Thursday, April 11, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story)

 dontravis.com blog post #649

Image Courtesy of Pinterest:

Bart Shortlance is chasing one of the killers south toward the Mexican border. It’s a rough and dangerous ride on the backroads of southern New Mexico. Will he prevail?

 

NOTICE: Dear readers, after twelve and one-half years of writing a weekly post, life has caught up with me. Beginning with the next post, I will blog on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 5:00 a.m., US Mountain Time. Thanks for sticking with me.

****

BEARCLAW SUMMONS (Part 8-Finale))

The three of them spent another hour working out a plan before Bart drove Jack back to the reservation so the fat man could organize his end of the plan. Then Bart went home to pack an overnight bag. It was after six when he rang the doorbell to Mark’s apartment.

The lawyer invited him inside to make himself comfortable. “Nothing’s likely to happen tonight, although we have to be ready for it if it does. But tomorrow, if the blood turns out the right type, we might get a little action. You think Big Jack’s got his end covered?”

“You can count on it.”

They ate hamburgers from a drive‑in down the street and settled into a childhood pastime, playing chess. They were well matched. Each had to concentrate to hold his own against the other. The first game was hard fought. Their attention wandered in the second, and the third was mechanically played as they talked.

“How’s Willy’s family taking things?” Mark asked during a lull.

“Living from day to day. Not knowing for sure is hard on them.”

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind what happened to Willy. They killed him, Bart.” He ran his hand through his hair. “This whole thing’s hard for me to understand. Here’s a guy who minded his own business, went to work every day, and had a tremendous talent as an artist.  He’s here one day doing just great, then the next day he’s in trouble for no good reason, and then he’s dead. I can’t help asking myself why?”

Bart shrugged, a gesture he often used to save words. “Some people on the reservation will take a look at what happened and say Willy was trying too hard to be a white man and this was what happens when Indians try to play white. They’ll point it out to their young people and say, ‘watch out you don’t get caught in the same trap.’ Don’t think for a minute it hasn’t already been said in half a hundred houses, tents, tipis, and wickiups.”

“God, that’s awful! You’re saying this is a racist thing.”

“What else? Burke and Avila saw a sap they could trick and bully. He also happened to be an Indian, and that was good because nobody gives a shit about what happens to them. Even if he tries to defend himself, nobody’s going to listen. They probably just wanted him to haul out rifles for them, but when he bucked and they smelled trouble, he was the perfect patsy. Probably got the surprise of their lives when he got himself a lawyer, a white lawyer who belongs to the inside crowd. Things were getting out of hand fast. This redskin wasn’t lying down and taking his medicine like he ought to. Okay, things can still be salvaged. Just get rid of the poor sap. Nobody’s going to knock his head against a wall over an Indian who showed his true colors and ran when the going got rough.”

“That is the way a lot of people will see it, isn’t it?” Mark thought for a moment. “Then by God, let’s make sure they see it the way it really is.”

“You’ll have to be the one. Jack and I will do everything we can, but you’re the only one who can show the world what’s going on.”

Mark tipped over his king, signaling surrender. He leaned back in his chair. “I’ll do my best, Bart.”

****

Accustomed to rising early, Bart had eaten and was sipping a second cup of coffee before Mark stirred. He was finishing the morning paper when the lawyer came in for his first cup. Bart reluctantly agreed to stay at the apartment while Mark went to the office so he would be near the phone in case it should ring. It did, twice. Each time Mark was on the other end, first to let him know that the lab said the blood was human, type O Negative and then to ask if there was any word from Big Jack Bearclaw. The rest of the time Bart read, tried to watch TV, and finally ended up pacing the small apartment talking to himself to keep from going stir crazy. He was not used to being penned up in a room. He was an outdoorsman. The moment Mark returned around five‑thirty, Bart bolted from the apartment house and took a two‑mile run to calm his ragged nerves. Mark was waiting patiently when he got back.

“You shot out of here like a house‑broke puppy shut up inside all day.”

“My need was about that urgent,” Bart answered. “Thought I was going to flip out before you got here. What happened today?”

“Most of it you know already. The blood was the right kind. Don’t know about the tires yet, but somehow the rumor got out that they match Avila’s van. Damndest place for rumors you ever saw.

Ro laughed. “So tonight might see some action?”

“Could be. Is the Jeep gassed up?”

“Yep. Let’s eat and get ready.”

“What did you fix?”

“Fix? Me?” Bart asked in astonishment.

“Hell, you were home all day. Doesn’t the housewife usually fix dinner?”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re an asshole?”

“Does that mean no dinner?”

“Exactly. Does that mean hamburgers again tonight?”

“Exactly!”

“Shit! We’re going to break out in pimples like teenagers.”

****

The call came around two in the morning. Bart picked up the phone on the first ring. Big Jack spoke in his ear. Bart listened a minute, then told the man he was on the way.

Mark came into the room rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Was that it?”

“Yep. You were right. He ran.”

“Who’s on his tail?”

“Big Jack and one of his nephews. I’d better get a move on.” Bart began pulling on his clothes. “We don’t want them getting out of range of the radio.”

“Which way did he go?”

“South.”

“Mexico.”

“That’s Avila’s reservation, I guess. You going to call the law?”

“Yes, but I’m in no hurry. I want it plain he’s planning to leave the state. He can’t do that, not even supposed to leave the area, but I want him clearly in violation of his bond. You keep in touch, so I’ll know what’s happening.”

Ro no sooner reached the Jeep than the radio crackled. He almost laughed at Big Jack’s voice. The man was self‑conscious about talking over the foreign instrument.

“Bart? You there? Goddammit! Uh, let’s see. J‑Bar‑C Two, can you hear me?”

“I read you, Jack. What’s going on? Over.”

