PART III

The Progenies of Dreams

This is the land of the Pomo. With its rolling hills and low mountains, its beauty is both contained and enduring. While other lands bow to the bulldozer’s blade and the builder’s blueprints, these lands stand strong and stay true to nature’s sublime design. The animals loosed in the Mendocino forest seemed to have their own agenda. Over a period of two years, the little Hopland band of Indians reported animals of dissimilar descriptions, which behaved much like wolves but were bolder and clearly unafraid of humans. Seldom seen was the particular creature that gave them the greatest concern. Being the most remarkable one of the pack, it was obviously different from the rest. Horrifying to encounter, it became the topic of every home. Until the first attack in the casino parking lot, the animals had shown no aggression. The simple explanation was that they only to wanted to be seen. Then once the first blood spilled, the reservation was in near panic. Some of the families moved into town to get away from the threat, but the majority stayed, hoping for a solution. The younger generation listened to their elders, some for the first time. Reaching out for an explanation, they wanted to hear the ancient lore passed down from previous generations. The upside of it was that it drew families and neighbors closer together and gave them a common concern.

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One particular woman still living on the reservation, Angeni Darkcloud, long held the respect of the community because of her age and her wisdom. She was as much a person of lore as were the persons of antiquity from which her stories came. From the dreams and visions of the ancients, she imparted wisdom. Yet more effectually, from her knowledge of God, she reassured the people. One of the most lucid perceptions of wisdom that she purported was that a strong warrior would come. This promised warrior would return from a distant land to rid the woods of the frightful dogs, bringing tranquility back to the band. People talked openly about the prophecy, because they believed that somewhere in it was the answer. Some felt that such lore was pure superstition, while others believed that some dreams are from God, and that His ways are mysterious. They debated the meaning of each nuance of the old woman’s telling, but they lowered their voices to a whisper whenever they mentioned the name of the person to whom they thought the prophecy referred; the strong warrior who would come, and evidently had returned, whose name was Shine.

Chapter 1 Big Earl Farley awoke at a few minutes after 5 o’clock that Saturday morning. He drew back the drapes only to see a well-lit parking lot full of vehicles. He padded across the room to the bathroom area and saw himself in the mirror. He was pleased to see that his features were those of the Old Earl, the antique dealer. After a leisure shower and shave, he dressed in his cream western suit. From his suitcase, he withdrew the holster and gun. Strapping the gun belt around his thick girth,

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he stood before the mirror again. He needed one more thing – this had to be right. Above his clothes, hanging in the closet was an oversized Stetson. Fitting it on his round head, he tipped it slightly and stood back to take a look-see. It put old Earl in a traveling mood. Earl bounced his 400 plus pounds lightly out of the room and threw his bags into the Ford. Early mornings always made Earl feel exuberant. Apart from the lights around the motel, it was still dark. It was yet another 40 minutes or so until daybreak. He was practicing his quick-draw when a cat, black with white markings, darted from between the cars to the sidewalk. “Here Kitty, Kitty,” he cooed, beckoning the leery cat closer. It looked up at him and meowed. “Here Kitty.” It started to approach him, but then hesitated. Sensing the danger, the cat arched its back and hissed at him, showing his sharp white teeth. “Oh, so you want a fight, huh?” Earl said. Standing with his boots planted wide, he pulled his coat back, revealing the handle of his six-shooter. “Make your move,” he dared the cat. It backed up until it was almost to the wall when it hissed again. Earl drew and fired from his hip, missing the animal by at least three feet and hitting the motel wall. The cat leaped straight up in the air and hit the ground running. It moved so fast that Earl didn’t have time to take aim, but he fired anyhow, taking out a motel window. Angered, he sprinted like an angry bear along the sidewalk in the direction the cat had gone. Then walking slowly and with absolute focus like a cattleman looks for coyotes, he eyed the landscape and watched for movement on the ground. Through the glass doors, Earl could see the night clerk dozing in a chair. He had not heard the shots, and evidently, nobody had called the front desk to find out what was going on.

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Then he spotted the cat on the roof eave above the office door. Aiming this time, he fired, feeling the big revolver buck in his hand. The slug hit the broad fascia five inches below the cat, putting the stricken animal again into overdrive. When Earl looked for it again, it was gone. He moseyed back to his station wagon, clearly disappointed that he had missed three times. A few people awoke, and gathered at the glass exit door, curious about the gunshots, but too frightened to leave the building to investigate. He pulled his coat back over the gun and opened the car door. A man, still half-asleep, pushed open the motel door to ask, “Hey, were those gunshots? Did you see anybody shooting out here?” “Best I could tell it looked like a drive by,” Earl reported. “Seen the guy they were shooting at…followed him around to the office to see what they’re up to, but he got away over the fence. Just a bunch of stupid druggies. If I caught that cowboy, I’d a held him still so they could a put a bullet in his worthless head, but the sucker got away.” “You sure have got more guts than me,” the man said. Then he noticed Earl’s oversized body and realized that what he said could be taken the wrong way, stuttered, “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. I just meant tha...” He didn’t finish the sentence. Earl was changing shape. He slapped his coat back away from the gun, drew, and fired. The shot hit the man in the belly and rocked him back. Landing on his posterior with a thud, he sat looking up at Big Earl’s smoking gun. He watched balefully at Earl as Earl changed into something else. His eyes began to lose their focus, and in only a few seconds, he fell forward onto his face, dead.

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Earl the Other held the barrel’s muzzle up to his grinning snout and blew the smoke away. “Ya’all go back to bed and get some more sleep, ya hear?” he called out to the gawkers behind the exit door who stood with their noses pressed against the glass.

Chapter 2 As Earl snickered with unrepressed mirth most of the way, the big Ford took him to Hopland in less than ten minutes. He was hungry enough to eat a horse – or a dog – or a cat – or a bucket of slop. Without slowing, he raced through the little town and headed east to the casino. The morning was dark and still. Earl felt his body begin to relax. He allowed himself to become Earl the Cowboy again – reluctantly, but willingly. There was plenty of time; his main performance could wait a few days. Earl was not too worried about the witnesses at the motel where he had shot the man, after all, who would believe anybody who described the likes of him? The police would assume that either the killer was someone wearing a Halloween mask, or the witnesses were simply lying. He took the old six-shooter out of its holster and laid it on the seat beside him, caressing its graceful contours as if it were a beloved pet. Its smooth, warm metal was to him like a powerful living thing. Earl knew that eventually there would be a manhunt, but the thing in him that was driving him, forced him onward. He punched the gas pedal again and the big red Ford squatted down and jetted up the hill, its tires screaming around every turn. He turned on the radio and swayed his head to the music. I'm reckless and feelin' no pain You know I've got no need to control

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Livin' with the danger I'm always on the edge now With million dollar visions that I hold With only a smattering of vehicles in the casino parking lot, Earl took up two spaces with his station wagon. He hid the gun under the seat and grabbed his Stetson. Stepping out onto the pavement, he locked the car’s doors and headed briskly into the casino, moving effortlessly for a man of his size. The café was even emptier than the lot outside. As Christmas music played in the background, he seated himself in a booth by a window and waited. In less than a minute a waitress, whom he had only seen twice before, handed him a menu and sat a coffee mug before him. She filled his cup and took out her pad, ready to take his order. Magic! Pure magic! Bippitty bam boom! The menu, the cup, the coffee, and the pen and pad – all in one smooth motion – the mystical hands of a blackjack dealer – or a gunslinger! Earl watched – fascinated. When the food arrived, he tucked a napkin under his collar and tasted the biscuits and gravy. With an approving expression, he ate slowly. Any other time he might have eaten with less decorum, but he needed time to allow his environment to become a part of him; after all, he planned to be a part of it.

3 A barking dog awakened Jolon Dasen that same December morning. The Dasen home, passed down from his grandparents, sat on an acre of wooded land on the eastern

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perimeter of the reservation. Built more on the style of a cabin, the three-bedroom house served his family in very practical ways. There were two houses on the property. His grandfather built the old home some sixty years earlier. Tom Dason, Jolon’s father, kept it in good shape, not willing to tear it down because of its significance to him. Situated beneath two tall oak trees and almost hidden from the main road, they often used the old place for family gatherings. Much of Jolon’s childhood he spent playing there and dreaming there. He and his brother Paco, who was five years older, liked to stay the night in the old cabin, just for the fun of it. Jolon missed Paco, who was in his second year at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California studying architecture, and wished for him to move back home. His father opened the bedroom door. “You awake yet, Jol?” It took the boy a few seconds to bring his eyes into focus. Sitting on the side of the bed, he was trying to rub the sleep from his eyes when he answered, “Yeah, Dad, I’ll be right there.” “You might want to hurry, son,” Tom added, “There are a couple of the Moondogs out there now.” Tom went back into the kitchen. Jolon hurried to get dressed, and then he joined his father in the kitchen. He pulled on a pair of heavy cotton socks and carried his hiking boots with him down the hall. “Where did you see them?” “Over there, Jol. Look out that window. I saw them under the trees.”

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The boy went back into the front room and pulled the curtain aside. There, where his father had indicated, were the two dogs in the early morning light. They sat perfectly still, looking directly at the house as if they were studying it. “Why do you suppose they’re looking at our house?” Jolon wondered aloud. He felt a chill, remembering his encounter with the leader of the pack. “Don’t know, Son,” Tom answered. He was putting some pancakes onto the two plates on the counter top. Turning off the burner under a black skillet, he dished out scrambled eggs and then set a platter of bacon on the table. “They’ve been there for the past fifteen minutes. I don’t know how long before that.” He put the food plates on the table and poured two cups of coffee. “Don’t you think it’s strange, Dad, that they all look so different, yet they all act the same?” Without waiting for an answer, the boy washed his hands in the sink. “It seems like they’re following orders, but that doesn’t make any sense, since they live more by instinct.” “Yes, I’ve noticed that,” Tom responded thoughtfully. “You’re right; it sure doesn’t make any sense to me.” They sat at the table and continued their conversation as they ate. “Well,” Tom continued, “one thing we know is that they won’t be any trouble to anybody until tonight. Then again, if it stays cloudy this way and the moon doesn’t show, it’s not likely that they will turn on anybody until the weather changes.” Jolon was spreading jelly on his toast as he said, “The sooner we locate their den, the better. From what Grammy Angeni said about that prophecy, they will turn on women and children too. When I asked her what we could do to keep that part of the elder’s

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dream from happening, she said the only way is to kill all of the dogs or find them homes of kindness. Do you think that’s right, Dad?” Chewing on a piece of bacon, he waited for his father to respond. Tom took a sip of coffee and put the cup down. He leaned over to the window and pulled the curtain back. The dogs still had not moved. “Son, I’ve never known Grammy to be wrong,” he said. “She’s a lot more than just an old woman with a good memory. She knows things. Her brother, Andrew – he’s pretty much the same way.” “What do you mean, ‘she knows things,’” Jolon asked. “Well, have you ever noticed that she always has the right number of dishes on the table whenever you go over there?” “I guess so,” the boy replied, “but I just thought she saw us coming. How else would she know how many of us there were?” “Think about it, Son,” Tom said. “How long does it take for me to get breakfast ready? How about you? How long does it take for you to fix breakfast and set the table?” “I never thought about it. It takes me about half an hour – maybe longer.” “So do you think that she saw you coming half an hour before you got there,” Tom questioned. “Does that make any sense to you?” Jolon’s brow furrowed as he considered what his father was saying. “I see what you mean, Dad,” the boy agreed. They finished their meal and sat for a while drinking more coffee. Quietly, as if it were a sacred subject, Tom continued, “Jol, you really loved Old Ringer, didn’t you? He

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was the only dog you ever had.” Jolon nodded his agreement. “Well, you remember how he was killed, don’t you?” “Yeah, Dad, Old Jake Givens mistook him for a coyote. He was getting into Old Jake’s garbage so he shot him. I won’t ever forget that. I was really mad.” He set down his cup. “I wasn’t mad at Jake – I was mad at myself for not watching out for Old Ringer.” “So what did Grammy do then?” Tom asked. “She came over with a cake that she made for me and a poem. She had written a poem about me and my dog. I still have that poem.” “So when did she bring the cake and the poem to you.” “Right after it happened.” “How long before she brought it?” he pressed on. “My gosh, Dad, it was only about ten minutes!” Tom leaned back in his chair with a satisfied smile. “I rest my case.” His dad seemed to have a way of explaining things so that he came to understand them on his own – gave him reasons to believe the things he believed. “She just knows things,” the boy said, astonished at the weight of what he had just come to realize. “That she does, Son,” Tom agreed. “That she does.”

Chapter 4 With Christmas only days away, an air of celebration on the Hopland reservation was rekindled, and perhaps rediscovered. Sparkling lights and decorations, going up at

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every building and home, affirmed that the resident’s uncertainties would not be forever. Even in the casino, along with festive lights and decorations, Christmas music replaced the usual dirge of country western fare. Sonny and Terry unloaded their two motorcycles near the Russian River Bridge. For the next five minutes, they went over the plans with Shine. It was to be a fun day for them. Their only assignment was to observe the wineries and take pictures with a camera Shine’s grandfather had let them use. If they spotted the white van, they were to watch where it went and report it to Shine. The boys were eager to get started. They strapped on their helmets and straddled the bikes. As they raced along the river road, Shine got back into the old Willys pickup and headed back to his grandfather’s place. For the first half hour, Sonny and Terry explored along the river, leaving the road occasionally to take pictures of the buildings and parked vehicles on the other side. They worked their way farther south until they came to a wooded area. There they left their motorcycles among the trees and got out their bows. They looked for something to use as a target, and finally found some discarded soda cans along the roadside. With the cans lined up on the hillside, they stepped off about thirty paces and then spent the next hour shooting at their improvised targets. It was shortly after eleven A. M. when they started up their bikes to go exploring again. They cut across fields and vineyards, stopping from time to time to take pictures of farm structures and narrow roads to explore at another time.

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The boys were turning around to head back to town when a tan colored dog with a white patch on its chest crossed in front of them. They braked to a stop and grabbed their bows. “Maybe it’s just a ranch dog,” Terry speculated. “It might not even be one of the moondogs.” They laid their bikes down and went over to where the dog had gone into the bushes. With their arrows already notched, they moved slowly, watching for any sign of the dog. Sonny nudged Terry and gestured to a clump of bushes to their right. There it stood, watching them. The boys stood dead still and waited to see what it would do. “I think you’re right, Terry,” Sonny said. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to attack, or anything. He squatted down on the side of the road and talked to the dog. “Here, boy – it’s ok, we’re not going to hurt you.” The dog stepped out from behind the bushes, its tail wagging happily, and trotted over to Sonny. He held out his hand and let it lick his fingers. He rubbed its neck and back and told him what a good boy he was. “It’s a girl dog,” Terry said. “She must belong to one of the ranches out here.” “I want to take her picture, anyway,” Sonny said. “We should tell Shine. He said even if something doesn’t seem important, we need to tell him anyhow.” “I just thought of something,” Terry said. “The pup that Becky found in the woods has a tattoo on its ear. The dead mother dog did too. See if she’s got one.” Sonny examined her ears, first the left one and then the right. There it was; the telltale tattoo on the underside of its right ear.

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“It’s a moondog alright,” he announced. “The tattoo is hard to read though. It’s got hair growing over some of it.” Terry knelt down beside them and watched. Sure enough, in what looked like an indelible ink was the code. “Have you got a pen? We should write it down.” “No, but we can take a picture of it,” Terry answered. Hold it where I can get a good shot of it.” He pulled the digital camera out of Sonny’s coat pocket and turned it on. “It says, HJF G031202F,” Sonny said. “I wonder what that means.” “I don’t know,” Terry answered, snapping a picture, “but there’s one thing we know for sure. This dog is one of the pack.” “She sure don’t act like a killer,” Sonny said. “We could take her home with us and keep her as a pet. She would be an awesome guard dog.” As if she understood what Sonny was saying, she whined and wagged her tail, pressing her head against his leg for him to pet her more. “We can’t, Sonny,” Terry responded sadly, “she’s a moondog, and when she’s in the moonlight, she will be dangerous again.” “Maybe, but what if that’s just a myth,” Sonny said. “What if she acts different when she’s not with the pack? Look how good she’s acting now, she likes me. Look at the way she wants me to pet her.” “I know, but do you know what I think?” Terry paused to rearrange his thoughts. “I think they’ve all been trained to attack people at night – like the moon is the signal.”

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Suddenly the dog heard something and jerked her head up to look. In the distance, they saw the top of a white van visible above the vineyard. She pulled loose from Sonny’s hands and hied off in that direction. “That’s the van we’ve been watching for!” Sonny exclaimed. “Let’s go check it out!” He ran to his motorcycle and was about to start the engine when Terry said, “No, Sonny! We can’t let him know that we’re following him. Remember, we’re just supposed to take pictures and report what we see. If he knows that we’re watching him, it’ll blow our cover.” “Let’s wait till the van leaves, then,” Sonny said, “and maybe we can get close enough to see which way he goes.” Terry snapped a few pictures of the vineyard and the van, and then he zoomed in for a closer picture. There was not much to see since only the top of the van was visible. They waited until the van turned around and headed south, before they started their bikes and raced up the dirt road.

Chapter 5 Earl laid a tip on the table for the waitress and then stood in front of the cash register until the same waitress came to take his money. That done, he went back to the gaming areas and over to the only blackjack table that was open. There were two other guests there. A tired man in a white shirt and a black tie, numb from working all night, was apathetically dealing the cards. Earl sat on one of the

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high stools and played a few hands. He played slowly and deliberately, all the while listening in on their conversation. “It’s about time somebody did something about them,” the man two stools over was saying. “They’re all hush-hush about it, but you can’t hide something like that.” He was a short, balding man in a dark blue polo shirt and gray slacks. Earl noticed his bushy eyebrows and thick glasses that gave him an owlish appearance. Next to him was a Pomo Indian who, unlike the owl, had not been up gambling all night. Gambling all night was for suckers. Jim, on the other hand, had only been in the casino for an hour or so, because he liked to play early in the morning when he was fresh. He figured it gave him an edge, and he seemed to be proving it by the chips he had stacked on the table before him. “That’s the trouble with you city boys, Ray, you’re all advice, but you got no idea what’s goin’ on. You have to be careful when you’re dealing with spirits. You get them riled and they come lookin’ for you.” He tapped for another card. “It sure wasn’t spirits that killed that guy last week,” Ray replied. “I saw it on the news. They said it was a pack of dogs that did it.” “Have you ever seen one of them dogs?” Ray asked. “You go stand by the road when the moon’s shinin’ and you’ll see for yourself.” “Jim, are all of you people that superstitious? Spirits! What a crock!” “What do you mean, ‘you people’?” Jim demanded quietly. “Do you think us Indians aren’t as smart as people like you?” Earl whispered to Jim, “He’s prejudiced, Jim. He thinks Indians are stupid. I wouldn’t let him get away with that if I was you.”

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“Well, anybody that believes in ghosts or spirits these days has to be pretty dumb. I guess you can’t help it though, Jim, growing up here on the reservation,” Ray ran on, clueless of the anger building up in the broad shouldered Native American seated beside him. Ray was studying his cards when Earl whispered, “I’d bust him in the mouth for saying that, Jim.” Jim was not there to start a fight, but Ray had no business coming to his reservation and mouthing off like that. He tried to concentrate on his cards, but made the mistake of letting Ray’s comments upset him. Maybe Earl is right. Maybe Ray needs taught a lesson. On the other hand, the tribal council did not take kindly to fighting with the guests. In just three more rounds of reckless betting, Ray had lost all of his chips back to the house.

Chapter 6 “Sorry about that, Jim. It’s not your fault that you’re losing,” Earl whispered, “It’s that moron there. Somebody needs to shut him up. If I was you, I’d bust his mouth.” Earl was enjoying his private game of pitting Jim against the insolent antagonist. For Ray to needle Jim like that wasn’t too smart, not at all, being that Jim was losing heavily. But Ray couldn’t help but take it a little farther. “I hope you’re better at chasing ghosts than you are at playing blackjack, Jim,” he said. “One of those spooky mutts just migh..” He didn’t get a chance to finish his ill-timed remark. Jim’s fist caught him solidly on his mouth, taking out a few teeth and knocking him off the stool and onto the floor.

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Earl stood and picked up his winnings. He was up by two hundred and eighty dollars. He gathered his chips and went to cash them in, leaving Jim sitting on Ray’s chest, angrily flailing him with his fists. Earl had a knack for setting people against one another. Something about mayhem appealed to Earl’s nature, so thinking about the coming chaos excited him to no end. When Earl was a boy of twelve in Texas, he did not mind going to that little rural church that his parents attended. He liked the preacher. Reverend Stoner was an entertaining orator – not that he spoke well, because he was self-trained. No, it was because the good Reverend was most eloquent when he preached about his favorite subject – doomsday. “One day the world will be destroyed,” he preached, and “there will be blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day…” Earl not only believed it; he wanted to be a part of it – to hurry it along. There was no redemption in Earl’s gospel, only recompense. He crossed the parking lot to his station wagon and got in. The morning had proven to be the beginning of a beautiful day, but Earl had no happy tune to whistle. His was not the calling to bring cheer, but only to fulfill a private vision.

