Lost and Found

“What the eff is that?” I mumble to myself as I continue to trudge up the game trail. I can’t help but scout around to see if there’s anybody – or perhaps, simply a body, dead — anywhere about.

Thankfully, there isn’t. And I can’t help wonder aloud, “How in the hell do you lose something like this out in the middle of nowhere?”

Puzzled, I scan the horizon in all directions back to where I’m standing. There’s absolutely nothing out in the vastness of this shadow-cast landscape, besides a few wild Mustang and a couple of Pronghorn Antelope, that says ‘man has been here.’

My mind quickly recalls the scene of the empty coke bottle, found by the hunter, after being tossed from an airplane in the 1980 movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” as I look towards the wide-open blue sky above me. “Candid Camera,” also flashes into my thoughts, yet I doubt anyone would go to such extreme lengths to try a capture a person’s reaction to such a sight some 40 miles from civilization.

Besides, the desert’s too damned hot this time of year to spend a bunch of time and money hoping someone will traipse up a singular trail, one that looks and feels like so many others in the nearby canyons. So, after picking it up (its heavier than it looks) and reviewing it for any identification, I head back the half-mile or so to my truck, parked at the trail-head, with the awful knowledge that I’m going to have to explain how and where it was found, to people who are by nature, skeptical of such odd discoveries.

“Damn it,” I complain, “I never seem to find anything good — it’s always weird shit like this prosthetic leg.

 

Death in a Single Swallow

Sleep never came easily to Manny. To combat it, he could often be found taking lonely walks at all hours of the night or morning.

Oddly, one of the more comforting places he would visit in the dark was the century-and-a-half old Hebrew Cemetery, nearby on Angel Street above the University of Nevada, Reno. There was something about the place that calmed his soul.

Other times, he could be seen wandering the sidewalks of Virginia Street. Where and when he walked, he let his body decide, allowing his mind the pleasure of following along.

One late evening as he slipped quietly between the headstones of the cemetery,  a large, ungainly figure accosted him. Without a word of warning, he picked the smaller man up and tossed him, as one would a rag-doll over the wrought-iron fencing, before disappearing into the shadows.

Shaken, but uninjured, Manny quickly got to his feet and rushed around the outside of the cemetery and re-entered, intent on challenging whoever it was that had manhandled him. Angry, he shouted, “Come and face me fairly, you cowardly son-of-a-bitch!”

A long shadow cast itself over the headstones and came to rest at Manny’s feet. He followed it with his eyes, until he saw the man-shaped thing standing slightly outside the light of the overhead street lamp.

Frightened, Manny backed out of the cemetery and retreated to his apartment hoping for safety. Over the next two nights, he refused to go out after dark and often saw the large thing, looming in the darkened distance, watching him, waiting.

After some Internet research, Manny realized what he’d encountered and now he had to devise a way to defeat it. That morning, he rushed to the grocery store and purchased two large, red apples.

Come the evening of that third night, Manny acted on his knowledge; he slipped out his bedroom window and down to the street. He knew of a vacant building being renovated on South Virginia, where a face-off could take place.

It was an elderly building, built during the early years of Reno, once used as a car dealership for the Dodge Brothers. Long abandoned, it was soon to become a restaurant and anchor location for the up-and-coming Midtown district of the ‘Biggest Little City.’

Manny applied pressure to the backdoor of the building, pushing it in to make entry. There, he found a cardboard box and set it on end, placing the two apples on it.

He waited for darkness to fall, knowing the man-thing would eventually track him down. It wasn’t a long wait.

Though very large and heavy, the figure moved both quietly and quickly through the doorway and stood before Manny, his upturned box and the apples. “Because this building has the sign of the Hebrew on it, it will not stop me,” it whispered in a gravelly voice.

Surprised, Manny said, “I had know idea you could speak. And the sign is only symbolic.”

“There is much I can do, that you would not know about,” the man replied.

“So why are you following me?”

“You have trespassed where you are not wanted.”

“I’ve walked around that cemetery many times, so why now?”

“I do not care for ‘why,’ only that I obey my master. You must obey, too.”

“Whose’s your master?”

“He is dead. I can no longer speak his name. I do his bidding.”

“Maybe you can explain this as we share some these apples I brought as a peace-offering.”

“I will gladly eat, but it will bring no peace.”

“And why’s that?”

“It has been so directed and I must obey.”

“What must you do.”

“Put trespassers to death.”

“Very well, but first, eat.”

Manny could feel the fear pulsing through his entire body as he handed one of the apples to the man-thing. Next, he picked up the remaining apple and took a bite of it, encouraging the other to do the same.

To his astonishment, the man-thing placed the entire fruit in his mouth and swallowed. Meanwhile, Manny quietly chewed his bite.

“You have tricked me!” the figured growled a second before crumbling to dust.

Amid the dust was the uneaten apple. On one side of it, the Hebrew letters, aleph, mem and tav were neatly carved, with a slash struck through the letter ‘aleph.’

As Manny swept up the remains, taking it to the dumpster outside, he reviewed his findings: the three letters together mean ‘truth,’ but without ‘aleph,’ the word became ‘death.’  And while he knew some Golem could speak, he could find nothing in the Torah or other related manuscripts that showed the mud figure was overly intelligent.

As Manny walked towards home, he concluded that nearby or not, he’d have to find another place to frequent besides his favorite cemetery. “Too dangerous.”

Rabbitholed

When he first entered the opening, Aaron surely knew which way was up. He also had a certainty that he could find his way back, especially after he located the stairwell leading downward.

Somehow though, between the heaviness of the air and the extreme darkness, Aaron realized he was confused. He stopped, trying to gather his senses, and to make a decision: continue down or head upward.

Finally, decision made, Aaron turned back the way he had come, and yet he felt he was still going deeper into the hole. “This is what becomes of chasing white rabbits,” he complained.

 

The Clever Herr Duerr

The clever Herr Johann Duerr had the art of the sale down to a science; wait a day after the latest attack and show up in town with the remedy. In this case, Vampire Killing Kits.

Not only did his kit come with Holy Water, a Bible, a large crucifix and smaller rosary bead set, it included a thick pre-sharpened wooden stake, and cloves of Eastern European garlic, with seeds for starting one’s own garlic patch on the kitchen window sill.  It was also portable, making it even more desirable to a potential buyer.

“Das trick ist to arrive at der highest point ov fear, und offer ein solution,” he once told a fellow door-to-door salesman, who specialized in Fuller Brushes. “In dis line ov verk, das must find ein gimmick to help sell das goots, ja?”

From town to town he moved, seeming to know where the next ‘gruesome and unholy’ death would take place. Then Herr Duerr would go about the neighborhood and ply his trade with ease.

Then came the Internet — and then came the change in sales tactics. Gone were the day’s of Herr Duerr’s knocking door-to-door; now all he needed do was take world-wide sales request’s from vampire enthusiasts and email fear-filled household’s with targeted campaigns featuring pictures, descriptions and the prices of his line of six ‘life saving’ kits, which all came with a 90-day satisfaction ‘or your money back’ guarantee.

“Tank you, Mister Bram for das help,” he’d often snicker as he counted the day’s receipts, which included names and addresses. “You haff created a myth das ist so untrue das ist laughable und zoon ein vill prove miene point.”

He knew that the fear of another attack, a young woman, dead, drained of her life-essence, would add to the value of his personalized Vampire Killing Kit. This, and the fact that he was also the cause of these fears, meant that the clever Herr Johann Duerr – a vampire by night and intrepid Internet entrepreneur by day – never once failed to meet his personal quota in over 120-years.

