Aphelion Issue 242, Volume 23
August 2019
 
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As the Crow Flies

by C.E. Gee





The door to Detective Lieutenant Cochran's office was open.

Rick leaned through the doorway. "You buzzed me Lieutenant?"

Lieutenant Cochran gestured Rick into the room, pointed toward an empty chair.

The chair adjacent to the empty chair was taken. As Rick sat the occupant of the adjacent chair swiveled around and Rick found himself gazing into eyes a delightful shade of green.

Addressing Green-eyes, Lieutenant Cochran said, "This is Detective Sergeant Reall -- Rick Reall. He's the one I was telling you about, one of my best."

Green-eyes offered her hand, introduced herself. "Kate Bevens. I'm pleased to meet you."

Rick's innate sensitivities, fed by a quick, discrete glimpse, made an appraisal. Kate was blond, pale, and slender with fine features and short hair.

Kate wore a lavender-colored pantsuit. Though styled for business, the jacket was gathered tightly at the waist. A pale-pink blouse, which Rick guessed was silk, provided a suitably plain backdrop for Kate's necklace, which held a large, teardrop pearl suspended by a gold chain.

"Kate here is the Accounting Supervisor out at the Spirit Winds Casino," announced Lieutenant Cochran.

As Kate nodded toward Rick, Cochran continued, "She has a bit of a problem." Kate's smile slid into a slight smirk as the Lieutenant continued with, "She thinks we can help solve it."

Rick leaned back into his chair, happily awash in the fragrance of Kate's perfume.

"We're being ripped off," announced Kate. "The Casino, I mean. Someone's been winning far, far too frequently at slots. Plus the guy wins amounts too low to require reporting to the IRS. Any large jackpot requires submitting a W2G form"

Rick almost shrugged a so what, but managed to restrain himself, instinctively reacting to Kate's statement by cocking one eyebrow.

Kate went on with, "The reason I've come here for help is that I think it's an inside job."

"What makes you think that?" asked Rick.

It was Kate's turn to cock one eyebrow "Isn't it always?"

"Not in my business," replied Rick. "Maybe in yours."

Kate's back stiffened. "Nonetheless," she frostily replied, "my immediate supervisor, the Casino's CEO, has given me permission to seek outside help."

Rick replied, "I'm afraid you're very much out of our jurisdiction. This really is a matter for your casino's security people, or the tribal police, maybe even the FBI.

Kate said, "The tribe is much too small to have a police force, and the FBI? They're the last people we want poking around the reservation. Also, since we suspect this is an inside job, we need to keep our own security department out of the picture."

Rick shrugged.

Addressing Rick, Lieutenant Cochran said, "I received permission from the Captain to give you leave of absence. I figured the Vice Squad was the place to find someone for this case."

Kate added, "The Casino will pay you well, give you the benefits you need. Of course, all expenses incurred will be charged to the tribe's corporation."

Again, Rick shrugged. "Sounds like a plan. My girlfriend likes to play video poker, so I can use her for cover. A couple is far less suspicious than a single male."

Cochran smiled. Kate declared, "It's settled then."

Kate opened her briefcase. "I'll have you to fill out some paperwork. I've also brought some evidence –- security camera video. Then you can get started."


* * *

Being on leave of absence, Rick was restricted from using Department facilities for his investigation. Rick went to his apartment. It being early afternoon, Cynthia Ann was surprised when Rick opened the door.

New Age music played in the background as Cynthia Ann, who was stretched out on her yoga mat asked, "What the heck are you doing home so early?"

Rick explained his new assignment, went to his fiancée, got down on his knees, and kissed Cynthia Ann on the forehead.

Rick rose, went to his office, inserted the flash drive containing the Casino's security camera videos into his Chromebook. Rick sat, watched the first video.

The resolution was of usable quality, displayed two rows of slot machines and the aisle between. There was no audio.

Near half the slots were in use. A lamp at the top of one of the slots began to flash, indicating a jackpot.

The player at that particular slot stood. Soon, a smartly dressed employee of the casino strode into view, counted out a sum of cash to the player, and shook his hand, then left.

