Digging Up the Past by wanghonghx

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									Digging Up the Past
By Kerry Blair and Christine Wolfe
                                      Acknowledgements

        In striving for accuracy in our portrayal of Hopi culture and current archeological
practices, the following sources were invaluable:

       Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, www.nau.ed

       Official Web Site of the Hopi Tribe, www.hopi.nsn.us

       Rain Makers from the Gods: Hopi Katsinam, Peabody Museum of Archeology and
       Ethnology; online exhibition, www.peabody.harvard.edu

       Native People of the Southwest; Trudy Griffin-Pierce; University of New Mexico
       Press; Albuquerque, NM; 2000

       Dancing Gods: Indian Ceremonials of New Mexico & Arizona; Erma Fergusson,
       University of New Mexico Press; Albuquerque, NM; 1931, 1988

       The Origin & Development of the Pueblo Katsina Culture, E. Charles Adams;
       University of Arizona Press; Tucson, AZ; 1991

       Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, Phoenix, AZ

       Homolovi Ruins State Park, Winslow, AZ

       Our thanks also to our editor, Angela Eschler, who added sparkle to the project and
wisdom to the process. (Besides, who wouldn’t love a woman who had a dog called
“Indy”?)

       For this e-version, special thanks to Marnie Pehrson for inspiration,
encouragement, and pure genius.

        Finally, grateful genuflection to George Lucas, Philip Kaufman, Howard
Kazanjian, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford for giving the world Indiana Jones.
(Sigh.)
                                     Dedication



                                     To my family.
                                           ~ c.w.




To my mother, an amateur archeologist and professional educator who taught me to respect
   the fascinating, diverse aboriginal cultures of the Southwest. I appreciate them to this
  day—almost as much as I respect and appreciate my mom for a lifetime of education,
                                     example and love.
                                            ~ k.b.
                                              Prologue

        The arc from the headlamp cut through the blackness of the ancient Hopi pithouse
and seemed to suspend bright silver droplets of rain in its beam. The dirt floor, newly
exposed to the elements after thousands of years, had turned to a viscous mud that sucked
at Joseph Kotsyovi’s boots as he made his way slowly through the excavation site. The
dull, metallic sound that had first caught his attention ceased as he swung the light toward
one corner of the rectangular pit. “Gotcha!”
        The shadowy figure turned, a muddy spade clutched in one hand.
        Joseph froze in disbelief. “What are you doing here?”
        A shove from behind caught him off guard and knocked the helmet from his head.
Before Joseph could regain his balance, the unseen assailant’s fist dealt a stunning blow to
his upper jaw and sent him sprawling into the muck. Struggling to pull himself up from the
pithouse floor, he fumbled for the light and was kicked viciously in the side for his efforts.
His face hit the ground with a sickening thud and he gasped for breath. A strong pair of
hands pinned his arms behind his back and bound his wrists together with rough twine
before rolling him onto his side to face the wall.
        “There’s no choice left,” a deep, vaguely familiar voice said from the gloom.
        “But— ”
        “Get him ready. Now.”
        Drifting in and out of consciousness, Joseph didn’t know how much time passed
between when the first person scrambled out of the pithouse and a large, grotesque form
entered it. Nor could he have said if what he saw next was real or a twisted vision
wrenched from the darkest regions of his subconscious. As he was dragged to his knees,
Joseph Kotsyovi squinted up at his black and blue assassin. His last thought was that he’d
failed in his missions. Failed twice over—and been very wrong about Jayce MacDermott.
                                         Chapter 1
         Dr. MacDermott stuck his head out the open window of his battered truck to squint
up at the murky predawn sky. It was midsummer in Arizona, and yet the rising sun
promised no more than a feeble glow of illumination beneath the thick, gray blanket of
clouds. The sun could neglect to rise for all Jayce cared. There could be no work done
today at Coyote Springs Ruins in any case. After last night’s downpour, the excavation
grounds more resembled the lost city of Atlantis than a fourteenth-century Hopi village.
         Resigned to a delay he couldn’t afford, the young archeologist flicked off the
truck’s engine, exited the cab, and cast a final, baleful look up at the sky. If he didn’t know
better he might imagine that malevolent kachinas were out to get him. After all, the Hopi
spiritual agents were said to dwell in the clouds to bring rain and good or ill fortune.
Lately, all the fortune that had come Jayce’s way had been of the latter variety.
         His eyes returned to earth as he walked toward the barn-sized storage unit that had
been thrown together as the dig’s laboratory, artifact vault, and base of operations. It was
inadequate for their needs, but all he could afford on a budget narrower than his bootlace.
He frowned at the dark building. Despite the lack of funds, Jayce knew darned well he’d
paid for fuel to power the generator. Why weren’t the lights on? Where was Joseph
Kotsyovi?
         Someday, he promised himself as he slogged through the mud, he’d have the
equipment and crew he needed to do a job right. Now his crews were rotating groups of
volunteer college students and a few Hopi and Winslow locals he paid minimum wage—
begrudgingly, since most of them couldn’t distinguish an artifact from an artichoke.
         Although he was well on his way to becoming a respected archeologist, and on
summer sabbatical from a professorship at Northern Arizona University, Dr. MacDermott
had just pushed thirty, so he still had time to pursue his dreams. What he needed was
money. Permission to excavate Coyote Springs came from the Bureau of Land
Management, but the meager funding came from a small, privately endowed museum in
Phoenix. Jayce got the attention of their new curator with promises, but he had to hold it
with results, and those were few and far between. Although Terrence Kaub had seemed
pleased when the last group of students stumbled upon the sacred burial grounds the week
before, the curator naturally wanted artifacts they could display. And he wanted them day-
before-yesterday.
         Jayce paused with his hand on the lock to look back over the site and felt his
frustration drain away. Barely visible in the coming dawn, the outlines of pithouses in
various stages of excavation thrilled him. When he first walked this land, the Spirit had
told him that unearthing the kiva, the ceremonial center of the village, would be the find of
his lifetime. He’d believed the prompting. He still believed it, as a matter of fact, even if he
was the only one who did.
         Not the only one, Jayce reminded himself. Nobody believed in the importance of
Coyote Springs more fervently than Joseph Kotsyovi. Although the university had
assigned him as Jayce’s assistant, the full-blooded Hopi seemed to feel—and act—as if he
owned the place. At least he had until today. Today Joseph was most conspicuous by his
absence.
         Jayce fit the key into the lock, thinking that the door should already be open, the
generator that powered the alarm system should be on, and Joseph should be waiting. At
the very least, Joseph should have called in before he shut everything down and left guard
duty.
        Dr. MacDermott sighed over the distasteful chore. It wasn’t enough that he,
Kotsyovi, and Fred Crabtree had to clear the site, map, excavate, catalogue and crate it;
they also had to pull graveyard shifts to protect it from grave robbers. This was federal
land and they’d notified the FBI of looters weeks ago, but they were still bound up in so
much red tape Jayce thought it likely they’d be relics themselves before they got help from
the feds. As for local law enforcement, Undersheriff Sicko and Deputy Dawg (as he and
Joseph called the lawmen behind their backs) were worse than useless. They were a pain in
the posterior.
        Where is that guy? Jayce wondered again, trying without success to quell his
growing irritation toward his assistant. He picked up a two-way radio from the bench
inside the door and pressed the call button. When there was no answer, he punched the
button again, harder. Then he pulled a pair of binoculars off a hook on the wall and headed
back outside.
        The wind was rising with the sun. Jayce’s thick, rust-colored hair whipped against
his forehead to remind him that it had been some time since he’d visited a barber—or
anybody else in modern civilization.
        He removed his glasses and raised the binoculars to his eyes, noting, as he often
had before, that this high plain between the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona and
Albuquerque, New Mexico, formed a natural, if rather bizarre, wind tunnel. The mystery
was why they called the nearest town Winslow when there was nothing slow about the
gales that whipped around it.
        Something about Pithouse 5 at the farthest end of the dig caught his attention.
Joseph’s Jeep wasn’t parked there. Nor, Jayce saw now, was it parked at the base, or
anywhere on site. Returning his gaze to PH5, he saw deep tire tracks and surmised that
Joseph had been there most recently.
        What was interesting enough to get him out there in the rain? Jayce wondered. He
lowered the binoculars and tried the radio once more on his way back to his truck.
Predictably, there was no reply.
        Minutes later, Jayce pulled up alongside the pithouse. He could see by the deer
grass that had been crushed into the red clay soil that somebody had walked here recently;
more than one somebody by the looks of it.
        Fist-sized stones marked a trail to one of the most recently excavated of the ruins.
Jayce followed it about a hundred feet before coming to the two-foot-high walls of what
was left of an ancient someone’s home.
        The first thing he noticed was that part of the wall had been knocked over. The
looters must have hit them again. Jayce shook his head. Wasn’t it enough for them to steal
priceless relics? Did they have to go out of their way to destroy what they didn’t take? And
where had Joseph been during all of this?
        Jayce took another step forward, looked down into the pit, and started in surprise.
His assistant was slumped peacefully against the far wall, surrounded by churned-up mud
and a few broken pot shards. Though he wanted to, Jayce couldn’t blame Joseph for falling
asleep. He knew from painful experience how long and dark the nights could seem on
guard duty.
        He lowered himself nimbly into the pit near where Joseph lay and grasped the
young man’s shoulder to wake him. Joseph’s limp body listed sideways and then slipped
down the rough wall to land face up and unnaturally still. The Hopi’s sightless eyes
seemed to look beyond Jayce’s suddenly white face to seek their answers from the gray
skies above.
         Too shocked to cry out, Jayce stumbled backward. He was unaware of the jolt
when he hit the opposite wall, and heedless of the mud, rocks and earth-dwelling insects
that rained down upon his head. He heard only the hammering of his heart. He saw only
the blood-caked shirt and ugly, gaping wound cut raggedly across Joseph’s thick throat. He
thought nothing at all. For minutes on end Jayce MacDermott was aware of nothing but
wave after wave of numbing horror.
                                                 ***
         Meredith McKay turned up the shower and hoped that the sound of water on the
tile would drown out the buzzing in her head, and that the heat of it upon her skin would
relax her knotted muscles. The tightening had begun in her temples the night before when
she received the call from her boss. By midnight it had spread to her neck and shoulders,
and by dawn the tension had seeped into her lower back and legs. Now, at the thought of
the job that lay ahead, even her toes felt stiff and apprehensive.
         As one of the up-and-coming stars of the Phoenix office of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Meredith had received a new assignment: Coyote Springs Ruins. She was
being sent in to back up a less-experienced agent from Northern Arizona, Joseph Kotsyovi.
His mission was to investigate drug trafficking across federal land onto the Navajo and
Hopi Reservations. Because of its suspected use as a drop site, Kotsyovi had gone
undercover to the dig, ostensibly to assist one Dr. Jayce MacDermott.
         Hearing her old friend’s name spoken by her commander had been enough to
constrict Meredith’s throat. Seeing it appear minutes later on her computer screen had
started her muscles to spasm. Jayce was an integral part of all her dearest childhood
memories, but Dr. MacDermott was also the person she’d spent the last third of her life
trying to forget.
         Jayce. The shower seemed to hiss his name. Meredith reached for the knob to turn
it off, then opened the shower door and groped toward the towel rack, blinded by the water
in her eyes that she hoped wasn’t tears. She’d kept up on Jayce’s activities through faithful
correspondence from his grandmother, but she hadn’t seen or spoken to him since the day
of Will’s funeral. And though Meredith dated plenty of men, she seldom saw any of them
more than once. Jayce MacDermott was the only man she’d ever loved, but she’d lost him
forever the day she killed his best friend.
         Meredith slipped into a terry robe, toweled her thick, chestnut hair, and wondered
how Jayce looked now. Was he still as quiet and serious and painfully shy as he had been
growing up?
         Surely his eyes were the same. He had the most incredible agate eyes—copper-
brown, with bursts of amber gold bright enough to take her breath away. She wondered if
he still hid those agate eyes behind Clark Kent glasses, and surmised that be probably did.
Though he had them, good looks had never been important to Jayce MacDermott. School
was important to him. Family was important to him. The gospel of Jesus Christ was
important to him. He valued everything she didn’t, but from the time she was a child,
Meredith had valued Jayce more than anything.
         The Primary president had called the three of them, not always fondly, the Three
Mackseteers—Meredith McKay, Will MacNamara and Jayce MacDermott. They’d lived
in the same town and gone to the same ward. They were best friends in grade school and
allies in junior high. Jayce was the “good” one, Will was the clown, and Meredith was the
ringleader.
         It was when they reached the difficult high school years that Meredith no longer
knew what they were to each other. Will had grown up charming and drop-dead gorgeous.
His newly flirtatious attention was simultaneously heady and troublesome. She went to
dances with Will only because the studious, shy Jayce never asked her. By the time they
were seniors the whole school considered her and Will a couple. The whole school was
wrong. The love Meredith had for Will’s gangly, redheaded best friend was no less
consuming at eighteen than it had been at eight, though by then it had become much more
difficult to define—and conceal.
         As they entered the first year of community college, Meredith began to concoct
elaborate plans to refocus Jayce’s attention from an upcoming mission onto her. None of
them worked. He continued to act as if she was Will’s girl. As if.
         After all these years, Will’s classically handsome features had faded from
Meredith’s memory, but Jayce’s eyes had remained etched there as vividly as if she’d seen
them the day before. And now she would see them again today. A physical thrill ran
through her at the thought, but of pleasure or pain she couldn’t say.
         Meredith tossed aside the towel and began to braid her damp hair. As she worked
she mentally pulled her mind from memory lane and pointed it instead down the fact-filled
road of the new case before her.
         Fact One: The rookie, Joseph Kotsyovi, had been sent to Coyote Springs to
investigate drug trafficking.
         Fact Two: He had been sidetracked almost at once. Within a few weeks, priceless
artifacts began to disappear from the ruins. Perhaps because he was a Hopi himself,
Kotsyovi was more interested in the looting than he was in his assignment. His reports
centered on the dig, to the consternation of his superiors in Phoenix.
         Fact Three: Though he apparently had no lead on the drug case, Joseph had a prime
suspect in the theft of artifacts: Dr. MacDermott.
         Fact Four: Meredith was now being sent officially. The FBI couldn’t ignore the
reports of archeological theft forever. It was a felony, after all. But while she pretended to
chase looters, her real mission was to get their undercover agent back on track.
         To do that, Meredith knew, she’d have to stay on track herself. Meaning she’d have
to put aside the past and everything she’d ever felt for Jayce MacDermott. Maybe she
could ignore what she felt for a time, but could she also ignore everything she knew? The
Jayce she knew couldn’t cheat on a quiz or tell a lie to save his life. How much could he
have changed over the years? Enough to lie and steal to further his career?
         Special agent McKay looped her braided hair into a simple chignon and stuck in
enough hairpins to hold it in place. Then she stared in the mirror to firmly affix her best
FBI persona. It was her job to find out what was going on up at Coyote Springs. If nothing
else, Meredith knew, she was very, very good at her job.
                                            Chapter 2
        Eons could have passed and civilization crumbled into ruin in the time Jayce felt
he’d stood frozen in shock and horror, staring at Joseph. In reality, it was only moments
before he regained his senses enough to kneel in the mud and grasp one of Joseph’s bound
wrists to search for a pulse. He found none. The blood that had once coursed through those
veins was now clotted and turning black at the edges of Joseph’s throat. He must have died
hours ago, Jayce thought, probably sometime in the middle of the night.
        Though he gagged on the bile that rose in his own throat, Jayce knew he had to
think. To react. To get help. First he ripped off his denim shirt and draped it over Joseph’s
head and face. Then he bolted from the pithouse and ran toward his truck.
         “This is Coyote Springs,” he gasped into the radio, hoping he had the right
frequency for the local sheriff’s office. His hands shook so badly he could scarcely hold
the device. “Deputy? This is MacDermott at Coyote Springs Ruins and—”
        “Roger that, Coyote Springs,” a deep, drawling voice cut in. “Undersheriff Sickel,
here. Over.”
        “There’s an emergency,” Jayce said desperately. “Kotsyovi…this
morning…he…I—”
        “I’m not reading you, Coyote Springs,” Sickel interrupted. “Slow down.” Jayce
heard the man take a long slurp of coffee before he added. “And if you’re gonna use the
radio, then you gotta use those codes I gave you. Copy?”
        This moment was the closest Jayce ever came to cursing. The codes the
undersheriff referred to were a list of terms like “roger” and “copy” and “10-4” that the
lawman had given them with his radio frequency when, finally, they got his attention about
the grave robbers. Not that they would have ever gotten his attention by themselves. It took
Joseph appealing to his tribal leaders and Jayce appealing to the museum board of directors
before somebody finally contacted somebody else who knew the right somebody to get the
county sheriff to step on Undersheriff Sickel’s neck. To say that Jayce’s current working
relationship with the man was strained would be like saying the pots that lay in shards at
his feet had seen better days.
        Jayce tried to draw a breath, but the hot fluid rose again and made breathing almost
impossible. “Joseph’s dead,” he managed. Murdered.”
        “A homicide?” The undersheriff’s voice went up almost an octave in what sounded
like glee.
        Now he’s interested in Coyote Springs, Jayce thought. The sickness he couldn’t
force down cast a greenish tinge across his vision. He rubbed his eyes beneath the wire
rims of his glasses as he heard the man tell somebody else they “had themselves a Code
Seven.” A moment later the thin wail of a siren came through the radio.
        “We’re on our way,” Sickel said over the noise of the car. “ETA, fifteen minutes.
You copy? Over.”
        “Yeah,” Jayce said. The radio fell to his side when the effort of holding up his arm
became too great. He added “I copy” to the air just before he bent in half to empty the
contents of his stomach onto a creosote bush at his feet.
        At last Jayce stood, his head reeling and stomach still convulsing. He reached into
his truck for a shirt, to replace the one he’d left over Kotsyovi’s body, and pulled it on,
grateful for something to cover his garments and the gooseflesh he knew was more a result
of raw nerves than the raw wind.
         He scanned the site but, as expected, didn’t see another person. The hired crews
didn’t come in unless called, and he hadn’t called them in because of the rain. The next
shift of students from the university wouldn’t report until Thursday. Jayce struggled to
remember what day it was. Tuesday? That meant that he had two days to pull himself
together before resuming the dig. And he would have to resume Thursday, despite Joseph’s
brutal murder, or he’d lose the grant and have to abandon the dig to the looters. Even if
he’d been willing to give up his career, Dr. MacDermott wasn’t willing to lose everything
Joseph had died trying to save.
         Jayce’s legs scarcely held him as he made his way back toward the spot where the
young Hopi had spent the final minutes of mortality. As he approached the damaged wall
they failed altogether and he stumbled over one of the misplaced rocks. Trying to break his
fall, his right hand struck a stone spear that had been stuck into the mud nearby. Feeling it
slice his palm, Jayce picked it up. It was sticky, as if someone had dipped it in honey.
Jayce’s brain, which felt as numb as his legs and hands, struggled to register something
odd besides the stickiness of the stone, but lost the thought abruptly as he realized what the
substance was—blood . The bright red smear at the top of the artifact was from his own
hand, but the blood lower down, the part that had seemed sticky, must be Joseph’s. Jayce
flung the knife to the ground, wiped his hand down the side of his jeans and pulled himself
up enough to lean with his back against the pithouse’s outer wall.
          He lowered his gaze from the leaden sky to the rust-colored earth before closing
his eyes to pray. He asked quietly, for himself and then for Joseph’s family, for the peace
that he knew came from the Comforter.
         When he finished his prayer, Jayce’s chin remained on his chest. Why had Joseph
confronted the looters without calling for help? Was his stubborn insistence to do
everything his way—this time alone—what had gotten him killed?
         With his eyes closed, all Jayce could see was Joseph’s neck crusted with blood. He
opened his eyes quickly and tried to force another scene to the surface of his
consciousness. But the one that came next was worse. He remembered the last
confrontation he’d had with his assistant. It had been last Saturday at the base.
         “I don’t care what your treaties and laws say!” Joseph had insisted yet again. He
was a half foot shorter than Jayce’s six-foot-two but much stockier. And much more given
to histrionics.
         Reluctant to be drawn in to another angry, bitter exchange, Jayce had merely turned
away to go back to work. But Joseph followed him across the room toward the shelf of
trays where they kept the basket remnants. “All of this—and the land you defile—belongs
to my people. It is our children’s, Dr. MacDermott! You have no right to sell their
heritage!”
         “Joseph, I am not selling your birthright,” Jayce responded tiredly. He picked up a
chunk of yucca fibers that had once been part of a burden basket, then pushed to the back
of his mind the nagging worry that, from a certain perspective, he was guilty as charged.
He couldn’t help but wonder how he would feel if their roles had been reversed. If Joseph
had moved into Jayce’s hometown to dig up the family cemetery and put his great-great-
great grandmother’s best china on display in a museum up on the reservation, Jayce knew
he’d have a hard time handling it himself. The paradigm shift always made him empathize
with Joseph, but it didn’t make working with him any easier.
         After a few minutes, when Kotsyovi’s tirade showed no signs of abating, Jayce
added, “If it weren’t for us Anglo archeologists, this stuff would stay in the ground another
eight thousand years and you’d never learn more about your ancestors.” He removed his
glasses. “What good can ignorance do your people, Joseph?” It was the point he always
made. This was an old battle, one with no real resolution and little room for detente.
         “How do the children learn without teachers?” Joseph countered. “How do they
remember their people when all they have are holes in the ground, dug by Pahaanas
treasure hunters and guarded by Pahaanas park police? Would you have them pay money
to walk on their land?”
         He stomped to the door and gripped the door handle. His other hand pointed toward
a heavy storage safe. Within it were human remains and a cracked burial jar they had
inadvertently unearthed the week before. Joseph had recited the sacred Hopi prayers over
them at once, but it had been impossible to rebury them on-site because of the threat of
looters. The body and the dried corn intended to accompany it to the afterlife were in the
padlocked safe, waiting to be claimed by Hopi tribal officials for repatriation on the
reservation. The burial grounds had been roped off and surrounded by an infrared security
alarm, but even that hadn’t been enough to appease Joseph. “Those are my ancestors who
lay in your field, Doctor,” he said. “They revered this land you dishonor. I am their heir—
one of the rightful heirs to everything in this room. I won’t have what little my people have
left lost to greedy Pahaanas like you!”
         Trying to push away his memory of the heated exchange, Jayce leaned the back of
his head against the rocks. His face felt cold in the wind and he realized it was because his
cheeks were damp. He and Joseph had seldom agreed when it came to the dig, but Jayce
had always believed they might reach an amicable solution in the end. Certainly he’d never
dreamed it would end like this.
         Another shudder of horror swept over him as a wail of sirens cut through the
accustomed silence of the plateau to announce the arrival of the sheriff’s officers.
         It was about time. Jayce hauled himself up as the patrol car squealed to a stop
beside his truck, splattering it with yet another layer of thick, red mud. He pulled a
bandana from his back pocket and wrapped it around his hand to staunch the slow seepage
of blood from the shallow wound on his palm.
         “What have we got ourselves?” Undersheriff Sickel demanded. Because he had
moved down the trail with more speed than his corpulent frame normally allowed, his
words were punctuated with short huffs of breath. His salt-and-pepper hair stood at
attention in a crew cut, and his flaccid face was set in a grimace. With one hand on his gun
he had paused in front of Jayce, but when his deputy rushed up with emergency medical
personnel, he changed his mind and moved to block their path.
         “I’ll go in first, men,” he said, drawing the gun as though there was someone in the
pithouse left to kill. “Wait right there, Doctor. Don’t move so much as a muscle.”
         It was an easy order to obey since all the muscles in Jayce’s body seemed beyond
his ability to control. He nodded mutely, crossed his arms, and turned away to look back
out across the dig. The undersheriff’s enthusiasm bothered him, though he knew the
irritation was probably hypocritical. Few people were as enthused about a dead body as
archeologists, though in their case the person would have been dead for centuries, not
hours.
         While the officers went to examine the crime scene, Jayce lost himself in guilt and
self-recrimination. He never should have left the young Hopi alone last night. He knew the
danger. Moreover, he knew Joseph’s tendency to act first and think later. He should have
taken him off watch. He should have ranted and raved and insisted that the FBI get their
official, briefcase-toting rear ends up here. He should have at least known well enough to
work in two-man, armed shifts. He should have—
         Jayce started in surprise when Sickel returned, stuck a pudgy finger in his chest and
asked, “When did you find him?”
         “Right now. I mean, just before I called you.”
         “It looks like he’s been dead awhile,” Sickel said, “but we won’t know for sure
until we get the body to Holbrook for an autopsy.” His small eyes narrowed. Jayce felt the
undersheriff’s gaze pass over his bloody jeans and cloth-wrapped hand. “You moved that
body, did you?”
         “No,” Jayce said, and then reconsidered. “Yes, I did, I guess. Joseph had been on
guard duty all night so when I first saw him I thought he was asleep. I shook him to wake
him up and he fell over.” He swallowed hard at the memory before raising his bandaged
hand to motion toward the artifact at the undersheriff’s feet. “This blood on my hand is
from that spearhead,” he explained. “I fell on it on the way back here. After I called you.”
         “You saying you cut yourself on it?”
         “Yes.”
          “Then you admit you picked it up? Handled it?”
         Jayce didn’t need to see the confirmation on Sickel’s deputy’s face as he exited the
pithouse to know how stupid he’d been. “Yes,” he repeated. “I moved the body. And I
guess I cut myself on the murder weapon, too.”
         Sickel motioned for the deputy to take note. “You the only one out here, Doctor?”
         Though the answer was self-evident, Jayce replied, “We’re closed down today due
to last night’s heavy rain.”
         “Convenient.”
         Jayce didn’t miss the note of cynicism in the lawman’s voice, nor the smug
expression on his face. It was no secret that Sickel disliked him and resented the waves he
had made in the despot’s little fiefdom here on the shores of the reservation.
         “You say the victim was on watch last night?” Sickel continued.
         Jayce at last felt the numbing shock begin to drain away, replaced by anger and
frustration. “As you well know,” he responded through clenched teeth, “protecting this site
from looters is a do-it-ourselves job. Federal law enforcement is more about red tape than
it is justice. Local law enforcement is all about an undersheriff who’s preoccupied with
running for sheriff. Nobody but archeologists have time to try to catch ruthless felons.”
Jayce’s hands clenched, heedless of the pain from the cut. “If we’d had a little support out
here Joseph might still be alive.” He turned away. “The way I see it, Sickel, his blood is on
your hands as much as it is mine.”
         A slack-jawed look of incredulity on the deputy’s face told Jayce he’d crossed the
line.
         With a thin and unpleasant smile, Sickel motioned to his deputy. “Read the doctor
his rights, Dodge. Then cuff him.” On his way toward the squad car he added, “Be sure to
put a rubber glove over that bloody hand of his. We want the physical evidence intact
when we get Kotsyovi’s killer down to the station.
                                        Chapter 3
          Eight long hours and one court-appointed attorney later, Dr. MacDermott sat at a
splintery wooden table in an otherwise bare interrogation room and watched his life pass
before his eyes. The defense lawyer fidgeting on his left was roughly the age of one of
Jayce’s little brothers—the one who played video games on weekends and roller bladed to
classes at ASU. Jayce would have liked to see this swarthy kid’s diploma, but had to
accept his credentials on blind faith in the Navajo County judicial system. At the very
least, the kid did a great job of shuffling his papers—whatever the heck those papers were.
It was when he opened his mouth that he did little to inspire confidence in the archeologist
who was about to be charged with first-degree murder.
         “My client doesn’t, uh, have to answer any more questions,” the novice attorney
decided at last. Probably, Jayce thought, he had a blind date tonight and wanted to get out
of there in time to pick up some acne cream . Either that or it was a legal ploy designed to
make a name for himself by landing his first client in the electric chair.
         Sickel regarded the lawyer as he might a bug. “What did you say your name was
again?”
         “LeVar Zabloudil.”
         Sickel swore under his breath as he scribbled the name on his pad, crossed it out
and then tried another spelling. Jayce felt a momentary twinge of sympathy for the
undersheriff. He couldn’t pronounce the kid’s name, let alone spell it.
         The dark young man leaned forward helpfully. “Z-A-B-L-”
         “Forget it,” Sickel said.
         “As you wish.” The head of jet-black hair lowered in a bow and Jayce had to allow
that the guy was helpful and polite. Not that that was necessarily a good thing. He’d
watched enough courtroom dramas on TV with his grandmother to know that the
quiet/helpful/polite attorneys weren’t the ones who won acquittals.
         Jayce ran his hand through his thick hair in an effort to cut off his ridiculous,
defeatist thinking. Regardless of how guilty he felt about Joseph’s death, he hadn’t killed
him. Even the Sicko knew it. Jayce suspected the man was badgering him mostly to get
even for the nuisance of Coyote Springs. They’d been through his “statement” twice now
without a formal charge. Hoping three was a charm, he offered to repeat it again. “What
were you doing this morning between midnight and 5 A.M.?” Sickel asked.
         The man’s breath reeked of cigarettes and stale coffee . Jayce leaned away before
answering. “I was sleeping,” he said. “I’d taken guard duty the night before then spent
sixteen hours yesterday on the dig.”
         “You have somebody who can verify your whereabouts, I hope.” But the man’s
smug expression indicated he didn’t hope it at all.
         Jayce shook his head. “Sorry, but I sleep alone.” He heard LeVar expel a breath of
disappointment and had to stifle a sigh of his own. He was sorry to sleep alone. If he’d
listened to his mother—and father and grandmother and sisters and bishop and mission
president—and married years ago, he wouldn’t be in this mess right now. Problem was,
he’d known only one girl he wanted to spend eternity with, and she had been in love with
his best friend. Even after Will’s death—especially after Will’s death—she hadn’t wanted
anything to do with him. But he had never gotten over Meredith McKay.
         Why?
       That was a question for another day, he reminded himself. Maybe the day the state
executed him for Joseph’s murder. Jayce wondered if it would be the first question asked
when he passed through the veil and showed up for judgment, his unruly red hair still
standing on end from the electric chair.

St. Peter:     “Jayce MacDermott, why couldn’t you forget rebellious little Meredith
               McKay and take that nice Betty Lowell to the temple like everybody told
               you to?

Jayce:         “I don’t know, President Peter, your apostleship, sir. I just couldn’t.”

St. Peter:     “The terrestrial kingdom is through that door on the left and down 1,263
               flights of stairs. Have a nice eternity, Brother MacDermott.”

        Besides eventual exaltation to her credit, Jayce knew that Betty now had a husband
in the bishopric, four kids, and a split-level home in the suburbs. What did he have? A
beat-up, two-room trailer with a lumpy single bed. Do I know how to make the most of my
turn on earth, or what?
        “I’ll ask you one more time,” the undersheriff said. “Did you kill Joseph
Kotsyovi?”
        Jayce sighed.
                                                ***
        Could Jayce MacDermott be a killer? Meredith had been asking herself that
question since early morning in the Salt River Canyon where the office had reached her on
her cell to report Joseph’s murder. Talk about an instant reassignment. In two seconds flat
her mission had change from training a new agent to investigating his homicide. At this
moment, Jayce was the prime suspect and, as much as Meredith hated to admit it, some of
the pieces seemed to fit.
        Kotsyovi had reported his suspicion that Dr. MacDermott was involved in the theft
of antiquities. He’d been quick to point out that the professor was up to his eyeballs in
personal debt trying to fund a dig crucial to him personally and professionally. He’d said
they quarreled. A showdown between the two men might have led to murder.
        But some things about the scenario didn’t fit. The first was the drug ring.
        Agent Kotsyovi had been at Coyote Springs undercover only because the dig put
him on one of the known spokes from the hub of a cartel that received, stored, and shipped
crack cocaine throughout the Four Corners region. Jayce wasn’t suspected of dealing.
Indeed, there appeared to be no correlation whatsoever between the pot looters and drug
runners. But Meredith wondered. In her experience, things that seemed to be coincidence
usually weren’t.
        But the biggest piece that didn’t fit was that Meredith knew Jayce MacDermott. Or
had known him. He’d always seemed honorable and kind to a fault. Those weren’t classic
character traits of a thief or murderer, nor were they the types of virtues that corrupted over
time.
        Were they?
        When she finally pulled up in front of the undersheriff’s station in Winslow,
Meredith pushed her anxiety at seeing Jayce into the fa rthest recesses of her
consciousness. Never mind that he was here. This was the logical first step in her
investigation and she was determined not to let anything get in the way of her
professionalism.
         Let’s run through this one more time,” she suggested to her companion in the
passenger’s seat. “I am a professional. I am a calm, dispassionate, totally objective special
agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Right?”
         Her traveling companion, a nine-month-old pit bull she’d named Fang after a
character in a Harry Potter book they’d both enjoyed (she to read and Fang to chew up),
nodded vigorously in agreement. Either that or he was following the erratic path of a bee
they had picked up somewhere on the long trip north.
         “Don’t try to catch it,” Meredith warned and quickly rolled down the window to let
the insect escape. “They sting and you’re allergic. Remember last time? You swelled up
like a water balloon.”
         The puppy clearly didn’t remember. He lunged forward to snap at the bee on its
way out the window. When he landed unceremoniously in Meredith’s lap, he forgot his
original mission and made the most of licking her face.
         “Fang!” she protested, pushing him back to his own side of the Land Rover. “I love
you, too, but you have to stop licking off my makeup. Do you know how much Clinique
costs?” She glanced into the rearview mirror, then quickly away. She’d already spent too
much time applying and reapplying her makeup. It wasn’t like her and she was afraid she
knew why she’d developed the sudden fixation on glamour.
         She pulled off her sunglasses, tossed them on the dash, then reconsidered and
tucked them safely into the glove compartment. Fang had demolished six pairs already this
week.
         Finally, Meredith lowered all four windows a few inches and auto-locked the doors
on her way out. “Remember, if another bee flies in, don’t try to catch it,” she told the dog.
“And if you so much as slobber on that leather upholstery, this is your last road trip. Ever.
I’ll leave you in the Doggie Dude Ranch next time, I swear I will. Understand?”
         Fang lay docilely across the seats and closed his eyes.
         “Good,” she said. “Sleep.”
         “Please let him sleep,” she prayed as she pulled open the door to the squat brick
building. She’d rescued the puppy months before at a bust she’d made of an amoral farm
that bred pit bulls for fighting. After falling in love with the tiny pup, and reading up on
what was once the most popular breed of family dog in the United States, Meredith had
decided to keep him. But as much as she adored the gentle beast, she wasn’t sure taking
him on was the smartest thing she’d ever done. Fang could destroy in fifteen minutes what
it would take natural forces centuries, even eons, to erode.
         “Excuse me,” she said to a girl who sat at the front desk, engrossed in a Tony
Hillerman novel. “I’m here to see…” she consulted her palm planner, “. . . an Undersheriff
Sickel.”
         The girl looked up. “You can’t. He’s interrogating a murderer!” The expression on
her face revealed what a banner day it was for little Winslow, Arizona.
         She meant Jayce, of course. Meredith’s heart beat faster. “I’ll speak to his deputy,
then.”
         “Deputy Dodge,” the girl said. “He’s down that hall, first door on the right.”
         Meredith found the man at his desk, bent over a report, tongue caught between his
teeth at the effort he was putting into transcribing correctly from a small black notebook
that lay open before him. She read a couple o f paragraphs upside down—enough to know
he was writing up this morning’s homicide. Then she cleared her throat. “Excuse me,
Deputy. I’m Meredith McKay from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
        Though Dodge looked up, his index finger remained on the notebook to mark his
place. His eyes widened at the sight of Meredith and his jaw slackened. “Who did you say
you are?”
        “Meredith McKay,” she repeated. “Special agent for the FBI. I believe my office
called yesterday to tell you to expect me. I’ve been sent to investigate the theft of
antiquities up at Coyote Springs.” She frowned. “And I hear there’s been a murder there as
well. A Joseph Kotsyovi?”
        The deputy’s weak chin dropped onto his chest. “Wow.”
        “I’d like to look over your physical evidence first. Maybe take a few pictures.”
        The deputy stood. “I’ll have to, uh, clear that one with the boss.” He came around
the desk. “He’s in with the killer.” His voice had dropped even lower than the
receptionist’s.
        “So I’ve heard,” Meredith said. “But who you really have in custody is at this point
an alleged killer. Am I correct, Deputy?”
        “Oh,” Dodge said. “Yeah. Sure.” He scurried around her and into the hall. “Be right
back.”
        As Meredith watched Dodge head toward the interrogation room she realized that
after a mere ten minutes in this place she would pity Jayce MacDermott even if she didn’t
hope he was innocent.
                                                ***
        Sickel’s next question pulled Jayce’s mind from Meredith McKay back to the
dimly lit room. “Do you know of anyone who would want to kill Joseph Kotsyovi?
Besides you, of course.”
        Finally. A question with a simple answer. “Yes,” Jayce said immediately.
“Whoever it was he surprised looting the pithouse last night.”
        The undersheriff rolled his eyes. “These ‘looters’of yours, Dr. MacDermott, they’re
men you’ve actually seen?”
        Jayce started to say that if he’d seen them he’d have strangled them with his bare
hands, but thought better of it under the circumstances. “No,” he said. “I haven’t seen
them.” Before the undersheriff could crow in triumph, he added, “But I’ve seen where
they’ve been and I know what they’ve done.”
        “You think they’re slipping in and out of Coyote Springs in the dead of night
stealing your precious little pots?”
        Jayce colored at the patronizing tone. “Yes. They’re stealing pots—and other
priceless artifacts.”
        Any reply the undersheriff might have made was interrupted by a knock on the
door and the entrance of Deputy Dodge. “The FBI’s here,” he told Sickel. “And you know
that guy you said had a sissified name—Meredith?—well, boss, he ain’t no sissy. He ain’t
even a he. He’s a lady! I mean, she is. And she knows all about the killing and wants to see
what we’ve got on Kotsyovi.”
        “Meredith?” Jayce’s voice was scarcely audible. He’d suspected that he’d slipped
into the twilight zone about the time he discovered Joseph’s body this morning, but this
turn of events was too close to the outer limits for even him to believe. “Meredith
McKay?”
        Jayce’s head spun so badly he had to prop his elbow on the table to rest his
forehead against his palm. He knew Meredith was with the FBI, of course. He knew every
detail of her life as passed on by his grandmother, who’d kept in touch with Meredith
despite the younger woman’s best efforts to distance herself from the MacDermott clan.
But he also knew that she was in the Phoenix office, and had been her whole career. What
could have possibly brought her to Northern Arizona?
        “You know this dame?” Sickel asked suspiciously.
        Know her? He knew Meredith better than he knew to breathe, Jayce thought,
realizing it had been almost a minute since he’d taken a breath. His response was
something between a nod and a deep intake of stale air.
        It was enough of an answer to satisfy Sickel. The lines on his face grew deeper and
grimmer. “I guess we can’t stop her from snooping around without bringing all the rest of
them bureau-cats down on our heads,” the undersheriff admitted after almost a minute of
deliberation. “But you keep an eye on her, Deputy. You hear? I want to know every move
that woman makes.” He turned back to Jayce. “And I don’t know what kinda stunt you
think you’re pulling here, Doctor, but I’ll tell you one thing, it ain’t gonna work. I’ve got
you nailed dead to rights.”
        Incredibly, the suspect “nailed” in the hot seat no longer cared about the dire straits
he was in. Heck, if all it took was a trip to the electric chair to bring Meredith McKay back
into his life, Jayce was sorry he hadn’t thought of committing a federal offense years ago.
                                           Chapter 4
        “This here’s the evidence room,” Deputy Dodge told Meredith. He unlocked the
gate and stepped aside to allow her to enter. “The stuff you want is on the third shelf, last
row.”
        “Thank you,” Meredith said. “I can take it from here.” When the man showed no
sign of going away, she ignored him and walked into the small room.
        Surprisingly, it was orderly and well lit. Things typical of small-town crime were
arrayed on the gray metal shelves: pocket knives, a revolver well past its prime, three
aerosol cans of spray paint, and assorted tire irons. There was even a cast-iron frying pan.
Meredith shook her head in amusement at the “weapons collection” and moved on to the
shelf the deputy had indicated.
        Everything here had been carefully sealed in plastic evidence bags. Score one for
the undersheriff, she thought begrudgingly. The first bag she picked up held a stone
spearhead, gray and bloody, with a wicked-looking edge. Another bag held a bloody shirt,
probably the victim’s, and several other bags contained plaster molds of footprints,
bloodstained clay dirt, and a few shards of pottery. On the shelf behind the bags were the
much larger casts of the tire tracks found at the scene. Meredith removed a small tape
recorder, measuring tape and camera from her attaché case. She photographed each of the
objects in turn before putting away the camera and retrieving the gray spearhead.
        “Stone spearhead,” she said quietly into the recorder. “Probably chert.
Approximately three and a half inches wide and six inches long, splotched with what
appears to be mud and blood.” She set it aside. “Bag two has a denim shirt with what
appears to be blood on the front covering the buttons and collar and extending down the
right sleeve. Other evidence includes—” She interrupted herself to count plaster casts of
footprints, amazed.
        “How many people were in that pithouse?” she asked the deputy.
        “We think we’ve got five sets of prints,” he responded.
        “Hmm.” Meredith measured the casts then said into her recorder, “All molds
indicate hiking or military-style boots. Two are average in size, probably a man’s ten or
eleven. The third is small, probably a man’s four or five, with deep indentations in the
heel. The fourth is large and narrow, the one cast with a brand name apparent. Its—”
        “Those’d be the killer’s boots,” Deputy Dodge interrupted helpfully. When
Meredith turned he said, “Excuse me, I meant to say the alleged killer.” He motioned
toward the molds. “And those second shoe prints you looked at, those’d be the victim’s.”
He grinned. “Judging by his stone cold body and the blood soaking into the ground, he was
a genuine victim, not an alleged one.”
        It was impossible for Meredith to judge whether the deputy was taking a facetious
jab at her or exhibiting a version of the gallows humor that most lawmen relied on from
time to time to maintain their sanity. She answered with, “Thank you, Mr. Dodge” and
returned to her task.
          After cataloguing the rest of the items, Meredith felt drawn again to the probable
murder weapon. She turned the bag with the spear in it over and over in her hand. At last
she frowned. “If I’m not badly mistaken,” she said into the recorder, “this is machine
made.” She looked at it until she was sure she could remember the peculiar whorls and too-
perfect serrated edges, then returned it to the shelf.
         The last thing she looked at was a bag containing scrapings of red dirt that had been
stained blue and black. “What is this?” she asked Deputy Dodge.
         “Weird, ain’t it?” he replied. One wall of the pithouse had a couple of lines of color
on it—black and blue—like something had brushed up against it. The undersheriff scraped
some of it off into that bag.”
         Meredith flinched. “Please tell me he took a picture first. And measured off the
exact location.”
         It was the deputy’s turn to flinch. “The first mark was about this high,” he said,
indicating a place in the air about waist-high. The second was a little higher.”
         Meredith suppressed a sigh. “I’d like to send it in to the lab.” Before he could agree
or object she had a portion of each of the pigments in bags of her own and pocketed.
“Where are the incident reports?” she continued. “I’ll need copies eventually, but for now
I’ll just take a look at them.”
         Dodge frowned, but led the way back down the hall to the undersheriff’s office. He
picked up a thin sheaf of papers from the cluttered desk and extended it reluctantly.
         “Thank you,” Meredith said. “And the report from the medical examiner?”
         “We don’t have it yet,” the deputy replied. “The only hearse in town’s broke down,
so the body’s on ice at the funeral parlor until the auto shop gets the part they need and can
transport it over to Holbrook.”
         Meredith felt herself blanch and hoped it wasn’t obvious. It was bad enough to read
about death in a coroner’s report, especially the death of a colleague, but it was the stuff of
nightmares to have to examine the body yourself. But in this case, it couldn’t be helped.
“I’ll need to see Kotsyovi, then,” she told Dodge. “Today.”
         He reacted with horror. “A girl like you can’t—”
         Meredith silenced him with a single look, but a carefully practiced one.
         “We’ll have to ask the b-boss,” he stammered.
         She had moved on to the report he’d given her. “We’ll do that,” she said absently
as she read.
         Dodge stood at her side fiddling with the keys and spare change in his pocket.
         This is one very annoying man, Meredith thought. She wondered if it was her
employer or her gender that made the deputy so nervous around her.
         Chewing on her lower lip, she leaned against the desk and reread a page of the
undersheriff’s report. The imaginary little “ping” that usually went off in her brain to alert
her that something was odd had sounded several paragraphs back, but she couldn’t pin
down the oddity. She read the words a third time and suddenly she knew. This report, and
the one she’d read while Dodge was still writing it, were identical—to the word. Sure, the
undersheriff and his deputy arrived on the scene together, but Meredith had read dozens—
probably hundreds—of reports by professional law enforcement officers who had seen the
same thing at the same time and reported it differently. That, in fact, was the rule rather
than the exception. That the deputy’s words would be almost a carbon copy of his boss’s
was definitely strange, and well worth remembering.
         Trauma to right side of face and right eye, Meredith read. Slash to throat
apparently fatal wound. Victim’s wrists had been bound. Rope burns evident. Murder
reported by chief suspect . . .
         The chief suspect, she knew, was Jayce MacDermott, and he was in an
interrogation room a few steps from where she stood. Meredith handed the report back to
the deputy. She’d put this off long enough. It was time to grow up, bury the past, and do
what she could to help out an old friend. And that’s all Jayce was to her, she told herself as
she followed the deputy down the hall to the interrogation room—an old friend who she
owed more than one favor.

