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Wyoming Vision

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Wyoming Vision

Arapaho Vision Quest, Book 1

 

 

Lisa Shea

Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Shea / Minerva Webworks LLC

All rights reserved.

Cover design by Lisa Shea

Book design by Lisa Shea

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Visit my website at www.LisaShea.com

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Believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wyoming Vision

Prologue

Be still and the earth will speak to you.”

[_ -- Navajo Saying _]

Haloke huddled against the bitter cold in the hollow made by the overturned car. Her tears were frozen to her cheeks. Moonlight glittered from the shards of windshield scattered along the meadow. The road was a good twenty feet above them, over the embankment, and occasionally she could hear the solitary sound of a car easing by through the thick snow.

Not one stopped.

Even at age six, she knew she should wriggle her way out through the broken side window and go for help. It is what her father would have done. But her father’s life blood pooled at his feet. He had been killed when their car arced through the air and slammed into the frozen earth. The steering wheel was viciously impaled through his chest.

But her mother clung stubbornly to life.

Haloke’s small fingers entwined more firmly into her mother’s. If only her mother would wake up. If only someone would see their skid marks and come down to rescue them. If only the other guests at the Arapaho – Townie Christmas Party realized they had not yet arrived. A search party could be sent, the trackers would use their keen noses, and her family would be saved. Her father would be brought back to life. Haloke had seen such things happen on their small TV.

Her father’s voice whispered in her soul.

You must be brave, little one. You must climb the hill and save your mother. Save yourself. Find the warrior within you. You are born of two tribes. The Navajo from your mother. The Arapaho from my line. Use that dual strength to face this challenge.

I love you.

Her tears started anew down her cheeks, freezing as they fell. She desperately wished for her father to move. To come back to life and protect them, as he always had.

He lay still.

Resolve built within Haloke. A strength she never knew she possessed coursed through her veins. She leaned over to give one last kiss to her mother’s gentle fingers. Then she carefully let them go. She turned to the window. The glass protruded in jagged teeth but her thick winter coat protected her from their edges. She squirmed her way through the opening left between the metal, glass, and frozen earth.

At last she was out.

The hill before her was larger even than the slope behind her school where the children sledded every afternoon. And her first step into the snowdrift sunk her nearly to her waist. She set her face with determination and pushed forward. Her father had often told her she was a superhero. A magical blend of Arapaho and Navajo who could do anything she set her mind to.

Now was the time to prove it.

Sweep with the arms. Step. Drag the rear leg free. Breathe.

Her whole world narrowed down to the march. Sweep. Step. Pull. Again. Nothing else mattered. Not the shadow of a cloud sliding across the moon. Not the call of an owl far in the distance. Not the whoosh as a car moved past above her, tantalizingly close, but as distant as a far-off ocean.

Still she moved.

Her arms ached, her legs were numb by the time she crawled over the crest. She stumbled into the center of the two-lane road. It stretched in each direction as far as she could see until it faded into the blowing snow. For all she knew the blizzard stretched clear to either side of the entire state of Wyoming.

Her crimson parka stood out against that whiteness like a pool of blood. Her mother had always told her that being seen was a key in the long Wyoming winters. If there was trouble, if she ever got lost, Haloke needed to be able to be found.

She hoped her crimson jacket would do its job tonight.

There was a noise from the west, and she turned. A dim glow came from that direction. As the moments passed, the glow strengthened and resolved into a pair of eyes. Bright, round eyes coming at her in the darkness.

She stood squarely in their path. It took all her strength to lift each weary arm high, to stretch her fingers as wide as they could splay. She stared straight into that growing blinding light and prayed to every god her parents had told her of. Most of all, she prayed to Nayanazgeni, the war god. Her father had returned home safely from his years in the Marines. Nayanazgeni had brought him home to his beloved wife. Perhaps today Nayanazgeni would watch over her father’s family, as well.

For her father no longer could.

The car plowed toward her, its speed not slowing. Every ounce of life in her bones screamed at her to jump out of the way. But she held firm. Her mother depended on it. Everything depended on it.

The car was nearly on top of her –

Chapter One

Twenty years later

Logan sprinted down the alley toward the girl sprawled in a mound of dirty snow. His deputy’s hat flew away into the darkness. She was fifteen, perhaps, and wore a once-beautiful dress of crimson and gold. But the bodice was ripped in several places and the skirt was bunched up around her waist. The sodden snow was tromped with a collection of boot-prints in varying sizes.

Logan had no doubt what the rape-kit would find.

He reached her side and dropped to a knee. His fingers flew to gently press at the side of her neck.

She was alive, thank God.

He grabbed the cellphone from his jeans pocket. A button press, and he had Brenda on the line. “Send an ambulance to the Dancing Bear. I’m in the alley around back. A girl’s hurt.”

“Got it,” acknowledged Brenda, and he could hear her making the call on another line.

He tucked the still-live phone into his breast pocket and then gently began checking her over for serious injuries. The full moon along with the beams of his SUV’s headlights gave him just enough light to work with. She moaned softly as he turned her, but her eyes did not open.

He had just reassured himself that there was nothing broken, and that it might be safe to bring her into his own car until help arrived, when the wail of sirens approached from the distance. Another breath, and the ambulance was drawing to a stop alongside his own vehicle. Jake and Evan, guys Logan played pool with occasionally on long, snowy nights, piled out with gear and trotted to Logan’s side.

