Tribal policeman Bill Maytubby and Deputy Hannah Bond team up again to solve two gruesome murders in this follow-up to Nail’s Crossing
In a driving sleet storm, a farmer has discovered a body snagged on cottonwood roots in the Washita River. Johnston County deputy Hannah Bond realizes it’s her elderly friend, Alice. Meanwhile, at the Golden Play Casino, robbers posing as armored-car guards kill a local stickball hero and friend of Chickasaw Lighthorse Police detective Bill Maytubby.
The trail leads through the quarry-scarred Oklahoma badlands to a remote airstrip and a planeload of drugs and untraceable automatic weapons. Also somehow connected are a shady coin-op vending company; a neo-Nazi compound outside Paris, Texas; and a headless janitor in a train-mangled van. As the net tightens, the smugglers get wind of their pursuers and converge on Maytubby and Bond at Greasy Bend Bridge.
About the Author
Kris Lackey, author of the USA Today bestseller Nail’s Crossing, has published stories in the Missouri Review, Wisconsin Review, Cimarron Review, and other magazines. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
Read an Excerpt
Hannah Bond had just crossed the Washita River bridge on Oklahoma 1 when she saw a thin man standing at the barbed-wire fence that separated a vivid green stand of winter wheat from the highway's brown right-of-way. He waved his arms over his head. Bond pulled her cruiser onto the shoulder. As she set the brake and switched on the cruiser's strobes, she quickly scanned the field for idled farm machinery. Not so many years ago, these flag-downs often meant ugly accidents. Now, most farmers had cell phones. All she saw was a gray-and-red 1950s Ford row crop tractor parked by the fence, spouting gray exhaust. She also saw its tire tracks in the wheat. It had come straight across the field from the river.
Two steps down the embankment, she recognized Mason Arterbury by his violet cheeks and woolly white brows. Against the cold north wind, he wore Carhartt coveralls and a burnt-orange knit cap that twisted up like a flame.
Arterbury windmilled an arm to hurry Bond. He failed.
As she neared, he pointed toward the river. "Deputy, ma'am, there's a dead body hung up in a cottonwood snag, just at the end of Greasy Bend."
"I'll drive down to Mockingbird and follow the river back up. You park your tractor where you want me to stop."
Arterbury nodded, wide-eyed as a toddler. He mounted his tractor, clutched it into gear, and slapped the hand throttle. A vapor of sleet wafted into a rank of bur oaks at the field's edge.
Bond radioed the Johnston County Sheriff's dispatcher in Tishomingo, county seat and former capital of the Chickasaw Nation, and eased her cruiser along the riverside trail. The understory of hackberry and sumac thrashed in the wind. The sky darkened, and a denser wave of sleet shushed against her windshield. The riderless tractor appeared. Bond put on a brown aviator hat and buckled the earflaps under her chin. Then she pocketed her phone and pulled gloves on.
As Bond neared the tractor, Arterbury's torso bobbed up above the bank's rim. Apparently, he had gone back down to the river to make sure the dead body had stayed put. When he met Bond on the road, he looked up at her. "Yore tall. I forgot," he said.
"Lead the way," she said.
At the lip of the bank, he pointed down. "It's steep, but it ain't far."
They grasped oak-root banisters as they heel-slid down red Permian mud. The Washita swirled around red clots of flotsam. The clouds briefly thinned, spilling crooked light. Arterbury palmed a shock of willow branches aside to reveal the white grimace of an elderly woman, her gray eyes fixed on the hidden sun. A fork of cottonwood had caught one ankle. The other was missing.
"Somethin's got at her," Arterbury said. "Coyotes, prob'ly."
The woman's plum knit trousers ballooned clownishly, and her black blouse wrapped her neck like a scarf. Livid mastectomy scars tracked her chest, and her silt-stained bra rode under her arms, its prostheses lost. The body was slightly tilted in the snag, and Bond could see the small hands, bound in the back by quarter-inch sisal rope. Suddenly, the physical details flew together. Bond's gaze snapped to the racked face. She inhaled sharply and blinked.
"It is her, ain't it? The Nazarene. Germans. From over Wapanucka."
