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Authors: Tony Hillerman

sacred clowns


This book is dedicated to Fr. Doug McNeill, director of Saint Bonaventure Indian Mission, Thoreau, NM 87323, and to the volunteers who donate part of their lives to run its classrooms, kitchen, school buses, and water trucks. They come from all parts of the country, from different generations and different religions, united only in the desire to help their fellow humans. The volunteers at work as this book was finished were:

Theresa Arsenault, Christine Behnke, Lonnie Behnke, Frances Behr, Ireen Brayman, Jim Brayman, Ken Brewer, Mary Brewer, Barbara Burdick, Natalie Bussiere, Andrew Campbell, Ann Carter, Jan Charles, Maria Cravedi, Ernest Duran, George Erickson, Yoshiko Erickson, Jennifer Farrell, Al Feng, Christine Fitzpatrick, Bob Gallagher, Helen Gallagher, Stu Healy, Cynthia Higbee, Rick Juliani, Julie McKee, Kathy Murray, Bud and Grace Ouelette, Chris Pietraszewski, John Rauch, Carol Rintala, John Seckinger, Dan Skendzel, Bob Sparapani, and Tim Thompson.

I salute you all.

Tony Hillerman


The characters in this book are figments of the author’s imagination, representing no one. Nor does Tano Pueblo exist. What one sees of Tano ceremonialism herein is a melding of the author’s experience at other pueblos.

The author is indebted for the help and advice of Dr. Louis Hieb of the University of Arizona, the author of many works on the koshare and the ritual clowns of the Hopis. However, Tano is not a Hopi village and the descriptions in this book do not represent Hopi religious activities.


HarperCollins e-book exclusive extras:
Leaphorn, Chee, and the Navajo Way
The Novels, As Annotated by T.H.
Tony Hillerman on. . .
Skinwalkers Becomes a MYSTERY!
Profile of the Navajo Nation

Author's Note


About the Author

Books by Tony Hillerman



About the Publisher

AT FIRST, Officer Jim Chee had felt foolish sitting on the roof of the house of some total stranger. But that uneasiness had soon faded. Now this vantage point on the roof had come to seem one of Cowboy Dashee’s rare good ideas. Chee could see almost everywhere from here. The drummers directly beneath the tips of his freshly shined boots, the column of masked dancers just entering the plaza to his left, the crowd of spectators jammed along the walls of the buildings, the sales booths lining the narrow streets beyond, he looked down on all of it. And out over the flat crowded roofs of Tano Pueblo, he could rest his eyes on the ragged row of cottonwoods along the river, golden today with autumn, or upon the blue mountains blocking the horizon, or the green-tan-silver patchwork of farm fields the Tanoans irrigated.

It was an excellent perch from which to witness the Tanoan kachina dance—for duty as well as pleasure. Especially with the warm, jeans-clad thigh of Janet Pete pressed against him. If Delmar Kanitewa was present, Chee would be likely to see him. If the boy didn’t show up, then there was no better place from which to watch the ceremonial. Such mystical rituals had always fascinated Chee. Since boyhood Chee had wanted to follow Hosteen Frank Sam Nakai. In the Navajo family structure Nakai was Chee’s “Little Father,” his mother’s elder brother. Nakai was a shaman of the highest order. He was a
what the whites called a singer, or medicine man. He was respected for his knowledge of the traditional religion and of the curing ways the Holy People had taught to keep humankind in harmony with the reality that surrounds us all. Nakai worked along that narrow line that separates flesh and spirit. Since boyhood, that had interested Chee.

“On the roof is where they like visitors to sit when they’re having a kachina dance,” Dashee had said. “It gets you tourists out from underfoot. Unless you fall off, there’s a lot less chance you’ll do something stupid and mess up the ceremony. And it leaves room around the dance ground for the Tano people. They need to exchange gifts with the kachinas. Things like that.”

Dashee was a sworn deputy sheriff of Apache County, Arizona, a Hopi of his people’s ancient Side Corn Clan, and Jim Chee’s closest friend. But he could also be a pain in the butt.

“But what if I spot the kid?” Chee had asked. “Is he going to wait while I climb down?”

“Why not? He won’t know you’re looking for him.” Cowboy had then leaned against Janet Pete and confided in a stage whisper, “The boy’ll think Detective Chee would be over there in Thoreau working on that big homicide.”

“You know,” Asher Davis said, “I’ll bet I know that guy. There was a teacher at that Saint Bonaventure School—one of those volunteers—who called me a time or two to see if I could get a good price for something some old-timer had to sell. One time it was a little silver pollen container—looked late nineteenth century—and some jerk in Farmington had offered this old man two dollars for it. I got him two hundred and fifty. I wonder if that was the teacher who got killed.”

“His name was Dorsey,” Chee said, sounding slightly grouchy. He didn’t know Davis and wasn’t sure he’d like him. But maybe that was just the mood he was in.

“Dorsey,” Davis said. “That’s him.”

“See?” Cowboy said. “Officer Chee keeps up on those serious crimes. And he also has time to write letters to the editor telling the Tano council what to do with its old uranium mines.”

