Mystery and Crime Fiction posted May 28, 2013 Chapters:  ...37 38 -39- 40... 

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A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road

Kuta Moon, Part 1

by Writingfundimension


Tony pointed to Rick's pad. "What I'm going to tell you is not meant for your official report." He paused for effect. "What I saw standing over the Wasicu's body was a 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 Burke retreated into silence on the ride back to Headquarters. She stared out of the side window, watching without seeing. Bricks and mortar replaced the open fields rimmed by thick pines that marked the Sioux reservation lands. Rick Morales, her partner, opted not to use the siren, giving them both time to wrap their thoughts around what they'd just heard.

Uncle Tony was, she sensed, asking her to read between the lines. But her mind threw up roadblocks of logic as she recalled the scene in his kitchen. He reported coming out of the woods -- his attention immediately drawn to the park bench where he witnessed a dark, distorted shape bent over the dead man, Fritz Buell. Further, he intimated it was the 'real' killer using a human being to do its evil bidding. In his cryptic fashion, he refused to explain this theory or provide further details. 

I should not have allowed him to call the shots.
A knot of tension settled in the middle of her gut as she struggled to find a way around the problem this created for her and Rick. It wasn't hard to picture the reaction to their account of the interview: "Your uncle wants us to believe a ghost is killing these people?" Even if they didn't say it out loud, she was certain most of the other detectives would dismiss him as a batty old Indian spewing superstitious nonsense.

Jana tasted blood where she gnawed the soft skin of her bottom lip. Rick's silence compounded her anxiety. A quick glance at his tight grip on the steering wheel signaled he, too, was dreading the evidence review.

"We got zip from the interview with Tony Buday." Rick's voice startled her as did his use of her uncle's formal name. "We should skip mentioning the thing he claims was standing over the body," he said. "It could have been a large bird, for all we know."

Jana agreed. "It's going in the report, of course," she answered. "But I see no reason to speak of it at this point." Their eyes met in mutual understanding with her breaking contact first.

"I'm going to ask Ty to pay Uncle Tony a visit," she added. "It's well within his rights since the body was found on the reservation. Maybe Ty can persuade him to give up more details. "

"Now, see, I have a real problem with that, Jana," Rick countered. "This is our case. The body was dumped on the reservation, but the actual murder likely took place somewhere else. Unless you think our killer is a member of the tribe?"  When she averted his stare, he turned his eyes to the road.

In fact, Jana had wondered the same thing, but she would not admit her suspicion. "Ty won't be intimidated by my uncle," she said. "Besides, he's a relative. That counts for a lot on the Rez." Unless you've chosen to walk the Wasicu's way as I have, she thought.

Old feelings of shame and anger washed over her. There was a wall, painfully real and forbidding, that kept her on the outside looking in. A wall set in motion centuries before her birth. She resented facing its impenetrable surface alone on a day like this. Her head drooped as she kneaded the tight muscles at the back of her neck.

Rick felt a wave of fatigue emanate from where Jana sat hunched in her seat. He could identify with her situation. Being a minority male in the white-bread Midwest, he'd borne his share of racial stereotyping. Still, observing the level of resistance to Jana being both female and an Indian trying for acceptance in a male-dominated profession, he had to admit prejudice toward Native Americans ran deep.

They were minutes away from the station, and Rick had something he needed to get off his chest. "We scoured the crime scene of the first victim. The killer left no sign of his presence other than the dead woman's body. Nothing to give up his DNA." He rested his palm on the console between their seats in a conciliatory gesture. "I expect we'll find he was equally thorough with his second victim. I hate to use it, but the word professional comes to my mind."

"Or a serial killer who practiced until he got it right." Jana responded. "A nurse, for instance, with access to the elderly, where a death could be chalked up to lethal drug interactions. It happens enough that it wouldn't raise a red flag. Especially if there's no family in the picture."

Rick nodded. "Good point, Jana. I think we should revisit all the medical facilities in the area. This time we have the composite sketch of that creepy character Derek encountered at the hospital. With a little luck, we'll run into someone who knows more than they think they do."

They entered the parking lot of the Sheriff's department. Jana spotted the twin, black, unmarked vehicles first. "The Feds," was all she said. As their car moved slowly past a knot of men standing alongside the vehicles she recognized Matthew Buell. He stood with his hands in his pockets and his elbows tight to his body. The man standing opposite him turned and peered into the car, making eye contact with Jana. His quick, easy smile telegraphed his pleasure at seeing her.

Crap, why'd they send him? Maybe the D.C. promotion didn't pan out.

Rick caught the look between them. "You know him, Jana?"

"Yes, I know him."

"Well, who is he," Rick's voice skirted petulance.

"Dresden Stredwick III. Dred to his friends."

Rick's jaw went slack. "The Feds' number one profiler has been assigned to our case?" was all he could manage. He parked the car and sat in stunned silence.

"He's brilliant, Rick," Jana finally said. "But trust me, he's far from perfect." She reached across and touched her partner's arm. "We go about our business and apologize to no one. Agreed?"

"Yes, of course. I won't lie, though. I'm feeling the extra heat already with this guy showing up."

Jana smiled. "Understandable, Rick. That's exactly the effect he's counting on."

********** End of Part One**********


Tony Buday: Sioux medicine man and Jana's Uncle.
Fritz Buell: Second murder victim.
Matthew Buell: Fritz's wealthy son.
Detective Jana Burke: Homicide Detective with the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department.
Officer Ty Longacre: Reservation Policeman and Jana's cousin.
Detective Rick Morales: Homicide Detective with the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department and Jana's partner.
Sheriff Derek Oleson: Granite Mountain's Sheriff.
Dresden Stredwick, III: FBI profiler.

Kuta: Sioux for below (kue-dah).
Wasicu: White man.

Thanks much to donkeyoatey for the great accompanying artwork: Rock, paper, scissors.
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