Authors: The Dark Wind (v1.1) [html]
aptain largo was standing
at the wall map, making calculations.
"The plane's here," he said, punching a stubby finger against the paper. "And your car was parked here?" He touched the paper again. "Maybe two miles. Maybe less."
Chee said nothing. It had occurred to him about three questions back that something unusual was happening.
"And you called your first report in at twenty minutes after five," the man named Johnson said. "Say it takes forty minutes to walk to your car, that would leave another fifty minutes from the time you said the plane crashed." Johnson was a tall, lean, red-haired man, his face a mass of freckles. He wore black cowboy boots of some exotic leather, and denims. His pale mustache was well trimmed and his pale-blue eyes watched
Chee. They had watched Chee since the moment he'd entered the office, with the impersonal unblinking stare policemen tend to develop. Chee reminded himself that it was one of several professional habits that he must try to avoid.
"Fifty minutes," Chee said. "Yeah. That sounds about right."
Silence. Largo studied the map. Johnson was sitting with his chair tilted back against the wall, his hands locked behind his head, staring at Chee. He shifted his weight, causing the chair to creak.
"Fifty minutes is a lot of time," Johnson said.
A lot of time for what? Chee thought. But he said nothing.
"You say before you got to the wreck you heard a car engine starting, or maybe it was a pickup truck, and somebody driving away. And then when you got there, you heard somebody climbing out of the wash behind the plane." Johnson's tone made the statement into a question.
"That's what I say," Chee said. He caught Largo glancing at him. Largo's face was full of thought.
"Our people turned in a report a lot like yours," Johnson said. "You don't count your own tracks, of course, so you were looking at four sets and they were looking at five. Someone climbing out of the wash, like you said." Johnson held up one finger. "And the smooth-soled, pointy-toed shoes of the stiff." Johnson held up a second finger. "And a set of waffle soles, and a set of cowboy boots." Two more fingers went up. "And the boot soles we now know were yours." Johnson added his thumb to complete the count at five. He stared at Chee, waiting for agreement.
"Right," Chee said, looking into Johnson's cold blue stare.
"It looked to our people—that's the
—that the cowboy-boot tracks stepped on your tracks some places, and in some places you stepped on them," Johnson said. "Same with the waffle soles."
Chee considered what Johnson had said for about five seconds.
"Which would mean that the three of us were there at the same time," Chee said.
"All together," Johnson said. "In a bunch."
Chee was thinking he'd just been accused of a crime. And then he thought that someone had once said a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and how well that axiom applied to reading tracks. Trackers tend to forget that people step on their own footprints. It was something his uncle had taught him to watch for—and to read.
"Any comments on that?" Johnson asked.
"No," Chee said.
"You saying you weren't there at the same time as the other fellows?"
"Are you saying I was?" Chee said. "What you seem to be saying is that the
hasn't had much luck finding somebody who can read tracks."
Johnson's stare was totally unself-conscious.
Chee looked into it, curious about the man. The face was hard, intelligent, grim—a confident face. Chee had seen the look often enough to recognize it. He'd seen it in the Hopi boy who'd set the Arizona High School cross-country track record at the Flagstaff marathons, and on the face of the rodeo cowboy who won the big belt at Window Rock, and elsewhere in people who were very, very good at what they were doing, and knew it, and let a sort of arrogant confidence show in the careless way they used their eyes. Chee's experience with federal cops had not left him with any illusions of their competence. But Johnson would be another matter altogether. If Chee were a criminal, he would not want Johnson hunting him.
"You're sticking to your report, then," Johnson said finally. "Anything you can add that would help us?"
"Help you what?" Chee asked. "Maybe I could help your man learn something about tracking."
Johnson let the chair legs hit the floor, unlocked his hands, and stood.
"Nice to meet you folks," he said. "And, Mr. Chee, I'll probably be talking to you again. You going to be around?"
"Most likely," Chee said.
The door closed behind Johnson. Largo was still examining the map.
"I can't tell you much about that," Largo said. "Just a little."
"You don't need to tell me much," Chee said. "I would say that the narcs don't think it was a coincidence that I was out there by the wash when the plane landed. They think I was really out there to meet the plane and that me and waffle soles and cowboy boots hauled off the drug shipment—or whatever it was. Spent the missing fifty minutes loading the stuff. That about it?"