Chapter 7 Once they cleaned up after breakfast, Tom pushed back the curtain and looked outside. The dogs had lost interest in watching their house. They had moved farther back into the trees. Tom didn’t ask the boy where he was planning to go; he knew. It did not seem right for Jolon to go out there alone. Scheduled to work that weekend, it was

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difficult for Tom to go along. Torn by his dual responsibilities, he knew that he had little choice. Instead of lecturing his son to be careful, he just said, “Jolon, you plan to take your Winchester, I guess.” Jolon nodded “Yes,” and stood up. He said, “Dad, I sure wish you could go with me, but I know that you can’t. If Paco were here, I would sure feel better with him along, but I’ll be okay.” “If he could, he would. That’s for sure. You and Paco have been all over this mountain though, so you’ll do okay.” He reached out to his son and hugged him for a moment. “Just don’t hesitate to shoot if you need to, Son,” he said. “I want to see you at home for dinner.” “They probably won’t bother me in the daytime anyway, Dad,” Jolon said, wanting to set his father at ease. “I’ll pack a lunch and leave a note for Mom so she’ll know where I’ll be.” Carrying his lever action 30-30 carbine, Jolon stepped out the back door and closed it behind him. Eighty or so yards away, the strange acting dogs turned to look his way, and then loped farther up the hill. The larger of the two, the gray one, was tall and coyote-like with thin legs and a plumed tail. The second dog was light brown – almost white - with an unusually large head and resembled a Labrador Retriever. Jolon stayed at a distance and used his ears and his eyes to keep track of them. Every so often they turned to watch their follower, and then picked up their pace across the hill and up the mountainside. They were in open view, following a trail across the side of the hill. He quickened his pace so as not to lose track of them. It was nearing 7:30 A.M. and his hands and face,

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exposed to the frigid air caused him to wish that he had worn gloves. It would not be long until the wind would pick up, but it should be warmer by then. Frequent rain had washed the air, making it as clear as crystal, even this early in the morning. Jolon stopped beside a stand of small fir trees and watched uphill. The dogs were out of sight, so he would have to hunt by guesswork and by any signs they may have left. Taking the trail where he had last seen them, he continued his ascent of the wide, forested mountain. To his right, much farther up the slope, a deer suddenly bounded through the brush and down toward him. It failed to see him, but veered to the side, choosing another trail. Expecting to see the dogs in pursuit, he waited. The dogs were evidently not interested in the deer, but continued on their journey. He listened, but the woods were silent, except for a woodpecker, which pecked away at a tall redwood tree, indifferent to the boy, or the dogs, or any other creatures below. Moving on and upward, he climbed over a log and up the trail until he came to a rise where he could see much of the mountainside. It was a place familiar to him. He and his brother had been there often. They had named the spot, Lookout Mountain, although it was, for the most part, only a rocky hill on the side of the mountain. The hike up the mountainside had made him hungry. He sat on a moss-covered rock and set his backpack beside him. From it, he took one of the three roast beef sandwiches and, as he ate, he examined the open areas above him. Whenever they crossed there, he would have their location again. It was after 9:00 A. M. and the sun felt good against his face. He thought about the old man, and the little dog, Peaches. One of these days, he would have another dog.

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He had Old Ringer so long that he did not remember him ever being a pup. He had however, heard stories of how it just showed up one day and attached itself to him, following him around the yard and in the house. Paco, his older brother was the one who named him Ringer, because of a black patch around the pup’s left eye. Sure, he was a mutt, but he was a special mutt. According to family stories, the “Old” was added to the dog’s name soon after Jolon was four years old. They had gone to the river to fish for salmon when Jolon slipped on the muddy bank and fell in. His mother yelled an alarm and Ringer jumped into the fast current and swam after him. He caught up with him biting down on Jolon’s jacket, started swimming to shore. The swollen river was muddy and swift. Tom Dasen ran along the bank of the river looking for a place to retrieve his son, but Ringer had him pulled out of the water by the time Tom found a place to rescue the boy. So his name wasn’t just Ringer any more. It became then, and for the rest of his life, Old Ringer, the most affectionate term ever used for a dog. Jolon was just finishing his sandwich and closing up his pack when he heard a bush move on the trail behind him – and a chilling growl.

Chapter 8 That afternoon, 50 miles away, Sergeant David Simmons sat up in the hospital bed and said, “There! On the news!”

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“What’s on the news?” Leilani responded, startled by Dave’s sudden outburst. They watched as the newscaster told of a bizarre shooting that took place early that morning in Ukiah. Dave used the remote to turn up the volume. “…were wakened by gunshots around 5:30 this morning. Upon investigation, Lieutenant Crawford Mullins of the Ukiah Police Department determined that someone did indeed fire four shots with one fatality. The first three shots hit the motel, and one shot hit a motel guest in the abdomen. The gun used by the assailant appears to have been one of a large caliber. Paramedics who were on the scene, reported that the victim was already deceased when they arrived. Witnesses reported that the assailant was a very large man wearing a white western suit. When one of the guests confronted him, he drew his gun and shot the man at point blank.” The news camera panned in on bullet holes in the side and front of the motel, and blood stains on the step where the victim died. The news reporter interviewed one of the guests who said, “It was cold blooded murder. He just pulled the gun out of its holster and shot him. I wanted to help him, but there wasn’t anything anyone could do for him.” “Can you describe the gunman?” the reporter asked. “I can, but nobody will believe me. I told the officer, but he didn’t seem to take me seriously.” “Let’s try it, Carl – your name is Carl isn’t it? “It’s Carlos. Carlos Miguel.” “Carlos, would you tell us what you can about the shooter?”

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“Yes, he was big – three or four hundred pounds. I’m 5 foot 10, and he was at least six inches taller than me. He was wearing fancy boots and a white cowboy outfit and one of those big cowboy hats.” “Did you get a good look at his face?” “Well, that’s the part nobody believes.” “Why not?” “Because he had a pig’s face.” “Was he wearing a mask?” “No, that’s what the police think. But it wasn’t a mask. I was right over there behind that glass door, maybe 20 or 25 feet away. It couldn’t have been some makeup thing either, because I saw his face change. It grew a snout and weird pig-like ears.” “Did you hear him say anything?” “After he shot that guy, he did. He told us to go back to bed and go to sleep.” “That’s all you heard?’ “That’s all. I know him and that guy he shot were talking, but I don’t know what it was about. As far as I know, he was just trying to find out who was doing the shooting.” To the camera, the news reporter said, “The authorities are not releasing the name of the victim at this time. There will be another report …” “That’s the guy that ran me off the road!” Dave exclaimed. It all fits.” “But what could cause his face to do that?” Leilani wanted to know. “It must be some illusionary thing or a really lifelike mask. Do you think he does that to scare people?”

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“I don’t know how he does it, and right now I don’t care. All I know is that he’s dangerous, and someone has to stop him.” He started to get out of the bed when Leilani said, “No, Dave! You can’t yet. They said that you need to rest for at least another week!” She stood in front of him, unwilling to relent. “I have to, Leilani!” he almost shouted. “That man’s on a killing spree! He has to be stopped!” With an IV still attached to his arm, he swung his feet onto the floor, but when he tried to stand his legs buckled and he fell back onto the bed. Hot currents of pain shot through his back and shoulders, causing him to tremble and clinch his teeth. He felt crippled and defeated, and he knew what he needed to be doing, but he felt utterly helpless. Leilani straightened the blankets over him and caressed his face softly. “It will be okay,” she said, “I’ll call Sergeant Evans and you can talk to him. Don’t worry, Sweetheart, there are others who can handle it. Your job right now is to get better. The children and I need you! Honey, you have to heal up before you can go back to work again.” He knew she was right, and that was a hard thing for him to admit. It really made no sense to take on that kind of responsibility. His only hope was to pass on what information he had to Eric. He nodded, saying, “Yes, I know you’re right. Maybe you should call him.”

Chapter 9

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Recent rains had left large puddles in the dirt road, making it impossible to stay out of the mud. In their haste, they plowed through them, sending sprays of muddy water everywhere. By the time they got to the end of the vineyard, the van was turning onto an eastbound road past a ranch house. They gave up the chase. Better to wait another day than be discovered spying. Terry took several pictures of the van disappearing in the distance. Excited by the success of their first day out, Sonny and Terry started up their bikes again and raced back toward town. A few minutes after the noon hour they spotted Andrew Darkcloud’s old pickup parked near the grocery store. Sonny and Terry left their motorcycles on the parking lot beside it. They found Shine in the post office collecting his mail from a box he had rented there. Back at the truck, Shine put his mail in the glove box, and then he and the boys loaded up the bikes. The tantalizing aroma of grilled onions drew the hungry trio to the hamburger shop next to the Feliz Creek Bridge. There sat at an outside table where they could talk in private. The boys couldn’t help but watch the vehicles slow down to the 35 mph limit and ease through town, as if the van they had been looking for may emerge any minute. Still wound up from the morning’s discoveries, they filled Shine in on the day’s events. Shine listened intently. He was especially interested in the brown dog they found and the direction the white van went. The pictures Terry had taken should yield some pertinent information. “That man in the van probably didn’t see you, and that’s good. The thing we don’t want is for him to find out that he’s being watched. Not only would it warn them that

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we’re coming, but it would put you guys in danger. You have to keep your distance, like you did today. If it ever looks like he’s onto you, you’ll have to get out of there as fast as you can.” “I’m not afraid of that guy,” Sonny boasted. “We’re pretty good with our bows now. We could take him out!” “I know that, Sonny,” Shine said, “but you aren’t just dealing with one man. Chances are that they have a small regiment of trained men. We can’t forget about the dogs, either. If they are trained to attack, and I believe that they are, he could set them on you any time you got in his way. Good investigation is good planning. It’s a lot like chess; you have to anticipate all of the enemy’s moves.” “Yeah,” Terry offered, “we have to try to think like they think. That way, we’ll be ready for ‘em.” “Our best chance of keeping Sarah safe is to let them feel like they have all the time in the world. What I’m trying to impress upon you guys is that there are lives at stake. We aren’t dealing with amateurs, and they’ve already proven that they can be vicious. Anyway, I think that you should watch the same area tomorrow. I’d like to get a fix on where that van goes within the next three or four days.” “What if we go ride around all of the wineries and see if we can spot him sooner?” Terry asked. “They wouldn’t pay much attention to a couple of guys riding bikes.” “It’s been done,” Shine said. “I have scouted out all of the wineries within fifteen miles of Hopland and they all look pretty much like the real deal, so the best hope we have is that the van leads us to the right place.”

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“How many wineries are there?” Terry asked. “If you count the whole area from here to Redwood Valley there are at least thirty,” Shine answered. “Why don’t we just get the cops and search every winery,” Sonny asked, “wouldn’t that save a lot of time? “So it would seem. But even the police can’t search property without a warrant, and that’s harder to get than you might think.” Shine inadvertently touched the scar on his neck, a habit that he had not yet realized. “No, if I mess this up, Sarah might pay the price for it.”

Meanwhile, in the canescent stillness, abundant cold flakes of snow are falling silently like white crystal feathers upon the mountainside where Jolan is crouched listening. The woods are filling up with snow, embellishing both bough and bush with Winter’s wonder. He hears not a sound. He lets his breath out slowly, only his eyes move, raking the bushes for some sign. Danger is in there somewhere, wild and waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. The rifle in his hand feels cold and inadequate. Bravery, his father had explained, was not the absence of fear, but rather the willingness to face one’s fears and take the appropriate action. There would be times when a person needed to stay and fight, and other times when it would be wiser to run. This was a time when running away was the wrong thing to do. Whatever it is in that thicket, Jolon knows that he must not turn his back to it, so he waits.

Chapter 10

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Ernie pulled up to the gas pumps at the Talmage store and fueled up. While the tank was filling, he put on a floppy hat and pulled it down to hide as much of his face as he could. He went into the store and selected the things he would need for the next few weeks. There were several Hispanic men gathered there who watched him, curious about the bandages on his face and hands, but making no mention of it. He paid for the groceries and lugged the three cardboard boxes to the truck. Ernie took the Old River Road at Talmage and wound his way along the river toward Old Hopland. There were few vehicles on the road and he felt confident that he wouldn’t be discovered – not right away. Nearing Old Hopland, he turned east on University Road, and continued along the steep hillsides through the night. Even though the winding road was in good repair, he could only drive about twenty miles an hour. As he climbed higher up the mountain, the road became slippery with mud. Scatterings of rocks, many as large as a lunchbox, lay on the road. He geared down, and changing to four-wheel drive, continued slowly upward. He turned off University Road and onto a road that was unmarked. The first two hundred feet were smooth, but from that point, erosion had made the narrow road almost impassable. He steered around the deep ruts, careful not to venture off onto the soft dirt on the side. In places, bushes and tree limbs had grown up over the road so thickly that it all but obscured it. With little regard for scratching the paint, Ernie continued slowly on, the brush scraping the sides of the truck. After about a mile, he came to a cable across the road. He brought the pickup to a stop and climbed out of the cab. Leaving the headlights on, he took a bolt cutter and removed the lock. Dropping the cable, he drove his pickup past it.

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Putting the cable back was easy. He replaced the old lock with his own, and continued deeper into the woods. In a few days, rain would wash away the tracks and he would be reasonably safe. Once past the cable, the road became remarkably better, circling around the side of the hill and up over another. Patches of snow sculpted by the afternoon sun lay like sleeping ghosts along the roadside, engendering in the landscape the numb sense of unmerciful fate. Coming to a wide, level place in the road, he stopped the truck and shut off the engine. The bandage taped across his face had come loose and was hindering his breathing. He took the bandage off and dropped it onto the floor. From the glove box, he extracted a bottle of pain medicine and shook two of the white pills into his bandaged right hand. Popping them into his mouth, he chewed them and reached for a bottle of water from the cup holder. He washed the pills down and rolled the window down an inch. From where he had stopped, he could see the headlights of any vehicle that might come up the mountain. That was not very likely, of course, but it never hurts to be vigilant. He pulled a blanket from behind the seat, and lying on his side, pulled it over him. His coat folded for a pillow, Ernie slept.

Chapter 11 Snow like cold white dust had fallen upon the truck when Ernie awoke. From the light of daybreak he guessed it to be about 6:30 A. M. At first, he wondered what he was doing there, high on the mountainside, sleeping in his pickup. He lay still for a few

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minutes in the frigid cab, clearing his mind. This was never what he had wanted. After all that he had done for his community, you would expect them to understand. However, he knew that they would not. No way, Jose. He tried to sit up, but his body did not want to cooperate. He had never been so stiff and sore before. Pains shot through his legs and back causing him to wince. The bandages on his face and neck and hands had clotted with blood. He waited three or four minutes and then tried again, carefully placing his feet on the floor and shifting to an upright position. A cup of black coffee would be good, but that would have to wait. He opened the door and stepped out onto the road. In spite of the cold and the pain, it felt good to stretch his legs and arms. The next half-mile would be the most difficult. He got back in the truck and started it up. About a hundred feet ahead the road forked. Instead of staying on the lower, smoother road, he stopped and geared down into low range, choosing the less traveled course. The left fork made an abrupt climb up and over a low, forested ridge. He took his time easing up the hill so as not to slip off the road. With the engine roaring and the tires slipping and throwing rocks and mud back downhill, he progressed slowly over the slippery incline. Though the last leg of the trip was only about two miles, it took several minutes to reach his destination because of the condition of the road. At last he came to a narrow meadow where under a canopy of trees sat an aged camp trailer. The door would not be locked. Ernie was the only person who had been there within the past three years. He would not have known about its existence if he had not seen the property for sale on the Internet. The map that he downloaded and printed made finding it a breeze.

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Archie Reeves had owned the property for the better part of fifty years. Now that he had died, the property was in probate. His heirs were two daughters who lived in Southern California, and they certainly would not be coming around. He stopped the pickup beside the trailer and got out. The trailer door opened easily, as he knew it would, and he stepped inside. First things first, he lit the propane stove and cranked open the side windows to air it out. The sooner he could get everything in place the better. For the next several minutes, Ernie unloaded the pickup and put the groceries away. Once his initial chores were finished, he closed the windows and lay back on the bed. If it had been any other reason for being there, he would have even enjoyed it, but in his present condition, and circumstances being what they were, there was little pleasure for him. In a couple more weeks, he would be saying goodbye to California, but he had a few things to do first. He pulled the blanket over himself and slept.

Chapter 12 Without intermission, the snow falls and settles upon the landscape while two children and a pup trudge steadily along the forest trail. They are not strangers here, but most of their earlier adventures had not been in such uncharacteristic weather.

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“Maybe we should go back,” Willy says, “we’re a long ways from home and we might get lost.” They had been walking for more than two hours and the boy was beginning to worry, especially about the thought of killer dogs lurking behind every bush. “We won’t get lost; Maska will know the way back home. See, he’s following a scent, so he can do the same thing when we go back.” Maska is about fifty feet in front of them, evidently following the trail of some of the pack. Becky calls the pup back to them and holds him there. “We don’t have to be afraid as long as we’ve got him with us. Besides, my dad said that Grampa Darkcloud thinks that there is a den or a cave up here. Wouldn’t it be fun if we found it?” “Yeah, but Maska can’t fight off those dogs. He’s too little – and I know that we can’t.” “But they won’t fight him,” she reasons, “He’s part of their family.” Willy believed that too, but still… “Let’s go until we reach the top up there so we can see all around,” Becky said. “Then we can start for home.” That seems to please Willy. They resume their trek, following Maska along the trail. They hike about ten more minutes when Maska stops dead still. He is looking at something up the trail. Becky is first to notice and whispers to Willy, “Wait.” The boy, already spooked because they were so far from home, whispers back, “What? What is it?” “I think Maska sees something.” “Yeah. Maybe we should run? Think we oughtta’ run, Becky?

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Becky held up her hand to him to be quiet, whispering, “Come on, Willy.” Maska stays put, waiting for them to catch up. The woods are quiet – there is not a sound. They creep on up the trail and stop when they reach the pup. Maska isn’t moving. They stand there for a minute or so, and then Maska begins stalking cautiously on. Willy and Becky follow a few steps behind.

Chapter 13 “It’s Jolon!” Willy exclaims, relieved to identify the source of Maska’a caution. “Hey, Jolon, whatcha’ doing up here? We’re looking for the d….” Jolon motions for him to be quiet. “There’s something in the brush,” Jolon warns, gesturing with the barrel of his rifle. “I heard it growl, so I was afraid to move. You guys shouldn’t be here.” “What do you think it is?” Becky whispers. Frightened, she moves closer to Jolon and hunkers down beside him. Willy looks all around, and then picking up a rock, the only weapon he could spot, joins the other two. “It must be one of the dogs,” Jolon whispers, his voice dry and strained. “If it’s just one, I can shoot it, but if there’s more, I might not be able to get the all.” “What if we run?” Willy suggested. “Maybe if we do they’ll leave us alone.” “Maybe,” Jolon agrees. “Right now I think we should wait. “If there’s trouble, I’d rather be facing it than running from it. I haven’t heard anything for the past five or ten minutes, so whatever it is, it may already…” Suddenly he feels a heavy weight hit him on his back! There is an angry snarl as it bites into his backpack! Startled, Jolon quickly pulls free of the pack and lets the

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mountain lion have it. The lion, seeing its mistake, drops the pack and springs at Jolan again. Just then, from the opposite direction, a mottled gray beast flashes past the boy and meets the lion in mid-air. The animal is snarling and ripping at the big cat with its copious teeth. As one big ferocious ball of anger, they roll across the trail, biting and clawing. The lion tears free and leaps onto a tree. As it tries to climb higher, the beastly dog springs up and bites into the cat’s back leg. Pulling the cat back to the ground, it pounces upon the cat. Not giving up easily, the lion slashes at its adversary, opening a series of gashes on the dog’s flanks. The dog twists around, and fastening its jaws onto the cat’s neck, violently shakes the animal from side to side, sinking its teeth deeper and deeper. Hissing and clawing, the lion tries to retaliate, but is unable to do any real damage to the maddened dog. In less than two minutes, the battle is over. The big beast stands over the dead lion, growling, watching for any movement. Then satisfied that the cat was dead, it turns its massive head around and stares at the three youths. “Don’t move!” Jolon hisses to Becky and Willy. “Stand perfectly still.” His rifle ready with the hammer pulled back, he waits. The beast is looking at him squarely in the eye. Their hearts pounding, the kids move behind Jolon again, never taking their eyes off the beast. They have seen its prowess, and wonder if even a shot fired from Jolon’s 30-30 could stop it. Nobody moves. Jolon is silently praying, Oh God help me help me

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don’t let him see how scared I am! He is afraid that he might pass out and he cannot think of anything worse. He has never been that scared, not even when he ran from that same animal before. The few moments he waits seem like hours. Then the moondog walks slowly past Jolon to Becky and sniffs at the pup she is holding in her arms. She can feel herself trembling, yet she stands perfectly still. It is standing almost as tall as the girl and its head is grossly oversized, its incessantly exposed teeth make it appear ever angry. Maska, obviously recognizing the beast, wiggles in her arms, his tail swishing happily from side to side. The beast licks the pup’s head, and then Becky’s hand. He moves over to Jolon and licks his hand, whimpering sadly. The boy lowers the rifle and strokes the big dog’s injured head. Just now, they hear an animal howling in the distance. The beast lifts his head, his ears perked. Without looking back, he turns and leaves them, loping up the trail and out of sight.

Chapter 14 The North Wind has blown patches of brown dead leaves onto the sidewalks of the hospital. A worker with a blower, its small gas engine, barking like a power saw, was clearing the leaves away. They pushed open the wide glass door and walked down the hall to the elevator. Sergeant Eric Evans pressed the up button and waited.

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They got off the elevator on the seventh floor and found room 514. Dave Simmons was sitting in a chair beside his bed with a notepad in his lap. “Excuse me for not standing,” Dave said, smiling, but I’ve had to be lazy for the past couple of weeks. Eric ignored his outstretched hand and leaned down to give him a hug. Shine simply took his hand and shook it warmly. “This is Special Agent Samuel Darkcloud, a Federal Marshal. I think the two of you should meet to compare notes since you both have an interest in this case. “Forget the title, Dave,” Shine said. “Just call me Shine. Everybody else does.” Evans sat on the side of the bed and Shine took a seat adjacent to Dave. “Sounds good to me, Shine. How is it that you have an interest in this same guy?” “It’s not just him, Dave. Actually, I don’t know much about that – just what’s been on the news. I’m mainly interested in those monkeys with the luminous bodies that you reported. It sounds like it ties in with another situation up in Mendocino County.” “Ah, the two little soldiers!” He picked up a folder on the floor beside his chair and opened it. Withdrawing the photographs, he handed one to Shine, and another one to Evans. While they were studying the pictures, he continued. “Jerry Bailey works the swing shift at the Golden Gate Bridge. He took the pictures with his cell phone and downloaded them onto his computer. I asked him for the pictures because they were so unusual. When he heard that I was here in the hospital, he drove them up to me.” “What do you know about the driver?” Shine asked. “It took a bit of doing to find out who she is, but the camera at the toll booth recorded the license plates. He just ran through the film until the BMW came up. Those

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are actually good prints to come off a cell phone.” He handed Shine another page which was a printout of the drivers DMV information. “Teresa Vadoma,” Shine read. “Know anything else about her?” “We did some checking,” Evans said. “She has a Bay Area address. Her parents are immigrants from Romania. She was born there, their family moved to California in the late seventies. It seems she has a degree from SFU in marketing and business – several arrests going back fifteen years. Domestic violence, two DUIs, she did three and a half years for embezzlement. Let’s see, she was arrested four years ago for attempted murder, but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. She’s divorced – no kidding! I wonder why?” “So I’m curious, Shine. Tell me what you’re working on that’s got you interested in monkeys that light up?” “Within the last few months there have been luminous dogs showing up at a casino just out of Hopland,” Shine said. “Recently there have been some fatal attacks. We know that there is a laboratory hidden in the basement of a winery somewhere in that area where they have been experimenting with jellyfish genes. We’ve known for a long time that those genes when introduced into mammal embryos, causes the subject to glow under fluorescent light. The crazy thing is that these animals are reacting to moonlight in the same way they should be reacting to ultraviolet light.” “But why do I get the idea that this crazy pig man is part of it?” Dave said. “I don’t know how he ties in, but I’ll bet you a dollar for a donut he does!” “Gut feeling, huh?” Shine said. “That’s all I’ve got, Sir,” Dave replied. “Just a gut feeling.”

