People of Darkness (1980)

People of Darkness (1980)

cirrus clouds

Cirrus clouds form high in the atmosphere and are blown into their characteristic wispy streamers by high winds aloft. Cirrus clouds signal a change in the weather in the near future, as they are a sign of moisture in the air and of atmospheric disturbance.


Traces or evidence of movement left in the outdoors, typically on the ground, whether by animal, human, or machine. In the context of Hillerman's novels, a track can refer to temporary marks and clues, as well as to an existing path that runs through the natural environment. Such a path can be a narrow one that is used by animals, especially herds of deer, sheep, or cattle, or it can be a wider, unpaved road that has formed as a result of vehicles passing through the same route over the course of many years. In the rural parts of the U.S. Southwestern regions, such country tracks are fairly common.

Track can also mean to look for or follow the physical evidence of an occurrence, whether the movement of an animal or the clues left behind as a result of criminal activity.


The term hoodlum, often shortened to hood, refers to an individual assumed to be associated with crimes and violence. Especially when the term is shortened to "hood," there can also be an inference to organized crime and gangsterism.


A stick, rod, or baton, sometime imbued with symbolic significance. Can be used as a weapon for striking or even throwing.

Wand can also refer to any long, slender object, such as radio antennae, pointers, and even lacrosse sticks and metal detectors.


A person or persons who have knowledge of, or see, a crime being committed. If identified, they can be compelled to give a statement under oath in a court room or to provide a deposition. In trials where the life of a witness or a witness’s family could be jeopardized if the witness provides testimony, they can be placed in a special protective care before, during, and after the trial. This is known as the Witness Security Program, where, upon completion of testifying in court, the witness and their family have the option to be provided with new identities and relocated.

To witness something does not always entail observing criminal activity. To bear witness can also mean having experiential knowledge of something. One can witness an act of kindness, a natural phenomenon, an accident, or a miracle. Similar to the witnessing a criminal act, these other acts of witness often entail an associated testimonial, where the witness shares their observations as evidence or proof their experience.

airflow trailer

Likely a reference to an Airstream Trailer, a famous aluminum luxury vehicle produced by Airstream INC. from the 1930s to the present. Airstream was the brainchild of Wally Byam, who, in the 1920s, created a trailer in his backyard out of tent materials and a car chassis. This sparked massive interest from other holiday-goers, and Byam began to manufacture camping trailers for the mass use. The initial design included a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Airstream was one of the only trailer companies to survive both the Great Depression of the 1930’s and World War II. Today these iconic trailers are still widely used, to the point where there are groups that share their love for these trailers and call themselves Airstreamers.


In the early days of the telephone, calls had to be connected manually by inserting two phone plugs into specific ports, one from the caller and one for the called, in a panel called the switchboard. Switchboards were located in central locations, and a system of phone lines was managed by a switchboard operator.

funeral home

A funeral home, sometimes referred to as a mortuary, is a funeral service agency that specializes in planning and conducting burials, cremations, and memorial services. This includes preparing the body of the deceased for the funeral, helping the family choose a casket or an urn, as well guiding the selection of music and flowers, and arranging transportation to the cemetery.


The English word "taboo" originates in the Tongan term tapu, or the Fijian tabu. The term was originally translated into English as "consecrated, inviolable, forbidden, unclean or cursed." A taboo is generally a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too objectionable for ordinary individuals to undertake. Such prohibitions are agreed upon in a given society and often are understood as transgressions that are subject to punishment from the gods or other supernatural beings. Taboos are present in virtually all societies, and many are shared throughout the world, although the 19th-century psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud suggested that incest and patricide were the only two universal taboos. According to recent research, however, while similarities do exist, there is no such thing as a universal taboo, and each cultural group has its own set of rules pertaining to acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.

Santa Fe Railroad

Chartered in 1863 as the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, this railway didn't make it to Santa Fe, NM until 1880 when it connected New Mexico in the east to the Southern Pacific Railroad in the west. In 1895, the railway was reorganized as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company because of poor management, and in 1996 it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad.


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