Logan stepped back. “I think she’s been raped.”

Evan nodded without turning. “Looks that way.” The men worked with quick efficiency, doing a preliminary check for injuries. “She seems safe to move. Logan, grab the board?”

Logan moved to the back of the ambulance and popped open the door. He pulled the board from its rack and brought it back over to the girl’s side.

Evan took her shoulders and gently rolled her onto her side while Jake slid the board beneath her. They settled her securely in place. As Jake put on the straps, Evan asked Logan, “Any idea who she is?”

He shook his head. “From the rez, I would guess, based on her face and dress. But I’ve never seen her before. There’s no purse around, either. I’d guess whoever did this to her took it with them.”

The two men hefted her up.

Her eyes flew open.

Logan stared. The eyes were familiar and strange all at once. The deep brown with gold flecks was hauntingly close. But the flat cheekbones and thin lips struck no chord within him.

Her voice was a thin rasp. “Help me.”

He nodded to her. “I will. I’ll find out who did this to you.”

Her gaze seemed lost, distant, as if she were on the verge of losing herself.

He stepped forward, wrapping her delicate hand in his own. He looked down into her eyes. “I swear it to you. I will find who hurt you – and I will bring them to justice.”

Her shoulders eased, and she lay back against the stretcher. Her voice was closer now. “Thank you.”

Evan nodded to Jake, and they trotted off toward the ambulance. A few motions and the vehicle was screaming off into the night.

A fresh wail of siren and Logan knew the other deputy on duty, Sam, was on her way to lend a hand.

He blew out his breath, looking around the dingy snow and ice of the abandoned alley.

Somewhere in here would be the clues he needed. The clues to allow him to fulfill his promise to a desperate girl.

Chapter Two

Haloke burst awake, her body drenched with sweat. In the summer it could be broiling hot in her tent, due in no small part to the incessant beating of the Afghan sun, but it was winter now – and this was something else. This was not even the normal regimen of nightmare that many of her fellow Marines endured as a hazard of their occupation.

This had been about her sister.

Half sister, her stepfather would have corrected her with a snap. But while Haloke clung to the distinction when considering him, and refused to call him father, with her beloved younger sister it was different. Haloke adored Johona with all her heart. When Haloke joined the service, the hardest part had not been leaving the beautiful mountains of Wyoming. It had not been leaving behind her friends or even her mother, who had long since faded under her stepfather’s harsh glare.

It had been leaving Johona behind.

She drew to sitting, propping her pillow up against the metal frame of her bunk. She closed her eyes, shutting out the conversation of the soldiers around her and the jeeps moving across the sand outside.

What had been in the dream?

Her sister had seemed happy at first. Something about a dance with a boy she’d been admiring for months. She’d worn a dress in her favorite color of crimson. It was the exact hue of the crimson coat she’d worn all through childhood – the one Haloke had passed down to her.

But then the scene had changed. Johona had taken a short-cut through an alley behind a bar. There’d been movement in the shadows. A hand grabbed her – a boot kicked her – and then –

Tears flowed down Haloke’s cheeks and she grabbed for her phone. It was 2pm here in the Middle East which meant it was … what? What time was it back in Wyoming? She couldn’t think. She didn’t care what time it was. Even if she woke Johona up, she had to make sure her little sister was safe.

She punched the button.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

“You’ve reached the voice mail of Johona Brown. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Haloke barely waited for the beep to sound before bursting, “Johona, please call me. It doesn’t matter what time you get this – call me. I need to talk to you.”

She hung up the phone and put it back on the metal table alongside her bed. Half of her wanted to grab it up and call again. The other half wanted to march into her XO’s tent and ask for time off. Demand it. Because that dream had had power to it.

If the attack hadn’t already happened, Haloke feared that it would. Soon.

Haloke’s hands bunched into fists. Whatever it took, she would move heaven and Earth to keep her little sister safe. It was her responsibility – and she would not fail.

Chapter Three

Logan groaned as he came awake, every joint in his body aching. He was hunched over his wooden desk at the station. Morning light streamed in through the window. The rich smell of coffee wafted past his nose.

Sam looked over, a twinkle in her eye. Her short, dark hair had its perpetually messy look. Logan couldn’t tell if she’d slept in it or carefully styled it to look that way. She grinned. “Sorry, sleeping beauty, did I wake you? You looked pretty comfy over there.”

He stretched, his shoulders making quiet popping noises as he worked them into place. “Just going over all the crime scene photos again. There’s got to be something.”

Sam sighed and brought over his coffee – black – in a mustard-yellow Wyoming Cowboys mug. “You shouldn’t have promised that girl you’d bring those guys to justice,” she gently chided. “We can’t ever promise anything. We can just do our best.”

He took a long drink of the coffee. “You didn’t see the look in her eyes. I was worried she was going to do something to herself. She’d just endured something horrific. I had to give her a lifeline.” He looked over. “Did you track down her family?”

Sam nodded, plunking down in her own chair. She leaned back and casually propped her feet on her desk, mud dripping from her boots onto a few papers. She was in her early thirties, just about his age, but where he’d grown up in town, she’d been raised out in the hills by a family who relied on hunting and fishing for their livelihood. She was sometimes more a mannerless six-year-old kid than a seasoned cop.

