Spring bursts into bloom-and a whole lot more-as murder-by-arrow rattles Benteen County, Kansas.
Nothing ever happens in Benteen County, Kansas. Then, on a perfect spring morning, a member of the reality TV program filming in a local pasture dies with a Cheyenne arrow in his back. Sheriff English’s brother, Mad Dog, the county oddball whose Amerind heritage has produced a born-again Cheyenne, is a prime suspect. Murder is a bad way to start the day. Explosive action follows. Notes left for authorities hint at a terrorist assault on the heartland.
If the sheriff, known as Englishman, doesn’t have enough to worry about, his wife has begun acting strangely. She insists he fly off on a Paris holiday with her before sunset - or else. As Mad Dog swings between suspect and target, he encounters his long-lost high school sweetheart, and a secret that just may explain the unlikely mix of arrows and bombs. It’s Murphy’s Law squared, as Mad Dog and his pet wolf, Hailey, test a shaman’s powers, and Englishman struggles to balance his duties to family and community-enough to drive anyone Plains Crazy.J.M. Hayes was born and raised on the flat earth of central Kansas where Mad Dog & Englishman (Hc 1-890208-49-3, Pbk 1-890208-74-4), Prairie Gothic (Hc 1-59058-050-8, ibooks Pbk 0-7434-7907-6), and Plains Crazy take place. He graduated from Wichita State University and did another three years of post graduate work at the University of Arizona. He shares a home in Tucson, AZ with his wife, two computers, four thousand or so books, two German Shepherds, and a Scottish “Terror”.
About the Author
J.M. Hayes was born and raised on the flat earth of central Kansas where Prairie Gothic takes place. He graduated from Wichita State University and did another three years of post graduate work at the University of Arizona. He shares a home in Tucson, AZ with his wife, two computers, four thousand or so books, two German Shepherds, and a Scottish "Terror."
Read an Excerpt
Michael Spotted Elk wasn't sure what woke him. He lay in the dark of the Cheyenne lodge and listened. He was getting used to his father's gentle snoring, that wasn't it. His mother and little brother breathed deep and steady, comfortably wrapped in their dreams and buffalo-skin blankets.
Something moved outside the lodge. Something big. It spooked him.
Everyone had assured him there were no dangerous animals roaming the Kansas prairie anymore, but he wasn't sure he believed them. He'd seen those buffalo over in the nearby pasture. And they said the guy who owned them had a pet wolf.
He heard the noise again. He wanted to get up and turn on the lights and find his baseball bat, then maybe peek out a window to see what it was. Only he was in an Indian lodge, a tepee, in the middle of the Great Plains. They didn't have electricity or windows here, and he wasn't allowed any modern artifacts.
He did have a lance, though. He pulled on his moccasins and crept to where the skins had been drawn tight over the opening that made do as an entrance to the lodge. He fumbled in the dark, found his bow and quiver of arrows, and passed on them. He couldn't hit the broadside of a billboard from ten feet. He wasn't much good with the lance, either, but if there happened to be a ferocious mountain lion, or even a testy prairie dog, out there, he wanted something to put between him and it.
It took Michael a few moments to work the unfamiliar leather straps. When he pulled the hides apart enough to peer out, he could tell it was still before dawn. The moon hung just over the cottonwoods at the west side of their patch of pasture, still bright enough so he could reassure himself no prairie monsters lurked out there, waiting to pounce. He pushed the lance through ahead of him, just in case, and followed it silently.
Their encampment was a quiet little circle of conical tents. The motor coaches, semi truck, and other vehicles that were part of the Public Broadcasting System's production crew sat, equally silent and encircled, a few hundred yards away. No one seemed to be about. That was nice. At least he would have a few private moments without the camera following his every humiliating failure to properly recreate the lifestyle his ancestors had lived a century and a half ago.
Why had he let his folks talk him into this? Just to be on TV? He scratched a chigger bite and wished he were snuggled into his bed in Phoenix.
It was cool in the moonlight, but not cold. A soft breeze brought fragrant, earthy scents up from the south, something musky and curiously erotic. What isn't curiously erotic to sixteen-year-old boys?
A shadow emerged from behind the nearest tent and Michael practically impaled himself on his lance as he tried to get it pointed in the right direction.
"It's only me."
Daphne Alights on the Cloud stepped into the moonlight, leading one of the band's ponies. "I couldn't sleep," she said. "Thought maybe I'd ride down to the creek. Wanna come?"