"Just about," Largo said mildly.
"Nothing much," Largo said. "Nothing they exactly told me."
"But something that makes them suspicious of me?"
"Makes 'em suspicious of somebody local," Largo said. "I get an impression that the Drug Enforcement Agency don't think that shipment got hauled very far. They think it's hidden around there someplace close."
Chee frowned. "How would they know that?"
"How does the
know anything?" Largo asked. "I think they got about half of the drug smuggling industry on their payroll. Ratting for them."
"Seems like it," Chee said.
"And then they do a hell of a lot of guessing," Largo added.
"I noticed that, too," Chee said.
"Like about you helping haul away the shipment."
"You think that was a bad guess?"
"Most likely," Largo said.
"Thanks," Chee said. "Johnson tell you who was in the plane?"
"I gather the pilot was somebody they know. One of the regulars who flies stuff in from Mexico for one of the big outfits. Fellow named Pauling. I don't think they have an identification on the passenger yet. The guy on the ground, the guy who got shot, his name was Jerry Jansen. Lawyer from Houston. Supposed to be in the narcotics business."
"I didn't move him," Chee said. "Shot, was he?"
"In the back," Largo said.
"It looks simple enough," Chee said. "A plane's hauling in dope. Somebody comes in a vehicle to accept the delivery, right? Only the plane crashes. Two of the guys receiving the shipment decide to steal it. They shoot their partner in the back, leave a note to the owners, or maybe the buyers, to tell them how to make contact to buy their stuff back. Then they haul it away. Right? But the
doesn't seem to think the shipment got hauled out. They think it's hidden out there somewhere. Right?"
"That's what Johnson seemed to be thinking," Largo said.
"Now why would they think that?" Chee asked.
Largo was looking out his window. He seemed not to have heard the question. But finally he said, "I'd guess the
had this shipment wired.
think they had themselves an informer in the right place."
Chee nodded. "Yeah," he said. "But for some reason beyond the understanding of this poor Indian, the
didn't want to move in and grab the plane and arrest everyone."
Largo was still looking out the window. He glanced back at Chee. "Hell," he said. "Who knows. The feds work in strange and mysterious ways and they don't explain things to the Navajo Tribal Police." He grinned. "Especially they don't when they think maybe a Navajo Tribal Policeman got off with the evidence."
"Makes you curious," Chee said.
"It does," Largo said. "I think I'll do some asking around."
"I'm thinking about that card," Chee said. "That could be why the feds think the shipment's still around here. Why else would the hijacker do his dealing through the Hopi motel? Why not contact 'em in Houston, or wherever they operate?"
"I wondered when that was going to occur to you," Largo said. "If Jim Chee stole the shipment, he wouldn't know how to get in touch with the owners. So Jim Chee would leave a note telling them how to contact him."
"Thinking the press would report the note? Is that what I'd think? Wouldn't it occur to me that maybe the
would keep the note secret?"
"It might," Largo said. "But if you thought of that, you'd be smart enough to know they'd have lawyers nosing around. Whoever owned that plane has a legal, legitimate interest in that crash. They'd ask to see the investigating officer's report, and we'd show it to them. So Jim Chee would be sure to put what it said on the card in his report. Like you did."
Jim Chee, who actually hadn't thought of that at all, nodded. "Pretty slick of Jim Chee," he said.
"Got a call about forty-five minutes ago," Largo said. "From Window Rock. Your buddy did it again. To the windmill."
"Last night?" Chee's tone was incredulous. "After the crash?"
Largo shrugged. "Joint Use Office called Window Rock. All I know is somebody screwed up the machinery again and Window Rock wants it stopped."
Chee was speechless. He started for the door, then stopped. Largo was standing behind his desk, reading something in Chee's folder. He was a short man with the barrel-chested, hipless shape common among western Navajos, and his round face was placid as he read. Chee felt respect for him. He wasn't sure he would like him. Probably he wouldn't.
"Captain," he said.
Largo looked up.
"Johnson had trouble with that lost fifty minutes at the airplane. Do you?"
