Sample chapter from Book 1, The
Melissa found the house and went to the front door. A woman, obviously of Indian descent, came to the door and began yelling at her. When Melissa mentioned the name Sam Cloudstone the woman stopped yelling. However, she could tell by the look on her face that there was some history between them, and that this Sandra wasn’t all that happy to be reacquainted with Sam, to meet her, nor being drug into some problem that wasn’t hers. Regardless, she called to her son to help Melissa get Sam into the house.
Melissa began nervously blathering about why they were there, what happened to Sam, all the while, being somewhat vague about the true circumstances when Sandra stopped her. “First, save the story. I don’t care. Second, he’s lost some blood. I need to take a look at him now. Third, I’m a ‘Life-Flight’ nurse. That’s why he came here in the first place.” Sandra spoke the last sentence with some bitterness. She went into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of Jose Cuervo. “Have some of this, and try to relax. Sam is pretty hard to kill. I know, I’ve tried. If you get tired, lay down on the sofa, it’s very relaxing. I’ll come talk to you when I’ve dealt with him.” With that, she turned and went into the back room. Melissa unscrewed the top off the bottle and had a nice long swig.
About an hour later, Sandra came out of the back room and woke Melissa up from a fitful sleep.
“He was shot twice. One shot grazed the back of his head. I was worried that it might have caused a concussion, but he looks ok. He will have a headache for a day or two. The second shot was lodged in his left shoulder. That’s where the blood was coming from. I was able to get the bullet out and clean and close the wound.”
Melissa looked at her quizzically.
Sandra chuckled and said “Sometimes I take a few items home from work. A little morphine here, a little antibiotic there. Indians are crazy, as I’m sure you’re beginning to see, and they don’t always trust the hospitals to patch them up. I run a little black market service here just for them. They’re usually very thankful and the gifts and donations help with the bills. It’s just me and my son here. Hell, this is the fourth time I’ve patched up Sam just by himself!”
Melissa didn’t have any problem believing that. Sandra spoke again, a somewhat softer tone in her voice now, “Maybe now is the time for the two of us to finish that bottle of Cuervo while you fill me in on this little fiasco from the top.”
The two women sat at the table and talked for hours like old friends. Emotionally spent, Melissa told her everything: the C-Ration can, the kidnapped brother, the confrontation in the Hill Country, the Lo-Jacked car, the night in New Braunfels, figuring out the message and the subsequent escape to Houston, Tiago and the stake-out, the rescue, all culminating with her knocking on this door a few hours ago. Sandra got her first belly-laugh of the night when Melissa told her how she got Sam involved in this whole affair in the first place.
“You must have Indian blood in you, girl!” she exclaimed and they both broke out in the giggles.
Melissa found her nerve and asked the question they both knew was coming. “The two of you used to be together, didn’t you?”
Sandra took a deep breath. “I first met Sam when I was 16. Did you notice the little park right across the street from the house?” Melissa just shrugged. “It’s called Knob Hill Park. Throughout the park there are these little hills, three to five feet tall. Most of them have a pine tree growing out of the top of them. Local legend here says that those little hills are actually Indian burial mounds. I think that some university came here and dug one up, or somehow checked it out using ground penetrating radar, and claimed that there was nothing to it. But, these kind of stories, legends really, die hard.”
She softened more as she continued.
“Sam used to live in this neighborhood. His father was an Oilfield Engineer for that matter, Sam, himself, has the same degree his father earned from Texas A&M. Sam worked in the ‘Oil patch’ himself, for a time.” Melissa looked somewhat shocked. “Sam is actually amazing. He has been an engineer, a writer, a bootlegger, a bartender, hell, I even heard that at one point, he was simply living in a tent by the creek at Luckenbach and spending his days writing songs for the up-and-coming country pickers. It just kept him in beer, but that was all he wanted at the time.”
“You see” she continued, “Sam Cloudstone can be anything he wants. Mostly, however, he just wants to roam to quiet his restless spirit.” She gave Melissa a good hard look, “That’s the problem.”
“You never finished the story about the park,” Melissa reminded.
“Ah, yes. I met him one night when he had just gotten his driver’s license. We had met at a neighborhood party, and we were the only Indians there so it was inevitable we would get matched up. He was young then, shit, we both were, but at the time he had the ‘Firewater problem,’ Sam couldn’t hold his liquor. One thing led to another, and before I knew it we were driving through the park, dodging the Burial Hills, him screaming at the top of his lungs something like ‘Come on you damn cowboys, come fight a REAL Indian.’ The cops came, and we spent 20 minutes in a desperate escape outrunning them. Things were somewhat different back then. We would have never gotten away nowadays. I think the cops were having as much fun as we were!”
Melissa was obviously enjoying the story by the size of the smile on her face. Sandra continued “The next day my mother made Sam’s dad bring him back over to the house, and after dark we went back to the park and conducted the Cherokee ‘Forgiveness Ritual.’ I’m Cherokee, by the way. The ritual is a sacred tradition. It was performed in order to remember those who died on the Trail of Tears, and to forgive those who caused all of that misery. Mom thought it would do as a method to apologize to the spirits of the park, just in case there actually were any in those little hills! After that, Sam and I were inseparable until he went off to College Station to get his degree. We tried to keep it together, and for sure he has bounced in and out of my life many times since, but it just never worked out. Eventually, I gave up on him.”
“Your son?” Melissa asked.
Sandra chuckled, “No. Not his. I finally met a man who I thought would never leave me. He’s my boy’s father.”
“What happened?” Melissa asked.
“He was an Army Ranger, got himself killed in Afghanistan. Just another, in a long line of Indians killed in another white man’s wars.” She looked sad, but then snapped out of it and poured another two shot glasses for them. “Saquu gawonisdi vtia yeliquu” Sandra exclaimed and then pounded down the shot.
Melissa did the same and asked “What does that mean?”
“It means ‘One language is never enough.’ It’s by no means a traditional drinking toast, but it seems to me to fit quite well. People never communicate enough, don’t you agree? It’s Cherokee, or Tsalagi as the language is called.” She looked at Melissa with one eye shut, giving her a pirate sort of look. “Now, let’s hear your story.”
Melissa let out a tired laugh “I doubt that we have enough left in that bottle for my story.”
Sandra got up from the table, walked to the cupboard and grabbed a new, fresh fifth of Tequila. “I dispute you on two separate counts! One, you’re too young to have a story that requires an entire bottle, and two, I NEVER run out!”