Gabriel Du Pré’s precocious granddaughter, Pallas, has returned from her Washington, DC, boarding school, and trouble seems to have come along for the ride. Du Pré’s girlfriend’s son, Chappie, is also back from serving in Iraq, minus one leg and one eye. As the family tries to help him adjust to civilian life, the town is invaded by a fire-and-brimstone fundamentalist sect, whose preacher is hell-bent on imposing his own beliefs on the easygoing people of Toussaint, where even the most pious prefer to keep God to themselves.
Du Pré is content to ignore the evangelists, until a mountain hike turns up the body of a little girl. Although he has no hard evidence, instinct tells him that the fundamentalists may be to blame. Du Pré hunts the countryside for the young girl’s killer, wishing as always that the outside world would leave his beloved Montana alone.
In this “admirable, highly original” series, “Du Pré, a Métis Indian, ignores the speed limit, smokes hand-rolled cigarettes and drinks whisky like it was water. He also plays fiddle like an angel, takes care of his friends and defends the weak with equal passion” (Publishers Weekly).
Nails is the 13th book in The Montana Mysteries Featuring Gabriel Du Pré series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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About the Author
Following time at the University of Michigan and the University of Montana, he published his first novel, Yellowstone Kelly, in 1987. After two more novels featuring the real-life western hero, Bowen published Coyote Wind (1994), which introduced Gabriel Du Pré, a mixed-race lawman living in fictional Toussaint, Montana. He has written fifteen novels in the series, in which Du Pré gets tangled up in everything from cold-blooded murder to the hunt for rare fossils. Bowen continues to live and write in Livingston, Montana.
Peter Bowen (b. 1945) is an author best known for mystery novels set in the modern American West. When he was ten, Bowen’s family moved to Bozeman, Montana, where a paper route introduced him to the grizzled old cowboys who frequented a bar called The Oaks. Listening to their stories, some of which stretched back to the 1870s, Bowen found inspiration for his later fiction. Following time at the University of Michigan and the University of Montana, Bowen published his first novel, Yellowstone Kelly, in 1987. After two more novels featuring the real-life Western hero, Bowen published Coyote Wind (1994), which introduced Gabriel Du Pré, a mixed-race lawman living in fictional Toussaint, Montana. Bowen has written fourteen novels in the series, in which Du Pré gets tangled up in everything from cold-blooded murder to the hunt for rare fossils. Bowen continues to live and write in Livingston, Montana.
Read an Excerpt
A Montana Mystery Featuring Gabriel Du Pré
By Peter Bowen
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2006 Peter Bowen
All rights reserved.
Du Pré 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 Pré 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 Pré walked to her, Madelaine hooting behind him.
"It is too six!" she said.
Du Pré looked at his granddaughter.
"You are taller," he said.
"Yes," said Pallas. "I am taller than Jacqueline, she will not like that."
Du Pré 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 Pré.
"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 Pré 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 Pré 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 Pré.
"Maybe we strap things on the roof," said Pallas.
Du Pré 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 Pré turned away to laugh.
They got in and Du Pré 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 Pré 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 Pré?" said Madelaine.
Du Pré 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 Pré 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 Pré 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 Pré laughed.
Pallas she can talk like some East Coast educated person, Du Pré thought. I just heard it.
"So it is all right?" said Madelaine.
"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 Pré. "That Maria keeps promises."
Du Pré 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 Pré.
"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 Pré.
"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 Pré.
"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 Pré.
"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 Pré.
"Remember when Jacqueline throws Raymond's piss, hits the Highway Patrol car?" said Pallas.
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"You think they would learn," said Pallas.
"No," said Du Pré, "they don't learn."
They drove on, silent, while Madelaine and Pallas drank pink fizzy wine and Du Pré smoked.
"Pret' soon you can't smoke in car, either," said Pallas.
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"Tobacco got lots of taxes now," said Pallas.
"Not where I get it," said Du Pré.
"Oh," said Pallas. "That is interesting."
"Crow come through often," said Du Pré. "They buy in North Carolina and they drive it back here. They 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 Pré 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 Pré snorted.