“This guy’s going like a calf on the prod. You ain’t never going to catch up with us. He don’t seem to care if a cop catches him or not.”

“Okay. Be back with you in a minute. Over and out.” Bart ran back into the apartment house and beat on Mark’s door. Mark opened it instantly. “He’s running fast, Big Jack says. Breaking the speed limit like he’s got no worries about patrol cars. Jack says I’ll never catch up with them.”

“Fuck!” Mark beat a fist against the jamb. “He must really be scared. Any sane man would go at a nice slow pace. He’s panicked. Wait! A helicopter! You can catch him in a bird. You head to the airfield. I’ll get Jim Hudson over there pronto. You have a chance that way.”

****

The helicopter pilot, who lived near the airport, was already warming up the whirlybird by the time Bart arrived. He was, however, not in the best of spirits. He seemed to resent being awakened at two‑thirty in the morning to participate in somebody else’s goose chase.

Bart thought he was going to lose his stomach when the machine took off, but he overcame the nausea. Donning the headset as instructed, he told the pilot what they were up to. He was disappointed that the helicopter radio did not have CB bands, but he had already warned Big Jack that he was coming by helicopter. They overtook the two speeding vehicles easily enough. There was no mistaking them even in the darkness. The van led Big Jack by about a quarter of a mile. At first, the pilot was reluctant to set the copter down in unfamiliar terrain, but he took advantage of the lights of a closed filling station at some wide spot in the road to drop rapidly to the ground. Bart about lost his meal again, but avoided disgracing himself. The Avila vehicle had already whizzed through. Big Jack saw them and had his nephew pull over. Bart unceremoniously dumped the protesting youngster out of the truck and sprayed him with gravel as he got the pickup back on the highway. They soon spotted the van’s taillights in the distance. They gained steadily. Suddenly, the brake lights flashed as the vehicle turned off the highway.

“Damn!” Bart swore. “He spotted us.”

“Be a blind son of a bitch if he didn’t. Probably saw the lights when the helicopter landed too.”

Bart slapped the wheel. “He’s not headed for El Paso. He’s taking the back country to Mexico. Shit! The law’s going to be waiting in the wrong place.”

“Can you reach that lawyer on the radio?”

“Out of range, but I’m going to try to raise somebody. You get out and start trying to catch a ride.” Jack looked pained. It was pitch black, and they had not passed a car on the Road for a considerable stretch. “I’ll work the radio and get somebody to pick you up. But just in case I don’t raise anybody, you’ve got to get back to that service station and phone Mark.”

Jack’s mouth fell open. “That’s ten miles back!”

Ro braked hard. “Yeah, and I’m hauling you in the wrong direction.”

Big Jack looked doubtful about the whole venture, but he obediently grunted his way out of the truck. Bart took off again. As soon as he maneuvered the turn onto the sideroad, he managed to raise a northbound trucker about six miles south of him who agreed to pick up Big Jack and get him to a telephone. In the meantime, the man would try to raise a state cop in the area.

The van was traveling too fast for the road conditions. Bart was able to anticipate some of the worst jolts by keeping an eye on the lights of the other vehicle, but even so he wondered how long the van could take the punishment the rutted dirt Road was dishing out. Abruptly, the relatively good stretch played out. Avila’s headlights went crazy, shooting up into the black sky, disappearing into the ground, and wagging from side to side. Bart was reminded of a mischievous child playing with a flashlight.

 ****

I had faith in Bart in catching the fleeing crook, and equal faith in Mark Charles in seeing that justice was done in the white man’s court system. Everything came out as well as could be expected, as Bart says, “under the circumstances.”

 Thanks for sticking with me through this long process.

 Repeat of the alert: Starting next week, this blog will post ONLY on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.

 Until next time, stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder mystery series starting with The Zozobra Incident.

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

X: @dontravis3

See you next time.


Don

New posts on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain Time.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story)

 dontravis.com blog post #648

 Image Courtesy of Pinterest:

 




Accepting that the disappeared Willy Spurs is dead, Bart Shortlance, Mark Charles, and Big Jack Bearclaw go about planning justice for the young Apache artist.

 


****

BEARCLAW SUMMONS (Part 7)

The three of them spent another hour working out a plan before Bart drove Jack back to the reservation so the fat man could organize his end of the plan. Then Bart went home to pack an overnight bag. It was after six when he rang the doorbell to Mark’s apartment.

The lawyer invited him inside to make himself comfortable. “Nothing’s likely to happen tonight, although we have to be ready for it if it does. But tomorrow, if the blood turns out the right type, we might get a little action. You think Big Jack’s got his end covered?”

“You can count on it.”

They ate hamburgers from a drive‑in down the street and settled into a childhood pastime, playing chess. They were well matched. Each had to concentrate to hold his own against the other. The first game was hard fought. Their attention wandered in the second, and the third was mechanically played as they talked.

“How’s Willy’s family taking things?” Mark asked during a lull.

“Living from day to day. Not knowing for sure is hard on them.”

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind what happened to Willy. They killed him, Bart.” He ran his hand through his hair. “This whole thing’s hard for me to understand. Here’s a guy who minded his own business, went to work every day, and had a tremendous talent as an artist.  He’s here one day doing just great, then the next day he’s in trouble for no good reason, and then he’s dead. I can’t help asking myself why?”

Bart shrugged, a gesture he often used to save words. “Some people on the reservation will take a look at what happened and say Willy was trying too hard to be a white man and this was what happens when Indians try to play white. They’ll point it out to their young people and say, ‘watch out you don’t get caught in the same trap.’ Don’t think for a minute it hasn’t already been said in half a hundred houses, tents, tipis, and wickiups.”

“God, that’s awful! You’re saying this is a racist thing.”

