You've had a tough day. The Tavern beckons. You sit at the end of the bar, nursing an unblended Scotch, listening half-hearted to the conversations around you.

There's Dennis Dubois behind the bar, his ear glued to a cellular phone, absently polishing the brass corners of his 19th century saloon cabinet.

From the morass of sound, a word perks your interest -- the word "ruby". Someone's talking about the murder. You focus your ears on the conversation between Police Detective Elizabeth Goswell and Misc. reporter Jonas Olsen as they play a game of one-pocket.

The detective seems comfortable around a pool table, confident, at ease -- a shark on a sea of felt. She looks good, but she can't make a shot to save her life. The young man, on the other hand, handles his cue awkwardly, his elbow cranking up and down like a stridulating cricket. Yet he calls and makes his shots one after another, running two or three balls at a time before finding himself boxed in. Then he plays it safe, running the cue ball behind a pack to leave Elizabeth without a shot. But he hardly notices this game; his game is in his words. He's prodding, prying, searching for a crack in her wall of obfuscation. A hound dog on the scent of a clue.

He can't believe she hasn't compared the ruby to the old photos of the falcon. Where else could the stone have come from? She reminds him that the photos show only a blurred image of the falcon's stones. And even if the old photos were clear, the gems are anchored in the bird. No one has seen the back of those stones since around 1750 when they were set. Identification from the visible faces alone is much more difficult.

The tenacious reporter bears down. Surely there were experts who had studied the bird when it was in the old museum before Dennis moved the Nez Percé collection into the Firewater. Surely some of these experts were still around and could identify the stone. The Detective just shakes her head and makes an easy shot, but fails to draw for the shape, leaving herself without another shot.

Jonas asks whether Professor Archibald had had a chance to see the stone. He is, after all, in charge of the archaeological excavation of the site, once the police finish with their forensics investigation. Elizabeth shakes her head again, her long, dark hair swinging freely across her face. For a moment the young man is struck by her beauty. He struggles to concentrate on her words as a sexual fantasy floods his thoughts, but just as quickly, the reality of her sexual orientation drains it out. He tunes back in as she is reminding him that access to the area is still restricted by the Native American Student Union's sit-in. Until the jurisdictional battle is settled, nothing can be removed from the site, and access is limited to a handful of cops who have been begrudgingly approved by NASU at the insistence of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. So Archibald can only peer at the corpse wistfully, from a distance.

Rad Cliff walks in and sits a few stools down from you at the bar. He has already been drinking, and orders a Rolling Rock from Dennis. He starts complaining about what a cheapskate his grandmother is, and you can no longer hear the conversation at the pool table. Rad's loud brutishness makes you uncomfortable. You chug down the last finger of scotch and head out.

Back in Time
Back to the Tavern