The Chief had gone off duty. I was listening to the Nixon impeachment hearing on the radio when I caught the call from Riley Trout. I was surprised he’d made bail so soon.
“Where’s my daughter?” He was screaming at me.
“What daughter?” I said. “Who’re you talking about?”
“My daughter Cassie was here during the raid last night. What did you do with her?”
We’d raided Riley’s house the previous night looking for illegal drugs. I hadn’t remembered finding a kid in the house. We knew Riley’s wife was in the Pima county jail on a check-kiting charge. Besides, she hadn’t lived with him for maybe a couple of years. Nobody was looking for a kid during the raid.
“We didn’t find a kid in the house, Riley. We had to shoot your dog. He was threatening one of the deputies.”
“The dog was protecting my daughter,” he said.
“You’re home now?” I said. “I’ll come out.”
Before I left the office, I called Tiny Eggleston at the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. Tiny’s deputies on the narcotics task force had provided “support” for the raid on Riley’s house; they broke down the door and secured the premises while the entire Tigre Police Department, that’s to say the Chief and I, waited out by our patrol car.
Warden Murphy insisted the Tigre Police Department lead any drug raids within the township boundaries. The Warden was the head of the biggest employer in eastern Pinal County, the Southcentral Arizona Correctional Facility. All of the east-county members of the board of commissioners either worked at the prison or were married or related to someone who did. Now that the copper and molybdenum mines had played out or were closed by low prices, the Dude Ranch, as the minimum security prison was nicknamed, provided the best jobs around here for out-of-work miners – babysitting drug users, non-violent pushers and dealers, along with a few white-collar criminals from Phoenix and Tucson, in the fresh air of the Dripping Springs Mountains on the polluted remnants of the Hargreaves copper and molybdenum mine in Tigre.
When Chief Johnson and I went through the busted front door last night, Riley was in handcuffs on the floor. Everybody jumped when we heard the two shots from the backyard. Then the message crackled over Tiny’s walkie-talkie, “Had to shoot the god-damned dog.”
Riley started screaming and thrashing around on the floor. Tiny hit him on the side of the head with the butt of his shotgun. After that, everything went smoothly. Riley was arrested and later booked. His heroin was confiscated for the trial, in the unlikely event he didn’t plead out. I’d looked out the kitchen window and seen the dog, some kind of pit bull, lying dead in the dirt about fifteen yards from the back door, but I didn’t bother to go outside to check more closely. Riley, semi-conscious, was loaded into our patrol car for transport to the Tigre police department, where reporters from the Copper Basin News and the Florence Reminder were waiting to flash photos of the arrest and listen to the Chief and Tiny give their canned statements about local-county cooperation in the fight against illegal drugs.
“Tiny, we just got a call from Riley Trout. He says his daughter’s missing. He claims she was in the house last night during the raid.”
“I didn’t know he had a daughter. Why didn’t you tell me?” Tiny said. “My squad should have known this beforehand.”
“We didn’t know either,” I said. “His wife hasn’t lived up here for quite a while. We understood she was in jail down in Tucson. Maybe he got custody somehow.”
“Well, my guys didn’t report seeing any kid on the premises,” Tiny said. “I’ll double-check and get back to you.”
“I’m going out to Riley’s now. I’ll be back in about an hour.”
Riley’s house is only about a mile and a half from the station. Rushing a bit, I sent a cloud of dust billowing over the house, when I pulled into Riley’s driveway ten minutes later. Riley came barreling out even before the dust settled.
“Did you find her?” he said, still screaming.
“Calm down, Riley,” I said. “Who are we talking about? I didn’t know you had a daughter.”
“Cassie, Cassie Cisneros.”
I wrote it down. “Who’s the mother?”
“She’s the one in jail in Tucson, for check-kiting?”
“No, that’s Joy, my wife. I knocked up Yvette before I hooked up with Joy.”
“So Cassie’s illegit?”
Riley gave me a disgusted look. “Yeah.”
“Your name on the birth certificate?
