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Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 07] (6 page)

BOOK: Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 07]
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"Trailer like this… Any trouble for anyone to find out where the bed would be located? How far off the floor?"

"How high to shoot?" Chee said. "No. It's a common kind. When I bought it in Flagstaff there were three just about like it on the used lot. See 'em all the time. Anyway, I think they're all pretty much alike. Where they put the beds."

"I think we'll ask around, anyway. See if somebody who sells them at Farmington, or Gallup, or Flag, can remember anything." He glanced at Chee. "Maybe a customer came in and asked to see this particular model, and pulled out a tape measure and said he had to measure the bed off to see where to hold the shotgun to get himself a Navajo Policeman."

Chee's expressionless face eased into what might have been a smile. "I'm not usually that lucky."

Leaphorn's fingers were on the tape that covered the hole nearest the front of the trailer. He glanced at Chee again.

"Pull it off," Chee said. "I've got more tape."

Leaphorn peeled off the patch, inspected the ragged hole punched through the aluminum, then stooped to peer inside. He could see only blue-and-white cloth. Flowers. Chee's pillow slip. It looked new. Hole torn in the old one, Leap horn guessed. He was impressed that a bachelor would put a pillowcase on his pillow. Pretty tidy.

"You were lucky when this happened," said Leaphorn, who was always skeptical about luck, who was always skeptical about anything that violated the orderly rules of probability. "The report said your cat woke you up. You keep a cat?"

"Not exactly," Chee said. "It's a neighbor. Lives out there." Chee pointed upstream to a sun-baked slope of junipers. But Leaphorn was still looking thoughtfully at the shotgun hole—measuring its width with his fingers. "Lives out there under that juniper," Chee added. "Sometimes when something scares it, it comes in."


Chee showed him the flap he'd cut in the trailer door. Leaphorn examined it. It didn't look new enough to have been put there after the shooting. He noticed that Chee was aware of his examination, and of the suspicion it suggested.

"Who tried to kill you?" Leaphorn asked.

"I don't know," Chee said.

"A new woman?" Leaphorn suggested. "That can cause trouble." Chee's expression became totally blank.

"No," Chee said. "Nothing like that."

"It could be something mild. Maybe just talking too often to a woman with a boyfriend who's paranoid."

"I've got a woman," Chee said slowly.

"You've thought all this out?" Leaphorn asked.

He motioned toward the holes in the side of the trailer. "It's your ass somebody's after."

"I've thought about it," Chee said. He threw his hands apart, an angry gesture aimed at himself. "Absolutely damned nothing."

Leaphorn studied him, and found himself half persuaded. It was the gesture as much as the words. "Where did you sleep last night?"

"Out there," Chee said, gesturing toward the hillside. "I have a sleeping bag."

"You and the cat," Leaphorn said. He paused, dug out his pack of cigarets, offered one to Chee, took one himself. "What do you think about Roosevelt Bistie? And Endocheeney?"

"Funny," Chee said. "That whole thing's odd. Bistie's…" He paused, hesitated. "Why not come on in," Chee said. "Have a cup of coffee."

"Why not," Leaphorn said.

It was left-over-from-breakfast coffee. Leaphorn, made an authority on bad coffee by more than two decades of police work, rated it slightly worse than most. But it was warm, and it was coffee, and he sipped it appreciatively while Chee, sitting on the bunk where he had so nearly died, told him about meeting Roosevelt Bistie.

"I don't believe he was faking anything," Chee concluded. "He didn't act surprised to see us. Seemed pleased when he heard Endocheeney was dead, and then the whole business about shooting at Endocheeney on the roof, thinking he'd killed him, not really wondering about it until he got home, not going back to make sure because he figured if he hadn't killed him, Endocheeney wouldn't have stuck around to give him a second chance at it." Chee shrugged, shook his head. "Genuine satisfaction when he heard Endocheeney was dead. I just don't think he could have been faking any of that. No reason to. Why not just deny everything?"

"All right," Leaphorn said. "Now, tell me again exactly what he said when you asked him why he wanted to kill Endocheeney."

"Just like I said," Chee said.

"Tell me again."

I "He wouldn't say anything. Just shut his mouth and looked grim and wouldn't say a word."

"What do you think?"

Chee shrugged. The light through the window over the trailer sink dimmed slightly. The shadow of the thunder head over the Chuskas had moved across the Shiprock landscape. With the shadow, the cloud's advance guard of breeze sighed through the window screen. But it wouldn't rain. Leaphorn had studied the cloud. Now he was considering Chee's face, which wore a look of uneasy distaste. Leaphorn felt his own face beginning a smile, a wry one. Here we go again, he thought.

