Wyoming vision, p.1
Wyoming Vision, p.1Daniel Sandoval
Arapaho Vision Quest, Book 1
Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Shea / Minerva Webworks LLC
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Cover design by Lisa Shea
Book design by Lisa Shea
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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~ v2 ~
“Be still and the earth will speak to you.”
-- Navajo Saying
Haloke huddled against the bitter cold in the hollow made by the overturned car. Her tears were frozen to her cheeks. Moonlight glittered from the shards of windshield scattered along the meadow. The road was a good twenty feet above them, over the embankment, and occasionally she could hear the solitary sound of a car easing by through the thick snow.
Not one stopped.
Even at age six, she knew she should wriggle her way out through the broken side window and go for help. It is what her father would have done. But her father’s life blood pooled at his feet. He had been killed when their car arced through the air and slammed into the frozen earth. The steering wheel was viciously impaled through his chest.
But her mother clung stubbornly to life.
Haloke’s small fingers entwined more firmly into her mother’s. If only her mother would wake up. If only someone would see their skid marks and come down to rescue them. If only the other guests at the Arapaho – Townie Christmas Party realized they had not yet arrived. A search party could be sent, the trackers would use their keen noses, and her family would be saved. Her father would be brought back to life. Haloke had seen such things happen on their small TV.
Her father’s voice whispered in her soul.
You must be brave, little one. You must climb the hill and save your mother. Save yourself. Find the warrior within you. You are born of two tribes. The Navajo from your mother. The Arapaho from my line. Use that dual strength to face this challenge.
I love you.
Her tears started anew down her cheeks, freezing as they fell. She desperately wished for her father to move. To come back to life and protect them, as he always had.
He lay still.
Resolve built within Haloke. A strength she never knew she possessed coursed through her veins. She leaned over to give one last kiss to her mother’s gentle fingers. Then she carefully let them go. She turned to the window. The glass protruded in jagged teeth but her thick winter coat protected her from their edges. She squirmed her way through the opening left between the metal, glass, and frozen earth.
At last she was out.
The hill before her was larger even than the slope behind her school where the children sledded every afternoon. And her first step into the snowdrift sunk her nearly to her waist. She set her face with determination and pushed forward. Her father had often told her she was a superhero. A magical blend of Arapaho and Navajo who could do anything she set her mind to.
Now was the time to prove it.
Sweep with the arms. Step. Drag the rear leg free. Breathe.
Her whole world narrowed down to the march. Sweep. Step. Pull. Again. Nothing else mattered. Not the shadow of a cloud sliding across the moon. Not the call of an owl far in the distance. Not the whoosh as a car moved past above her, tantalizingly close, but as distant as a far-off ocean.
Still she moved.
Her arms ached, her legs were numb by the time she crawled over the crest. She stumbled into the center of the two-lane road. It stretched in each direction as far as she could see until it faded into the blowing snow. For all she knew the blizzard stretched clear to either side of the entire state of Wyoming.
Her crimson parka stood out against that whiteness like a pool of blood. Her mother had always told her that being seen was a key in the long Wyoming winters. If there was trouble, if she ever got lost, Haloke needed to be able to be found.
She hoped her crimson jacket would do its job tonight.
There was a noise from the west, and she turned. A dim glow came from that direction. As the moments passed, the glow strengthened and resolved into a pair of eyes. Bright, round eyes coming at her in the darkness.
She stood squarely in their path. It took all her strength to lift each weary arm high, to stretch her fingers as wide as they could splay. She stared straight into that growing blinding light and prayed to every god her parents had told her of. Most of all, she prayed to Nayanazgeni, the war god. Her father had returned home safely from his years in the Marines. Nayanazgeni had brought him home to his beloved wife. Perhaps today Nayanazgeni would watch over her father’s family, as well.
For her father no longer could.
The car plowed toward her, its speed not slowing. Every ounce of life in her bones screamed at her to jump out of the way. But she held firm. Her mother depended on it. Everything depended on it.
The car was nearly on top of her –
Twenty years later
Logan sprinted down the alley toward the girl sprawled in a mound of dirty snow. His deputy’s hat flew away into the darkness. She was fifteen, perhaps, and wore a once-beautiful dress of crimson and gold. But the bodice was ripped in several places and the skirt was bunched up around her waist. The sodden snow was tromped with a collection of boot-prints in varying sizes.
Logan had no doubt what the rape-kit would find.
He reached her side and dropped to a knee. His fingers flew to gently press at the side of her neck.
She was alive, thank God.
He grabbed the cellphone from his jeans pocket. A button press, and he had Brenda on the line. “Send an ambulance to the Dancing Bear. I’m in the alley around back. A girl’s hurt.”