Sam looked out the window onto the town square. “She lives with her mom and dad on the outskirts of the rez. Mom’s a schoolteacher and he runs one of the bars. Johona’s a sophomore in school.”

“No siblings?”

Sam checked her notes. “One sister, about ten years older. She’s off in Afghanistan.”

He nodded and rolled to his feet. “Well, I’ll head over to the hospital and talk to the family. We don’t have any progress yet, but maybe she’s awake and remembers something.”

Sam shook her head. “She ain’t there.”

Logan creased his brows. “What do you mean, she’s not there?”

Sam shrugged. “Family checked her out last night and took her home. Said they didn’t want her getting sick from the other patients.”

Logan pressed his lips together. “All right. Text me the address, and I’ll go follow up at their home.” He poured the rest of his coffee into a travel mug.

Sam punched a few buttons on her phone. “I’ll go by the hospital and talk with the doctors. See if they have anything they can share.”

He nodded, swept his hat off its rack, and headed out.

  • * *

Logan always felt something indefinable shimmer down his spine when he crossed into rez land. It wasn’t exactly that he didn’t belong there. The assault had taken place outside the rez and therefore in his jurisdiction. He was perfectly within his rights to follow up with the victim in her home, and the local police chief, Jason Redfeather, was a solid man. Forty, lean, he’d seen just about everything and done his best to hold his people together. If Logan asked for help, he knew Jason would be there at his side.

No, somehow crossing that line was like crossing between worlds. The people on the rez had a unique culture. A unique history and way of looking at things that, even after all these years, eluded Logan. He had tried his best to put himself in their shoes. To imagine what having that complicated legacy might do to a person. But despite his best efforts, he knew he couldn’t truly understand.

What they had endured was beyond thought.

He pulled off the main road and onto a rutted dirt trail. It wove around a small hill and came up to a long, low ranch. The sides were peeling paint and the metal roof showed rust. But the porch out front had been carefully swept free of snow. The gravel path to the door had been shoveled and sanded.

There was a pair of cars parked alongside the house. One was an old forest-green Subaru with holes visible through patches of the rear metal. The other was a once-white Ford F-150 which was now more dirt-colored than paint.

Logan parked behind the Subaru and switched off his SUV. He climbed out and took a deep breath, looking around. The scene was quiet. A pair of swallows danced in the sky, clouds drifted across the ice-blue, and a blanket of snow coated the earth.

He stepped forward.

Footsteps sounded even before he lifted his hand to knock.

A man yanked open the door, his face in a scowl. “What do you want?”

Mike Brown was clearly the girl’s father. He had the same flat cheekbones and thin lips. But where Johona’s eyes were warm and brown, Mike’s were small and dark. They looked over Logan with suspicion. “What’re you doing on the rez?”

Logan motioned at the star clipped on the breast of his jacket. “Deputy Logan Cartright. I’m here to check in on your daughter.”

Mike’s fingers clenched. “You’re a bit too late, aren’t you. Where were you when she was being violated?”

A soft voice called from within the house. “Mike, let him in. He’s only trying to help.”

Mike’s mouth turned down, but he stepped back a foot, giving Logan barely enough space to enter.

He did.

The house was small but neatly kept. They were in the living room with a wood stove glowing with heat. A pair of brown couches faced each other with a woven brown-and-mustard oval rug between them. A pine coffee table centered in that. Mustard curtains hung in the windows. The kitchen area was to the back with a dinette and four chairs. The smell of coffee wafted in.

A woman in her late forties stepped into view in the kitchen. She wore a long, dark green dress with a tan apron over it. “I’ve just made coffee. Would you like some?”

“Yes, Ma’am, thanks. I take it black.”

She nodded, and in a minute she’d brought over a pair of mugs. She set them down facing each other on the coffee table. She nudged her head to her husband and he reluctantly went to sit before one. She eased down at his side.

Logan took his own seat opposite the couple.

Logan could see the mother more clearly now. She had the same warm, brown eyes as her daughter, although they seemed dulled with time and perhaps life. And yet they seemed familiar …

She gave a soft smile. “You’re Sheriff Cartright’s son, aren’t you.”

He automatically nodded. “My dad retired five years ago,” he pointed out. “Mahoney’s the sheriff now. Does a good job.”

She held his gaze. “Your father saved my life. You probably don’t remember – you were young.”

Suddenly, he did remember.

A dense snowstorm. His dad was driving them back from Uncle Joe’s and the weather was so thick you could barely see your hand before your face. They’d been listening to Hank Rogers songs on the radio, their eyes glued on the road ahead, making sure they didn’t veer off and down the embankment.

And then up out of the blizzard had come a coat of crimson –

He shook himself, looking at the woman before him with fresh eyes. “Tibah. Tibah Whiteflower.”

Mike growled. “She’s Tibah Brown now.”

“Of course,” replied Logan, his mind coming back to the present. “I wanted to check on Johona.”

Mike’s mouth opened to protest –

Tibah called out, “Johona? Can you come out here, please? The police want to follow up on what happened last night.”

There was movement down the side hallway, and Logan turned his head.

He was on his feet in seconds, moving to her side. Her head had a stripe of bandage around it and her face was swollen with bruising. One eye was nearly shut. She leaned on the wall as she walked, and he gave her his arm to help her over to the couch. As she sat, her mother went to the kitchen to fetch Johona’s mug of coffee. She seemed to take it black.