Rick scrolled the video to the beginning, carefully watched.

The player who won the jackpot was male, wore a hooded rain-jacket and cargo-pants, typical outfit for the Oregon coastal range.

The player played the slot for a time. Rick noticed nothing unusual.

After the jackpot, the player stood, turned toward the approaching employee.

Rick paused the video, expanded the image, centered on the player's face.

Oregon residents were primarily Caucasian; the player had a slightly Asiatic look. Rick realized the player was American Indian, though his skin tone was darker than most American Indians inhabiting Oregon.

Rick sat back, took out his cell-phone, recorded an audio note.

Rick then reviewed the remaining videos. Their time stamps indicated varying dates and times, though all dates were relatively recent.

The suspect played many different slot machines over several days at the casino. All the videos showed the suspect winning modest jackpots.

Rick knew that slot jackpots were rare. One person winning several jackpots in the same casino within a short time period was highly improbable.

Rick printed out a close-up of the face of the suspect, turned off his Chromebook, and went to Cynthia Ann.

Rick sat on the couch, asked, "How'd you like to drive out to Spirit Winds Casino tomorrow?"

"Sure! Can we get breakfast there?"

"Of course. Best thing is, I'm on expenses. Since I'm using you as cover, our meals will be paid for after I submit expense reports."


* * *

At the Spirit Winds Casino, Rick and Cynthia Ann went to the buffet for breakfast. Later they wandered about, randomly played a few slots.

Some time passed. The couple stopped at one of the slots used by the subject of Rick's investigation.

Rick had Cynthia Ann play the slot while he stood behind her chair, one hand on her shoulder. Rick observed nothing unusual.

Again wandering around, seemingly at random, the couple stopped at other slots their suspect had played. Rick saw the same results as before, nothing unusual.

Though concerned he might draw unwanted attention to himself, aware that any query might be to someone involved in the slot payoffs, Rick decided he needed to take a chance.

Many employees working the floor of the casino were members of the tribe. Rick spoke to a woman emptying trashcans.

"Excuse me," said Rick, holding up the screen-grab of his suspect's face. "You ever see this guy before?" Rick then lied, "I served with him in the Army, heard he hangs out here. Sure would like to find him."

The woman answered, "Nope. Sorry."

"Thanks," said Rick. He strolled about, Cynthia Ann following. Rick asked several more employees the same question. All answered that they'd never seen the man in the picture.

Rick caught a break. A slot attendant recognized the suspect.

"I seen this guy before," said the slot attendant. "I noticed him 'cause he's not from here. He's Comanche."

Skeptical, Rick asked, "Now how would you know that?"

The attendant replied, "The long hair with braids, the earrings, the facial tattoo -- all are a giveaway. The only tribal members you see around here like that are young. This guy is in his 50s or 60s. Maybe even a bit older."

Rick thanked the woman, turned to Cynthia Ann, said, "We need to go over to the tribal office."

***

The tribe's office building was a short drive south.

In the parking lot, while Cynthia Ann listened to the radio, Rick sat for a moment, concocting a cover story for his query.

Rick kissed Cynthia Ann on her cheek, said, "I'll be back in a minute."

The office was small, well furnished, held just one person, an older woman behind the counter. Rick went to the counter.

The woman approached the counter but said nothing.

"Hi," said Rick. Again, he lied, "I was up north, seeing some friends in Astoria. Anyway, my fiancé and I visited the campsite where Lewis and Clark wintered over."

The clerk nodded, looked bored, and still said nothing.

Rick continued, "Anyway, the camp is now a park, and I found out from the lecture a ranger was giving that Sacagawea was Shoshone."

Again, the nod.

Striving to appear as a typical tourist, Rick prattled on with his lie. "I was in the Army not long ago. Some guy in my company claimed to be Comanche. He once told a bunch of us that the Comanche tribe was originally a group of Shoshone that splintered off, went south to steal horses from the Spanish."

"That's right," commented the clerk. Her bored look had vanished.

"Anyway," Rick said, "I recently heard from another buddy that this Comanche guy had moved into this area. You got any Comanche living on or near your reservation?"

"Nope," emphatically replied the clerk as she shook her head, but you might drive down the coast a bit 'til you get to Lincoln City or Newport. That whole area is surrounded by Siletz tribal lands, and 'cause of all the jobs available near the rez, the Siletz gets lotsa people moving in from other tribes."

"Thanks for the tip," said Rick.

Back in the car, Rick announced, "We're headed down the coast."

Cynthia Ann smiled, fastened her seat belt. She said, "Can we stop at a Mo's for some clam chowder?"

There were three different Mo's in the area the couple were about to visit.

"Of course," replied Rick.


* * *

Otter Rock is a community located between Depoe Bay and Newport.

Being small with few tourist attractions, being west of the main highway, Cynthia Ann was barely aware that Otter Rock existed. So Cynthia Ann was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the town's few tourist attractions.

The road into Otter Rock terminated at the Devil's Punchbowl, a viewpoint overlooking waves crashing into a massive rock formation.

Cynthia Ann was enthralled, pressed up to the fence while Rick kept back, smiling to himself.

Much to Rick's delight, Cynthia Ann was soon drenched by spray from a large wave.

Squealing then laughing, Cynthia Ann ran back to Rick, was wrapped up in his arms as she snuggled into his chest.

The couple then walked back up the road to a viewpoint overlooking the vista to the south. Numerous surfers and kayakers dotted the ocean close in to the beach.

Later, when Cynthia Ann had dried off a bit, the couple returned to the Devil's Punchbowl, visited a pottery shop and then a Mo's restaurant.

Over clam chowder, garlic bread, Rick said, "Can you believe this day's on the Casino's dime? Make sure I get a receipt here. I'm not used to being on expenses, might forget."

Cynthia Ann nodded, was deep in thought. The pair's next destination was Newport, where they had first met.

One Saturday night, years ago, Rick picked up Cynthia Ann on the Newport bay front, where Cynthia-Ann had been plying her former trade. Rick had given her a life she'd never thought she'd have.

She teared up as she thought of how Rick had drawn his pistol, menacingly clicked off the safety, threatened her pimp. Later, Rick explained that he felt that together he and she had a destiny –- that the feelings he got were a gift he relied on as a detective. Cynthia Ann shook her head to break out of her musing, took another spoonful of chowder.

Cynthia Ann swallowed, put down her spoon, wiped her lips, and stiffened her back while she hoped Rick wouldn't notice her trembling voice. She asked, "Listen honey, you ever wonder where all this is going? I mean you and me. It's been like three years or something. I mean, we're engaged and all, but I figured you being a cop, we needed to put on a show for your career and whatnot."

"You've given me a new life; I can't go back to my old one."

Cynthia Ann glanced down at the tabletop, then looked up, met Rick's gaze. They'd never before talked about their future. Rick's look of bemusement was accompanied by a slight smile.

When Rick spoke, it was more of a declaration than a question. "You wanna get married, don't you."

The reply was a nod.

"Let's do it!" exclaimed Rick. "You've given me a life, too. Besides, my sister's been hinting she wants to be an aunt. With me being a detective-sergeant, I figure I have an image to maintain. That's why we've had to hide your past, and out of wedlock, children are a no-no in my position. The senior officers and city council members are all older, wouldn't understand, or approve."

Rick leaned across the table, took his fiancée's left hand, raised it to his lips, and delivered a kiss.

"You know," said Rick, "I dropped an entire paycheck on that ring. I figured it was money down the drain. Now I know it was worth every penny."


* * *

At the tribal office of the Siletz, Rick delivered the same lies as before. This time his act was rewarded.

"Sure," said the clerk upon viewing the picture of the suspect. "I know this guy. That's Nacona. He retired, pulled up stakes, moved to Depoe Bay."

"Know where in Depoe Bay?" asked Rick.

The clerk wagged his head, said, "Sorry, but I can give you a name. On the Rez, he's Nacona. Off the Rez, he goes by Charley Three-eyes. He's a medicine man you know, but he calls himself a shaman."


* * *

As usual, the tourist traffic on Highway 101 at Depoe Bay was heavy. Rick found a parking spot at the front of the water district office.

After Rick delivered his line about his old army buddy to the water district's clerk, the clerk provided directions to Nacona's home.

In the car, Rick said, "We're headed east on Collins Street. "When we get to where we're going, I'd like you to stay in the car."

Cynthia Ann nodded her consent.

Nacona's driveway was near the end of the street. Rick parked on the street's shoulder, reached under his jacket, made sure his pistol was loose in its shoulder holster, kissed Cynthia Ann on her cheek.

Rick climbed out of the car, started up the driveway. At the other end of the driveway stood Nacona's shack.

Small, unpainted, ramshackle, the shack was typical of the 1950's era vacation cottages that had gone to seed but still existed in large numbers along the Oregon coast.

Warily, Rick approached the shack, staying to one side of the driveway in case he had to dive for cover into the adjacent undergrowth.

As he approached the shack, Rick noticed the skull of a Texas longhorn above the door; the width of its horns was impressive.

At the door, Rick saw it had no peephole.

Rick reached under his jacket, drew his pistol, clicked off the safety, then put the pistol in his jacket's side pocket, pointed the pistol at the door.

Rick kept his finger on the trigger, knocked at the door with his left hand.

Seconds later the door opened.

Nacona looked Rick up and down, said in a heavily accented, growling voice, "Yes?"

"You Charley Three-Eyes?" asked Rick.

Nacona frowned, replied, "What if I am? What's it to you?"

Said Rick, "I hear tell you got some powers. I need advice."

Nacona answered, "I'm a medicine man, a shaman actually. Some around here are aware of that. What you need?"

Rick had formulated a story to break the ice. He said, "I just asked my girlfriend to marry me. The problem is her past. So, I'm a bit concerned about our future together. Can you clue me in as to her motivation, our future?"

"She here?" asked Nacona.

Putting his left hand over his shoulder, keeping his eyes on Nacona, Rick pointed down the driveway to the street. "She's in my car."

"Go get her," ordered Nacona. "I'll see what I can do."

Rick pursed his lips. "What's it gonna cost?"

"You got any Indian blood?"

Rick wagged his head.

Nacona declared, "I get a hundred bucks cash money for a reading."

Rick shrugged, replied, "No problem. Be right back with my girl."

Rick turned about, rapidly strode down the driveway to his car, tapped at the passenger window.

Cynthia Ann rolled down the window.

"Listen," said Rick, "you're gonna have to talk to this character. Be cool, be polite, answer his questions as truthfully as you can without disclosing our mission. Okay?"

Cynthia Ann nodded as she climbed out of the car. The couple then walked to the shack. Nacona motioned them inside. Rick made the introductions.

Though windows provided some light, the interior of the shack was dim. A crackling fire in the fireplace delivered warmth, gave the shack slightly more light and a homey feel.

Nacona pointed out a rocking chair next to the fireplace, said to Cynthia Ann, "Sit there." Cynthia Ann sat.

Nacona sidled over to behind the chair, said, "Now close your eyes and relax. Try to think as little as possible, just meditate on nothing. I'm going to place my hands on the top of your head."

In almost a whisper, Cynthia Ann replied, "Okay."

Slowly, gently, Nacona put both hands atop Cynthia Ann's head, closed his own eyes as he rotated his head to his right, and tilted his head upward.

Nacona then quickly pulled his hands back, turned toward Rick. "You're a cop!" exclaimed Nacona.

"Vice," calmly and nonchalantly replied Rick, hoping to hide his true purpose. "Mostly prostitution and human trafficking, sex crimes, minors in possession, gambling violations, that sort of thing. With the legalization of pot in this state, my work load's not all that bad now."

Nacona, reached behind his back, under his sweatshirt, pulled a small pistol out of the waistband of his trousers, pointed it at Rick, who recognized the pistol as a Berretta Nano.

"Okay, paleface, hands up," ordered Nacona. "Then, using your thumb and forefinger you're going to grab the butt of your pistol, slowly remove it from its holster, place it on the floor."

Rick said, "It's not in my holster; it's in my jacket pocket." Rick figured that if he reached into his pocket as far as the trigger, Nacona would shoot. Rick slowly slid his hand into the pocket just far enough to reach the pistol's butt. He then slowly pulled his pistol out of the pocket as demanded, placed the pistol on the floor.

With a wicked snarl, Nacona said, "Now you and your squeeze are going into the garage.

"No we're not," said Cynthia Ann.

Nacona stepped to his left, turned a bit so he could keep Rick in view, also see Cynthia Ann.

She was standing, having carefully and silently pushed herself up out of the chair. In her right hand, she held a revolver, pointing it directly a Nacona's head.

Rick immediately recognized the pistol as the Ruger .357 magnum revolver he'd inherited from his dad, which was kept in the drawer of Rick's nightstand. Rick lowered his arms.

Rick didn't know that Cynthia Ann had brought the revolver. He grinned because of Cynthia Ann's action.

Nacona judged Cynthia Ann. He knew from his reading that previously she'd led a hard life. Her eyes held a sharp glint. Her snarl was genuine. Deliberately, she cocked back the pistol's hammer as she sniffed her disdain, said, "Go ahead, make a move you jerk."

Nacona knew better. He knew how cold-blooded whites could be. This one appeared worse than most.

To Nacona's impression, Rick added a comment. "My fiancée seems sweet as sugar, but I suspect if your powers are as good as you say, you know about her past. If you've ever met such a woman, you know how hard they are, how hard their profession makes them."

"Don't shoot," said Nacona. "I'm putting my piece on the floor."

Slowly, Nacona bent over, laid his weapon on the floor, stood up.

Rick pulled handcuffs out of a pants pocket. "Put your hands behind your back," he said.

After cuffing Nacona, Rick recovered his pistol, pointed it at Nacona's head, and said, "Now kneel."

After Nacona knelt, Rick said to Cynthia Ann, "There's a set of manacles in the trunk of the car. Go get 'em sweetheart."

After Cynthia Ann put the pistol in her purse, left for the car, Rick picked up Nacona's Berretta, enabled the safety, said, "Nice. I like Berettas."

Rick put the pistol in a jacket pocket, then stepped back, putting distance between him and his prisoner.

Rick mirandized Nacona, added, "You're an idiot. I was gonna bust you for fraud. Depending on the judge, you maybe would have received some time in the county lock-up."

"Threatening a police detective with a firearm, the fraud case, holding my fiancée and me captive, whatever else comes up –- you're going to the state pen for a long, long time."

Nacona's reply was a telling silence.

Cynthia Ann returned.

Rick manacled Nacona's ankles, loudly exclaimed, "On your feet!"

Rick shoved Nacona out the door and the pair started down the driveway. It was slow going given Nacona was manacled.

After closing the door, Cynthia Ann followed.

At the car, Rick told Nacona, "You get any ideas of trying to make a break for it, let me tell you, my gal is a crack shot. I gotta buddy who told me you shouldn't teach your woman to shoot. He declares that there's a high statistical probability you yourself will be shot. I taught Cynthia Ann anyway, figured I might need her help someday. Looks like I was right."

Cynthia Ann pulled the pistol from her purse, drew back the hammer, held the pistol at her side.

Rick eased Nacona into the passenger side rear seat, knelt to one knee. Rick unlocked one side of the manacle, wrapped the chain around the nearest front seat support strut, put the manacle back on Nacona's ankle.

Rick fastened Nacona's seat belt and shoulder strap. Then, keeping an eye on Nacona, Rick said to Cynthia Ann, "I want you to drive so I can keep an eye on Charley. Okay?"

Cynthia nodded, went to the other side of car, and took the driver's seat.

Rick closed the rear passenger door, climbed into the car, fastened his seat belt, and kept the shoulder strap off to the side. He turned sideways in the seat, keeping an eye on Nacona while saying, "Let's go."

Rick pulled out his cell-phone, called the Polk County Sheriff's office, and told them what he had done.

There was no more talking until they were on highway 101, headed north.