“Hey,” Janet said. “Watch it there, Cowboy. That was a darn good letter. It was good advice. The paper thought so, too. They put the big headline on it.” She punched Cowboy on the shoulder. “Do you want to see us being used as the world’s toxic waste dump?”

Chee had been ignoring Dashee’s needling all morning. At first it had been based on the letter, published in that morning’s edition of the
Navajo Times
. In it, Chee had opposed a proposal to use the open pit of the abandoned Jacks Wild Mine as a toxic waste dump. He had called it “symbolic of the contempt felt for tribal lands.” But then they had heard of the homicide on the car radio. A school shop teacher at Thoreau had been hit fatally on the head. Some materials were reported missing and no suspect had been identified. It was a pretty good murder by reservation standards. Certainly it was more dignified than this assignment. It had happened yesterday, on Chee’s day off. Still, Lieutenant Leaphorn might have assigned him to work on it. Or at least mentioned it. But he hadn’t, and that burned a little.

What burned more was Janet. Janet had encouraged Cowboy’s needling with amused grins and occasional chuckles.

But now, warmed by her praise of his letter, Chee was willing to forgive all that—even to feel better about Cowboy. He had to concede that he had started the exchange by kidding Cowboy about the Hopi tendency to grow wide, instead of high. And he had to concede that what Cowboy had said about the roof was true enough. If Kanitewa was down there in the crowd watching his pueblo celebrate this autumn feast day, the boy would be feeling secure among family and friends. But, on the other hand, kids who run away from boarding school know someone will be coming after them.

Chee had been just such a kid himself, once. That feeling of fear, of being hunted, was one he could never forget. You can’t relax even when, as in Chee’s case, the hunt was brief and there was little time for the fear to build. The man from the boarding school had been parked out of sight behind the sheep pens, waiting, when Chee had walked up to his mother’s hogan. Seeing him had been almost a relief. The memory of that offered another excuse to avoid the roof.

“Kanitewa, he’ll be nervous,” Chee said. “He won’t be easy to catch.”

“Tell you what,” Dashee said. “We’ll sit on the roof. If we see him, you watch him while I climb down. Then you signal me where he is and I grab him.”

Chee thought about it.

“If these people were Hopis we wouldn’t have to worry about this. They have the men all sitting on the roofs, and the women and children on the chairs down there around the dance ground,” Dashee said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

“Not at all Hopi villages,” Chee said.

“At mine, anyway,” Dashee said. “We do it the traditional way.”

“Which is beside the point. If I’m on the roof, he’s going to notice me,” Chee had said. “Sitting up there waving my arms and pointing at him. He can’t help noticing me.” And so would everyone else—a Navajo making an ass of himself at a Tano ceremonial.

Through all this Asher Davis had been looking up at the roof ledge, uneasily. Asher’s sunburned neck bulged from the eighteen-inch neck of his sport shirt and his back strained its triple-X width. “Reckon it’ll hold me?” Asher asked, his voice filled with doubt.

“Sure,” Dashee said. He motioned around the plaza. “Look at all the people up there. Those roofs are built to hold full-sized people. Like us. Or,” he paused and inspected Chee and Janet Pete, “twice as many skinny ones.”

“Not me, they’re not,” Asher said. “But I need to be seeing some folks anyway. I’ve got to be going about my business. Helping the Tano economy. Buying up some goodies.”

Janet Pete had settled it. “Let’s sit on the roof,” she said. “Come on, Asher. Don’t be lazy. You can do your business later.”

“Hey,” Davis said. “I see another excuse. There’s ol’ Roger.” He looked at Janet. “I’ll bet you know him. He’s a fellow lawyer. Works the Indian territory out of Santa Fe, and for years he’s been big in saving the planet.”

“Roger who?” Janet asked, scanning the crowd.

“Applebee,” Davis said. “The big gun in Nature First.”

“Oh, yeah,” Janet said. “I see him now. He talked to me about that Continental toxic-waste dump proposal last year.”

Davis laughed. “And he probably got you into some sort of trouble. He’s been doing that to me for years. Rog and I go all the way back to Santa Fe High School. Santa Fe Demons. He was quarterback, I was fullback. He got me suspended when we were sophomores. He’s the kind of friend everybody needs to keep life from being boring.”

Chee had been just standing there, looking at the housetop, trying to think of an argument against climbing up there. But this aroused his interest.

“How’d that happen? The suspension?”

“Well, we were having an algebra test, as I remember it, and Roger had custody of his uncle’s car. I think he was supposed to get it greased or something. We’d been driving around instead of studying. So Rog says not to worry. We’ll postpone the test. We call the principal, tell him we’re the gas company and there’s a leak in the line to the temporary building where the math class met.” Davis was grinning at the memory. “It worked.”

“It worked, but you got suspended?” Chee asked.

“Well, that’s the way it is with the Davis-Applebee projects. Roger dreams ’em up and they sound fine and then it turns out there’s something he didn’t think of. This one just worked for a day or so. I made the call, because I had the deep voice. And when it turned out no gas leak, the secretary had had enough dealings with me to remember what I sounded like.”

“I’d like to meet Applebee,” Chee said. “I wonder if I could help him stop that waste dump project.”

