Come home, p.16
Come home, p.16Sheila Jecks
“Well, not right away exactly, my replacement came in and told me I should call the Sergeant, even if it was past my coffee break. But I was hungry and didn’t think 20 minutes would matter but I called him when I got back at 8:45 exactly.”
“You went for coffee first?”
The Detachment Chief put his hand to his head and swore silently, he knew he’d be in this god-forsaken-backwater for the rest of his career. Finally, a break in the case and the call was answered by the youngest rookie on the Force.
“Everyone out, not you Detective Inspector, or you Sergeant we need to talk,” said the Chief, “do we know where Running Wolf is tonight? I know he’s stirring things up again, and I thought with this casino hearing coming up and the change in the law around ‘gaming’, that maybe he’d make a slip and we’d have him.”
“He was at the Great House, there was a meeting of the Chiefs’ Council,” said the Detachment Chiefs’ Aid, “it was supposed to be bookkeeping, and some minor changes in seating arrangements. We usually send a man to observe, not at the meeting of course, but in the parking lot to keep track of who’s attending these things.”
“You’re right,” shouted Bill Majors jumping up from his seat, “he’s at the Great House he has to go where the shaman goes, so something happened, and he was able to call.”
Sergeant Majors grabbed his hat and raced for the door. Stopping abruptly, he turned back and said, “I think I’ll need some back-up and fire power. If Jack was able to call, something’s going on out there, and I don’t want to be caught short!”
“Take who’s on shift, and pass out weapons and bullet-proof vests, make sure everyone understands, no shooting unless absolutely necessary!”
Bill Majors gathered his small handful of men, handed out the weapons and vests and made everyone repeat, ‘no shooting unless told’. They tumbled into two cruisers and tires squealed as they left the parking lot.
It would be a good half hour before they got to the Great House. Who knew what could have happened by then!
Bill Majors drove like a maniac, no siren though, they didn’t want to advertise their arrival, but they were still too late.
The Great House was lit up. You could see people through the windows; they were searching every room, closet, cabinet and nook in the building.
The cruiser pulled into a parking slot and they all got out. Bill Majors walked to the open main doors and stood until one of the searchers came and asked why he was there.
“What’s going on here, why all the lights?” said the Mountie.
One of the band members, not wanting to answer, said, “just a moment,” and went to get someone else.
Archie J. himself came, “How can I help you, officer?”
“We were just passing by and noticed all the lights, is there a problem here?”
“No, no, we were just giving the place a good cleaning,” he lied. In reality, they were looking for the ‘tame’ white man, his value as a bargaining chip was getting less and less and Archie J. was going to eliminate the problem tonight. Perhaps an accident on the road, or a midnight swim.
He had something better now, in the form of a young lawyer, Richard Kullman, LL.B
When Archie J. realized he wasn’t with them, they thought he must still be at the Great House and were looking for him.
“Can we be of any help?” the Sergeant said, “It looks like you’re looking for something.”
“No, no, we can manage, we’re just doing a little house cleaning,” he said again, leading the Mountie to the edge of the entryway and almost pushing him off.
Bill Majors walked back to the cruiser, the other men were anxious to hear what he had to say.
“Well, somethings going on that they don’t want us to know about. Archie J. said they were cleaning. By the men? Cleaning, my ass! I looked around and there was no cleaning going on. But, I didn’t see Jack McKinnon either,” said the Sergeant.
“Should we stay here and kind of watch to see if he does show up?” said one of the younger Mounties.
“I don’t know, I thought he was in the Great House, and now I’m surer than ever that he’s here, somewhere, but I don’t know where to look.”
Just then, they heard a small tap on the outside rear door of the police cruiser. They turned in unison to see a scruffy, skinny man with no shoes.
Bill Majors ran to him, “Jack, Jack, are you okay? Where have you been? What’s going on?”
“Nothing I want to know about Bill, we better get out of here, they’re looking for me!”
Police cruisers are big, so a skinny extra man in the back seat didn’t much matter. The Sergeant pulled away slowly and carefully, he didn’t want those inside the building to notice anything unusual.
When they were about a mile and a half away, Bill Majors stopped. He sat and looked at the steering wheel and tried to think of what to do.
Should he go to the lock-up? Procedure said, take him in and book him first, then figure out what for. Or, should he take him to town and buy him a meal, he certainly looked like he needed one. What he really wanted to do was yell at him for putting everyone through so much grief these past seven years.
But he wasn’t going to do that either.
What he really needed to find out was, what was going on, and how did he get away from the shaman, and why was he coherent now? And... most important, would it last?
He put the police car in park and got out. “Jack, you want to take a walk with me and we’ll talk for a bit?”
“Sure,” he said, “I can’t believe it, I saw a calendar back there, is it really 1999? Why can’t I remember what’s been going on?”
“Jack, why weren’t you in the Great House, why are they looking for you. Why call me now? How did you get away from the shaman?”
Bill Majors was almost out of breath and he hadn’t even started.
“I’ll tell you everything I know, Bill,” said the former slave, “but first, I need to know if Rikki and Harry are okay and I want to know who that Indian was that got me out of the Great House. What a big man! He had paint on his face, and carried a bow...”