His eyes firmly fixed on Nacona, Rick said, "Listen pal, you can make things easier on yourself if you fess up. My statement to the D.A. might help you during your sentencing."

Nacona sniffed, then said, "I don't think you will understand what happened."

"Try me."

Nacona shook his head, replied, "You know I'm a shaman?"

"Sure."

"Most whites don't believe in this stuff," said Nacona.

"Try me."

Nacona was quiet for a moment as he found his words, then started his explanation. "I'd hang out in the casino, playing a few slots, listening for jackpot alarm bells.

"If an alarm went off, I'd stroll over to that slot as if I was a curious onlooker. If the winning jackpot was small enough not to require me to fill out any tax forms, I'd stroll back to my own slot, make a note of the location and type of the winning slot, the date, the exact time."

In a not so sure voice, Rick replied "Okay?"

Nacona continued, "Here's the part you might not get. I'd hang out at the casino for a bit, you know, just in case there were other jackpots. When I started to get tired, I'd go home.

"Next day, I'd take some yage' -– a type of medicine we use.

"I'll make this as simple as possible for you. After some singing and other ceremonial activities, I'd go into a trance caused mostly by the medicine."

"I'm then able to talk to myself in the past, pass along the details of the jackpot. Then it's a simple matter of me in the past to show up at the casino well before the time of the jackpot, find the slot. When it's free I'd sit at it, start to play. At the time of the jackpot, I win."

"Wait a minute!" exclaimed Rick. "Are you telling me you can change the future? That's impossible!"

As Nacona smiled softly, shook his head, Cynthia Ann barged into the conversation. "Rick honey, listen to me."

Still keeping his eyes on Nacona, Rick said, "Go ahead."

Excitedly, Cynthia Ann explained, "You know that really funny sitcom I like, the one about those nerdy scientists in Pasadena who all work together at some university?"

"Sure."

"Well, they had this episode where one of the scientists, he talked about multiple universes where he lived in all of them, but did different things."

Nacona interjected with, "Listen to your lady."

"I've heard of that theory," said Rick. "You really expect me to believe all this mumbo-jumbo?" asked Rick of Nacona.

Again, Cynthia Ann spoke up. "You remember Jo, that lady I took my yoga lessons from?"

"Sure."

Cynthia Ann drew in a deep breath. Her eyes fixed firmly on the road, she continued, "She was into meditation. It was part of her class, actually. I really didn't pay much attention to that part, but I do remember her talking about achieving soul travel or something."

Nacona huffed, then spoke. "It works better if you got the right drugs."

To Nacona, Rick asked, "So tell me Charley, if you're in these alternate universes, why do you need all the money?"

Replied Nacona, "There's a bank in Lincoln City that has branches all over the country. I've got an account there. There's also a branch in Oklahoma that's near our rez.

"I'm in cahoots with a medicine man on the rez. He's following my wishes, buys up land around the rez. That way we get back some of what you white devils took from us."

Rick drew in a deep breath, blew it out, said, "Sheesh, I don't know. This all sounds screwy to me, but you know, me being a detective in the vice-squad, I've seen a lot of weird stuff."

Cynthia Ann chuckled.

"Your reading of Cynthia Ann was right on the money. Obviously, you've got some powers and have got something going for you... I'd be stupid not to believe you."


* * *

A section of the Spirit Winds Casino parking lot was dedicated to RVs. The County Sheriff's Office maintained a doublewide trailer on one edge of that section.

Near the trailer was a flagpole, a trashcan, and two park benches.

Rick sat Nacona on one of the benches, wrapped Nacona's manacle chain around a bench leg, and then passed the handcuff chain through one armrest support.

Rick then said to Cynthia Ann, "Go inside, and tell the deputy we're here."

Shortly after Cynthia Ann entered the trailer, she emerged with the deputy. Cynthia Ann went down the stairs while the deputy stood on the porch, hands on the railing as he leaned forward.

"Good work," said the deputy with a nod and a broad smile.

"We gotta patrol unit just a few miles north. I'll radio the unit, have 'em haul our perp here over to the county lock-up."

"Thanks" said Rick. "Then I can go home."