Johona’s voice was thick but strong. “What do you want to know?”

Mike’s brows came together. “Johona, you don’t have to tell this man anything.”

She ignored him. She turned to Logan. “I want to help. You promised me you would find who did this to me. To bring them to justice.”

Mike snorted with derision.

Logan held her gaze. “I did promise that. And I stand by that promise. We’ll figure out who was involved and make sure each one pays.”

Mike muttered, “Yeah, unless their skin is white.”

Logan replied, “It doesn’t matter who they are or what they look like. If they’re guilty, they’ll get their due.”

Mike crossed his arms but remained silent.

Logan gentled his voice and looked to Johona. “I know this will be difficult, but any tiny detail you can recall will be a help. What do you remember from last night?”

Johona twined her fingers together. “I went to the big Christmas Dance over at the meeting hall in town. They have one every year, sort of a mixer between the rez kids and the townies. It was fun – all my friends were there. I even danced once with Billy Blackwater.” Her gaze took on a wistful shine.

Logan nodded. “Did anybody seem out of place there? Did anybody bother you?”

She shook her head. “No, it was just everyone from our school and theirs. My friends were all in a good mood. We were talking about going sledding tomorrow. Well, today, I mean. And we talked a lot about Christmas, of course. What we’d get. Who we’d go visit.”

He nodded again, letting her take her time.

Her fingers wound more tightly. “It got to be late, and people started leaving. Billy offered to walk me home, but his brother called – one of the horses had caught himself on a fence. I told Billy I’d be fine on my own. I’ve walked that route a thousand times. And, besides, it was Christmas.”

She gave a soft sob.

Her mother wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “You just take a deep breath.”

Johona did. “I … I went by the general store. It was all dark there, of course. And the hardware store. And then I went around the Dancing Bear like I always do, to cut the corner and get to the main road. I had this odd sensation. Like someone was watching me. So I hurried up a bit, to get back out to the main road. And then … he grabbed me.”

Logan leaned forward. “Who grabbed you, Johona.”

She shook her head, tears cascading down her cheeks. “I don’t know. There were just hands – and boots – and they were grabbing at me. Laughing. Grunting. I screamed for help, and one of them hit me on the head. Everything went fuzzy. And they kept grabbing – and pressing – and hurting –”

She folded over on herself, the sobs shaking out of her now.

The door burst open and a young Arapaho man with long, dark hair, perhaps sixteen, whirled into the room. His eyes were wide in shock. “Where’s Johona! What did they do to her?”

Mike rose to his feet. “Billy, I want you –”

Billy saw Johona and flung himself at her, drawing her up into his arms. She collapsed against him, sobbing as if her heart would break. He held her tight against him, his face creased with anguish.

Tibah gently stroked her daughter’s hair. She looked to Billy. “You go take her back to her room. Help her to quiet down.”

“Yes, Mrs. Brown.” He supported Johona as the two moved back down the hallway.

Tibah turned back to Logan. “I think you’ll have to come back tomorrow to talk to Johona. I’ll call the hospital and make sure you have full access to her records.”

Mike’s hands clenched. “Woman, I don’t want you to –”

She turned and stared at him.

There was something in her gaze that made Mike sit back down into his seat. That made him pick up his mug and focus his attention on the fire flickering in the stove.

Tibah’s gaze returned to Logan. “Thank you for your efforts, Logan. If we think of anything in the meantime, we’ll call you. And if you see your father, be sure to say hello to him for us. Hello – and thank you.”

Logan rose to his feet and touched his hat. “Yes, Ma’am. I’m sorry again for this tragedy. I’ll do everything in my power to set it right.”

From the look in her eyes, he had the sense that she felt nothing would ever be quite right again.

Chapter Four

Haloke’s jeep bounced along the dawn-lit road at a speed somewhere just between barely-safe and reckless. She had managed, thanks to her years of training and discipline, to put Johona out of her mind for the long hours of her night mission. To do otherwise would have risked her own life and those of the brave soldiers who depended on her.

But now the task was through, and she only had one thing on her mind.

To get back to her base, to her phone, and to warn her younger sister.

The jeep jumped and skipped as it ran head-long into small rocks and ruts, but Haloke had dealt with far worse on the rez and barely gave them heed.

The dream had been so vivid. So clear.

She could almost reach out and touch the faces of the four men who might soon brutally assault her sweet little Johona. The details were embedded in her brain.

The one with straight, chiseled looks which would have made an actor proud. With blond hair cut short.

The one who was darker, crueler, with thick brows and a scar twisting along one cheek.

The one who was wiry, sinewy, with long, auburn hair that reached his shoulders and pinpoint eyes.

The one who was heavy, half-way between muscle and fat, with greasy hair caught back in a short bun.

Haloke pressed harder on the gas. It had to be that this was solely a vision of things to come. If she could just make it to base and warn her sister, none of this would come to pass. She would take a leave of absence. Be by her family’s side. Make sure that this dark future never materialized.

For if anything ever happened to her precious Johona, her sweet, innocent, darling –

Something was standing before her on the road.

It looked like a young Afghan child, swathed in robes.

Haloke screamed. She slammed her foot on the brake and twisted hard at the steering wheel, desperate to avoid –

The car tumbled, careened, and rolled.

