|Mystery and Crime Fiction posted August 6, 2012||Chapters:||...13 14 -15- 16...|
a supernatural intruder surfaces
A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road
A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer lures him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
Readers please note: Jana Burke and her uncle, Tony Buday, are Lakota Sioux. I have chosen to include the Sioux dialect here without providing an immediate translation. You will find their meaning and proper pronounciation in the Author's Notes. Thank you!
Jana Burke exited the Sheriff's Department alone. The detective's vehicle was parked a good distance from the building in a part of the lot reserved for daytime employees. Once she was satisfied no strangers lurked about, she stepped into the open.
A breeze laced with moisture lifted her hair where it escaped her wool cap. She looked to the sky, hoping to see the first stars of the evening, but low-lying clouds denied her this simple pleasure.
The night's sounds nudged aside her worries, and she opened her senses to Wakatanka's gifts: the percussive love calls of crickets, reminiscent of a native drum beat, the pepper-sharp smell of fall leaves, and the distinct spice of apples split apart by foragers.
"Hwaah," she grunted when a small shape whooshed past her face and brushed the top of her head.
Hupaki Glake -- drawn to my body's heat. Time to go.
After securing her briefcase, she climbed onto the seat of her Jeep. Her last precaution was to unlock the glove box to allow for easy access to the Beretta 90-Two stowed there before starting up the engine.
Just in case.
It was twenty-eight miles from the Sheriff's Department to the home she shared with her uncle on the Lakota reservation. The last leg of the drive was through reservation land where felled trees lay in abstract compositions that lent a touch of elegance to the rough landscape.
The 'flats', as they were called, offered natural protection for herds of sitehaska, and Jana automatically slowed her speed. Though it was windy, the swaying cattails could signal an animal poised to emerge from the tar-black shadows beyond her headlights. Thoughts darted in and out, fleet as a school of minnows, splitting her awareness between the road and all that she'd heard at the Task Force meeting.
As murderers go, this guy was almost gentle. He incapacitated Debra Padget with a powerful drug and smothered her with a pillow. There were no signs obvious of sexual trauma. Was the drug used to keep her from fighting him so he wouldn't have to get more violent ? Or to keep her still while he painted her face and dressed her up to look like she'd been embalmed, before smothering her?
These and other questions would consume Jana's waking thoughts, even her dreams. None of her colleagues wished to jinx the case by saying as much, but the young detective suspected Debra Padget's killer was just getting started.
They had their assignments for the following day: Epstein would go back to interview Debra's neighbors; Jolly would check out all the local surgical centers for missing drugs; Morales would scan the data base for crimes matching theirs and Jana was to dig deeper into Debra Padget's background. The Sheriff indicated he would pursue the religious angle with Father Brian.
Detective Burke rarely held back information, but she'd decided to withhold something from her fellow detectives, even if they'd been open to such matters. In large part, the decision was due to her inability to articulate what amounted to little more than an impression of how Father Brian looked as he rushed to intercept her at the Station.
The priest's expression was serious, which was appropriate for the circumstances. What bothered her, though, was the way his features appeared fuzzy, similar to a face through a lens just before you get the camera into focus. After he started to speak, the phenomenon disappeared, but an uneasiness lingered.
In truth, she'd approached the priest with a bit of personal bias. Her uncle spent many hours in the priest's company, and considered the wasicu a good friend. But her medicine-man uncle would agree that spiritual people were particularly prone to demonic attacks.
I wonder if Father Brian bears closer scrutiny?
She pulled into a slot next to her uncle's flat-bed truck, and walked through the breezeway connecting the garage to rest the house. She'd noted the single lamp burning over the dining table as she navigated the gravel driveway. Once inside the house, she was surprised to find her Uncle Tony seated at the table, separating out piles of dried herbs.
As a sign of respect, she waited for the Elder to speak first.
He paused in the middle of his task, placid eyes and relaxed features offering a port in the storm. "Hau, my sister's daughter."
She bowed her head slightly. "Hau, my mother's brother."
Jana's uncle gestured towards the stove. "There's rabbit stew for your enjoyment." He kissed his fingertips and pursed his lips, "Very tasty if I do say so myself."
As if on cue, her stomach growled and they both laughed.
"I'm going to take a shower first, Uncle. And then I'd love to have a bowl of that stew -- and some chamomile tea, if you don't mind?" Tony nodded in approval, and watched her move in the direction of her bedroom, noting the bulge of a gun at her hip. He would never pry or expect her to tell him about her case, but he'd seen the news reports and knew what kind of effort it took for her to appear calm.
He rose from his chair and moved to the stove, turning on the gas flame to start the stew simmering. A cold draft moved past him, instantly putting him on alert. Looking around, he saw the door to the breezeway was ajar.
That's odd. I recall Jana securing the deadbolt after she came into the kitchen.
Tony locked the door, setting the deadbolt in place, and returned to praying over his herbs, soon lost in meditation.
When the overhead light dimmed three times, he chalked it up to the aged state of his electical wiring and resumed his task. But when it happened a second time, he rose from his chair with the intention of checking out the breaker.
The Elder had not gone one step before a sound, similar to a distant train approaching, caused him to cock his head in puzzlement. The sound mounted in intensity and he felt as if a horde of crazed bees probed for a way to get into his skull. He fell back in the chair, gripping his head in agony.
Raising one palm to the table's surface, Tony fought to make his fingers inch forward until they reached the mound of blessed sage. He squeezed the sage and tried to speak, but his mouth was paralyzed. Summoning every bit of his strength, he commanded with his inner voice, "Iyena Ekta ... Iyena Ekta ..."
It seemed to take forever for the din to fade, and finally, disappear. Stunned, the old man closed his eyes and breathed rhythmically until the pain in his ears receded.
When his thoughts regained some order, he made his way gingerly toward his bedroom. What he would say to Jana, he wasn't sure. Certainly, he didn't want to worry her unnecessarily, but he'd dealt extensively with unnatural energies in his role as tribal healer. This ... this was intelligent and wily ... as predatory an energy as he had ever encountered, and, with unaccustomed dread, he realized it was far from through with him.
The cross is beautiful. I wish that I could lay it upon your chest, but they would say that your grievous sin defiles all sacred symbols.
The ignorant cow had it hanging on a nail above her bed, oblivious to its import. But I knew it was waiting for me.The Lord wanted me to have it as a sign my mission is pleasing in His sight.
Its metal is pure and details exquisite. Surely Christ guided the old Master's fingers to convey the agony of flesh ripping in slow increments from bone, and blood streaming from a thousand open sores. As I kiss the twisted feet, I dream that it is upon your lips my mouth lingers.
By the next full moon I will lie once more by your side, my darling. And for the vipers who perverted our love, who made you doubt its beauty, Satan makes ready their welcome.
Book of the Month contest entry
Hau: Hello (hah ue)
Hupaki Glake: Bat (hue pah kee glah kay)
Iyena Ekta: Enough, Go Back (ee yah nah -- ay kdah gnee)
Sage: An herb used for healing and protection.
Siteyaska: White-tailed deer
Wasicu: White person
Wakantanka: Great Spirit
Yusice: Ruin (yue shee chay)
Thanks to Tillom, once again, for the wonderful artwork.
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