“What else? Burke and Avila saw a sap they could trick and bully. He also happened to be an Indian, and that was good because nobody gives a shit about what happens to them. Even if he tries to defend himself, nobody’s going to listen. They probably just wanted him to haul out rifles for them, but when he bucked and they smelled trouble, he was the perfect patsy. Probably got the surprise of their lives when he got himself a lawyer, a white lawyer who belongs to the inside crowd. Things were getting out of hand fast. This redskin wasn’t lying down and taking his medicine like he ought to. Okay, things can still be salvaged. Just get rid of the poor sap. Nobody’s going to knock his head against a wall over an Indian who showed his true colors and ran when the going got rough.”

“That is the way a lot of people will see it, isn’t it?” Mark thought for a moment. “Then by God, let’s make sure they see it the way it really is.”

“You’ll have to be the one. Jack and I will do everything we can, but you’re the only one who can show the world what’s going on.”

Mark tipped over his king, signaling surrender. He leaned back in his chair. “I’ll do my best, Bart.”

****

Accustomed to rising early, Bart had eaten and was sipping a second cup of coffee before Mark stirred. He was finishing the morning paper when the lawyer came in for his first cup. Bart reluctantly agreed to stay at the apartment while Mark went to the office so he would be near the phone in case it should ring. It did, twice. Each time Mark was on the other end, first to let him know that the lab said the blood was human, type O Negative and then to ask if there was any word from Big Jack Bearclaw. The rest of the time Bart read, tried to watch TV, and finally ended up pacing the small apartment talking to himself to keep from going stir crazy. He was not used to being penned up in a room. He was an outdoorsman. The moment Mark returned around five‑thirty, Bart bolted from the apartment house and took a two‑mile run to calm his ragged nerves. Mark was waiting patiently when he got back.

“You shot out of here like a house‑broke puppy shut up inside all day.”

“My need was about that urgent,” Bart answered. “Thought I was going to flip out before you got here. What happened today?”

“Most of it you know already. The blood was the right kind. Don’t know about the tires yet, but somehow the rumor got out that they match Avila’s van. Damndest place for rumors you ever saw.

Ro laughed. “So tonight might see some action?”

“Could be. Is the Jeep gassed up?”

“Yep. Let’s eat and get ready.”

“What did you fix?”

“Fix? Me?” Bart asked in astonishment.

“Hell, you were home all day. Doesn’t the housewife usually fix dinner?”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re an asshole?”

“Does that mean no dinner?”

“Exactly. Does that mean hamburgers again tonight?”

“Exactly!”

“Shit! We’re going to break out in pimples like teenagers.”

****

The call came around two in the morning. Bart picked up the phone on the first ring. Big Jack spoke in his ear. Bart listened a minute, then told the man he was on the way.

Mark came into the room rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Was that it?”

“Yep. You were right. He ran.”

“Who’s on his tail?”

“Big Jack and one of his nephews. I’d better get a move on.” Bart began pulling on his clothes. “We don’t want them getting out of range of the radio.”

“Which way did he go?”

“South.”

“Mexico.”

“That’s Avila’s reservation, I guess. You going to call the law?”

“Yes, but I’m in no hurry. I want it plain he’s planning to leave the state. He can’t do that, not even supposed to leave the area, but I want him clearly in violation of his bond. You keep in touch, so I’ll know what’s happening.”

Ro no sooner reached the Jeep than the radio crackled. He almost laughed at Big Jack’s voice. The man was self‑conscious about talking over the foreign instrument.

“Bart? You there? Goddammit! Uh, let’s see. J‑Bar‑C Two, can you hear me?”

“I read you, Jack. What’s going on? Over.”

“This guy’s going like a calf on the prod. You ain’t never going to catch up with us. He don’t seem to care if a cop catches him or not.”

“Okay. Be back with you in a minute. Over and out.” Bart ran back into the apartment house and beat on Mark’s door. Mark opened it instantly. “He’s running fast, Big Jack says. Breaking the speed limit like he’s got no worries about patrol cars. Jack says I’ll never catch up with them.”

“Fuck!” Mark beat a fist against the jamb. “He must really be scared. Any sane man would go at a nice slow pace. He’s panicked. Wait! A helicopter! You can catch him in a bird. You head to the airfield. I’ll get Jim Hudson over there pronto. You have a chance that way.”

****

The helicopter pilot, who lived near the airport, was already warming up the whirlybird by the time Bart arrived. He was, however, not in the best of spirits. He seemed to resent being awakened at two‑thirty in the morning to participate in somebody else’s goose chase.

Bart thought he was going to lose his stomach when the machine took off, but he overcame the nausea. Donning the headset as instructed, he told the pilot what they were up to. He was disappointed that the helicopter radio did not have CB bands, but he had already warned Big Jack that he was coming by helicopter. They overtook the two speeding vehicles easily enough. There was no mistaking them even in the darkness. The van led Big Jack by about a quarter of a mile. At first, the pilot was reluctant to set the copter down in unfamiliar terrain, but he took advantage of the lights of a closed filling station at some wide spot in the road to drop rapidly to the ground. Bart about lost his meal again, but avoided disgracing himself. The Avila vehicle had already whizzed through. Big Jack saw them and had his nephew pull over. Bart unceremoniously dumped the protesting youngster out of the truck and sprayed him with gravel as he got the pickup back on the highway. They soon spotted the van’s taillights in the distance. They gained steadily. Suddenly, the brake lights flashed as the vehicle turned off the highway.

“Damn!” Bart swore. “He spotted us.”

“Be a blind son of a bitch if he didn’t. Probably saw the lights when the helicopter landed too.”

Bart slapped the wheel. “He’s not headed for El Paso. He’s taking the back country to Mexico. Shit! The law’s going to be waiting in the wrong place.”

“Can you reach that lawyer on the radio?”

