I’ve picked up Hello Again where I left off. Here it is. Enjoy.
Bill reluctantly turned off the cruiser’s AC as he pulled into a parking spot in front of the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council offices. Stern-faced Emile Martin, Tribal Chairperson and Chief of the Carry the Kettle Nation, stood outside the council building next to the giant teepee out front, and from the scowl on his face and the stiff way he held himself, Bill knew the elderly man wasn’t a happy camper. Beside him, four other men wearing their formal eagle feather headdresses, smoked and chatted amongst themselves.
Break time. Great. He’d hoped the only one he’d have to deal with was Martin, but it looked as if the gang was all here.
There was Lavelle of the Little Black Bear, Crow from the Pasqua, Riel form the Standing Buffalo, and Sanschagrin from the Star Blanket. No doubt the other six had chosen to stay indoors out of the heat. Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota—east, central, and western nations originally all under the Sioux—were now so distinct and disparate that one nation couldn’t understand the language of the other. He chuckled—and how was that any different from Canadian English and British English or even the Australian or American versions? People drifted apart as necessity demanded and evolved accordingly.
The Nakota, or Stoney nation as some referred to them, had separated themselves from the Sioux hundreds of years ago, and moved from their ancestral lands in what was now Minnesota to take up residence in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Recently, they and their Assiniboine cousins in Montana and North Dakota were discussing the benefits of reclaiming their Sioux affiliation. In the original language, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota, meant friend or ally, but over the years, the various groups had become enemies competing for the same assets for survival.
It was nice to think they’d reunite again. Bill was all for family harmony and peace, probably because that was the one thing lacking in his own life. A half-breed, as he’d been called in his early years in foster care, he had one foot in each nation—Metis, was a nicer way to put it, but he’d grown up belonging nowhere. No one knew who’d left the hours-old infant in a basket, wrapped in a woven blanket proclaiming his native ancestry, on the floor of the ER at Regina General, but his hair color and eye color along with his skin tone told its own story. There were few red-haired, green-eyed First Nations people in the area, and despite the blanket, woven in a traditional Sioux design and several years old, none of the local tribes had claimed the child. He’d been raised as a crown ward, placed in a foster home, but never adopted. The red tape around such a venture was too long and thick for anyone to attempt.
Seeing Martin walk toward the cruiser snapped Bill out of his blue moment and he got out of the car.
“Constable Murdock,” Martin said. “Commander Anderson called and said you were coming. Nice to see you again.” He held out his hand. “Hot enough for you?”
Bill chuckled. “Definitely. You’re looking well, old friend. I heard you had a little trouble last winter. I thought you’d have retired to spend your days fishing with your grandsons.”
“I do that, but in this heat, even the fish are having a hard time keeping cool. Besides, Sandra tells me we’re in for a storm this afternoon, and I’d rather be in my own home than out on the river if it strikes. That old woman says there’s a tornado coming. My people know she’s right far more often than the weather forecaster in Regina.”
“Well if your wife says there’s a twister coming, I’d better get your statement and get the hell back to the city.”
He looked over at the flower beds in front of the building, the various native plants, including the Saskatoon lily all in bloom.
“I see your granddaughter’s green thumb at work here.”
“Laurie is gifted that way. The land speaks to her as it did to our ancestors.” He raised his hand and pushed his headdress off his forehead. “The doctors in Regina fixed me right up last winter and put a stent in my heart, but this old man gets tired. Especially in this heat. Come inside. I’ll have Leo take my place for a while—they’re discussing the wisdom of opening a casino on the reservation. He knows more about that than I do anyway.”
Bill followed the chief to his offices and waited while he removed his eagle bonnet and set it on the stand.
“I think my ancestors must’ve had stronger neck muscles if they wore these for days on end.” He opened the mini-fridge and handed Bill a bottle of water. “Sit.”
Taking the bottle and mumbling his thanks, Bill opened it and half-drained it in one gulp. He pulled out his pen and notebook. “So can you tell me what happened?”
“You should really talk to Shirley Smoke. She’s the one who shot at them, scared them away, so she said, but she lost a calf and half her garden. I guess they decided to have a barbecue while they were there. The men rounded up the rest of her cattle, but the loss of that animal hit her hard. She didn’t say much except that there were a dozen of them, on big motorcycles, but one left this behind.”
Martin reached into his bottom desk drawer, pulled out a plastic bag containing a man’s shirt, and handed it to him. Bill opened the bag and took out the shirt, wrinkling his nose at the stench.
“Whew, this guy must’ve been a little ripe. I’m sure the lab can pull DNA from this. Was Shirley hurt?”
“No, but she’s afraid they’ll come back. I’ve parked a Tribal Council police car out there since it happened, but I think they’ve moved on.”
Bill pursed his lips. The logo of the Madre Diablo motorcycle group was one he recognized. A nasty offshoot of Hell’s Angels, the Diablos got off on doing as much damage as they could wherever they could. No place was off limits to them, and they seemed to target Reserves and small holdings. If Shirley Smoke thought they’d be back, she was right, and if they held a grudge against her for spoiling their fun… He flipped his notebook shut. “Where’s Shirley’s place? I’ll go over and talk to her, check out the damage for myself, and get pictures.”
“She’s three miles east of town on the river road. My wife tried to get her to come into town, but she’s a stubborn one. Eighty-three next month.”
Bill stood and held out his hand. “I can’t promise we’ll catch them, but if they’re still in Canada, every RCMP officer will be on the lookout for them.”
“Thank you,” Martin said holding out his hand and escorting him from the office.
Bill returned to the squad car and frowned. The clear blue eastern sky he’s seen on the horizon was replaced by ominous black clouds. The easterly wind blew in his face, but the breeze carried no relief. If anything, it was hotter than the air around him. The FMTC banner snapped smartly in the brisk breeze. For thousands of years, these people and their ancestors had relied on the buffalo for everything from food to shelter and clothing. The Council had chosen the buffalo, a calf inside the larger figure surrounded by hoof marks as their logo because the animal represented strength and survival. It was a good choice. Opening the car door, he stood back as the superheated air gushed out, and then entered the vehicle, amazed the steering wheel hadn’t melted in the heat. He’d go out to Shirley’s have a look around, and then head back to Regina. East winds always brought the worst storms.
That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to check out all the other great story starts at Tuesday Tales