Early one sultry morning in Buffalo Springs, Kansas, the Rev. Peter Sims, en route to his church, is ambushed by someone who eviscerates, stabs, and scalps him. His body, with a pornographic Mickey Mouse tattoo on his tush, is found by fiercely eccentric, part-Cheyenne Vision-Quest seeker Mad Dog, whose day is further ruined when he discovers yet another dead, scalped body, that of Sims’s father. Mad Dog is convinced his spiritual caterwauling has unleashed an evil being, but his brother, Ashley English, the local sheriff everybody calls Englishman, looks for more tangible villains and finds hints of them at the Sourdough Ranch, where Ellen Lane and her daughter Heather are desperately seeking anonymity to escape a recently released, possibly misjudged child-abuser. Shorthanded, with his deputy off chasing red herrings, his cell phone conking out, and a tornado swelling on the horizon, Englishman finds his problems compounded when his daughter Heather, mistaken for that other Heather, is kidnapped. Are the abuser, the scalper, and the kidnapper one and the same? Old family histories are pried loose and Indian myths come into play as Mad Dog and Englishman scamper from dusty roads to dusty grain silos to a dusty, deserted theater in pursuit of the truth.
Hayes (The Grey Pilgrim, 1990), a gold-medal melodramatist, overloads his tale with crises, a conveniently stranded professor who explains Tsistsistas shamanism, and a sentimental wrap-up compounded of the purest mush.