The deputy went back into the trailer.

Cynthia Ann cozied up to Rick, asking, "Okay if I go over to the casino, use the lady's room, visit the gift shop?"

"Don't see why not," replied Rick.

After a quick peck to Rick's cheek, Cynthia Ann began her walk to the casino. Flirtaceously, she waggled her hips while strolling away from her fiancé. Rick snorted, turned toward the nearby bench, and crossed his arms while looking down upon Nacona, who defiantly met Rick's gaze.

"Looks like we'll soon be parting company," remarked Rick.

"For now," said Nacona.

The other bench faced Nacona's bench, was a few feet away. Keeping his eyes on Nacona, Rick backed over to the other bench, sat.

"So," said Rick, "I've been wondering. If you've been depositing your ill-gotten gains to a bank account in many different universes and if the land buys are made in those different universes. . . Well, I'm kinda wondering how it's all going to come together in one place, one time, to make a sizable chuck of real estate?"

Around a knowing smile, Nacona replied, "The Big Father, or Great Spirit as he's mostly called, he'll sort it all out soon. You white devils, lately you been yappin' about the approach of the end times, the end of days."

"The Star People, they told my ancestors about the Storm God, who will soon rid our beloved land of evil ones –- the white devils and other races who have stolen our lands, our lives, our livelihoods. Just before that happens, thanks to me and The Big Father, we will regain much of our past lands. Our warriors will defend our land against you white devils during what you call the Tribulation."

Rick made no reply while pondering Nacona's words.

Several crows had been flying round and round the parking lot. Occasionally one or other of the crows, with much cawing, would descend to the ground, devour some found scrap of food.

Nacona intently watched the crows. One of crows cawed repeatedly, then flew down to a spot in front of Nacona, not far from him.

As Rick watched, the crow shivered, shook, turned away from Nacona, and trotted away.

Trotting clumsily, the crow extended its wings, began to flap them, eventually took to the air. The crow circled about for a moment, then flew off to the east.

Rick turned his attention back to Nacona.

Nacona was slumped on the bench. Rick looked for signs of breathing. There were none.

Rick rose, crossed over to Nacona, felt for a pulse, first on Nacona's wrist, then on his neck. There was no pulse.

Rick looked up, sighted the far off crow, and watched until it disappeared behind a hill.

Rick smiled as he wagged his head, then removed the cuffs and manacle, and stored them in his pockets. Rick had no doubt that Nacona had transferred his spirit to the crow, was now headed off to his home reservation.

Rick realized that Nacona had known all along the sequence of events, thus had surrendered with no opposition.

Rick wondered why Nacona hadn't left before their encounter in order to avoid all the hassles. Knowing Nacona, Rick figured there must be a good reason.

Rick went into the trailer, told the deputy to summon the County Coroner. Rick went back outside to the near bench, sat. He pulled out his cell phone, punched a forefinger at it a few times, put it to his ear.

"Go ahead and play some video poker, honey. We got some time. Might as well enjoy yourself while you still can."

It was almost an hour before the Coroner arrived, checked the body. After she got a statement from Rick, the Coroner and her assistant lifted Nacona's body onto a gurney, covered it with a sheet, loaded it into the van, and drove off.

Rick went to the casino to find his fiancée. The Spirit Winds Casino had an excellent buffet. Rick figured Cynthia Ann would enjoy a meal.

As he walked, Rick thought about Cynthia Ann's eating habits. He decided he needed to talk to her about her eating so much. She needed to stay in shape. Tough times were approaching.


THE END


© 2016 C.E. Gee

Bio: C.E. Gee (aka Chuck) misspent his youth at backwater locales within Oregon and Alaska. In his days, he answered many callings: logger (choker setter) meat packer, Vietnam War draftee infantryman, telecom technician, volunteer fireman/EMT, light show roadie, farmer, businessperson, sysop/webmaster. He is currently retired, a disabled veteran, and now writes SF stories. Chuck maintains a blog at http://www.kinzuakid.blogspot.com. His last Aphelion appearance was Switcheroo in our April, 2016 issue.

E-mail: C.E. Gee