Daphne was hot. She was almost two years older than Michael, and so Sports-Illustrated-Swimsuit-Issue stacked that she'd become the subject of all manner of his fantasies in the few days since they'd started filming This Old Tepee.
"Uhh, sure," he said. He was surprised she wanted anything to do with him. Every time he'd tried to hit on her he'd turned into such a fumble mouth that he'd been certain she'd assigned him the role of last dork on earth to be caught dead with.
"Want a horse?" she asked. "Or do you wanna just double up with me?"
The idea of riding next to her, letting the horse's gait rock their bodies against each other, was enough to put a strain on the fabric of his breechcloth. He couldn't ride well. He didn't want to show her what a nerd he was by falling off the great beast. Worse yet, let her realize exactly how excited he was to be anywhere near her.
"You ride, I'll run." It wasn't far. "I need the exercise."
"OK." She grabbed a handhold of mane and swung onto the horse's back. Getting her legs around its girth caused her deerskin dress to hike up enough to send a whole new series of signals inside his breechcloth. He started trotting ahead, leading the way so she wouldn't notice that, at the moment, he was equipped with more than one lance.
The run to the creek helped rein in his raging hormones. By the time she slid down and tied up the horse, then led the way along the little path through the trees and scrub down to the muddy stream, he was presentable. The relative dusk of moon shadows provided cover.
Just short of where sand had piled up along the near bank and formed a perfect beach, she stopped suddenly and turned to face him.
"Maybe we can take a dip." Before he could stammer a wildly enthusiastic answer — hey, what was she gonna wear? She couldn't get in the water in that buckskin dress — she continued. "But first I've gotta pee. Wait here, Michael, and don't look."
Michael fought the temptation to peek. He didn't want to mess up this chance. He would have waited forever, as long as there was a possibility he might go skinny dipping with the delicious Daphne.
He kind of needed to pee, too, but when he managed to extract himself from the unfamiliar confines of his breechcloth, he discovered he was far too excited to do any such thing. Just the thought of Daphne, hiking up her skirt a few feet away, was almost too much for him. He knew he'd better tuck himself safely away before she came back and his state of arousal scared her off.
The creek gurgled invitingly ... and there was something else — sand grinding, as if something was coming their way. It wasn't coming from the direction Daphne had taken. He dropped to his hands and knees and peered toward where the road cut off the east end of the pasture that housed their encampment, at the old wooden bridge over the stream. The sound came from there. A silhouette appeared atop the bridge. It was a motorcyclist, idling along with the lights off. Was this someone else who couldn't sleep, or someone following them? The shadowy biker rumbled across the old wooden structure. Michael stood and watched and made sure it disappeared behind the brush on the far side of the creek. The sound of its passing was soon inaudible.
"What was that?" Daphne was straightening her leather dress as she stepped back onto the path. And then she was looking down at him and he realized he had forgotten to stuff himself back inside his breechcloth. And she was saying, "Oh! I know what that is," and reaching down to pull up the hem of her leather skirt again. He forgot all about the motorcycle when he realized she wasn't wearing anything underneath.
Talk about a quickie, Daphne thought. He was already done before she could more than prop herself against the trunk of a cottonwood. Good thing she hadn't gotten her dress all the way off or the bark might have scraped her back.
"That was fast." She couldn't keep the disappointment out of her voice. He was breathing too hard to answer. It didn't matter. She had yet to meet a teenage boy who wasn't multi-orgasmic, and they were usually desperate enough for what she'd just provided to do anything to have it again. She was sure Michael would perform as asked for the promise of more.
Maybe finding a young kid like him wasn't such a bad deal. She could teach him the things she enjoyed. It wasn't like, out here playing Cheyenne, she had many other ways to entertain herself. What with young Lancelot here, and the untested promise of the cute guys on the camera crew, this might turn out to be an amusing way to spend her spring after all.
The Cheyenne wouldn't do it like this. Hell, from what the old chief had told them, what they'd just done might have gotten them tossed out of the tribe. If they really were mid-nineteenth century Cheyenne, the rules demanded she kept herself pure for marriage. Her very chaste courtship could have gone on for years. Daphne knew she wouldn't have made a good Cheyenne. Not since she was thirteen.
Michael was leaning against her and breathing hard. From the way he was moving, she thought he might be ready for more even sooner than she had expected. She pushed him back and stepped away from the tree so she could finish pulling off her dress. This time, she would control the action.