"Witchcraft?" Leaphorn asked. "A skinwalker?"

Chee said nothing. Leaphorn sipped the stale coffee. Chee shrugged. "Well," he said. "That could explain why Bistie wouldn't talk about it."

"That's right," Leaphorn said. He waited.

"Of course," Chee added, "so could other things. Protecting somebody in the family."

"Right," Leaphorn said. "If he tells us his motive, it's also the motive for the guy with the butcher knife. Brother. Cousin. Son. Uncle. What relatives does he have?"

"He's born to the Streams Come Together Dinee," Chee said, "and born for the Standing Rock People. Three maternal aunts, four uncles. Two paternal aunts, five uncles. Then he's got three sisters and a brother, wife's dead, and two daughters and a son. So not even counting his clan brothers and sisters, he's related to just about everybody north of Kayenta."

"Anything else you can think of? For why he won't talk?"

"Something he's ashamed of," Chee said. "Incest. Doing something wrong to some relative. Witchery."

Leaphorn could tell Chee didn't like the third alternative any better than he did.

"If it's witchcraft, which one is the skinwalker?"

"Endocheeney," Chee said.

"Not Bistie," Leaphorn said, thoughtfully. "So if you're right, Bistie killed himself a witch, or intended to." Leaphorn had considered this witch theory before. Nothing much wrong with the idea, except proving it. "You pick up anything about Endocheeney to support it? Or try it on Bistie?"

"Tried it on Bistie. He just looked stubborn.

Talked to people up there on the Utah border who knew Endocheeney. Got nothing." Chee was looking at Leaphorn, judging the response.

He's heard about me and witches, Leaphorn thought. "In other words, everybody just shut up," he said. "How about Wilson Sam. Anything there?"

Chee hesitated. "You mean any connection?"

Leaphorn nodded. It was exactly what he was driving at. They were right. Chee was smart.

"That's out of our jurisdiction here," Chee said. "Where he was killed, that's in Chinle's territory. The subagency at Chinle has that case."

"I know that," Leaphorn said. "Did you go out there and look around? Ask around?" It was exactly what Leaphorn would have done under the circumstances—with two killings almost the same hour.

Chee looked surprised, and a little abashed. "On my day off," he said. "Kennedy and I hadn't gotten anything helpful on the Endocheeney thing yet, and I thought—"

Leaphorn held up his palm. "Why not?" he said. "You seeing anything that links them?"

Chee shook his head. "No family connections. Or clan connections. Endocheeney ran sheep, used to work when he was younger with that outfit that lays rails for the Santa Fe railroad. He got food stamps, and now and then sold firewood. Wilson Sam was also a sheepherder, had a job as a flagman on a highway construction job down near Winslow. He was fifty-something years old. Endocheeney was in his middle seventies."

"Did you try Sam's name on people who knew Endocheeney? To see if…" Leaphorn made a sort of inclusive gesture.

"No luck," Chee said. "Didn't seem to know the same people. Endocheeney's people didn't know Sam. Sam's people never heard of Endocheeney."

"Did you know either one of them? Ever? In any way? Even something casual?"

"No connection with me, either," Chee said. "They're not the kind of people policemen deal with. Not drunks. Not thieves. Nothing like that."

"No mutual friends?"

Chee laughed. "And no mutual enemies, as far as I can learn."

The laugh, Leaphorn thought, seemed genuine.

"Okay," he said. "How about the shooting-at-you business."

Chee described it again. While he talked, the cat came through the flap in the screen.

It was a large cat, with short tan hair, a stub of a tail, and pointed ears. It stopped just inside the screen, frozen in the crouch, staring at Leaphorn with intense blue eyes. Quite a cat, Leaphorn thought. Heavy haunches like a bobcat. The hair was matted on the left side of its head, and what looked like a scar distorted the smoothness of its flank. Some
tourist's pet, he guessed. Probably taken along on a vacation and lost. Leaphorn listened to Chee with half of his mind, alert only for some variation in an account he had already read twice in the official report, and heard from Largo over the phone. The other half of his consciousness focused on the cat. It still crouched by the door—judging whether this strange human was a threat. The flap probably had made enough noise when the cat came in to waken a man sleeping lightly, Leaphorn decided. The cat was thin, bony; its muscles had the ropy look of wild predators. If it had, in fact, been a pampered pet, it had adapted well. It had got itself in harmony with its new life. Like a Navajo, it had survived.

