This debut mystery from a fresh voice in Southwestern fiction stakes out the common ground between Tony Hillerman, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.
In a remote corner of the Chickasaw Nation, tribal Lighthorse policeman Bill Maytubby and county deputy Hannah Bond discover the buzzard-ravaged body of Majesty Tate, a young drifter with a blank past. They comb Oklahoma's rock prairie, river bottoms, and hard-bitten small towns for traces of her last days.
Tate was seen dancing with Austin Love, a violent local meth dealer fresh out of prison. An Oklahoma City motel clerk connects her with an aspiring politician. An oil-patch roustabout and a shady itinerant preacher provide dubious leads. Ne'er-do-wells start dying off.
A fluke lead propels Maytubby deep into Louisiana's bayou country, where a Cajun shrimper puts him on the scent of a bizarre conspiracy. He and Bond reunite in the Chickasaw Nation for the eventual face-off at Nail's Crossing.
About the Author
Kris Lackey has published stories in Missouri Review, Wisconsin Review, Cimarron Review, and other magazines. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma. Nail's Crossing is his first novel.
Mark Bramhall has won the prestigious Audie Award for best narration, more than thirty AudioFile Earphones Awards, and has repeatedly been named by AudioFile magazine and Publishers Weekly among their "Best Voices of the Year." He is also an award-winning actor whose acting credits include off-Broadway, regional, and many Los Angeles venues as well as television, animation, and feature films. He has taught and directed at the American Academy of Dramatic Art.
Read an Excerpt
By Kris Lackey
Blackstone Audio, Inc.Copyright © 2017 Kris Lackey
All rights reserved.
Ever since he got back to Lighthorse Police headquarters at ten thirty, Bill Maytubby had been thinking about Mazen's chicken shawarma. He could just about smell the garlic. The egg whites he bolted at five a.m. had evaporated hours ago. He looked down at the clutter on his desk. He hated being in his office — in any office, really.
He could see the drought-seared Oklahoma hills behind downtown Ada, seat of Pontotoc County and modern capital of the Chickasaw Nation.
The clock next to a photo of the nation's governor read 11:58. Maytubby looked through the plate glass at the clock on the desk of his chief, Les Fox. It said 12:01. Don't think about the grisly turkey buzzard, he told himself. Think about Jill Milton.
And there she was, standing in Mazen's parking lot and smiling at Maytubby as he pulled up in the cruiser. At the end of Main behind her, the East Central University admin building shimmered like a mirage. There was too much white in the sky. The Citizens Bank thermometer flashed 105.
"Sergeant William of the Royal Lighthorse Police." She tapped the brim of his Mountie hat. "Sounds downright colonial."
"Change it to 'Maytubby.' Then it won't."
"Quite right, Sergeant. Carry on." She took his arm as they entered the restaurant. Normally, he braced for the Chill — that silent half second when he entered a public place in uniform and all eyes but the children's snapped down. Jill Milton rendered him invisible, though; everyone but the children stared at her.
Important wavy black hair to her shoulder blades, keen obsidian eyes, and a big, fierce smile. Maytubby also marked the diners' curiosity — tumblers turning in racial padlocks.
The waitress raised her eyebrows as they walked past. They nodded, and she went to tell the cook chicken shawarma, hummus. Jill said, "Sergeant, don't you have something on any of the tribal brass to make them rescind the panty-hose policy? It's the twenty-first century. It's been over a hundred degrees for a month!"
"Are you saying our government is co-opting the fashions of our oppressors?"
"No, I'm saying no guy would work for the nation if he had to wear a salmon polyester double-knit leisure suit."
Maytubby pointed to his campaign hat on the table. "We all have our burdens."
She snatched it up and put it on. The brim dropped to her nose.
"I'd say you're undermining my authority."
"I can't believe your people were my people's masters," she said.
The waitress appeared, and Maytubby put his finger to his lips and motioned her to give him his food and take Jill's away. He was twirling a hunk of shawarma on his fork when she lifted the hat.
"Some of your people were masters, too."
Static crackled from his shoulder radio. He frowned and turned down the volume.
The waitress set Jill's hummus plate in front of her.
"Bill?" his shoulder said.
