Don Yarber Don Yarber
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holsters "sewn" into the inside...

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Allen Clarke Allen Clarke
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I Saw a Dead Man Talking


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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

I couldn`t resist trying it. I just wanted to find out if I had it in me to write a mystery novel. Let`s just say that this writing is like the skeleton looking for its` body.


Chapter One                             The Only Good Indian            


     ``It`s the damndest thing I ever heard of,and Jeedus knows I seen a  
       lot in my lifetime.``
     The little dinkhead trembled like a leaf as he hushed out the words.It was as though he didn`t want some unseen thing to overhear him spill the beans. Jed was one of the headmen on council, and always seemed to me ,a spastic little guy. It made one wonder as to how his name ever made it to the ballots.


      Oh, I suppose that time and chance might have had something to do with it. Or perhaps, it was just that he was the cleanest apple in a barrel of mud.There`s also something to be said about sheer numbers that work to a man`s advantage. He had 550 cousins and numerous other relatives on the rez. No doubt,this plausibly explained his `` sudden descent into band politics.``


      ``So, you figure he just kinda wandered off back into those bushes?``I said
     softly, perhaps, in a covert way, to calm his quivers.
      ``You think I`m fabricating all this, don`t you?``His eyes turned into serpentine slits.


     The truth is, I didn`t think he was capable of such drama. At that point, I suspected that he might have been watching too many soaps. I feigned apologetic air for insinuating he was a liar.

      ``I`m not saying that, all I`m saying is that folks don`t just walk off and disappear...and least of all, not this close to pension.``
      ``Shit, I can`t even find a trace, not even so much as an overturned leaf. I guess that`s the greatest mystery of all``he rasped. As if he needed another pull of whiskey!
      ``Jed, maybe you should go home and get some rest and let me do the detectivin``O.K?
      ``I guess you`re right. You`ll let me know if you find anything?``He shuffled away into the dimming twilight. I saw the sparks fly,and extinguish, in a moment, as he casually flicked his cig into a mud puddle. And I thought,isn`t that just like life?...one moment we`re here, and the next, we`re gone...somewhere.


      Old Antoine was of a clear mind, I`ll say that much about him. So, Alzeimers wasn`t suspect. He was an old trapper from way back. So was I, in a manner of speaking, since I`ve stretched a few beaver in my day. Old Tony never lost his way, so bush fever wasn`t figuring in as a possible factor. He was also a notable medicine man. And I don`t mean the kind that goes to college for a decade and comes out pushing pills. Now, don`t get me wrong. You`ll never see me all dressed up like a chicken and ky-yi-ing around some open fire.I like to think I`m a bit more sophisticated. Although as a private dick, I have to keep open about all possibilities.If you know what I mean.


The local gendarmes hadn`t been much help. They had showed up briefly from the one-horse town they call home. The fact is, they overlooked one fine distinction about this case. They didn`t realize that it takes an Indian to find an Indian. And, wouldn`t you know it...an Indian is seldom lost.


   Who knows, maybe the old fella was somewhere playing cards or having some home-brew or some silly thing of that nature. Yeah, that was it, he was just killing time with his buds. A guy had to occupy his days somehow in this shit-hole. Otherwise, he`d go nuts. Old Antoine was just off somewhere diddling around, here and there, doing nothing, as men usually do here. My main concern, for the moment, was that he was trying to stay out of trouble. I just hoped that trouble wouldn`t find him. Not just yet anyway. At least,that was my hope. The natural order of things would be that he`d find some big-butt babe to hole up with until I could locate him.


After Jed left, I had some time to try to get into the psyche of the old man. I knew that he was a private man. He liked living alone, for the most part. Antoine wasn`t anti-social, or anything of that nature. He just liked batching. Maybe he figured it was more of a copascetic arrangement simply because there was less dishes to wash. And likely because there was nobody around to tell him what to do and when to do it. So, it appeared that Tony lived somewhat of a happy existence. So, what was it that tore him away from his happy little life? And who was that woman in the faded polaroid? I`d never saw her before myself. And if I had, it would have been like passing a stranger on the street.


I figured if I could get some sort of an idea as to the W-5 of this case, I might be able to track him down. Author's note: The"w-5"of which I refer to are:the who,what,where and why. Get it? Never mind, you'll figure it out in due time. I just hoped that he`d still be breathing by the time I got to him. I guess a good start would be to see if any of his associates had seen him lately.