Chee had finished his account, without saying anything new. Or anything different. The metal seat of the folding chair was hard against Leaphorn's tailbone. He felt more tired than he should have felt after nothing much more than the drive from Window Rock. Chee was said to be smart. He seemed smart. Largo insisted he was. A smart man should have some idea who was trying to kill him. And why. If he wasn't a fool, was he a liar?

"When it got light, you looked outside," Leaphorn prompted. "What did you find?"

"Three empty shotgun shells," Chee said. His eyes said he knew Leaphorn already knew all this. "Twelve gauge. Center fire. Rubber sole tracks of a small shoe. Size seven. Fairly new. Led off up the slope to the road up there. Top of the slope, a vehicle had been parked. Tires were worn and it leaked a lot of oil."

"Did he come in the same way?"

"No," Chee said. The question had interested him. "Tracks down along the bank of the river."

"Past where this cat has its den."

"Right," Chee said.

Leaphorn waited. After a long silence, Chee said, "It seemed to me that something might have happened there. To spook the cat out of his hiding place. So I looked around." He made a deprecatory gesture. "Ground was scuffed. I think somebody had knelt there behind the juniper. It's not far from where people dump their trash and there's always a lot of stuff blowing around. But I found this." He got out his billfold, extracted a bit of yellow paper, and handed it to Leaphorn. "It's new," he said. "It hadn't been out there in the dirt very long."

It was the wrapper off a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. "Not much," Chee said, looking embarrassed.

much. Leaphorn couldn't imagine how it would be useful. In fact, it seemed to symbolize just how little they had to work on in any of these cases. "But it's something," he said. His imagination made the figure squatting behind the juniper, watching the Chee trailer, a small figure holding a pump shotgun in his right hand, reaching into his shirt pocket with his left hand, fishing out a package of gum. No furious emotion here. Calm. A man doing a job, being careful, taking his time. And, as an accidental byproduct, giving the cat crouched under the juniper a case of nerves, eroding its instinct to stay hidden until this human left, sending it into a panicky dash for a safer place. Leaphorn smiled slightly, enjoying the irony.

"We know he chews gum. Or she does," Chee said. "And what kind he sometimes chews. And that he's…" Chee searched for the right word. "Cool."

And I know, Leaphorn thought, that Jim Chee is smart enough to think about what might have spooked the cat. He glanced at the animal, which was still crouched by the flap, its blue eyes fixed on him. The glance was enough to tilt the decision. Two humans in a closed place were too many. The cat flicked through the flap,
, and was gone. Loud enough to wake a light sleeper, especially if he was nervous. Did Chee have something to be nervous about? Leaphorn shifted in the chair, trying for a more comfortable position. "You read the report on Wilson Sam," Leaphorn said. "And you went out there. When? Let's go over that again."

They went over it. Chee had visited the site four days after the killing and he'd found nothing to add significant data to the original report. And that told little enough. A ground-water pond where Wilson Sam's sheep drank was going dry. Sam had been out looking for a way to solve that problem—checking on his flock. He hadn't returned with nightfall. The next morning some of the Yazzie outfit into which Sam was married had gone out to look for him. A son of his sister-in-law had remembered hearing a dog howling. They found the dog watching the body in an arroyo that runs into Tyende Creek south of the Greasewood Flats. The investigating officers from Chinle had arrived a little before noon. The back of Sam's head had been crushed, just above where head and neck join. The subsequent autopsy confirmed that he'd been struck with a shovel that was found at the scene. Relatives agreed that it wasn't Sam's shovel. The body apparently had fallen, or had rolled, down the bank and the assailant had climbed down after it. The nephew had driven directly out to the Dennehotso Trading Post, called the police, and then followed instructions to keep everybody away from the body until they arrived.

"There were still some pretty good tracks when I got there," Chee said. "Been a little shower there the day before the killing and a little runoff down the arroyo bottom. Cowboy boots, both heels worn, size ten, pointed toes. Heavy man, probably two hundred pounds or over, or he was carrying something heavy. He walked around the body, squatted beside it." Chee paused, face thoughtful. "He got down on both knees beside the body. Spent a little time, judging from the scuff marks and so forth. I thought maybe they were made by our people when they picked up the body. But I asked Gorman, and he said no. They were there when he'd checked originally."

BOOK: Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 07]
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