Deputy Sheriff Teddy Bai had been leaning on the doorframe looking out at the night about three minutes or so before he became aware that Cap Stoner was watching him.
"Just getting some air," Bai said. "Too damn much cigarette smoke in there."
"You're edgy tonight," Cap said, moving up to stand in the doorway beside him. "You young single fellas ain't supposed to have anything worrying you."
"I don't," Teddy said.
"Except maybe staying single," Cap said. "There's that."
"Not with me," Teddy said, and looked at Cap to see if he could read anything in the old man's expression. But Cap was looking out into the Ute Casino's parking lot, showing only the left side of his face, with its brush of white mustache, short-cropped white hair and the puckered scar left along the cheekbone when, as Cap told it, a woman he was arresting for Driving While Intoxicated fished a pistol out of her purse and shot him. That had been about forty years ago, when Stoner had been with the New Mexico State Police only a couple of years and had not yet learned that survival required skepticism about all his fellow humans. Now Stoner was a former captain, augmenting his retirement pay as a rent-a-cop security director at the Southern Ute gambling establishment--just as Teddy was doing on his off-duty nights.
"What'd ya tell that noisy drunk at the blackjack table?"
"Just the usual," Teddy said. "Calm down or he'd have to leave."
Cap didn't comment. He stared out into the night. "Saw some lightning," he said, pointing. "Just barely. Must be way out there over Utah. Time for it, too."
"Yeah," Teddy said, wanting Cap to go away.
"Time for the monsoons to start," Cap said. "The thirteenth, isn't it? I'm surprised so many people are out here trying their luck on Friday the thirteenth."
Teddy nodded, providing no fodder to extend this conversation.
But Cap didn't need any. "But then it's payday. They got to get rid of all that money in their pay envelopes." Cap looked at his watch. "Three-thirty-three," he announced. "Almost time for the truck to get here to haul off the loot to the bank."
And, Teddy thought, a few minutes past the time when a little blue Ford Escort was supposed to have arrived in the west lot. "Well," he said, "I'll go prowl around the parking areas. Scare off the thieves."
Teddy found neither thieves nor a little blue Escort in the west lot. When he looked back at the employees only doorway, Cap was no longer there. A few minutes late. A thousand reasons that could happen. No big deal. He enjoyed the clean air, the predawn high-country chill, the occasional lightning over the mountains. He walked out of the lighted area to check his memory of the midsummer starscape. Most of the constellations were where he remembered they should be. He could recall their American names, and some of the names his Navajo grandmother had taught him, but only two of the names he'd wheedled out of his Kiowa-Comanche father. Now was that moment his grandmother called the "deep dark time," but the late-rising moon was causing a faint glow outlining the shape of Sleeping Ute Mountain. He heard the sound of laughter from somewhere. A car door slammed. Then another. Two vehicles pulled out of the east lot, heading for the exit. Coyotes began a conversation of yips and yodels among the pinons in the hills behind the casino. The sound of a truck gearing down came from the highway below. A pickup pulled into the employees only lot, parked, produced the clattering sound of something being unloaded.
Teddy pushed the illumination button on his Timex. Three-forty-six. Now the little blue car was late enough to make him wonder a little. A man wearing what looked like coveralls emerged into the light carrying an extension ladder. He placed it against the casino wall, trotted up it to the roof.
Hunting Badger. Copyright (c) 1999 by Tony Hillerman.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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