The Pot Thief Who Studied Edward Abbey (Pot Thief Series #8)

The Pot Thief Who Studied Edward Abbey (Pot Thief Series #8)

by J. Michael Orenduff

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Overview

The pot thief is going back to school, but someone on campus is trying for a different kind of degree—murder in the first—in this “smartly funny series” (Anne Hillerman).
 
Before making a somewhat notorious name for himself as a salvager of antiquated pottery and other desert artifacts, Hubie Schuze was an eager student at the University of New Mexico—right up until they booted him out. Now, he’s back at UNM as a pottery teacher. It should be a breeze, but campus life has changed dramatically in the past twenty-five years. From cell phones to trigger warnings to sensitivity workshops, Hubie has to get up to speed fast or risk losing control of his class.
 
But his dismay at the state of modern academia takes a back seat when a young beauty working as a life model is murdered—and Hubie becomes a suspect. Taking the investigation into his own hands, he soon uncovers a wide palette of sketchy suspects that includes both the self-involved student body and the quarrelsome art school faculty.
 
But what he doesn’t know is that the murderer has a new artistic project in the works: a headstone for the grave of Hubie Schuze . . .
 
The Pot Thief Who Studied Edward Abbey is the 8th book in the Pot Thief Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504049924
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 05/22/2018
Series: Pot Thief Series , #8
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 300
Sales rank: 11,110
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

J. Michael Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico from his backyard. While studying for an MA at the University of New Mexico, he worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. After receiving a PhD from Tulane University, he became a professor. He went on to serve as president of New Mexico State University.

Orenduff took early retirement from higher education to write his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries, which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery. Among the author’s many accolades are the Lefty Award for best humorous mystery, the Epic Award for best mystery or suspense ebook, and the New Mexico Book Award for best mystery or suspense fiction. His books have been described by the Baltimore Sun as “funny at a very high intellectual level” and “deliciously delightful,” and by the El Paso Times as “the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas.”
J. Michael Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico from his backyard. While studying for an MA at the University of New Mexico, he worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. After receiving a PhD from Tulane University, he became a professor. He went on to serve as president of New Mexico State University.

Orenduff took early retirement from higher education to write his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries, which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery. Among the author’s many accolades are the Lefty Award for best humorous mystery, the Epic Award for best mystery or suspense ebook, and the New Mexico Book Award for best mystery or suspense fiction. His books have been described by the Baltimore Sun as “funny at a very high intellectual level” and “deliciously delightful,” and by the El Paso Times as “the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas.”

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

One month earlier — the start of the fall semester

On my first day as a college student, I'd walked from Dartmouth to the University of New Mexico.

It took me less than five minutes, because my family lived on Dartmouth Drive, about a hundred yards east of the UNM campus.

At the real Dartmouth back in New Hampshire, I assumed the nip of fall was in the air and colorful leaves were on the ground. In Albuquerque it was over a hundred degrees and the ground was hard-baked caliche.

Three decades later, I'm scheduled to teach a course. The air is still hot and dry, but the caliche is now covered with xeriscape, a fancy word for landscaping with gravel.

I can't believe they want me to teach a course. Neither will you when you learn how it all came down. A guy walked into my pottery shop last spring, stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Milton Shorter, head of the University of New Mexico Art Department. Are you the owner?"

I shook his hand and said, "Yes, I'm Hubie Schuze."

I was relieved he didn't know me and didn't recognize my name. I was responsible for his predecessor going to prison.

"You make pots?" he asked.

I told him I did, and he asked if I was interested in teaching a noncredit course in pottery making.

"Does the noncredit part apply to the students or to me?" I asked.

He chuckled and said, "The students get zero college credit. But to balance that out, your pay won't be much more than their credit."

I liked his sense of humor. "How low is the pay?"

"Fifty bucks for each student, plus tips."

"Teachers get tips these days?"

"Remember, these are noncredit courses. I'm told you may get cookies, fresh produce from their gardens or handmade birdhouses."

It was only two nights a week for six weeks. It was scheduled in the Botanical Garden Building, a ten-minute walk from my shop in Old Town. I thought it might be fun.

