The rain had washed the dust and grime off the trees and hillsides. Early morning dew sparkled like gems on the weeds that crowded the gullies lining the narrow road leading to the reservation. A scruffy coyote darted across the road in front of Tempe’s Blazer. She remembered sitting in her grandmother’s lap listening to Indian stories. All of them were filled with animals, and many had a coyote as a major character. She could hear her grandmother’s voice in her head.
People spread out all over the mountains, taking all the land and eating all the good food. The animals didn’t have any place to go. Eagle, chief of the animals, told them they shouldn’t stay in their usual places because People had taken them over.
Eagle asked, “Where do you want to go? What will you be? I’m going to fly high in the air. I’ll live on squirrels and deer.”
Hairy Man said, “I’ll go live in the big trees and hunt only at night when the people are sleeping.”
Dog said, “I’ll stay with People and be their friend. I will follow them and maybe they’ll give me food to eat.”
Buzzard said, “When something dies I will smell it. I will find it and eat it.”
Crow said, “When I find something dead, I will pick out its eyes.”
Coyote said, “I’ll eat grasshoppers. That’s how I’ll live.”
Hummingbird said, ‘I’ll get my food from the flowers.”
Condor said, “I’ll go far off into the mountains. I’ll find food to eat there.”
Woodpecker said, “I’ll gather acorns and make holes in the trees to keep them safe.”
Bluejay said, ‘I’ll make trees grow all over the hills. I will work for my food."
Rat said, “I will go where the old trees are and make my house in them.”
That was when the animals stopped being like us and scattered all over the countryside.
When Tempe was a little girl she loved sitting on her grandma’s lap and listening to the old stories. She’d never questioned her grandmother about any of the tales, but she’d wondered about some things. One question that she wished she’d asked was, “Who was the Hairy Man?” She returned to the job at hand when she reached the sign announcing the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. Thanks to the tutelage of Nick Two John, Tempe knew that the original inhabitants of the San Joaquin valley were the Yokut-speaking tribes. They occupied the lands along the rivers and creeks flowing from the Sierra. The Indians who lived on the reservation kept their goal of self-government and self-sufficiency. Nick had told her that there were plants that could be picked in all seasons that were healthier than anything in the market. Tempe wondered how anyone could tell the difference between the good plants and the ones that Nick said could be used to kill.
She glanced at her watch. There was plenty of time to drop in on Cruz Murphy before her appointment with Daniel Burcena. Instead of taking the turn off to the casino, she headed into the main part of the reservation.
Life on the rez had improved a great deal since Tempe made her first visit several years ago, though not the way the residents drove. Despite the fact that the street was two lane and full of blind curves, big trucks and SUVS as well as sedans, whipped around corners without slowing down. Despite having lots of experience driving fast on winding mountain roads, Tempe never drove with such abandon unless she was headed for an emergency.
New homes had sprouted up everywhere. A health and education center had been established. Tempe headed toward the building sporting a sign that read, “Bear Creek Public Safety Department.”
A white truck with Public Safety printed on the side along with the Bear Creek logo was parked in front. Tempe hoped that meant Chief Murphy was inside.
She parked her Blazer behind the truck, got out and surveyed the area. A chain link fence surrounded the stucco building painted in bright shades of red, blue and yellow. The gate at the side stood open. The front door was unlocked. Tempe opened it and stepped inside. At the front desk behind a counter, sat a young, plump Indian woman, probably about the same age as Tempe. She looked up and grinned. “How can I help you?”
“I’m Deputy Crabtree and I wondered if I could speak with Chief Murphy,” Tempe said.
“He’s in his office. I’ll tell him you’re here.” The woman smiled again and walked down a short hall, knocked on one of the doors, and stepped inside.
In a moment, she was back. Still smiling, she beckoned to Tempe. “This way.”
Tempe moved around the counter and down the short hall. The receptionist, held the door open for her.
A muscular man with a buzz cut, wearing a light khaki shirt and dark tan trousers came around a battered oak desk, his hand extended.
Tempe grasped it and his handshake was warm and strong. She studied him and noticed though his skin color and eyes were dark, his features reflected more of his Irish heritage.
When he released her hand, he smiled displaying healthy white teeth. “Deputy Crabtree, I think this is the first time we’ve met, though I’ve certainly heard about you. Take a seat and tell me what brings you out to the rez.”
Tempe chose one of two chairs opposite the desk. Like the desk, both had seen better days. It was an oak desk chair with a lumpy cushion. “If you’d like, call me Tempe.”
“I’m Cruz and I’m having difficulty remembering to answer to Chief Murphy. I keep wondering who he is.” Cruz grinned. “Welcome to my office, such as it is.”
Mismatched file cabinets lined one wall. Boards supported by cement blocks served as bookcases which held a few books. The only decorations were a beautiful dream catcher and a framed copy of a diploma from the University of Southern California for Murphy Cruz’s MBA in Public Safety.
“I have an appointment with Daniel Burcena in a little while. I thought I might stop by and see you first. Nick Two John is a good friend of mine. He suggested that I meet you.”
Though Cruz’s expression didn’t change, Tempe could tell by the movement in his eyes that he was digesting what she’d said.
“Nick Two John is a good friend of mine too. We grew up here on the reservation. He is a few years older, but I always looked up to him. He knows so much about the old ways.”
“Detective Morrison is in charge of the investigation into the death of Supervisor Quintera and I’m on special assignment helping him with that investigation,” Tempe said.
Again, Cruz’s dark eyes shifted slightly. “I heard she died of a heart attack.”
“Yes, that’s what it looks like. However, there’s some doubt surrounding her death because she had no history of heart disease nor was any found during the autopsy.”