Wooden Wing Frame

A few weeks before the tearing down of the Nevada Hereford Ranch barn and other outbuildings in Spanish Springs, Nevada, I decided to go exploring the buildings that weren’t locked. In one of the outbuildings I found the remains of a wooden wing frame, a throwback to when the National Reno Air Races were held in the area and not at the airport in Stead, Nevada. I don’t think anyone thought to salvage the wing for history’s sake.

Hair of Man

“We gotta do something about this,” Maggie Winslow complained as she held up a wad of hair larger than a softball which she’d pulled from the dryer’s lint trap. “And I don’t even wanna think about what it’s doing to the washer.”

Her husband, took the hair from his wife and sighed, “I’ll do a better job. I promise.”

She wrapped her arms around Harm, “I know it’s not really your fault. I’m jus’ frustrated with it, that’s all.”

“Well, I’ll do a better job about not making a mess with all this hair,” Harm responded.

He stepped into the garage and dropped the mass into the garbage can. Harm reflected back, realizing that he couldn’t remember a time in his adult life where it hadn’t been this way.

Each month, he readied himself for the hunt, purchasing used-up clothing from various second-hand stores, placing clean clothes in a gym bag, tucked behind his trucks’ seat. Each month, he returned home with a dozen or more coyote hides to be prepped, cured and set for sale in Southern Oregon and Idaho.

The next morning Harm kissed Maggie as she lay in bed, “I’ll be back in a couple of days.”

“Okay,” she smiled. “Be careful. I love you.”

“Love you, too.” Less than two minutes later, he backed out of their driveway, pointing the truck north and east towards his hunting ground.


“Let’s see what this bird can do,” the Nevada Army National Guard pilot stated to the other four men over the CH-47F Chinook helicopter’s internal audio system. It was a few minutes after sunset as the aircraft lifted off from the Reid Army National Guard Training Center near the Stead Airport, north of Reno, proceeding north-east over the open terrain of the high desert.

Night time training was nothing new to these men a they’d done it several times before. In fact, training at night was a particular thrill as the two side-door mini-gun operators and the rear-door gunner could firing their weapons.

Twenty-minutes later, and far from known civilization, the first request came from the rear-door operator, “Permission to get wet.”

“Roger,” came the response, followed by a sudden burst and slight shudder through the craft.

Below, racing to avoid the rotor wash and heavy thumping sound, three packs of coyote’s sprinted towards the nearest hillside. Each gunner took turns blasting away at the frightened animals as soon as they came into sight.

“Holy crap!” shouted the gunner on the port-side of the craft, “Did you see the size of that one?!”

“No,” responded the other operators. Someone then asked, “Did you get’em?”

“I think so – led him for a burst before he tumbled out of sight.”

The pilot, listening in on the conversation, moved the helicopter closer to the ground and passed over the area in which the animal went down. After the third fly over, they continued on mission, completing a full shakedown of the Chinook before returning to the training center.


Day four since her husband, Harm had left for his monthly coyote hunt and Maggie began to worry. The full moon had long since lost a sliver of it’s once bright self in the night-time sky.

“It’s not like him to disappear like this,” she cried to the Washoe County deputy taking her report. She had given him a note Harm had written a couple of years before, explaining where he like to go hunting and where to look if something happened.

Two days later, a local resident walking her dog along Hungry Mountain Road noticed a blue truck parked along County 165. It had been there over a week and suspicious, she called the sheriff’s office to report it.

Within half-an-hour, two deputies pulled up near the vehicle to check it out. After radioing in the license plate, they confirmed it belonged to the missing Harm Winslow.

Though no one suspected foul-play, a full-out search began. It was two men, searching, driving an off-road-vehicle that first noticed the chewed up ground and the strewn about and decaying carcasses of coyotes and called it in.

Less than an hour later search crews discovered the naked, torn up body of Harm Winslow. He’s been raked by a large-caliber weapon, but had somehow managed to crawl under a creosote bush before curling up and dying.

“Naked and shot to death?” was the resounding question of anyone who viewed the scene, followed by, “It doesn’t make any sense.” In the distance and out of sight of searchers and investigators, a group of coyote’s howled in raucous unison from the base of a nearby hillside.

When the deputy and the chaplain came to Maggie’s front door to tell her that they’d found Harm deceased, they thought her response strange when she half-laughed, half-cried, “And to think, he promised to take care of the hair problem.”

Suspecting, Mrs. Winslow was not handling the news very well, “Can I call someone for you?” the chaplain offered.

“Yes, Harm’s niece,” Maggie said. “Her name is Alycn. Here’s my cellphone.”

Another Nevada Strange

It’s perhaps one of the hardest news stories I had to cover when it happened in 2008; 19-year-old Brianna Denison goes missing from a friend’s Reno, Nevada home, only to be found murdered and abandoned in a field. Her murderer was eventually caught and now awaits his turn in the state’s death chamber.

Then last January, nearly 10-years to the day, Brianna’s cousin, 19-year-old Caitlin Denison (also of Reno) disappeared after flying from Northern Nevada to Midland, Texas and remains missing.

If you have any information about Caitlin, contact the Missing Persons Clearing house at (512) 424-5074 or on the helpline at (800) 346-3243 or the Midland County Sheriff’s Department at (432) 688-4600.

Wish

Months ago, I turned down a neighbor’s offer of a dog and I never forget to turn off my Television. However tonight, I wish this were different.

The evening is warm with an ever so slight breeze, which sighs unheard through a broken window. Oh, how I wish that shattered pane of glass were simply a tempest’s misdeed.

Tonight, I’m home alone and I really wish those footsteps I hear creeping up from behind, could be my imagination gone wild. And as I turn to face my terror, I wish I could die of fright.

Sometimes, wishes do come true.

Killer Shrimp

Depressed, Gordo looked at the razor blade and shuttered. He contemplated suicide time and again throughout the past two days, but couldn’t find a way that suited him.

“Freakin’ gun’s too messy,” he told himself. Besides, Gordo didn’t have one.

Plummeting to his death made his hands sweat, knees quake and stomach churn. Gordo even examined the various kinds of rope at the hardware store.

“Doesn’t anyone make a good old-fashioned hemp rope anymore?” he observed.

As he left the store, Gordo caught the scent of cooking food. He hadn’t eaten in the last 24-hours and the smell nearly overwhelmed him.

“That’s it!” he exclaimed, “Death by food.”

For the next hour Gordo ventured from one diner to another, looking for his piest de resistance. “A man’s gotta eat,” he proffered, “What happens afterward, well that’s not up to me.”

Gordo smile, “One order of Thai peanut sauce prawn’s to go, please.”

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 11 (Alternate Ending)

“Black Rock, Nev. (AP) – A woman found dead in desert has marring the opening of this years ‘Burning Man’ festivities. The cause of death is still being investigated. Authorities have not released her name pending notification of next of kin.”

The search stretched on for days, weeks and even months, but no other sign of the Winap-Denault woman was found in or around the caves. The case might have been forgotten and left as two dusty file boxes on a shelf if it hadn’t been for two off-roaders playing on the ash-white dust of the Black Rock desert.

“Yeah, Sheriff, you need to come out here and see this,” the deputy told his boss via cellphone.

The Deputy refused to explain any further, citing the fact that anyone with the right technology could listen in on what was being said. So as not to belabor the point, the Sheriff said, “Okay, I’m on my way.”

Less than 45 minutes, the Washoe County Sheriff’s helicopter, Raven appeared in the southwestern sky. The pilot deftly touched the skids in the sandy loam despite his inability to clearly see the ground from above due to the dust the rotors kicked up.

