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
Making SkinwalkersCast and CrewSkinwalkers CountryNovel to FilmStory SynopsisChat
Novel to Film

  Follow a scene from Tony Hillerman's original story through Jamie Redford's screenplay to the final movie as directed by Chris Eyre. How has the story changed in the translation?

To view the film clips you will need either QuickTime or RealPlayer
Image of Jim Chee   The shooting at Chee's trailer
Novel | Script | Film - [QuickTime | Real Dialup or Real Broadband]
 
Image of canyon road   Roosevelt Bistie's murder
Novel | Script | Film - [QuickTime | Real Dialup or Real Broadband]

Roosevelt Bistie's murder
From the novel by Tony Hillerman
Excerpted from Chapter 14

...And now, at 10:55, Chee parked beside Bistie's now-dark light pole, got out, and waited for the entourage to finish its arrival. He felt foolish. Bistie's truck was still absent. Bistie's shack was dark. Everything seemed to be exactly as they had left it. The chance of Bistie's hanging around to await this posse simply didn't exist.

There was a general slamming of doors.

Chee explained the layout, pointed up into the darkness to the hogan from which the shots had come. They moved up the slope, weapons drawn, the state policeman carrying a riot gun, the deputy carrying a rifle. What had happened here two hours before already seemed unreal to Chee, something he had imagined.

No one was at the hogan, or in it.

"Here's some brass," the state policeman said. He was an old-timer, with red hair and a freckled, perpetually sunburned face. He stood frowning down at a copper-colored metal cylinder which reflected the beam of his flashlight. "Looks like thirty-eight caliber," he said. "Who'll be handling the evidence?"

"Just leave it there for Kennedy," Chee said. "There should be another one." He was thinking that the empty cartridge certainly wasn't from a 30-30. It was shorter. Pistol ammunition. And, since it had been ejected, probably from an automatic— not a revolver. If Bistie had fired it, he seemed to have quite an arsenal.

"Here it is," the state policeman said. His flashlight was focused on the ground about a long step from where the first cartridge lay. "Same caliber."

Chee didn't bother to look at it. He considered asking everyone to be careful of where they walked, to avoid erasing any useful tracks. But as dry and windy as it was, he couldn't imagine tracking as anything but a waste of time. Except for the drag marks. Whatever had been dragged up here should be easy to find.

It was.

"Hey," Gorman shouted. "Here's a body."

It was half hidden in a clump of chamiso, head downhill, feet uphill, legs still spraddled apart as if whoever had dragged it there had been using them to pull the body along and had simply dropped them

The body had been Roosevelt Bistie. In the combined lights of Chee's and Gorman's flashlights, the yellow look of his face was intensified—but death had done little to change his expression. Bistie still looked grim and bitter, as if being shot was only what he'd expected—a fitting ending for a disappointing life. The dragging had pulled his shirt up over his shoulders, leaving chest and stomach bare. The waxy skin where the rib cage joined at the sternum showed two small holes, one just below the other. The lower one had bled a little. Very small holes, Chee thought. It seemed odd that such trivial holes would let out the wind of life.

Gorman was looking at him, a question in his face.

"This is Bistie," Chee said. "Looks like the guy who shot Lieutenant Leaphorn had shot this guy. I guess he was dragging him up here when we drove up, the lieutenant and me."

"And after he shot the lieutenant he just took off," Gorman said.

"And got clean away," Chee added.

Four flashlights now were illuminating the body. Only the San Juan County deputy was still out in the darkness, doing his fruitless job.

Down in Roosevelt Bistie's yard below, two more vehicles parked. Chee heard doors slam, the voice of Kennedy, the sound of Kennedy and Captain Largo coming up the slope. Chee's flashlight now was focused above the bullet wounds at a place on Bistie's left breast—a reddish mark, narrow, perhaps a half-inch long, where a cut was healing. It would seem, normally, an odd place for such a cut. It made Jim Chee think of Bistie's wallet, and the bone bead he had seen in it, and whether the wallet would have been dragged out of Bistie's hip pocket on his heels-first trip up this rocky slope, and whether the bone bead would still be in it when it was found.

