Backlash by Nick Oldham

By Nick Oldham

Transferred from CID to uniform tasks, Inspector Henry Christie is again on the sharp finish of policing and he's no longer satisfied approximately it -- particularly while a brutal homicide, it appears the paintings of a serial killer, happens on his patch . . .

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The bones had come from a little knob of mudstone no more than 4 feet high and 10 feet in diameter. To anyone not used to hunting for fossils, the top of that bump in the landscape would have looked like nothing at all. The whole knob was covered with gnarly limestone pebbles, fragments of mudstone, shards of other sorts of rock, and a few odd-shaped bits of gray-black stone. 51 DIGGING DINOSAURS Those bits of stone, a half-inch to a few inches long, were fossils. Some were lying right on the surface of the knob; others were partly in the mudstone and partly exposed.

It was part of the backbone of a duck-billed dinosaur. We were in no hurry, so we wandered around the shop, picking out all the fossils that had been misidentified and giving them the correct identification. The owners of the shop were Marion and John Brandvold, who now have a small tourist museum and gift shop in Choteau, Montana, a much better location. That Sunday morning, Mrs. Brandvold was running the shop. She's a dark-haired, sharp-featured woman given to fringed jackets and other Western garb.

That is to say, the sediments originated in the Cretaceous period, which began about 140 million years ago and ended 65 million years ago. This span of 75 million 38 Looking for Babies years occurs quite late in the history of the planet, which is probably four and a half billion years old, and late in the history of life, which may have begun more than two billion years ago; it's even fairly late in the history of dinosaurs, which first appeared a little more than 200 million years ago. The time span of the Two Medicine formation (laid down in the late Cretaceous, from about 84 to 72 million years ago) is best measured not by years, but by the rise and fall of the inland sea.

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