|Mystery and Crime Fiction posted April 29, 2013||Chapters:||...35 36 -37- 38...|
Interviewing the medicine man
A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road
Father Brian DeShano is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer pulls him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
Previously: Two elderly members of St. Matilde's Catholic Church have been murdered. The Detectives of Granite Mountain's Homicide division have yet to receive any substantive clues to the killer's identity. Further complicating the investigation are indications the present day events might be linked to a decades-old scandal involving Monsignor Lewis Flaherty, a pedophile priest.
Forty-foot red pines lined the dirt road, crouching like granite monoliths dotting an alien landscape. Detective Rick Morales tapped his brakes to slow the Impala. The front end of the patrol car rocked as he and his partner, Detective Jana Burke, navigated the approach to her uncle's home.
"This is more like a two-track than a road," he grumbled. "Has your uncle considered adding a layer of gravel for better traction?"
"I suggested it when I first moved back. But he made a good argument for not wasting his money."
Rick pressed for details."The argument was?"
"He'd be stuck back here for the entire winter. Does his own snow-plowing, and dirt's easier to plow than gravel."
"See, that's why I like living in town." Rick's attention was on Jana and not the road.
"Watch out!" Jana warned, and a moment later a blur of beige leapt from the edge of the woods into the path of the car.
Rick punched the brake pedal, stopping the car in time. A white-tailed doe studied the passengers of the inert steel monster, and switched her tail as if to say, "Go away, Wasicu." With two nimble bounds, she disappeared from sight. Rick waited to be sure she had no companions before proceeding.
"My uncle feeds the deer in the lean months. We have a dozen or so living on the property along with the wild turkeys. I'm always extra vigilant at night," Jana offered.
"I'm glad we stopped in time. I ran one down along old Cedar Road last fall," Rick said. "I felt bad for a week after that, especially when I got the bill to repair my car."
"Here on the reservation, if the animal's intestines are intact, we contact a family in need of meat."
Rick gave her a quizzical look. "Why's that important? You mean because they eat them?"
"Yeah, Rick." Her lips pressed into a straight line. "Preferably raw and beneath a full moon."
Crap, I've offended her.
He tried again. "I'm sorry, that didn't come out right. My people eat innards, too, as do most cultures. You know I'm not a hunter, so I'm trying to understand the rationale."
She answered him as if he were a toddler wheedling a forbidden treat. "When the intestines are damaged, it contaminates the rest of the meat."
"Oh, that makes sense." He snuck a look in her direction. "I can be a real dork, sometimes."
"Yeah, Rick," she laughed, "well-meaning, but definitely a dork."
The road ended with a final twist. Rick pulled alongside a vintage orange pick-up. Jana slapped her hand against the dashboard of the patrol car.
The motion kicked Rick into alarm mode. "What's wrong, Jana?"
"My grandmother is here, which means Uncle Tony has likely told her about the dead man."
"Is that bad?"
"I don't know yet."
Jana stepped from the car and waited for Rick to join her. The tension she radiated put him on edge. "Do you think we should conduct separate interviews?" he asked as they climbed the steps to the front entrance.
"They'll never allow it. And we can't force the issue since the reservation is out of our jurisdiction. Besides, this isn't an interrogation per se. We just want to get as much information as possible about the state of the body when my uncle found it."
He squeezed her elbow to get her attention. "Finding the body like that -- maybe your uncle needed to talk with someone close, someone who would understand the implications."
Her chin was up, eyes guarded, "I don't follow."
"Yes, you do, Jana. Your cousin committed suicide on the same spot we found Fritz Buell. I know you don't believe in coincidences any more than I do. There's a link here, and your family may hold the key to the nature of that connection."
Intent on the conversation, neither noticed the door open. Rick stepped aside for the woman who emerged. He noted her beauty and the fact she offered no greeting. Her face echoed Jana's, but there the resemblance ended. The woman was short and dressed in a traditional manner with a loose, flowing dress cinched at the waist by a beaded belt.
Rick was mystified by the way the two women regarded each other with no obvious sign of affection. Jana's posture went from cautious to receptive as she bent to kiss her grandmother's cheek.
"Hau, Unci. You are well?" she asked.
"My work keeps me busy, and I am content to be of service in my silver years." She grasped Jana's hand for emphasis, "Your work, Mitakoja, makes you a stranger to those who love you."
"I'm in the middle of a murder case, Unci..."
The old woman dropped Jana's hand and leaned in close to her face. "You'll need more than the white man's law to defeat the evil bearing down on you. Come to me before it's too late." She wrapped her shawl about her shoulder and, without another word, walked away.
Rick spoke for Jana's ears alone, "Wow, I thought my grandmother was a tough old bird." Jana's flashed him a smile that made his heart do a full-out flip.
"I used to let her get to me," she said. "Then, one day, I realized her sternness was a function of teaching me to respect the old ways."
"That is an excellent insight, Tuzaya." The speaker wore a denim coverall with a plaid long-sleeved shirt rolled at the wrists. He stood in the middle of the doorway. Behind him, Rick could see the glow of a wood-burning stove. Lying in front of the stove was a blood hound that watched the proceedings with mute interest.
Jana pointed to Rick and said, "Leksi, meet my partner, Rick Morales."
Rick thrust his hand forward. The other man's grip surprised him. "Pleased to meet you, sir, though the circumstances are less than ideal."
