Screamcatcher: Sa'be Most Monstrous
Jory Pike and the Badlands Paranormal Society get a strange and frantic call from a woman who claims her property has been invaded by unknown trespassers who have terrorized her and her husband and killed their two dogs. She says her husband has gone hunting for the culprits and disappeared. The Sherriff’s office performed a routine investigation and mysteriously quit. The woman also called a first nations tribe tracker to help her, but after a short investigation, he claimed she had something more dangerous than a bear and wanted nothing to do with it.
Jory’s 91 year-old grandfather, a full blood Ojibwe, believes he knows what this mystery is all about and demands to go on the hunt.
Four teenagers and a seemingly fragile old man find out, too late, in the deep Shasta forest, that they are the ones being hunted.
BUY THE BOOK
Jory Pike had just dusted the shelves from the back of the novelty shop, working her way forward until she neared the front display windows. She had snagged her long black locks on some of the sharpest products again and reminded herself for the umpteenth time to pull her hair back in a ponytail or put it up. Her boyfriend, Choice Daniels, had always told her it looked like a beautiful filly’s mane and to leave it alone. You are channeling me somehow, and it’s habitual. At least he’d find her wearing it down if he happened to pop into the shop unexpectantly. Okay, I won’t destroy the image of your little svelte Indian princess, but I’m going to snap my head off my shoulders one of these days. She stepped back, abutting up against the window glass and examined the shop panorama, noting if anything looked out of place or off balance.
Much of the inventory of White Feather’s novelty shop consisted of Native American tourist brick-a-brac-toys, apparel, books, posters, blankets, boots and moccasins. A small tack wall, holding some saddles, took up the rear corner of the shop. Hygiene items, camera film, medicines, snack food, tanning lotion and maps occupied the first island at the front of the store. Moving toward the rear of the shop, items got progressively older and more North American Indian in nature and craftsmanship. Dozens of quart and gallon jars of multicolored sand sat in neat rows supported by pine shelves. Potions and herbs took up small niches. All the jewelry and semi-precious stones sat in neat rows inside the floor-mounted glass counters. Dream catchers had their own large display board. Presently, her aged grandfather, Albert White Feather Pike, leaned over a counter with his elbows on a newspaper. He looked like a little white-haired doll, wearing goggle-sized glasses, to read the print.
Jory spanked her slacks and blouse of dust and eased up against the counter. “What are you reading, Grandfather? Is the white man at it again?” She was humoring him, but he knew it. Sometimes.
Albert looked over the rim of his glasses and gave a wide smile. The creases in his face rolled like wrinkles in weathered luggage. “Granddaughter, you’ve finished already! How wonderful...and yes there is a story here about a politician man complaining about ‘mud-colored’ people coming across the border from the Mexican reservation.”
Jory’s mouth formed a small O. “Ah, that means he’s saying that undocumented immigrants are coming to the USA. Sometimes they call them aliens.”
“And from space, too!” Albert looked puzzled.
She knew her grandfather could read well enough, but some things got lost in translation. He was 91 years-old and a true blood of the Ojibwe tribe. His culture and lifestyle were a millennium away from present day culture and lifestyle. He’d shown great strides in wanting to learn and conform. Yet the paradigm shift was a hard adaption for him. He was a last bastion of First Nations Tribes heritage and history. He’d once told her that he and his people were one with mother nature. He said the white man wanted bad sex with her, one after another, until she was completely defiled. The meaning was obvious.
She patted his forearm. “Not space aliens. Not that way. He feels they are intruding on our rich country. The Mexican people only want to better their lives and work hard just like we do.” She spread her arms in a grand gesture. “They would also like a shop like this to love and care for. They have their own culture and special arts and crafts. They are no different than we are. Some people don’t understand that.”
Albert frowned. “Yes, then we are mud-colored too because we are of the Ojibwe-Chippewa.” He held up a gnarled finger and straightened his posture. “Yet we were here before the European peoples. The elders said they were so white they were pink. The white tribal leaders dressed like squaws, wearing flimsy skirts and britches, and had colorful socks. Some even wore white scalps.”
Jory burst out in laughter and then caught her breath. “Oh, Grandfather, we were muddy people to them back at that time, too. Not much has changed. I’m even worse. I’m a half blood and not officially recognized by my tribe.”
He pumped a small fist. “But you are respected and loved because that blood still flows within you. You are your own, but you are more of us than them. That makes you special.”
“I am not that special, Grandfather. I am just different. I know my place. Everyone else seems to know it too.”