"Yeah, Sheila. What do we have?"
Jill Milton waved at the radio.
"OHP and nation road crew boss both called. Austin Love's silver-over-green jacked '78 F-one-hundred ..." Maytubby grabbed his hat, smiled at his fiancée, looked longingly at the uneaten shawarma, and made for the door east off One at Kullihoma Road. OHP abandoning pursuit on Fifteen-O-Five at the stomp grounds."
Maytubby pushed the black Lighthorse Charger over the breaks of the Muddy Boggy River, east of Ada, through Happyland toward the Kullihoma Grounds, where the nation gathered for ceremonial dances. He passed sun-scorched hay fields. A few skinny cattle stood around where ponds used to be. Ranchers had sold most of their herds in Ada weeks ago, when hay hit eighty dollars a big bale.
Leaving the highway, he faced a slalom course of construction signs and roadblocks on Kullihoma Road. A hundred yards of one-lane blacktop, a half mile of dirt, more one-lane blacktop. He blinked his lights at the Highway Patrol cruiser coming out. Jake Renaldo waved. Maytubby couldn't blame him for bugging out. Jake didn't know the roads in there. And in fresh pursuit, he couldn't arrest an Indian on tribal land. It was enough that he'd stay parked on Oklahoma 1 in case Austin Love came back west. Sheila would have a Pontotoc deputy where Kullihoma hit State 48 on the east side.
Luckily, the last couple of miles were paved on at least one side. He could make time without raising a giant dust cursor.
* * *
She had not gone gently, Majesty Tate. Her knuckles were bloody, and she had made the best of her gnawed fingernails, ripping sizable hunks of flesh from her killer. She had lost her silver Converse Chuck Taylors when she was dragged from her red Aveo, and her heels had torn the ground in every direction between there and her house. It looked as if a razorback or two had come through.
Finding the smeared antler-handle Bowie had cost Maytubby the better part of a day. While FBI Evidence Response worked at Tate's rented house — on a patch of tribal allotment land, which made it federal — he had walked miles of dusty road from Ms. Tate's house toward Witch Hole Lake on Delaware Creek, clear into the defunct resort of Bromide. On the left side coming down, on the right, back up into the hills. As he went, he tossed pebbles into the brush. When he flushed a swarm of blowflies, he walked to the dead thing — a coon, as it turned out. Near evening, he had found the knife in the bar ditch near Houghtubby Springs. A custom Bowie. Whoever left it there either wanted it found or had a sorry arm.
* * *
Maytubby pulled into the stomp grounds, drove past the Thinking Warrior brush arbor and the Crazy Warrior arbor. It didn't take a skilled tracker to follow the pickup's trail. Love had fishtailed at every turn.
Even though Love had almost ten minutes on him, Maytubby drove slowly. He lowered his car windows, but closed them again when the cicada chorus washed in. Ears useless today. At each fork, the road got fainter — and rockier. It mattered less now that Maytubby knew Love veered left at every fork.
"You get a Pontotoc deputy at Fifteen Thirty-Three and Forty-Eight?"
"Ask him to go south to Fifteen Fifty." Love was probably in Coal County by now.
Maytubby coddled the Charger down the ridge to Sincere Creek and jolted across its dry bed. He accelerated over a patch of chat, pinging bits of it up against the undercarriage, and gained the opposite bank with a little momentum. Rocks banged against the tranny and chassis. He was kicking up dust now. And he needed the four-by-four. Burr oak and sumac closed in on the track and scraped the cruiser's fenders. He could see where Love's pickup had snapped branches higher up. Before he crested the ridge, he was in deep shade.
When his grandmother was a child, she had seen the mischievous little people, the konikosha, here, and they had stolen her shoe. She had taught Maytubby to rearrange any place where he played, so the little people couldn't find their way to him. Those stories had given him the creeps.
He lowered the front windows. The trail switched back once. Braking for the hairpin, Maytubby instinctively scanned the road going up over his right shoulder. Then he looked again. Grass growing high in the ruts, no coat of dust on the oak leaves. Nothing in his mirror, nothing up the hill. He peered into the dark woods in front of him, let his gaze walk slowly to the left.
