While filming a movie on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation, the film crew trespasses on sacred ground, threats are made against the female stars, a missing woman is found by the Hairy Man, an actor is murdered and Deputy Tempe Crabtree has no idea who is guilty. Once again, the elusive and legendary Hairy Man plays an important role in this newest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.
“Delia is nuts. She makes me so angry I could kill her.” The shrill outburst came from a slender woman not much out of her teens stomping into the dining room of the Bear Creek Inn.
The diners turned to stare at her, including Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband, Pastor Hutch Hutchinson. He leaned closer to Tempe and asked, “Who is that?”
“She’s probably one of the movie people who are filming on the reservation,” Tempe said.
“She doesn’t look like a star.”
Hutch was right. The woman in question had a puff of short, curly red hair. Freckles polka-dotted a plain but animated face. She wore cutoff jeans and an oversize pale blue shirt that hung off one bony shoulder.
Claudia, the owner of the inn, came rushing after her. “Excuse me, dear, what can I do to help you?” Claudia appeared to know the girl, or at least who she was.
She whirled around to face Claudia, but didn’t lower her voice. “Delia doesn’t like the food she ordered. She wants something else and she wants it right now.”
“Come with me to the kitchen. We’ll see what we can do for her.” While casting apologetic looks to the many other patrons as she passed, Claudia took the girl’s arm and led her away.
Hutch returned his attention to his dinner. “I wonder what that’s about.”
“I’m guessing she is Delia West’s personal assistant. It sounds like she has a difficult job.” Ever since the movie company invaded Bear Creek, Tempe had been hearing rumors about the problems they caused. Thankfully, nothing she had to take care of in her capacity as resident deputy of the mountain area surrounding the small town of Bear Creek—at least not yet.
Hutch finished the last of his steak and pushed the plate aside. He focused his gaze on Tempe. “I’m still surprised the Tribal Council gave them permission to film on the reservation.”
“Me too. But from what I’ve heard, the production company promised the movie would promote a positive image of the tribe and bring tourists to the casino. That weighed heavily on the decision. Not everyone is enthusiastic about the project.”
“Did they have an opportunity to read the script?” .
Tempe admired her husband before answering. The wire-framed glasses perched on his nose helped his pastoral image, but contrasted with the twinkle in his eyes and his tousled auburn hair. “I don’t know, but I would think so or they wouldn’t have agreed.” Tempe glanced around the room. “Some of the other people connected with the filmmaking are having dinner here. I suspect the assistant’s remarks will get back to Ms. West.”
“I figured that’s who these strangers are. They kind of stick out.”
Besides being strangers, the extra people didn’t dress like the citizens of Bear Creek. Some of them wore what they might have thought mountain people might wear: brand new shorts and slacks, crisp shirts, and boots, looking like they stepped out of a Land’s End, J. Crew or L.L. Bean catalog.
“I hope that young woman doesn’t get into trouble.” Hutch pushed his empty plate aside. “This is one time I’d like to have Nick Two John fill us in.”
Nick Two John was Claudia’s partner in life, the main chef at the inn, and a good friend of Tempe and Hutch. Over the years, Nick educated Tempe about her Indian heritage and culture. Hutch didn’t always approve, but despite some disagreements their friendship grew.
Almost as though he’d heard Hutch, Nick stepped out of the kitchen following Claudia. She continued on to the front desk, but Nick pulled a chair up to their table. “Claudia told me you were out here.” His long black braids hung down over his white shirt, tucked neatly into worn Levis.
Hutch obviously couldn’t contain his curiosity. “We couldn’t help but wonder about that young woman. Where did she go, by the way?”
“Her name is Kate Eileen Shannon and she is the personal assistant to Delia West, the movie star.”
“She doesn’t sound too happy about her job,” Tempe said.
“Ms. West is difficult. I cooked a special meal at her request, but it didn’t suit her. She blamed Kate Eileen and ordered her to fetch something else. I fixed up a plate of tonight’s special and sent her out through the kitchen.”
“I take it that monstrosity out back belongs to Ms. West,” Hutch said. He referred to the 40-foot silver and black luxury motor home taking up a quarter of the parking lot.
“I think the studio provided it for her. She expected it to be set up on the Bear Creek Reservation, but the Tribal Council wouldn’t allow it. Supposedly it’s because they don’t have hookups for RVs, but I suspect they had other reasons too.”
“So you let it be parked here.”
“Ms. West wouldn’t agree to any of the campgrounds. I doubt any of the local ones have room for such a big rig. The production company offered enough money to make Claudia agree to have it here.”
“What’s it like having a famous movie star around?” Tempe asked.
“Do you want the truth?” Nick glanced around as if to make sure no one was listening and lowered his voice. “She’s not a nice person. The gossip is she’s not at happy being in this movie, but it’s the only part she’s been offered in three years. I have no interest in such things so I don’t know whether this is true or not.”
“We aren’t experts on movies either, but Hutch and I do enjoy seeing one every so often. What I do know is she’s getting older, and Hollywood isn’t known for being kind to older actresses.”
Hutch leaned forward. “Do you have any idea what this movie is about?”
Nick’s expression remained impassive. “I’ve heard various things, supposedly a romance between an Indian woman from the reservation and a white man working at the casino.”
Hutch raised an auburn eyebrow. “Not exactly an original idea.”
“Have there been other movies like that?” Nick asked.
Tempe said, “Not exactly, but the theme of a person falling in love with someone outside his or her culture has been done many times.”
“I suppose the Indian woman is the part that Ms. West is playing.” Hutch finished the rest of his coffee. “Couldn’t they find an Indian actress to play the part? Seems like that would’ve made more sense.”
“I’m not sure they even looked. That’s another reason some of the Indians on the rez are unhappy about this project.” Nick glanced around. “I better get back to the kitchen. Having so many extra people staying here in the inn means more work at dinner time.”
“Must be good for business,” Hutch said.
“Claudia’s happy.” Nick got up, nodded, and headed toward the kitchen.
The waitress stopped by and refilled Tempe’s and Hutch’s coffee cups.
Tempe thanked her and when she’d gone, said, “All this movie activity is giving the people in Bear Creek something to talk about. I’ve heard some state they wished the movie was being filmed in town instead of the reservation. The only time they get to see the strangers is here, the café or when they go into the store. The only stars staying here are Delia West and the two male leads. Most of the crew are in various motor homes and trailers on the campground at the lake. Their accommodations are nothing like Ms. West’s.”
“I would think that means they aren’t as important as she is, or thinks she is.”
“I’ve seen some of them, but frankly I didn’t recognize anyone. My guess is this movie isn’t going to be a blockbuster.”
“Guess it doesn’t matter, though I think having these extra people around is giving a boost to Bear Creek’s economy, and I bet to the casino too.”
“No doubt, since there isn’t much else to do around here or in Dennison either.” Dennison was the nearest city, a forty-five minute drive, and it didn’t have much in the way of cultural or entertainment venues. Besides gambling, the casino had special events on the weekend like concerts featuring celebrities and MMA fights.
“I wonder if we’ll see any of these movie people in church.” As pastor of the local community church, Hutch was always happy to welcome visitors.
Though Tempe had her doubts, she said, “We’ll know if any strangers turn up tomorrow for the service.”
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Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest River Spirits from Mundania Press. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra.