Thursday, March 28, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story) blog post #647

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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.




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:



X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.


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

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story) 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.




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.”


“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.”


“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"

X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.


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

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story) blog post #645

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Although this story started out as a short story, it looks to be turning into a mini novella. Hope you stay with me on this.




Bart was pleasantly surprised by Mark’s method. The lawyer took a long time making Willy feel easier before getting around to asking what he wanted to know. He seemed to understand that it would take the young Apache awhile to grow comfortable with a stranger from the outside. He spoke slowly, almost in a southwestern drawl. Dropping hints about his own personal experiences to give his client some insight into his new lawyer, Mark eventually led Willy Spurs through the story, exhibiting unsuspected patience while he waited for the other man to sort out answers to his questions. Bart smiled on the inside of his mouth. Old Mark had learned something from their long friendship after all.

At length, the lawyer ran out of questions. “Willy, there are a couple of points of law I want to check on, and then I think we should go to the base for a talk with the commandant. I’ll do your talking for you. I’ll tell him exactly what I want him to know. If there’s something I don’t tell him, then it’s something I don’t want him to know, and I don’t want you to volunteer it. Do you understand?”

“Yessir. “

“But if you hear me tell him something that’s wrong, I want you to stop me right there and put it right. I don’t care how small a thing it is, if it’s wrong, if I’ve misunderstood, you stop me and correct me. Do you understand that?” Willy nodded. “Do you trust me, Willy?”

“Y... yessir. “

“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.”

“Bart Shortlance trusts you, so I guess I do too.”

“Fair enough. If I tell you to go home tonight and come back in the morning, will you do it?”

They all waited in silence while Willy chewed that one over. Finally, the young man nodded.

“All right, then I trust you too. Be here at nine o’clock in the morning. And if something should happen in the meantime, simply ask them to call me. Here’s a card with my office and home phone numbers on it.”

Willy swallowed manfully and put the card in his shirt pocket.

All the way back to the reservation, Bart fought a sour feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wished he understood why it rode there.


A smartly‑uniformed, blue‑scarved airman smartly processed the car through the main gate of the airbase. An attractive WAF non‑com smilingly saw to their needs as they waited until the commandant was available, but as soon as he saw the colonel’s face, Mark knew they had problems. He was willing to bet that if he opened the door that had just closed behind them, there would be an Air Policeman within easy hailing distance.

“Mr. Charles, Mr. Spurs.” The colonel indicated a man dressed in civilian clothing. “This is Special Agent Hill of the FBI. I’ve taken the liberty of asking him to join us. I hope you don’t object.”

“Not at all,” Mark said quickly, aware of Willy’s growing alarm. “I thought of this as a purely military matter, or I would have invited Mr. Hill’s office or ATF myself.”

“Well, it’s true that this is a military base, but Mr. Spurs is a civilian employee as well as a member of an Indian tribe, I believe.”

“We’ll figure out the jurisdictional considerations later, Colonel Marsh,” the agent drawled easily.

“Right. Shall we be seated? Around the table, I think,” the officer indicated chairs clustered around a walnut coffee table in one corner of the room.

Mark picked up the reins when they were all seated. “As I indicated on the telephone, Mr. Spurs is my client. He has brought a matter to my attention which I felt should be discussed with you. Mr. Spurs believes that the theft of government property has taken place and that he has been manipulated so that he unwittingly assisted in the crime.”

Mark told them the facts as related by Willy. “At the end of the shift on the day the threat was made when he refused to take out the third case of rifles, Mr. Spurs left the military reservation and has not returned until I brought him here today.”

“Mr. Spurs,” the colonel addressed Willy directly. “You should have immediately advised your supervisor of the situation and‑‑”

Mark interrupted. “Colonel, Mr. Spurs had been on the job for a total of three months. As I understand it, Mr. Burke is one of his supervisors. Nothing like this has ever happened to him before. He had no experience upon which to draw. Given the circumstances, I consider that he acted in a prudent manner. We are now advising the proper authorities that we have reason to believe that a number of military rifles have been stolen.”

The colonel rolled his eyes over to the FBI agent who picked up the conversation.