“Detective Morrison suspects foul play?” Cruz leaned forward in his chair and folded his hands on top of the papers on his desk.
“Who does he think might have killed Lilia?”
Because he used the supervisor’s first name, Tempe to asked, “Did you know Supervisor Quintera on a personal basis?”
“Lilia was extremely helpful when the tribe first proposed starting our own public safety department. Because Lilia knows my family and she knew what I majored in at college as well as my seven years service as a police officer in San Luis Obispo. She suggested I become the Chief of the department. She attended my swearing in ceremony. Has the sheriff’s department identified a suspect?”
Tempe sighed. “There seem to be several.”
“I’m guessing her husband, Wade Bates, is the primary.”
“Your guess would be correct. Because he’s a nurse, he would have access to medicine that might cause a heart attack. It seems he wasn’t the most faithful husband.”
“Yes, I’ve heard rumors to that effect, though I hadn’t heard anything about Lilia considering divorce. Anything else that might be a motive?”
“The detective is looking into whether or not there was enough insurance money to tempt Bates. But there are others who might have wanted Supervisor Quintera dead.”
“I’m guessing some of the others might be here on the reservation.”
“Maybe, though I don’t know. What I do know is some of the Indians were disappointed that Lilia wasn’t more enthusiastic about the proposed hotel on the highway.”
Cruz nodded. “Yes, I’ve heard rumblings of that nature. However, I don’t really see how killing Lilia would help. This is the first time she hasn’t supported the reservation with a proposed plan.”
“On the other hand, given time,” Tempe said, “she might have been one of the major sponsors. I don’t think she was happy with the way she was expected to champion it before the proper environmental tests were done and the permits acquired. Maybe someone out here was unhappy about her reluctance and acted without thinking.”
“In a murder case, anything is possible. What are you going to talk to Daniel Burcena about?”
“I have no idea. He’s the one who called me.”
“Claudia Donato is worried that a hotel on the highway will lure away Bear Creek Inn’s customers.”
“Worried enough to do something to Lilia?”
“I don’t believe either she or Nick would think the supervisor’s death would stop the building of the hotel.” Tempe changed the subject. “When I was talking to Nick Two John, he told me about the plants that grow wild out here that could be used to poison someone and look like a heart attack.”
“Most of those plants grow wild everywhere. I wonder why he’d mention that to you?”
“I don’t know, but why would he want me to talk to you? I thought perhaps you might know something about someone on the reservation that would be helpful to this investigation.”
Cruz Murphy leaned back in his chair. He ran his hands over the top of his buzz cut and then cupped his head. “The reservation is a small community and like any small community all sorts of gossip floats around. I’ve heard plenty of talk that might be related to Lilia’s death, some about Lilia, her husband Wade Bates, Indians who live on the rez and some who live off of it. Because it’s all rumor and innuendo which has increased since the news of Lilia’s death, I’m not going to repeat any of it unless you come up with specific questions.”
Tempe glanced at her watch, nearly time for her appointment at the casino. “My husband would applaud you. Can I come back if I do have questions about someone?” She stood.
Cruz lifted himself from his chair and shook her hand again. “Of course. I’d like to hear what Dan has to say. He might be more inclined to tell you the gossip.”
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Dispel the Mist can be purchased from all the usual places and as a trade paperback or e-book from the publisher website at http://www.mundaniapress.com/ and to see a book trailer and read more about the book, go to my website at http://fictionforyou.com
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REVIEW: ...I especially loved the inclusion of Native American folklore, which added even more mystery to the story. This story was like being on a roller coaster that only went uphill. It filled me with the same breath-holding anticipation of what was to come when I finally reached the top.
***** 5 Stars--Marilyn Thompson, Author /Reviewer
Mind Fog Reviews
...Meredith delicately handles the misconceptions of people with a disability which is woven into the storyline. The characters are strong and easy to relate to, making the story more enticing. A must read for mystery lovers. –SingleTitles.com
...The unsettling dreams that Tempe experiences, along with continued involvement at the reservation, bring in the Native American elements that flow through the Crabtree books. One can certainly tell the level of research Meredith has undertaken in order to create this series. In addition, the author's past experience as a caregiver may have played into this book as well. Filled with suspense, mystery and legends, you'll keep turning pages until you reach a satisfying conclusion.–Cheryl Maladrinos
...Dispel the Mist has an exciting and gripping conclusion that brings Native American myth alive with unexpected deus ex machina. Like all good mythology, it has real history and truth at its core. This is a great way to spend a few hours. While the book stands on its own, I recommend that you read the entire series. --Benay Weiss, Reviewer
...This book has been nominated for one of The American Author's Association's annual book awards for 2009. I would say that this is one of the 10 best mystery books I have read in the last two decades! It is a book worth your time reading! It is truly a FIVE STAR RATED BOOK!--W. H. McDonald Jr. "The American Author Association."
Amazon Review 5 Stars
In Marilyn Meredith's "Dispel The Mist" ethereal Native American legends play an equally important part in uncovering a killer as the modern methods of crime detection her heroine, Deputy Tempe Crabtree uses as she tries to solve the suspicious death of a local bureaucrat. Marilyn Meredith is one of the hardest working mystery authors out there today, and always manages to deliver the goods with a solid, entertaining read, sans all of the gratuitous sex scenes and shoot-outs so prevalent in many of today's mystery offerings. "Dispel The Mist," number eight in the Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series, is, in my opinion, her best one yet. --Kenneth R. Lewis, author of Little Blue Whales
Authors Note: The Bear Creek Reservation has a fictional resemblance to the Tule River Indian Reservation. I can see the mountains of the reservation from my office window. Going along on a field trip to the rock shelter that protects the pictograph of the Hairy Man and his family inspired this story.