The hairs on his neck stood up, and he covered the grip of his Beretta. A Mississippi kite whistled as it rode the midday thermals, but the timber was still. Without taking his eyes off the thicket, he slapped the shifter into reverse so it would make a noise. A shadow twitched among the leaves, and when he refocused deeper in the blackjacks, Maytubby was staring into the slate-gray eyes of Austin Love. Greasy black hair plastered his handsome face and spilled over his bony shoulders. He grinned at Maytubby, fired the Ford's big eight, and roared onto the road behind the cruiser.
Dust and reefer smoke spun in the Charger's tonneau as Maytubby backed down the bluff, overcorrecting at every bend until the cruiser slewed hard and finally spun usefully around in a bootleg turn. He regained the creek just in time to see the pickup bouncing away down the rocky bed.
Love had no doubt planned for Maytubby to get halfway to Gerty before he did that. If he got to the Muddy Boggy that way, he would have to take out a few fences.
"Love's coming your way, down the Sincere."
"Driving down the creek?"
* * *
Renaldo was on the rusted truss bridge with Katz when Maytubby got out of the cruiser ten minutes later.
"This looks like a scene from Deliverance."
"My whole life looks like a scene from Deliverance," Renaldo said.
"Phoo-oo!" said Katz.
"See what I mean, Bill?"
"You hear his truck in there? Sounds like a sawmill?"
The others shook their heads. They stared down at the creek and listened in the silence between passing pickups towing cattle trailers to the Ada sale.
"Sheriff told me you found the knife," Renaldo said.
"Found a knife. FBI forensics might find out if it's the knife and if it has Love's prints on it.
Renaldo folded his arms and looked into the sky. "How do you know Love's prints are in the system?"
Katz and Maytubby snorted in unison.
"He wore that stag knife ever'where he went," Katz said, wiping the sweat off his hatchet face with his forearm.
"Where'd that girl come from?" Renaldo said. "What, Queen? Princess ...?"
"Majesty. Tate. Albuquerque license address. Still haven't located next of kin. Nation rec ranger saw Love and her shooting eight ball at the Lazy K in Sulphur.
"How long's he been out of Mac?" Katz said.
"Twenty-six months. Gentlemen, I don't want to waste your time. Thank you."
* * *
Maytubby drove back to the stomp grounds entrance and parked under a concession arbor. Under the passenger seat, he found a small bottle of Ozarka water. Hot day. He took off his Smokey hat and tied on a blue bandanna. The warrant for Love's arrest, issued by the Chickasaw District court, crackled in his shirt pocket. Someone inside the court had alerted Love. Maytubby left his boots and socks on the floorboard, everything else but his cell phone and gun on the seat. If he disappeared, it would look downright Rapturish.
Until he picked up a deer trail into the back of the reservation, Maytubby scanned the stomp ground for glass shards. Jill mocked his awe of the Tarahumara runners. "It'll be all noble savage until you amputate a toe on a Choc beer bottle."
He found his pace and covered the two miles to Sincere Creek quickly. At the ford where he had lost Love, he stopped at the edge of the clearing, drank water, and listened. A distant crow, a semi testing the Sincere bridge. There would be no running down this creek, barefoot or shod. He picked his way along the rocky bed, wading a small pool here and there. The Ford's cartoon tires had overturned large rocks and spattered low limbs. A mile from the bridge, Maytubby climbed out of the creek and picked his way through the brush alongside.
Not a hundred yards on, he saw a big mess in the creek where Love had spun his tires trying to get a purchase on the steep bank. The pickup was nosed into a thicket. Maytubby pulled his Beretta and held it in both hands as he circled the truck, walking backward then forward. The driver's door was open — less racket in the woods. And by night, well, the dome light was smashed, likely during the Carter administration. He completed his circle and moved warily toward the pickup. He memorized the tires: forty-four-inch Ground Hawgs. Love's first few steps were clear — long smudges that suggested some haste. Maytubby was flattered. The cab was littered with Marlboro Red boxes and butts, nasty shirts, and jeans. A dark liquid had dripped and then dried on the floorboard and some of the clothes. He holstered the gun.
