Charlie Moon is no stranger to the mysterious ways of the spirit world. But why is prize livestock being ritualistically butchered in the Canyon of the Spirit? That's what Granite Creek's chief of police Scott Parish wants to find out…before human blood begins to spill.
Enter Moon's aunt and aging Ute shaman Daisy Perika. For only she who communes with the ancient spirits can truly comprehend the events that have happened upon Native American landsand the even greater evil that is yet to be unleashed…
In The Shaman Laughs, James D. Doss delivers another fascinating Charlie Moon mystery.
About the Author
James D. Doss is the author of the Charlie Moon mysteries, including A Dead Man's Tale and The Widow's Revenge. Two of the Moon books were named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly.
Read an Excerpt
Colorado, Southern Ute Reservation
CAÑON DEL SERPIENTE
From A Distance, the lone monolith has the sinister appearance of a peglike tooth, set firmly in the mouth of the Canyon of the Snake. A close examination reveals that the top of the sandstone projection is remarkably flat. Suitable, perhaps, for a table. Or an altar.
Near the center of this surface, there is a cavity. In the age of the woolly mammoth and giant ground sloth, it was only a shallow depression that caught a few drops of rainwater; barely enough for a sparrow's bath. But that was then. Now it is larger. Deeper. But the sparrow no longer comes to bathe in this place.
In a time known only to lingering ghosts, the basin was put to practical use by resourceful women of the Anasazi. They would fill the natural metate with hard grains of blue and yellow corn, then grind the maize into a coarse meal with heavy granite manos. Over a score of generations, their labors gradually enlarged the cavity and gave it a measure of symmetry. These were the fat years, before the great thirst visited the land. Drought did not travel alone; Hunger and Sickness strode along hand-in-hand, only a few faltering steps behind. At the appointed time, Death would come in the form of a small gray owl and sit on the heads of those who were called away to the world of shadows. Many were called.
During the centuries after the Anasazi had passed into the whispers of romantic myth, the bowl-shaped cavity reverted to its original function as temporary home to the occasional goat-faced spider or silverwing cricket. But that was during the dryseason. When booming thunderstorms rumbled over the sinuous canyon, the cavity would catch a precious store of water. Flittering yucca moths, even sleek ravens would come to drink. It might have remained so for a thousand millennia until the sand-laden winds finally eroded the monolith to dust.
It did not remain so.
On this day, the cavity in the stone is filled with a warm liquid. It is thicker than water.
The long finger dips into the viscous fluid, then touches the tip of the tongue. Yes ... delicious. The finger dips once more, then moves in slow, deliberate strokes over the grainy canvas. The drawings on the sandstone table in Snake Canyon are simple, but the subjects are unmistakable. The original figure was a bull elk. There are also mule deer, a few horses, a scattering of domestic cattle.
But the slaying of animals has never been more than a preparation for the ultimate goal ... and the incomparable delicacy.
These new sketches in scarlet represent human beings, the second much larger than the first. The left hand of the smaller figure grasps a rectangular object. To the casual observer, it might be a purse. Or a book. To identify the larger of the intended victims, the stained finger executes a short arc over the stick-man's shoulder. Among those who possess knowledge of such matters, there will be no misunderstanding of this archaic sign.
It is a crescent moon.
THE SHAMAN'S HOME: CAÑON DEL ESPIRITU
Daisy Perika leaned on the aluminum sill of her kitchen window. She stared at the stark outlines of the great stone women perched on Three Sisters Mesa, that five-mile finger of sandstone that separates the Canyon of the Snake from the Canyon of the Spirit. The old woman did this whenever she was troubled; it helped to calm her spirit.
But something moved. She blinked at the ghostly figure of mist descending the mesa's crumbling talus slope. The vaporous Whatever It Was took each step with exaggerated care, as if a fall might cause serious injury. How curious; this comic behavior brought a slight smile to her wrinkled face. The specter seemed to raise a wispy arm in a hesitant greeting, then ventured forth in starts and stops as if unsure of itself. Would the phantom approach the Ute woman's home uninvited? Perhaps this shadow wished to talk. To whisper sly myths into the shaman's ear; tales of times when the earth was young. Before the People were. Many spirits, like human beings, had a tendency to exaggerate. Not a few were incapable of telling the truth. But the apparition paused, then turned away, apparently drawn to the shelter of the sandstone walls of Cañon del Espiritu. Wandering spirits, even ghosts of human beings, were common enough in this place. Such appearances did not trouble or even surprise the old woman. This was a lonely spot, where even the ghosts thirsted for conversation with the living.
Matters of far greater consequence than this shy apparition occupied her mind. But, since Nahum Yaciiti had disappeared so mysteriously in that awful storm, who was there to talk with about such deep things? Daisy had almost forgotten about her cousin; Gorman Sweetwater sat at her small kitchen table, sullenly nursing a cup of brackish coffee.
Gorman longed for a smoke and, as was his habit, was feeling sorry for himself. He figured he ought to be able to smoke if he wanted to. Hadn't he driven all the way out here to bring his cousin a load of stuff she needed from town? The Ute rancher thought about rolling himself a cigarette, then he thought again. The old woman was in a foul mood tonight. And he didn't want to get Daisy started with all that endless talk about how bad smoking was for his lungs and it would be the death of him for sure and didn't he care that poor little Benita would be left all alone without a Daddy and besides who would take care of his precious cattle then? Gorman slammed his coffee cup down hard enough to get her attention.
Daisy Perika was startled by the noise; then she remembered the groceries her cousin had brought to her remote trailer home at the mouth of Cañon del Espiritu.
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