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Death on a Pale Horse: McGee Investigates Murders on a Reservation

Death on a Pale Horse: McGee Investigates Murders on a Reservation

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Death on a Pale Horse: McGee Investigates Murders on a Reservation

111 pages
1 heure
Jul 9, 2016


Death on a Pale Horse iis the fourth novella of Carl Douglass' McGee series. Painted Desert High school principal Bertha Yazzie is murdered, and Lt. Naalnish Begay--head of the field office of the NDCI for the Painted Desert District in Blue Mesa, Arizona suspects her husband. It is soon evident that the case is not so simple. Her computer yields angry interchanges with her husband and passionate vitriol from angry parents, disgruntled employees of the school, and especially from a group that opposes American civilization education for the students. For them, the old Navajo ways are the best ways—the only ways. The investigation is further complicated when two more murders occur on the reservation, and witnesses see a painted Indian rider on a light-gray horse around the time of those murders. Both of the new victims are associated with the reservation schools, and that introduces new suspects. The situation is so politically charged that Lt. Begay seeks help from his old friend from their early days as FBI agents, J.P.A.M.J. McGee, who is now a famous New York private detective. McGee and his partners arrive on the reservation, and shortly the case becomes more complicated and more political. There are strong forces—FBI agents, witch doctors, and tribal authorities--acting to make the case go away. Neither Begay nor McGee are prone to yield to pressure, and a tense and potentially dangerous situation develops.
Jul 9, 2016

À propos de l'auteur

Carl Douglass, Neurosurgeon turned Author, writes with gripping realism stemming from his experience as a general surgeon during the unpleasantness in Viet Nam including exposure to the murderous CIA Phoenix Program, about which he wrote a scholarly novel entitled THE LAST PHOENIX. Douglass is a retired neurosurgeon, a world traveler, and a humanitarian who has visited the parts of the world about which he writes. He was reared in a small mountain town in the west, then entered into competition with some of the best talents and brains in the country as he pursued his life's dream. He knows the underbelly of many countries and about the courage and dignity of people ruled by despots and has made for himself a research career trying to understand that part of the world. The Sybil series is a product of his imagination, but it has a generous dollop of practical reality woven into it. Douglass lives with his wife of fifty years in the quiet enjoyment of their mountain home.

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Death on a Pale Horse - Carl Douglass


Chapter One

Bertha Yazzie is tired, frustrated, and at the end of another hot dusty Friday in June, she is ready to chuck it all. She knows that is not going to happen; she has had this feeling almost every day for the thirty years she has been a teacher or the principal of Painted Desert Valley High School, Arizona. Moreover, she knows that if she quits, it is altogether likely that the school itself will have to close. The students will fade away back onto the reservation, and the coyotes who want them to remain ignorant and without a chance of success will finally win. She gives a sigh, heaves herself out of her swivel chair, and makes one last check to be sure the doors are locked. In the past month, there have been three break-ins—all to find money or computers to steal in order to maintain one addiction or another. The computers, laptops, and iPads are all locked up in the safe in her office, and Bertha always takes the money home with her.

She has put in a twelve-hour day getting ready for the monthly reports to the Diné [Navajo] Nation School District and prepping the students for their quarterly No Child Left Behind qualifying tests. A bad grade for the school—another bad grade—could force its closure. Bertha is sure she has done all she can do, but is less sure that her impoverished students will be able to eke out passing scores on the tests or if they will even show up. Sometimes she feels like crying. There has been a sandstorm during the day, but it has quieted down. The result is an absolutely gorgeous sunset that is tinted with reds, oranges, and yellows set against the lengthening shadows cast by the isolated and towering desert rock formations. Her arms are loaded with reports to check, her laptop, and the cash satchel as she turns and walks down the three steps from the main entrance of the school and walks through the nearly ankle-deep drifted pink sand towards her ten-year-old Toyota Tundra 4WD crew cab pickup.

Patrolman Dodge Maryboy makes his last run along Highway 40 before driving back to the office to end his shift Monday morning. As the rookie, he draws the short end of the stick and has to pull the graveyard shift more often than is fair. It has been another boring night. Not much happens on the res, if you don’t count the DUIs and the drunk and disorderlies. Maryboy would have been glad even to write up a DUI just to have something to do. He drives back into Blue Mesa City, stops at the QuikTrip and buys a freshly ground steaming coffee refill, and drives by the Mormon church and the high school before getting to the Blue Mesa City Navajo Division of Public Safety substation.