 “That may be, but it would certainly have made life simpler for Mr. Spurs if he had acted as Colonel Marsh suggested. You see, someone has already reported the theft. A total of one‑hundred‑thirty‑six rifles have, in fact, been removed from Warehouse B‑15 where Mr. Spurs worked, and he has been named as the individual who took them.”

“By whom?”

The agent consulted a folder he held in his hand. “A Mr. Harlen B. Burke, the Day Supervisor at Warehouse B‑15—”

“When was this allegation made?”

“Yesterday afternoon at the end of the shift.”

“Has a warrant been issued for my client?”

“Not at this time, but that is merely a formality.”

“Perhaps so, but it’s a rather important formality. I want to advise you right now, Mr. Hill, that if one is issued, I want to be told so that Mr. Spurs can surrender himself rather than be subjected to the indignity of an arrest.”

“He can avoid that easily enough. He can surrender himself right now. “

“At this time you don’t know that you are going to arrest him. As soon as you know, let me know.”

“Well now, Counselor, I don’t know if I can do that.”

“Of course you can. But if the allegation was only made yesterday afternoon, you haven’t even had time to conduct a decent investigation of the facts.”

“Well, we’ve determined that the weapons are missing,” the colonel snorted.

“And that’s about all. An obvious question comes to mind. Mr. Spurs was employed for only around three months. Unless security simply doesn’t exist in this place, I should think that it would be very difficult to remove a hundred and... how many?... thirty‑six? A hundred and thirty‑six rifles in that amount of time.”

“Difficult, but not impossible. He admits to removing two cases,” the agent reminded him.

“Two cases hauled out as a favor to Mr. Burke, his direct supervisor who did not have room in his own vehicle. Two cases are one thing, Mr. Hill, that’s what ... a dozen rifles? That’s a far cry from a hundred and thirty‑six.”

“There’s a witness, Mr. Charles.”

“Let me guess... his name’s Avila.”

“That’s right. Mr. James V. Avila.”

“And why didn’t Mr. Avila, sterling citizen that he is, immediately report this crime to his supervisor so that the culprit could be apprehended at the gate?”

“Claims that he thought the case he saw in Mr. Spurs’ pickup was empty. He thought Mr. Spurs was taking it home to make a table or something out of it.”

“Are these cases free for the asking?”

“No, but Mr. Avila didn’t feel it was necessary to blow the whistle on a new man for carting an empty wooden box out. But when the missing rifles came to light, well, that was another matter. He stepped forward immediately.”

“I’ll bet he did. Well, we can all take comfort in one thing. With the United States Air Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation looking after things, we can be confident that there will be no attempt to take the easy way out and pin this thing on a fellow who doesn’t have the money or the moxey to take care of himself. We can rest assured that nobody’s going to simply try to wipe the slate clean with Willy Spurs as the eraser. I take great comfort in that. I think it’s time to go now, Willy. These gentlemen are going to want to get your statement in writing so that they can use it in their investigation, and we’re anxious for them to have it; but you will not answer any questions for them or anyone else about this matter unless I am present. Do you understand?” Willy nodded. Mark doubted that the man could have uttered a word if called upon to do so. Willy’s eyes would have made respectable dials for a pocket watch. “I think that’s all, then.”

Willy did not need to be told twice. He was on his feet and headed for the door before the rest of them moved. No one tried to stop them, although the AP Mark had predicted was standing in the anteroom. Nonetheless, Mark did not breathe easy until they had passed safely through the front gate of the base.

This was, he told himself, going to be a very interesting case.


Interesting case for Mark Charles, a lawyer, but probably not so pleasant for Willy Spurs. But maybe between Bart and Mark, they can spare the young man real unpleasantness. We’ll see.

 See you next week.

Stay safe and stay strong until we meet again.

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:



X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.


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

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story) blog post #644

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Our story continues. Hope it’s holding your interest. Let me know.




Bart elected to tow a horse trailer to Rising Rock and then enter the mountains horseback. 

