She snapped more pictures of the car at the epicenter and the debris around it, trying to include everything since she didn't know what might be important to give the investigators an idea of the uncontaminated scene.
Sam arrived and watched her take photographs. The way he stood, resting his hands on his hips, reminded her of a disagreeable clan brother. "What if this was just some kind of engine malfunction that made a big mess?"
"Until we know otherwise, we treat it as a bomb. Go to the gym. Tell the folks who want to go home to chill. Keep things calm in there. We have to hold people inside in case there's another bomb out here or a sniper. There are kids in there, and the ground is full of sharp metal, broken glass, who knows what else. We have to minimize the damage and the disruption to the crime scene until we get some backup."
Sam took a step toward her. "You're wrong. If this was a bomb we should start evacuating. There could be another bomb in the locker room, wired to the game clock, anywhere. The whole gym could blow. Do you want people to die because you screwed up?"
She glared at him. "It's my call. I'm in charge. Listen up and don't argue."
Sam stared back. "You go inside that death trap. Not me. I'll take pictures and take my chance out here."
Bernie swallowed her anger to focus on the job. "Don't let anyone near that car or any of the cars around it." She ran toward the gym.
The stifling heat and game-day smell of sweat and food slapped her as she opened the door. The security guards—Henry, the paunchy man she'd spoken with earlier, and Larry in an Atlanta Braves baseball cap—looked relieved to see her. She heard the shrill whistle of an official calling a penalty.
Bernie studied the crowd in the lobby, looking for someone she knew. She saw a man with his hair in gray braids talking to a pair of girls with glow rings around their necks. She noticed a middle-aged woman with a baby, both of whom looked tired. She spotted a Hispanic man who resembled her teacher from the sixth grade, a receptionist
she recognized from the medical center, a bilagaana in a button-down shirt who seemed out of place, a library aide she'd met in Farmington, and a boy she'd arrested for drunken driving. A few team mothers who had been selling popcorn, fry bread, and Frito pies stood by their food. People looked curious and anxious, but no one had panicked. At least not yet.
She noticed a table littered with promotional material soliciting students to enroll in the military, advertising for a revival meeting, holiday bake sales, and the protest in Tuba City. She swept the papers to the floor and climbed up so she towered over the
She yelled, "Attention, please. I'm Officer Bernadette Manuelito."
She shouted several times, and then one of the food vendors banged on a metal tray with a spoon. People looked up. "There's been an explosion in the parking lot. Until we figure out what happened, no one can leave for a while. Go back and enjoy the game. We don't want anyone getting hurt. Sorry, but I can't answer any questions. Just relax, folks."
She surveyed the lobby crowd again and spotted Mr. Franklin, a man she knew from the Shiprock Chapter House and the area's delegate to the Navajo Tribal Council. She called his name and, when he looked up at her, motioned him to the front of the table. "You've got a strong voice. You're a leader. Take charge here, sir. Please. Try to keep people calm and in the building."
He was an elder, and that gave him extra clout. "What happened?"
"A car blew up. I don't know why. I've got to get back outside."
Franklin turned to the crowd. His deep voice resonated with calm authority. "Do what the lady policeman says. I know her. Go watch the game."
Bernie climbed down from the table and bumped into the man with the braids she'd seen earlier. He smiled at her and said, "Excuse me," first in English and then in Navajo. His voice, rough and musical, reminded her for a split second that the world held beauty as well as the current chaos.
She went back to the parking lot. After the oppressive heat of the gym, the combination of frigid air and acrid smoke called her senses to attention.
She looked for the rookie but didn't see him. "Sam? Where are you?"
"Over here. Somebody's hurt bad."