Read Coyote Online

Authors: Rhonda Roberts

Coyote

DEDICATION

To all my clever teachers who tricked me into
seeing instead of looking

CONTENTS

Part One:
Present Time, San Francisco

Chapter 1:
The National Criminology Conference, Portsmouth Square, San Francisco

Chapter 2:
Hector Kershaw

Chapter 3:
The Trap

Chapter 4:
Rattlesnakes Mean Revenge

Chapter 5:
The Zebulon Hotel, Prendergast Street, South of Market

Chapter 6:
Job Hunting

Chapter 7:
Jade-Green

Chapter 8:
Crime at the University of California, Berkeley

Chapter 9:
Burglar at the Zebulon

Chapter 10:
Don't Go

Part Two:
New Mexico, 1867

Chapter 11:
The Bounty Hunter

Chapter 12:
Old Santa Fe

Chapter 13:
The Shopping List

Chapter 14:
The Hornet's Nest

Chapter 15:
The Palace of the Governors

Chapter 16:
The Hen's Coop Saloon

Chapter 17:
Old Grudges

Chapter 18:
Hector's Hotel Room

Chapter 19:
The Conquistador

Chapter 20:
Gold Fever

Chapter 21:
Cast into the Wilderness

Chapter 22:
Three Queens

Chapter 23:
The Desert

Chapter 24:
Our Lady of the Wilderness

Chapter 25:
The Labyrinth

Chapter 26:
The Abbess

Chapter 27:
Leocadia's Story

Chapter 28:
The Legend of Spruce Tree Mesa

Chapter 29:
The Badlands

Chapter 30:
Big Sun Canyon

Chapter 31:
Spruce Tree Mesa

Chapter 32:
The Great Kiva

Chapter 33:
Dry Gulch

Chapter 34:
Talking Waters

Chapter 35:
Hector Quale Kershaw

Chapter 36:
The Prickly Cactus

Chapter 37:
Too Many Prickles

Chapter 38:
The Diary

Chapter 39:
Back at Hector's Hotel Room

Chapter 40:
Stagecoach Hold-Up

Part Three:
Present Time, San Francisco

Chapter 41:
Rewind Offices

Chapter 42:
The de Vivar Library

Chapter 43:
Hector the Hero

Chapter 44:
The Wild West Club

Chapter 45:
El Chacal

Chapter 46:
The Pet Project

Chapter 47:
Lysander

Chapter 48:
The Hue & Cry

Chapter 49:
Back at Rewind Offices

Chapter 50:
Mission Dolores

Chapter 51:
The Mission Cemetery

Chapter 52:
Rodrigo's Tower

Chapter 53:
River's Clue

Chapter 54:
What Could be Worse than Dry Gulch?

Chapter 55:
Men-Only Night

Chapter 56:
The Brigantine

Chapter 57:
The Transamerica Pyramid

Chapter 59:
The Secret Room

Chapter 60:
The Secret

Chapter 61:
Truth, the Daughter of Time

Chapter 62:
Last Will and Testament

Chapter 63:
Dawn on Spruce Tree Mesa

The Present

Des Carmichael — Kannon's old friend and partner in Rewind Investigations, an ex-cop from Australia.

Kannon Dupree — one of only three Time Investigators licensed to use the National Time Administration's portal for private cases.

Gilda — the actress who plays Prairie Rose.

Daniel Honeycutt — a Time Marshal who went on a mission with Kannon six months ago. He was shot trying to save her life.

Seymour Kershaw — head of the San Francisco Kershaw family.

Cornelius Klaasen — a Time Investigator who is trying to sabotage Kannon Dupree.

Eddie Melnick — a Time Investigator who is trying to sabotage Kannon Dupree.

The National Time Administration — they run the time portal in Union Square, San Francisco.

Jackson River — a professor from the Department of Criminology at University of California, Berkeley, who claims Coyote Jack is innocent of the Dry Gulch massacre.

Balthazar Ruttle — the mayor of San Francisco.

Amparo de Vivar — the matriarch of the de Vivar family.

Professor Stanley Wauhope — from the Department of Criminology at University of California, Berkeley.

Gideon Webb — owner of the Wild West Club and The Hue & Cry.

Santa Fe and San Francisco, 1867

Sigvard Blix aka The Big Swede — the most powerful civilian in New Mexico and an adviser to the governor.

Brother Buenaventura — a Franciscan friar and friend of Coyote Jack.

Captain Uriah Bull — is in charge of Fort Marcy.

The Corsairs — ex-white slavers from North Africa who have ruled the San Francisco underworld since the 1849 Gold Rush.

Coyote Jack — a clever outlaw who lives on Spruce Tree Mesa.

John Eriksen — a famous baby-faced bounty hunter and Kannon's cover while in 1867.

Ernesto — the Native American scout who guided Hector Kershaw to Big Sun Canyon.

Ramon Galindo — owner of Incendio (Conflagration), Duquesa (Duchess) and Azucar (Sugar).

Governor Carvil Gortner — the new governor of New Mexico.

Hector Q. Kershaw — the only survivor of the Dry Gulch massacre.

Lysander P. Kershaw — Hector's elder brother, a dead war hero.

Abbess Leocadia — runs the Convent of Our Lady of the Wilderness.

Governor Noah Magurty — the New Mexican governor who was killed at Dry Gulch.

Wayland Magurty — the eldest son of Governor Magurty and his first wife.

The Montoya Brothers — had a vendetta with Governor Magurty, who hanged their grandfather for his part in the Taos Rebellion.

Princess Prairie Rose — the last of their Native American nation, she and her young sister were sold to the Corsairs.

Captain Hieronymus Shaker — the leader of the Corsairs.

Domenico Torres — the gunsmith and armourer in Santa Fe, who provides Kannon with her special technologies.

Rodrigo Juan de Vivar — Hector's business partner in San Francisco.

Spain, 1539

Alonso de Olid — Isabella's personal confessor and a Knight of the Cross, a military order of priests.

Isabella of Portugal — Holy Roman Empress, the consort of Charles V and a regent of Spain.

PART ONE
PRESENT TIME,
SAN FRANCISCO
1
THE NATIONAL CRIMINOLOGY
CONFERENCE, PORTSMOUTH
SQUARE, SAN FRANCISCO

Life is never what it seems. You think you have it all figured out and then reality shimmers into an entirely different truth.

That's what the shocked face of the dead man seemed to say. He sprawled there, frozen in time, across the big screen at the front of the lecture theatre. It was an old photo, very old in fact — black and white with blurred edges — but you could still see that he'd died with a question in his eyes. A deadly serious one.

Whatever it was — it hadn't been spoken. His throat had been slit.

‘The body was found at dawn, in late 1867, on the San Francisco docks …' Professor Stanley Wauhope studied the screen behind him with deep satisfaction. As though the murder victim was his own private trophy.

It was an eerie sight. The criminology professor and his long-dead subject almost seemed to exchange a glance. As though the corpse was appealing to the professor for the answer that'd never come.

Professor Wauhope turned back to the audience with a pompous smirk. He was thoroughly convinced he had knowledge that even the dead wanted. ‘The old San Francisco docks were a brisk ten-minute walk from where we are now in Portsmouth Square. Our subject had arrived in San Francisco from Boston the day before. His was the third body found in that same spot, killed in that exact way, in that same week in 1867. All three victims had just arrived in San Francisco and they all knew each other. They were bankers, in town for a meeting with the mayor.'

Professor Wauhope was the key speaker at the National Criminology Conference because of his speciality — cold cases. His favourites were usually very cold indeed. At least one hundred years cold.

That was why I was here.

Or rather, why the National Time Administration had forced me to come. They saw it as good publicity.

‘This cluster of murders is just one of thousands of cold cases that took place in the rough dives and seedy back alleys of this very neighbourhood …' mused Wauhope with delight. ‘Our shiny new conference building is sitting in the very district that was once considered the most dangerous den of iniquity in the Western world. Every worst sort of human degradation and depravity was practised here.' He chuckled. ‘And from all reports with a great deal of creativity and vigour.'

I didn't laugh with the rest. Wauhope seemed to relish his grisly subject matter a little too intimately for my taste.

‘The neighbourhood in which you are now was known as the Barbary Coast, a sullied remnant of the old Wild West …' His voice had deepened with excitement. ‘This is the very place where the Wild West met the equally Wild Seas — where the renegades of the land frontier met the renegades of the ocean …'

The audience full of lounging, out-of-shape academics shifted in anticipation. Lawless chaos, old or new, caught their attention.

‘Thirsting to make their fortunes in the California Gold Rush of the mid-nineteenth century, wagon trains hurried westwards and ships of all kinds and allegiances flooded in from the east. There were so many that San Francisco's harbour became choked with hundreds of vessels, abandoned by their crews who headed for the Gold Fields. And, of course,' Wauhope gave a gleeful smile, ‘with this massive influx came the jackals, ready to strip the scurrying herd of their gold nuggets.'

There were a few appreciative chuckles.

I scanned the audience with revulsion. Old suffering is still suffering. My job had taught me that in intimate detail.

Professor Wauhope nodded at the corpse on the big screen behind him. ‘By the time this man met his fate on the docks, the murder rate was so high that cemeteries had become the fastest growing real-estate developments in boom-town San Francisco. Even the most hardened sailors, who'd sailed into every foul port of call in the world, were afraid of this neighbourhood. They called it the Barbary Coast after the most successful predators of them all: the Corsairs. They'd been white slavers, operating off the Barbary Coast in North Africa, until they were attracted here by the rich pickings. The Corsairs
terrorised San Francisco, ruling the underworld for nearly two decades.'

