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The American Café

Sara Sue Hoklotubbe

Publication Year: 2011

When Sadie Walela decides to pursue her childhood dream of owning a restaurant, she has no idea that murder will be on the menu.

In this second book in the Sadie Walela series, set in the heart of the Cherokee Nation, Sadie discovers life as an entrepreneur is not as easy as she anticipated. On her first day, she is threatened by the town’s resident "crazy" woman and the former owner of The American Café turns up dead, engulfing the café – and Sadie herself – in a cloud of suspicion and unanswered questions.

Drawing on the intuition and perseverance of her Cherokee ancestry, Sadie is determined to get some answers when an old friend unexpectedly turns up to lend a hand. A diverse cast of characters, including a mysterious Creek Indian, a corrupt police chief, an angry Marine home from Iraq, and the victim’s grieving sister and alcoholic niece, all come together to create a multilayered story of denial and deceit.

While striving to untangle relationships and old family secrets, Sadie ends up unraveling far more than a murder.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

The American Cafe

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pp. vii

Grateful appreciation goes to Gloria McCarty for her help with the Muscogee Creek language and her kind words of encouragement; and to Dennis Sixkiller and Wynema Smith for sharing their knowledge of Cherokee language and culture. Any errors in Native language are entirely mine. I am thankful for Judith Lee Soriano...

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pp. ix-xi

Goldie Ray knew she didn’t have long to live, but she wasn’t going to sit around and mope about it. Instead, she poured a second cup of coffee, stirred in a double helping of cream and sugar, and let the screen door bounce shut behind her as she made her way onto the back porch. The heady fragrance of a nearby honeysuckle...

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pp. 1-8

On July 23, 2003, a few days after celebrating her thirty-sixth birthday, Sadie Walela began a new chapter in her life. It had been one year to the day since she sat in a country cemetery mourning the loss of a little girl named Soda Pop and lamenting the course of her own life. When she later received an unexpected windfall...

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pp. 9-12

Sadie found herself alone, feeling scared and vulnerable in this new place. She didn’t know anyone in Liberty other than the folks who had made themselves at home in her café that morning. They seemed nice enough, but the thought of Goldie being found dead unnerved her. She decided to lock up and go back...

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pp. 13-19

Police officer Lance Smith put the phone down, pushed the brim of his khaki-colored western hat away from his forehead, and rubbed his brow. “This is no way to end your first week on the job, Smith,” he mumbled as he repositioned his hat. He picked up the phone again and dialed Maggie Whitekiller’s number. She...

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pp. 21-26

Lance drove the short distance to the murder victim’s house. He could see George Stump walking toward the backyard, camera in hand. Lance pulled his cruiser between the ambulance and Stump’s car, barely missing the young ambulance driver leaning against the vehicle smoking a cigarette. Lance got out and offered a...

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pp. 27-32

Sadie turned off the highway, crossed the cattle guard, and drove up the lane toward her house. She could see her Uncle Eli riding toward the barn on Joe, her paint-horse stallion. Her wolf-dog, Sonny, trailed nearby. She parked next to her old blue truck, jumped out, and hurried through the gate. Sonny met her with a yelp...

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pp. 33-39

“No, my brother was here, but he went to call the lady.” Hector repositioned his left arm. “She hired me this morning to paint a new name on the window. I just got all the old paint scraped off and was getting ready to start on the new name when all of a sudden someone threw a rock and broke the window. My ladder slipped...

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pp. 41-43

The Cherokee County Courthouse was indeed a landmark. The gray limestone building took up an entire block near the middle of Tahlequah. It housed the county sheriff and jail, as well as a myriad of county offices, courtrooms, and judges—a convenience for anyone entangled with the county bureaucracy...

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pp. 45-50

The red Ford Explorer hugged the curves as she drove across the Lake Eucha Dam and through the Spavinaw Hills State Game Refuge toward Kenwood where she turned south. After she crossed the overpass on the Cherokee Turnpike, she decided to take a shortcut, the back roads through Teresita. The landscape flew by as...