                                                ***
         Jayce caught his breath as Meredith entered the room. She looked incredible. Her
dark, lustrous hair was drawn back into a French braid that accentuated her delicate
features and clear, sapphire eyes. The years since he’d last seen her had softened her
angular lines into soft, womanly curves, but the cute upward tilt of her nose and spirited
lift of her chin were exactly as he remembered them.
         “Mr. Sickel,” she said, without a glance in Jayce’s direction, “I’m Meredith
McKay. FBI, Phoenix office.” She set her attaché case on the floor and extended a shapely
arm.
         The undersheriff, Jayce observed, was having a little trouble keeping his mouth
closed. When he didn’t immediately extend his arm to shake hands, Meredith dropped hers
to her side and continued. “I was assigned last night to investigate the theft of antiquities at
Coyote Springs.”
         At last the officer regained his power of speech, if not his composure. “We’ve got
more than theft going on at Coyote Springs, little lady. We’ve got ourselves a homicide.”
         “So I understand,” she replied. For a moment her pretty face went from impassive
to pained. “Joseph Kotsyovi was killed this morning. Am I correct?”
         “That’s the guy,” the undersheriff drawled. “And this is the perp. I was—”
         “Dr. MacDermott first brought the situation at Coyote Springs to our attention,”
Meredith interrupted. “You’re saying you now suspect him of murdering his assistant to
cover up his role in pot thievery?”
         Despite his earlier joy to hear she had come, Jayce suddenly wondered if it
wouldn’t have been better if he’d crawled into one of his newly excavated pithouses and
pulled the mud and rocks over top of him. He’d hoped to see Meredith again. He’d
imagined dozens of scenarios in which they made up for lost time, but in none of them did
he play the part of a sloppy, befuddled professor accused of a cold- blooded killing. He ran
his hand through his hair and wondered if she’d recognize him under this unintentional
disguise of windblown, too-long hair, and shabby clothes. Not, he realized suddenly, that
she’d looked at him. Her eyes had been everywhere but where he sat.
         Right now they were on Sickel, who leaned back in his chair, the picture of a
satisfied criminologist. “As I was saying,” Sickel continued, “this here’s the perp. He and
Kotsyovi were overheard fighting over pots last Saturday.” He raised a thick, nicotine-
stained thumb and wiggled it in her direction. “In my book, that’s ‘motive’.” He added an
index finger and said, “He’s got no alibi. That’s ‘opportunity’. And we’ve got us a murder
weapon with his prints all over it. That’s what we call means.” He lowered the three
damning fingers. “It’s an open and shut case, Miss…what did you say your name was?”
         “McKay,” Meredith said.
         Jayce tried to keep his chin from dropping onto his chest, but was unsuccessful.
Even he was beginning to believe he was guilty. It hadn’t escaped his attention that
Zabloudil had at last accepted the futility of the situation and stopped shuffling his papers.
         “I hope you don’t mind that I looked over your physical evidence and written
report on the way in,” Meredith said. “Until we receive the results of the lab work,
everything you’ve pointed out is circumstantial, at best. As I’m sure Dr. MacDermott’s
legal counsel has informed you, you have nothing to hold him.”
         Jayce stole a sideways glance at LeVar. Zabloudil looked like an ancient Greek
playwright who’d been handed a brand new deus ex machina.
         Undersheriff Sickel, on the other hand, had turned an unattractive shade of
chartreuse. “I have a murder weapon with this man’s prints on it!” he roared.
         “You have an artifact,” she responded calmly. “One that Dr. MacDermott freely
admits to picking up at the scene. It’s sloppy by police standards, but pretty much what
you’d expect of an archeologist. Especially one who had stumbled upon his associate’s
gruesome murder and was in a state of shock.”
         Her blue eyes shone defiantly and Jayce’s spirits lifted with his chin. There was no
way Sickel would win this round. Come to think of it, he’d never seen anyone go up
against Meredith McKay and win.
         “Your most definitive fingerprints,” she continued calmly, “will of course be on the
victim himself. Most likely on his inner wrists from when he was bound. You’ve taken
those prints, Undersheriff?”
         “There’s no way to fingerprint a corpse!” Sickel protested.
         “Actually,” Meredith said with a small, distasteful smile, “there are three accepted
methods. I’ve brought the materials for two of them. I’ll examine the body in the next few
hours. You’re welcome to accompany me.” She turned to LeVar. “In the meantime, if I
were you, I’d demand that my client be released pending the results of forensics.”
         Jayce watched Zabloudil nod happily before shuffling through his papers to look
for a writ of habeas corpus—or whatever it took to get his client out of this hoosegow.
         “Furthermore,” Meredith continued on her way back out the door, “because the
crime was committed on BLM land, and since it involved a citizen of the Hopi nation, the
case is federal. Meaning it’s mine. I’m happy to cooperate with you and the county sheriff
out of professional courtesy, but we all need to remember where we stand.”
         As did he, Jayce realized unhappily as the door closed behind her. Meredith had
obviously left their past far behind. Maybe she didn’t even remember him. She didn’t seem
to.
         By the time Jayce had reclaimed his meager personal effects from a clerk—a
penknife, small whiskbroom, and wallet with about thirteen bucks in it—Meredith was
nowhere to be seen. Disheartened, he walked toward the exit in the front of the building
and was surprised to see her peering out the glass doors. She rapped sharply on the pane as
if to get somebody’s attention.
         “McKay,” he said, swallowing hard to dislodge the emotion from his throat when
she turned toward him. “Long time, no see.” He took a step closer. “But, hey, you sure
picked a heck of a time to drop in.”
         “You’re welcome, MacDermott.” Her smile seemed genuine, though tentative. “I
hung around to give you a ride home,” she added. “They have a search warrant for your
truck. It’ll be awhile before you get it out of impound.” When he rolled his eyes she added,
“Come on. We’ll drop you off at your site. Then I need to get us checked into the motel
before I head over to the funeral parlor.”
         The only words Jayce heard in that sentence were “we” and “us.” He repeated
them. “We? Us? You came up with a…er…partner?”
        “More like my significant other,” Meredith said. She pushed open the door. “You
coming?”
        Not if he could think of a way around it. He’d dreaded any “other” finding a place
in Meredith’s life, let alone a “significant” one. And he couldn’t believe he hadn’t heard
about it before now. Grandma MacDermott must be getting senile if she had overlooked
this small detail in her extensive fact-finding missions.
        “Dang it!” Meredith exclaimed from outside the open door. “I’ve left him alone too
long. He’s gnawing on the steering wheel. Come on, MacDermott!”
        Jayce followed. How could he not? His favorite form of self-torture had always
been to imagine Meredith dating all types of men, but never had he dreamed up one who
ate auto parts.
        “Leave it, Fang!” Meredith commanded as she opened the door to the Land Rover
and grabbed the excited puppy by the collar, trying to save what little was left of her
makeup from a remarkably long, pink tongue. “I missed you too, but calm down. I want to
introduce you to somebody.” When the dog strained toward Jayce she said, “Fang, this is
Dr. MacDermott. He’s an archeologist.” She added hastily, “Not a vet, so don’t worry.”
She turned to Jayce, her blue eyes sparkling, “Dr. MacDermott, this is Fang, my significant
other.”
        “He’s a pit bull!” Jayce exclaimed.
        She caressed the dog’s sleek, boxy head. “And your point is?”
        “That…he’s a pit bull.”
        Meredith covered the puppy’s short ears. “He’s a purebred American Pit Bull
Terrier who can probably trace his genealogy back farther than you can. And he’s very
sensitive to ignorant canine prejudice.” She smiled at Jayce’s discomfiture. “Do you want a
ride home, or not?”
        Jayce was leaning toward “not.” It was about 30 miles out to his trailer; he figured
he could walk there before dawn. The dawn that came day after tomorrow, that is. But he
didn’t particularly like any kind of dog and this wasn’t even a canine. It was a two-eyed,
four-legged, gleaming-fanged people shredder with si lky black fur and a silly puppy grin
on its face.
        Meredith was already in the driver’s seat, trying to shove the excited, affectionate
Fang into the back. “Get in already,” she urged Jayce.
        Nothing on earth could persuade him to get in that SUV. Nothing but the thought of
once again sitting next to Meredith McKay. He opened the passenger door warily.
        She shot him a harried look. “Help me out here, will you? I can’t push Fang back
and pull you in at the same time.”
        Jayce slid onto the seat and tried to remember everything he’d learned from Animal
Planet: Hold very still. Don’t meet the eyes of the predator. Don’t let him smell your fear.
        The last was going to prove impossible. The dog’s nose was already plastered
against Jayce’s neck as its soft, warm tongue explored the contours of his left ear. Jayce
didn’t know for sure what Fang smelled on him that he found so appealing, but his guess
was that it might be abject terror.
        “He likes you,” Meredith observed as she put the car in gear and backed out of the
parking spot.
        “Are you sure he’s not tasting me?”
        “He’s a pit bull, remember? He’d have chewed your ear off by now if he wanted to
know how you taste.” She laughed when Jayce jerked his head away hard enough to
impact it with the window. “Kidding. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. Pit
bulls are naturally friendly.”
        Jayce rubbed his bruised head with one hand and wiped his wet ear with the other.
“I see you haven’t lost your warped sense of humor.”
        As soon as the words were out, he wished for them back. It hadn’t taken any more
than that wry observation to bring the past rushing back for both of them. It hunched
between them now, an almost tangible thing that turned the already cloudy summer day
bleaker still.
                                        Chapter 5
         “Tell me what’s going on at Coyote Springs,” Meredith said to break the silence as
they passed the outskirts of town, headed toward the high, red mesas. Bury the past, she
reminded herself firmly. You’re here because you have a job to do. Only because you have
a job to do.
         When Jayce started from his thoughts, she added, “I didn’t come out here to the
middle of nowhere to catch up on old times, you know.” His silent nod and the lines that
formed at the corners of his incredible eyes pained her. She looked away and concentrated
on the two-lane road. He’d scarcely spoken. She knew he was thinking about Will, and
about the awful day their best friend had died at her hands. She was surprised that even
after all these years he could look at her without recrimination.
         “What do you want me to say?” he asked quietly.
         Say you forgive me, she thought. Say you love me like I’ve always loved you. She
said instead, “Tell me first about the vandalism and theft.”
         “From the beginning?”
         “From wherever you want to start.” She glanced at him again and thought how
good he looked. His face was deeply tanned from days in the sun, and finely etched lines
added character to his eyes and mouth. In her mind she aged him another ten years, then
twenty more and knew that Jayce MacDermott would be one of those men who stayed
handsome into old age. He looked better and was in better shape now than he’d been at
eighteen. Men who worked with their hands and back every day didn’t need fancy gyms
and running shoes to keep fit like most of the men she knew. When they were kids she’d
thought Jayce MacDermott was cute. Now he was one of the most athletic and attractive
men she had ever seen.
         “We started this dig in the late spring,” he said, “with a grant from the Arizona
Museum of Antiquities.”
         He’d begun where she’d expected him to, at the beginning. Deliberate, methodical
MacDermott. He hadn’t changed in that respect.
         “I did my dissertation on the site,” he continued, turning toward her. “It fascinates
me. Though it’s controlled by the U.S. government now, this is aboriginal land. I think
Coyote Springs may have been an important religious center.” He paused. “I know it was.”
The lines around his mouth deepened when he frowned. “Unfortunately, I’m the only one
who ‘knows’it.” He shook his head. “That’s not true. Joseph Kotsyovi knew it, too. He was
a Hopi. He grew up on the reservation among some of the last of the old Traditionalists.”
Jayce’s voice grew regretful as he talked about his assistant. “He was a graduate student,
one of the brightest, most…committed… men I’ve ever known.” Jayce crossed his arms
across his broad chest. “But what the undersheriff said about our disagreements was true.
Joseph was adamant that Coyote Springs and everything there belongs to his people.
Unfortunately, the federal government and Museum of Antiquities disagree with him, and
they’re the ones with the clout and money to back up their opinion.”
         The BLM wasn’t the single government agency with an interest in Coyote Springs,
Meredith thought. She wished she could tell Jayce about Joseph’s drug investigation.
Perhaps it would help him better deal with the gruesome murder if he knew there was
probably more at stake than a few old pots. But she couldn’t tell him. “Go on,” she said.
         “When we first surveyed the site, we noted that grave robbers had dug holes in
many of the ruins,” Jayce told her. “Not that it was unexpected. Most sites in this area have
been compromised—some as early as the nineteenth c entury. But we were secluded
enough and far enough down that we were exploring virgin area. Anyway, a couple of
weeks into the dig we were hit by looters. We’d left some valuable artifacts in ground—
meaning we were planning to take them out after citing their exact position in relation to
the entrance and what have you—” He removed his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose.
“Anyway, big mistake. Overnight we lost a ceremonial pot that I’d bet my Ph.D. dated
back to the pre-Spanish, premissionary influence.” Even after he pushed his glasses back in
place, Meredith saw that his eyes were still focused on the past. “But the loss of the tihu
was the worst.”
        “Tihu?”
        “You’d call it a kachina.”
        “You mean like the fancy dolls you see in the southwestern gift shops?”
        Jayce smiled. “They weren’t very fancy in the fourteenth century, but the basic idea
is the same.” Meredith thought she detected a shift into professorial mode as he continued.
“The Katsina religion was prevalent in the early 1300’s when it began to produce the first
katsinam—kachinas—and the carvings that represent them. That’s what’s so significant
about our site.”
        “So what are the, um, katsinam?” Even as she asked it, Meredith didn’t know if she
was as interested in the Hopi culture as she was the light in Jayce’s eyes when he turned
toward her to explain it.
        The katsinam are…what’s the best word? . . . Spiritual messengers, I guess,
between the Hopi people and their God.”
        “You mean they’re angels?” Meredith’s eyebrows rose at the thought of the
brightly colored kachina figures she’d seen in the trading post decked out in feathers and
fur. “They certainly don’t look much like Moroni,” she teased.
         He returned the smile. “No, but their visits are more predictable. Depending on
which of the Three Mesas your village is on, they appear somewhere between December
and February at Powamuya, the bean dance, and stay until midsummer or Niman, the home
dance.”
        “The rest of the time they live in heaven?”
        “Almost,” he said. “They’re said to climb a ladder from the tops of the San
Francisco Peaks into the clouds.”
        The Peaks, Meredith knew, were the majestic mountains outside Flagstaff that
could be seen, brilliant blue and snow-peaked, throughout most of northern Arizona.
“Sounds like heaven to me.” She brushed a stray tendril of hair behind her ear before
returning her hand to the steering wheel. “And what do they do when they’re here on earth
with the Hopi?”
        “They keep busy. There are somewhere around three or four hundred of them,
depending on who you ask. Some of them control natural forces. They’re the ones who
bring rain and cause the crops to grow. Female kachinas are often associated with fertility
and healing. Others help out in everyday activities like inspiring artisans and keeping
utensils and pots from breaking. Then there’s a group that’s kind of like a kachina vice
squad.” He grinned. “Or maybe the Katsinam FBI. They punish offenders of ceremonial
law.”
        Meredith’s hands tightened on the wheel. The imaginary little alarm in her brain
had “pinged” but she couldn’t for the life of her imagine why.
        If Jayce noticed her small frown, he didn’t comment on it. Instead, he picked up
where he’d left off on his explanation of what had been happening at the dig. “Anyway,
aside from its intrinsic value, that tihu could have dated the site for us and pinpointed a
particular priesthood clan. That, in turn, might have helped us find the kiva.” At her
puzzled expression he added, “The kiva is the sacred, ceremonial center of the village. It
might have had a beamed roof like the pithouses, meaning it’s collapsed by now under ten
tons of dirt. But since the kivas were always underground to start with, some of the
aborigines used already-existing caverns and built their villages around them. Those are
the ones still intact waiting for an archeologist smart enough to find the entrance.” His grin
turned rueful. “In case you’re wondering, that isn’t me. If I don’t get my act together soon,
I’m going to lose funding, credibility…pretty much everything.” He shrugged. “And how
is your life?”
        Meredith was too absorbed in her thoughts to respond sympathetically or
otherwise. “Priesthood clan,” she repeated quietly, mostly to herself. Why had the alarm
“pinged” again at his mention of those two words? It wasn’t like she knew anything about
the Hopi culture. Had she read something about them? When? Where? Though she usually
found her brain’s exceptional minutiae-storing system invaluable, at times like these it was
merely annoying.
        “The clans were tied to the kachinas,” Jayce explained. “And their priesthood.
When we know an area’s kachinas, we know a whole lot about the history and culture of
their village.”
        “Do the Hopis still have clans?” she asked.
        “Thirty-some, I think. Most are familial and political now. With all the
modernization going on up at the reservation, there are very few of the old religious
ceremo nial clans left in the villages. Maybe one or two, and mostly nobody talks about
them to Pahaanas—uh, outsiders.”
        Meredith nodded, her frown deepening at what she thought she ought to remember,
but didn’t.
        “That’s the turn off to the site,” he said, touching her shoulder to draw her attention
to a narrow, unmarked dirt road that veered across the high desert about a hundred yards
farther down the highway.
        Meredith stepped so sharply on the brake that Fang slid from the leather seat in
back with a yelp of surprise. Awake again, he immediately set about an enthusiastic re-
exploration of Jayce’s ear.
        “Haven’t you heard the expression ‘let sleeping dogs lie?’” Jayce asked, trying
unsuccessfully to muzzle the pup with his left hand. “But to finish the story you weren’t
listening to, it’s when we lost the kachina that we hollered for the cavalry.”
        “By that you mean it’s when you called the federal and local authorities?”
        “Yeah,” Jayce said, “months ago. And let me say how much I appreciate your
speedy response.”
        Before she could blink he added, “kidding” with a grin as boyish and endearing as
it had been when they were school kids. Despite herself, she smiled. “Your response from
Sickel was better?”
        “Oh, yeah. Undersheriff Sicko and Deputy Dawg were there almost before you
could say Mesozoic.”
        Meredith laughed. She’d never been able to pronounce all the scientific terms that
came so easily for him. Her laughter surprised her. He had brought up the past again, but it
seemed…okay. Maybe they both realized that though they couldn’t change the past, nor
forget it, perhaps they could start over if they silently agreed to never mention the stunning
and horrible end to their wonderful friendship. “Sicko and Dawg, huh?”
        “Joseph nicknamed them,” Jayce said. “Their incompetence was the one thing on
which we agreed.”
        Meredith remembered the identical reports she’d seen earlier that day and hoped
Jayce was right, hoped the lawmen were incompetent and nothing more. “They aren’t real
helpful?”
        “They aren’t even real real,” he said. “They’re more like surreal.”
        She returned his grin. “So you set up your own watches?”
        “Me, Kotsyovi and Fred Crabtree. As rotten as it was, it beat getting robbed blind.
Not that it didn’t happen anyway.” He let out a long breath between his teeth. “You’ve
probably already seen it in the undersheriff’s report, but Joseph and I argued. He seemed to
think I was stealing the stuff myself.”
        She had seen it in a report—Kotsyovi’s report—and was glad Jayce had told her
himself. She said, “I understand you’ve been using remote sensors to warn you of
intruders.”
        “Another of my less-brilliant ideas,” he admitted. “Thanks to them we spend most
of the nights chasing coyotes and skunks.”
        “Those things aren’t very effective,” she agreed. Changing the subject, Meredith
asked, “Can you remember seeing anything strange at the scene this morning when you
found Joseph?”
        It was several seconds before Jayce responded. She knew he was trying to picture
the pithouse without calling to mind the body he’d seen there. “There were footprints,” he
said slowly, “lots of them. Some were kind of smallish, I think. I remember thinking they
couldn’t be Joseph’s. He wasn’t a big man, but you wouldn’t know it from his boot size.”
        “Did you notice anything odd about the walls inside the pithouse?” Meredith asked.
She hoped he could explain the odd-colored soil for her.
        Jayce removed his glasses as though it would help him see the past clearer. “One
wall was covered with blood,” he said in a voice so low she scarcely heard it.
        “Did you see anything else? On another wall? Paint, maybe?”
        “Paint?” He sounded surprised.
        “A couple of black and blue lines as if something had brushed against one wall and
rubbed paint off onto it.”
        “No,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it could be. From a shovel handle, maybe.
Ours are plain wood, but who knows what looters use.”
        She nodded, impressed, and made a mental note of it. “Tell me the rest,” she urged.
“Anything at all you saw that seemed unusual.”
        “The outside wall was broken in one place,” he said. “I tripped over one of the
rocks from it and fell. When I did I landed on a stone projectile that was sticking out of the
mud. I cut myself on it, picked it up, realized it had Joseph’s blood on it and threw it back
on the ground.” He shook his head. “Not very smart.”
        “Perfectly understandable,” Meredith said, “under the circumstances.” She cast him
a sidelong glance. “Was there anything odd about the…what did you call it . . . projectile?”
        “I didn’t concentrate on it at the time,” he said, “but now that you mention it,
everything about it was odd.”
        “Such as?”
        “Such as it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.” When she waited for him
to continue, he did. “It was chert and that was authentic enough to the time and place, but it
wasn’t a knife, I don’t think. It was more of a spearhead. The Hopi are agriculturalists;
they hunted small to medium-sized game. A spear that size could have brought down a
wooly mammoth.” He turned meaningfully toward the occupant of the back seat. “Or a pit
bull. Neither of which frequented the cornfields around the village, fortunately for the
Hopi.”
        He’d probably held the object less than five seconds, Meredith mused with growing
admiration, and yet he’d observed so much and extrapolated even more. If he ever got tired
of playing in the dirt, Dr. MacDermott would make one heck of an FBI agent. She’d never
wanted another partner, but if Jayce enlisted she might reconsider. “Anything else?”
        “I think that spear was machine made.” He pointed toward another, even narrower
road.
        In the distance she could see mounds of dirt that had to be the outer edge of the
newly excavated site. To one edge of the dig, probably a mile or so from where they were
now, was what looked like a storage shed. At the end of the road Jayce indicated was a
small, rounded trailer that, while obviously newer than the ruins, didn’t appear to Meredith
to be in much better condition. She headed toward it. “I thought the spear was modern,
too,” she said. “But I’m no expert. If you saw it again, could you tell for sure?” His
eyebrow rose and she added hastily, “Of course you could. You could swear to it, right?”
        “You mean in a court of law?” he asked. “As in, if my life depended on it?”
        He’d had a horrific day, she realized at once, the worst in a long succession of days
that must seem now to lead to the end of his career and, if local law enforcement had
anything to say about it, the end of his life. That was enough to discourage anybody. As
she pulled up in front of the rather pitiful place Dr. MacDermott called home, Meredith
had to remind herself that it would never occur to a “professional and objective” agent of
the FBI to yearn to lean across the seat and wrap her arms around the chief suspect in her
investigation. She scooted a little closer to her own door. “I think we’re here,” she said,
stating the obvious.
        “That’s her way of telling me to get out of your car,” Jayce told Fang as he opened
his door to oblige her. Before he closed the door he leaned in to hand Meredith a business
card. “Here’s my cell phone number,” he said. “And a complimentary set of fingerprints,
not that the FBI doesn’t already have them.”
        His warm, genuine smile had always reached his eyes. And from there it had
always caused a fluttering in Meredith’s heart like the one she felt now. In other words,
nothing she had done, nothing that had happened to her since she’d ostensibly “grown up”
had changed her feelings for Jayce. She stared down into her lap in dismay.
        “It’s great to see you again, McKay,” he said quietly. He stood and prepared to
close the door. “Thanks for the ride, and for springing me from jail.”
        Meredith knew it was her turn to say something, but feared that her voice would
give away the emotion she’d struggled with all day. She watched the embattled young
archeologist walk up the path toward his trailer. Then she put the Land Rover in reverse.
There was a great deal to be learned here at Coyote Springs. Sifting through the mysteries
of the past she could leave to Dr. MacDermott, but sorting out the sinister secrets of the
present was her job. She’d better drop Fang off at the motel and get to it, she thought.
                                                  ***
         Deputy Dodge met Meredith at the front door to the funeral parlor a couple of
hours later with a hangdog expression and a bleak, “Can’t say as I like this much, ma’am.”
         “I can’t say as it like it, either,” Meredith responded grimly. In fact, she hated it.
Nevertheless, she followed him down to the cold storage lockers in the basement. On the
way she wrinkled her nose at the sharp, medicinal smell of formaldehyde and began
automatically to breathe through her mouth, knowing from experience that the smell of a
dead body was far worse than that of the attendant chemicals. Her short gasps left puffs of
frozen breath floating in the chill of the deep freeze and she wished she’d thought to wear a
coat, if not to bring up a gas mask from Phoenix. Not that she’d been expecting to visit a
morgue.
         Dodge led the way to the only occupied gurney, checked the toe tag just in case and
said, “Here’s the guy.”
         Meredith set her canvas case on the edge of the gurney, then closed her eyes for a
moment before unzipping the bag to reveal the blue-gray face of Joseph Kotsyovi.
Although she hadn’t known him personally, death was always hard to view, and her
empathy was particularly keen since this was a colleague; one of their own. She gripped
the edge of the table until her knuckles went white and waited for her heart rate to return to
near normal. Do your job and you can get out, she reminded herself, knowing she’d do it
as quickly as humanly possible.
         Meredith opened the case to remove a pair of rubber gloves. After pulling them on,
she offered a second pair to the deputy who paled and took a quick step back with both
hands held behind his back. Turning back to the body, Meredith had to admit that she
didn’t blame Deputy Dodge a bit.
         With as much cool objectivity as she could muster, Meredith took note of the marks
on Joseph’s neck and the right side of his face. It appeared as though he’d been hit by the
edge of a blunt weapon of some sort before his throat had been slit from ear to ear—almost
ceremoniously. She measured the bruises and the open wound, then steeled herself to zip
the bag open to the waist so she could lift the cold, stiff arm of this ill-fated young Hopi.
         “Can you move that light closer, please?” she asked, removing from the case the
photographic paper and dusting powder she’d need to fingerprint the corpse’s wrist. As an
afterthought, she removed a small silver plate and two storage envelopes while the deputy
complied with her request. She pressed the paper to the dry skin and removed it quickly,
then repeated the procedure with the silver plate. As she had hoped, the fingerprints came
relatively cleanly off Joseph’s thick wrist. If there was a match to them in the FBI’s
extensive database, the case would be solved. If not, at least they’d have something more
to go on.
         Under the new light, a few white wisps of something caked in the blood beneath
Joseph’s neck caught her attention. After carefully stowing away the fingerprints, she
removed a pair of tweezers and a sterile plastic bag from her case.
         “Should you be doing that?” Dodge asked in alarm. “I oughtta call the boss before
you—”
         “This is a federal case,” Meredith reminded him. She tweezed the fiber into the
bag. “There are plenty left for the autopsy, and I’m sure Undersheriff Sickel will hear the
results from your medical examiner before I get the results back from my lab.” She offered
a thin smile meant to be reassuring. “You know how slow the government is.”
         “You got that right.”
         Meredith closed the bag and returned it to her case before casting Dodge a look she
hoped would be mistaken for admiration. “I’ve noticed how thorough you and the
undersheriff are. It’s very impressive.” When his chest expanded an inch or so in pride she
added, “You’re so thorough, in fact, that you seem to write identical reports.”
         Uncertainty flickered across the deputy’s face before it was replaced by a frown.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
         Meredith zipped the body bag closed before turning away from the corpse. “I read
all the undersheriff’s report and part of yours. In what I read, you used the same
descriptions and phrases. Deputy, you even used the same words.”
         Dodge wouldn’t meet her eyes. He moved the lamp back across the room and
flicked it off. “Me and the undersheriff have the same writing style is all,” he said. “We,
uh, went to the same schools here in Winslow, you know.”
         “Of course,” Meredith said. “That would explain it.” In about a hundred million
years. Not that what he said made any difference. His body language had already dispelled
any doubt she might have had that the similarities in the reports were merely coincidence.
She walked toward the door, grateful that the unpleasant task was behind her. “Thanks for
the explanation, Mr. Dodge, and for your time tonight. You’ve been very helpful. The FBI
appreciates your professionalism and courtesy.”
         Mollified, the deputy followed her back up the stairs and escorted her to her vehicle
where he opened the door for her. Before he closed it he leaned close. “A little
more…what did you call it…professional courtesy?” His voice lowered. “Watch yourself
out at Coyote Springs, Ms. McKay. There’s never been anything around those ruins but
trouble.”
         Meredith regarded him for a long moment wondering if this were a threat or a
warning, but his expression was unreadable. “Thanks,” she said at last. “I’ll do that.”
         She started the engine, put the car in reverse, and rolled down the window, grateful
for the sharp breeze to whisk out the odor of death that clung to her clothes. She needed
fresh air to clear the chemicals from her brain so she could think. As she pulled onto the
highway to head for the motel, she mentally reviewed Joseph Kotsyovi’s last report, the
one in which he had accused Jayce of stealing ancient Hopi artifacts from his own dig.
         What if I’m wrong about Jayce’s honorable nature? Meredith thought. After all,
she’d seen for herself where he lived. Joseph hadn’t exaggerated the professor’s need for
money. And she’d been in law enforcement long enough to know that most people, if
stretched to the very limit and given a perfect opportunity, were capable of theft. But that
didn’t mean they were also capable of murder. Might Jayce have been involved in one, but
not the other?
         Without realizing she was doing it, Meredith shook her head. No matter what the
preponderance of circumstantial evidence implied, she couldn’t believe Jayce was anything
but what he seemed: decent and discouraged and in over his head. But as cryptic as the
deputy’s warning was, it was probably still good advice. Whether Jayce was innocent or
guilty, after all the emotions that had resurfaced at seeing him again, Meredith knew she
ought to indeed watch herself carefully around him. But not, perhaps, for any reason the
deputy might have had in mind.
                                            Chapter 6
         The sun that rose Wednesday morning after the soaking rain revealed a desert
speckled silver-green with plants come newly back to life. With the revitalized plants and
still-visible puddles came a resurgence of animal activity.
         It was a miracle of which Jayce never tired. He stood at the door of his trailer, a
door he’d deliberately faced to the east as had all the aboriginal builders who had gone
before him. He watched a roadrunner race toward its nest in the nearby boulders with a
snake more than twice its own length clamped securely in its strong, black beak. Breakfast.
         Jayce’s stomach rumbled and he realized it had been twenty-four hours since his
last meal—a meal he had lost soon after eating it, he recalled grimly. He put the thought
out of his mind and weighed the idea of using a small amount of precious propane to fry up
a couple of eggs. But that would mean going back inside, and the lure of this incredible
new day was too powerful. With his eyes on the sun-washed mesa, he reached behind
himself for an apple from the tiny table that comprised three-fourths of the trailer’s
kitchen. If there was an advantage to living in a one-room aluminum hovel, it was that
everything was within easy reach.
          Including the cell phone. If he could find it. The high, insistent ring was
incongruous with the quiet of the land and grated his morning-healed nerves raw once
again. He tossed clothes and sketches and archeological tools aside and finally found the
thing under the rumpled bed sheets. He answered it at last on the fifth ring.
         “Jayce?”
         Was he still asleep? How many times had he dreamed of picking up the phone and
hearing Meredith’s voice on the other end of the line? He tossed the apple out to the birds
and ants. If he was asleep, he didn’t want to risk accidentally biting his tongue and waking
himself up.
         “Jayce?”
         “Yeah,” he said, his tongue thick and uncooperative. “Uh, good morning. How, er,
how are you?”
         “Well, I need a favor.”
         He could tell by the tone of her voice that she needed it badly. “You’ve got it,” he
said. “Which of my kidneys do you want?”
         “It’s nothing that drastic,” she replied, her voice lightening with relief. “I need a
place to leave Fang.”
         It sure didn’t take very many words to change a dream into a nightmare, especially
when one of those words was synonymous with “pit bull.” Jayce leaned against the
doorframe. “You sure you can’t use a kidney?”
         She laughed, but it was nervous. “I had a little trouble with the puppy last night.”
         “Who did he ‘taste’?”
         “He’d never bite!” she protested. “But while I was down at the morgue he chewed
up a pillow in the hotel room.”
         “That’s not too bad—”
         “Unfortunately, the pillow was the appetizer,” Meredith confessed. “When he
finished with it, he tore up most of the mattress.”
         “Still—”
         “And he broke a lamp. But that was an accident. I think it fell off the table when he
pulled the phone cord out of the wall.” She added sheepishly, “He loves to play tug.”
        “Uh-huh.”
        “Jayce, he tore most of the Old Testament out of the Gideon’s Bible!”
        One corner of Jayce’s mouth rose despite himself. “Not what Nephi had in mind
when he said to ‘feast upon the words of Isaiah.’ ”
        “I told him he could go to…heck…for that, and he’s sorry.”
        “Yeah,” Jayce said, trying to stifle a chuckle at both the concept of a contrite pit
bull and Meredith’s effort to avoid offending him with her language. Clearly, she still
thought he was a prude. By most modern definitions she was right. “Everybody’s sorry
when faced with ‘heck,’ ” he said.
        “But the motel manager is most upset about the carpet.” She paused. “Please don’t
ask.”
        Jayce hadn’t intended to.
        Meredith concluded in a rush, “And although I’m going to pay for everything, of
course, the manager said that if I didn’t have Fang off his property in five minutes he’d call
Undersheriff Sicko. I mean Sickel. I mean…oh, Jayce, may I please bring him out there?
I’ve been driving around because I don’t have anywhere to take him and, besides, I’ve seen
your place and—” her words ended abruptly.
        He finished the thought for her. “You figure that even a one-dog demolition squad
can’t negatively affect it?”
        “That’s not what I mean,” she objected. “Your home is…nice. I’m saying I’m
desperate and, well, you do live at the edge of ruins.”
        Jayce couldn’t bring himself to tell her how carefully excavated and preserved his
ruins were, or that shabby as it was, the trailer was all he owned since he’d sold his house
to help finance the dig. He couldn’t tell her anything that would prevent him from being
able to see her this morning. So she was bringing a juvenile delinquent of the pit bull
variety, so what? It could be worse. She could be bringing a…okay, so he couldn’t think of
anything worse than a pit bull. “Bring him over,” he said. “But meet me at the base. It’s
that big shed you can see from the road.”
        “Jayce, thank you—” she began.
        “It’s okay,” he interrupted. “The one thing I haven’t tried around here is a guard
dog. Probably all I needed to protect the pithouses from the start was a ‘Beware of Pit
Bull’sign.” He couldn’t resist adding, “And if ever there was a dog to beware of, it’s that
one.”
        After turning off the phone, Jayce dropped it in a knapsack that he then looped over
his shoulder. He locked the trailer door on his way out and pulled a damp tarp from over
the top of a small dirt bike, gratified that he’d maintained the machine well enough to keep
it running. It wasn’t much transportation, but it’s all he’d have until—unless—he got his
truck back from the sheriff’s office.
         Once again, the clear, clean day was a tonic to his nerves and Jayce wondered how
human beings could survive in a city. If his work here at Coyote Springs ever paid off and
he had the money and prestige to swing it, he’d never go back to his cramped office at the
university and the mostly bored, vacuous stares of kids enrolled in Archeology 101 for an
“easy” Humanities credit. He’d stay out in the field until he was a relic himself.
         As he rode past PH6 on his way to the base, Jayce admired the ancient village
anew and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to be living where he was and doing what he
loved to do. Then he added his gratitude that after more than ten lonely years Meredith
McKay had miraculously walked back into his life. Could things get any better than this?
         Nearing the site’s research building, he saw Fred Crabtree’s black Silverado parked
outside and remembered that things definitely could get better. Where had his mind been?
Jayce brought the bike to a slow stop and knew where his mind had been—himself and
Meredith. He should have remembered to cancel last night’s watch. And, he knew with a
sharp stab of regret, he should have used his one call from jail to tell Fred about Joseph’s
murder. The two young Hopis were from Oraibi up on Third Mesa. They might have been
related; Jayce remembered Joseph saying they were almost clansmen when he’d urged
Jayce to take Fred on at the site. At any rate, Jayce thought, though he’d deliberately failed
to call in today’s crews in order to give himself another day to share the shocking news,
Fred would already know.
         Jayce leaned his bike against the building, drew a deep breath, and pulled open the
heavy metal door. Fred stood at a nearby table, his back to the entrance. Jayce cleared his
throat. “Fred—”
         The young man turned swiftly, his hands balled into fists. “I’m cataloguing new
artifacts,” he said defensively.
         “Sure,” Jayce said, surprised at the outburst. “Great.” He took a step forward. “I . . .
I’m sorry about Joseph.”
         “Are you?”
         Jayce’s chin dropped of its own volition toward his chest. “Yes, I am. He was a
good man.”
         “That’s why you wouldn’t listen to him?”
         Jayce’s face rose and he extended a hand. “I listened, Fred. And it wasn’t so much
that I disagreed with him, even. I believe in his cause, to a point. But I didn’t create the
cultural and legal circumstances we’re in here and there’s nothing I can do to change
them.”
         “Nothing? Seems to me that Joseph’s death’s changed quite a few things.” Fred’s
black eyes flashed. “The way I see it, your life just got a lot easier.”
         Jayce blanched. “Surely you don’t think—”
         “If I did, I wouldn’t be alone.” His broad, bronzed face was anguished as he stuck
his fists into his pants pockets.
         “I don’t think you mean that, Fred,” Jayce said. “I feel as bad about Joseph as you
do.” When Fred turned away, Jayce added quietly, “You have my word that I’ll do
everything I can to find out who killed Joseph and who’s stealing the artifacts he died to
protect.”
         Fred didn’t respond, so Jayce walked over to where he stood staring down at the
table. He reached out to clasp the young Hopi’s shoulder, thought better of it, and stood by
mute and miserable. With the advantage of height, he was able to look over Fred’s
shoulder. By force of habit, he scanned the pottery on the tray. Unable to offer condolences
to Fred, Jayce’s inborn curiosity got the best of him. “Where did you find those?”
         Fred shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Outside Pithouse 1.”
         “Really?” Jayce’s eyebrow arched. “We missed something there?”
         Crabtree shrugged. “Rain must have brought pieces to the surface.”
         “And you happened by or…” His confusion genuine, Jayce was nonplused at the
volatile response.
        Crabtree’s thick black braid whipped against his red flannel shirt as he turned,
pushed roughly past Jayce and stomped toward the door. “I don’t have to stand here for an
interrogation, Doctor,” he said. “Especially when everybody knows you’re the one who’s
under investigation!”
        Jayce winced when the door slammed. Fred had always been genial and easy-
going. On more than one occasion he’d taken Jayce’s side in his ongoing argument with
Joseph, and Jayce considered him an ally, and a friend. Perhaps, Jayce thought as he turned
back to the tray, Fred felt as guilty about those disagreements, and about Joseph’s death, as
he did himself.
        Determined to think about something besides Joseph, Jayce focused on the as-yet-
unidentified potshard in his hand. It looked fourteenth c entury, so it fit the time and place
they were working. Oddly, it also looked as though it had recently broken. He ran his
finger along the sharp, jagged surface, then reached for a pick to scrape a microscopic
amount of ochre-colored dust onto a slide.
        “No way,” he said aloud as he removed his glasses to peer into a microscope.
        “No way what?” Meredith asked from the open door.
        Jayce jumped and turned toward her. “Do they teach you that in FBI school?”
        Meredith smiled. “Again I’ll ask you: ‘what?’”
        “How to open doors without making a sound,” Jayce said, drawing in his breath at
the sight of her. The FBI couldn’t have taught her to look so stunning. For that she needed
only the natural grace and beauty she’d possessed all her life. Even in a T -shirt and jeans,
with the morning sun bringing out the burnished highlights in her braided hair, Jayce
thought she made a better apparition than agent.
        “I don’t think I’m as quiet as you are absorbed,” she said, letting the door close
quietly behind her. “I chained Fang up outside. Tell me what you’re looking at that’s so
interesting.”
        He pulled up a stool for her as she approached the bench. When she sat down and
put her eye to the lens of his microscope he said, “That’s what’s so interesting. You’re
looking at twenty-first century pigment.”
        “Meaning paint?”
        “Yes. It’s from this piece.”
        She leaned back and accepted the small square of pottery he dropped into her palm.
Turning it over she said, “But it looks old to me.”
        “It does to me, too,” he admitted. “I might not have put it under the ’scope except
that the edge there shows it was recently broken, and there’s no matching piece on the
tray.” He smiled down at her. “Something that’s been underground for thousands of years
is usually a little worn around the edges.”
        “So this is modern clay?”
        “Well, the clay itself is as old as dirt,” he teased. “It’s the pigment on it that was
made within the last decade.”
        “In other words, the pot it came from couldn’t be as old as this looks.”
        “Correct. But it sure could have fooled me. For one thing, it’s been fired with coal.”
        She looked as confused as most of his first-year students. “Sorry, professor,” she
said. “You’ve lost me.”
        “The evolution of Hopi pottery parallels their history,” he explained. “The oldest
distinctly Hopi pot is from about 500 AD and was wood fired, as were all the pots for the
next seven centuries. But there was the Great Drought in the 1200’s which made wood
scarce, so the potters began to use coal fires. When the Spaniards came and brought sheep
to the area in the late 1500’s, dried sheep dung replaced coal.”
         He grinned at the crinkling of her nose. She still had a few freckles on it that even
carefully applied makeup couldn’t conceal. They were as appealing now as they’d been
when she was ten . Jayce had been about sixteen when he first started thinking about
kissing the cinnamon sprinkle. He’d probably be dead before he could stop thinking about
it.
         “Don’t knock it,” he said, forcing his thoughts back to sheep doo. You can’t beat
dung as a natural resource. It’s cheap and the supply is almost unlimited.”
         “Doesn’t it smell bad?”
         “Not particularly, but it does give food cooked over it a rather distinct flavor.” Her
“ugh” made him laugh.
         She fingered the shard. “Where did this come from?”
         Jayce was slow to reply. “Fred Crabtree said he picked it up outside of PH1. He
thought maybe it had washed up in the rainstorm.”
         “You don’t think so,” she observed.
         “Let’s say it’s highly unlikely.” When she motioned for him to go on he added, “As
I said, it’s not old and the edge is too rough to have been buried long. Besides, we’ve
cleared that surface down to some pretty hard clay. There’s nothing left underneath to turn
up after an earthquake, let alone a rain shower.” He expelled a breath as the significance of
what he’d told Meredith hit him. Not only was somebody stealing authentic artifacts, they
were apparently planting fakes—even broken ones. What was going on around here?
         “Is Fred Crabtree the man who left as I came?” Meredith asked.
         Jayce nodded, his mind still on the mysterious potshard.
         “He seemed upset.”
         “Huh?”
         “Mr. Crabtree,” she said. “I’d say by the way he stormed out of here that you two
quarreled.”
         “No,” Jayce said. “But he was upset.” He leaned against the bench, facing her. “He
and Kotsyovi were friends. Clansmen, I think. He’s taking Joseph’s death real hard.” He
couldn’t meet her blue eyes. “He blames me for it.”
         “Clansmen?” she repeated.
         Jayce couldn’t help but think that she’d missed the most important part of the
statement—the part where he’d admitted that Fred had all but accused him of murder.
         She asked, “What kind of clan?”
         “I don’t know,” he said. “Like I told you yesterday, the Hopi clans keep to
themselves. I’m trying to say that he and Joseph were close. It was Joseph who convinced
me to take Fred on here at Coyote Springs.”
         “How long has he worked here?”
         At last Jayce realized this wasn’t an idle tell-me-about-your-work conversation
between old friends. Meredith was an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and he
was the chief suspect in an embezzlement/murder investigation. Probably she’d used her
dog as a ploy to make him feel they were still chums in the hopes he’d be more candid.
         And it had worked. Up to now, that is. He pulled out another stool and sank down
on it. “You want to take notes or tape record my official statement or what?”
         A moment of hesitancy flickered across her face and was gone, replaced by a smile
that was only somewhat less attractive for being forced. “No, you just talk. I have a very
good memory.” When he didn’t speak at once she added, “You were telling me about Fred
Crabtree.”
         “Fred’s been here almost as long as I have,” Jayce related obediently. “I pay him a
pittance, but he puts in enough hours for two men.”
         “You’re saying he volunteers around the dig even when he’s not paid for it?”
         “Yeah. He’s never been as…intense…as Joseph, but he’s just as dedicated to his
heritage. I think that’s why he’s willing to work so hard and even pull guard duty. The
antiquities we find seem to mean a lot to him.”
         “What did he do before he came to work here?”
         “He’s a Traditionalist,” Jayce said, “so I doubt he worked off the reservation. But I
think he has a less-traditional brother or cousin or someone who owns a trading post that’s
off-reservation. Fred does something for it, I think.” He shrugged. “I don’t ask for a
resume from people who are willing to work for free.”
         “Where was he on Monday night?” Meredith asked.
         “When Joseph was killed? Probably up on Third Mesa. Yesterday began the
sixteen-day Niman festival. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised he was here today. It’s
about eighty miles up to Oraibi and the roads between here and there are bad, nonexistent
after a rain.” He frowned and concluded, “He must have come back because of Joseph’s
death.”
         Meredith pulled a small palm pilot from the back pocket of her jeans and flipped it
open. “I think I will take a few notes,” she said, scribbling hastily with the stylus. “Go on.”
         “With what?” he asked, a little irritated now despite himself. He didn’t know what
he’d expected from her visit this morning, but it hadn’t been for her to out-Sickel the
undersheriff in an interrogation.
         “What else do you know about Crabtree?”
         “Sorry,” he said. “I’ve emptied the well. I’m not the world’s most gregarious
person, as you might recall.” He gathered up the shards from the tray, intending to examine
each one at length when she left—an event he was beginning to hope would happen soon.
Suddenly, he knew how to hasten her departure and mumbled, “If I were Will, I’d know
every detail of the life of every person who ever set foot on this site. But I’m still me,
McKay. I barely remember to take my head out of the ground long enough to call my
grandmother, let alone exchange small talk with the person in the next hole.”
         Jayce had hit a nerve by bringing up the memory of his best friend and her old love,
and he knew it. What he didn’t know was if he was glad of it.
         After several seconds of silence Meredith said, “Humor me, MacDermott. Tell me
if you know any reason Crabtree would carry a knife the size of a machete around in his
truck.”
         Startled, Jayce looked up from his pottery. “A machete?”
         “He had a wicked-looking weapon on the passenger’s seat just now. He didn’t use
it for guard duty, by chance?”
         Jayce made a face. “Not that I know of. I guess anything’s possible after he heard
Joseph was killed.”
         “I think he had more knives wrapped up in a cloth on the floor.” She looked
regretful. “I couldn’t unwrap them without a search warrant, of course. Do you use big
knives around here?”
         “Not usually.” Remembering that he was practically under oath he added, “Not
ever. We use pocketknives for scrapings and prying small objects out of the ground, but
nothing like you’re talking about.”
         Meredith frowned at the shards in his hands. “I don’t suppose you have anything
lying around that Crabtree handled that you haven’t already smeared the prints on?”
         Jayce lay the pottery down sheepishly. “Probably not. You might try the tray they
were on.” Suddenly he was inspired. “Or the inside door knob—unless you smeared the
prints on the way in.”
         She smiled. “The doorknob will work fine. I’ll lift the prints from it before we
leave.” She held up the shard still in her hand. “May I keep this?”
          Jayce hesitated. “Isn’t this what you feds call entrapment?” When she looked
puzzled he added, “It’s a crime to let anything leave federal land unless it’s accompanied
by about sixty-eight pages of official documentation. Don’t you figure you have enough
charges against me by now without adding this puny felony?”
         “I don’t think the law applies to forgeries,” she said with a smile, “nor to giving it
to an FBI agent.” She pocketed the shard and added, “Is this the first time something like
this has happened? I mean, you’ve authenticated everything else from the site?”
          His eyes traveled over the floor-to-ceiling shelves that lined one wall. There were
hundreds of trays on those shelves containing thousands of pieces of pottery, baskets,
bones, and rock utensils. The thought of putting each piece of pottery under the
microscope was mind-boggling. But the thought of missing even one good fake and thus
having the integrity of the whole dig—not to mention his professional credentials—called
into question was even worse. For a moment, he couldn’t speak.
         “Have you heard of forgery happening before?” she pressed.
         When he looked into her eyes they were warm and sympathetic. He swallowed and
said, “A few years ago they had a thing over at Chaco in New Mexico. In their case a local
potter thought he could make a name for himself by fooling the expert archeologists.”
Jayce massaged the bridge of his nose, trying to remember the story. “He almost got away
with it. He was good. He aged the pots, buried them correctly, the whole nine yards. It took
dumb luck and microscopic analysis to catch on to him.”
         “Was the potter prosecuted?” Meredith was back to scribbling on the tiny screen,
though how any microchip could decipher her lousy penmanship was beyond Jayce’s
ability to grasp. She looked up long enough to ask, “Where is the potter now?”
         Jayce raised his hands. “Got me, McKay. I don’t even know the guy’s name. I was
in graduate school when I heard about it. It was a big flap at the time, then life went on.
Except for the lead archeologist, of course. I hear he’s digging ditches for the sewer lines
over in Taos nowadays.” Meredith’s blue eyes widened and Jayce was forced to laugh.
“Hey, it beats making license plates in prison, which is beginning to look like my next
career move.”
         Her lips curved up just enough to make his heart skip a beat. “Don’t worry,
MacDermott. They don’t let the men on death row out for work.” She closed her palm
pilot, stood, and returned it to her pocket. “And I, for one, don’t think you’re headed up the
river. Not yet, anyway.” She looked up at the bare fluorescent bulbs overhead and
suppressed a shudder. “It’s too nice of a day to spend in here. I’ll take Crabtree’s prints
then you can show me around the site.” Her smile widened. “I didn’t watch those Indiana
Jones videos with you all those hundreds of times for nothing. I want to see how a real
professor of archeology spends his summer vacations.
        Jayce started to tell her that real professors of archeology on real digs were roughly
as glamorous as turnip farmers, but caught himself. Maybe it wasn’t such a stretch. After
all, he was still short on invaluable artifacts and bullwhips, but suddenly long on beautiful
women . . . and blood. To carry it further, he had Sickel to stand in for the Nazis and Fang
to play the part of a half dozen crazed natives—at least.
        He reached for his canvas ball cap with a scarcely suppressed sigh. It should have
been a fedora.
                                        Chapter 7
        Forget Indiana Jones. Meredith would take Jayce MacDermott as her archeologist-
of-choice any day. She didn’t know where the time went in the hours they spent walking
together across the desert, but she hadn’t felt so totally at peace in years. Maybe it was the
warmth of the sun on her cheeks and the vastness of the horizon before her—balm to her
soul after years in the hectic, paved and refrigerated desert that was modern-day Phoenix.
Perhaps it was the comical roadrunner now racing the Land Rover across the red dirt that
made her smile, or the majestic hawk circling overhead in the perfect blue sky that made
her sigh. Perhaps. But probably it was being with Jayce again.
        Without realizing it, she slowed the SUV as his trailer came into view. He hadn’t
spoken for a few minutes and she was grateful for his natural quietude and the chance it
gave her to think.
        What had happened to her since the awful day all those years ago when she had lost
him? So many of the most meaningful things in her life had slipped away. She’d left
Jayce—and the Church—in guilt and confusion over killing Will, but she’d never forgotten
what she knew was true. Despite a career outside the norm of LDS womanhood,
Meredith’s sins had been ones of omission, but today she regretted even those and the gulf
they had created between her and those she loved—Jayce and her Father in Heaven. She
was still desperately sorry about Will, but wondered if her self-imposed exile from
everything that was truly important had to be her penance for as long as she lived.
        “I think we’ve lost her,” Jayce told the dog in the back seat.
        Startled from her thoughts, Meredith looked at him in confusion.
        “The posted speed limit out here is whatever your vehicle can handle,” Jayce said
with a grin. “Offhand I’d say this beauty of yours is capable of more than ten miles an
hour.”
        Meredith glanced down at the speedometer, saw she was doing twelve, and stepped
on the accelerator abruptly enough to cause the car to lurch. “Sorry. I was thinking…
About Will.”
        Jayce’s lips formed a thin line and he didn’t respond.
        Talk about it, she commanded herself. Tell Jayce how sorry you are still. Tell him
how much you’ve missed him and the Church. Say—Her lips parted and her eyes shifted
toward her companion long enough to see that he had turned away to stare out the
passenger’s window. In life Will had always seemed to stand between them, tall and
handsome and always sure of himself. In death his presence had grown larger yet. It was
too big to broach. She cleared her throat, the silence between them now unbearable.
        “The car was a gift from my parents,” she said, willing the quaver out of her voice.
Please make him talk to me again.
        “It’s great,” Jayce said, as if her prayer was recorded in heaven and answered on
earth simultaneously.
        But there was pain in the eyes he turned back to her and she looked quickly away.
“They were in…Europe, I think…maybe Asia…on my birthday. When they came back
they felt typically bad for forgetting all about me and bought me a forest green, fully-
equipped Eddie Bauer Land Rover to make up for it.” As soon as the words were out, she
regretted them. He knew all about her parents and how absorbed they were in each other—
how casual they were about their only child. She’d had everything money could buy in
childhood, but little else. She should have thought of another subject to broach. Something
less painful.
         “Your parents have always been…world-class shoppers,” Jayce said carefully.
         The hurt in his eyes had been replaced by pity. Meredith didn’t know if she felt
better or worse. She needed yet another topic. “But you know who sent me a beautiful
birthday gift on exactly the right day?”
         Jayce shook his head.
         “Your grandmother.” When he looked surprised she added, “She hasn’t missed a
birthday or Christmas since I was five. You didn’t know that?”
         “I know she still corresponds with you,” he said slowly.
         “She writes to me every month. In the spring she sends me seeds for the flower
garden she keeps urging me to plant. In the summer she sends potpourri from her garden so
I’ll know what I miss by not planting my own, and in the fall she sends a box of preserves
and bottled tomatoes.” This topic wasn’t any better, Meredith realized as tears sprung
unbidden to her eyes at the thought of Lydia MacDermott, a woman she loved as much as
her own grandmother. In another minute, she feared, she was going to break down in front
of Jayce and sob for all the years of missed gardens…and possibilities.
         Thank goodness they were at his place at last.
         As she blinked furiously to clear her eyes, she saw that he hadn’t noticed her
emotion. He was looking at his trailer, the front door of which was hanging open at an odd
angle, nearly ripped from its hinges. Her years of professional training came immediately
and automatically to the forefront. “Stay in the car,” she commanded.
         He’d already opened his door and climbed out. In less time than it took to say “No,
Fang!” the pit bull followed in a single bound.
         “Jayce, stop!” she yelled, reaching frantically for the glove compartment and the
small service revolver stowed therein.
         He turned toward the desperation in her voice.
         She had the gun at last. “Don’t go in there!” she called, showing him the weapon.
“Let me go first.”
         His shock was in her favor. She was out of the Rover and to the door before he’d
recovered enough to move.
         “Meredith!” he protested from over her shoulder.
         She ignored him and blocked the door as, gun in hand, she surveyed the shambles
of the small room. It was clear that Dr. MacDermott didn’t own much, but what little he
did own had been upended, overturned, or strewn about. “Is that the bathroom?” she asked,
motioning toward the single interior door.
         “Yeah,” he said, but it was more of a moan than an answer.
         “Wait here.” Meredith made her way gingerly across the debris to the open door.
She always erred on the side of caution but, as she had expected, the bathroom was also
unoccupied. She lowered the gun and returned to the front door, urging him back outside.
“Don’t touch anything until we’ve called the undersheriff. I want him to see this place
exactly as it is now.” And, she thought, I want to watch his reaction when he sees it.
         While Jayce called the sheriff’s office, Meredith walked around the outer perimeter
of the trailer. He had the whole plateau for a yard, but it wasn’t much to brag about. Tufts
of deer grass eked out a meager existence here and there in the red clay soil. Scraggly,
water-starved alligator junipers were all that passed for trees as far as the eye could see.
The trailer wasn’t much, either. Meredith suspected it was quite a bit older than its
occupant.
         Circling to the south-side window, she noted that the ground was still damp, even
soggy in places. Under the window were two sets of footprints, one small and shallow, the
other larger and deeper, indicating a significant difference of height and weight between
the owners of the respective shoes. Neither sole print matched the ones from the murder
scene, but Meredith didn’t expect them to. Nobody would continue to wear boots that had
been spattered with a man’s blood. She measured and recorded the prints, then walked
back to the Rover for plaster. “Is the undersheriff on the way?” she asked Jayce.
         “ETA, twelve minutes,” he said, mimicking the undersheriff’s deep drawl. Then he
added, “If he makes it on time he’ll have shaved three minutes off yesterday’s time.”
         Meredith opened the back of her vehicle to take plaster mix and a bottle of water
from the steel utility box. Fang appeared at her side, an excited squirming mass of always-
hungry puppy. “Sorry, but I’m not making your lunch here,” she told the dog as she mixed
the goo. “Go grab a lizard.”
         “Bad idea,” Jayce said. He unzipped another compartment of his knapsack. “Out
here ‘lizard’often means ‘gila monster’, and they’ve been known to grab back.” He took
out a thick slice of jerky and held it out to the dog. “Try this instead.”
         Fang, Meredith noted with a smile, was in puppy heaven. Even his impressive
chompers would be kept busy for a few minutes and Jayce had made a friend for life.
Maybe longer. She poured some of the water from her jug into a bowl and set it in the dirt
for Fang. “Keep him with you for a sec while I go make some molds, okay?” When Jayce
agreed she returned to the window, filled the two sets of prints, and set the timer on her
watch. She resumed the search while they set.
         A ragged scrap of red flannel caught beneath the window drew her attention.
Meredith removed a coin envelope and small tweezers from her pocket. She knew she
ought to leave the clue for the undersheriff. She also knew she wasn’t going to. She hadn’t
been able to observe Fred Crabtree as closely as she would have liked this morning at the
base, but she had seen him clearly enough to remember that he wore a red flannel shirt.
She dropped the piece of fabric into the makeshift envelope and continued her tour of the
trailer, finally finishing back in front where she’d begun.
         Fang had devoured Jayce’s jerky, upset his water bowl, and was now digging
furiously at the muddy spot it had left in the clay. Jayce seemed to watch intently, but
maybe he was in shock from what he’d seen inside his home.
         “You and Fang have a lot in common,” Meredith said, hoping to lighten the mood.
“He likes to dig as much as you do.”
         “I was trying to figure out how to harness all that energy,” Jayce replied. “If I could
train pit bulls to be selective in their digging I might be able to revolutionize the field of
archeology.”
         “Good luck with the training,” she said. “That particular pit bull has certificates
from three different obedience schools, and you can see for yourself where all that canine
education’s gotten him.” She sat next to Jayce on the narrow metal stairs that led up to the
trailer door. “Or he had certificates, I should say, until he shredded them.”
         Jayce mustered a weak grin. “Good thing for him he has an alibi for the time my
place was destroyed or he’d top my list of suspects.”
         She turned toward him, asking herself if she should show him the scrap of flannel.
“So who does top it?”
        “McKay, my list is so short it doesn’t have a top, bottom, or middle. I can’t
imagine who’d do something like this. Or why.”
        “It doesn’t look like a professional job,” she began, but caught herself when he
laughed. “What?”
        “That sounds like something you’d hear on a crime drama on TV,” he guffawed.
“You’re saying the FBI has extensive files on professional trailer-trashers?”
        “You’re right,” she agreed with a smile, but it was short lived. “Jayce, do you have
any enemies?”
        He stopped laughing. “Of course not.”
        “Has anybody threatened you in the last several months?”
        He stretched his long legs out over the dirt. “Nobody but Terrence Kaub, the
museum director, and in the past he’s used much more subtle tactics to get what he wants.”
        “Did you have anything of value inside?” she asked. Then she added quickly, “I
mean of a significant monetary value.”
        “Like the Holy Grail or Ark of the Covenant?”
        “More like artifacts from the site.”
        “Absolutely not,” he said. “That’s unethical, even on a small dig like this. Every
item we’ve pulled from that ground is already at the museum or numbered, catalogued, and
locked up at the base.”
        Meredith wasn’t surprised to hear it. “Was there else anything inside that somebody
might have wanted?” She searched his honest face. “For any reason?”
        He shook his head, then reconsidered and stood in concern. “My site journal,
maybe.”
        “What was in it?” she asked hastily.
        “Information about the site,” he said. “What we’ve found here. What I hope to
find.”
        “Where you hope to find it?” Meredith asked.
        “Yes. It has all my maps, drawings, and calculations.” His hand was on the door
handle. “I don’t know who in the world would want it, but I’ve got to make sure it’s still
here.”
        “Wait for the undersheriff,” she cautioned, rising herself to lay a restraining hand
on his arm. “There’s his car. Another minute or two won’t matter.” Fang raised his mud-
covered nose from his pit as the squad car neared. “Help me chain up Fang,” she
suggested. “The undersheriff doesn’t impress me as a dog-lover.”
        “The undersheriff doesn’t impress me, period,” Jayce muttered, but did as she
asked and soon had muddy puppy paw prints on his shirt to show for it.
        By the time they had Fang secured to a relatively sturdy alligator juniper,
Undersheriff Sickel and Deputy Dodge were opening the doors of their car.
        “Don’t you wonder who handles crime in the rest of the county when all of local
law enforcement is out here?” Jayce asked under his breath.
        “Let me talk to them,” Meredith suggested quietly. “You don’t have to answer any
questions you don’t want to. If they press you, say you won’t talk until you can consult
with Zabloudil.”
        Jayce shot her a look. “For this I need a lawyer? Surely you don’t think they’ll
suspect me of destroying my own property?”
        Meredith wouldn’t put it past them any more than she could convince herself
absolutely that Sickel hadn’t been involved in the vandalism.
        An hour later, the undersheriff had done nothing to dispel her concerns. Either
Sickel was the most arrogant, inept man appointed to law enforcement in recent history, or
he was corrupt. For now, she’d have to leave it to him to prove which it was. “I think I
have everything I need,” she said briskly by way of dismissing him and the deputy. “I
assume you do, too?”
        She watched in disgust as a masticated toothpick danced from one end of Sickel’s
wide mouth to the other. “Prints, pictures, casts of the footprints,” he said around the sliver
of wood. “Guess that ought to do it to it.” He approached Jayce who sat among the ruins of
his books, absently fingering the most treasured of his collection—the scriptures—but
mourning the loss of the next most important, his now-missing journal. “Don’t think for a
minute that this clears you in my book, Doctor. It’s a heck of a messy way to cover your
tracks, if you ask me.”
        Meredith saw anger brighten the amber flecks in Jayce’s eyes and thought he might
react physically. Before she could move to intercept him, he had his emotions in check. He
shook his head and said, “I didn’t ask you, Undersheriff, but I’ll consider the source and let
it go.” When he stood, his well-developed frame towered over the short, fat man. “Thanks
for coming out. As usual, you were a great help and support.”
        The undersheriff’s eyes narrowed at the sarcasm and this time Meredith did step
between the two men. “Yes, thank you, Undersheriff,” she said. “I’ll be in your office
soon. Hopefully Phoenix will run the prints on the corpse and we’ll have something to talk
about.”
        When the two lawmen finally left, she knelt beside Jayce to help him gather up the
books. “We had to call them,” she said by way of apology. “It had to be reported.”
        He nodded unhappily.
        “What I really think is odd,” she continued as she began to place the stack of books
volume by volume on the lowest shelf, “is that they seem to have thrown around
everything in this room except the kachina hanging over your door. A Hopi probably
wouldn’t touch it, right?”
        She was fishing for Jayce to suspect Fred Crabtree on his own. She glanced up at
him from lowered lashes. He’d looked so sharply toward the door that a shock of hair had
fallen over his right eye. It made him look so much like the boy she remembered that it
was all she could do not to reach out to him. The impulse was forgotten in the next instant
however when the confusion on his face registered with her brain.
        He stood, crossed the room in two strides, and pulled the doll down from the nail.
The way he examined it told her immediately that he’d never seen it before. She went to
his side and held out her hand. “May I?”
        He passed it to her wordlessly.
        The first thing that surprised her about it was the weight. “It’s so light.”
        He swallowed hard and said, “Authentic Hopi kachinas are carved from the root of
a cottonwood tree. It’s some of the lightest wood in the world.”
        “It’s beautifully made.” For a moment she regretted that she hadn’t dusted it for
prints before they’d both handled it, then reminded herself that the last frustrating hour had
taught her that whoever trashed Jayce’s home had worn gloves. Surely he hadn’t removed
them to hang the kachina.
        She turned it over in her hands. The figure’s face was an elongated black mask with
large, buggy eyes and a carved snout above a mouth full of snaggled teeth. It wore a white
breechcloth over legs that were bare, but painted white with black spots. In its hands were
small, wicked-looking yucca whips, and around its neck was a string of bones too
authentic to be carved from wood. Meredith told herself they must be from small animals,
but they looked like human infant fingers. In short, the kachina was marvelous—and
malevolent. “You don’t know how this got here, do you?” she asked at last.
        Jayce shook his head.
        “But you do know something about the kachina itself?”
        “No,” he said, not meeting her eye. She waited patiently for his honorable nature to
get the best of him and was awarded soon after with, “I don’t know if I do or not.” He
turned back to his jumble of books with a new purpose.
        Meredith set the doll carefully aside; she’d take it with her when she left. “Tell me
what you may or may not know about it.”
        He ignored her question.
        “MacDermott,” she said, “what I told you about not answering questions without
legal representation doesn’t apply to me.” She crossed to where he sat. “I can’t help you if
I don’t understand every detail of what’s going on.”
        He dug through the books, but tossed them aside instead of putting them away. At
last he found what he was looking for and opened it.
        Hopi Katsinam, she read upside down from the cover. It was a book on kachinas.
As Jayce flipped through the pages Meredith saw enough pictures and read enough
snippets of text to realize that each carved figurine represented one of the legendary
Katsinam figures. When he turned another page, she recognized the carving from his
doorway and sat next to him to better read the paragraph that accompanied the picture.
        Masawkatsina is ruler of the underworld. He owns the land and all things in it and
        is primarily known as the giver and taker of life. This doll is very rarely carved
        and, because of superstition, never given as a gift. Hopi children are taught that if
        they violate tribal taboos, Masawkatsina will steal them away and chew their bones
        and no one will ever see them again.