It clicks in his mind that something is out of place this early Monday morning: principal Yazzie’s truck is still parked in front of the school where it was parked the last time he saw it Friday night. Having been a student of Mrs. Yazzie for his six years of junior and senior high, Maryboy knows she is a workaholic, but this is over the top. She must have been camped out in her office for the entire weekend. He mutters a small complaint and stops by her Toyota Tundra. He will go and see if he can persuade her to go home and get some rest. He likes the hard-nosed woman because of her selfless devotion to helping the Painted Desert Navajo kids learn about their heritage and about the world outside the res. He credits her with making it possible for him to get up and out and to get into the University of Arizona. He has a BS in criminology and is determined to make something of himself back in Navajoland.

As soon as he gets out of his dust-caked 4x4 Chevrolet Tahoe, his sense of something amiss kicks into overdrive. There is a powerful stench. He looks around—hopefully—for an open garbage can or a dead animal. That’s the smell—death. He follows his nose, and he does not have to go far: in the back of Mrs. Yazzie’s pick-up is her body. He does not need an ME to know that she is dead. Lying exposed in the oven-heat in the truck bed, the woman is bloated. At least it does not look like the animals or birds have gotten to her. There is a six-inch patch of blood—not just possibly or allegedly blood—on the left side of the fifty-eight-year-old educator’s chest. He comes to the easy conclusion that there is not enough blood on her or around her in the truck bed for the murder to have occurred there. He knows better than to contaminate the crime scene, even though this is his first actual murder; so, he retraces his steps back to his unit and puts in a call to the substation. He needs to talk to Lieutenant Begay; he will know what to do.

Lieutenant Naalnish Begay—head of the field office of the Navajo Department of Criminal Investigations for the Painted Desert District headquartered in Blue Mesa—gets into his office early to check the overnight e-mails from all around the Navajo Reservation and especially to get the latest information coming in from around the huge desert area for which he is responsible. There are usually a couple of messages from Washington that he is obligated to acknowledge—mostly just bureaucratic busywork. He usually has time to leaf through the Navajo Times or to catch the six o’clock news on KTNN radio.

Not this morning. His cell phone rings. Since it is too early for routine police business, and he has no family or friends who might call him, Naalnish is pretty sure this is not going to be good news. Most of the time, these calls are the telephonic equivalent of waking up face down on the concrete to start your day.

Begay, he says.

Oh, good, Lieutenant! Glad you’re already in the office. I’ve got something you need to see. Better we don’t put it out on official communications. Come by the high school. I have something to show you.

On my way, Naalnish says.

He trusts the good sense of the station’s rookie. He has a level head; although he is ambitious, he is objective and does not exaggerate. He possesses one of the real necessities in a Navajo police officer—good instincts.

He drives his favorite 4x4 Jeep Liberty and takes pleasure in the sunrise lighting up the rich palette of colorful desert sands and the nearly barren Blue Mesa behind him. The high school being less than a mile away, Naalnish is there in a minute and a half.

He parks by Maryboy’s vintage 4x4 Chevrolet Tahoe and gets out. Patrolman Maryboy is leaning on the side of his truck.

What do you have, Dodge? he asks by way of greeting.

He is a man who—like most Navajos—thinks that words are precious, and he is a thrifty guy.

Take a look in the back of Mrs. Yazzie’s truck, Naalnish. You will probably want to walk in my footprints until we have a chance to check the area out better.

A minute later, Lt. Begay has seen enough to get the basic idea.

I hate this, he says. That was one nice lady. I’ll call it in to Window Rock after we see if we can get a better idea of where the initial crime scene is. I’ll go right, and you go left to put out the yellow tape. Let’s tie the tape up on the corners of the school and leave it for the crime scene technicians from the NDCI [Navajo Department of Criminal Investigations].

Five minutes later, Naalnish finds it. Dodge is knotting his end of the crime scene tape to a bush at the corner of the sandstone school.

Hey, Dodge! Naalnish calls out, I think I’ve got it.

Together the two Navajo policemen look down at a wide and deep collection of dry red-brown discoloration in the sand just off the high school’s front steps.

Chapter Two

Gaagii Soto—considered to be one of the Navajo Nation’s best Division of Public Safety crime scene investigators—gets a call. The office dispatcher tells him it is from out in the Painted Desert. Gaagii is a full-blooded Navajo—CIB [Certificate of Indian Blood] 100 percent, and the first to work in the vaunted scientific division. He has been on the force for only two years.

Sergeant Soto speaking, he says.


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