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pp. 51-58

Emmalee Singer stepped off the Greyhound bus in front of Cronley’s Service Station and waited for the bus driver to retrieve her bags. While he shuffled suitcases and boxes in the belly of the bus, she shielded her eyes from the intense early-morning sunshine and looked across the intersection and down the street...

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pp. 59-65

Sadie had driven from Eucha to Tahlequah in record time, picked up Emma and returned north to Liberty—and it was only 8:30 a.m. Emma had been so anxious to get into Goldie’s house and now she sat frozen, gripping the Explorer’s armrest. “The last time I talked to Goldie,” she said, “we got into a terrible argument. I...

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pp. 67-70

The holding cell smelled like full-strength Lysol. Pearl hated the odor but decided it was better than the alternative. She didn’t want to think about what had probably transpired inside this cage, but she was sure it could have smelled much worse. She would have to remember to say more prayers for the drunks of Cherokee County....

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pp. 71-76

The small Indian church looked as if it had been built a hundred years ago. The furniture and fixtures showed signs of age not only in style but also in wear. The old upright piano sat near the front of the sanctuary near a side window, with two short benches nearby for the choir. Frosted windows provided privacy from the outside...

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pp. 77-81

Doc Brown followed Lance Smith through the door that led to the holding cells. The public defender in Tahlequah had asked him to visit Pearl Mobley and conclude, based on his expert opinion, whether or not she was mentally competent. The report would help determine whether Pearl’s confession to the murder of Goldie...

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pp. 83-89

Sadie listened to Emma talk, unconvinced that Emma really understood the true context of that Scripture and doubtful that Emma could actually stomach that philosophy in real life. She had hoped Pearl’s suicide would perhaps bring some sort of closure and help lessen her new friend’s pain. But so far...

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pp. 91-97

When Lance Smith left the cemetery after Pearl’s service, he drove north out of Liberty past Wilson’s sawmill toward Billy Goat Hill Road. The undeveloped countryside on both sides of the gravel road displayed an abundance of oak, sycamore, and pine trees, billowing over dense underbrush. He maneuvered the police car down...

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pp. 99-106

When the alarm on his clock radio kicked on the fuzzy sounds of a country music station at 5:00 a.m., Lance was already awake. Questions had churned all night about Goldie Ray’s murder and he’d visited every possible scenario of her death—some while he lay awake, others in his dreams...

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pp. 107-118

As Sadie drove north toward Eucha, she scrunched her shoulders in an attempt to relieve the ache in her neck and back. She thought about Emma and the unexpected arrival of her daughter Rosalee. They obviously had unresolved issues, and Sadie didn’t particularly want to know about them. Their tense reunion only dragged...

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pp. 119-125

By the time Monday morning arrived, Sadie couldn’t figure out where the weekend had gone. As she drove the winding road between Eucha and Liberty, she thought about Lance. She’d truly enjoyed spending the day with him. He was a bit older than she had earlier thought, and a gentleman, unlike most of the men her own...

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pp. 127-136

“Why would you volunteer?” Sadie unzipped a bank bag and showed it to him. “There are extra coins in here, but I don’t think you’ll need them. Besides, you’re not really working, you’re just taking money from customers if Rosalee gets too busy. And, as far as the matter of trust, if you’re willing to put your life on the line...

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pp. 137-141

Lance Smith drove the highway east of Tahlequah and turned onto a dirt road that would take him to a small church that the local people referred to simply as the Old Indian Church. He hadn’t been to a Cherokee gospel singing in a long time and looked forward to an enjoyable evening. Good singing, good food. What else...

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pp. 143-146

Lance Smith drove the highway east of Tahlequah and turned onto a dirt road that would take him to a small church that the local people referred to simply as the Old Indian Church. He hadn’t been to a Cherokee gospel singing in a long time and looked forward to an enjoyable evening. Good singing, good food. What else...