It plowed straight into the object.

The world exploded.

Chapter Five

Johona screamed – screamed – screamed –

Footsteps raced down the hallway, and her mother came tumbling into her room, reaching for her half-blindly in the shade-drawn darkness. Her mother’s comforting warmth came up around her – her familiar smell caressed her and brought some ease.

Her mother murmured, “I’m here, I’m here, sweetheart. It’s all right. It was just a dream.”

Her father stumbled into the doorway. “God Almighty. Enough with the screeching.” He rubbed at his brow. “Did you at least remember their faces in this dream?”

Johona shook her head, her cheeks wet with the tears. She turned to her mother. “I wasn’t dreaming about my attack. I was dreaming about Haloke.”

Her father waved a hand in dismissal and made his way, grumbling, back to the living room.

Her mother smoothed Johona’s hair down with a palm and helped her sit up. Tibah sat down on the edge of the bed and drew up Johona’s hand in her own. “Dreams can hold a myriad of meanings,” she encouraged her daughter. “It is important to examine them. Tell me about yours.”

Johona drew in a deep breath, trying to shake off the feeling of panic which still lurked at her edges. “Everything had a misty glow to it. I think it might have been near dawn. The sky was high and rippled in shades of lavender and soft blue. There was sand everywhere, and high hills, too, all of sand and rock.”

Her mother nodded. “It sounds like the pictures Haloke has sent to us. Go on.”

Johona huddled in on herself. “Haloke was driving really fast. Too fast. It was like someone was chasing her, but there was nobody else on the road. It was just her and a tail of dust a mile long. Her hands were clenched on the steering wheel as if her whole life depended on this race.”

Her mother’s brow drew together. “Did she seem hurt at all?”

Johona shook her head. “Not that I could see.”

Her throat closed up. “But suddenly, there was something there on the road before her. I hadn’t seen it until then. It looked like a young child. And it just stood there. It didn’t move.”

Her mother’s face paled. “Johona, what happened next? Did your sister run over this child?”

Johona’s shoulders began quivering. “She saw it. She tried to stop. The car’s brakes spun in the sand. The wheels turned – it must have been in desperation. Because she was going way too fast. The car tumbled … it flipped …”

Her mother’s mouth was open. “She crashed?”

Johona shook her head, the tears flowing anew.

“No, Momma. She exploded.”

Chapter Six

Logan strode into the reception area of the health clinic. The waiting room was clean, smelled of Lysol, and even at this late hour was perhaps half-full with patients of various ages and shapes. He spotted Sam at the far wall talking to a doctor in a long, white jacket. The man was about sixty with graying hair.

Sam nodded to Logan as he approached. “Logan, this is Dr. Paraman. He’s the one who took care of Johona.”

Dr. Paraman’s gray eyes held quiet focus. “Thanks for waiting until I got off shift to talk. The family has given me permission to share what I have with you. But I’m afraid it’s not much.”

Logan hitched his fingers into his belt. “Anything might help. Even the smallest detail.”

Dr. Paraman nodded. “Johona was definitely sexually assaulted. The bruising shows that. And it’s clear there was more than one assailant. But the attackers must have used condoms. There are no fluids to test.”

Logan’s brow creased. “What about DNA under her fingernails? Did she try to fight off her attackers?”

Dr. Paraman shook his head. “Right after she was grabbed, she yelled for help. One of the men hit her on the head. She was in and out of consciousness after that – mostly out. They did what they were there to do and then fled the scene, leaving her much as you found her, I imagine.”

Logan looked to Sam. “There’s got to be something. A hair. Heck, an eyelash.”

Sam gave a low shrug. “We have some items we were able to gather from her clothing, but it’ll be hard to tell if they are from the attackers. She had spent the evening at a well-attended dance. Any hair or lash we find could be from any of the hundred people there.”

“I want you to go talk to the organizers of the dance. Have them make lists of every person there. Talk to those people and get them to confirm names. The more complete we can make the attendee list, the more we’ll be able to rule people in and out as we get results.”

Her gaze held doubt. “Logan, most of these kids won’t have DNA on file. And if we try to start DNA-swabbing every single kid on the rez, we might hit some resistance. You try that on the townies …”

He nodded. “All right, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, just get the lists of names. It’s a place to start, at least.”

Dr. Paraman looked from one officer to the other. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help. If anything else comes up, I’ll be sure to let you know.”

Logan shook his hand. “Thank you for your time.”

The doctor headed back into the clinic’s depths, shrugging off his long white jacket. Sam turned to Logan. “All right, what will you be doing while I’m making lists and checking them twice?”

His gaze shadowed. “I’ll return to the crime scene. There’s got to be something I missed. Something that leads us to whoever did this to Johona.”

He shook his head. “That poor girl is never going to forget what they did to her. The least I can do is bring her some measure of satisfaction that the men aren’t still out there, enjoying their life without any punishment.”

She clapped him on his shoulder. “Good luck. I think you’re going to need it.”

He followed her out of the clinic and climbed into his SUV. A light snow danced its way onto his windshield, creating a light film which made the world mystical.

He remembered sitting, just like this, twenty years ago, as the car shuddered to a sliding stop. When the snow cleared he could make out a girl in crimson who stood firm only scant inches from their hood. Her arms were outstretched. Her eyes were wide – and her face was set in fierce determination.