The sheriff waited until the blades of the craft had slow sufficiently to allow most of the playa’s dry earth to settle before getting out and joining his deputy. “What’s so important that I had to see this dead body first hand?”

“Something strange about this,” he answered. “I can’t find a single foot, tire print or a drag mark anywhere around her. And from the lack of trauma to the body, it doesn’t seem that she was dropped from a plane or anything. It’s like she simply appeared out of thin air.”

“That’s absurd. The wind probably wiped the prints away.”

“No, sir. There are prints out here from years ago. I mean I can show you were the truck was driven and the horse chased down during the filming of ‘The Misfits.’ They’re still out there.”

The Sheriff rubbed his chin, perplexed by the scene as he stepped closer to the naked body, save for a single sock on her left foot. “Have you taken photographs, yet?”

“First thing after I met with the witnesses, who are over there by my vehicle.”

“Okay. I agree that somethings off here. I’ll notify the coroner’s office and get an evidence team out here.”

He squatted down and touched the alabaster-white skin of the dead woman and shook his head. The Sheriff knew it was going to be a long day as walked back to the helicopter, climbed in and directed the pilot to return to the office.

As the aircraft lifted away, he saw the deputy pulling a yellow tarp from the back of his truck, to use as a cover for the body. The body was laying on it’s left side, as if peacefully at rest.

Hour’s later the county coroner called the sheriff’s direct number. “I can’t find any reason for this woman’s death,” he stated.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” the Sheriff responded. “And I don’t think you’ll ever find a cause.”

“Yeah? Why’s that?”

“She’s been missing nearly 30 years.”

“Bullshit! How can that be? This woman’s 19 or 20 years old, if she’s a day.”

“Look, we’ve run the prints your office sent us three times now. Same result, Marilyn Winap-Denault, born April 5, 1972, went missing July 20, 1991 out by the Lovelock Cave in Pershing.”

“That would make her nearly 46. But…”

“I know…”

“But how? There’s no freezer burns, putrefaction or even mummification. There’s not a mark on her body.”

“If I had the answer to that, we’d be a step closer to solving this thing – but so far I haven’t an explanation. Hell, we can’t even find her next of kin at the moment.”

“So what next?”

“Right now, we’re waiting to see if Pershing County has any files remaining on the case. If they do, we’ll go from there.”

“And if they don’t?”

“We’re gonna have to start from scratch.”

“Something else that’s weird is her stomach content…”

“Yeah?”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say she had fried chicken, potato salad and chips for lunch today along with some beer.”

“Don’t know what to tell ya, other than go home, eat, relax and we’ll get back at it come tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah,” the Coroner said, “With a strange case like this, that’ll be easier said than done.”

“I know what you mean,” the Sheriff replied. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” responded the Coroner as he hung up. He looked at the body laying on his autopsy table and mindlessly asked her, “Where in the hell have you been for the 27-years?”

Some Family History

 My cousin Autumn and I share the enjoyment of researching our family’s history. She recently sent me a picture of my great uncle, Vince Darby (born in 1910) from his time in the U.S. Navy, during World War II. I need to find out more information about his service. The second is my great aunt Melzine, Vince’s wife (born in 1912.)  She’s a Childress/Timmons/Darby and makes a pretty cute farm girl during the Great Depression. The final picture is of the two of them together, date unknown.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 11

“Reno, Nev. (AP) — The remains of 38-year-old Almarinda deOliveria have has been found. She disappeared in January. Authorities have said there was no evidence of foul play.”

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said deOliveria body was located Rose Creek Canyon, close to where her cell phone was found. Two hunters, out scouting for deer, found her remains and alerted authorities.

Prior to her disappearance, her mother passed away following a lengthy illness. That and the failure of a years-long spiritual retreat left her despondent. It’s believed by both the family and the Washoe County medical examiners office, that she took her own life.

They couldn’t explain why they hadn’t been able to locate her when she first went missing other than to have a spokesperson say, “The landscape can make it very difficult to spot a person either from the air or the ground. In the case of Almarinda, she was located between to large rock outcroppings and was clothed in a gray-colored blanket, obscuring her from view.”

Meanwhile, two file boxes containing the investigative notes on the disappearance of Marilyn Winap-Denault remain housed in the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office’s evidence locker. The case remains open.

Long since retired, the younger of the two detectives recently told a news reporter, “It’s the one case we could never solve. And honestly, I don’t think I’ll live long enough to learn what happened to Marilyn. I guess you can say that her vanishing waits for the desert to give up its long held secret.”

Lights can still be seen after dark and wild laughter and crying can be heard echoing through out the area surrounding Lovelock Cave at all times of the day. And the local Paiute-Shonsone tribes people continue to avoid the area at night.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 10

As Jim and Susie and the other three conspirators raced back to the village, other’s also in on the killing, torched the medicine woman’s wickiup, her clothes and all her belongings so nobody in the tribe could use them. Her rattles, eagle feathers, shells, stones, animal skins and medicinal herbs all went up in smoke and by doing so, Winnescheika ghost could not return, seeking vengeance on the tribe.

They might have gotten away with it, but there was a witness to the execution. Winnescheika’s twelve year old niece, Lizzie Cinnibar Winap, who had followed her aunt to Jim’s camp.

She was peeking through a curtain when she saw her aunt nearly decapitated. She was so stunned and fearful, that she fled to the sagebrush and stayed there until late the next morning.

Eventually news of the killing reached Deputy F. M. Fellows, the Lovelock area’s only lawman and because none of those involved, including Winnescheika, were reservation Indians, the Indian Affairs Bureau took no interest in the killing one way or the other. It was left up to Fellows to send a wagon and several men out to retrieve Winnescheika’s body and arrest Jim, Susie, Jennie and the fourth woman.

After receiving the report of the Lovelock coroner the four accused murderers were bound over to the Grand Jury in Winnemucca. Three weeks later, on May 24, the same jury found sufficient evidence to bring Jim, Susie and Jennie to trial, but because she appeared in court with a baby at her breast, charges were never filed against the fourth woman in the case.

During the trial, the principal witness, an older Paiute who claimed to be a judge among his people, said that it had always been the custom among his people to ferret out witches and put them to death. Such persons, he said, often assumed the guise of a medicine man or woman and inevitably revealed themselves when their patients began to die and that in such a case it fell to the friends and relatives of her victims to kill her and dispose of the body.

He further stated that his grandfather told him that in years past the Indians, like the whites, burned supposed witches at the stake as well as stoned them to death on occasion.

When brought to the witness stand, all three of the defendants claimed that they thought their act was for the good of the tribe and professed an inability to under stand why they were being held in the white man’s jail. The jury met in the afternoon and returned a verdict of second-degree murder within an hour, a sign that although the killing was clearly premeditated, there were mitigating circumstances which precluded a “first-degree verdict which would have surely meant hanging at worst or a life sentence at best.

Two days later Judge Cheney sentenced the trio to ten years in the state prison, with their sentences beginning on June 22, 1891. Within months after their incarceration, Chief Naches and Captain Dave of the Pyramid Lake Reservation were petitioning Nevada Governor Roswell Keyes Colcord for their release.

They were later joined in the appeal by Paiute Chief Johnson Sides, the famous ‘United States Peacemaker,’ who in referring to witches said, “We kill ’em, now for the same reason the white the man killed ’em long ago.”

When the State Board of Pardons met the following year, they released the three on July 14, one year and 21 days from the commencement of their sentences. Winnescheika’s death would be the last execution of a witch in the United States.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 9

With the help of a couple of tribal officers, the search for the man on the opposite side of the gap was made. ‘Shoshoni Johnny’ Hansen was an 83-year-old Paiute who lived by himself and often could be seen wandering the desert in the company of his dog.