But then Davis had shouted, “Hey, Rog,” and waved and was plowing through the crowd.

So, reduced to a party of three, they climbed the ladder behind the house of a plump middle-aged woman whom Cowboy Dashee seemed to know. They sat on the packed earth of the roof with their feet dangling over the parapet—looking directly down on the pueblo’s central plaza with Chee feeling disgruntled.

In typical Chee fashion, he analyzed why. It was partly because Lieutenant Leaphorn had sent him here on this trivial assignment. True, he had only been second man in the two-man Special Investigations Office for three days, but there were already signs it wasn’t going to work out. The lieutenant wasn’t taking him seriously. It wasn’t just not being shifted over to the homicide, it was Leaphorn’s attitude. They should be investigating Continental Collectors, and Tribal Councilman Jimmy Chester, and those people in the Bureau of Land Management, and the whole conspiracy to make the Checkerboard Reservation a national garbage pit. That’s what he should be doing—not chasing after a runaway schoolboy who wasn’t even a Navajo. Or was just barely a Navajo. And hunting him just because his grandmother was a big shot on the Navajo Tribal Council.

So he was in a down mood today partly because of the sense of having his time wasted. But, to be honest with himself, it was mostly because of the way this expedition had all worked out.

When Leaphorn had given him his orders, Chee had decided to make the best of it. Janet Pete’s legal aid office was closed. He’d called her at home and invited her to come and watch the ceremonial. She’d said fine. She’d meet him in front of the Navajo Nation Inn. And she was standing there when he drove up. But, alas, she was talking to Cowboy and Asher Davis, and a lot of the glitter quickly vanished from what had been a very good idea.

“Do you know this fellow, here?” Cowboy had asked Chee. “He’s Asher Davis and he is what you college-educated people would call an oxymoron. He’s an Honest Indian Trader.” While they shook hands, Dashee was looking at Davis, reconsidering the compliment.

“Well, let’s make that read ‘Fairly Honest Indian Trader.’ We’ve been out to Hopi Mesas and I’ve got to admit that Asher did try to cheat some of my kinfolks.”

Davis was obviously used to this. “As a matter of fact,” he told Chee, his expression somber, “cheating Cowboy’s kinfolks is something I haven’t been able to pull off. His uncle there at Mishongnovi sold me a nineteenth-century Owl Kachina, and when I got it home and looked under the feathers I found one of those ‘Made in Taiwan’ labels.”

Dashee was grinning. “Actually, it said ‘Made in Taiwan in 1889 by Hopis.’ So at least it was ancient.”

“Good to meet you, Mr. Davis,” Chee said. “We’ve got to be shoving off.”

And Cowboy had said where you going and, alas, Chee had admitted they were going to Tano to see the ceremonial, and Cowboy had said he hadn’t seen that one and had heard it was interesting and Davis had said it was, indeed, and Tano had an unusually good market and he sometimes picked up some old pots there, and the Jicarillas brought in their baskets for sale, and alas again, Janet had then said, “We have plenty of room. Why don’t you come along?”

Thus, what Chee had planned as a quiet duet, with plenty of time to talk and explore their relationship, had deteriorated into a noisy quartet. And then there was Janet’s grinning when Cowboy needled him, and siding with Cowboy on whether they should sit on the roof. Worse, now that they were up here on the roof, it was obvious that Cowboy was right. To hell with it.

Chee extracted the photograph of Delmar Kanitewa from his jacket pocket and rememorized it. The grainy copy had come from the boy’s portrait in last year’s Crownpoint High School yearbook. It showed a wide grin, white but slightly crooked teeth, high cheekbones, a slightly cleft chin, and a bad haircut. Clearly, the genes of Delmar’s Tano mother had overridden those of his Navajo father. He would look like scores of other Tano Pueblo teenagers, and a lot like hundreds of other teenagers from the other Pueblo tribes, and a lot like a Hopi, for that matter. But Chee would recognize him. He was good at faces when he tried to be.

When Leaphorn had given him this job, the lieutenant’s instructions had been explicit. “His mother’s house is one street south of the plaza,” Leaphorn had told him. “But don’t go there. We got the BIA who covers Tano to check with Kanitewa’s mama and she said she hadn’t seen him. She’s probably hiding him, or something. So don’t tip your hand.”

“It’s funny, though,” Chee had said. “Didn’t she send him to the school in the first place? You’d think she’d want him back in his classes.”

Lieutenant Leaphorn had not thought that worthy of comment, or even of looking up from his notepad.

“When you find him, here’s what you do. Ask him why he ran away from school and where he’s staying. Make sure he knows you’re not after him so he won’t take off again. Then call me and tell me where he is. Nothing else.”

“I don’t pick him up? Take him back to school?”

The lieutenant had looked up at Chee’s question, wearing the expression that always made Chee feel like he’d said something stupid.

“You’re off the Navajo Reservation. The boy hasn’t broken any law. We’re just doing a little courtesy work for the councilwoman. His grandmama. I suspect this is part of a family fuss over who has custody of the kid.” Leaphorn had recited this patiently, and then patiently had added more explanation.