Albert winked, but his glasses slipped from his face and hung on a small string. “But your Choice boyfriend believes that you are a hot kettle on a stove. He knows how to appreciate the finer things in life. You should couple with him and nest, for that is what he wants. You wait too long, and you are in danger of another maiden catching his eye. You are of the proper age. I will even sing the love chant or consult the stone medicine wheel.”
She’d put her marriage off with Choice because he hadn’t settled into a real job, and she knew he wanted kids right away. That was a disaster in the making. No premarital sex was also a rule. He had the potential to pursue anything he wanted, having a strong physique, high and tight dark hair, a chiseled face and gallons of charm. He had more guts than sense sometimes, but that made him a good risk taker and split decision maker. He was working on it now, quitting the manual odd jobs for making appointments and filling out applications for real positions. She kept thinking uniform, uniform, uniform.
“We’ll see, Granddad. He might surprise us both. I’m sure you’ll have some little ones running between your legs before too long. I promise.”
“Then maybe you can tell him because he is coming through the door now.”
Jory turned sideways and saw Choice march thorough the entrance and then stomp up to the counter. He looked puffed up in his three-piece beige suit and green tie.
Blue eyes sparkling, slightly winded, he said, “Well, I got an appointment for the written exam and then the psyche test will follow, provided I nail a good score. Two weeks from today. I’ve been studying the manuals from the library for the past five days.” He gave himself a high five, spanked one off Jory’s palm and slapped Albert’s shoulder. “Yep, did it!”
Jory launched her eyebrows upward. “Are you going to keep me in suspense? What gives? What exam? With whom?”
Choice’s smile almost split his face in half. “Going to Stephen Jay Black Junior High School for the Public Safety Exam.”
Albert tried to whistle but couldn’t get his lips aligned properly. “A school crossing guard is a fine occupation. Congratulations. There will be no doubt that our young ones who will—”
“No, pops,” said Choice, smoothing his own flattop hair. “A public safety officer is a peace officer—a cop. That’s when he’s not being a firefighter. It’s two gigs in one. May I kiss the bride to-be?” He leaned into his girlfriend, but she blushed and pushed him away.
Jory play-slapped his shoulder. “Now that’s more like it. I get two alpha hunks for the price of one. I’m so proud of you, honey.” She gave his mouth a kiss and held him off at arm’s length. “Just look at you now.”
Albert gave him a mock salute. “A warrior and a hunter. We’ll have to give you a decent tribal name. I will ponder it.”
Jory’s mobile phone went off in her left pocket and she knew it was the business phone. She pulled it out and didn’t recognize the number. Choice started blabbering on, so she set it on the counter and pressed the speaker option to drown him out.
“Is this the Badlands Paranormal Society?” asked a female voice.
“Yes, it is, and this is Jorlene Patria Pike speaking, the owner, operator and lead investigator. How may I—”
“I’m Tonya Duke Wininger, and I have a terrible problem. You see, the dogs are already dead and my husband went out looking for the killer three days ago and now he’s gone. The sheriff has been here three times with a search party and volunteers, and they haven’t found a thing because nothing has been showing up, except for the smudge prints and a deputy says they are just double tracks and it’s a bear. Do you see what I’m sa—”
“You’re going to have to slow down,” Jory cut in, “because I’m not getting your facts straight. Now, calm down and take some deep breaths. Speak to me very slowly and start at the beginning.” She had only seconds before Tonya piped up again. At least it was more contained.
“Yeah, all right. I’ve got it. It started four months ago when our shed freezer was busted open. The trout got filched. Dogs went on the attack and went out after it, but they always came back whimpering. Lots of strange noises came days after that, like rocks hitting the house, something slapping the walls and house skirt. Grunts, hisses...and then something that sounded like a woman screaming bloody murder. Hell’s fire, we called the cops then. We figured we had a transient running around. This bum hasn’t cleaned himself either, because we always smell him before we know he’s been near. Depends on the wind, too.”
“What did the cops find?” asked Choice.
“That’s an important point,” said Jory. “Yes, Mrs. Wininger, what did law enforcement discover?”
“Nothing. And they beat the brush, covering our ninety acres. No bums, no camps, no trespassers. Just a bunch of prints that started off and went nowhere and then picked back up again. My nearest neighbor, Indian Ted, is a half mile away. Ted came over with his hound and they went down in the holler. Didn’t find a thing. Whatever this thing or person is, he’s hiding away and coming out and causing trouble at certain times.”
“When are these times?” asked Jory.
“Between eleven and four. That’s when the noises start up, and it gets close and starts messing with things.”