“So, did you see anything on that day?”

“I see lots of things. Anything in particular?”

“The day the two women disappeared.”

“Yes. I saw them, but I did not make them disappear.”

“What can you tell us about what you saw.”

“I saw a red car with four girls in it. When it left there were only two girls in the car.”

“Didn’t that seem strange to you?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“I figgered the Nimerigar got the other two.”

“Nimerigar?”

“Yes. The little people. Bad. Don’t like humans and will eat them, both Whites and Indians.”

“Did you see these little people?”

“No, I’ve never seen them. I have a dog. They do not like dogs. Afraid of dogs.”

“So, what about the young man who came out to the caves yesterday, did you see him?”

“Yes. Nice motorbike. Always wanted one. Looks like fun to ride.”

“Did you watch him.”

“Watched him until he called out to me. I left because I do not want him calling the Nimerigar’s attention to me. Stupid boy.”

“Anything else that you can tell us?”

“About that day when girls go missing, I saw lights floating in the sky above the caves early in the morning, before sun. I also heard Winnescheika screaming and crying. Came home immediately.”

“Can you describe the lights?”

“Blue. Like a hot fire on a torch, without torch, that move back and forth and up and down. I have seen them before. I always return home when I see them.”

“And you said you heard a scream?”

“Not jus’ a scream – Winnescheika.”

“Winnescheika?”

“A witch. She’s believed to be dead by many, but White man dug her up after her death and her ghost walks the desert not far from where she was buried. If it is the Nimerigar who stole young girl, they have already eaten her, bones too. If it is Winnescheika, her ghost will return her when it is finish using her. Could be long time.”

The detectives looked at each other quickly. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Hansen.”

“You are welcome. Come by again. I enjoyed the visit.”

Once back in the car, “I think the old chief’s cheese has slid off his cracker.” The pair laughed at the remark.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 8

“Lovelock, Nev. (AP) – Search for missing Reno woman resumes after jewelry found. Woman’s husband being held for questioning, possible suspect in disappearance.”

Marilyn’s husband of two-years, Robert Denault was beside himself. He had asked authorities several times if he could help in the search. Each time was met with a resounding “no.”

Now that the search had been suspended, Robert felt he didn’t need to ask permission and instead hopped on his motorcycle and sped his way to the rock outcrops. “They’re bigger than I imagined,” he said as he pulled his helmet from his head.

He wandered up and down the face of the sandy bowl that lay between the many rocks and caves. Using a flashlight, Robert slowly worked his way into the labyrinth of caves that had been ‘discovered’ only 80-years ago by so-called ‘bat guano miners.’

The caves interiors held a dank coolness and a slightly putrefied odor of rotted bat feces. Still he pushed on until he found he could go further, besides by then the batteries in his flashlight had begun to fade, taking with it the light Robert needed to see by.

Once back in the daylight, Robert decided to hike up to the crest of the formation. He hoped to be able to see something, anything really, that might serve as a clue to the disappearance of Marilyn.

Slowly he made his way up between the boulders and outcroppings to the peak of the formation. Looking down he saw nothing but a rock and sage strewn landscape.

However as he looked across the gap between formations, about half a mile away, he saw the figure of a man accompanied by a dog, looking back at him.

“Hey!” Robert shouted as the man turned and disappeared below the ridge-line.

Angered that he’d been ignored, Robert walked over the edge and looked down, hoping to find a quicker way off the rocky formation. There wasn’t, however he did catch a metallic glint between the crags below.

Slowly he lowered himself down to where he’d seen the refection of metal. Finally, he had to lay on his stomach and reach into a fissure in a rock to retrieve the item.

The crack between the fractured rock grew tighter the further he forced his hand and arm into it. Robert nearly gave up, but with a final effort, he thrust his arm clear up to his shoulder and wiggled whatever it was onto his middle finger, pulled it out of the recess in the rock.

Instantly he recognized it, “Marilyn’s watch!” one he’d given her the Christmas before. It had stopped working, the hands pointing to noontime.

Robert hurried down the back side of the cave system. In his rush, he tripped and fell, scraping up his elbow and skinning face.

Knowing he’d never catch up with the man on hill, Robert quickly got on his motorcycle and sped back to Interstate 80, into Lovelock and to the sheriff’s office. There he asked to see the detectives working on his missing wife’s case.

He was not met with happiness. “What the hell were you doing out there?” the older one shouted at Robert. “You were told to stay away!”

“I know,” Robert returned, “But you’ve call off the search, so figured it would be okay for me to go have a look around for myself. Besides,” pointing at Marilyn’s watch, “you missed evidence out there that…”

“Or you planted it!” the detective pointed out. “What – were you out there re-hiding Marilyn’s body – I mean you’re covered in dirt and all scratched up?”

“What? You think I had something to do with her disappearance and now you’re saying I killed her?”

“That’s what it looks like from this side of the table,” the younger detective shot back.

“Well, I didn’t,” Robert responded. “Plus I saw a man standing the ridge across from me. He was watching me and when I hollered at him, he turned and walked down the backside of the hill.”

The two detectives looked at one another. “Do you think he saw you?”

“I know he did.”

The older detective looked at the younger one and said, “We need to find out who that was. That makes three unknown people in this case.”

As they left the interrogation room, the younger detective told the officer outside the door, “Lock him up.”

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 7

Bungy Jim and his wife Paiute Susie, both former patients of Winnescheika’s, were directed to execute the suspected witch. On April 30, 1891, Paiute Susie, laying in her campoodie, pretended to be sick and Winnescheika responded to her late night call for her help.

When she arrived she found Susie in great distress attended by Jim and three Paiute women including Jennie Messa. As she bent over to make her examination Susie called to Jennie, “Strike her now!”

Jennie charged, drawing an ax from beneath a blanket she held, and swung it at Winnescheika’s head. The fatal blow nearly chopped her head in two and as she fell in a rush of blood and brains, a second blow was leveled.

The glancing blow bounced off the side of her head, nearly severing Winnescheika’s ear. Bungy Jim stepped in and finished the job by pulling out a knife and slitting her throat while dragging her body into the yard so the blood could drain off into the soil and not further stain the inside of the wickiup.

“Go get the horses and hitch up the wagon,” Paiute Susie ordered Bungy Jim.

Once he left, the four women hacked Winnescheika’s body into several pieces and stuffed them into barley bags to prevent her spirit from returning to the place of her death. Then they loaded the grisly cargo onto the buckboard and with blood seeping through cracks in the bed of the wagon, headed for Medicine Rock, slightly north of Leonard Rockshelter, some ten miles southeast of the town.

There, they buried the pieces of her body in a five foot deep grave, then hurried back to their village before the sun came up. However, the suspected witch would not stay in the ground for long.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 6

“Lovelock, Nev. (AP) – One woman found, second remains missing. Authorities call off search after no further evidence located. Investigators are seeking information from public about motorcyclist’s seen in area.”

Three days later, with no more signs of either women found, the search was called off. The disappearance, though considered extremely suspicious, was officially listed as a ‘Missing Persons’ case.

Ten days after the two women disappeared, a woman called the Lovelock police station, “A girl jus’ came walking out of the desert, naked, crying and terribly sun burnt.”

The dispatcher told her to keep the girl safe, that both a sheriff’s deputy and an ambulance were en route. It took nearly twenty minutes for the deputy to arrive, with the ambulance pulling onto the long dirt road two minutes later.

“What’s your name?” the deputy asked.

“Lori.”