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“I’ll accept that, Dave,” Shine said. “Meanwhile, someone is trying to scare a lot of good people away from their homes. We will find out sooner or later who it is, but I sure rather find out sooner.” He handed Dave the photograph back. Dave shook his head, “No, you keep it, Shine. I have a couple more I’ll hang onto. But I’m hoping that you will keep me up to date on the pig man if you run across him.” Shine hesitated. “Wait!” he said. “There is something. One of the women who deals blackjack at the Sho-Ka-Wah casino said something. A man – a big man – she said he resembled a pig and it rattled her so badly that she had to leave the table. That’s it! That’s the man!” “I told you, Man!” Dave said, not attempting to hide his excitement. “I told you it’s all connected!” “Follow your gut!” Shine smiled. “You betcha, Buddy!” Dave exclaimed with more than a little satisfaction. “Follow your gut every time!”

Chapter 15 The big Ford station wagon stopped beside the winery. Two toots on the horn and a door beside the loading dock began to roll up. Earl waited until the door locked into place and then drove into the cavernous cellar. He parked beside a white van and got out. With his six-shooter hanging low on his hip, he tipped his Stetson a bit to the side and started toward the stairs. “Morning, Mr. Farley,” a man in the shadows called out.

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“Mornin’, Ralph,” Earl returned the greeting. “You doin’ okay there?” Without waiting to hear the security guard’s reply, Earl continued up the stairs to the main floor entry. Apollo, the winery clerk, met Earl at the door. “Good morning, Sir,” he said, opening the door wide for Earl to enter. Earl walked on past him, and then turned suddenly, drew his revolver and aimed it at the precautious man. “Fastest gun in the West!” Earl crowed. “I could blow a man’s head clean off with this thing!” Apollo went along with it, pretending that it was only a joke, but he could see the ends of the shiny bullets in the cylinder and knew that the gun was fully loaded. “I won’t argue with that,” he replied, “but I’m pretty much attached to my head. I just hope that you won’t shoot an unarmed man.” Don’t count on it, Earl thought to himself, don’t count on it. He led the way to Apollo’s office and lowered his bulk onto a chair behind the desk. Apollo followed him in and stood near the door, as if he might just have to hightail it away from this crazy boss any minute. “Set yourself down, Apollo,” Earl said, gesturing to a chair across from the desk. “We gonna have us a set-down talk. You okay with that?” “Sure, Mr. Farley,” the man said. “I got all the time in the world.” He pulled the chair back away from the desk and sat. “Speaking of which,” he began, “We’re finally making some money on that new supply of wine we brought in from Modesto. It’s been relabeled and we jacked up the price. It’s been our best seller. It’s going for $28 a liter;

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that’s more than a 400% profit. These dumb yayhoos that pass through here don’t know a Sauvignon Blanc from a Zinfandel. This wine business is a sucker’s game.” “Then raise it to $32, then if sales drop off, put it on sale back at $28 and let them think they’re gettin’ a bargain. Next thing you know they’ll be lined up at the door begging for more. How we doin’ with inventory?” “We’re low, but I got a truck coming Tuesday. We won’t miss a beat.” “You hear much from the reservation?” “I hear things are getting a bit testy since that guy got chewed up. Something’s going on. There’s a rumor that they’re bringing in some expert, but nobody knows for sure who that is, or they won’t say.” “That’s not good,” Earl said. “We’re gonna have to find out somehow. You got any ideas?” “Well, sometimes a woman has better luck at something like that. Maybe Teresa – if she could get off of her high horse long enough to do something useful.” Apollo wasn’t sure why he fell into the habit of talking like a Texan when he was around Earl, but Earl never seemed to mind. “I’ll talk to her,” Earl said. “Do you have any idea why she’s late today?” “I have a pretty good idea,” Apollo answered, “but you might not like it.” He didn’t try to hide his dislike for the woman, mainly because she felt the same way about him. He sometimes thought that the boss enjoyed pitting them against one another. No matter, a few more weeks and they would be closing down this monkey business anyhow. “You think I don’t know about her bad habits, Polly?” Earl said sarcastically. “That’s one reason I keep her on a string. People can be persuaded in different ways. It’s

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easy to persuade a druggie, you just wave some dope in front of them and they’ll jump off a bridge if you tell them to.” Apollo ignored Earl’s attempt to upset him by calling him Polly. He didn’t trust Earl enough to turn his back on him, but they needed each other. If you want to stay alive in this business, you learn to pick your fights, and you learn who not to pick fights with. “You’re smart, Boss,” he replied. “You’re smart. I’ll give you that!” “I need that casino, Apollo!” Earl said ardently. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get it! Once I get my foot in the door, the rest will be a piece’a cake. It’s the money, Polly, and you’re going to get your part of that! There’s billions to be made, this is just the beginning. There’s over 350 Indian casinos in this U. S. of A., and last year alone they netted over 14 billion dollars! Billions, Polly! And it all starts right here!” Apollo had to admit, the boss always got him fired up. He had no idea how many millions of dollars Earl had squirreled away as they spoke, but he was pretty sure that it was in the nine digits. To think that soon he would have that kind of money made him disregard all caution. The boss could call him Polly, or Wally, or Golly for all he cared, so long as he got his cut of the pie. The front door opened and Teresa tap-tapped across the plank floor and down the hall with Freddie and Frieda scampering behind. She failed to realize the disruption that she induced at her entry, for in her prevailing state of mind she was the epitome of elegance and grace. She jerked the office door open and said, “Mr. Farley, it’s so good to see you! I have great news!” She circled behind the desk and leaned over to give him a hug. Frieda scurried across the floor and jumped upon the desk, while Freddie tipped over the waste basket

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and started scattering its contents all over the floor. Apollo stood near the door, unwilling to be associated with the woman’s peculiar behavior. Earl let the woman hug him, and then said, “Well, Darlin’, good news right now would be for you to lock up them two flea pickers you got, then maybe we can get down to binness.” He swung his ham-like arm across the desk and sent Frieda flying into the wall. She landed with a bang and ran to hide behind the file cabinet. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she apologized, her arm still around the big man’s shoulders, “I’ll go put them in their room.” She coaxed Frieda out from behind the file cabinet and grabbed Freddie by the arm. While she took them to the cage in one of the back rooms, Apollo picked up the trash that they had scattered on the office floor. “All in a day’s work,” Apollo muttered. “All in a day’s work.” “Just a few more weeks, Apollo,” Earl said quietly. “If the good news she’s got is what I think it is, we’re ready to move on to the next phase now. We still need her a little longer, though.” Apollo nodded. Standing at the door, the wastebasket in his hand, he said, “If were finished, Boss, I need to get busy. I’ll be out front if you need anything.” Earl waved him on, and leaned back in the chair, waiting for Teresa to return. He heard the toilet flush on the other side of the wall. When she returned to the room he said, “Come on in and shut the door, Teresa, we got a lot to talk about.”

Chapter 16 It was 8:00 A. M. on Wednesday when people started showing up at the tribal center. James Talltree had called the ad hoc meeting to try to piece together the events of

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the past few weeks. Dogs from out of the woods kept showing up from time to time. Several animals had been shot, all of which turned out to be pets on the reservation. That alone incited anger and confusion among neighbors. More families had moved from the reservation, and others were seriously considering it. Nobody tried to talk them out of it, because it was a valid option. Talltree had arranged for a breakfast buffet, so the first ones to arrive had already begun to eat. There were two tables pushed together to make enough room for a dozen chairs. By ten minutes after the hour, everyone was present except for Shine. Andrew was the last to help himself to the buffet. He sat his plate and coffee cup down at the end of the table. There were nine people present, not counting Shine, who would arrive later, and Andrew himself. He took his time eating, thereby giving the others ample time to talk among themselves. These were the people on whom he would rely during the next few days – or weeks. He was especially impressed with Jolon. Rare was the youth that possessed such courage and wisdom. One day he would lead this Pomo Band, of that Andrew was confident. Tom Dason sat at Andrew’s left. Tom was born on the property where he currently resided. He was a man committed to his family and friends, a man willing to go to the wall for something he strongly believed. Seated beside Tom was his son, Jolon, then Sergeant Elliot Hess, the head of Tribal Police and Vern Crow. At the opposite end of the table was James Talltree, the Tribal Chairman..

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At Andrew’s right were Abe Chambers, Leon Bates, Warren Borman and Roberto Nunez, who was the night shift manager of the casino. There was no repartee among the fun loving men, but rather a somber sharing of relevant information. Tom and his son Jolon immediately gathered up the dishes and carried them to the kitchen to be washed later. James distributed note pads and pens to all the men. Once that was done and every one was seated, the conversation ceased and they turned their attention to the chairperson. James Talltree stood to greet the men and introduce Andrew Darkcloud. The old man laid aside his fork and blotted his mouth with a napkin. “Thank you all for coming,” Andrew said, meeting the gaze of each one. “Each of you was asked to be here because we believe that you are involved in this situation. We need you to help get us through this. James, our Tribal Chairperson, has asked me to speak to you today on behalf of the Tribal Council. We would like to hear what each of you has to say. Right now, I want to update you on what we know thus far, as well as some speculations. “The first report of ghost dogs, or moondogs, as they are being called, came from Joseph Creel on March the 3rd of this year. The dogs were seen even before then, but nobody paid much attention until they saw them glow in the moonlight. By now we’ve all seen the phenomenon at one time or another.” The men nodded and voiced their agreement. “We now believe that we know what makes the animals glow in the moonlight.” Andrew hesitated a moment to give the men a chance to speak if they desired to. When no one did, he continued. “Some years back, it was learned that selected genes of a species could be introduced into another species. To illustrate the point,

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science has been successful in incorporating spider genes into goats and using the milk in making the strongest body armor possible. “Following that, and many other such experiments, there were experiments with jellyfish genes. Certain phosphorus genes from jellyfish incorporated into animal embryos, usually mice or rats, caused them to glow under ultraviolet light. You might have read about that; it was in the news several years back.” Some of the men nodded their agreement. He was about to continue when Leon raised his hand. “I’m following you okay about the phosphorus genes being incorporated into the animals, but what I’ve been trying to figure out is how the phenomenon happens with the moonlight. As far as I know, the moon doesn’t emit ultraviolet light. It just doesn’t seem consistent.” “I don’t have the answer to that, Leon,” the old man admitted, “I just know that the moonlight triggers something in those particular animals. Every report we have confirms two things: that they only glow in the moonlight, and that their aggression is only seen when that occurs.” “I’m just not sure about that,” Vern Crow cut in. “My daughter Becky and her little friend Elizabeth Lewis petted one about eight o’clock one night. They said the moon was up and the dog was glowing at the time. She said it came right up to her and it didn’t seem dangerous at all.” “What we think,” Andrew said, “is that it has to do with training. The only aggression that we have noted has been when the Alpha dog is present. They seem to take their orders from him. He seems to be the key, but we can’t be sure.”

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Jolon raised his hand to speak. “I’ve seen that big one twice. I already told you guys about him killing that mountain lion, but there’s something else. I think he did it to protect Becky’s pup – and maybe Becky and me, too. After he made sure the mountain lion was dead, he came up to us and licked our hands. He even let me pet him. Boy that was sure scary!” “The first time you saw him, Jolon,” Andrew said, “what do you think made him try to attack you?” “It was when the moonlight was on him,” Jolon answered. “There was something about that.” “Why do you think he was so friendly to you and went after the big cat when it jumped you Saturday?” “It was during the day and it was snowing. The moon didn’t shine on him then. He saw I was in trouble and he did what a good dog would do – but he did it better because he’s so much more powerful than most dogs are.” “That’s right,” Vern added. “Old Man Givens used to hunt cats with his hounds. I heard him tell that one time he had three hounds corner a mountain lion on the far side of the mountain and it killed two of his dogs. The third one was so torn up he never hunted that dog again. Me and Tom went with Jolon Sunday and skinned out that young cat. We didn’t have any way to weigh him, but I’d say it weighed 125 or 130 pounds. The biggest one we’ve seen in these parts was about 160 pounds.” “Again, something happens to the moondogs when the moon is shining. Otherwise they are just like ordinary dogs,” Andrew said. “Then I wonder too, if its handler is communicating with it some way – giving it orders.”

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“But that one is the leader of the pack,” Abe interposed. “If we kill the big one, wouldn’t that shut down the pack?” “So it would seem,” the old man said. “But what if there’s a second one to take its place? The next phase of their plan could be worse than the first. We have to confront the threat at its roots, and its roots go back to the people who are behind this terrorism.”

Chapter 17 “You’ve all met Abe Chambers,” Andrew said, “and you may know that we have evidence that his daughter was abducted about three years ago. Her name is Sarah. Dr. Sarah Chambers has had extensive training in genetic research.” Again, he paused to give them a moment to assimilate the information. “Sarah, as we speak, is being held in a makeshift laboratory somewhere near Hopland. Earlier this year she was able to call her father and tell him where to find a note that she had written. Why she didn’t give him the information on the phone, we aren’t sure, but we have a copy of that note.” He turned on the Power Point and projected the images onto the screen, showing the series of numbers and letters. “It’s written in a code – not a difficult one, but one that can’t be quickly deciphered. Once we found the key to the code, we translated the note to this.” FIND WINERY BY RIVER LAB IN CELLAR MUTANT DOGS WITH PHOSPHORUS JELLYFISH GENE DANGER DANGER The men around the table were copying the note onto pads the old man had placed on the table. Abe and his friends already had the information, but they waited patiently for Andrew to continue.

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“As you can see, the dogs mentioned in Sarah’s code are without a doubt the same ones that we’ve been dealing with. We know that some very evil people have bred these dogs and have brought them here. Then, of course, there is that last part – a warning that there could be serious consequences both to Sarah and to whomever attempts to rescue her. Any questions?” “Yes,” Tom said. “Why not just go to every winery that’s close to the river? How hard is that?” “You asked, ‘Why not,’” the old man began, “and I’ll try to answer that. There is still any number of things that we don’t know yet. For instance, who is behind this and why? It’s as simple as that. Who and why. If those people are serious enough to kidnap a scientist and successfully keep her for three years, won’t they have a strong security force of their own? My friends, we must be cautious. The bottom line is this: if those people find out about us, they will destroy any evidence that can be used against them, including Sarah.” “I have a question,” Roberto interrupted. Everyone around the table, including Andrew, was interested to hear what the man had to say. He had earned their respect the night he prevented more bloodshed by coaxing the pack of moondogs off the reservation. That night the pack attacked and killed a man, and might have attacked others if it were not for Roberto’s brave action. Thus far, he had said very little during the meeting. “Since there has been a kidnapping, why isn’t the FBI involved in this? Isn’t that what they’re for? They need to be doing their job and breaking down some doors about now, it seems to me.”

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Every eye in the room moved from Roberto back to Andrew Darkcloud, ready to hear his response. The old man, still standing, was leaning forward and resting his hands flat on the table. He slowly returned each ones gaze and chose his words carefully. The door closed and locked, a guard stood just outside to prevent anyone from interrupting the meeting.

Chapter 18 “The FBI has been involved from the very beginning,” Andrew said. “At this juncture I am not at liberty to tell you much about their activities, but I can tell you this: They know everything that we know, and they have a presence here much closer than you may realize.” Vern raised his hand to speak. “You all know the kids found an injured dog about a mile from here that had a tattoo on its ear. They went back later and found her pup, and it had the same kind of a tattoo. Does anybody know yet where that came from and what it means?” “Not only that,” Tom Dason added, “but the kids saw a couple of men there – nobody from around here though. It’s pretty clear that somebody wants to scare us off the Rez.” “Okay,” Andrew said, “one thing at a time. Yes, we do know what the tattoos are for. The first three letters are Hopland Jellyfish Gene, the numbers are their dates of birth, and the last letter distinguishes the dog’s placement in the litter.” The old man punched a few keys on the laptop on the table and on the screen, they saw:

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HJG031202F // Hopland Jellyfish Gene // March 12, 2002 // Sixth of the litter Warren, who had been quiet for most of the meeting, started to speak up, but then hesitated. He had the habit of listening because that was usually more informative than talking. The old man caught it though, and said, “What is it, Warren? You were about to say something.” Warren was still slow to speak, not certain if it were his place to make such an observation. “Yes Sir – it’s just a thought – maybe it’s not relevant, but I keep wondering why they used the letter H in the acronym. Why is it even needed since they know all their dogs are from Hopland.” “Yes, and what do you think the reason for that is?” Andrew urged. They waited for Warren to get his thoughts together, curious as to what he was thinking. “I can only think of one reason,” Warren began. “These aren’t the only dogs that they plan to use. Somewhere they might be training dogs for other places. Somebody – whoever is behind this – wants to take over the reservation. This property is valuable to them. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just the casino that they’re after, and maybe it’s all the acreage they want. Whatever it is, they are willing to kill for it. If they can reduce the value of the property by scaring people off, they hope to buy it for a fraction of its real worth.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “But that’s only part of it. I think we are going to start hearing about moondogs showing up on other reservations, especially where there are casinos. This terror is unleashed on Hopland now, but it could happen at any number of places. That H in the identification code is for Hopland, but next it could be RV for Redwood Valley, or W for Willits. What I’m saying is that we need to consider this a possibility” He took a drink

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from his water glass and then held it as if he was studying its contents. “It has to be about the money. I’m afraid that unless it’s stopped here, we won’t be able to stop it at all.” The old man took a note pad from his jacket and jotted down some of what Warren had said. When he looked up, the unusually quiet circle of men were waiting to hear his response. Holding the pen and pad in his hands, he said, “Gentlemen, what we just heard is the reason why we are here. We need your input, if we are going to see all the facets of the situation. If Warren is right, and I’m thinking that he is, we have all the more reason to be alarmed. Killing the dogs alone will not solve our problem. It is very possible that more genetically altered dogs are being bred somewhere.” “Now back to the second part of your question, Tom,” he said. “Obviously the two men the kids saw in the woods are part of this whole mess. I myself have witnessed such a man on the south slope of my property, who appeared to be an animal handler. The children who found a dead dog, found a micro-transmitter under its skin. Evidently, these are used to track the animals.” He took the small glass instrument from his shirt pocket and laid it on the table for them to inspect. “Shine saw the same dog trainer driving a van. Others saw the same van on this property. We have been keeping an eye on him. There is a good chance that we will know where their base of operation is within two or three days.” “The FBI is very good at keeping secrets,” Andrew continued. “It is vital that we do the same. I know that alone we don’t seem like much of a force, but know this – and keep it confidential – we are not working alone.”

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“There’s something else,” Jolon offered. “I keep thinking about this glow-in-thedark thing they do. We know how it works – well sort of, anyhow – but there are some people that believe it’s a bad omen – a warning that a lot of people are going to die. Those who think that call them spirit dogs or ghost dogs. They believe that you can kill a regular dog, but not if it’s a spirit. So far, the only dead moondog we know of is the one the kids found in the woods. The dogs that have been shot and killed were ordinary pets killed by mistake.” “He’s right about that,” Elliot agreed. So far, fourteen families have moved from the Rez. Yesterday six families I know of were loading up to move. All of the ones I’ve talked to believe that you can’t stop them, because they are spirit dogs.” The men around the table were deep in conversation when suddenly the door burst open and Shine rushed into the room, directly followed by Sonny and Terry. He stood beside his grandfather and announced, “Guys, we’ve got another problem!”

Chapter 19 It was about 1:30 A. M. Wednesday and the activities within the casino were tapering off when Hershel Miller noticed the time. He suggested to his buddy, Bogie Blaggard, that it was time to leave. Hershel, who worked at an auto repair shop in Ukiah, had to be to work at 8:00 that morning. They paid their bar tab and headed toward the exit door. Hershel, a man in his late 50’s, had not missed a day’s work in thirteen years. Sick or well, rain or shine, he was always on time and put in a full day’s work. The years had

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not been good to him though. Hard work and hard drinking had done a job on him. It was an auto accident, however, that left him with a limp. Bogie, on the other hand, had never worked two consecutive days in his life. His meal ticket was a woman who had a good job at the courthouse in Ukiah. Although he was some ten years younger than Hershel, he did not need a ruptured spleen or a twisted leg to slow him down. Some men are afraid of heights, others of lightning, but what spooked Bogie the most was physical exertion and familial responsibility. His woman had threatened to throw him out numerous times, and she had twice, but he always managed to maneuver his way back into her life. The night was clear and cold. The pair was walking toward the far corner of the parking lot where Bogie had parked his old Toyota. “Right over there,” Bogie was saying, “where that suburban is parked – that’s where them dogs killed that idiot. That’s why I always carry a gun in my pocket. I ain’t gonna take any gobbledygook from nothing or nobody. They mess with me an’ I’ll put a slug in their head.” “That little thing you call a gun wouldn’t stop a dog like that, Bogie,” Hershel retorted, “just make ‘em mad. Where’d you park your car, anyways?” “Right over there – last car on the end.” “Do you see it? I don’t see it.” “I thought it’d be where I left it. Dang, Hershel, I must be loosin’ my mind! I know I left it where I always do.” “Well it ain’t there. Did you leave the keys in it? Maybe somebody stole it.”

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“No, I got my keys right here,” Bogie said, holding out his keys for Hershel to see. I guess Mildred took it. She’s probably got the other keys. They walked to the spot where the car should have been, and stood there looking all around, as if that could make the car magically reappear. There were only about three dozen cars parked in the lot, and Bogie’s Toyota was nowhere in sight. “Looks like we’re going to have to hoof it,” Hershel said. “What about moondogs?” Bogie said. “What about ‘em?” “Well, Hershel, we got a full moon tonight.” “I thought you said you’ve got a gun.” Bogie fished in the pocket of his coat, trying to pull out the gun. Finally getting it out of the pocket, he showed his friend the little twenty-two pistol. Hershel was less than impressed by the gun. They stood there on the far corner of the parking lot, looking up at the moon. “Think you can make it home okay?” Hershel asked. “I ain’t that drunk,” Bogie replied, “I’m just a little unsteady on my feet.” Side by side, they crossed over to the road and staggered their way toward their houses near the cemetery. There were no streetlights there, but the men had walked the road in the dark a hundred times, and the light from the moon was more than adequate. “It’s kinda quiet,” Bogie observed, looking all around, expecting to see something glowing in the bushes. “I don’t hear no dogs barkin’. Shouldn’t there be some dogs barkin’, Hershel?” “They must be scared of the moondogs, Bogie.”