         Jayce and Meredith’s eyes rose simultaneously and met over the open book. She
felt frightened, and more so when he said thinly, “You know that ‘do you have any
enemies’question you asked me earlier? I gave you the wrong answer, McKay. There must
be somebody around here who would like never to see me again.
         Meredith felt her heart beat in her throat. If the somebody who left Jayce this
ominous kachina was the same person who’d killed Joseph Kotsyovi, he had a horrific way
of making sure he didn’t see his enemies again. Meredith looked up at Jayce and wondered
what to say to get him to leave Coyote Springs. She knew in her heart that he should walk
away—today, right now—and never look back.
                                         Chapter 8
         “She’ll be back,” Jayce assured Fang with a tentative pat to the top of the beast’s
scrunched-up forehead. He’d finally convinced Meredith to go back to work so that he
could too. She had left for Winslow, reluctantly, about ten minutes before. The
inconsolable pit bull still strained toward the road, his sturdy chain pulled taut and his
anxious puppy eyes fixed on the empty horizon. “She didn’t abandon you.” For a moment
Jayce’s concern mirrored the dog’s. “At least I hope she didn’t.”
         The puppy lifted its muzzle skyward in a heartrending howl.
        “Hey,” Jayce said quickly, “Nothing personal. I’m just not a dog person.” He
squatted down eye level. “I’ve never had a dog, so you’ll have to help me out here. What
do you canines do for fun? I mean, besides chewing up people’s shoes and leaving
‘surprises’around for the barefoot humans to step in?”
        Though his brown eyes were deep and soulful, Fang didn’t respond.
        “How about a walk?” Jayce suggested. “Do you like to walk people?” He reached
for the end of the chain to unloop it from the alligator juniper. “It’s a little more than a mile
to the base if we cut across country, but you’re in good shape, right?” Finally released
from the tree, Fang pulled Jayce almost ten feet down the road before the man regained his
balance and slowed the dog. “Right,” he said. “You’re in great shape.” He planted his feet
and brought the runaway puppy to a halt. “But we go this way.” Jayce set off toward a
pithouse and almost had his arm dislocated by a dog intent on following the road down
which his beloved owner had disappeared.
        “Look, bud,” Jayce said, reeling the puppy in, “we’re not walking to Winslow.”
        Fang whimpered.
        “I know you love Meredith,” Jayce said. He bent to stroke the dog’s thick neck in
sympathy. “Heck, I love Meredith. I’ve loved her all my life, but you don’t see me carrying
on about it.” He considered his companion’s sad face. “Man, are you ugly.”
        Fang turned away to look back down the road.
        “I know what you’re thinking,” Jayce said. “You’re thinking I’m jealous because
you’re her significant other and I’m the latest suspect in her case files. But let me tell you
something, I’m not only going to get through this thing at the ruins, I’m going to get
Meredith to finally forget Will and marry me.”
        The dog turned back to him, apparently in interest.
        “I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” Jayce admitted. “But I am.”
        Fang seemed to search his face and Jayce said, “No, I don’t think you’ll be able to
come to the wedding. They’re kind of strict about that no-pit-bulls-in-the-temple thing. But
you can destroy all the pretty little wedding gifts you can get your paws on. How about
that?”
        The dog stared down the road.
        “I’m telling you,” Jayce said, rising, “this is going to work out for all three of us. If
a beautiful FBI agent with an ugly pit bull can’t find eternal happiness with a boring
archeologist who hates dogs, then miracles have ceased.” He pulled the reluctant Fang in
the right direction. “And I’m here to tell you that miracles happen every single day.
Meredith’s here at Coyote Springs, right? And I’m puppy-sitting the least popular dog
breed on the planet. Right?” Fang couldn’t disagree on any point, especially with the firm
grip Jayce had on his chain. “Now come on. I have a whole lot of work to do before the
crews come in tomorrow.” He reached in his pocket to remove a piece of beef jerky. “If I
don’t figure out which of that pottery’s genuine and which is fake before Terence Kaub—
he’s the museum director, you’ll hate him, everybody does—gets here, he’s going to cut
me into quarters and leave me in the field for the coyotes.”
        He increased his pace to match the dog’s new enthusiasm for their walk, an
enthusiasm born of the dried meat Jayce tossed well ahead down the intended path. “Good
boy!” he praised the dog as they broke into a run. “I’ll race you to the base! First one there
gets the last piece of jerky.”
                                                 ***
        Not that the jerky and granola Jayce had offered her for lunch wasn’t filling, but
Meredith had always been more of a hamburgers-and-french-fries kind of girl. Besides,
worry always made her hungry, and it worried her big time to leave Jayce alone out at
Coyote Springs.
        She pulled into the parking lot of the McDonald’s outside of Winslow, climbed
from the car and sniffed the heavenly aroma. It made her feel marginally better and she
thanked Heaven again for a metabolism that allowed her an occasional midafternoon
indulgence.
        Her appetite fled, however, when she caught a glimpse of the local newspaper
prominently displayed in an acrylic holder at the end of the counter. She didn’t hear the
teenager behind the register ask for her order because she was so intent on the front-page
story: “Murder at Coyote Springs; University Prof Suspected.”
        More like publicly tried and convicted, Meredith thought as she yanked the paper
from the plastic and read through a story that had obviously been thrown together in haste
with more of an eye for sensationalism than accuracy. Meredith wondered if the lack of a
byline was an oversight or an attempt to stave off a libel suit. Then she wondered if
Zabloudil had seen the piece and what he’d done about it. He ought to have been down at
the sheriff’s office raising holy heck over the damning quotes attributed to “local law
enforcement.” At the very least, he ought to have called Jayce to advise him of the
situation.
        As if Jayce didn’t have enough to worry about, now there was this. Growing angry
in his behalf, Meredith decided to drop in on the attorney on her way to Sickel’s office.
And on her way to the attorney’s she’d drop in at the newspaper to identify the reporter
and ask them who the source was.
        She put the paper under her arm to take along. As much as she hated to add more to
Jayce’s plate, it would be better if he got it from her than from his students at the dig
tomorrow. “I can have this, right?” she asked the baffled counter attendant, opening her
wallet to show her badge. “And I’ve changed my mind about lunch. I’m on a diet.”
        With an efficiency that surprised even herself, Meredith managed to hit Zabloudil’s
office (rather like a tornado), the newspaper office (with no luck, nobody in the building
would admit to writing, editing, or even reading the piece), the doughnut shop (more
success here in that they had freshly-made crullers), and still make it to the sheriff’s office
to get started on her original mission before Dodge left for the day.
        I need a favor, Deputy,” she said with a smile on her face and a jelly doughnut in
her hand. “Can you be bribed?”
        The look in his eyes as they lit on the doughnut said he came cheap, but his mouth
said, “Depends on what you want.”
         “I wonder if I could look through your records of drug busts for, say, the past year.”
         Dodge frowned. “What does that have to do with pot thieves at Coyote Springs?”
         “Probably nothing.” Meredith set the doughnut down in front of him and turned up
the wattage on her smile. “But I’ve heard rumors that awhile back there was some dealing
going on out at the ruins.”
         “What do you care if there was?”
         “It’s federal land, Deputy, so my boss cares enough for both of us. Besides, maybe
somebody who was used to partying out there got it in his head to go back again after the
dig started.” Though she’d been winging it, the excuse sounded plausible to Meredith and
she made a mental note to check into it.
         It sounded plausible to Dodge as well. He rose and picked up the doughnut. Sit
down and I’ll go see what we’ve got.”
         “Thanks,” she said, pulling up a chair that had more character than upholstery.
“Mind if I use a corner of your desk to check my computer? Maybe we’ll have some
results back from those fingerprints.”
         “Knock yourself out.”
         When the first info came up on the remote Internet screen, Meredith turned it away
from the door and adjusted her seat accordingly. The FBI had logged their search of Joseph
Kotsyovi’s apartment. Nothing much in the thorough report interested Meredith until she
came upon several photos of an impressive collection of kachinas. She scanned them
quickly and was disappointed to note that none matched the one she had taken from
Jayce’s trailer earlier that afternoon, though the artist’s styles seemed similar.
         The next item was flagged for her attention. Unconsciously, Meredith leaned closer
to the tiny screen. These pictures were of a small, brown leather diary from which
numerous pages had been torn. She was willing to bet none of them had been removed at
random.
         How odd, she thought. Whoever had beaten the FBI team to Joseph’s apartment
yesterday morning had taken enough time to read and remove pages from his personal
journal. If there was something valuable—or incriminating—in the book, why hadn’t they
destroyed the volume completely? She wondered. Or simply taken it with them, as
someone had Jayce’s journal of the dig?
         The Bureau had scanned the remaining pages of the diary into the database. As
Meredith scrolled through them, she suddenly knew the answer to her question. Whoever
had tampered with the written thoughts of a dead man had gone to great lengths to leave
Kotsyovi’s suspicions about Dr. MacDermott very much intact.
         She scanned several entries before reading the last ones carefully. In the next-to-the
last remaining entry, from the week before, Joseph had written:
                  Sunday. Argued again with Dr. MacDermott yesterday. I must control my
                 temper or I will blow my cover and fail in my mission. Examined the artifact
                 trays while the professor was gone. Found a seed pot from PH3 that I think
                 is a fake. I sent a pigment scraping to the lab for carbon dating. If it is fake,
                 the professor must have planted it to cover his theft of an authentic artifact.
                 I may have hard evidence against him at last!
         Meredith let out a soft breath. She’d bet the family farm that Jayce didn’t know
anything about that pot and, under the circumstances, she couldn’t tell him about it until—
or unless—the FBI released the contents of the diary or charged him with a crime. She
made a note to check out the whereabouts of the Chaco potter he’d told her about this
morning. Tomorrow she’d visit every local shop to see if she could turn up an artisan who
might be good enough to fool even a noted archeologist.
         She leaned back in the chair. It certainly looked as though the thieves at Coyote
Springs were more than your run-of-the-mill pot diggers. Pot diggers were grave robbers.
They took what they could get and made tracks. They didn’t go to the time, effort, and
expense to replace what they stole with near-perfect facsimiles. Did they?
         Meredith converted the palm pilot back to a note pad so she could record her
thoughts as they came. Someone she admired had told her once that one dull pencil was
worth a dozen sharp minds, and this evening her mind felt dull. Lacking a pencil, a sharp
stylus would have to do.
         She carefully considered the blank square. Greed usually topped the list of motives
for crime, so she wrote it down. If the thieves at Coyote Springs were in it for all they
could get, she needed to find out who, besides Jayce and Joseph, had access to the artifacts
in the base, and how they could get them from Coyote Springs onto the active black market
in antiquities. She could figure out why they bothered with reproductions later.
         As she pondered other motives, Meredith made a steeple of her fingers and raised
them to her pursed lips. She asked herself, What if the motive isn’t greed? What if the fake
pot was planted by somebody who hates Jayce and wants to ruin his career? What if
Joseph is dead because he accidentally got in the way? That thought led to another, more
puzzling question. What did Joseph mean when he wrote that he had to control his temper
or he might blow his cover and fail in his mission? What did the inauthentic pots have to
do with his assignment to investigate drug trafficking? Did he believe drugs were being
smuggled out with the old pots, or in with the new?
         Or did he mean something entirely different; something Meredith hadn’t yet caught
on to?
         She switched back to the screen with the final entry in Joseph’s journal. Very brief,
it had been written the morning before he was killed.
         Monday. The pot is a fake. Do I confront Dr. MacDermott today with what I know?
         Meredith’s stomach lurched. At this point, though she was still convinced Jayce
was innocent and could see that the evidence against him was circumstantial, it was fast
approaching the point of preponderance. Sickel wouldn’t have the chance to arrest Jayce
the next time. As a special agent of the FBI, she’d have to do it.
         “You ready to tackle this?” Dodge asked from the door.
         Meredith looked up in confusion. The deputy sheriff had powdered sugar on his
chin and a stack of folders in the crook of his arm. “Oh!” she said. “Yes.” She closed the
lid on the palm pilot and tried to return a smile to her lips. The effort it took told her it
lacked dazzle. “Thanks.”
         “’Course, I can’t let you take them.” His eyes strayed toward the clock on the wall.
It was already after five. “And I don’t think the undersheriff’d like it much if I left you all
alone here in my office.”
         No, Meredith thought, he probably wouldn’t. But she needed to see those files.
Tonight. “Are you married, Deputy?” He hesitated about six beats too long before sticking
his left hand in his pocket and claiming he wasn’t. Meredith suppressed a sigh. She wasn’t
above flirtation for a good cause, but she drew the line at home wrecking. “I’ll look fast,”
she promised. “You’ll be home before you know it.” She extended her hands and was
immensely gratified when he passed her the folders.
         “The undersheriff isn’t going to like this,” Dodge said, circling Meredith’s chair to
sit in his own. “Overtime comes out of his special budget.”
         Probably his beer budget, she thought disdainfully . But Meredith was already too
engrossed in the first folder to reply. From the corner of her eye she saw the deputy search
his desk for something with which to occupy himself. Finally he pulled a tattered copy of
For Whom the Bell Tolls from a drawer and opened to a marked place toward the end of
the book. Despite herself, Meredith stared. She’d have sworn in a court of law that if the
deputy could read at all, his tastes would lean more toward comic books than
Hemmingway. “Hmm,” she said softly to herself as she went back to scanning statistics. It
was another not-so-subtle reminder that things—and people—aren’t always what they
seem.
         It was more than an hour before Meredith had read enough to satisfy her. The
deputy hadn’t complained once. She placed the folders on his desk with a sincere thanks
and the promise of a dozen fresh doughnuts first thing tomorrow morning.
         He closed his book with some reluctance. “Find what you were looking for?”
         “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “If we charted the busts, especially those near
the reservations, the graph would look like the Matterhorn.”
         “More like Third Mesa,” Dodge replied. “They went sky-high all of a sudden one
summer, peaked out for almost a year, and then fell off again. It was real weird.”
         “You’re right,” Meredith said, impressed at his insight. “Any idea why?” When he
rose, she picked up her mini-computer. “Any idea at all?”
         “It might have something to do with what they’ve managed to put together over at
the rehab program,” he offered with a shrug. “We take first-timers there instead of locking
them up. That Shurr is one smart Cookie.” He laughed heartily at a joke Meredith couldn’t
fathom. “It’s on the edge of town as you head out toward Flagstaff. You can’t miss it.”
         Meredith didn’t intend to miss it. But she wouldn’t go tonight. Tonight she was
going back out to the dig. She was more spooked than she probably should be by the
message behind the menacing kachina. She knew she wouldn’t sleep until she had seen
Jayce again and knew he was safe.
         As if “safe” was even an option with a killer prowling the ruins at Coyote Springs.
                                         Chapter 9
        Did nights get any darker than this one?
        Meredith missed the turnoff to the ruins in the inky blackness of a moonless sky
and pulled the Land Rover to the side of the empty highway. There she backed up to turn
around and head back the way she’d come. She finally caught sight of the dirt road on her
second pass.
        Night falls in Phoenix, too, she reminded herself. It’s just that you don’t notice it as
much. We’re smart enough to install streetlights.
        Meredith had been born and raised in civilization and was thoroughly converted to
its concept. She had no regrets that the closest she had ever come to darkness, before now,
was the unnatural twilight that passed for night in a city. Out on this open plateau beneath
the merest sliver of moon, Meredith felt as though she was navigating outer space. The
stars were too close, and the animals caught in the beams of her headlights were alien
outside the one place she had seen them before—the Arizona Exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo.
And it was dark. How in the world could Jayce stand to live out here all by himself?
        Memory told her his trailer should be ahead and to the left. Yet there were no lights
in that direction, nor did she hear Fang bark a welcome—or warning—as she dodged
another desert rodent and pulled into what was essentially Jayce’s front yard. Illuminated
by the twin spotlights on the Land Rover, his trailer looked small, shabby and dangerous.
        She turned off the engine and opened the car door, but hesitated before climbing
out. Though scarcely after nine o’clock, it felt like the stroke of midnight.
        You are undoubtedly the only agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation who’s
afraid of the dark, she told herself in disgust. Still, she left the headlights on as she
approached the broken front door. “Jayce?”
        He wasn’t there. She’d known he wasn’t when she pulled in, but was still relieved
when a quick tour proved that the place was not only empty, but exactly as she’d left it this
afternoon. She stood on the top step to scan the horizon. Either there was a particularly
bright star to the east, or a light was on over at the base. She should have seen it from the
highway. She would have, she told herself, if she hadn’t been so focused on the road—or
more specifically on the wildlife that shared the road with her. She’d barely missed any
number of critters, and the last thing she wanted was to “air freshen” her Land Rover with
Eau de Skunk
        As she swung the car in a wide arc to head back the way she’d come, the word
dangerous came to mind again and Meredith shivered involuntarily. Coyote Springs was
dangerous. She knew it as instinctively as she knew that Jayce didn’t know it.
        She increased the speed of the SUV to match the increased pace of her heart. He’s
at the base looking at pottery, she told herself. He’s not out patrolling the ruins. He
wouldn’t go out there by himself after finding Joseph dead yesterday.
        All skunks, rabbits and other desert-dwellers were now on their own since nothing
was as important to Meredith as getting to the base to see for herself that Jayce was still
alive.
                                                ***
        Fang woke with a start and threw himself against the locked metal door, yelping.
Jayce jumped a half a foot by his estimation and nearly toppled the stool on which he’d sat.
        Across the table from him a young undergraduate student looked up from his
microscope, brushed back the greasy, blue-tinged dreadlock that had fallen forward into his
eyes, and laughed. “I think your dog wants out, Doc.”
        “I tell you, it’s not my dog,” Jayce muttered. But he rose with the intent to oblige
the clearly insistent puppy.
        The next three things happened at once. An alarm on the remote sensor buzzed to
signal that a coyote/tumbleweed/murderous looter had tripped the light at PH4, a car pulled
up in front of the base and Fang went ballistic.
        The silver rings in the student’s eyebrows rose with his curiosity. “Whattya want
me to do, Doc? Check the pithouse?”
        “No!” Jayce said emphatically. “You stay right there and keep checking those pots.
I’ll…” he trailed off, deciding what he would do. He wished he knew who was outside, and
he was sorry now that Zach had showed up early. Having a student there made no-brainer
decisions like whether or not to open a door take more brain power than Jayce probably
had left.
        “I’m going to take that crazy dog out before he destroys what’s left in here of an
ancient civilization,” he decided aloud. “Close the door behind me and bar it, okay? And
if—” Jayce cut himself off. “Lock the door, Zach, and don’t open it until I tell you to.” He
made a grab for Fang’s collar and attached the chain before the pit bull could pulverize a
storage jar. Then he cast his best professorial look back at the kid who had followed him to
the door. “I mean it, Zach. Use your cell phone if you need to, but don’t leave this room for
any reason.”
                                               ***
        “Fang!” Meredith called out in relief. It wasn’t the name she’d wanted to call. She
wanted to call out to the man who held the dog—the one who grasped the chain securely
enough to allow her to greet her pet without being knocked to the ground by unabashed
puppy passion.
        “He misses you,” Jayce said dryly. “Not that he and I aren’t having great times
together.”
        Meredith knelt to calm the dog by massaging its ears. She raised her face to Jayce
and felt her cheeks ache at the smile she gave him. It wasn’t unlike the ache of relief in her
heart to see him safe. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
        “As opposed to…?”
        “I went by the trailer,” she explained. “I thought you might…might have gone out
to the pithouses.”
        The reopening of the door forestalled his response. When Zach stepped into the
light, Meredith blinked twice at the blue hair and silver-studded face.
        Jayce turned. “Zach! What did I tell you?”
        “She doesn’t look like a killer, Doc.”
        “The point is…” Jayce shook his head. “…Always lost on you.” He turned back to
Meredith. “McKay, this is Zach. He’s been a student of mine…how many semesters
now?”
        “Uh, five, I think.” When Zach grinned, Meredith saw a row of perfect white teeth
and surmised that this kid’s parents must have invested as much of the family fortune in
successful orthodontia as they did in seemingly futile tuition.
        “Five semesters,” Jayce repeated. “In other words, he knows Archeology 101 better
than I do. One of these days I bet he’s going to turn in enough work to pass it. In the
meantime, he’s spending his summer break volunteering out here at the dig.”
         Meredith didn’t need to see more than the look that passed between the two men to
temper her opinion of Zach and raise her opinion of Jayce. Dr. MacDermott, the
ultraconservative professor who, because of the Word of Wisdom wasn’t even a tea-totaler,
was mentoring a poster boy for the counter culture. Would this man ever cease to amaze
her?
         “Addressing Zach, Jayce continued, “Ms. McKay is the agent the FBI finally got
around to sending to Coyote Springs.” He dropped the chain now that Fang was calm.
“Fang’s her significant other.”
         “Nice to meet you,” Meredith said. Since a calm Fang was a quiet Fang, an
insistent non-insect buzz finally registered with her brain. “What’s that noise?”
         Jayce turned back toward the building. “It’s an alarm,” he said. “Hopefully it’s the
same one that went off before you came.”
         Meredith followed him into the base. The red light under PH4 blinked off when he
flipped a switch. “False alarm?” she asked.
         He shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
         “Are you going out there?”
         He hesitated a long moment. “I hate to disappoint you, McKay, but I’m not really
Indiana Jones.” He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and motioned to Zach
to sit back down at the table. Meredith sensed that his next words were more for Zach’s
benefit than hers. “There are things worth dying for,” he said quietly, “but none of them
are buried in the dirt of Coyote Springs.”
         She closed her eyes in relief at his caution, then opened them again when the
import of what he said sunk in and she realized that Jayce wasn’t cautious, he was smart.
Or was he wise?
         What he is, she reminded herself, is centered. He, more than anybody she’d ever
known, recognized the meaningful things in life and had the integrity to do what he felt
was right, regardless of what others thought of him.
         And the “others” in this case was her, she realized unhappily. He expected her to
think him a coward when all she felt was admiration for his courage. “You’re right,” she
said at once. “About things being things…not about . . . me…or what I may or may not
think of you.” Zach grinned broadly, but her tumble of words had clearly lost Jayce. “I
mean, you shouldn’t go out to the pithouses, Jayce. You shouldn’t be out here at all. Come
back into town with me.”
         “I’m puppy sitting, remember?” Before she could respond he added, “And even if I
weren’t, I’d hang tight. But Zach’s ready to go.”
         “I’ve got my gear,” Zach protested. “I’m good to stay.”
         “Zach—”
         “I need all the extra credit I can get, Doc.”
         Meredith could see Jayce softening. He said, “And you think you better get it all
before your folks read about me in the papers and make you go back home?”
         Meredith flinched. “So, Zabloudil called you?”
         “After you read him the riot act,” Jayce said. He held up a hand to halt her
explanation. “Zach had already brought the paper.” He pushed aside a pot to lean against
the table. “And I’d be crazy to send him away. He’ll probably be the only one of my
students who shows up to dig, under the circumstances.”
        “They’ll all be here bright and early tomorrow morning,” Zach said. “You watch.”
        Meredith saw the loyal, earnest expression beneath the facial jewelry and wanted to
hug the kid.
        “I’ll watch,” Jayce said with a slight upward turn of the corners of his mouth. “In
the meantime, if I can’t get rid of you, can I at least get you to go back to work? We have
roughly a billion more pots and pieces thereof to look at before morning.”
        “I stopped to pick up hamburgers on the way out,” Meredith offered, reluctant to
mention it considering the soggy state the former food must be in after almost an hour in
the bag. “But they’re probably McYucks at this point.”
        Even if they were, the two men devoured theirs almost as quickly as Fang did his.
When they’d finished the meal, Meredith offered to stay the night to help scrutinize
pottery, but Jayce refused.
        “You shouldn’t have come out in the first place,” he said, moving her toward the
door over Fang’s whines of protest. “Go back to town before it gets any later.”
        So she’d been wrong again, Meredith thought. It was becoming a pattern with her
on this case. Jayce did know how much danger he was in. When he opened the door she
turned and said, “But I was sent to protect you.”
        “Protect?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. “Or apprehend?”
        He not only knew the danger, he knew how bad things looked for him from a legal
standpoint, too. Perhaps she should arrest Jayce. Right now. At least it would get him away
from Coyote Springs. “Protect,” she said at last. “You’re the one who called the FBI.
Remember?”
        “I remember.” There was something in the way he said it that gave Meredith pause.
But she hadn’t figured out what it was by the time he’d snagged Fang’s chain and
practically pushed her to her car where he opened the door for her. “Thanks for the offer to
bodyguard, McKay, but how about we let your partner here take the night shift?”
        Meredith looked down at the puppy. She knew his job skills: playmate, sometime
alarm system, and all-purpose garbage disposal. A reliable protector he was not. She
reached into the car and took out her revolver. “Take this, too.” When Jayce took a step
back she said, “You don’t have to be a sharpshooter. All you need to do is aim for the
center of the body and—”
        “Things that aren’t worth dying for aren’t worth killing for either,” he said.
        “We’re not talking about things,” she said. “We’re talking about your life.”
        “I couldn’t shoot anybody,” he said.
        Meredith knew him well enough to know it was true. The revolver in her hands felt
cold and hard and heavy. Carefully, she returned it to its spot in the glove compartment.
Repulsive or not, it was a piece of equipment that was sometimes essential in her line of
work.
        She climbed into the driver’s seat and scarcely heard Jayce speak over the voice in
her head reminding her of how widely divergent their paths had become. He probably
thought she used the gun routinely and without thought. He hadn’t forgotten, after all, that
she’d killed Will as surely as if she’d pulled a trigger.
         When Jayce asked Meredith a second time if she were all right, it was all she could
do to nod. And even that was a lie.
                                       Chapter 10
        “You okay, Doc?” Zach asked in concern.
        It was scarcely 7 A.M. and this Thursday was already shaping up to be another of
the worst days of Jayce’s relatively young life. The professor raised his eyes from the
empty crater in the floor of PH4 and tried to frame a response. It was out of character for
him to lie, but the truth was simply too great a burden to place on this kid’s shoulders. The
way Jayce had figured it, during the long, predawn hours this morning when sleep had
given way to nightmares and the rising sun had only made the nightmares true, to call his
current circumstance a mess was the understatement of the eon.
        In the first place, he had roughly a half dozen forged “artifacts” back at the base—
forgeries they had identified, that is. There might be more fakes that wouldn’t turn up until
they reached the university, or worse, The Museum of Antiquities.
        Secondly, he had a new hole in the ground here at PH4, the site where the alarm
had gone off the night before. It would have to be explained to Terrence Kaub, the
museum’s acquisitions director. Assuming, of course, Jayce could squeeze in an
explanation before the man had an apoplectic fit. And this newest hole was strange; Jayce
had known it at first sight. It was totally nonproductive, like something a pit bull might
have dug. Looters were notoriously well educated when it came to digging, and this hole
was all wrong for them. It was wrong for anyone. The one explanation he could think of
was that it was somebody’s way to further discredit him. To thumb their nose as if to say,
“You couldn’t catch me if I dug right under your feet.”
        Besides the fakes and the hole, Jayce was conscious of working on a site with a
cordoned-off murder scene, under the eyes of a undersheriff who suspected him of the
killing and an enemy who might return at any time to offer him that one-way passage to
the underworld he’d promised.
        Under the circumstances, Dr. MacDermott wasn’t sure if he was glad Zach’s
prediction had proven true; e very one of his students had shown up this morning with
sleeping bags, tents and provisions to last them the two weeks of their assignment. They
had come to support him, and Jayce keenly felt the responsibility.
        In other words, he had problems enough for six or eight people, but only half a
mind with which to deal with any of them—half a mind because he couldn’t seem to keep
the other half off Meredith. He stood and stretched, then realized he had one more strike
against him—one heck of a backache from sleeping two or three hours on a countertop at
the base.
        Indy was wrong, Jayce decided. It’s the years, not the mileage. I’m getting old. He
massaged a particularly tender spot in the small of his back and was grateful to be looking
merely for a kiva and not a lost ark. Professor Jones had been thrown from various and
sundry moving vehicles, and had always gotten up feeling better than Jayce did right now.
        “You okay, Doc?” Zach repeated.
        Jayce blinked into the glints of light from the silver rings above the young man’s
wide, green eyes, then told one of his very rare lies. “I’m great, Zach. Never better.”
        “That’s good,” the young man responded, “because that anal guy from the museum
called to say he’s on his way up here right now.”
                                                ***
        When she needed a cure for any malady, Meredith always sought it in her work.
This morning she had all the symptoms of a full-blown case of lovesickness, so it had
taken all the patience she possessed to wait for sleepy little Winslow to wake up and start
the business day.
        There were only about 10,000 people in this town; she’d talk to all of them if that’s
what it took to find answers to her questions. And, since she had a report due this
afternoon, she’d decided to start with the drug dealing that had taken Joseph out to Coyote
Springs in the first place.
        The Community Drug Interdiction Center was right where Deputy Dodge had told
her it was, the single occupant of a run-down strip mall. A volunteer led Meredith to
Cookie Shurr’s office in the rear of the building and made introductions. Within minutes of
accepting a seat across the desk from the short, round psychologist, Meredith knew she
couldn’t have found a better source. As director of the center, Shurr had tracked the local
drug traffic for years. As a Hopi, she knew the culture and the community. Best of all, she
gave a first impression of being forthright and compassionate.
        When Cookie swiveled in her chair toward a low shelf behind her desk, Meredith
admired the graying braids wound around the woman’s head. The intricate loops were a
style she would copy if she could be sure imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. At
last Shurr turned back and proffered a green folder thick with papers. “I had my secretary
copy this for you when I heard the message you left on the machine last night,” she said.
“You’ll find a report on age groups, income, nationality—everything about the users we’ve
gleaned from police and court reports and, of course, interviews here at the center.”
        Meredith accepted the file gratefully but held it unopened in her lap. “What can you
tell me that I won’t see in this file?” she asked. “Surely you have a hunch—intuition, if you
will—about what’s going on.”
        The woman’s round face crinkled in amusement. “You’re the first law enforcement
officer I’ve met who trusts intuition more than facts.”
        “No,” Meredith said, returning the smile, “I’m the first one you’ve met who admits
it.”
        “Sickel isn’t interested in my intuition. Or in anything else I have to say.”
        “I don’t work for Sickel,” Meredith said. “Thank goodness.” Cookie laughed and
Meredith leaned forward. “Do you think he’s corrupt?”
        Shurr’s black eyes widened. “You don’t beat around the bush, do you?” She folded
her plump hands atop her desk before answering in the negative. Meredith’s disbelief must
have shown on her face because Cookie added, “Not that I didn’t suspect it myself once
upon a time. But over the years I’ve decided that what I thought was corruption was really
blind ambition.” She paused. “Perhaps greed would be a better word for it.”
        So they agreed on the undersheriff’s character after all. “Greedy enough to take a
kickback from a cartel?” Meredith asked. “Or greedy enough to deal the drugs himself?”
        “Greedy enough to keep himself squeaky clean.” Cookie’s full lips curled up in the
hint of a smile. “Technically speaking, of course.”
        Meredith was confused and said so. The wisdom in the full-blown smile she
received made her feel like a rookie again, but because of the warmth in it she didn’t mind.
        “Sickel isn’t greedy for money,” Shurr explained. “What he lusts after is power.”
The smile escaped her lips in a throaty laugh. “And there’s not much of that to be had in
these parts, as you can well imagine. Being county sheriff is about the pinnacle, and
Sheriff Mayers will be retiring come next election. Guess who’s running to replace him?”
She leaned back in her chair and fiddled with a pencil. “Let’s just say a big snake like
Sickel in a small pit like Winslow will do anything he thinks he can get away with to
wriggle on over to Holbrook. Dealing drugs and taking bribes doesn’t fit the picture in my
mind. What do you think?
         Meredith wasn’t thinking about drugs anymore. She was thinking about Jayce. She
leaned forward. “Would Sickel frame an innocent man for murder?”
         “To win that election?” Cookie replied with mock disbelief. “Honey, he’d frame
his grandmother if he thought it would get him a dozen votes.”
         “I see.”
         “We’re talking about Jayce MacDermott now, I presume?” When Meredith looked
up she added, “I read the papers.”
         “Do you know Dr. MacDermott?”
         “Yes,” Cookie said. “Jayce has become a good friend. The last time I saw him was
a week or so ago when one of the kids he had working out on the dig ended up here on a
marijuana charge.” She nodded approvingly at the memory. “He handled it real well. I’d
say that among other talents he has a way with those kids. He cares about them.” She laid
down the pencil. “I’ll tell you one thing, Ms. McKay, he did not kill Joseph Kotsyovi.”
         Meredith nodded, grateful to hear somebody she already respected voice what she
knew for herself. “When did you first meet Jayce—I mean, Dr. MacDermott?”
         If Cookie noticed her slip of tongue, she didn’t comment on it. “You’ll see it in the
files,” she said. “B ut early on we suspected that much of the dealing was going on out
around Coyote Springs.”
         This Meredith also knew. It was the reason Joseph had gone in undercover. She
kept her face carefully expressionless and waited for Shurr to continue.
         “This was before Dr. MacDermott arrived, of course,” the woman said. “I paid him
a visit his first week out there and told him what we thought was going down. He couldn’t
have been nicer or more cooperative. He said he’d do everything he could to keep a
lookout and he was as good as his word. Within a few weeks of when they got going out
there, the problem almost disappeared.” She shook her head sympathetically. “Too bad our
good fortune corresponded with the time Jayce’s problems began.”
         “Excuse me?”
         “The cocaine dealing seemed to trickle off about the same time the looters showed
up.”
         “You mean it stopped out at Coyote Springs,” Meredith said for the sake of clarity.
And of course it had. It made sense. The dealers had undoubtedly used the location
because it was so remote. Infrared sensors and all-night guards would have moved them
elsewhere in no time. Voicing her thoughts she said, “Where have they gone now?”
         Cookie laid her hands palm up on the desk. “Good question, but as long as it’s far
away from here, I don’t care.” At Meredith’s look of surprise she added, “What I’m telling
you is that the hard drug activity has dropped in half, maybe more, area wide.”
         Meredith’s thoughts raced at the unexpected information. What did it mean? Was it
a coincidence, or was there a correlation between the drug dealers and pot looters? If there
was a correlation, Meredith couldn’t imagine what it was, but she didn’t believe in
coincidence. “You said ‘hard drug activity.’ By this you mean cocaine?”
         Cookie nodded. “Crack. And we’re not talking made-in-the-kitchen variety. It’s
hard rock. It’s got to be coming in from the big city, but it beats me how they’re getting it
in without anybody catching on.”
        “Any ideas who might be—might have been—behind it?” Meredith asked.
        Cookie folded her arms across her ample bosom. “No idea at all, honey. But
whoever it was, may they rot in your Anglo Hades.”
                                              ***
        “So,” Jayce mumbled under his breath as he followed Terrence Kaub into the base
at the dig, “who’s in charge of the underworld when you’re up here?”
        “Pardon me?” Kaub turned. He was a small man, but his face was long—long, thin,
and pinched-looking. In combination with his wispy goatee and the fine blond hair
carefully replanted atop his head he looked rather like a weasel. A very well-tailored
weasel. Jayce couldn’t help but note that what Kaub spent on his clothing and accessories
would likely sustain their dig—and probably a third-world country besides. The weasel
smiled. “What did you say, Professor?”
        “Sorry,” Jayce said. “Mumbling to myself is a bad habit I’ve picked up.”
        “Born of too much time alone in the middle of nowhere,” Kaub suggested. He
looked around the cluttered room and clapped his hands together twice.
        Jayce looked over his own shoulder, almost expecting a butler to appear out of
nowhere at Kaub’s summons. When nobody came and the curator continued to regard him
impatiently, he said, “Uh, yes?”
        “What do you have for me, MacDermott?”
        He means besides contempt, Jayce guessed. He drew a deep breath. “As I told you
on the phone last week, we stumbled onto the burial grounds. Because of the looters, we
had to take out a partially mummified body before we…” His words trailed off at the look
of avarice in the man’s black eyes. He’d heard through the archeological grapevine that
Terrence Kaub traded and collected human remains the way some men did baseball cards.
Thinking about it gave Jayce the willies. Scientific research was one thing; exploitation
was another. He looked toward the safe where the body lay awaiting tribal officials, and
offered another silent apology for the inadvertent disturbance to its mortal resting place. If
there was a way I could figure out who you are to do your temple work, he told the ancient
Lamanite silently, I would.
        “Hmmm,” Kaub said, mostly to himself. Jayce knew he was scheming how he
might claim the remains for the museum and reopen the burial grounds. Thankfully, there
were federal laws that made both almost impossible. At last Kaub added, “You’ve found
burial grounds, professor, but no kiva?”
        “No.”
        The curator had approached the locker and was fingering the worn padlock. “Do
you expect to find it soon?”
        “I can hope,” Jayce said. He didn’t add that his hope of finding the kiva at all had
almost disappeared yesterday afternoon when someone ransacked his home. One of his
grandmother’s favorite sayings was that one dull pencil was worth a dozen sharp minds,
and Jayce believed it. Everything he’d researched, observed, and even speculated was
chronicled in his journal. His journal was gone. It would take a miracle at this point to find
the kiva. Jayce believed in miracles. But he didn’t always expect them—especially when
one of the chief beneficiaries would be a weasel like Kaub.
        “Perhaps under my direction we’ll get further,” Kaub said casually.
         Jayce blinked. “The last time I checked, I was in charge of this dig.”
        Kaub released the lock and turned. “The last time I checked, you were publicly
accused of the vicious murder of your assistant.” He leaned against the vault. “Bad
publicity for the museum, Professor. We’ve had to suspend you from the dig’s supervision,
of course, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.” He examined his manicured
nails. “You’ll stay on in an advisory role, but I will personally direct operations at Coyote
Springs from here on out.”
        Jayce was incredulous. “The Museum of Antiquities is a major contributor and
repository for the artifacts, but that doesn’t mean you have all the say about—”
        “True,” Kaub interrupted, “but the government has agreed to our stepping in…in
light of your unfortunate circumstances. And the university? It does, after all, have the
welfare of its students to consider.” When at last his eyes rose to meet Jayce’s they were
hard and cold.
        Jayce knew one thing about the “unfortunate circumstances” he’d been dealt—they
were too much. Before he turned toward the door he cast a long, regretful look around the
room at the artifacts that were his life’s work. “It’s all yours, Kaub,” he said. “Good luck.”
        “You’re not going anywhere.”
        Jayce grasped the latch to open the door. There was nothing appealing about
accepting an advisory role here at the dig. Kaub didn’t need an advsior, he needed a
psychiatrist. “I can’t think of a reason to stay.”
        “Perhaps there are reasons you haven’t considered.”
        Jayce paused. Something in Terrence Kaub’s tone of voice had frozen him to the
spot.
        “First, there’s your reputation,” Kaub suggested. “Assuming, that is, you ever want
to dig—or teach—again.”
        Jayce turned but didn’t release his hold on the door. “I didn’t kill Joseph Kotsyovi.
The truth about that will come out whether I’m here or not.”
        “I’m not talking about murder,” Kaub said. “I’m talking about the, shall we
say…inauthentic pots.”
        Jayce’s eyes widened in surprise. Was the guy omniscient? There were only three
people who knew about the handful of pots and shards he and Zach had catalogued and
boxed for carbon testing: Zach, Meredith, and himself. As desperately as he wanted to
learn the source of Kaub’s information, he wouldn’t grant the creep the satisfaction of
asking. Still, his face grew warm. “Are you saying you think I—”
        “I’m not saying anything,” Kaub interrupted. “Rather, I’m not saying anything
while you remain here at Coyote Springs.”
        “And when I leave?”
        Kaub shrugged. “I’m sure there are several stimulating fields of endeavor open to a
bright young Ph.D. like yourself—outside of archeology and education, of course.”
        This sounded an awful lot like blackmail. When he closed his eyes to think, Jayce
saw his career flash before them. At last he said, “I’ll be sure not to list you as a reference
on my new resume.” He twisted the handle on the door and pushed.
        “That’s one reason, Professor.” Kaub’s snakeskin boots were soundless as he
advanced.
        As Kaub stood again near the locker used to store the human remains, Jayce
couldn’t help but think how nicely the small man would fit inside it. He pushed open the
door, badly in need of fresh air and sunshine.
        “There’s another thing to consider,” Kaub continued, but if you’re not interested in
the welfare of your students…” His tongue made a sucking sound against the roof of his
mouth as he shook his head. “And they seem so loyal to you.”
        The same note in the curator’s voice that had stopped him before caused Jayce’s
hand to slip from the door. The crack of sunlight from the doorway narrowed slowly then
disappeared. Jayce’s back was to the metal and he could feel the heat of the sun-baked
door through his thin cotton shirt. “What exactly are you saying, Kaub?”
        “Only that…strange things…have happened here at Coyote Springs. Dangerous
things.” He was close enough now that Jayce smelled the sickly-sweet fragrance of the
black licorice Kaub sucked. The scent reminded him of something dead left too long in the
sun. “It seems to me that a conscientious teacher wouldn’t leave his students in the middle
of nowhere with a killer on the loose.”
        For reasons Jayce couldn’t name, couldn’t guess at even, the threat seemed almost
palpable. He tried to gather his senses. There was nothing to be afraid of. Terrence Kaub
might be a little twisted in his personal tastes, but he was the acquisitions curator of a
noted metropolitan museum. He was an educated man and a respected one.
        Kaub might threaten to discredit me, but he’d never imply that he would hurt my
kids, Jayce told himself. But although Jayce believed the part about the kids being his
responsibility, it was harder to convince himself there was nothing to fear at Coyote
Springs. Especially after what he had seen in PH5 on Tuesday.
        Jayce sighed in resignation. Several of the students were counting on the credit for
graduation. He couldn’t let them down, and he couldn’t leave them here alone. “This shift
is here for two weeks,” he said at last. “I’ll stay as long as they do.”
        Kaub’s smile was as artificial as his hair transplants. “I knew you wouldn’t leave
us, Professor. Just as I know this conversation will never leave this room.” He turned back
toward the remains-locker with a sigh. “It’s all I can do not to open this up and have a
look-see at the treasure inside.”
        Jayce finally opened the door. “You can’t open that vault and you know it.” He
stepped outside and gulped at the fresh air. “Now if we’re through with the ‘consultation,’
I have a kiva to find.”
        I will find it, Jayce decided on his way across the field. Somehow, he would find it.
And he would do it before the end of the two weeks, before the looters did, and before
Terrence Kaub knew he had. He would find the kiva and catalogue it and thereby make
absolutely certain every sacred artifact therein was claimed by Hopi religious leaders
before they could be carted off to the Anglo cities for the glorification of a Pahaana
weasel.
        Jayce paused with his eyes on the yellow police tape that marked the site of
Joseph’s brutal murder. He owed the young Hopi that much. Kotsyovi had given his life,
the least Jayce could pledge was his best effort.
                                        Chapter 11
        Meredith scanned the rows of kachinas in the Crabtree Trading Post looking for the
Keeper of the Dead. She’d saved this shop, the biggest and by all accounts the best, for
last. Besides entire rooms of pottery, baskets, and silver jewelry, it featured shelves and
shelves of kachinas ranging in height from a few inches to almost two feet. Plain and
fancy, there was surely every figure that might appear in a Hopi child’s dream—or
nightmare. Every figure, that is, but Masawkatsina.
        She lifted a Mud Dancer and noted that it was as light and skillfully made as the
kachina she’d found yesterday in Jayce’s trailer. Turning it over, she ran her finger over a
symbol carved into the base; it was a sideways arc slashed through with double lines, one
of which formed an arrow.
        “That’s the artist’s signature,” a young woman’s voice offered from the front of the
store. She’d finished ringing up a man’s purchase of a turquoise, squash- blossom necklace
and now made her way down the narrow aisle to where Meredith stood. “Crabtree is the
best kachina artisan in the world.”
        Meredith turned to see who would make such a bold statement so matter-of-factly.
The small, well-proportioned clerk appeared to be in her early twenties. She had copper
skin, beautiful round brown eyes, and black hair that cascaded down her back to brush the
top of the silver conchos on her belt.
        “Crabtree,” Meredith repeated casually. “I saw the name on the front of the store. Is
he—or she—the owner?”
        “He,” the girl said. “Fred Crabtree. He’s not the owner, but he’s Lee’s cousin. He’s
a full-blooded Hopi, of course. Only certain men have the right to carve authentic
kachinas.”
        “I didn’t know that,” Meredith said. She could scarcely believe her luck. Fred
Crabtree was a carver. That explained the knives in his car and pretty much confirmed her
suspicions about who had left Jayce the terrible “gift.” It seemed that serendipity had led
her to Joseph’s killer on the second day. Wanting to hear everything this girl would tell
her, she prompted, “Why is that?”
        “The katsinam represent religious personages to my people,” the girl began.
Meredith could tell she was slipping into a recitation designed to captivate tourists. As the
girl continued she thought, and one would have to be captivated to pay these prices. She
turned over another price tag, this one on the plainest of the carvings, while the girl recited
most of the things about kachinas that Meredith had already learned from Jayce. If the
simplest of Crabtree’s midsized figures sold for $750, some of the others must go for
thousands. No wonder he doesn’t ask for wages at the dig, she thought. He obviously isn’t
working at Coyote Springs for the money.
        The girl concluded her recitation with a smile then asked, “Shall I wrap one up for
you? We ship anywhere in the United States at no extra charge.”
        Meredith carefully returned the figure in her hand to its place on the shelf. The FBI
gave her a fairly liberal budget, but even the U.S. government would balk at paying a
thousand dollars for a doll. “I haven’t decided which I like best,” she said. “What’s the
difference between these and the ones on the next shelf?” Besides, of course, a two-digit
price difference.
        The girl sniffed. “Those are mass-produced down in Phoenix. They’re made by
machine. The only people who buy them are tourists who don’t know any better. Aren’t
they awful?”
        Meredith reached for one of the clearly inferior dolls and had to agree with the
girl’s assessment. It was heavier, garishly painted and completely lifeless. It was also
shoddily put together. The glued-on pine base came off in Meredith’s hand. The clerk
gasped.
        “I’m sorry,” Meredith said at once. “I’ve broken it, I’ll be happy to pay for—”
        “No, that’s okay,” the girl interrupted. She reached for the kachina. “I’ll take care
of it.”
        Perhaps it was because of the clerk’s overreaction to the breakage, but Meredith
held on to the doll. Turning it over in her hand she saw that it had been hollowed out.
“Strange,” she observed aloud. “Why would somebody go to all the trouble to drill out the
insides?”
        The girl grasped the kachina and pulled. Meredith could either relinquish it or
cause a scene. She let it go. “Are they all hollow?”
        “No!” the girl said quickly. Then, “I mean, yes. Lots of them are hollow.”
        “Why?” When the girl didn’t respond, Meredith observed her discomfort with
interest. Surely this wasn’t the single inauthentic piece of Indian memorabilia in the store.
The clerk had said herself that it was awful. Why was she so defensive?
        “They hollow them out so they’ll be lighter!” the girl declared at last, clearly as
pleased as if she’d solved the mystery of the ages. “That way, novices will think it’s made
of cottonwood instead of pine.”
        “That’s very clever,” Meredith said. “I think I’ll take it.”
        “I can’t sell you this one,” the girl objected. “It’s broken.”
        “That’s all right. After all, I’m the one who broke it.”
        The clerk’s hair swung from side to side as she shook her head. “No. It’s, um, store
policy.”
        For some reason, perhaps because of the reaction it had caused in the clerk,
Meredith wanted that kachina. She wished she knew how to get it without raising the girl’s
suspicions. She turned away in false disinterest. “Tell me more about Fred Crabtree. You
don’t know him personally, do you?”
        “Yes. We’re betrothed.”
        Pay dirt. Meredith waited for the gushing words of a young woman in love, but
none were forthcoming. Puzzled, she studied the cashier’s face and knew at once that Fred
Crabtree was not the love of this girl’s life. It wasn’t as though Meredith didn’t know the
signs. She’d seen the face of a woman in love this morning—when she’d looked in the
mirror.
        Before she could press further, a man came out from a back room. “Kelia!”
        “Excuse me,” the girl said hastily. “That’s my boss.”
        Meredith pretended to shop while she watched the whispered conversation between
the clerk and the man she assumed was the owner, Lee Crabtree. When Kelia gestured
toward the mass-produced kachinas on the shelf, Meredith picked one up, determined to
buy a replica if she couldn’t have the one she’d inadvertently broken.
        Within moments, the shop owner was at her elbow. “Excuse me, miss,” he said,
“but those kachinas are no longer for sale.”
        “But—”
         “My salesgirl was just telling me how inferior their quality has become. We’re
pulling them from our inventory and returning them to the manufacturer at once.” At his
gesture, Kelia came down the aisle with a cardboard carton. Politely but firmly, Lee took
the kachina from Meredith’s hand. “Let me show you something else,” he offered. “At a
discount, of course.”
         “I liked that one,” Meredith began.
         “Then you’ll like the one I have in mind even better.” He handed the kachina to
Kelia before steering Meredith away. At a shelf near the front door he picked up a small
but very impressive kachina and said, “The Crabtrees have been in business here for a
century because of our reputation for offering the finest merchandise. This piece, for
instance, was made by my cousin, the noted artisan Fred Crabtree.”
         Again, Meredith couldn’t find fault with the workmanship, and the design itself
was very appealing. The kachina’s face was bronze, life-like, and handsome. Its simple
white kilt was perfectly offset by an elaborate headdress of white feathers and a tiny
necklace of turquoise, coral, and shell. One of the figure’s shoulders and arms was painted
red, the other blue. It its hands it held a blue wand and a shield painted with an emblem
that looked like the sun. She smiled in appreciation at the artistry. “It’s exquisite.”
         Lee Crabtree nodded in agreement. “One of Fred’s favorites. He’s one of the few
artists who carve it, however. Since it’s lesser known, it’s less prized by tourists.” If he had
any disdain for his customers’ignorance he concealed it well behind careful words and
winning manner. “It is Tawa, a priest with a kind and gentle nature. He represents the best
of Hopi society. Most collectors prefer something with a little more excitement.” When he
saw Meredith sneak a peak at the price tag he added, “You may have it for $50.” He smiled
wryly at her surprise. “It’s a one-time offer, made only to a lovely new customer who was
quite understanding about the pratfalls of retail business.”
         This man is charming, Meredith thought. His voice was deep and well-modulated,
his dress and manners impeccable. On a hunch, she glanced down the aisle at the clerk.
The look on the girl’s face as she snuck a peak at her boss told her at once that Kelia
thought he was pretty terrific, too. If this was the man who had her heart, why was she
engaged to the other Crabtree cousin? For his money?
         “Thank you,” Meredith told Lee. “I’ll take it, of course.” Before he could turn away
she added, “But I came in looking for something for…my fiancé. At full price, of course.”
She pretended to consider the rows of figures. “His tastes are more touristy and somewhat
darker than mine. He wanted me to bring him something, well, sinister.” Lee wasn’t the
only one who could turn on the charm. She employed the face she had perfected young, the
one guaranteed to wrap her father—and most other unsuspecting males—around the tip of
her little finger.
         Fortunately, Crabtree didn’t seem suspicious . In fact, now that the pine kachinas
were safely boxed up, he seemed to have lost interest in her altogether. He motioned
vaguely over her left shoulder. “Nata’aska there is rather fierce,” he suggested in a clearly
patronizing tone before he turned away. “Or any of the ogre uncles, for that matter.”
         She considered pulling her badge to regain his attention, but thought better of it. “I
was looking in particular for a figure known as the ruler of the underworld.”
         It didn’t take the badge to stop him after all. “You mean Masao?” He studied her
carefully for a moment before deciding she was as harmless and clueless a patron as she’d
hoped to appear. “We have a few. Kelia can show you—”
         “That isn’t the name he told me,” Meredith interrupted. “But it’s similar.” She
pretended to try to remember. “I think he said he wanted Masawkatsina.”
         The man’s black eyes narrowed. “He’s mistaken. Masao is a benign representation
of the great katsina. Very popular.” He indicated one on a lower shelf. “I have one here, in
fact.”
         Although there were similarities to the one Jayce had received, they were
superficial. This was not it, nor was it the kachina defined in the book. “I’d like the real
one,” she said.
         “We don’t sell Masawkatsina,” he said curtly. “Nobody does.”
         “Fred Crabtree doesn’t carve them, then?” Lee’s round brown eyes were scarcely
slits. Meredith deliberately widened her own blue eyes in response. “Not ever?”
         “Not to sell,” Crabtree said.
         “Then why would he carve them?”
         Crabtree’s lips were pressed against his teeth in a thin line. “Not everything the
Hopi does is for the amusement of Pahaanas.”
         The way he said the word gave it a new, and different, definition in Meredith’s
mind. It was clearly not a term of endearment.
         “Good day, miss,” he said, and strode down the aisle.
         Now would not, Meredith realized with a stab of regret, be a good time to ask him
about local potters. Not that she would have a chance to ask him anything. Before she’d
decided whether to flash the badge after all and blow her cover as an ignorant tourist
shopping for her boyfriend, he’d picked up the now-full box of kachinas and disappeared
into a back room.
         “May I wrap that up for you?” Kelia asked as she approached. “We ship free
anywhere in the United States.”
         Did this girl have a pull string in her back that automatically reverted her back to
the original script, or what? Meredith looked at the benevolent kachina in her hand,
thought of Jayce and said, “You may wrap it, but I’ll take it with me.” While they
completed the transaction, Meredith asked the girl about potters, but soon discovered she
wouldn’t learn as much from Kelia as she could from a few back issues of Arizona
Highways. But before the door of the shop had swung closed behind her, Meredith heard
the girl call for Lee to report that now the woman had been asking about potters.
         “Curious and curiouser,” Meredith said to herself in her best Alice in Wonderland
voice. None of it made any sense of course, but if she, like Alice, catalogued every
instance of the curious, eventually she could sit down to tea with the Mad Hatter and
expect everything to fall into place.
         If she didn’t exactly know it would happen that way, she could at least hope for it.
                                                 ***
         It was after four when Meredith stopped at McDonalds—the place she’d
unofficially adopted as her office away from the office—to file her report via satellite and
check anything new that might have come in while she was visiting tourist traps. She
wasn’t much more knowledgeable than she’d been when she started out this morning, but
she was much hungrier. She sat in the corner with her palm pilot on the table and cup of
salad beside it. Well trained, she’d kept her back to the wall and the assortment of truckers,
tourists, and teenagers within view.
         She tore open the packet of low-cal dressing, poured it in the cup, and shook the
container to coat the vegetables while the Internet program connected. Then she took the
first bite of what was both her lunch and probably dinner . As the screen came up,
Meredith almost spit out the lettuce. The fingerprints she’d lifted from the corpse had come
back. There was one clear set—Jayce MacDermott’s—and three other possible prints, of a
thumb and two fingers, that were unmatched to anybody in the FBI’s extensive data base.
         She set the salad aside and peered at the screen. It took a few moments, but finally
she leaned back in relief. The position of Jayce’s fingerprints on Joseph’s wrist was clearly
consistent with that of someone feeling for a pulse, but she was almost certain the
undersheriff wasn’t smart enough to figure that out for himself. Had the report already
gotten to him? If so, had he gone to arrest Jayce?
         Meredith glanced at her watch and tried to stifle her urge to close the computer, get
in the SUV and speed out to the ruins.
         You should go, she told herself. The report can wait. You should go check on Fang.
         Fang isn’t who I’d be going to check on, herself pointed out to her.
         Well, it’s your job to keep abreast of what’s going on out there.
         I have a telephone—
         Observation, she reminded herself quickly. Observation is the key to breaking a
case.
         Meredith considered. True, she decided at last. And I do have my reputation as an
agent to consider.
         Right! she agreed with herself. You should go now. And on the way out, why don’t
you dump this salad and pick up some french fries? Potatoes are veggies, too . . .
         A few minutes later, Meredith was back in the Rover, heading north and admiring
the majestic bank of clouds that had drifted onto the horizon; the color of gambel quail,
they offset a sky that was such a deep shade of turquoise blue that it took her breath away.
Life at this very moment was practically perfect. Her fears of the night before had faded in
the light of this new day, and she was on her way to Coyote Springs to see Jayce with a
piping-hot, super-sized scoop of french fries.
         Thank goodness she’d listened to the voice of reason.
                                        Chapter 12
        “Hey, MacDermott,” Meredith said, lowering herself carefully onto a boulder near
where Jayce knelt in the dirt. When he turned to look up at her she smiled. His nose was
sunburned redder than the dirt—probably the result of giving his hat to a student who had
neglected to bring her own—and arroyos of sweat washed clean the creases on his
handsome face. She’d never thought a person so very dirty could look so darn good.
“What’s up?”
        He opened one hand to reveal three round beads, a petrified kernel of corn, a few
small pieces of bone, and something that looked remarkably like one of Fang’s incisors.
“Just this,” he said. “The rest is still down there.” He slipped the meager find into his shirt
pocket, looked around, and added, “Please tell me I haven’t lost your dog.”
        “No,” she said. “He knocked me over to say hello when I first got here then ran
back over to Zach and some other kids. He seems to be having the time of his life.”
        “That pit bull’s plenty popular,” Jayce allowed. “Go figure.” He stood to stretch
and Meredith watched the muscles ripple across his broad back under his cotton shirt. He
reached for a canteen before exiting the ancient garbage site to sit beside her on the rock.
“But I told Fang that the first pit he digs on his own will land him on one short chain.”
        “He understands you, I’m sure.”
        Jayce offered her the canteen and, when she held up her McDonald’s soda cup,
took a long drink of water himself. “He’d better. We discuss all kinds of important things.”
        Meredith looked out across the high desert, thrilled to see that Zach’s prediction
had come true. Land that was empty yesterday now swarmed with activity. Fang was
several yards away, barking encouragement to a group of college men who dug with gusto,
even this late in the day. Nearby, young women diligently ran the overturned dirt through
giant sieves one bucketful at a time. “It looks like everything’s going great out here,” she
observed.
        “Yeah,” Jayce said dully. “Great.”
        She swung toward him, instantly alerted to trouble by the tone of his voice. “Jayce,
what’s wrong? Has Sickel been out here? He has no jurisdiction.”
        “Sickel?”
        He said it as though the name made his head throb. Which it probably did. “We got
the fingerprints back from Joseph Kotsyovi’s wrists,” she explained. “Your set was the
only clear one.”
        “Mine?” he asked in surprise. “But I didn’t touch Joseph. Except his shoulder.”
Before she could remind him, he remembered. “Yes, I did. I felt for a pulse.” His face
twisted into a grimace at the memory. “Not that I didn’t already know he was dead.” He
pulled off his glasses to massage the bridge of his nose. “Is that it, then? The forensic
evidence Sickel needed to prove he was right about me all along?”
         “No,” Meredith said quickly. “It’s obvious to anybody who knows what they’re
looking at that you were after a pulse. But I thought…” It was all she could do not to reach
for his hand. “Jayce, Sickel isn’t a problem right now.” She leaned forward. “So, what is?”
        She watched him decide whether or not to confide in her. At last he said, “I was
fired as chief archeologist.” He held up the hand with his glasses in it to forestall her reply.
“The word Kaub used in the paperwork was ‘suspended.’ I’m bad news for the museum
right now, McKay. The museum…the university… everybody. It’s not like I can’t see their
point.”
         “But—”
         “But what am I still doing here?” he interrupted. “I’m ‘consulting.’ It’s very
important work.” He pointed down at the place where he’d been digging. “For instance,
there’s this highly interesting garbage dump to excavate. It takes credentials like mine to
get something like this catalogued.”
         The hurt she felt for him was almost physical. “Who’s in charge now?”
         “See the weasel—I mean, distinguished gentleman—over there under the
umbrella?”
         The red-and-yellow striped beach umbrella was hard to miss, as was the pale-
skinned man seated comfortably beneath it. If GQ ever photographed a dig, Meredith
guessed the models would all look like Jayce, but they would be dressed like that man. She
nodded.
         “That’s Terrence Kaub from the Museum of Antiquities. He’s the new boss.”
         “He’s an archeologist?”
         “No. He’s a…” Jayce shook his head.
         Meredith learned more about Kaub from the expression on Jayce’s face than she
ever could have from a derogatory noun he was too polite to apply. She sat quietly for a
moment, considering what else she knew. For one thing, she knew there was more to this
than Jayce was telling her. “The kids don’t have a problem with your, um, new
assignment?” she asked at last.
         “The kids don’t know. They don’t care as long as they get the credit they need for
this dig.”
         Meredith didn’t believe it. Kids who were only working for school credit didn’t do
it with the alacrity being displayed across this field. These kids were working for Jayce;
she knew it whether he did or not. She looked right in his incredible agate eyes and dared
him to look away. “And you’re not going to tell me the rest of the story.” If she was
banking on his inherent honesty she wasn’t disappointed.
         He lowered his gaze and put his glasses back on. “No.”
         “Okay.” She reached down to snag the paper loop on the gift bag from Crabtree
Trading Post and swung it up into his lap. “I brought you a present. For dog sitting.”
         “That’s what FBI agents do all day?” he asked. “You shop?”
         But she could tell he was pleased. “I’ll refer to my activities in my official report as
‘undercover investigation’thank you.” She nudged his arm. “Open it, MacDermott.” She
caught her lower lip in her teeth as she watched him unwrap the tissue and look down at
the kachina. When the irresistible little lines around his eyes crinkled she couldn’t contain
her pleasure. “You like it.”
         “Yes,” he said. “I really do.”
         “His name is something easy,” she said, “Tawa, I think. He’s a kachina priest. Lee
Crabtree says he’s gentle and kind and represents what’s good about Hopi culture.” She
looked down into her lap so he wouldn’t see the emotion in case it spilled out her eyes.
“This is the right kachina for you, Jayce.”
         He looked at it a long time before rewrapping it carefully in the paper and returning
it to the bag. “Thanks,” he said. “This means more than you know.”
         “Fred Crabtree carved it,” she said, determined to gain control of herself the best
way she knew how—by plunging back into her work. “Your associate’s quite famous.
Probably independently wealthy.” Jayce was clearly surprised. She followed his startled
gaze across the broad field. “That’s him again, right?”
         Jayce nodded, still considering her revelation. She took advantage of the couple
moments of silence to examine Crabtree’s stocky figure. He was standing just outside the
yellow square of police tape marking the pit where Joseph had died. There was nobody
within one hundred yards, but he seemed to be carrying on a conversation.
         “Huh,” Jayce said quietly. “I had no idea he’s an artist. Maybe I don’t know him as
well as I thought.”
         “No,” Meredith agreed. “I don’t think you do. Jayce, I’m almost sure he carved the
kachina we found at your home yesterday.”
         “No way. I know him better than that.”
         “The workmanship is quite similar.”
         “What I mean,” Jayce said, “is he might have carved the doll, but he didn’t trash
the trailer and leave it there for me to find.”
         Meredith pushed a tendril of hair that had been loosened by the rising breeze back
into her braid, reminding herself that though there was a preponderance of evidence against
Jayce, she didn’t believe he was guilty ; therefore she ought to try to keep an open mind
about Fred, too, despite the scrap of flannel and the kachina. “What makes you so certain it
wasn’t him?”
         Jayce didn’t respond for several seconds. When he did, his voice was low. “I
simply know Fred’s a good man, Meredith.” His eyes were on the yellow tape. “So was
Joseph.”
         And so are you, she thought, but that doesn’t mean you’re not too trusting for your
own good. Hadn’t Fred been the one who supposedly found those fraudulent pot shards?
She stood. “In any case, I need to talk to him.”
         Jayce looked reluctantly back down at the hole that lay at their feet. “And I’ve got
more garbage to excavate.”
                                                ***
         Fred Crabtree wasn’t talking to himself, Meredith decided as she approached
quietly from behind. He was chanting. Or maybe he was singing. As he mourned in the
deep minor notes of native Tusayan, he knelt before the pithouse and used the index finger
of his left hand to draw in the soft silt. He was a better sculptor than singer, and a better
singer than dust-artist. The figure looked rather like a four-legged starfish, or perhaps it
was a squiggly X-marks-the-spot. Still, it seemed somehow familiar. After committing the
simple design to memory she took another step forward. “Mr. Crabtree?”
         He stood and turned toward her, but not, she noted, before sweeping the design
away with a stroke of one callused palm.
         She extended her hand. “I’m Meredith McKay from the Federal Bureau of
Investigation.”
         He shook her hand, but his gaze darted from her face to his dirt-encrusted shoes
before wandering off over her shoulder. He didn’t speak.
         “I’m sorry about Joseph Kotsyovi,” she said. “I understand you were related.”
         “Who told you that?”
         “Am I mistaken?”
         He frowned in response. The guy might be a brilliant artisan, Meredith thought, but
he sure wasn’t eloquent. She took another tact. “I’m also a great admirer of your work. I
bought a beautifully carved kachina this afternoon from your cousin, Lee.” Clearly, he was
uncomfortable that she already knew this much about him. She pressed her advantage.
“And I met your fiancée. A lovely girl. Kelia, is that right?”
        “What do you want from me?”
        So much for chit chat. Remembering all she’d been taught about reading body
language, Meredith paused a long moment to study him before she answered with another
question of her own. “Do you have any theories about who may be behind the lootings
here at Coyote Springs?”
        “No.”
         Obviously, nobody had taught Fred Crabtree to speak body language. His arms
were crossed over his wide chest and his chin sloped toward them. He might as well have
hung an “I am defensive, I will not cooperate with you for any reason” sign around his
thick neck. Still, Meredith persevered. “Joseph Kotsyovi seemed to think Dr. MacDermott
might be involved in the thefts.”
        Crabtree didn’t respond, but one corner of his mouth twitched as though it wanted
to speak, even if he didn’t.
        “Dr. MacDermott said you indicated to him yesterday that you suspect him of
Kotsyovi’s murder.” She did not take her eyes off his face. If he raised it, even for a
moment, Meredith was determined to meet his eyes and try to read the truth there.
        “I was upset,” he told the dirt. “I didn’t know what I was saying.”
        “You don’t think Dr. MacDermott killed Mr. Kotsyovi?”
        He bent so low his braid fell forward over his shoulder. “No.”
        “Do you think he’s stealing artifacts from the site?”
        The response was so quiet, Meredith scarcely heard it. “No.”
        “You support Dr. MacDermott’s work?”
        “No!”
        The vehemence of the reply after so much quietude caused Meredith to take a step
back in surprise.
        “I do not support it,” Fred said. “I will never support it! Techqua ikachi. This land
is sacred to my people. It must be left in peace.”
        “You’ve invested so much time here yourself—” she began.
        “That was before!” Crabtree interjected.
        “Before?” She saw at once that Fred regretted his hasty response. She lowered her
voice in sympathy. “You mean before Joseph died?”
         Disconcerted, he recovered quickly. His thick braid swung from side to side as he
shook his head. “Techqua ikachi. Before the land spoke to me. Before I heard the cries of
my ancestors.” He swept a flannel-clad arm over the assembled workers and his face was a
mask of anguish. “Did we learn nothing from Joseph’s sacrifice?” He turned and walked
away toward the parking area.
        Meredith might have followed—certainly she had other questions and ample reason
to ask them—but decided instead to process what he’d already told her and try to
remember where she had seen that strange symbol in the sand. As she stared down at the
pithouse where Joseph had died, the word “sacrifice” worked its way to the forefront of her
mind. What had Crabtree meant by it—that Joseph had willingly sacrificed his life for a
few pots at Coyote Springs? Surely, even in his grief, Fred Crabtree didn’t believe that.
        But neither did he believe Jayce was a thief or a murderer, and that was something.
        Meredith walked a few more steps toward the pithouse and crouched at the spot
where Fred had sketched the odd figure. She was reproducing it in the dirt to prod her
memory of where she’d seen it before, when a young voice asked, “Are you playing
katsinmamatlawu?”
        Meredith turned. Two little Hopi girls stood hand-in-hand, their colorful cotton
skirts swishing around the tops of their dirty bare ankles. “Is that a game?” she asked.
        The older of the two girls nodded. “My sister and I play it all the time. Our father
works here sometimes. When we come with him we’re supposed to stay out of trouble.”
She sat in the dirt beside Meredith. “I’m better at it than Chana.”
        Meredith’s smile included both children. “Better at staying out of trouble, or better
at the game?”
        “Better at both.” She pulled her little sister down beside her and drew expansive
circles into the dirt with her finger. “What’s that?”
        Since the design so closely matched the thunderheads gathering overhead, Meredith
guessed, “Clouds?”
        “Yes,” the little girl said, “but which of the katsinam is it?”
        It was supposed to be a kachina? Knowing now how the game was played,
Meredith knew she was out of her league when it came to playing it. “I don’t know.”
        The girl sighed. “It’s Salako Mana, the Cloud Maiden. You’re not very good at
katsinmamatlawu, are you?”
        “No,” Meredith admitted with a laugh. “Even if I recognized the kachinas—
katsinam—I don’t think I could pronounce very many of their names.”
        Little Chana had been studying Meredith’s face. She took the two grubby fingers
from her rosebud of a mouth long enough to ask, “Why are your eyes the color of the
sky?”
        “I was born with blue eyes,” Meredith said.
        “She asks a lot of questions,” the sister offered by way of apology.
        “So do I,” Meredith said. She smiled at the little girls and wanted to hug them
because they looked so sweet. “That’s how I learn things.”
        “I go to school to learn things,” the girl said. “But Chana’s too little and you’re too
big, so I guess it’s okay for you to ask questions.” She erased her clouds and looked up at
Meredith. “It’s your turn.”
        Meredith started to remind her that she couldn’t possibly play this game. Instead,
inspired, she drew the figure Fred had made. “Do you know what that is?”
        The girl rested her head upon her shoulder as she considered. “Is it a katsina?” she
asked suspiciously.
        “I don’t know.”
        Chana shook her head. “It’s Nana Sekaku’s eagle,” she said around her fingers.
        The older girl looked from her sister to Meredith, then leaned forward and angrily
brushed the symbol away. Then she scooped up a handful of dirt and sprinkled it over the
spot. “We can’t play with you!” she said. She rose and yanked her little sister to her feet.
        “I’m sorry!” Meredith said at once as she stood. “I don’t know what I drew. I…saw
it someplace. I don’t know what it means.”
         The girl paused and looked up at Meredith. She was young and had been raised
with love. No person or experience had yet taught her not to trust a stranger. Besides, what
person with eyes so pale could possibly know the ways of The People?
         “I’m sorry,” Meredith repeated. “Did I draw something bad?”
         “No,” the little girl said slowly. “It’s not bad. But it’s not a katsina. It’s an eagle
that only a few clansmen are allowed to draw.” She drew herself up to her full height to
emphasize her point. “Nobody else draws the eagle that way. Ever.”
         Truly sorry for her cultural faux pas, Meredith filed the information away and
nodded her understanding. She was about to suggest they sit back down and switch to a
game of tic-tac-toe when Chana screamed. The little girl seemed rooted to the spot, her
eyes wide and glazed with terror.
         When the other girl saw where her sister looked, she gasped. “Don’t move!”
         Sensing that the danger—whatever it was—was behind her, Meredith started to
turn toward it.
         “Don’t move!”
         This time the words were a scream that froze Meredith in place. She heard the low,
ominous rattle in the same moment she saw Jayce coming across the field at a dead run.
Others were responding to Chana’s scream, but the only one she saw was Jayce. Her first
impulse was to run into his arms, but her second thought was of the two little girls who
weren’t more than two feet farther away from the rattlesnake than she was.
         “It’s okay,” she told them. “Stay still.” Her voice betrayed the barest suggestion of
a quaver while her mind worked overtime. She knew from the sound of it that this snake
was a large one. She knew, too, it would be less than a minute before Jayce and the rest of
the group arrived. If the snake was panicked by the crowd—and it surely would be—it
would strike. If it bit her she might survive, but if it struck around her into either of the
little girls’bare feet, the child it poisoned would die before they could get her all the way
into Winslow for anti-venom serum. There was no decision to make.
         In a flash Meredith had scooped up both little girls and stumbled forward. In
another moment, Jayce caught her in his arms. Their eyes met for a fraction of a second
before he swung her and the girls well behind him and yelled for Zach to grab the dog.
         The next Meredith knew, a Hopi man had claimed the two frightened little girls
from her and held them close. At her side, Zach had Fang by the collar and seemed to be
trying to out-yell the wildly barking puppy. She turned back in time to see someone pass
Jayce a long, flat-edged shovel. She knew he’d try to use it to sever the diamondback’s
head. The thought of him stepping so deliberately close to danger made her cringe.
         Meredith looked down then at the thing that had made Chana scream and stifled a
cry of her own. The snake was a monster. Fully as thick as her lower arm and who knew
how long, it had coiled into a knot of venomous rage at the base of the pithouse wall. Its
pearly rattles scarcely vibrated now, but its eyes, yellow and hypnotic, followed Jayce’s
every movement as its long, forked tongue hissed in and out between a horrifying set of
sharply curved fangs.
         When Jayce moved a fraction of an inch closer, the snake struck.
         This time Meredith did cry out as the reptile’s teeth sunk into the toe of Jayce’s
boot. Heedless, he raised the shovel above his head in a wide arc. Before he could bring it
down a voice called out to him.
         “Professor!” A middle-aged Hopi stepped out from the crowd. “The snake,” he
said. “It is sacred. The spirit of Joseph Kotsyovi has sent Katoya to protect this place from
evil.”
         Meredith saw Jayce hesitate a long moment and wanted to scream out for him to
kill the snake. Why did he wait? He couldn’t possibly believe such a silly superstition. A
murmur rising through the Native American faction caused Meredith’s heart to beat more
frantically. Couldn’t these people see that Jayce had been bitten? Why were they arguing
now when he needed to get to a hospital? Needed to—
         Jayce lowered the shovel in a fast, fluid motion and scooped the snake onto the
blade. Meredith saw the ropy muscles in his arms knot at the weight of the huge rattler. In
a lightning-fast motion, the snake struck again, hitting the wooden handle of the shovel
inches from Jayce’s bare hand. Faster than she could draw in her breath, he hoisted it,
swung it back toward the pithouse and deposited it into the deep belly of one of the large
steel drums used to pack and transport artifacts. The thin metal walls magnified the sound
of furious rattling and Meredith heard the snake strike out at the sides of its prison.
         Jayce lowered the shovel to the dirt with an anticlimactic clink. When he raised his
head a shock of red hair fell over his eye. He tossed it back with a jerk of his head that also
served to motion to the Hopi who had called out to him. “Get a couple other men to help
you take the snake into the desert far enough that it won’t come back,” he told him. “Then
you can let it go.” To the excited kids he said, “Show’s over, folks. But stay away from
this area. Those things usually travel in pairs.”
         “This one is alone,” the Hopi insisted. “It is Katoya. It—” Meredith knew that only
a cautionary glare from Jayce had stopped him from repeating that the spirit of Joseph
Kotsyovi had sent it. “It is alone,” he mumbled stubbornly as he came forward with two
other men to hoist the barrel.
         “We’ll look around for the other one, Doc,” a beefy young student offered and
others nodded.
         Jayce shook his head, his eyes on the yellow police tape. “Let’s clear out of the
area, okay?”
         His badly sunburned nose was the lone spot of color left on his face as he leaned on
the shovel. Meredith rushed forward and grasped his arm. “Hurry, Jayce! I’ll drive you to
town.” He didn’t move. “Can you walk?”
         “Huh?”
         For some unfathomable reason, everybody else stood around waiting for Jayce to
die. Fortunately, Meredith’s adrenaline pumped so strong she thought she could carry him
to the car by herself if she had to. “The snake, Jayce. I saw it bite your foot. I have to get
you to a hospital.” She tugged on his arm to bring him to his senses.
         Behind her, Zach chuckled and several other voices joined in.
         “Give her a break, you guys,” Jayce said, trying to stifle a grin. “She’s a city girl.”
He raised the shovel and bounced the blade of it off the toe of his boot. “The boot’s
reinforced with steel. Fewer broken toes—and deadly snake bites—that way.”
         The hand Meredith had on his arm went suddenly lax, but Jayce caught it in his
own before it could drop to her side. He held it securely as he looked down at her soft
leather shoes and bare ankles. “I keep telling you, McKay, I’m not nearly as brave as you
are.” When she looked back up at him his copper-colored eyes glowed with approval
and…something else. She would gladly have stood there until she knew just what else, but
someone was giving orders in a high nasal voice. Jayce released her to turn toward the
sound of it.
         The guy from under the umbrella—Terrence Kaub—had arrived on the scene after
the danger was past. He stood between the steel drum and the open desert and pulled a
revolver from a finely tooled leather holster at his side. “Shoot it,” he told the Indians. “But
be sure to hit the thing in the head. I want the rattles and skin undamaged.”
         The three Hopi men crossed their arms over their chests, took a collective step back
from the drum, and planted their feet atop the cracked, red earth.
         “Let it go, Kaub,” Jayce advised. “If nothing else, think of the dig.”
         “That’s the biggest snake I’ve ever seen,” the little man argued. “Its skin alone will
be worth a small fortune.” Seeing that the Hopi were unbending, Kaub motioned for Jayce
to come forward. “You shoot it then.”
         Jayce stood his ground. “No.”
         “Are you telling me you believe these superstitious fools?” Kaub’s words dripped
with sarcasm. “What kind of scientist thinks his murdered friend could come back to haunt
him as a rattlesnake?”
         “All I’m telling you,” Jayce said evenly, “is that I respect these men and their
beliefs.”
         “What I’m telling you is not a request, Professor.” Kaub’s small, dark eyes glittered
as he extended the weapon. “It’s an order. Shoot that snake!”
         Jayce lowered his head, but not for a moment did Meredith mistake the gesture for
submission. She wondered if he was praying and, if so, how quickly he could count on an
answer.
         If he did receive revelation, it was immediate. Jayce’s head rose and he pushed the
shovel forward. It fell perpendicularly between his scuffed boots and Kaub’s polished ones
like a line drawn in the sand.
         For almost a minute the only sound on the high plateau was the rapidly increasing
wind. The only movement was dust devils darting to and fro amidst the creosote. Nobody
who watched the drama unfold believed that the fate of a diamondback was all there was at
stake here. Just when Meredith could stand it no longer and had reached for the revolver in
her fanny pack to end the confrontation by shooting the snake herself, Jayce stepped over
the shovel’s wooden handle and held out his hand for the gun. Kaub pressed the weapon
into the young archeologist’s palm with a self-satisfied smile. “I knew I could count on
you to be reasonable, Dr. MacDermott.”
         Without a word, Jayce walked to the far side of the steel drum and raised the
revolver. Then he looked Kaub in the eye, opened his fingers, and dropped the gun in with
the snake. “Kill it yourself.” After a moment he turned to the Hopis. “If Mr. Kaub changes
his mind, take the snake out and release it. But be sure to return the gentleman’s revolver.
No doubt it’s worth a small fortune.”
         The profanities that came from Kaub’s mouth were bluer than any Meredith had
heard, and she’d thought she’d heard everything at one bust or another.
         Jayce raised his voice to drown him out and break the tension. “Looks like we’ve
got a monsoon moving in on us,” he told his students and crew. “Let’s make the most of
every minute we’ve got left today. Everybody back to work.”
         A few moments later, Meredith ran to Jayce’s side and matched his rapid pace back
across the field. “Want to tell me what that was really all about?”
         “No.”
         She reached for his arm to stop him but scarcely managed to slow him down.
“Leave with me right now,” she urged. “It isn’t safe for you here.” She’d spoken on
impulse, but knew at once that what she’d said was true. Despite what he might think,
Jayce had enemies: the looters who had viciously killed Joseph, whoever had vandalized
his home and left the sinister kachina as a warning, and now Terrence Kaub.
        “I have to stay,” he told her.
        “Why?” When he kept walking Meredith planted herself in his path. “Why? Kaub
fired you, Jayce. You don’t owe anybody here anything.”
        “Yes,” he said. “I do.” He stood quietly watching his students return to their
workstations. He looked somehow older, and she knew it was because of a new weight he
bore—one he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, share. Was he worried about Terrence Kaub? Surely,
it couldn’t have been wise to cross the crazy little man the way he had, especially in front
of an audience. Rattlesnakes, though inherently deadly, bore no malice. But men did, and
Meredith was willing to bet that Terrence Kaub was the more dangerous of the two
creatures.
        As Jayce walked away from her, Meredith suppressed a shiver that came from more
than the brisk breeze and sudden drop in temperature. Malevolence stalked these ruins. It
had come with the intent to loot ancient burial grounds. Or perhaps it had come earlier,
brought by those who sold mind-numbing, life-destroying drugs to the descendents of the
noble Hisatsinom. Once introduced, the malevolence fed on greed and suspicion and grew
stronger.
        The human aspect was real, but Meredith had never been one to ignore the surreal
and it was almost as disturbing. The ancient burial grounds had been opened. Within days
a man’s life had been taken. Moments ago a mammoth snake had appeared on that spot as
if from nowhere. Now, the clouds she’d thought so beautiful earlier in the afternoon were
dark and ominous. They seemed to glower down at Coyote Springs. It seemed to Meredith
as if nature itself wanted Jayce to abandon his interest in a culture that wasn’t his own and
leave this place at once.
        Meredith looked after him and murmured, “Why won’t you listen? Why won’t you
go?”
                                       Chapter 13
         The summer monsoon rolled across the plateau as Jayce had predicted. First came
the wind—a great warm wall of it which scooped up the dust from the ground and pushed
it unceasingly forward as if the earth would once again scour itself clean of all signs of
humanity. The Hopi workers had gone with the first gusts of wind—or after the last sign of
the snake—and Meredith knew that Jayce worried that they wouldn’t return the next day,
or ever. Seemingly more determined in the absence of paid workers, the kids plugged
doggedly on despite the dust and falling barometer until Dr. MacDermott ran from group
to group to send them into the base. Now they gathered en masse in the large shed as the
rain fell against the roof in fat drops and lightning struck close enough for the
accompanying thunder to drown out even the fitful diesel generator that provided power to
this temporary shelter from the elements. Elements, Meredith thought, that had formed the
landscape of Coyote Spring eons before the first ancient people came, and would continue
to sculpt it eons after the last archeologists left.
         The only one missing from the room was Terrence Kaub, whose luxurious
Fleetwood motor home had arrived minutes before the storm. Driven in by a man who
better fit the description of a professional wrestler than a “personal assistant,” its chrome
and glass glistened in the rain. It looked as out of place on the desert plateau as an ice
sculpture in the center of the Sahara.
         But nobody inside the base thought of Kaub, his muscle-bound attendant or his
expensive, ten-wheeled home away from home. Everybody, including Meredith, listened
intently to Jayce tell the legend of Katoya, the large snake Hopi legend says guards the
most sacred kiva of all—the snake kiva in the underworld. He told it well with gestures
and carefully chosen words, but in a manner that would teach the kids by his example to
respect the culture they had come here to unearth and help preserve.
         When a girl who sat practically at Jayce’s feet asked him a question about the
origins of the katsinam religion, Meredith eyed her closely. The girl was young and clearly
in love with her professor. She didn’t have a freckle anywhere on her beautiful face.
Probably, Meredith mused with a jolt of recognition, because the sun had been blocked
from her perfect nose by Jayce’s battered ball cap, the one the girl still wore even though
the danger of ultra violet rays in this dim shed was negligible.
         Thank goodness, Meredith told herself, she was too mature to be jealous or she’d
want to rip that hat—and a strand or two of long, bleached blonde hair—from the girl’s
empty head. Feeling a need to do something with her fingers, Meredith massaged Fang’s
ear so vigorously that he got up and left her side to move to Zach’s. Meredith folded her
arms across her chest with a sigh. So much for maturity.
         Jayce next told the enrapt kids about Ma’asau, the deity the Hopi reverence as the
Creator and Caretaker of the world. According to oral tradition, he had come in person to
The People in a generation now lost in antiquity. A good man as well as a God, he had
blessed them; taught them to honor the land and their ancestors, admonished them to pray
always, and bestowed on a few worthy men a holy priesthood. Before Ma’asau left he
commanded that his words be recorded on stone tablets and passed down to their children.
Those tablets, Jayce said, though now lost, were still sacred to many of the Hopi and oft
quoted by Traditionalists determined to keep the ancient belief alive until Ma’asau’s
return. For the Caretaker, the elders taught, promised he would return—but after much
tribulation and when the earth itself cries out to its Creator. Upon his return, the living will
be reunited with the dead, the earth will be made new, and all will again be in peace and
harmony.
         Jealousy forgotten, Meredith caught her breath at the stirring familiarity of the
story, and at the goose flesh she’d felt at Jayce’s telling of it. It had been too long since
she’d read in the Book of Mormon the account of Christ’s visit to the Americas. It had
been too long since she’d read anything in the Book of Mormon. She wanted to read it
again now, hoping to retain the warmth and joy she felt throughout her being. She wanted
to be better than she was. She wanted to be her best for Jayce, for herself, for the Savior of
them all.
         A refocusing of Jayce’s attention toward the door behind her told Meredith
someone had opened it, but she didn’t turn to see who it was until she felt a hand, not much
smaller than a catcher’s mitt, land on her shoulder.
         “Ms. McKay,” Kaub’s hired muscle said, “Mr. Kaub will speak with you now.”
         Meredith hadn’t requested an interview with the self-important Kaub and didn’t
relish it. But since he was the head of the dig, and since the dig was her assignment, she
had little real choice but to rise and follow.
         Picking her way gingerly through the now-slick mud, she was surprised to note the
first bright evening star wink down at her through a clearing in the clouds. Sometime while
she sat in the shed listening to Jayce, the storm had passed without her notice. So much for
the keen observational skills on which she prided herself. With her eyes on Jayce, her ears
full of his voice, and her heart swelling with appreciation of his knowledge and insight,
Meredith suspected that a hurricane might have blown by, a volcano erupted, or a tornado
set down and plucked the roof right from over her head without her notice. She still had it
bad for MacDermott, there were no two ways about it.
         Meredith declined the drink Terrence Kaub offered, but accepted the chair. She
looked around the room that was kept purposely dim and thought she’d been in penthouse
apartments shabbier than this motor home—and in morgues that were cheerier. At least in
a morgue the deceased were properly covered or discreetly stowed away in lockers. In
Kaub’s home, human remains were carefully preserved and artfully displayed. She averted
her eyes from a shrunken head and rested them instead on a crystal skull. The theme of the
piece was equally macabre, but the material it was made from was slightly more appealing.
         There was no accounting for Kaub’s taste in décor, but there were several
legitimate possibilities to explain the opulence: he was descended from the Rockefellers,
he’d married way above himself, he’d won the lottery, and/or the curators of rather minor
museums were much better paid than she thought they were.
         The illegitimate possibilities to explain his standard of living were endless and, for
reasons she couldn’t quite delineate, seemed more probable.
         “I appreciate this opportunity to ask you a few questions,” Meredith said before
Kaub was fully seated across from her. She knew most of the tricks to gain the upper hand
and intended to use all of them.
         He settled comfortably in his chair. “You won’t mind if I ask to see your
credentials first, Ms. McKay?”
         Perhaps he, too, knew how to play the power game. Without comment Meredith
withdrew the slim leather tri-fold from her fanny pack and flicked it open. He reached for
it, examined the badge, scrutinized the picture, read every word on the ID. Finally he
closed the wallet and extended it, but not far enough that she wouldn’t have to be the one
to lean forward if she wished to reclaim it.
        So, Meredith thought, Kaub not only knew how to play the power game, he was
good at it. She ignored his outstretched hand for the time being and leaned back in her
chair. “Dr. MacDermott tells me you’ve taken over the dig.”
        “I’m sure he has,” he replied coolly. “He may have told you more, since your
relationship is clearly more personal than professional.”
        His tone was conversational, without a hint of accusation, but Meredith was taken
aback. She was also too well trained to show it. “I don’t know where you got your
information,” she said, “but it’s mistaken.”
        “Is it?” He turned her credentials over in his hand and Meredith wished she had
reclaimed them. Though Kaub’s hands were spotlessly clean they seemed oily. “Then
you’re in the habit of taking expensive gifts to all your suspects.”
        So Kaub had seen her arrive with the gift bag this afternoon, Meredith thought in
concern. He might have seen, even from a distance, that she’d given Jayce a kachina, but
he couldn’t have known it wasn’t a cheap, dime- store version. Not unless he had
examined it while they were busy with the snake. Or unless someone had told him what
she’d purchased and how much it was worth. With the latter too unlikely to seriously
consider, Meredith asked herself what would motivate Kaub to examine Jayce’s personal
possessions behind his back. Something was going on here between the two men, but she
didn’t know what.
        Cautious, she addressed his choice of words first. “As the person who filed the
report about the grave robbers and discovered Joseph Kotsyovi’s body,” Meredith said,
“Dr. MacDermott is hardly a suspect.” She paused to give herself time to decide what more
to say. She didn’t want to explain herself to this distasteful man, but she didn’t want him to
call her boss at the Phoenix office to report her actions, either. Depending on how one
looked at it, g iving a witness, or suspect of a homicide investigation, a gift in public was
more than foolish. It was downright stupid. Jayce MacDermott addled her brain, there was
no other explanation.
        Was there a way out of the mess she’d gotten them both into?
        “And you’re partially correct, I suppose,” she said, pushing regret and self-
recrimination back in order to attempt whatever damage control she could muster. “I can
see how you drew your conclusion. I do know Dr. MacDermott…or at least I did when I
was young. We come from the same home town. Being assigned here is quite a
coincidence, though, since I haven’t seen him in years. Anyway, he agreed to help me out
with my dog and the token gift I gave him was to say thank you.”
        She’d spoken lightly, casually, and added a bright smile intended to ease Kaub’s
suspicions if not engage his good humor. But she hadn’t expected it to work and she’d
been right. Good humor wasn’t in this man’s repertoire, but he had distrust in abundance.
        Kaub crossed one sharply pleated trouser leg over the other and allowed his
expensively clad foot to dangle, the light refracting from silver insets in the boot. The
slight nod he gave her to show he was considering her “confession” confirmed her
assessment of his character. Terrence Kaub was cynical and cowardly, interested in ideals
and people so far as they were means to an end—his end. He’d use others the way most
people used plastic utensils, and he’d dispose of them with less care when he finished. He
had been using Jayce all along and was using him now, Meredith saw, though she didn’t
yet understand how, nor why Jayce allowed it to continue. Less certain was what Kaub
wanted from her. He knew as well as she did that one call to the Bureau to report a
“conflict of interest” would damage her sterling reputation and, worse, pull her
immediately from the case.
         Her foreboding grew to fill the silence. Meredith couldn’t bear to leave Jayce—not
now when there was so much at stake, perhaps even his life—but it looked certain that
she’d be replaced before sunrise. She fought to keep her emotions from showing on her
face.
         “I see,” Kaub said, arching a brow that was too delicate for a man. Meredith knew
at once that he “saw” too much. When he smiled, broadly this time, she noted the small
sharp teeth and knew why Jayce called him a weasel, though she did think the comparison
was an affront to ferrets the world over. “Thank you for humoring me with a perfectly
reasonable explanation, Ms. McKay.” He leaned forward and tossed her credentials into
her lap. “I think you and I can get along fine. Now tell me what Dr. MacDermott has told
you about Coyote Springs.”
         He was hoping to blackmail her, Meredith realized with surprise. He’d instinctively
recognized her fear and probably assumed it was for her reputation. He’d decided in an
instant to use that fear—to let her stay on as long as she cooperated and continued to play
the game his way.
         Should she? For Jayce?
         Jayce. Had something similar happened to him? Was Kaub’s coercion at the root of
their tension over the snake? And if Jayce was here at the curator’s will, what threat had
the power to hold him?
         There were too many questions and Meredith had too little time to think.
         “He said that you’d suspended him as head of the dig because of the bad publicity
over Kotsyovi’s murder,” she said cautiously—and truthfully. She knew that men who
seldom told the truth themselves could spot a falsehood with more surety than a lie
detector. She could play his way long enough to decide how best to change the rules. “Dr.
MacDermott understands your position fully.”
         “Oh, I’m sure he does.” Kaub’s expression was amused and self-satisfied. “That’s
all he’s told you?”
         “That’s all he’s said about you and the museum. That, and that you’ve generously
invited him to stay on as a consultant.”
         “You’ll find I’m very generous when I have reason to be.” Kaub reached for his
drink and took a dainty sniff of the amber liquid. “What has he been telling the kids over
there?”
         “Stories,” Meredith said. “Ancient Hopi legends.”
         “He would.” He took a sip and rolled the alcohol on his tongue, seeming to
consider his crystal glass before swallowing. “The man’s an idealistic fool.” He raised his
eyes fractionally. Just enough, Meredith knew, to gauge her reaction.
         She shrugged. “A man would have to be a fool to spend his life alone in a decrepit
trailer, digging in the dirt.”
         “A point well taken, Ms. McKay. Perhaps we should share your observation with
Dr. MacDermott. For his own good.”
         He was still trying to bait her, to decide what she felt for Jayce. Thank goodness
she wasn’t prone to blushing, and was practiced at hiding her emotion. Meredith didn’t
care if Kaub thought she was vain and ambitious enough that he could blackmail her with a
subtle threat to destroy her reputation; she didn’t care if he thought she was weak enough
that he could use her fear for herself to spy on Dr. MacDermott. She only cared that he
never find out she loved Jayce. That would be the one thing he could use against her.
         She’d done okay on her own so far, but now she needed help and she needed it fast.
Please was the only prayer Meredith had time to utter, even silently, but it was for Jayce
and it was enough. As an idea began to develop, her desperation turned to inspiration and
she leaned forward. “Let’s not tell him what I said quite yet,” she offered conspiratorially.
“Sharing that rather tactless, if apt, observation with Dr. MacDermott doesn’t fit my…
plan.”
         “Plan?”
         “Let’s not pretend to be at cross purposes anymore,” Meredith said. “You’re a
perceptive man, Mr. Kaub, and it was foolish of me to mistrust you at first. You figured
out right away that I wasn’t being truthful with you. You recognized that my assignment
here isn’t as coincidental as I claimed. In fact, it’s been carefully orchestrated.” Meredith
did have a plan now and it was a good one. She might win this game yet. “I hope I can
trust you to be discreet. Fortunately for the FBI, everyone we target isn’t as discerning as
you. Some men are more easily manipulated—if you know what I mean.”
         He looked thoughtful, startled, and suspicious in turns. “You’re saying that Dr.
MacDermott is a suspect and that you’re using your previous relationship with him to gain
his confidence.” His eyes ran over her. “Not to mention employing your considerable
womanly charms to his disadvantage.”
         “I’m merely admitting he’s a suspect,” Meredith replied coyly. “A suspect who,
thus far, has circumstantial evidence against him.”
         “Might the proper term for the plan you have in mind be, ‘entrapment?’”
         Meredith’s heart lightened by approximately a ton at the man’s wicked little grin. It
was going to work. Nothing in Kaub’s nature would allow him to believe in love or to trust
in friendship, but everything he was led the man to pledge allegiance to deception and
deceit. In other words, he was buying her story—she could see it in his gleeful little ferret
face. “May I tell my supervisor that we have your full cooperation, Mr. Kaub?”
         He raised his glass to her in salute before draining it. “As I said before, Ms.
McKay, I think you and I can get along just fine.”
         Though she winked at the crystal skull on her way out the door a few minutes later,
Meredith didn’t believe for a moment she’d won more than the first round of a perilous
game with Terrence Kaub. He was a cunning man with an agenda of his own. To believe
she might have beaten him so easily would be as foolish as it was dangerous.
         Leaving Kaub’s intimate, lavish accommodations to return to the crowded barn of a
field base seemed to Meredith like stepping from darkness into light, literally and
figuratively. At first she couldn’t name the difference in feeling that flooded over her, but
could savor the delicious rightness of it. Then she met Jayce’s eyes over the heads of the
still-seated students and could name it: it was the Spirit.
         She leaned back against the door as she considered. Physical attraction was surely
part of all she felt for Jayce MacDermott. But she’d been drawn to him early in her life not
because he was handsome or charming or intelligent, but because he was good. Maybe
she’d never met another man like him because she hadn’t looked in the right places. She’d
looked over the men of the world and overlooked the men of God.
        Jayce smiled at her and a surge of delight started in her scalp and tingled all the
way down to her toes. This man had been worth waiting for. He was worth fighting for.
Though Kaub’s scheme was still unclear to her, as was the gambit he used to bind Jayce to
him, she was grateful to have been prompted to pray when she needed to, and infinitely
grateful her prayer had been heard. Because of the gift of inspiration she wouldn’t be
reassigned. She would spend tomorrow—and as many more days as it took—unraveling
the frightful tangle that bound them all, good and bad, to Coyote Springs.
                                        Chapter 14