“We’ve been looking for you, Lori.”

“Why?”

“You were reported missing by your friends.”

“Where are they? Are they okay?”

“One is still missing.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You and Marilyn were reported missing by your two friends.”

“Marilyn’s missing?”

“Yes,” the deputy answered as the paramedics helped her to a stretcher, loading it into the waiting ambulance. The deputy took note of the confused look on the woman’s face as the door to the vehicle closed.

The deputy then turned his attention to the woman who had made the call. “Where did she come from?”

“Over there,” she pointed.

“Did she say anything to you?”

“Not really. She wanted some water, which I gave her. I asked what happened, but she said she couldn’t remember.”

“Thank you ma’am. You did the right thing.”

He walked over to the area where the woman said Lori had appeared, but couldn’t find a single footstep. As he got in his car to leave, he wondered if he should include that information in his report or pretend like he never looked in the first place.

The two original detectives were quickly notified that one of the missing women had been found. They rushed over to the county hospital with the hopes of interviewing her while everything was fresh in her mind.

“She’s going to be okay,” the doctor told them as he ushered the pair into the private room they’d placed Lori in.  With window curtains drawn nearly closed, the woman lay on her back, covered only by a single sheet, her right arm pierced with the needle that held the tubing in which fluid from a clear plastic bag flowed.

“I know this is a difficult time,” one of the detectives said, “But we need to understand what happened to you.”

“I don’t know,” Lori answered, “I was asleep, but can’t recall any thing after that.”

“Nothing? How about a feeling, a sound, maybe an odor or smell?”

She laid there and thought for minute, closing her eye’s as if to see backward, into her memory, “A deep growl. I remember a deep growl. Also the smell of rotten eggs. Does that help?”

“Possibly. How about Marilyn? Do you remember what happened to her?”

“No. I was asleep and she was next to me on the blanket. That’s all I can remember.”

“Okay,” said the doctor, “That’s enough. She needs to rest.”

“Here’s my phone number, call me if you remember something, anything more. Okay?”

“Thank you,” she said as they left the room.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 5

Shortly after sunset, the area came alive with law enforcement from various agencies throughout the northern part of Nevada. The rock formation was laced with caves and hollows that needed to be explored.

As the hours passed, April and Janice sat in separate interview rooms at the county lock-up repeating their answers to questions that detectives had repeated a dozen times. It was early morning when they were released only to learn that neither of their friends had been located.

“So what about those two bikers the women say they saw?” the younger of the two detectives asked.

The older one sipped his half-cold, stale coffee and shook his head, “Personally, I think that story’s a bunch of crap – but we won’t be able to prove it one way or the other till we get out there and have a look for ourselves.”

The two wandered out into the parking lot, to an unmarked patrol car and got in. No sooner had the key turned in the ignition than the radio crackled to life, “They found something and want you out at the scene, pronto!”

Minutes later after pulling up to the site and getting out of the car, “So what do you have for us?”

“A tennis shoe,” came the answer

“Do you know for sure it belongs to one of the women?”

“Matches the description of what one of them were reported to be wearing yesterday.”

“Well, we need to verify that. Bag it and give it to me and we’ll head to Reno and see if either of the other two women recognize it.”

“While were here, we should see if we can find those bike tracks.”

“Yeah, let’s head up there and see if we can get our bearings and a lay of the land.”

Leaving the command center, the two detectives climbed to the top of the largest rock at the site. They looked in the direction that the two woman said they saw the motorcycle riders.

The older of the two checked his wristwatch, “Damned watch has stopped.”

“Hmm. Mine’s gone tits-up as well,” stated the younger of the two, adding, “Must be some sort of magnetic field associated with this outcropping.

The distance from the rocks to where the rise in the hillside began to fall away was further than either man thought. However, once there, the two spread out and quickly located two sets of motor bike tire prints in the loose dirt.

“We need someone to take casts up here,” the younger one radioed to the command center below where they stood. Once they pointed out the prints and watched as an officer took pictures, then carefully poured the plaster, they left for their car.

There wasn’t much conversation between the two men during the drive to Reno. Both were lost in their own thoughts of the investigation, besides there would soon be enough talk to fill a book.

“Did you find her?” April asked after assuring the detectives that it was one of the shoes Marilyn had been wearing. Janice sat on the divan beside her, hoping for good news.

“Not yet, but we’re gonna keep looking.”

April broke down, crying more than she already had. Janice, amid her crying, tried her best to comfort her friend.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 4

Considered very beautiful, the dark-haired, dark-eyed 35-year-old woman showed no signs of aging and was reputed to walk so smoothly that her feet seemed never to touch the ground. Winnescheika was a Shoshone medicine woman who settled among the Northern Paiutes of Lovelock in the fall of 1890.

“There is something bad with her,” came the grumblings of tribe members, “She floats as if she were a ghost – or a witch.”

Though many in the tribe swore that no footprint ever followed in her path, her abilities as a doctor soon won the grudging respect of the suspicious desert dwellers and even the Whites of the area, who sometimes sought her out to minister to their ailments. On occasion she was also called upon to treat cattle and horses since the area lacked veterinary services.

All was not well, however; too many of her patients only worsened and died under her care and illness and bad luck soon came to plague the families of those she treated. The same was the case with previously healthy horse whose stablemates had received her care.

Several dropped dead suddenly or stepped in gopher holes at full gallop, splintering a leg, making their destruction a humane necessity. Others responded with uncharacteristic slowness to the sudden appearance of a deadly rattlesnake, were bitten and ended their lives in agony.

Some of the deaths were perhaps understandable, given the remoteness of the area and the primitive treatments subscribed to by the local Indians, and some were probably attributable to mere chance or bad luck, but there were other unexplained occurrences that soon began to cause much unease among tribesmen. And as a medicine woman, Winnescheika knew well the risks associated with her occupation.

Strange lights were reported to be seen in near Winnescheika’s wickiup and eerie, unearthly screams and laughter were often times heard to echo across the sage covered desert. Spring crops also failed that year, hunters returned empty-handed and cows were found drained of milk on many mornings.

Strange stories about Winnescheika’s past soon began to circulate and it was whispered that she was in reality, a witch who used her healing powers only to gain access to victims. Rumor also had it that her treatment had been responsible for the deaths of five babies at a colony near Austin, eight Paiute men and women on the Stillwater Reservation in Churchill County and many horses wherever she resided for any length of time.

It was during the start of spring 1891, that tribal leaders met in secret and decided that Winnescheika must die.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 3

“Lovelock, Nev. (AP) – Two women are missing after an outing in desert with friends. Foul play not ruled out. Authorities are searching the surrounding canyon and caves.”

Previously known as Sunset Guano Cave, Horseshoe Cave, and Loud Site 18, Lovelock Cave is 150 feet long and 35 feet wide. In 1911 two miners began digging out the bat guano from the cave so that it could be used as fertilizer.

A year later, the first official archaeological search of the site was made by the Museum of Anthropology, University of California to recover any historic materials that remained from the guano mining of the previous year. The cave’s last use is believed to be in 1850 as indicated by a gun cache and a human coprolite, fossilized feces.

Nearby is Medicine Rock, an old formation once used as a meeting place of the local tribes as well as Leonard Rockshelter, a limestone formation ‘discovered’ in 1936. After two hours of exploring the gaps, crags and passages in and around the ‘shelter,’ the two women headed back to find the other two women were still nowhere to be found.

“Damn it,” April complained, “I hope they didn’t wander off and get themselves lost.”

Janice checked her watch, it had stopped at 12-noon. She thought, “I gotta get a new battery when we get back to town.”