“Out of range, but I’m going to try to raise somebody. You get out and start trying to catch a ride.” Jack looked pained. It was pitch black, and they had not passed a car on the Road for a considerable stretch. “I’ll work the radio and get somebody to pick you up. But just in case I don’t raise anybody, you’ve got to get back to that service station and phone Mark.”

Jack’s mouth fell open. “That’s ten miles back!”

Ro braked hard. “Yeah, and I’m hauling you in the wrong direction.”

Big Jack looked doubtful about the whole venture, but he obediently grunted his way out of the truck. Bart took off again. As soon as he maneuvered the turn onto the sideroad, he managed to raise a northbound trucker about six miles south of him who agreed to pick up Big Jack and get him to a telephone. In the meantime, the man would try to raise a state cop in the area.

The van was traveling too fast for the road conditions. Bart was able to anticipate some of the worst jolts by keeping an eye on the lights of the other vehicle, but even so he wondered how long the van could take the punishment the rutted dirt Road was dishing out. Abruptly, the relatively good stretch played out. Avila’s headlights went crazy, shooting up into the black sky, disappearing into the ground, and wagging from side to side. Bart was reminded of a mischievous child playing with a flashlight.

 

****

So one of the crooks is on the run, as much from his partner-in-crime as from the law. Bart’s in pursuit. Will he catch the man?

 Until next week, stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say... so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder mystery series from The Zozobra Incident to The Cutie-Pie Murders. A lot or murder, mayhem... and sex.

My Personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.


Don

New Posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain Time.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story)

 dontravis.com blog post #647

 Image Courtesy of Pinterest:


 


It’s pretty clear that Willy Spurs is dead, murdered by the gun runners Burke and Avila. What remains is clearing the kid’s name and bringing his killers to justice. Let’s see if it happens.

 


****

BEARCLAW SUMMONS (Part 6)

Two days passed before Big Jack Bearclaw notified Bart that Willy was gone. Two days during which all of Jack’s considerable family vainly combed the countryside for the missing man. Bart phoned Mark the minute he heard the news, realizing what the others did not, Mark had posted bond himself and stood to lose a considerable amount of money if Willy turned fugitive.

Another three days passed before a state Fish and Wildlife employee chanced across Willy’s pickup half‑submerged in a remote part of the Rio Chacon. Another week elapsed before the authorities gave up the search for a body. The following day Big Jack squeezed his bulk into Bart’s DeSoto convertible, and they went into Terreon for a conference with Mark Charles.

“Don’t think he run,” Jack announced when they were seated. The big man filled the small couch in the outer office, an experience from which the ancient piece of furniture would likely never recover. From time to time, it emitted distressed noises. “For one thing, he’d of said something to his wife. For another, he’d just made a drawing of his baby. That would of gone with him. But the thing that clinches it is that he didn’t take his paints and brushes. Not a one.”

“Any clothing missing? Personal belongings?”

“None. And he didn’t have nothing more personal than his paint.”

“That’s right, Mark,” Bart confirmed. “When I went up Dead Scout Canyon looking for him, he wouldn’t come down until I took his paints and canvas. Then he followed along behind me like a dog trained to heel.”

Mark was unconvinced. “He can always get more paint and brushes.”

You know how much money the kid’s got tied up in them? It’ll take a long time to collect them again, especially if he’s on the run,” Bart argued.

“Excuse me, Mr. Charles,” Big Jack rumbled, “but he’s not a man who plans things out, but if he was running, he’d know that he’d go crazy if he couldn’t draw and paint pictures no matter where he was. He’d need them, so he’d take them. That’s his way.”

“What do you think happened?”

Big Jack looked at Bart uneasily. “Looks to me like those other two got to him.”

“Got to him? Exactly what do you mean?”

“Well, you said he was the only one going to put them away, didn’t you? I guess they got him out of the way.”

“Are you suggesting that they did away with him? Killed him?”

The fat man shrugged his massive shoulders. The couch protested. “Why not? He was just a rez Indian. Family says he was resting a bit more easy. Sometime after supper, he got in his truck and drove off. Nobody seen him again.”

Bart picked up the tale. “I rode horseback the whole way up that washed‑out road to where the truck went in the water, and I hiked it once. Didn’t find a thing to help us. But whoever took the truck up there didn’t give a damn about it. That old road doesn’t even exist anymore. The truck was banged up and scratched up something awful.”

“He didn’t drive that truck up there, Mr. Charles,” Big Jack said. “If he was gonna run, he’d have took his paints and his brushes and his canvas. And likely his family too. He’d have hit the highway or he’d have made for high ground on the reservation.”

“So you’re saying the same thing.”

Big Jack nodded. “He’s dead.”

“That’s quite a conclusion,” Mark said. “I can think of another. If Avila and Burke wanted to get rid of the kid, they’d give him some money and take him to Mexico. Hell, Willy could be sitting on the other side of the border right now painting up a storm with new brushes and paints and a pocket full of pesos.”

“He’d get in touch with his family,” Big Jack insisted. “And he’d of left them his truck. No way he’d bash it up and leave it in the river.

“He left it for Avila and Burke to take care of. He might show up in a few days or next week or next month.”

“Is that what you really think?” asked Bart.

“I don’t know. I’d have bet he wouldn’t run. Hell, I did bet! I put up his bond. But there aren’t too many men around who’d kill a person as easily as that.” Mark walked to the window and looked across at the blank wall of the building next door. Finally, he turned.

“They got to him somehow, and probably not by buying him off. You know why not? Because they’ve both been around here a long time, and they know that sooner or later ninety percent of the Apache who leave the reservation come back. Those aren’t very good odds when your freedom depends on them. By God, I think you’re right! I believe he’s dead.”

