In Margaret Coel's latest Wind River Reservation mystery, an atrocity from the past has resurfaced with a vengeance.
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September 05, 2005
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Excerpt from Wife of Moon by Margaret Coel
Moonlight washed over the walls and floor, creating patterns of shadow and light that spilled into the study at the front of the old house. Father John sat down at his desk, turned on the lamp, and pulled a stack of envelopes toward him. Bills to pay, thank you notes to write to people who had sent checks--unfamiliar names from towns he'd never heard of. The little miracles. He laughed . He had faith all right. Faith in the little miracles that arrived when he least expected them, when he most needed them.
He opened the bill from the telephone company, surprised at the uneasiness tugging at him. Even the changes Father Damien had suggested to the planning committee this evening had made him uneasy. New community center. Remodel the church. He tried to shrug off the feeling, but it clung to him, like a leach fastened onto his skin. Maybe he'd been at St. Francis too long. Eight years altogether--six as pastor, longer than he'd ever been in one place as a priest. Maybe the Arapahos needed a new pastor, someone with new ideas and exuberance. Someone like Damien.
Ah, there it was, the real cause of the uneasy feeling. Not that he might have to leave St. Francis, but that it might be best for the mission if he did.
He tossed the telephone bill into a stack of bills-to-pay-immediately, next to the stack of bills-to-pay-as soon as possible, and tried to swallow back the old longing . A thumbnail of whiskey, no more than a tablespoon, and the unease, the uncertainty, would be banished. There was courage in whiskey. God help me, he said out loud.
He jabbed the letter opener into another envelope, tossed another bill onto the second stack. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the yellow headlight flash through the window. An engine hummed outside. He got up and went to the front door. A Wind River Police officer was coming up the sidewalk, moonlight laying like snow on the shoulders of his dark jacket.
"Sorry to bother you, Father," the officer said as he came up the steps to the concrete stoop. "Chief Banner sent me to notify you."
Father John moved back into the hallway and motioned the man inside.
Stopping in the doorway, the officer removed his hat. His face was round and red with cold, his eyes squinted into slits above the fleshy cheeks. He might have been Cheyenne or Crow, Father John thought, assigned to the Wind River Reservation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"What's happened " he asked.
"We got a body at T.J. Painted Horse's place. Looks like suicide. Chief's already there, along with the F.B.I. agent. Chief said you'd want to come over, most likely."
"I'm on my way." Father John reached around the door and pulled his jacket off the coat tree. Then he followed the officer out into the moonlight.
' Margaret Coel