Nineteen-sixteen was not shaping up to be a good year for Alafair Tucker, and finding Bernie Arruda dead in a ditch wasn't going to help matters.
She had not wanted to come to Arizona in the first place. But her daughter Blanche was suffering from a stubborn ailment of the lungs, and her best chance for a cure was dry desert air. So Alafair and her husband Shaw had bundled their sick child onto the train and made the nightmare trip from Oklahoma to Alafair's sister in Tempe, Arizona.
Yet as soon as they arrived on that bright March day, Blanche began to improve.
But Alafair and Shaw soon discover that all is not well in sunny Arizona. Elizabeth's marriage is in tatters, tensions are high between the Anglo and Latino communities following Pancho Villa's murderous raid on Columbus, New Mexico, and Alafair suspects her sister is involved in an illegal operation to smuggle war refugees out of Mexico and into the U.S.
And now here lies Bernie Arruda on his back in a ditch, staring into eternity.