She hollered to April who was already at the picnic site picking up what was left of their lunch, “What time do you have?”

She looked at her left wrist, “My watch has stopped, so I don’t know what time it is. Sorry.”

Janice quickened her pace to join up with April. “Did you say your watch stopped?”

“Yes.”

“At what time?”

“Noon.”

“So did mine.”

“That’s kinda creepy, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, that’s why I wanna get outta here.”

“Good idea. Lets find Marilyn and Lori.”

The pair slipped between the rocks that led them to the center of the rock formation. Once through they could both see Janice’s car, but neither Lori or Marilyn were in view.

Janice continued up the road towards the mountains, calling for the two women. April did the same thing has she crested the rise to the south of the rocks, and looked down into an open field of nothing but small boulders, sand and scrub brush.

It wouldn’t take long for them to agree that they needed help in finding their friends. As hard as it was to do, they decided that together they needed to head into Lovelock, to the Pershing County Sheriff’s office and report their friends missing.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 2

The four women piled into the sports car. The driver, Janice Cohen had told them about a great place where they could have a picnic and do some exploring.

Marilyn Winap-Denault, who packed them a lunch, sat in the passenger seat, while Lori Thurman and April Johnson sat in the back seat. Though the speed limit along Interstate 80 averaged 65 miles per hour, Janice ignored it, pressing down on the gas pedal until the car reached nearly 80 miles an hour.

Less than an hour and a half later, Janice wheeled onto a dirt side road. Not long after, a series of rocks jutting up from the desert landscape appeared.

No sooner had the car come to a stop did the women hop from the vehicle. Marilyn carried the picnic basket as Janice point to a gap between the rocks, where they could slip into the inter-sanctum of the granite outcrops.

“This looks more like a movie set than natural,” Alice stated.

“Always got Hollywood on your mind,” Marilyn teased.

“Yup, the future Mrs. Patrick Swayze,” Lori laughed.

“Gotta meet him first before you can marry him,” Janice added.

All four women laughed and quickly spread out a blanket before beginning to serve themselves lunch. In short order, the fried chicken, potato salad and chips were gone and all that remained were six bottles of beer.

After a beer, Janice asked, “I wanna go exploring, whose with me?”

Marilyn was laying on her side, half-asleep and Lori was using her wadded up windbreaker as a pillow. April looked at the two and said, “Let the party poopers sleep. I’ll go with you.”

The two women got up and wandered off between an opening in the rocks. They slowly made their way towards the west edge of the formation where they climbed towards the precipice of the large limestone rock that overlooked their picnic spot.

“So, where’d they go?” April asked Janice of Lori and Marilyn.

She smiled, “Probably back to the car.”

Off in the distance the two women watched as a pair of motorcycles slipped over the hill towards the Interstate and out of sight. “I never heard them as they rode by,” Janice posed.

Her comment was met by April’s look of agreement.

The Fourth Woman: Chapter 1

“Lovelock, Nev. (AP) — Pershing County Sheriff’s Office investigators are continuing to ask the public to be on the lookout for a missing woman, Almarinda deOliveria, after finding her abandoned car in the White Horse Canyon area. She was last seen in Winnemucca on the 10th.”

Deputies confirmed that the car appeared to be ‘out of place,’ but didn’t find any evidence of foul play. There were no items found in the car to show anyone had any food or gear to sustain life in the chill of the high-desert environment.

Based on this information, the sheriff’s office  initiated a search for deOliveria. Deputies, search and rescue teams and helicopter crews spent the next several days in the canyon.

Eventually, they were able to find what they believed to be  deOliveria’s footprints about three miles past the car and further up into the hills. They also found her cell phone, and evidence she may have walked back down and out of the canyon, but no more sign of her was found.

Investigators learned that deOliveria had been on the way to Los Angeles, from Eureka, California, after a yearlong spiritual retreat and they tracked her movements using information from her bank card. Evidence showed that deOliveria had made it south of Modesto, then for an unknown reason turned and started heading east, with her last known transactions being in Winnemucca.

Family members told sheriff investigators that it was unusual for her to be in an area outside of a populated city. The family also went to Winnemucca and found deOliveria had stayed the night at a motel on January 8 and 9, and checked out on the 10th.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has no information on her whereabouts for the time between January 10 and the 14th. As of January 29, no further sign of her had been found by any of the several groups searching for her.

Nearly 30-years earlier as similar incident took place.

Finding a Better Ending

Originally, I wasn’t going to publish tomorrow’s ‘fiction’ chapter story, “The Fourth Woman,” until September. But with the possibility of landing an actual paying job, ‘there’s no time like the present.’

Did I mention, “The Fourth Woman,” is fiction?

If not, let me tell say that it’s fictional, save for unfortunate Winnescheika.  She’s a very real historical figure.

Finally, there are 11 chapters to this story. However, I wasn’t happy with the original draft of the chapter, so I wrote a new one, but have included the original as a bonus ‘alternate ending.’

That way, you decide which ending is better.

The Kiley Ranch Barbecue and Picnic

By most folks  standards, Charlie Vickers was an arrogant bully.  Lord help the cowpoke that didn’t move quick enough for him when he barked an ‘order’ or who gave Charlie even the slightest bit of lip.

He had no problem using his size as a weapon of intimidation, pushing men aside as he cussed them out with great precision. He even managed to bluff the boss-man a time or two.

The only reason anyone kept Charlie around was because he was also one of the finest cowboy’s to come out of Wyoming. If only he hadn’t known it – Charlie might have been a decent fellow.

It was the Friday ahead of the end-of-summer Kiley Ranch Barbecue and Picnic. And like every other year, the boss-man had a large steer culled from the herd and chased into a corral, where it would spend the night before finding its way to the barbecue pit.

And like every year, once Charlie got hired, it fell to the six-four, 300-pound man to kill the unsuspecting animal. Many of us believed that because Charlie enjoyed it so much, he could have been a serial killer in an earlier life.

That night, Charlie took extra time out of his evening before turning in to clean, oil and load the 30-30 that always hung on the wall above the door of the bunk house. Amos Farr and I could hardly wait for Charlie to start snoring before we hauled that gun off the wall and headed out back towards the blacksmith shop.


After the supper bell and with work finished for the day, Charlie was given the go-ahead to kill the steer. With that, he shouted for someone to bring him ‘his’ rifle, though the weapon belonged to the ranch, meaning it was really the boss-mans.

Rifle in hand, Charlie climbed over the fence, jack a shell into the chamber and took aim. The bark of the rifle caused the steer to jump and dash to the far side of the corral.

“What the hell…” muttered Charlie as he tossed the lever forward and back again. It was obviously a surprise to the big man that he’d missed such an easy shot.

Again the rifle barked, and again the steer raced across the corral, this time back to where it had started. At this, Charlie began cussing a blue-streak so loud that the women-folk came out of the ranch house and onto the front porch to see what was the matter.

With the chamber filled and rifle once again aimed, Charlie squeezed the trigger. This time instead of running, the steer backed up into the corner, butt against a corral post and put its head down.

As for Charlie, he was beyond angry. He cocked the weapon and fired again and again as he rushed the steer.

Having had enough and being both agitated and in fear, the steer jumped right at Charlie. With a flick of it’s head, its horns catching him up, the beast tossed the large man like a rag-doll over it’s back and into the post and down all four railings of the corral fence.

We all heard Charlie’s leg snap at the thigh bone as he came to rest on the ground with the steer heading to the far side of the enclosure. Though we knew he was hurt, we couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of the bully finally getting his comeuppance.