Years past, Bart had often used Lead Scout Canyon as a refuge, believing himself sheltered from everyone except He‑Who‑Created-All‑Things. Now, he recognized his childhood haven had served him poorly. Narrow and slab‑sided, the ravine was neither remote enough nor high enough in the mountains to discourage traffic from the reservation or trespass by outsiders. To make matters worse, the soaring walls at the upper end formed a trap. He had no trouble finding Willy Spurs in the box canyon.

The young man, clad in denims, hair held out of his eyes by a bandana serving as a headband, gave his total concentration to the canvas he worked. The artist did not appear to hear Bart until he was close enough to see the subject of the work was a spectacular rock formation known as the Stone Medicine Pipe. Willy turned sullen when Bart greeted him.

“Ain’t got time to talk right now. Light’s changing fast,” he mumbled.

Bart decided to put him in his place right away. “You sound like a white man, Your grandfather taught you better than that.”

Willy’s wide mouth formed a straight line. He dabbed furiously at the canvas.

Bart dismounted and studied the situation. The box containing Willy’s paints and the easel holding the stretched canvas looked new and expensive. Two blank canvases lay propped against a nearby rock.

“You ever been up on it?” Bart asked, pointing at the formation with his chin.

Willy shook his head, refusing to interrupt his work.

“You ought to,” Bart went on. “From up there, it doesn’t look anything like a pipe. That’s what happens when you get too close to things. You can’t really see what they look like.” Bart waited to see if he got through. He didn’t want to beat the other man over the head with his meaning.

“That’s what’s happened to you on this other thing, Willy. You’re too close to it to see what it can do to you. Not your uncle. Big Jack sees it all right. And so do I.”

The artist continued to paint with a stubborn intensity.

“These fellas, this Burke and Avila, they’re going to see you get the blame. You’ll lose your job and get arrested and go to prison.”

“Not gonna have nothing to do with them no more,” the young man finally answered. “Ain’t going to have nothing to do with no white man at all.”

“That’d be good, if it could be.”

“It will. You wait and see.”

“‘What are you going to do, stay up here all your life?”

“Why not? It ain’t a bad place.

“Willy, don’t be a fool. You’re going to be accused of stealing guns. If there’s anything worse than stealing a white man’s money, it’s stealing his guns. It’s a bad rap. They won’t stand still for that.”

“Have to find me first.”

“That’s not going to be hard. They’ll put a hundred men in here if they have to, but shit! They won’t even have to do that. A dozen men with a few dogs, and you’ll be treed within a day. They’ll haul you down in irons in front of your family and your friends. Don’t you understand, man! Your kids are going to see you chained up like a fucking criminal! Do you want that?”

“Only have one kid. A boy. And he’s too young to know anything. Besides, Amadeo says to stay away from them. The whites. All the whites.”

And there was the problem. He had to be careful. Old Amadeo had been a medicine man since before Bart was born. He was good with bear sickness and the snake sickness and colds and warts, and he was smart enough to know what was likely to happen, but for his own reasons, the old shaman had counseled Willy’s mother to avoid contact with white men however unlikely that eventuality appeared. It would be hard to get around the old bastard. Bart could not tell if Willy believed in the medicine man or if he simply took the advice because it was what he wanted to hear.

“Amadeo is a wise man,” Bart conceded carefully. “He knows all there is to know about the Tinneh. But he doesn’t know much about the Indah. I do. And Big Jack does. We both know they’re going to come and get you. Were you old enough to remember when Jimmie Littledog raped that girl down in White Pine a few years back? Well, I was. They came right on the reservation and hunted him down like a wild pig. They ran him to ground and dragged him out and shamed him in front of everyone. It was bad for Jimmie, but he was guilty and deserved it. But his family didn’t deserve it. And neither did the Tinneh. Caused hard feelings for a long time.”

“I didn’t do nothing,” Willy said placidly. “If they come drag me off, it oughta cause hard feelings. Besides, you don’t know what them two snakes are gonna do. Why’d they try and lay it all on me? Why’d they say anything at all? I go away and keep my mouth shut, they’ll do the same thing and be glad I’m gone.”