Chapter Seven

Ringing.

Ringing.

Haloke fumbled for the alarm clock, her eyes closed, but her hand slammed into twisted metal. She forced her eyes open and stared in confusion at the tumbled landscape around her. It resembled her jeep, but maybe in some surrealistic version where the windshield was made by spiders and the door by Picasso.

She turned –

A deep groan shook out of her at the pain in her side. Something was definitely not right there.

She blinked harder, forcing her vision to clear. The jeep was lying on its passenger side and she was suspended at an angle by her seatbelt. Everything was bent and charred and broken.

She wondered what she looked like.

Memories flooded back in on her, and adrenaline coursed through her body. She reached to her holster and brought up the gun. Her fingers closed reassuringly around the grip. If whoever had set that explosive device was around to finish the job, she’d have at least fifteen chances to fend them off.

She waited –

Silence. Just the sound of the wind blowing through the remnants of her vehicle.

Her men would come looking for her, but she couldn’t risk waiting for them. That device had been set by someone, and for all she knew she was now bait for a larger trap. She couldn’t allow that to happen.

She carefully swung her legs below her to wedge them in place against the passenger door. Then she pressed the button to release the belt.

Nothing.

Of course.

She pulled her knife from her pocket and carefully sawed her way through the strap at her side. Even though she was braced, when the material finally let go she seared with agony as the weight of her body came down onto her legs. She shook off the waves of pain with practiced effort. Later she could deal with that. But not now. Not when every minute mattered.

She tucked her knife away again and carefully used her boot to knock away the remaining pieces of windshield. When there was a clear space she crawled her way through it.

Memories of deep snow … of frigid breath …

She pushed them away. Not now. Not when her sister was in danger. Not when she had to warn Johona.

Haloke staggered to her feet and looked around. The gun was a reassuring presence in her hand, but she knew she was no match for a determined squad of insurgents with rifles. As she hadn’t been shot yet, she’d count herself lucky and not give them more opportunity.

She started out.

The morning sun lifted up over the horizon, her throat ached with parched dryness, and every step shook fresh life into the stabbing pain in her side. She gave thought to stopping to examine her injury, but she pushed that aside. If she had broken a rib or ripped something there was little she could do about it on the road. And to stop was to invite death. She would just have to keep moving until she reached the base or collapsed.

She wouldn’t allow the latter.

It seemed as if the sun grew in size. As if the world grew brighter, blinding her. As if the objects before her receded with every step and that her legs grew as heavy as elephants. It took supreme effort just to lift the next foot –

Her brow creased.

What was that in front of her?

It was Johona, small again, dressed in that favorite crimson coat of hers. Back in Wyoming she would wear it even in the blazing heat of summer. No wonder the silly girl was wearing it now in the dry desert of sand.

Johona put a hand out to her. “It’s not far, Haloke! Come, I’ll walk with you. Keep up with me!”

Haloke smiled. Her little sister always was eager at the beginning. But by the end it seemed to always be Haloke carrying the sleepy little one on her shoulders or in her arms.

Johona skipped ahead and then returned, her eyes bright. “It’s just ahead,” she piped. “Just a little further. You can do it. For me.”

Haloke strove to pick up her pace. “I’ll be there,” she promised. “I’m coming.”

“I know you are,” called Johona. “Come on, Haloke. One more step. Just one more.”

The world filled with molasses. Every movement took more energy than it should.

Johona shimmered … wavered …

Haloke was having trouble lifting her leg. For some reason wasn’t listening to her.

She looked down.

The dusty ground swayed … faded … spun …

It came up to meet her.

Chapter Eight

Johona burst into her parents’ room and switched on the light at the side of the bed. Both of them groaned and her father pulled his pillow over his head. Her mother wearily pushed a hand through her hair. “Johona, what time is it?”

Johona picked up the phone. “Momma, you have to call Haloke’s boss. You have his number, right?”

Her mother peered at the clock on the nightstand. “Hun, it’s after midnight.”

“Not there, it isn’t,” replied Johona. “And Haloke’s in trouble! She’s collapsed on the side of the road. She survived the explosion. But they have to get to her now.”

Her father grumbled, “Are these more nightmares?”

Johona threw herself onto her knees at the side of the bed, looking her mother in the eyes. “You have to believe me, Momma. Haloke needs our help. And she needs it now. If I’m wrong, I swear to you I’ll do the dishes for the entire year. I’ll do all the cleaning. The toilets, too. Just, please call.”

Her mom checked the clock again and sighed. “I guess it’s mid-afternoon over there. I can say we just wanted to wish her a Merry Christmas and haven’t been able to reach her on her own phone.”

She gave her head another shake and then scrolled through her contact list.

Ring. Ring.

A male voice answered. “XO Richardson here. Hello, Mrs. Brown. Is everything all right?”

Johona looked at her mother with pleading eyes.

Her mother sighed. “I’m afraid my daughter Johona is quite worried about her older sister. She’s been having nightmares. If you could please just find Haloke for us and put her on, it would help all of us sleep much better.”

Richardson gave a gentle laugh. “That doesn’t seem like much to ask with it being Christmas and all. Sure, hold on a second.” They could hear him calling out to a sergeant.

He came back on the line. “So, how’s everything out there in … was it Montana? Idaho?”