"Certainly for the dead white man," Tony quipped.
The young detective chuckled and added, "I see unvarnished honesty runs in the family."
"And I see you are an astute young man," Tony shot back.
The elder gestured for them to enter. Rick knew Jana shared the home with her uncle and thought it odd she would wait for an invitation to enter.
I suppose it's another traditional angle of some sort. Sloppy kisses, bear hugs -- that's what I get when I visit my family.
Jana led the way through the small sitting room into a kitchen that smelled of something delicious cooking. A skylight over the kitchen table made the room clear as day.
His stomach growled the closer he got to the range. A quick breakfast and nothing since then. No wonder I'm light-headed.
Tony pulled out a chair for his niece to sit. "We can talk here, but first we will have some stew." Jana offered no resistance. Rick was struck by her acquiescence.
"A bowl of whatever's cooking sounds great," Rick readily replied. "We're used to grabbing food on the go, so may I request we eat and talk at the same time?"
"It's imperative we report our findings as soon as possible," Jana added. "What we need from you, Leksi, is a description of the state of the body, and surroundings, when you came upon the scene."
Tony had two bowls in his hands and was setting them before his guests when a loud pop came from the heater. His startled reaction caused the liquid to slosh up the sides of the bowls. Looking in the direction of the wood stove, he muttered, "Quiet."
Rick looked at Jana for some explanation, but she was focused on Tony. His hands shook as he placed the bowls in front of them.
Jana opened her notebook and read her brief notes. Rick took the cue and did the same. But unlike his partner, he took time to savor the delicious stew. He guessed the source of the strong-flavored meat was venison along with an abundance of vegetables and chilies, probably jalapenos. It was hot and savory.
The one thing Rick had learned from Jana was the importance of Indian time. He kept his eyes on his plate and waited for someone else to break the silence.
"I was searching for mushrooms and got pulled off my usual route," Tony offered. "I don't make a habit of going to that spot."
He gestured to where the hound lay close to their food. The animal's head lifted when he heard his name, "Wasu had wandered off, or I'm sure he would have smelled the body as I did, even before I saw it on the bench."
"Did you see any vehicles or strangers, Leksi?" Jana asked.
Tony pushed his bowl away and sat back in his chair. The repetitive tapping of his boot on the wood floor suggested an inner struggle.
"I saw something suspicious." The medicine man stared into a void beyond the two detectives. "A black figure crouched beside the body. When it sensed my presence, it whirled to face me. Its eyes blazed like red rubies, and its mouth was twisted into a horrible smile."
Rick felt an uncharacteristic pulling in his solar plexus. He had the urge to run out the front door.
Jana hurried to ask, "Did the figure threaten you, Leksi?"
Rick's urge to run reached a crescendo. He stared into his bowl to steady himself before asking, "I'm not following, sir. Are you saying the figure in some way threatened you from a hundred yards away?"
The elder's question took Rick by surprise, "Are you a Christian, Detective Morales?"
"I don't see what relevance..."
"Answer him, Rick," Jana ordered.
His eyes narrowed with resentment, and he considered the option of telling them both to go to hell.
What's wrong with me? I'm not usually this wound up.
"I was raised Roman Catholic," he answered.
"Then you are familiar with the concept of evil forces wandering the world in search of souls?" Tony queried.
Tony pointed to Rick's pad. "What I'm going to tell is not meant for your official report." He paused for effect. "What I saw standing over the Wasicu's body was the visible representation of the evil that is behind these murders. The creature that mocked me is using a human being to do its dirty work."
Rick blurted, "We can worry about an exorcism after we catch the human bastard preying on these helpless old people. What we need are clues to that person's identity. Is there anything I can put into my report, that will help us do that?"
"Perhaps." Tony closed his eyes and went silent. For the longest minute of his life, Rick kept his mouth shut. He didn't dare look at Jana.
"The priest is the key to understanding this mystery," Tony spoke directly to his niece. "And something else -- you must accept that Death stalks all of us. Use its presence to guide you."
"By priest, do you mean Father Brian?" Rick's voice rose with frustration, "Are you telling us he's hiding something?"
Tony flattened his hand and sliced the air.
Jana stood up. "C'mon, Rick. The interview is over."
Detective Morales looked from niece to uncle and saw the same mulish set of the mouth. He pushed back his chair and rose.
The words were hard but necessary. "Thank you for your time, sir."
Tony nodded in acknowledgement of Rick's words.
Following Jana out the front door, he felt as if he'd stepped outside a space station and into the heart of zero gravity. Did he dare ask his partner to tell him what the hell her uncle was talking about?
Mitakoja: My grandchild
Wasicu: White person
Detective Jana Burke: Homicide investigator with the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department and a member of the Sioux nation.
Tony Buday: Jana's uncle, Agnes's brother and medicine man for the Sioux tribe.
Father Brian DeShano: The current past of St. Matilde's Catholic Church.
Agnes Longacre: Jana's grandmother and Tony's sister. She is a traditionlist hearler for the Sioux tribe.
Detective Rick Morales: Homicide investigator and Jana Burke's partner.
Big thanks to donkeyoatey for the use of his superb artwork yet again!
© Copyright 2017. Writingfundimension All rights reserved. Registered copyright with FanStory.
Writingfundimension has granted FanStory.com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.