endoftheearth

To the End of the Earth


He hesitated for the longest time, the Badlands behind, the highway in front.

To the right lay everything he’d ever known—family, friends, casual acquaintances. Familiar streets marked in safe, geometrical lines, buildings that followed structured order. It was all waiting for him.

He’d return and pick up where he’d left off as if he’d never taken the trip out west. He’d take new assignments, go out for a beer after work, go for his normal five a.m. runs. And if he still felt the need, after a few months he could even use his connections to get Maggie’s story out. His mother and stepfather wouldn’t help, but neither would they hinder.

To the left, though…

To the left lay a world uncharted and bafflingly different. Not just the people, but the land itself—rough, broken, almost alien in its strangeness. The polar opposite of his regimented life and it was almost mind-boggling, the fact that both worlds existed within the same country.

In the end, his decision was helped along by Jimmy. Who moaned, then yipped, reminding Ray of all the things he’d gone through in the past week, all the things he’d learned about himself.

He touched the peace pipe, gave the Ford some gas and turned left.

 

***

 

He stayed the night in Rapid City. He found a Howard Johnson on the edge of town, then remembered Jimmy, so he kept going until he came to a motel named the Western Rose. It was rundown and in the past he never would’ve stayed in such a dump, but it had a vacancy and that’s what mattered.

He didn’t have to sneak Jimmy in. The kid at the desk gave him a room on the very end of the wing, then went back to his television. Bonanza was on; as Ray was leaving, Hoss and Little Joe galloped into the Ponderosa, horses neighing and tossing their heads.

When he got inside the room, he stripped mechanically then got in the shower. He washed, taking his time because he had time to take. He dried off and got dressed again in the same clothes. He hesitated at the foot of the bed. He should call his mom—she’d want to know that the assignment was over. Instead, he bundled Jimmy back in the car and went to find something to eat.

They ate at a McDonalds not far from the motel. Jimmy wolfed down his hamburger like he hadn’t eaten in days, all the while watching Ray’s every move with hopeful eyes. Ray just shook his head. Then sighed and gave Jimmy half of his second hamburger. After they’d both finished, he sat there in the parking lot a while more as the dark blue sky turned black and the stars came out.

When he got back to the motel, he made a collect call to D.C. It was late and he knew his mom would already be in bed, but he did it anyway. He left a message with her service, telling her that he’d call again and not to worry if it took him a few days.

He went to bed soon after, mind blank with fatigue. He was on the edge of sleep when the mattress shifted and bounced: Jimmy had jumped up on the bed, belly brushing low, preemptively whining.

Ray knew he should set boundaries, but he was too tired. He stroked Jimmy’s side with his foot, comforting them both, then fell asleep.

 

***

 

He arrived in Denver the next day. He followed the same routine as the day before—got into town, found a place to stay, ate dinner. Only this time, when he’d eaten and gone back to the motel, he borrowed a Yellow Pages from the clerk and began to go through the media listings.

By nine o’clock, he had a short list of names and numbers.

 

***

 

“Yes, ma’am, I understand.”

The secretary frowned in regret and tapped her long red nails on the desk. “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Hopefully, he’ll have time in a month or so.”

Ray nodded and repeated, “It’s okay. I’ll check back.”

She smiled and brushed a strand of long blond hair off her face, tidying a hairdo that didn’t need tidying. “Then maybe I’ll see you then?”

Ray nodded again, shifting his file folder from hand to hand, feeling like an automaton. The secretary opened her mouth, maybe to give him another apology or to hint at a date because the conversation seemed to be going that way, but he left before she could say anything else. Before he could call out her coward of a boss, who was hiding on the other side of the fake walnut-colored door.

He strode down the hall and didn’t wait for the elevator. He took the stairs, gathering steam until he was almost leaping down. By the time he made it to the lobby and outside, anger was choking him and he tugged on his tie and unfastened his top button to ease the pressure.

It was lunchtime in downtown Denver. It seemed as if the entire city was on the streets—some people were hurrying, some wandering aimlessly in the bright noon sun. He stood there for a moment and watched them, feeling entirely isolated and unconnected.

Not a new feeling, really, but one only recently acknowledged and he wondered if it was ever going to fade, the awful sense of being different.

He tightened his lips and waded into the crowd, letting it push him along the sidewalk until he got to the street where he’d parked his car. Jimmy was waiting for him, nose pressed up against the two-inch space of open window. He whined when he saw Ray, his eyes sad as if he knew what the news would be.

 

***

 

Ray drove. Ending up far east of Denver, heading straight through the rolling plains. He told himself to stop, to at least think, but he kept going, mindlessly.

It wasn’t until the mountains were far behind and all around was an ocean of grass that he let his anger sweep up and over again, like a wave of fire.

With a snarled, “Fuck!” he wrenched the steering wheel to the right and braked, coming to an abrupt stop, half on the shoulder, half in the dirt.

He got out and tore off his jacket, then began to pace, a quick back and forth that slowly muted the burning rage. When he could think again, he slogged through the tall grass to the barbed-wire fence and leaned on a post.

There was nothing much to see, just the yellow-green land and the blue, blue sky. A couple cows were off in the distance, not doing much of anything. He put his hands on his hips and said it again, “Fuck,” this time hopelessly, because what was he to do now?

Maggie’s media contact had been a bust so he’d gotten on the phone and called organizations in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Houston. When he hadn’t been able to get his foot in the door that way, he’d changed into his suit and visited every news agency in Denver. No one wanted to talk to him, no one wanted to hear his story. One editor had even gone so far as saying that the American Indian’s time had come and gone—the world had moved on without them and they weren’t news anymore.

He remembered Coutelle’s words about internal civil conflict, about a conquered people, all couched in terms of sympathy and understanding. Hiding a contempt and distrust that he’d only understood when it was almost all over.

He should have known.

But how? He’d felt the same contempt, hadn’t he? Compounded by a lifetime of shame and hatred and fear.

A bark made him turn. Jimmy was on his hind leg, front paws on the open window, tongue hanging out.

Ray gestured. “Well, c’mon. I’m not stopping you.”

Jimmy jumped out and began to scurry here and there, nose to the ground. Every so often he’d stop and look back as if to say, ‘You’re not leaving me here, are you?’

Ray shook his head; behind the new found affection, there was also the dull admittance that Jimmy was his only companion here in this new world. What a depressing thought.

He climbed on the hood of the car and leaned back against the windshield, watching the clouds form and reform, waiting out the rage and sadness. Eventually, with a leap and a scramble, Jimmy joined him. He laid his head on Ray’s knee and they sat there as the sun crawled across the sky.

