Hillerman, Tony - [Leaphorn & Chee 13]

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Authors: The First Eagle (v1) [html]
"Janet," he would say. "Do you still want to
marry me?" Get right to the point. But this morning, with his head still
full of gloomy thoughts, he wasn't so sure. Did he really want her to say yes?
He decided she probably would. She had left her high-society inside-the-Beltway
life and come back to Indian Country, which said she really loved him. But that
would carry with it, in some subtle way, her understanding that he would climb
the ladder of success into the social strata where she felt at home.
    There was another possibility. She had taken her first reservation job to
escape her law professor lover. Did this return simply mean she wanted the man
to pursue her again? Chee turned away from that thought and remembered how
sweet it had been before she had betrayed him (or, as she saw it, before he had
insulted her because of his unreasonable jealousy). He could land a federal job
in Washington. Could he be happy there? He thought of himself as a drunk,
worthless, dying of a destroyed liver. Was that what had killed Janet's Navajo
father? Had he drowned himself in whiskey to escape Janet's ruling-caste
mother?
    When he'd exhausted all the dark corners that scenario offered, he turned to
an alternative. Janet had come back to him. She'd be willing to live on the Big
Rez, wife of a cop, living in what her friends would rate as slum housing,
where high culture was a second-run movie. In that line of thought, love
overcame all. But it wouldn't. She'd yearn for the life she'd given up. He
would see it. They'd be miserable.
    Finally he thought of Janet as court-appointed defense attorney and of
himself as arresting officer. But by the time she walked in, exactly on time,
he was back to thinking of her as an Eastern social butterfly, and that thought
gave this Flagstaff dining room a worn, grungy look that he'd never noticed
before.
    He pulled back a chair for her.
    "I guess you're used to classier places in Washington," he said,
and instantly wished he hadn't so carelessly touched the nerve of their
disagreement.
    Janet's smile wavered. She looked at him a moment, somberly, and looked
away. "I'll bet the coffee is better here."
    "It's always fresh anyway," he said. "Or almost always."
    A teenage boy delivered two mugs and a bowl filled with single-serving-size
containers labeled "non-dairy creamer."
    Janet looked over her mug at him. "Jim."
    Chee waited. "What?"
    "Oh, nothing. I guess this is a time to talk business."
    "So we take off our friend hats, and put on adversary hats?"
    "Not really," Janet said. "But I'd like to know if you're
absolutely certain Robert Jano killed Officer Kinsman."
    "Sure I'm certain," Chee said. He felt his face flush—"You
must have read the arrest report. I was there, wasn't I? And what do you do
with it if I say I'm not sure? Do you tell the jury that even the arresting
officer told you that he had reasonable doubts?"
    He'd tried to keep the anger out of his voice, but Janet's face told him he
hadn't managed it. Another raw nerve touched.
    "I'd do absolutely nothing with it," she said. "It's just
that Jano swears he didn't do it. I'll be working with him. I'd like to believe
him."
    "Don't," Chee said. He sipped his coffee and put down the mug. It
occurred to him that he hadn't noticed how it tasted. He picked up one of the
containers-. "'Non-dairy creamer,'" he read. "Produced, I
understand, on non-dairy farms."
    Janet managed a smile. "You know what? Doesn't this episode we're
having here remind you of the first time we met? Remember? In the holding room
at the San Juan County Jail in Aztec. You were trying to keep me from bonding
out that old man."
    "And you were trying to keep me from talking to him."
    "But I got him out." Janet was grinning at him now.
    "But not until I got the information I wanted," Chee said.
    "Okay," Janet said, still grinning. "We'll call that one a
tie. Even though you had to cheat a little."
    "How about our next competition," Chee said. "Remember the
old alcoholic? You

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