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pp. 147-152

Lance recognized Sadie’s vehicle before he parked in front of the Liberty branch of First Merc State Bank. He could see the lights on inside the building and thought for a moment he may have jumped to conclusions. Sadie was a dedicated worker and was probably just working late. Then reality set in, and he realized...

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pp. 153-158

Walker jumped out of his car and greeted the duo at the front door carrying his sport coat in one hand while he rolled down his long sleeves with the other. “Good morning,” he said. “The home office thought I’d better help out here today...

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pp. 159-163

Lance drove east from Liberty on a seldom-used back road and hit Highway 10 a few miles south of the Arrowhead Resort and Canoe Rental. He traveled the highway that curved alongside the Illinois River, past Peavine Hollow and the Hanging Rock campgrounds. Darkness had enveloped the countryside hours earlier...

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pp. 165-173

It was Saturday morning and, knowing the café was in good hands, Sadie had allowed herself the unusual luxury of sleeping late. It was already past 8:00 a.m. when she walked off the back porch and sat down on the bottom step to have a heart-to-heart conversation with Sonny before she drove toward Liberty. She positioned her...

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pp. 175-183

Sadie decided the quickest way to get to Fayetteville was to cut over to Highway 10 and go north. When she hit the Cherokee Turnpike, she raced east toward Siloam Springs, a small town that straddled the state line between Oklahoma and Arkansas. As she passed the Cherokee Casino, her steady pace slowed to a crawl as every...

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pp. 185-188

When she got to the mailbox that read “Mobley” and looked across the pasture at her destination, she almost changed her mind. But something deep inside steeled her resolve, and she gave the accelerator a nudge. She followed the path across the field, pulled up outside the trailer, and sat with the engine running while she...

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pp. 189-197

The Monday morning crowd at the café had come and gone like a spring thunderstorm. Sadie leaned against the counter wiping her face with a paper napkin. Rosalee perched on a nearby stool and thumbed through the only morning newspaper Liberty had to offer, the one that came seventy-five miles from Tulsa. She had been...

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pp. 199-205

“Can it wait, Tom? Rosalee doesn’t work on Tuesday mornings, and I’m kind of busy.” She picked up the coffeepot and refilled coffee cups up and down the counter. Virgil Wilson and his son, Junior, held their cups in midair as she poured. One of the other sawmill workers jumped up to make another pot for...

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pp. 207-211

Lance Smith leaned against the passenger-side door of his truck, dividing his attention equally between the front door of Polly Gibson’s house and a set of computer printouts. “I don’t know how anyone can make heads or tails out of all these numbers.” He dropped the reports on the front seat beside...

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pp. 213-219

As Sadie drove toward Liberty in the early morning hours, she began to question how long she could keep it up. Driving back and forth to Liberty was beginning to take a toll on her. She never seemed to have extra time to spend with her aunt and uncle, not to mention Sonny and Joe. It was worse than the long hours she used...

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pp. 221-228

“It’s a habit I have, liking to do everything myself. I guess I just want to prove to myself and everyone else that I can run that place as well as Goldie did. And, you know, I think I could have if she’d have just given me a chance.” A look of satisfaction appeared on her face. “Besides that, it feels good to be tired. I sleep better...

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pp. 229-234

Sadie and Rosalee sat cross-legged on a blanket of grass in the shade of a tall blackgum tree. They took turns tossing pebbles into the rippling water of a nearby stream and watching as, periodically, the tree surrendered a fiery red leaf to the late September breeze. Some leaves floated slowly to the ground, while others landed...

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About the Author

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pp. 235

Sara Sue Hoklotubbe is a Cherokee tribal citizen who loves to write about her people and transport readers into modern-day Cherokee life. She grew up on the banks of Lake Eucha in northeastern Oklahoma and uses that location as the setting for her mystery novels...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816521234
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529223

Publication Year: 2011