About three, dark clouds began to build earnestly on the horizon. He decided not to chance a thunderstorm and slid off the hood. Jimmy followed and they got in the car and turned around, back west.

When he got to the motel with a pizza and a Coke, it was almost five. He paid for another night and spent the evening watching TV.

He called his mom at ten and left her another message, just as vague as the first. She’d be starting to worry—he’d have to take care of it in a day or so. When he’d figured out what his next step would be. When he figured out what the hell he was doing, and just the idea that he’d untethered himself so thoroughly from his own life made him feel even more alone than before.

He was almost asleep, Jimmy on the rug next to the bed because there had to be limits, when he remembered, ‘If you ever need a place to come back to…’

It wasn’t much of anything, those words, but they eased the ache in his chest, his stomach, and when he went to sleep, he was almost smiling.

 

***

 

He got hold of his mom the next morning. He’d eaten what passed for a continental breakfast in the motel’s office, then went back to his room and picked up the phone. She answered on the second ring.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Mom.”

“Raymond! Honey, where are you?”

“Denver.”

“Denver? Agent Dawes said you were on your way home.”

“When did you talk to him?”

“Your father called him last night. We’ve been so worried.”

“I know, Mom. I’m sorry. I just—” He stopped, unsure what to say, how to explain what had happened since he’d boarded the plane to Denver, almost two weeks ago now.

“Raymond,” she said, hesitantly, “we know about Frank Coutelle.”

“What did they tell you?”

“Just that he’s retired. Something about wanting to spend more time with his family.”

He lay back on the bed and hit his head against the ugly orange floral bedspread a couple times. Whitewash, indeed.

“Agent Dawes said he wasn’t surprised. Apparently Agent Coutelle has always been something of a renegade. There was an incident a few years ago…”

She trailed off again and Ray didn’t bother asking. As far as he was concerned, Frank Coutelle could go fuck himself, but he could hardly tell her that.

There was a long pause and his mom asked tentatively, “So, why are you in Denver, honey?”

Ray shrugged. The ceiling had an odd crack running from the corner—it looped and curved. Sort of like the Little Walking. He began to chew on his thumbnail.

“Your father—”

“He’s not my father,” Ray interrupted, surprised at the venom in his voice.

She hesitated again, then said in a different tone, stiff and stern, “Of course he’s your father. He’s always been your father.”

“Mom,” Ray began, but she interrupted him.

“No, I won’t listen to you, Raymond. I want you to get on a plane and come home.”

He shook his head though she couldn’t see. It was long past the time when she could tell him what to do. She should’ve known that. “I’m not ready yet.”

“What does that mean?”

But she knew, he could hear it by the way her voice hardened further, readying her own aim. “I need to figure some things out.”

“And while you do that? What about your job, your life here in D.C.? Have you talked to Jessie about it?”

He rubbed his forehead. The last person he’d call would be Jessie Moorehouse—he hadn’t even thought about her in the last month, much less the last twenty-four hours. They’d only gone on two dates, but it seemed his mom was already organizing the wedding.

He shouldn’t have called her, not until he had something more to present than indefinite half-plans.

“Raymond?”

“I’ll call Dawes as soon as I’m done. I’ll turn the bureau car and my gun in at the Denver office.” He hadn’t known he was going to say that, but the minute the words were out he felt a stinging relief.

“You can’t be serious.”

“I am, Mom. I’ve never been more serious.”

“And then?”

“I don’t know.”

“Raymond—”

It was his turn to interrupt, “I don’t know what to tell you, Mom. I just need to do something different for a while.”

There was a long pause, then she asked quietly, “This is about your father, isn’t it?”

The bitterness was there, still fresh and sharp as if it were only yesterday that they’d divorced, and he wondered for the first time in a long, long time, why his mother had ever married his father. What had drawn them together? Love? Mere affection? Or just a way to shock her more-than conservative parents?

“Yes,” he finally said, because the only thing he was clear about was the need to acknowledge that he was his father’s son.

“He was nothing but a drunk. You know that.”

“I know, but that doesn’t mean—”

“Raymond—”

But he’d had enough. “Mom, I’ve gotta go. I’ll call as soon as I can. Don’t worry about me.”

He hung up before she could say another word.

He got out the Yellow Pages and looked up the Denver office. Then packed up his gear, got Jimmy in the car and headed out.

 

***

 

He bought a beat up Chevy with the last of his cash and ended up, somehow, in New Mexico.

In Albuquerque, with nothing to do but wander around the town. He’d been to California, but never anywhere else in the west. Except South Dakota, of course, and like that land, it was like another world. Hot, dusty, and somehow slow.

He decided to stay a few days.

He was in a grocery store on the second day, waiting in line with a big bag of dog food because Jimmy couldn’t live on fast food forever, when he found himself eavesdropping on a conversation behind him. Two elderly men were discussing a project they were working on, the renovation of a building that was taking too long and turning out to be more than they could handle.

Later, he realized it was fate stepping in, but at the time it seemed like simple desperation that made him turn around and ask, “Need any help?”

 

***

 

“Hey! Ray!”

He ran his trowel over the plaster in a clean sweep, finishing off the corner before he said over his shoulder, “Yeah?”

“Bill’s going into town. Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“What about the pipes? Did you take a look?”

“Yeah, at first light.” He tossed the trowel into the bucket and turned.

Phil was leaning in the doorway, one hand on the jamb, the other on his hip. His creased face was unusually impassive—it must be one of his bad days. “They’re not as damaged as you thought. I think they’re good for another year.”

Phil gave him a small smile and patted the jamb. “Good. That’s good. That means we can get two more desks. I’ll tell Bill.” He turned to leave, then stopped. “Hey, do you mind if we take Jimmy? Mary’s leg has been hurting. Samuel says she’s not doing so well.”

Ray was already nodding. Mary was the eight year-old daughter of Linda and Sam Chavez, owners of the Lazy S Saloon. She’d lost her right leg in a car accident the year before and according to Sam, she’d been slipping away, month by month. Until she’d met Jimmy. She’d fallen in love with him on sight and, with him by her side, she’d ventured outdoors once again.

He tried to get out to see her at least once a week but he was also trying to get the walls done and couldn’t do both at the same time. “Sure. I was planning on heading out in a bit, anyway. Want to see what’s beyond that ridge.” He grinned as he spoke. The joke, lame as it was, was now old, the product of three months of getting to know the two men who had changed his life. Phil grinned as if it was brand new, then tipped his hat and left.

Ray picked up his tools and the bucket and put them in the closet, ignoring the dull twinge in his back as he bent and straightened. Pretty soon he’d be like Phil, always walking around with one hand on his hip or lower back, sighing heavily every time he moved.