Then she heard the noise. "What's that? Is there someone over by the road?"
Michael muttered something about a motorcycle. His mind was elsewhere.
It wasn't a motorcycle. What she heard sounded like footsteps, fast and regular, like someone running. She stepped away from Michael a little and moved to where she could see the bridge. Sure enough, it was a jogger. He was a big guy, moving smoothly, out running with his dog. Neither the man nor the animal seemed to notice them. Not surprising, she thought, since they were well back from the road in deep shadow, and what little breeze there was wouldn't have carried their scent toward the bridge. She watched until the pair disappeared. Michael began giving some none too subtle attention to her backside. She reached around and pulled him in front of her and started whispering very specific instructions in his ear.
Something whistled through the underbrush. An early bird, maybe, though she had to grin to think how badly she had beaten it to its prey. The thought slipped from her mind like quicksilver. Michael was doing his best to follow directions and she was rapidly losing focus on everything else.
To her surprise, Michael dropped to his knees in front of her. She hadn't expected him to get to the advanced stuff nearly this fast. His head came forward, brushed her belly, moved down ... And then he crumpled between her legs and the only shaft he pointed at her was the arrow protruding from his back.
Mad Dog showered and shaved after his run. Shaving, of course, meant his head as well as his face. His hair was naturally curly and couldn't be coaxed to produce the braids he would have preferred. If Benteen County's only Cheyenne shaman couldn't wear braids, he wasn't going to settle for anything less than bald. It might not be a traditional Native American look, but it had worked for Yul Brenner and Patrick Stewart. It was dramatic, so it worked for Mad Dog too.
It was unusual for him to skip his post-run exercises, but his left knee was pretty sore from the fall he took when Hailey knocked his legs out from under him. He was still surprised about that. She'd never before even brushed him when they went running, and they'd been doing it almost every morning since she'd come into his life, a wolf-hybrid rescue. It was a puzzle. Maybe she'd been trying to protect him from that motorcycle that came bursting out of the brush up the road a few seconds later. That was another puzzle.
Mad Dog and Hailey shared their normal breakfasts — ground sirloin and kibbles for Hailey, a couple of chocolate chip cookies and an apple for him, washed down with flat Dr. Pepper. He liked it that way, and was constantly doing unplanned kitchen clean-ups when he failed to get the twist top screwed back on tight while he was releasing bubbles from the bottle after a bit of wild shaking. What most folks shook was their heads, when they witnessed Mad Dog's efforts to decarbonate his favorite beverage. Not that they were surprised. They expected weird behavior from the local oddball.
Mad Dog checked the strange message on his answering machine again before he left the house. It was a woman's voice and it sounded hauntingly familiar. She wasn't a wrong number. She'd used his name.
"I'm sorry to call so early, Mad Dog, but I wanted to catch you before you got out of the house. I'm coming to Buffalo Springs this afternoon. I plan to attend the Buffalo Springs Day celebration and ...
"I'm saying this all wrong, but this is important. I'd like to talk to you. I'll ... I'll call you later, or I'll see you at the celebration. That is, if you want to see me ..."
She'd sighed, then broken the connection without saying goodbye. Or mentioning who she was. He should know. The voice was so familiar — and so beyond his ability to put a name or face to it.
Well, if whoever it was that wanted to see him planned to be at Buffalo Springs Day — the annual celebration of the town's long-lost glory and class/ family reunions, all rolled into one — then he was most likely to discover who she was if he drove to Buffalo Springs. Things wouldn't get started until the potluck at noon. Then there'd be the parade: half a dozen convertibles bearing local politicians and pretty girls and the latest Buffalo Springs High Homecoming Queen, a dozen duded up horseback riders, two clowns — one the rodeo version, the other, a woman who couldn't decide whether she was a mime or the circus variety, a juggler, an Uncle Sam on stilts, and the high school marching band. The evening would be topped off by a banquet and dance at the school gym. Big doings for a small community.
Mad Dog thought he might drop by the courthouse as soon as he got to town. Stick his head in the sheriff 's office. Mrs. Kraus should be at her post behind the reception desk by the time he got there. There wasn't much that went on in Buffalo Springs that Mrs. Kraus didn't know about.