“Did he have long black hair,” interrupted Bill Majors, “did he carry the bow across his back?”
“How did you know?”
“I’ve met him before.”
“How come I can talk to you,” said Bill Majors, “when you were in the hospital last week, you wouldn’t acknowledge any of us, or any of the staff.”
“I wasn’t in the hospital last week, I don’t know where I was, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in a hospital. I would remember. Was it the new one in Hope? It only opened a few months ago.”
“The hospital in Hope isn’t new any more; it’s around 8 years old now. You were in Grace Hospital in Burnswood, and you wouldn’t talk to anyone. I need to ask you some hard questions.
“Would you mind if we went to my house? Jeanne could make you some soup. I’ll use my tape recorder, it’s better than written notes. This might take a while.”
“Sure, Bill, where else can I go? But you still haven’t told me how my wife and son are,” said Jack.
“Okay, I’ll tell you, Rikki has been looking for you all this time. She never stopped believing you’d come home. But right now, I could use a coffee, how about you?”
“Poor Rikki, she’s going to kill me for taking so long.”
* * * *
“Yes, I’m sure,” said the young Mountie as he stood in a rigid salute. He was so fired up, the excitement made his eyebrows jump. “The Sergeant made me repeat the message so that I would have it straight.”
“Yes, Sir, that’s what he said... ‘Wait’! And he repeated that twice. This is what he wanted me to tell you. ‘Please don’t come to my house, I have Jack McKinnon with me, he seems rational, but he wants to tell his story to me. I will record it on my tape recorder and bring it in as soon as he’s finished’. That’s exactly what he said, Sir!”
“Good grief, man, dismissed!” said the Chief, “go get a coffee, tell everyone they’re not allowed to go home until Bill Majors comes in. And No, I don’t care if it takes three days!”
The young man saluted again, turned smartly on his heel and left the room.
When the door was shut, the rest of the men crowded around, “what did he say, what did he say?” they all yelled as quietly as they could. No one had to tell them they had to stay at the station, there hadn’t been this much excitement since the failed uprising seven years ago.
The young Constables had to look up the ‘uprising’ in the archived reports that were considered optional reading, but now this was going to be the real thing and they’d be first in.
Some real action!
* * * *
Sergeant Majors was home listening to a very short explanation of what happened seven years ago.
It was all old news.
Indeed, the anticipated information wasn’t there. The awake ‘slave’ couldn’t remember anything past yesterday. He assumed he’d been asleep and when he was told how much time passed, he looked at his hands and shook his head.
How could that be so?
Jack didn’t remember anything that happened during the time he was gone. He didn’t know there’d been an Indian uprising. He didn’t know anything about building a casino next to his property at the head of Andover Lake. He thought he’d been gone a week or so.
But the only thing he was concerned with, was phoning home to talk to his wife and calling his boss at work, to explain why he didn’t go in last Monday.
Be calm, said the Mountie to his inner turmoil, when I take him to headquarters all hell will break loose. Jack needs time to remember. More, he needs some help.
Bill started to pat his pockets, looking for the small notebook that held his business phone numbers. He needed the right kind of help for Jack and he knew whom to call.
Jack sat in his chair and looked at the tape recorder, he knew he should know what was happening, he was there. But try as he might, it was just a big blank hole in his memory.
He couldn’t believe his job was gone, his son was a teenager, and his wife was declaring him dead.
Bill went into the kitchen to phone the number in his little book. There was only one man who understood and could help.
Did he help already? Would he want to get involved publicly in this mess?
This is all happening too fast, thought Bill Majors as he waited on the phone, too many questions. Why did the shaman lose his hold over Jack? Why did he take a man from Langley city in the first place, why did he need him, why not a member of his own band? Why was Jack able to get to the cafe in Merriweather when Rikki was there? Her presence seemed to draw him. When she was there, he was able to show up, but not strong enough to get away.
He needed answers before noon tomorrow. This was Friday night, and Rikki, Harry and the whole crew were to meet at ‘Bettys’ cafe at 1:00 pm, Saturday.
Jack sat at the kitchen table eating the best homemade soup he’d ever tasted, and he couldn’t get enough fresh bread and butter.
“You better eat more slowly,” Jeanne said. “Your stomach won’t like so much fresh bread so fast.”
As they talked, Jack kept trying to understand; he knew it was only a few days ago that he was up to the cabin. There was no memory of his boat sinking or BG drowning. The memory of the cabin with the upside down two headed ‘soul catcher’ was gone too.
It was as if no time passed.
While they sat at the table, Jack told Jeanne how he got out of the Great House, “This guy, didn’t look like the Indians from around here, but he knew what was going on, got me out of the building and told me where to wait; Bill would be by to pick me up. Where did he come from, he just seemed to appear?”
The Sergeant knew who found Jack McKinnon, but now was not the time to tell.
The call he made to the University of BC contained nothing new for the man on the other end of the line. He acknowledged his part but said he didn’t want it talked about, but he’d come.