“Think about it, Willy. What would you do if you were them? Stand over in their moccasins and think like they would. You’re a piece of good luck for them. One of these days somebody is going to find out those rifles are gone. Willy, they had you bring out two cases of guns. How many others have they stolen you don’t know about? If you were doing the stealing, you’d know that someday somebody’s going to start counting and raise hell when there aren’t enough rifles where they’re supposed to be. If you had a poor sap you could lay it on, wouldn’t you? Especially if you thought that sap was an Indian too dumb or too scared to let out a squawk.”

“I’ll raise a squawk. I’ll yell like hell if they come for me.”

“Yell like hell right now! You let the Army know the rifles are gone. You be the one to point a finger. The white man’s law is funny. If you don’t yell, you might be in cahoots with Avila and Burke, guilty of doing it with them since you hauled out a couple of cases in your truck.”

“Crazy white man’s law!”

“I won’t argue that, but it is the law. And we gotta live with it.”

“A man ought to mind his own business,” Willy spoke the words with a double meaning.

“Ordinarily, he ought to. But when his family’s going to pay if he doesn’t, then he better speak up. I’ll be blunt, Willy. I don’t really know you, but Big Jack is my friend, and the Tinneh sure as hell mean something to me. And since you’re Tinneh, I guess that means you do too. I don’t want white men swarming all over this place causing everybody’s eyes to go flat and chins to go firm. I don’t want our own police having to help hunt you down and turning everybody against them for just doing their job. I don’t want Big Jack’s people’s guts twisting while they watch you hauled off in handcuffs. And it doesn’t have to be. It’s so fucking simple. Just go with me to see Mr. Charles and let him help.”

“Go see Mr. Charles and it’s all over, huh?”

“No. Go see Mr. Charles with me today, and even if you do exactly what he says, there’s a good chance you’ll be in the county jail by tonight. You’re going there anyway, but this way, somebody’ll be looking after you to see they don’t do something to you they shouldn’t. And he’ll do everything he can to see that you don’t stay there a minute longer than necessary. And he’s going to see that they don’t lay the blame on you for good. You’ll only have to stay until he can show that you’re not the one they want. Might not even have to go, but I can’t lie to you. You might have to.”

Willy put down his brush and palette and turned to face him. “Can’t get locked up like that. Go crazy. They oughta kill me and be done with it.”

“That’s fool talk. A man can do whatever he has to. When you don’t have a choice, you do what has to be done and make the best of it. Being locked up for a little while isn’t the end of the world. Hell, Mr. Charles can get you paper and charcoal. You’d have new pictures to draw. An experience you’ve never had before, and”—Bart added hopefully—“and won’t have again.”

“I’d die from the shame of it.”

“Where’s the shame if you’re not guilty and your people know it?” Bart watched the indecision in the other’s face settle into determination. He experienced a sinking feeling in his stomach. Old Amadeo had won… or lost, as the case may be.

Willy shook his head. “Uh-uh. Not going.”

For a moment, Bart seriously considered slugging the younger man and dragging him down the canyon. He might have done so, if Big Jack’s words had not come back to him at that moment. Instead, he strode past Willy and began collecting his things.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Willy yelled in alarm. “Leave my stuff alone!”

Bart laid the wet canvas on a rock and turned his attention to collapsing the aluminum easel. That done, he wrested the paint box from Willy’s hands. The artist put up a half‑hearted scuffle before backing off and sullenly watching while Bart destroyed the blank canvases and loaded the rest of the gear aboard his Princess.

This will be at Big Jack Bearclaw’s anytime you want to come for it.” Bart turned his back on the man and rode down the canyon about half a mile where he waited in some bushes until he heard the sound of hooves on the path. He urged Princess forward and took his place beside the dejected young man.

They rode to Jack’s camp in absolute silence, a quiet that was bearing a load of strain by the time they finished a meal Jack’s wife served them. The rest of the family, from oldest to youngest stood or sat around owl‑eyed, offering voiceless support. When they had drawn sufficient sustenance from the table and the communion, Bart retrieved his jeep from Rising Rock and loaded Willy into the vehicle. He stopped in White Pine to phone Mark at his law office and drove into town.


As they say… the plot thickens. Will Willy behave himself or not?


See you next week.

Stay safe and stay strong until we meet again.

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:



X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.



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


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