did you learn out around Bad-water?"
"Not much," Chee said. "He had several hundred dollars' worth of pawn left at the post there—a lot more than he owed for—and his kin-folks haven't picked it up. And he broke a leg last summer falling off a fence. Nothing much."
Silence again. Then Leaphorn said, in a very mild voice: "I've got a funny way of working. Instead of telling me 'Not much,' I like people to tell me all the details and then I'll say, 'Well, that's not much,' or maybe I'll say, 'Hey, that part about the pawn explains something else I heard.' Or so forth. What I'm saying is, give me all the details and let me sort it out."
And so Chee, feeling slightly resentful, told Leaphorn of the bent woman, and the Kayonnie brothers with morning beer on their breath, and the letter from Window Rock, and the crutches which Iron Woman wouldn't accept as pawn and couldn't sell, and all the other details. He finished, and listened to a silence so long that he wondered if Leaphorn had put down the telephone. He cleared his throat. "That letter," Leaphorn said. "From Window Rock. But what agency? And when?"
"Navajo Social Services," Chee said. "That's what Iron Woman remembered. It came back in June."
"That's who Irma Onesalt worked for," Leaphorn said.
"Oh," Chee said.
"Where'd he get the crutches?"
"Badwater Clinic," Chee said. "They set his leg. Guess they loan out their crutches."
"And don't get them back," Leaphorn said. "You learn anything else you're not telling me?"
"No, sir," Chee said.
Leaphorn noticed the tone. "You can see why I need the details. You haven't been working on the Onesalt case, so you had no way of knowing—or giving a damn—who she worked for. Now we have a link. Victim Onesalt wrote a letter to victim Endocheeney. Or somebody in her office did."
Leaphorn laughed. "I don't see how. But nothing else helps, either. You figured out yet why you got shot at?"
Another pause. "Something I want you to think about." Silence. "I'm going to bet you that when we find out who did it and why, it's going to be based on something you know. You're going to say, 'Hell, I should have thought of that.'"
"Maybe," Chee said. But he thought about it as he put down the telephone. And he doubted it. Leaphorn was a hotshot. But Leaphorn was wrong about this.
He glanced at McDonald, immersed again in the
. Chee had come in mostly to get the station's portable spotlight out of the storeroom and shine it on his truck. But now, in this well-lit room with his friend waiting behind the newspaper, curious and embarrassed, doing that seemed ridiculous. Instead he went to his typewriter and pounded out a note to Largo.
Investigation thefts from vehicles at tourist parking sites and theft of drip gasoline in Aneth field
At Badwater Wash Trading Post ran into two young men, Kayonnie family, driving a new GMC 4x4 and drinking in the morning. Am told they are unemployed. Will check more out there again.
He initialed the memo and handed it to Officer McDonald.
"Going home," he said, and left.
He stood a moment in the darkness beyond the entrance until his eyes adjusted enough to make his pickup visible. By then the fear had reestablished itself, and the thought of walking up to that truck in the darkness, and then of driving into the darkness surrounding his trailer, was more than he wanted to handle. He'd walk.
It was less than two miles from the station down along the river to his homesite under the cottonwoods. An easy walk, even at night. It would work out the stiffness of a day spent mostly in his patrol car. He trotted across the asphalt of U.S. 666 and found the path that led toward the river.
Chee was a fast walker and normally this trip took less than thirty minutes. Tonight, moving soundlessly, he took almost forty and used another ten carefully scouting, pistol in hand, the places around his trailer where someone with a shotgun might wait. He found nothing. That left the trailer itself.
He paused behind a juniper and studied it. Light from a half-moon made the setting a pattern of cottonwood shadows. The only sound on the breezeless air was a truck changing gears on the highway far behind him, growling up the long slope out of the valley en route to Colorado. As to whether someone with a shotgun was waiting in the trailer, Chee could think of no safe way to answer that question. He'd left the door locked, but the lock would be easy to pick. He slipped the pistol out of its holster again, thinking that this was a hell of a way to live, thinking that he might give up on the trailer, walk back to the station, get his patrol car, and spend the night in a motel, thinking that he might just say to hell with it and walk up to the door, pistol cocked, and unlock it, and go in. Then he remembered the cat.
The cat was probably out hunting the nocturnal rodents it had lived on until Chee began supplementing its diet with his table scraps. But maybe not. Maybe it was still a little early for rodents and the predators that hunt them. More than once when he had risen early he'd seen Cat returning to its den about dawn. So perhaps it slept early and hunted late. The juniper under which Cat made its home was along the slope to Chee's left. He picked up a handful of dirt and gravel and threw it into the bush.
Later, he thought that the cat must have been crouched, alert, under the juniper listening to his prowling. It shot from the bush, moving almost too fast to be seen in the poor light for its refuge in the trailer. He heard the
of the cat door. He relaxed. No one would be waiting for him inside.
But now he knew he couldn't sleep in the trailer. He got out his sleeping bag, packed his toothbrush and a change of clothing, and walked back to the police station. He was tired now, and the incident of the cat had broken the tension. The fear that had lived in his truck was gone now. It was simply a friendly, familiar vehicle. He unlocked the door, climbed in, and started the engine. He drove across the San Juan and then west on 504, with the dark shape of the Chuskas looming in the moonlight to the south. Just past Behclahbeto, he pulled onto the shoulder, turned off his lights, and waited. The car lights he'd noticed miles behind him turned out to belong to a U-Haul truck, which roared past him and disappeared over the hill. He restarted his engine and turned onto a dirt road that jolted through the dusty sagebrush and dipped into an arroyo. Up the arroyo, he parked and rolled out his sleeping bag. He lay on his back, looking up at the stars, thinking about the nature of fear and how it affected him, and about what Iron Woman had told him of the bone being found in Dugai Endocheeney. It could be false, one of those witch rumors that spring up like tumbleweeds after rain when bad things happen. Or it could be true. Perhaps someone thought he had been witched by Endocheeney, and had killed him and returned the bone of corpse poison to reverse the witching. Or it could be that a witch had killed Dugai Endocheeney and left the bone as its marker. In either case, how would the people at Badwater Wash have learned of it? Chee considered that and found an answer. The bone would have shown up in the autopsy. The surgeon would have seen it only as a piece of foreign matter lodged in the wound. But it was odd, and he would have mentioned it. The word would have spread. A Navajo would have heard it—a nurse, an orderly. To a Navajo, any Navajo, the significance would have been apparent. The word of the bone would have reached Badwater Wash with the speed of light. So why hadn't he mentioned the bone gossip to the lieutenant who insisted on knowing every detail? Chee examined his motives. It was too vague to mention, he thought, but the real reason was his expectation of Leaphorn's reaction to anything associated with witchery. Ah, well, perhaps he would mention it to Leaphorn the next time he saw him.