“Got it,” acknowledged Brenda, and he could hear her making the call on another line.
He tucked the still-live phone into his breast pocket and then gently began checking her over for serious injuries. The full moon along with the beams of his SUV’s headlights gave him just enough light to work with. She moaned softly as he turned her, but her eyes did not open.
He had just reassured himself that there was nothing broken, and that it might be safe to bring her into his own car until help arrived, when the wail of sirens approached from the distance. Another breath, and the ambulance was drawing to a stop alongside his own vehicle. Jake and Evan, guys Logan played pool with occasionally on long, snowy nights, piled out with gear and trotted to Logan’s side.
Logan stepped back. “I think she’s been raped.”
Evan nodded without turning. “Looks that way.” The men worked with quick efficiency, doing a preliminary check for injuries. “She seems safe to move. Logan, grab the board?”
Logan moved to the back of the ambulance and popped open the door. He pulled the board from its rack and brought it back over to the girl’s side.
Evan took her shoulders and gently rolled her onto her side while Jake slid the board beneath her. They settled her securely in place. As Jake put on the straps, Evan asked Logan, “Any idea who she is?”
He shook his head. “From the rez, I would guess, based on her face and dress. But I’ve never seen her before. There’s no purse around, either. I’d guess whoever did thi
The two men hefted her up.
Her eyes flew open.
Logan stared. The eyes were familiar and strange all at once. The deep brown with gold flecks was hauntingly close. But the flat cheekbones and thin lips struck no chord within him.
Her voice was a thin rasp. “Help me.”
He nodded to her. “I will. I’ll find out who did this to you.”
Her gaze seemed lost, distant, as if she were on the verge of losing herself.
He stepped forward, wrapping her delicate hand in his own. He looked down into her eyes. “I swear it to you. I will find who hurt you – and I will bring them to justice.”
Her shoulders eased, and she lay back against the stretcher. Her voice was closer now. “Thank you.”
Evan nodded to Jake, and they trotted off toward the ambulance. A few motions and the vehicle was screaming off into the night.
A fresh wail of siren and Logan knew the other deputy on duty, Sam, was on her way to lend a hand.
He blew out his breath, looking around the dingy snow and ice of the abandoned alley.
Somewhere in here would be the clues he needed. The clues to allow him to fulfill his promise to a desperate girl.
Haloke burst awake, her body drenched with sweat. In the summer it could be broiling hot in her tent, due in no small part to the incessant beating of the Afghan sun, but it was winter now – and this was something else. This was not even the normal regimen of nightmare that many of her fellow Marines endured as a hazard of their occupation.
This had been about her sister.
Half sister, her stepfather would have corrected her with a snap. But while Haloke clung to the distinction when considering him, and refused to call him father, with her beloved younger sister it was different. Haloke adored Johona with all her heart. When Haloke joined the service, the hardest part had not been leaving the beautiful mountains of Wyoming. It had not been leaving behind her friends or even her mother, who had long since faded under her stepfather’s harsh glare.
It had been leaving Johona behind.
She drew to sitting, propping her pillow up against the metal frame of her bunk. She closed her eyes, shutting out the conversation of the soldiers around her and the jeeps moving across the sand outside.
What had been in the dream?
Her sister had seemed happy at first. Something about a dance with a boy she’d been admiring for months. She’d worn a dress in her favorite color of crimson. It was the exact hue of the crimson coat she’d worn all through childhood – the one Haloke had passed down to her.
But then the scene had changed. Johona had taken a short-cut through an alley behind a bar. There’d been movement in the shadows. A hand grabbed her – a boot kicked her – and then –
Tears flowed down Haloke’s cheeks and she grabbed for her phone. It was 2pm here in the Middle East which meant it was … what? What time was it back in Wyoming? She couldn’t think. She didn’t care what time it was. Even if she woke Johona up, she had to make sure her little sister was safe.
She punched the button.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
“You’ve reached the voice mail of Johona Brown. Please leave a message after the beep.”
Haloke barely waited for the beep to sound before bursting, “Johona, please call me. It doesn’t matter what time you get this – call me. I need to talk to you.”
She hung up the phone and put it back on the metal table alongside her bed. Half of her wanted to grab it up and call again. The other half wanted to march into her XO’s tent and ask for time off. Demand it. Because that dream had had power to it.
If the attack hadn’t already happened, Haloke feared that it would. Soon.
Haloke’s hands bunched into fists. Whatever it took, she would move heaven and Earth to keep her little sister safe. It was her responsibility – and she would not fail.
Logan groaned as he came awake, every joint in his body aching. He was hunched over his wooden desk at the station. Morning light streamed in through the window. The rich smell of coffee wafted past his nose.
