NO GRAVEYARDS; that bothered Anna. People died. Unless you ate them, burned them, or mailed them to a friend, the bodies had to go somewhere. In any event, there would at least be bones. A civilization that lived and died for six hundred years Mould leave a mountain of bones.
No graveyards and then no people. Inhabitants cooking, weaving, farming one day, then, the next, gone. Pots till on cold ashes, doormats rotting in doorways, tools lying beside half-finished jobs.
So: an invading army swooped down and massacred everybody. Then where were the bashed-in skulls? Chipped bone fragments? Teeth sown like corn?
A plague: the American version of the Black Death, an antiquated form of Captain Tripps, killing two out of every three people. The survivors abandoning a desolated community, carting thousands and thousands of dead bodies with them? Not bloody likely. Not in a society without benefit of the wheel.
Once people got factored into an equation all bets were off; still, there ought to be corpses. Anna couldn't think of any civilization that couldn't be counted on to leave corpses and garbage for the next generation.
A hand smacked down on the Formica and Anna started in her chair.
"Where were you?" hissed Alberta Stinson, head of Interpretation for Chapin Mesa.
"Anywhere but here, At," Anna whispered back. She dragged a hand down her face to clear it of dreams and looked surreptitiously at her watch. The staff meeting had been dragging on for two hours. The coffee was gone and there never had been any doughnuts.
Stinson poked Anna in the ribs with a blunt forefinger. "Stay awake. The Boys are ona rampage." At always referred to Mesa Verde's administration rather disdainfully as "The Boys." Stinson was fifteen pounds over what the glossy magazines recommended, with salt-and-pepper hair that looked as if it had been cut with pinking shears. Leading tours, giving programs, wandering the myriad ruins on the mesas, she had a face creased by the weather from forehead to chin, and the skin around her eyes was crinkled from squinting against the sun's glare. Near as Anna could tell, the woman had but two passions in life: discovering why the Old Ones had vanished and seeing to it that any despoilers of their relics did likewise.
Anna pulled Stinson's yellow pad toward her. Beneath At's sketches of nooses, guillotines, and other means of mayhem, she scribbled: "No help here. I'm a lowly GS-7. teeth."
Thirty minutes had elapsed since Anna had mentally checked out and still the debate raged. Money had come down from Congress, scads of the stuff, allocated for the digging up and replacing of the antiquated waterline serving the homes and public buildings of Mesa Verde National Park. Since May heavy machinery and heated arguments had roared over the ancient land. Meetings had been called and called off on a weekly basis.
The resultant acrimony clogged the high desert air like dust from the ditcher. As always in small towns, toxins trickled down. When the powers that be waged war, the peasants took sides. Even the seasonals gathered in tight groups, biting assorted backs and sipping righteous indignation with beer chasers.
New to the mesa, Anna'd not been drafted into either army, but the constant dissension wore at her nerves and aggravated her hermit tendencies.
Around a table of meta) and Formica-the kind usually reserved for the serving of bad chicken at awards banquets -- sat the leading players: a lean and hungry-looking administrative officer with a head for figures and an eye for progress; the chief ranger, a wary whip of a man determined to drag the park out of the dark ages of plumbing and into the more impressive visitation statistics additional water would allow; Ted Greeley, the contractor hired to pull off this feat in a timely manner; and A] Stinson: historian, archaeologist, and defender of the dead. Or at least the sanctity of science's claim on the dead.
When the Anasazi had vanished from the mesa, their twelfth-century secrets had vanished with them. Stinson was determined to stop twentieth-century machinery from destroying any clue before it was studied. Since the entire landscape of Chapin Mesa was a treasure trove of artifacts, the digging of so much as a post hole gave the archaeologist nightmares. The contractor had been brought on board to trench seventeen miles of land six feet deep.
Theodore Roosevelt Greeley of Greeley Construction had a job to do and was being paid handsomely to do it.
Though Greeley had a veneer of bonhomie, he struck Anna as a hard-core capitalist. She suspected that to his modern Manifest Destiny mentality, the only good Indian was a profitable indian.
Fingers ever -- tensed on the purse strings, the chief ranger and the administrative officer leaned toward Greeley's camp.
Anna and Hills Dutton, the district ranger, were the only noncombatants present. Dutton's impressive form was slouched in a folding chair near the end of the table. He'd removed the ammunition from the magazine of his Sig Sauer nine-millimeter and appeared to be inventorying it bullet by bullet.
As was his want, the chief ranger was mumbling and it took her a second to recognize her name.
"Any input?" The chief was just shifting the heat from himself. None of this august body gave two hoots about what she thought. She and Hills were there only because the secretary refused to go for coffee.
"Well, if all nonessential personnel were required to live out of the park the problem would be alleviated considerably." Nonessential included not only seasonal interpreters, but also archaeologists, department heads, the administrative officer, the chief ranger, and the superintendent himself. Anna's suggestion was met with annoyed silence. Satisfied she'd offended everyone at the table and it would be a good long time before they again bothered her...