Aidan punched at the screen of his tablet. “Damn, I’m blind as a bat in here. No cell coverage at all. I’m going out to find Jimbo. Kian, you three stay put, hear me?”
Kian bristled but before she could answer, Cat had her arm around her.
“We will, dear,” Cat said smiling at Aidan.
After Aidan left and pushed the boulder back into place, Red observed his wife over his spectacle rims. “Like hell you’ll stay put, dear.” He looked to his daughter. “She always agrees and then does what she wants anyway.”
“Secret of a happy marriage,” Cat said. “Guardians are always bossy. It’s in their nature. Doesn’t mean we have to listen to them, now does it?” She gave her daughter an affectionate squeeze.
“Mom, he’s not my Guardian.”
“He will be dear, and more than that I think. Call it mother’s intuition.”
Red looked up at the two women. “You think so, dear?”
“Sure of it,” Cat replied.
“Good, then,” Red said, “I like that young man. Now come and sit you two. Kian, tell us what happened. We are here to help. Cat, bring over some chairs will you?”
“Yes dear,” Cat replied winking at her daughter. She brought over two musty camp chairs that had been stored near the back of the cave, one for Kian and one for herself.
Kian explained about Jacob’s death and about Power.
“Power,” her father said. “I know that name well. But he’s dead you say?”
“Yes, this woman Raven shot him.”
At that, Cat furrowed her eyebrows. “Raven,” she repeated. “Gaagé?”
“Gaagé?” Red repeated.
Kian looked at her parents. “What does Gaagé mean?”
“Raven. It’s the Tineh word for Raven. Can you take me to this Raven?”
“She was in the horse pasture last night.”
“Then that’s the first place we look,” Cat replied.
Red took Cat’s hand. “I don’t suppose I can talk you out of this, can I?”
“No dear, you cannot.”
Kian followed her mother out of the cave.
“I count twelve people,” Jimbo whispered as he, Kian, Aidan, and Cat crouched together, strung across the ridgeline. Cat had been right. Aidan had raised an eyebrow when she showed up, but he had accepted her presence without a word. The lush summer cover had allowed them to creep close enough to make out bits and pieces of what was being said.
Kian, curious, raised her head and torso to get a better view, but Jimbo pushed her back down. “You need to stay flat,” he whispered. “It’s easy to see movements. Here, I’ll show you how to see better. First wait for a breeze.”
When finally a breeze picked up and ruffled the grasses around them, Jimbo flatten a space in front of her. “You always wait for the wind, Kian, then move slowly and gracefully,” he said. “No jerking.”
When the breeze stopped, Jimbo said, “Now freeze and listen. Use your ears for eyes. Do not move again until you feel the wind.”
Kian was about to ask him to explain using her ears for eyes when she felt something, a slight vibration under her. She looked at him.
“Car’s coming,” he whispered.
They all watched as a Jeep Rubicon pulled in. Two burly men jumped down from the front seat and, opening the back, dragged out a rolled carpet. They let it fall to the ground with a thump. The rug flew open exposing a large dark rotund object, a body.
Raven walked over and kicked at it. “You’re one lucky son-of-a-bitch! A bullet through the brain was too good for you.” She eyed the two men beside the Rubicon. “Get that cop out of the car and bring him to me.” After one more kick at Power’s body, Raven turned and walked over to her milling group.
The two men opened the back door of the Rubicon and dragged Owen Griffiths out.
Kian, hidden in the grasses, cringed. “Do something,” she, frantic now, whispered to Jimbo. He nodded and slid back down the slight incline away from them all. Crouching, he moved off, skirting the group in the pasture.
As the two men pushed Owen toward the center of the circle forming around Raven, a lonely animal howled from across the pasture. And then a minute later there was a second howl, this time from a different direction. Then, in the far distance, more howls joined, making a sort of chorus.
All action in the middle of the pasture halted. Several men darted behind shrubs, drawing their weapons. Raven ducked as the two men pushed Owen to the ground and then darted for cover behind some nearby shrubs.
“What the fuck was that?” A man hissed from where he was crouching.
“Damned if I know. Maybe that Bigfoot thing.”
Everyone was facing the distant hills looking for the source of the sound. Owen yanked himself up and rushed into the forest.
There was another howl, followed by a long low screech. “I’m getting the hell out of here,” a woman yelled to Raven as she hurried toward one of the parked cars. Several others followed.
“Get back here,” Raven screeched. But, when the departing figures did not turn around, she shouted to the sky, “Ashta-molon, attend me.”
Kian, crouched down in the grass, felt the wind pick up. But it was more than wind this time. She used the stirring grasses to cover her movement as she peered up into the sky. At that moment fear overwhelmed her; it seemed a dark cloud was forming, and then a swarm of flies descended on the people in the field.