        Up a couple of hours before the sun and several hours before the day would
officially begin at the site, Jayce sat on the stairs to his trailer and watched the dimmest of
the morning stars wink out one by one over the outline of the ruins and students’tents. In
one hand was a cheap, pocket-sized spiral notebook to replace the larger and more
expensively bound journal that had been stolen two days before. This version, while
nothing fancy, had an advantage—when it wasn’t in his hand it could be put in his pocket.
He wasn’t going to lose it all again. Not now when it counted the most.
        He tapped the end of the wooden pencil on his knee as he considered. Somehow he
had to get it all back on paper—all the calculations, theories, and educated guesses. He had
to find that kiva and he had to find it fast. Kaub, who had once claimed poverty for the
museum, had managed to hire two dozen more workers—men better suited to dig latrines
that excavate a sacred ceremonial site. If left to his own devices, the new idiot in charge
would simply peel the skin off Coyote Springs ruins, heedless of what might be lost or
destroyed in the process.
        If the kiva was still intact underground, like the cavern discovered in Colorado the
year before, it was likely artifact-filled and covered with murals. It had to be entered
horizontally, Jayce knew. The risk of collapsing it by digging in just the wrong place was
too real, and too awful, for him to even contemplate. Somewhere there was a tunnel and,
looking down at the last of his sketches of how he believed the village once lay, Dr.
MacDermott thought he might finally be on the right track to finding it.
        In order to confirm his hunch, Jayce somehow had to send Kaub’s shovel-toting
apes in another direction—a mostly harmless one with just enough artifacts to keep the
curator interested and unsuspecting. And he had to dig himself—alone and in secret.
        There were enough “ifs” and “mights” and “somehows” in the scenario to
discourage a lesser man, but Jayce was enough of a natural-born optimist to believe it
would work. He examined the rough diagram he had sketched by flashlight, then turned to
a fresh page and started again. At his elbow, Fang whined and pushed his boxy head up
through the crook of Jayce’s arm to rest it on the man’s warm, flannel-shirted chest.
        “Go back to bed,” Jayce advised the dog. “You can have the whole cot now instead
of the mere two-thirds you took up most of the night.”
        Fang licked Jayce’s chin.
        “You couldn’t be hungry.” Tired of filling the dog dish every time he turned
around, Jayce had finally dropped the 25-pound bag of puppy chow on the floor and slit it
open. Then he’d emptied out a box of Milk Bones on top for good measure. Surely the
mutt hadn’t polished off the entire doggie buffet in less than forty-eight hours. The last
Jayce noticed, Fang was enjoying a snack of cardboard box and paper wrapper to
supplement his diet of socks, a textbook, the wooden handle of a trowel and more than half
of everything Jayce had on a plate or in his hand at any given moment. Meredith didn’t
have a dog—she had some kind of hybrid goat/termite/pig.
        Fang put his front paws on Jayce’s thighs and tried to move closer.
        “Hasn’t anybody told you that pit bulls aren’t lap dogs?” But Jayce didn’t push the
mutt away. Instead he put down his notebook and pencil and let all sixty-five pounds of
puppy climb into his lap. Fang was soft and warm. And wet.
        “Cool it with the kisses, okay?”
        Fang looked down the road toward Winslow and whined.
        “Yeah, I know,” Jayce said. “I miss her, too. It must be almost six whole hours
since we’ve seen her.”
        Fang turned back to Jayce. His golden eyes seemed questioning.
        “You’re wondering about that thing we talked about, aren’t you? About us three
being a family. Well, I’m still working on it.” He massaged the dog’s ears as he’d seen
Meredith do. “It’s too early to see results,” he explained. “Getting a woman who didn’t
remember you were alive at the beginning of the week, to suddenly want to spend forever
with you takes a little time.” When Fang whined, he added, “Pit bulls don’t understand
love.”
        Fang lay his muzzle against Jayce’s neck.
        “Okay,” Jayce conceded, stroking the dog’s strong, muscular back. “Maybe they
do. Do me a favor then, would you? Explain it to Meredith next time you see her. And be
sure to fit my name in when you bring it up.”

                                                ***
        A stale smell of coffee and cigarettes assailed her as Meredith opened the door to
the sheriff’s office first thing Friday morning. The assault to her nose made her long for the
tangy, pungent smell of creosote bushes and the musty, earthy smell of the desert’s red
clay floor. Being up at the dig was refreshing, even exhilarating, although it was a pretty
fair guess that being near Jayce had a greater effect on her city-girl senses than did
communing with nature. But this morning’s visit was a necessary evil since the autopsy
report was due back from Holbrook. Something in it might answer a question or two
before the more extensive findings came in from the FBI lab in Phoenix.
        It was a new day but the receptionist still had her nose stuck in a Hillerman novel,
albeit a different title. Perhaps because reading and chewing gum took all her attention she
was slow to look up at Meredith.
        “Can I help you?” she asked at last with her Cleopatra-lined brown eyes still mostly
on the page.
        “Is Deputy Dodge in?”
        “Nope.”
        Meredith kept the sigh of consternation to herself. She would have to see Sickel.
Talk about a rotten way to start a day. “Is the undersheriff in?”
        “Yep.”
        When the girl’s eyes strayed back to her novel Meredith removed it from her hand
with a smile. “Your book must be fascinating. I’d like to read it myself, but I’m supposed
to be working. Will you tell Mr. Sickel I’m here, please?”
        “Cleopatra” finally reacted at the realization she’d have to get rid of Meredith
before she’d ever find out if this one of Mr. Hillerman’s mysteries was solved as
ingeniously as all his others. She picked up the phone. “I’ll see if he’s in.”
        While the receptionist placed the call, Meredith looked down the hall to the
partially opened door to Sickel’s office. She could hear him speak in a low tone, but
couldn’t discern the words at a distance.
        Hillerman’s biggest fan replaced the receiver and shook her head. “He’s too busy to
        see you
right now. Would you like to make an appointment?”
         Meredith didn’t like being stonewalled. “No, thank you,” she said. She returned the
girl’s book before she brushed past her and walked briskly down the hall to Sickel’s office
where she knocked politely on the open door.
         “Come in.”
         Now that wasn’t so hard, was is? Meredith pushed the door the rest of the way
open. Sickel was at his desk. No reading Hemmingway or Hillerman for this guy. The
man-who-would-be-sheriff played a slow version of Tetris on a computer. His eyes never
left the brightly colored tiles as he asked gruffly, “Whaddya want?”
         “I want the autopsy report on Joseph Kotsyovi,” Meredith said pleasantly. “Deputy
Dodge left a message on my phone to say it had come in.”
         At the sound of her voice Sickel’s eyes flew from the computer screen. “How did
you get in here?”
         He puffed out his massive chest rather like a bullfrog, Meredith thought. Now that
she’d drawn the comparison, his face looked rather like a frog’s too, warts and all. If she
hadn’t been so peeved at Sickel’s lack of common courtesy she might have laughed.
Instead, she bit the insides of her cheeks and managed, “I’d like to see the autopsy report,
please.”
         With a low growl he shuffled halfheartedly through the papers on his desk. “It ain’t
here,” he said. “Must still be down in processing. It’ll take a few days to type up. Why
don’tcha check back next week.”
         Meredith wondered if her smile looked as pasted-on as it felt. This man was worse
than the macho instructors she’d hated in FBI training. At least she knew those men had
acted the way they did to “toughen her up.” She’d learned from experience that false
bravado and swagger in men who weren’t paid for it were most often a means to cover up
deficiencies in key traits like intelligence and honesty. Despite the country grammar that
was part of his good ol’boy routine, Meredith suspected that Sickel was plenty smart. His
biggest flaw then was likely in the honesty sector.
         She chose her next words carefully. “I didn’t come for a confrontation,
Undersheriff. We’re on the same side here. The sooner I can do my job the sooner I’ll be
out of your face.” She added a self-deprecating shrug for good measure. “All I want to do
is review the preliminaries—whatever’s come in at this point.” Against better judgment
she added, “Besides, don’t the early findings confirm your suspicions?”
         Sickel’s smile almost split his wide, pasty face. “They do indeed, little lady.
MacDermott’s snot-nosed lawyer won’t be able to keep him out of jail much longer.” He
sneered, “The only question left in my mind is jurisdiction. Who’s gonna arrest him, me or
you?”
         Meredith dug her fingernails into her palms to forestall an imprudent retort. “Could
I look at the autopsy report, please?”
         Sickel turned to the credenza behind him and retrieved a file folder. “Make yourself
comfortable.” He motioned to a clearly uncomfortable wooden chair then folded his arms
across his chest and put his feet up on his desk while he waited.
         Meredith accepted the folder but declined the chair. She leafed through the report,
hoping again that the FBI analysis would be back soon. They had run the usual: blood and
chemical screens and a fiber analysis, plus DNA. That information would be much more
detailed and helpful than this probably was.
         Meredith scanned the report with little real interest. It didn’t take a county coroner
to determine that Kotsyovi’s death had been by asphyxiation and loss of blood when his
jugular vein and trachea had been cut by a serrated object. Cause of death was nothing she
didn’t already know. She turned the page and gasped in surprise at the place where the
doctor noted that Joseph’s extensive trauma to the head may have occurred as much as an
hour before his death.
         An hour? Meredith read the speculation again in disbelief. Crimes of passion were
instantaneous. Surely looters hadn’t surprised Kotsyovi, knocked him unconscious, fled,
and then returned sixty minutes later to kill him. Maybe Joseph had gotten further in his
investigation of the drug ring than she had supposed. Maybe that information was what
was missing from his journal after all. A murder as cold-blooded as this one better fit the
style of drug lords—except, of course, for the means. The execution of choice for most of
the gangs was a single bullet to the head. Meredith simply couldn’t account for anyone
waiting an hour to kill a man and then using a rough stone knife to do it.
         Maybe the coroner was mistaken. When she thought about it, it was the explanation
that made the most sense.
         The coroner had also made note of the strands of fiber matted in the dried blood
and concluded they were sheepskin. Meredith frowned. It was odd, but not remarkably so
in this part of the world where sheep roamed everywhere and almost everyone had
something made from them.
         Meredith closed the file and laid it on Sickel’s desk with a sincere thank you.
         “You’re very welcome.” The expression on his face was smug. “Guess now you’ll
have to admit that everything we’ve got points to MacDermott. A person don’t need fancy
FBI training see that he’s the killer.”
         The man must chain smoke something stronger than cigarettes. “I still have a few
questions,” Meredith said, deliberating keeping her voice light. “Some of your ‘one plus
ones’add up to three, Undersheriff.”
         He had begun to do that frog imitation again. “I filed my report with the FBI!” he
said, as though filing it made it accurate. “It’s all down there in Phoenix in black and
white. There weren’t one car on that road Tuesday that didn’t belong to somebody at that
dig. Explain that one.”
         A person who couldn’t explain that one wouldn’t make it past the first day of FBI
training. “Joseph Kotsyovi’s Jeep hasn’t been located,” she reminded Sickel patiently.
“We know he drove it in—and didn’t drive it out.”
         “We only have MacDermott’s say that Kotsyovi drove his Jeep. Maybe he rode in
with somebody. Maybe the Jeep’s in the shop somewhere.”
         Not in a shop within a two hundred-mile radius. She’d had Ernie, a poor little
rookie newly assigned to the research desk, check that one out on Wednesday.
          “Let’s discuss the part of the report you filed with the county sheriff and the
Bureau claiming you lifted Dr. MacDermott’s fingerprints from the murder weapon,” she
suggested. “That in particular puzzles me.” The man’s thick eyebrows drew together in
perplexity and Meredith almost rolled her eyes. Sickel had clearly falsified the report to
frame Jayce. He didn’t have fingerprints on the murder weapon. He couldn’t have them
since chert was one of many rocks that wouldn’t hold a print. A first-year student of
geology could have told him that. “I think you lied to us.”
          Sickel thrust himself out of his chair, his chest now almost as extended as the beer
belly beneath it. “Who do you think you are, lady?” he roared. “I’ve done my job and you
know it! Don’t you think you can waltz in here with your fancy badge and pretty speeches
and take credit for solvin’a case that’s mine!” He raised a beefy fist and for a moment
Meredith thought he might try to strike her. Instead, he threw his fist toward the door in a
crude but universal symbol of dismissal. “You got what you wanted. Now I’d advise you
to get yourself back to that city you came from.” He didn’t say “or else” but it was clearly
implied.
          Not intimidated by Sickel’s girth or his bellowing, Meredith met his eye and said
quietly, “Sorry, Undersheriff, I can’t do that. This is my case and I intend to solve it.” The
next words were meant to carry the most weight. “But not by framing an innocent man for
the sake of a little publicity and maybe a few more votes come election day.” She turned to
leave. “Run the flashing lights on your patrol car and play with your siren all you want, but
make certain you stay off federal land while you’re doing it.”
          “Are you threatening me, girl?”
          “No,” Meredith said, “but I’m not going to be threatened by you, either. If you
want to let law enforcement suffer while you try to woo a few voters, it’s okay with me—if
it’s all right with the current sheriff and the taxpayers.”
           The veins in Sickel’s forehead nearly popped. Meredith thought that for once he
might be at a loss for words, but she was wrong. As she exited the office she heard him
utter an oath. And she heard the next words he muttered, too: “That lady’s gonna be sorry.
She’s gonna be real sorry.”
                                                  ***
          “Sorry,” Jayce said, using the spiral notebook in his hand to shield his eyes from
the sun as he looked up at the student who had approached. “What did you ask me, Zach?”
          “I asked what planet you’re on.”
          Jayce’s gaze passed over the barren, crater-marked landscape and back to the
eccentrically pierced young man with the blue dreadlocks. “I’m not sure,” he said. “Give
me a clue.”
          Zach grinned. “We’ve found something kinda strange in PH6. It’s definitely not a
seed pot, but it’s about that size. I think it may be textile, Doc, so I’m afraid to let the guys
dig any more, even with trowels. Do you have time to come and take a look?”
          “Sure.” Jayce slipped the notebook securely into the front pocket of his shirt as he
rose.
          “What have you been working on?” Zach asked on their way over to the pithouse.
“You didn’t even sound the gong this morning to give us the ol’respect-your-surroundings-
and-your-science lecture.”
          Jayce let out a long breath. “I’m still looking for a kiva, Zach.”
          “And you want to find it before Kaub’s new crew comes.”
          “Yes.” Jayce looked around the site. “Where is Kaub anyway?”
          “He’s pacing around over at the burial grounds.” Zach grimaced. “That’s one
ghoulish dude.” After two steps taken in silence, Zach added sullenly, “He acts like he’s in
charge here.”
          “It’s his money.”
          “But all the kids—”
          “I know,” Jayce interrupted. “Let’s all just do our jobs and try to stay out of his
way.”
       “But that crew of his…”
       Zach’s words trailed away and Jayce realized that even the students knew what
gross negligence in exactly the wrong place could do to the integrity of a site. He said
meaningfully, “There’s a whole lot of field out there, Zach. Enough to keep a hundred men
digging for weeks, if not years, without too much damage.”
       “Then you know the layout of the village, Doc?” Zach asked.
       “I hope I do,” Jayce said. He turned toward his young friend. “Zach, I pray I do.”
                                        Chapter 15
        Meredith didn’t know how long she sat in the Rover at the side of the road after
leaving the sheriff’s office on Friday morning. She’d driven most of the way to the next
destination on her list of places to investigate, then, distracted by thoughts that had nothing
to do with her work, pulled over to the side of the road to admire the austere beauty of the
high desert. Cars passed on the highway and eighteen-wheelers gave an occasional friendly
honk then rolled on by when she signaled with a wave that she was fine. She looked at the
desert but she thought about Jayce.
        And Will.
        And life.
        A lifetime was a long time to love someone and never let him know. A dozen years
was a long time to mourn a friend—and to feel so guilty about his death that you allowed it
to cripple your life.
        No, “cripple” was the wrong word. Meredith’s remorse hadn’t crippled her. If it
hadn’t been for Will, she would never have gone into law enforcement, and she didn’t
regret that decision in the least. In a self-imposed exile from her love, and with her parents
too absorbed in their own lives to remember they’d given birth to an offspring, the FBI had
been Meredith’s family, and her life. She’d gone into law enforcement because Will had
been preparing to become a police officer and Meredith, feeling she had taken his life,
offered hers up in his stead. That’s why she’d begun police training. But she’d stayed and
moved on to the FBI because she genuinely loved the work.
        It was funny how things worked out sometimes, Meredith thought, no longer seeing
the landscape, though her eyes were opening—really opening—at last. Circumstances had
brought her and Will and Jayce together almost at birth, and had kept them together in their
first year after high school at Yavapai College.
        Will had enrolled because of the college’s award-winning police certification
program. Jayce was there because his senior year of high school was the year his father
became ill with Parkinson’s. His mother—with her husband and eight children to care for
and suddenly support—was understandably overwhelmed. Much of the responsibility for
helping his family weather the crisis fell to the oldest child, Jayce. He had given up his
scholarship to BYU to stay in Prescott where he worked full time at a supermarket and full
time at home, and still managed to make the Dean’s List.
         Meredith’s choice of schools was less altruistic. She was in love with Jayce and
would have gone wherever he did. She wondered now what might have happened if she’d
been honest with Jayce about her feelings for him. And honest with Will. Honest with
herself, most of all. Maybe she would be active in the Church and she and Jayce would
have children born in the covenant of an eternal marriage.
        Maybe Will would be alive.
        Meredith gripped the steering wheel. It wasn’t her fault Will died—not really.
She’d been telling herself that over and over again since coming to northern Arizona. She
had to repeat it again and again. And somehow, Meredith knew, she had to believe it. It
was the only chance she had to begin again with Jayce, and this time to never let him go.
        She was so caught up in her reverie, she didn’t notice the patrol car that had slowed
down and pulled onto the shoulder behind the Rover. She jumped when the highway
patrolman tapped on her window. “Are you all right, ma’am?”
         Meredith nodded and rolled down the window.
         “May I see your license and registration, please?”
         “Of course.” She opened the glove compartment to remove the documents.
Realizing at once that he saw the gun, she added hastily, “First let me show you my
badge.”
         “Badge?” the man repeated. “You’re a cop?” When Meredith proffered her shield
he looked her over, said, “FBI,” and whistled his surprise.
         Meredith smiled. Some female agents would be offended by the patrolman’s
somewhat chauvinistic attitude, but she wasn’t one of them. What was the offense in a
little honest admiration when it was so good for one’s ego?
         “Phoenix office I see,” he said. “You’re a long way from home.” He handed back
her credentials. “Are you here to investigate that homicide out at Coyote Springs?”
         “Yes,” Meredith said. “But I’ve also been sent to look into some drug activity that
seems to have spread from Winslow out onto the reservations.
         “Wicked problem there for a while,” the patrolman said. “It’s slowed up some over
the summer.”
         “So I’ve heard. Any speculation as to why?”
         “School’s out. That’s bound to help some.” He seemed to consider her question
carefully and Meredith appreciated his willingness to help. Finally he said, “Have you been
up to the Rez?”
         “No.”
         “There’s a guy with the tribal police—name of Navasie—who was going great
guns there for awhile. I think he could have brought in a cartel single handed, given half a
chance.”
         “What happened to him?” Meredith asked.
         “Somebody yanked his chain, I guess,” the officer said. “You could ask him. He’s
still on the force.”
         “Navajo or Hopi?”
         “Navajo.” The man tipped his hat to block the greater part of sun from his already-
weathered face. “Good luck talking to him now, though. All those guys are run ragged
what with Niman.” He motioned toward the steady stream of traffic. “Half the cars you see
are heading up to the Rez. They think the Hopi are having a big party when what they’re
doing is more like holding church.” He shook his head. “Some people.”
         “Thanks for your help, Officer,” Meredith said. It wasn’t much to go on but it was
more than she’d had ten minutes before. She was glad the patrolman had stopped and she
said so.
         It was funny, she thought as he returned to his car and she put the Rover back in
gear, the way things worked out sometimes.