"I don't think so," Largo said. His expression was totally neutral. "I know something Johnson doesn't." He held up the folder. "I know how slow you work."
ake west was behind
the counter explaining the ramifications of money orders to a teenaged Navajo girl who seemed to want to buy something out of the Sears catalog. West had acknowledged Chee's presence with a nod and a grin but had done nothing to hurry his dealings with his customer. Nor did Chee expect him to. He leaned against the metal of the frozen foods cabinet, and waited for West, and thought his thoughts, and listened to the three gossips who were talking about witches on the porch just outside the open door. The three were a middle-aged Navajo woman (a Gishi, Chee had deduced), an elderly Navajo woman, and an even older Navajo man, whom the younger woman had called Hosteen Yazzie. She was doing most of the talking, loudly for the benefit of a hard-of-hearing audience. The subject was witchcraft in the Black Mesa-Wepo Wash country. The witchcraft gossip sounded typical of what one expected to hear in a season of drought or hard times—and for the Joint Use Reservation Navajos this was indeed a season of hard times. The usual pattern. Somebody had been out at dusk hunting a ram and had seen a man lurking around, and the man had turned into an owl and flown away. One of the Gishi girls had heard her horses all excited and had gone out to see about it, and a dog had been bothering them, and she shot at the dog with her .22, and the dog had turned into a man and disappeared in the darkness. An old man back on the mesa had heard sounds on the roof of his hogan during the night, and had seen something coming down through the smoke hole. Maybe it was dislodged dirt. Maybe it was corpse powder dropped by the witch. Chee's attention wandered. He heard Hosteen Yazzie say, "I guess the witch got the corpse powder from that man he killed," and then Chee was listening again, intently now. The Gishi woman said, "I guess so," and the conversation drifted away, to another day and another subject. Chee shifted his weight against the refrigerator case and considered the witch who had killed a man. If he walked through the door and asked Hosteen Yazzie to explain himself, he would meet only blank silence. These Navajos didn't know him. They'd never talk of witchcraft to a person who might be the very witch who was worrying them.
From across the store, West's laugh boomed out. He was leaning over the teenager now, his bulk making her seem a scaled-down model of a girl. He'd weigh 275 pounds, Chee guessed, maybe 300—some of it fat and some of it muscle, built on a barrel-like frame which made him seem short until he stood close to you. The laughter showed a great row of teeth through a curly beard. Where the beard and mustache didn't hide it, Jake West's face was a moonscape of pits and pockmarks. Only his forehead, revealed by a central baldness, was smooth—a placid lake of pink skin surrounded by a mass of graying curls.
Jim Chee had first met West when Chee was brand new in the district—the day they'd recovered John Doe's body. And the day after they'd brought the body in, the dispatcher had relayed a message to drop in at the Burnt Water store because West had something to tell him. The something hadn't been much—a little information which suggested the location one of the area's bootleggers might be using to deliver to his customers. But it was that day that Chee had seen, actually seen, Joseph Musket. It isn't often that a cop gets to see the burglar the day before the burglary.
Chee had parked in front, come in, seen West in his office in conversation with a young man wearing a red shirt. West had shouted something like "Be with you in a minute," and in a minute the young man had walked out of West's office and past Chee and out the front door. West stood at the office door, glaring after him.
"That son of a bitch," West had said. "I fired him."
"He didn't look like he cared much," Chee had said.
"I guess he didn't," West said. "I give him a job so he can qualify for parole and the bastard shows up for work whenever it damn well pleases him. And that ain't often. And I think he was stealing from me."
"Want to file a complaint?"
"Let it go," West said. "He used to be a friend of my son's. My boy wasn't ever good at picking friends."
And the very next morning, there'd been another call. Somebody had unlocked the storage room where West kept jewelry pawned by his customers, and walked out with about forty of the best pieces. Only West and Joseph Musket had access to the key. Since then Chee had learned a little about West. He'd operated the Burnt Water store for twenty years. He'd come from Phoenix, or Los Angeles, depending on your source, and he'd once been married to a Hopi woman, but no longer was. He'd had a son, maybe two, by a previous marriage, and had established a fairly good reputation, as reputations go among trading post operators. He was not on Captain Largo's list of known bootleggers, had never been nailed fencing stolen property, paid relatively fair prices for the jewelry he took in pawn and charged relatively fair interest rates, and seemed to get along well with both Navajo and Hopi customers. The Hopis, Chee had been told, considered him a
—a "two-heart"—one of those persons in whom dwelled the soul of an animal as well as the soul of a human. This was the sophisticated Hopis' version of a witch. Chee had asked two Hopis he'd met about this rumor. One said it was nonsense—that only descendants of the Fog Clan could be two-hearts and that the Fog Clan was almost extinct among the Hopi villages. The other, an elderly woman, thought West might be a two-heart, but not much of one. Now West had collected his money from the Navajo girl and given her the money order.
