Spider Woman's Daughter

Free Spider Woman's Daughter by Anne Hillerman

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Authors: Anne Hillerman
rock with wings—maps call it Shiprock—rising out of the desert. Its stone bulk reassured her. Her anger with Darleen seemed trivial now, a minor irritation in a world filled with more important things. Shiprock belonged to the long history of the Diné, to the deep roots that tied her to a sacred and beautiful landscape and to generations of strong people. She marveled at the bilagaana imagination, foreigners seeing the rock as a big boat. Did they envision the countryside around it as an ocean of sand?
    She parked the Toyota next to Chee’s truck, next to the loom he had built for her. Built it himself in the traditional way outside their trailer as a wedding present two years ago. A loom she hadn’t used yet.
    Bernie smelled something delicious wafting out of the trailer into the warm evening air. She walked up to Chee standing on the new deck he had constructed that spring, watched him load charcoal into the grill.
    “Hi. Heard anything more about the lieutenant?”
    “Hey, beautiful. Glad you’re home. First things first.” And he kissed her.


    A fter dinner, Chee put his arms around her. His warmth felt good; the night air cooled quickly at 6,000 feet. Bernie looked up. The stars shone brilliantly. As a child, she’d always wondered where the colors went when dusk faded—red and yellow to gray and black. Did they sink into the earth to reemerge with first light?
    Chee said, “Bigman told me he put you in charge of Leaphorn’s cat. I can’t imagine him having a cat. He doesn’t seem like a cat kind of guy.”
    She really didn’t want to talk about the cat, but she told him the story.
    “Don’t feel bad,” Chee said. “The Gallup Police couldn’t track down Benally on the UNM Gallup campus. Or his friend, either, and they had more to go on than you did. They figure neither of those guys made it to school today.”
    Bernie asked, “Did you find out anything about Leonard Nez? I don’t like Jackson Benally for it, but maybe Nez was involved.”
    “Nez has never been in trouble as far as we could find from a records search.” Chee shrugged. “Tomorrow I’ll work on tracking him down. We’ve got plenty of options for people with motives to hurt the lieutenant. But so far only three suspects.”
    “The boys and the mysterious missing Louisa.”
    “Louisa wouldn’t have shot him,” Bernie said.
    Chee said, “Think objectively. They argued. She’s missing.”
    “You’re starting to sound like an FBI,” Bernie said. “She couldn’t have done it. We know the woman. She gave us a wedding present.”
    “Well, if you don’t like any of them, we have the gallery of convicts on the disc Largo made. You busy tonight?”
    “Yikes. Let’s get started.” She walked into the house, and he followed. “I need some brain work. All I did today was clean Mama’s house and argue with Darleen.”
    “That, and almost getting killed and dealing with grumpy old Mrs. Benally.” Chee looked sheepish. “I forgot to tell you. Darleen called. She asked me to let you know that she sent Mrs. Darkwater home, and your mom was watching TV.”
    “Just before you drove in. She sounded like she’d been crying or something, but she said everything was fine. Didn’t want to talk about it. You think she’s okay?”
    “I don’t know,” Bernie said. “She smelled like beer today. She’s picked up a new boyfriend, a skinny guy a lot older. I’m calling him Stoop Boy because of his bad posture.”
    “Maybe she’s in love with the guy,” Chee said. “Love makes people do strange things. Look at me, for example, transformed from a bachelor eating Spam from the can to a budding gourmet chef, a Navajo Julia Child.”
    Bernie laughed. “You’re not at Julia’s level yet, but you do grill a good burger.”
    He hugged her. “Some girls will say anything for a meal.”
    She loved the way his skin smelled like summer. She turned her face toward his, and he leaned in . . .

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