A gust of wind caught the upper limbs of the snag, and the corpse shuddered.
Hannah fought the urge to unzip her uniform coat. In her mind, the dead could feel. "Lang. Alice."
"You seen the bullet hole by her ear?"
Sirens whooped out across the wheat. Bond shook her head. Monkeyshines. The state Medical Examiner's Office in Oklahoma City was a long drive, and nothing was happening on Greasy Bend until an ME investigator got here.
Two days earlier Hannah Bond and Alice Lang had filled freezer bags at the Church of the Nazarene food bank in Tishomingo. Alice had opened a crate of frozen hot dogs from the regional bank and gasped, turning the label of one package toward Hannah. Everything on it except the brand name, Flying T Ranch, was printed in Cyrillic script. Alice said, "What kind of writing is that? Outer Mongolian? I'll swan, you never think of our weenies making their way to the ends of the earth."
Arterbury said, "She worked for the Indians."
"Chickasaw Nation," Bond said. "She was an accountant at Paska Manufacturing in Marietta. They precision-machine parts for baggage conveyors. Retired last year."
"I thought the Langs was German."
"You don't have to be Chickasaw to work for the nation, but I think she had a Turner up in the tree."
After Alice retired, she had gone with Hannah a few times to the outlet mall across the Texas line in Gainesville. Not a month had passed since they drove to Ardmore to hear the baby-faced John Fullbright sing "Jericho." As they were leaving the little civic theater, Alice said, "That young man ..."
"Oh, yeah," Hannah said.
Again the clouds massed and lowered. A driving sleet crept down the valley and did not stop when it found the corpse of Alice Lang. Bond watched the ice fill her surgical wounds and cover her eyes. Arterbury clambered up the bank to meet the posse. Bond looked upriver and pinched her brow.CHAPTER 2
Bill Maytubby steered his Chickasaw Lighthorse Police cruiser around Tishomingo's square, which commanded a bluff above Pennington Creek. In the square's center rose the stately former Chickasaw Nation Capitol, built of local Pennington granite. Sleet curtained its silver cupola and snapping flag
Maytubby approached the twenty-first-century seat of civil government, the Johnston County Courthouse. It was squat and dull as a salt lick. No sooner had he passed it than sheriff's cruisers spooled from the lot, sirens pitching up. He pulled over to let them pass. Hannah Bond might know what the commotion was about. He would call her after lunch.
Maytubby turned off Main into the chat parking lot of Gonzalez Mexican Restaurant. Simple white concrete-block building, acrylic sign with the compulsory green and red peppers. He had long ceased to see the building or the sign. He scented the hand-battered chile rellenos eased into fresh hot oil.
He looked for Jill Milton's mystic-green Accord, which he found nosed into a slot on the restaurant's lee side. She would have gone in through the kitchen to escape the wind. He always came through the kitchen, to watch the owner fillet Big Jims and stuff them with queso blanco. Today, the owner noticed Maytubby and nodded toward the east side of the dining room. The gesture was more handshake than help, because Maytubby and his fiancée always sat at the same window table if it was free, so they could look out over a clear pool of Pennington Creek.
A waiter at that table blocked his view of Jill Milton. Maytubby was surprised to see him setting plates of steaming rellenos on the gingham oilcloth. When the waiter left, Maytubby took his place. Jill was settling her raspberry squall jacket in the chair next to the window.
"So," Maytubby said.
Jill spun around, her important black hair turning a veronica.
Maytubby held his Smokey hat in both hands and nodded at the table. "He has good taste."
"Don't sound so surprised."
"I imagined him as a burrito man."
"Of course you did. That's what got you the boot. You think everybody but you is a burrito man."
"I'm overweening, is what you're saying."
"Your rellenos are getting cold, is what I'm saying, Sergeant. What's all the Keystone business out there?" She cocked her head toward the street.
"Don't know. Wasn't on that frequency. I'll call Hannah after lunch." Maytubby laid his hat on the window chair and unzipped his uniform coat. "First time you've ordered ahead. Does this mark a new frontier in the relationship?"
"What else have you ever ordered here?"
"I might have felt like something different today."