I was right. Olga Perez gave me tamales after the second session. The scents of limestone, corn masa, slow-cooked pork and ground dried pasillas told me Olga would get an A.

Except I wouldn't be giving grades. The course was offered through the Division of Continuing Education. I suspected it was scheduled at the Botanical Garden to ensure it didn't adulterate the intellectual climate on the main campus.

The students were mostly retirees looking for a hobby. They weren't even matriculated.

Which at their advanced age was probably a good thing.

I had six students. I appreciated the extra three hundred bucks but not nearly as much as the tamales.

A few weeks after the course ended, Shorter asked me if I'd be willing to teach a second course for the fall semester. For credit. And on the main campus, no less. I figured maybe Olga put in a good word about me.

My new course was ART 2330, Anasazi Pottery Methods. My job was to teach students how New Mexico's ancient potters made the works I illegally dig up and sell at my shop in Albuquerque's Old Town.

If you're wondering why the University of New Mexico would hire a pot thief to teach a course about Anasazi pottery, you've skipped over two even more vexing questions.

First, why would they hire someone they'd previously expelled?

Second, why would the art department hire the person responsible for sending their former department head to prison?

I guess I have some explaining to do.

My name is Hubert Schuze and — as I just admitted — I'm a pot thief. I was previously a treasure hunter. Then Congress passed the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), redefining treasure hunting as theft. As I like to point out, who knows more about theft than Congress?

Because I had been an undergraduate thirty years ago, I figured reading something by another former UNM student might put me in a collegiate mood. The alumnus who came to mind was Edward Abbey. But John Hoffsis at Treasure House Books on the square in Old Town told me Abbey didn't write about colleges. John recommended I read Desert Solitaire, a memoir about Abbey's service as a park ranger combined with a diatribe against the National Park Service for selling out to what he called "industrial tourism," despoiling the wilderness in order to serve the interests of road pavers, motel builders and fast-food joints.

In this regard, he is a kindred spirit. As you might imagine, I frequently dig on public land. Despite my attempt to scour the remotest areas, I often encounter cigarette butts and Styrofoam cups.

People who smoke don't have the lungs for long uphill hikes. People don't buy coffee in Styrofoam cups if they plan to drink it six hours later. Cigarette butts and Styrofoam cups are not carried in by hikers. They are driven in by people in air-conditioned gas guzzlers using loop roads that allow everyone to get within a five-minute stroll of what was once unspoiled wilderness. Abbey wrote that loop roads are "extremely popular with the petroleum industry — they bring the motorist right back to the same gas station from which he started."

I understand the desire to make every square inch of the planet accessible. If I live long enough, I will eventually be too frail to hike out to the petroglyphs west of Albuquerque, much less climb up to cliff dwellings and dig for pots. I'll probably long for a level paved road to take me back to the remote places so fond in my memory.

But making wilderness accessible is a contradiction. Once it's accessible, it's no longer wilderness.

You dream of seeing one of the hidden waterfalls in the slot canyons of the Four Corners area, where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona meet. But when you get there, you also see the Visitor Center, with Coke machines and a sandwich shop. A paved parking lot full of Winnebagos. A pet "restroom" area and concrete picnic tables. Utility poles and wires spoiling the clear blue sky. People asking the rangers, "How long will it take me to get to the waterfall?" as if this were an episode of that deranged television series The Amazing Race.

My morning paper a week earlier had a teaser for the upcoming episode that read "Tensions rise in Thailand as one team forgets their fanny pack."

How can you forget a fanny pack when an entire team of videographers, lighting specialists and sound-boom operators are watching your every move?

Better question: Why do we watch people doing things instead of doing them ourselves? Get off your couch, turn off your television and get out in the wilderness.

While there is still some of it left.

If you happen to run across me with my hands in the dirt, do me a favor — don't tell the rangers.

As editor of the UNM student newspaper, The Daily Lobo, Abbey adorned the front page with the quote, "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."

In what I can only assume was a tongue-in-cheek joke, he attributed the quote to Louisa May Alcott.

