Sample text for Nails : a Gabriel Du Pre mystery / Peter Bowen.

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Chapter One

Du Pre; looked east. The sky was a patchwork of small fluffy clouds and the air was still. The clouds hung like balloons. A big jet roared down the runway and lifted off, the thunder of its engines faded. Soon it was just a silver speck far to the west.

The little white jet sailed in, almost silently, and the pilot reversed the engines and slowed it, then turned toward the private hangar.

“I bet she is six inches taller,” said Madelaine.

Du Pre; shook his head.

“Three,” he said. “Bad air stunt her.”

The door opened down and became a stair. A duffel bag was tossed out on the asphalt, then a backpack, and finally Pallas came down the steps carrying two suitcases.

Du Pre; walked to her, Madelaine hooting behind him.

“It is too six!” she said.

Du Pre; looked at his granddaughter.

“You are taller,” he said.

“Yes,” said Pallas. “I am taller than Jacqueline, she will not like that.”

Du Pre; picked up the dufflebag and the backpack and he and Pallas walked to Madelaine, and Pallas put the suitcases down and she kissed Madelaine and then she kissed Du Pre;.

“We got one errand,” said Madelaine, “then we go home.”

“Good,” said Pallas. “I miss them. Few days I will not miss them and be glad to go back, but for now I miss them.”

They walked to the big SUV, a dark green one, and put Pallas’s luggage in the second seat.

Then they got in and Du Pre; drove to the box store. They bought a thousand dollars’ worth of groceries, household supplies, tools, and odds and ends.

The store was busy. After Du Pre; paid, they wheeled the three grocery carts and the big flat cart out to the SUV.

“Never get it all in,” said Pallas.

“Then you take the bus,” said Du Pre;.

“Maybe we strap things on the roof,” said Pallas.

Du Pre; looked at her.

“No, Grandpa,” said Pallas. “Not me.”

They stacked and tucked and shoved and Pallas cursed fluently.

“You,” said Madelaine, “watch your mouth, you ride on the roof, Pallas.”

“I learn the best words from you,” said Pallas.

Du Pre; turned away to laugh.

They got in and Du Pre; got on the highway east. They were soon out of Billings, and they passed the highway that went south to the Crow Reservation and on to Denver.

“I have never been to Little Big Horn,” said Pallas.

“Not much to see,” said Madelaine. “Looks like Montana, Wyoming, hills, grass, but it don’t feel sad like the Marias or other places....”

Other massacres, Du Pre; thought, only then it was the Indians being slaughtered.

Me, I go to the Little Big Horn twice and I can’t hear them there like I can other places.

Voices behind the wind.

“What you hear when you are there, Du Pre;?” said Madelaine.

Du Pre; shook his head.

“Horses maybe,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Madelaine turned to look at Pallas crouched under a rampart of stuff that was piled on the seat and on top of the backrests.

“You are getting crap you are an Indian?” said Madelaine. “You are some Indian but French and Scot, too.”

“Everybody likes Indians,” said Pallas. “No, I just get dumb questions.”

“Oh,” said Madelaine. “Them.”

“How is Chappie doing?” said Pallas.

“He is OK,” said Madelaine. “Leg works pretty good. He has lots of colds.”

“He will be around now?” said Pallas. “Your other kids don’t come back here.”

“They will come back,” said Madelaine. “Just the lives they pick are far away.”

Du Pre; grunted.

Madelaine have four kids, two in the military, one in Africa, working for an oil company, one in Chicago, studying art.

Chappie is in Iraq. Bomb take off his leg and put out his left eye.

So he is retired from military.

Coughs a lot.

“So,” said Pallas, “I have a month now. They tell me I have to wait until August to come, but I say no, I have to go now, have ceremonies to perform. Then they are able to find out I don’t have to stay until August.”

Du Pre; and Madelaine laughed.

“Maybe we send you back with a warpole,” said Madelaine. “Hang a bunch of scalps on it.”

“Yeah,” said Pallas, “that would be what they all call awesome. They use awesome when they mean good and impacts when they mean effects.”

Du Pre; laughed.

Pallas she can talk like some East Coast educated person, Du Pre; thought. I just heard it.

