He heard Louisa's car pull up and rose to open the kitchen door for her. She put two bags of groceries on the counter. "Hi. How did your meeting go?"
"Too much inaruption." 'Interruption', he silently scolded himself. Louisa began unloading the bags. She opened the refrigerator and put a carton of orange juice on the shelf. "Are you going to help her?"
"Maybe. Tinkin bout it." 'Thinking about it'. Ever since he'd suffered that gunshot to the head, Leaphorn had struggled with spoken English.
Louisa finished with the groceries and stood looking over his shoulder at the letter. He patted the seat next to him and she settled in. Giddi climbed up on the chair next to Louisa. The cat looked smug, he thought, as if it belonged there, too.
"Curious, isn't it? I hope you can find that missing piece, whatever it is." Louisa smiled. "Why do you think she's so secretive? It's not like you're a blabbermouth."
"Bearest." It was the first thing that came to his mind, but there was truth in it. Fear of embarrassment provided powerful motivation. Calling the donor to ask if the missing item had been included wouldn't be easy, which, he figured, was the reason she was asking him to do the job.
Louisa stood, and he felt her cool hand as she rested it lightly on his shoulder. "If you decide you want to do this, I'd be glad to make some calls where you'd need English. I am still in your debt for all the time you spent traipsing through the Four Corners with me when I was doing my research."
"Tanks." But he felt his insides tighten. If the world spoke Dine Bizaad, his words could fly. And she didn't owe him anything. If there was a debt here, it was his for her hours of arranging his medical appointments, putting up with his frustration, driving him to speech therapy, and all the rest of it, including running the household by herself as his health returned. He wouldn't have healed as fast as he had without her.
Lately, she was getting more mail than usual from Northern Arizona University, the institution that had supported her research. Louisa had put her profession on hold for too long. He encouraged her to stop babying him and get back to work.
He heard her footsteps as she disappeared down the hall. The phone rang. Louisa ignored it. It rang again, so he answered, expecting a woman's voice, one of her friends. Either that or a sales call.
But it wasn't one of Louisa's friends; it was Sergeant Jim Chee. They dispensed with the pleasantries quickly, and Leaphorn waited for Chee to ask him for a favor. The man surprised him.
"Sir, someone named Mona Willeto phoned here for you a couple of days ago and I forgot to mention it. I told her to try the Window Rock office. She said she wanted to talk to you about her brother in prison. I wouldn't bother you with this, but she sounded different than most of these calls."
"What do you mean?"
"It's hard to say exactly. Calmer, I guess. Nicer. You know, like she wasn't going to start yelling about how he never should have been arrested or imprisoned, what a good boy he was."
Leaphorn considered asking for the number and decided against it. "If it's important, she'll call Window Rock like you asked and they'll refer her to me. Sometimes if you look the other way, these things disappear. Remember that, Sergeant."
After Chee ended the call, the Lieutenant sighed. What was it about Chee that brought out the overbearing uncle in him? Why did the man still get on his nerves? He'd known him as a rookie, an enthusiastic and somewhat impulsive young man for whom doing the right thing sometimes meant bending the rules. Chee had a deep commitment to making life safer for the Dine. Although Leaphorn still considered the man a work in progress, he was pleased with the officer Chee had become.
When Leaphorn called the museum to speak with Mrs. Pinto to set up the meeting, he learned she was out of the office at a finance hearing for the rest of the day. And, since it was Friday, she wouldn't be back until Monday.
"Do you want to leave a message for her?" The receptionist sounded young and bored.
"Ask her to call Joe Leaphorn. She has the number. Do you know what happened to the woman who collapsed outside?"
"You mean Tiffany? I haven't heard anything about her. Mrs. Pinto gave her the rest of the day off."