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Southern Pacific Railroad Detective Pima Gallagher is asked by the Santa Fe Railroad to help track down who might be smuggling whiskey to the huge Navajo Reservation. When he suddenly disappears, Pima’s stepdaughter, fifteen-year-old Scout Walker, convinces her mother, Ellen, to travel with her to Winslow, Arizona to find Pima and help him in his search.

At the same time, Scout decides to begin writing her memoirs with assistance from an English author they meet in Winslow, a waitress at the local Harvey House Restaurant is found murdered, Pima spends some time in the painted desert as the unhappy guest of a mysterious person, and a deserting soldier and an itinerant peddler become prime smuggling suspects.

Everything comes to an end with a gun battle in the as-yet-unprotected Petrified Forest.

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