****

Lena Boggs’ youngest grandson, Freddie, told his uncle about a pickup that went up Blue Meadow road just south of Snowflake Pass after dark the night Willy Spurs disappeared. The boy had been planning to park on the meadow with his girl until another vehicle turned off ahead of him. A few days later, the uncle repeated the story to his wife’s father who told his older brother.

August Wingfield, a cautious man, drove over to see Big Jack Bearclaw. After discussing the outrageous price of horse fodder and the state of health of his large and energetic brood for almost an hour, August, elaborately discounting in advance the value of what he had come to say, repeated what he had been told without comment or speculation. Big Jack thanked the head of the Wingfield family for taking his valuable time, saw his guest out of sight, and then yelled for his eldest son to hitch up the mules. Jack drove to a cousin’s house and bartered for a ride to the J‑Bar‑C.

Late that afternoon, he finally located Bart in one of the pastures north of the highway. Bart heard him out, dropped everything, and went to phone Mark Charles.

****

Early the next morning, Bart parked the J‑Bar‑C Jeep at the juncture of NM35 and Blue Meadow Road and began hiking. He was not hopeful because the old logging Road was miles from where the truck had been found and at no point met up with the old, abandoned roadway the Spurs vehicle had to travel to meet its end in the Rio Chacon. Nonetheless, he was by nature careful and meticulous. He had gone only about six‑tenths of a mile up the Road when he found signs that raised his interest. He searched the general area briefly, squatted on his haunches to think, and then backtracked to where a small spring crossed the Road. He invested a little more time looking around there. Satisfied with what he had seen, he dog‑trotted back to the Jeep and half an hour later was sitting in Mark’s outer office waiting for his friend to finish with a paying client. Mark joined him as soon as Miss Gertrude Meister, one of Mark’s grade school teachers, departed.

“Can you imagine? The old girl wanted me to do her will. Hell, fourth grade teachers don’t die... do they?”

“Them too,” Bart assured him.

“Find anything?” Mark wanted to know.

“Yes, but I’m not certain what. About half a mile off the highway, I found where a car had turned sideways blocking the Road. Another vehicle had come to a pretty fast stop. Left some rubber on the gravel. One of the cars, or maybe a third one, had pulled off the road into the bushes. It’s been two weeks and the tracks are disappearing fast. There’ve been two or three cars up there since they were made, but there’s still sign of them. I think you ought to get somebody up there. It’s on the reservation, so I guess it’ll have to be the FBI.”

“I’ve already called that agent… Hill. He’s flying down from Albuquerque. Be here tomorrow morning.”

“Okay, but you better get the rez cops to stop the traffic up there. Many more cars go up, there won’t be anything left to see. There’s a spring down the road apiece, and there are some pretty clear tire prints around there. Hope it doesn’t rain tonight.”

“Can you go up tomorrow and show Hill what you found? Bart, I want to nail those bastards.”

“You don’t want it any more than I do. What did the judge say about Willy disappearing?”

“Nothing very good.”

“Did he take the bond money?”

“It’s not forfeit yet. But you know what really pisses me? Everybody’s going to assume the kid’s guilty as sin. He didn’t show up, so he did it. Even if he’s gone, I’m going to do what I can to clear his name.”

“Will the judge let you do that?”

“He’ll declare Willy a fugitive, but he can’t stop me from trying to find the truth. What worries me is that they might very well drop the charges against the other two. Without Willy, I’m not sure they can make a case against them.”

****

The next morning, Bart met the FBI agent in Mark’s office and drove him to Blue Meadow Road. The reservation police had heeded Mark’s call and blocked the entrance to the logging road with a bright yellow tape. A hundred feet short of the spring, Bart halted the Jeep. The two men walked to where the water crossed the road in a shallow trench of its own making. Bart stood back and allowed the federal agent to make his own discoveries.

By noon, the rez cops were out in force, measuring, marking, and searching a wide area all under Hill’s watchful eye. Bart was dismissed and given to understand that he should depart. He did so, but not before he understood the reason for the agent’s deep interest. The man had discovered what looked to be a considerable amount of dried blood on a rock and some leaves near where one vehicle had blocked the Road. As Bart walked back to the Jeep, some officers worked at making molds of the tire tracks near the spring.

Bart drove into White Pine and phoned Mark. The lawyer met him at the junction in record time. Together they drove up the Road in the Jeep. Hill met them at a brand-new barricade, this one a little more substantial than the previous portable signs.

“Sorry, Mr. Charles,” the agent said. “You can’t come any farther. There’s an investigation going on.”

“An investigation that involves my client.”

“Don’t know that yet. Might or might not have anything to do with Mr. Spurs. We’ll have a better idea soon. Anyway, you can’t come up.”

“I understand you found some blood.”

“We’ll test it. Of course, it could be animal blood. Probably is.”

“All right,” Mark turned conciliatory. “I’ll just ask one thing. You’re taking casts of tire tracks,” he nodded up the Road at a team of deputies, “so I assume you’re planning on asking Burke and Avila whether they’ve been up here lately. Within an hour everyone in the county will know what’s up. Don’t you think you’d better ask that question before all this is common knowledge?”

“You’ve got a point, Counselor. Only thing is, I can’t leave here right now. Not till this is wrapped up.”

“Then you better keep everyone else up here and off the radio. Even that might not be enough. Half the population already knows something’s going on.”

The FBI man quickly scribbled a note that he folded and handed to Mark. “If you’ll give this to the federal magistrate’s clerk in Terreon, he’ll call Burke’s and Avila’s attorney and set up a meeting. I... well, I might be just a little late for it.”

“Am I invited?”

“Personal invitation.”

“Thanks.” Mark and Bart returned to the Jeep. “Bart, how far to Big Jack’s place?”

“Thirty minutes.”