Love's first few steps led west, toward the bridge. But he knew there would be cops on the bridge — why he ditched the truck. Maytubby walked another circle, this one around the last smudge. A crushed blackjack acorn lay in a line with the other tracks. The next step left a clear print in deep sand. Herman Survivors — cheap at Wal-Mart and common as dirt. After a rocky patch, a torn stem of poison ivy. He stopped looking for signs and followed the creek toward the bridge. In and around Majesty Tate's house, Survivor bootprints, many of them bloody.
Every fifty yards or so, the prints reappeared. They stopped at the fence where the State 48 right-of-way clearing began. Maytubby semicircled. Nothing. He went through the fence and up under the bridge, searching the shadow until his eyes adjusted. Hundreds of Survivor prints, crossing and recrossing. He shook his head. Love was waiting for them to get off the bridge. His exit trail led not back down to the river but around the abutment and up toward the road.
Maytubby resisted a foolish impulse to climb to the road and have a look. The first driver who saw him would call the sheriff. He tried to remember whether a vehicle had crossed the bridge more than once when he and Renaldo and Katz were up there — maybe a friend Love had texted for a ride. Maytubby walked under the bridge and opened his cell phone. The tower on Potato Hill gave him a few bars. Possible. Was Renaldo's dash cam on?
He phoned Sheila as he left the road. Renaldo was writing up a speeder and would meet him in Stonewall.
"And, Sheila? I'm going to need mules."CHAPTER 2
The aquamarine eyes of Aaron Coblentz lit on the horizon behind Hannah Bond. The wheels of his black buggy rocked back and forth as his buckskin gelding settled. He set the brake.
"Monday evening, this time? Hmm. You mean besides the speed demons from Wapanucka?"
"They put glass packs on their mufflers. Spooks my horse."
"Monday ... Monday I got a spoke mended at Miller's, bought cheese at the store in Clarita. Came back to Bromide on Limestone Road. Helped my wife can crookneck squash." Coblentz stared at the horizon while the buckskin's ears flicked off horseflies.
Several people had told Bond about the red Aveo and the jacked-up Ford, said the pickup had come and gone several times the week before. When she showed them a Photoshopped version of Love's truck, they all had said the same thing: "That's it."
She said again to Coblentz, "Did you see any unfamiliar vehicles on this road?"
"Don't remember any."
She showed him the doctored photo.
"Oh, thatn. I thought he was another speed demon from Wapanucka."
She showed him a red Aveo as well. "Yep, 'member that doodlebug, too."
Bond took a card from her pocket. "Do you have a phone shanty, Mr. Coblentz?"
"Phone in the barn," he said.
She handed him the card. "Call me if you remember any other vehicles."
He gave her a little salute, released the hand brake, and coaxed the gelding down the road. The orange reflective triangle on the buggy disappeared in the white dust.
Bond followed the road, passing Coblentz slowly, twisting up through dusty oaks and sycamores between some spring-fed pools. The road switched back at a crooked, overgrown hall-and-parlor house.
Two days earlier, after an anonymous call about a car door being left open too long, she had stepped past the red Aveo to the house's open front door and roused a bristling cloud of blowflies that drove her away before she could see what was in the shadowed interior. She batted them away from her face and snorted one out her nose. Folding a Sonic napkin from the cruiser over her face and brandishing a post oak branch, she rushed at the house, just to get it over with.
Before she gained the threshold, something inside fell. Bond dropped the branch, drew her stodgy revolver — Smith and Wesson Model 10 — and duckwalked backward to the cruiser. Once behind it, she called for backup.
* * *
"Hannah. It's Maytubby. Four miles out. I know the house."
He was returning to Ada from a meeting at the Lighthorse substation in Thackerville. LHP and Johnston County officers were cross-deputized. Maytubby and Bond had trained together at CLEET, the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training.
Maytubby parked a hundred yards from the switchback, took his short-barrel binoculars from the cruiser, and walked into the woods. At the edge of the yard but still in shadow, he trained his glasses on the front doorway and waited for his pupils to adjust. Against the light of the room's double back window, a peaked silhouette bobbed spasmodically. The shadow looked like a child wearing a legionnaire's crested helmet.
When he was tucked behind Bond's cruiser, he showed her the field glasses and shrugged. "I don't think it's human," he whispered.