The university president was not amused. He had all copies of the issue destroyed and removed Abbey from the editorship.

That was in the '50s. Had he tried to remove the editor of the student newspaper in the '60s, the students would have burned down the presidential residence along with the ROTC Building. And maybe the football facilities for good measure.

Given the Lobos' ineptitude at football, no one would have cared about the latter.

According to Abbey, "Anarchism is democracy taken seriously."

I'm not an anarchist. My five-six frame carries a one hundred and forty pounds of flesh and bone and only an ounce or two of nerve, so I like having police to protect me from bad guys. But when it comes to the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, I'm as lawless as it gets.

ARPA does not protect ancient pots. It protects them only from people like me. Professional archaeologists can dig them up and study them in a basement lab. But people who love those pots enough to want to share them with the world are not allowed to do so. God forbid that an average citizen should own one and display it proudly.

Okay, the expelled-from-university part ... As a potter myself, I know the women who created the pots I dig up are happy to have me rescue their handiwork and make it available for all the world to see. And it doesn't hurt that I usually turn a healthy profit doing so.

I don't feel any guilt about that. It's not as if I can give the money to their heirs.

It was the first such profit that got me expelled from the UNM graduate program in anthropology. While the faculty were directing the other students where to dig, I took a walk away from the official site and did my own excavation.

I thought showing the three Anasazi pots I found would bring praise from Professor Gerstner. What it brought instead was a lecture about digging only where directed to do so and a demand that I turn the pots over to him.

That was prior to the passage of ARPA. I hadn't found the pots on the official dig site inside Gran Quivira, so the pots were legally mine. But that didn't keep Gerstner from kicking me out of the program when I sold them.

I used the money for a down payment on my building in Old Town and went into the pottery-selling business.

Now the department-head-going-to-prison part.

Walter Masoir, a retired UNM anthropology professor, enlisted my help four years ago to recover some pots that are sacred to the people of the San Roque pueblo. The pots had been looted over a century ago and passed through any number of hands before finally being donated to the UNM Department of Anthropology and Archaeology. Shortly before he retired, Gerstner convinced the faculty to repatriate all the department's Native American artifacts to the tribes from which they had originally come.

Masoir argued that it makes no more sense to operate an archaeology department without artifacts than it would to operate a chemistry department without test tubes, but most of the faculty went along with Gerstner's plan. The artifacts were repatriated.

Except for the San Roque pots.

But nobody knew that, because San Roque is closed to outsiders. Masoir was the only white man ever to learn their language. So when one of the Ma (as the residents of San Roque call themselves) told Masoir they didn't have the pots, he came to me and said he believed Gerstner had kept them as a retirement nest egg.

Which I managed to find out was true. I also discovered the head of the art department, Frederick Blass, was acting as Gerstner's fence. And proved he killed Gerstner when they quarreled about splitting the loot.

You may be wondering how the task of returning the pots to the Ma people required solving a murder.

It didn't.

What required me to solve the murder was that I was accused of it.

Life is full of ironies. That's how we know God has a sense of humor. Edward Abbey put an outrageous quote on the front page of the Daily Lobo, but he was allowed to stay in school. I dig up and sell pots legally and I'm kicked out.

Here's another irony. My best friend, Susannah Inchaustigui, is a fan of murder mysteries. She almost enjoyed it when I was accused of Gertsner's murder, because it gave her a chance to deal with a real case rather than a fictional one.

How many murders can an innocent man be charged with? That's another irony. I've violated ARPA a thousand times and never been caught. But I've been wrongly charged with murder three times. I sometimes wonder if one is intended to offset the other on the cosmic scales of life.

CHAPTER 2

Susannah swallowed a sip of her margarita and asked me if I was required to attend the orientation session for new faculty prior to teaching a credit course in the fall term.

"I had to do that in the spring."

"Seems strange they would require that even for a noncredit course," she said. "Why didn't you ever mention it to me?"

"I was embarrassed. They kicked me out of the session."