"Pissants," he said. "Biggest political party."
"Hey," said Pallas, "there is a coyote ...," and she stared out the window.
Du Pré 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 Pré.
They came to the road north. Du Pré 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 Pré, "they don't bother me."
The big SUV shot down the road.
Du Pré 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 Pré.
"It is too bad," said Pallas. "I think all that Iraq business won't work out well at all."CHAPTER 2
"That Ripper he is dead yet?" said Madelaine. "You are sleeping with him maybe?"
"He is alive, and no, I am not," said Pallas. "I think I don't like it he is in jail, child molestation, and it is me. Trouble is, no one minds their own business anymore. Noses in everything."
"Yah," said Du Pré.
Ripper was thirty-two, an FBI agent, and Pallas had decided he was hers some years back. Ripper's opinion was neither sought nor counted.
"So what is Chappie doing, he is now home?" said Pallas.
"Walks a lot," said Madelaine. "Gets used to his new leg. His wife divorced him three years ago, they did not have children."
They crested a hill and looked at a long stretch of road straight as a string north to the horizon. There were a couple of vehicles, a green van and an orange rental truck parked by the road.
Du Pré got back up to speed. The SUV was a very steady vehicle, heavy and well powered.
The van and truck were three or so miles distant.
Du Pré slowed when he was a third of a mile or so from them.
He stopped and pulled off behind the van.
A fat man in a soiled brown T-shirt was glaring into the engine compartment. He looked at Du Pré and then back at the engine.
Du Pré heard children's voices responding to a woman's voice. They were praying.
"You need help?" said Du Pré.
"It just quit running," said the man.
Du Pré looked at the license plate on the van.
"You got a rag and some cold water?" said Du Pré.
The man looked at him.
"Your carburetor is maybe vapor-locked," said Du Pré.
"LuAnne!" the man barked. "Get a rag and some cold water."
"Praise Jesus," chorused the children.
A fat woman in a print pantsuit opened the side door of the van, got in, and came back out with a cloth dripping water.
Du Pré wrapped the cloth around the carburetor.
The fat man kept on glaring at the engine.
"Go and try it now," said Du Pré.
The man looked at Du Pré with stupid brown eyes.
"Go and try to start it now," said Du Pré.
The man jerked, as though he had been asleep, and then he went to the cab and opened the door and he got in. The engine ground, caught, ran.
Du Pré shut the hood.
He went to the window and he tapped on it.
The man rolled it partway down.
"If it starts to choke," said Du Pré, "put more water on the rag."
The man nodded, put the truck in gear, and drove off, and Du Pré had to step back to avoid having his feet crushed by the rear tire.
The fat woman herded the children into the van and she went off after the orange truck.
Du Pré walked back to the SUV.
"If they are stopped again," he said, "I am going around them. He was very stupid."
Du Pré put the SUV in DRIVE and he pulled back out onto the road.
The orange truck and the van were not that far ahead and Du Pré caught up to them, slowed until he could see round them, and he shot past.
He pushed the big SUV up to about one hundred miles per hour and the land fell away in moments.
Du Pré saw flashing blue lights ahead. He slowed down and a Montana Highway Patrol car shot past.
He got the SUV back up to speed.
In a couple of hours they were slowing down to enter tiny Toussaint, Montana, and Du Pré pulled up in front of the Toussaint Saloon.
They got out and went in.
"Pallas," said Susan Klein, the owner. "You have grown so!" She came round the bar and she hugged Pallas, who hugged her back.
She is like a colt now, all legs, Du Pré thought. She is a tall girl.
There were a few other people in the bar all of whom clucked and chuckled and welcomed Pallas back.
Du Pré and Madelaine sat at the bar. Susan brought a ditch for Du Pré and a glass of pink fizzy wine for Madelaine.
Pallas came and she sat next to Madelaine.
"Dry martini," said Pallas, "twist, shaken, not stirred."
"How 'bout a Coke?" said Susan Klein. "Or shall I have Benny, who you may remember is the sheriff here, arrest you for trying to buy alcohol?"