   His front door had been left wide open. I felt a slight breeze as a skiff of autumn leaves blew in onto the bare floor. The room seemed strangely undisturbed. The scant furniture was neatly arranged, there was no tables overturned, no shattered night-lamp. There was no sign of a scuffle of any sort.A multi-coloured braided rug lay flat on the linoleum floor. There lingered, in the air, the faint scent of Lysol.I, therefore, conjectured that the old fella must have attempted to wash down his abode, before his abrupt departure. A lone fly buzzed around my head and I quickly shushed it away. Feeling the hungers,I went into the kitchen on the premise of grabbing a bologna sandwich. It was O.K. to do so, since the Shellbrook Royal Canadian Mounted Police( R.C.M.P.) detachment had finished their thorough investigation. I fully expected that they probably couldn`t be bothered to dust for prints. Doughnuts was probably heavy on their agenda at the time.


My guess was that they had come in, looked around briefly, snuffed at the air and decided that their job was done. The fact is, there was never any love lost betwixt the natives and white people around here. But, for the moment, let`s not go there.


   Old Antoine had one of those big clunker of a Westinghouse fridge circa 1948.It was a cavernous wonder! You could have packed a whole moose in there. I opened the fridge with a god-awful creak and found that the pickings were scarce. Some dried up salami made the hair in my nostrils curl up. On the bottom rack a half-eaten slice of rye bread was just on the cusp of molding. A quart of goat`s milk, and a Oh Henry bar was all I could find of sustenance. I took a slug of the goat`s milk, just to be adventurous, and spewed it into the sink full of dirty dishes.


   ``Shit, who drinks this shit, anyway?`` I said to no one in particular.
And no one answered my disgusted retort. Somewhere out there, a coyote yelped into the wide blue.
    ``My exact sentiments!`` I yelled, over my shoulder,to Brother Coyote.
    A flapping page of a magazine drew my attention. It was some native rag recounting the atrocious goings on behind closed doors of residential schools.
    ``Hmm...I wonder if Tony went through any of that shit?`` I recognized the rich, deep baritone. I was talking to myself again. Maybe old age was a-creeping up on me too. Nevertheless, I winced at the dysfunctional ambience of my own jaded past. Memories of the overbearing white man, pink in the face, and looking down his nose at ``the wild boys``flickered through my mind like an old 35 millimeter home movie. At least, I think that`s the name he gave us, at the time.


    Lightning caught my peripheral. It jagged across a darkening sky through the cracked picture window. Heavy, pealed thunder crashed into my pacific mood.I felt the house move deep in my soul. I hoped Old Antoine wore a serviceable raincoat. The thunder-birds were at it again. At least, the old people believed it that way. Snooping around a bit, I saw he had attempted to duct-tape the crack. I surmised Old Antoine was somewhat of a home-maker. Maybe, he believed in Feng-Schui, at least, to a certain degree.


    A faded polaroid of Tony and some chicky babe hung on the wall next to a garish Mexican velvet painting. The cuckoo on the wall did its` thing, momentarily, startling me. It was 1 in the a.m. I lit up a fag, even though, I didn`t smoke. I just liked the way it made me look tough. Hollywood had lied to me. Some smoke went down the wrong pipe. I ended up sitting on the floor, hacking like a son-of-a-bitch.


Oh, yeah, pardon me all to rat, and excuse my manners. I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Noble T. Savage. Generally, I am a peaceful man, however, I have two guns.They`re silver, have mother-of-pearl inlay, 45 caliber, and they come alive quick on any given Saturday night. One I carry close to my heart, and the other is just for added assurance. I have two moose-hide holsters sown into the inside of my brown corduroy blazer. Yes, I am official, and I do carry a tin star. Any further questions? I didn`t think so. Oh, just one more thing, I`m a private investigator. I investigate private matters, get it? 1 comment


The old boy had me perplexed. It just didn`t seem like him to up and leave his place.Well,at least not without telling somebody where he went. But, then again, maybe he felt justified in leaving everyone to wonder. I suppose,it`s just that, sometimes, people just don`t want to be found. Maybe Old Antoine was plain tired of seeing all the old, familiar mooching faces. They would come by when his fridge was full and then disappear when it was near to empty. I guess that`s what ticked me off most about the rez. Lots of times, the elders were fair game for unscrupulous opportunists. They said they respected the old people. Respect...huh, my ass! Most times they were full of horse-shit.


