Authors: The Dark Wind (v1.1) [html]
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
HarperPaperbacks - A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers
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Copyright © 1982 by Tony Hillerman
All rights reserved.
A hardcover edition of this book was published in 1982 by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
Cover illustration by Peter Thorpe
First HarperPaperbacks printing: January 1990
Printed in the United States of America
HarperPaperbacks and colophon are trademarks of
This book is dedicated to the good people of Coyote Canyon, Navajo Mountain, Littlewater, Two Gray Hills, Heart Butte, and Borrego Pass, and most of all to those who are being uprooted from their ancestral homes in the Navajo-Hopi Joint Use country.
AUTHOR'S NOTESThe reader should be aware that I make no claims to being an authority on Hopi theology. Like Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police, I am an outsider on the Hopi Mesas. I know only what one learns from long and respectful interest, and suggest that any of you who wish to learn more of the complex Hopi metaphysics turn to more knowledgeable writers. I particularly recommend
The Book of the Hopi
by my good friend Frank Waters.
The liturgical year of the Hopi religion is divided into seasonal halves which are more or less mirror images and which involve an elaborate calendar of ritual observances. These include the events which provide some of the background for this novel, but the calendar I use is not accurate.
Time has been even crueler to the village of Sityatki than is suggested herein. It was abandoned long ago and sand has drifted over what remains of its ruins.
All characters in this book are products of my imagination. None is based in any way on any living person.
he flute clan boy
was the first to see it. He stopped and stared.
"Somebody lost a boot," he said.
Even from where he stood, at least fifteen yards farther down the trail, Albert Lomatewa could see that nobody had lost the boot. The boot had been placed, not dropped. It rested upright, squarely in the middle of the path, its pointed toe aimed toward them. Obviously someone had put it there. And now, just beyond a dead growth of rabbit brush which crowded the trail, Lomatewa saw the top of a second boot. Yesterday when they had come this way no boots had been here.
Albert Lomatewa was the Messenger. He was in charge. Eddie Tuvi and the Flute Clan boy would do exactly what he told them.
"Stay away from it," Lomatewa said. "Stay right here."
He lifted the heavy pack of spruce boughs from his back and placed it reverently beside the path. Then he walked to the boot. It was fairly new, made of brown leather, with a flower pattern stitched into it and a curved cowboy heel. Lomatewa glanced past the rabbit brush at the second boot. It matched. Beyond the second boot, the path curved sharply around a weathered granite boulder. Lomatewa sucked in his breath. Jutting from behind the boulder he could see the bottom of a foot. The foot was bare and even from where Lomatewa stood he could see there was something terribly wrong with it.
Lomatewa looked back at the two his kiva had sent to guard him on this pilgrimage for spruce. They stood where he had told them to stand—Tuvi's face impassive, the boy's betraying his excited curiosity.
"Stay there," he ordered. "There is someone here and I must see about it."
The man was on his side, legs bent stiffly, left arm stretched rigidly forward, right arm flexed upward with the palm resting beside his ear. He wore blue jeans, a jean jacket, and a blue-and-white-checked shirt, its sleeves rolled to the elbows. But it was a little while before Lomatewa noticed what the man was wearing. He was staring at his feet. The soles of both of them had been cut away. The bottom of the socks had been cut and the socks pushed up around the ankles, where they formed ragged white cuffs. Then the heel pads, and the pads at the balls of the feet, and the undertips of the toes had been sliced away. Lomatewa had nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, and had lived long enough to see many things, but he had never seen this before. He sucked in his breath, exhaled it, and glanced up at the hands. He expected to find them flayed, too. And he did. The skin had been sliced from them just as it had been from the feet. Only then did Lomatewa look at the man's face.
He had been young. Not a Hopi. A Navajo. At least part Navajo. There was a small, black-rimmed hole above his right eye.
Lomatewa stood looking down at the man, thinking how this would have to be handled. It had to be handled so that it would not interfere with the Niman Kachina. The sun was hot on him here, even though it was still early morning, and the smell of dust was in his nostrils. Dust, always dust. Reminding him of why nothing must interfere with the ceremonial. For almost a year the blessing of rain had been withdrawn. He had thinned his corn three times, and still what little was left was stunted and withering in the endless drought. The springs were drying. There was no grass left for the horses. The Niman Kachina must be properly done. He turned and walked back to where his guardians were waiting.
"A dead Tavasuh," he said. Literally the word meant "head-pounder." It was a term of contempt which Hopis sometimes used for Navajos and Lomatewa chose it deliberately to set the tone for what he must do.
"What happened to his foot?" the Flute Clan boy asked. "The bottom was cut off his foot."