“How should I know? Yvette told me she was mine.” Riley lit a cigarette and sat down on a dirty white plastic chair next to the front door. He looked like he was recovering from a hangover; maybe it was the gun butt to the head. “Yvette got in a prostitution beef in Nogales, and she didn’t want Cassie living with her sister — she’s a junkie — so Yvette asked me to take Cassie for a couple of months until she gets released.”
“Living with you is better than living with a junkie? You’re a dealer, for chrissake.”
Riley leaned back in the chair and blew smoke in my direction, like a smart-ass kid who knows something you don’t know. “Well, Yvette’s sister is turning tricks and Yvette was worried Cassie might get hurt by her sister’s gangbanger johns. Cassie’s about fourteen now.”
“You put her in school, anything like that.”
“No, she was here just a week. I didn’t get around to it yet.”
“You got a picture of her?”
He was back to looking disgusted again. “What you need a picture for?”
“Because she’s missing, asshole.”
“You didn’t take her during the raid?” Now he just looked stupid.
“I told you, no. I checked with Tiny, his men didn’t find anybody here but you,” I said.
“Where’s Yvette? In the Santa Cruz county jail?”
“Yeah. She’s going to kill me when she finds out what happened.” Riley smiled. “But she’s going to sue your asses off for losing her daughter.”
“Where you think she might’ve gone?”
“Don’t know. Maybe she ran out into the desert during the raid”, he said, giving me a puzzled look that might have been genuine, but with ex-cons like Riley you never know whether they’re playing you for some advantage. “She don’t know her way around here yet. Could be lost. There’s a lot of old mine shafts a kid could hide in if she was scared.”
“She got any stuff in the house? I could get the sheriff’s rescue posse over here with the tracking dogs.”
“Yeah, sure.” Riley went in through the busted front door and down a short corridor to a bedroom. The bed was unmade and the nightstand was covered with empty beer bottles and a large ashtray filled with old butts.
“Shit, her stuff’s gone,” Riley said.
“What’s her stuff doing in your bedroom?”
“Oh, right.” Riley turned and walked across the hall to an even smaller room with a stained mattress on the floor and some cardboard boxes against the wall. He looked around. “Nothing here either.”
“We’re going to need a picture for the missing-persons report,” I said.
Riley gave me a blank stare.
“Do you have a picture?”
“No, you’d better call Yvette.”
“Okay, can you at least give me a description?”
“Sure, I know what she looks like.”
I radioed the Chief at home before leaving Riley’s house and told him we had a problem. He said he’d meet me at the station. Chief Johnson came from Tucson to head up the newly created Tigre Police Department in late 1970, about a year before Pima County Sheriff Waldon Burr resigned following his indictment for accepting bribes from prostitutes, selling deputy appointments, and suborning perjury. Back then Chief Johnson was the assistant chief of detectives in Burr’s administration. Johnson’s former boss, Chief of Detectives and Undersheriff Roy Murphy, had taken the job as warden of the newly opened Dude Ranch earlier the same year. Undersheriff Murphy left shortly after the county prosecutor convened a grand jury in late 1969 to investigate corruption in the Sheriff’s Department. Warden Murphy had recruited his former subordinate to lead the Tigre Police Department to, as Chief Johnson once explained to me, “maintain a secure political perimeter around the Dude Ranch.”
If it weren’t for the Chief and the Warden, I’d most likely be living up in Phoenix or maybe down in Tucson, pumping gas or working in one of the new Circle K stores that were popping up everywhere. Back when I was a kid here in grammar school, Tigre was a regular town. The Hargreaves mine was active. People like my father and uncles had good-paying jobs. Tigre had a post office, a Baptist church, a movie theater, a couple of schools, a Laundromat, a general store, even a doctor – all pretty much controlled by the Hargreaves mining company.