The thought made him grin again and he went outside.

He’d gotten an early start and the day was just beginning. Already hot, of course, and although the heat was something he wasn’t yet used, it no longer made him want to keep to the shady spots.

He wandered out to the yard, then turned to look back at the project that had kept him busy for almost four months now. From sun up to sun down, he’d labored with Phil and Bill to restore and add on to the tribe’s old schoolhouse, making adjustments to their basic plan as they went.

It didn’t look like much. A one-level, three-room building made in the traditional way of adobe and timber. There were five windows, four doors, and three storage rooms.

But, for someone who had no idea what he was doing, it was pretty impressive. Because it was his idea to ask around first, to interview the elders about the best methods for building the new water tank. To bring them in to take a look so they could advise on whether or not the old walls were thick enough to withstand the cold months. It was his idea to add an outdoor shop so the kids could learn to work with their hands, not just their brains. His own childhood seemed so distant, but he clearly remembered a time when he’d been so restless, just the idea of being indoors drove him crazy.

He smiled at the memory and pulled off his dusty t-shirt and wiped the sweat off his cheeks, off the back of his neck. He hair was getting too long. He’d gone to the barber just last week, intending to chop it all off. But something, an odd mix of stubbornness and acceptance, made him turn around and leave. And then head into the hills for a drive.

They ribbed him, Phil and Bill, about his trips, saying that there wasn’t much to see and the surrounding mountains all looked the same, anyway.

He teased right back, saying they needed to get out of the house more, and what were two guys doing, re-building a school for kids they didn’t have?

They always smiled because that was their nature, but they never confirmed or corrected. But then, they rarely spoke of themselves.

All he knew was that they were both in their late seventies, that they were from southern New Mexico. That Phil was the chatty one and Bill was the quiet one, and that their names rhymed. They’d never offered up their last names or why they’d left their homes to come live in such a desolate area. He didn’t know what tribe they were from or if they were indeed even Indian. They occasionally spoke words in a language he didn’t understand, but they dressed like everyone else: ancient jeans, plaid shirts with fake pearl buttons, cowboy hats and boots.

They were as spare and wizened as the land around them and he sometimes he thought they had to be white, but he couldn’t really tell and didn’t like to ask. Just as he suspected that they were a couple, not just close friends. But like the other, he figured it was none of his business so he kept quiet about it.

In return they asked no questions of him—where he was from, where he was going. They let him use their phone when he had to call his mom, when he thought he had a good channel for Maggie’s story that turned out to be another dead end. They loaned him their second-best truck when his Chevy threw a rod. They even let him use their address when his mother insisted on re-directing his mail.

He worried sometimes that he was taking advantage of them, that they were taking advantage of him.

In the long run, it didn’t matter. They’d given him a home, food, and companionship. And that was enough for now.

 

***

 

It took him an hour to get to what he thought of ‘his spot.’ A spur of crumbling mountain to the north of Phil and Bill’s place that rose from the land in twists and turns. He parked his truck in the usual place and shouldered his bag. The first time he’d visited, he made the mistake of not bringing water. He’d returned that evening, strangely content even with the bad burn and the thirst that took days to recover from.

Phil had scolded, saying that many whites had died for less. Bill had said nothing; he’d just handed Ray a glass of water and told him to go take a cold bath.

Now, Ray came prepared. Plenty of food and water, a cowboy hat for the sun, boots for the snakes, a rifle for everything else.

He took the first rise slowly, scanning the area to see what had changed in the four days since he’d been by. Nothing much. Just the same red rocks, the same dusty green shrubs. An animal had left a large pile of droppings off the side of the path and he hesitated. A cougar had been seen in the area and everyone was on the lookout. He bent close to the ground, looking for tracks other than the half-moon of the ever-present deer. When he found none, he shrugged and continued up the path.

He got to the first ridge and settled down on the shelf of rock that faced south. The sun was behind him and the stone was cool, almost cold. It felt good and he closed his eyes with a deep sigh. It was another thing he was getting used to, the sense of solitude that being outdoors brought. At first, he’d been suspicious of it, the way his mind and spirit woke up when he was on the mountain. Up here, it was like he became the land around him and he’d examined the feeling, looking for flaws and untruths because essentially, he was ‘going native.’ A phrase he’d heard too many times, said with so much ridicule, so much hate.

He sighed again and absentmindedly patted the ground beside him, then remembered that Jimmy was with Phil and Bill.

It felt odd, Jimmy being gone. They’d become inseparable, something Ray had refused to acknowledge, even to himself, until the day Jimmy went missing.

It had begun as nothing. Just some kids and their moms, stopping by to see the new school. They’d left, the kids taking Jimmy with them because they thought he was a stray.

Not that Ray had known that and he’d panicked. After realizing that no, Jimmy wasn’t just sleeping in the shade or investigating a nearby rabbit hole.

He’d ignored Phil and Bill’s cautions about dogs and their ways, and jumped into the truck, racing down the road, calling Jimmy’s name all the while. He came back hours later only to find Jimmy sitting happily on the stoop, tongue hanging out. One of the mothers had returned him, a half hour after Ray had left.

Ray had stroked his head roughly and called him a bad dog, feeling like an idiot for jumping the gun. But it changed something and he now thought of Jimmy as his and when he went to bed at night, he no longer pushed him off the bed.

He grimaced at the thought. He was putting down roots, slowly but surely, and that wasn’t a good thing. This wasn’t his home, no matter how many times he helped Phil and Bill out with little things like their vegetable garden or their household chores. No matter how his days had begun to form a pattern of tasks begun as rote acts and were now habit.

When he was finished with the work, he was going to move on. That was the plan.

Because he wasn’t unhappy, but he wasn’t happy, either. Because the isolation he’d felt earlier had muted into something like a fugue state. But mostly because as much as he was grateful for the work and the space, there were times when a crazy restlessness would take hold and he felt like he was going nuts from plain old, unfocussed, want.

He’d feel it build, a steady progression of disquiet like a thunderstorm gathering overhead, higher and higher, until he’d have to get in the truck and go to the mountain or sometimes to Albuquerque for a drink.

One night, a month after Phil and Bill had given him the garage keys and the spare lumber from the schoolhouse and said, ‘It’s yours. Do what you want with it,’ he’d been watching Starsky and Hutch, bored because the set was old and the reception was bad, overly critical about  all the things they got wrong when the restlessness crept up. He’d sat there as the tension grew, rubbing his neck, then his stomach. It had been too late for the mountain and the thought of the bars held no appeal.