Kanitewa’s mother, a Tanoan, had divorced the boy’s Navajo father without, apparently, much hard feelings. The boy had lived with his mother and kept his Tanoan name. But when time for high school came, and he was almost a man, he decided to live with his father.

“And, unfortunately, his father is the son of Bertha Roanhorse, who is on the Tribal Council Budget Committee, which decides how well we eat. And she’s worried. The boy hadn’t told any of his friends he was running off. On the contrary. He was part of an intertribal dance group and they had a performance coming up at a rodeo in Durango. So that makes it a funny time to disappear from school.”

“Maybe he wanted to go to the Tano ceremonial,” Chee said. “If he’s in high school, he’s probably been initiated into one of the Tano kivas.”

“Grandma said no. He’d made arrangements. He had her working to get his costume ready for the Durango performance. She said he was all excited about it.”

“You’d think she’d go find him herself,” Chee said.

“No, you wouldn’t. Not if you knew the councilwoman. She’d get us to do it for her.” And that had ended the discussion.

It was irritating. What he was doing was one level under being a truant officer. Having Leaphorn as a boss was going to be a genuine pain. Just like people had warned him.

He felt Janet Pete’s elbow in his ribs, “Why so grouchy-looking? You want to climb back down?”

“Sorry,” Chee said. “No. Cowboy was right.”

“Cowboy is often right,” Cowboy said. “Just learn to count on it.”

The double line of kachinas had completed the circle of the plaza now and moved almost directly below their housetop. Chee looked at figures foreshortened by perspective, seeing the tops of the tubular leather masks which converted farmers, truck drivers, loggers, policemen, accountants, fathers, sons, and grandfathers into the spirits who linked the people of Tano to the world beyond. He could see very human sweat glistening on their shoulders, a very ordinary Marine Corps anchor tattoo on the arm of the seventh kachina, the very natural dust stirred by the rhythmic shuffling of their moccasins. Even so, even for an unbelieving Navajo outsider, the dancing figures seemed more than human. Perhaps it was the pattern of sound the drums made, perhaps the effect of the perspective. He glanced up from the dancers. The audience was silent, even the children almost motionless.

Then across the plaza laughter erupted.

“Here come the koshares,” Cowboy said.

Four figures had emerged on a roof across the plaza. They wore breechcloths and their bodies were zebra-striped in black and white, their faces daubed white with huge black smiles painted around their mouths, their hair jutting upward in two long conical horns, each horn surmounted with a brush of what seemed to be corn shucks. Koshares. The sacred clowns of Pueblo people. Chee had first seen similar clowns perform at a Hopi ceremonial at Moenkopi when he was a child, and since then at other Hopi dances. These seemed to be much the same.

Two of them now stood at the parapet of the building, pointing downward at the line of kachinas, gesturing wildly. The other two, a fat man and a youth with a weightlifter’s body, were carrying a ladder. They swung it recklessly, knocking first one and then the other of their partners head over heels, to the delight of the audience. They managed to get the ladder over the side, with the wrong, narrow end down. A mock battle ensued, with much falling and general clumsiness, to determine who would go down the ladder first. The fat man won. He started down headfirst. One of the others, a skinny fellow, climbed over him, also headfirst. Their legs entangled. They started to fall, were caught by one of the two partners still on the roof. The weightlifter had managed to get off the roof and was climbing down the underside of the ladder beneath the tangle—also upside down.

The crowd was laughing, shouting encouragement. The drums kept their steady rhythm. The kachinas danced on, sublime spirits oblivious of such human imperfection.

“Somebody’s going to get killed,” Janet Pete said. “They’ll break their necks.”

A fall probably would break something, Chee thought. It would be a two-story drop onto earth packed as hard as concrete.

“They’ve been doing that a thousand years,” Cowboy said. “Nobody ever gets hurt.” But he was frowning. “These guys are just fair,” he said. “You ought to see ’em at Shongopovi, or Hotevilla, or Walpi, or . . .”

“Or any Hopi village,” Chee said. “That’s Cowboy’s slogan. Hopis do it better.”

Cowboy was shaking his head. “Chee always gets that wrong,” he said. “It’s ‘Hopis do it best.’”

“Do they always do it like that?” Janet sounded both disbelieving and disapproving. “They’re disrupting the ceremonial.”

“Not disrupting. It’s part of the ritual. It’s all symbolic. They represent humanity. Clowns. Doing everything wrong while the spirits do everything right.”

Janet Pete looked unimpressed. The koshares made it down the ladder to ground level. They stood, pointing excitedly at the kachinas, talking stage-loud in a language Chee couldn’t understand. The Tanoans, he thought, spoke Tewa. Or maybe it was Keresan. One of the koshares ran to the line of kachina dancers, threw his arms around one of the masked men, and pulled him out of the formation. He was shouting something to the other koshares. Janet glanced at Cowboy, an inquiring look.

“He’s saying, ‘This one is mine. This one is mine.’ Or something like that,” Cowboy said.

“You understand Tewa?”

“No,” Cowboy said. “But the ceremony is pretty much the same as one we do. The idea is to make fun of how humans try to possess everything.”