I was just getting ready to go to high school in ’57 when the mine shut down. Tigre became a ghost town almost overnight. My family moved into Mammoth up on Highway 77 so I could attend high school. After that I got drafted and went into the MPs. I did a tour in Vietnam and another in Germany. In 1970 I was passed over for a promotion. It was time for me to get out and come back home with my new wife. The Dude Ranch brought Tigre back to life. The Chief needed a deputy, a good paying job for these parts, with benefits. The Chief looked like he might be only five years or so away from retirement. I saw a secure life for me and my wife and son.
The chief was at his desk when I got back. On the way to the station I tried to relive the events of the previous night, especially the trip back to the station from Riley’s house. We’d gone about a quarter mile and were turning onto Mine Road, when Riley moaned in the back seat. The Chief was driving, and I looked back at Riley. The brake lights came on as the Chief slowed at the intersection, and I thought I saw somebody on the opposite side of the road. I didn’t pay attention; we had reporters waiting for us at the station.
“What’s up with the girl?” the Chief said.
I told him of Riley’s claim that Cassie Cisneros was his daughter by an old girlfriend now in the Nogales jail and that she’d been staying with him for about a week. “Tiny’s double-checking with his squad, but so far nobody remembers seeing the girl.”
“You get a description?”
“Yeah, but it was so general as to be useless,” I said, opening my notebook. “Short for a fourteen-year-old, maybe 4’6”, brownish hair, not sure about the eyes (probably brown), average skin (not brown, not fair), didn’t look particularly Mexican like her mother, but not Anglo either, no birth marks, scars or distinguishing features he could remember, still a girl, not much of a chest yet.”
“Christ, there are thousands of girls within a hundred miles of Tigre fitting that description.”
“I know,” I said. “I’ll call Nogales. See if we can get a picture and a better description from the mother.”
“Great. I’d better call the Warden, fill him in. This could be embarrassing.”
“Oh, one other thing,” I said. “The girl’s things were missing. Riley went looking for them in his bedroom.”
“Do you think…?” he said, raising his eyebrows. “I’ve never known Riley to be interested in young ones, but you know he likes to sample his own product. So maybe when he’s high he’s not too particular?”
The chief picked up the phone to call the Warden. I got on the other line and contacted the Santa Cruz County Jail.
* * *
Most of the older homes and businesses I remembered as a kid living in Tigre have deteriorated to the point of being uninhabitable. The only new construction has been the Dude Ranch and the police station. The old gas station where I had hoped to work as a high school student was rehabilitated into one of those new Circle Ks. Like most of the one hundred and fifty residents of Tigre, I lived in a trailer bought by the Dude Ranch to house the prison staff. I was in the process of fixing up my parents old house that had a nice view of the Dripping Springs Mountain, facing north, with a hill on the east side blocking the view of the old mine roads and the prison.
The Dude Ranch operated a bus between Tigre and Mammoth three times a day to bring in staff for each of the prison’s three shifts; it was free to anybody who needed a ride. We didn’t have enough kids to start our own school, so my son took the school bus to Mammoth came each morning during the school year.
A day passed before we got the special delivery envelope from the Santa Cruz County Jail. There was a description of Cassie Cisneros provided by her mother and a grainy 8×5 color photo of Cassie taken two years ago sandwiched between two women, presumably her mother and her aunt, both of whom were holding bottles of beer and looking more than a little wasted. The photo wasn’t going to be much help. Yvette Cisneros’ description was only marginally better than Riley’s; she mentioned Cassie had a half-moon-shaped scar below her right knee from a bicycling accident. There were no fingerprints on file for Cassie; her mother didn’t remember her blood type, except that it wasn’t rare.
I made the best enlargement of the photo I could with our little Xerox machine and ran off some posters with the picture and the physical description to distribute in Tigre and Mammoth. The evening clerk at the Circle K in Tigre said she hadn’t seen the girl, but the driver of the evening shift bus between Tigre and Mammoth said he thought there might have been a young teenage girl on his bus the night of the raid. He wasn’t positive though because he had been flirting with a woman who works in the kitchen at the Dude Ranch when the girl climbed on board the bus. The girl sat way in the back and left by the rear door near the Mammoth Texaco where a lot of the prison workers park their cars during the day.