Finally, when he felt like he was going to jump out of his own skin, he hurried to the bathroom and jerked off, using the shower to disguise any cries he couldn’t hold back. It was the first time in a long time and he’d pictured the things he’d always pictured: his old girlfriends from DC, the hooker he’d picked up on his second undercover job.

It had been so damn good, propped up against the tile wall, one hand on his dick, the other grasping at nothing, when a new image appeared out of nowhere: Crow Horse, flipping him off as he rode off on his motorcycle. Then, Crow Horse, on his belly with Ray on top, his long hair silky hot in Ray’s fist.

The memory had shot through him like a bolt of lightning and he’d arched back, hitting his head on the tile so hard he saw stars.

It had stayed with him, the image of Crow Horse and his own response, into the night and the next couple days. It finally faded with work and time, but it had never completely gone away. Even now, five weeks later, he just had to close his eyes and it would all be there again with the added bonus of scent and sound. The way Crow Horse had growled when Ray had pulled his head up, the musky smell of denim and leather and the earth itself.

It didn’t mean anything, he reassured himself. It was just one of those things. And it wasn’t like he was running from anything. He just hadn’t decided on a direction for his life yet and he was a little fucked up.

But he’d catch himself worrying that there might have been another murder on the res and the FBI had been called in once again. That Crow Horse had taken the heat from the Coutelle incident and was in a federal jail somewhere.

Ray would always scoff at his own thoughts, reminding himself that Crow Horse could take care of himself. That he could pick up the phone and call if he was that concerned. That worrying never solved anything.

Just like now and he sighed, then scrubbed his face and pushed to his feet. He still had a ways to go and he wanted to reach the cave before it got too hot.

 

***

 

That night he dreamed.

An explicit dream that held no mystery, no message—not like the others before. It was his first dream since leaving the res and he wondered what Grandpa would say if he knew. He laughed, then groaned—it was the last thing he’d want, for Grandpa to know that he’d dreamed of fucking Crow Horse in the soft sand by the Little Walking river while the spirit dancers chanted on the opposite bank.

He apologized to Jimmy for kicking him off the bed, cleaned up, and went back to sleep.

 

***

 

Bill handed Ray his weekly payment of twenty dollars, then jerked a thumb to the house. “Phil and I are going to see the new Rocky. It starts at seven. You want to go?”

Ray tucked the cash in his pocket and shook his head. “No, thanks. I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll make it an early night.” Not that he wanted to see the latest Rocky, anyway. What was this—number two, number three?

Bill nodded as if expecting no other answer. “We’ll be back around ten. Phil wants to make a night of it.”

He said it mournfully, as if a movie and a beer after was the worst possible fate in the world. It would be nice to have someone to go to the movies with and Ray couldn’t help the little jolt of irritation. How pathetic was it that two septuagenarians had a more exciting social life than he did? A life that probably included sex. It was his own choice, being this alone, but still…

Phil leaned out the door and shouted “Did you ask him?” He was wearing his good plaid shirt, his sparse hair slicked back.

Bill turned around. “Of course I did. I said I would, didn’t I?”

“And what did he say?”

As if Ray wasn’t just standing there, able to answer for himself.

“He wants to stay home. Like I said he would. I’ll be in the truck.”

Bill gave Ray a, ‘See what I have to live with?’ look, then stomped off across the yard.

Ray smothered a grin, waved goodnight to Phil, and went back to the garage. It was only five on a Friday night. He could hang out and watch TV. He could change his mind and go with the guys. Or he could pack up dinner and go for a drive.

He whistled for Jimmy and went to see what he had in the refrigerator.

 

***

 

He parked, climbed to the ridge, then sat down and ate, watching as the sun hit the distant hills then dropped behind, throwing everything into shadow. Jimmy lay next to him, chewing on a chicken bone.

Ray had just finished dinner when a doe and her fawn passed within five yards. Jimmy stirred, but didn’t chase. He’d gotten used to not being able to catch the deer that were everywhere.

Ray patted his neck and murmured, “Guess that leg was good for something, huh? Sorry about that.”

Jimmy licked his hand and laid his head back down.

Ray left soon after.

 

***

 

By the time he reached the county road, he was in an odd state. He wasn’t quite tired, not quite wired.

Something in between and it was all because of Phil and Bill. And his earlier speculation about their sex life. If they were even having sex, and if they were, it wasn’t quite fair. If they weren’t having sex, well, somehow that wasn’t fair, either.

He snorted at his own contrariness; he didn’t make sense, even to himself. But still, his frustration grew and when he pulled into the yard, he was going too fast and he barely missed the motorcycle propped up against an old stump. He slammed the brakes and skidded to a halt.

It was a familiar bike, even though he’d only seen it a few times, the last being months ago. He got out, surprised to find that his chest was tight and his hands were shaking.

He went to Phil and Bill’s first. Like most everyone in the area, they never locked their door. He looked around, Jimmy at his heels, but the place was empty.

He went back out, touching the motorcycle’s engine as he passed—it was cool.

He entered the garage slowly, feeling like he should have a gun or back-up he was that nervous and how stupid would that be, coming up on a friend, weapon raised?

He saw him immediately.

Stretched out on the couch like he owned the place, long legs crossed at the ankle, sound asleep. A leather jacket was draped across the one chair, and on the floor lay a backpack and a pair of boots. Which was thoughtful, considering the couch belonged to Phil and Bill.

Ray crept closer and stood there. Just watching.

Crow Horse was wearing a black shirt, jeans and a red bandana. His face was peaceful, almost as if he was dreaming of something pleasant, his chest moving slowly. A strand of long black hair lay over his cheek and Ray reached out, thinking to stroke it back, only catching himself at the last minute.

Something on Crow Horse’s wrist gleamed. Ray leaned over to get a better look.

It was his Rolex—he recognized it immediately. He should be pissed that Grandpa had traded his gift, but he wasn’t. He didn’t know what he was feeling, but it sure as hell wasn’t pissed.

And he probably would’ve stood there staring for a long time, but Jimmy got tired of waiting. He trotted to the couch and nuzzled Crow Horse’s hand.

“Hmm?” Crow Horse mumbled. “Ray?” He rubbed his eyes, almost blindly and looked around, then up.

Their eyes met in a moment that was too long and weirdly resonant, and Ray remembered how it had been, those first days when they were getting to know each other. Anger and distrust, then a grudging respect, then…

He shoved the memory away and said calmly, “Hey, Crow Horse.”

And instead of a hello, Crow Horse squinted and said, “Your hair is getting long.”

Ray frowned and rubbed the nape of his neck. “I’m going to get it cut.”

“No, don’t. It looks good.” Crow Horse sat up with a groan. “Shit. I’m too old for cross country trips.” He ran his hand through his hair, forgetting about the bandana. He dragged it off with another grunt and tossed it aside.