"Wall of flies. Reeks."
Excerpted from Nail's Crossing by Kris Lackey. Copyright © 2017 Kris Lackey. Excerpted by permission of Blackstone Audio, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PrologueChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18Chapter 19Chapter 20Chapter 21Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33Chapter 34
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am an Okie. I have been through a lot of the cities, towns and wide spots in the roads in the book. I have driven on quite a few of the roads and highways mentioned. May have to tryout some of the cafes if they actually exist. I
I enjoyed this read. I have never visited this part of the country but I feel that I can now be a tour guide for this area.
Sometimes hard to follow some of the culture slang. Needed to use a map to get a better idea of all the places the subjects travel to. Good story once you get used to the style of the author.
Interesting location for an action packed story involving Native Americans and the various law enforcement elements.
Great characters, wonderful interactions between the characters. Suspense, excitement, and just enough humor to make it worth your time. Hopefully this series will continue. Kris Lackey is one talented writer!
I went to school with Kris Lackey. We both grew up in Oklahoma. I am so impressed with this debut crime novel. There are lots of "characters" in OK and Kris has captured the nuances of the okie psyche very well. He also portrays the landscapes of OK so well that you feel like you are right in the car with Bill and Hannah. The Native American slant makes the novel even more compelling -- sophisticated, cultured characters navigating their lives and careers in rural OK. I highly recommend this book to mystery lovers for whom the setting is as important as the plot. Kris does for a mystery set in OK what Peter May does in the China series.
I wanted to like this book. I was interested in the Oklahoma setting and Native American culture, but it is almost unreadable. Most of the time I can't tell who is talking. Jargon is strung together with no context to even guess what it might mean. The story jumps around from one scene to another with no transition at all to tell you what is going on. I think the story might be interesting but it is too frustrating to follow. It needs some serious editing.
After seeing this compared to the Longmire series, I was looking forward to reading this book. However, it was frustrating. The author provided very little background aside from geography (& that was largely in the map). Descriptions of the land were satisfying but too numerous.It was hard to follow the plot. The mystery itself was complicated, convoluted, but not bad.Character development was also hard to follow. From reading the author's Q & A it was expected that the reader would fill in many of the blanks- awful hard to do w new characters. Since this is usually what I most enjoy, it was especially disappointing.Not sure if I will read the 2nd book in this series. It will likely depend on my tolerance for frustration on the day i see the 2nd title.
Hard to follow.
Nail's Crossing by Kris Lackey is a murder mystery set in American Indian territory. It is full of Native American landscape. Bill Maytubby is a member of the Tribal police. He is trying to solve a murder. The characters and plot are well developed. Sometimes the use of local accents and native words in the dialog slowed the reading process for me. Overall this was an interesting story and I enjoyed the interaction of the characters with each other. This was a B&N serial read where a few chapters are delivered to my Nook app each day during the month. It is a good way to read a new author and I always review every book that I read. I recommend this one if you are a fan of Tony Hillerman. There are some similarities.
I am a longtime fan of Tony Hillerman, Craig Johnson, James Doss and others that write mysteries set in the Southwest. When I saw this book as a featured Readout through Nook, I was excited to start a new series. I was not disappointed! William "Bill" Maytubby is a deputy with the Chickasaw nation, engaged to the beautiful lawyer Jill Milton. When a murder is committed on tribal land, Maytubby teams up with County Deputy Hannah Bond and FBI agent Scrooby. As Maytubby tries to track down the killer, he travels to Arkansas and Louisiana, where he encounters some true Cajuns. (This just added to my enjoyment since I lived in Louisiana for 4 years). All in all, this was an enjoyable book. Plenty of twists and turns, great characters, some dry humor and great descriptions of the countryside all add to the fun of this book. I am grateful to Nook for allowing me to discover this new series. I'm sure that I will be reading more adventures of these characters in the future.
I received a free electronic copy of this mystery novel from Netgalley, Kris Lackey, and Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all, for sharing your work with me. This was an excellent mystery, one difficult to put down. The form is a little different, but effective and perhaps even an added flavor in this mix of all sorts of cops crisscrossing across Oklahoma during a long hot summer. I will look for more by Kris Lackey. He is an author to watch for.