"Put down the spruce," Lomatewa said. "Sit down. We must talk about this." He wasn't worried about Tuvi. Tuvi was a valuable man in the Antelope Kiva and a member of the One Horn Society—a prayerful man. But the Flute Clan boy was still a boy. He said nothing more, though, simply sitting on the path beside his spruce bundle. The questions remained in his eyes. Let him wait, Lomatewa thought. Let him learn patience.
"Three times Sotuknang has destroyed the world," Lomatewa began. "He destroyed the First World with fire. He destroyed the Second World with ice. He destroyed the Third World with flood. Each time he destroyed the world because his people failed to do what he told them to do." Lomatewa kept his eyes on the Flute Clan boy as he talked. The boy was his only worry. The boy had gone to school at Flagstaff and he had a job with the post office. There was talk that he did not plant his corn patches properly, that he did not properly know his role in the Kachina Society. Tuvi could be counted on but the boy must be taught. Lomatewa spoke directly to him, and the boy listened as if he had not heard the old story a thousand times before.
"Sotuknang destroyed the world because the Hopis forgot to do their duty. They forgot the songs that must be sung, the
that must be offered, the ceremonials that must be danced. Each time the world became infected with evil, people quarreled all the time. People became
, and practiced witchcraft against one another. The Hopis left the proper Road of Life and only a few were left doing their duty in the kivas. And each time, Sotuknang gave the Hopis warning. He held back the rain so his people would know his displeasure. But everybody ignored the rainless seasons. They kept going after money, and quarreling, and gossiping, and forgetting the way of the Road of Life. And each time Sotuknang decided that the world had used up its string, and he saved a few of the best Hopis, and then he destroyed all the rest."
Lomatewa stared into the eyes of the Flute Clan boy. "You understand all this?"
"I understand," the boy said.
"We must do the Niman Kachina right this summer," Lomatewa said. "Sotuknang has warned us. Our corn dies in the fields. There is no grass. The wells are drying out. When we call the clouds, they no longer hear us. If we do the Niman Kachina wrong, Sotuknang will have no more patience. He will destroy the Fourth World."
Lomatewa glanced at Tuvi. His face was inscrutable. Then he spoke directly to the boy again. "Very soon it will be time for the kachinas to leave this Earth Surface World and go back to their home in the San Francisco Peaks. When we deliver this spruce back to our kivas, it will be used to prepare for the Going Home Dances to honor them. For days it will be very busy in the kivas. The prayers to be planned. The
to be made. Everything to be done exactly in the proper way." Lomatewa paused, allowing silence to make the effect he wanted. "Everybody thinking in the proper way," he added. "But if we report this body, this dead Navajo, to the police, nothing can be done right. The police will come, the
police, to ask us questions. They will call us out of the kivas. Everything will be interrupted. Everybody will be thinking about the wrong things. They will be thinking of death and anger when they would be thinking only holy thoughts. The Niman Kachina will be messed up. The Going Home Dances would not be done right. Nobody would be praying."
He stopped again, staring at the Flute Clan boy.
"If you were the Messenger, what would you do?"
"I would not tell the police," the boy said.
"Would you talk of this in the kiva?"
"I would not talk of it."
"You saw the feet of the Navajo," Lomatewa said. "Do you know what that means?"
"The skin being cut away?"
"Yes. Do you know what it means?"
The Flute Clan boy looked down at his hands. "I know," he said.
"If you talk about that, it would be the worst thing of all. People would be thinking of evil just when they should be thinking of good."
"I won't talk about it," the boy said.
"Not until after the Niman dances," Lomatewa said. "Not until after the ceremonial is over and the kachinas are gone. After that you can tell about it."
Lomatewa picked up his bundle of spruce and settled the straps over his shoulders, flinching at the soreness in his joints. He felt every one of his seventy-three years, and he still had almost thirty miles to walk across Wepo Wash and then the long climb up the cliffs of Third Mesa. He led his guardians down the path past the body. Why not? They had already seen the mutilated feet and knew the meaning of that. And this death had nothing to do with the Hopis. This particular piece of evil was Navajo and the Navajos would have to pay for it.
ust as he reached the rim
of Balakai Mesa, Pauling checked the chronometer. It was 3:20:15. On time and on course. He held the Cessna about two hundred feet above the ground and the same distance below the top of the rimrock. Ahead, the moon hung yellow and slightly lopsided just above the horizon. It lit the face of the man who sat in the passenger's seat, giving his skin a waxy look. The man was staring straight ahead, lower lip caught between his teeth, studying the moon. To Pauling's right, not a hundred yards off the wingtip, the mesa wall rushed past—a pattern of black shadows alternating with reflected moonlight. It gave Pauling a sense of speed, oddly unusual in flight, and he savored it.