“I guess this is where I say what the hell are you doing here?”

Crow Horse grinned up at him. “I hope I get something more than that. Something along the lines of, ‘Are you hungry, Walter?’ or, ‘Would you like a beer, Walter?’ The answer,” he stood up and stretched, “is yes.”

“Fuck you, Walter.” But as he turned to go to the kitchen, he couldn’t help his smile. It was just catching up to him—Crow Horse was here, in New Mexico, in his house that was really a garage.

He opened the refrigerator. There wasn’t much. Just a cornbread casserole that Bill had brought over the night before. He reached for it along with two beers and set them on the table.

Crow Horse had followed him. “That looks good. I’m starving.”

He sat down and looked expectantly up at Ray. Kind of like Jimmy did when he wanted something he wasn’t sure he was going to get.

“You want me to serve you, too?”

“It’s your house. I’m your guest.”

Ray got a plate and fork and scooped out a generous portion. “Some guest. You break in and make yourself at home on my couch.” He sat the plate in front of Crow Horse.

“The door wasn’t locked. I thought you were just being neighborly.”

“No one locks their doors around here.”

But Crow Horse didn’t answer. He’d taken a bite and his eyes were closed in bliss. And how odd—Ray had never realized how transparent he was. He didn’t hide his feelings, the light or dark. His every emotion showed as it happened. Indians were supposed to be inscrutable, weren’t they? Or maybe that was just Asians.

Ray pursed his lips at the trail his thoughts had taken and opened a beer. He slid to Crow Horse, then opened the other for himself. He took a long, grateful drink.

Crow Horse waved his fork, indicating the kitchen, the living room. “I like what you’ve done with the place.”

Ray snorted. He’d forgotten this. Forgotten the sarcasm, the humor. “You should’ve seen it before.”

“A dump?”

He opened his mouth, then paused. Yeah, the place had been rundown—Phil and Bill had gotten too old to take care of it properly. But they deserved better from him, so he settled for a quiet, “Something like that.”

“Who are your roomies?”

He took another sip. “Did you break into their house, too?”

Crow Horse raised his eyebrow. “No, I did not. I just used my handy-dandy detective skills. You know, the ones I learned at college?”

Ray had never thought about it, but of course, Crow Horse had gone to college or had some sort of formal training. The tribe wouldn’t hand out a badge and gun to just anyone.

“Besides,” Crow Horse added as he ate the last bite, “it wasn’t hard, figuring out who you were staying with. All I did was ask your mom.”

Ray almost choked on his beer. “My mom?” he demanded, after he was able to speak again. “You called my mom?”

Crow Horse sat back and gestured with both hands. “Hold on, chief. I just—”

“You had no right, Crow Horse. I didn’t ask—”

“Ray.” Crow Horse leaned over and gripped his arm. “I wasn’t spying on you. She came by last week.”

Said like his mom had just stopped by to borrow some sugar and Ray’s mouth dropped open. He didn’t know what to say.

Crow Horse took a long drink, then wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “Listen, Ray. She was just worried about you. I think she wanted to know why you quit your job and your life.”

“What did you tell her?”

“To ask you.”

Ray dug his thumbnail into the grain of the table’s surface. “How is she?”

“You know, you could call her yourself. It’s not that hard. All you do is—”

“Walter,” Ray interrupted.

Crow Horse shrugged. “I don’t know her, but she seemed okay. She’s a nice lady.”

Which was an odd description of his mom. He always thought of her as reserved and formal. “Was the colonel there?”

Crow Horse’s gaze sharpened, but all he said was, “You mean your father?”

“Stepfather,” Ray corrected.

Crow Horse didn’t push it. He just shrugged again and said, “Yeah, he was there. He didn’t say much.”

Ray nodded. His stepfather wouldn’t have said much because he was polite that way. But Ray knew he would’ve been horrified and disgusted at the way the tribe lived.

“I don’t like him.”

Ray looked up, startled. “Why?”

Crow Horse hesitated, then said simply, “He’s just kind of an asshole, Ray.”

This time, Ray did choke, but he laughed as well. When he could speak, he said, “I’d love to see that.”

“What?”

“You, taking on my stepfather.”

Crow Horse grinned straight at him. “There would be no contest.”

And it was weird, Ray thought, as the moment went on too long again, just the idea that Crow Horse was on his side made his chest hurt.

Crow Horse watched him for a moment more, then pulled something out of his shirt pocket. His smile faded a bit. “Your Mom told me to tell you that some girl, Jessie, is still waiting for you. And this is her new number and address.” He slid the paper across the table.

Ray shook his head, staring at the table. “I don’t want that.”

“She’s not your girl?”

Ray couldn’t look up. “No,” he said shortly.

“Okay.”

Ray nodded, then downed his beer and rested his forehead against the cold glass. He was so tired.

“Tough day?” Crow Horse asked evenly.

“Not really.”

“Look, Ray. I don’t want to cause any problems.” Crow Horse straightened as if he was going to get up. “You want me to leave?”

Ray raised his head. “Where would you go?”

“Home,” Crow Horse said, then added with a wry grin, “Or probably just a motel.”

It would be better if he didn’t stay. The restlessness was building inside Ray’s chest again—who knew what would happen if it got to be too much? “No, that’s okay. You can stay. On the couch.”

“You sure?”

No. “Yeah.”

Crow Horse nodded. And rose to rinse off his plate and fork.

Ray watched out of the corner of his eye. Crow Horse’s long hair shone blue-black under the fluorescent light above the sink, and before he could stop it, the memory of jerking off in the shower came charging back. What would happen if he got up and stroked that hair? Would it be as thick as he remembered, as hot as he remembered?

He jumped up, clearing his throat. “I think I’ll—”

Crow Horse turned around. “You tired?”

“Yeah. It’s been a long day.” Which was opposite of what he’d just said a second ago; hopefully Crow Horse wouldn’t notice.

“Okay. I guess I could use some more sleep.”

Ray jerked his head towards to the side. “The bathroom’s over there.”

“I know. I took a shower when I got here.”

He rolled his eyes. “Jeez, make—”

‘Yourself at home,’” Crow Horse finished for him with a broad grin. “I intend to.” He wiped his hands on the dishcloth and went to get his backpack. He went to the bathroom without a word.

Ray put the casserole back in the refrigerator in case Jimmy got nosy, then stood in the middle of what passed for the living room. It was only nine. Too early for bed and contrary to what he’d just said, he could see if there was a movie on. But the couch wasn’t that big—they’d have to sit hip to hip, almost sitting in each other’s lap.

He hurried to his room.

