The Maverick

By: Diana Palmer

“It’s a tiny, folded piece of paper,” she said, frowning. “And thank God it hasn’t rained.”

“Amen,” Kilraven agreed, peering at the paper in her hand.

“Good eyes,” she added with a grin.

He grinned back. “Lakota blood.” He chuckled. “Tracking is in my genes. My great-great-grandfather was at Little Big Horn.”

“I won’t ask on which side,” she said in a loud whisper.

“No need to be coy. He rode with Crazy Horse’s band.”

“Hey, I read about that,” the deputy said. “Custer’s guys were routed, they say.”

“One of the Cheyenne people said later that a white officer was killed down at the river in the first charge,” he said. “He said the officer was carried up to the last stand by his men, and after that the soldiers seemed to lose heart and didn’t fight so hard. They found Custer’s brother, Tom, and a couple of ranking officers from other units, including Custer’s brother-in-law, with Custer. It could indicate that the chain of command changed several times. Makes sense, if you think about it. If there was a charge, Custer would have led it. Several historians think that Custer’s unit made it into the river before the Cheyenne came flying into it after them. If Custer was killed early, he’d have been carried up to the last stand ridge—an enlisted guy, they’d have left there in the river.”

“I never read that Custer got killed early in the fight,” the deputy exclaimed.

“I’ve only ever seen the theory in one book—a warrior was interviewed who was on the Indian side of the fight, and he said he thought Custer was killed in the first charge,” he mused. “The Indians’ side of the story didn’t get much attention until recent years. They said there were no surviving eyewitnesses. Bull! There were several tribes of eyewitnesses. It was just that nobody thought their stories were worth hearing just after the battle. Not the massacre,” he added before the deputy could speak. “Massacres are when you kill unarmed people. Custer’s men all had guns.”

The deputy grinned. “Ever think of teaching history?”

“Teaching’s too dangerous a profession. That’s why I joined the police force instead.” Kilraven chuckled.

“Great news for law enforcement,” Alice said. “You have good eyes.”

“You’d have seen it for yourself, Jones, eventually,” he replied. “You’re the best.”

“Wow! Did you hear that? Take notes,” Alice told the deputy. “The next time I get yelled at for not doing my job right, I’m quoting Kilraven.”

“Would it help?” he asked.

She laughed. “They’re still scared of you up in San Antonio,” she said. “One of the old patrolmen, Jacobs, turns white when they mention your name. I understand the two of you had a little dustup?”

“I threw him into a fruit display at the local supermarket. Messy business. Did you know that blackberries leave purple stains on skin?” he added conversationally.

“I’m a forensic specialist,” Alice reminded him. “Can I ask why you threw him into a fruit display?”

“We were working a robbery and he started making these remarks about fruit with one of the gay officers standing right beside me. The officer in question couldn’t do anything without getting in trouble.” He grinned. “Amazing, how attitudes change with a little gentle adjustment.”

“Hey, Kilraven, what are you doing walking around on the crime scene?” Cash Grier called from the sidelines.

“Don’t fuss at him,” Alice called back. “He just spotted a crucial piece of evidence. You should give him an award!”

There were catcalls from all the officers present.

“I should get an award!” he muttered as he went to join his boss. “I never take days off or vacations!”

“That’s because you don’t have a social life, Kilraven,” one of the officers joked.

Alice stood up, staring at the local law enforcement uniforms surrounding the crime scene tape. She recognized at least two cars from other jurisdictions. There was even a federal car out there! It wasn’t unusual in a sleepy county like Jacobs for all officers who weren’t busy to congregate around an event like this. It wasn’t every day that you found a murder victim in your area. But a federal car for a local murder?

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