The evening shift clerk at the Texaco thought he remembered seeing a girl hitchhiking toward Winkelman just after the prison bus arrived. He thought he remembered a Pinal County Sheriff’s cruiser pulling over to talk to the girl. I called Tiny to find out who was on highway duty that night, but there were no Sheriff’s patrol cars in that vicinity at that time. However, the state police outpost in Winkelman showed Trooper Mark Cosette patrolling near Mammoth on the evening of the raid. I asked for a call back when he came on duty.
Before it closed in the fifties, the Hargreaves underground copper and molybdenum mine had been in more or less constant operation since the late 1890s; it produced a massive pile of tailings that had filled a couple of pretty good-sized canyons.
Tigre was the perfect place to put a prison. The old mine land was claimed by the county for its back taxes and sold to the state for a dollar. A bulldozer came in and smoothed out the mountain of tailings. Plenty of water was already available from the old mining operations. Nobody much cared about the environmental problems with old mining sites. As soon as the prisoners started showing up, they were put on work gangs to seed the slopes of the tailings mountain with creosote and buffel grass to prevent erosion. On the bare plain atop the tailings mountain sat the Dude Ranch, surrounded by steep and unstable cliffs, except for the one well-traveled and easily guarded road into Mammoth. But then, Dude Ranch didn’t hold prisoners who were dangerous or likely to try an escape.
After the mine closed, Tigre became an unincorporated area without a town council, and this left Chief Johnson as Tigre’s only township official. Our Police Department relies completely on funding from the Dude Ranch. We’re the Dude Ranch’s external security force.
“Deputy Pettis, this is Trooper Cosette returning your call.”
“We have a girl that’s gone missing, last Monday evening,” I said. “She may have gotten on the evening shift staff bus for the return trip from Tigre to Mammoth. A witness said he thought a sheriff’s car stopped to talk with the girl outside the Texaco, probably around 20:15. Nobody in the sheriff’s office was on duty in Mammoth at that time. I checked with the Winkelman outpost, and they said you might have been through Mammoth about that time.”
“Sure, I remember her. Teenager, not legal yet, brown hair, brown eyes,” he said.
“Sounds about right. I’ve got a photo you could look at, though it’s not very good,” I said.
“I’ve got some business in Florence the early part of the shift tonight. Can you leave the photo at the Texaco? I’ll leave a message for you at the department when I get over there.” All the deputies knew the Tigre police station was only open during regular business hours.
“I’ll do that,” I said. “Could I ask, why did you stop to talk to her?”
“I was heading north on 77 when I saw her standing by the side of the road. Looked like she was hitchhiking,” he said. “She had on a kind of short skirt and a short-sleeved shirt over one of those tube tops. You guys don’t have teenage girls in Tigre or Mammoth out at that time of night, not looking like that. So I thought I’d check it out. You know, maybe a girl visiting her father at the Dude Ranch who missed her ride home.”
“Right,” I said. “Did she say anything to you?”
“Nothing useful. She spotted the cop-lights on my cruiser before I reached her. She turned away and was getting ready to turn down Childs Street when I caught up with her. Gave me some story about visiting relatives, the Bullochs, who just lived down the street. After I pulled away I realized Bulloch is the name of the real estate agency up a couple of houses from the Texaco, across the street from where I stopped her. I circled back down Clark Street to Childs, but when I got there, she was gone. A call came over the radio about a drunk driver leaving San Manuel for Mammoth, so I left.”
“I guess you don’t know if she got back on the road or not?” I said.
“Sorry. I caught the drunk driver and took him to the outpost in Winkelman, but I didn’t see her again.”
“Okay, when you get a chance to look at the picture, give me a call,” I said.
I called Bulloch Realty about the girl, but Percy Bulloch said they hadn’t had any visitors lately and they didn’t have any relatives with girls the age of our missing girl.