                                             ***
        “What now?” Jayce wondered aloud at the sudden rise of excited voices above
ground. He’d been working painstakingly with one rather elderly Hopi to assist him on the
find in PH6. They had uncovered about six square inches of what was clearly something
made of—or wrapped in—fiber. Non-yucca textiles were uncommon, though not unheard
of. He was excited about the students’find, but apprehensive that it would turn out to be
what he suspected it was. Just in case he was right, he’d asked the Hopi to pray before they
began work. The site should have been presided over by a Hopi priest, but with everybody
up at Niman and the find already exposed to the elements—and vulnerable to looters—
there’d been no other viable choice but to remove it.
         Jayce hated to be interrupted now, but not as much as he hated to be the only one
who didn’t know what was going on out there. The Hopi had already left him, so Jayce
stood and then boosted himself out of the pit for a better view.
         If anybody was still working Jayce didn’t see them. Everybody stood, singly and in
groups, looking up at the sky. About the only one who wasn’t pointing was Fang, and he
was barking wildly to make up for it. At first, Jayce couldn’t make out the source of
interest. At last he saw it high above the horizon, silhouetted against the brilliant blue sky.
A hawk had looped a great arc, caught a crosscurrent of air, and soared up until it was the
tiniest of black dots amidst the thin white clouds. In the next moment it reappeared,
looking as though it rose from the top of the purple-blue San Francisco Peaks to the west.
As it descended, it did so in slow concentric circles that seemed to center over PH5.
         Jayce whistled under his breath. He’d seen a lot of hawks out in the field, but never
one with a wingspan like this one’s. Even from a distance it looked like it might approach
four feet or better.
         “Impossible,” Jayce said when at last he saw the great white head and massive
feathered legs. “That’s no hawk…”
         “It’s an eagle!” one of the kids yelled. “An honest-to-gosh eagle!”
         It wasn’t impossible, Jayce supposed. Eagles still lived in the wild along the
Colorado and Verde Rivers. They might conceivably have spread as far north and east as
the Little Colorado. But to his knowledge they never left the rivers or the cliffs where they
mated for life.
         One eagle? This far from running water? If it wasn’t impossible, it was darn
improbable.
         What was even more unlikely was what the eagle did next. Just before it seemed
that its dive would send it hurtling into the dust, its superb hydraulic system kicked in and
the bird banked gracefully, caught something that looked like a hunk of meat from the
pithouse in its powerful talons, and soared back up into the sky where its incredible wings
carried it northeast toward Oraibi on the Hopi Reservation.
         The significance of what had occurred was lost on the kids, who knew only that
they had been treated to the show of a lifetime. They laughed and talked and told each
other how much they wished they’d had their video cameras. The significance was not lost
on Jayce, however. He stood as quiet and still as stone as he watched the Hopi who had
prayed for him join the small group of Hopi workers—the few who had returned to Coyote
Springs after the incident with the rattlesnake the day before. They looked at one another—
eyes filled with understanding and horror. If they had been Catholic Jayce knew they
would have crossed themselves. As it was they began to sing. The song they sang as they
turned their backs on PH5—turned and shuffled toward their dented pickup trucks and
ancient Chevys—was an old song. It was a song with words that probably hadn’t been
spoken off-reservation for generations. I was a song of prayer to the katsinam to deliver
them from evil.
         Jayce wished he knew the words so he could sing along.
                                                ***
          Meredith pulled into the parking lot of the high school that Cookie Shurr told her
had seen the most illicit activity. She squeezed her SUV into a narrow space between two
late-model Buicks and got out. For a moment Meredith stood and looked down at the
empty student parking lot wishing school weren’t out for the summer. She would like to
have seen—by the cars they drove—which students had a little more spending money than
was common in this part of the state.
        She slung her purse over her shoulder and headed toward the building labeled
“Administration.” Down the hallway to the office, Meredith passed the long, glass-fronted
trophy case that was obligatory in every high school in the nation. Jammed in this one were
the usual loving cups, plaques and pennants alongside photos of football and basketball
teams, valedictorians and one student who had gone on to play minor league baseball. A
photo in front caught her eye and she stopped to look more closely.
        The lovely, regal girl with masses of glossy black hair looked every bit the part of
last year’s homecoming queen. She also looked very much like someone Meredith had
met—Kelia, the clerk who’d acted so strangely over the broken kachina, the girl who was
engaged to Fred Crabtree. She’d been off a little in guessing the young woman’s age,
Meredith realized, but even in this picture Kelia looked several years older than she
apparently was. Storing the new, probably irrelevant microbit of information in her internal
computer, Meredith continued to the office where she asked to see the guidance counselor.
        A secretary led her down a narrow hall to a cubicle that contained two chairs and a
desk with barely enough room behind it for the burly, sixty-something school counselor.
The man’s gray handlebar mustache seemed to expand to fill the entire lower portion of his
face when he smiled. “Don Bledsoe. Pleased to meet you.”
        His hand was hard and rough. Meredith wondered if he’d recently come back to his
desk at school after a summer vacation laying bricks. “Thanks for seeing me on such short
notice,” she said. She slid into the chair in front of the oak desk.
        “Not a problem, Ms. McKay,” he said jovially. “With the kids on break, I’ve got all
the time in the world. Where do you want me to start?”
        Meredith liked his no-nonsense approach and dove right in herself. “Do you have
any idea who might be supplying the kids here at the high school with drugs?”
        When Bledsoe leaned back, his chair groaned in protest from the weight. “I think I
do,” he said, “but of course, I can’t prove anything.” He looked Meredith in the eye. “This
is between you and me, right? It doesn’t leave this room?”
        “Not until I can prove it myself,” she hedged.
        “Then I think you might look into Johnny Stewart, one of our custodians last year.”
        Meredith had seen the name in the reports from Cookie Shurr’s office. Having
Stewart pop up twice like this was too unlikely to be a coincidence.
         “Several of the kids I’ve talked to hinted he was the source,” Bledsoe continued,
“but when push came to shove they wouldn’t come right out and say so. They were all too
afraid.”
        “Afraid?” Meredith asked in surprise. “Were they being threatened?”
        “More or less.” Bledsoe shook his head. “Stewart’s a big guy, the type that
intimidates people just by standing around.”
        “Wasn’t anybody brave enough to report him to law enforcement?”
        He raised a hand ruefully. “That would be me. Not that I could find anybody to
report it to.” A look of disgust crossed the gentle planes of his face. “As per usual, I
couldn’t get any farther than the brick wall that surrounds our local sheriff’s office.”
         “You’re saying Sickel hasn’t made an arrest?”
         “I’m saying he didn’t make an investigation, despite telling the newspaper he’d put
‘his best man’on the case.” He snorted in derision. “If that’s true, the guy was undercover
so deep he still hasn’t come up for air.”
         Meredith frowned. That sounded like Sickel, all right—all show and no go. She
pulled the palm planner from her purse. “Can you put me in contact with any students who
might be willing to talk?”
         “No can do,” the counselor said regretfully. “It’s against district policy. You’d have
to get the Bureau to go through the superintendent of public instruction and—”
         “I understand,” Meredith said. He wasn’t the first good man to be caught in a bad
snarl of red tape. “What time does Stewart come to work?”
         “He doesn’t. He quit toward the end of the last term. Nobody’ll convince me it was
a coincidence that the drug problem tapered off about the same time.”
         Meredith filed the information away and thanked the counselor. “If there’s anything
else you think of,” she said, handing him a business card, “please give us a call.”
         “Will do.” When she rose he added sincerely, “God bless you.”
         Meredith returned to the office to pick up an address for Johnny Stewart. It was
another dead end. According to the secretary, his last paycheck had been returned with
“not at this address” scrawled across the envelope. Beside the handwritten words, the post
office had stamped “no forwarding address.” She made note of the old Winslow address
anyway and left the school disheartened.
         She had two things to go on, she reminded herself as she climbed back in her car.
She had the name of a Navajo tribal police officer and a lead on an erstwhile
custodian/possible drug dealer. It wasn’t much, but it would keep her busy for the
afternoon checking the address, running the name through the FBI’s extensive data banks,
and perhaps interviewing the Navajo officer by phone.
         But before she dug in it was time to head over to her office-cum-hamburger place.
She felt a “Mac attack” coming on.
                                                 ***
         Jayce tore off a sliver of beef jerky and raised it to his lips as he considered the
emerging bundle beneath the floor of PH6. Whatever it was they were digging out, one
thimbleful of dirt at a time, had been of great worth to the people who’d once lived in this
room. Nothing else would account for it being wrapped in cotton, a commodity so scarce
that it was practically priceless at the time it had been set into the floor beneath the mats of
this family’s home.
         Jayce thought he knew what it was, but he had yet to enlighten the students. Not
that they’d asked him. They’d been too busy using their cell phones to call all their
families and friends to tell them about the appearance of an endangered, government-
protected American bald eagle in their very own camp. Nobody but Jayce had spent much
time looking at the ground since lunch. Most eyes were still focused on the sky, hoping for
the eagle’s return.
         Jayce was as sure the eagle wouldn’t be back as he was certain no Hopi would set
foot on Coyote Springs land again—not while he was there. Jayce didn’t know the Hopi
word for bogeyman, but he was pretty sure that it would long be synonymous with
MacDermott in The People’s dictionary.
         First a snake and now an eagle—both outside the pithouse where Joseph had died.
Although every explanation he could come up with seemed to belong more in a Stephen
King novel than an archeological report, Jayce knew there was a reasonable explanation
for the phenomena. But he sure didn’t know what it was.
         Jayce had put the dried meat in his mouth, but he hadn’t chewed. He couldn’t. He
tossed it out of the pithouse to Fang and looked down again at the small mound of petrified
fiber and…something else. He drew a deep breath before kneeling once again with a soft
whiskbroom and a pick smaller than some used by dentists. He considered removing his
boots before he went back to work as the words the Lord spoke to Moses came to mind:
Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
                                                ***
         “Strike two,” Meredith told herself as she hung up the cell phone and dropped it
into her lap. Tired at last of McDonald’s, she was working from her hotel room. It had
taken less than three minutes to get the phone number of the Navajo Tribal Police. It had
taken more than three hours to find somebody up there to talk to her. The highway
patrolman wasn’t kidding when he said they were busy with Niman. The person she had
finally reached was a non-Indian who said he’d stopped by the office to repair a computer.
If she wanted to talk to Officer Navasie any time in the near future, she’d have to go to the
reservation since he wasn’t coming to a phone any time soon.
         Strike one had been with Johnny Stewart. Like most current and former school
employees in the United States, his fingerprints were on file with the FBI. But all that was
listed with them was his name and last known address. All that meant, of course, was that
he was an amoral, small-time opportunist who had yet to be caught. His former home
certainly fit the picture. She’d been by the tiny, vermin-infested apartment where he used
to live. The current resident had never heard of him and the apartment manager was either
genuinely stupid or thoroughly contemptuous of the United States government. Though
Meredith suspected the latter, she couldn’t prove it, so she’d had no choice but to ask her
questions, accept the surly, unhelpful answers, and leave the woman in peace.
         There had been a single bright spot in an otherwise dismal day. Deputy Dodge had
called to say her paperwork had gone through—helped out by some favors she’d called in
at the Bureau—and Jayce’s truck could be picked up from impound. In fact, he offered to
deliver it to a locale of her choice as soon as possible. Probably, Meredith surmised, before
Sickel found out what they had done. It was hard for her to believe that the mostly amiable,
possibly co mpetent Dodge worked for Undersheriff Sicko. She wondered why he didn’t
transfer to Holbrook.
         She’d arranged to have Jayce’s truck taken to a Mexican food restaurant that wasn’t
far from her motel. Now she hoped to get Jayce to join her there for dinner. Her heart
pounded as she picked up the phone. He didn’t answer until the fourth ring.
         “Hey, MacDermott,” she said. “Busy?”
          “Yes,” he said. “I mean, no. Uh, hi, McKay. How are you?”
         “Bad day,” she said. “I’d like to make it better.” She might as well rush right in
before she lost her nerve. “That’s where you come in.” He was silent and she drew a deep
breath. “May I take you to dinner tonight?” The silence continued. Too long. “Never
mind,” she said. “I know you’re—”
         “Hungry,” he interrupted. “I haven’t eaten all day. But can we make it kind of late?
We’ve got a…thing…going here. I need to wrap it up before I can leave.”
         “Are you sure you’re not too busy?” she asked, and then bit her tongue for giving
him a graceful way out.
        “I’m sure,” he said. “Is seven okay? I think I can borrow Zach’s car—”
        “I’ll pick you up,” she said quickly, wanting to keep the return of his truck a
surprise. “At seven. You can work a little later that way.”
        “Okay,” he said. “Thanks.”
        “Thank you,” she said, but after they’d hung up. She’d walked away from Jayce
once and regretted it every day since. She wouldn’t walk away again until he knew how
she felt about him. Who knew? Tonight might be the right time to tell him.
                                       Chapter 16
        The Dos Hermanos Cantina was a popular place on Friday night, so the parking lot
was almost filled. Jayce would never have noticed the small white sedan, nor the Native
American couple inside it, if Meredith hadn’t glanced their way, slowed as she passed, and
then sped up again. As she parked the Rover he glanced over his shoulder for a better look
at whomever it was she found so interesting.
        “Don’t stare,” Meredith said at once. When he turned back around and reached for
the door handle she added, “Just a minute.”
        Jayce watched her adjust the rear view mirror so the couple from the sedan was
clearly within her line of vision. As she looked at them she pulled up an eyelid with one
finger and appeared to be restoring a lost lens with the other. He looked closer. Her eyes
were large, a more beautiful blue than Delft had ever produced, and quite obviously devoid
of contact lenses.
        When he helpfully pointed out that rather significant detail, she almost smiled.
“The people in the car don’t know I don’t wear contacts. This way they won’t think I’m
staring at them.”
        “Why are you staring at them?”
        “Because the situation is unusual. It might mean something.”
        “What?” Curiosity was one of the driving forces in Jayce’s life. It was all he could
do not to turn around for a better look. When she didn’t answer he added, “Tell you what,
McKay. I’ll let you dig in my great big pile of dirt sometime if you’ll let me play spy
tonight.”
        Now she did smile. “It’s a deal, MacDermott. In fact, you can help me out.” She
readjusted the mirror and reached for her purse. “The man I was looking at is the owner of
the Crabtree Trading Post. The woman is his clerk.” Her smile widened. “You look
disappointed. Were you hoping I had spotted bioterrorists?”
        “Something like that,” he admitted. “But I guess it’s not very likely. Who would
they bioterrorize around here? Sheep?” He shifted enough on the seat to catch a glimpse of
the pair from the corner of his eye. “Why are we interested in them?”
        “The woman told me she’s betrothed to Fred Crabtree.”
        At the risk of proving himself as amateurish in the spy business as he was, Jayce
said, “So what?”
        “So, don’t you think it’s odd she’s spending Friday night with her boss instead of
her fiancée?”
        “Not odd enough to attract the attention of the FBI,” he said. “Isn’t it more Fred’s
problem than yours?”
        “Do you want to help me or not?”
        “Yeah,” he said, quickly. “Sure. What do you want me to do?”
        “Pretend we’re a couple.”
        “A couple of what?”
        In the next second, Jayce realized what Meredith meant though he wasn’t sure he
believed it. If it was true, this was the next best thing to the divine intervention he kept
telling Fang to expect. Maybe it was divine intervention. Maybe this was heaven’s way to
get him to stop jamming their switchboard by asking to have Meredith look at him as more
than a suspect in her case files. With that thought in mind, Jayce hated to risk spoiling the
best offer he might get in this lifetime by asking why they were pretending to be a couple,
but he couldn’t resist his darned curiosity. He asked.
         “Because when I was in their store yesterday,” Meredith explained, “I told them I
was shopping for a kachina for my significant other.”
         “Did you mention that your significant other is a pit bull?”
         “No,” she said. “Nor did I tell them I work for the FBI.”
         Jayce started to respond, thought better of it and opened his car door. Even he knew
better than to twice tempt divine providence into deserting him now. He circled the SUV
and opened Meredith’s door. About the time her feet touched the pavement he lost his
mind, pulled her close, and kissed her.
         Though he’d spent the last decade—after two years on a mission—imagining what
it might be like to kiss Meredith McKay, Jayce discovered that when it came right down to
it, he didn’t have much of an imagination.
         Of course, who could imagine that her lips would be this soft and—unless it was
that cockeyed optimism of his rearing its ugly head—this welcoming? Jayce hadn’t kissed
very many women very many times, but he’d kissed enough to know that this time was
different. This woman was different. He was attracted to Meredith on a level he didn’t
know existed before now. He didn’t merely admire her or respect her or even want her. He
loved her—body, mind, and spirit.
         Since it was a public place, and never letting her go for as long as he lived was
pretty much out of the question, Jayce released her at last. Then he stood looking down at
the pavement while he wondered what would happen next. He figured she might slap him
hard enough to loosen the fillings in his back molars. Or she might fall into a swoon at his
feet, but that was probably too much to count on. Especially when he considered that about
the only thing he had in common with Indiana Jones was the dirt embedded in his cuticles.
         When, after a few moments, his fillings remained intact and Meredith remained
upright, Jayce slowly raised his head to face the music. (He thought the music might be a
waltz. It was surely something romantic.) “I—” he began, but interrupted himself to clear
his throat. He tried to look her in the eye, but failed. If those blue eyes weren’t clear and
wide and so darn pretty they’d be easier to face. “You, uh, said to make those people in the
white car think we’re a couple, right?”
         She took half a step away from him and ran one of her hands over her silky
chestnut hair as if to reassure herself that his fingers weren’t still in her chignon. “Um, yes.
I think I did say that.” She smiled, but it was a little lopsided and uncertain. “You’re . . .
um . . . quite . . . enthusiastic . . . about espionage, MacDermott.”
         Jayce optimistically assured himself that her remark was virtually the same thing as
saying he was a great kisser. For once he wasn’t curious enough to test his hypothesis by
asking what she really meant.
                                                   ***
         She could eat if she put her mind to it, Meredith knew she could. Eating involved
nothing more complicated that using the fork in her hand to move a small portion of the
cheesy enchilada from the plate to her mouth. That accomplished she had only to chew.
She could do that. It was the third step in the nourishment process she was having trouble
with. Though tasting the spicy Mexican food was optional, swallowing it was not.
Swallowing was the problem. She hadn’t been able to do that very well since Jayce had
kissed her in the parking lot.
        He had kissed her! She hadn’t heard bells or whistles, nor had she seen stars like
the heroines in the romance novels stacked under her bed—her one secret vice. But even if
kissing one’s true love wasn’t the audio-visual experience Barbara Cartland and her ilk had
led Meredith to believe it was, kissing Jayce was easily the most incredible, sensual thing
that had ever happened to her. She wished she didn’t have to pretend to eat. She wished
she could sit quietly and savor the memory of the delicious tingling that had run down her
spine at the touch of his lips to hers. Or, better, she wished she had the nerve to lean across
the table and kiss Jayce—to make it happen all over again.
        But maybe not when his mouth was as full of chili relleno as it was right now.
        MacDermott was having no problem at all eating, swallowing or holding up his end
of the conversation. He took a drink of water to wash down the food and looked as though
he was about to say something else when his mouth seemed to freeze open. Instinctively,
Meredith turned to follow his gaze. Kelia had just come in the restaurant on the arm of
Terrence Kaub. Lee Crabtree was nowhere to be seen.
        “Is that who I think it is?” Jayce asked. “Fred’s fiancée?”
        Meredith nodded. There was no doubt in her mind about the picture at the high
school now: this was the homecoming queen herself.
        “She gets around,” Jayce said incredulously. “Somebody ought to have a serious
talk with poor Fred.”
        “What are they doing here?” Meredith wondered aloud.
        “They look to me like they’re going to do the same thing we are—have dinner.” He
made a wry face. “And maybe even pretend to be a couple.”
        Meredith figured it was too much to ask for Kaub not to spot them, and she was
right. He paused as he passed their table, but didn’t bother to introduce his companion. If
Kelia recognized Meredith from the shop, she gave no sign of it; of course, Meredith didn’t
think she’d looked at her at all. Kelia looked at Jayce, looked away, looked at him again,
and finally focused her attention on a potted palm in the far corner of the room. She knew
him, Meredith realized at once, but he didn’t know her. Or he didn’t remember her,
perhaps. Maybe she’d been to the dig with Fred. Jayce wasn’t great at faces . Still, why
was she so nervous? Did she, like so many people in this town, think Jayce had murdered
Joseph Kotsyovi?
        The internal sensor in Meredith’s brain “pinged” and she looked down at the girl’s
feet. She used her imagination to turn the feminine sandals into studier shoes and drew a
breath at the realization. Unless she was mistaken, they’d be about the right size to match
the smaller set of footprints Meredith had plaster-cast outside Jayce’s trailer. Suddenly
there was another explanation for the girl’s bad case of nerves—she had helped Fred
ransack Jayce’s home.
        Kaub said, “Did you see my new workers arrive, Dr. MacDermott?”
        “Attila’s Huns would have been easier to overlook,” Jayce responded.
        “Do you have the spot flagged for them? I’ve told the men to report for work at
dawn.”
        “We’re ready.”
        “And your work in the pithouse?” Kaub licked his thin lips.
        “We got it out.”
        Kaub’s eyes glittered. “Intact?”
        “Yes.” The disgust on Jayce’s face made Meredith’s heart constrict.
        “Where is it now?”
        “We had to plaster it for preservation. When it’s dry I’ll lock it in the safe.”
        “Very good,” the curator said. Then he turned to Meredith. “Good evening, Ms.
McKay. I hope you’re enjoying your evening off duty.”
        “Did he wink at you?” Jayce asked before Meredith could inquire what “it” Kaub
had made reference to. The man had rounded the corner with Kelia to take a table out of
their view.
        “No,” Meredith said. “Of course not. There must have been something in his eye.”
        It was as though her words pushed Jayce back in his chair. The food he had taken
so much pleasure in a few moments before was forgotten. He cut a bite-sized portion of
tamale, used his fork to move it from one side of his plate to the other, and then left it
there. He didn’t raise his eyes from the pool of red sauce when he asked quietly, “Do they
teach you to lie in FBI school?”
        Meredith laid her fork down quickly, before she dropped it. She said, “I haven’t
lied to you.” It was almost true—from a certain point of view.
        “Then tell me what you’re doing here,” he said.
        She forced a smile meant to be flirtatious. “Having dinner and—”
        “And pretending to be a couple,” he interrupted. “I know. What else are you doing
here, Meredith?”
        She reached for her water glass and took a sip, but the clear, cold liquid did nothing
to dispel the dryness in her mouth. “I’m investigating the pot thefts,” she said. “You called
the FBI, remember?”
        “McKay, stealing pots is probably the biggest business in the Four Corners region,”
he said tiredly. “Everybody knows it happens and everybody knows it’s going to keep
happening because nobody at the FBI gives a darn. Nobody. We archeologists file your
stupid reports in quintuplicate to keep the universities and museums off our backs, but
never once have I heard of anybody receiving a response from the government, let alone
being sent a special agent of their very own.” His face was earnest though his words were
ironic. “You’ll understand then that I can’t help but ask myself why I’m such a lucky guy.”
        “There are extenuating circumstances here,” Meredith said calmly. “There was a
homicide at Coyote Springs.” As soon as she said it she realized her mistake.
        Jayce didn’t miss her slip-up. Nor did he let it pass. “You drove up from Phoenix
early Tuesday morning,” he said without expression. “In other words, McKay, you’re
telling me now you received the assignment to investigate a murder before I found
Joseph’s body. That’s pretty good work, even for the FBI.”
        Meredith couldn’t meet his eyes. If they were suspicious and accusative she’d feel
bad, but if they were hurt and distrustful she’d feel awful. She nodded down at the
tablecloth. “Yes, it is.”
        “You couldn’t trust me enough to tell me about the drug investigation?”
        Her face rose involuntarily in surprise. If anything he looked confused…and sad.
She wished he were angry. Angry would be easier to see.
        “Cookie Shurr called me,” he said. “She warned me to watch out for you. She
thought she owed me a favor.”
        Which was nothing compared to what Meredith thought she owed him. “I’m sorry,
Jayce,” she said. “I know I can trust you. I should have told you about the drugs.”
        “But you didn’t because there’s more to all of this.”
        Meredith didn’t deny his statement. He’d know she was lying again.
        “You’re working from an angle you know Cookie and the sheriff’s office won’t
figure out if you question them, but you think I might if you ask me,” he said, thinking
aloud. “And you figured I wouldn’t take my head out of a hole in the ground long enough
to find out about your drug investigation, so why mention it?”
        “MacDermott,” she said, “I’ve thought several times in the last few days that if you
ever decide to give up those holes, you’d make one heck of a special agent.”
        “No thanks,” he said. “Holes are safer.” He must have thought of Joseph then,
because he added, “Used to be safer, at least.” He speared the piece of tamale with his fork
and started to raise it to his lips, but the fork froze in midair. She scarcely heard him say,
“That’s it, isn’t it?”
        She didn’t respond, but knew he’d figured it out.
        “That’s it,” he repeated, and lay the fork back down on his plate. “McKay, I must
have asked myself fifteen times a day what a guy like Joseph Kotsyovi was doing on an
archeological dig. If forced to guess, I would have leaned toward him being there to
sabotage me—I actually thought he might be stealing the pots and smuggling them up to
the reservation.” He shook his head. “I guess FBI in his case stood for more than Full
Blooded Indian. Boy, did I guess wrong about him.”
        “For what it’s worth, he guessed wrong about you, too.”
        When their eyes met at last, Meredith smiled without remorse. If there was one
person in the world she was willing to share her information, her career, her life, her
everything with, it was this man. The thrill she felt when he smiled back at her was as
physical as it was emotional.
        “So,” he said, “It’s pretty clear that I know too much.” He extended his long,
tanned arms across the table, wrists up. “Do you cuff me now or do you have to kill me
later?”
        Meredith laid her small, soft hands atop his rough callused ones and curled her
fingers around them securely. “I only have to trust you, Jayce.”
        “And you can do that?”
        “I can if you can trust me.”
        This time he was the one who looked away. “You mean if I tell you what’s up with
Kaub.”
        “I’ll go first,” she offered. “Kaub saw me give you the kachina yesterday and tried
to use his suspicions of a personal relationship between us to blackmail me. I convinced
him the gift was part of an official plot to entrap you with my feminine charms.”
        “You know,” Jayce said, gripping her hands and pulling them toward his chin,
“that’s a darn good plot. I think it’s working.” He raised her fingers to his lips and kissed
them, then released her hands and said sheepishly, “Kaub thinks he’s blackmailing me, too.
For some reason, he wants me to stay on at Coyote Springs.”
        “Blackmailing you how?”
        Jayce hesitated. “For one thing, he knows about the fake pots.”
        Meredith leaned across the table. “How could he possibly know?”
        “Beats me.”
        “Joseph knew about them,” Meredith said. “He thought you planted them.”
        Jayce rolled his eyes. “Joseph…Kaub. Why is it that everybody knows what’s
going on out there before I do?”
        “It might be because you have less guile,” she suggested sincerely. “Or it might be
because they have something in common that leaves you out of the loop.”
        “If there was anybody who disliked Terrence Kaub more than I do it was Joseph
Kotsyovi.”
        “Help me figure it out, then,” she said as she he released her hands so they could
both pick up their forks. She attacked the enchilada with gusto now, pausing long enough
to point out that Joseph and Kaub might not be the only two who knew about the
inauthentic pots. Jayce might not have caught on if he hadn’t seen Fred Crabtree put the
newly broken potsherds on a tray in the base.
        “I don’t understand why you’re so fixated on Fred Crabtree being guilty of
everything,” Jayce said. “He’s the kind of guy people mean when they say ‘salt of the
earth.’ He doesn’t have a devious bone in his body. If he says he found those shards on the
ground, I believe him.”
        “I know you do,” Meredith said, suppressing a sigh. She wished she could convince
Jayce he was wrong. Failing that, she wished she could convince herself he was right. “It
makes me wonder because Fred is the one common link between everybody.”
        “Meaning?”
        “Fred and Joseph are related somehow, you said. Fred and Lee Crabtree are
cousins. He’s engaged to that Kelia girl, according to her, and she’s having dinner with
Terrence Kaub right now.”
        Jayce made a face. “What’s up with that? And what happened to the guy she was in
the car with?”
        “Lee Crabtree.” Meredith shrugged. “As you would say, ‘beats me.’ ”
        Jayce pushed back his chair. “I’ll go ask them.”
        She laughed.
        “What?” he asked.
        “Let’s just say that unlike you scientists, we investigators seldom take the most
direct route to find out what we want to know.”
        Jayce pulled the chair back to the table. “I see what you mean. You’ve been here
four days already and have yet to ask me if I stole pots, dealt drugs, or killed Joseph
Kotsyovi. I figure I’ve pretty much got to be the prime suspect in all three of those
investigations.”
        “You are. Well, in two of them at least.”
        “So did you plant a bug on the pit bull, spike my taco with truth serum, or what?”
        “Or what,” she said. After a moment she added, “I’ve heard from more experienced
agents that there comes a case in the course of one’s career—maybe only once—when you
don’t have to ask to find out what you need to know. You just know. This is that time for
me. I know you’re innocent.”
        He was quiet for almost a minute before he said, “Thank you, McKay.”
        “But I would like for you to ask Kaub about the girl he took to dinner tonight,”
Meredith said. “You know, guy talk when you’re back out in the field.”
        “I don’t talk ‘guy talk’with Terrence Kaub,” Jayce objected. “I like to think we
have no common interests. It helps me sleep nights.”
        “Please ask him,” Meredith urged, “to see what he says. I don’t think he knows that
I know anything about Kelia, and she didn’t act just now as though she’d ever seen me
before.”
         Jayce shrugged. “All you white girls look alike, you know.”
         “I’m counting on that being true,” she said with a smile. “I’m also counting on Fred
not to mention to her that I talked to him.” She took a bite of crispy flauta and chewed
thoughtfully. “Despite the fact I still think their last ‘date’was to ransack your home, I
doubt they have much communication going on right now. Fred’s too busy trying to cover
his up his tracks at Coyote Springs to notice what’s up with his fiancée.”
         Jayce’s jaw set. “I can’t explain why the footprints you took outside my trailer
matched the ones you took of Fred’s outside the base,” he said, “but I don’t think you can
discount coincidence. He might have dropped by when I wasn’t home—and left before the
vandals arrived.”
         “I don’t believe in coincidence,” Meredith said.
         “And I don’t believe Fred Crabtree destroyed my trailer. I’ll never believe he killed
Joseph.”
         Meredith didn’t want to argue the point. “Then maybe he’s acting strangely
because he’s mourning Joseph’s death,” she said. “My point is that he appears to be more
than a little distracted. In the meantime, his cousin and fiancée appear to be more than a
little busy.”
         “Do you suspect Kelia and Lee of stealing pots?” Jayce asked. “Or do you suspect
them of dealing drugs?”
         “I don’t have reason to suspect them of anything except conspiring to break Fred’s
heart.” Meredith used a tortilla chip to scoop some guacamole from a terra cotta dish in the
center of the table. “But it’s too much coincidence, Jayce. Everywhere I go they tie in with
something I’m looking at, in one way or another.”
         He finally took a bite of tamale, frowned over how cold it had become and said,
“You know what I said earlier this evening about wanting to play spy? Forget it. It gives
me a headache to think about all the pieces you’re trying to put together. Take me back
home to my dirt piles where all I suffer from is an occasional backache.”
         “I don’t have to take you back,” she said, pleased to have a positive note on which
to end the evening. “You can take yourself. I have a surprise for you out in the parking
lot.”
         “Another one?” His smile warmed the golden flecks in his eyes and threatened to
do the same to Meredith’s cheeks.
         “I’d say that you were the one who surprised me earlier,” she pointed out.
         “Then what’s your surprise?” he asked. “Though I don’t think there’s any way I
could like it more than I liked the one I gave you.”
         She was going to have to let that go. Let it go or get herself into something she
wasn’t ready for. Not yet, at least. There was time to tell Jayce she loved him, and she
would, but after she’d put all those pieces together and had Joseph’s murderer behind bars
where he couldn’t kill again.
                                        Chapter 17
         Meredith couldn’t remember the last time she’d gotten up before dawn for anything
but a drug bust. Those were days when even dressing made her nervous. For some reason
it was her habit to dress in the near dark on the days of their predawn raids. Perhaps it
made her feel safer, more insulated. Of course she’d always don clean underwear to
ensure not to embarrass her mother in front of the paramedics and TV crews if the bust
went south and she was shot. Next she’d strap on a Kevlar vest before pulling on the
standard uniform for raids: dark pants and a navy T-shirt with large yellow or white “FBI”
across the front and back. Then she’d braid her hair tighter than usual and pin it securely
against her head to ensure that it would all fit beneath the flak helmet. Finally she’d brush
her teeth—often twice—as if to try to get the bad taste of what she was about to do out of
her mouth.
         She felt almost as nervous today as she pulled on jeans and a T-shirt devoid of
lettering. A bulletproof vest would do nothing to protect her heart, and a flak helmet
wouldn’t allow her to think any clearer around Jayce. She turned on a light and eyed
herself critically in the motel mirror. There was no reason for nerves, she told herself. She
was only going to Coyote Springs.
         “You’re a little too old to act like a schoolgirl,” she told the reflection in the wavy
glass as she braided her hair. The trouble was that she felt old, since all the competition for
Jayce’s attention out at the ruins were schoolgirls. Although Meredith knew she wouldn’t
trade places with any one of them, she thought she might be willing to trade a little of her
maturity for a fresher, unlined face, and give a smidgen or two of her experience for the
lithe body of the cheerleader-type who had claimed Jayce’s hat her first day on the dig.
         On the up side, Meredith’s insecurity gave her the willpower to drive right past the
drive-in window at McDonald’s without stopping. That was something. And seeing the
look on Jayce’s face as she pulled up next to the base was something else—something
divine. He was unmistakably glad to see her. Almost as glad as Fang was, in fact. Not until
she had quieted the puppy and given Jayce time to speak did she realize that his
enthusiasm for her visit this morning might be more professional than personal.
         “We lost another…find,” he said without preamble. “From the base.”
         “The thing you and Kaub were talking about last night?”
         He nodded grimly. “The kids found it early yesterday morning. We finally got it
out just before you came.” He lowered his voice. “It was a mummified child, McKay. A
baby.”
         Jayce’s face told her all she needed to know about how rotten he felt. She tried not
to let his obvious dismay rub off on her. Instead, she tried to slip into her cool, professional
persona as if symbolically adding the letters “FBI” to her custard-yellow T-shirt. “You said
you found it in one of the pithouses,” she said. “Is that common?”
         “It’s not uncommon,” he said. “Not for an infant. The Hopi buried their children in
the floor of their homes because they believed the child’s spirit remained with them until
the birth of the next child.”
          It was touching, Meredith thought, and sad. “Which pithouse?” she asked, as if one
number would mean more to her than another.
         “Six” he replied. “One of the newer ones.”
         “And you didn’t have a sensor on it?”
         “No.” He was clearly disgusted, but not at her. He was mad at the grave robbers,
the circumstances, himself. He waved his arm toward the field. “None of the sensors are
on. I’ve got close to three dozen kids camping out in that field. Even the skunks are smart
enough to make themselves scarce. Besides, the child was already out of the ground.” He
shook his head regretfully. “We had no choice but to remove it under the circumstances.”
         “So the…mummy…was locked up in the base?”
         “Yes.”
         “Who has a key to the padlock?”
         “I do. Kaub has one, and so does Fred Crabtree, but he hasn’t been here since the
day before yesterday. There’s a key that hangs on a hook inside the door, but it was there
this morning when I opened up.”
         It didn’t take a key to lock a padlock, Meredith noted silently, only to unlock it.
Almost anyone on site could have “borrowed” the extra key from the hook sometime
during the day. They would have used it in the middle of the night to open the padlock and
then hung it back in place after stealing the mummy, but before closing the door and
resecuring the lock.
         Before she could share her observation, Jayce had continued. “Joseph had a key,”
he said, “but I assume it’s still down at the sheriff’s office with the rest of his effects from
the night he was killed.”
         “And nobody saw anyone around who doesn’t belong here?”
         “No.”
         “Who knew about the discovery?”
         “Who didn’t?”
         “Did you and Kaub discuss it at all after dinner last night?”
         Jayce removed his glasses. “We ‘discussed’it, all right. We ‘discussed’it plenty.
Not that it wasn’t a moot point under federal law—not to mention the higher laws of
decency.”
         Meredith wrinkled her nose distastefully at the memory of the curator’s décor. “Let
me guess. H e wanted to take the mummy to bed with him like a teddy bear and you kept
reminding him it had to go up to the reservation for religious rites and reburial.”
         “Something like that.”
         “How heated was this ‘discussion’?”
         Jayce polished the lenses of his glasses on the tail of his shirt. “Well, it probably
wasn’t the ‘guy talk’you wanted me to have with him, but we didn’t come to blows,
either.” He raised an eyebrow. “By the way, he called the girl he had dinner with last night
‘somebody he met at a trading post.’ I don’t know how she ditched her boss, but that
woman makes good time.”
         Meredith was surprised Jayce had worked the question in, but grateful. She asked,
“How’s Kaub taking the loss of the mummy this morning?”
         “Better than I thought he might,” Jayce admitted. “He ranted, raved, cursed, and
offered to have me flayed alive, but I could tell that his heart wasn’t in it.”
         Though they hadn’t been speaking loud enough to be overheard in the first place,
Meredith lowered her voice to a whisper. “Do you think he took it?”
         “I’d like to think so,” Jayce said. “I’d like to think he stole it rather than turn it over
to the tribe. I’d like to prove he took it and get him busted big time. But I don’t know when
he’d have done it or where he’d have put it. He hasn’t left the site since we saw it last, and
there’s no place to hide it around here.” He put his glasses back on. “But I’ve got Zach and
a couple of other guys going over every square inch of this place just in case.”
         “Including Kaub’s motor home?”
         “Yes, he was remarkably cooperative. I told them to search my trailer, too.” He
leaned back against her car in defeat. “Do you believe in UFOs, McKay?”
         She smiled despite the rueful note in his voice. “Sorry, you have me confused with
Special Agent Scully.”
         “No,” he said with the barest hint of a smile, “you’re much prettier.” For a second
Meredith thought that he was going to kiss her, or perhaps reach for her hand, but he
glanced around the site and did neither. Instead he said, “Now that you’ve set me straight
about the X-File thing, I’m pretty sure you didn’t pick up any psychic vibes that sent you
all the way out here to look for a missing mummy. What’s up?”
         “You said if I let you play spy last night, you’d let me play in your dirt.” A smile
came unbidden to her lips, but she didn’t try to suppress it. “And you played your part very
well, as I recall.”
         She could have sworn his sunburn deepened, but he said, “You want to dig?”
         What she wanted was to be as close to him as she could. If that meant working in
the dirt, so be it. But a second wish was to help him, and Meredith knew she was better
with a crime kit than she was a pickax. “Yes, but why don’t I spend a little time looking for
your mummy first?” she suggested. “Maybe later you can teach me a few of the finer
points of excavation.”
         “Thanks,” he said, now clearly pleased she had come for herself, as well as grateful
for her expertise. “While you sleuth I’ll look for a very secluded, very deep pithouse big
enough only for the two of us. If I have to, I’ll dig my own.”
          Meredith admired Jayce’s broad shoulders as he turned and strode back across the
field to answer a summons from one of his kids. She sighed. She could get up before dawn
every single day of her life for this man.
                                                ***
         By noon, Meredith had narrowed her conclusions about the whereabouts of the
child mummy to three: it had been reburied by somebody who intended to claim it later, it
was hidden in a place too obscure—or too obvious—for them to notice, or it had been
beamed up by space aliens.
         She’d interviewed everyone in the field, including Terrence Kaub and his
henchmen. Jayce had been right on both points. First, nobody admitted seeing anything
unusual. Second, Kaub wasn’t incensed by the loss of an artifact he ought to covet. In fact,
he seemed to be in a rather jovial mood.
         Perhaps it was the new crew that made him so happy. The men were big and
boisterous and they tore into the earth as though being paid by the shovel full. Their crude
language was an affront to the quiet setting. Meredith remembered Jayce telling her on her
first tour of the ruins how the aborigines had held this land sacred. Their needs were
tempered by their faith. They took no more from the land than their scarcest survival, and
they returned their thanks to it in reverence. Jayce truly admired these people, she knew. It
must be killing him now to see Kaub trying to unearth the kiva, their most sacred spot of
all, in this most sacrilegious of ways.
         She raised a hand to her brow, shielding her eyes from the overhead sun as she
looked for Jayce. Unless he was digging that pithouse he’d talked about, she couldn’t
imagine where he was.
         Back by the base a gong sounded to signal the break for lunch. Though Jayce
wasn’t much at feeding himself well, he had no compunction about spending his operating
budget to feed the kids who worked for him. When they were on site, meals were provided
by a mom and pop catering outfit out of Winslow.
         The workers responded to the sound of the bell like Pavlov’s dogs, but the actual
canine, Fang, led the pack. He was having the time of his life here. Meredith knew he
would be one unhappy pit bull when at last she took him back home to their condo in
Phoenix. There his domain consisted of a four small rooms and a backyard the size of a
sandbox. At Coyote Springs he could run until he reached the horizon, or until
somebody—usually Jayce or Zach—whistled him back to the fold. Moreover, here he had
a fold. In Phoenix (where newspapers sensationalized every “bad dog” story by claiming
the offending mutt was part pit bull, even if the accompanying photo showed it looked
more like a poodle/schnauzer mix) he was a pariah. When they went on walks in their
neighborhood—trying their best to look like a girl and her dog (though the girl was always
armed and the dog was a pit bull)—people crossed the street to avoid them. No wonder
Fang preferred the acceptance, tummy rubs, and people-food showered on him by Jayce’s
students. He was a great dog and these great kids recognized it.
         And they recognized great food, too. They flocked toward her as if they feared the
cooks might run out of sub sandwiches any moment and start serving up PB&J instead. In
short, she was the only one who still faced the field, so she was the only one who saw
Jayce’s head emerge cautiously from PH5—the one still marked by the yellow police tape
that indicated it was off limits. Surrounded as she was by the multitude, he didn’t see her.
It must have looked from his perspective as though everybody was focused on the chuck
wagon. He was right. Almost.
         As she watched in curiosity, Jayce swung himself out of the pit and moved quickly
away from the spot, even before rubbing what he could of the dirt from his hands onto the
front of his jeans. Then he approached the base as if he’d been coming in from another part
of the site. Meredith had no idea what to think, let alone what to say when he approached.
         “Any luck tracing our little missing person?” he asked.
         “Sorry, no.” He was dirty; dirtier than he’d been when excavating the garbage
dump on Thursday. Red silt filled his hair, deepening its natural shade more effectively
than Lady Clairol. “What have you been doing this morning?” she asked.
         “Digging,” he said. “Remember? FBI agents spy; archeologists dig.”
         She forced a smile at the thin joke.
         But the uncertainty of her expression wasn’t lost on him. “You don’t look like
you’re much interested in sharing that pithouse we talked about this morning,” he said.
“Not that I blame you. What if I go back to the trailer and shower? I’ve been told I clean
up real nice.”
         Meredith knew how nice he cleaned up. What she didn’t know was what he was
doing in the one place he shouldn’t be—the pithouse where Joseph was murdered. “Where
were you digging?” she asked as she followed him toward the line in front of the water
truck. Here the crews used a faucet on the back to wash some of the ancient pueblo off
their hands before claiming their food.
         “In one of the pithouses.” It was contrary to his nature to lie to her, but he had no
intention of telling her the truth either. Her suspicion was confirmed when he changed the
subject. “Tell me about your morning, McKay. No sign of the missing mini mummy?”
        “No,” she said.
        “Any theories?”
        Meredith didn’t want to think about her theories. She especially didn’t want to
think about the one that somebody might have reburied the mummy somewhere. Jayce
MacDermott was a strongly principled man. How deeply did he believe that a centuries-old
baby should return to the land from which it had come?
        She shook her head to clear it. If she could believe that Jayce would steal the
mummy—even out of principle—couldn’t she also believe that he might steal a pot and
replace it with a forgery for a similar reason? And if she believed that…she shook her head
more vigorously.
        “No, what?” he asked her. When she looked up he added, “You were shaking your
head ‘no.’ Meaning, no theories?”
         “Oh,” she said. “No. I mean, yes.” She turned away to hide the confusion that had
to show on her face. “I don’t know what to think, Jayce.”
        “Hey,” he said, laying a hand on her shoulder and gently turning her back toward
him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you’d take this so seriously.” His fingers strayed up the side
of her neck and sent thrills of emotion down her spine. “Let’s let it go for now. I’ll show
you how to use a sifter after lunch. We’ve been turning up some great beads and other
trinkets from all the dirt Kaub’s crew is turning over.” The face he lowered to hers was as
guileless as it was dust-streaked. “Come on, McKay. If you don’t get dirty you haven’t
really played archeologist.”
        At last Meredith nodded her agreement. She’d come out today to be with him, not
to bust him, and she’d stick to the original plan. And while she was sifting that big mound
of red dirt, maybe she could find a spot in it in which to bury her new suspicions about this
man she so desperately loved.
                                                ***
        “You’re almost dirty enough to be a real archeologist,” Jayce observed a few hours
later.
        Meredith sat back and set aside the huge sieve she’d emptied for perhaps the
twentieth time. She sighed with satisfaction at a job both well done and thoroughly
enjoyed. She’d found a few beads of turquoise and bone, and an arrow point that Jayce
said was ceremonial and very valuable. Not bad for a rookie.
        Jayce leaned across the screen to swipe at the tip of her nose with his index finger.
“And may I say, Ms. McKay, dirt looks better on you than anywhere else I’ve seen it.”
        Even as her heart turned over, Meredith could imagine how she must look.
Imagine—and hope to avoid a mirror. “I know why you do this,” she said, smiling toward
the horizon at the setting sun. “It’s kinda like making mud pies and building sandcastles
and searching for buried treasure all rolled in to one.”
        He stretched out his long legs. “Yeah, some of us like to fool ourselves by
scribbling a Ph.D. after our names and writing papers that are complicated and boring
enough to ensure that nobody, who doesn’t have to, will ever read them. But in reality
we’re all just big kids playing in the dirt.”
        “I didn’t mean to trivialize the work you do—”
        “Of course you didn’t,” he interrupted. “Any more than I mean to put down yours
with my jibes about playing spy.”
        She smiled. “I had fun. Can I come back tomorrow?”
        “Nope,” he said. “Tomorrow’s Sunday. We’re closed.”
        She was surprised. Though when she thought of what she knew of him, she realized
she shouldn’t be. “What does everybody do?”
        “The crew stays home,” he said. “The kids do various things. Some of them sleep
all day. Some of them party.” He shrugged. “I go to my meetings and pretty much leave
them to their own devices, and consciences.” He returned the smile, but there was
wistfulness about it. “Come with me tomorrow, McKay. We’ll drive over to Flagstaff. If
my grandmother finds out you were within a hundred miles of her house and that I didn’t
bring you by she’ll…well, I don’t know what she’ll do, but believe me, I don’t want to find
out.”
        Meredith hesitated. Going with him tomorrow meant more than seeing Sister
MacDermott, something she would enjoy. It meant going to a sacrament meeting. But it
also meant a day with Jayce without coeds interrupting them every six seconds. It was a
mixed bag, good and bad—but it was too much. Despite all she’d felt of the Spirit this
week she was leery about returning to church. She hadn’t been inside a church
since…since Will’s funeral. She glanced at Jayce and knew at once that he knew it.
        “Say yes,” he urged quietly. “It’s time to come back, Meredith.”
        Maybe it was time. She looked into his deep, dazzling eyes and said, “Yes.” She
figured she could claim influenza at the last minute if her nerve failed her overnight.
        For a dizzying moment she thought Jayce might embrace her, but something
stopped him. The something was the approach of Terrence Kaub.
        “Dr. MacDermott!” he called from a couple hundred yards away. It was too far. His
voice broke, thin and reedy, and lacked the authority Meredith knew he had hoped to
convey.
        Or maybe it wasn’t the distance. When he was upon them his voice still cracked,
with scarcely concealed fury. “What is this I hear about you telling my crew not to report
tomorrow?”
        Jayce rose. His height and powerful build was an advantage he intended to use. “As
I was explaining to Ms. McKay,” he said, “we don’t work out here on Sundays.” His voice
was calm, but Meredith saw that every muscle in his body had tensed.
        “This is my world now, Professor.”
        “As I recall the story,” Jayce replied evenly, “God created ‘your’world, Mr. Kaub.
And even He rested on the seventh day.”
        “We work tomorrow.”
        “I don’t,” Jayce said, “and neither do my students. You’ll see that it’s in my
contract with the museum, if you care to look.”
        Kaub’s small black eyes narrowed. “What about our verbal addendum to the
contract, Professor? Surely you haven’t forgotten it already.” Most men raised their voices
in anger but Kaub did the opposite. He spoke so low Meredith scarcely heard him. “Who
has the responsibility in case of an unfortunate accident on the Sabbath, Professor? Surely
all your students aren’t at church with you.”
        It was impossible to tell if Jayce’s face paled beneath the sunburn, but Meredith
almost believed it did. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Perhaps,” he said at last, “being
men of reason, we can compromise.”
        Kaub motioned impatiently for him to continue.
        “Let’s start with what we both know,” Jayce suggested. “First, we both know that
the students need to stay two weeks for their university credit. Secondly, it’s quite obvious
that while their expertise is far above that of your workers, their level of enthusiasm for
their work is in direct proportion to mine. Finally, we both realize that you can’t excavate a
kiva you can’t find.”
        “Get to the point,” Kaub snapped. “What do you propose?”
        “I’ll split the fourteen hours of Sabbath daylight with you, Kaub, right down the
middle. We’ll start at dawn tomorrow, but we’ll knock off at noon—or in time for the kids
to get to whatever church meeting they want to attend.” Jayce looked reluctant when he
added, “Anybody who wants to work the afternoon may, of course, but it’s not
compulsory. I won’t be here and there won’t be any accidents.”
        Kaub’s ferret face puckered. At last he nodded sharply. “We start at dawn and
you’d better be there.”
        “I always am.” As Kaub turned and picked his way daintily back across the field in
his high-heeled boots, the archeologist added under his breath, “Heck of a nice guy.”
        Meredith looked up into Jayce’s handsome face. “I see the Church is still teaching
that ‘go the extra mile’philosophy they were always so fond of.” The appreciative smile he
gave her went a long way toward dispelling the leftover tension in the air, just as his
devotion to keeping the Sabbath had somewhat alleviated her deepest suspicions about
him. But she still had unanswered questions and not much daylight left in which to find an
answer. She extended her hands. “Pull me up?”
        When he obliged, Meredith found that her legs weren’t nearly as steady as they
were when she’d walked over here. She flexed the knee she’d been using to balance her
end of the sieve and winced. “Can most people walk after their first afternoon on a dig?”
        “I wouldn’t go so far as to say most people,” he teased. “But some of them can.
Wait until tomorrow, McKay. Tomorrow every muscle in your body will be stiff.”
        “Thanks for the warning.” Stiff from the unaccustomed hard work and stiff from
fright at going back to church. She ought to be quite a sight, she thought.
        As they walked back across the plateau toward her car, Meredith deliberately made
a wide arc that led them past PH5. She paused at the edge of the yellow plastic tape and
looked down. There were no signs of digging. Pretending interest in a very convenient
ground squirrel, she stepped painfully over the tape and noted from the corner of her eye
that Jayce stiffened when she did. Though he said her name—nothing else—and stepped
over the tape himself, she still walked around the perimeter. From the back, and only from
that view—one nobody would have unless they violated the police line—she could see
what appeared to be a frayed canvas tarp. It was stained almost as red as the dirt from its
duty in the field, and the top two corners had been driven into the hard caliche soil with
spikes. It hung down, obscuring most of one wall, but looking quite a lot like the wall
itself.
        She looked back at Jayce. “That tarp wasn’t there on Wednesday.” On Wednesday
she had left Jayce standing at the edge of the tape gazing into space, staring at his boots,
looking anywhere except where he’d found Joseph’s body the day before. But Meredith
had climbed into the hole and there had been no tarp. When had it been put up? And why?
“The tarp wasn’t there,” she repeated.
        “Maybe you missed it.”
        Meredith didn’t tell him that her job—and often therefore her life—depended on
not missing things. Certainly not things as big as a tarp. “What’s behind it?” she asked.
         “Evidence?” he suggested sheepishly.
         Probably. But evidence of what? More than anything Meredith wanted an
explanation that didn’t have anything to do with Jayce. “Are you telling me the
undersheriff hung it up there?”
         He didn’t respond. Probably, she figured, he couldn’t. He’d had so little practice
lying that he didn’t know how to go about it when he wanted to. Or needed to. “You hung
it up,” she said. His face confirmed she was right.
         Jayce looked over his shoulder for something, or someone. When he turned back he
seemed almost desperate. “Can we let it go for right now?” he asked. “Can we please walk
away from here and talk about it later?”
         She took a step toward him, drawn by the urgency in his voice and something in his
eyes. Everything in his face and his manner—everything in their relationship thus far—
appealed to her to trust him. Could she? “What’s behind the tarp, Jayce?”
         “A hole,” he said. “That’s it, Meredith. An empty hole.”
         “But a hole you don’t want anybody to know about.”
         “That’s right.” He extended his hand and Meredith reached for it. She stepped back
over the yellow tape and walked away with him even though she knew it was probably the
last thing a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should have done. She
knew, in fact, that if her superiors found out about it, it would be the last thing she’d do as
a federal agent.
                                        Chapter 18
         Almost five full hours after dawn on Sunday morning, Meredith gritted her teeth,
pushed herself out of bed, and almost collapsed on the floor. Not only did her knees hurt,
her back ached and everything between her shoulders and toes throbbed. She rubbed her
tongue over her teeth. They didn’t hurt much, but they tasted like dirt. Everything had
tasted like dirt since last night when she discovered that Jayce had a secret.
         She hobbled to the bathroom, plugged the tub, and turned the faucet to “hot.” Then
she reached for the carton of Epsom salts she’d picked up at a drugstore the night before,
dumped the entire contents in the tub and bent to swirl them into the water with her hand.
The resulting back spasm nearly caused her to fall headfirst into the tub.
         “This is why all his volunteers are kids,” she mumbled to herself. “They’re the only
ones young enough to stand it.” Meredith slipped out of her nightgown, slid into the too-
hot water, and winced from the heat and pain. Nevertheless she forced herself down until
nothing but her face was above water. The steaming solution of mineral salts helped soothe
her physical aches, but her mind remained numb and a little bruised.
         Jayce hadn’t trusted her. If he had, he would have told her why there was an “empty
hole” behind a tarp he’d hung right where it shouldn’t have been—in the middle of a still-
cordoned-off crime scene. He shouldn’t have been in that pithouse in the first place, let
alone tampered with it. A murder had taken place there, for goodness sakes, and he was the
chief suspect. The old yarn about guilty parties returning to the scene of the crime wasn’t
far off in actuality. Meredith couldn’t believe that’s what had happened in this case, but
she knew for a fact something strange was going on.
         It was almost enough to make her want to take Undersheriff Sickel’s advice and go
back home to Phoenix. Today. This morning, in fact. She could leave now before she had
to face Jayce and his grandmother and all the ghosts of the past that still haunted—in her
mind—her membership in the LDS church.
         Meredith sat up in the tub and reached for a towel. She could be dressed and gone
in less than an hour. The FBI would send somebody else out to Coyote Springs, somebody
who wasn’t in love with Dr. MacDermott and could think dispassionately around him.
She’d have to drop by the dig for Fang, of course. She missed him terribly. And she would
miss Jayce, dang it. She was pretty sure the ache in her back caused by wanting to be close
to him yesterday would eventually go away, but she wasn’t half as sure about the ache in
her heart from wanting to be close to him forever.
         With a sigh she pushed herself up from the healing water and stepped out of the
tub. As slow as she was moving today, she realized, she’d better start getting ready for
church if she wanted to be waiting when Jayce came to pick her up.
                                                ***
         Jayce pulled into the parking lot of Meredith’s motel and asked himself what the
chances were that he could make it through a whole day without a fiasco. Peace had been
absent from his life the last few days, but this was the Sabbath of a brand new week and, so
far, all was quiet on the western front. A few of the kids had left the site early this morning
to go to church or visit family, but most had seemed glad for the chance to spend the day in
the pits. It was better for them than partying, all things considered, and Jayce appreciated
their dedication and shared their enthusiasm for the work.
         The most unfortunate thing to happen thus far was that Kaub’s crew had dug
through the fist layer of a pithouse Jayce hadn’t expected to be where it was. It was
unfortunate to be sure, but nothing close to devastating. What was devastating was Jayce’s
fear that since he’d blown that guess he might also be blowing it—big time—in PH5. He’d
slept three hours last night, maybe less, because he’d dug all night by moonlight when the
chances of detection were least. But he knew the danger.
        One danger was that someone from the sheriff’s office would show up wanting an
explanation for why the very wall that had been stained with Joseph Kotsyovi’s blood was
being dug away. A greater danger was that the looters would return in the middle of the
night with another knife looking for another victim. But the greatest danger, at least in
Jayce’s mind, was that the greedy weasel and his two dozen muscle-bound minions would
catch on and take over where he’d left off.
        Bless Meredith for trusting him enough yesterday to walk away from the site with
him before Kaub or anyone else noted her interest in it. He owed her more than his heart
now. He owed her an explanation.
        Meredith waited on the sidewalk in front of her room. Her hair was braided into the
familiar chignon that elongated her neck. She wore a black broomstick skirt and a teal
blouse that were simple and stunning. Jayce pulled into the space beside where she stood
and, seeing that she had already reached for the door handle, leaned across the seat to
unlatch it and push it open.
        “Are you sure we can make it to Flagstaff in this thing?” she asked.
        “No,” he said honestly. “Get in.” She had trouble with that, Jayce noted. He
suppressed a grin of empathy. Clearly, she wasn’t as stiff as he’d been after his first full
day on a site. He hadn’t walked the next morning, let alone climbed almost gracefully into
the cab of a truck in long, flowing skirt.
        Meredith pulled the door shut twice before it would latch. “Isn’t this the same truck
you had in high school?”
        “It’s a classic.”
        “It’s a wreck.”
        Her smile softened her observation, as did the intoxicating scent of her. She was so
close he felt positively dazzled.
        “Maybe we should take the Rover,” she suggested.
        “You mean the Fangmobile?” Jayce put the truck in gear and backed out of the
spot. “Aside from the gnawed-up steering wheel, dog slobber on the windows, and air
freshener courtesy of McDonald’s, what does your car have that this one doesn’t?”
        “Air conditioning, for one thing.”
        Jayce rested his elbow on the open window and hoped the red dust that wiped off
on his white shirtsleeve wouldn’t be too noticeable at church. “Fresh air is good for you,
McKay.” He took a wide turn to head down I-40 toward Flagstaff.
        The corners of her lips turned down when they hit a bump in the road. “Do you
have shock absorbers?”
        “Shocks are overrated.”
        “As is a speedometer?” She looked skeptically at what was left of his instrument
panel.
        “No worries, McKay,” he said. “When it hits 50 miles an hour it shimmies like you
wouldn’t believe—kind of like built-in cruise control.”
        “And yet you’d still rather drive this than ride in a brand new, top of the line Land
Rover?”
         He grinned. “It’s a guy thing.”
         “It must be.”
         Jayce watched Meredith look out at the broad plain that seemed to stretch the
horizon in all directions. A sign for Meteor Crater flashed past and the San Francisco
Peaks, awe-inspiring in their majesty, loomed ahead. Jayce thought she was thinking about
the peculiar beauty of the scenery in front of them, but he was wrong. She said, “If you
could live anywhere in the world, MacDermott, where would it be?”
         “I like it here,” he said sincerely.
         “If you had to choose someplace else then.”
         He considered. “Maybe Kauai. I spent a semester at BYU-Hawaii working on a
thesis about comparative Native American religions, including Hawaiian natives.” She
seemed interested so he continued, “Much of my work was centered around the heiaus on
Kauai. It’s a beautiful island. Everything is greener than you can believe. It almost hurts
yours eyes to look at it. But you don’t have to look, you can tell how great all the foliage
is by its smell. The fragrance of the torch gingers and plumeria are out of this world.” It
was one of the best times of his life and a pleasure to recall. He’d like to take Meredith
there, preferably on a honeymoon. Before that train of thought got him in trouble he added,
“The Islanders are some of the most generous, most…anchored…people I’ve ever
encountered.”
         “Hawaii sounds divine.” She turned toward him. “What’s a…what did you call it?”
         “Heiau?” he guessed. “It’s a site of worship built by the ancient Polynesians. Each
heiau is said to have magical powers. Even Madame Pele respects the heiau.”
         “Madame Pele?”
         “You know, the goddess of volcanoes? There’s a heiau on the Big Island in
Volcanoes National Park that has a lava flow all around it. The hot, molten earth took out
everything in its path for two miles in every direction but the heiau was left untouched. It’s
amazing.”
         “And people believe it’s because the site is sacred?”
         “It’s not hard to believe,” he said. “Not for me. There’s a great deal of power—
power we don’t understand—in places and things different cultures hold sacred.” Jayce
thought about the impression he’d had yesterday, that he was standing on sacred ground at
the burial site of the baby. He thought about the place where Joseph had died and the snake
and the eagle, two of the most meaningful symbols in the Hopi’s Katsinam religion, and
how they had appeared so mysteriously.
         Suddenly the warm air that blew into the truck felt cold on his flesh. Had he, in
years of researching ancient religions, brought about forces he couldn’t understand, nor
control? The Hawaiians believed that Kileuea was so sacred that nothing should be
removed from it—not even dust from its base. A person who inadvertently carried off dirt
on their shoes would be subject to years of bad luck. Similarly, the Hopi believed the Mud
Kachinas could bless—or curse—a person by gathering his footprints and carrying them in
their gourds. Jayce knew he might well have tracked volcanic dust from Kileuea back to
Arizona. Undoubtedly his footprints were all over Coyote Springs for the katsinam to find.
         “You’re not superstitious, MacDermott,” Meredith said quietly, as if reading his
thoughts. “I’ve heard you talk and I’ve seen you work at Coyote Springs. Besides, I’ve
known you all my life. You’re…I don’t know…respectful, maybe even reverential, but
you’re not superstitious.
         Jayce let out a breath of air that had grown stale in his lungs. He cast her a grateful
glance. “And you can explain the appearance of the snake and the eagle?”
         “No,” she admitted. “But there is an explanation. A reasonable one. I’m sure of it.”
         “As sure as you are there’s a reasonable explanation for a tarp, and a new hole, in
Pithouse 5?”
         When she turned toward him he almost gasped at her beauty. “Yes.”
         “Meredith, I think our kiva is behind ‘Door Number Five’,” he said, regaining his
senses. “I’m trying to confirm my hunch without letting Kaub or anybody else but you in
on it.”
         “Why?”
         “So I know the sacred artifacts will still be there when the Hopi archeologist and
elders arrive to assess their value to their culture.” He glanced toward her, then back out at
the road. “The pithouses were laid out around a common plaza,” he explained, “with the
underground kiva adjacent to the plaza. The Kachina Dancers always return to the kiva.
It’s the ceremonial center of Hopi worship—like a temple is to us.” She nodded and he
continued. “We’ve located the plaza and we’ve excavated some of the central pithouses.
We haven’t found the public entrance to the kiva and I don’t think we will. It was usually
filled in when the Hopi left a village. Or it may have collapsed. Heck, the whole kiva may
have collapsed, but usually there’s a sign of that left on the landscape and there’s none at
Coyote Springs.” He was so caught up in sharing his hopes and dreams with her that he felt
his palms grow damp on the steering wheel. He raised them slightly to allow the warm air
to dry them. “But there’s a private entrance, McKay, from the home of the chief priest. It
too was sealed off, but I think I know where it was.”
         “In PH5—where Joseph was killed?”
         “In PH5,” he repeated. “Whoever Joseph surprised in that pithouse last Tuesday
morning wasn’t digging for pots. The pithouse had been cleaned out and essentially closed.
They were looking for the entrance to the kiva.”
         “You can’t keep sneaking in there in the middle of the night!” Meredith exclaimed.
         He unconsciously slowed the truck as he thought about her urgent reaction. At last
he asked, “‘Can’t’because it’s a crime scene and you’re going to arrest me for it? Or
‘can’t’because—”
         “Because it’s too dangerous.”
         It was exactly the right answer. Jayce was so happy he could have kissed her for it.
Unfortunately, he knew that if he tried to he’d go off the road and hit one of the elk that
had strayed almost onto the highway. Four of the magnificent creatures stood craning their
necks to reach the much tastier grass on the other side of the barbed-wire fence that
separated the highway from their home in the Coconino National Forest.
         He said, “I’m careful, McKay.”
         She let out a gurgle that sounded like a cough but had a different meaning entirely.
“Like Joseph was careful?” She’d turned sideways on the seat, away from him, ostensibly
to look back at the elk. In a minute she added, “I’m not worried about your eagles out of
nowhere or supernatural rattlesnake guardians of the underworld. I don’t understand them
yet, but I don’t worry about them.” She turned back and her face was earnest. “You know
what I do worry about? Somewhere out there are people who want that kiva as bad as you
do. Real people, Jayce. Bad people.” She reached across the seat to grasp his arm. “They
won’t hesitate a second to kill you for it. You know that, don’t you?”
        “Yes, I know it.”
        “Then—”
        “Then I’ll go to church today and try to enlist a little more help from the God who
happens to be on our side.” He cast her a grin meant to be reassuring, but she didn’t return
it. Jayce didn’t blame her since it hadn’t felt very sincere in the first place.
        But he’d meant the words fervently. The Gods he worshipped were the Father and
His Son. The One True God. The God who’d governed galaxies and worlds before life
began on earth. Before His mortal creations began to multiply and replenish the earth with
posterity who forgot their beginnings. The sons of Adam soon split into thousands of
religious factions, each with a different idea of creation and the Deity who gave them life.
Still Heavenly Father remained the same. Still He loved each of His children. He knew
them, and was responsive to their needs.
        So responsive in fact that He’d granted humanity the gift of agency. That, Jayce
knew, was the rub. Men were free to worship God as they pleased. But they were also free
to spurn Him and in the spurning seek for power and riches that did not come from God.
To get gain they might lie. They might steal. And they might kill.
        The best Jayce figured he could do was pray and have faith and try to live worthy
of the gift of the Holy Ghost. He’d been taught in the Primary of the c hurch they now
approached that his life could depend on listening to and obeying the promptings of the
Spirit of God. Never, he suspected, would that be truer in the course of his life than it was
now at Coyote Springs.
                                                ***
        Returning to church had been a long time in coming for Meredith. Too long. She
looked up at the spire that rose through the trees, pointing the way toward heaven, and
expected to feel panic grip her. Instead she felt peace and maybe even relief creep into her
heart. She was on her way home.
        “Here we are,” Jayce said as he parked the truck. He glanced over at Meredith
before opening his door. “You okay with this?”
        She was okay. As they entered the foyer she saw that nothing had changed in the
buildings of her childhood besides a possible update in décor. The hymn being played on
the organ in the chapel was familiar; the smiling greeter at the door looked remarkably like
the sister who had held the same post in their home ward all those years ago. Everything
was as it had been. People might come and go from this Church, but the Spirit never left it,
she decided.
        Still, she was grateful for Jayce’s supporting hand in the small of her back as he
guided her through the chapel doors. As they approached a middle pew, a short, round
woman who was the antithesis of her grandson rose with dimpled hands outstretched to
Meredith.
        “Oh my goodness!” Lydia MacDermott cried. Her voice was melodious if a little
too loud for a place of worship. “Let me see you!” She took Meredith in her arms,
squeezed tightly, and then kissed her cheeks for good measure. She leaned around
Meredith to look up at Jayce. “She’s simply lovely, isn’t she?”
        Without waiting to hear his affirmative response, Lydia nudged Meredith forward
into the row and then turned to stand on tiptoe to kiss Jayce before pulling each of them
down and sitting between them. Finally, she beamed proudly up at an elderly man seated
on the stand. When he looked down at her and smiled, she waved. He returned her wave.
She returned his. Meredith was still wondering how long the flirtatious display might go on
when the bishop rose to start the meeting.
        “That’s Brother Carlyle on the stand,” Lydia told Jayce in a stage whisper. “I
wanted him to see us.”
        “I think everybody saw us, Gran,” Jayce whispered back as the bishop adjusted the
microphone.
        Meredith wasn’t the least embarrassed by Sister MacDermott. And that was a good
thing. When the bishop began to conduct ward business, Lydia held her hand and leaned
over to whisper something she thought was pertinent about each of the people being
sustained, the sister who led the opening hymn and the brother who gave the opening
prayer. Jayce was clearly dismayed but Meredith loved every second of it.
        After the sacrament hymn, when the priests rose to bless the bread and water, Lydia
began a whispered dissertation about the priest quorum coming to help put in her garden.
The boy to the left knelt and Jayce raised a gentle, silencing hand to his grandmother’s
cheek. “Remind me to tell you later,” she whispered to Meredith before she bowed her
head to prepare for the prayer.
        Meredith met Jayce’s eye over top of the older woman’s soft, gray curls. She knew
he was worried. “I’m fine,” she mouthed. “I’m happy.” And she was. She bowed her head.
        A few minutes later, Meredith hesitated a moment when the child to her right
offered her the shining silver tray heaped with carefully torn bits of bread. The words of a
prayer Meredith still knew by heart echoed in her mind, …to bless and sanctify this bread
to the souls of all those who partake of it. She felt that she had already been blessed, just
by being here, but she yearned for sanctification. There was, of course, her part to consider.
T he person who partook of the sacramental body of Christ covenanted to take upon herself
His name and remember Him and keep His commandments. But again there was a
promise: that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.”
        Amen, Meredith said in her heart as she raised a piece of bread to her lips.
        She glanced at Jayce as she passed the tray to Lydia. His head was deeply bowed
and his eyes closed. He spoke to his Father, Meredith knew. She knew also that his prayers
were for her.
        Meredith bowed her head again to offer a prayer of her own, one of heartfelt
gratitude. It was too much to hope that a man as good as Jayce MacDermott might have
been saved—or might even have chosen to wait—for her. Divine providence must have
been involved.
        As the deacons, teachers and priests returned to their seats, Lydia squeezed
Meredith’s hand happily. “Wait until you hear this first talk!”
        Brother Carlyle, the man to whom Lydia had waved so enthusiastically, rose and
approached the podium. He pushed the microphone down, then reconsidered and raised it
back up. He set his ancient, cracked scripture case down in front of him, positioned it
carefully, and unzipped it slowly. He removed a sheaf of papers from somewhere near the
center of the book, unfolded them, and smoothed them flat. He cleared his throat. Fearing
he might forget a scripture reference that was key to his talk, he took the time to look it up
and then marked its place. He looked out over the audience, down at his notes, and lifted
the top paper from the stack as if to test it for weight. Just when Meredith assumed he
never would speak, he opened his mouth and told a really old, really bad joke about how
many Mormons it takes to change a light bulb.
         While the congregation tried to force a polite titter, Lydia clapped her hands
together in delight and told Jayce, “He has hundreds of those stories!”
         Now Meredith did laugh, but mostly at the pained expression on Jayce’s face.
         Lydia didn’t miss it either. “He’s a wonderful man,” she told him quickly. “A
spiritual giant.”
         Meredith tried to remind herself of Brother Carlyle’s sterling gift for spirituality
since it was soon apparent that he had no gift at all for public speaking. Jayce nodded off
before the poor man managed to look up his second scripture and make his way
laboriously through it. But in all fairness to the octogenarian, Meredith told herself, Jayce
had probably been up all night digging.
         She’d lost all track of what Brother Carlyle might have meant to talk about and was
thinking about Coyote Springs when Sister MacDermott squeezed her hand. “Listen real
close, dear. I told him to put in this next part when Jayce told me he was bringing you.”
         “‘Though some of the sheep may wander,’ ” Brother Carlyle read, “‘the eye of
the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine
Providence reaching out for them and drawing them back to the fold . . . Hope on, trust on,
till you see the salvation of God.’ ” He readjusted the microphone. “That was the apostle
Orson F. Whitney speaking at you.”
         “Did you hear the ‘tentacles of Divine Providence’part?” Lydia asked anxiously.
         She’d heard it, but Meredith didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about it. At last
she did a little of both. Lydia put her arms around her and said, too loud, “Welcome back, s
weetheart!” Jayce woke with a start and looked over at Meredith and his grandmother,
puzzled.
         “The tentacles of Divine Providence finally got her,” Lydia explained to him.
         Jayce stared, obviously having no idea what was going on.
         Meredith hadn’t noticed the tear on her cheek until Jayce removed a surprisingly
clean, white handkerchief from his pocket and passed it to her over his grandmother’s lap.
         “Are you okay?” he mouthed.
         She nodded. “I’m happy.”
         “Yeah, I can see that,” he whispered back.
         By the time Brother Carlyle said, “In conclusion…” Jayce’s head had bowed again,
but Meredith couldn’t tell for sure if he was praying or sleeping.
         The speakers who followed were both better organized and better speakers, but
Meredith didn’t glean any more from their talks than she had from Brother Carlyle’s. In
each case, she heard the words that were pertinent to her by listening to the still small voice
that spoke to her heart. The Lord didn’t always use orators with great skill to take faith and
hope to the wo rld, Meredith realized. He used men and women willing to open their
mouths. Wisdom and testimony were bestowed by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
         She glanced to her left. Jayce was awake and smiling. This is what he’s tried to
teach me all along, she thought. I’ve finally caught on . She couldn’t wait for the meeting
to end so she could tell him so.
                                       Chapter 19
        Lydia MacDermott’s rustic lodgepole home was nestled amid towering Ponderosa
pines on the edge of the Coconino National Forest. Beds of pansies with lively yellow
faces seemed to greet them as Meredith walked up the flagstone path with Jayce, a few
steps behind Lydia MacDermott and her new beau, Brother Carlyle of the sacrament talk.
        In the yard, finches, jays, and other wild birds sailed from tree to bush as they
bickered over the several feeders. Meredith sighed. If instructed to write a report on “The
Ideal Place to Live,” she’d have described it exactly like this home actually was. It
surprised and saddened her to realize the world of difference between her dream home and
the place where she lived—a yardless, nondescript condo sandwiched between a strip mall
and a car dealership.
        Meredith stepped over the threshold and paused to savor the delicious aroma of
chili and cornbread. Curiously, i t was mixed with something else; something pleasant but
unrelated to food. She glanced toward her feet and saw a large terra cotta pot overflowing
with fragrant lavender. She averted her gaze quickly, trying to forget the potted plant Sister
MacDermott had sent her for her birthday—the one that sat, brown and withered, on the
windowsill over her kitchen sink. The autopsy on it was stamped “Homicide” with the
cause of death “Neglect.”
        “I hope you like chili verde!” Lydia called gaily from the kitchen. “It’s my secret
recipe.” She appeared in the doorway to the dining room carrying a large crock pot.
“Remind me to give you the recipe, Meredith.”
        “Would that be the ‘top secret’recipe?” Jayce teased his grandmother. To Meredith
he said, “Be sure you copy it down. Gran’s chili tastes as great as it smells.”
        “Then it’s heavenly,” Meredith decided without hesitation. She took a step toward
the dining room. “May I help you, Sister MacDermott?”
        “Heavens no, dear!” Lydia exclaimed. “Why do you think I invited Carl?”
Meredith thought the elderly woman batted her eyelashes at the man, but couldn’t be sure.
“Jayce,” she continued, “Why don’t you give Meredith a grand tour while I set the table?”
        “Carl?” Jayce whispered as he led Meredith from away from the dining room. “The
guy’s name is Carl? What do you want to bet his middle name is Lyle? Carl Lyle Carlyle
would suit him just great.”
        Despite herself Meredith giggled.
        “Young love,” Lydia explained to her suitor. “But they’ve got nothing on us elders,
do they, Carl?”
        “There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still fire in the fireplace!” Carl
responded.
        Jayce stopped in his tracks, but Meredith hooked her arm through his elbow and
urged him forward. “They’re adorable,” she whispered.
        “They’re in their eighties!”
        “That’s what makes them adorable.”
        They’d reached the living room—Jayce said his grandmother called it her parlor—
and could speak out loud again without fear of hurting Lydia’s feelings. Unfortunately,
Meredith was speechless. The central focus of the room was a beautiful player piano, the
lace shawl on its top and the entire wall behind it all but obscured by pictures of Lydia’s
large family. The one true redhead in the bunch, Jayce was unmistakable. He was there as
a little boy struggling to hold up a giant fish. Another photo captured the same boyish
smile, but this time the boy was a man who was surrounded by family at Christmastime.
The love captured in that moment almost brought tears to Meredith’s eyes. But it was
another picture that gripped her heart—one of him and her and Will, posing together in
their caps and gowns after picking up their high school diplomas. Jayce looked as he had
all those years ago when she’d walked away from him, and Will looked like he would
always look in Meredith’s mind. How he must always look since he’d never grow old.
Since, because of her, he never had the chance to grow old.
         The memories flooded back in a torrent of pain and regret and Meredith couldn’t
speak or even cry.
         “Yeah,” Jayce said, leaning around her to finger a framed photo of his four little
brothers dressed up for Halloween, “it’s a pretty scary gallery, isn’t it? No wonder the
neighbors called us the MacDermott Mob.”
         He stood so close. Too close. Meredith could feel his breath on her hair and smell
his after shave. She could almost hear his heart beat. More than anything she wanted to fall
into his arms. Maybe he would hold her and she could cry it all out at last. Maybe in the
warmth of his embrace the cold guilt that had been in her soul for so long would melt
away. Maybe after all these years she could tell him she loved him…and ask his
forgiveness for the unforgivable choice that had led to Will’s death.
         Before she could do the thing she longed to, Jayce took her hand and led her away
from the piano. Oblivious to her silence, he ushered her from room to room and gave a
running commentary on each room’s contents, from the framed ancestral portraits on the
walls right down to the ancient willow rocker that came west from Missouri with the
Saints. It was like touring the Beehive House. But Meredith was grateful; the tour gave her
time to pull herself together, and she wondered if Jayce conducted it with that thought in
mind. Wondered if he had caught her staring at their picture and was trying to help her the
best way he knew how.
         Regardless of his motivation, Meredith began to relax, listening to him and
appreciating this remarkable home he loved. A sense of family and heritage was missing
from her parents’opulent estate, and missing from her life. Meredith resolved on the spot to
fill a home of her own with photos and knickknacks because they were tokens of love and
pride—dreams and their realities—that you could hold in your hand and pass down to your
posterity.
         “Your home is beautiful,” she told Sister MacDermott as, back in the dining room,
Jayce pulled out a bentwood chair for her.
         “Thank you, dear,” Lydia said. “I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you’ve
finally come to see it.”
         Sister MacDermott invited Carl to pray, and Meredith realized at once that what the
man lacked in ability to speak to the public, he made up for in ability to speak to the
Father. She raised her eyes appreciatively after the “Amen” and saw that Jayce had also
been impressed. She was pleased for Lydia’s sake.
         The pleasure didn’t last long.
         “Did you hear the one about the lion that caught himself a missionary?” Brother
Carlyle asked merrily. Meredith almost winced as he leaned across his cornbread to tell
Jayce the moldy old joke. “The lion caught this missionary, see?” He waited for Jayce to
take the cue and nod. “But he didn’t go and bite his head off first thing. He held him quiet-
like in his paws.” Brother Carlyle demonstrated the lion’s move with his own gnarled
hands around a water glass. “The missionary said, ‘Oh, Mr. Lion! Thank you for not
eating me!’” Lydia laughed in delight at his falsetto impression of the missionary’s voice,
and Meredith smiled at the effort the poor man was making to win over her eldest
grandson. He winked at Jayce. “You know what the lion said back, young man? Do you?”
        “Yes,” Jayce said. Meredith kicked him under the table. “Ouch. I mean, no. What
did the lion say?”
        Brother Carlyle paused for dramatic effect before he delivered the punch line: “He
said, ‘Shhh! I’m saying grace!’” He pounded the table in glee so hard that the chili sloshed
from his bowl. “That’s a knee-slapper, ain’t it now?”
        “Oh, yeah,” Jayce said. Knowing his enthusiasm left something to be desired, he’d
prudently moved his ankles under his chair beyond the reach of Meredith’s shoe.
        “Tell them your middle name, Carl,” Lydia urged. “It’s so clever!”
        The old man looked so pleased that one would have thought he’d named himself.
“It’s Lyle!” he announced. “Carl Lyle Carlyle! Don’t that beat everything?”
        At last Jayce laughed. It broke the ice and they had an enjoyable conversation over
dinner.
        “Jayce,” Lydia said. “After we finish this dessert you take Meredith out to the
wishing well.”
        “You have a wishing well?” Meredith asked, charmed at the notion.
        “Doesn’t everyone?” Lydia replied. “Where else would folks go to steal a kiss and
wish for a love?” She turned to smile beneficently at her grandson. “Jayce has contributed
a fortune to my well. He’s probably tossed in as much as the rest of the grandchildren
combined.”
        “In case you’re wondering, I’m not blushing,” Jayce told Meredith over the rim of
his glass of lemonade. “I’m sunburned.”
        Wickedly, Meredith wondered how deep that sunburn could get. “Just how many
girls did you kiss out there, MacDermott?”
        “Oh, no, no, no!” Lydia laughed. “Jayce wasn’t kissing girls, Meredith, he was
wishing for one!”
        “Okay,” Jayce conceded, “now I’m blushing. Thanks, Gran. Do you have any
naked baby pictures you’d like to show her?”
        “Maybe later, dear. After we’re through eating.”
        “Well, Lydia,” Carl said with an exaggerated wink, “if these young’uns don’t want
to make use of the wishing well for sparkin’, maybe you and I could go out back and—”
        Jayce choked on the lemonade. “Spark?” he finally managed to sputter.
        “It’s courtin’, son,” Brother Carlyle explained helpfully. “You do a little good, old-
fashioned cuddling, maybe even get in a little peck on the cheek, and if things heat up from
there then it’s sparking . Get it?”
         Lydia smiled broadly. Jayce looked from Brother Carlyle to his grandmother and
back again. Then he stacked his dinner bowl atop his empty dessert plate and said, “Why
don’t you ladies go out to the parlor to visit? Brother Carlyle and I will clean up.”
        Carl cackled in glee. “Why Lydia, I do believe Jayce here wants to give me a
talkin’to!”
        “Isn’t that nice?” She reached for Jayce’s hand with one hand and Carl’s with the
other. “My two men.” Then she rose and took Meredith’s elbow. “Hurry up, dear, before
they change their minds about doing the dishes!”
         Meredith followed Lydia into the parlor and sat beside her on the chintz-covered
sofa. The delicate pink rosebuds had couched one too many grandchildren and the claw-
and-ball feet had experienced more than their share of run-ins with the edge of a vacuum
cleaner. In other words, it was perfect. Meredith leaned back with a sigh of contentment.
        “I’m so glad to finally have you here!” Lydia exclaimed. “I was beginning to lose
hope.”
        “Lose hope?”
        Lydia shook her head and squeezed Meredith’s hand. “I’m saying I love you, dear.
I’ve loved you since you since you were a little thing in pigtails. I always thought… I’ve
always felt as if you’re part of my family.”
        Meredith’s eyes filled with tears. “I can’t tell you how much your letters and
packages have meant to me. I know sometimes I must have seemed ungrateful, but—”
        “Never ungrateful,” Lydia assured her. “Only distracted.” She raised a soft white
hand to brush a stray tendril of hair from Meredith’s cheek. “When Jayce’s grandfather
passed away I thought it was the end of my life. Even though I know we’ll be together
again in the celestial kingdom, the days and nights are so lonely here on earth.” She turned
Meredith’s face toward her own. “I think you know something about loneliness, Meredith
McKay. And I know my Jayce has had more than his fill of it.”
        A single tear coursed down Meredith’s cheek. Lydia wiped it gently away. “That’s
what I thought. You can do something about it, you know. You don’t have to wait to be
happy. God loves you and He will help you.”
        Meredith nodded her belief and Lydia beamed. “Listen to me! You’d think we were
on an episode of ‘Touched by an Angel!’” She patted her snowy white curls. “Do I look
like Monica to you?” When Meredith smiled and shook her head, Lydia leaned
dramatically back toward the Tiffany lamp on the table and struck a pose. “It’s probably
because I wasn’t backlighted. Do I look like her now?” Meredith laughed out loud and
Lydia leaned forward again and gathered her into her arms. “You can’t imagine how nice
that laughter sounds!”
        “Oh, Sister MacDermott,” Meredith breathed, “you can’t imagine how nice it feels.
You are an angel!”
        When Jayce and Brother Carlyle came in a few minutes later, Sister MacDermott
looked up in dismay from the large photo album that lay across their laps. “Finished
already? But, Jayce, we’re just now looking at pictures of your ninth birthday!”
        “Meredith was at the party, Gran,” he reminded her. “Besides, it was your idea I
show her the wishing well.”
         “Our turn is later, Lydie,” Carl broke in. “The boy wants to get back to Winslow
before it gets late.” He cast a quick look at Jayce and added, “I told him my intentions
toward his grandma are honorable, but we still gotta court by BYU standards ‘til after the
weddin’.”
        Lydia smiled and folded her hands demurely across the album. “Do those standards
include sparks, Jayce, dear?”
        “Sparks,” he said, rolling his eyes, “but no fire in the fireplace.” He pulled
Meredith up from the couch and Carl cackled and moved forward as quickly as his arthritic
legs could carry him to take her place at Lydia’s side.
        When Jayce opened the back door for her, a refreshing summer breeze rustled
through the pines and cooled Meredith’s cheeks. She stepped outside and breathed in the
sweet-scented air. They followed a flagstone path through the flower beds to a well that
had been constructed years before of river rock and redwood. Its brass windlass had been
burnished gold/green by the elements, and ivy twined up its sides. It was as enchanting as
Meredith had hoped it would be. When she leaned on it to peer over the edge, Jayce laid a
copper coin on the wall in front of her.
         “A penny for your thoughts,” he said.
         Meredith picked up the worn face of Abraham Lincoln and held it securely in her
palm as she moved from the well to a nearby bench.
         Jayce watched in concern. “I see a penny isn’t going to cover it.” He stuck his hand
in his pocket and jingled the coins that remained. “I’ve got a little more spare change.
What’ll it cost me to find out what you’re thinking?” When a tear slipped from the corner
of her eye he moved quickly to her side. He put his thumb under her chin and gently raised
her face. “So, McKay, do you take American Express?”
         She gazed up into Jayce’s kind eyes and thought her heart might burst from love for
him. She hoped Lydia MacDermott had been right—that she could do this and God would
help her. “I…I’ve been thinking about Will.”
         He turned away. “That’s what I was afraid of.”
         Meredith’s heart fell as Jayce shoved his hands into his pockets and walked back to
the well. When his hands reappeared they were clutched into fists. He said, “Mind if I
make a wish before we talk?” and raised one hand over the well.
         Jayce spread his fingers and the coins that spilled between them caught the last of
the midsummer eve’s sun. Meredith watched the nickels, dimes, and quarters tumble like a
silver shower of rain into the well and felt her thoughts tumble with them. She heard them
hit the shallow pool of water at the bottom in a series of soft plunks, but she made only one
wish. She wished Jayce would understand what had happened with Will that awful day—
and that he would finally help her to understand it, too.