After Charlie began sounding off like a buzz-saw on a wobbly drive-shaft, Amos and I took the rifle to the shop, emptied it of it’s shells and removed the bullets from their casings. Leaving the powder in the cases, we next sealed each one up with a personally handcrafted spit-wad to keep the powder in place, followed by reloading the rifle and returning it to its spot on the wall.

When Charlie demanded that the rifle be brought to him, Amos obliged him by retrieving the weapon and handing it off to me. I, in turn, gave it to Charlie, then we stepped back to watch the fun commence.

Neither of us thought Charlie would be so full of bluster that he’d charge head-long at a woolly and scared steer fresh off the range. That’s was his doing and none of ours.

It took only a few minutes for the ambulance to arrive. Normally, one of us would’ve driven him to the hospital like we did with most injuries that didn’t involve the loss of a lot of blood, but the boss-man believed Charlie’s leg was too badly broken for anyone but professionals to care for.

Amos and me never got to attend the barbecue and picnic that year because the boss-man fired us once we admitted to what we’d done. The hardest part to take was his laughter as he recalled Charlie getting bounce by snot-blowing steer while we drew our final pay.

But in the end though, it was worth it to see Charlie taken to the hospital where I’m certain the nursing staff taught him a thing or two about manners. Most all folks with any sort of common sense know you get mouthy with a charge-nurse only once.

The Caw and the Coo

It was a very small room, certainly not big enough for two. Yet there it was with him, resting slightly outside the illumination of the single, naked bulb that burned dull, both night and day for his well-being.

It began two weeks before…

Stanley, a night foreman at the local foundry was trying to sleep. The heat of the summer day though was stifling and he found himself awake long before evening.

Wish for more sleep, he lay on his cot. As he did this, Stanley listened to the cry of what he believed to be a bird as it echoed through his open window.

It took him a few minutes to realize that the crying wasn’t jus’ that of a bird, but of a baby, too. As the baby cried, a Raven answered, attempting to calm the baby’s tears.

Soon, Stanley became aware that the Raven and the baby were cawing to one another. Frightened, he grabbed his long deceased mother’s bible and began praying, fearful that the calling back and forth was between Satan and a minion in training.

Shortly afterwards, he began hearing voices; menacing, evil, growling voices. The voices lead to a fear of shadows and other dark places, making work impossible.

Other workers watched as Stanley became obsessed with the dark and a fear of what lurked in it’s inkiness. A couple of them eventually reported his odd behavior to the local authorities, who felt inclined to take him into ‘protective custody for his own welfare.’

Now, Stanley’s trapped in the confines of an asylum, unable to escape. He knows that whatever is in his padded cell, it’s there to take his life – but it can’t save for that single, naked bulb.

“God! Help me!” he cries when the power suddenly goes out.

Mirage

Joe the Camel was not ‘lost,’ as in not knowing where he was. He knew exactly where he was, though he would have been hard pressed to point out his exact location on a road map.

For others, the desert might stretch out to the horizon in all directions, miles to the nearest bit of humanity, calling such a place absolutely desolate. But to Old Joe, the endless sand-scape is his home.

That’s how ‘banishment’ goes when removed from society. He rarely gave that memory thought after so many years, but he sure could use a cigarette now and then.

A Key to Time Travel

My poor friend H.R.R. Gorman writes these wonderfully serious and thoughtful pieces of science fiction and I come along and screw’em up. In this case, H.R.R.’s three part story, “Inhabitation Machine,” which is about future time travel back in history. Thanks, H.R.R. for the indulgence.

Afan laid back in the brine. He knew well the torments of distant continuum warps.

He glanced at Jarusc, who adjusted dials, tapped view-meters, and waited for the energy to resupply the chrono-engine’s double-Amici prism. If he could have smiled, he would have, for he knew Jarusc was the better operator and not quite cut-out for such rapid transitions from one void to another.

Suddenly, he felt the anti-frictional surge race through his body followed by intense pain. That’s when Afan realized that the restroom key they so valiantly sought – was in his uniform’s pocket all the time.

Too late…

A Mad Dog’s Lament

The cowpoke lived alone,
Visitors, few and far,
Save for that dog that he had.
I would reach down to pet
And he would not allow my touch.
Odd, but I have never
Had this affect — in fact
Ranch dogs naturally like me.
I’ll brag — and without tact,
Puppies, on me, tend to go pee!

How wish I had known
Honest and true as the North-star
Man’s best friend wasn’t so bad.
No, not the dog — it was the man!

Sure – the beast, it did growl, teeth
Laid bare, so ready to bite.
It is what’s beneath
Finally brought into the light,
That while eating our stew,
Until my waistline drew full,
One should never be a tease.
That dog knows, much good it’ll do.
Cowpoke, his ‘hardy-har-har…’

So I shot the man plum through
Jus’ as quick as you please.
It’s so hard to forget
When using a dog’s bowl.

She Braids Her Hair

“We was told not to cross the Carson,” the old man said. “I was a youngin’ then, younger than you are today. That ol’ war Chief said he couldn’t control them warriors on the other side.”

‘Captain’ Asa  Bledsoe, born in 1880, was nearly 102-years old. He wasn’t usually awake during the graveyard shift at the nursing care facility he now called home.

“Come, sit down and talk to me,” he had complained. Though I knew I had things that needed to be done, I couldn’t resist the old man’s plea – besides he told wonderful tales about how it was in the ‘olden days.’

“If my figgerin’s any good still, I think I’s ’bout twelve,” he coughed and I handed him his glass of water. After taking a sip, he continued, “We were a party of ten and Captain Young was the boss, a head strong cuss, not willin’ to listen to no one ‘specially an Injun.”

He paused, seeming to look off into the distance, perhaps remembering, seeing the day in his mind’s eye. “We set up camp not too far off from the river bank.  After, I went down and sat behind a clump of willows near the water thinkin’ about doin’ some fishin’. Chief said there was lots of fish. ”

He cleared his throat and reached for the water-glass. I intercepted him, handing it to him so he didn’t have to lean too far off the bed’s side.

“Never did get to find out on that there day as I watched as the most handsome Paiute squaw came waltzin’ down to river and begin to disrobe. Kinda glad I didn’t get to fish after them science-folk said them fish were poisonous with mercury and all. Anyways, mind you, I’d never saw no nekked womens in my life at the time, so I was kinda surprised but mostly curious.”

“She was elegant in her way of folding up her skirts and blouses. Then slowly she stepped in the water, which even though it was summer and hot as hell, was freezin’. But she entered and like a Goddess, bathed herself right there.”

I simply sat and listened, not  wanting to break the Captain’s reverie or concentration, for fear he’d forget what he was saying and I’d never learn what happened.

“It didn’t take too long fer t’others to take notice of this brazen woman and soon they’ve was settin’ along the bank watchin’ her, too. She looked up and smiled, so I know she know’d we was there, gawkin’ at her particulars.”

“It was all started by Young, hisself. He proceeded to wade into the river towards the maiden. Soon the other eight was waist deep in the stream.”

Bledsoe shook his head and sighed. “Shoulda listened, ‘cause all too soon, them warriors stepped out of the bushes on the opposite side and let loose with gun’s a-blazin’ and arrows flyin’, killin’ ever man-jack of the party, ‘cept me – I never went in the river.”

“The amazing thing is that the woman — I always called her ‘She Braids Her Hair,’ ‘cuz I never did know’d her name or seen her again — amazin’ how even as there was killin’ goin’ on all ’round her, she never flinched or nothin’. I’d remember that little lesson while a-fightin’ in Cuba a few years later and then in France another few years beyond that.”