The sun formed a brilliant orb just above the eastern horizon, glowing with the promise of a perfect day. Mad Dog and Hailey let themselves out the back door and wove through the tulips and irises his mother had planted outside her kitchen. They bloomed in their full glory, thanks to a warm spring accompanied by ample rain. The county's wheat crop looked similarly promising, which meant the price for a bushel would be absurdly low.
For years, Mad Dog had cemented his role as local oddball by being the only person in the county to own a Saab. No more. Even Swedish engineers hadn't been able to build a product capable of surviving the confluence of two hundred thousand miles and Mad Dog's lead foot. The result, a catastrophic example of metal fatigue, brought in repair estimates so far beyond the vehicle's worth that his considerable sentimental attachment waned. He'd replaced it. It was time, he'd thought, to show the community how age was mellowing his peculiar streak and that he could blend into the local vehicular environment of pickups, sedans, hatchbacks, and SUVs.
Mad Dog pulled the garage door open. The garage seemed bigger than it used to. Fortunately, the bright-red Mini Cooper with the British flag emblazoned on its roof was roomier on the inside than its squat, boxy exterior made it appear. Hailey liked the rear seat. The lack of foot room back there didn't trouble her. Mad Dog ushered her in, folded himself behind the wheel, opened the windows so Hailey could satisfy her wind-in-the-face addiction, and let the supercharged engine whisk him out of the driveway and onto the road. He found his way to the blacktop by pulling his John Deere cap low enough to shade his eyes. It failed to screen a pickup with a flat tire which blocked most of the intersection. The driver, standing in the only vacant spot Mad Dog might have used to pass, madly waved him down.
Hailey seemed to realize this would be a temporary stop. She checked out the guy and the truck, then turned around three times and settled herself to wait. Mad Dog stepped out to see what aid he could offer.
"Thanks for stopping." The guy was young and handsome and clean cut by modern standards. His earring and nasal stud made it unlikely he was a Kansan, as did his lack of twang. "We've got a flat. I'm a total nerd at mechanical stuff. Like, I can't even find the spare."
His passenger was doing a better job. She was crouched and peering under the rear bumper. "It's here," she announced. "Is the jack under here too?"
"That'd probably be somewhere in the cab," Mad Dog told them.
"Only Jack I know about is my passenger," the kid said with an embarrassed shrug. "And I'm Chad."
Mad Dog introduced himself and offered to look for the jack. There weren't many able-bodied Kansans who would leave a tourist with a flat stuck by the side of the road. Getting two people in the Mini with him and Hailey wouldn't be easy because most people got nervous about crowding a wolf. Maybe he could change the tire for them without getting too dirty.
He started toward the cab as the girl stood up behind the bumper and began brushing dirt off her jeans. Mad Dog glanced at her and lost his ability to move or speak or even reason a little. The girl was saying something, only he couldn't work out what it was.
"Janie!" he croaked, suddenly knowing whose voice had been on his answering machine. "Janie Jorgenson."
Excerpted from "Plains Crazy"
Copyright © 2014 J.M. Hayes.
Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Benteen, Kansas is a quiet serene place where nothing much happens so when a PBS reality show arrives in town this is a big deal. The show deals with modern day Indians adapting to living like their ancestors did. The first inkling of trouble starts when Michael Spotted Elk leaves the family teepee to make out with Daphne Alights on the Cloud; someone kills him using a Cheyenne arrow. Daphne reports that Mad Dog and Wolf Hailey went past the; Mad Dog becomes the prime suspect until Daphne remembers he was not carrying a bow.--- The sheriff¿s wife Judy English tells him they are going to Paris, but if he fails to come with her, she probably will not return to him. He does not believe that he can get away now because bombs and other explosives are going off all over town. A motorcycle rider tries to kill Mad Dog using a bow and arrow. Judy is mistaken for a bank robber because the teller fails to recognize her with her new hair-do. Someone placed something in the night deposit box that turns out to be a bomb with a $10,000 demand note attached which Judy gave the teller which made her think Judy was a bank robber. Nothing seems linked yet since PBS arrived hell has come to drive the PLAINS CRAZY.--- This is a whacky dazzling ride into lunacy in which the sheriff, unused to bombs exploding, must find a way to defuse the mess. Complicating his professional life is his wife who gives him an ultimatum at a time when he cannot even ponder what to do for her for there is so much craziness overwhelming him. J.M. Hayes has written a wild whimsical yet complicated conspiracy thriller.--- Harriet Klausner