The Sheriff sent a search dog out to Riley’s house. We didn’t have any articles of clothing or other personal items from the girl, so the deputy had the dog smell the old mattress in the second bedroom. The dog just ran around in circles; if there was a trail, the dog couldn’t find it. My missing persons investigation was a dead snake in the road.
When I got to the station the next morning, Chief Johnson was already there.
“Cliff, there was a message for you from the Highway Patrol, Trooper Cosette. He looked at the picture you left for him over at the Texaco,” the Chief said. “He said probably it was the same girl, except the girl he talked to looked older, tarted up with lipstick and eyeliner, had a pretty nice rack, although, who knows, it might’ve been mostly tissue paper – nice rack helps if you’re hitchhiking.”
“The picture sucks, taken with a flash on a cheap camera. It’s old. Girls change a lot when they go through puberty,” I said.
The Chief looked at my missing girl flyer. “Could be most any girl with some spic blood in her. They’re a dime a dozen around here.”
“I could send a missing child report to all the law enforcement agencies in Arizona?” I said.
“It’d be a waste of time. Either they’d pick up every half-breed chica in the state, or, more likely, nobody would pay any attention to it. If the girl’s on the run, she’ll find her way back to Nogales. Send the Nogales police the flyer and wait to see if she turns up.”
A week went by and the girl hadn’t turned up. I was in the office with the Chief shuffling papers when a call came in; it was the county attorney, and he wanted to talk with the Chief.
“Arvin, how are you?” the Chief said. He sipped some coffee while he listened. “No, we haven’t found her yet.” He started tapping the end of his pencil on his desk. “Frankly, we’re not even sure if she exists. We got a description from Riley that could fit thousands of greaser girls in the state. Except for Riley, nobody around here has even seen her.” Now he was drumming the pencil. “I understand it could get messy, but does Riley even have standing to bring a complaint? He’s not the custodial parent. Christ, we don’t even know if he’s the father. His name’s not on the birth certificate.” The Chief started looking more concerned than angry. “Okay. I’ll need to talk to the Warden about this. I understand, we don’t want a big political mess like the one in Tucson. Right. I’ll talk to him and get back to you.”
The Chief dialed another number. “Hi, Betty. Is he there? I’ve got something important about that missing girl.” He held the receiver away from his ear for a moment and then put it back. “Okay, I can be there for lunch at 11:30.” He paused. “Sure. See you then.”
The Chief hung up and turned to me. “Riley’s got some kind of civil rights lawyer representing him in the drug case. The lawyer found a beaner group down in Tucson interested in the missing girl. They’re saying maybe we killed her during the raid and now we’re covering it up. I’m going to have lunch with the Warden, figure out what to do.”
“I’ll double-check with some of the local departments just in case somebody might have seen something,” I said.
A couple of days later the Chief got a public documents request from the Alianza para los Derechos Humanos de Mexicano-Americanos for our records of the Cassie Cisneros missing persons investigation. The Chief denied the request on the grounds the investigation was ongoing, but the county attorney told us the Alianza would sue and probably win, since the investigation appeared to be at a dead end.
I tried to keep the investigation alive by calling the local police departments on the girl’s likely route back to Nogales, assuming the teenage hitchhiker Trooper Cosette saw was Riley’s missing daughter. If she kept going north to Winkelman, from there she’d probably hitch a ride to Florence on AZ177 and on over to Casa Grande; from Casa Grande she could hitch down Interstate 10 to Tucson and then take the Nogales Highway back home.
A road-patrol deputy in Florence said he saw a local biker riding with a new girl who looked too young for him on the Wednesday after the raid, but the deputy was writing a ticket for an overloaded pickup and didn’t have a chance to pull them over. A trooper at the Casa Grande Highway Patrol outpost saw a young teenage girl meeting our missing girl’s general description hiking south on the Friday at the junction of I-8 and I-10, but he was heading north and by the time he got turned around the girl was gone.
Tucson police hadn’t seen any girls on the highway matching our missing girl’s description, although the desk sergeant admitted that his officers probably wouldn’t have taken any note of a female teenage hitchhiker, even if she was a little young; they saw a thousand girls like that every year.