“So it is all right?” said Madelaine.

Pallas nodded.

“Maria come for a week,” she said. “From England, and I am so very homesick. They don’t got mountains there and they got all these people. Pile in one place they would be a ver’ big mountain, and after she is there a while I cry some and she says, well, get all you can and you can go back but not until you are done.”

“She is your aunt,” said Madelaine. “You listen to her.”

“Sure,” said Pallas. “She goes through a long argument, wins it because I am not talking back, and then she says she will break my nose if I quit.”

“She will break your nose,” said Du Pre;. “That Maria keeps promises.”

Du Pre; fished the silver flask out of the console and he popped the top open and he drank.

He offered it to Madelaine.

She shook her head.

“What about me?” said Pallas.

“You are too young, drink whiskey,” said Du Pre;.

“Good,” said Pallas. “I will take drugs then.”

“Oh, crap,” said Madelaine, fishing a bottle of pink wine out of the cooler at her feet. “Have some of my pink wine and leave your grandfather’s whiskey alone.”

“Now it is illegal to have booze in a car,” said Pallas.

“Yah,” said Du Pre;.

“Montana, they are going to stop people driving with a drink,” said Pallas. “How do they think they will do that without lots of people getting shot?”

“Federal government,” said Du Pre;.

“Oh,” said Pallas. “Them.”

“They say they don’t give Montana highway money if Montana don’t stop people who drink, go down the road,” said Du Pre;.

“So,” said Pallas, “this government, one in Helena, passes laws they like in that Washington and then they forget them like the speed limit.”

“Yah,” said Du Pre;.

“Remember when Jacqueline throws Raymond’s piss, hits the Highway Patrol car?” said Pallas.

“Yah,” said Du Pre;.

“You think they would learn,” said Pallas.

“No,” said Du Pre;, “they don’t learn.”

They drove on, silent, while Madelaine and Pallas drank pink fizzy wine and Du Pre; smoked.

“Pret’ soon you can’t smoke in car, either,” said Pallas.

“Yah,” said Du Pre;.

“Tobacco got lots of taxes now,” said Pallas.

“Not where I get it,” said Du Pry say that anyway.”

“Ah,” said Pallas.

“You are going to give your grandfather crap about smoking?” said Madelaine.

“Sure,” said Pallas. “He don’t give me one I will.”

“You are too young,” said Madelaine.

Pallas pulled out a cigarette from her purse and she lit it.

Du Pre; laughed.

“Don’t they arrest you, Maryland, you smoke you are fifteen?” said Madelaine.

“Do if they catch you,” said Madelaine. “I live in this house, other kids my age, all of us smart. We don’t have a lot of trouble.”

Du Pre; snorted.

“Pissants,” he said. “Biggest political party.”

“Hey,” said Pallas, “there is a coyote...,” and she stared out the window.

Du Pre; glanced to his right.

The coyote was trotting along, sliding through the sagebrush.

A large bird flew up and the coyote leaped up and caught it.

“Sage grouse,” said Pallas.

“They are pret’ dumb,” said Du Pre;.

They came to the road north. Du Pre; took the exit and then they crossed over the Interstate. He accelerated to about a hundred.

“Ah,” said Pallas, “I am home.”

The road was an empty gray ribbon winding north over the rolling yellow hills.

“They got pilots now watching for people like you,” said Madelaine.

“Yah,” said Du Pre;, “they don’t bother me.”

The big SUV shot down the road.

Du Pre; slowed when he came up to a hilltop. You never knew when a rancher hauling a piece of equipment at ten miles an hour might be just out of sight.

The puff clouds hung motionless.

“Those are Lucky Strikes?” said Madelaine to Pallas.

“Sure,” said Pallas. “You want me to smoke something else?”

“Give me one,” said Madelaine.

“I have not seen Chappie for maybe ten years?” said Pallas.

“Yah,” said Du Pre;.

“It is too bad,” said Pallas. “I think all that Iraq business won’t work out well at all.”

Copyright © 2006 by Peter Bowen

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Du Pre, Gabriel (Fictitious character) -- Fiction.
Sheriffs -- Fiction.
Missing children -- Fiction.
Montana -- Fiction.