Thursday, April 4, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story) blog post #648

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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.




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?”


“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?”



“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.

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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.

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See you next Thursday.


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