The crowd seemed to be enjoying it. An unmasked man in ceremonial kirtle and moccasins (Cowboy had said he was the “Father of the Kachinas”) grabbed the koshare’s arm, freed the kachina, and provoked an exchange which produced a burst of laughter. Three boys, teenagers, emerged from between two houses and skirted behind a row of Tano women in chairs at the edge of the dance ground. The tallest one was Delmar Kanitewa. At least he looked like Kanitewa.

Chee touched Janet’s knee.

“Look,” he said. “See those three boys almost directly across the plaza? Behind the women. Notice the one in the red shirt.”

“Yeah,” Janet said. “It looks like him. But isn’t he too tall?”

“The description said five foot eight,” Chee said. “That’s pretty tall for a Pueblo kid.”

“I’ll go get him,” Cowboy said, pushing himself up from the roof. “Keep an eye on him.”

That was easy enough. Red Shirt and his two friends had found a wall to lean against. Chee watched. Red Shirt said something to his companions and pointed up the dance ground. He was pointing at a man, half-hidden from Chee’s perspective by a huge cowboy hat, who trotted out of an alley onto the dance ground riding a stick horse. Behind him came another man, this one wearing a black homburg hat. Homburg was pedaling a toy car so small that his bobbing knees were as high as his hunched shoulders. White dollar signs were painted on the red toy and it dragged a flat black object also decorated with dollar signs. Behind the car came a third man, straw-hatted and dressed in a blue three-piece business suit. He was pulling a toy wagon loaded with assorted objects and with signboards attached to its sides. The three paraded past the audience. There was laughter, then silence, then a buzz of talk.

“Now what?” Janet Pete said. “You understand what’s going on?”

“A little,” Chee said. “The koshare team at a ceremonial usually has some other guys working with them. They come in like that and put on little skits. Sort of call attention to things that are wrong in the pueblo. Make fun of it.”

“The cowboy’s pretending to take pictures of everybody,” Janet said. “See? He’s acting like he has the camera hidden in his hat.” She laughed. The top of the cowboy’s hat was hinged. The cowboy pointed the crown of the hat at a cluster of girls, pulled it open, and flashed a flashbulb. The girls dissolved into giggles.

“Did you see that?” she said. “That’s pretty clever.”

“I missed it,” Chee said. He was watching another part of the skit. The driver of the toy car had climbed out of it and picked up the object he’d been towing. It proved to be a grotesquely oversized wallet, and from it he extracted a sheaf of oversized copies of dollars. He was waving these at the puller of the wagon. Now Chee could read one of the signs.


Not much laughter now. Not among the Tanoans anyway. This seemed to be serious business. It provoked a nervous murmur.

The wagon puller pretended to sell something that looked like an oversized wooden doll, poorly made, and then engaged in exaggerated haggling over what seemed to be a black stick, perhaps a walking stick—finally accepting a paper bag full of the pseudo dollars. Next he extracted from the wagon bed what appeared to be an oval slab of stone. The buyer jumped up and down in mock excitement. The audience had fallen so silent that Chee could hear the dialogue of the clowns. Even the children and the visitors were simply listening now—sensing the tension.

Janet was wearing a broad grin. “I hope ol’ Asher is seeing this,” she said. “That’s him they’ve got in mind.”

“Money! Money! More money!” Wagon Puller shouted.

Buyer had opened his purse, dumping out more green paper on the packed earth. Both of the clowns, on hands and knees now, scrambled for it.

“Oops,” Janet said. “I’m wrong.”

“You sure are,” Chee said. “Can you imagine Asher pouring out his money like—” He stopped. Cowboy was standing just below, looking up at him, signaling puzzlement.

Chee glanced across the plaza, pointed to where the three boys were standing. Had been standing. Two of them were still there, watching the clowns. Red Shirt had disappeared.

“Aaaah,” Chee said.

“What’s wrong?” Janet said.

Chee cupped his hands, shouted to Cowboy. “I lost him.”

Cowboy shrugged and trotted down the row of spectators, hunting for the boy.

Janet Pete was looking at him. “I screwed up,” Chee said. “Took my eyes off the little bastard. I gotta go help Cowboy hunt him.”

“I’ll go with you,” Janet said. “Look over there. By the mouth of the alley. There’s Applebee. The Nature First lobbyist Davis was telling us about. You said you want to meet him.”

“Maybe later,” Chee said, and scrambled down the ladder.

They scouted the plaza, the sales booths along the side streets, the rows of vehicles, mostly pickups, jamming every possible parking space. At the house of the Kanitewa family, they peered through the open doorway and into windows. The lieutenant had said to stay away, but the lieutenant wasn’t here. The long table in the kitchen-dining room was loaded with food but no one seemed to be home. Back at the dance ground, they saw Cowboy, his eyebrows raised with a question.

“No luck,” Chee said.

“Which direction was he headed?” Cowboy asked. “Last time you saw him.”

“I took my eyes off him,” Chee admitted. “I glanced at the clown show and he just vanished.”

“Yeah,” Cowboy said, his expression skeptical. “Well, he’ll be back.”

Behind Cowboy, there was an outbreak of laughter. A kachina figure wearing a mask with oversized eyes and feathered tufts for ears was threatening one of the koshares with a whip of yucca. The koshare offered the big-eyed kachina a bowl. The other koshares came running up, making pugnacious gestures.