Sam looked over, a twinkle in her eye. Her short, dark hair had its perpetually messy look. Logan couldn’t tell if she’d slept in it or carefully styled it to look that way. She grinned. “Sorry, sleeping beauty, did I wake you? You looked pretty comfy over there.”
He stretched, his shoulders making quiet popping noises as he worked them into place. “Just going over all the crime scene photos again. There’s got to be something.”
Sam sighed and brought over his coffee – black – in a mustard-yellow Wyoming Cowboys mug. “You shouldn’t have promised that girl you’d bring those guys to justice,” she gently chided. “We can’t ever promise anything. We can just do our best.”
He took a long drink of the coffee. “You didn’t see the look in her eyes. I was worried she was going to do something to herself. She’d just endured something horrific. I had to give her a lifeline.” He looked over. “Did you track down her family?”
Sam nodded, plunking down in her own chair. She leaned back and casually propped her feet on her desk, mud dripping from her boots onto a few papers. She was in her early thirties, just about his age, but where he’d grown up in town, she’d been raised out in the hills by a family who relied on hunting and fishing for their livelihood. She was sometimes more a mannerless six-year-old kid than a seasoned cop.
Sam looked out the window onto the town square. “She lives with her mom and dad on the outskirts of the rez. Mom’s a schoolteacher and he runs one of the bars. Johona’s a sophomore in school.”
Sam checked her notes. “One sister, about ten years older. She’s off in Afghanistan.”
He nodded and rolled to his feet. “Well, I’ll head over to the hospital and talk to the family. We don’t have any progress yet, but maybe she’s awake and remembers something.”
Sam shook her head. “She ain’t there.”
Logan creased his brows. “What do you mean, she’s not there?”
Sam shrugged. “Family checked her out last night and took her home. Said they didn’t want her getting sick from the other patients.”
Logan pressed his lips together. “All right. Text me the address, and I’ll go follow up at their home.” He poured the rest of his coffee into a travel mug.
Sam punched a few buttons on her phone. “I’ll go by the hospital and talk with the doctors. See if they have anything they can share.”
He nodded, swept his hat off its rack, and headed out.
* * *
Logan always felt something indefinable shimmer down his spine when he crossed into rez land. It wasn’t exactly that he didn’t belong there. The assault had taken place outside the rez and therefore in his jurisdiction. He was perfectly within his rights to follow up with the victim in her home, and the local police chief, Jason Redfeather, was a solid man. Forty, lean, he’d seen just about everything and done his best to hold his people together. If Logan asked for help, he knew Jason would be there at his side.
No, somehow crossing that line was like crossing between worlds. The people on the rez had a unique culture. A unique history and way of looking at things that, even after all these years, eluded Logan. He had tried his best to put himself in their shoes. To imagine what having that complicated legacy might do to a person. But despite his best efforts, he knew he couldn’t truly understand.
What they had endured was beyond thought.
He pulled off the main road and onto a rutted dirt trail. It wove around a small hill and came up to a long, low ranch. The sides were peeling paint and the metal roof showed rust. But the porch out front had been carefully swept free of snow. The gravel path to the door had been shoveled and sanded.
There was a pair of cars parked alongside the house. One was an old forest-green Subaru with holes visible through patches of the rear metal. The other
Logan parked behind the Subaru and switched off his SUV. He climbed out and took a deep breath, looking around. The scene was quiet. A pair of swallows danced in the sky, clouds drifted across the ice-blue, and a blanket of snow coated the earth.
He stepped forward.
Footsteps sounded even before he lifted his hand to knock.
A man yanked open the door, his face in a scowl. “What do you want?”
Mike Brown was clearly the girl’s father. He had the same flat cheekbones and thin lips. But where Johona’s eyes were warm and brown, Mike’s were small and dark. They looked over Logan with suspicion. “What’re you doing on the rez?”
Logan motioned at the star clipped on the breast of his jacket. “Deputy Logan Cartright. I’m here to check in on your daughter.”
Mike’s fingers clenched. “You’re a bit too late, aren’t you. Where were you when she was being violated?”
A soft voice called from within the house. “Mike, let him in. He’s only trying to help.”
Mike’s mouth turned down, but he stepped back a foot, giving Logan barely enough space to enter.
The house was small but neatly kept. They were in the living room with a wood stove glowing with heat. A pair of brown couches faced each other with a woven brown-and-mustard oval rug between them. A pine coffee table centered in that. Mustard curtains hung in the windows. The kitchen area was to the back with a dinette and four chairs. The smell of coffee wafted in.
A woman in her late forties stepped into view in the kitchen. She wore a long, dark green dress with a tan apron over it. “I’ve just made coffee. Would you like some?”
Wyoming Vision by Daniel Sandoval / Actions & Adventure have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on15 votes