This week’s Crime Cafe guest post and giveaway comes from Mark Edward Langley.
As part of his guest appearance on the podcast, he’s giving away an autographed copy of WHEN SILENCE SCREAMS to a lucky winner; all you need to do is become a subscriber to MEMBERS ONLY on his website. He will announce the winner the next day.
And to give a small taste of the book he’s giving away, here’s an excerpt from WHEN SILENCE SCREAMS.
“Six months ago,” Melanie said, “my daughter, April, disappeared in Santa Fe. We were selling our jewelry at the Palace of the Governors. My husband is a craftsman with silver and turquoise, and I do all the beadwork pieces.” At a time when her face should have shown obvious pride, all that registered was helplessness. “My daughter went for some gelato and never came back.” Tears welled up in her eyes and quickly spilled down her cheeks. She wiped them away swiftly as her son watched.
Arthur poured a cup of coffee for Melanie Manygoats. “Cream?”
“Yes. The police have been doing their best,” Melanie continued, “or so they keep saying, but they still have nothing to tell us after all this time. They even asked us to give them DNA samples in case … to compare with any young girl that might need to be identified.” She sighed. “Somehow I don’t think finding a missing Indian girl is a priority to them.”
“I’m sure the police aren’t thinking that,” Arthur said consolingly, pouring from a carton of half-and-half he had taken from the refrigerator. He sat it in front of her and went back to the stew.
“I’m not so sure,” Melanie said. “When someone called the FBI in Gallup with a tip a few months back, they told her that she should call us, April’s parents, and tell us. It was like they didn’t even care.”
Arthur pursed his lips as he stirred the simmering stew. “Was there anyone in Santa Fe she knew? A relative or an acquaintance?”
“No relatives. And I don’t think she would know anyone there aside from the other artists and their children.”
“Is it possible she may have run off with a boy?”
“Oh no,” Melanie Manygoats said. “April would never do that.”
“How sure are you?”
The girl’s mother sat up straighter in her chair. “Very sure. Don’t think that because she is young, she is stupid.”
Arthur turned toward her while swirling the now bubbling stew. “I don’t think that. Did you visit any of the hospitals, jails or morgues?”
Melanie Manygoats shivered. “My husband did. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. He found nothing. Our girl was nowhere.”
“Did you check homeless shelters?”
“Of course. Again nothing.”
“I’m sure you’ve called her phone? Checked her social media?”
“Yes. Her phone used to go to voicemail; her social media accounts haven’t been updated since she disappeared.” Melanie sipped her coffee. “The police tried tracking her phone when we reported her missing, but there was no signal. The only reason I know she’s alive is that she hasn’t come to me in my dreams. That’s what gives me hope. Because I know she hasn’t walked on. If the time comes when I do see her, then I know she is gone forever.”
Arthur paused stirring. “How has your husband been handling this?”
Melanie looked down at her coffee and followed her hands as she raised the mug to her lips. “He’s changed.” She sipped and set the mug down. “He’s become very angry with the world. He wants to find whoever took our April and kill them.”
Arthur turned slightly. “If my daughter were missing, so would I.”
Melanie smiled softly. “At this point, he’s begun drinking more than usual and seems to be looking for a fight with anyone who will give him one. No matter who it is.”
“I understand,” Arthur reassured her. “Could there have been any reason she would run away? Any history of any mental or physical abuse?”
“None at all.” Her response was forthright. “She was … is a very happy girl.”
Arthur continued to stir the stew. “Could she have been pregnant?”
“No!” Melanie Manygoats snapped. “How dare you!”
“I’m sorry I had to ask, but I’m sure the police have already asked you many of the same questions.” Arthur finished stirring the mutton. “From what I can recall, Sheep Springs isn’t a very large area on the rez.”
Melanie Manygoats looked surprised. “You’ve been there?”
Arthur nodded. “My wife and I went to a flea market there one weekend.”
Arthur took two bowls from an upper cabinet and filled them with stew, placed the hot bowls and spoons in front of his two guests. The boy was the first to fist a spoon and begin to eat; his mother followed.
“And aside from the visitors’ center and the post office,” she noted, “the only real business we have left is the gas station convenience store and the Church of Latter-day Saints.”
“I remember stopping at that station,” Arthur said. “The old white building with big blue lettering on it.” He dumped some cream into his mug and poured himself another cup, letting the steaming coffee combine with the cream before sitting down at the table.
“That’s right,” she said, tasting the stew, her face pleased. “Your wife is a good cook. The squash is sliced thin, but not too thin, and the meat is very tender.”
“I’ll tell her you liked it.” He sipped his coffee. “I know it sounds like I’m prying, but how profitable is the jewelry business?”
Melanie ate another spoonful before responding. “We’ve been doing it for about fifteen years and, like any business, our busiest time is tourist season. After all the traveling to shows and taking care of expenses, we still just make enough to get by.”
“My husband made April a silver necklace for her last birthday.” Melanie smiled. “It was of a Native girl with a funny little grin. He said it reminded him of her when she was small and being mischievous. She had traditional hair and a little dress that had three small Arizona turquoise stones for a belt, and little moccasins.”
Arthur said nothing, honestly not knowing what to say. Then: “What did the Santa Fe Police tell you?”
“They went through her phone records and interviewed anyone she texted or called in the weeks prior to her disappearance. None of them had anything useful to say.” Suddenly, she stopped eating and looked across the table at Arthur. “It’s not like April to just vanish. I mean, she’s lost her phone before, but always used a friend’s phone to call and tell me not to worry.” She ate another spoonful, chewed the sautéed and boiled cubes of mutton and swallowed. “And she wasn’t into drugs, either.”
Arthur gave her credit for knowing where he was going with his questioning.
“The police asked us all sorts of questions six months ago and still they have nothing to tell us. We’re tired of getting told there is nothing new. We’ve given every bit of information we have to the Santa Fe police, the tribal police, the BIA and the FBI, and still we have nothing to show for it.”
Arthur sipped his coffee, swallowed.
Melanie Manygoats let her spoon rest in the steaming stew and looked across the table at him. “She’s a good girl, Mr. Nakai. I never thought she would become one of the stolen and end up on a missing poster. I used to point them out whenever we saw them and warn her about the evil that lurks within this false world. But I never thought—” She collected herself quickly. “I sleep very little and think too much because I spend my nights crying. My husband spends each day brooding and being angry. Angry that someone had stolen his little girl from him and angry that he couldn’t have stopped it from happening.”
“I’m sure that’s a heavy weight to carry for a father,” Arthur said. “I’m sure he is doing his best.”
Arthur had seen many posters of those missing as well. Each one stating height, weight, hair color, eye color and any other information that could help, but rarely ever did. Each flyer usually held a beautiful photograph of a smiling girl or woman taken at a happier place and time. If her worst fears were not to be realized, Arthur tabulated, the girl she would get back would not be the same girl she had lost. She would be a freighted, broken version of that girl … and hopefully not broken beyond repair.
Mark Edward Langley has always felt a kinship with the American Southwest. Introduced to it when he was young, his heart and soul were touched immediately by the beauty of the landscape and the wonder of its people. Langley is an award-winning author of the Arthur Nakai Mystery Series, including Death Waits in the Dark which has won both as a finalist in the American Book Fest Awards in 2020 and winning the coveted Feathered Quill Award for best mystery of 2021. He is currently writing his fourth novel of the series, Broken Glass, due out August 2022. He and his wife, Barbara, divide their time between their home in Indiana and New Mexico.