On the desert floor below, the sound of the engine would be echoing off the cliffs. But there was no one to hear it. No one for miles. He had chosen the route himself, flown it twice by daylight and once by night, memorized the landmarks and the terrain. There was no genuine safety in this business, but this was as safe as Pauling could make it. Here, for example, Balakai Mesa protected him from the radar scanners at Albuquerque and Salt Lake. Ahead, just to the left of the setting moon, Low Mountain rose to 6,700 feet and beyond that Little Black Spot Mesa was even higher. Southward, blocking radar from Phoenix, the high mass of Black Mesa extended for a hundred miles or more. All the way from the landing strip in Chihuahua there was less than a hundred miles where radar could follow him. It was a good route. He'd enjoyed finding it, and he loved flying it low, with its landmarks rising into the dying moon out of an infinity of darkness. Pauling savored the danger, the competition, as much as he delighted in the speed and the sense of being the controlling brain of a fine machine.
Balakai Mesa was behind him now and the black shape of Low Mountain slid across the yellow disk of the moon. In the darkness he could see a single sharp diamond of light—the single bulb which lit the gasoline pump at Low Mountain Trading Post. He banked the Cessna slightly to the left, following the course of Tse Chizzi Wash, skirting away from the place where the sound of his engine might awaken a sleeper.
"About there?" the passenger asked.
"Just about," Pauling said. "Over this ridge ahead there's Oraibi Wash, and then another bunch of ridges, and then you get to Wepo Wash. That's where we're landing. Maybe another six or seven minutes."
"Lonely country," the passenger said. He looked down upon it out of the side window, and shook his head. "Nobody. Like there was nobody else on the planet."
"Not many. Just a few Indians here and there. That's why it was picked."
The passenger was staring at the moon again. "This is the part that makes you nervous," he said.
"Yeah," Pauling agreed. But what part of "this part" did the man mean? Landing in the dark? Or what was waiting when they landed? For once Pauling found himself wishing he knew a little more about what was going on. He thought he could guess most of it. Obviously they weren't flying pot. Whatever was in the suitcases would have to be immensely valuable to warrant all the time and the special care. Picking this special landing place, for example, and having a passenger along. He hadn't had anyone riding shotgun with him for years. And when he had, when he'd first moved into this business—cut off from flying for Eastern by the bad reading on his heart—the passenger had been just one of the other hired hands sent along to make sure he didn't steal the load. This time the passenger was a stranger. He'd driven up to the motel at Sabinas Hidalgo with the boss just before it was time to go to the landing strip. Pauling guessed he must represent whoever was buying the shipment. The boss had said that Jansen would be at the other end, at the landing point with the buyers. "Two flashes, then a pause, and then two flashes," the boss had said. "If you don't see it, you don't land." Jansen representing the boss, and this stranger representing the buyers. Both trusted. It occurred to Pauling that the passenger, like Jansen, was probably a relative. Son or brother, or something like that. Family. Who else could you trust in this business, or in anything else?
Oraibi Wash flashed under them, a crooked streak of shadowed blackness in the slanting moonlight. Pauling eased the wheel slightly backward to move the aircraft up the desert slope, and then forward as the land fell away again. Broken ground under him now, a landscape cut by scores of little watercourses draining Black Mesa's flash floods into Wepo Wash. He had the engine throttled down to just above stalling speed now. To his left front he saw the black upthrust of basalt which was the right landmark shape in the right place. And then, just under his wingtip, there was the windmill, with the shadowed bottom of the wash curving just ahead. He should see the lights now. He should see Jansen blinking his… Then he saw them. A line of a dozen points of yellow light—the lenses of battery lanterns pointing toward him. And almost instantly, two flashes of white light, and two more flashes. Jansen's signal that all was well.
He made a slow pass over the lights and began a slow circle, remembering exactly how the wash bottom looked as his wheels approached it, concentrating on making his memory replace the darkness with daylight.
Pauling became conscious that the passenger was staring at him. "Is that all you have?" the passenger asked. "You land by that goddamn row of flashlights?"
"The idea is not to attract any attention," Pauling said. Even in the dim light, he could see the passenger's expression was startled.
"You've done this before?" the man asked. His voice squeaked a little. "Just put it down blind in the dark like this?"
"Just a time or two," Pauling said. "Just when you have to." But he wanted to reassure the man. "Used to be in the Tactical Air Force. We had to practice landing those transport planes in the dark. But we're not really landing blind here. We have those lights."
They were lined up on the lights now. Pauling trimmed the plane. Wheels down. Flaps down. His memory gave him the arroyo bottom now. Nose up. He felt the lift going mushy under the wings, the passenger bracing himself in the seat beside him, that brief moment before touch down when the plane was falling rather than flying.
"You do this on trust," the passenger said. "Jesus. Jesus." It was a prayer.
They were below the level of the wash banks now, the lights rushing toward them. The wheels touched with a jounce and a squeal as Pauling touched the brakes. Perfect, he thought. You have to learn to trust. And in the very split second that he had the thought, he saw that trust was a terrible mistake.