   Suddenly, a gust of wind blew through the open door. Instinctively, I twirled around with gun in hand and pointing to the open door. There... standing in the doorway, was...nothing. Outside, I could see the gathering storm clouds rolling in a black shroud. I dug into my shirt pocket and pulled out a home-made fag. Least-ways, that`s what we called a smoke back in my day. Striking a match on my pants, I snorted at the acrid smell of sulphur. I lit the cig and watched the smoke curl up towards the ceiling. Just then,I heard the distinct, hollow sound of a ceremonial rattle. And the hair on the nape of my neck stood to bristling.


Chapter Two                            They Crawl at Night


    They say that we are all born scared and that`s the way we leave this world. And some say that we enter this world kicking and screaming and, usually, we leave the same way. Even a tough guy will tell you that he`s had his weak moments from time to time. The fa├žade, the mask, we wear is usually nothing more than a defence mechanism.  We all wear multi-layered masks; curiously wrought over time to hide our deepest, darkest fears. Yeah, like the boy, loud and boisterous, as he whistles his way home in the dark.


We all have those moments, especially when we can`t readily explain the inexplicable. At the moment, the ingratiating inscrutable was what I was attempting to deal with. Oh, what the hell, every once in a blue moon, life throws you a curve ball. And, it`s almost like something or someone`s out there, just begging you to come out and play.


It was a quarter past midnight, when I first heard the rattle. At first I thought it was just my imagination. But, it`s a rare thing when my ears play tricks on me. The tendency was just to brush it off as a coincidence of nature, like the wind blowing a branch against the side of the house. And sometimes, you swear as though it sounds like something with sharp nails.Ya think? I didn`t think so. But bear with me, I may just be getting a little old. I`m not a superstitious man, but man alive, I could tell you some stories! It`s those wrinkles in time,I think. After all, aging is inevitable.


I surmised that the lost one might have visited the poker-house before he decided to wander off. That was my next stop. Outside the rain lightly drizzled. I found the light showers of summer to be somewhat therapeutic. On the downside( and there always is a down-side), the rain was going to make it a little harder to trace his tracks, if there were any left.


     When I drove up to the house of cards, I flicked off my headlights, just in time to see some head poking through the horse-blanket curtain. The door was open so I walked in unannounced. There were four men at the table. There were five glasses.One was still full.I could still make out the swipe of someone`s hand on the full glass. I coughed to let them know I was there. The Flintstones were up to their usual antics on a small Zenith black and white portable T.V. on a small coffee table in the corner. I daresay that they barely noticed my charismatic presence. I didn`t recognise any of them. The figures hunched over, lost in the rhythm of the game. The dealer snapped off a quick,fresh hand. Smoke shrouded the room, and one of them coughed sharply into his sleeve. A half-empty/half-full Jack Daniels sat on the table amidst a stash of curled up bills, dimes and nickels.


     ``What can I do you for?`` The voice came out of the shadows. I whirled around and my .45 came alive in my right hand. I pointed the barrel directly between a green, beady eye and a black patch. I couldn`t have missed if I tried.
     ``Friend or foe?`` I heard myself query into the murky shadows.
     ``You crazy bastard! You could have killed me!`` It was Snake, ugly as hell, emerging out from behind a closet door. He wore a black patch over his left eye.This only added to a more menacing aura about him. Rumour had it, a hooker had kicked him in the eye with her stiletto heel. She claimed that she had taken it out on him in lieu of (ahem)``un-paid bills.``


``Yeah, you`re probably right`` Twirling the gun with a silver flourish, I holstered it back out of sight.
    ``What brings you out to the seedy underbelly?...I cut him off in mid-thought as he raked a hand through his greasy, grey head. For added panache, he rubbed his overflowing beer gut as though he had just finished a big feed of neck-bones.
    ``I`m looking for Old Tony. Any idea where I might locate him?``
    ``God and the devil only knows,`` he conjectured with a quizzical expression. And then, he just started in on his habit. It almost always was on compulsion. He started in on flicking his tongue in and out. I stood there growing quietly disgusted.
    ``Now, I know you got to know something`` I said as a point of fact.
   I threw a fin on the floor at his feet and the dead man started talking. It always struck me as funny as to how a five-dollar bill can start a dialogue so quick.
    ``A pic of Mackenzie King would get you a lot more info``
    ``Sorry, Snake, my welfare didn`t come in yet.`` And as I was proceeding to pick up the fiver, lo and behold, Snake started to sing.


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