Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
An American MYSTERY! Special
Skinwalkers Coyote Waits A Thief of Time Navajoland Discussion
Cast and CrewNovel to FilmStory Synopsis
Novel to Film

 Compare and contrast scenes the film as directed by Jan Egleson, Lucky Gold's screenplay adaptation, and Tony Hillerman's novel. How has the story changed in the translation?

To view the film clips you will need either QuickTime or RealPlayer
   Delbert's Death
Novel | Script | Film - [QuickTime | Real Dialup or Real Broadband]
   Meeting McGinnis
Novel | Script | Film - [QuickTime | Real Dialup or Real Broadband]
   Kennedy's Secret
Novel | Script | Film - [QuickTime | Real Dialup or Real Broadband]

Kennedy's Secret
From Coyote Waits by Tony Hillerman
Excerpted from Chapter 10

They met at the International Pancake House on old U.S. 66 and sat a while sipping coffee. The autumn sun warmed Leaphorn's shoulders through his uniform jacket and the traffic streamed by off Interstate 40. He noticed how gray Kennedy had become, how -- uncharacteristic of FBI agents and of Kennedy himself -- he needed a haircut. Old cops, Leaphorn thought. Two old dogs getting tired of watching the sheep. Old friends. How rare they are. The Bureau would be glad to see the last of Kennedy -- exiled here years ago for some violation of the old J. Edgar Hoover prohibition against bad publicity, liberalism, or innovative thinking. The story was that Kennedy's ex-wife had been active in the American Civil Liberties Union. She had left him to marry a real estate broker, but the stigma remained.

For that matter, Leaphorn suspected there were those in his Navajo Tribal Police hierarchy who would be happy to celebrate his own retirement. He wouldn't make them wait much longer.

Kennedy had been talking about one of those endless interagency shoving matches which involve public employees -- this one an effort of the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and "The Bureau" to make one or another of them responsible for protecting Anasazi ruins under the Antiquities Act. Leaphorn had heard a lot of it before.

Kennedy quit talking. "I'm not holding your attention," he said.

"You ever been to China?" Leaphorn asked.

Kennedy laughed. "Not yet," he said. "If the Bureau opens an office there -- say in North Manchuria -- I'll get the assignment."

"Think you'd like to go?"

Kennedy laughed again. "It's on my wish list," he said. "Right after Angola, Antarctica, Bangladesh, Lubbock, Texas, and the Australian outback. Why? Are you planning to go?"

"I guess not," Leaphorn said. "Always sort of wanted to. Wanted to go out in the steppe country. Outer Mongolia. The part of the world where they think the Athabaskans originated."

"I used to want to go back to Ireland," Kennedy said. "Where my great-grandfather came from. I outgrew that notion."

"Yeah," Leaphorn said. "Do you know if anybody checked on that pistol Pinto used?"

"Somebody checked," Kennedy said. "It was a common type, but I don't remember the brand. American made, I think it was, and an expensive model. It had been recently fired. The slug in Nez came from it. Check of Pinto's hand showed he'd recently fired something."

"Where did it come from?"

"No idea," Kennedy said. "The old man isn't saying. Totally silent from what I hear. I guess he bought it at some pawnshop."

"I don't think so," Leaphorn said.

Kennedy peered at him, expression quizzical. "You've been asking around," he said. "Any reason for that?"

Leaphorn made a wry face. "Turns out Ashie Pinto is sort of shirttail, linked-clan kinfolks of mine," he said. "Through Emma's clan."

"You know him?"

"Never heard of him."

"But you got roped in."

"Right," Leaphorn said. "I don't think he bought the pistol because he was broke. Not even eating money. What do you know about those two fifties he had?"


"Where did Pinto get his hands on them?"

"No idea." Kennedy looked irritated. "How would we know something like that?"

"Did anybody check on the driver of the car Chee met going to the fire?"

Kennedy shook his head. "I told you it was a sloppy job. But damn it, Joe, why would they check on that? Look what you had there. No big mystery. A drunk gets arrested and kills the policeman. Doesn't even deny it. What's to investigate? I know you think we loaf around a lot, but we do have things to do."

"Did Pinto have his jish with him? You know where that is?"

"Jish?" Kennedy said. "His medicine bundle? I don't know."

"He was a shaman. A crystal gazer. If he was on a job, he'd have his crystals with him, and his jish."

"I'll find out," Kennedy said. "Probably he wasn't working. Left it home."

"We didn't find it at his place."

Kennedy looked at him. "You been out to his place, then."

The waitress delivered the waffles, which smelled delicious. Leaphorn applied butter, poured on syrup. He was hungry and he hadn't been hungry much lately. This Ashie Pinto business must be good for him.