“Take her,” Raven screamed, pointing toward the woman who had been the first to leave. As Kian watched, the fear now clawing at her gut, the dark cloud seemed to form into a funnel and move straight toward the woman.
Cat grabbed her by the arm. “Look away, Kian. Focus on something else.”
Kian blinked and looked at Cat. The darkness was gone. “What happened?”
“Raven called forth the demon. If you do not fear it, it cannot hurt you. It’s your fear that makes the demon real.”
Kian heard the woman scream. Unable to stop herself, Kian watched as the tormented woman writhed on the ground.
Cat took Kian’s hand. “Focus on me, not on her. The demon is real only because that woman made it so with her fear.”
“But the woman, she’s bleeding.” Kian said.
“It is her own fears that tear at her. Focus on me, Kian.”
Suddenly the pasture was quiet. Deathly quiet. The figures in the pasture stood around the fallen body and just stared at it.
“What the fuck?” Kian heard one of them say.
Then the pasture was in chaos again. Kian heard Raven shout, “Find that goddam cop. Now!”
Another minute passed before someone shouted, “I got a trail.”
“You two,” Raven shouted pointing to two other men, “help Aaron find him. And hurry.” They ran after Aaron, now heading into the woods. There was silence again.
Kian, still crouched in the grass, felt a breeze pick up and then caught movement behind her. She looked over her shoulder in time to see her mother disappear down the hill and around a granite outcropping. She turned back to the pasture and watched Raven pacing. Minutes passed and then Raven called out, “Forget the cop. Get your asses back here!”
Raven cupped her hands around her mouth. “You heard me. Get back here.”
” Now! Before I send my demon after all of you.”
Four of the five men rushed down the hill. One of them called out, “We can’t find Aaron. He disappeared.”
“Probably taking a leak,” someone from the group shot back. “Old man, old prostate, you know.” Several others sniggered.
“Quiet!” Raven snarled. She looked all around her, surveying the forest.
Several minutes passed, then a bloodied Aaron stumbled down the hill screaming, “Help!” All eyes turned in his direction.
One man ran toward him. “We got him,” he shouted.
But Aaron screamed, “Indians!” before falling to the ground.
Two men grabbed Aaron by his armpits and dragged him to Raven. “I think he passed out,” one of them said as he let the injured man hit the ground with a solid tha-wunk.
Raven grabbed a bottle of water, opened it, and poured it over Aaron’s head. He sputtered and looked up.
“What happened, you fool?” Raven’s voice was shrill and demanding.
“I…, I don’t know. I saw the cop but some Indian woman grabbed me from behind.” He started trembling. “I’m cold. I need a blanket.”
“Forget the blanket. Tell the story,” Raven demanded.
“I didn’t see her at first.” Aaron started trembling again and his voice broke into sobs, “At first I thought it was one of those Bigfoot monsters.”
One of the men cut in, “Did it smell bad?”
“Then it wasn’t no Bigfoot, idiot.”
“I know that now. It was Indians.”
“Yah, right. We killed all them redskins back two hundred years ago,” a man sneered at him.
“It was Indians I tell you. A squaw.”
“Man up! Stop sniveling,” demanded Raven.
Aaron looked up to see eight faces staring at him, focused directly on him and his story. He stood up, puffed out his chest and continued. “I kicked at her hard, spit on her, and ran as fast as I could. She had to really scramble to tackle me. I tell you, I fought like the devil himself, because I was sure that In’jun was going to scalp me.
“The woman was all snarly as hell,” he went on. “Like Pocahontas, or the Queen of Sheba or sumthin’, except she had grey hair. A real piece of work, from the way she was acting. She had these three braids, and….”
Raven was now pacing but listening to Aaron. Then she stopped. “Indians. Stop the bullshit. Indians? Really?” She sneered, “Now tell me the truth.”
Aaron, suddenly deflated, replied, “No, I swear. Look, she gave me this.” He handed Raven an arrowhead with two feathers attached. “The woman said to tell you to git off her property, or she’d be sure nothing was left of us but pickings for the buzzards.”
The others milled around, stealing wary glances at the forest.
Kian could feel as well as see Raven’s fury as she reached up to the sky. “Ashta-molon, attend me!”
The dark shadow descended for a second time. Again, Kian could feel the evil, the menace. She watched in horror as the shadow descended on Aaron seeming to bite at him like a million tiny scorpions, their pincers unrelenting in their torment. Aaron screamed, “get off me” as he tore around in circles, flailing at the unholy shadow devouring him.
Kian knew she should not look. But this time her fear was too overwhelming, and she could not look away. Something or someone had captured her attention and was holding it fast.
With a guttural wail, Aaron dropped to the ground. Raven lifted his head by his stringy hair. Blood ran from his mouth and eyes. His face looked like raw meat.
Raven screamed out to the forest. “This is how you’ll end up, Sister Dearest, you and that sniveling brat daughter of yours.”
Curtis Print in author’s collection