“And after all’s done, I continued to watch half ‘fraid to move, but curious as any boy’d be, as she rose up, step-by-step from the river, then got down on her knees facing the river, back rod straight, head held high and braided her wet hair into a long tail, kinda like the Chi-nee Coolies used to do.”

“I sat there and watched till she was dressed and disappear’d into the thicket behind’er. Only then did I crawl back to the camp and lite out for Dayton, the closest place I could think of at the time.”

Bledsoe began to cough again and again I offered him his glass of water.  After taking a drink, the Captain leaned back on his pillow and I waited to see if there were another story coming, but no — the old man slipped off to l sleep and I returned to my nursing duties.

For the Prophet

All of her life, she grew up hearing about the Prophet. Her family struggled to make ends meet because of this Prophet.

There were no vacations because of the Prophet. There were no fancy restaurant meals because of this Prophet.

She wore hand-me-down clothing because of the Prophet. And she couldn’t go to her prom because of this Prophet.

She concluded that her parents sacrified her entire childhood for the good of the Prophet. She also realized that she never benefited from this Prophet.

At age 18, she ran away from home, explaining, “They say prophet, but they really mean profit.”

Suspended Animation

The space-traveller had become a relic as he lay in stasis for fifty years, oblivious of what had happened with his home-world, Earth and to humanity. That was before the young woman, who was scouring his spaceship, found his ‘deep-space coffin.’

Now their heart was heavy, for while they’d seen much and knew much, they were now learning an awful truth: gender-assignment and sexual intercourse no longer existed. Terrestrial’s, as man-kind was now known, had been purposefully replaced by ‘love-bots.’

They felt disappointed for having dreamed of the day they’d be awakened. “Stasis don’t seem so bad now,” they complained.

Miles from Town: Chapter 11

Before he could begin getting undressed, a knock came at the door. It was Molly, carrying folded clothes. “I think these will fit you, if you don’t mind wearing my dad’s old clothes. Leave you’re old duds on the porch and I’ll wash them.”

“No. Please don’t bother. Jus’ toss’em in the burn barrel. I’ll gladly take those clean ones. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Sleep well. Good night.”

“Good night.”

Gil couldn’t help think how different Molly was from her old man, Frank Smith. It was like day-and-night in his mind.

After a lengthy shower and lots of soap, Gil felt clean enough to climb between the clean sheets of the bed. While he was looking forward to sleeping on a real mattress, it was uncomfortable at first – but sleep did finally overtake him and he went down like he’d be hit on the chin by a prize-fighter.

At first Gil didn’t know where he was and it left him somewhat confused. He quickly shook it off and got out of bed, heading to shower once again.

He was fairly certain he had gotten most of the dirt and sand and sweat off his body, but still he felt unclean and thus the desire to shower once more. “Besides,” Gil told himself, “I feels so good.”

Once toweled off and dressed, he stepped out side and spotted Molly in the kitchen window. She quickly waved him into the house, where she had coffee, eggs, bacon, ham and fried potatoes with biscuits and butter waiting for him.

Gil realized that it had been well over a year since he’d had a meal, both prepared and served by a woman. He ate like he couldn’t get his fill, and it was obvious that his appetite pleased Molly.

Once finished, Gil helped clear the table and began washing the dishes. “You don’t have to do that, you’re a guest in this house.”

Gil simply smiled and continued washing the dishes, drying once finished with the soap suds. “And here I thought my hand’s were never gonna get clean.”

He held them up and they both laughed. It was nice to hear another voice aside from his one and Blue Stone, whom he figured he’d never see again.

“So, have you any idea how much we owe you?” Molly asked.

“Not yet, but if you have a pencil and some paper I can get a number for you.”

He sat at the dining table and quickly calculated the hours he worked each day, times the days of the week. He tallied those up into the four months he’d been at the mine and handed her the paper.

“Agreed,” Molly said, “But you need to add in the days you weren’t picked up on time.”

Soon the pair were in her car and headed to the bank. Molly withdrew the agreed upon figure and gave it to Gil.

“Can I drop you somewhere?” she asked.

“No, thank you,” Gil answered. “You’ve been more than generous with everything.”

“What’ll you do now?” she asked.

“Well, I heard that there’s a possibility of a job north of Reno. Some cow outfit,” he stated.

“Good, I’m glad to hear that. Take care of yourself, Gil – and again I’m sorry that no one knew your were out there.”

Gil smiled, “All’s well, that end’s well.”

She stuck her hand out and Gil gripped it. “Take care, yourself and I very sorry about your dad.”

He watched as she pull from the bank’s parking lot onto the main street through town. Walking up the sidewalk towards the intersection where U.S. 50 emptied into the city, Gil couldn’t help but think of Nancy. “I can walk ten-miles for a chance at love.”

Miles from Town: Chapter 10

The cool water from the faucet felt good on his face and neck. He watched, surprised as the gray cement puddled up with dirt and grim as he rinse the filth from himself.

Before to long, Nancy came out the side door, keys in hand and unlocked the old truck whose step-board, Gil rested on. “Was my daddy’s,” she said of the truck, “but he gave it to me.”

Within minutes, they were passing behind the state capital building. “You can drop me right here. I can walk the rest of the way.”

“Okay,” Nancy complied. “You gonna pass through or are you planning to stay awhile, Gil?”

“I’m gonna stick around, see if I can get a job in town,” he answered.

“Well, my daddy owns the largest Hereford ranch in Nevada, north of Reno,” she said. Seeing a bit of a puzzle sweep across Gil’s face, she added, “That north of here a few miles. I can get you a job if you want. If you want one, you know where I work.”

“Even if you don’t wanna job, you know where I work,” she winked.

She smiled as Gil closed the door. He stood on the sidewalk and watched as she disappeared from sight.

Gil turned and walked up the street towards the Smith’s residence. While he was a bit perturbed by the fact that the old man had forgotten about him, he decided to ‘play it cool,’ and show no anger until he got his pay.

He rapped at the door. A few seconds later a woman answered, “Yes, can I help you?

Hat in hand, Gil answered, “I’m looking for Mr. Smith. I work for him.”

“Come in,” she directed.

She shut the door behind him and pointed to a chair and motioned for him to sit. “I guess you hadn’t heard that Frank, my dad, Mr. Smith, passed away the middle of last month.”

Stunned, Gil leaned back in the chair. He felt the wind live his body.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he responded, “I didn’t know. So that’s why he didn’t show up to get me. Explains a lot.”

“You worked for Dad?”

Gil answered, “Yes. I’ve been overseeing the mine.”

“Which one?”

“The one out by the reservation.”

“Really? How did you get back here?”

“Walked.”

The woman shook her head, “Dad was so certain that when the next war came, the federal government would want all the manganese it could get, but his war never came. We had no idea he had anyone out there at the worthless old hole. I am so sorry!”

“I am too, ma’am,” Gil said as he stood up, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Where do you think you’re going?” the daughter asked.

“Well, with Mr. Smith…uh…Frank passed, I figure I need to be on my way.”

“Are you owed money?”

“Yes, ma’am, but with him gone and all, I…”

She interrupted, “I’ll not hear of it. You’ll sleep out in the guest cottage out back and in the morning after breakfast, I’ll take you to the bank and we’ll get your money.”

“But you don’t know how much that is or if I’m even telling the truth.”

“Look, you look like hell, no – worse than hell, so I believe you. No one walks 80 miles and leaves empty-handed on a handshake.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Molly. Please call me Molly.”

She showed him to the kitchen, where she poured him a cup of hot coffee and ladled out a bowl of thick mutton stew, before directing him out the back door to the cottage. It would be the first hot shower and clean bed Gil had slept in over half a year.