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Authors: David Cole

Dragonfly Bones

BOOK: Dragonfly Bones
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David Cole
Dragonfly Bones

for Carol Jo Ellick
who reminded me why I write these books

 

Yesterday upon the stair

I saw a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

Oh how I wish he'd go away

 

Old Nursery Rhyme

 

We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:16–17

Astronomers have gazed out at the universe for centuries, asking why it is the way it is. But lately a growing number of them are dreaming of universes that never were and asking, why not? Why, they ask, do we live in 3 dimensions of space and not 2, 10 or 25? Why is a light ray so fast and a whisper so slow? Why are atoms so tiny and stars so big? Why is the universe so old? Does it have to be that way, or are there places, other universes, where things are different?

 

Dennis Overbye

A New View of Our Universe: Only One of Many

The New York Times,
October 29, 2002

T
he landscapers arrived before sunrise.

Jack Klossberg drove the rented crane flatbed, loaded with three fifteen-foot palo verde trees, their root balls secure in heavy burlapping tied with twine. Emilia Guzman and Jesus Totexto followed in a brand new red three-quarter ton Chevy pickup, trailer-towing the backhoe. Both vehicles had bright spoked wheels, all the paint and chrome carefully polished that morning, and the Landmasters LLC logo freshly painted on both door panels.

Passing the access road to Casa Grande National Monument, Klossberg turned left onto State Route 287 and drove slowly, checking a hand drawn map as he turned right on Kenworthy Road. Reaching the end of the pavement, he stuck an arm out the window, motioning the Chevy to follow him up a rise onto a dirt access road into the staked area of a new housing development with three model homes. Two roofers sat on top of an unfinished fourth house, drinking coffee, while another man stacked half-moon shaped adobe roof tiles.

“Who's gonna buy these here houses?” Guzman said as she unloaded the ice chest and the twenty-gallon water cooler.

“People with money.” Klossberg shrugged. “Except they don't have enough money to buy anything in Tucson.”

All three of them walked behind the model homes, look
ing over the ten-acre tract rising gently to the east. Roughly half had been pretty much clearcut, except for some huge mesquite trees. Red stakes marked off the corners of different-sized lots, yellow stakes on both sides of rough graded streets. A bulldozer sat beyond the stakes, exhaust stack rattling as the engine warmed, the operator consulting a map where he'd begin clearing clumps of warm-season bunchgrass.

Klossberg liked upland bunchgrass, couldn't figure why the tract designer wanted to level all the mountain muhly, burrograss, sideoats and blue grama, and buffalo grass. Shaking his head, he crumpled dirt in his hand, feeling small lumps of decomposed granite and gritty limestone sand.

“Helluva place to plow off and landscape with city plantings,” he said, kicking at an area of hardpan caliche. “They oughta just leave it natural.”

“Then I'd earn no money for my kids,” Guzman said. “Great view, anyway.”

“If I had my scoped .30-30,” Totexto said, pretending he was aiming west, “I could prolly hit some long haul trucker on I-10.”

Klossberg shook his head.

“Come on, kids. Thirty holes to dig today.”

They leaned against the flatbed, drinking some water, nobody talking anymore. Five in the morning, the July heat already near one hundred degrees. Birds calling their early warnings, a string of Gambel's quail chicks scurrying behind their indignant mother, red-tailed hawks already circling above the desert floor, and half a mile away he saw some mourning doves flying in and out of the tall, open shed that covered the Casa Grande ruins.

Klossberg finished his cup of water, consulted his map, pointed. Totexto shrugged off his sleeveless tee shirt and lowered the trailer ramp. Guzman stripped to her yellow tanktop and climbed into the seat of the backhoe. Its engine fired immediately, coughed some, settled into a purr. Guz
man carefully backed it down the ramp and headed toward the bright pink stakes Klossberg was hammering into the hardpan desert floor, whacking the tops of the stakes with the flat of a shovel blade.

Half an hour later, Klossberg and Totexto had the first palo verde tree craned over the side of the flatbed, suspended above the first hole. A platinum-colored Ford Excursion came toward them, tinted windows closed and the aircon going.

Accelerating toward the unfinished home, the Excursion just barely slowed as the driver slalomed left past the flatbed. Rooster tails of dust and small stones blew back, cracking hard against the flatbed's front windshield, clanking off the paint.


Whoa,
dude!” Guzman shouted when a stone whacked her hardhat. “What's your hurry?”

