Dead Horses

Excerpt from Mining Sacred Ground by David E. Knop, coming soon!

“You ain’t the only policeman ever killed a cop,” Sal Montoya said from the bedroom at the back of the singlewide.

The remains of the night blew down from the Mogollon Rim, crossed the Verde River Valley, scraped dust from the White Hills, and banked skyward off the Black Hills. New Mexico-born Cochiti tribe policeman Peter Romero slouched in his cousin Sal’s kitchenette and stared south at the Bradshaw Mountains shadowed by the low sun. The wind buffeted the trailer, reminding him he’d slept all night in Sal’s driveway in the bed of a pickup. He welcomed the morning heat through the window, and cursed the painful bump on his chin, his life, and everything about Camp Verde, Arizona. Sal’s coffee tasted like plastic, but it warmed him after a shivering night.

“You know another one?” Romero asked, pressing his temples to ease the pounding. When Sal walked into the kitchen, he looked up and asked, “Why’d you punch me?”

“I didn’t. You knocked yourself out when you fell on your drunk ass,” Sal said, opening, then banging a cabinet door shut. He poured coffee, dragged a chair to the table. “Never seen you that drunk, man. What’s gotten into you?”

“Nothin’.”

“Bullshit, you been moping around here feeling sorry for yourself for two weeks, and now you drink yourself to the point I had to go and drag your ass home.”

“It can happen to anybody. Get over it.”

“Not my problem. I want your ass outta here, but first, I got work for you.”

“You got a funny way of askin’.”

“I need help.” Sal sucked coffee. “Do this one thing for me before you go.”

“Go where? I can’t go home. I’m banished and Costancia is really pissed. No, I need to stay away from there. Too many bad memories.”

“Your banishment is crap. You did the right thing and the elders are wrong. You need to be with your wife, not here.”

Romero shrugged, stared at the table. “What do you need?”

“I been workin’ two shootings. So far, I been striking out, but I got some ideas and need to know more about the bikers that been hanging around. They don’t know you, so you can get close. Here, I made a list.” He removed a notebook from his pocket, tore out a page, and dropped it on the table. “These are my prime suspects. Look at those names.”

“Why don’t you just bring ‘em in?”

“I have. They lawyer up.”

Romero scanned the list. “I came here to look for stolen pots.”

“Forget that, I got something big here, and with all your military police training, this is right up your alley, Jarhead.” He gripped Romero’s shoulder. “Those bikers are involved in both shootings and I need you to make the connection.”

Romero inspected the tabletop and didn’t answer.

Montoya shook his head, buttoned the notebook in his breast pocket, grabbed his Stetson, and banged through the screen. “Get some leads or get out.”

The diesel started with a click and a rattle.

Crack! A shot rang out.


Name: Dead Horses (A Peter Romero Mystery) Book Blurb: 

Who is leaving dead horses across the Southwest? New Mexico tribal police officer Pete Romero must find the answer. Simultaneously, a brutal double murder involving his childhood friend on his own reservation complicates the investigation. Romero’s skills and loyalties are stretched to the breaking point when he trails a mysterious stranger who is cultivating extremists to escalate long-brewing tribal hostilities into a shooting war. Romero tightropes between the natural and supernatural while battling wolves, dirty cops, and a murderous grizzly in a race to save hundreds of innocent lives before they, too, become part of the dark, hidden side of Southwest history.


David E. Knop is a retired Marine officer with twenty years of service saw two tours in Vietnam as an artillery forward observer and naval gunfire support officer. Dave also worked in the intelligence and logistics fields. As a staff officer, he wrote and edited numerous military operations plans.

David E. Knop

In civilian life, Dave produced many electronic and automotive technical manuals for industry leaders such as ViaSat, SAIC, and Computer Sciences Corporation. His work for the Eighth Air Force received an award of excellence in a Northern California Society of Technical Communications competition. 

Dave’s four thrillers featuring a former Marine tribal police officer bring the role of spirit warrior to the subgenre of Native American detectives. Dave’s novels, The Smoked MirrorMining Sacred GroundPoisoned by God’s Flesh, and Animal Parts have been honored by the Maryland Writers’ Association, Killer Nashville, New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, Public Safety Writers of America, Military Writers Society of America, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest and the Eric Hoffer Book Award. Dave’s fifth novel, Dead Horses, will be available in six weeks.

Dave earned a BA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, an MS from the University of Southern California, and is a lifelong student of military and Native American cultures.

Website: David E. Knop