“Can you go get him? And I need to know Willy’s blood type. Do you suppose they have it on file at the PSC hospital in White Pine?”

“I’ll check.”

Big Jack came willingly even though he had not finished his dessert, an Indian bread pudding Noreen had stuffed with piñon nuts and berries. The two men swung by PSC where they learned Willy Spurs’ blood type. Mark was still in the meeting at the courthouse when they arrived. Bart could have sworn the couch began groaning in protest the minute Big Jack waddled into the office.

Upon returning from the meeting with the magistrate, Mark filled them in. “Too bad their lawyer was there,” he said irreverently. “I believe Hill would have done the whole job. Even so, he did all right. Avila’s scared. Denies he’s ever been up Blue Meadow Road. He got that out before the lawyer could stop him. Of course, it’s not under oath so it doesn’t mean much, but still he denied it. Burke never said a word. He’s the cool one. We’ll never shake him.”

“So what do we do now?” Bart asked.

“Well, Avila’s the one who interests me. Worried sick. Frightened men sometimes crack.”

“If you can see he’s worried,” Big Jack observed, “then so can this Burke fellow.”

“And that’s exactly what we want. If we’re right about what happened to Willy, then Avila knows he could be next. If he gets worried enough, he might look for protection. By the way, I told them we have Willy’s blood type. Do we?”

“Yep. It’s O Negative.”

“Well, that’s not the AB I was praying for, but O Negative’s pretty rare. If it turns out to be blood and it’s human and it’s O Negative, and the tire casts turn out to match Burke’s and/or Avila’s vehicles... well, then the pressure’s on.”

 ****

Okay, the Reservation Police, the FBI, and probably the State Police are all involved now. But it looks like it’s up to Bart Shortlance and Mark Charles to prove what really happened. I’m betting on them… are you? Because they have Big Jack Bearclaw on their side.

 Until next week, stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say... so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder mystery series, starting with The Zozobra Incident and ending with The Cutie Pie Murders. 

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.


Don

New posts every Thursday at 6:00 am., US Mountain Time

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story)

 dontravis.com blog post #646

 Image Courtesy of Pinterest:

 


So Willy Spurs is in trouble with the white man’s law. Can a white lawyer get him out of it? Should he trust the Apache shaman who advises him to stay clear of all the whites? Or should he heed his uncle Big Jack Bearclaw and his friend, the mixed-blood Bart Shortlance and put his trust in a white lawyer called Mark Charles?

 

I know these posts are far longer than usual, but I do hope the story is interesting enough to keep you reading.

 

****

BEARCLAW SUMMONS (Part 5)

Willy Spurs laid aside the sable brush and absently rubbed at a smear of cobalt blue on the underside of his forearm. His life was in shambles. The good things that he’d tasted proved fleeting and insubstantial. Normally, that would not have mattered, but now he required things that he had not needed before; not only he, but his wife as well. She loved the small television set that would have to go back to the store in Terreon.

The thing he would miss most, however, was the truck. Never in all his life had he owned anything like the truck. It was little short of having the great, feathered wings of an eagle. The freedom it provided was almost more than he could take in. He could get from the high mountain aspen to the gnarled desert junipers in a matter of hours in total comfort rather than the long tiresome trip by horseback. Perhaps he could find a way to hang onto the vehicle, although merely paying for gas for the truck and paint for his art was already a problem.

Willy muttered a few of the white man’s cuss words and watched the roiling froth of Wild Water Shoals, which he was unsuccessfully striving to capture on canvas. It was no good. Shit! He hadn’t been able to paint a damned thing since this trouble started. After he and Mr. Charles talked to that air force colonel and the FBI man, matters had got bad. They called him downtown three times to answer a bunch of questions, mostly the same ones over and over again. First one team had asked them and then another and then another. Always the same questions. He thought it would never end!

Then they had come for him, not the way Mr. Charles had told them to, but in a car to the reservation with their steel handcuffs. His grandfather and his mother and his wife had watched as they trussed him up and loaded him into the car. It was all he could do to keep hot tears of shame from rolling down his cheeks to mortify him further. Everything seemed to dim after that. The grass was not as green nor the sky as blue nor the clouds as white nor life so bright. Mr. Charles was at the jailhouse in Terreon when they had arrived, shouting and arguing in his behalf, but they took Willy’s fingerprints and his picture and made him feel like a man who lived on the wrong side of life.

He was not in that terrible place long. His lawyer got him out somehow, but they acted like he was going to run away as soon as they let him outside. Even Mr. Charles had warned two or three times that he had to come back whenever they wanted him. Once would have been enough. Mr. Charles was a good man for an Indah, but sometimes he acted like a schoolteacher dealing with a dull student. Willy, you can’t run away, you can’t run away, you can’t run away....

He glanced north to the great white mountain in the distance and murmured an involuntary entreaty. “Oh, Esdzanadeha! White‑Painted‑Woman! Mother! Why has this happened? What have I done that this should happen to me?”

Immediately, he bit off his prayer. He knew why. He had turned into a white man...going to work in a white man’s place and buying a TV like a white man and living for paydays and holidays like a white man. Hell, he even painted like a white man! He wiped a dark palm over the canvas, smearing the fresh paint into an ugly mess. There had been a time when he made his own paints from the breast of Mother Earth and applied them with a purity of color and line that any of his forbearers would have admired.

Now he bought them in stores and mixed them into subtle shades as murky and muddy as an Indah’s soul! No more! From now on, when he drew a mesa or a deer or a warrior, it would be something the old ones would have recognized from a tipi or a buffalo robe, something with the clarity and symmetry as when the Ancients had stalked these very mountains.