He loomed down the counter toward Chee, teeth showing white through the beard in a huge grin.
"Officer Chee," he said, offering his hand. It engulfed Chee's hand, but the handshake, like the voice, was surprisingly gentle. "You're just a little bit late. I expected you five minutes ago." The grin had been converted to sternness.
Chee had seen West's playfulness before. He wasn't fooled. But he played along.
"How'd you know when I was coming?"
"Mind power," West said. "And because you Navajos won't believe in powers like that, I planted a thought in your mind so I could prove it to you." West stared down at Chee, his eyes fierce. "You are thinking of a card."
"Nope," Chee said.
"Yes you are," West insisted. "It's subconscious. You don't even know it yourself, but I planted the thought. Now quit wasting our time and tell me the card."
Chee found himself thinking of cards. A deck of cards spilled across a table. A bunch of spades. No particular card.
"Come on," West said. "Out with it."
"Three of diamonds," Chee said.
West's fierceness modified itself into smiling self-satisfaction. "Exactly right," he said. West wore blue-and-white-striped coveralls, large even for his bulk. He fished into one of their pockets. "And since you Navajos are such skeptical people, I arranged some proof for you." He handed Chee a small envelope of the sort used to mail notes and invitations.
"The three of diamonds," West said.
"Wonderful," Chee said. He noticed the envelope was sealed and put it in his shirt pocket.
"Aren't you going to open it?"
"I trust you," Chee said, "and I really came in to see if you can help me."
West's eyebrows rose. "You working on that plane crash? The drug business?"
"That's a federal case," Chee said. "
, Drug Enforcement Agency. We don't handle such things. I'm working on a vandalism case."
"That windmill," West said. He looked thoughtful. "Yes. That's a funny business."
"You been hearing anything?"
West laughed. "Naturally. Or I was. Now everybody's talking about the plane crash, and drug smuggling, and killing that guy—a lot more interesting than a vandalized windmill."
"But maybe not as important," Chee said.
West looked at him, thinking about that.
"Well, yes," he said. "From our point of view, yes. Depends on who gets killed, doesn't it?" He motioned Chee around behind the counter and led him through the doorway from store into living quarters. "They ought to kill them all," West said to the hallway in front of him. "Scum."
The West living room was long, narrow, cool, dark. Its thick stone walls were cut by four windows, but vines had grown so thickly over them that they let in only a green dimness. "Sit down," West said, and he lowered himself into a heavy plastic recliner. "We'll talk about windmills, and airplanes, and men who get themselves shot in the back."
Chee sat on the sofa. It was too soft for him and he sank into its lumpy upholstery. Such furniture always made him uneasy. "First we need to settle something," Chee said. "That fellow wrecking that windmill might be a friend of yours; or it could be that you think wrecking that windmill isn't such a bad idea under the circumstances. If that's the way it is, I'll go away and no hard feelings."
West was grinning. "Ah," he said. "I like the way your mind works. Why waste the talk? But the way it is, I don't know who's doing it, and I don't like vandalism, and worse than that, maybe it's going to lead to worse trouble and God knows we don't need any of that."
"Good," Chee said.
"Trouble is, the thing has me puzzled." West put his elbows on the armrests of the chair, made a tent of his fingers. "Common sense says one of your Navajo families is doing it. Who'd blame 'em? I guess the Gishi family has been living along that wash for four generations, or five, and the Yazzies something like that, and some others maybe as long. Toughing it out, hauling water in, and as soon as the federal court turns it over to the Hopis, the feds drill 'em a bunch of wells." West had been studying his fingers. Now he looked at Chee. "Sort of adds insult to the injury." Chee said nothing. West was an old hand at communicating with Navajos. He would talk at his own pace until he said what he had to say, without expecting the social feedback of a white conversation.