                                       Chapter 20

         It was a perfect Sunday in early summer, custom- made for hooky, and Meredith
intended to make the most of it. College had let out the week before and her parents were
pressuring her to join them on a trip to Africa. She’d stalled as long as she could. There
wasn’t another good reason for her not to go. At least there wasn’t one she was willing to
tell her parents—tell anyone for that matter. Nobody but perhaps Jayce’s grandmother
knew how determined she was not to miss a single one of the fifteen-odd days he had left
before his mission. She’d made sure nobody knew. Though they’d cut their teeth in the
same Nursery class, Jayce MacDermott was the only male she’d ever failed to conquer
when she’d set her mind to it. Failed thus far, that is.
         Today was a new day. A perfect day. And it might be her last chance to replace
Paraguay in a certain prospective missionary’s mind with something closer at hand—her.
She could feel in the air and hear in the song of the birds through the open bedroom
window that this was her day.
         Meredith got up early to shower and blow-dry her hair. She tossed aside the dress
she had so carefully laid out the night before and instead wriggled into a pair of designer
jeans that perfectly hugged her curves. She stood in front of her closet for a moment to
choose just the right T-shirt to flatter her nearly flawless complexion, then headed for a
mirror.
         She pulled her hair into a ponytail, reconsidered, and let it hang long and wavy
down her back. When her favorite song came on the radio she turned up the volume and
sang along while she applied her make up carefully enough to have been preparing for an
evening at the Grammy Awards. Finally, Meredith spritzed on a hint of the $100-an-ounce
spray cologne her father had picked up for her on his last trip to Paris. She was ready.
         She danced over to the bed and picked up the telephone. Church wouldn’t start for
another two hours so she knew Will would be home. Knowing him, he’d probably still be
asleep, but he’d be there.
         “MacNamara!” she said cheerfully into the phone when he mumbled something
that might have been “get lost” or maybe a more conventional greeting. “It’s me, McKay.
Wake up, sleepy head!” She’d lowered her voice on the last words and hoped she sounded
sultry.
         Maybe she did because his next words were instantly alert. “Hey, you,” he said.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of a wake-up call?”
         “It’s simply gorgeous out! I thought we could go rock climbing out at the Dells.”
         “Is it Monday already? I might have to work.”
         He was still sleepier than she’d thought. “It’s Sunday,” she admitted. “But I may
have to leave on that trip with my parents this week and I want to spend a little time with
you and MacDermott first—without the rest of the young- adult ward hanging around. Just
this once can’t we miss church? We’ll study the wonders of creation and call it Sunday
School.” The smile she gave the receiver was bright enough to carry through the phone
lines. “If Jayce gives you a hard time, tell him he can lead us in a hymn on the way up the
rocks.”
         Will laughed. “Sounds good to me.” Meredith had hoped it would; it’s why she’d
called him instead of Jayce in the first place. He continued, “What difference is one less
sacrament meeting going to make in the grand plan of salvation?”
         “So you’ll call MacDermott?” she asked, hoping she sounded a whole lot more
casual about it than she felt.
         “Yeah, I’ll call him.”
         “Talk him into coming with,” Meredith urged. “Remind him that Jesus gave His
best sermon on a mount.”
         “That’s a good one,” Will said with a chuckle. “Who’s driving?”
         The blue sky out her window made the decision easy. “Let’s take my convertible.
I’ll be over to pick you both up in about thirty minutes.”
         After hanging up the phone Meredith waltzed from her bedroom to the kitchen. It
had been even easier to persuade Will than she’d thought it would be. He’d have a harder
time convincing Jayce, but she knew if anybody could do It, he could. She stashed a few
cans of pop, candy bars, fruit, and a couple of bottles of water in a small cooler and
covered it all with ice before popping the lid o nto place. Then she took another quick peek
in a mirror before she headed out the door. Sure she’d be early, but who could wait?
         The boys lived next door to each other on a shady, tree-lined street in a modest
neighborhood most notable for its location in the heights overlooking the town. Meredith
pulled to a stop in front of Will’s house. It was always impossible to park near Jayce’s
driveway because of the assortment of scooters, balls, bikes and—on every day except the
Sabbath—kids that spilled over from the small front yard into the street.
        Before she could decide whether to wait patiently, honk the horn, or get out of the
car, Jayce’s front door opened and he came out. He wore a white shirt, conservative
striped tie, and the dark blue suit she and Will had helped him pick out the day after he got
his mission call.
        Meredith’s high hopes dropped all the way down to the toes of her expensive
climbing shoes.
        Jayce raised his scriptures in greeting and walked over to her car. “Hey, McKay,”
he said. “You look pretty today.”
         Boys had told Meredith she was beautiful. Boys had told her she was gorgeous.
Some had claimed she was the most magnificent creature to grace the earth. This boy
noted matter-of-factly that she “looked pretty today” and she thought she might swoon.
        “You smell good, too.”
        It was simply too much. “Where are you going?” she blurted out in dismay.
        “I’ve got a Missionary Prep class over at the institute before church.”
        “How much more preparation do you think you need, Jayce?” she said without
thinking. “You’re the only person I know who takes that Latter-day Saint thing literally.”
Meredith hadn’t meant to be so sarcastic and was appalled at the way her words had come
out. After all, she loved Jayce for who he was and what he stood for. It was just that she
had wanted so much to spend this day with him. If he couldn’t choose her over a mission,
couldn’t he at least choose her over one lousy day at church? His meetings would still be
here next week and she might not.
        “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings,” he said quietly.
        Meredith was sorry. Who did she think she was to be jealous of God for heaven’s
sake? She wanted to apologize. She wanted Jayce to stand right where he was while she
raced home and put on the dress she should have worn in the first place so she could go to
church with him. She wanted—
        Will’s front door flew open and he bounded down the driveway. He was happy,
handsome as ever, and dressed for a day on the rocks. “I guess you’ve seen for yourself
that Mohammed here won’t go to the mountain,” he told Meredith, nudging his best friend
on his way past and swinging his canvas bag of climbing gear onto the back seat next to
Meredith’s cooler. He leaned into the convertible to kiss Meredith on the cheek then turned
back to Jayce. “Beautiful day…gorgeous girl. Sometimes I worry about you,
MacDermott.”
        Meredith saw Jayce’s grip tighten on his scriptures. He looked miserable but only
said, “Yeah.”
        “Tell Brother Whitmore I’ll be there next week for sure.”
        Jayce nodded. “Have fun.”
        When he turned to walk back to his truck Meredith opened her door. She meant to
go after Jayce but Will interpreted it as an invitation for him to drive and started to climb
into the car. Meredith could think of two choices: confess her love for Jayce here and now
after years and years of hiding it from them both, or scoot over into the passenger seat.
First she hyperventilated, then she scooted over.
        Before he reached his truck Jayce turned. “Did you check that gear?” he called to
Will. “One of those ropes was getting a little frayed the last time we were out.”
        “We’re going to Granite Dells, not the Andes.”
        “Be careful.”
        “Don’t worry!” Will put the car in gear. “Think of us out in the fresh air and
sunshine while you’re suffering through Gospel Doctrine.” They were off before Jayce
could reply.
         Granite Dells was a few minutes out of town along Highway 89. In places, sheer
granite walls rose a hundred feet or more on both sides of the two-lane road and made it
seem as if they were driving through a canyon. Occasional clusters of houses and RV
parks dotted the clearings along the creek bed, and a couple of rock shops with crystals
sparkling in the windows tempted tourists to stop on their way to Jerome or Sedona.
        “Is it a perfect day or what?” Will said above the sound of the motor and the
rushing air. He expertly handled the curve off onto the side road that led farther into the
Dells, despite the fact that he was driving a little too fast. “Thanks for talking me into
this.”
        Meredith scarcely nodded as she gathered her windblown hair at the back of her
head and looped a rubber band around it.
        “I liked the way you were wearing your hair down today,” Will said.
        “I don’t like it in my face.”
        “Is something wrong, Meredith?”
        Something wasn’t wrong. Everything was wrong. But none of it was Will’s fault.
She’d taken him away from his meetings, she didn’t have to ruin his day by pouting over
Jayce. Meredith turned toward him and forced a smile. “Of course not.”
        “Good.” He parked at the base of a high pink-and-gray formation of granite that
must once have been all angles and crags, but was now smooth and almost round on top,
worn by eons of erosion. “What do you think?”
        “It’s great.”
        He swung open his car door and stretched languorously as he admired the climb.
When he turned to Meredith the grin on his face spread almost ear to ear. “You feeling
like a daredevil today?”
        “What do you mean?”
        Will pulled the equipment bag from the backseat, zipped it open, and tossed her
some chalk. “Want to take it without harnesses and ropes? It’s a rush.”
        Meredith hesitated. She looked up at the sheer face, figuring it was sixty feet or
more to the top. The fissures were okay, but . . . “Have you done it before?” she asked.
        “Sure.” He grabbed some wedges from the bag, stuck a few in the waistband of his
pants, and tossed the rest to Meredith one at a time. She secured them in her open fanny
pack and followed Will to the base of the formation. “Ladies first,” he said.
        “No, you go ahead.”
        She stood and watched Will until he was about ten feet off the ground, his arms and
legs stretched out like a spider ascending the wall. At last she followed, prudently choosing
a fissure to Will’s left. As she gripped the rough rock with her hands and wedged her foot
into the first of the shallow toeholds, Meredith began to feel better. She loved to be
outdoors and reveled in the strength it took to lift her body from one tiny crevice to the
next.
        “Hey,” Will called down to her after ten minutes or more. “Watch it. It looks like
some of the granite’s starting to break down. There’s some real loose stuff up here.”
        Meredith had noticed the crumbling ledges on her portion of the wall already.
Sometimes when she thought she was reaching for a firm hold she came away with what
felt like a handful of marbles. She looked up. Will was much higher than she was. “Maybe
we ought to try another spot,” she called back.
         Will grunted as he found his next handhold and dangled there. “It makes it more of
a challenge, that’s all.” He scrambled to make purchase with his feet before he lost his
grip with his hands.
         Meredith watched as he skillfully maneuvered himself into a better resting place.
He made this climb look effortless and she couldn’t help but admire his strength and
masculine build.
          As she neared the halfway point, Meredith no longer had the time or inclination to
admire her companion. She began to struggle in earnest to find a stable place in which to
dig her fingers and toes. This wasn’t fun any more. It was work and it was getting scary.
The whole idea had been a bad one from the start. She was ready to go down and she was
ready to go home.
         Ten or more feet above her, Will muttered a mild oath. Meredith flattened herself
against the wall for better balance and carefully tilted her head up and over toward him.
         He dangled by his right hand as his left groped for a firm hold. Neither of his feet
was in contact with the rock. Will was strong and an experienced climber, Meredith knew,
but even he was pushing the limit.
         “Will!” she shouted. “Come back down. I don’t want to do this any more.”
         His reply was a grunt of exertion. She watched him trade handholds and search
blindly with his foot for a crevice or crack that simply wasn’t there. Suddenly, Meredith’s
heart seemed to beat so strongly in her chest that she thought the force of it would knock
her from the granite. Will was going to fall.
         “Father, please—” she prayed as he stretched to full capacity and grabbed
upwards for a narrow outcropping at the top of the formation. Meredith almost went limp
with relief when he made it. But before the first sigh of gratitude could reach her lips it
died in her throat and she thought she would never breathe again. The ridge of granite
seemed to disintegrate in Will’s hand. With the sudden shift of weight, he lost his tenuous
hold on the cliff.
         Meredith’s scream tore at her throat and reverberated off the rock and back into
her ears. Will made a desperate last grasp at the side of the wall and managed to curl the
fingers of one hand into an impossibly small crack in the granite. It wasn’t enough. She
watched in horror as he slid past her as if in slow motion before falling backward and
plummeting toward the stony ground almost forty feet below.
          Meredith pressed her face into the rough rock wall. The only sound she could hear
over the pounding of the blood in her ears was the soft thud Will’s body made when it hit
the rock floor. She knew she would hear that sound again and again, for as long as she
lived.
         Without command from a brain that had ceased to function, Meredith’s body began
instinctively to descend. As she did she prayed that it wouldn’t be as bad as she feared.
Never did it occur to her that one misstep and she could end up falling beside Will in the
gravel. The one thought in her mind was a prayer—a mantra—“please let him be okay,
please let him be okay.”
         Meredith leapt the last few feet to the ground and stumbled to Will’s side. She knew
at once that God hadn’t heard her prayer. Will wasn’t okay. He lay at an impossible
angle; he was impossibly still.
        She dropped to her knees and raised her hands over his chest but had no idea what
to do next. She didn’t know CPR and she hadn’t taken first aid since girl’s camp when she
was a Beehive. Never had Meredith felt so desperate, so alone, and so utterly useless.
        “Get help,” a voice whispered from nowhere and Meredith obeyed. She ran to her
car and fumbled for the CB radio, sobbing in gratitude that her father had insisted the
outmoded device remain in her car. It took both hands to garner enough strength to
depress the button on the side. She begged and sobbed and screamed into the handpiece.
At last a trucker near Paulden responded to say he’d called the sheriff and an ambulance
was on its way.
        Meredith returned to Will’s side and collapsed in the dirt, groping for his hand.
She didn’t realize that time had passed until a deputy sheriff pulled her gently to her feet so
paramedics could get to Will. The lawman asked only their names before he wrapped a
blanket around her uncontrollably shaking shoulders and led her toward his patrol car
where he would call her parents, and Will’s.
        “He can’t die,” Meredith told the deputy. “He just can’t die.”
        The officer looked away and Meredith knew—Will was already dead.
        And she knew it was her fault.
                                       Chapter 21
        Jayce sat on the wall of his grandmother’s wishing well and stretched his long legs
out in front of him. He folded his arms across his chest and said, “Okay, I’ve invested all
the change I have in wishes. Let’s talk about Will.”
        All the words of apology, self-recrimination, and regret Meredith had rehearsed
over the years left her mind in a flash. All she could think about was Jayce and how much
she loved him.
        “You loved him,” Jayce prompted. “I know that, McKay. I—”
        “I didn’t love Will,” Meredith interrupted softly. “I mean, I loved him as a friend—
like you did—but I was never in love with him.”
        Jayce shook his head. “I was there, remember?”
        Meredith rose from the bench and moved to sit beside him on the low rock wall.
“You were there and you weren’t,” she said with a wistful smile. “Everything was always
more important to you than me—school, work, family…a mission. You never saw me
through those thick glasses you wore.”
        “I saw you plenty.” He frowned at the memory. “I was a lot of things, Meredith,
but I wasn’t blind and I wasn’t stupid. I’ve been in love with you since I was twelve, but
even then I knew I didn’t stand a chance with Will around.” His face clouded. “And you
made it plenty clear I really didn’t stand a chance when he died.”
        Meredith looked down at her hands. “I couldn’t talk to you, Jayce. I couldn’t face
anybody after that day, but I especially couldn’t face you.” She glanced up at him through
lowered lashes. He listened intently, but clearly her words weren’t yet making sense. She
took a deep breath. “I thought I’d killed your best friend.”
        “What?”
        “For a long time…until just this week…maybe even until today…I thought it was
my fault Will had the accident.” Now that she’d begun to explain, the words came out in a
rush. “All these years I’ve left the Church and avoided you because I’ve blamed myself for
Will’s horrible death.”
        “Meredith—”
        She held up a hand. “There’s more and I have to finally say it all. In some ways, I
am to blame. I convinced Will to go climbing with me that day. It was a thoughtless,
wrong thing to do, but I was young and stupid and very much in love. I didn’t even want to
go when you wouldn’t come with us. I could have backed out then. I could have sent Will
to Missionary Prep with you and saved his life.” She saw in Jayce’s eyes that he was
beginning to understand, but she still had to say the rest out loud for her own sake. “I used
Will, Jayce. He didn’t know it and you certainly didn’t know it, but I knew it. And God
knew it. I didn’t think He’d ever forgive me for the poor choices I made. I couldn’t even
hope that you’d forgive me. I—”
        Jayce raised his fingers to her lips and covered them ever so softly. “My turn.”
        “But you need to understand—”
        “No, I need to be sure you understand.” He took Meredith’s shoulders to turn her
all the way toward him. His fingers caressed the soft hair on the nape of her neck and sent
shivers of longing down her spine. “Will’s death was not your fault, Meredith. Nobody
will ever hold you accountable besides you.”
        “But I—”
         “Maybe you made some poor choices,” Jayce interrupted. “We all have. And we
can all be forgiven for them.” His face was serious and sincere. “But Will didn’t die
because of anything you thought or said or did. I promise you that.”
         Meredith smiled up at him through the tears in her eyes. She believed him and
knew there was only one more thing to say, the most important thing of all. The thing
she’d been promising herself she would say. “I’m more than twenty years late in getting
around to mentioning this, Jayce MacDermott, but I love you.”
         The kiss with which he answered made Meredith glad Jayce was a man of few
words. As they kissed a second time the penny he’d given her for her thoughts slipped
from her hand and fell into the water with a little plop.
         “All my wishes have already been granted,” Jayce whispered into her ear. “What do
you want more than anything, McKay?”
         Meredith settled deeper into his arms. “I want you to be safe,” she said. “And I
want to be with you forever. It’s all I’ll ever want.”
                                                ***
         Meredith woke early Monday morning determined to start at once to make her
wishes of the night before come true. First she called her parents, then she placed another
call to Phoenix. Then she stretched luxuriously, considered getting dressed, but instead
reached for the Gideon Bible beside the bed. Lucky for her Fang had only eaten Isaiah.
He’d left all kinds of words—the words of Christ and his apostles—in the New Testament.
After reading for twenty minutes or so, she stuck a finger between two pages to mark her
spot, rolled over on the bed, and reached again for her cell phone.
         “Hey, MacDermott,” she said, so happy to hear the note of pleasure in his deep
voice that she could scarcely speak, “listen to this line in Ephesians—got your scriptures
out? It’s chapter two, verses nineteen through twenty-one—if you want to read along,” she
teased. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with
the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles
and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building
fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” She sighed. “Aren’t those
the most beautiful words you’ve ever heard?”
         “Paul missed his calling,” Jayce teased, clearly pleased at her newfound enthusiasm
for the scriptures. “He should have been a poet.”
         “He was a poet!” Meredith said. “And wasn’t he one of the original apostles?”
         “Not exactly,” Jayce said. “He was a chief persecutor of the new Church after
Christ’s crucifixion, but he had a rather remarkable experience one day on the road to
Tarsus.”
         It couldn’t have been any more remarkable than the experience she’d had yesterday
on the road to Flagstaff. She sat up on the bed. “Jayce, guess who I talked to this
morning!”
         “Uh…the director of the FBI?”
         “Not even close.” She laughed. “I called the bishop of my ward down in Phoenix. I
think I got him out of bed. I know I surprised the heck out of him.” When Jayce didn’t
immediately respond she said, “I told him I want to come back to church—that I want to
go to the temple.” The laugh died when she drew in her breath at what she had said.
Suddenly shy, she almost dropped the phone from mortification at what she’d so brashly
implied.
         “Huh,” he said, but the emotion in the single non-word came so clearly through the
phone that she hugged herself with joy.
         “But the bishop tells me pit bulls aren’t allowed in the temple,” she said quickly to
fill the silence, “even if they’ve truly repented of chewing up half a Bible.”
         “He came right out and told you that, did he? Pretty harsh.” Meredith thought his
soft chuckle was the most wonderful sound she’d ever heard, but the next tender words
were even better. “I’ve discussed this very thing with Fang, you know. He pointed out that
I could take you to the temple. Maybe we could talk about that sometime.”
         “I’d like to talk about it,” she whispered. “Sometime.” But this wasn’t the time—
and cell phones weren’t the means. Meredith closed her eyes and forced her thoughts away
from being held in Jayce’s arms and on to the one thing besides that she could think
about—her determination to solve this mystery and keep him safe.
         “I want to go up to the reservation today,” she told him. “I think some of the
answers might be in Oraibi.”
         “You can’t go there,” he said. “The ceremonies are closed to outsiders this time of
year. Then he remembered who she was and amended the hasty words. “Well, waving your
badge will probably get you farther than the tourists who wave money. But I don’t want
you to go, Meredith. Not alone.”
         Meredith couldn’t count the number of times she’d unceremoniously dumped men
who told her “they didn’t want” her to do something. But this time was different. The
concern in Jayce’s voice wasn’t offensive and the feeling she had couldn’t be defined as
“offended.” She wasn’t sure how to define it since she’d never felt it before, but it might be
what people call “cherished.”
         “Come with me,” she urged.
         This time the pause was longer. “I’m probably the very worst choice to take,” he
said regretfully. “The traditional Hopi are the most intrinsically peaceful people on earth,
but even they might have second thoughts about pacifism if I showed up at their sacred
ceremony.” In the next breath he said, “Let me call Cookie.”
         “You mean the lady from the drug center?”
         “Yes. She’s a respected member of the tribe and I think she headed up to Oraibi last
Saturday to spend some time with her family over Niman. If she met you there, you could
go anywhere, see anything, and talk to anyone.” He paused, modified his assertion with a
sheepish “well, almost” and then added, “and I’d know you were safe. May I call her?”
         Meredith started to say that she’d call herself and then changed her mind. Allowing
oneself to be cherished now and again never hurt anybody, not even a self-sufficient
special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

