Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, retired, had been explaining how
the complicated happening below the Salt Woman Shrine
illustrated his Navajo belief in universal connections.
The cause leads to inevitable effect. The entire cosmos
being an infinitely complicated machine all working
together. His companions, taking their mid-morning coffee
break at the Navajo Inn, didn't interrupt him. But they
didn't seem impressed.
"I'll admit the half-century gap between the day all those
people were killed here and Billy Tuve trying to pawn that
diamond for twenty dollars is a problem," Leaphorn
said. "But when you really think about it, trace it all
back, you see how one thing kept leading to another. The
Captain Pinto, who now occupied Joe Leaphorn's
preretirement office in the Navajo Tribal Police
Headquarters, put down his cup. He signaled a refill to
the waitress who was listening to this conversation, and
waited a polite moment for Leaphorn to explain this if he
wished. Leaphorn had nothing to add. He just nodded, sort
of agreeing with himself.
"Come on, Joe," Pinto said. "I know how that theory works
and I buy it. Hard, hot wind blowing gets the birds tired
of flying. One too many birds lands on a limb. Limb breaks
off, falls into a stream, diverts water flow, undercuts
the stream bank, causes a landslide, blocks the stream,
floods the valley, changes the flora and that changes the
fauna, and the folks who were living off of hunting the
deer have to migrate. When you think back you could blame
it all on that wind."
Pinto stopped, got polite, attentive silence from his
fellow coffee drinkers, and decided to add a footnote.
"However, you have to do a lot of complicated thinking to
work in that Joanna Craig woman. Coming all the way out
from New York just because a brain-damaged Hopi tries to
pawn a valuable diamond for twenty bucks."
Captain Largo, who had driven down from his Shiprock
office to attend a conference on the drunk-driving
problem, entered the discussion. "Trouble is, Joe, the
time gap is just too big to make you a good case. You say
it started when the young man with the camera on the
United Airlines plane was sort of like the last bird on
Pinto's fictional tree limb, so to speak. He mentioned to
the stewardess he'd like to get some shots down into the
Grand Canyon when they were flying over it. Isn't that the
theory? The stewardess mentions that to the pilot, and so
he does a little turn out of the cloud they're flying
through, and cuts right through the TWA airplane. That was
June 30, 1956. All right. I'll buy that much of it.
Passenger asks a favor, pilot grants it. Boom. Everybody
dead. End of incident. Then this spring, about five
decades later, this Hopi fella, Billy Tuve, shows up in a
Gallup pawnshop and tries to pawn a twenty-thousand-dollar
diamond for twenty bucks. That touches off another series
of events, sort of a whole different business. I say it's
not just another chapter, it's like a whole new book.
Hell, Tuve hadn't even been born yet when that collision
happened. Right? And neither had the Craig woman."
"Right," said Pinto. "You have a huge gap in that cause-
and-effect chain, Joe. And we're just guessing the kid
with the camera asked the pilot to turn. Nobody knows why
the pilot did that."
Leaphorn sighed. "You're thinking about the gap you see in
one single connecting chain. I'm thinking of a bunch of
different chains which all seem to get drawn together."
Largo looked skeptical, shook his head, grinned at
Leaphorn. "If you had one of your famous maps here, could
you chart that out for us?"
"It would look like a spiderweb," Pinto said.
Leaphorn ignored that. "Take Joanna Craig's role in this.
The fact she wasn't born yet is part of the connection.
The crash killed her daddy. From what Craig said, that
caused her mama to become a bitter woman and that caused
Craig to be bitter, too. Jim Chee told me she wasn't
really after those damned diamonds when she came to the
canyon. She just wanted to find them so she could get
That produced no comment.
"You see how that works," Leaphorn said. "And that's what
drew that Bradford Chandler fellow into the case. The skip
tracer. He may have been purely after money, but his job
was blocking Craig from getting what she was after. That's
what sent him down into the canyon. And Cowboy Dashee was
down there doing family duty. For Chee, the pull was
friendship. And -- " Leaphorn stopped, sentence unfinished.
Pinto chuckled. "Go on, Joe," he said. "How about Bernie
Manuelito? What pulled little Bernie into it?"
"It was fun for Bernie," Leaphorn said. "Or love."
"You know," said Largo. "I can't get over our little
Bernie. I mean, how she managed to get herself out of that
mess without getting killed. And another thing that's hard
to figure is how you managed to butt in. You're supposed
to be retired."
"Pinto gets the blame for that," Leaphorn said. "Telling
me old Shorty McGinnis had died. See? That's another of
the chain I was talking about."
"I was just doing you a favor, Joe," Pinto said. "I knew
you were getting bored with retirement. Just wanted to
give you an excuse to try your hand at detecting again."
"Saved your budget some travel money, too," Leaphorn said,
grinning. He was remembering that day, remembering how
totally out-it-all he'd felt, how happy he'd been driving
north in search of the McGinnis diamond -- which he'd
never thought had actually existed. Now he was thinking
about how a disaster buried under a lifetime of dust had
risen again and the divergent emotions it had stirred.
Greed, obviously, and hatred, plus family duty, a debt
owed to a friend. And perhaps, in Bernie Manuelito's case,