Five minutes later, the first palo verde stood upright in the hole. Klossberg and Guzman started slashing the burlaping off the root ball. Another car came up the road. A Chevy Tahoe, stopping next to them. Painted whiter than white, so white that the reflections of green creosote bush and red-tipped ocotillos paled against the Tahoe's doors, the white bleaching out color, absorbing all other colors, even the brilliant red of the hand-painted sign on the door.

RAPTURE WARRIORS CAMP

“Yo,” the driver said through the open passenger side window.

Klossberg nodded without speaking. Totexto stared at the beautiful black girl in the passenger seat.

“Where they at?” the driver said.

Klossberg pointed to the model homes and turned to the root ball. But the Excursion was already driving back toward them, braking abruptly but expertly so the front bumper was just inches from the Tahoe. Two men got out. Suits, ties, black Resistol hats, cowboy boots with roper heels, newly
polished and shiny. One of the men came forward, already wiping road dust from his boots.

A deputy sheriff came out of the Tahoe, a Winchester twelve-gauge pump shotgun held upright, the barrel against his right shoulder.

“Howdy,” he said. “Depitty Thumb. You them security people?”

“Brittles,” the lead man said. “And Pardee.”

Thumb extended a hand, but Brittles ignored it and quietly opened the Tahoe's passenger car. The girl came out, hesitantly, awkwardly. Anxious, eyes flicking from side to side, chewing gum hard. Leg chains, wrists cuffed with a two-foot chain. An orange jumpsuit, short sleeves. A teenager, barely sixteen, Brittles thought. Gorgeous face, model gorgeous, impossibly perfect and high cheekbones, skin completely unblemished. When she leaned forward to stretch some muscles, her jumpsuit gaped open at the top. Brittles saw her breasts and quickly cut his eyes away in the same moment he realized she'd leaned over on purpose.

“This here's Theresa Prejean,” Thumb said.

“Please take off her cuffs and chains,” Brittles asked quietly.

“Can't do that. She's pure bad dog.”

Pardee, leaning against the Excursion, pulled away and walked a few steps in Thumb's direction.

“People aren't dogs,” he said.

“Who the hell are
you
?” Thumb asked.

“Security,” Brittles answered.

“Feebs? U.S. Marshals?”

“Not your concern. And who are you? I thought this girl was coming from a troubled teenagers boot camp.”

“Rapture Warriors. But when they go bad, they be taken off property temporary-like to the Pinal County jail. Overnight, then on to Phoenix.”

Thumb was a large man, flat-faced and barrel-chested like a Navajo, but his gut spread wider than his chest, his body
soft and fleshy, and he moved awkwardly, leaning back slightly as though to counterbalance the weight of his gut and the twenty-pound police belt with radios, cuffs, ammo pouches, and a huge walnut-handled revolver in a worn red leather holster.

“You're a deputy sheriff,” Brittles said. “But you're driving a private car?”

“So I moonlight. Well, I work graveyard as depitty, so guess I daylight. Rapture Warriors Camp pays me twice the hourly rate. For my expertise.”

“Thumb,” Pardee asked, not bothering to hide his smirk. “Is that really your name?”

“Early Thumb.” Said defiantly, having seen the smirks all his life. “I'm Apache. That's my Apache name. Depitty sheriff, Pima County.”

“But this is Pinal County. What are you doing all the way up from Tucson?”

“I live here. In Florence. Near the prison. You ready to get this on, or what?”

“Thumb,” the other man said with a smile to himself.

“Don't you all make a mistake here,” Thumb said. “I may look and talk desert, but I think city.”

“It's her handcuffs and chains,” Brittles said. “It's calling her a dog.”

“Well. Y'all ain't never been prison correctional officers,” Thumb said. “Some in prison worse than dogs 'n snakes. But it's not disrespect, calling her bad dog. That's how she's ranked, over at Rapture Warriors. If she didn't run her mouth all the time, she worked her tasks, she'd be upped to good dog and the chains come off. I come here like I was told, but I'm fixing to leave. Show me some ID.”

“Miss Theresa Prejean?” Brittles said, taking out a leather badge holder, flashing a U.S. Marshal star for Thumb.

“Yessir,” she mumbled.

“Where are you from?”

“Norleans.”

He smiled, trying to calm her down. Frown lines deep between her narrowed eyes, she tried a smile, but only managed a flicker at the right corner of her lips. Brittles realized that she took him for Law, realized she was frightened out of her body about something, decided it would help if they just got on with it.

