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Hunting Badger (Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee Novels)by Tony Hillerman
Synopses & Reviews
Deputy Sheriff Teddy Bai had been leaning on the doorframe looking out at the night about three minutes or so before he became aware that Cap Stoner was watching him.
"Just getting some air," Bai said. "Too damn much cigarette smoke in there."
"You're edgy tonight," Cap said, moving up to stand in the doorway beside him. "You young single fellas ain't supposed to have anything worrying you."
"I don't," Teddy said.
"Except maybe staying single," Cap said. "There's that."
"Not with me," Teddy said, and looked at Cap to see if he could read anything in the old man's expression. But Cap was looking out into the Ute Casino's parking lot, showing only the left side of his face, with its brush of white mustache, short-cropped white hair and the puckered scar left along the cheekbone when, as Cap told it, a woman he was arresting for Driving While Intoxicated fished a pistol out of her purse and shot him. That had been about forty years ago, when Stoner had been with the New Mexico State Police only a couple of years and had not yet learned that survival required skepticism about all his fellow humans. Now Stoner was a former captain, augmenting his retirement pay as a rent-a-cop security director at the Southern Ute gambling establishment — just as Teddy was doing on his off-duty nights.
"What'd ya tell that noisy drunk at the blackjack table?"
"Just the usual," Teddy said. "Calm down or he'd have to leave."
Cap didn't comment. He stared out into the night. "Saw some lightning," he said, pointing. "Just barely. Must be way out there over Utah. Time for it, too."
"Yeah," Teddy said, wanting Cap to go away.
"Time for the monsoons to start," Cap said."The thirteenth, isn't it? I'm surprised so many people are out here trying their luck on Friday the thirteenth."
Teddy nodded, providing no fodder to extend this conversation.
But Cap didn't need any. "But then it's payday. They got to get rid of all that money in their pay envelopes." Cap looked at his watch. "Three-thirty-three," he announced. "Almost time for the truck to get here to haul off the loot to the bank."
And, Teddy thought, a few minutes past the time when a little blue Ford Escort was supposed to have arrived in the west lot. "Well," he said, "I'll go prowl around the parking areas. Scare off the thieves."
Teddy found neither thieves nor a little blue Escort in the west lot. When he looked back at the employees only doorway, Cap was no longer there. A few minutes late. A thousand reasons that could happen. No big deal. He enjoyed the clean air, the predawn high-country chill, the occasional lightning over the mountains. He walked out of the lighted area to check his memory of the midsummer starscape. Most of the constellations were where he remembered they should be. He could recall their American names, and some of the names his Navajo grandmother had taught him, but only two of the names he'd wheedled out of his Kiowa-Comanche father. Now was that moment his grandmother called the "deep dark time," but the late-rising moon was causing a faint glow outlining the shape of Sleeping Ute Mountain. He heard the sound of laughter from somewhere. A car door slammed. Then another. Two vehicles pulled out of the east lot, heading for the exit. Coyotes began a conversation of yips and yodels among the pinons in the hills behind the casino. The sound of a truck gearingdown came from the highway below. A pickup pulled into the employees only lot, parked, produced the clattering sound of something being unloaded.
Teddy pushed the illumination button on his Timex. Three-forty-six. Now the little blue car was late enough to make him wonder a little. A man wearing what looked like coveralls emerged into the light carrying an extension ladder. He placed it against the casino wall, trotted up it to the roof.
"Now what's that about?" Teddy said, half-aloud. Probably an electrician. Probably something wrong with the air-conditioning. "Hey," he shouted, and started toward the ladder. Another pickup pulled into the employee lot--this one a big oversize-cab job. Doors opened. Two men emerged. National Guard soldiers apparently, dressed in their fatigues. Carrying what? They were walking fast toward the EMPLOYEES ONLY door. But that door had no outside knob. It was the accounting room, opened only from the inside and only by guys as important as Cap Stoner.
Stoner was coming out of the side entrance now. He pointed at the roof, shouted, "Who's that up there? What the hell--"
"Hey," Teddy yelled, trotting toward the two men, unsnapping the flap on his holster. "What's --"
Both men stopped. Teddy saw muzzle flashes, saw Cap Stoner fall backward, sprawled on the pavement. The men spun toward him, swinging their weapons. He was fumbling with his pistol when the first bullets struck him.
Three men raid the gambling casino run by the Ute nation and then disappear into the maze of canyons on the Utah-Arizona border. When the FBI, with its helicopters and high-tech equipment, focuses on a wounded deputy sheriff as a possible suspect, Navajo Tribal Police Sergeant Jim Chee and his longtime colleague, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, launch an investigation of their own. Chee sees a dangerous flaw in the federal theory; Leaphorn sees intriguing connections to the exploits of a legendary Ute bandit-hero. And together, they find themselves caught up in the most perplexing — and deadly — criminal manhunt of their lives.
Three armed men raid the Ute tribe's gambling casino, and then disappear in the maze of canyons on the Utah-Arizona border. The FBI takes over the investigation, and agents swarm in with helicopters and high-tech equipment. Making an explosive situation even hotter, these experts devise a theory of the crime that makes a wounded deputy sheriff a suspect — a development that brings in Tribal Police Sergeant Jim Chee and his longtime colleague, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn to help.
Chee finds a fatal flaw in the federal theory and Leaphorn sees an intriguing pattern connecting this crime with the exploits of a legendary Ute hero bandit. Balancing politics, outsiders, and missing armed fugitives, Leaphorn and Chee soon find themselves caught in the most perplexing — and deadly — crime hunt of their lives....
About the Author
Tony Hillerman is past president of Mystery Writers of America and has received their Edgar and Grand Master Awards. His other honors include the Center for the American Indian's Ambassador Award, the Silver Spur Award for the best novel set in the West, the Navajo Tribe's Special Friend Award, the National Media Award from the American Anthropological Association, the Public Service Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Nero Wolfe Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book, an honorary life membership in the Western Literature Association, and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policiére. In addition to his election to Phi Beta Kappa, Tony Hillerman has been named Doctor of Humane Letters at Arizona State University and at Oregon's Portland State University. He lives with his wife, Marie, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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