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“Hershel, I’m scared!” “Me too,” Hershel admitted. They picked up their pace, their footsteps syncopating upon the pavement, breaking the silence of the night. High on the hilltop to their left was the cemetery, and both men felt uneasy passing by it in the ghostly moonlight. Their homes however, were only a little more than a quarter of a mile away. They pushed on.

Ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo! Startled, they stopped to listen. Again - Ho-ho-hoo hoo! They looked up toward the cemetery in time to see it emerge from the trees, diving down toward them in the moonlight. Obtusely panicked, the men ducked down as the huge luminous owl darted over them. Turning quickly, they watched it swoop up into a tree by the side of the road and perch on a low limb. “D-do you see it?” Bogie stammered. “Do you?” “Yeah. Yeah, I see it.” “I knew it, Hershel! I knew we wouldn’t make it home. We’re g-gonna die now!” “How do you know, Bogie – how do you know that?” The two terrified men had their arms wrapped around each other, both watching the greenish white owl only about twenty feet away, its wide eyes looking directly at them. “Just ask Grammy if you don’t believe me, Hersh. It’s a Indian omen. A white owl means somebody’s gonna die. Sometimes they even say the name of who’s gonna die.”

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“I didn’t hear it say any name,” Hershel gasped. It just went who-who-who.” It did not help him feel any better for Bogie to talk about dying that way. “Maybe if it don’t speak our names we won’t die.” “But what if he does?” “Then I guess were goners, Bogie.” “Not if I can kill it before it says anything.” He raised the pistol and fired. The owl just flapped its huge wings and shook its feathers. “Shoot it, Bogie!” Hershel urged. “Shoot it!” Bogie fired again and the bird lunged into the air and flew about thirty feet away. Bogie ran into the woods after it. Raised in a laboratory cage, the bird had not yet learned to fear man. Confused by the gunfire, it attempted to escape by flying to the middle of a tall oak. Desperate to kill it, Bogie fired three more times, missing every shot. Hershel stayed on the road, peering into the woods. The shooting stopped and it was quiet again. Then, something loomed between the trees. Then others joined in until he counted five moondogs creeping quietly toward Bogie. “Bogie!” Hershel hissed. “Bogie, get out of there!” Moondogs, Bogie! Moondogs!” But it was too late. Bogie screamed as the first dog leaped upon him. Immediately, four more of the snarling animals were on him, pinning him to the ground and savagely taking the life from him. Nothing Hershel could do would save his friend, so he ran. He ran faster than he had in years, unmindful of his stiff leg, his shoes clopping unevenly on the paving.

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Silently the raptor swooped down. A searing pain shot through Hershel’s head. He felt the owl’s sharp talons tearing at his scalp before he heard its piercing screech. It had slashed him and lofted back up into the moonlit sky. Hershel spun around, searching for the vicious bird. It was on the far side of a tall oak tree, circling, intent on striking again. He was afraid to take his eyes off the terrifying bird. Opting to walk backwards in order to keep the owl in sight, he tripped and fell. The owl quickly dove upon him. Its powerful wings repetitively slapped the terrified man’s face and its talons gouged his hands. Its bloody deed done, it flew skyward again, leaving the stricken man with severe gashes on his hands and forearms. Hershel forgot about Bogie. He jumped to his feet, and with his arms held up to protect his head, he ran for his life! He ran until he was in the front room of his house with the door slammed shut and locked behind him. His own blood covered his face and arms, but he paid it no heed. There was a full bottle of hard liquor in the kitchen cabinet, but it would be gone before daybreak. This day would be the first time he failed to show up for work in thirteen years.

Chapter 20 The next morning, while Andrew Darkcloud was meeting with the men at the Tribal Center, Sonny and Terry were on their motorcycles on the Old River Road near the south Russian River Bridge. The road appeared newly paved. It connected to the old road beside the river that the boys had been scouting before. If they were right, the van had been on it the previous day.

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From the looks of the open field beside the vineyards, other dirt bikers had been riding there. There was a makeshift racetrack there and several elevated jump ramps. Shine had said for them to have fun there and at the same time, keep an eye out for the van. They had been there since 8:15 A. M., and had not seen a vehicle of any kind near the river. It was almost eleven o’clock when they spotted the white top of the van moving slowly about a mile away. “It’s turning this way,” Sonny said, starting up his bike again. “We’d better be riding if he comes by. If he knows that we’re watching him he’ll be suspicious.” They revved their engines and ran the lap again, all the while keeping an eye on the van. It drove slowly past the ranch house and continued toward the two boys. They rode to the far side of the field and raced along the vineyard there. By the time they reached the end of the field, the van was almost to Old River Road. Stopping their bikes, they waited a moment, and then sped back across the field. The van stopped at the pavement. The sign on its side said, Xlent Construction. The driver, dressed entirely in black, opened the door on the far side of the van and got out. He had what appeared to be a sign with him. Opening the passenger door, he put the sign in the van and then pulled off the second magnetic sign and stored it inside. On the side of the van was another sign painted that said, NorCal Winery. The man stretched, taking a moment to watch the bikers ride, and then got back into the van. He made a right turn onto Old River Road and proceeded south. The boys continued their race, but got into a position where they could watch the van. By the time they reached Old River Road again, they saw the van turn left and up

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into the wooded hillside. The boys raced back along the field again in the direction the van had gone. When they got to the vineyard, they stopped their bikes and ran up the side of the road to look. There at the turn the van had taken was a sign reading, NorCal Winery. Terry got out his cell phone and dialed Shine’s number.

Chapter 21 Two days had passed since Ernie had gone into hiding. The bleeding had stopped, but his whole body hurt. He thought he had carefully cleaned the wounds and applied had the antibiotic dressing properly, but something was not right. Carefully, he removed the bandages from his right hand and arm. The blood-soaked bandage, soiled with the infection’s yellow secretion, stunned him. Things were not going well – not well at all! He screamed out accusations against Becky. Becky! The little witch who had cast her siren spells on him! He sprang up from the couch and threw the soiled bandage onto the floor, yelling and kicking at everything within reach. She would pay! Yes! He would see to that! She would pay! After he had washed the breakfast dishes and put them away, he found a hand mirror in one of the storage cabinets and examined the bites. The flesh was raw and sickening to see. But none of the bites were deep. A few days in his hideout and he should be on the mend. He smiled as he thought of how very pretty Becky was when she cried. So beautiful were her tears. Surely, she knows how much he cares for her. He has to make her understand that. He looked at the reflection of his smiling face and almost dropped the mirror. His lips were so raw and swollen that he looked more like an ogre than the

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beautiful man he was. Rabies! That miserable dog has rabies. Why else would I swell up like this? Why else would I have pain like this? He denied himself the impulse to wash his wounds again. He knew in his head that he was clean, but he did not feel clean. When he was just a boy, his mother had taught him to take care of himself. Don’t be such a dirty boy, she would say whenever he got dirty at play. God doesn’t like dirty boys and neither do I! Germs are everywhere, and one of these days you’re going to catch a disease, so use plenty of soap and water. Somehow, he had to get that pup and have it tested for rabies. Ernie wondered what would happen to him when he went back to town. He would have to explain Becky’s lies. God hates a liar and so do I! First, though, he needed to heal from the bites. However, if the pup had rabies, he would surely die a slow and miserable death. With the mirror, he examined his face. The wounds were so numerous and the swelling was so bad that it did not look like him at all. His anger gave way shortly to his fear. He was sure he had rabies. What must I do now? How can I get medical treatment without being arrested? That girl is to blame – that little liar – she caused this! He applied an antibiotic to the wounds and then wrapped bandages around his head, allowing spaces for this eyes, nose and mouth. At least, he would be unrecognizable. His legs were easier to treat, and there was less swelling there. Last, he doctored his right hand and arm, using his left hand, which had taken much less punishment. With his coat and hat on, and with his truck keys in his hand, he opened the trailer door. It had snowed the night before and there looked to be about six inches of snow on

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the ground. Ernie loved the snow; it made him feel like a kid again. He was about to step outside when he noticed a number of animal tracks not three feet from where he stood. He slammed the door shut and peered out the window. The fresh tracks were not visible to him from the little windows in the side of the trailer. He looked out the other side, and there he saw a number of tracks, indicating that there must be several dogs out there. Back to the door again, he cracked it open and peeked outside again. The tracks were around the pickup as well. Whatever they were, they were gone. He retrieved his handgun from under the bed. It was a stub nosed 38 special small enough to fit in his pocket. It was loaded. He grabbed a dozen or so cartridges and put them in the other coat pocket. The gun felt clumsy in his left hand, but that would have to do. Opening the door again, he scoured the snow-filled meadow for animals, but there were none in sight. Watching right and left, stepped out into the snow. When he was halfway to the pickup, he saw them. The three mismatched curs waiting under a tree off to left of the truck. One of the dogs snarled and took a few steps toward him. Ernie turned to run, but as he spun around, he lost his footing and fell into the snow. The dogs were almost upon him. He scrambled to his feet and ran. Almost to the door, a new pain shot through his left calf, causing him to lunge head first into the trailer. The dog had fastened its jaws on the desperate man’s leg, trying to pull him back to the ground. He kicked and screamed at them, catching one of the animals in the head with his foot. He rolled back onto his hands and feet. One of the dogs bit his coat sleeve and pulled, shaking it violently from side to side. The coat ripped free, allowing him to regain his footing. He lunged for the door and pulled it open.

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Struggling in the slippery snow to stay upright, he lurched into the trailer. Before he could get the door shut, one of the animals bit deeply into the back of his left leg. The pain shot through his body, causing him to jerk away. With one foot in the trailer, he kicked with the other foot, kicking them away and slamming the door shut. The misfortunate man fell crying onto the bed. It isn’t supposed to be like this. Aren’t I the man that was always there for anyone who had a need? So where were they now? Why isn’t there someone to help Ernie Goodman? He lay on the bed for more than an hour, not wanting to see the damage to his leg. Finally, he pushed himself off the bed and sat in the chair. He reached into his coat pocket for the gun, to put it way. The pocket was empty. He felt in the other pockets. Nothing. Panicked, he felt for his truck keys, and breathed a sigh of relief to find them where he had put them in his left pants pocket. He would not be going back to the Rez just yet. The darkness of night would serve him better anyhow. The new bites were much deeper than the ones the pup had made. He dressed the wounds and rolled his pant leg down over the bandages. Hell is what you make it. That is what he always believed; now he was sure of it. He had created his own private hell.

Chapter 22 “Project B was begun four days ago. We released five raptors as you instructed. There have been four sightings that we know of, and one attack. So far, we believe that close to twenty-five families have loaded up and moved off the reservation because of Project A, and more preparing to move. Those owls are spooky looking, even to me. We

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have posted several alerts that remind the people on the reservation of their own Indian lore, with references to spirits and their meanings. The people are frightened. It’s only a matter of time until nobody will go within a mile of that property.” “So our birds did attack someone then?” Earl responded excitedly. “Tell me about that.” “It happened early this morning sometime around 2:00 A. M. They were two men who had been drinking much of the night. They were walking home when it happened. It was right beside the cemetery! Can you believe that? How perfect can it get?” Earl hee-hawed, slapping his leg and rocking back and forth in the chair with glee. “By the cemetery! I’ll bet those poor fools were scared outta their skin. Them birds do much damage?” “It was just the one owl. It tore his scalp loose. The man that got away said that his friend was trying to shoot the owl with a little twenty-two pistol when it attacked him. He was afraid that if the owl said his name, it would be a sign that he would die.” “He was afraid that it would say his name?” Earl said in mock disbelief. “I’m sorry I missed that! That would be something to see!” “Yes,” Teresa laughed, “he thought if he could kill it before he spoke his name, he wouldn’t die. That’s pretty much according to their ancient teaching. The strange thing is that the omen came true. A small pack of our laboratory dogs, moondogs, as they are calling them, killed the man there on the spot. The man that got away ran all the way home.” Earl listened attentively as Teresa, with the confidence of a cocky welterweight champion, reported the success of their venture.

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“That brings me to another subject,” she said. “I thought now would be a good time to talk about it.” “Awright,” Earl replied with his sweetest smile, “what may that be, Teresa?” “There’s a matter of payment. Our agreement was when Program B was successfully in place, I would receive my bonus. I think that I’ve done that. I’ve tied up all of the loose ends, so I need to get on to other plans. Are you prepared to take care of that today, Earl?” “Why, sure, little lady! First I have to charge you for them monkeys that you took for yourself, and that fancy car I bought for you. There’s also those trips you took to Romania that were s’posed to be business trips, but was all monkey business. Keep in mind that you been late for every meeting we ever had – I’d say that puts your bonus at around a hundred dollars or so.” Earl could not help but enjoy seeing her disappointment. “You pig! You cheating idiot! We had an agreement! We agreed on half a million, and I fulfilled my part! I’m not going to take this, we have a contract!” She could not sit still; she got up from her chair and stormed around the room. “No way am I going to simply stand by and let you rip me off like this. If you want a fight, you’ll get one, I guarantee you that!” “Ohhh, half a million, huh?” Earl said. “Well, let’s just see.” He yelled at the clerk, “Hey, Polly! We got any customers around here anywheres right now?” “No, Boss,” Apollo answered back, “Only had three this morning. Nobody else here.” Earl leaned back in his chair and looked up at the angry woman. “So you want what’s coming to you, huh?”

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“Yes I do! Every cent of it!” She stiffened as Earl pulled the big revolver out of its holster and pointed it at her belly. She did not know if he were joking, or if he planned to kill her. She opened her mouth and was about to speak when something changed about his face. For the first time since she had met him, she got a brief glimpse of his other face. He yanked the hammer back and pulled the trigger. Apollo heard the shot. He ran to the room and saw her lying on the floor. He expected something like that would happen. “Ohh, Bosss,” he said, “You really did it this time!” “Just clean up this mess, Polly. I’m going downtown to get me some grub. Shootin’ gives a man a appetite!”

Chapter 23 “There was another killing early this morning,” Shine said to the men gathered around the table in the Tribal Center. Hershel Miller and Bogie Blaggard were walking home late when it happened. “They live up by our place,” Tom said. “We see the dogs around there pretty regularly, but not at night. But then we don’t go out much at night.” “You and about everyone else,” Vern said. “If you have any sense at all, anyhow. Did they get both of them?” “No, Shine said, “just Bogie Blaggard. But there’s more.” He pulled a chair up to the table and sat down next to his grandfather. “I learned this morning that some of the folk here have been seeing owls. These are not your regular hoot owls; these are

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luminous owls – great big ones – they glow just like the moondogs. Bogie got spooked and tried unsuccessfully to shoot it with his pistol. Then, the dogs jumped him and killed him. The other guy – Hershel Miller – ran all the way home. The owl attacked him and tore up his scalp pretty bad, but he was able to stave it off. I talked to him briefly and he’s going to be ok. It scared him really bad.” “Have they tried to attack anyone else?” Shine’s grandfather asked. “No, but Bogie tried to kill that one. I guess that’s what set it off.” “Didn’t they know not to be walking around at night?” Vern asked. “That makes no sense. Everybody knows that it’s just too dangerous.” “True, but it seems that Bogie had been driving his girlfriend’s car. He had taken it to the casino earlier last night. She was upset with him and she needed her car, so she drove it home. That left the men without a ride, and they were pretty drunk by that time, so their judgment wasn’t too good. They knew better, but Hershel was supposed to work this morning. That’s why they walked home. Hershel needed to get home and get some sleep.” “First dogs and then owls,” Leon said. “What do you suppose will be next?” “Hopefully, there won’t be a next,” Shine responded. “I have a bit more information that I think you’ll all want to hear.” One of the men brought him a plate of food and a cup of hot coffee. He talked between bites. “Sonny and Terry went riding yesterday morning. They were at a field between some vineyards over by Old River Road. They spotted the van that we’ve been watching for. They saw the road it took on the east side of the main road. That’s not all. If you recall, the van had signs on both sides of it. XLent Construction. Well, before the driver

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pulled onto Old River Road, he got out and pulled those signs off. You know the magnetic kind. Get this. Painted on the van was another sign. Can you guess what it was?” Abe said, “Yep, Brother, it was NorCal Winery.” “How long have you known that, Abe,” Shine asked. “It just came to me when you started talking about the signs. That’s the name they used for that phony-baloney business in the Bay Area – NorCal Research.” “So the plot thickens,” Shine said, “but it’s also unraveling. It gets weirder and weirder, and you’re not going to believe the punch line.”

Chapter 24 It was mid afternoon when the shiny black Lincoln rental car pulled onto the parking lot. The man that emerged from it was wearing a brown business suit and a stylish tie. A big man in his fifties with bulky shoulders and a thick waist, he carried himself with the confidence that only comes from years of giving orders. He pushed the casino door open and stepped inside. He removed his sunglasses and scanned the room. The activities in the casino continued, but his arrival did not go unnoticed. The shift manager walked smartly up to him and held out his hand, “Welcome, my friend!” he greeted. “I’m Dan Newman, I’m the manager here. If you would like to step over to the window, I’d be glad to see that you get a pocket full of chips to get you started, we’re always happy to have new guests.” The man shook his hand, replying, “I’m Reverend Jacob. I’m not much of a gambler, but I might have a bite to eat. Traveling always makes me hungry! The truth be

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known, just about everything makes me hungry!” His hearty laugh could be heard above the hubbub of the noisy casino. “Well then,” Newman said, “I would suggest the café. They’ve got everything from t-bones to tacos in there. Lunch is on the house, Reverend. I’ll walk you right to it.” He gestured toward the café and the man followed. “What brings you here, Reverend?” he asked, curious the man would be there at all. He ushered him to a booth and signaled to the host to bring him a menu. “I’m looking for someone,” Reverend Jacob responded, “a big man, larger than myself, who goes by the name of Earl. He’s somewhat of a cowboy. “Oh, you must mean Big Earl Farley,” Newman said. “Earl is quite a guy. Once you meet him, you’re not likely to forget him.” “No, I don’t suppose you would,” the Reverend responded. “If you see him, would you let him know that I’m looking for him? And if you don’t mind, I think I will accept those chips. After lunch, I might just try my luck.”

Chapter 25 Reverend Jacob left a generous tip on the table for the server and ambled through the casino. Jacob had never understood the appeal of gambling. His experience over the years was that nobody really won. The only positive thing he could see from it was that it provided jobs. The downside was that the people who could least afford to lose their paychecks or savings, were the ones who financed the problematic enterprise. The bottom line – if there was such a thing – was that all gambling really offered was entertainment. Yes, there were occasional winners, but even they eventually became losers.

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Jacob was not sure what to do with the chips, since he had never gambled in his life. He walked from game to game, the chips rattling in his pocket. He stopped to watch at a few tables, trying to get a sense of how it all worked. He thought about his three grandchildren back in Texas who would be excited about Christmas and wished he were there to see them. As soon as he could, he would return his rental car and get on a plane to Dallas before Christmas Day. He soon lost interest and decided to cash in his chips, surprised to see that they amounted to sixty dollars. Feeling a little guilty about taking the money, he was looking for Dan, the Shift Manager when he overheard two casino workers talking, “…early this morning up by the cemetery,” Wally was saying to one of the workers. “People are saying that it was a spirit messenger. Some of the older folks think that it’s the Spirit’s way of telling them to shut down the casino.” “I know. Everybody’s scared to go outside, myself included. If everyone moves off the Rez, we may have to shut it down.” Jacob moved closer to them, pretending to be interested in one of the slot machines. He put in a quarter into the slot, not expecting to win anything. “Why do you suppose the owl went for Bogie?” She asked. “Old Bogie tried to shoot it down and it about took his head off,” Wally replied. “Them dogs must of smelled blood, because they tore him to pieces right there. Hershel seen it but didn’t tell nobody ‘till early this morning. It don’t really matter, though. Dead is dead. Nobody could put old Bogie back together again.” “They ought to know better than to be out there at night,” she responded. “That poor man! That’s just awful.”

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“Do you believe in spirits, Gracie?” Wally asked. “What if it’s all supernatural, don’t that put a new slant on things?” He leaned his broom against the wall and sat down on a tall stool there. “I really don’t know,” she said, “but I do believe in God. I’ve been praying more than ever before. Something like this makes you think.” “I been prayin’ too. But then I pray all the time anyhow, just in case someone’s up there listenin’.” Jacob collected the handful of quarters that poured out of the machine and dropped them into his pocket. “Good afternoon,” he said casually to Wally and Gracie, “nice place you got here.” “Afternoon,” Wally replied with a smile, sliding smartly off the stool. “Looks like you hit a jackpot.” “Naw,” the Texan said, “just five or six dollars. I’m not much of a gambler. Actually, I’m looking for someone. Either of you heard of Big Earl Farley? I understand he comes here sometimes.” Wally looked warily around the room and then said, “If I was you, I’d stay away from that man. You best just forget whatever you want to see him about and go back where you came from.” Wally took his broom and began to sweep the same spot he had been sweeping for the past half hour. “Why do you say that?” Jacob said, not willing to let it go that easily. ‘Feelin’ I got,” Wally replied without looking up. “Just a feelin’.”

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Gracie slipped away while the two men discussed Earl. She didn’t know Earl, but she had heard about Tammy’s encounter with him. On that subject, she agreed with Wally. Best to stay away from that man. “I got work to do,” Wally said, plying his broom on the already clean floor. The way he said it, it sounded like, “I got woick to do.” He often reverted to his Kansas City brogue whenever he was nervous. Jacob watched him go, satisfied that he had learned all he needed to know for the time being. He walked back to the parking lot and up the hill to the tribal police headquarters.