I asked the Nogales police to check on Cassie Cisneros at her mother’s former residence and at her aunt’s house. They got back the next day; nobody had seen the missing girl. They promised to keep an eye out for her.
Another week went by and we had no new leads on the girl’s whereabouts. The Chief got served with notice of the lawsuit filed by the Alianza. Tiny Winkelman got served as well; the Alianza was also looking for the records of the narcotics task force about the raid.
The Chief was in and out most of the next week. I kept working the case as best I could, but with no results. On Friday, the Chief and the Warden went together to Florence to meet with the Pinal County Sheriff and the County Prosecutor; somebody from Santa Cruz County was going to be there too. The Chief hadn’t returned by the time I went off-duty, but he called me at home about eight and asked if I could meet him at nine the next morning.
I had to get my wife to take our son to little league Saturday morning so I could meet with the Chief. He was already in the office when I got there; he had the Cassie Cisneros file open on his desk.
“Cliff, we’re going to close the Cisneros missing person case.”
“Hey, you found her?” I said.
“No, but it’s being reclassified as a runaway child case; the Santa Cruz County Sheriff is taking it over.”
“Even though the missing persons report was made here?” I said.
“Yeah, well, Riley is retracting his missing persons report.”
“Because his felony drug-possession-with-intent-to-distribute charge is getting kicked down to misdemeanor possession,” the Chief said.
“And the mother is willing to go along with this?”
“Yvette Cisneros is being released from the Santa Cruz County jail five weeks early so that she can search for her runaway daughter,” the Chief said.
“So I guess we’re off the hook?”
“Case closed,” the Chief said. “The Warden’s happy Tigre’s image remains unblemished.”
On Monday I asked the Chief for the next day off so I could take care of some personal business in Tucson. I dropped off my wife and son at my mother’s house on East Linden and took a ride down to Nogales. Yvette Cisneros’ home address was an apartment building on East Calle Soto. I drove down Grand Avenue, passing the Nogales police station, and turned off onto Soto, crossing onto the “wrong” side of the railroad tracks.
The apartment building looked like an old, very run-down Motel Six. Yvette’s apartment was on the ground floor with an entrance directly onto the parking lot. I parked across the street under the shade of a tree and waited. Kids would be coming home from school soon.
Fifteen minutes later a girl, maybe ten years old, unlocked the door to the Cisneros apartment, dropped off her schoolbooks, and started back out to the street. I got out of the car and flashed my badge at her.
“Say, miss, I am looking for Cassie Cisneros. Are you related to her?”
“Yeah, she’s my half-sister,” the girl said.
“Is your sister around?”
“My HALF-sister ran away from home, about a month ago,” she said, acting like she really had important business elsewhere.
“Do you know where she might have gone?”
“Who knows?” Her sigh said, and who cares. “I was living with my cousins when she ran away. She was staying with my Aunt Sofi. She might have gone off to see her dad up north of Tucson somewhere. My dad lives here in town; he’s a guard at the jail.”
“Has she done this before? Run away?”
“Oh, sure,” she said, giving me a pained, you’re-boring-the-crap-out-of-me smile. “Look, I gotta go. Okay?”
“Yeah, thanks.” I got in the car and headed back to Tucson.
When I returned to the station Wednesday morning, the Chief was already there.
“How’d you make out in Nogales?” he said
I should have known I couldn’t get away with anything without the Chief, or more likely the Warden, finding out about it.
“Nothing,” I said. “I talked to the half-sister, but she could care less.”
“When a girl like this goes missing, she stays missing. It’s probably for the best.”
“If she’s not dead,” I said.
“Maybe even then,” the Chief said, making a note in the file on his desk. He looked up.
“The Warden won’t be so understanding the next time you second-guess him.” The Chief folded the file shut and put it in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet – closed cases.
I’d learned my lesson. Seven years later when the Chief retired, the Warden made me chief.
E N D
Andrew J. Hogan asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.