It's been twelve months since Rick and Ryan Hoelscher's narrow escape from the cave-in at the Clints Well tunnels. A full year has also passed since the miraculous discovery and rescue of Emily J. Puck, the long lost niece of the professor under whose home all three were eventually found. Despite the rescue, the city of Flagstaff is still no closer to solving the now infamous Zenparaven murders. In fact, since all three survivors suffer from severe amnesia regarding their time underground, the fate of Rick's partner and the identity of the strangler are two missing pieces of the mystery which still haunts the small community.
Then, on the one year anniversary of the tragedies, the Zenparaven painting itself is stolen. Soon, a string of new and far more grisly murders begins, and Rick finds himself inextricably drawn to Clints Well once more. Back to the excavation site beneath Dr. Puck's house. Back to where Rick believes all of the questions and secrets to this mystery lie --- and perhaps, all of the answers as well.
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“Enough!” Blackfoot shouted.
The old woman was crying now. Her grandson stood and put his arms around her to calm her down. At the first sight of his movement, however, McElwee nearly dove across the table at him.
“Stop!” Blackfoot yelled at him. “Can’t you see you’ve upset her? She’s very old and very frail. She doesn’t understand all this. She knows nothing about any knife!”
Rick was poised to vehemently declare his disbelief in the Indian’s last statement, but something unexpected took the words right out of his mouth. Calming enough to wipe the tears from her leathered cheeks, the old woman muttered something so softly that none of them there could tell exactly what she’d said.
Rick held out his arm to silence Broderick and McElwee, and leaned forward over the table so he could hear better.
“What did you say?” he asked her, cocking his head.
For several seconds she did nothing but sniffle, and even Blackfoot looked intently into her face, waiting for the answer. Slowly, she raised her head and looked at the detective. She too leaned forward, making no mistake in her utterance.
“I know this knife,” she said under her breath.
Nobody moved or said a word. Silently gaining the woman’s attention, Rick led her with his eyes back to the photograph, pointing at it with his finger.
“You recognize this?” he asked for clarification.
Taking a handkerchief from Blackfoot, she dabbed her eyes and nodded.
“Grandmother,” Blackfoot seemed to beg her, “you don’t need to tell these men anything.”
“We’ll decide what she needs to tell us,” McElwee differed. “Now, how do you know the knife? When did you see it last?”
The old woman’s legs were shaking beneath her, and still insisting that she ignore their questioning, Blackfoot helped her to sit down in his chair. She blew her nose and returned the handkerchief to her grandson, righting herself in the chair and then took the Polaroid in her weathered hand and held it before her eyes.
She looked at the picture for a very long time, the detectives growing more and more anxious as the seconds ticked by. She even ran her fingertips across the photo’s smooth surface as if trying in some way to actually touch the weapon whose image appeared there. Finally she looked up at them, peering through her reddened eyes to answer their question.
“I’ve never seen this knife before,” she said rather boldly, and her grandson smiled.
“But you just said --- “ McElwee started.
“I said I know this knife,” she corrected him. “Not that I’ve ever seen it before.”
Rick was already tiring of such semantics. He hadn’t the slightest idea what type of goose chase the woman before him was trying to send him on, and he wanted no part of it. Still, he felt patience was going to do them more good with her than McElwee’s hot-headed approach. He decided to seat himself back down at the table, and asked that Broderick and McElwee do the same.
“You know, I apologize, ma’am, I didn’t even get your name. I’m Lieutenant Hoelscher,” he said, tapping himself on the chest.
She looked at him with the same uneasiness she had displayed at the front door.
“My name is Estella Pinon.”
“Alright, Ms. Pinon,” Rick began with a tug at his goatee. “I’m gonna be honest with ya here. A very dear friend of ours, a police officer, was murdered tonight, and he was killed with the knife there in that picture. Now, any information we can get about that knife might mean the difference between us catching the killer or not, and we need you to be truthful with us no matter who it implicates,” he added with a sharp look at Blackfoot. “Now, when you say you know the knife but haven’t ever seen it, I don’t know quite what to make of that. Can you explain that for me?” he asked.
She took a deep breath and answered him.
“The knife is Hopi,” she said.
The fact that the knife was Hopi angered McElwee all over again. He made a loud noise under his breath and slapped his hand down on the table top.
“McElwee, please!” Rick shouted.
As McElwee settled back into his chair, Rick turned back to the old woman.
“Go on, Ms. Pinon.”
“The knife is one of five. Five knives forged by the Hopi for the preservation of life. The Penzencets as they were called by the whites. Each one forged and perfected by our gods to protect the five elements of life. The five elements essential to life here with our Earth Mother.”
“Only four of the Penzencets are known to exist,” Blackfoot interceded, taking the photograph from his grandmother and scrutinizing it intensely. “They’re owned by different museums and universities here in the U.S. One of them’s even here in Arizona, at the university in Tucson.”
“Is this one of them? Could it have been stolen?” Broderick asked.
Blackfoot quietly shook his head, “No.”
“You know, I’m tryin’ to get a handle on all this,” Rick stated. “You said, five knives, five elements, but I’m only comin’ up with four. You’ve got air, water, fire, and earth,” he said, counting them out on his fingers. “Which one’s this?”
“None of them,” replied the old lady.
She took the picture back from her grandson and layed it upon the table in front of Rick. She extended her age-spotted hand and tapped the photo with a thin, frail finger.
“This one,” she whispered. “This one serves to protect the fifth element. The most crucial element.”
The three detectives were waiting in anticipation.
“Which is what?” Rick had to ask.
She looked up at him and for the first time, smiled.
“The element of dreams.”