He cast aside the ruined canvas and replaced it with a clean one, quickly sketching the basic outlines of the bend in the Rio Chacon with charcoal. Within two hours, the picture was built, constructed of stark browns and blues and blacks and whites of powerful and primitive intensity. He stood back and allowed his spirit to be moved… despite the fact the painting was made with store-bought oils.

Willy had learned something today. The long, painful lesson had come home to him. He had white man’s troubles because he had begun to think and live like a white man. He was not a white man! All of this was to teach him that lesson. Well, he had learned it! And he would never again forget. He would die if he did.

The sun was going so Willy packed away his things. Reluctant to leave, he stayed overlong, driving back to his camp by the light of his headlamps. Once again, the vibrant power of the pickup claimed his soul. It was the only thing of the white man’s world that was of any real value. His thoughts—somehow blasphemous—filled him with disquiet.

As was his custom, he laid his canvas on the table for everyone to see. His grandfather studied it longer than usual, and although he said nothing, Willy knew the old man appreciated the painting more than most of his work. His mother, a shy, retiring woman, cast a glance at the painting and sought out her son’s gaze. Love and pride washed over him in a mighty torrent. His wife, two years younger than his own twenty years, glanced at it, smiled, and went to fetch their year‑old son. Willy accepted the child, holding him to his chest, drawing warmth from this small piece of his own spirit.

Willy heard Big Jack’s mule team while the women were still cleaning up after the evening meal. The sound filled him with dread. Big Jack seldom came any more except to relay messages from the lawyer sent to him through the white Apache, Bart Shortlance. His uncle, for whom he once had great respect, was becoming an unwelcome visitor.

As usual, the fat man was too polite to come right to the point. He accepted a morsel to eat from the women and talked of all the things that had happened on the reservation recently. Like many others before him, Willy wondered how a man who moved about so little knew so much about so many. It was a good hour later before Jack spoke of what had brought him.

“Mr. Charles sent word that you have to be in his office tomorrow by nine‑thirty… white man’s time.”

Willy sat in the dim yellow light of a shaded bulb without moving. The older man must have sensed his new mood.

“You hear me, Willy? They want you again tomorrow.” A small silence followed these words, but Big Jack held onto his tongue.

“Amadeo was right, Uncle,” Willy finally replied.

“Amadeo ain’t right, son! The white man’s got his hooks in you, and we gotta get them out. Once we do that, you can take the old bastard for the gospel if you want. But first, we got to get you loose from them. And to do that, we got to do it by the white man’s rules.”

“I know why I’m in this fix. I figured it out today.”

“Shit, Willy, that ain’t no mystery. You’re a red man living in a white man’s world. That’s why you’re in trouble.”

“I got to thinking I was a white man.”

“No, you got to thinking you was as good as a white man, and you was right.”

“No. I thought I was a white man, and I ain’t. That won’t happen no more.”

“Maybe not, but you remember one thing. You may be a redskin, but the white man makes the rules, and he’s got the power. We got us a white man who knows the rules and who’s got a piece of that power to help us outa this trouble. You do like he tells you until it’s fixed, then you can be a reservation Injun if you want. But not till then, you understand?”

“Makes sense, I guess.”

“And another thing. You don’t do nothing unless Mr. Charles says it’s all right. Not nothing, you hear?”

“All right,” Willy nodded.

“Good. Bart’s gonna be here to pick you up about nine.”

Willy rebelled. “How come? Why’s that white Indian gotta haul me around? Hell, I can get there by myself. I’m a grown man.”

Willy thought his uncle was going to burst a blood vessel right on their old couch. The big man turned a dark mahogany. A vein in his temple pulsed ominously. “You watch your filthy mouth!” The voice was deep and dangerous. “That man took his own time and used up his friendship to get you what help you’ve got. He did that because he’s Tinneh and you’re Tinneh and I’m an old friend. He did it because he’s a good man... a better man than some smart‑mouthed kid who don’t know his place. He’s done more living than you’ll do the next fifty years!” Jack calmed down somewhat. “Anyway, them two men, Avila and Burke, they was arrested today. Mr. Charles says you’re the only one who can keep them on the hot seat. He don’t want you taking no chances. He don’t want you by yourself. Might be a good idea if you stay close to the house and don’t go out painting till this is all over.”

“If they’re in jail, what do I have to worry about?”

“Hell, they got lawyers, too. They already out on bond just like you are.”

“Might as well be back in the jailhouse,” Willy grumbled.

“Maybe. Might be safer. Anyhow, Tall Rider will be here to go with you tomorrow.”

Willy shrugged. “Saves on gas money.”

Big Jack’s eyes moved to the new painting on the table, and Willy saw the horse trader in him get the upper hand. “You want me to take this and see if I can sell it? Ought to raise some eating money.”

“No. I’m gonna keep it for the boy.” Willy pointed with his lower lip to his son’s crib in the corner.

Jack sighed in disappointment and took his leave. The tiny house always seemed larger after one of Big Jack’s visits. Willy’s grandfather went to bed on a pallet near the baby’s crib while his mother retired to the one other room in the house that served as her bedroom. The young couple pulled out a bed hidden in the old couch. As his wife settled against him, his manhood reacted. She felt him stir and reached for him. Even as he entered her, Willy hoped they didn’t make another baby. Surely, the fear inside him would poison his seed and deform an infant.

****

Willy slept fitfully that night and rose early the next morning. He filled the time until Bart arrived by making a charcoal sketch of his son. He had intended to rough in the features to transfer them to canvas for a painting, but his hands would not stop their work. Before he put down the paper, the infant had been detailed in all his childish innocence.