"Oh, I don't know. Burrito."
"Cold rellenos are nasty." She pointed her fork at his plate, and they both ate quickly.
When they paused for water, she said, "I ordered ahead because I've got a two o'clock in-service with the dietary staff at CNMC."
"Do any of your patients get chile rellenos?"
"Do they get chile rellenos. Chile rellenos are the backbone of medical nutrition."
"I knew it."
Maytubby noticed the little keloid scar on the bridge of Jill's nose. The summer before, a murderer named Hillers broke her nose on the gas tank of his motorcycle before Hannah Bond separated him from that motorcycle. Hillers was doing life in McAlester, a slug from Hannah's disreputable old .38 nestled against his femur.
Jill lifted the last remnant of the chile by its stem and finished it off. Maytubby did the same. They stared down at sleet falling into Pennington Creek. A few miles downstream, red Washita silt would stain its clear aquifer water like blood in a bath.
"Where were you ambushing the scourge Sugar this morning?"
"A ravaged city, I hear."
"Tumbrels and pyres."
"Then the Eagle nutrition troupe rides out of the east, sunlight glinting off its silver Chickasaw Nation Suburban, brass fanfare from the heavens."
"I need to put that part in the grant next year. Where it said 'reducing the incidence of type two diabetes.'?"
"Might make USDA uneasy. They'll cut your fake-vegetable budget."
"Speaking of, the girl who played Rain That Dances in the Eagle play?"
"The one who carries the veggie basket and says something about trying different colors every day."
"This morning, she tipped the basket and spilled a plaster tomato on the stage. It broke in a million pieces. Big cloud of plaster dust. One kid yelled, 'They want us to eat glass!' This other kid screamed, 'Rain That Dances dropped a tomato bomb!' It was bedlam."
"I see a casting call for Rain That Dances."
"No, she stuck it out, but she had the trembly lip. Where were you meting out rough justice this morning?"
"Checkerboard allotment lands on Oil Creek between Drake and Nebo. Cattle rustlers."
Dishes clattered in the kitchen.
"Did you hang 'em high?" Jill said.
"We — Murray County sheriff and I — don't know who's doing it. Owner and the guys he suspects are all members of the nation. All we got are tire and boot tracks. Get this: The pickup truck and cattle trailer together have eight tires. None of them match. No two alike."
"What about the boot tracks?"
"Umm. If you had gone to policeman school like me, you wouldn't ask a question like that."
"You know, medical nutrition has a special diet to treat people like you."
"What's on it?"
"Wiener schnitzel and bananas." She picked up her jacket and pushed her chair back. "Some dude almost rear-ended me on Thirty-Two, around Lebanon, when I was on my way down a couple hours ago. Big honkin' Supercab. I was doing sixty-five, and he whipped around me like I was a slalom gate."
"Late for his pedicure at the Super Walmart."
"'S'what I'm thinkin'. We caravaning back to our nation's capital?" They left bills on the table and stood.
Maytubby put on his campaign hat. "I have to deliver a subpoena in Madill."
Outside, they stood under the eaves while sleet danced on the car hoods. Jill drew her head back and put her hands on her hips. "You can't say lame shit like that when you're wearing that hat." She snatched it off his head and put it on. It slid down to the little scar. She lifted her arm and pointed to the sky. "Saddle my mount, Corporal! Tonight when I have slain the rogue grizzly that has terrorized the citizens of Skagway, they will enjoy the peace that has so long eluded them!"
He peeled the hat away and kissed her.CHAPTER 3
Maytubby had just checked the subpoena address and pulled his black Charger onto Main when his radio crackled to life. "Bill?"
"You in Madill?"
"Tom Hewitt was shot at the Golden Play Casino in Wilson. Few minutes ago." Maytubby switched on his strobes. There was a little lag until the news struck. And after it did, he could hear Sheila's voice in the air but not attend it. He kicked the cruiser over the Washita and saw but didn't see a congregation of emergency vehicles on its bank.