Because of the heat, he always slept in shorts. Tonight, he didn’t. He changed into sweats, crawled into bed, and turned out the light. A few minutes later the lights in the living room went out and he waited for the couch springs to squeak. Instead, a shadow filled the doorway and he waited again, his heart in his throat. All Crow Horse said was, “See you in the morning, Ray.”

Ray said nothing, too busy faking sleep.

 

***

 

He woke up seamlessly, from then to now without any vagueness of the night before, and he thought again, ‘Crow Horse is here, in the next room.’

He got up and quickly changed, mentally composing bland words of conversation.

Crow Horse wasn’t there.

Ray strode out into the yard, then stopped. The bike was still there, propped up against the stump and he wanted to swear at himself as his heart settled down. There was only one place Crow Horse could be and he stalked across the yard and into the house.

They were in the kitchen, making breakfast. Or rather, Crow Horse was at the stove, making breakfast; Phil and Bill were sitting at the table, eating pancakes and eggs. They all turned when Ray came in.

“Morning, Ray,” Crow Horse said cheerfully.

“I didn’t know you could cook,” Ray said accusingly. “What are you wearing?”

Crow Horse looked down at the apron wrapped around his waist and waved the spatula. “It’s an apron. You wear them when you want to keep your clothes clean.”

His tone was mild and Ray wanted to say he looked ridiculous, wearing a yellow-checked apron with a rooster on the pocket. But Phil and Bill were staring, so he just sat where an empty plate was waiting. Crow Horse took it and gave it back, full.

Ray muttered, “So I take it you all know each other?”

Bill poured him a cup of coffee and said, “We do.”

Crow Horse sat next to him with his own plate. “They were telling me about your project. Sounds good.”

Ray shrugged and took a sip of coffee so he didn’t have to talk.

There was an uncomfortable pause, then Bill slapped the tabletop and stood up. “Well, we’ve got a lot to do today.”

He jerked his head and Phil frowned up at him. Then said, “Oh. Yes. We were going into town, weren’t we?”

They never went into Albuquerque two days in a row, but Ray wasn’t going to call them on the lie. It was clear they were making themselves scarce. He tried to be sorry that he was basically running them out of their own house, but he was unaccountably tongue-tied, talking to Crow Horse in front of them and he wanted them gone.

He waited until he heard their truck cough to life, then he picked up his fork and began to eat.

It wasn’t very good. The pancakes were raw in the middle and the eggs overdone. But like the coffee, if his mouth was full, he didn’t have to talk. Crow Horse didn’t try to make conversation—he just ate calmly, sitting too close.

When Ray was done, he got up, gathered the plates and washed them, aware of Crow Horse watching his every move.

They left the house together. When they got outside, Ray stuck his hands in his pockets, still awkwardly tongue-tied. Which was stupid, wasn’t it? He was a five-year veteran of the FBI; he’d dealt with murderers, pushers, and pretty much every kind of scum a city could provide. He’d been in worse situations than this.

But it was only eight and the day loomed ahead. Except for the usual game-day parties, he’d never been much for entertaining and he didn’t know what to do, what to say.

“Hey, Ray?”

“Yeah?”

“Bill…” Crow Horse stopped and frowned. “Or was it Phil?” He smiled and continued, “Anyway, they were telling me about a place you like to go, up in the hills. I’d like to see it, if you don’t mind.”

Ray squinted up at the sky. It was nothing, the kind of request that anyone would make. But it made him feel weird, exposed, and he wondered what he was afraid of? That Crow Horse would see something he shouldn’t?

Finally, when Crow Horse put his hands on his hips and cocked his head, Ray shrugged and said, “Sure.”

 

***

 

They left Jimmy, unhappy, at the house. There was no reason, Ray told himself—he didn’t have to go on every trip.

It was eleven by the time they got on the road and going on noon when they pulled into his spot. He got out, the heat like a wall, pressing against his chest and face. He rarely arrived this late or this early. It was too hot for climbing, too hot for much other than resting in the shade. Maybe they should just turn back.

But Crow Horse was already on the path, striding up, looking all around him. Ray sighed, got his gear, and followed.

At the first ridge they stopped for a drink. Twenty minutes later, he stopped Crow Horse with a touch on his elbow. “We can go on straight to the top, if you want.”

Crow Horse turned. His face was shiny with sweat, but he looked a lot more comfortable than Ray felt. “Or?”

“Or there’s something over there. A cave.” Ray nodded to where the path branched off to the right. He’d found it on his third trip out, but he’d never told Phil or Bill about it. They probably already knew and there was no reason to keep it secret. But…

…it was somehow special to him, something that was just his, even if only a connection to a past he’d never had.

Crow Horse picked up on Ray’s mood because he nodded in a hushed kind of way and gestured. “Lead the way.”

It wasn’t really a cave at all. Just an impression in the soft rock, about thirty feet deep and nine feet high. It lay at the rise of the path, off to the side, hidden by low pines and scrub oak.

That first day, after he’d investigated the interior, he came back out and leaned against a boulder that sat near the entrance and pictured the people, hundreds of years long dead, coming and going.

Just as he did now, and he looked over at Crow Horse. Who was staring all around, hands on hips, smiling.

“This is great, Ray.”

“Wait ’til you see inside.” He got out his flashlight.

Crow Horse followed and as they passed the threshold, from light to dark, he asked, low and intimate, “You’re not leading me into a trap, are you?”

Ray shivered, telling himself it was just the sudden chill. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re a crazy bastard, is what I think.”

Ray snorted as he took off his hat, then led them deeper in.

The interior wasn’t dark enough to need a flashlight, but it always took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust and he never wanted those seconds to be the moment when he got attacked by a wild animal. But like always, the place was empty and he walked to the center and arced the flashlight.

Crow Horse came to a stop in the middle and looked around. “My grandfather—my real grandfather—told me a story of coming down here around the turn of the century. He and his father were traveling with a Catholic priest, coming to convert the heathen. At one point they got trapped by a flashflood and had to make for higher ground. They took refuge in a cave. I always pictured it like this.”

Ray’s breath stilled. Crow Horse’s voice was rough and quiet; he’d never shared anything so personal.

His own voice was stuck in his throat and he had to take a deep breath before saying, “C’mon. Look at this.” He walked to the far left where the sun never hit and pointed his flashlight up.

“Wow,” Crow Horse breathed and Ray could only agree—he’d had the same reaction, all those months ago.

At the sight of the small, faded white figures, crudely drawn and somehow not crude at all. “I think they’re dancing.” He guided the beam of light from right to left, following the raggedy line of figures, some with drums, some with spears. “See?”