Chapter 26 The mystery was unfolding and he was beginning to connect the dots. Someone – whoever was responsible for NorCal Research and NorCal Winery – was also responsible for the kidnapping of Sarah Ellen Chambers. Shine had no doubt that Sarah was being held in the basement laboratory beneath the NorCal Winery. He knew that one Teresa Vadoma, the woman with the two monkeys, had some role in it, and that Big Earl was a major player. Confident that a confrontation was near at hand, it was time to plan the rescue of Abe’s daughter. If they were to go in shooting, people were certain to be hurt. What they needed was an appraisal of the enemy’s strength, and a layout of the laboratory. It was late afternoon when Shine rode leisurely up the winding road to the NorCal Winery on his Indian Chief. The weeks had gone by rapidly and Christmas was just around the corner. Instead of entering the parking lot, he turned off the road and parked

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his motorcycle behind a thick grove of trees. He continued on foot along the side of the hill to a place where he had a good view of the compound. From behind the natural cover of the woods, he sat on a large bare rock and using his binoculars, studied the winery grounds. The redwood fence that completely encircled the establishment looked stylish and inviting, but was in fact, reinforced on the inner side with a heavy security mesh. The wide gate at its entry was of a rustic design, and no doubt, constructed of steel. The gate was open, but only three vehicles were in the parking lot on the north side of the main building. Ornamented landscaping in the front and on the south side gave the place a welcome, old-world European flavor. Oddly, there were no customers. Shine was particularly interested in the silver BMW beside an old red station wagon. On the far side was a slate gray Honda Accord. He took a folded page out of his pocked and studied the picture, comparing the image with the BMW. He put the paper back in his pocket. Focusing his binocular camera once more, he pressed a shutter button, snapping a picture of the automobiles. He took pictures of the whole compound, paying special attention to the security gate and the doors to the buildings. He waited. It was not long before he saw what he expected. A man dressed in black came around the corner of the building. With him was a mixed breed dog that was at heel close to the man’s left. Carefully focusing his binoculars again, he saw that the man was carrying a sidearm on his right hip. The man stepped onto the porch and sat in one of the chairs. The dog sat beside him and pawed at his leg for attention. Shine snapped another picture and then he put the camera down.

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Chapter 27

About half an hour later, a giant of a man in a white suit and a western hat emerged from the building. With his binoculars, Shine watched him talk to the guard and then walk to the old red station wagon. Bingo! That’s it – that’s the car that ran Dave Simmons off the road! Quickly Shine gathered up his gear and put it back in the saddlebags. He waited until the old Ford was almost out of sight before he started up his motorcycle. He accelerated up the hill and around the turn, trying to get the station wagon in view, but it had disappeared. When he arrived at the bottom of the hill, he was not sure which way to turn. He decided to ride south to the bridge and then back north to Hopland. Shine was almost to the bridge south of town when he saw the station wagon in his mirror. It was coming up from behind at a high rate of speed. Instinctively, he twisted the throttle, jetting the big motorcycle toward the highway. The Ford drew close, staying only twenty feet or so behind him. As Shine approached the highway, no vehicles were in sight, so he sped through the stop sign and continued south on the highway. The motorcycle responded to his urging and the speedometer shot up to 80, then 90 miles an hour. The station wagon stayed right with him. Leaning around the curves, Shine tried to get out of the way. Faster and faster, the big Indian Chief engine hummed and sang, asking for more throttle. If the vehicle behind him bumped the rear of his motorcycle, he would lose control. His only hope was to keep some distance between them, but no matter how fast

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he went, he could not escape the big car. Mile after mile, he dove into the curves and jetted along the straight-aways, yet it kept pace with him. He slowed for the dip in the highway as they sped passed Squaw Rock, and then he twisted the throttle again. The big wagon simply floated up and down on the road like a ship at sea, but it never lost a foot of distance behind him. Ahead was a brief straightaway. Once more, he opened the throttle and let the motorcycle do what it did best, yet to no avail. His speedometer showed 90, then 95. At that speed the wind shook and rippled his jacket like a flag in a storm. With his head lowered, it felt as though his helmet was trying to push his head off his neck. He slowed down on the curves, leaning his bike low to the paving. Racing down the hill at Cloverdale he lay low over the gas tank and opened the throttle again. The wind roaring and the landscape a blur, his speed jumped past 140 mph. Ahead, the highway took a slight turn. He could not maintain such a speed there. In his mirror, he watched the big Ford close the gap behind him. Suddenly, it swerved to the left and pulled along beside him, matching his speed. He looked directly into the eyes of the driver in the station wagon. Big Earl the Other, his face porcine, was laughing insanely! The Ford’s right fender began to press closer, inching him toward the shoulder of the road. Fighting to keep control of the bike, he knew that it would be unsafe to go any faster. His only hope was to find a way to stop. In a sudden maneuver, Shine applied his brakes and darted to the right onto an exit ramp. The oversized brakes that Harry had installed on the motorcycle quickly slowed the machine so when he made the turn without a wobble, he was able to keep control as he whirred onto the side road. Good old Harry!

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Glancing fleetingly back at the highway, he saw that the big red station wagon was already out of sight. Bringing the motorcycle to a stop at the roadside, he turned off the engine and sat there for a few minutes. Clearly shaken by his narrow escape, he was thankful for the big bike’s abilities, and at the same time, he hoped that he would never have to put it through a test like that again. On the way back to the Rez, he wondered, “Could the man be wearing a costume?” That would certainly make more sense than the alternative. But Shine wasn’t the only one who had seen Earl the Other. No, it was not a costume; it was real and it was serious. The rest of the way home, he pondered the stories of Grammy Angeni, trying to fit all the pieces together.

Chapter 28 For more than two weeks, Ernie has waited for his wounds to heal, but this afternoon he is afraid. It seemed like a good idea to hide out here. Now however, his impatience is making his recovery near impossible. The walls of the little 25-foot camp trailer are closing in on him. He removes the bandage from his face and looks at his reflection in the mirror. The flesh looks raw and infected. He has no thermometer, but he is sure that he has a temperature. The dogs have been back. He has heard them outside the trailer at night. Yesterday morning he spotted one on the other side of the meadow. Without his gun, he is afraid to go outside, but he knows that he must, and he must soon. With the last of the ointment, he treats the gashes on his face and puts on a fresh bandage. His legs are swollen and sore, but he can still stand and walk. He puts on his

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boots and opens the door. There are no dogs in sight. All is quiet outside. He closes the door and walks stiffly toward the pickup. At least two inches of snow have melted since his arrival. Following his tracks in the snow, he looks for the pistol. Slowly, he retraces his steps to where he had fallen. There in the snow is the gun. With effort, he bends down and picks it up. Shaking off the snow, he puts it in his coat pocket. Even with the gun he feels like he is disadvantaged, because an attacking dog might come from any direction.. The truck is unlocked. He opens the door and climbs onto the seat. In his most recent nightmares, he cannot start the truck because the battery is dead, but now as he turns the ignition key, the engine starts easily. He pulls the gearshift lever down into reverse and backs the truck, then pulls forward and onto the narrow road. At the cable that stretches across the road, he turns off the engine and climbs out of the truck. After some difficulty working the combination, the padlock is off and the cable drops to the road. Once the truck is past the cable, he relocks it, gets back into the truck and makes his way carefully down the mountain and back to the main road. It is Christmas Eve. Somehow (with luck), he will have to find Becky alone – almost alone; that rabid, crazy dog of hers will be with her. However, Ernie had plans for it too. Taking his time maneuvering down the steep hill, Ernie left his truck in low gear so that he would not have to use his brakes much. It was still light enough that he could see the road without his headlights. He popped his last pain pills into his mouth and then washed it down with water from a plastic bottle.

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It was difficult for him to get comfortable in the seat. Even at the slow pace down the mountain, the truck bumped and jiggled making him miserable. His feet hurt. His legs, his buttocks, his arms, his hands, his neck, his face…The bandage was coming off his face again. His head ached. It felt hot and swollen. Angry! Angry! Angry! He slapped his torn face with his bandaged right hand, again and again and again hard! Blood everywhere. Who cares? Nobody! Absolutely nobody! With impatient effort, he rewrapped the stained bandage over his face. There are no vehicles on this road. Good. The gas gauge shows near empty. There are gas stations in Hopland. The moon is bright, so we won’t need any headlights. No Sir! Ghosts don’t need headlights. Spirits don’t. Dead people don’t. Not if they’re wrapped up like a mummy, they don’t! Who can say who is dead and who is not? Only those who are dead know what death is. How can any living person know about death? So, to die is to gain knowledge, therefore to live is to remain ignorant. That’s original. I must write a book. I must! Not now of course, because I still have more miles to go, but tomorrow… Something is wrong in Hopland. The only lights are headlights and taillights. All but Ernie’s, of course, because he has not yet turned his on. He pulls up beside the gas pumps and stops the truck. Where is everyone? He reaches for his wallet. It isn’t in his pants pocket, or his jacket. He searches inside the pickup, but he cannot find it. The door to the little convenience store is open, but the lights are out. Someone is in the back room. “Be with you in a minute,” a voice calls out. “Some crazy ran into a power pole and knocked out the power. We won’t have any power for about another hour.”

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“I need gas,” the attendant hears the mummy say. “I have to have gas.” “Can’t help you now – sorry,” the voice replies. “Now,” the mummy says. “Not an hour from now. Now!” A short, thick man with a brown stubble beard and wearing a dirty blue shirt appears behind the counter and sets the battery-powered lantern on a shelf behind him. “Oh, you’re a mummy. My kids wanted me to dress up for Halloween this year, but I’m not much into stuff like that. It’s a little late for it anyhow, doncha’ think?” He tries to get a better look at Ernie, because the damage that he can see on his face and his left hand looks so real. “I’d like to sell you some gas, but the power is out and the pumps ain’t workin’. I guess you’ll just have to wait.” The mummy’s left hand is in his jacket pocket. Well what do you know, there’s a loaded 38 in there too! “Gas!” the mummy rasps as he holds the gun where the attendant can see it. “Right now – you get me some gas. If you can’t get me any gas, then why do I need you? Why? You’re better off dead. Believe me, I know. Better off dead!” The name on the shirt read Fred. Fred rhymes with dead. Dead Fred. Fred Dead. The mummy points the barrel at Fred’s belly and rasps, “Dead Fred.” The attendant becomes suddenly energetic when Ernie enunciates “Gas!” once more. “Y-yes Sir!” Fred mutters. “I’ll have to siphon it. I got gas in my car. I’ll get a can.” He scurried around in the dark, banging things and coming out with a can. “Wait! Fred says. “Gotta get the hose.” Ernie watches him, not knowing what would be the most satisfying, to get the gas or to shoot Fred. The distraught man drops the can, and then he misplaces the hose in the dark. With practiced but shaking hands, he retrieves the hose and finally inserts it deeply

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into his gas tank. He takes the end of the hose in his mouth and sucks hard – then again harder. An abundance of the rancid liquid shoots up through the hose and down Fred’s throat. Fred gags and spits, loosing the prime on the hose. Ernie touches the back of Fred’s right ear with the barrel of the pistol. Fred pushes the four-foot length of hose back into the tank and sucked again, more carefully this time, but still wetting his face and shirt. Getting a good prime, he lets the gasoline pour from the hose into the gas can. When it is full, he pulls out the hose and leaves it on the ground beside his car. Fred is sick. The gasoline has streamed through his intestines and into his body’s blood. He feels like he is going to pass out, but he steadies himself, holding onto the side of his car. Like a man both blind and deaf, he turns and ambles stiffly to Ernie’s truck. With several tries, he ineptly removes the gas cap and pours the 3 or 4 gallons of gasoline into Ernie’s tank. “It’s free, Sir,” he manages to say, hoping that Ernie will drive away and never return. “You come back anytime, ya hear? You’re a nice man, a very nice man!” “Yeah, I know,” Ernie replies, “you’re nice too.” He lights a cigarette and holds out the match to Fred. “Could you blow that out for me,” he says. Eager to get Ernie back on the road, Fred leans toward the match and blows. Gas vapor from his mouth turns his breath into a torch, scorching his throat and face, and setting his gas-soaked shirt on fire. “Well, well,” the mummy murmers, “what do you know, we have light!” He climbs back into the cab and with a cheery “Merry Christmas,” drives away, leaving screaming Dead Fred burning on the ground.

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Chapter 29 They met again in the tribal center as quickly as Shine could get everyone together. A sentry placed at the door saw that nobody would show up uninvited. Shine got everyone’s attention and began. “What I tell you is for you only. You cannot discuss it with anyone else until it’s all over. Can we count on every one of you for complete confidence?” He looked around the table. They were nodding yes, eager for Shine to get on with it. “Here is what appears to be happening. There is a man – a very strange and evil man – who wants this land, and I think that he particularly wants the casino. He has an obsession for gambling, but from what we could find out, he’s not very talented at it – not until recently, anyhow. I’m told that he’s on a winning streak now, but I think there is an explanation for that as well.” “For a long time I couldn’t figure out why he wanted this property until I realized that this Rez would be the first of many. In other words, I believe that he, or they – whichever it is – wants to take over the Native American casino industry. His Name is Earl Farley, and he usually introduces himself as Big Earl. You’ve probably seen him here; he’s a big man, well over six feet tall and very heavy.” Again they nodded yes, they had seen him. “Farley has been planning this for a long, long time, and he has the monetary means to do it. He works out of an antique shop that he owns in San Francisco. We have been able to trace his banking transactions in California, Nevada and Texas. He and his

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brother inherited quite a lot of money which Earl has invested and managed for many years.” Warren held his hand up. “Do you know much about his brother, and are they working together on this scheme?” “Good question. Yes,” Shine replied, “I know some things about him. I know that he is a popular preacher in Dallas. He goes by the name, Reverend Jacob. Jacob however is his first name. He doesn’t use his last name publicly very much, and I guess the reason is pretty obvious, once you’ve met Big Earl. “It seems that somehow, Earl has managed to move most of the family money into his own accounts. We have discovered several million dollars, and it’s likely that Farley uses a variety of corporate names that will turn up in time. There should be more money there, too.” “What about the preacher’s share?” Leon wanted to know. “You said Earl got most of that?” “Yes, evidently he did. Jacob only has money in three banks in Dallas. In total, we counted only about four and a half million dollars there.” “Whoooeeee! Man, that dude’s been ripped off royally!” Abe exclaimed. “You sure wouldn’t want to have a brother like Old Earl!” “I agree with you, Abe,” Shine said. “There’s more. We know that they have the NorCal Winery, we’re pretty sure that there is a laboratory in its cellar, and that it’s set up for genetic research and development. We know that they have successfully bred animals with the phosphorus producing genes from jellyfish, so that the animals glow in the moonlight. So far, we know that they have experimented on dogs, monkeys and owls. We

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don’t know how the moon makes them glow. Normally that phenomenon relies on ultra violet light, which is a property that the moon doesn’t have. But that’s not an issue for us. We’ll leave that to the scientists.” He paused to take questions and then he continued. “I know that everyone wants the moondogs killed, and I can appreciate that. Nobody will be safe as long as the animals are free to roam. But gentlemen, we have one very important thing to do first – and that is to rescue Abe’s daughter, Sarah. Once that is done, we will deal with the pack.” On a display pad set on an easel, Shine sketched a diagram of the winery compound. Some of the men moved their chairs to get a clear view. “We can thank Sonny and Terry for finding the underground lab. I have seen the property from outside the fence, and here I have the floor plan that I copied at the County Planning Department. This shows all the entries and exits seen from the outside. We cannot, however, assume that the doors and stairs have not been changed on the inside.” “We are dealing with a very smart man. He’s a lunatic, yes, but a very clever one. I have seen him face to face, and I can tell you that he is in no way ordinary. What ever you do, do not try to stop him alone! He’s big, he’s strong, and he may be insane. He could make hamburger out of any one of us.” Shine sat down so the group could talk among themselves for a while. Although the odds were against them, they had a quality that the adversary did not have. They had each other, and a loyalty that made them capable of what was otherwise impossible. “There is a matter we need to take care of now,” Shine continued after they had settled back down. He pulled a black leather wallet from his jacket, opened it, and showed them his badge.

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Chapter 30 Reverend Jacob checked into the Ukiah Hampton Inn with his travel bags about 5:00 P. M. When in his room, he left his luggage on the floor next to the closet and lay on the bed for awhile, primarily to think. This was not a pleasure trip for the busy man. There were nearly a thousand worshippers in his church in Dallas on any given Sunday. His being away for a few days was usually not a good idea. It meant that he would have to make up the lost days with longer hours. Oh, the church staff could handle anything that arose, he was confident of that. However, as with most enterprises, some duties only the CEO could do. Some of the work he brought with him, though he was not in much of a mood to prepare sermons and plan his monthly business meeting agenda. Then there were the older people – those who gave the largest and the most consistent donations, who felt like they deserved his undivided attention every week. The red digital numbers on the bedside clock read 5:42 when he awoke. He had not meant to sleep. A look at his clothes in the mirror and he sighed with exasperation. After a quick shower and a shave, he got dressed in more leisure clothes. The suit he preferred was too wrinkled and soiled. He slipped on a pair of comfortable shoes and took the elevator to the first floor. At 6:15 he was seated in a window booth in Applebee’s, across the street from the Inn. The short nap was just what he needed. Afterward, he felt alert and refreshed.

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The hot steak and piece of pie made him wish he were back to his room watching a little television. A few more hours of sleep wouldn’t hurt either. Looking for Earl was the most un-gratifying thing he could imagine. The preacher tuned out the loud television and the chattering patrons to concentrate on his dinner. He was unsure what he could do for Earl, but he knew that he had to try. Earl was his younger brother, and needed someone. Not that Earl would be happy to see him. Earl preferred that family meetings be on his terms. Jacob however, had seen the news. When Jacob heard the description of the perpetrator who had shot down a man in Ukiah, he identified him right away as his brother, Big Earl Farley. Yes, he could have called the police or the FBI. But what good would that do? They would not know how to stop Earl. Jacob saw no need of more people killed. If he could get to Earl before anyone else got hurt, maybe – just maybe he could influence him. He had not yet thought of what he could say, or could do, but he felt Earl was his responsibility. Earl had always been competitive. Even when he was in elementary school, he had never been content to be second at anything. He had been, though, a kindhearted person. It was only after his daughter died that he had changed. The jolly, good-natured Earl became moody and vindictive. By then, Jacob was aware of something beyond that with him, something that Jacob never could fully understand. It seemed at times that someone or something had moved into Earl’s brain. Jacob left a nice tip for the server and walked back over to where he had left his rented car. There was really no need of being in a hurry. He knew that Earl could not stay away from that casino. It was an obsession with Earl.

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His brother was going to self-destruct. Why it had to be the casino in Hopland, Jacob did not know. For the present however, the why did not matter – only the when.

Chapter 31 The Sho-Ka-Wah Casino was in full sway at midnight. He casually toured the main area for about ten minutes when he happened to hear someone mention a private poker game going on in one of the smaller banquet rooms. Earl always liked to hang around the high rollers, so if an exclusive game were taking place, there’s a good chance that Earl heard about it and would want to be in the game. The Reverend Jacob took his time. If his brother found out that he was there, he would slip away. The whole thing troubled him. Don’t these people watch the news? Right now, Earl is a ticking time bomb, and when he explodes, the fallout will be greater than Jacob wanted to imagine. In order not to be noticed, Jacob played a few slot machines, casually working his way back to the banquet rooms. Instead of trying the doors, he waited and watched. This was the hard part, because there was nothing else to keep his busy brain focused on the job at hand. So he waited. Then he noticed that a waiter kept going in and out of one particular room. Jacob took out his cell phone and pretended to make a call. He moved along the wall until he had a view inside the room the next time the door opened. He did not have to wait long. The waiter was coming back with another tray of drinks. When the door opened, he saw inside. The room was crowded, and men standing inside, near the door, blocked Jacob’s view.

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The old red station wagon sat inconspicuously down the hill from the casino. Earl himself was anything but inconspicuous, so Jacob was confident that his wait would pay off. The next time the door opened, he heard the loud voice that he recognized so well. “You’re either in or you’re out, so put you money where your mouth is!” Reverend Jacob opened the door and stepped inside. Packed into the smoky room was about forty people, a few of whom were women. The door closed behind him muting the noise of the casino. Seated around the table in the center of the room were a woman and five men. With the gallery chairs occupied, the remaining spectators were standing. The smell of cigar smoke all but obscured that of colognes and sweat. Jacob edged closer, working his thick body between them. The only player smiling was Earl, who was holding the largest share of chips. Holding his cards discretely close and puffing on a cigar, he talked out of the side of his mouth, baiting and shaming his fellow gamblers to see his bid. The expressions Jacob saw on the players were those of consternation, and more noteworthy – fear. Earl the Cowboy was dressed in his western outfit complete with the ten-gallon hat, the rodeo champion belt, boots, and even his six-shooter strapped to his hip. With all the other eccentrics looking their best, the big Texas cowboy had just as well dress up too. Evidently, Earl was occasionally letting them see brief images of Earl the Other, and that worried Jacob. Until the present, Earl listened to his brother’s warnings that if his other persona were ever allowed to surmount, it could destroy everything Earl held dear. Still, in his heart Jacob knew it was only a matter of time.