Tommy Hewitt was a young prodigy on the stickball field. Quick, agile, freakishly intuitive. In a full sprint, he could swing his sticks back and snatch a ball over his shoulder. He laughed when he caught the ball, and he laughed when he was laid out by a chop block. He played with a giddiness that infected his teammates and demoralized his opponents. His dense ash-blond curls stood out on the field, and since he often possessed the ball, most of the kids just chased Tommy. They called his hair a Chickafro. The curls testified to the race-blindness of love in the old Indian Territory. His forebears were Lithuanian, Chickasaw, freed Chickasaw slaves. The Lithuanian was a coal miner.
At the Kullihoma stomp grounds, Maytubby had watched Tommy Hewitt bolt from a dusty scrum with the ball, the towa, pinched between the tiny baskets at the ends of his sticks. He broke two tackles and tagged the goalpost on the fly. Maytubby admired him and was surprised when the young man — then in high school — wanted to practice with him on weekday afternoons. They had been friends ever since.
Unlike Maytubby, Hewitt kept at the sport — to'li'. In the years when he was taking courses in electrical tech at Gordon Cooper in Shawnee — while he rose from apprentice to journeyman to licensed electrician, all along working for the nation — he played with Chikasha To'li'. In July, Tommy Hewitt had led the team in a long run in the World Series of Stickball in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
"Bill? Sergeant Maytubby? You still there?"
The sounds of the earth returned. He blinked, looked at his speedometer: 115. He pulled his foot off the accelerator. "Sheila, sorry."
"I'll back up. I know you were friends with him."
"Were. That means he's dead. Am I looking for a vehicle?"
"You did check out. You're probably halfway to Wilson."
Maytubby hit his brakes and pulled onto the shoulder. Anything but that. "Fox said me?"
"He said you were closer to him than anybody else in the Lighthorse. You know where he lives, right?"
"Yeah. Mill Creek."
"I'm sorry, Bill."
Maytubby made a U-turn and headed back toward Tishomingo. "What happened at the casino?"
"We don't know everything yet, but we do know that some guys dressed like casino security, caps pulled down real low, met the nation armored car. While they were robbing it out back, Tommy came out the rear door of the convenience store to add a circuit to the box. Spooked one of the perps. Guy shot him real close with the car guard's service pistol. In the heart."
"Oh." Maytubby couldn't think what else to say to the dispatcher.
He saw that the road had not frozen. His dash thermometer read 33. Still he slowed for the bridges. He had last seen Tommy and Nichole three weeks ago, when they hired a babysitter for their young daughters and met him and Jill in Ada for dinner at Papa Gjorgjio's. While they were waiting for their dinners to come, Tommy laid his phone on the table and played a video of his youngest dancing to Spike Jones' "Hotcha Cornia." She squealed and bugged out her eyes when the goat bleated. Tommy shoulder-danced to the music and played hambone on the table.
This time when he came upon the strobes flickering down on the Washita, he saw them. He didn't want to imagine Nichole's face a half hour from now. By the time Hannah Bond answered her cell, Maytubby had crossed the river and left the scene behind.
"Bill. That you just passed on One?"
"Yeah. You got a drowning?"
"It's Alice Lang."
"Your friend Alice Lang?" He winced at his own idiocy. "Y —"
"Of course it's your friend. That's bad."
Bond was silent a few seconds. She cleared her throat. "I don't think she drowned. Gunshot wound to the head."
Hannah and Maytubby had trained together at CLEET, the Council on Law Enforcement and Training peace officer academy in Ada, seven years before. Nobody could ever remember what the acronym stood for. The first week of the academy, in sultry late June, he had thought she was a rube. She lumbered, had crooked teeth, and said "ain't." But as the weeks passed, he saw that when she moved her eyes without moving her head, she was taking in much more than the others, including him. She asked harder questions based on credible but strange hypotheticals. She shot like Natty Bumppo, and she drove like Ben Collins. She did not need the class called Custody Control. He liked her pokerfaced jokes, which the instructors never got. When they graduated, Bond first in the class and Maytubby second, they were hanging together.
"I can't come back, Hannah. Tommy Hewitt was shot to death a half hour ago. I'm on my way to tell his wife."
"Got damn it."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Greasy Bend"
Copyright © 2019 Kris Lackey.
Excerpted by permission of Blackstone Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.