Officer Bernadette Manuelito had been having a busy day, enjoying
most of it, and no longer feeling like the greenest rookie of the
Navajo Tribal Police. She had served the warrant to Desmond Nakai
at the Cudai Chapter House, following her policy of getting the
most unpleasant jobs out of the way first. Nakai had actually been
at the chapter house, obviating the hunt for him she'd expected,
and -- contrary to predictions of Captain Largo -- he had been
pleasant about it.
She had dropped down to the Beclabito Day School to investigate a
reported break-in there. That was nothing much. A temp maintenance
employee had overdone his weekend drinking, couldn't wait until
Monday to get a jacket he'd left behind, broke a window, climbed in
and retrieved it. He agreed to pay for the damages. The dispatcher
then contacted her and canceled her long drive to the Sweetwater
Chapter House. That made Red Valley next on her list of
"And Bernie," the dispatcher said, "when you're done at Red Valley,
here's another one for you. Fellow called in and said there's a
vehicle abandoned up a gulch off that dirt road that runs over to
the Cove school. Paleblue king-cab pickup truck. Check the plates.
We'll see if it's stolen."
"Why didn't you get the license number from the guy reporting
Because, the dispatcher explained, the report was from an El Paso
Natural Gas pilot who had noticed it while flying yesterday
afternoon and again this morning. Too high to read the
"But not too high to tell it was abandoned?"
"Come on, Bernie," the dispatcher said. "Who leaves a car parked in
an arroyo overnight unless he stole it for a joyride?" With that he
gave her a little better description of the probable location and
said he was sorry to be loading her up.
"Sure," said Bernie, "and I'm sorry I sounded so grouchy." The
dispatcher was Rudolph Nez, an old-timer who had been the first to
accept her, a female, as a fellow cop. A real friend, and she had a
feeling he was parceling her out more work to show her he looked on
her as a full-fledged officer. Besides, this new assignment gave
her a reason to drive up to Roof Butte, about as close as you could
drive to ten thousand feet on the Navajo Reservation. The abandoned
truck could wait while she took her break there.
She sat on a sandstone slab in a mixed growth of aspen and spruce,
eating her sack lunch, thinking of Sergeant Jim Chee, and facing
north to take advantage of the view. Pastora Peak and the Carrizo
Mountains blocked off the Colorado Rockies, and the Lukachukai
Forest around her closed off Utah's peaks. But an infinity of New
Mexico's empty corner spread below her, and to the left lay the
northern half of Arizona. This immensity, dappled with cloud
shadows and punctuated with assorted mountain peaks, was enough to
lift the human spirit. At least it did for Bernie. So did
remembering the day when she was a brand-new rookie recruit in the
Navajo Tribal Police and Jim Chee had stopped here to show her his
favorite view of the Navajo Nation. That day a thunderstorm was
building its cloud towers over Chaco Mesa miles to the northeast
and another was taking shape near Tsoodzil, the Turquoise Mountain
of the East. But the rolling grassland below them was bright under
the afternoon sun. Chee had pointed to a little gray column of dirt
and debris moving erratically over the fields across Highway 66.
"Dust devil," she had said, and it was then she had her first
glimpse behind Chee's police badge.
"Dust devil," he repeated, thoughtfully. "Yes. We have the same
idea. I was taught to see in those nasty little twisters the Hard
Flint Boys struggling with the Wind Children. The good yei bringing
us cool breezes and pushing the rain over grazing land. The bad yei
putting evil into the wind."
She finished her thermos of coffee, trying to decide what to do
about Chee. If anything. She still hadn't come to any conclusions,
but her mother seemed to have deemed him acceptable. "This Mr.
Chee," she'd said. "I heard he's born to the Slow Talking Dineh,
and his daddy was a Bitter Water." That remark had come apropos of
absolutely nothing, and her mother hadn't expanded on it. Nor did
she need to. It meant her mother had been asking around, and had
satisfied herself that since Bernie was born to the Ashjjhi Dineh,
and for Bead People, none of the Navajo incest taboos were at risk
if Bernie smiled at Chee. Smiling was as far as it had gone, and
maybe as far as she wanted it to go. Jim Chee was proving hard to
But she was still thinking about him when she pulled her patrol car
up the third little wash north of Cove and saw the sun glinting off
the back window of a truck-pale blue as described and blocking the
narrow track up the bottom of the dry wash.
New Mexico plates. Bernie jotted down the numbers. She stepped out
of her car, walked up the wash, noticing the vehicle's windows were
open. And stopped. A rifle was in the rack across the back window.
Who would walk off and leave that to be stolen?
"Hello," Bernie shouted, and waited.
"Hey. Anyone home?" And waited again.
No answer. She unsnapped the flap on her holster, touched the butt
of the pistol, and moved silently to the passenger-side door.
A man wearing jeans and a jean jacket was lying on his side on the
front seat, head against the driver-side door, a red gimme cap
covering most of his face, knees drawn up a little.
Sleeping one off, thought...
Excerpted from THE WAILING WIND © Copyright 2002 by Tony
Hillerman. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins. All rights