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Chapter 32 “You know me as Shine. I like it that way because of our friendship. Now however, we have to see our relationship in a different way. For the next few days, it will be necessary for you to know me as Lieutenant Samuel James Darkcloud, United States Deputy Marshal, Special Opp. I work out of the Dallas/Fort Worth office. We don’t usually take cases like this, but the FBI borrowed me from the Federal Marshals because of my connection here where the trouble exists. They just didn’t know at the time that the night visitors were connected to someone on their missing persons list.” “I knew you was a Fed!” Abe exclaimed. “I just had this feelin’, like you and your granddad know too much not to be connected. I told you, Leon! Didn’t I tell you?” Leon put his hand on Abe’s shoulder, saying, “Yes you did, Abe. I’ll give you that, you old wizard! You said old Shine here is probably FBI or CIA.” “Federal Marshal! How about that?” Abe exclaimed again. “So you knew what was going down all the time, didn’t you?” “Yes, partly,” Shine replied. “I was briefed about the unusual dogs showing up here. There are those in D. C. who believed that there is a conspiracy to steal Indian land. Originally, my mission was only to investigate. But then I met you guys, and you told me about Sarah.” Shine paused took a drink of water from a glass on the table. Looking around the table at the men there, he knew that they were a winning team. It was not because they had professional training, but because of a rare inner strength worthy of any mission. “When they received our report, the big wigs in Arlington agreed that the two cases were indeed one. They corroborated with the FBI again and gave us the nod to

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proceed with highest prudence. We have to move cautiously because of Sarah. Any premature action could easily endanger her. Just know I am relieved that you confided in me. It made my job a lot easier.” “See! See!” Abe said. “I told you that I just felt like you’re the only one that could help me find Sarah. Them FBI guys wasn’t doing nothing. Then you came along and now we know right where she’s at!” “Abe, the FBI has been busy on it. They don’t work like regular cops. You don’t even see them until, bam, they move in and take over.” “Kind of like you, Shine,” Warren laughed. “Yeah, I guess so,” Shine replied. “Kind of like me. But as you might guess, Grandfather has been keeping the FBI updated on what’s going on with Sarah’s situation. They are waiting for us to complete our investigation. They have three agents here now, but you would never guess who they are. It has only been the last five days that they have been able to establish a link between the moondogs to the kidnapping.” Shine waited until they had quieted down, and then continued. “Look out the window,” Shine said. “See that new guy that’s guarding the door for us? He’s FBI. So is the homeless guy that has been panhandling outside the casino, and there’s a new girl auditing the books in the main office. Things aren’t always what they seem, guys.” “Good golly Miss Molly!” Sonny breathed. “Does anybody else know?” “Only those who need to know. Elliot knows. Roberto and James Talltree know. I’m pretty sure that everyone on the tribal council knows.” Shine let them process the new information before he began again. Everything was coming down fast, and the fat

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was about to hit the fire. He did not want his men handicapped by not knowing everything that was going on. “Men, I know that you understand that we can’t just go rushing in and shooting people then explain ourselves later. There are right ways of doing things. For you to do this job, you all have to be deputized.” “Where do we have to go for that?” Sonny asked. “We can do it right now,” Shine replied, opening a folder and passing the documents to the men around the table. “All the paperwork has been done, thanks to Grandfather. Be sure that you have the one with your name on it. You can peruse it and sign it. I have pens here. I’ll pass them around.” “Wait a minute!” Leon said, “What’s this about Grandfather taking care of it? I don’t think you’ve been totally transparent. Grandfather, just who are you, anyhow?” “Son, I’m an old Indian with a grandson that talks too much,” Andrew stated with mock aversion. Shine suppressed his amusement and said, “Grandfather is an old Indian that cares too much. He won’t tell you unless he’s in the right mood, and right now, we’ve got a lot to cover.” He examined the documents that the men had signed and put them back in the folder, and then he said, “Right now we need to deputize you guys, so would you all please raise your right hands and repeat after me. “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully support the Constitution of the United States and enforce the laws thereunder and execute all lawful precepts directed to me under the authority of the United States and in all things faithfully execute the duties of a Deputy of the United States Marshals Service, so help me God.”

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Shine took from his saddlebag six small wrapped boxes with names printed on the tops. He called out their names and distributed the boxes. “Abe Chambers, Leon Bates, Warren Borman, Sonny Lewis, Terry Crow and Jolon Dason,” They waited until everyone had his, unsure of whether they should open them and curious about what was inside. Shine let them wait as he slowly buckled the saddlebag. Then he said, “Congratulations, gentlemen. Now let’s see what you have there.” Sonny was first to get his open. It was a cover box, and then inside it was a dark blue box about 4 by 5 inches and about an inch thick. On the top was an imprinted gold circle with a star within the circle and an eagle with its wings outstretched over the star. As if it were a ritual, he carefully opened the lid. Inside was a black leather wallet. His hands were shaking. Shine, who was watching, was shining as only Shine could shine. Sonny took the wallet out and unfolded it. Inside was an identification document in a clear plastic cover with his name on it, and attached to the leather folder was a simple gold badge consisting of a five-point star inside a circle upon which was printed the words, UNITED STATES DEPUTY MARSHAL.

Chapter 33 Jacob tried to get closer. He would try to persuade Earl to give it up for the night, but those closest to the table were set on keeping their spots. He looked for another way, but he did not want to risk a fight with the hard-core gamblers in the room. A scrappy little guy by the name of Junior Krampton seated across the table, was watching Earl’s hands with interest. He was trying to see if the cowboy was switching

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cards. Earl noticed the man and let him see his other face. But the little man had way too much to drink, and paid little attention to Earl’s hoggish face. After all, he had seen much bigger animals appear on the walls of his bedroom. Given enough Jack Daniels, over a long enough period of time, and it happens to the best of men. The simple truth was, Earl wasn’t cheating, but he was messing with their minds a little bit. But isn’t that what poker is all about? Old Earl knew how to play the part of an all out idiot, as well as the part of the champion of all contests. It was that in-betweenthe-two act that was so confusing to people and that caused them to underestimate him. On the one hand, they would think, This poor fool! I think I’ll take his money just because I can. While on the other hand, the thought would be, So he thinks he’s a pro. It will be a pleasure to show him how stupid he really is! Earl was playing with an edge that he never had before. Controlling his third persona was an ability he developed just in the past six months or so. Although it was serving him well, there was still the problem of the time it took to become Earl the Cowboy again, once he gave in to his urges to be the other. “He’s cheating!” The little man shouted, rising to his feet. “You know he is! Right, Frank?” he said to the man to his right. “You seen it too, don’t you Larry?” The men on either side both nodded their agreement, but they did not seem to be too happy to be drawn into a showdown with Big Earl. Earl just sat there, grinning, never taking his eyes off Junior. He seemed amused by the whole thing. That did not please Junior a bit, because he thought the three of them would back Earl down.

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When they saw that Earl was not caving in to Junior’s accusations, Frank said, “Maybe somebody oughta’ call the manager. Maybe we can get this straightened out without a fuss.” “Don’t be a wimp, Frank,” Junior demanded. “He comes in here all dressed up like a big shot. Why, he’s even got a toy pistol to go with his cute cowboy suit. I want my money back is what I want!” The other two again nodded their agreement. “Oh, so you fella’s want what’s comin’ to you, huh?” (He liked that sentence – it sounded totally Texan.) Earl pushed his chair back and stood to his feet. The others seated around the table jumped up, unsure what was about to take place. “Well, Sir. I sure do,” Junior pressed on, “and I think my friends here do too, don’t you?” “I don’t know,” Larry said. “I did loose about three hundred. Yeah, sure, I’d appreciate getting what’s coming to me.” “Do you want what’s coming to you too, Frank? I need to know for sure.” “Doggone right! If they’re getting’ theirs, then I want to get mine too!” Earl was getting better with his quick draw and his marksmanship, but it would have been hard to miss that close anyhow. Suddnly, he pushed the table hard, catching his accusers off-guard. Then snatching the gun from his holster, he fanned the hammer and hitting five times out of six. The three men crumpled to the floor. It sounded like one terrible roar. Chapter 34 When the shooting started, the spectators scattered, jamming together at the door, and then pushing their way out into the main casino.

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Earl knocked the spent cartridges out of the gun and leisurely inserted six more. Whistle while you work, whistle while you play… He clicked the cylinder back into place and gave it a spin. With his gun back in its holster, he turned and saw Jacob standing there. It took a lot to stun Big Earl, but he was stunned. He brushed the imaginary dust off his jacket as if that would erase what he had just done. “Aw, Jake,” he said, quickly changing to Earl the Brother, “they said I was cheatin’. I swear to you, Jake, I wasn’t. I’m gettin’ really good at cards. I think it’s a gift. Look, I got about twenty grand on the table. It’s all yours if you want it, Jake. Maybe the church could use it.” “Earl, right now I’m not worried about the money or the gamblin’. What I’m worried about is you. The Law is lookin’ for you, and besides, you just shot three unarmed men. It looks like two of them are dead and the other one is dyin’.” “But they had it comin’ to ‘em, Jake. You heard what they said. They accused me of cheatin’. Jake, any righteous Texan would’a done the same.” “Earl, any minute now, the Law is going to show up here to bust you, and if you pull out that gun, they’ll cut you down. Boy, you can’t just go shootin’ folks just because they say something you don’t like.” “Aw, Jake, I know, I know, but he talks to me…and Jake, he tells me secrets and gives me powers.” “Who talks to you, Earl?” Jacob asked. “The Man in the Moon does. He’s real, too. He’s not make belief like we used to think.” “What is he telling you to do right now?”

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“He ain’t sayin’ nothin’, but he will when it’s time.” “Listen to me, Earl,” Jacob said, grabbing his brother’s sleeve, “they’re going to come and arrest you.” People were crowded around the door, but no one dared to come in. “But Jake,” Earl tried to reason, “don’tcha see? They can’t hurt me. With my powers, I’m unhurtable.” Without warning, Jacob punched Earl in the belly as hard as he could. “Aw, J-Jake,” Earl gasped, “wha’d ya do that for?” Earl bent over, trying to get his breath back. Exasperated, and afraid for Earl, Jacob said. “Your powers didn’t keep that from hurting, did they?” “Nooo,” Earl said, looking like he was about to cry. “Earl, I’m afraid that if you stay here, they will kill you. Get out of here, Earl, and get out fast. They’re likely to shoot first and ask questions later. I’ll talk to them, but go, Earl! Go right now!” Earl saw two security guards at the door talking to Roberto Nunez, and one of them was using his cell phone. He ran at full speed for the exit door. Hitting it, he knocked it open and then slammed it shut behind him, disappearing into the night.

Chapter 35 Earl was running through the trees and rushed toward his car. When he got near the bottom of the hill, he saw a tribal police vehicle, with its lights flashing, pull in behind it. Stopping to catch his breath, he watched for a moment and then started

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working his way back uphill and to the east. He stayed on a trail, trying to make as little sound as possible. A white NorCal Research van sat beside the road. Benjamin had evidently failed to cover the logos with the Xlent Construction magnetic signs. Without the keys, Earl would not be able to start it, so he ran on. He turned east, working his way through the brush and trees and away from the casino. Meanwhile, Elliot stopped his SUV behind Earl’s station wagon. It was locked and empty. Evidently, Earl had opted against returning there. He drove farther up the hill and spotted a white van. When he inspected it, it was unlocked. The keys were still in the ignition and there was blood on the steering wheel and on the seat. Affixed to the right dashboard were electronic tracking instruments. On the driver’s seat he found a neatly folded pair of men’s black denims, a bloody black tee shirt and jacket, black boots, some socks and underwear. Under the seat was a loaded handgun, and behind the seat, a fully loaded assault rifle. A wallet was still in the pants pocket. Inside was a driver’s license issued to a Magnus Lazrus. A wristwatch lay on the seat, along with a pen and sunglasses. He picked up the watch and studied it for a moment. It was an old Benrus Navy diver’s watch with the date, 1974 stamped on the back. Odd. He took the wallet and keys, and then locked the van. Evidently, there was a wounded man somewhere in the woods – and he was possibly naked.

Chapter 36

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Much earlier that evening, someone had been busy in the garden on the west side of the winery. They had stones arranged so that they formed a five-pointed star. Inside the star was a circle, and inside the circle, wood had been placed. From a distance of about seventy yards, Shine and Abe watched a man, dressed in black like others they had seen, light the wood and tended it until the flames were strong. The nightfall was quiet except for the forlorn wail of an animal somewhere down by the river. The Christmas Eve nightfall added to the mystical quality of the occasion. This was to be the night of liberation for Sarah, but now Shine saw that for those in the building, it would soon be a witching hour. A pale silver moon had risen over the trees when Shine edged quietly along the compound’s fence. The night was clear and cold, with stars brighter and more beautiful than any yuletide decoration. This however, was not an outdoor display; it was as real as the resolve he felt to get inside that laboratory. He took note of Abe, who was moving stealthy behind him without a sound. They waited more than an hour while the other team got into place. They paused as one of the guards made his rounds and was heading back into the building, probably having dinner. Shine had a good idea what was to take place in the garden later that evening. It was something that they had not considered. The wind was coming from the east, and that was good. The guard dogs would pick up the scent from the other team first. That would focus all the attention away from Shine and Abe. Waiting on the opposite side, the others were about a hundred yards from the garden area. Shine checked his watch. He laid his tool bag on the ground at the place he

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had chosen to enter. The big 50 caliber Desert Eagle was fitted into the shoulder holster and strapped into place. His knife on his hip and a light hatchet hung from a belt. Abe was carrying his old Army issue 45 caliber semi-automatic on his hip and a bow in his hand. Strapped on his back was a quiver full of arrows. Abe’s new appreciation of the bow as a weapon gave him confidence. The knife and hatchet Shine had given him were on his belt. He understood the importance of patience and the peril of poor timing. They made themselves as comfortable as they could, and settled down to wait. Nearly two hours later, the fire tender returned to the fire circle and added wood. It would not be long. Shine and Abe whispered their thoughts and plans, taking courage from one another and strengthening their respect for each other. Abe nudged Shine and pointed to the fire. Several black clad figures had gathered and more were moving in that direction. Now they wore full-length robe with cowls, their faces discretely hidden. As they took their places to form a circle around the fire, two more of the robed figures emerged from the shadows, one was carrying a drum, and the other carried what appeared to be a small book. In all they counted thirteen participants. “What’s going on?” Abe said. “They’re dressed like monks.” “I think we’re about to find out,” Shine replied. “Do you see any guard dogs over there, Abe?” “No, not yet. Why? You got a plan?” “Not really a plan. I’d just like to get closer to see what they’re up to.” “That sounds good to me, Shine,” Abe whispered back. “I’ll start cutting.”

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Chapter 37 The drummer stepped back from the circle and began to tap the drum. Its slow, steady rhythm echoed softly across the garden. The circle of twelve stood without movement or sound. As if signaled by the drum, the thirteenth member joined the circle. At first, there was only the sound of the drum, but then a voice lifted from the circle in cadence with the drumbeat. Though it was not loud, it was enough to mask any noise Abe made as he worked on the fence. Shortly, Abe had cut a hole big enough through which they could crawl. Shine went first, with Abe following close behind. They kept down low and used the hedges and shrubs as cover. Carefully, they made their way closer until they could hear more clearly. Wakatan kin yan hoya wayhelo Ookawica wau welo Wakayan oo welo hey Wankan Tanka cewakiye Wiconzani nahan wokiye hey “Hear that? What do you think, Abe?” “Spooky,” Abe replied, shaking his head in disbelief, “It’s pretty spooky. Let’s get in there and get Sarah out. This is weird, Shine.” Shine edged closer to the circle of worshippers. “It’s some kind of pagan worship, but I can’t understand the words. It almost sounds Indian, but the words aren’t right. Let’s see if we can get a little closer.”

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They inched along the hedge to the next row of bushes and stopped. Shine lifted his camera and snapped a few pictures. The group was chanting’ holding hands in a circle, with one hooded worshipper leading the mantra. “Wakatan kin yan hoya wayhelo Ookawica wau welo Wakatan kin yan hoya wayhelo Ookawica wau welo The repetition and rhythm of the syllables had a hypnotic effect. Shine grabbed Abe’s arm, whispering, “Don’t let it get to you, Abe. Keep in mind what we’re here for. It won’t be long until our show starts, and we need to be in place when that happens.” Abe nodded and crept alongside Shine, ready for action. He had not, nor would he ever forget their reason for being there. He had not seen Sarah in more than three years, and he knew that she was likely not more than a hundred feet away, down in the cellar of the winery. Sacred Moon whose visible symbol shines before us We stand before you and offer our blessing Eyaya Hoye Wayelo hey~~ Eyaya Hoye Wayelo hey hey ho To exalt all the terror of night We offer our prayers into the vastness of the Universe and ask for the greatest amount of power that cosmic law will allow Take up our efforts and amplify them without limit The greatest amount of power, expansion and cunning enlightenment For everyone here within your light’s

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incomparable enchantment Ste Ste ^ye nawajin yelo hey We stand beseeching you and desire to strengthen the sacred circle We ask to bring forth a gathering for the common goal of creating sacred chaos upon mother earth and all our enemies We send forth the sacred invocations that increase moonlight’s fearful power upon this land As the moon and the stars brightened, Shine lifted his night vision binoculars and watched as Leon and Warren used the powerful wire cutters to take out a section of the fence on the far side of the parking lot. A door at the end of the building opened and three dogs came out. They paced near the building, barking. When they ventured out far enough for Shine to see them, he knew immediately that they were moondogs. The old man sitting on the hill behind the fence waved his bow to let Shine know that they were ready. Shine gave them thumbs up. He watched as his grandfather notched an arrow and drew it back. When he released it, the dog closest to the fence yelped, and running in a small circle, was biting at the arrow that was protruding from its hindquarters. Shine turned to Abe and said, “Showtime!”

Chapter 38 “You got him!” Sonny exclaimed excitedly. The old man said nothing, but got off two more arrows in rapid succession, disabling the other two dogs.

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Just then, bright lights came on, giving them a good view of everything around the building. Two men ran out of the building, pointing toward the fence. They were not sure yet what was happening because the bright lights atop the tall poles around the property hindered their vision. “There will be more,” the old man announced as he released another arrow, striking one of the men in the leg, generating a cry of pain. “Aim low,” he said. “Let’s keep them busy. Try not to kill them but let’s put a few more of them in the hospital.”

Shine and Abe remained hidden in the shadows as the coven ran like earthbound ravens back toward the side door, their robes flapping behind like useless wings. Left alone, the two rescuers moved quickly to the building and hid in the shadows until everything was quiet on their side.

On the east side, three armed men came out. They had taken off their robes, but they were still dressed in black, making them difficult to identify in the dark. Though they could not see the archers, they fired their handguns toward the fence. In the confused melee, arrows whizzed by the men, causing them to stop firing and look for cover. One of the men screamed and was feeling for the arrow that was protruding from his pants. “I got one in the butt!” Sonny exclaimed. “Did you see that?” I shot him right in the butt. He’s the one going back inside!” “I got one too,” Warren grinned, “in the leg.”

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“Good job!” the old man announced. “Now we just keep them busy and give Shine and Abe a chance to do their job.” The old man released an arrow, rewarded by the fourth man’s audible cries. “We got more trouble,” Leon said, pointing to the building. Someone had opened the big delivery door and seven more dogs came running out, but instead of guarding the property, they went to the only man that was still outside. The other four, wounded, had gone inside. Andrew Darkcloud looked around to appraise the men’s supply of arrows and saw that they had only used about one third of their supply. He had no way of knowing how many guards there were in the building. Somehow, they had to lure the guards back out and keep them busy. He tapped Leon’s shoulder and said, “You’re in charge. I’ll be right back. Try to keep them busy.” The old man ducked back through the fence. Jolan was there, right on time.

Chapter 39 Shine tried several of the strange looking keys on a key ring until one slipped easily into the lock. He eased it back out a notch and tapped it sharply with the side of his hatchet. He eased the door open and peered inside. A light was on at the end of the hall. He held the door open for Abe, and then he slipped inside, closing the door quietly behind them. They could hear men yelling inside. Shine led the way down the long hall with Abe following close behind him. The lights in the storefront were out, but in the hall,

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they saw a short, husky man dressed in slacks and a light colored shirt. He was looking out the window, watching the activity outside. Apollo was holding a phone and gesturing with his other hand. “..from the reservation. It must be. They’re trying to pull the arrows out, but they don’t come out that easy….yes I’d say probably a dozen Indians. I don’t know how they got through the fence…can’t see, they’re under one of the big security lights….no, they all turn on and off by the same switch..” Shine crept closer. He could see his reflection in the big window, but the man talking on the phone was too close to the window to see it. He waited until he was close enough to touch him, then he took out the big semi-automatic and pressed the barrel against the man’s right ear. Stunned, Apollo froze. It was all over for him, and he knew it. He slumped down and put the phone in Shine’s outstretched hand. There would never be a payday for him, unless one considered prison to be payment. He never meant to be a party to murder and deception, but it was too late for him to reconsider.

Chapter 40 With a bone chilling war whoop, an Indian riding a large pinto leaped through the gap in the fence and raced at full gallop through the parking lot. The horse, decorated with a braided rope tied with feathers, ran and pranced in a bold display of daring and power. Astride it was a near naked man in war paint and a chieftain’s feathered war bonnet. Beside them was a little brown Pit Bull running at full speed.

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A moondog, excited by the action, ran in pursuit of the horse and rider. It was almost at the horse’s heels when a flash of brown hit the big dog head-on. With ferocious snarls and growls, they rolled across the concrete until they stopped. Peaches had the dog by his neck, shaking him violently. When the old man shouted, “Out!” she left the moondog lying there and ran to her master. The doors burst open and men in black ran outside to see the strange spectacle. Not knowing what to do, they stared in disbelief. Using the opportunity, Andrew Darkcloud spun the horse on its haunches and sent an arrow into the shoulder of the nearest man. Then he kicked the horse into full speed, passing directly beside the bewildered men and to the front gate. Turning quickly, he raced back toward the men. Instinctively, they raised their weapons, trying to get him in their sights, but he was moving too fast. He passed them and rode to the far corner of the warehouse beneath two large fuel tanks. Reaching out and taking hold of the braces that held the tanks, he started climbing between them. From eighty yards away, two of the men were firing their handguns at him. He could hear the bullets striking the tanks and he could smell the gasoline and diesel oil. The old man leaped back on his horse and rode away into the darkness at the far end of the property. “I think we hit him,” he heard someone say. They ran over to the fuel tanks, expecting to find him there. “What’s the matter with that crazy Indian anyhow? He should know better than to try to hide under those tanks. He must have thought it was too dark there for us to see him.”

