Authors: The Dark Wind (v1.1) [html]
He sat beside West. "You all right?"
West was breathing hard. "Did I knock him in?"
"You got the right man this time," Chee said. "Nobody could swim in that water. He's drowning. Or by now, maybe he's drowned."
West said nothing. He simply breathed.
"Can you get up?"
"I can try," West said. He tried. A brief struggle. Then he lay still again. His breathing now had a bubble in it.
"You're going to have to get up," Chee said. "The water's rising and I can't help you much."
West struggled again. Chee managed to catch his arm and pull him upward. They got him on his knees, on his feet. Finally, after two falls, they got him to the car, and into it. They sat, side by side, under the overhead light, on the front seat, simply breathing. The rain pounded thunderously against the roof.
"I've got a problem," Chee said. "The key to the handcuffs I'm wearing is in Johnson's pocket and there's no way we're going to get that. But the key to the handcuffs on you is on my key ring. If I take off your cuffs, can you drive?"
West's breath bubbled in his chest. "Maybe," he said, very faintly.
"They're checking on Joseph Musket's dental charts," Chee said. "Comparing them with the John Doe the witch is supposed to have killed. They're going to match, so they're going to nail you for killing Musket."
"Worked pretty well, though," West said. He made a sound that might have started as a chuckle but became a cough. Clearly, West was bleeding in his lungs.
"I'm telling you this because I want you to know they've got you nailed. If I take off your cuffs, it's no good trying to kill me and get away. You understand that."
Chee still had the keys in his right hand. He had held them there since extracting the ring from the trunk lock and unlocking the front door of the car.
"Lean the other way, toward the other door, and hold out your hands."
West breathed, bubbling, gasping.
"Lean," Chee said. "Hold 'em out."
West leaned, laboriously. Chee leaned the other way, fumbling behind him, finding West's strong hands, finding the lock. Fumbling the key into it, getting—finally—the handcuffs opened and West's hands out of them.
But West had fallen against the passenger-side door now.
"Come on, West," Chee said. "You're loose now. You got to start the engine, and drive us to get help. If you don't you're going to bleed to death."
West said nothing.
Chee reached behind his back, pulled West straight. West fell against the door again, coughed feebly.
Chee gave up. "West," he said. "How did you manage the business with the squash blossom necklace turning up at Mexican Water? That was a mistake."
"Friend of mine did it for me. Navajo. Owed me some favors." West coughed again. "Why not? Looked like it could confirm Musket was still alive."
"Your friend picked a girl out of the wrong clan," Chee said. He wasn't sure West was hearing him now. "West," he said. "I'm going to have to leave you here and see if I can get help."
West breathed. "Okay," he said.
"One thing. Where'd you hide the rest of the jewelry?"
"From your burglary. When you faked the burglary. Where'd you hide the jewelry that's missing? Lots of good people would like to have their stuff back."
"Kitchen," West said faintly. "Under the sink. Place there where you can crawl under to fix things."
"Thanks," Chee said. He pushed the car door open and swung his legs out, and leaned far enough forward to get his weight on his feet. He lost his balance and sat down again. He was aware that he was used up, exhausted. And then he was aware that West, leaning against the door behind him, was no longer breathing.
After that there was no hurry. Chee rested. Then he reached clumsily behind him and felt the pocket of West's jacket. He worked his fingers into it and extracted a soggy mass of little envelopes. His fingers separated them. Thirteen. One for each card in a suit of cards. Arranged, Chee was sure, so that West's nimble fingers could quickly count inward to the three of diamonds. Or if the seven of clubs was called for, perform the same magic in whichever pocket stored the clubs. But West's illusions were all ended now. Chee had another problem. He remembered Captain Largo, grim and angry, ordering him to stay away from this narcotics case. He imagined himself opening the trunk of his patrol car and confronting Largo with a suitcase full of cocaine—seventy pounds of evidence of his disobedience. A scene worth avoiding. Chee listened to the rain and decided how this avoidance could be accomplished. Then he let his thoughts drift to Miss Pauling. She, too, had gotten her revenge. West had killed her brother to make it possible to revenge himself. And now her brother, too, was revenged. At least, Chee thought he was. It wasn't a value taught, or recognized, in the Navajo system and Chee wasn't sure he understood how it was supposed to work.
Finally he pushed himself to his feet again, and walked to the car trunk, and managed, with his cuffed hands, to get the second aluminum suitcase shut again, with the broken catch holding. He eased it out of the trunk and down the slippery, rain-washed rocks toward Polacca Wash. The water was higher now, lapping against the first suitcase. Chee gave that one a hard shove with his foot. It floated briefly and then was sucked down into the boiling current. He spun around then, and sent the second case spinning after it. When he turned to look, it had already been lost in the darkness.
is past president of the Mystery Writers of America and has received their Edgar and Grand Master Awards. Among his other honors are the Center for the American Indian's Ambassador Award, the Silver Spur Award for best novel set in the West, and the Navajo Tribe's Special Friend Award. His many novels include
Finding Moon, Sacred Clowns, Coyote Waits, Talking God, A Thief of Time
Dance Hall of the Dead
. He is also the author of
The Great Taos Bank Robbery
. He lives with his wife, Marie, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.