                                      ***

        Since all Hopi land was a Reservation within a Reservation, Meredith had to cross
a portion of the Navajo Nation to get to it. Today the “Force”—or geography or
serendipity or something—was with her. Her route took her directly down the long stretch
of highway that the Navajo Tribal Police dispatcher had told her was being patrolled by
Officer Navasie. He was the lawman the DPS officer had suggested might give her the best
lead on who had smuggled drugs up to the two reservations. He had agreed to meet her at
Toh Hees at ten o’clock.
         Toh Hees was scarcely more than a wide spot in the dusty road, but they had an
antiquated filling station and a tiny café. A Navajo Tribal patrol car was parked in front of
the latter and Meredith swung the Rover in beside it.
         It took a moment when she stepped inside for Meredith’s eyes to adjust to the dim
light and for her nose to adjust to the very un-McDonald’s-like aroma. A man in uniform
motioned to her from across the narrow room and she joined him at a table for two, careful
not to rest her elbows on the greasy oilcloth that lay between them.
         “It’s not much,” Navasie said by way of apology for the establishment after they’d
exchanged introductions and credentials, “but it’s a place to sit down out of the sun. Would
you like some tea or coffee or something?”
         “No,” Meredith said. “Thanks. All I’d like is a few minutes to ask you a question or
two. I know you don’t have much time today and, frankly, neither do I.”
         “Heading up to Niman?”
         “Yes.”
         “You and the rest of the country.” He took a sip of iced tea and leaned back in his
chair. “What can I do for you, Ms. McKay?”
         “I’ve heard you were investigating drug trafficking on the Reservations,” she said.
“And that you were good at it.”
         “And you’ve heard it was past tense.”
         “Yes. Why?”
         “Old problems. Hard for outsiders to understand.” He laughed ruefully. “I guess it
goes back to Spider Woman and the division of the tribes.”
         Meredith didn’t follow him, and said so.
         “There are bad feelings between Navajo and Hopi,” Navasie explained. “Land
disputes. Culture disputes. Political disputes. Nothing is as important as the disputes.”
         “Nothing?” Meredith asked in surprise. “Not even your common problem with
outsiders selling drugs to your children?”
         Navasie shrugged. “Nothing.”
         Meredith considered what little he had said and tried to draw a conclusion from it.
“Were you taken from the case because you’re a Navajo who thinks there’s a correlation
between the drug running and the Hopi?”
         “Not the Hopi,” he said carefully. “A Hopi, maybe.”
         “Who?”
         “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t have the jurisdiction to nose around off-
reservation. But the drugs have to get up here from the big cities somehow. I happen to
think I know how. And I happened to mention what I think I know to the wrong person.”
         The little alarm in Meredith’s brain pinged. She hoped it was broken. “Who did
you mention it to?” she asked cautiously.
         “Joseph Kotsyovi,” he said. “The guy who was killed down at Coyote Springs.”
         It wasn’t broken. Meredith wished now she’d ordered water or a Coke or maybe
even something stronger. “When did you tell him what you suspect?”
         “A month ago, maybe,” the officer said. “A little longer. Two days after we talked I
was pulled from the case and sent out to patrol this little piece of paradise.” He grimaced.
“Kotsyovi carried a lot of weight up at Oraibi. Old Oraibi carries a lot of weight
everywhere.”
         It could be a coincidence, Meredith thought. She wished she believed in
coincidence.
        “How did you come to talk to Kotsyovi about your suspicions in the first place?”
she asked. “All I’ve been told about him, besides that he’s a Hopi, is that he was the
assistant to the archeologist at Coyote Springs.”
        “That was it,” Navasie said as if in agreement. “He came up here to ask me about
looters and who I might have heard of around who could throw a good fake pot. While he
was here, I asked him about who down in Winslow might be getting in extra orders of real
bad kachinas.”
        This time the internal sensor in Meredith’s brain didn’t sound like a ping. It
sounded more like a gong. “You think the crack may be smuggled in through souvenir
shops in hollowed-out kachinas.” Like the ones Lee Crabtree wouldn’t let me look at in his
trading post. Meredith didn’t need confirmation from Navasie to know she was right, but
she got it.
        “You FBI agents are better than I thought,” he said.
        Or worse, Meredith thought morosely. Some of us might be much, much worse than
you think.
                                       Chapter 22
          Old Oraibi, the oldest continuously occupied village in the United States, sat atop
the more than sixty-foot high Third Mesa and bustled like the anthill Meredith thought it
had resembled from a distance. All the way across Navajo tribal land, on her way to the
Reservation-within-a-Reservation, Meredith passed cars with license plates from states as
far away as Michigan, vans from colleges, and more recreational vehicles than she could
count. Many were being turned back at the base of Third Mesa, but all had come in the
hope they’d be among the fortunate “few” who now swarmed around the houses, into the
plaza, and onto the flat rooftops, crowding every possible vantage point to watch the
Katsinam dance.
         Cookie Shurr had met her as promised, and graciously left the company of aunts
and nieces to act as Meredith’s personal escort. She had even wrangled them a prime
location beneath a building overhang that provided at least partial relief from the searing
intensity of the noonday sun. Meredith stood silently as they waited for the next dance to
begin, reminding herself, each time a question popped into her mind, that the Hopi believe
that more is learned by what one sees and experiences than by what one asks, and that the
practice of asking questions is the sign of a short attention span, if not bad manners.
         Jayce had given her the crash-course in cultural sensitivity by phone on her way up
to the Reservation. He’d cautioned her not to speak during the ceremony, especially not to
ask questions, because to the Hopi these dances were sacred, and there was much about
their rites that Pahaanas didn’t need to understand.
         She’d listened carefully to his counsel and now she took it. Instead of asking
questions, as was her habit, she kept still and simply observed. What she saw first was that
the multistoried buildings were all but obscured by humanity. Young people sat shoulder
to shoulder on flat rooftops, and old Hopi ladies in colorful shawls rested on wooden
benches and in folding aluminum lawn chairs three, four, or even five deep around the
edges of the plaza. Entire families perched on retaining walls and in the shadows of their
houses. On a rooftop on the west side of the plaza, seated on a folding metal chair, a
slender Hopi woman in shorts stretched out her long, bronzed legs to take advantage of the
summer sun while her Anglo husband rubbed more sunscreen onto his already-sunburned
face.
         A sense of exhilaration and anticipation filled the air as spectators strained to see
over the heads and shoulders of those in front. Interspersed here and there were tourists and
guests like her. A tall, silver-haired man (Meredith guessed he was an anthropologist
though he bore no notebook, an item Jayce had told her that, like cameras and recorders,
was strictly taboo on the reservation) stood looking on respectfully, careful not to block the
view of any Hopis with his broad build. On the other side of the spectrum, a pot-bellied
man in a cowboy hat sat on the front row near the plaza and delivered a running
commentary in a West-Texas drawl to his clearly bored wife.
         Meredith glanced from him to Cookie to see if she’d noticed. Cookie had, of
course. Probably everyone in the village had seen or heard the cowboy. But the older
woman at her side merely smiled and shrugged as if to say, He doesn’t know any better. Or
perhaps, Meredith thought, Cookie’s unwillingness to pass judgment meant, I can’t control
his rude action, but I can control my reaction to it. She returned the smile. Jayce was right.
The Hopi were right. You could learn a lot from observation.
        A hush spread over the audience as the sound of bells, resonated rasps, rattles, and
hoof clappers was heard in the distance. Everyone strained forward to see the two old
priests in ordinary dress shuffle onto the plaza. One carried a feathered stick and a bag of
sacred corn meal that he sprinkled along the path. The other held an ancient water bowl
from which he flipped drops of water with an eagle feather.
        After the priests came four men who carried large, hollow gourds, and four men
with drums. The drums were nondescript, made of materials native to the land. The gourds,
yellow and green, had on them long, notched sticks. Meredith watched in fascination as
their bearers removed deer scapulae from their belts to use as bows. These instruments, she
realized, were a primitive type of fiddle. The squawking sound they made was odd, but
after a moment seemed so perfect in rhythm with the drums to be pleasing, even to her
inexperienced Anglo ears.
        The two priests began to call orders and a long line of Katsinam dancers entered the
plaza single-file. Their symbolic, fringed sashes brushed against the turtle-shell rattles that
were tied to their calves with deerskin. They repeated the musical minor notes of the
priests’song, “Lo-lo-mai,” and began, as one, to dance.
        Near where Meredith and Cookie stood, a Hopi grandmother tucked her flowing
skirt around the little girl beside her to protect her from the blowing sand kicked up by the
dancers’feet, but the child was oblivious to the gesture. Eyes wide with wonder, the girl
stood transfixed by the mesmerizing presence of living kachinas. Meredith knew how she
felt.
        The performance was simple and incredible. The dancers’feet pounded in perfect
time as their painted bodies swung in line; right and then left, showing first the front and
then the back views of their weird masks and swishing kilts. The Katsinam sang as they
danced, catching without error the frequent changes of tempo. Their words were deep and
droning prayers, curiously muffled under their weird masks.
        The pulse of the music and the words of the prayer reverberated through Meredith’s
body like a pounding heartbeat—one she shared with the priests, the musicians, the
Katsinam, and everyone who surrounded the plaza. A feeling of appreciation and reverence
came over her. Strangely, it was not unlike what she had felt in her own church the day
before. What had Jayce told her when they’d talked about the Hawaiian natives? That there
is great power and great good in the religion of every culture. Like everything else he told
her, those words were true.
         After their dance, the Katsinam filed out of the plaza, but the crowd remained
hushed. Clearly, Meredith thought, they expected more. Within minutes, she knew what it
was. The men reappeared, individually this time, each with an armload of food. One
Katsina, his bells and hoof clappers ringing and clattering with each step, gestured to a
Hopi woman in the audience to come forward. He met her halfway and gave her a loaf of
bread. Then he pitched a package of cinnamon rolls toward a delighted group of teenagers
on a rooftop. Across the plaza a Hopi elder beamed with delight as he staggered back to his
seat under the weight of a large watermelon. A bent old woman shuffled forward to accept
a grocery bag of fresh fruit from another dancer and grinned broadly as she walked toward
home with full arms.
        After distributing all their food, the Katsinam again left the plaza and at last people
began to rise. Some gathered up their chairs or blankets, but most left them in place to
mark their spots.
         “There’s another dance later,” Cookie told Meredith by way of explanation, “and
another after that one and so on. But the one you saw was a good choice for a first-timer.”
         “It was…” Meredith was dismayed when words to describe what she had seen and
felt failed her.
         Cookie took her elbow and squeezed it. “Many more outsiders would be allowed to
view our ceremonies if they were as appreciative as you.”
         Meredith blushed with pleasure at the compliment.
         Cookie hefted a large canvas bag and looped the strap over her shoulder. “My
sister, bless her, made us sandwiches and sent a thermos of ice-cold lemonade. Let’s find
someplace relatively quiet—and shady—to talk. I’m sure you have questions. Despite your
impeccable manners, you didn’t come all the way up here this morning to worship with
me.”
         Feeling perfectly at ease in this remarkable woman’s presence, Meredith said, “It’s
not so much manners as education. Jayce told me six or eight times what bad form it is to
ask questions in the villages.”
         “Dr. MacDermott is too well educated. And too worried about everybody but
himself.”
         Though the words were said lightly, Meredith could tell she meant them. This
woman was Jayce’s friend. She was so pleased she could have embraced her. “There are
things I need to know, Cookie, so I can help Jayce. I have so many questions I scarcely
know where to begin.”
         The Hopi woman laughed. “Then let’s begin with lunch—at least with lemonade.”
She stepped out from under the slight overhang and looked up with a glare to match that of
the sun. Then she sighed and began to lead the way through the crowd. “When my family
asks me why I work and live off-reservation, I tell them I do it for the air conditioning.”
         “We could eat lunch in my Land Rover,” Meredith suggested. She hoped the
psychologist would overlook a little pit-bull slobber on the windows and a couple of
petrified fries between the seats.
         “Your air conditioning works?” Cookie asked.
         “I can make that car positively frigid.”
         “Lady,” Cookie said, swiping at the perspiration on her brow, “I’m all yours. I’ll
talk as long as your gas tank holds out.”
         “Fortunately for me,” Meredith said with a smile, “I have two tanks and one of
them is completely full.”
                                        Chapter 23
         The first thing Jayce saw when he looked up from his lunch was the billowing
cloud of red dust on the dirt road that led in from the highway. Whoever was in that
vehicle was in a hurry. The second thing he saw was the red-and-blue flashing lights. The
bite of carrot stick he hadn’t yet begun to chew lodged in his throat and threatened to
choke him. Somebody had seen him in PH5. They thought he had tampered with a crime
scene. They had called the sheriff.
          “We harboring dangerous desperados out here, Doc?” Zach asked casually as he
set down his can of root beer to look at the rapidly approaching squad car in interest. When
Jayce coughed up the bit of carrot stick Zach turned to his professor. “Oh, right!” he said.
“I forgot. You’re the desperado.”
         Jayce’s mind went into overdrive as he stood and pulled the cell phone from the
pocket of his jeans. It would be bad to be arrested in front of all these kids, but it would be
worse to leave them out here alone with Kaub. He’d call the university and have the vans
on the way within the hour to pick them up, but he’d have to trust Zach to see to it that the
students who had brought cars left in them. He started to punch numbers as Undersheriff
Sickle and his deputy roared to a stop in front of the base. “Grab Fang, will you?” he called
to Zach over the puppy’s excited barking. That dog was exactly what he didn’t need at the
moment. He hoped Zach could keep him until Meredith got back. He hoped—
         “MacDermott!”
         Jayce glanced toward the undersheriff and, nonplused, lowered the phone before
connecting to the university. The two lawmen had exited the car with their guns drawn.
But the pistols weren’t pointed at him. They were aimed at Zach.
         “MacDermott!” Sickel hollered again. “Get the kid away from that dog.”
         All things considered, it wasn’t one of the undersheriff’s brighter ideas. About the
last thing he should want, Jayce figured, was for Zach to let go of Fang’s collar. The strong
dog already strained forward in protest at the young man’s grip. A line of stiff, black hair
had risen along the ridge of Fang’s muscular back and his teeth were bared to show a fully-
developed set of fangs that Jayce wouldn’t want to face head-on, even if he had a loaded
revolver. For all intents and purposes, the dumb dog looked like some kind of pit bull.
         Clueless, but wanting Zach out of the line of fire regardless of what was going on,
Jayce bent to grasp Fang with one hand and push Zach away with the other. In the next
moment he knew it would take both hands to restrain the dog. He got a firm grip before
looking back up. Over the top of the head of the snarling puppy he said, “What’s this
about, Sickel?”
         “We gotta shoot that dog.”
         In his surprise, Jayce almost released the hold he had on Fang’s collar. One of the
girls in his group, a blonde he had always considered ditzy, ran forward and threw her
arms around Fang’s neck as if to prove how dumb she was. Jayce closed his eyes, trying to
pray, but thinking instead the impetuous girl’s action was the perfect thing to do—if you
wanted half your face removed. When the next fraction of a second remained quiet, Jayce
opened his eyes.
         Fang licked the dust from the girl’s cheek. Then he growled menacingly at Sickel.
         “We got a complaint,” Deputy Dodge said. Despite Fang’s hostile overtures the
deputy’s gun was pointed at the ground. If Jayce’s contempt for the man’s Nazi of a boss
didn’t run so deep, he might have thought the deputy was sorry for what he was about to
say. “One of the workers out here called to complain you’ve got yourself a vicious dog.”
        Fang, to Jayce’s consternation, seemed bound and determined to prove it. He
yanked on the collar to get the puppy’s attention, or at least throttle the snarls out of him,
and said, “If he were vicious, Brenda here would be the first to know it.”
        “Fang’s a lamb!” Brenda cried.
        Then he was a lamb in wolf’s clothing, Jayce thought ruefully. But this wasn’t
about a dog, he knew. This was about a personal vendetta against Meredith. She’d crossed
Sickel’s path and now the undersheriff intended to kill her dog to teach her a lesson. Just
the type of guy you want to elect to an office sworn to “protect and serve” society, Jayce
thought sardonically.
        Jayce looked up into the flushed, grimly gleeful face and knew he had to think fast.
Sickel must have some quality he could appeal to. He knew right off that decency and
compassion were out of the question, but self-interest might be a viable option.
        He forced himself to shrug. “Well, if you have to, you have to, so go ahead. But I
hate to see it, Undersheriff. For your sake.” As he’d expected, Brenda shrieked at his
words and many more of the students, girls and boys, rushed forward to physically defend
the dog if necessary. Jayce figured he’d better get the rest of the words out fast, before
Zach punched him. “As you can see, Fang’s a pretty popular dog around here. When these
kids get through telling their parents—and their parents’attorneys—how badly you
traumatized them by showing up without warning to shoot the camp mascot, well…” He
was gaining an advantage, helped out by the fact that several kids were already reaching
for their cell phones. “Then there are the animal rights activists to consider. Bet you didn’t
know there’s an American Pit Bull Terrier Association out to eat guys like you for lunch.”
And the piece de resistance: “But on the up side, you’ll make all the papers from LA to
Boston. They love stories about hick lawmen running for sheriff that do something
stupid—like gunning down a puppy in front of a group of screaming kids. A registered
puppy that belongs to a special agent of the FBI, no less. You might even make the
Enquirer with that angle.” He raised one hand from Fang’s collar. “Sure you want me to
let go of the dog?”
        Sickel looked like he wanted him to let it go, all right. Let the dog go so he’d have
a cleaner shot at Jayce’s chest. Jayce had never seen hatred in anybody’s face before, but
he saw it now and felt vaguely stunned.
        “I’ll be back, MacDermott,” Sickel hissed.
        That it was more than an idle threat, Jayce had no doubt. It hadn’t happened yet,
apparently, but with this many people on site, somebody was bound to see the tarp in PH5
and maybe even wonder about it out loud. If Sickel heard of it—when he heard of it—he’d
have Jayce nailed dead to rights.
        The undersheriff’s car backed up in a wide arc and headed back toward town at
almost the same reckless speed it had approached. The kids swarmed around to
congratulate Fang on his new lease on life. Some of them spoke to Jayce, but he didn’t
acknowledge their admiration. He didn’t hear them, in fact. He stood silently, lost in
thought. He’d never been Mr. Popular, but he’d never been hated, either. Now there was
Sickel…Kaub…and, if Meredith were right, maybe even Fred Crabtree. Jayce looked out
across the ruins and wondered who else might hate him. How many people were there
around Coyote Springs who wished he was dead?
                                         ***
         “I think I might live,” Cookie announced. She leaned comfortably back into the
Land Rover’s leather seat with a sigh after polishing off the last of the lemonade. It was as
cold inside the car as Meredith had promised. Cold enough that the younger woman
wished she’d brought a coat. She was a Valley girl, after all. Cookie turned toward her.
“How many years of salary would a rig like this cost me?”
         Meredith laughed. “I don’t know about you, but I’d have to live on the streets a
couple of years to pay cash for it.”
         “That’s what I figured.”
         “My parents bought it for me,” Meredith explained.
         “Think they’d like another daughter? An old, Hopi one?”
         Meredith knew she’d like this woman for a sister. Again, Cookie had been as good
as her word. While they cooled off and ate lunch they’d discussed potters. Specifically,
they discussed who might have made the fake pots that had turned up at Coyote Springs.
Cookie’s best guess was a Zuni out of New Mexico who had carved himself a Carlsbad
Cavern-sized niche in the souvenir market by fashioning pots in the old style and applying
modern means to make them look used, and sometimes centuries old. Nothing illegal about
that, Meredith had to admit, as long as the pots were marketed as reproductions. The fact
remained that the guy was good enough to fool the experts. The first question she asked
herself then was what if he moonlighted by doing just that? If somebody asked him for
pots specific to a place and period, and paid him enough to craft them, would he do it?
         The second question she asked herself was the more important one—who would
commission such pots? The field was simply too broad, so she narrowed the focus. Who in
the area would have heard of this guy? Jayce hadn’t, but Cookie had seen his work in the
local trading posts where she’d purchased one of his piki dishes. Who had the largest
trading post around Winslow? Lee Crabtree. For the second time in a single day her
investigation had come back to the Crabtrees.
         Meredith pushed a button to move her seat back in order to turn fully toward
Cookie. “The Crabtrees are from Oraibi, right?”
         “Some of them,” Cookie said. “Some of them relocated to Hotevilla when Oraibi
split, back at the turn of the last century.”
         Though she was interested in the culture, Meredith didn’t want to waste precious
questions on a history lesson. “Do you know Fred and Lee Crabtree?”
         “I know one,” Cookie said. “I merely know of the other.” The Hopi weren’t called
the Peaceful People for nothing. Ripples of emotion would cross Cookie’s face from time
to time, then be replaced by tranquility before Meredith could accurately read the
expression. If she had to guess at the last expression, though, she’d have guessed disdain.
What she couldn’t guess was which of the cousins Cookie disliked. And she knew better
than to ask. This day of festival was sacred to Cookie. Meredith didn’t want to mar her
companion’s serenity any more than she already had—any more than she had to in order to
help Jayce. But she might be able to learn what she needed to if she took another angle.
“Lee and Fred are cousins, right?”
         “By Anglo standards, yes.”
         “What do you mean ‘by Anglo standards’?”
         “Hopi are a matrilineal, matrilocal society,” Cookie began, sounding like the social
scientist she was. “Traditionally, the female members of a matrilineage live with their
husbands, their daughters, and the daughters’husbands.” She smiled. “And then with their
granddaughters and their granddaughters’husbands and so on. In Old Oraibi, it is the
woman’s heritage that determines the relationships and the clans, which are the backbone
of Hopi society. For children to take the names of their fathers was pressed upon us by
generations of Spanish missionaries.”
        “So while Jayce and I would consider Fred and Lee cousins,” Meredith said, “you
wouldn’t. Not really.”
        “That’s right.”
        “Do they both live in Oraibi?”
        “No,” Cookie said. “I don’t know where Lee Crabtree lives.”
        The way she said it led Meredith to believe that not only did she not know, she
didn’t care to know. “He’s the one you’ve heard of,” she guessed aloud. “And even hearing
of him was too much.”
        “You’d make a good psychologist,” Cookie said, somewhat chagrined to have
given herself away so easily.
        “Why do you dislike him?” Meredith pressed.
        “I don’t dislike him,” Cookie said quickly. “I don’t know him to judge him. But I
do dislike the company he keeps.”
        Meredith hoped if she were silent, Cookie would continue. Her patience was
rewarded.
        “There was a man at the high school by the name of Johnny Stewart.” This time the
frown on her face told Meredith that some people in the psychologist’s book deserved to
be judged—judged and condemned. “You read about him in the reports I gave you?”
        “Yes,” Meredith said, “and I talked to the counselor at the school. Mr. Bledsoe
doesn’t like him any better than you do.”
        “No,” she agreed, “Don probably likes him less. “Did he tell you why Stewart quit
at the high school?”
        “No,” Meredith said. “I don’t think he knows.”
        “He quit to go to work for Lee Crabtree.”
        “Is he still at the trading post?” Meredith asked eagerly. “I went by the home
address the school gave me but he’d moved. It was a dead end.”
        “I don’t think he’s around any more,” Cookie said. “I don’t know what happened to
him. His name stopped crossing my desk about the time the dig opened up out at Coyote
Springs.”
        At the same time the pots started to disappear, Meredith thought. About the time
they were replaced with forgeries. Her head spun. When the FBI had assigned Joseph.
When Jayce’s problems at Coyote Springs began. Had Lee Crabtree decided that Stewart’s
talents could be applied to looting as easily as they were to sweeping up and pushing
crack? Or was she jumping to conclusions too soon?
        She changed the subject. “You do know Fred Crabtree, though?”
        “Since he was a baby,” Cookie said. “Now there’s a success story. His mother was
very ill—mentally ill—and his father ran off on them when Fred was five or six. His great-
grandmother mostly raised him. She’s a good woman, if very old-school.” Despite the
positive words, Cookie shook her head regretfully.
        Meredith knew there was more and waited for it.
        “Old-school means living by the old ways,” Cookie explained. “Fred’s mother’s
family and Nana Sekaku’s are two of the last of the priesthood clans. That’s why he and
Joseph were so close—the shared responsibility.” She sighed. “If Joseph had lived to see
Fred married, they would have shared family, too.”
        The casual words were almost information overload. Meredith didn’t know what to
think about first, the priesthood clans or what Cookie meant by Fred and Joseph sharing
family.
        Nana Sekaku. Where had she heard that name? Meredith couldn’t remember, but
knew she had heard it. If she waited, her little internal buzzer would eventually sound and
it would come to her. She refocused all her attention on Cookie who had gone back to
relating Fred’s life story.
        “His grandmother called in a shaman to heal his mother,” Shurr continued. “But
what the poor woman needed was medication. She had a severe disassociative disorder.”
Cookie sighed and then brightened. “But despite everything, Fred made it. He’s an artist—
remarkably talented and already quite famous.”
        “So I gather,” Meredith said. She considered then added, “And Dr. MacDermott
insists Fred’s a good man.”
        “He is,” Cookie said. “One of the finest you’ll ever meet.”
        What would prompt such a “fine man” to ransack another man’s trailer and leave
behind such an ominous threat? Meredith wondered. Or, she thought suddenly, might she
have judged it solely from the perspective of her own culture? Maybe Fred and Kelia
ransacked Jayce’s home to find his journal not hoping to profit by it, but hoping to keep
Jayce from finding the kiva—believing it was for the Anglo archeologist’s own good.
Might Fred have left the kachina not as a threat, but as a warning, meaning it as a gesture
of friendship?
        And where did Joseph fit into this?
        Frankly, Meredith didn’t know what to think.