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“I’m not so sure,” another said. “I’m not going to celebrate until I see his worthless scalp on a pole!” By the time he saw the fuel shooting out from the bullet holes in the tanks, it was too late. “Run,” he yelled. “They’re going to explode!” From the far corner of the yard, an arc of fire flew out of the darkness from the old man’s bow and struck the ground beneath the two tanks. The small fire, no bigger than a baseball, spread instantly across the ground and up the support frames. The two tanks exploded simultaneously into a titan mushroom of fire and smoke, and blasted hot metal all over the compound. As the fuel burned, the men in black were trying to crawl away. Leon led his team into the compound where they began pulling the fallen enemy away from the heat. While Sonny and Terry were tying up the captives, Warren and Jolan went looking for two men they had seen running away. In the confusion, the dogs scattered. Warren saw four of them near the front gate, and two near the gap in the fence. With an arrow notched and ready, Warren searched along the side of the building. Up ahead, behind a metal dumpster, something moved. Instinctively, he took cover in a narrow doorway. He peered around the wall, not willing to go any farther without knowing where the man was. So he waited. Again, a small muscular dog darted silently along the building in the direction of the dumpster. The man saw her coming, but too late. He got off three rounds with his handgun, but the shots were wild. When Peaches leaped at him, he fell back and his fourth shot went skyward. Warren saw the man move and he quickly notched an arrow and shot it at the place where he had seen the blaze from the gun’s barrel. The man

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stumbled, clutching his neck from which the arrow was protruding, and fell to the ground. Peaches trotted over to Warren, who rewarded her with the praise she expected. Warren and Jolon cautiously worked their way over to the dumpster and examined the body on the cement. The man was still alive. Jolon knelt down beside him and snapping the arrow shaft in half, pulled it out of the man’s neck. A closer examination indicated that the wound was not fatal. The boy helped the man into a sitting position and tied his hands behind his back Warren said, “Sorry, partner. We’ll get you some help as soon as we can. Right now we have business to tend to.” He picked up the gun that had fallen nearby and tossed it into the dumpster. By the time Warren had returned to the rest of the team, there were seven men sitting in the parking lot with their hands and feet bound with plastic cable ties. Andrew Darkcloud called the team together and said, “Shine and Abe are inside now. There are five, maybe six men in the warehouse. We don’t have to capture all of them now, but we do have to keep them busy for a few more minutes.” Leon was watching something up by the fence. “Hey, guys,” he said, “look over there.” Running through the gap in the fence and out into the woods were a pack of seven dogs, their pale bodies glowing beneath the trees. “It looks like we won’t be bothered by them tonight.” Andrew said to the boys, “There are some chunks of concrete down past where the fuel tanks were. Go get some that we can throw against the building to make some noise.” While the others were collecting the concrete, Andrew checked the doors. One small door had a thick glass window, which would be easy to break.

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Terry ran back to the old man with two large chunks of concrete. “Throw one through the window,” Andrew said, “and jump out of the way fast.” The boy put one of the chunks down and threw the other one as hard as he could. It hit the glass and shattered it. He barely got out of the way when a barrage of bullets came through the door. “Now,” the old man said, “stay out of their line of fire and keep throwing the chunks against the building. I’ll be right over there.” As Andrew went back to where the others had gathered, Terry kept a racket going.

Chapter 41 Apollo offered no resistance as Abe secured his hands behind his back with plastic ties. “Yes, Sarah is down in the lab. She and a lab assistant are there.” “Is she ok?” Abe had to know. “If she’s hurt, somebody’s gonna pay.” He could hardly contain his anxiety. “Yeah, she’s fine. The plain fact is, she has gotten better treatment than about anybody here,” Apollo was saying. “We had a guy working here that used to harass Sarah, but the boss got rid of him.” “He fired him?” Abe asked. “No, I mean he got rid of him,” Apollo replied. “I think the boss likes her pretty good. She’s really smart – she knows what she’s doing for sure.” “Tell you what,” Shine said. “You take us to Sarah. Abe will be behind you so you probably won’t want to run; an arrow in the spine hurts like the Devil.”

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“I don’t suppose I’d like that,” Apollo agreed. “But don’t worry; I’m just glad that this is over. I didn’t like it to begin with, but Farley has a way of persuading people. When you see him, you’ll know what I mean.” “I have seen him, Apollo,” Shine affirmed, “so I do know what you mean. Maybe you can help me with some information. I need to know his soft spots. But for now, let’s get into the lab.” “I wouldn’t get too anxious,” Apollo warned. “Right now, Sarah is ok, but if there are any of the men in there, she could be hit by the crossfire. My advice is to try to determine where the guards are.” The explosion of the fuel tanks shook the building and rattled the cases of wine kept in the cellar. Abe yelled, “Shine! We’ve got to get Sarah out of there now!” He grabbed a door handle and shook it. It was locked, so he kicked the door and screamed, “Sarah! Can you hear me, Sarah?” “No!” Apollo cried, pushing past Shine to the doorway. “Shut up! You’ll get us all killed. If you want to see her alive, shut up!” They could hear screams coming from outside the building, and metal parts falling on the roof. Doors were slamming somewhere near the loading dock. Abe was trembling with fear for his daughter. He nodded his head, saying, “Yes. Yes Sir, I understand. It’s just so hard to wait when I know she’s just on the other side of one of these doors.” “Here, get the keys out of my pocket. This isn’t the door you want. Up there on the right – that door,” he said, nodding toward a door about twelve feet ahead, “it’s the one to the lab.”

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“Whose side are you on, anyhow, Apollo?” Shine asked the man. “What difference does that make?” Apollo replied. “Don’t answer a question with a question,” Shine shot back. “We don’t have time for games. Tell me! Who are you with?” “I’m for myself,” Apollo said, “and that girl in there.” “That’s good enough for me. How about you, Abe? You okay with that?” “I’m okay,” Abe said, “cut him loose.” Shine pulled his knife from its sheath and cut the plastic ties that held Apollo’s hands together. Apollo took out his keys and unlocked the door. “Go slow,” he cautioned them. “This opens to another room, and from there you can see most everything in the lab.” They pushed the door open and stepped inside. The room was near empty. Ahead was another door, which was fitted with a steel mesh safety glass. Eagerly, Abe pressed his face against the glass. “She’s in there,” he said, “but she’s not alone.” They heard glass breaking, and then several rounds fired. On the far side, someone was hammering hard against the side of the steel building. Shine said, “It sounds like our boys are busy. Let’s keep moving and get this done.”

Chapter 42 Back at Hopland the gas station, Fred lay in a puddle of fuel and flames. Lying on its side beside him was the empty gas can. The fire had drawn the attention of the few people that were out on the street, prompting them to see the strange sight and call the fire department. Unfortunately, the only fire truck that Hopland had was on its way to a fire on Old River Road.

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Had the well-meaning citizens kept their distance from poor old Fred, who was already dead, they would not have become victims themselves. Most people know that a gas can makes a fairly efficient bomb, but for some reason, they exercised no sense of prudence. The sight of a burning man was more intriguing than was an application of common sense. When the can exploded, it shot thirty feet into the air, and the blast of fire knocked four men and a boy onto the concrete. The intense heat ignited their clothes and charred their exposed skin. The can fell back to the pavement with another bang; it bounced and rolled onto the sidewalk like an exclamation mark that said, see what I can do? As the good citizens who were in town that evening were coping with the peculiar misfortune, a man who had already lost what little sanity he had was on his way to the Hopland reservation. The voices inside his head were arguing; one, simply put himself out of his misery; the other, to do the deed he had planned to do all along. He looked for places along the road where he could crash his truck and end his life, but none seemed suitable. Eventually they would find him, no matter where he hid. All his life, Ernie’s mother had filled his mind with doubts of the existence of God. When it came down to the nearness of dying, he began to doubt his doubts. He had no hopes of a heaven, and if hell existed at all, that would be his eternal fate. He had never known forgiveness, because he had never accepted the existence of sin. He had never known redemption, because that calls for a redeemer, and he knew of no such person who loved him that much. Heaven – or hell – is what you make it; there is no eternal life. Now that the end is near, hell seems not only to be factual, but is opening its gates to him.

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The parking lot is full and the Casino lights intrude upon the darkness, giving the land a gaudy pretense. He drives on by, guiding the pickup farther up the main road. An early darkness has coaxed the lights on in most of the homes along the way. Windows and yards shine with lights and ornamentations. It is Christmas Eve, but Ernie has lost track of the days. As the pickup nears the Crow’s property, Ernie turns off the headlights. Instead of pulling into the driveway, he steers the truck on by the house and circles back on a road behind it. Duped by his own cleverness, he fails to see the shadowy form beside the road. Someone as determined as he, is in the dark. Someone is watching; silent… hidden… angry. The hider waits and watches, and creeps closer. Black clouds overhead separate, creating short gaps, and for intermittent moments, the shy moon touches the earth with silver kisses. Now – not far away – a ghostly howl defies the silence, sending shudders down the watcher’s spine.

Chapter 43 Ernie positions the truck for a quick getaway and then turns off the engine. Taking a short club from the truck, he approaches the house. He searches in the darkness. It takes Ernie three or four minutes to look into the windows to locate the girl. Inside, Maska is barking. Becky turns on the porch light and tries to see who or what is outside. Seeing nothing, she opens the front door and lets Maska outside. This

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time, Ernie is prepared. The pup runs around to the back of the house, sensing the danger and intending to attack. Light coming from a window was all the man needed. Just as the snarling pup runs at him and dives for his legs, Ernie swings the club, catching the pup on the side of his head and knocking him to the ground. Maska makes not a sound, but lies there unmoving. Unhindered, the man eases up a window. Becky is still waiting for Maska at the front door when Ernie enters the house. She cracks the door open and calls, but the pup does not return. Not sure what to do, she shuts the door and waits. The floor creaks behind her. Startled, she turns and sees Ernie standing in the hall. She grabs the doorknob and is about to jerk the door open when she feels his hand seize her hair and pull her toward him. “Let me go!” she cries. “I told them what you did! You’d better go, or they will come and get you!” He stifles her cries with his bandaged hand and pulls her back. The girl frantically kicks at him and tries to twist out of his grip, but he holds her tighter. “No, not this time,” he says. “You’re not getting off that easy.” Still holding onto her long hair, he opens the door and shoves her ahead of him. Maska is lying on the ground near the house. Ernie picks up the short club and drags the girl over to his pickup. Becky doesn’t know if Maska is alive or dead, and she cries out even more. Ernie holds his hand over her mouth and shoves her into his pickup. He pushes her down onto the seat, and then he strips a length of duct tape off the roll. He wraps it around her wrists, binding them together, and then he puts another piece around her head

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and mouth. Ernie is finally in control. He stoops over the small girl, taping her ankles together. Suddenly scorching pain explodes in his neck, hot and sharp! The fat roll of duct tape drops from his hands. His arms and legs lose their function and he falls onto the ground in a heap. He sees, but he does not feel – his entire body is numb. The hider has come out of the shadows. She is screaming and flailing him wildly! Within seconds, the numbness is gone and he feels each new strike of the sharpened comb. With every puncture, his entire back shrieks with new pain. Desperately, Ernie struggles to stand, warding off the attack as best he can with his outstretched hands. Poky is not afraid. Her rage is far greater than concern for herself. Stabbing at him again and again, she cries, “You stinking pervert! You let Becky go or I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you right here!” On his feet, he backs away from her, but she advances, striking, striking! Desperate, he tries to grab her wrists, but is unsuccessful. He can retreat no farther – the pickup is there. Not able to avoid her attack, he braces against the truck and kicks the girl hard in the belly. The wind knocked out of her, she drops the comb and falls to the ground. Ernie, wanting nothing more to do with Poky, climbs clumsily into the cab and pulls the door shut behind him. Unmindful of the blood flowing freely from innumerable new wounds, he scoots over Becky and drops into the driver’s seat. His entire body burns with pain. Ernie starts the engine and races away, leaving Poky sitting on the ground.

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Maska, revived, senses Poky and runs to her. She remains sitting where she fell, taking deep breaths. Her abdomen aches, but that is not her worry. Becky is in very bad trouble. Without a word, she takes the pup into her arms, and sobs. Maska pulls away from Poky and runs into the house, searching for Becky. Running from room to room, he searches. Bewildered, he returns to Pokey and sadly seeks her arms. The girl holds him for only a moment. She must go into the house and use the phone.

Chapter 44 “I’ll need to go in first,” Shine said. “If it’s clear, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, stay put until you hear from me.” He crouched down near the floor and pushed the door open enough to squeeze through. With the heavy Desert Eagle held at ready, he inched his way along the wall, using the test equipment as cover. Sarah was sitting in a desk chair; her hands and feet bound and tape over her mouth. Though she could not speak, she tried to communicate with her eyes, looking directly at him and frowning, and then to her right. Shine nodded and peeked between the equipment to see a man in black with an automatic assault weapon pointed his direction. The guard caught sight of Shine and sprayed his hiding place with a quick blast from his gun. Shine feigned being shot. He clattered his weapon on the floor as though he dropped it and waited. The guard, thinking that he had hit his target, peered over the machine. Bad move! Shines big handgun slammed down on his head, dropping him unconscious onto the floor.

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When Shine looked back at Sarah, a man dressed in a lab coat was standing behind her with a gun pointed at her head. “Just slide that gun over here,” the man said. “If you don’t, I will shoot her. It is she you have come for, is it not?” Shine hesitated for a moment, and then he pushed on the safety switch and slid the Desert Eagle across the floor. Slowly he stood to his feet and looked around the room. Another black clad guard stepped out of the shadows. “You, Sir, have become a very dangerous man to us. It would have been better for you, and everyone else, had you stayed on the reservation where you belong!” The man spoke with a very strong European accent. Shine recognized him from the pictures taken of him driving the van that led them to the winery in the first place. He was a powerfully built man about six feet tall. There were bruises covering his head and face and the swelling gave him an ogre appearance. Evidently, he had already met some resistance that accounted for the wide bandage stretched across his nose. Shine was not surprised to see a metal star hanging from his neck on a stainless steel chain. A man of purpose, Shine thought. “My name is Magnus Lazrus, and the gentleman standing behind Sarah is Dirk Powers. So tell me, what is yours?” He held a handgun at his side, confident that the men before him posed no threat. Dirk’s gun pointed at Sarah’s head guaranteed that. He walked across the room and stood near Shine, evidently not afraid of anything Shine could do at that point. “I’m called Shine.” One man with a gun he could deal with, but two made it twice as difficult. He saw no reason to try any heroics, so he played along.

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“That won’t do,” Magnus replied, raising his pistol and pointing it at Shine’s head. “Try again. What is your name?” “My name is Samuel James Darkcloud,” Shine said. “I grew up here in Hopland.” Holding Magnus’ steady gaze, he was interested to see where the conversation was going. “Why are you here, Mr. Darkcloud? It surely is not to buy wine or a puppy for your children. Are you here for this woman,” he said, gesturing to Sarah with the barrel of his gun, “Because if you are, I’m afraid that we have more work for her. You see, we have a man just outside these doors who can turn a switch – one single switch – and lock all the doors. That way, nobody gets out of here alive. Our men will come in here and pick you apart.” “By the man outside the doors, do you mean Apollo Savage?” Shine asked. “Because if you are,” he added, “we’ve already met and we have become good friends.” Shine had no sooner spoken when an arrow flashed across the room and buried in the center of Dirk’s forehead. Shine, turning quickly, kicked Lazurs’ gun away. Then with another kick to the man’s solar plexus, dropped him to the floor. As he gasped for breath, Abe rushed in with Apollo close behind. “Nice shot,” Shine said to Abe as he hurried by. He knew that Abe had better things on his mind than compliments right then, but that was world-class archery. Shine secured Lazrus’ hands and feet with cable ties from his pocket and left him lying on his side. The man was a major player in whatever scheme was going on. Now he was one less person to worry about.

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Abe reached for his daughter and hugged her tightly. Then releasing her, he carefully peeled the tape off her mouth. “Daddy,” she said, “I knew you would come. I prayed every day that you would find me.” With Apollo helping, they unbound her hands and feet. Dirk lay behind them on his back, with the arrow pointing up to the ceiling. “Sweetie, I’m so sorry it took so long. We got your note but the FBI couldn’t decode it,” Abe said. “I thought that they gave up and stopped looking, but I found out that they never gave up.” “But Daddy,” she said, “that code wasn’t hard to break at all. I made it easy on purpose.” “Shine’s grandfather is the one that decoded it. He said the same thing. Anyhow, Mr. Darkcloud could read it. I saw how he decoded it, but it was still a little too hard for me.” “Daddy, I knew that you wouldn’t stop until you found me, and I was right.” “You’re right, I never would stop. But it was when I met Shine that we finally knew what to do. He’s a Fed. Actually, I am too. See here.” He took out the leather wallet and handed it to her, she saw the Federal Marshal star and read the card that said, Abraham D. Chambers, United States Federal Deputy Marshal. They heard it before they saw it. The tall file cabinet was rolling across the floor toward an exit door. Shine and Abe lunged for their weapons where they had laid them on a table. Abe, standing closer to the table, snatched up his bow and whipped an arrow out of the quiver. When Lazrus opened the door, he exposed his right shoulder and received for his mistake an arrow deep in his shoulder blade. Then the door slammed shut and

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Magnus Lazrus was gone. The only thing left behind were the plastic ties, which he had somehow broken off his wrists and ankles. The big door in the warehouse was already open, and outside it, the rest of the security guards sat, their arms and legs bound. He heard a voice that he did not recognize shout, “Stop right there!” Running straight to his van, he opened the door and jumped inside. The engine came to life and the tires screamed on the concrete floor, leaving the odor of burning rubber. He touched the remote and saw the main gate swinging open ahead of him. His foot pressing the accelerator all the way to the floor, the van sped across the parking lot and out to the road. Lazrus had escaped. They ran for the door, but they found it locked. Apollo tried different keys before he found the right one. By the time he got the door open, Magnus Lazarus was gunning the van out of the warehouse with several dogs inside it.

Chapter 45 Sarah was gathering everything that she owned, including the documents relating to the projects that she had been working on. She didn’t have very much, as far as personal items, so it didn’t take long. “I thought Dirk was my friend,” she was saying. “We worked together all of this time and I was such an idiot. I told him all of my plans to escape, and none of them worked. I thought he wanted to escape too, but he was here for the money.” “It’s okay now, Princess,” her father said. “Apollo helped us get in here. He seems to be an ok guy.” He helped pack her things in a cardboard box, and he carried it out for her.

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A fire truck was sitting at the south end of the building. The firemen were already there, putting out the fire that the fuel tanks started. There were three cars from the County Sheriff’s office and two highway patrol cars, all of which had their flashing lights turned on. The sixth vehicle was a black unmarked Suburban. Shine thought was probably the FBI. An ambulance had arrived and another was on its way. Shine looked around for Apollo and his grandfather, but saw neither. No one had seen them leave. Shine thought it was just as well. Everyone else was just glad it was over. It was time to call it a night – a very good night.

Chapter 46 Ernie turns left onto the main road and accelerates up toward the cemetery. The lights of the pickup are not on, nor will they be. This must be a time of intense caution. In Ernie’s present condition, he realizes that anybody who recognizes him will shoot him on sight. The beautiful relationship of which he has always dreamed will never be, and someone has to pay for that. Someone has to pay! His heart thuds when the casino comes into view. In front of it and around it are more than a dozen law enforcement vehicles. Their vivid lights strobe the air, and their intense colors play upon the landscape. Stunned, he stalls the truck. He sits there in the dark – thinking. There is no way to get off the reservation without meeting a law officer. A place to hide! Ernie is good at hiding. It is astonishing to think of how childhood experiences can prepare a man for adulthood. He needs all the sagacity he can

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invoke. He restarts the engine and backs up. Changing gears, he twists the steering wheel to the left and proceeds farther away from the commotion below. The cemetery. Nobody will be going there tonight. It is Christmas Eve. They will be comfy in their homes, gathered around foolish Christmas trees, drooling over piles of presents. On the roadside, a teenage boy and a girl from the little church in Hopland have taken a covey of smaller children caroling. The little ones are chattering happily, enjoying the outing and excited over the holiday. The teenage boy is trying to see who is in the truck. He must do it! He cannot miss this – this is too good! The lights of his pickup are still off. He drives alongside the children and sticks his crudely wrapped mummy head out the window. “The dead are walking tonight,” he says in his most ghost-like voice, “the dead are walking!” The teenagers see him and intuitively jump back. The road is narrow and the hill is steep. They fall down the hill away from the screaming children. This is a singularly bright moment for Ernie. He replays it over in his mind, wondering how far the teenagers rolled and how far the little ones ran. He reaches the top of the hill. Someone has opened the gate. He drives through, but he notices that the lock is still hanging open on the hasp. He stops the pickup and closes the gate. He takes the lock off the post and flings it into the woods. Becky presses close to the passenger door, afraid of what Ernie will do. She tries to open the door each time the truck stops, but she has not been successful. He sees her pushing on the door handle and says, “Oh, didn’t I tell you? That door only opens from

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the outside. Sorry Angel, I guess you’re just stuck with me.” He cranks the wheel hard, circling around the cemetery, and stops the truck under a thick grove of oaks. “Now,” he utters, his voice noticeably weaker than before, “you and I can get better acquainted.” Ernie leans his head back on the seat and rests for a few moments. He feels flushed and dizzy. Was it the pain pills? Was his temperature spiking again? Was he rabid? He did not think it was the latter, because the symptoms were not right for that. It was probably the infection. When he had changed bandages in the morning, there was no fresh blood, but there were stains of pus on the gauze. No matter, he will have to find better antibiotics. Treating wounds in a dirty old cabin was not the best of all environments, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Ernie falls asleep in the seat. His dreams are delusional and daunting. He is in his tree house looking down at the ground. It is so far to fall, and he is afraid. A big person is standing behind him. She is wearing a black cloak and a black pointed witch’s hat. “Jump!” she is saying. “Believe, and you can fly!” “But I’m afraid. What if I can’t fly.” “But you can. Don’t be such a fraidy-cat, Ernest. You will never know if you can fly if you don’t try. Now jump!” He cannot. It is too far down. “No,” he tells the witch. “I don’t want to!” When she sees that she cannot talk him into it, she gives him a push and over the side he goes. He is right. He doesn’t fly; he only falls to the ground and hurts himself. When he looks up, his mother is right there, looking down at him.

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“Stupid, stupid boy!” she says. “So stupid that he thinks he can fly. Why, you’d jump off a cliff if someone told you to.” Ernie is ready to wake up. How he hates those dreams! It takes him a minute or two to return to the real world. When he does, he sees that Becky has been busy. She has pulled the tape off her mouth and is biting at the tape around her wrists. “Stupid, stupid girl!” he says. “So stupid that she thinks she can get away!” He takes a knife from his pocket and opens the blade. He pulls her to him and holds the flat of the sharp blade against her cheek. …if I can see it, then i can do it, if I just believe it , there’s nothing to it. I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky…

“If we had time, I would like to show you how to skin a rabbit,” he rasps. “Oh, we would have to catch one first, but I know how. They have tender skin, you know. It cuts very easily, but it tears easily too. I’m always careful not to tear it. I like to do things neatly.” She tries to see the blade from the corner of her eyes, afraid that he might suddenly cut her face. She is trembling, but she will not cry. That would please him too much and she cannot bear that, so she closes her eyes and silently prays. Instead of cutting her, he slices through the duct tape that binds her wrists and ankles. Once free, she rubs the places where the tape has been. The adhesive has irritated her skin so that it itches. It feels so good to have the tape off and be able to scratch the itching.