The five o'clock cocktail hour is a tradition with us. The margarita is usually the cocktail, and Dos Hermanas is always the place, two blocks from Spirits in Clay and just down the lane from La Placita, where Susannah works the lunch shift as what used to be called a waitress but is now called a server.

We used to meet every weekday. But since I moved in with Sharice, we meet only twice a week. Before she was my girlfriend, Sharice was my dental hygienist. She works for Dr. Batres, who provides free basic dental care for indigents two days a week from five until seven in the evening. It is on those days that Susannah and I still meet at Dos Hermanas.

I sometimes poke fun at the doc because his name never appears on anything without "Dr." in front of it. He probably has it monogrammed on his underwear.

But I admire Dr. Batres for donating his services and Sharice for staying after work to assist. Since he is not charging, neither is she, but he does give her comp time.

"How did you manage to get kicked out of new-faculty orientation?" Susannah asked.

"It was a session on language and inclusion. The first presentation was fascinating, a Navajo guy who'd been a code-talker in the Second World War. He was over ninety but looked a lot younger, and he told us some great stories. Then the trouble started. The second speaker was a woman who signed her ten-minute presentation."

"She handed out signed copies of it?"

"No. She signed it rather than speaking it." I mimicked sign language by holding my hands out and moving my fingers into different configurations.

Susannah laughed. "You look like that guy at Nelson Mandela's memorial service who was pretending to be the sign-language interpreter but was really just faking it."

"At least the hearing portion of the audience at the Mandela service could listen to the speeches. In my case we just sat there staring at the signer."

"She didn't speak as she signed?"

"She did not."

"She didn't have someone else speaking as she signed?"

I shook my head.

"She had the presentation displayed on PowerPoint slides?"

"Nope."

Susannah plopped her margarita down on the mosaic tile-topped table where it landed, appropriately, on an image of an agave. "So she just stood there and signed for ten minutes to an audience that probably didn't have one person who could understand the signs?"

"Exactly."

She retrieved her margarita and took a sip while thinking it over. "Maybe she can't speak."

"You might be right. After she finished signing, she just stood there. It was like when Sharice takes me to the symphony. The orchestra stops playing, and there's an awkward pause before the applause begins because most of us don't know if the piece is over or if it's just a pause between movements. I didn't know if she had finished signing or was just pausing to catch her breath."

"You don't have to catch your breath when you're signing, Hubie."

"That was a joke, Suze. I guess the equivalent phrase in signing might be 'give her fingers a break'? Anyway, the pause lasted long enough that someone started clapping, and of course the rest of us joined in. When the applause stopped, she held up a placard that read 'Now you know what it's like when a deaf person attends a spoken event.'"

She frowned. "Like hearing people don't know that deaf people can't hear? After all, that's what deaf means."

"Not according to the speaker ... er, signer. She distributed a leaflet explaining that deaf is a culture and signing is their native language."

"That's ridiculous. Signing is not a language any more than Twitter is a language. It's just a means of conveying a language."

"That's what I said. Except my example was typing. And that sent the deaf lady into a tirade."

"A tirade?"

"It seemed like a tirade. She was moving her fingers really fast and had a hell-bent-for-leather look on her face. When I tried to question her use of the word culture, the moderator said I was being hostile and asked me to leave."

"Was the deaf woman short with bobbed hair and a nose so big it deserves its own zip code?"

"You know her?"

"No, but I saw her in a class last semester. There was a deaf guy in the class. Ms. Nose was his signer."

I said, "I've heard some theory about when you lack one sense, the others become more acute to compensate for it."

"Yeah, like blind people can hear better than we can."

"Right. So maybe her nose is so big in order for her sense of smell to make up for her being deaf."

"That's funny. And not very nice. But that woman doesn't deserve nice. We had a guest lecturer on Raymond Jonson. She stood to the side and a bit behind him. I think she was reading his notes and signing from those."

"So she was probably deaf and couldn't hear the lecture?"

"That would be my guess. But she didn't stick to his notes. She made snide remarks about him. Like he didn't know what he was talking about and he was a spoiled brat."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Pot Thief Who Studied Edward Abbey"
by .
Copyright © 2018 J. Michael Orenduff.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.

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