“Now what?” Janet Pete asked.

“That’s what Hopis call the Owl Kachina,” Cowboy said. “Or sometimes ‘The Punisher.’ If it was Mafia, you’d call him the enforcer. And if what’s going on is like in the Hopi villages, he’s warning the koshares to behave themselves, and the koshare chief is trying to bribe him, and the other koshares are suspecting their chief of selling them out.”

Cowboy laughed, punched Janet Pete lightly on the shoulder. “We Pueblo people have always had a realistic view of human nature.”

“Original sin,” Janet said. “Fallen man.”

Chee had been ignoring the clowns, scanning the crowd, hoping that Kanitewa’s red shirt would reappear. He was imagining himself in Leaphorn’s office. Leaphorn would be sitting behind his desk, face blank. Chee would be explaining how he’d let Kanitewa slip away. Long moment of silence while Leaphorn digested this, then Leaphorn asking what the devil he was doing up on the roof, and that leading into some sort of explanation of how he’d turned this assignment into an outing with friends.

“Look,” Chee said. “Forget the theology for now. Let’s find that kid.”

So they looked again, splitting up, canvassing the crowd, checking the sales booths, watching Kanitewa’s home, peering through the windows of countless pickups, even checking the hay sheds and sheep pens between the village and the fields.

At three
, as arranged, Chee climbed the ladder to the roof. Cowboy and Janet were there, eating snow cones while they waited for him. They didn’t have to tell him they’d had no better luck than his own.

“I found the two boys who were with him,” Janet said. “They didn’t know where he was. Anyway they claimed they didn’t. But they did confirm that their friend was our elusive Delmar.”

“I found what the little boy shot his arrow at,” Cowboy said. “Nothing.”

“Let’s try again,” Chee said.

The kachinas were gone now and much of the crowd had shifted from the plaza to the sales area. Chee spotted one of the boys who had been with Kanitewa, paper cup in one hand and a slab of fry bread in the other, leaning against a wall. He saw Asher Davis leaning over a table where a Navajo was selling sand-cast silver belt buckles, laughing about something. He saw a Bureau of Indian Affairs cop he’d met once at a briefing in Albuquerque inspecting a basket at an Apache woman’s booth. He saw two red shirts, but a young woman was wearing one and an old man the other.

Chee climbed down the ladder again. He patrolled the narrow streets, took another look through the sheep pens, horse corrals, and hay storage area, and prowled through the ranks of parked vehicles, peering through windows. He didn’t see Kanitewa, but he ran into Cowboy, who was buying another snow cone. Janet joined them.

“The kachinas will be back in thirty minutes or so, and there’ll be more dancing,” Cowboy said. “Probably the kid’ll come back then for the second act. Or after the dance, he’ll go home and we can catch him there.”

“Maybe,” Chee said, trying not to sound skeptical. “But his mother is probably hiding him out. She told the BIA he hadn’t come home.” This was not proving to be a good day and Chee was not optimistic about it getting better.

“There’s Applebee again,” Janet said. “The guy with the hot dog in his hand, buying something at that booth. You want to meet him?”

To their right, at the mouth of an alleyway from which the koshares had come, there was a sudden flurry of sound and excitement. The clown who had ridden the stick horse emerged, running frantically, hat missing now but still wearing the costume. He was shouting something. It sounded like “get the ambulance.” It was “get the ambulance.”

“Somebody must be hurt,” Cowboy said.

Two men and a woman emerged from the alley, the woman sobbing.

“They killed him,” she was saying. “They killed him.”

“YOU WERE SITTING on the roof?” Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn kept the tone of the question neutral.

“Yessir,” Jim Chee said. “You can see the whole plaza from up there.”

That was the advantage, of course. The disadvantage being that you couldn’t catch the kid once you saw him. But Leaphorn didn’t press that point. It was obvious from Chee’s slightly abashed expression that he was aware of it. Instead, Leaphorn put the first page of Chee’s report facedown on his desk and reread the second and terminal page. It was neatly typed but—by Leaphorn’s standards—sadly incomplete.

“When you heard the woman shouting you say here that you presumed the person killed was the Kanitewa boy. Why did you presume that?”

“Well, I had him on my mind. We were looking for him. Trying to figure out where he had gone.”

Leaphorn looked up from the report over his horn-rimmed glasses. “We?”

Chee hesitated. “I had Deputy Sheriff Dashee with me,” Chee said. “From the Apache County Sheriffs Office.” He hesitated. “And Janet Pete. You know her. The lawyer with DNA.”

“I know her,” Leaphorn said. In her role as public defender in the federally funded legal aid office, Miss Pete had sometimes been a thorn in the side of the Navajo Tribal Police. DNA, they called it, short for
Dinebeiina Nahiilna be Agadithe,
which translated to English as something like “People who talk fast to help people out.” But it seemed to Leaphorn that the people being helped out were usually the people the tribal police were chasing, and never the tribal police.

“You made a sort of outing out of it, then,” Leaphorn said. “Sort of a picnic. The three of you?”