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Ernie turns on the small overhead light “This is a nice place for us to talk now.” He smiles, but his expression is grotesque. She can only see his mouth and eyes. He notices that she is peering at him. He removes the bandages, saying, “Now we can see each other better.” His entire face is blotted with hundreds of oozing scabs. His eyes are jaundicing yellow with webbings of red blood vessels, the corners of his mouth caked with blood. Becky wishes that he had not taken off the bandages. “My dad will be looking for me,” she avows boldly. “When he finds you, he’s going to beat you up.” She drops her eyes; afraid she has said the wrong thing. “And my brother will beat you up, too. He’s a good fighter. He knows karate.” “Ooooooh, I’m so scared,” Ernie mocks, “and I’ve got a gun.” “My dad has a gun. He’s going to blow your stupid brains out when he finds us!” she shouts. The tremor in her voice exposes her internal fear. Ernie is livid. He slaps her solidly with the back of his bandaged right hand and grabs her roughly. Holding her head in front of him over the steering wheel, he starts to squeeze her neck – but not for long. The driver’s door is jerked open. Strong hands yank Ernie out of the truck and throw him to the ground. When he looks up, it is not Vern Crow the dad, nor Elliot Hess the tribal police chief, but is what appears to be a tall white mountain. He first sees the cowboy boots, then the white trousers, then a western gun and holster, then…

Chapter 47

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“Great job, Shine,” the man says. He ignores Shine’s hand and grabs him for a hug. “From what we could tell, you and your guys did the job with minimal casualties and zero firepower. Sure saves on the paperwork. We will likely publish this operation in the tactical training manuals. I’ve never seen anything like it!” He is CIA Senior Field Officer Nathan E. Banning, a 32-year veteran who served twenty-one years of his career in a covert capacity. This case being classified a terrorist threat, it was tossed on his desk. The concern was if it had succeeded, Native Americans throughout the United States would face similar threats. Only a step behind him is U. S. Marshal Zachary Trent, trained first as an Army Ranger. A decorated veteran, he did his 20 years, and then became a trainer for the United States Marshals service. He gives Shine a bear hug and pounds him on the back, saying, “You’re a crackerjack, do you know that? Taking down those guys without firing a shot! I don’t know if that’s idiocy or genius!” “It sure ain’t genius, Zack,” Shine shoots back, “so it must be the other!” The three of them join the rest of Shine’s team for introductions. Handcuffed, seven laboratory guards are loaded into a prisoner transporter and taken away. Uniformed deputies help load the wounded into ambulances. Dirk, with an arrow still protruding from his forehead, has already been taken away. As he is reporting the event to Banning and Trent, Abe’s motorcycle starts up. Seated on the bike behind her father, Sarah is watching for Shine, so when he spots her, she smiles and waves as the motorcycle leaves through the front gate. He watches until they are out of sight. Trent nudges Banning and grins.

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Shine hears his cell phone and fishes it out. It is Stan, the Wah Wah Man. “Shine, you need to get here…and fast!”

Chapter 48 Ernie sees Earl the Other; whose appearance is a grinning, glowering apparition of a hog standing in the moonlight – an effigy of unholy terror. “You here lookin’ for a good time, Cowboy?” Earl hoots, giving Ernie a hard kick in the ribs with the sharp toe of his boot. “We don’t want y’all to be disappointed now, ya’hear?” Another kick. “Please,” Ernie struggles to say, “I’m a friend of the family. I’m taking care of Becky while her parents are working. I would never, never harm anybody.” He tries to make his legs work so that he can stand, but the pain is so great all he can do is sit and whimper. Becky watches from the pickup and sees Earl reach down with his left hand and lift Ernie up. The hulking form draws back his right fist. Pushing Ernie back against the cab of the truck, he says, “Looks to me like you had her all roped and tied. What ya’ got to say about that, partner? Think you can take a punch as good as she can?” “I would never hit a little girl,” Ernie avows. “Never, never, never!” Earl wants to hit him in the mouth so bad, but when he sees all the scabs and pus, he hesitates. “Man, you are sick, sick, sick, do you know that? Looks like you been dragged through a stubble field by a crazy mule.” He looks over again at Becky, and says to her. “I’m so, so sorry, little one. This man will never hurt you again, I promise. I had a

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daughter. She was your age, too. A man like this man stole her away from me. Oh, he’s been executed. They still do that where I come from, you know. He’s in his grave now, but I still don’t have my daughter. Right now, I wish you didn’t have to see this.” Then he says, “Oh well, why not?” and hits Ernie hard in the face, knocking him out cold. Unwilling to let it go at that, he picks the unconscious man up and carries him to the side of the road. After three more hard punches for good measure, he throws him as far as he can down over the side of the hill, calling out, “So long, Scabbyface!” Earl now wants to become Good Old Earl again, but he cannot. Gradually, he has lost that ability. The only thing he can do now is wait and hope. He shuts the door on the driver’s side and says to Becky, “Honey, I’ve got people chasin’ me, so they’ll be here pretty soon. I’ll stay around and make sure you’re all right. They’ll either arrest me or shoot me, but that’s okay, Honey, that’s okay, so long as you get back home safe.” “Can’t you just get in the truck and drive me home, Mister?” she says, laying her small hand over one of his big ones. “The keys are in the truck.” “I want to, Darlin’, more than I could ever say, but that wouldn’t be safe for you. If they start shootin’, you could get hurt. We better just wait.” He puts his free hand over hers and smiles his very best. He is wishing beyond all wishes that he could be just plain old Earl – if only for this moment. “Tell you what,” Earl says, “tell me about you – things you like and where you’d like to go, and what you want to do when you grow up. Can you do that for me?”

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“Yes, I’d be happy to,” she replies. “But what’s your name. I don’t know what to call you.” “I’m Earl Farley, Honey. I like to just be called Earl.” “Okay, Mr. Earl. Can I tell you about my puppy?” The bluish moonlight is filtering delicately through the oaks and settling down upon him like a weightless moth, filling him with contentment and confidence. At last, he has discovered the methods of heaven’s timeless, reliable orb. The dynamism of the moon he is feeling is not essentially evil; he now thinks that the moon merely extends a being’s innate desires and propensities beyond their natural capacities. All the while, Earl is listening to Becky’s soft voice relating tale after tale about her adventures with the pup. He feels that if it is meant to be, he can stand beside the pickup all night. For him, this providential interlude possesses magic that no shaman or enchanter could ever conjure. They are coming.

Chapter 49 While Becky is telling Earl about Maska, Poky and Willy – how they found the puppy and how brave he is – Earl can hear the distant vehicles approaching. It will not be long. He listens to Becky, and he dreams of little Dallas Farley, the girl who meant the world to him. There are things in his life he would like to change, but it is too late. This is not how he intended to end his journey, standing beside a cemetery, waiting for death to come. Things however, do not always work out the way planned. His dream was to

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frighten everyone off the reservation and to buy it cheaply, but then things got out of hand. He knows that he is to blame, but like everything else in this unforeseen debacle, none of it can be undone. He hears it growl. Warily, he turns his small puffy eyes that way, and sees the huge dog with the teeth of a shark and the body of a hyena. Diweda-hayu! Hideous and glowing in the moonlight, it is a beast cursed with the emergence of terror and death. Its hugely misshapen head, strangely formed with another set of eyes on the sides, looks both all-wise and demonic. How many men has this untamable creature already killed? How many more before it ends? Earl will not die easily. He says to Becky, “Roll up the window and stay in the truck.” She does not understand, but she closes the window. Turning to face the beast, he squints his pig-eyes and says, “Well, if it ain’t Mr. Moondog himself. So you thinkin’ you can go a round or two with me, huh? He catches sight of the eerie glow of three moondogs fifty feet away, watching. There will be more, but for now, he only faces their leader.

Chapter 50 The barrel-chested beast slinks toward him, its lips drawn back, exposing a mouthful of jagged, sharp teeth. With a terrifying snarl, the beast leaps upon Earl, reaching for his throat. Earl sidesteps to the left and lets the dog slam into the side of the truck. As it hits the ground, he gives it a vicious kick in the ribs, rolling it under the vehicle. It crawls out the other side and skulks around the tailgate, looking for him.

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Strangely, the creature does not intimidate him. Instead, the occasion to fight with the animal excites him even though he knows it is a fight to the death. With two bounds toward him, it leaps again, going for his face. Earl is ready. He sidesteps to the right and wraps his arm around the powerful animal, squeezing it and punching its massive head with his fist. It is struggling to pull free. Using its long strong legs, it kicks against Earl’s body, cutting into his clothes with its claws and squirming away. It lands on the ground and immediately goes for Earl’s legs. It bites down on one of Earl’s legs above the ankle and shakes it violently. Earl feels the intense pain, but his animal instincts turn the pain into rage. Squealing like a wounded hog, he grabs the beast’s head and sinks a finger into its eye. Shoving into its eye socket as far as he can, he pulls the beast’s head hard and frees his leg. With a loud cry of pain, it backs away from Earl, injured and confused. The dog glowers at Earl, pawing at its empty eye socket. It is perplexed now because it must rely on its remaining eyes. It paces from side to side, looking for an advantage. Someone has opened the gate. Vehicles with their flashing lights fill the cemetery above the unholy battleground. Elliot drives down around the cemetery and stops behind Ernie’s truck. He leaves his lights on and gets out. Shine jumps out with Abe and Leon close behind, and hurry down the hill to the sounds of the fight. Stan is already there, his handgun pointed toward the ground, looking for a clear shot. Others follow, until no less than a dozen men circle the battle, their weapons are ready. More headlights weave their way up the hill. Dozens of local residents are running up the road to the cemetery. Above the gathering, on the edge of the cemetery,

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five more of the glowing dogs have arrived. They sit, perhaps waiting for a signal from the pack’s leader. They see the beast go for Earl’s legs again. He tries to kick the dog, but he has no feeling in his left leg, except for the pain. When he kicks and misses, it bites down on his right leg and jerks it side-to-side as before. Earl loses his balance and falls to the ground. He is pounding it with his fists, each blow hard and brutal. Feeling its head, he finds another eye and jams his finger into it, probing and pulling. Again, the beast is injured and confused. It releases the man, but Earl’s legs will not hold him. He must fight the dog on his knees. Again, it goes for his throat, but Earl anticipates its move and ducks his head. Earl’s teeth and tusks bite and rip the dog’s vulnerable neck. “I think I can get off a shot,” a deputy says. “Want me to shoot the dog?” “Don’t shoot yet! That little 38 won’t even slow it down,” Stan yells out, “and someone might catch a bullet. If you can get close, use your clubs.” There are three or four men hitting the animal’s back, but it seemed to be impervious to the blows. Earl has it in a bear hug and has the animal’s neck in his enlarged mouth. His tusks are chomping and working their way closer to a more vital place. The beast is bleeding from its neck, but it battles on. Kicking and clawing, it frees itself once more and has Earl by the throat. There is no way he can pull free, so he rolls on top of it and bears down on it with his full weight, all the while punching its ribs with his fists. “They’re killin’ each other!” somebody yelled. “There ain’t no reason to shoot them if they’re gonna kill each other anyways!”

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Shine speaks to Elliot and Stan briefly. They nod and Shine turns to the men and shouts, “Everyone move back behind Elliot, right now!” Elliot, with the help of Abe and Leon, push them all out of the way. Shine pulls out his Desert Eagle and approaches the combatants. They roll over and over on the ground, snarling and squealing, biting and punching until the dog is on top. It lets go of Earl and stumbles, falling on its side. Neither of the battlers can claim a victory, for they have both won and they have both lost. For them, death is as certain as darkness before sunrise. Shine puts his gun back into its holster, thinking that the fight is over, when unexpectedly the beast arises and snarls. Drawing his gun again, he clicks off the safety. Just the nearness to the animal induces in him a sense of panic. He is surprised to see a stretch of bloody bandage still clinging loosely to the side of the dog’s long snout, calling attention to an open gash there. Someone has somehow tended its wounds. He feels pity for the animal because of its mutant existence, and respect because of its unparalleled abilities. It is an incredible killing machine. It rolls its head from side to side, using the smaller, weaker looking eyes on each side of its head to keep Shine in focus. He sympathizes with the animal, but he has no qualms about killing it. In his peripheral vision, he notes at least a dozen more moon mongrels have arrived. Dogs of varying sizes and shapes wait to see the outcome of the fight. He wonders if they are going to be trouble. He signals to Elliot, pointing to the new arrivals. When the beast leaps for him, his gun roars, hitting the animal squarely in the chest. The mighty Diweda-hayu drops to the ground. The heavy 50-caliber bullet has exploded its lungs and heart.

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Chapter 51 While churches throughout the land open their doors for Christmas Eve prayer, and homes ring with joy and jubilance, a different sort of gathering stands stunned on the dark, Golgotha-like hill. Reverend Jacob pushes his way through the circle of men and kneels over Earl. “I’m here, Earl,” he says. “I’m so sorry. I just wish there was something I could do for you.” He hugs his brother the best he can as Earl lies on the ground. “The ambulances are so busy. There’s one on the way, but it has to come all the way from the city.” “It’s too late, Jake,” Earl said weakly. “I’m dyin’, Brother, I’m dyin’. But Jake..” His lips move, but there is no sound. “What is it Earl? What is it you want?” “I’ll go to hell, won’t I?” “You don’t have to, Earl,” Jacob tried to give him some comfort. “You can ask God for forgiveness right now, just like the thief on the cross did. Do you want to, Earl? I can pray with you now if that’s what you want?” The crowd had gathered back around Earl again, not wanting to miss a thing. “They won’t let me, Jake. They won’t let me get things right. I don’t want to be like this…I don’t want to die like this.” “Who won’t let you? Who?” “Them. They won’t. The ones in my head. The ones that tell me what to do. They want me to think it’s the Man in the Moon that’s makin’ me do things, but I figured it out, Jake. It ain’t the moon…it’s them.” “Are they spirits, Earl.”

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“Yeah, spirits. It’s awful, Jake. It’s real awful.” “I know it is, but I don’t know what to do for you, Earl. I wish I did.” “Can’t you make them leave? Say a prayer or something and make them leave?” “I can try.

Chapter 52 “I come to cast you out, you wicked spirits!” The voice has come from behind the men. Reverend Jacob looks around to see who it is. “You dirty, filthy, evil spirits, you’ve got no business here! You have to go now!” The crowd parts and makes way for Grammy Angeni. Though the evening is cold, the small, thin woman is dressed only in her plain cotton dress and leather shoes. Her long white hair held back from her dark, wrinkled face with a simple headband, she appears ancient. Her black, bright eyes, expressing the soul of a warrior, stay fixed on Earl alone. The men, stunned by the powerful way she speaks, give her passage. She moves directly to Earl. Stan the Wah Wah Man, stays beside Ernie’s truck, keeping an eye on Becky. He wishes the girl were not present. No child should have to watch anything so horrible that it scares life-hardened men. He will not leave her side until it is over. With the coarse, unnatural voice of an angry hog it speaks. “Go back to your teepee, old woman! Go back before we pull you down into hell where you belong!” On the ground near Ernie’s pickup, the injured man turns his head to the side to look at her. His small pig eyes are puffy and wild; he fixes his defiant gaze on the woman.

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“She wants to help you, Earl,” Jacob is saying. “I think she knows what she’s doing.” “She knows nothing! Her God died, did you not hear?” Earl begins to convulse again. “This fat pig belongs to us!” “T-that’s not you, is it Earl?” Jacob backed away. “All of you – get way back!” the woman orders. “This is God’s business. You’ll just be trouble if you stay. Get back! I have to fight these devils!” Elliot tells them, “Come on, guys. Let’s give the lady some room.” All the men follow him back to the SUV. “Should I stay and help you pray?” the preacher says to Angeni. “I feel sorta responsible. He’s my brother.” “No, you better go. They might jump on you. They’re all full of tricks.” He looks back at Earl. Torn between duty and fear, he is relieved that the woman shows up when she does. Admiring her wisdom and candor, he is ready to trust her to do what he cannot. “I’ll be right over there if you need me, Earl,” he says. The voice coming from Earl reverberates across the hilltop as it speaks. “If he needs you? If he need you, you worthless glutton? WE are his rock and his salvation! This man is nothing without US. Without US, he does not exist!” Earl tries to speak for himself, but is unable. His squealing voice produces no understandable words. The entities within him have completely subjugated him. “Just keep your loud mouth shut, Porky!” the voice declares, “or maybe you want us to get in the truck with the little girl.”

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Earl tries to see into the pickup, but people are standing in the way. He cannot imagine Becky going through the torment that he is experiencing. In attempting to communicate his revulsion, he rolls his heavy porcine head sadly from side to side. At the complete mercy of the wicked demons within him and the sainted woman before him, he can only weep. “You shut your mouth!” the woman warns the spirits. “You’ve got to get out anyhow.” “Oh, do you think you can make us? Where’s your holy water….and your cross? Are you forgetting that? Why not drive a wooden stake in poor old Porky’s heart?” Earl feels around for something to throw. The body of Big Earl has little control of its own, for through the depraved choices he has made, he has become the host of this unspeakable evil. Earl closes his hand on a rock about the size of a billiard ball and rolls to his side. So quickly that he takes them by surprise, he hurls it hard at the woman. It misses her, but hits a deputy in the chest and sends him reeling backward. The men all move farther away. They want nothing to do with whatever is in Earl’s body. “What is a scrawny old woman like you doing here?” it shouts. “This is the reveler’s hour! This is the enchanter’s’ night of revelry. Go get drunk, old hag! You would like that, wouldn’t you?” “I don’t drink that stuff, and I’m sick and tired of you! You talk too much, so shut up!” “Don’t you want to get to know us better, old woman? You might just like us. Don’t you want to be a cowboy’s sweetheart – learn to rope and to ride?”

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“I know who you are, Legion! My Lord already sent you packing a long time ago. Now you are going back to torment where you belong!” “Do you believe everything you read in that Book, old woman?” it taunts. Earl’s big body rises up and sits in the middle of the road. The men take yet another step back, and there is the metallic sound of someone pumping a load into the chamber of a shotgun.

Chapter 53 Angeni takes a step closer to Earl. Every man there feels the power of her presence. Her voice becomes louder as she cries, “Now all of you wicked spirits come out of this man right now, in Jesus name!” Earl, sitting on the road, suddenly stiffens. His eyes open wide. He looks, but does not see. “The dogs!” the distressed legion of voices cries. “The dogs! Let us go into the dogs!” Out of the shadows, the dogs have moved into the moonlight. Easily identified by their pale glow, they are all different as to their sizes and shapes. Neither hostile nor sociable, they are only observers to the odd happenings behind the cemetery. “You have already been given to the pigs!” the woman pronounces, pointing her boney finger toward the shape on the ground. “No homes for you this time, devils! You go into torment – now!” “Noooo! Noooo! Not the barrens…not the barrens! Bodies! Let us go into bodies!”

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Their desperate cries echo across the mountain. Those who are watching stand mesmerized, as if to move might attract some demonic spirit to them. Earl’s body convulses. Falling back onto the road, he squeals in a myriad of chilling voices. The squealing and keening goes on for two or three minutes, and then finally subsides.

The woods are quiet. Reverend Jacob Farley runs to Earl. Earl’s features are no longer those of a pig, but those of a broken, wounded man. Taking off his jacket, Jacob folds it and puts it under his brother’s head. Earl and Jacob are quietly weeping together. “Finally gone,” Earl is saying. “They’re finally gone.” “Yes they are, Earl. They’re gone now. Are you okay, little brother?” “Yeah, Jake, I’m okay now. I think I want us to pray now, if that’s alright with you.”

To Elliot, Grammy Angeni says, “I’m tired, Elliot. Can I sit in your car for a while? It’s a long walk back to the house.” He walks her to the SUV and opens the door. He helps her into the vehicle and says, “Thank you for being here, Grammy. That was the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I learned plenty from you tonight, but I’d never try that myself.” “They’re not so tough,” she smiles, “they’re just tricky.”

Chapter 54

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Shine has counted an audience of twenty-eight moondogs that had watched the proceedings. The battle over and the woods at peace, they leave in groups, heading downhill from the cemetery and back into the woods. A tall teenage boy drags the dead beast closer to the light of the pickup. As he examines it, he sees that the wounds it suffered has been tremendous. He examines its battered head and pulls the blood-soaked bandage away. “So this is Diweda-hayu now” he breathes, still awed by its horrific appearance. “Shine,” he calls out, “Shine, come and take a look at this.” Shine walks over and squats down beside the boy. “See here,” Jolon says. “There’s a broken arrow shaft sticking out of this thing’s shoulder.” Shine picks up the bandage lying beside it and slips it into his jacket pocket. He .runs his hand along the right shoulder and feels the broken arrow stub. The animal’s heavy pelt is coated with leaves and small twigs mixed in with dark sticky blood. He pushes back the matted hair to get a better look. “Handmade,” he mutters. “Come over here a minute, Abe, I’d like for you to take a look at this.” Abe squats down beside the other two, observing the animal close up for the first time. Its mouth is open and its tongue is lolling out grotesquely. The sight of its shark-like teeth and long, dangerous fangs give Abe the shivers. Reluctantly, he touches the animal and runs his hand over its wiry coat. “This gets stranger and stranger, doesn’t it?” Shine says. “This is one of Gramp’s arrows.” “That’s not all,” Jolon continues. “Take a look at this.” He shows them a stainless steel chain. Hanging on it is a metal star about two inches in size. When he turns it over,

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on the backside of the emblem are engraved the words, Coven of Chaos, and the initials, ML. “Do you know what the ML stands for?” “Yes, Jolon,” Shine replies, “I have a pretty good idea.” Shine stands up. The pieces have come together. The connections between the dogs, the owls, the laboratory, and the man who caused it all to happen have joined. Beside him, still bent over the creature, Abe’s deep voice trembles with emotion as he rasps, “I don’t know how he did this, but I know what the ML means. It’s that freak Magnus Lazrus. He’s the guy I shot in the right shoulder. The arrow got him just when he was going out the door. You seen it too, Shine. Right now I feel like I’m looking at the Devil himself.” The men behind them are hushed in their exchange of opinions. In concert, they realize that what they have seen is legendary. They struggle to absorb it. The entourage is surprised to see that the moondogs are back and their number has grown. Ghostly – silently watching – they stand in the moonlight a stone’s throw away. The dogs and the men look intently at one another. Both beast and man attempt to understand their age-old connection. Will this change their affinity for one another? Will they still be friends? It is nearing midnight and in a few minutes, it will be Christmas morning. In the stillness, the air is oddly thick with hope. When finally the animals are satisfied, they turn and trot back into the woods without a sound.

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