Echoes of the Past

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Was that jackass mayor right? Would the parents blame him for what had happened? They were young adults not children under his care twenty-four-seven, but he felt responsible. A career and research grants seemed like pittance when compared to the lives of two of the brightest students he'd ever had. He'd gladly trade places with them if he could.

He took his left hand off the steering wheel and pushed his hair off his face, back behind his ear. He should have tied it back, but his head had been pounding when he'd left Ron's office and he thought letting it loose would help. Not likely with the stress he was under. He'd get it cut first thing tomorrow. Enough was enough. God! How had things become so chaotic?

Tony frowned. He'd never considered needing an alibi. If you hadn't done anything wrong, why would you need one? How many people who lived alone spent their time wondering if they had alibis in case they needed them? More often than not—on television anyway—the good guy, erroneously accused on circumstantial evidence, ended up in jail because he had no alibi. Well, he might have one, but if he did, he wasn't sure it was going to be much help.

He'd seen the light go out in Jackson's window, but he hadn't seen Jackson, and he didn't know whether or not Jackson had seen him. If he had, he'd seen him on the beach around two o'clock in the morning, alone, in the middle of the storm, bare-chested, looking like a madman. If that wasn't suspicious, he didn't know what was. Hell, he'd consider himself guilty based on the circumstantial evidence.

People would be looking to pin this on someone, and he was probably the number one choice. If Tony mentioned he'd gone after the woman, then they'd think he was crazy, and anything he said would be discredited. Guilty by reason of insanity? What a mess! Just how much store would the coroner and the police put in Jackson's statement if he had one? He might be in big trouble here, and he was one hundred percent innocent.

The lights of Tyendinaga shone up ahead, and he made a right turn onto the road that led to Joseph Smoke's two-story limestone house, one of the oldest houses on the reserve. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the welcoming lights in the windows. Thank God someone was home. He'd hate to have made the trip out here for nothing. He should have called. He looked at his watch. Well, four-thirty was a little early for supper. He'd be gone long before it was time to eat.

He parked the vehicle and ran up onto the covered porch. The door held an intricately designed doorknocker, and he used it. The sound reverberated. The door opened and a young blonde, several months pregnant by the looks of her, stood in the doorway. Did he have the wrong house? Smoke was almost eighty years old.

"Whatever brought you here in this weather must be important." The woman's words were friendly, her smile inviting.

"I'm not sure I'm at the right place. I'm looking for Joseph Smoke."

She laughed and nodded. "You've got the right house. Come on in. Papa's bow hunting in the den."

The words made no sense. Who bow hunts in the house? Tony followed the woman down the hall.

"I'm Maggie, by the way, Joseph's son Mike's wife. They're competing."

She opened the door and the two men stood there facing the forty-six inch television currently be used to showcase the electronic game they we're playing. The young man's shot went wide, and Joseph laughed.

"Your family would go hungry if you had to feed them with your hunting skills."

"Yeah well, the province pays me well, and Maggie can get lots of food for us all at the store. Sorry Pops, I'm a game warden, remember? I don't believe in killing for sport. If I had to, I would, but I can get my steak from the butcher faster than off the hoof."

"Papa, you have a guest," Maggie interrupted probably in time to prevent an argument on traditions.

Joseph looked up, and his weather-worn face split into a grin. "Professor Steele, I wasn't expecting you." He sobered. "I heard about the drownings. I'm so sorry. I didn't know the girl, but I've met her uncle, and he's a man of honor. Mayor Ron," he said the word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth, "says I have to speak to a coroner from Toronto for permission to purify the lake."

"Thanks, Joseph. We're all still in shock. Could I speak with you in private? I'd like your help with a personal matter."

The old man looked at him with so much concentration Tony felt as if he was looking inside him. After a few minutes, he nodded.

"Come with me. Maggie, can you bring some willow bark tea."

"Aren't you feeling well?"

"No, daughter. It isn't for me. The professor's head hurts."

"How did you know I had a headache?" Tony asked as soon as they were alone the private audience chamber, reminiscent of a long house. The walls were decorated in Mohawk motifs with the Peace Tree, symbol of the Mohawk Confederacy, easily recognizable. There were animal symbols for the various clans, with a large thunderbird dominating the others. Joseph's family belonged to the bear clan. Hanging on the far wall was Joseph's formal eagle feather headdress. Beside it hung his buckskins, and next to that his ceremonial ribbon shirt. This place must be an office or counselling chamber of some sort. Although Joseph wasn't the tribe's shaman, as an elder he commanded respect, and his opinion was often sought by others.

"Would you believe me if I told you the spirits told me?"

"I don't know what I believe anymore."

The old man sat in one of the two recliners and indicated the other. Joseph had an air of peace about him unlike so many of the people his age Tony knew at the university. Instead of being in a rush all the time, striving to prove he was still effective, still worthy of his title, Joseph was calm, satisfied with life. He wore jeans and a cowboy-styled chambray shirt in dark green. His hair was long and white, braided the way the woman's had been in his dream. His face was as dark and wrinkled as old leather, testifying to his years at work in the sun. In his younger days, Joseph had been a sky walker, one of the Mohawks who worked on the New York City skyscrapers. He'd worked on the World Trade Center and, like many others, despite his age, he'd gone to New York to help in the aftermath of nine-eleven.

"I think I'm losing my mind, Joseph."

"Tell me what's been happening to you, my son. You may not be Mohawk, but the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape blood of your ancestors runs deep in your veins."

Tony's gaze jerked away from his perusal of the room. He stared at Joseph.

"How did you know that? My family isn't even certain it's true. If I have any Native American blood, it's pretty diluted. According to family history, we had an ancestor who was Nanticoke from North Carolina. He escaped to Canada with his brother during the Revolutionary War."

The old man smiled and nodded his head.

"Your family spoke the truth. The spirits talk to me. Now. Tell me why you're upset." The command in the elder's voice was subtle, but Tony heard it and found himself relaying all the details of the strange things that had happened to him since arriving at the resort.

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