“You are the reason we're all out here, Theresa,” Brittles said.

She fidgeted. Thumb pulled her wrist chain, trying to get her to step forward.

“No need to do that,” Brittles said, and Thumb let go of the chain. “Does this man bother you, Miss Prejean?”

“Nossir.”

“If he does, we can ask him to wait in his car.”

“Nossir. Don't bother me none.”

“All right. What did you have to tell us?”

“Umm…”

“A body. We heard something about a body buried here.”

“Yes,” she said. “A body.”

“Buried here.”

“Here.”

“Exactly where,” Brittles said carefully, “is ‘here'?”

The sun flamed over the eastern horizon just then and she had to squint against the sudden brightness which sharply delineated trees and cars and bushes and people, drawing long, pencil-thin shadows stretching west.

“Way beyond that big mesquite tree,” she said, pointing toward the far end of the red and yellow stakes.

Brittles offered his arm to her. Surprised, she shifted her cuffed wrists to place one palm on Brittles's arm. They walked through the razed ground to the mesquite, where she spent some time looking around.

“They told me—”


Who
told you, girl?” Thumb shouted.

Defiant, she looked to Brittles to see if she should answer.

“For now, we just want to see if there really is a body.”

“Yessir,” she said. “'Bout fifteen paces directly that way.”

“Here?” Brittles went to the spot outside the stakes.

“Yessir.”

Brittles called Klossberg over.

“Can you get your backhoe in here?”

“Who's paying for the extra time?” Guzman asked, seeing money in this.

Brittles just nodded. Guzman hesitated, finally decided this was yes to more pay, and went back to bring the backhoe slowly across the desert floor.

“There could be relics in there,” Totexto complained to Klossberg.

She looked to Klossberg for an okay, but he held up his hand.

“You can't just go ripping a trench or something,” Totexto said. “You'll have the Park Service, all kinds of feds out here complaining you're disturbing an archeologically sensitive area.”

“That could be,” Brittles said, “but according to the GIS maps I've got of this area, the company that's building this housing development also owns all the land up to that ridge crest. And we've got the company's permission.”

“You sure about this?” Klossberg said.

“What's your name?”

“Jack Klossberg.”

“Nathan Brittles.” He offered his hand. They shook once, a quick but firm up-and-down bob. “I've arrested pothunters. Up on Hopi. On Dinetah. All over Arizona. I appreciate you being so careful. But if there is a body…we have to dig.”

“Don't let him do this, man!” Totexto complained.

“I'd need permission from the people who're putting in this development,” Klossberg said finally.

“That's all arranged.” Brittles took out a map of the development, marked into half-acre tracts. “We're only interested in this spot behind tract seventeen.”

“Big spot, guy. Where do I dig?”

“Don't know, exactly.”

“Okay,” Klossberg said. “We'll do it one trench at a time. We look through the dirt and stuff, we don't find any potshards, we take another trench.”

“Dude, you're making a
big
mistake,” Totexto said. “This desert here, this ain't even gonna have no houses on it. This en
tire
area's gonna just be landscaped.”

“Just get this over with,” Klossberg said.


I'm
not working this.”

“Suit yourself,” Brittles said, motioning to Guzman to go start up the backhoe. “Bring it on. Right over here.”

 

But the first three trenches, six feet deep, showed nothing. Eight-fifteen, the sun blazing, the temperature well over one hundred and ten. Even with the low humidity everyone was sweating. Brittles and Pardee took off their suit jackets. Both had guns, Brittles a Glock nine in a clip-on belt holster, and Pardee a Smith .40 in a shoulder rig.

“Hold it!” Klossberg shouted to Guzman, who'd just ripped out a fourth trench. “Lemme get a shovel.”

Brittles knelt at the trench, now down about four feet.

Klossberg lay on the ground, reached in to pull out pieces of ornate potshards. Striped with wavy black lines. He started to look at them carefully, but Brittles pulled on latex gloves, stepped cautiously in the trench, and picked up a small fragment.

“We send all the pieces to the Anthro Department at UA.” Klossberg held out his hand for the fragment. “They put everything together. Jigsaw puzzle.”

“This looks like bone,” Brittles said.

He motioned to Pardee, who went to his suit coat and brought back some plastic Baggies, using a marker pen to put #1 on the first bag, holding it open. Brittles started to drop the bone fragment, cut his head quickly to another spot in the trench, brushing dirt with both hands, picking out one bone fragment after another.

BOOK: Dragonfly Bones
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