                                      ***
        “I’ve been thinking,” Zach said. He lowered himself onto his haunches next to
where Jayce worked, and spoke quietly. “I think I know who called the undersheriff on
Fang.”
        Jayce concentrated on removing the metate intact. It looked like a large, shallow
bowl made of rock, the bottom of which was worn palm-of-the-hand thin by years of use
as a grinding stone. “Nobody called the undersheriff, Zach,” he said without looking up.
“Sickel’s out to get Meredith any way he can.”
        “Yeah, but somebody called him,” Zach insisted. “I’ve been thinking about it all
day and it’s finally added up.”
        Jayce pulled a bandana from his pocket and wiped his forehead as he waited for
Zach to continue.
        Zach did. Rapidly. “Fang usually sleeps in the trailer with you, right?”
        “Unfortunately.”
        “But Friday night you were out late and Fang came into my tent,” Zach said.
“Sometime in the middle of the night he got up. I thought he had to use the facilities, but
he wandered off and then started barking like mad over by the base.”
        “The base?” Jayce asked. “Why didn’t you bring this up Saturday morning when
we were looking for the mummy?”
         “I didn’t think about it being related,” Zach said. “That dumb dog’s always barking
at something or other. I worried at the time that he might have cornered a skunk, so I
whistled for him.”
         “Did he come right back?”
         “No. He kept barking and then he yipped liked something might have hurt him.
Then he came running back fast enough.” Noting that Kaub had exited his motor home
nearby, Zach picked up a trowel and used the tip to pick away at the dirt around the metate.
His voice lowered even more. “I thought Fang might have gotten into some catclaw, but I
couldn’t find any thorns. He seemed okay.”
         “And…?” Jayce prompted, knowing there was more to the story.
         “And you know that ‘personal assistant’of Kaub’s?”
         It was a moment before Jayce nodded. He was trying to anticipate the direction
Zach was headed, but couldn’t tie the story together.
         “Fang’s been giving him a real wide berth and growling when he sees him. Fang
doesn’t growl at anybody.”
         “He sure growled at the undersheriff,” Jayce pointed out.
         “Kaub’s hired gorilla was right behind the undersheriff,” Zach said, “at the door to
that palace on wheels of theirs. The guy looked like he was really enjoying the little scene.
That’s what started me thinking.”
         The way Zach sat back in the dirt reminded Jayce of the way Perry Mason returned
to his chair in all the old reruns he’d watched with his grandmother. Jayce glanced around
to make sure nobody was within earshot. Kaub had headed toward the base and the
students were clustered in groups scattered across the field.
         “So you’re saying,” Jayce began, “that you think Fang caught Kaub’s lackey
stealing the mummy and…got kicked or hit or something. Then the man turned him in to
the undersheriff because Fang wouldn’t stop growling at him.”
         “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
         Bemused, Jayce shook his head before lowering it toward the ground to go back to
work on removing the grindstone. “And I suppose you know where Kaub hid the mummy,
too?”
         “Yeah, I do.”
         Jayce’s head shot up.
         “Nobody ever looked in the safe where we store the human remains waiting for
repatriation,” Zach said.
         “That’s because the safe’s locked, Zach. Nobody’s going to open it but the Hopi
tribal leaders. I have the only key to the padlock.”
         “You have the only key to the old padlock,” Zach said. “Betcha can’t open the one
that’s on there now. When we were taking out things to load on the museum’s truck a few
minutes ago, I saw how shiny the lock looked. Doc, you don’t have anything new out here.
Not even a padlock. Somebody cut the old one off and replaced it with another. Why
would they do that unless they wanted to hide the mummy in the last place we’d ever
look—right where it was supposed to go when the plaster dried?”
         That was a question Jayce could answer. Kaub would unlock the safe in a heartbeat,
hide the mummy temporarily with the remains, and then move them both days later when
everybody had stopped looking for them. The mummy would never turn up and eventually
they would deliver a locked but empty safe to the Hopi, and Jayce, the only man with the
key, would be held responsible for both losses.
         “Did you say you loaded a truck?” he asked, already rising in alarm.
         Zach didn’t have time to answer, just to rise quickly enough to follow his professor
as he sprinted across the field toward the base.
         Jayce pulled up sharply and let out a sigh of relief to see that the truck was still
parked at the side of the building. Around the corner, Kaub gave instructions to the driver.
         “What are you shipping off, Kaub?” Jayce demanded. He placed himself at the
corner of the base where he could keep an eye on the driver and the truck at the same time.
“We don’t have anything ready to go yet.”
         “You’re wrong, Professor,” Kaub said. “As usual.” He looked cheerful, but there
was a thinly veneered note of warning in his voice that didn’t escape Jayce’s notice. “You
had several significant artifacts already crated when I arrived.”
         “Then I made a mistake,” Jayce said, sure that he hadn’t. “I shouldn’t have crated
anything until the Hopi archeologist had a chance to look over the latest finds and report
them to the tribal leaders.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “As you well know, Kaub,
the tribe can file a petition with the government asking for the return of any artifacts that
are of significant religious or cultural value. They don’t belong to your museum until the
last T is crossed on the paperwork.”
         Terrence Kaub waved at the air as if to dismiss a foul odor. “Did you properly
report the findings, Dr. MacDermott?”
         “Of course,” Jayce said impatiently.
         “How long ago?”
         “I don’t know,” Jayce responded without thinking. “It’s been several weeks.”
When he realized what he’d said, he could have bitten off the tip of his tongue.
Unfortunately, even self-mutilation wouldn’t bring back the admission that the tribe
probably hadn’t responded in the agreed-upon time.
         Kaub had him and he knew it. With feigned innocence Kaub asked, “Did the tribe
send down their archeologist?”
         “The man is a Hopi,” Jayce said, as angry as he had ever been. “And they’ve been
preparing for Niman. Even you know what that means.”
         “I know the museum’s obligation,” Kaub said. He signed a paper and handed the
clipboard back to the driver, signaling for him to leave.
         The man turned toward his truck, took a single step forward, then stopped in
uncertainty. Jayce knew the man didn’t want to cross his path, and with good reason.
Though he’d never resorted to violence in his life, there was a first time for everything. If
there was any chance at all that Kaub had hidden human remains on that truck, Jayce had a
legal and moral obligation to stop it.
         “Our conscientious archeologist reported the finds promptly,” Kaub continued with
a sly smile. “The tribe had more than enough time to express an interest in what we found.
They failed to do so. If they want to examine the artifacts now, they’ll have to do so at the
museum.”
         The artifacts that made it to the museum, he meant. Which wouldn’t be the mummy
or the skeleton or probably even the burial jar. Jayce felt sick. There were more than
artifacts in those crates, there were people. People who had lived and breathed and—he’d
started to tell himself “acted like Kaub” but that was beyond comprehension. Nobody
acted like Kaub.
         Jayce had two choices: he could let the truck go or he could insist on opening the
crates. If he did the first he risked losing the mummy and remains. If he did the second,
and found what he feared he might in the crates, Kaub would accuse him of secreting the
mummy and the other remains therein—Jayce was responsible for packing the crates, after
all—and have him arrested. With that on top of the fraudulent pots, there was probably
enough evidence to convict him. There was more than enough to cost him a future in
archeology anywhere in the world.
         Jayce looked into Kaub’s face and suddenly knew why he was so cheerful—he
knew exactly what Jayce was thinking. The young archeologist was suddenly speechless.
         “It’s too nice of a day to spend arguing, Professor,” Kaub said. “Do we ship the
crates or open them? Your call.” When Jayce didn’t immediately respond, Kaub’s smile
widened. “Go on,” he told the driver. “And remember to be careful on that dirt road going
out. If you crack even one of those pots you won’t get another job driving anything except
a manure truck.”
         “No,” Jayce said, finding his voice at last. “I won’t let you—” Before he could
finish the sentence, Zach appeared from around the other side of the base. He was behind
the backs of both Kaub and the driver, but clearly within Jayce’s view. The silver-and-
leather wristbands slid down his arms as he signaled a hearty thumbs-up.
         “You were saying, Dr. MacDermott?” Kaub prompted, his voice grim with
warning.
         Jayce stared at Zach’s gleeful expression for a long moment. The kid was clearly
urging him to send the truck on. He frowned, deciding whether or not he could trust Zach
in something this crucial. At last he frowned and muttered, “Nothing.”
         “That’s exactly what I thought you’d say,” Kaub sneered. “And as I recall, you
were excavating the garbage dump. Shouldn’t you get back to work on it?”
         Jayce walked away without a word and went back to digging out his well-worn
metate. When Zach joined him a few minutes later he said quietly, “You’d better have a
darn good reason for letting that truck go.”
         The sun glinted off the ring in Zach’s upper lip when he grinned. “I’ve got a couple
of them.” He slipped a tool that resembled a small crowbar under one edge of the rock.
When Jayce nodded, he applied enough leverage to pop the ancient metate from the
ground.
         Jayce frowned at it. It wasn’t much, but what could he expect to find in the Hopi
equivalent of a garbage dump? He pulled a whiskbroom from his back pocket, but he
looked at Zach. “And those reasons are?”
         “For one thing, you’ve got to stop going head-to-head with Kaub.” The look of
satisfaction on Zach’s face had been replaced with one of apprehension. “He’s dangerous,
Doc.”
         Taken aback at the kid’s perception, Jayce didn’t respond.
         “The second reason is that the only way to beat somebody like Kaub is to think like
him,” Zach continued. His expression lightened. “You can’t do that, of course. That’s what
you’ve got me for.”
         “That’s what you’re for, huh?” Jayce said, but fondly. “I’ve wondered.”
         “We’re going to beat him at his own game. I took care of it.”
         Jayce laid aside the whiskbroom. As much as he wanted to beat Kaub at whatever
game they played, he hated to involve Zach in doing it. His friend was young, loyal, and
absolutely correct in his assessment of Kaub—the man was dangerous. Jayce was
becoming more convinced of it every minute. But dangerous how? And to whom?
                                       Chapter 24
         “That’s Nana Sekaku’s home,” Cookie said, waving toward a squat, adobe home
built in the old pueblo style. She walked with Meredith back toward her car after viewing a
second and third of the dances in the afternoon. “It’s one of the oldest in the village.”
Though there were many newer homes in and around Oraibi, the section Cookie had
chosen to show Meredith, before the FBI agent returned to Winslow and the Hopi
psychologist returned to the festival, was the oldest one. Nearby an ancient grandfather,
clearly unhampered by the cares of civilization, leaned on a staff of cactus spine as he
walked toward the plaza to greet the Katsinam when they returned for the final ceremonies
of the day. Even with the crutch he moved with a queer effect of stillness that would have
been remarkable in somebody even a quarter of his years.
          Looking out over the pueblos toward the vast horizon that lay below the mesa,
Meredith squinted and imagined she saw the village as it might have been on a dusty day
three hundred years before. It was an awe-inspiring moment, one in which she again felt
overwhelmed with admiration for these extraordinary people and their peaceful, insightful
ways.
         Something flashed into the corner of Meredith’s vision and she opened her eyes in
wonder. “Is that an eagle?”
         Cookie shaded her eyes, but without need. The clouds that had built steadily up in
the west had all but obscured the molten bronze ball of a sun behind a murky haze.
Besides, the magnificent eagle that landed upon the roof of the home she had just pointed
out would have been almost impossible to miss in any light. “Beautiful creature, isn’t it?”
         “It seems almost tame.”
         “It is. The Sekaku clan are falconers.”
         “But eagles are a protected species,” Meredith said. “Nobody can own an eagle
legally.”
         “Eagles are sacred on the reservation,” Cookie responded by way of partial
agreement. “Only persons sanctioned by tribal custom—and registered as holy men by
American law—can train an eagle or even possess their feathers.” She sighed. “Joseph
loved that bird.”
         “Joseph Kotsyovi?” Meredith had meant it to be a question, but it came out as more
of a gasp.
          “Yes,” Cookie said. “He was a priest in that clan. That’s why his work at Coyote
Springs meant so much to us all.
         Meredith was at a loss for words. The young FBI agent was a Hopi priest? Jayce
had told her he’d prayed over the burial grounds, but she’d had no idea he’d done it as a
priest . Of course, priesthood probably wasn’t something he’d listed on his application to
the FBI academy. There may have been quite a few things Joseph didn’t tell the FBI—any
one of which could account for the cryptic reference in his diary to “failing in his mission.”
He had obviously gone to the dig with more on his agenda than an assignment from the
U.S. government.
         The possibilities spun so quickly in Meredith’s head that she unconsciously raised a
hand to her brow.
         “We’d better get you back to your car,” Cookie suggested, misreading the gesture
for heat exhaustion or fatigue. “It’s been a long day and it’s a long way back to Winslow.”
She looked up at the sky apprehensively. “I’m afraid that storm’s going to catch you before
you make it. She took Meredith’s elbow to steer her toward the parking area.
         Meredith didn’t respond to the touch or the gentle tug. Everything she’d filed so
methodically away about Joseph and eagles and clans was beginning to drop into place like
some kind of ou t-of-control mental Tetris game.
         She knew now where she’d heard the name Nana Sekaku. One of the two little
Hopi girls had called the weird figure that Fred Crabtree had drawn in the dirt at Coyote
Springs “Nana Sekaku’s eagle.” And she knew at last why the figure had looked vaguely
familiar at the time. She’d seen it once before—burnt into the leather cover of Joseph
Kotsyovi’s journal. The journal that was missing so many pages. Pages that she had
assumed held clues to his murder, then thought might be related to the drug investigation,
but which she now suspected held entries about the customs and mores of his clan that an
outsider had no right to know.
         She knew the eagle’s visit to Coyote Springs had been no coincidence. Jayce had
said Fred had been down there that morning. Could he have left carrion near the
pithouse—perhaps the same way he’d smuggled in a snake the day before—then released
Joseph’s eagle nearby, knowing it would frighten the Hopi workers and slow the dig?
Knowing also that the bird would return home to Oraibi. If so, had he come back with it, or
stayed behind? Where was Fred Crabtree now?
         Like the holes in a poorly played Tetris game, there were too many things Meredith
still didn’t know. She turned to Cookie. “About Joseph’s priesthood clan—”
         Cookie still had hold of Meredith’s elbow. She used it to pull her sharply away
from a group of women who looked at them in interest as they passed by. “No more
questions!” she said. “We don’t talk about clans—especially certain things and certain
clans—to Pahaanas . Although it may seem suspicious to you, secrecy is all we have left to
guarantee that our culture continues from one generation to the next.”
         She’d called her a Pahanna. It was the first time Meredith had heard Cookie use the
Hopi term. It was the spoken politely, to be sure, but still it carried weight. Meredith bit her
lip. If she didn’t need to know so desperately, or if it wasn’t for Jayce that she needed to
know, she’d never ask. “Cookie,” she said, “You have been incredible today and I’m sorry
to seem so ungrateful and rude right now.” Her heart was in her throat and, she hoped, in
her voice. “But Jayce MacDermott’s life may depend on me understanding everything I
possibly can. Could we visit Nana Sekaku’s home?”
         Cookie looked regretful, but she still said no.
         “I won’t say a word,” Meredith inserted quickly. “I promise you I won’t.” She
reached for the older woman’s hand. “Cookie, you don’t know me well enough to believe
that I only want to solve Joseph’s murder and keep whoever butchered him from killing
Jayce. But it’s true.”
         “I know you better than you think I do.”
         “Then you’ll take me over there? For just a minute? I swear to you I won’t ask a
single question.”
         Meredith suspected that nothing but her loyalty to Jayce caused Cookie to lead the
way toward the small, dun-colored home. “I know more about that than you do, too,”
Cookie said. “Nana doesn’t speak a word of English.” She paused meaningfully. “I know,
too, that one little full-b looded Indian woman is worth six or eight agents of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation when it comes to a scrap. Keep that in mind and keep your mouth
closed.”
        “I will,” Meredith promised again. She hoped in her scant hours on the reservation
something of the Hopi way had rubbed off on her. Specifically, she hoped she’d learn more
with her eyes than she could even from her questions. All two dozen of them.
                                               ***
        “One question,” Jayce said to Zach. They walked together back toward the ancient
disposal site after being called away by a group of girls to examine their newly-unearthed
“tihu”—an object that turned out to be a rather oddly formed root of a greasewood bush.
Jayce had questioned in his own mind the students’training, or lack thereof, but Zach had
publicly questioned their motives. It seemed clear to him that all the girls wanted was their
instructor’s attention.
        “No time for questions, Doc,” Zach said. “I need to borrow your dirt bike.”
        “Whoa,” Jayce said. “Where do you think you’re going?”
        “Joy riding,” Zach said loud enough for the nearest group of Kaub-paid workers to
overhear. “All work and no play makes Zach a dull guy!” When they had passed the men
he whispered, “I’m going to get your mummy.”
        Jayce practically pushed him into the nearest excavated shaft. Then he knelt at the
top and pretended to pass down a tool. “Say what?”
        “I’m going to go get the mummy out from those crates.” Zach grinned up at his
professor’s bewildered face. “You didn’t think the truck was going to get very far did you?
Why do you think I gave you the thumbs up to let it go?”
        Jayce hadn’t thought at the time, he’d listened to the Spirit and trusted Zach.
        “I put dirt in the gas tank while you argued with Kaub,” the kid said. “It’s been
enough time now for it to have stalled out on the road. I figure the driver’s gotten out,
decided he couldn’t fix it, and started the long walk back to the site.” He glanced at a
pocket watch that hung from one of the many chains at his waist. “Plus, it will be dusk
soon. The timing’s perfect.”
        Jayce was too stunned to decide whether to reprimand the kid or kiss him.
        “The sweetest part of the deal,” Zach continued, “is that Kaub can’t say a word
when he finds out what’s missing from the crates without admitting he knew what was
there to start with. We can’t prove he did it yet, and if we’d opened the crates and backed
him into a corner he’d probably have figured out a way to pin the whole thing on you. But
we can at least keep him from claiming the spoils of war.” He studied Jayce’s face. “Why
do I get the feeling you’re not thinking, ‘This kid is brilliant’?”
        “Messing with those remains is illegal, Zach,” Jayce said slowly, “and unethical.
No matter who does it.”
        “Doc, you’re the only one around here who can define ethic, let alone practice it.
Besides,” he added quickly, “I’m not defiling them or anything. I’m only removing them
from a place they shouldn’t be and relocating them up to a little cavern in the bluff where
they’ll be safe until the Hopis can get down here and handle it the right way.”
        “You’re a good man, Zach,” Jayce said at last.
        Zach grinned. “Is good as rave as brilliant?”
        “It’s…” Jayce paused. “…Raver…assuming I’m conjugating a verb.” He took the
keys to the bike from his pocket. “But I’m going to be the one to go get them.”
        Zach hoisted himself out of the pit. “You can’t. It’s too obvious. Nobody’s going to
believe that Dr. MacDermott takes time off to have fun.” He swiped the keys from Jayce’s
hand and yelled out to the nearby workers, “Zach’s going on a joy ride!”
        “Be careful,” Jayce cautioned. He wished the kid was wrong, but knew he wasn’t.
He wished there was another, safer, way to get the remains back, but couldn’t think of one.
He wished Zach had at least been more circumspect about telling the world he was riding
off into the desert. Kaub was going to find out what happened to his truck sooner or later.
Then he was going to check on those remains and go looking for them—them and whoever
he thought might have taken them. “Hurry,” Jayce urged. “It’s already twilight because of
the storm, and you know how slick this ground can get when it rains.”
        “Don’t worry, Doc. Before I took up archeology, motor cross was my life!”
        Jayce laid a restraining hand on the young man’s shoulder and leaned close to his
ear. “I mean it, Zach. Think of taking care of yourself first. I don’t know what game
Kaub’s playing, but I think he plays for keeps.”
        “I’m not afraid of Kaub.”
        Jayce tightened his grip. “Well, I am, so humor me and watch yourself.”
                                                ***
        Meredith was afraid she hadn’t learned enough from the Hopi after all. Though her
eyes took in everything about Nana Sekaku’s home—plastered adobe walls, almost
windowless and devoid of decoration; a simple woven rug beneath serviceable but very old
rough-hewn chairs; fireplace that likely provided heat in the bitterly cold winter months—
she learned very little.
        If you looked up “matriarch” in the Hopi dictionary, Meredith suspected there
would be a picture of Nana Sekaku. Though birdlike in her build and incredibly old, every
inch of the woman—all fifty-five or so of them—commanded respect. She spoke very little
to Cookie and had not spared her Pahaana guest a glance. By the tone of her guide’s voice,
Meredith assumed that Cookie had paid her respects, expressed her sympathy over
Joseph’s death, and bid their regal hostess good-bye. They’d stayed about three minutes by
Meredith’s calculation. Judging by the severe look on Nana’s face, it was probably three
minutes too long.
        As they turned to leave, one of two interior doors opened. Meredith turned
instinctively to see Kelia’s slight form silhouetted in the doorframe. The girl’s surprise at
seeing them gave Meredith several seconds, perhaps almost half a minute, to study the
kachina mask and vestments Kelia held cradled in her arms. The mask in particular was so
startling and unique Meredith knew she would never forget it.
        Nana Sekaku recovered from surprise first and spoke sharply in Tusayan. At the
sound of the command—whatever it was—Kelia slammed the door and Cookie pulled
Meredith out into the tiny courtyard in front of the house. She raised a plump hand to the
base of her neck as she walked quickly back toward the visitor’s parking area, visibly
shaken.
        “I’m sorry to have put you in that position,” Meredith said, “even accidentally.”
She didn’t know the significance of what they’d seen, but she knew without doubt that
Nana Sekaku and Cookie both believed they shouldn’t have seen it.
        By the time they’d reached Meredith’s SUV, Cookie was out of breath but calmer.
“Please do not speak of the costume you saw,” she said. “Though we all learn at a certain
age that the Katsinam who dance in our festivals are men of our village, we believe the
physical reality is conjoined with a spiritual reality.” She shook her head. “It is difficult to
explain to an outsider. Perhaps you would better understand if I tell you that a kachina
mask is a sacred object. When donned, it joins the spirit of the Katsina with the spirit of
the man and transforms him from an impersonator to the Katsina he represents.”
        Meredith didn’t respond. She was busy committing each of Cookie’s words to
memory while still retaining a vivid picture of Kelia and what she held. This was another
piece of the Tetris puzzle, she knew it was, but she didn’t yet know where it might fit into
place.
        Finally, Cookie grasped Meredith’s hand in a gesture of friendship and
supplication. “Of course you don’t know what I’m talking about. How could you?
Meredith, Nana Sekaku is a clan mother and you accidentally got a glimpse into her sacred
clan room. You mustn’t make public what you saw.”
        “I—” Meredith didn’t know what to say. She would never talk about the kachina
vestments and who had access to them frivolously, but as a federal investigator she had to
report anything, and everything, that might have bearing on a case. Besides, Meredith
didn’t believe in coincidence. She did believe in a force more powerful than fate that may
have intervened in her behalf—and in Jayce’s. “I’ll be discreet,” she told Cookie at last.
        “That’s all I could ask.” Just before she turned to head back to the plaza Cookie
added, “Get to the highway quickly and be careful on the way home. It looks like the storm
is about to break.”
        Meredith thanked her new friend for her hospitality and then climbed in her car.
The smartest thing to do was to take Cookie’s advice and head back the way she had come,
down highway 89. But Meredith started her car and consulted the instrument panel instead.
According to the built-in Global Positioning System, there was a more direct route to
Coyote Springs though it was almost eighty miles on scarcely improved dirt roads.
        She glanced at her watch and then up at the sky. With the cloud cover, it would be
full dark in another thirty minutes. If this monsoon followed the pattern of the other, it
would hit Oraibi any minute and follow her all the way down Third Mesa. Worse, since the
red rock mesa absorbed little rainwater, it would rush toward the basin and quickly fill the
arroyos and washes below with mud and debris, making them virtually impassible even in
a vehicle as reliable as her Rover. She’d seen the front page of the Winslow newspaper
after the storm last week. It featured an article about a man who thought he could
outmaneuver a flash flood. He’d drowned when his top-heavy SUV overturned and trapped
him beneath a wall of water and mud.
        She sat with her hands on the wheel, considering. The highway back to Winslow
was maintained, patrolled, and far safer, but it was also a much longer route to Coyote
Springs—and to Jayce. She started the engine and plugged in her cell phone to e nsure it
would be fully charged before she turned onto Indian Route 5. She didn’t want to take
unnecessary risks, but something in her heart told her she had to get to ruins.
        Now.
        Before it was too late.
                                           Chapter 25
         Jayce brushed his unruly red hair from his forehead and looked toward the buttes
for a sign of Zach. The next second the wind slapped the hair back in his eyes along with a
generous handful of dust and sand. It was simply amazing to him how quickly this land
could convert itself from dust to mud and then back to grit. He could explain the ecology
of nature and usually he could appreciate it, but not right now. Now, darkness was falling
and Zach hadn’t returned from his self-appointed mission to rescue an infant mummy. A
storm—and a bad one by the looks of the distant lightning—was breaking over the m esas
to the north and Meredith had called to say she was racing it back to Coyote Springs, but
expected to lose the race. Worse, despite his caution to turn back, she was on a little-used
road she had no business being on in the first place. Worst, there was nothing Jayce could
do for her or Zach. Nothing except wait and worry and hope and pray.
         And while he did those things he might as well work in PH5.
         Jayce scanned the field again but it was as empty as it had been in the previous
second. Kaub had gone into his motor home at the first sign of the storm. At about the
same time, Jayce had sent the kids into the base with Fang and left them to their own
devices claiming he had a headache and was going to his trailer to lie down. It was half
true. He had one heck of a headache, but his pain reliever of choice was a headlamp, and
the place he intended to be all night was in PH5 as he confirmed his almost certain belief
that he had found the tunnel to the underground kiva.
         He had found the tunnel to somewhere. There was no doubt about that.
         Jayce dropped down into the pithouse and ducked behind the tarp. He took several
steps into the newly excavated passageway before he turned on his flashlight. A glow of
light would still be visible behind the tarp, but only to someone standing at the edge of the
pit looking down. If someone did stand there, the light would be a moot point because the
rock debris on the outer pithouse floor would have already given him away.
         He’d been taking a big risk the last few days and Jayce knew it. So far he’d gotten
away with it, despite what he’d first supposed when the undersheriff arrived this morning.
And he didn’t need to get away with it much longer because he was almost there.
         The first twelve to twenty-four inches of the tunnel had been clay, as he had
anticipated, and digging through it had been arduous and time-consuming. The rest of the
way, however, was mostly rock, loose-packed and relatively easy to remove. Jayce was
grateful that the men who had sealed the entrance to the kiva centuries before had been in
too big of a hurry to plaster more than the first couple of feet of rubble with adobe.
         But while the rocks were easier to excavate, they were harder to hide. At first Jayce
had hefted them from the pithouse and carried them into the field, one or two or an armful
at a time, depending on their size and weight. Then, realizing how deeply the laborious
chore cut into the few precious hours he had to work, he began to stack them along the
interior walls. He figured they would look almost natural to a student or worker who
happened by. Kaub might be suspicious, but he had counted on the man not to stray far
from his motor home and/or the burial field, both of which were more than a mile away on
opposite sides of the dig.
         He’d been right. Eventually, Kaub, as the museum’s representative, would have to
be told, but not until Jayce had found the kiva, photographed it, and catalogued the sacred
relics for the Hopi Nation. He’d lost other artifacts—even a child mummy—from
elsewhere at Coyote Springs, but he wouldn’t lose anything from the kiva. Not while he
was the only one who knew about it, at least.
         Jayce returned to the rock barrier where exhaustion as much as lack of time had
forced him to stop work just before dawn. He had dug five feet into the passageway until
he found a wall of dirt and rocks. On a whim Jayce pushed at a small rock at the top of the
wall and felt it inch away from his fingers and fall with a muffled thud to a floor
somewhere beyond sight.
         It was several seconds before Dr. MacDermott took a breath. He had broken
through. What this underground chamber might be was impossible to say with certainty,
but he staked his career, if not his life, on it being a kiva. Within an hour, maybe two, he’d
know for sure.
         He had to finish enlarging the tunnel.
         Jayce worked as quickly as he could to pull a stone from the top of the mound of
rubble and heave it toward the back, heedless of where it fell on the pithouse floor.
Urgency was now more important to him than secrecy. He’d stack the rocks before he left
the pit tomorrow morning.
         In his haste, Jayce didn’t notice the cell phone fall from the pocket of his jeans, nor
did he hear the sound of plastic shattering when the next boulder he tossed landed atop it.
His body was on automatic pilot moving rocks. His mind was on Meredith and Zach. He
wished they were here.
         He wished he knew where they were, and that they were safe.
                                                  ***
         Meredith wished she knew where she was. She’d set out to get to Coyote Springs
as quickly as possible and had chosen the worst possible route. The narrow, washboard
road leading down from Third Mesa had been bad from the start, but now that she was at
the base of the plateau it was nonexistent.
         She checked to be sure the windshield wipers were going full tilt then leaned
forward to peer out into murkiness that was scarcely penetrated by her headlights. All she
could see through the driving rain was mud.
         The next flash of lightning, which was too close for comfort but convenient for the
momentary illumination, told her she was in the middle of acres of red mud. Possibly miles
of mud. If underneath the mud somewhere was a road, Meredith couldn’t locate it any
better than the worthless GPS could. It had told her to take a sharp right about thirty
minutes back. If she’d done it, she might be in about the same spot she was now, but the
Rover would almost assuredly be upside down—crumpled after a plunge down the steep
wall of the mesa. The high tech toy on her dashboard was great on carefully mapped city
streets, but out here on the reservation, where the paths used to herd sheep were wider and
better maintained than the roads used by cars, it was useless. Worse than useless. It had
almost gotten her killed.
         One thing was certain—she wasn’t going anywhere until the rain let up. As
frequent as the lightning was, it wasn’t enough to navigate by. Meredith turned off the
lights and then, on second thought, the engine. She’d used a lot of gas ensuring that Cookie
would stay cool enough to talk. She didn’t need a Global Positioning System to tell her she
was at least a hundred miles from the nearest gas station. It was bad enough to be lost in a
storm. She wouldn’t complicate things further by tossing an empty gas tank into the
equation.
        Meredith reached for her phone to call Jayce. Even if he couldn’t help her find her
way to him, just hearing his deep, quiet voice would make her feel safe. When he didn’t
answer, she frowned at her phone and dialed again. Again the recorded message reported,
“The customer you have dialed is not available at this time.” She left him a message about
sinking into the mud never to be seen again, which she meant to be humorous. Dismayed
when it came out almost hysterical, she blurted out that she loved him—in case he had
forgotten since the night before—and hung up.
        She undid her belt and turned in the seat with her back against the door, trying to
stretch legs still stiff from the day she’d spent “helping” Jayce at Coyote Springs. The next
flash of lightning silhouetted a rock formation in the distance. Meredith’s startled cry was
muffled by the thunder.
        She stared at the now-black glass of the window with the shape still as vivid in her
mind’s eye as it had been in the split-second of illumination. Ragged and sharp, the
formation reminded her of the machine-manufactured spearheads in all the baskets on all
the countertops in all the trading posts around the reservation. But wet, red, glistening in
the rain, it reminded her most of the spearhead used to kill Joseph Kotsyovi.
        Suddenly, Meredith wasn’t worried about herself anymore. There was no room for
self-concern amidst her all-consuming fear for Jayce. Why didn’t he answer his phone?
Where was he?
        Meredith knew where he was and that’s why she was so afraid. He was in the
pithouse where Joseph had died. He was there all alone and nobody knew it but her.
        At least she hoped nobody knew it.
        She dialed his number again as if desperate wishing could make him answer. When
it couldn’t, Meredith took a deep breath and told herself to get a grip. She’d imagined all
sorts of silly things the last time she was alone in this car in the dark for goodness sake.
Her fears were unreasonable then and they were unreasonable now—nothing that an extra
large nightlight wouldn’t cure.
        It was likely Jayce was in the shower after a long day of work—or at the base
regaling his students with stories—and didn’t hear the phone ring. He was fine and she was
fine and everything was fine all the way around.
        Everything except that she was going to lose her mind sitting here in the dark
worrying. She punched more numbers into her phone and was grateful when at last a
familiar voice answered.
        “Ernie!” she said happily. “Do they have you pulling night shift now?”
        “No, I’ve been here all day,” the FBI rookie answered. “I’m finishing up with—”
        “Good,” she interrupted. “I need you to do something for me.”
        “Is it—?”
        “Important? Yes. Drop whatever you’re doing and do this instead. Don’t leave until
you’ve finished.” He didn’t hang up on her. Thank heaven for the newbies. “I need you to
track down a kachina.”
        “A what?”
        “A kachina. You’ve been in Arizona long enough to know what a kachina is.”
        “You need a doll?”
        “No,” she said, then thought of the hollowed-out ones undoubtedly used to ship
drugs up from Phoenix. “Well, yes, but that’s another kind of kachina and you can wait
until tomorrow morning to start looking for it.” She ignored his deep sigh of resignation
and continued, “I saw a costume today on the Hopi Reservation. I need you to find out
what kachina it is from the description I give you. Ready?”
        “But—”
        “You’re writing this down?”
        “Yes, ma’am.”
        Meredith described the black and blue mask with the fearsome snout and bulging
eyes and as much of the raiment as she thought she could accurately remember. It wasn’t
as though Kelia had purposefully held it up for display, after all. “Got it?”
        “Yeah, but—”
        “If you can’t find anything online in the first few minutes, call the editor of Arizona
Highways or the director of the Heard Museum,” she said. “Get them to give you the name
of somebody who’s an expert on this stuff and let me know what you come up with
ASAP.”
        “You meant tonight?”
        “I mean within the hour.” As long as she was asking the difficult, Meredith figured
she might as well slap on an impossible deadline. It was nothing field agents hadn’t
expected of her when she manned the research desk. She was about to thank him and let
him get to work when she caught a reflection of lights in her rearview mirror. “Just a sec,
Ernie,” she said automatically.
        As unbelievable as it seemed, it was another car. The rain had lessened by a degree
so Meredith was able to see well enough to judge by the width between the headlights that
it was a smallish vehicle. By the impossible angle at which it came down the mesa she
knew it had four-wheel drive. She knew one other thing, too—this driver was familiar with
the reservation road.
         Meredith reached for the key to turn the ignition, intending to follow. Wherever
that person was going was better than where she was now. But before the motor turned
over, she released the key. The car had finished its descent and passed several hundred
yards away, but it was too dark to make out what it was. She looked up at the sky. Where
was lightning when you needed it?
        As if on cue, the lightning and thunder arrived at once. The Rover shook and
Meredith stifled another cry.
        “Ms. McKay!” Ernie said over the phone. He sounded so anxious Meredith
wondered if he’d instinctively drawn his gun at a sound of presumed cannon fire. “Are you
all right?”
        “Yes,” she said quickly. “It was only thunder.” But her heart pounded in her ears
and this time she wasn’t afraid of the dark. She’d seen the other vehicle and she was afraid
of what the internal sensor in her head was telling her about it. “Ernie,” she said, “that Jeep
I had you looking for—”
        “A white Wrangler,” he said at once. “Agent Kotsyovi’s. It hasn’t turned up yet.”
        “I think it has now.”
        And unless she was very mistaken, Kelia was at the wheel and headed toward
Coyote Springs.
        Meredith waited as long as she dared—until the red taillights on the Jeep were
mere pinpricks in the gloom—before she started her engine. She didn’t know how she
could possibly follow the girl in this storm with no headlights to give her away. But come
heck or high water (the latter of which was assuredly the more likely) she would follow.
                                       Chapter 26
        Jayce pulled himself up from the pithouse about the time it started to rain in
earnest. He was grateful that his dirt bike was old enough and in bad enough repair that its
engine could be heard halfway across the state. He was grateful, too, for Zach’s perfect
timing. Though the kid had been gone for hours, it had given Jayce time to work and now
the kiva was open. Even a man as broad-shouldered as Jayce could pass through the tunnel.
         He jogged across the field in the dark and hoped he knew the terrain well enough
by now to avoid breaking his neck by falling into one of the many holes. He was close
enough to call out to Zach just as the young man reached for the door of the base.
        Miraculously, the kid heard him over the barking of the dog on the other side of the
door. Zach turned and cast a wary glance from his professor toward Kaub’s well-lighted
motor home and back.
        “Let that dog out!” Jayce hollered, “before he tears the door down.”
        One of the kids inside had already had the same thought. When the girl started to
come out with Fang, Zach gestured up at the rain and urged her back inside. He made a
grab for Fang’s collar, but was too late. By the time he got across the field, Jayce was
seated unceremoniously in the dirt-cum-mud with his lap full of pit bull.
        “Did I ever tell you I don’t like dogs?” Jayce asked the affectionate puppy.
        Zach looked down at them in the dim light from the base and laughed. “Frankly,
Doc, you’re a mess.”
        “You don’t look so good yourself,” Jayce responded. “Where have you been?”
        Zach sat down jovially and laughed when Fang licked the rain from his cheeks.
“You were worried about me?”
        “About you?” Jayce scoffed. “Are you kidding? I was worried about my bike.” He
returned Zach’s grin. “And I was worried about a drop in enrollment in Archeology 101.”
He leaned forward, heedless for a moment of the dog and the rain and the mummy and
even the kiva. “Zach, why don’t you pass that class?”
        “Because you don’t teach 102.”
        Jayce paused, touched. “I teach 302,” he said. “And two other—”
        “Upper division classes,” Zach concluded for him, “with science prerequisites. I’m
not brainy enough to—”
        “Get in out of the rain,” Jayce broke in. “But you’re plenty smart enough to be an
archeologist if you want to. I’ve seen you work.”
        “You haven’t seen my best work,” Zach said eagerly. “My best work’s wrapped in
six layers of waterproof tarp and stuck in a cavern with so many rocks in front of it that the
coyotes don’t have a chance of smelling it, let along digging it out.
        “You’re saying the mummy and other remains really were in one of those crates?”
        “They were there, all right. I’ll bet our safe with the new lock is as empty as Kaub’s
heart.”
        “But…” Jayce paused then began again, “Kaub’s not the most congenial guy in the
world, and not the most rational, maybe, but I didn’t believe he’d…” He shook his head.
        “I hate to be the one to break this to you, Doc,” Zach said, “but the whole world
isn’t full of people like us.”
        Jayce watched the rain turn the dust to mud one drop at a time. He’d warned Zach
to be careful of Kaub and he’d stayed on site because he hadn’t trusted the man alone with
his students, but he still hadn’t believed in his heart that…what? What did he suspect
Terrence Kaub of ? Of stealing the remains because he was unable to resist his peculiar
fetish with the dead, or did he think the curator was in this thing deeper? Kaub had known
about the fake pots, after all. There was no good explanation for that. And if Kaub was
embezzling artifacts from the site…
         Jayce shuddered, but not because of the rain or the cold. Suddenly this was too
complicated and too frightening to contemplate. He needed to take action, and he needed to
take it now. If he erred, Jayce believed it had to be on the side of caution where the kids
were concerned, and recklessness if that was what it took to protect the sacred artifacts in
the kiva—artifacts that meant so much to Joseph and Fred and their kinsmen.
         First, the kids. They were safe as long as they stayed together, but Jayce knew he
couldn’t be two places at once to e nsure they did. He had to count on Zach. Again. He
leaned forward and grasped the young man’s shoulders. “I need you to do something else
for me now, Zach. Something more important than saving the mummy, even.”
         “You’ve got it, Doc.”
         “I want you to take Fang back into the base and I want you to keep him and all the
kids in there tonight. All night. No exceptions. I told them I was going back to the trailer
because I have a headache. Remind them of that and then tell them I said to stay inside
because…” Fabrication on short notice wasn’t Jayce’s long suit. He pulled off his glasses
since, lacking windshield wipers, he couldn’t see through them anyway. “Because I heard
on the radio this storm might be bad enough to take out the tents.” He almost smiled. The
way this squall was moving in, it might be true. At least it was believable.
         “But—”
         “I mean it Zach,” Jayce said earnestly. “Everybody inside tonight. You, too. You,
especially. I don’t want anybody going as far as the porta-johns unless they take a buddy.”
         He’d expected Zach to ask why. Instead Zach asked, “Where are you going?”
         Jayce hesitated. At last he said, “I’ve found the kiva, Zach. I’ve cleared a tunnel in
from PH5. I need to take pictures and document the artifacts before I have to tell anybody
about it.”
         “I’ll help you,” Zach said at once.
         “No. I’m already worried about Meredith being out in this storm. I can’t work if
I’m worried about the kids, too. I need to know you’re handling things for me at the base.”
         “You won’t let me come because you think it’s dangerous out there,” Zach said.
“You think—”
         Jayce cut him off, “I don’t know what I think.”
         It was a long time before Zach replied. When he did, his voice was low. “You told
me there’s nothing under the dirt at Coyote Springs worth dying for.”
         Jayce drew in a long breath. “Dying isn’t in my immediate plans.” He forced a grin.
“You know me, Zach. ‘Cautious’is my middle name.”
         “Take Fang along, then.”
         Jayce’s smile turned genuine. “You’ve got to be kidding. The kiva relics have a
better chance of surviving Kaub and a whole pack of looters than they do that one pit bull.”
He stood and reached down to grasp Zach’s hand and pulle him up. “Take Fang back to the
base. Call me on the cell phone if you need me. The radio’s too loud, I didn’t take it in.
Besides, it’s set to the sheriff’s office. Sickel’s the last guy you’d ever want to talk to.”
         Zach wasn’t buying the cheerful bravado. “You call me if you run into trouble,
Doc.” He wouldn’t let go of Jayce’s hand. “Promise”
         “I promise. Now go tell the kids how I read you the riot act for your joy ride. Tell
them anything, but keep them inside.”
         Zach snapped his fingers to summon Fang and headed reluctantly back toward the
shed. When the dog didn’t follow, he turned and whistled.
         Fang plastered himself to Jayce’s leg.
         “Go on,” Jayce urged the puppy, trying without success to move away from it. “It’s
warm and dry inside.” Fang matched him step for step away from the base. Jayce stopped
and bent down to stroke the dog’s muzzle affectionately. “Brenda probably has oatmeal
cookies.” When he pushed the puppy toward Zach, Fang whined. “What’s the matter with
you?”
         Zach had come to take Fang by the collar. “Dogs have a sixth sense about danger.”
         With all five of Jayce’s senses already on red alert worrying about Meredith, that
was the last thing he needed to hear. “Thanks, Zach,” he said ruefully as he turned back
toward the pithouse. “Thanks a lot.”
                                               ***
         So intent was she on keeping the red taillights in view and judging the road before
her by the Jeep’s movement on it, Meredith didn’t notice that the rain had let up until it
became marginally easier to navigate. The source of the dim light was the sliver of a moon
left behind by the storm clouds that now preceded her toward the ruins. She was grateful
for the lunar nightlight—and concerned by it. Grateful because her nerves were frayed and
her teeth and tongue sore from each jarring time she’d inadvertently left the road in the
inky blackness and hit a rock or bush. Concerned because she could now make out the
outline of the vehicle in front of her, which meant Kelia could also make out the outline of
the Rover if she happened to glance in her rearview mirror.
         Meredith stepped on the brake and dropped farther back, just in case. When the
phone rang, she felt as though she would leap from her skin. She pushed the receiver
button further in her ear and said “hello” into the tiny microphone that dangled around her
neck. As she did she prayed it would be Jayce.
         It was Ernie. “I think I…what you want…McKay,” he said after the second time
she’d greeted him. Then he said, “Are you there?”
         “Yes,” she said, but his words were breaking up as badly in her ear as hers
apparently were on his end. “It’s a bad connection. Must be the storm.”
         “Maybe…leaving…cell,” he said. “Where are you?”
         “I don’t know,” she replied honestly. “Still on the Navajo Reservation, I think.
Northeast of Winslow.”
         “I hear…getting one…of a storm up there.”
         “You hear right. But the worst part’s past where I am, but maybe between the
satellite receiver and me. Anyway, what did you find out?”
         “Let…describe the mask again…you…think.”
         Meredith sighed and tried to divide her attention between watching what she could
see of the road, keeping an eye on the Jeep, and deciphering a conversation conducted in
modified Morse code.
         She learned that Ernie had tracked the foremost non-Hopi expert on kachinas all the
way to his summer home in Lake Tahoe and narrowed Meredith’s mask down to three
possibilities. The rookie agent patiently described the first near-match enough times that
she at last heard most of the words and determined that it was similar, but not exceedingly
so, to what she had seen. The second was easier to eliminate. The third was almost a dead
ringer for the creation Kelia had held in her hands.
         “Then it’s…Yowi,” Ernie told her. “The man says…very rare in
ceremonies…never seen it. It…stone knife and…wears sheepskin ruff.”
         All at once Meredith knew what the expression “her blood ran cold” meant. What
she’d thought was literary hyperbole could actually happen right within your very own
veins. Joseph had been killed with a stone knife. She’d found tiny strands of sheepskin in
the dried blood beneath his throat.
         “Yowi…called ‘The Priest Killer’…” Ernie continued.
         Joseph Kotsyovi was a priest.
         Meredith wouldn’t have heard the next words even if they had come through the
receiver. She was too busy listening to Fred Crabtree’s words echo in her mind: “Didn’t
we learn anything from Joseph’s sacrifice?” She’d thought he meant learn from what
Joseph had sacrificed for Coyote Springs, but he’d meant that Joseph had been
sacrificed—ritually killed—because of something he had done or learned or seen at Coyote
Springs.
         Fred Crabtree knew who killed Joseph.
         “One other thing,” Ernie said into her ear. The words were all there, but they were
distant now and almost impossible to hear. “The expert says the mask you saw was old,
maybe made in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.” The next few words cut out entirely, but
Meredith heard most of the rookie officer’s conclusion. “Your mask…black. The
paint…pithouse where Agent Kotsyovi died…blue and…lead-based, probably pre-1930
according…lab. Could…be a connection?”
         All at once Meredith knew who had “sacrificed” Joseph. And she knew he would
try to kill again—probably tonight—and that this time the victim would be Jayce.
         “Ernie!” she cried into the microphone. “I need help! Call Deputy Dodge at the
Winslow sheriff’s office. Tell him—” She tapped the receiver. “Ernie!” The line to
Phoenix was dead. Meredith pulled the button from her ear and yanked the connection
from the cell phone on the seat. She didn’t know the number of the sheriff’s office and
didn’t want to waste valuable time trying to find it in the phone’s memory. Surely 911 was
universal in the United States, even in the middle of nowhere. She punched the buttons
frantically then sobbed out her frustration and terror.
         911 was a moot point. Because of the storm, the phone was as dead as Jayce would
be if she didn’t beat Kelia to Coyote Springs to warn him.
         As dead as he might already be even if she could catch the Jeep Wrangler.
                                               ***
         Jayce walked rapidly toward the pithouse, soaked to the skin and already shaking
from cold or nerves or both. He’d discovered after parting from Zach that he didn’t have
his cell phone and he needed it to call Meredith before he could begin to think about
cataloguing the kiva. Maybe he should take the truck and meet her part way—if he had any
idea which direction part way lay. He hadn’t heard from her since she’d left Oraibi, despite
her promise to call when she was down from the mesa.
         There were good bridges over the Little Colorado, but some of the unnamed
arroyos were as wide as a river, and could be swifter and almost as deep during a storm
like this. Meredith had proved time and again that she was a city girl. Jayce knew he
should have done something to convince her to stick to the highway and, especially, to
return to Winslow rather than coming out here.
         As soon as he knew Meredith was safe—but not until he knew it—could he get
back to work.
         He scanned the muddy ground as he walked, but knew finding the phone in the
inky darkness was hopeless. If he’d lost it outside the pithouse, somewhere between here
and the base, he wouldn’t find it without using a flashlight—something he couldn’t risk
above ground. Hopefully, he’d dropped it while he was working down in the pit.
         Jayce swung a long leg over the low rock wall and froze in midstride. Even in the
dark and in the driving rain he could make out a figure looming outside the wall a few feet
away. Jayce squinted into the murkiness then felt sure of the man’s identity. “Fred?”
         There was no response.
         “What are you doing here?” Jayce called to him. “I thought you’d finally gone up
to the Home Festival.” When Fred still didn’t respond, Jayce stepped the rest of the way
over the wall and closed the short distance between them. “Are you okay, Fred?” he asked
gently.
         The man looked at Jayce or around him or through him.
         Jayce glanced over his shoulder but nothing was visible underground. He couldn’t
see into the pithouse so it was a fair bet Fred hadn’t been looking down at the rock rubble.
Still he said, very quietly, “I found it, Fred. I found the kiva.”
         The sound Fred made came from deep within his chest. Almost inhuman, it might
have been a cough or a laugh or a sob.
         “Come on,” Jayce said, stepping aside as he motioned toward the pithouse. “I
haven’t been in yet. It’s only right that you should be the first person to see it. Joseph
would want it that way.”
         Fred turned, stumbled over his feet in his hurry to get away, and ran toward the
open desert.
         Perplexed and concerned for his friend, Jayce’s first impulse was to follow. His
second was to let Fred go. He didn’t know what demons pursued in the young man’s mind,
but he offered a quick prayer that the Lord might cast them out and let poor Fred find
peace.
         Jayce walked to the edge of the pitch-black pithouse and dropped carefully down
atop the scattered rock before feeling his way toward the wall. The headlamp would be
where he’d left it, behind the tarp. He’d use it to find the phone and then he’d call Meredith
and take her with him—figuratively at least—when he first saw the kiva.
         He pulled back the tarp to grab the light and his heart missed a beat. Through the
narrow tunnel, a small circle of light played across the far wall of the kiva. In its beam
Jayce saw murals, faded yellow and black against the background of red. He stood numbly
and made out the shapes of a snake, an eagle and a human hand. The hand immortalized on
clay had long ago had turned to dust, but the hand that held the flashlight was very much
alive. It was connected to a familiar voice. A voice that said, “Come in, Dr. MacDermott.
I’ve been expecting you.”
                                        Chapter 27
        Meredith had watched the Jeep cross the arroyo from a distance, thinking that
somehow Kelia had employed magic that allowed for levitation or driving over the surface
of swift, roiling water. Only when she pulled up to the brink of the deep and muddy gully
and almost fell from the seat in her hurry to get out of the Rover did she see that the Jeep’s
tires had found purchase on a narrow ledge of sandstone which was submerged eight or ten
inches beneath the surface. But the Wrangler’s wheelbase was narrower than the Rover’s
by several inches. It was enough of a difference to perhaps send Meredith sliding off the
ledge sideways, or capsize the SUV altogether if she tried to cross that spot herself.
        In the distance, the taillights of Joseph’s Jeep seemed to wink at her before
disappearing into the gloom. Meredith looked desperately up and down the flooded arroyo,
but no place looked more promising to cross, and most looked far worse.
        A branch from an alligator juniper appeared as if from nowhere in the muddy
torrent and seemed to reach out across the bank to slap her bare ankles before it was
carried swiftly on downstream. Meredith’s eyes filled with tears of frustration, anxiety, and
fear. Her phone was still dead. There was no way to warn Jayce or call for somebody to
help him. He had no one to save him but her, and she had no one to rely on but herself.
        In the next instant, the one where she climbed back in her car and shifted into
overdrive, Meredith knew that her last thought hadn’t been true. She’d forgotten one
source of help—and the most important one. Sister MacDermott had told her God would
help her, and He had. Jayce had promised her that God was always as close as a prayer. If
anyone knew his Father, it was Jayce.
        But, Meredith reminded herself as the car rolled forward and she all but closed her
eyes, she’d called on God once before when she was alone and desperate and so very, very
afraid. She’d begged Him to spare Will’s life and He hadn’t answered her.
        Or He had answered, but His answer had been “no.”
        Meredith’s hope—her only hope—was that this time God’s will would echo her
own fervent, spoken prayer.
        “Be with Jayce, Father. Please protect him. Send him help if I can’t get there in
time—if I can’t get there at all.”
        When it reached the middle of the gully, the Rover lost traction on the narrow ledge
and tipped sideways. Meredith didn’t notice. She was all-engrossed with pleading with her
Father for the life of the man she loved.
                                                ***
        Jayce hadn’t had the time to pray. One moment he was standing in the pithouse in
the driving rain; the next moment he lay on his side on a large flat stone in the center of the
bone-dry kiva, his wrists bound so tightly behind his back that he scarcely felt his fingers.
The warm, sticky fluid that obscured the vision in his left eye and the sharp-sweet taste of
blood on his lips confirmed what the dull throbbing in his head implied—somebody had
clobbered him with a rock and knocked him unconscious for who knew how long.
        There was something strangely familiar about this, Jayce thought as he struggled
without success to raise his cheek from the stone. It came to him in a jolt of sickening
recognition—this was how Joseph died. Tomorrow morning—exactly one week after the
first murder—somebody would find him as he had found Kotsyovi.
        On the other side of the cavern, standing near a battery-powered lantern that cast
eerie shadows onto the sharp planes of his face, Terrence Kaub turned away from a crypt at
the sound of Jayce’s involuntary groan. “Dr. MacDermott,” he said, not unpleasantly. “I’d
rather hoped you wouldn’t come to before we finished here—for your sake.”
         “You’re a real humanitarian, Kaub.” The effort it took to speak made Jayce dizzy
and sick. He must have already lost a lot of blood from the head wound. He closed his eyes
against the vertigo. “You won’t get away with murder. Not again.”
         “Your abilities as an archeologist are far better than I anticipated,” Kaub said. The
gesture he made with his carefully kid-gloved hand encompassed the kiva appreciatively.
“It’s your…survival skills…that are sadly lacking. It’s a trait common to people of your
ilk, I’ve observed. Trusting his ‘friends’got Kotsyovi killed, too.” He took a step closer.
“And I won’t need to ‘get away’with anything here, Professor—unless by that you mean
all these lovely relics.” He raised a rod of carved bone as though it were a scepter. “Your
remarkable discovery will make me rich…and the newspapers will call me a hero for my
modest efforts of this evening.”
         Even if he’d been willing to grant Kaub the satisfaction, Jayce didn’t figure it was
worth the expenditure of energy to ask what he meant. He’d save his strength to…to what?
To die?
         Kaub seated himself on the platform and looked down at Jayce’s battered skull. “I
suppose the least I owe you is an explanation for why you have to die…and so horribly,
too.”
         Unable to turn away, Jayce closed his eyes and remained mute.
         Kaub smiled. “No, don’t thank me, Dr. MacDermott. It’s my pleasure to
accommodate your curiosity.” He leaned closer. Close enough that Jayce could smell black
licorice on his breath. It was worse even than the smell of his own blood. “You see,
Professor, what the papers will say is that I came out to Coyote Springs when a fake pot
arrived at the Museum of Antiquities and I first suspected you were the one robbing us. A
Hopi vigilante had already killed Kotsyovi—the undercover FBI agent—though nobody
knew it yet. I knew you would waste no time tunneling in to the kiva before you fled
Arizona for good, so I gave you enough rope to hang yourself. Unfortunately, you
managed to hide most of the truly priceless relics before I could stop you.” He emitted a
faux sigh over a soft chuckle of satisfaction. “I doubt they’ll ever be found.” He admired
the tapered bone in his hand. “You were taking out the last few pieces, like this beauty,
when Crabtree surprised you and slit your throat the way he had Kotsyovi’s. The man’s
insane, you know.”
         Despite the pain and the possibility of having to see Kaub’s face looking down at
him, Jayce opened his eyes. “Fred? No.”
         “Fred, yes,” Kaub mimicked. He looked over Jayce’s body to speak sharply to
someone in the doorway. “Where is he?”
         “The girl’s having trouble with him,” a man replied. “Lee went up to help.” Jayce
had heard the voice before, but couldn’t place it.
         “Get him,” Kaub barked. “Now.” He patted Jayce’s shoulder. “We won’t keep you
waiting much longer now, Professor.”
         It took all the strength Jayce had, but he managed to swing himself up into a sitting
position.
         Kaub stood and moved away as he clapped his gloved hands. “Very good. Now if
you’d please kneel, you’ll be ready for your part of the production.” He walked across the
room—well out of the way of any of Jayce’s blood that might inconveniently spatter his
clothes—and leaned against the crypt. “Since you won’t be around for the final scene, let
me tell you how it turns out. You, as you must know by now, are ‘sacrificed’by a crazed
vigilante. That altar’s a nice touch, don’t you think?”
         Kaub shrugged at Jayce’s lack of response and continued, “Fortunately for the all
the innocent students at the site, I see lights out here and suspect something’s amiss. I
come out to the pithouse, despite the danger and the raging storm, and see Crabtree coming
out of the pit. I manage to get off a single shot before he can attack me with the bloody
knife. Then I find your body and call the undersheriff.” Kaub patted the holster at his side
and looked at Jayce as though he expected to be congratulated on the brilliance of his plan.
         Truth be told, Jayce thought it would probably work. But he managed to say,
“What about your cronies? You can’t kill everybody who knows what’s going on out
here.”
         “You’d be amazed at how easily bit players can be kept silent.” Kaub smiled. “And
as much as I appreciate your concern, Professor, I hate to see you worry about me. You
spend the last few minutes you have here on earth imagining Ms. McKay’s surprise when
she answers her phone later tonight to discover that her case has been all wrapped up for
her in a neat little package.” He chuckled. “In a few days I’ll send her a thoughtful card to
express my condolences on her loss of a suspect—and a lover—both at once.”
         Meredith. Jayce couldn’t swallow or breathe or blink the blood from his eyes. But
he could still pray—pray that Meredith wasn’t on her way to Coyote Springs, that she
wouldn’t arrive at exactly the wrong moment.
         He allowed his head to drop to his chest. Now that he’d finally come so close to
winning a woman worth living for, he was going to die. Perhaps she would, too. Usually
one to appreciate the irony of any situation, Jayce suspected he could never in all the
eternities appreciate—or comprehend—this one.
                                                 ***
         How she’d made it so far down the arroyo sideways without turning over or sinking
beneath the muddy water was beyond Meredith’s comprehension. So was what she was
going to do next. The Land Rover was wedged lengthwise between two slick clay banks
with no way to get enough traction to move forward or back. The Jeep Wrangler was long
gone, probably almost to Coyote Springs, taking with it her hopes and dreams in the form
of a mask and vestments that meant Jayce’s doom.
         And if he died, Meredith didn’t want to live.
         But if there was still a chance, even a remote one—
         Meredith climbed through the window onto the roof and then onto the hood where
she could jump to the bank. She collapsed there, too stunned and grateful to cry, but too
frightened for Jayce to be able to truly appreciate her own miraculous preservation.
         Within moments she picked herself up out of the mud and turned in a circle to get
her bearings. Third Mesa loomed on the horizon on the other side of the arroyo. If she kept
it to her back and moved away from it as fast as she was able, maybe she’d get lucky
enough to come upon a road or a ranger station, or at least a hogan.
         Meredith ran and walked and fell over the dark desert floor, determined to keep
going until she reached Coyote Springs . . . or fell into the Grand Canyon. Coyotes yipped
their displeasure at her intrusion into their domain, and rodents and other small mammals
scurried out of her way. Meredith didn’t give the wildlife any more thought than she did
the scratches on her bare arms or the bruises on the palms of her hands. She thought only
about Jayce.
        Every few minutes she pulled the phone out of her pocket. And every time the
connection was nonexistent and Meredith wondered just how vast this great empty void
between satellite receivers could possibly be.
        At last she paused, out of breath and almost out of hope. She sank to her knees, no
closer to anywhere than she’d been when she first started. Maybe she’d even wandered
farther away from help. She pulled out the phone and tried not to look at the time as it
came on. It was impossibly late.
        Too late.
        Meredith pushed the appalling thought away and replaced it with the prayer that
had been on her lips and in her heart since she’d first recognized the peril Jayce was in at
Coyote Springs. Kneeling in the mud she prayed as she never had before—perhaps as
nobody had before. A relative novice to the practice, Meredith didn’t know what to expect
in return for her pure, newly rediscovered faith. A modicum of comfort, perhaps? A still
small voice?
        What she didn’t expect was a tunnel of heavenly light to sweep suddenly out from
behind a nearby butte accompanied by the sound of a legion of winged angels in flight. She
opened her eyes in awe as the light hovered overhead and a voice spoke to her from the
sky.
        The voice wasn’t God’s, but it was one of His appointed agents. An FBI agent in
this case, a pilot Ernie had dispatched out of Flagstaff when he’d heard Meredith’s anxious
cry for help before her phone went dead. Ernie had assumed—and rightly—she was in
trouble. It had taken almost an hour and a sophisticated infrared tracking device, but they
had found her at last.
        And if they could find her, they could find Coyote Springs. The only remaining
question was, could they get there in time?
                                               ***
        Jayce heard the low voices through the tunnel to the pithouse and knew he had run
out of time. Strong hands grasped his tightly bound arms from behind and yanked him up,
almost to his feet, before forcing him back down again onto his knees. Jayce tried to pull
away from his assailant, but he’d already lost so much blood that vertigo returned a
hundredfold, and the only real struggle left in him was the one to retain consciousness.
        Which probably wasn’t the best idea he’d ever had.
        While the fingers of one unseen hand dug into the flesh of Jayce’s shoulder to hold
him to his knees, the others grasped his hair and forced his head back to expose his neck.
Irrationally, Jayce wondered what one was supposed to do just before he was sacrificed on
the altar of a pagan god. He should pray, of course, but what words did a man, who’d
always thought he had faith enough to approach heaven with anything, say to his Creator at
a time like this?
        The next moment Jayce was no longer sure he had retained consciousness. Nothing
outside of a nightmare could account for the hallucination he saw before him.
Through a surreal blur that was a combination of horror, pain, and the loss of his glasses,
Jayce watched a Katsina approach the stone altar. The hoof-clappers bound to the figure’s
painted calves marked each slow, measured step with a rhythm that was as hypnotic as it
was terrifying. His garb was plain, a sheepskin cape over a saffron kilt with irregular, rust-
colored spots. All at once Jayce realized the spots weren’t woven into the fabric. They’d
been added later—much later. They were dyed-in-the-wool proof of Joseph’s murder—
splotches of the young Hopi’s blood.
         The next breath Jayce drew was ragged and sharp. The Katsina paused in mid step.
He lowered the hand that held the long, stone spearhead and clutched his other hand into a
fist. The black and blue bug-eyed mask was fearsome to behold, but the muffled voice
chanting frantically from within it was familiar.
         Jayce felt a sudden surge of hope. “Fred!” he cried, knowing he had one last shot at
life and probably mere seconds to take it. “They’re lying to you. They’re the ones stealing
from the burial grounds and defiling the kiva. I’m you’re friend, Fred!”
         The man who held Jayce’s head drove his knee into the back of the young
archeologist’s neck. Jayce groaned in pain but still managed, “Don’t let them use you or
your faith. You’re not a katsina, Fred. You’re a man like me.”
         “Yowi!” A girl called frantically.
         The man who held Jayce’s head drove his knee in deeper still, until Jayce thought a
knife to slit his throat would be superfluous since his neck would surely break from the
pressure. Engulfed by waves of agony, he managed to croak “not . . . like . . . Joseph”
before he could no longer speak. He could no longer breathe. He could only watch the
stone spear rise level with the black and blue snout of the kachina mask. The knuckles on
the hand that held it grew white at the strength of the grip and the chanting grew louder.
         Convinced at last that he would die, Jayce gritted his teeth and watched from the
corner of his eye the sharp stone blade descend toward his exposed neck in a swift,
deliberate arc. He felt the brush of an arm against the top of his head as the knife flew past.
In less than a second it passed his temple, his cheek and, miraculously, his throat, and
plunged into the top of the hand that gripped his shoulder.
         With a cry of pain and rage the man released Jayce—released him and kneed him
forward onto the altar. As he landed face-first, Jayce heard the soft sound that facial bones
make when smashed into solid rock. At the same time he heard someone shout “Freeze!”
from the passageway. Then everything was thunder in his ears and an explosion of bright
colors before his eyes.
         After the noise and the colors came the pain. And after the pain came blessed
blackness.
                                      Chapter 28
         Jayce flinched at how much it hurt to try to open his eyes, then gave up the effort
with a grimace that hurt worse than the flinch.
         “Jayce?”
         He lay perfectly still. Nothing would induce him back to consciousness at this
point. Nothing but the remote possibility that he was still alive and Meredith was with him.
Jayce opened the one eye he could, just in case.
         She stood next to where he lay—wherever that was—and held one of his hands in
both of hers. Her face was devoid of makeup, her eyes, large and luminous, the color of
cornflowers after a rain. Her hair had long ago escaped the ever-present braid and fell in
long, chestnut sheets across her pale cheeks. She had never looked so unkempt—and so
beautiful.
         Jayce might have smiled if he hadn’t suspected that it would require the use of
many of the same muscles as the grimace. He couldn’t bear it. “Hey, McKay,” he said
thickly, since even his tongue was swollen and unresponsive. “Tell me I look half as good
as you do.”
         “You look like hamburger,” Zach observed from the other side of the bed.
         Meredith squeezed Jayce’s fingers. “You look wonderful.” Keeping a tight hold
with one hand, she raised the other toward Jayce’s face as if to touch his cheek, but
changed her mind and laid it tenderly on his chest instead.
         He was glad, under the circumstances. “I feel like hamburger.”
         “You’re alive.”
         “Yeah.” In a flash Jayce recalled the kiva, the kachina, and the stone knife. He
repeated, “Yeah” in gratitude and more than a little awe. Then he asked, “Fred?”
         “He’s okay,” Meredith said. “Cookie’s with him.”
         “How long have I been here?” Judging by the lights, the rows of monitors, and the
little bags of blood and clear fluids hanging above his head, “here” was a hospital. Aside
from a whole lot of darkness and hurt, about the last thing Jayce could remember was
taking a nosedive into solid rock.
         “You’ve been here about thirty-six hours now,” Meredith said, caressing the hollow
of his throat with her fingers. “They’ve kept you pretty sedated. You’ve had surgery to
remove a few stray bone fragments, but there’s was no permanent damage. You’re going to
be okay, Jayce. Your grandmother and Brother Carlyle have been here most of the time.
Brother Carlyle gave you a blessing.”
         “Good ol’Carl Lyle,” Jayce said, but was grateful for the priesthood exercised in
his behalf. It probably accounted for him still being alive. “What happened, anyway?”
         “What do you remember?”
         Jayce tried to think, but couldn’t get past Fred and the knife and the mask. “Not
much.”
         Meredith smiled gently. “I can’t tell you anything until somebody takes your
statement. It would be tainting a witness.”
         “Spoken like a true FBI agent.”
         Zach guffawed. “She lost a little of that professional veneer when they hauled you
out of the kiva, Doc. As I remember it, she was the only law enforcement officer around
who couldn’t stop hugging and kissing you.”
                                                ***
        Meredith had kissed Jayce. Heedless of Zach, the paramedics, Sickel, Dodge, the
students, her fellow FBI agents and any curious Hisatsinom who might have looked on
from beyond the veil, when she finally made it to Coyote Springs in time to know Jayce
was alive—if barely—Meredith had kissed him. Kissed him and held him as if she would
never again let him go.
        Which she wouldn’t.
        “You kissed me?” Jayce asked. “Sorry I missed it.”
        More than anything Meredith wanted to kiss him again, but was cautious now of
how very much he must hurt. His nose and one cheekbone were broken, but had posed no
real danger. The threat to his life had been in the concussion and how much blood he had
lost before the undersheriff and deputy arrived. But even that was nothing compared to
what would have happened if they hadn’t been called to the kiva. Jayce would have died.
        He moved his head slowly, agonizingly toward Zach. “You didn’t kiss me, did
you?”
        Zach laughed. “Not a chance.”
        “That’s the best news I’ve heard since I discovered I’m not dead. Yet.” He closed
his eyes against the nausea and waves of pain and Meredith quickly pushed the call button
to get him more medication now that he was conscious. A moment later Jayce opened his
eyes and asked Zach, “Didn’t I tell you not to leave the base? Who’s watching that screwy
dog?”
        “That screwy dog saved your life,” Zach told him.
        “Thank goodness,” Jayce mumbled. “I had a nightmare it was Sickel who’d done
it.”
        “Well—” Zach began.
        Meredith interrupted at once. “We can’t say anything until he gives a statement,
Zach. And he’s not well enough to talk right now.”
        “Sure I am.” Jayce blinked once in confusion. “I’ve been talking, right? Or is this
just another of those weird dreams I’ve been having?”
        Meredith moved a finger to scarcely touch his bruised lips. “Sshh.” Then, unable to
restrain herself a second longer, she brushed his lips with her own and whispered, “Later,
Jayce.”
        He gave a slight nod as a doctor and nurse rushed into the room. “But not much
later, okay?”
                                                ***
        Jayce leaned back in his rolled-up hospital bed and pulled both the sheet and
blanket more securely around his neck, thinking how great it was to still have a neck that
was in one piece and all. But he frowned down at the blanket just the same. He didn’t
know what these thin cotton hospital gowns had been designed for, but he deduced they
weren’t made with the wearer’s comfort, warmth, or modesty in mind.
        At his side, a male FBI agent and the honest-to-gosh sheriff of Navajo County
looked at their respective statement-scribblers and nodded at one another, almost in unison.
        “That ought to do it, son,” the sheriff said. He flipped the top of his metal notepad
closed and motioned for the recorders and FBI agent to precede him from the room.
“Thanks for your cooperation. Get to feeling better, hear?”
        “Thanks,” Jayce said, but doubted he could feel any better. What didn’t feel better
than dead? Sure his head still throbbed and his mangled face made him look like an extra
from a horror movie—one of the characters who was too stupid to know he shouldn’t have
gone down into the basement and pretty much deserved to run into that ax murderer. But
he was alive and he was grateful for it. Though he’d never stopped to appreciate it, there
was a lot to be said for living—cracked skulls, broken noses, and split lips aside.
        In the next second, his best reason to spend a little more time on earth opened the
door and stuck her head through the opening.
        “Are you up to more company?” Meredith asked.
        “Yes,” Jayce said at once. He hoped her company would mean a continuation of the
conversation that had begun with a kiss and ended with a promise of “later.” There was
quite a bit of “later” he’d like to take up with Meredith McKay. While still somewhat
reluctant to eat, talk, or do anything else that involved the movement of anything above his
shoulders, Jayce thought he could bring himself to kiss the woman he intended to marry
without much trepidation at all.
        But he was less enthused about kissing the kid and the pit bull she brought into the
room with her.
        “Fang missed you,” Zach explained with a grin. He managed to restrain the
exuberant puppy, but barely. “Four on the floor, pal,” he reminded the dog when Fang tried
to get in bed with Jayce—like old times. “We told them you’re a service dog, remember?”
        Jayce laughed. “You found somebody stupid enough to believe that?”
        Zach shrugged. “Ms. McKay’s badge helped.”
        When Jayce had greeted Fang with enough enthusiasm to allow Zach to drag him a
few inches away from the bed, Meredith sat on the edge of it. “You look a lot better
today.”
        “She’s lying, Doc,” Zach said. “You look like rotted hamburger.”
        Jayce managed to roll the eye that wasn’t still swollen closed. “Okay, McKay,” he
said, “I’ve ‘stated’ my little heart out to your cronies. Now can you tell me what happened
in that kiva and what was going on out at Coyote Springs?”
        “I don’t know where to begin,” Meredith said.
        “Start with Fred. Where is he now?”
        “He’s in the hospital,” she said. “The psychiatric ward. Cookie’s seen him and
thinks he’s going to be okay…eventually, and with the right medication.” She leaned
forward. “He’s ill, Jayce. His cousin Lee knew his background and used his illness, a
pretty girl from the right clan, and even Fred’s strong belief in the katsinam religion
against him. It’s complicated, but Lee Crabtree and Kelia convinced Fred he was the
incarnation of Yowi, one of those kachina vice squad members you told me about. They set
him up to kill Joseph, and they almost got him to kill you.”
        She reached for Jayce’s hand. “But you were right about him. Fred couldn’t kill
you—and he had tried all along to warn you. The kachina, the snake, the eagle… None of
it was meant to threaten you, but to warn you away from Coyote Springs before it was too
late.”
        “But why use Fred?” Jayce asked. “Why didn’t they kill me themselves?”
        “Part of the scheme was for him to get caught and take the wrap,” Meredith
explained. “At first they planned to make it to look as though he and Joseph were
reactionaries who were stealing the pots from the base and replacing them with fakes so
they could hide the real stuff on the reservation. Kelia even planted that tihu you lost in the
clan room up at Oraibi, in case someone suspected Joseph and went looking.
        “But then Joseph caught on to them—to the drugs, at least. He was hesitant to file a
report until he knew the extent of Fred’s involvement. Before he could determine that Fred
knew nothing, Lee and Kelia lured him into the pithouse. Lee knocked him unconscious
and Kelia convinced Fred that Joseph had betrayed the clan and his priesthood. Fred, in the
vestments of Yowi, killed him.
        She paused sympathetically when Jayce closed his eye. After a moment she
concluded, “Cookie doesn’t believe that Fred remembers killing Joseph or dressing up to
attack you. That was pretty much what Lee counted on. He figured they could throw Fred
to the wolves if they had to and he’d be too . . . fractured . . . to ever talk. Not to mention
too mentally ill to be believed if he did try to implicate them. They’d get away with it all—
drugs, looting, murder—everything.”
        “I still don’t get it,” Jayce said. “How did they move from drugs into looting? What
were they doing with the artifacts they took? They couldn’t exactly sell them at a swap
meet.”
        “They had help from an old crony of Lee’s—a man named Terrence Kaub. Maybe
you’ve heard of him.” She frowned. “Kaub knew from experience that trading in the black
market of antiquities was much more lucrative than dealing.”
        “Pretty amazing, huh?” Zach interjected. “A man with Kaub’s prestige and
credentials. Too bad he couldn’t keep his fingers out of the crypt.”
        “His prestige was manufactured and he didn’t have any credentials,” Meredith told
them. “At least he didn’t have authentic ones. Kaub’s been a thief and a murderer longer
than you’ve been alive, Zach. Fabricating a resume to get him a position at an actual
museum was merely a new twist on an old game. He was laying low from his last heist
when he read an article about Coyote Springs and the young archeologist who was going to
head it up. He forged a new resume and applied to the museum that was sponsoring the
dig, thinking he could use the archeologist’s inexperience to score big.” She squeezed
Jayce’s fingers, “What he didn’t think was that he’d come up against a man like Dr.
McDermott here.”
        “Oh, yeah,” Jayce said ruefully. “I did a great job out there—of trying to get my
tonsils removed from the outside. And wait until the archeological community gets a hold
of me. Do you know how hard it is to get new blood off old artifacts? I shudder to think
about cleaning up that kiva.” He reached for Meredith’s other hand. “But if you hadn’t
brought the cavalry, McKay…” His words faded at the bemused expression on her face.
“Uh, oh.” Jayce was suddenly leery. “Do I even want to know the end of the story?”
        “It wasn’t me,” Meredith said. “Zach called Sickel.”
        “And he came?”
        “He came real fast.” Zach grinned. “I told him you’d been sneaking back into the
pithouse where you killed Kotsyovi and that I thought you might be planning to kill
somebody else there that very night.”
        “You told him what?”
        “You didn’t think he’d come to save your skin, did you?”
        Jayce groaned. “So now I suppose Sickel’s a hero.”
        “He’ll be elected sheriff for sure,” Meredith said. Then she added quickly, “But
there’s an upside. With him in Holbrook, Dodge will be in charge of the Winslow area.”
        “That makes me feel better,” Jayce said. “Not.” He turned to his young friend. “The
only thing worse is owing my neck to you.” He reached out a hand and Zach grasped it.
“Thanks, Zach.”
        “Thank Fang. He’s the one who knew Kaub and his henchmen were in the
pithouse.”
        “Johnny Stewart,” Meredith inserted, “in case you want to know to whom you owe
your broken nose. He was a lackey on loan to Kaub from Lee Crabtree.”
        Jayce raised a hand to his skull. “I think I hate him.”
        “Not as much as Fang does,” Zach said. “That’s how come I knew something was
going on out there. Fang wouldn’t stay in the base with you gone and I was afraid to let
him go after that lecture you gave me, so I finally took him out on a leash. He kept
dragging me over toward the pithouse and snarling like crazy.”
        “You must have missed the part of the lecture about not going out alone,” Jayce
said. “The same way you keep missing lectures in Archeology 101, maybe?”
        “I wasn’t alone,” Zach reminded him. “I was with Fang.”
        “Thank goodness,” Meredith said, snuggling closer to Jayce.
        “And I’m going to get all the archeology credit I can possibly use through
independent study,” Zach said. “I’m going to stay at Coyote Springs to work with you.”
        “Sorry, Zach,” Jayce said, “but I think we’re both out of a job. Without the museum
to sponsor the dig—” He stopped himself when Zach and Meredith exchanged happy
looks. “Why am I always the last person to know everything?”
        “You know I don’t believe in coincidence,” Meredith began, “but I’ll admit to
maybe one happening in my lifetime. My father happens to play golf down in Scottsdale
with Zach’s father.”
        “Terrific,” Jayce said sarcastically. “That makes you two what?”
        “In this case it makes us partners.” She stuck out a slender hand to receive a low
five from Zach.
        “My father wants me to clean up my act,” Zach told Jayce, “and happens to think
you’re my best chance to do it. Ms. McKay’s father happens to have forgotten that he
already bought her a birthday present.”
        Jayce wasn’t following them and said so.
        “We called them independently to ask for help for Coyote Springs, Doc,” Zach
said, “but they formed a partnership at their country club, somewhere around the ninth
hole.”
        “It’s a philanthropic endeavor,” Meredith said for the sake of clarification. “And,
frankly, it’s a tax write-off. Zach and I thought we’d call it the Kotsyovi Foundation.”
        Jayce knew she was trying to gauge his reaction, but he couldn’t yet believe what
he was hearing enough to react. Or even to close his mouth.
        Meredith smiled. “The foundation will sponsor the remainder of the dig and the
restoration of the kiva, and then split with the tribe the cost of an on-reservation
Hisatsinom Museum and Research Center. Who the Hopi hire to run it isn’t up to us, but
from what Cookie Shurr tells us—and she seems to know every tribal official personally—
the only name under consideration is yours.” The gentle touch of her fingers on his swollen
cheek felt better than the hospital’s pain relievers and salves put together. “Not that I think
you’d want to keep on digging out here in the middle of nowhere when you could live in a
big city and lecture indoors all day.”
        Jayce captured her fingers and held them tight. “Shows what you know, McKay.
The truth is I’ve been wondering how I could swing a position at ASU.”
         Meredith was so close now he could smell the jasmine-and-ginger scent of her hair.
“Bad timing, MacDermott,” she said. “I put in for a transfer to fill the FBI opening in
Northern Arizona.”
         “What are you going to do up here?” he asked, praying he knew the answer and
that it had something to do with him and, eventually, the Snowflake Temple.
         “Maybe I’ll thumb my nose at tradition and chase pothunters,” she said, pulling
both their hands toward her lips to kiss his fingers. “Play in the dirt…”
         Jayce released Meredith’s hands to put his arms around her waist, then remembered
Zach. “Don’t you, uh, need to walk the dog or something?”
         “No, I think we’re good.”
         Jayce cleared his throat. “Walk the dog, Zach.”
         Zach laughed as he stood and pulled the pit bull toward the door. Fang pulled back
and whined every step of the way.
         “Hey,” Jayce said, leaning around Meredith to talk to the clearly distressed puppy.
“Remember what we talked about? You want all those pretty little wedding gifts to
destroy, or not?”
         “You told Fang he could chew up our wedding presents?”
         “I had to promise him something,” Jayce said. “How else was I going to get him to
talk you into marrying me?”
         “You’d use my dog, MacDermott?”
         “I’d use anything, McKay.” He ran his hand up her spine and into her soft, soft
hair. “I have no shame whatsoever when it comes to loving you.”
         Meredith turned toward the door. “Walk the dog, Zach.”
         When they were finally alone she turned back to Jayce, raised her hands toward his
cheeks, and then dropped them helplessly on his shoulders. “MacDermott, is there any
place on your face that doesn’t hurt after your night in the temple of doom?”
         He laughed. “I think I made you watch those videos one time too many.” But he
pointed to the edge of one eyebrow. When she leaned into him to kiss it tenderly he added,
“Right here on my chin isn’t too bad, either.” Her lips lingered on the spot. “You know,”
he whispered in her ear, “the Spirit told me Coyote Springs would yield the most important
discovery of my life.”
         “You mean the kiva.”
         “No,” he said. “I mean you. Nothing in the past was more worth digging up than
you, McKay.” He cupped her beautiful, happy face in his hands. “I think God gave me a
few more years on earth so I could spend every one of them—and all the eternities that
come after—making up to you the time we’ve already lost.”
         When Meredith caught her breath, Jayce pulled her lips the short distance to his and
kissed her thoroughly.
         Count on Indy to get it right after all, he thought. Pain had never felt so good.


                                       THE END

								
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