Wauhope looked up at the dead man's shocked face, his own a mask of smug self-congratulation. ‘Yes, the Corsairs have provided me with a lifetime of cold-case research; a lifetime of unpicking their every move —'

Cornelius Klaasen gave a loud snort of disgust. He sat just one seat away. The snort was loud enough to make the whole audience turn and scowl. Klaasen was bored and didn't care who knew it. The National Time Administration had ordered him to attend the conference just as they had me. But he wasn't going quietly.

The criminology professor swung a malicious glance over Klaasen and said, each word dripping sarcasm, ‘But who knows for how much longer my hard work will be appreciated? Unfortunately it now looks like I'll be put out of a job by the NTA.'

At that the scowls deepened.

Wauhope, sensing the suitably frigid mood of his audience, bared his teeth in a mock smile. ‘Before I continue, perhaps I should introduce our three special guests …'

 

Like NASA and the space program, the National Time Administration was a mega science project initiated in the 1950s as part of the Cold War technology race. When John F. Kennedy became president in 1961 he made the projects his own, declaring that he'd push the new frontiers of space and time travel to the outer limits of human ingenuity. So the money rain began.

The first time portal was completed in the early 1960s and the NTA's equivalent of astronauts, the
Time Marshals, began to perform official government investigations.

Professor Wauhope studied us with a sour mixture of derision and jealousy. ‘For the whole history of the NTA, Time Marshals have been the only personnel able to access the portal, and strictly only for purposes in the national interest. That meant the mysteries of the past — the great criminal cases; the secrets of history — were left to us academics. That is, until last year, when the NTA bowed to public opinion and began training our special guests. Please rise and take a bow.'

The three of us rose, suspicious but with smiles equally as fake as Wauhope's plastered on our faces.

The audience scanned us — searching for flaws.

‘As you all know, today we are honoured with the presence of the only private investigators ever licensed to use the time portal. Mr Cornelius Klaasen, Mr Edward Melnick … and Miss Kannon Dupree.'

When he got to my name at the end, Wauhope arched a mocking brow, as though he couldn't believe I'd made it through the brutal training period. No one could — including the NTA. There'd been a lot more trainees at the start, but we'd been whittled down, by one harsh means or another, to just the three of us.

I'd had to turn myself inside out to stay in the program. But I'd made it just the same.

There was a sprinkling of polite applause, which died too quickly. They all saw us as the overpaid, underqualified competition.

Klaasen, to my right, ground his arctic-white bleached teeth.

The three of us were here for one reason only. The NTA had ordered us. They controlled the use of the
portal and all of our missions would go to them for approval. In other words — as they liked to remind us — they owned our arses.

‘Now, because of these newly graduated Time Investigators, all our deepest, darkest secrets can be revealed. Well, those beyond the thirty-year curfew from the present at any rate …' He rolled his eyes as though that limitation made us less than useless.

The audience tittered.

I just ignored it. It'd been the politicians who'd made and enforced that curfew. Guess they all had too many secrets to hide.

‘And,' Wauhope made no attempt to cover his sarcasm, ‘for a small fee, of course …'

The audience tittered again, delighted to have the opportunity to express their disdain. Everyone knew that the NTA was charging enormous fees for the use of the portal.

I sat. No use standing there like a convenient target. Melnick and Klaasen followed, seething at Wauhope's needling.

‘Bloody academic,' croaked Eddie Melnick, beside me. ‘He's never put his life on the line trying to solve anything.'

Cornelius Klaasen leant over his buddy to get to me. ‘At least we've got clients though … eh, kid?'

My baby-face wasn't always an asset in this business.

My business partner called me a ‘wolf in lamb's clothing' — said my targets never saw me coming. But these two used it to discredit me. Hence the put-down nickname. The Kid.

I ignored Klaasen and tried to follow the professor. He might actually say something that could make this wasted day useful.

‘Yeah, Dupree,' persisted Klaasen. ‘I hear you can't even afford an office?'

Melnick sniggered.

It tortured both of them to have to share the spotlight with someone like me. Young and female.

Out of the side of my mouth I said, ‘Now, Cornelius, just because the good professor has made you — and your sidekick, Eddie — feel like your dicks are too small, doesn't mean you have to show them to me for confirmation.'

It didn't help Klaasen's ego that I, a mere female, was two inches taller than him. He couldn't stomach having to look up to me.

I may only be twenty-three but too many years in the school of hard knocks meant Professor Wauhope hadn't raised a bristle on me. Cornelius Klaasen and Eddie Melnick, both long-time big shots in the detective game, just couldn't take the needling any more.

I changed the subject. ‘At least I don't have to be rescued, boys.'

That shut Klaasen up.

He'd had to be retrieved in his final training mission through the time portal. A rescue team had been sent in and he'd almost been kicked out of the training program for it. Only his buddies in the NTA had managed to help him make it to graduation.

I grinned.

I usually reminded him of it when I was standing right next to him.

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