Crow Horse stretched and traced the air above the drawings, not touching, delicately, reverently.

“How old do you think they are?” Ray asked, unthinking, only to mentally kick himself a second later as he waited for the sarcastic, ‘How should I know? I’m not the resident Indian.’

But Crow Horse just shrugged and said in that same rough voice, “Four, maybe five hundred years? Maybe more? There are some cave drawings not far from here that have been dated to about five thousand years, B. C. These could be from that same time.”

He was standing too close and Ray could feel the heat of his body. It felt good and his heart began to beat in slow, dull thuds.

“Who else knows about these?” Crow Horse murmured.

“No one. That I know of. I’ve never seen anyone else up here and the only tracks around have been my own.”

“So you haven’t shown these to Phil and Bill?”

Ray looked back. Crow Horse had taken off his hat as well and in the fugitive light he seemed as stern and unknown as he had during the night of the vision quest. Ray shook his head. “No, just you.”

The words echoed without echoing and he tightened his lips and turned back to the wall. He hadn’t meant to say it that way—final, definitive. Revealed.

“Ray—”

Ray interrupted him with a hurried, “We should get back. It’ll be dark soon.” It was a lie and he didn’t move. He couldn’t. He felt rooted to the ground, or maybe it was the ground, reaching up to hold him.

“Ray?” Crow Horse repeated.

“Yeah?”

“Aren’t you going to ask about the Rolex?”

Ray hesitated, then said, “What did you trade for my watch?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? So, you didn’t barter for it?”

“No.” There was a rustle and he knew Crow Horse was shaking his head. “It was my birthday last week and Grandpa gave it to me. He said maybe it would stop me from moping about the place. He said I was like a dog who’d lost his bone.”

“Oh.” Ray switched off the light. They didn’t need it anymore and the sudden black was like electricity on his skin.

“Ray?”

“Yeah?”

“Aren’t you going to ask what else Grandpa said?”

“What else did Grandpa say?” And that couldn’t be his voice, not that weak, breathy thing.

Crow Horse moved closer. Or maybe Ray moved back. “He said that I was missing you because we’re part of each other, you and I. He had a dream about us, on the bank of the Little Walking. And we weren’t just talking, if you get my drift.”

The building thunderstorm was back and Ray managed to say around the fist in his throat, “Oh.”

“Ray?”

Crow Horse’s voice had altered, sounding tired, remote. Ray’s heart clenched. “Yes?”

“Aren’t you going to ask why I’m really here?”

Ray shook his head. He didn’t have to—he already knew. He’d known all the while, even as far back as the spring and so much for not running away…

In one motion, he dropped the flashlight and his hat, turning, grabbing Crow Horse’s biceps, hauling him close, not sure if he was going to hit or kiss until Crow Horse shoved him back, up against the wall of the cave and…

…He opened his mouth to Crow Horse’s kisses, hungry, starving, his fingers struggling uselessly to find purchase. He grabbed higher, grabbed Crow Horse’s hair, angling his head and that was so much better, he could really—

Crow Horse shoved him again, freeing himself for just a second. They stared at each other for a long, horrible moment, then he dove in and bit Ray’s neck. Ray cried out and wrapped his leg around Crow Horse’s thigh, riding, pushing, and it didn’t matter that it was the middle of the day, out in the relative open. It was perfect and not perfect and when he came, that was perfect, as well.

 

***

 

“Ray?”

“Yeah?”

“As much as I love having you on me like this, you’re also on my hair.”

Ray grinned and carefully straightened up, pushing Crow Horse away. They’d fallen on one another, still propped up against the cave wall and he’d buried his face in Crow Horse’s neck. And also, apparently, his hair.

He stroked Crow Horse’s cheek with his thumb, then kept stroking, watching his own hand in a kind of trance.

Crow Horse let him, even closing his eyes and pushing into Ray’s palm. Absurdly tender, completely unexpected.

“C’mon,” Ray finally said, his throat raw as if he’d been shouting or screaming. “We should go.”

 

***

 

They didn’t quite make it home on the first try. About halfway down, the world tilted without tilting and Ray thought, ‘What the hell did I just do?’

He’d just fucked—more like attacked—a man he barely knew.

Then he remembered, ‘It’s okay. I know you’re scared…’ Said so gently, so understandingly.

He pulled off the side of the road.

Crow Horse didn’t question, didn’t object. When Ray reached for him, he reached back, grabbing Ray’s thigh and hip, tugging until he was on his back.

He narrowly missed hitting the steering wheel as he went down but it wouldn’t have mattered if he had. It was what he needed—Crow Horse heavy on him, his hair falling all around, cutting out the light of the setting sun, making everything private and dark.

They took their time, on the seat of his borrowed truck, their arms and legs tangling all over the place.

 

***

 

This time they made it to the house in one piece. It was touch and go when Crow Horse leaned over to change the radio, smelling of leather and sweat, but Ray managed to control himself.

When he pulled into the yard and coasted to a stop, they sat there, both staring at the house.

It wasn’t yet eight, but Phil and Bill were already back. Probably Bill, using Ray and his unexpected guest as an excuse to come home early.

The lights were on, even the porch light. A shadow passed in front of the kitchen window and Ray held his breath, hoping whoever it was wouldn’t look out and see them.

His luck held. The shadow moved on and the world went still again. Except for his crazy pulse. It was going strong and he wondered if they were going to go back to where they’d been the night before; separate and alone. He swallowed hard at the thought.

He needn’t have worried. With a tired, “Race you in,” Crow Horse got out and ambled towards the garage, not racing.

Ray gathered up their gear. When he got inside, Crow Horse was in the kitchen, feeding Jimmy, calmly, as if he did it every day.

Ray dumped his armful on the table and, avoiding Crow Horse’s eyes, went to the bathroom and closed the door. He brushed his teeth carefully, taking his time. When he came out, they exchanged places.

He turned on the TV and stood in front of it, watching vaguely, listening as the water ran in the bathroom. Finally, tired of the indecision, he said a soft, “Fuck it,” and turned the TV off and went to bed. He’d go the coward’s route and let Crow Horse make the call.

Which he did without a fuss. He came straight in from the bathroom, stripped down and climbed in as if he’d been doing it forever. He sighed and muttered, “Jesus, Ray, but I’m tired. You wore me out.”

When Ray didn’t answer, he slid over and threw an arm around Ray’s chest. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Sure?”

And Ray realized what he was asking, but he didn’t say that after the great chasms he’d leaped in the last few months, having sex with a man was the least of them. He turned his head and nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Because if you’re not, you need to tell me now.”

And that made him laugh a little as he said, “You know, Grandpa was right.”