“Then you haven’t seen anything,” said Jory. “Not a glimpse?”
“Not that early in the morning. My husband, Kyle, tried to run the guy down with a flashlight, but he could never catch sight of him. He packed himself up three days ago for a long stay out in the woods. He ain’t been back since. Took a tent, food and a big thirty-caliber rifle with him. I haven’t filed a missing person’s report yet ‘cause Kyle would smack me up some if I panicked and got a bigger crowd looking for him. Otherwise, I ain’t getting’ no help with this at all. That’s why I called you after finding your page on the Internet. I’m so far out here sometimes my signal fades in and out. You can call me Tonya.”
“I’m curious why you called for the services of a paranormal investigator,” said Jory. “This sounds like it might be a domestic issue involving illegal trespass and theft.”
Albert swished his hand and shook his head. He curled his fingers rapidly, simulating a motion to continue the conversation. Then he put a forefinger to his heart. She knew that meant he had a deep, internal impression or feeling.
Tonya went on, “Ted’s got Dakota Injun in him. He said he thought this thing might be a shapeshifter, skin-walking thing. Something that ain’t natural. I wanted to cover the bases.”
This time, Albert put his palms up like a stop sign and waggled his head.
“We can’t talk about things like that over the phone,” said Jory. “That is a sacred subject.” She looked to her grandfather for confirmation of her comment. He gave her a head nod. Jory resumed. “Okay, Tonya, we do charge a fee and we have experience. I’ll need your address and precise directions to your home, especially if you are that far out in the brush.”
“Yes, ma’am. We’ve got savings. That’s no issue to us. I’m lot number one, ‘cause there ain’t no other houses in a tract here, and we call our street San Zeno Way. That’s San Zeno Way, lot One. I’m on the edge of a city called Templeton, but you won’t find it on a map. It’s Siskiyou County at the southern end of the Cascade Range. We’re almost within the National Forest. Mt. Shasta is kind of close but we’re only about forty-five hundred feet. It’s Highway Five north until you make a right on Woodbury. Then some switch backs for a long way until you make a right at the yoke. That’ll be San Zeno Way. It’s a chert rock road. Then two miles of dirt that’s full of rain-washed gullies. At the bottom you’ll see a beige single wide trailer, but it’s really a kit house. We got a broke-down barn, duck pond and chicken coop. The thing about—”
“That will be enough,” said Jory with a long, drawn-out sigh. “I’ll have my assistant call you for those directions again. Her name is Darcy. She’s our team navigator. She’ll also give you a price. You hold tight. I’ll call you right before we leave and then again before we pull up to your house.”
“Okay, then Ms. Jorlene Pike. I’m gonna hang on for you. I know you’re coming from South Dakota. I ain’t going nowhere.”
“Okay, goodbye, Tonya. We’ll see you when we see you.” Jory ended the call and made a few notes in her app pad. She called Darcy and gave her the client’s number with instructions to decipher the location and map-out a route. She put the phone back in her pocket and exchanged glances with the two men.
Choice frowned. “Throw in some weird with some conundrum. She was all over the place with that story. We usually have an idea of what to expect. I got lost between the bear and the bum.”
Jory cocked her head at her grandfather. She felt he knew a lot more than either her or Choice. She did have her suspicions; she tallied up all the evidence and it pointed a certain way. The location of the troubling incident was a near giveaway.
Albert’s face looked resigned when he looked back at her. He didn’t hold her eyes, though. He folded up his newspaper and placed it in a cubbyhole. He walked down the aisle in his slow and stiff fashion, stopped at the coffee pot and refilled his cup. It seemed that he took forever to add the condiments to the brew, and then just stood there arching his back.
Since Jory’s parents had died, Albert’s need to be with her had intensified. Although he never mentioned the subject of her parent’s sudden deaths, he always waited for her to express any pains or emotions about it. He had a good ear and wise advice. He always felt sensitive to her thoughts; not the type to leave her hanging or in confusion about anything. He was the only true relative and family member she could count on.
Jory walked down the store-side aisle and stopped opposite him. “Grandfather,” she said over the counter. “I know you heard everything. You seem disgusted. I will not be gone that long to leave you in the shop alone. I can ask Leona to fill in for—”
“It is not that.” He glanced at her. “With a clear mind, I cannot let you go on this venture.” He turned away from her. “Trust that I hold the reverence of the great beaver to my heart more than ever in this matter.”
She felt confused. Yes, he was wise with many years. Much more so than her; five times in years more. Yet why would he condemn a business assignment of hers when he had not shown such dismissal before? Well, maybe once. What made this different?