"Trying is a crime?" said Pallas. "They throw you in jail for trying?"
Susan filled a glass with ice and cola.
"Trying," she said, "is talking to a little blister like you."
"I'm sorry," said Pallas, not sounding at all sorry.
"Cheeseburgers?" said Susan, looking from Du Pré to Madelaine to Pallas.
Ten people came in then, all laughing.
"I cook them," said Madelaine. "You got enough to do." She went back to the kitchen.
Pallas eased over onto the stool that Madelaine had been sitting on.
"So," said Du Pré, "you are liking it there all right?"
"Non," said Pallas, "the work is interesting and I am glad for an education and I am going to get a good one. But it is dirty and stinks and it is crowded and there is no place you can go that does not have a lot of people in it. Not like here."
"No," said Du Pré, "not like here."
"No horses to ride," said Pallas. "There are stables, but they all have those funny little saddles and girls with irrigation boots only made of leather and little hard black hats."
Du Pré laughed.
"They can't ride for sour owlshit anyway," said Pallas. "I went to this one stable and found a good horse, talked with him, got on him we went off. I was on bareback and they shit rusty pickles. Called an ambulance. Me, I am riding the horse who likes me, and not in trouble."
The door opened and a man came in, dark, with a scarred face. A black patch covered his left eye, and he walked with a cane, a strange gait that seemed one step and a shift of body and then a rolling swing of an artificial leg.
"It is Chappie!" said Pallas. She got down from her stool and she ran to him and she hugged him.
He looked at her with his one eye.
"Pallas," said Pallas. "I was smaller the last time you saw me."
"Pallas," said Chappie. "Of course. You were driving my mother insane the last time I was here."
"She is all right I think," said Pallas.
The two of them walked over to the bar together and Chappie slid up on a stool.
Susan came down the bar.
"A big one," said Chappie.
Susan made a very strong ditch and she pushed it over to him.
"Thank you," said Chappie, "very much." He pulled a bill out of his shirt pocket and he put it on the counter. He had only two fingers on his right hand, and part of his thumb was missing.
Pallas moved to the far side of him.
Madelaine came out of the kitchen with three platters, cheeseburgers and fries and coleslaw. She slid the platters across the bar.
"You want some food?" said Madelaine.
"No," said Chappie. "Not now."
He drank a good half of his ditch, fumbled for a cigarette, lit it with a plastic lighter.
Du Pré and Madelaine and Pallas ate hungrily. It had been a long drive from Billings.
Madelaine took the platters back to the kitchen. Water ran.
The door opened again and Lourdes and Hervé and several other children of Jacqueline and Raymond rushed in. Hervé tackled Pallas, and she punched him in the neck.
"Owww!" yelled Hervé.
Pallas and her brothers and sisters ran out before Madelaine could make it back from the kitchen to throw them out.
"I was always hoping they kill each other off," said Madelaine. "Now they can carry her home, Jacqueline and Raymond."
"Raymond is working the towers," said Du Pré. Raymond was an electrical lineman now. He had gotten certified last year.
"Jacqueline probably got a horse, went up into the Wolfs," said Madelaine.
She came and sat between Du Pré and Chappie.
Chappie held up his glass and Susan made him another, made change from the bills on the bartop.
The telephone rang and Susan answered it. She listened.
"Oh," she said, "sure we can."
She put the telephone up.
A few minutes later, as Du Pré was finishing his ditch, a deliveryman came in. He looked tired.
Susan pointed to Du Pré.
"I have some boxes for Doctor Paul Van Den Heuvel," said the deliveryman.
"OK," said Du Pré.
"It says to deliver it to 10 Main Street," said the deliveryman, "but there are no numbers here."
"Catholic church," said Du Pré, "the white one down the road."
"Oh," said the deliveryman.
"But he is gone," said Du Pré.
The deliveryman nodded.
"I put them in the church," said Du Pré.
The deliveryman brightened.
"If you ever have any more," said Du Pré, "the church is never locked."
Excerpted from Nails by Peter Bowen. Copyright © 2006 Peter Bowen. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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