Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Riding With Mary Crow Part 2 of 2
William Faulkner once said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.”
Old Bill must've been thinking of Mary Crow when he spoke those words.
Mary was a throwback in almost every sense of the word. She grew her own food, made her own clothes, even built the log cabin she lived in with her own hands.
She didn't watch television and didn't use a computer, though she owned one.
She spent her days roaming the res, writing letters-- longhand-- or journaling.
When I thought of Mary Crow I always pictured her in one of her eighteenth-century-style dresses, sitting under the big tree near her cabin, writing in one of those old leatherbound notebooks she bought by the dozen, mail order.
Of all the people on the res who cared about the old ways, Mary Crow was the one who kept our heritage present in everyday life. She sang the songs, knew the dances, understood our connection to the natural world.
She was also a Stanford-educated geologist who figured out what the runoff from the power plant next to the res was doing to the water supply and spoke out about it at every opportunity.
When she didn't show up for a couple of days no one thought anything of it. She was known to spend chunks of time alone in her cabin.
When she failed to appear at a hearing on the legal action she and a coalition of like-minded residents were bringing against the plant we started looking.
Her hands arrived at the Tribal Police station a few days later. Just her hands, in a reinforced cardboard box without a return address.
Coyotes found the rest of her for us. They got hungry and uncovered her shallow grave on an abandoned farm right in the shadow of the plant she fought so hard against.
The county sheriff had jurisdiction since she was found off the res but she let us work the case with her. Mary Crow had friends everywhere.
The medical examiner said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head-- most likely a lead pipe. He also told us that the hands had been amputated post mortem. The man really seemed to think knowing that made it better.
Our crack investigative team soon turned up two witnesses-- a young couple who went out to the abandoned farm to play a little grabass-- who saw a very large man burying something near what remained of the foundation of the main house.
The sheriff took the lovebirds into protective custody and stashed them in a safe house while we continued to investigate.
This was the stuff I ran through my mind as I shivered with Lenny at the bottom of the steps.
It didn't take long for the blood on my face and the sweat on my body to chill and frost over. Breathing got harder and vision began to fail.
I forced myself to get up and stomp my feet to keep warm.
Lenny sat on his step, watching me move around the icebox.
“Breathe, boy,” he said, over and over again.
I breathed, thinking about the case. Some people think about loved ones or happy places when they need strength. Didn't have either in my life. What I had was work. And Mary Crow. I could almost see her sitting next to Lenny right there in the icebox with us.
“Gonna get 'em, Mary,” I mumbled. “Gonna get 'em. I promise you.”
“You bet your ass you are,” said Lenny.
I closed my eyes as I paced and went over it all again.
Those two kids we found-- him white, her red-- with their crazy, gibberish story about a big guy with a body, they stood in front of me, telling us how they weren't stoned and that they saw what they saw, too scared to come forward right away. The crispness in the dawn air as we set out from the station house to check the abandoned lot, ruined by the smell of rotting flesh as we approached the gravesite. Mary Crow's body after the coytotes had been at her. The still-red wounds where her hands should've been.
I stopped walking and dropped to my knees. I closed my eyes but still saw Lenny in front of me.
“Don't you do it, boy,” he said. “On your feet. Now. You've still got work to do.”
“I'm... so... tired,” I moaned.
My legs weighed a ton each. The floor made inviting overtures to me.
“Look at me, you sorry son of a bitch! Look!”
I opened my eyes. It hurt. Any longer and they'd have been frozen shut.
Lenny was right where I left him, sitting in the corner of the step.
Mary Crow sat next to him, looking at me like she always did-- respect paired with deep concern for the state of my soul creased her brow.
“That's right, pal,” said Lenny. “She needs you. Mary Crow needs your help. She's got somewhere to be but there's something tying her to this world. That's where you come in.”
Mary stood and stepped toward me, her outstretched arms reaching for me.
I stared at the raw, bleeding wounds at the ends of her wrists.
She smiled at me and moved closer.
“Take her hands, boy,” said Lenny.
I looked at those bloody stumps again, then back at Lenny.
“What are you waiting for?” he hissed. “You've got 'em, Rushing Bull. You know who killed Mary Crow.”
“They haven't confessed to anything!” I roared.
“They will, boy. They will. Take. Her. Hands.”
I heaved myself up and reached for Mary Crow.
Fingers I could not see found mine and held them still.
Lenny hopped off the step and padded to me.
“It's almost time, Rushing Bull. You got the stones for this? Forget I asked. Of course you do.”
I glanced down at the snowy icebox floor.
The tingling started in my feet, traveling up my legs, burning as it went.
Mary smiled once more, then nodded, and faded away.
The energy moved all the way through my torso, out into each arm, then up my neck into my head. It burned white hot in my eyes.
I looked around the icebox, everything seen through a red haze.
The chemical stink of refrigerant stung my nose, mixing with the odors of stale water and old fish.
My ears pricked up, suddenly aware of a drip, audible over the low hum of the freezer.
Footsteps sounded from the other side of the door, slow and plodding, then the key scraped in the lock.
Lenny's voice reverberated around in my head.
“You're on, boy.”
The door swung open.
Luke bounded down the steps. Hector followed behind, wary and slow.
The big guy stopped on the bottom step.
I felt the grin spread across my face as he blanched and recoiled.
My arms came up and I launched myself at him.
There was screaming.
I don't remember much else.
It smelled like blood.
My head didn't clear until the paramedics put blankets over my shoulders in the back of the ambulance.
Flashing red lights lit up the street in and around the warehouse. Every cop car in the county and both of our Tribal units sat strewn around the crime scene. If you were in another part of the county and you wanted to commit a crime, this was your big chance.
The paramedic working on me-- nice girl named Lola-- wrapped me up like a burrito then held a cup of hot coffee to my lips. She had long red hair and a lot of freckles in the right places.
“How long was I in there?” I asked her.
She shrugged and refused to answer me until I had a sip of coffee.
“Don't know for sure, Rush, but if you were in there much longer we'd be taking you out of here in a bag.”
I nodded, noticing the blood on my hands for the first time.
“Am I injured?”
She smiled at me. “A little hypothermia and a broken nose. You're going to need to see the dentist. But... I've seen worse.”
“That little guy they took out of there.... he was in bad shape. I can't imagine what could've gouged him up like that. All those scratches. The guy lost a ton of blood.”
“He gonna pull through?”
“We'll do our best, Rush.”
Sheriff Todd came out of the warehouse and made a beeline to the ambulance.
“How's our friend, Lola?” she asked.
The sheriff was taller than me and just as lean. The lines worn into her face told a lot of stories, most of which end with the words, “and that's when I shot him.”
She crossed her arms and eyeballed me.
“I'll give you some space,” said Lola, handing me the coffee. “Finish that, Rush. I'll get you another.”
When she was gone, Sheriff Todd sat down next to me on the gurney.
“How are you, Rush?”
She waited me out.
“Heard what we wanted to hear,” I said.
“Yep. Gave us a full confession right before he passed out from blood loss.” She looked at me sideways. “Care to tell me just what the hell happened down there?”
I looked at my bloody hands again, at my frayed, filthy fingernails. I scanned the street and caught sight of Lenny as he turned the corner and headed out of sight.
Sheriff Todd placed her hand on my shoulder.
“What's the matter, Rush? Cat got your tongue?”
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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.