Sorry to have missed last week. Unfortunately my computer crashed and I lost the entire chapter. But it’s all good now.
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Christmas was coming and normally Darrin would be thrilled for the extended break. But with Ben’s death he couldn’t seem to bring himself to any real kind of resolution. Peace was beyond his imagination but it was harder each day to find some reason to go on. He’d made the mistake of telling Mitch about how he felt, and ended up with a weekly meeting with the university’s shrink.
“Those are hours I’ll never get back again,” Darrin muttered. “what?” Mitch asked. Damnit, when did he sneak into the room. Without turning he replied. “Nothing. Just the crazy guy muttering.” Mitch wrapped his arms around Darrin in a tight hug. “Not crazy. Just needing some help getting through a rough spot.” Darrin sighed deeply. “Yeah, so I hear. Just a rough patch. Just the death of a young kid. I really should be over it.”
“No one said that. For sure no one is trivializing how you feel. We are just worried.”
“I don’t feel like dealing with other people.”
“What about Sammy and Danny? They are worried about you. They think you’re sick.”
He turned to Mitch with a knot in his stomach. “It’s not getting any better. I don’t know how to feel different.”
Mitch sighed and shook his head. “Just don’t sit here all day without coming out. I know you aren’t up to much of this stuff, but fake it a little–at least for the kids.”
Darin nodded vacantly, unwilling to take his eyes from the sere landscape in front of him. He heard Mitch leave but it barely registered as more important than the winds that were whipping through the bare trees that surrounded their house.
There was a scraping noise at the doorway that brought Darrin back to the present. He began to turn and scold Mitch but the scent of prairie in the mid-summer heat drifted into his senses, and he knew it could only be one person–Nanna, the sheriff’s grandmother, and a Kiowa elder.
He sat quietly, not certain what to say to one of the people he respected most in the world. But he’d never faced anything like this before either. Maybe this time even she couldn’t fix his problem. She stood quietly but he could still hear the tin cone jingles that she wore on the hem of her dress. The soft tinkling sound did settle Darrin’s nerves to some degree. He didn’t move, but after a few minutes he couldn’t keep from looking back.
She stood quietly in the dim light of the bedroom. Their eyes met for a few moments, but Darrin was the first to look away.
“May I come in? I promise I am not here to try to change how you feel.”
Darrin nodded and then realized she probably couldn’t see his motion. “Yes. Of course. Please come in.”
He stood and pulled over another chair so they sat side by side. They settled back into the chairs and both stared into the dim of the heavily overcast day. His own silence was beginning to wear on Darrin when Nanna began to speak.
“My grandson is very unhappy. He’s determined to find who is responsible for what happened to that child.”
Darrin was startled from his morose attitude. “Why? It didn’t even happen in his county. It was all the way on the other side of the state.”
“Yes, Caddo lands. But Ben lived here, so Jim feels responsible.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense. Why would he feel responsible?”
She looked at Darrin and lifted an eyebrow before speaking. “He is Koitsenko. One of the Dog Soldiers. They have the job of protecting the people.”
“But Jim’s a sheriff, and just of one county.”
“Is that what you believe?”
Darrin began to speak and then thought better of it. He began to understand the implications of what he was being told. When he looked back at Nanna his expression must have been changed, because she began to chuckle. “Sort of puts things on their head doesn’t it? But he’s not happy, and he’s sworn he will find whoever is responsible. My grandson is a very resourceful man, you know.”
Darrin nodded and recalled all the interactions he and Mitch had with Sheriff White Cloud over the years. He had always proven to be a resourceful man. A honorable man. He turned back to her. “Do you think he will find them? A lot could have happened to make it hard to find clues.”
“You know, in the old days they would have sent out a war party to find and punish whoever did this. They might have called Dog Soldiers from all over. Dog Soldiers are not easily thrown off a trail once they begin.”
Darrin nodded quietly as he absorbed the information. “So you think they will be found. The people who did this.”
She settled back into her chair and he caught a glimpse of a hardening of her expression when she briefly became someone Darrin would never want to challenge. But almost as quickly, it went away.
“They will be found. It may take time. But we can be a very determined people.” She turned and gave him a smile he was much more familiar with. “We have managed to survive out here for a few hundred generations.”
For the first time in months, Darrin let out a noise that sounded remarkably like a chuckle. “I suppose that’s right. Once he’s caught I hope they throw the book at him.”
“That could happen. Or it might be a time for the old ways to be followed.”
This time Darrin didn’t need to see her expression.
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