“Wyoming,” said her mom. “We have a nice, white Christmas. The snow makes everything fresh and clean.”

He laughed again. “Well, we aren’t getting much of that where we are right now. Just the sun and sand.”

There was a murmur of voices in the background. Richardson called out to them, “What do you mean, she’s not back? Wasn’t she due at dawn?”

Johona grabbed her mother’s arm and shook it. She whispered, “Tell him.”

Richardson came back on the phone. “I’m afraid your daughter hasn’t returned from a mission yet. She’s running a bit late, but I’m sure it’s no cause for alarm.”

Her mother glanced down at her, and then spoke into the phone. “My daughter Johona’s been having dreams that Haloke’s jeep was involved in some sort of an accident. An … explosion. And that she’s hurt. She’s on foot and trying to make it back to the base.”

Richardson’s voice was all business now. “We’re going out to look for her. Don’t you worry. As soon as we find her, we’ll have her call you.” He clicked off.

Johona crawled into bed next to her mother. Her mother didn’t say a word. She just made space for Johona to fit in, drew over the blanket, and pulled her close.

Chapter Nine

Logan pulled to a stop in the parking lot of the Dancing Bear. The bar was packed. Something about the holidays seemed to bring out the drinking spirits in the locals. Maybe it was the scattered diaspora of the town coming home to visit relatives. Or maybe the far-flung homesteaders were coming in to civilization for a bit of holiday festivities. Whatever it was, the parking lot was full and the music throbbed from a live band.

He climbed out of his SUV, adjusted his hat, and headed inside.

The music was nearly deafening as the door fell shut behind him and he took a moment to let his ears adjust. A country-western band was on stage, belting out a tune from Johnny Cash, and the floor was filled with laughing men and women of all ages.

He pushed his way through the throng to the bar. Jimmy was pouring with one hand and cutting limes with the other.

He looked up at Logan. “I already talked to Sam about that woman who got hurt. I’m sorry it happened near here – but we’d had a pipe burst that night. Had to close up early. Nobody saw a thing – the place was deserted by that hour.”

Logan looked around. “Seems like you got it fixed fast enough.”

Jimmy laughed. “Near Christmas? You bet your butt I had that plumber out first thing in the morning. Paid double, too, but take a look around. This is my busiest time of year.”

Logan swept the edges of the ceiling with his gaze. “No cameras?”

Jimmy pushed the limes into a bin and began pouring two more drinks. “Nope. They’d just get broken anyway. It can get a bit rowdy in here sometimes.”

Logan gave a low laugh. “Do tell.”

Jimmy put the drinks out for his customers and wiped his hands on his shirt. “So how can I help?”

Logan leaned his back against the bar and looked across the sea of customers. “Anyone stand out as being a bit rowdy these past few days? Or unusual?”

Jimmy cocked an eye at him. “Do you see this crowd? Half of them are distant relatives or mountain men down from the hills. The other half are drowning their sorrows at having those same relatives or mountain men around. We’ve had two fights already tonight.”

Logan sighed. It could be just about anyone.

At one table sat four boys who could have been high school seniors. A large plate of wings sat between them along with four tall sodas.

One had straight, chiseled looks and blond hair cut short.

One was darker with thick brows. A scar twisted along one cheek.

One was wiry with sinew. His long, auburn hair reached his shoulders.

The forth was heavy, half-way between muscle and fat. His greasy hair was caught back in a short bun.

Logan nudged his head. “How about those four?”

Jimmy smiled. “Oh, those are just local boys. They’re celebrating because Vaughn – he’s the movie-star one – got drafted by the University of Wyoming. He’s gonna be a Cowboy.”

“Is he really,” murmured Logan.

He remembered those days. The days when sports seemed to be all that mattered. When your thoughts were focused on that girl you wanted to take to the dance and the college that would take you away from all of this.

And now here he was again, right back where he began.

He sighed and patted the bar. “Thanks, Jimmy. I’m gonna go out back and take another look around.”

Jimmy shrugged. “Be my guest. Thing is, lots of people use that alley as a cut-through. Even if there was a clue there last night, it’s probably gone now.”

“Or maybe now it’s finally being revealed,” countered Logan.

Jimmy laughed. “Aren’t you the glass-half-full guy.”

Logan looked down. “I made a promise, and I intend to keep it.”

Chapter Ten

Haloke blinked her eyes open in confusion. The last thing she remembered, she was stumbling along the dirt road back toward base. Johona had been there with her, although Haloke didn’t see how that could possibly be true.

Now, she was in the medical tent.

She lifted the pale blue sheet which covered her body, peering beneath in concern. She still had her arms and legs. A thick bandage was wrapped around her middle. She experimentally prodded at it.

The pain took her breath away – her vision clouded to jagged shades of red.

A gentle laugh came from her side.

She turned –

XO Richardson smiled at her. “You always were the feisty one,” he teased. “Doctor’s orders are that you stay put for a while. Two cracked ribs. You’re lucky it wasn’t far worse than that, with the state your jeep’s in. What the hell happened?”

“They put something in the road – made it look like a local child. I didn’t see it until I was nearly on top of it. I tried to avoid it – but I flipped the jeep and went right into it.”