Kennedy had hardly looked at his waffle. He was still looking at Leaphorn.

"We?" he said. "You been out searching Pinto's hogan? Who's we?"

"Pinto's niece," Leaphorn said. And a woman named Bourebonette. A professor at Northern Arizona University. You guys turn up anything about her?"

"Bourebonette? No. Why would we? How would she fit into this?"

"That's what bothers me," Leaphorn said. "She says Pinto was one of her sources for myths, legends, so forth. That's her field.

Mythology. She says she's into it because he's a friend. Just that."

Kennedy peered at him. "You sound like you have trouble believing that."

Leaphorn shrugged. "Sophisticated, urbane university professor. Old illiterate Navajo. And she's going to a hell of a lot of trouble."

"You're getting even worse with age," Kennedy said. "Emma used to make you a little more human." He buttered his waffle. "Okay, then. What do you think motivates the woman?"

Leaphorn shrugged again. "Maybe she's working on a book. Needs more out of him to finish it off."

"She could get to him in prison. They're not going to put somebody like that in solitary. Not even for killing a policeman."

"I don't know then. What do you think?"

"Why not just believe she's nuts? Likes the old bastard. She's doing it for humanitarian reasons. You actually went all the way out there and searched the old man's hogan?"

"I didn't search. No warrant."

"You're getting serious about this, aren't you?" Kennedy said. "You think there's something more to it than just Pinto being drunk and killing your man?"

"No," Leaphorn said. "I'm just curious." The waffle was wonderful. He chewed a second bite, swallowed, sipped his coffee. "Have you found that car that Chee saw? The old white Jeepster?"

"Didn't we already cover that? You asked me about the driver."

"And I noticed how you didn't exactly answer. You just sort of nodded, and said it had been sloppy work, and then did your little sermon about why waste time on a made case." Leaphorn was grinning at him. "When the Bureau dumps you I hope you don't get into playing poker for a profession."

Kennedy made a wry face. He chewed for a while.

"It took you longer to get to it than I expected," Kennedy said. "But you never fail to get there. Right to the touchy spot."


"How much do you know about the car?"

"Nothing," Leaphorn said. "Just what was in the report. Chee saw an old white Jeepster coming from the direction of the crime, turning on a gravel road toward Ship Rock. Chee thought it belonged to an Oriental who teaches at the high school. There was nothing in the report about checking on that car."

"They found it," Kennedy said. He eyed Leaphorn. "This is one of those 'you don't remember where you heard it' times."

"Sure," Leaphorn said.

"The car belonged to a man named Huan Ji. He teaches math at Ship Rock High School. Just been there four years. No way he'd have anything to do with this crime. He couldn't have known Pinto or Nez."

Leaphorn waited for more. Kennedy sipped the last of his coffee, signaled the pretty Zuni girl who was their waitress.

"Ready for a refill," he said, indicating his cup.

Kennedy had said all he wanted to say about Juan Gee and the car. Why?

"What was this Gee doing way out there in the rain?" Leaphorn asked. "What did he see? What did he tell you?"

Kennedy grimaced and peered across his coffee cup at Leaphorn.

"You remember the Howard case in Santa Fe. The defrocked CIA agent who was working for the State of New Mexico, and the CIA thought he had sold out to the Russians, and we had him staked out watching him until somebody could get around to filing charges. You remember."

"I remember," Leaphorn said, grinning. "The part I remember best was the ingenious way he slipped away from you guys. Had his wife drive the car."

Kennedy grinned, too, even broader than Leaphorn. "Embarrassment squared. Embarrassment to the third power," he said. The grin turned into a chuckle. "Can you imagine what it was like in the Albuquerque office when the powers found out Howard was safely behind the Iron Curtain? Hell was raised. Fits thrown. Carefully written reports were sent out explaining why it hadn't occurred to the Bureau that Howard might have his wife driving the car on the escape run."

"I can imagine the CIA people were rubbing it in."

"I think you can be sure of it," Kennedy said.

"Can I be sure that all of this is going to have some bearing on why nobody talked to this Juan Gee?"

"You can," Kennedy said. "It seems the Bureau was aware that Huan Ji was a friend of the Agency. He was a colonel in the South Vietnamese Army. In intelligence, and he was working for Washington as well as Saigon. We have this vague, scuttlebutt impression that he was one of the very hard people, involved with the sort of stuff we used to hear the horror stories about."

"Like dropping Vietcong out of helicopters so the one you didn't drop would be willing to talk?"

"I don't know," Kennedy said. "It was just gossip. But anyway he was a client, so to speak, of the CIA and so when everything went to hell over there in 1975 and the Saigon government collapsed, they got him out and helped him get started in the States."

"A Vietnamese named Juan?" Leaphorn asked.