Bill had to keep a tight hold, first things first; take his charge to Headquarters. He also knew his Chief was going to want answers. Well, there weren’t any from this source.
But maybe, just maybe, things were about to change.
Chief Fitzgerald was waiting in his office; but news had leaked out to the community that something big was on the brink.
There were newspaper reporters, on-lookers and Indians; lots and lots of Indians.
Off duty RCMP also gathered at the back of the building, excitement was building!
* * * *
Chief George was sitting in his truck in the RCMP parking lot when the Sergeant drove in with his charge.
Things had changed in the Xaali’pp band over the past years, and George was Chief in name only. While it was good for a while, no responsibilities, no one coming to him in the middle of the night to complain, all the hunting and fishing whenever he wanted. But his mother wouldn’t let up. She kept harping; he was the hereditary chief, and his father before him, and his father, etc. etc. etc.
He finally started paying attention to what was happening, and didn’t like it one bit. He was trying to make it right, but it was almost too late.
The young people liked Archie J., as he wanted to be called now, they said whatever he did was right. Chief George knew in his heart, something bad was going to happen. He had to find out what was really going on, and there wasn’t much time.
* * * *
Later that night, after Jack ate his fill and drank Jeanne’s coffee pot dry, the two men were on their way to Headquarters, he was chatting about events that happened seven years ago, and Bill didn’t know how to answer, so he just drove and let him ramble on.
When Jack saw Chief George sitting in his truck, he sat up and the old odd look came over him. He stopped talking and faced the window.
As Bill Majors pulled into his assigned parking space, out of the corner of his eye he saw what was happening to his friend.
Big bad change in Jack McKinnon!
The Sergeant slammed into reverse and pulled out of the parking lot. He tried to look like he wasn’t in a hurry, but something was telling him to get out of there, fast!
They drove through town and over to Hwy 97 at the speed limit. When they got to the Esso station, he put his flashers on and turned the police radio off, and they flew down the highway, they had to be somewhere else.
Bill Majors realized he was driving on autopilot. When they got to the town of Williams he pulled over and looked at his friend. The man just sat there and although he looked like he was looking out the window, you could see his eyes didn’t see a thing.
Bill put his head down on the steering wheel.
This was the end, his career was over.
The Chief would rip a strip off his hide so wide you’d be able to land a jetliner on it. And if he’s not dead yet, when Rikki finds out Jack came home, and was okay and he botched it up, she would kill him too, slowly, painfully... “what have I done?” he said to the steering wheel.
He sat for a while, looked each option over and discarded it. In the end decided, better go back to Headquarters and take whatever was coming, because there was no way out of this mess.
He backed the cruiser up, turned around and switched the police radio on again, called in his report and asked for additional time.
A lot of the reporters and onlookers were gone now; it was well after midnight and most thought just another false alarm and went home.
Bill was glad his Chief had enough confidence in him to allow him to follow this line of enquiry. He knew the less pressure on Jack to remember the faster it would happen.
So Bill stalled.
They drove around and passed some time and Bill talked. Jack, still looking out the car window was trying hard to relate to the conversation but couldn’t follow the events, so said nothing. It was as though he’d been sleeping, and he seemed to be having trouble waking up.
Morning was coming up, and Bill decided they’d take the highway south and then come back through Lacy and Merriweather. Maybe whatever set Jack off would be gone by then, and he’d be all right.
“Why’d we go to Williams,” said Jack turning away from the car window, finally talking about something that just happened. “I thought you said we were going to see your Detachment Chief?”
The Sergeant’s head jerked around so fast his hat almost came off his head.
“Jack, I thought the shaman got you again, why didn’t you say anything?”
“When I saw Chief George sitting in his truck back there at the parking lot, I didn’t want anyone to know I’m okay now. I don’t want anyone to tell Running Wolf where I am, so I faked it. I’m starting to remember Bill, it was terrible, I’m never going to do that again. I need to stay far, far away from Archie J. and his men.”
Jack McKinnon turned to his friend, a worried look on his face, “You won’t tell him, will you Bill? I can’t do that anymore.”
“Don’t worry, Jack, I won’t let him catch you again, I’m going to take you to meet your ‘backup team’, how about lunch at ‘Bettys’ cafe?”
The town of Merriweather was waking up, everyone went about his early morning business, but kept in touch with Freddy at the grocery store. If there was anything new, he would tell it to everyone he saw.
Bill looked at his passenger and knew he had one more thing to do before he took him into the cafe to meet everyone.
“We’re going around back to ‘Bettys’ flat before we go in. He won’t mind if you wash up a bit, you need a lot of soap and water.”
Jack looked at himself in the side mirror of the cruiser, and was shocked at what he saw. The man in the mirror wasn’t the one he remembered.
It’s going to take a lot more than a little soap and water he thought, as he looked at his grimy hands. And, why didn’t he have any shoes? This was getting to be a sore point. And worse, his feet, as dirty as they were, weren’t cold. That told him he’d been without shoes for a very long time.
Come home by Sheila Jecks / Mystery & Detective have rating 2.5 out of 5 / Based on15 votes