...Behind him, the state policeman was shouting to Largo, telling him they'd found a body. The wind kicked up again, blowing a flurry of sand against Chee's face. He closed his eyes against it, and when he reopened them, a fragment of dead tumbleweed had lodged itself against Bistie's ear...

Largo had joined the circle now, and Kennedy. Chee sensed them standing just behind him, staring down at the body.

"There's what killed him," the state policeman said. "Two gunshots through the chest."

Just on the edge of the circle of illumination, Chee could see the healing cut on Bistie's breast. Those two bullets had completed the death of Roosevelt Bistie. But the little wound high on his breast above them had been where Roosevelt Bistie's death had started.



Roosevelt Bistie's murder
From the screenplay by Jamie Redford

INT. LEAPHORN HOUSE - EARLY MORNING

CHEE:
Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up.


LEAPHORN:
What did you mean, Officer Chee?


CHEE:
I got some good news and bad news. I know where to find the man who can tell us what this means.


LEAPHORN:
And the bad news?


CHEE:
Well, that's why I'm here early. We got about sixty miles of Jeep trail to reach him. I figure we better get on it.


LEAPHORN:
Why can't we just call him, have him come down to the station?


CHEE:
That's the thing. He's been hired to help out on some archeological dig. And he's not gonna be back for weeks.


EMMA:
Honey? Let him in.


LEAPHORN:
Officer Chee, this is my wife, Emma.


CHEE:
Hi. I'm Jim.


EMMA:
Hi.


CHEE:
Salt Clan, born for the many goats.


EMMA:
So am I! Hey, brother. You must be one of those Chees from out by
Many Farms.


CHEE:
Yes, I am.


EMMA:
So which one has all those Palominos?


CHEE:
Oh, that's Uncle Nat. You know he's supposed to be givin' me one.


EMMA:
Lucky you. Would you like some coffee?


CHEE:
Yeah.


INT. KITCHEN - LATER

EMMA:
Nettle? Really?


CHEE:
Yeah. You just boil it, put it in a baggie and wrap it over the foot.


EMMA:
Hm. Hear this, Joe? Free medical advice. Hey, Joe has athlete's foot so bad...


LEAPHORN:
For cryin' out loud, Emma.


EMMA:
Oh, don't be embarrassed, Joe. Jim here is a...


LEAPHORN:
Yeah, I know. A medicine man. Let's go.


CHEE:
Thank you for the coffee, ma'am.


EMMA:
Maybe next time you'll get to finish it.


CHEE:
(small laugh)


EMMA:
Oh, don't be so grouchy. (kiss)


(AS SHE TAKES THE CUPS TO THE KITCHEN, SHE DOUBLES OVER IN PAIN.)

EMMA: (CONT'D)
(pained gasps)


EXT. ANASAZI RUIN - DAY

(THEY ARRIVE AT THE CLEARING TO A SMALL CAMPSITE.)

CHEE:
(calling out) Mr. Bistie!
(to Leaphorn) You okay?


LEAPHORN:
(out-of-breath) I'm fine. You go on ahead.


CHEE:
I can't.


LEAPHORN:
And why not?


CHEE:
The ruins. It's not good for healers to be around them.


LEAPHORN:
It's an archeological dig, Officer Chee. What did you expect to find up here? Easter eggs?


(LEAPHORN CONTINUES ON, LEAVING CHEE BEHIND.)

LEAPHORN: (CONT'D)
(calling out) Mr. Bistie? Mr. Bistie?


(CHEE FINDS A BLOODY PLASTIC BAG.)

LEAPHORN: (CONT'D)
Mr. Bistie?


(CHEE EXAMINES THE BOILING POT. A RUNG ON THE LADDER BREAKS AND LEAPHORN FALLS.)

LEAPHORN: (CONT'D)
(impact grunt)


(CHEE FINDS A SEVERED HUMAN HAND BOILING IN THE POT.)

CHEE:
(startled gasp)


LEAPHORN:
(calling out) Chee! Chee!


CHEE:
Detective! Are you all right?


LEAPHORN:
Get help!



Roosevelt Bistie's murder
An excert from the film:
[QuickTime | Real Dialup or Real Broadband]

In this section: Making Skinwalkers | Cast and Crew | Skinwalkers Country
Novel to Film | Story Synopsis | Chat


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