He shook his head. “They probably put a hole in the ground and had it pop up in front of you. Heck, you’re probably lucky you flipped the jeep. Instead of that thing going off right against the engine block, it looks like it tore through the passenger floor instead.”

Haloke looked again at her bandages. “Yeah, lucky.”

“And you made it nearly five miles on foot, even with those injuries,” continued her XO. “Quite a feat. You’re just lucky your sister called to ask about you, though. We might not have thought to go out after you for a few more hours. And it might have been too late by then.”

Fire sparked in Haloke. “Johona called? I’ve been trying to reach her. I’ve been having dreams about her.”

His eyes creased with curiosity. “Funny, that’s what she said. Or your mom, at least. That she’d had dreams you were in an accident and were trying to make it to us on foot.”

Cold fear swept through Haloke. If Johona’s dreams had been real-time, and not future visions …

She turned to her XO. “I need to speak to Johona now. Could I have my phone?”

He grinned and picked it up off the side table. “I thought you might say that. And your family’s waiting for the call. So go ahead. I’ll give you some privacy.” He stood and moved to the far side of the tent to talk with the doctor.

Haloke’s hands were shaking as she took up the phone and pressed the button.

Ring.

Ring.

Her mother’s voice picked up. “Haloke? Is that you?”

Just the sound of her mother’s voice sent waves of warmth through Haloke’s body. “Yes, it’s me, Mom. I’m fine. Just two cracked ribs. Johona’s vision saved me. The men came out to find me and they got to me in time, because of her.”

Her mother’s voice caught and then cascaded through the phone. “Oh, Haloke, I’m so glad you’re all right. We’ve all been so worried about you.”

Haloke’s throat closed up. “Mom, can you put Johona on the phone?”

There was a shuffling noise and then Johona’s bell-like voice came on. “Haloke?”

Haloke wished she could pull Johona through the phone and grab her in a warm embrace. “Johona, I’ve been trying to call you. I need to warn you. You need to be careful.”

Johona’s voice suddenly sounded strangely thick. “Warn me? About what?”

“There will be these four men,” stated Haloke, her throat growing tight. “You have to watch for them. They’ll be hiding out behind the Dancing Bear. It’ll be at night, after a party, and they’ll –”

Johona burst into tears. The sobbing billowed from the phone, cascaded into the room, and filled Haloke’s ears with searing pain.

Tears started streaming down Haloke’s face. “Johona? Johona? What happened?”

There was a clattering noise.

Panic sprang high into Haloke’s very soul. “Johona?”

Her mother’s voice came on the line, strung tight with tension. “Haloke, I’m afraid … something’s happened.”

Cold reality washed over Haloke, and time suspended.

As if every tear hung in place, glistening, to dry and evaporate into steely resolve.

Her hand drew close around the phone, her fingers turning white.

“Don’t worry, Momma,” she stated, her focus growing crystal clear. “I’m coming home. I’m coming home right now.”

She drew in a long, deep breath, the certainty of her fate filling her. Carving her into an arrowhead.

Her voice rang with cold determination. “And when I get there, I swear to you, I’ll fix things. I’ll find a way to make everything right.”

  • * *

Thank you for reading Wyoming Vision! The sequel to this story is Logan’s Vision, coming soon!

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Dedication

To Sandra, Molly, Sandy, Yvonne, Marilyn, and Sheryl, who all provided great feedback and suggestions.

To the Boston Writer’s Group and Sutton Writing Group, who support me in all my projects.

To my beloved partner of twenty years and counting, who believes in my dreams.

About the Author

Lisa grew up adoring stories like Dune and Lord of the Rings – stories where the old, safe world we once knew has dissolved into a whirlwind of danger and struggle.

Over the years, she has found the power in these tales. Our world is always in motion. Anything a person clings to can be taken away and lost. Life strips us down to the bare essentials, to what really matters.

Relationships.

Trust.

Love.

The only constant is change. Nature continually renews. Life goes on. And by learning to accept that and embrace it, we can achieve all we dream of.

Lisa’s own heritage includes the Lumbee tribe of South Carolina and Tennessee. The Lumbee are considered by many to be related to the Cherokee.

All proceeds from Wyoming Vision benefit local battered women’s shelters.

Lisa has written over 300 published works.

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Wyoming Vision

A Wyoming blizzard. A crashed car. Haloke's only six years old, but there's no one else. Her father's dead. Her mother's clinging to life. She draws deep within her, to her Arapaho and Navajo roots, to set out to find help. Twenty years later, it's Haloke's younger half-sister, Johona, who desperately needs help. She'd been knocked unconscious and then brutally raped. Johona desperately holds onto the hope that Deputy Logan can find those who are responsible. And maybe - just maybe - her sister would be able to return home from deployment overseas to spend Christmas with the family. The lives of Haloke, Logan, and Johona are entwined by fate, just as are the lives of those on and off the reservation. And the story has just begun ... * * * Wyoming Vision is book one in the Arapaho Vision Quest series. In general, Lisa's novellas are written without explicit intimacy or violence. As such they are suitable for teens and up. That being said, this specific series does center around one young woman's recovery from rape and those who would have concerns reading about that should be alerted. Half of all proceeds from this series benefits battered women's shelters.

  • ISBN: 9781370082759
  • Author: Lisa Shea
  • Published: 2017-01-17 11:20:16
  • Words: 8847
Wyoming Vision Wyoming Vision