“Four,” Chee said. “Asher Davis went along. You know, the big—”

Leaphorn violated his own custom and Navajo tradition by interrupting. This day wasn’t starting well. “The trader? Great big guy from Santa Fe?”

Chee nodded. His week was off to a terrible start. The first week on this new job, and maybe it would be the last week, too. And what if it was? He’d go back to being a patrolman. He never had been confident he could work with this guy. This supercop.

“Sounds like you sort of formed a posse? To catch the kid?” Leaphorn’s expression was totally bland.

Chee tried to match that, but he could feel his face flushing. Cops who had worked under Leaphorn before the lieutenant had been shifted into this new Special Investigations Office had warned Chee that the man could be an arrogant son-of-a-bitch.

“No sir,” Chee said. “It just happened that way. You told me to find him. I was going to start by seeing if he’d show up at his home. For the ceremonial. If he did, I’d catch him and talk to him, and find out where he was staying, and tell him to call his grandma. As instructed. Miss Pete wanted to see the kachina dance, and she asked Dashee if he wanted to ride along, and then . . .” He let the explanation trail off.

“It violates a rule,” Leaphorn said.

“Yessir,” Chee said.

“You understand the reason for the rule?”

“Sure,” Chee said.

Leaphorn pushed himself out of his chair and walked to the window. He stood with his back to Chee, looking out.

Thinking how he’s going to tell me he’s suspending me,
Chee thought.
Thinking how to put it.

“It’s clouding up,” Leaphorn said. “Looks like they might be getting rain over on the Hopi Reservation.”

Chee let that pass. The silence stretched.

“Or maybe some snow. I’ve gotten out of the habit of working with anyone since they put me in this office,” Leaphorn said, still talking to the window. “One-man operation, until now. Now there’s two of us. I guess we’re going to have to have some rules.” He sat behind the desk again. “Or call them policies.”

“In addition to department policies?”

“Just our own. Sort of above and beyond,” Leaphorn said. “Like now. You did a job. I want a full report. To do that for me, you have to tell me some things you wouldn’t normally tell your district captain.”

Leaphorn paused, studying Chee. “Like you’d just as soon not tell the boss that you made a social event out of an assignment,” he continued. “That gets you, maybe, in a jam. Trouble. Some days off without pay. Easy enough to just sort of forget some of the details. Maybe you remember it a little different. Like you met Miss Pete and Dashee and Asher Davis there at the kachina dance. That would have sounded perfectly plausible. I’m glad you decided not to handle it that way.” He studied Chee. “You must have thought about it.”

Leaphorn paused, waited for a response.

Chee, who hadn’t thought about it, just shrugged. He was guessing what the lieutenant was driving at. He was pretty sure he knew what was coming next.

“My point is that when we’re working on something, I want you to tell me everything. Everything. Don’t leave out stuff you think is trivial, or doesn’t seem to bear on what we’re interested in. I want it all.”

Chee nodded, thinking:
Right. Officer Chee as eyes, ears, and nose. Collector of data. The lieutenant as brain, doing the thinking. Well, I have my application filed with the BIA Law and Order people and with the Apache County Sheriff’s Office and the Arizona State Police. Good résumé. Good record. Well, pretty good.

Leaphorn was studying his expression. “Now,” he said. “Tell me everything Francis Sayesva did.”

It took a moment for Chee to connect the name with the plump man he had watched yesterday clowning on the roof. The man with his body painted with the stripes of the koshare. The man who somebody had clubbed to death just about forty yards from where Chee had been sitting. “Everything?” Chee said. And he began describing everything he could remember.

When he had finished, Leaphorn digested it.

“Same with the boy,” Leaphorn said, “Everything you can remember from where he was when you first saw him to the last glimpse.”

That didn’t take long.

“Anything to connect the boy and Sayesva? Anything like a signal? Anything like that?”

Chee thought. “Nothing,” he said. “The boy, he seemed to be just another spectator.”

“Sayesva was his uncle,” Leaphorn said. “Maternal uncle.”

“Oh,” Chee said. “I didn’t know that.”
Maternal uncle meant a special closeness. At least to Navajos. Would it be the same for the Tano people?

“I just found out a minute ago,” Leaphorn said.

Which means on the telephone. On the call he took just as I came in. But who would be calling to tell him something like that? Who else but somebody Leaphorn had called to get just that information for him? Why would he do that?

“You thought they might be kinfolks?” Chee asked.

“You look for connections,” Leaphorn said. “Two homicides.” He reached behind him and tapped the big map on the wall behind him. “One out at Thoreau on the Checkerboard Reservation and one way over at Tano Pueblo. Nothing to link them, right?”

Chee could think of nothing, and said so. “To tell the truth, about all I know about that Thoreau homicide is what I heard on the radio.”

Leaphorn detected something that might have been resentment in the voice.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m sorry about that.” He handed Chee a file folder. “We’ll be running errands for the FBI on it.”