On the way into Terreon, Willy spoke little and observed much. Out of the corner of his eye, he studied the man behind the wheel of the jeep. He saw a face clearly touched by the Tinneh but holding something else as well. He observed a strong frame which was more slender and longer than most Apache. He could not decide whether he felt contempt or awe at the sight of this familiar‑foreign face. The man wasn’t much older than he was, yet he’d killed to save the Charles boy, the very one who was now Willy’s lawyer, and again, in a face‑to‑face, hand‑to‑hand fight to save the whole family, including Bart’s own son... or at least that was the reservation scuttlebutt.

Willy chewed on this for a while, and by the time they arrived downtown, had decided that he would no longer call the other man a white Apache. Tall Rider deserved more respect than that... for his friendship with Big Jack if for no other reason. Deep down inside, Willy sensed there was more to it than just that.

Mr. Charles only wanted the answers to a couple of questions before going over to see the judge to make a motion or something like that. Willy decided against going with Bart to the feed store, opting instead to wait in the small grass park near Mr. Charles’s office. He was still there when Bart returned and entered the building. He would like to paint the man someday, but not as Bart Shortlance, but as the warrior Tall Rider astride his beautiful horse. Should he paint him with a rifle or a lance?

Willy was thinking about going in search of pencil and paper to start some preliminary sketches when he heard a voice behind him.

“Hello, Willy. Haven’t seen you lately. How come you ain’t been at work?”

Willy whirled. James Avila leaned against the corner of the building so that he was hidden from the view of passersby.

“What you want?” Willy asked, his voice flat.

“What do I want? I want out from under all this trouble. I want some peace and quiet. How about you?”

“I... sure. That’s what I want too. How come you got me mixed up in it?”

“It wasn’t me, Willy boy. It was that whitey, Burke! He tricked me into it just like he done you.”

“You mean it was him? Wasn’t you?”

“Shit no! What you take me for, a goddamned thief? It was Harlan Burke got us both in trouble. Drug us in like a fisherman with a net. Liable to get away with it too. Why not? Hell, he picked us out pretty good. A dumb Mex and a no account Indian.”

“Hey, man! I don’t like that kinda talk.”

“Who does? But that’s how he thinks of us.”

“My lawyer’s in this building. Why don’t—”

“Your lawyer? Hell, you sound like a white man. No lawyer’s gonna get us outta this one. Burke’s too smart, or at least he thinks he has. But I got an ace or two up my sleeve. I just might have a way out of this for both of us.”

“How? “

“Not here. Don’t want nobody to see us talking. It gets back to Burke, he’s liable to figure out what I’m up to and close the barn door. He can do it too.”

“Go to a phone and call Mr. Charles‑‑”

“Come off it! Call a white man to get out from under a white man? You’re crazy. No white man’s gonna give us a damned thing. You’re a fucking fool if you think so. You’n me, that’s who’s gonna get us outa this jam. Nobody else!”

“What... what you want me to do?”

“Meet me somewhere we can talk. I need your help pulling it off.”

“When?”

“Whenever you say, just so’s we can talk private.”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I know this. We’re as good as in the pen for a long stretch if we don’t do something about it.”

“I can*t go now. I gotta go back in to see Mr. Charles. We’re going over to the courthouse in a few minutes.”

“Well, how about tonight sometime?”

“I guess so. What time?”

“Eight maybe. That okay?”

“I guess so. Where?”

“Someplace off the highway.”

Willy thought for a second. “There’s an old logging road near Snowflake.”

“Yeah. I know the one. There’s a meadow about a mile up the road. Meet you there.”

“Okay.”

“And, kid, you keep it to yourself, you hear? If the judge hears about it, he’ll think we’re trying to put something over on him, and he’ll throw the book at us. If your lawyer knows, he’ll try to keep us apart‑‑”

“Mr. Charles ain’t not like that,” Willy protested.

“Don’t kid yourself. If you tell your Indian friend about it, he’ll tell the lawyer. What I got in mind is chancey. We pull it off, old Burke goes to the federal pen where he belongs, and we’re in the clear. We don’t pull it off, we’re going in his place. If anybody knows about it, we ain’t likely to pull it off.”

“It doesn’t sound right. You sure we won’t just get in more trouble?”

“Listen, you wanta go to jail for fifteen or twenty years?”

“N... no.”

“Then you better take a chance, friend. You don’t that’s exactly what’s gonna happen to you, and that white ass Burke’s gonna go free. He’ll be outside laughing, and we’ll be inside rotting. If my way works, we’ll be right back on the job making a good living.”

“We can have our jobs back?” Willy pounced on the idea despite swearing he wanted nothing more to do with the whites. His truck! He could hang onto his truck.

“Course we can if we get outa this jam. The feds can’t take your job away from you if you ain’t done nothing.”

“Okay,” Willy agreed. “Eight o’clock tonight at the meadow.”

Resisting all temptation, Willy kept silent about his rendezvous for that evening. In fact, he kept silent about everything, content to daydream about going back to work at the warehouse and keeping up the payments on the truck. He would be able to paint every weekend. Someday, he would make his living just by selling his pictures.

No one questioned Willy that night when he climbed into the cab of his pickup and left the family camp. Keeping faith with the Mexican, he told no one about the meeting, not even members of his family. He turned off the highway near the summit of Snowflake Pass, but long before he came to the meadow where he was to meet Avila, his way was blocked by a car turned sideways across the road.

Willy threw the truck into reverse and backed up just as another car came up fast behind him. He hit the brakes hard to avoid ramming the other vehicle. He was in trouble; but he couldn’t bear to put a dent in the truck.

Dear God, he’d been right. He’d thought like a white man... and now he was gonna die for it.

 ****

Is Willy right? Did acting like a white man once again cost him his life? We’ll see next week.

 Until then, stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on Reading and keep on writing. You have something to say... so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder mystery series through Amazon, and if you feel so inclined, leave a review of the books. Thanks.

My persona links"

Emain: don.travis@aol.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com.donald.travis.982
X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.

Don

New posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

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