"It's H-U-A-N and J-I. Sounds like 'Gee.' "

"So why didn't the FBI talk to him?" Leaphorn asked, thinking he already knew the answer.

Kennedy looked slightly defensive. "Why talk to him? The case was all locked up. The arrest was made. We had the smoking gun. No mystery. Nothing to resolve. We didn't really need another witness." He stopped.

"And bothering this guy would look bad to the CIA. Would maybe irritate the CIA, which is already sneering at you guys for letting Howard walk away."

"More or less, I'd say," Kennedy admitted. "I'm not privy to the upper councils, but I'd say that is a close guess."

Leaphorn ate more waffle.

"And what the hell's wrong with that? Why waste everybody's time? Why piss off the Agency? Why bother Mr. Ji?"

"I just wonder what he was doing out there," Leaphorn said. "That's all."

Kennedy finished his waffle. "I've got to go to Farmington," he said. "A hundred bumpy miles up Route 666. And then a night in a Holiday Inn."

"You sure you don't want to go to China?"

"About as much as I want to go to Farmington," Kennedy said. "And don't forget to leave a generous tip."

Leaphorn watched Kennedy leave. He saw his car pull out of the Pancake House parking lot onto old 66, heading for the long drive north to Farmington. He was still wondering what Colonel Ji was doing out in the rain by the rock where the witches gather.

Kennedy's Secret
From the screenplay by Lucky Gold


Leaphorn's car pulls in next to a row of pick up trucks, motorcycles and one sleek black SUV. He gets out and approaches the rustic roadside shack.

There's a line of people waiting. It's a shack, but the food is famous. Leaphorn eschews the line and walks to the back where there are picnic tables filled with hungry diners. At one table, eating tamales and beer in splendid isolation, is a man in a dark suit and tie -- clearly, he belongs to the black SUV, and vice versa. Leaphorn plops down across from him.

How's the ulcer?

Jay Kennedy looks up with a mouthful of tamale and gives Leaphorn a baleful look.

That stuff's gonna kill you, my friend.

A) I'm not your friend.

What's B?

Same thing. What do you want, Leaphorn?

What makes you think I want --?

I've got an office. The Federal Building. Maybe you've seen it?

It's about Ashie Pinto.

It's a slam-dunk. The Prosecutor isn't even gonna break a sweat.

Neither did your buddies at the FBI.

Excuse me? It was your guy, Chee, who caught Pinto dead to rights.

Officer Chee was badly injured. He'd just pulled a good friend from a fire with a hole in his chest you could drive a truck through. So lets cut Officer Chee some slack, okay, Kennedy? The ball bounced to you and you dropped it.

Kennedy glares at him.

Damn you, now I feel the ulcer.

Imagine how Ashie Pinto feels?

If he objects, he's not saying. What does that tell you? He had the murder weapon on him.

How did he get it? How does a man with no money buy a gun like that?

Why do you care, Joe?

Why don't you, Jay?

Okay, maybe we didn't ask a lot of questions. But why should we?

When it was just another drunk old Navajo?

You know me better than that.

I thought I did. But that was before I realized you'd sanitized Chee's report.

What? What are you?

Chee saw a car coming toward him that night. A white Jeep. He swears he put it in his report, but it's not there now. Only one explanation.

I'm telling you...

Who the hell is Huan Ji?

Kennedy stares at him in disbelief.

Your tamale's getting cold.

This is one of those "you don't remember where you heard it" times.


Kennedy looks around, making sure no one is listening.

It used to be Colonel Huan Ji. South Vietnamese Army Intelligence. He worked for Washington as well as Saigon. One of the very hard guys.

The kind that would drop Charlie out of a helicopter so the Charlie you didn't drop would talk?

Look, all I know is he was a Client of the Agency. When Saigon fell in '75, they got him out.

That was over 25 years ago. The debt's paid.

Where have you been, Leaphorn? It's a new world -- the President says he wants full cooperation between CIA and FBI. They scratch our back with homeland security...

You look the other way when it comes to one of their ex-clients.

Who says he's ex? With those spooks you're never an ex.

Don't you at least wonder what he was doing out there that night?


He gets up from the table.

Just for the record, I feel sorry for the old drunk. But Chee's report is good enough for me.

I don't think it's good enough for Chee.

Kennedy's Secret
An excert from the film Coyote Waits, directed by Jan Egleson:
[QuickTime | Real Dialup or Real Broadband]
In this section: Cast and Crew | Story Synopsis | Novel to Film

American Mystery! Home | Skinwalkers | Coyote Waits | A Thief of Time | Navajoland | Discussion
Buy the Videos | Check Local Listings | Site Map
MYSTERY! Home | © 2003 WGBH | Privacy