"You got a few mean sons-a-bitches out there," West went on. "That's a fact. Get too much to drink in Eddie Gishi and he's a violent man. Couple of others as bad or worse. So maybe one of them would pull down a windmill." West examined his tented fingers while he considered the idea. "But I don't much think they did."
Chee waited. West would explain himself when he had his thoughts sorted out. On the mantel of the stone fireplace behind West's chair a clutter of photographs stood in an uneven row: a good-natured-looking boy in Marine blues, the same boy in what Chee guessed was a blowup of a high school yearbook photograph, a picture of West himself in a tuxedo and a top hat, looking a great deal younger. All the other photographs included more than one person: West with a pretty young Hopi woman who was probably West's second wife, West and the same woman with the boy, the same trio with assorted persons whom Chee couldn't identify. None of the pictures looked new. They had collected dust—a sort of gallery out of a dead period from the past.
"I don't think they did," West continued finally, "because of the way they're acting. Lot of gossip about it, of course. Lots of talk." He looked up at Chee, wanting to explain. "You come from Crownpoint. Over in New Mexico. It's more settled around there. More people. More things to do. Out here, the nearest movie show's a hundred miles away in Flagstaff. Television reception's poor and most people don't have electricity anyway. Nothing much happens and nothing much to do. So if somebody pulls down a windmill, it breaks the monotony."
"You hear a lot of speculation. You know—guessing about who's doing it. The Hopis, they're sure they know. It's the Yazzies, or it's the Gishi bunch, or somebody. They're mad about it. And nervous. Wondering what will happen next. And the Navajos, they think it's sort of funny, some of them anyway, and they're guessing about who's doing it. Old Hosteen Nez, he'll say something speculative about a Yazzie boy, or Shirley Yazzie will make a remark about the Nezes being in the windmill-fixing business. So forth."
West took down his tent of fingers and leaned forward. "You hear a little of that from
." He stressed the word. "If one of the Navajos was doing it, I think they wouldn't be speculating. I think they'd be keeping quiet about it. That's the way I've got these Wepo Wash Navajos figured." West glanced at Chee, looking slightly embarrassed. "I've been living with these people twenty years," he said. "You get to know 'em."
"So who's breaking the windmill?" Chee asked. "Rule out us Navajos and that doesn't leave anybody but the Hopis, and you."
"It's not me," West said, grinning his great, irregular grin. "I got nothing against windmills. When all the Navajos get moved out of here, most of my customers are going to be Hopis. I'm in favor of them having all their windmills in good working order."
"Always the same mill," Chee said. "And over on the Gishi grazing permit. You'd think that would narrow it down to the Gishis."
Gishi grazing permit," West corrected. "Now it's Hopi territory." He shook his head. "I don't think it's the Gishis. Old Emma Gishi runs that bunch. She's tough and you don't push her. But she's practical. Knocking down a windmill don't do her no good. She wouldn't do it out of meanness, and if Emma says don't do it, none of the Gishis does it. She runs that bunch like a railroad. You want a drink of something? I heard you don't drink whiskey."
"I don't," Chee said.
"How about coffee?"
"Always," Chee said.
"I'll mix up some instant," West said. "What I meant was she runs that bunch like they used to run railroads. Not like they run 'em now."
West disappeared through the doorway into what Chee presumed was the kitchen. Something clattered. Chee pulled the envelope out of his pocket and inspected it. A perfectly plain white envelope without a mark on it. Inside he could see the shape of a playing card. He was absolutely certain it would be the three of diamonds. How had West done that? Chee felt faintly guilty. He shouldn't have denied West the pleasure of seeing the finale of the trick. He slipped the card back into the pocket of his uniform shirt and examined the room. Three Navajo rugs, two of them fine examples of collector-quality Two Gray Hills weaving. An old dark-stained bookcase along the wall away from the windows held a few books and a gallery of kachina figures. Chee recognized Masaw, the guardian spirit of this Fourth World of the Hopis, and the god of fire and death, and the lord of Hell. It was a beautiful job, almost a foot tall and probably worth a thousand dollars. Most of the other kachinas were also Hopi, but the Zuni Shalako figures were there, and the Zuni Longhorn spirit, and two grotesque members of the Mudhead fraternity. All good, but Masaw was clearly the feature of the collection. It held a torch and its face was the traditional blood-spotted mask.