Crow Horse rubbed Ray’s shoulder. “About what?”

“You really are an old woman.”

Crow Horse tapped his chest with a light fist, then pushed up to kiss him once, then twice. “As I recall, he said we were both old women.”

“Yeah, he did.”

“Ray?”

“Yeah?”

“You know I can’t stay, right?”

Ray didn’t close his eyes. “I know.”

They were silent for a moment, then Crow Horse said, “I talked to Bill earlier.”

He frowned at the non-sequitor. “About what?”

“The schoolhouse.”

“And?”

“You’re almost done, he said. You’ve got about another month’s worth of work.”

“Two months if the desks and windows don’t get here on time.”

Crow Horse shrugged away the quibble. “I was thinking.”

“Yeah?”

“Did you know I’d put in a request for a new deputy after the ruckus with the GOONS? And that the tribal council approved it last week?”

Ray cocked his head. Crow Horse was still above him, propped up on one elbow, and even in the dark, Ray could see the gleam in his eye.

He should be insulted. The difference between an ordinary street cop and the FBI was like night and day. He should be insulted, but he wasn’t and he had to hold back a smile as relief flowed through him like a cool breeze. “I’m assuming you want me to be your deputy?”

“You assume right.”

“Why?”

“Because I could use the help.”

“And?”

“Because you’re damn smart and good at what you do.”

Ray looped a strand of Crow Horse’s dark hair around his finger and tugged. “And?”

Crow Horse’s expression stilled; his face looked like a mask. “Because it was the only way I could think of to get you to come back, get you to stay.”

Ray smiled gently. “What’s the pay?”

“Ten a year.”

“Thousand?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s not very much. I was making three times that in D.C. You’re gonna have to do better than that.”

Crow Horse’s expression cracked open and he grinned. “I’ll throw in all the sex you want.”

Ray tugged harder, drawing Crow Horse down, kissing away his smile. “Yeah, you will.”

 

***

 

He walks, the river to his right, the raggedy prairie to his left. Following the bank as it bends and curves.

Someone is beside him, measuring tread for tread. He can’t quite see who it is and he thinks it might be a wolf, but it doesn’t worry him. He’s safe.

A flash of light catches his eye and he stops, throwing a hand up to shield against the glare that’s too bright, too white. It dies back and he sees a familiar sight—the dancers, bowing and dipping in a broad circle, their voices rising and falling in a pattern that makes his head hurt and his heart swell.

The light flashes again and he realizes it’s not because of the dancers, but a woman, off to the side, almost hidden by the tall grass, watching as he watches. She’s wearing a long dress, and her hand is raised, light spilling through her fingers to the ground. He steps closer, his bare toes sinking in the soft sand and no, it’s not light, but water…

She turns at that moment. And he sees. Maggie, as she was that last day, happy, laughing. She grins when she sees him and…

The world flexes and shivers, like a funhouse mirror, bleeding into another time, dark and cold. He walks again, this time alone, arms outstretched, stumbling toward a small form in the earth.

‘No,’ he murmurs. No. Not again.

A coyote comes out of nowhere, then another, and they race to the body and begin to tug on it, yipping and growling and Ray can’t move. His legs won’t work so he waves his arms, yelling, ‘No,’ and ‘Stop,’ over and over and…

“Stop.”

He lashed out again, hitting something warm and solid.

“Ray, stop it. It’s a dream.”

He gulped.

“It’s just a dream.”

He nodded and opened his eyes. Crow Horse was on him, wrapped around like a blanket. He was holding his right arm, pressing it down on the mattress.

“Give it a moment, okay?”

Ray nodded again because there wasn’t much else he could do. Like the other dreams, he was left feeling washed out and disoriented, as if he’d just recovered from a long illness. He was also wet with sweat.

He shivered and Crow Horse stroked his arm, his hip. “That was bad one. You have a pretty good aim. I’ll have to remember that.”

“Sorry.”

“No, don’t worry about it. I shouldn’t have tried to wake you.”

Ray closed his eyes tight. “I’m glad you did.”

“You kicked Jimmy off the bed.”

“Shit.”

He tried to get up to look, but Crow Horse pushed him back down. “It’s okay. He’s not hurt.”

“Poor Jimmy,” Ray murmured.

Crow Horse didn’t answer. He just said, “You’re gonna get cold. Here, turn over.” He gently shoved Ray’s shoulder until he turned on his side. Then he covered them both with the sheet and pressed close. “Is that better?”

“Yeah.”

Crow Horse settled in and began to stroke Ray’s foot with his own. After a moment, he murmured, “I was thinking.”

“Yeah?”

“You haven’t said anything, but I know no one wanted to hear about Maggie.”

Ray swallowed.

“And I was thinking that you should just write it out. Everything that happened to you. And all the things that she tried to do.”

“Like a book?”

“Yeah, like a book.”

“I’m not a writer.”

“How many incident reports have you written over the years?”

“I’ll think about it.” But not now. Exhaustion was dragging him down. All he wanted was to go back to sleep.

“Good, because I already bought you a typewriter.”

Ray looked over his shoulder. Crow Horse’s eyes were closed, but a shit-eating grin was on his lips.

Ray rolled his eyes, then turned back around and pulled Crow Horse over him again. An image began to emerge of how it might be: working during the day, writing at night. And before sleep, hopefully before work in the morning, there’d be sex with Crow Horse.

And then he pictured himself, almost a half a year ago now, dressed in a suit that cost as much as his current vehicle, thrilled at the thought of working with an FBI legend. And then, not a week later, turning his back on that same legend, turning his back on his old life.

From one place to another, so damn fast. It was enough to make his head spin. “Hey, Walter?” he asked sleepily.

“Yes, Raymond?”

“I was wondering…”

And when he didn’t finish, Crow Horse nuzzled the back of his neck. “What?”

“Grandpa Reaches told me something. Before I left.” He shrugged; the memory of his shame had returned, his own cowardice. “He told me about one of my ancestors.”

“The holy man, Thunderheart?”

“Yeah, and I was wondering… I can’t remember how to pronounce the name. In Sioux.”

Crow Horse made a small sound, like a sigh only not, and tightened his arm until it was a band of steel around Ray’s chest. Pressing out the shame, the cowardice. “Wakiyan Chante,” he whispered, then again as he kissed the nape of Ray’s neck, “His name was Wakiyan Chante.”

Ray nodded, whispering the words soundlessly to himself.

Crow Horse said something else in Sioux, soft and slurred, but Ray, already sliding back towards sleep, didn’t hear.

 


fin.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story Notes:
Roy Levoi/Walter Crow Horse
Thunderheart
11,500+ words
All characters belong to people and organizations that are not me.