“I don’t understand your reasoning,” she confessed. “You know I have to take great risks with my job. It’s a calling, and you’ve always sanctioned it. Where is the difference here? What do you know or feel?”
He turned full around and narrowed his eyes on her. She felt Choice sidle up next to her hip, remaining silent and stoic. Now you have my boyfriend rattled. Albert White Feather Pike, you are deeply troubled, and I have never seen you like this before. Don’t make me break down.
Albert gripped the edge of the showcase. “This is not a cryptic creature that can be chased off by fire, shot or pierced by an arrow. It is a menace that can outthink you, move through the trees like a wind’s whisper; reach into your mind and fill you with dread. It will stop at nothing to even a score, and it can wish you dead and make itself gone after the deed.”
Riddles? “I think I get what you are saying, but what makes this one different?” she asked plaintively. “And I know you know of which one I speak. I hold great and sacred respect for them. I cannot defile what I understand in my heart.”
“This one has left the balance of nature,” Albert said firmly. “You cannot deal with one that has gone rogue. It is too late. There is no risk because there is no chance in the first place.”
Jory drew her shoulders back. “Grandfather, you have just strengthened my resolve. I’ve never submitted to failure. Doom has never found a home with me. I carry the spirit of the Eagle, who is affixed to my soul.”
Choice stepped back from the counter and flung his hands in the air, a dramatic display of frustration. “You just made me one of the lost boys. I’m in the dark—deaf, dumb and blind. I’d rather be fat, brainy and happy. What the hell...pardon me...what are you two talking about?”
Jory continued verbally fencing with her grandfather. “There’s a reason he’s gone rogue,” she said. “Through no fault of his own, I’ll guess. A wrong must be righted to adjust the balance. It cannot stand like it is now. It will let vengeance perpetuate and continue the hatred. Our duty is to restore and equalize the shift from dark to light.”
“And at what cost?” Albert challenged. “Your return to the Earth as dust by your hand? To ignore the great Creator Kitchi-Manitous’ cycle of life? Honestly, Granddaughter, your thoughts of this are talons that tear at my heart. It is too dangerous.”
“I have no intention of entering the great beyond. I am not stupid or foolhardy. I’m going, Grandfather, against your wishes or protests. You’ll not stop me.” She stomped a foot, but not heavily.
Choice clapped his hands once. “Would somebody interpret for me? I’m just the scout and logistics expert in the Badlands Paranormal Society, ya know.”
Albert and Jory gave Choice a scathing glance. She rolled her eyes and allowed her thoughts to soften. She could try and offer an explanation. She felt bad now that she’d left him out of the loop. Maybe I can ease you into it.
“Choice, we’re dealing with a wild member of an ancient tribe. This one just happens to be dangerous for reasons unknown. Well, precise reasons. It likely started with a habituation and then spiraled out of control. Death has entered the picture. That means—"
“It means that I am surely going with you,” began Albert, “and you will not stop me. This is beyond your bodily strength and keen mind. It carries too much mystery alone for you to understand. My word on the matter is final. I will spend time in a sweat lodge and recite my chants, in preparation. You should already know what not to bring on this venture.” He challenged her with a hardened stare, and those small black eyes glistened in defiance.
“Grandfather, forgive me, but you are too—”
“Too old and frail, say you? My heart soars like the hawk. I summon the spirit-strength of the bear. I will march over your tired bodies up hill and against the wind. Enough!”
She wasn’t going to win this one. Albert White Feather Pike knew the old wise ones directly. He had been in their company as a youth, so had he told her. Countless generations before him knew of the First Tribes and bands. All the red people had known. Although the white man had said the First Nations Tribes had arrived in the new world 13,500 years ago, it was a lie. Jory’s ancestors had come much earlier. Yet the wild man, the wilderness people had always been here. They were the first guardians of the woods and mountains.
Jory bowed her head slightly. “Forgive me. It would be an honor to accept your leadership, Grandfather. We surely would stand a better outcome with your guidance. You will have complete control of the mission. Your words will brand upon our hearts and our ears will stay open.”
“Don’t mind me,” said Choice. “I just need to know what’s happening.”
Albert took a sip of coffee and cleared his throat. “It is Bagwajiwininiway. Difficult for your tongue. The easier Ojibwe name is Sa’be. Guardian and boss of the mountain to all tribes.”
“I’m sorry, honey. Choice, it’s commonly called Sasquatch. Jerry Crew dubbed it as Bigfoot in 1958.”
“Sa’be most monstrous!” said Albert.