The file so far included only two sheets of paper, on which were the preliminary report from the investigating officer at the Navajo Tribal Police office in Crownpoint. It didn’t tell Chee much he hadn’t already heard. Eric Dorsey, aged thirty-seven, wood- and metal- work teacher, school bus driver, and maintenance man at Saint Bonaventure Indian Mission. Found dead on the floor of his shop by students arriving for their afternoon class. Apparent cause of death: a blow on the back of the head. Apparent motive: theft. The door of a supply cabinet usually locked was found open. An unknown quantity of silver ingots believed missing. No witnesses. No suspects.

“I can’t see anything to connect them,” Chee said.

“Sayesva was a koshare? That right?”

“Right,” Chee said, baffled.

“Do you see anything in that Dorsey homicide report about a koshare?”

Chee picked up the report, reread it. “Nothing.”

“There’s no reason there should be,” Leaphorn said. “When I got through I noticed all sorts of stuff was stacked in the shop where Dorsey taught. The sort of things his students were making. Some sand-cast silver, leatherwork, woodwork projects, and two or three half-finished kachina dolls. One of them was a koshare. About a foot tall. It still needed some work. No mention of it in the report.”

“Well, hell,” Chee said. “The Tano homicide hadn’t happened yet. The investigating officer couldn’t know and you wouldn’t want to list all that . . .” Chee let it trail off. He saw the point Leaphorn was making. Unreasonable, but a point. Put everything in even if it seemed irrelevant.

“You could think of ten thousand explanations for the koshare,” Leaphorn said. “Kids in an arts and crafts shop trying to make stuff they could sell. The koshare’s an interesting figure. Easy to paint. And so forth.”

“Pretty weak link,” Chee agreed. “I can’t see it.”

Leaphorn rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes. He looked glum. “I can’t either, but I always look. It’s an old habit. Wastes time, usually. All we have here is two men hit on the head. Same method. The kid runs away the same day as the Thoreau killing. If he had been a student of Dorsey’s we would be very, very interested. But he went to school over at Crownpoint. About twenty-five miles away. Nothing there.”

“Nothing,” Chee said.
But you are thinking that if I hadn’t let the kid get away maybe he could explain all this.

“I don’t like coincidences,” Leaphorn said. “Even if this isn’t much of one. I guess I’ll find out which student was making the koshare.”

“I have a thought about the Sayesva thing,” Chee said. “I hear he was a certified public accountant. I heard he worked for that savings and loan outfit in Phoenix that went belly up. I heard that maybe a grand jury down there was interested in something-or-other. Maybe Sayesva knew something damaging.”

For the first time, Leaphorn’s expression shifted into something close to a smile.

“You get a ‘he was’ and a ‘he did’ and an ‘I hear that too’ and a ‘maybe so’ on all that,” Leaphorn said. “But the trouble is, Sayesva is none of our business. That case is way out of our jurisdiction. It’s strictly Bureau of Indian Affairs and FBI work. The late Eric Dorsey is our business because he was killed on the reservation.”

Leaphorn swiveled in his chair, stared at his map. It was freckled with clusters of pins in a variety of colors. Someday, Chee thought, he’d learn what they signified. If he stuck around long enough. Now he was only conscious that Leaphorn hadn’t been interested enough in his Sayesva theory to pursue it. He wasn’t going to enjoy this job.

“Like what?” Leaphorn said. “What do you think he might have known? About what?”

“I don’t know. Nothing specific. It’s just that an accountant, you know, would know things. Like maybe somebody’s stealing. Or cheating on taxes. Things like that. So you’d want to know who he was working for. The people he was auditing.”

Leaphorn was studying Chee.

“We wouldn’t want to know that,” Leaphorn said. “The FBI might. Or the sheriff’s office. But you and I wouldn’t have any interest in that at all.”

“Not unless it tied in with something that was our business,” Chee said.

Leaphorn scratched his ear. “If, for example, he’d been auditing the Thoreau school, for example,” he said finally. “If that was true we’ll find out because the feds will tell us. Meanwhile, I want you to find the Kanitewa boy.”

The tone of that said this conversation was ended, but Chee stopped at the door.

“Lieutenant. You know that business with Continental Collectors wanting to establish the waste dump out in the Checkerboard? I’ve been hearing some things about that.”

Leaphorn was shuffling through his file cabinet. He didn’t look up. “You mentioned that before,” he said. “And I told you our business in this office is crime, not politics.”

“Sometimes they mix.”

Leaphorn still didn’t look up. “What have you been hearing? It better be more than some old gossip about somebody from Continental bribing tribal councilmen. There’s always gossip about somebody bribing somebody.”

“I guess that’s all I know.”

“Do you know which councilmen? Or where you can get a witness? Or any kind of evidence at all?”

“No sir.”

“Then we’ve got plenty of other stuff to work on,” Leaphorn said. “Find the kid. That’s the thing that’s pressing on us right now.” He got up and stood looking out the window, hands clasped behind him.

“When we get that out of the way,” he said, talking to the glass, “I’d like to see what you can do with a vehicular homicide case. I’ll give you the file on it and you’re going to see it looks pretty hopeless.”

“Which one?” Tribal law prohibited sale or possession of alcohol on the reservation, but bars flourished in the border towns and deaths caused by drunk drivers were common fare for the Navajo Tribal Police.

“The victim was an old man named Victor Todachene. Lived near Crystal. Details are in the file,” Leaphorn said.