Chapter 4: First Encounter
Detective Blackhorse climbed back into his car. Hunger had him scrounging around for something to eat. His dinner consisted of a half-eaten sub sandwich from lunch, a bag of plain potato chips and the remains of an open can of flat soda. Every time he tried to think about the murder investigation, his thoughts strayed back to the way Officer Schneider’s dirty trick had left him stranded and simmering resentment boiled over into anger.
Blackhorse took a deep breath and tried unsuccessfully to think about something else. What Schneider had done was childish and vindictive. Blackhorse knew that ultimately, the man’s actions came from a place of insecurity. Things like that had been happening to him all his life. So why did it still bother him so much? Blackhorse knew from experience that he wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else, until he blew off some steam.
He got out of the car, kicked the door shut and set off in a random direction. Blackhorse had no idea how long he walked, before his mind cleared and the tension eased. He looked up and saw a lone house in the distance. The warm light in the windows of the cabin looked inviting. His stomach rumbled. Blackhorse was tempted to go and knock on the door. Perhaps he would encounter some of the small town generosity people were always talking about and be offered a home cooked meal. At the very least, maybe he could use their bathroom.
Upon approach, the atmosphere around the quaint little rustic home shifted. Inside, a Rottweiler suddenly lunged into view. His large paws thudded against the living room window, as he barked furiously. Blackhorse stopped short of stepping out of the trees and into the clearing in front of the house.
In the gathering gloom, he could see a salt circle furrowing the dirt around the house. A spell was in effect. Not knowing the intent behind the spellwork, he was unwilling to blindly step inside the circle. Blackhorse slowly backed up. Curtains in a second floor window suddenly parted and he stepped behind a tree, as a silhouetted figure leaned towards the glass peering outside.
He wasted no time in retreating and returning to the car. Blackhorse made a mental note to visit the cabin in the light of day and conduct an interview. He wanted to meet the magic practitioner. Even if the stranger didn’t witness the murder, they might have seen or heard something which might prove helpful. Back inside the car with the front passenger seat reclined and the windows down, Blackhorse was finally able to relax. A caressing breeze wafted in and he sighed. Now, the trees were shadows in the moonlit forest.
He could see what Schneider meant about the gnarled trees resembling people. But to Blackhorse, they just looked like stooped, elderly people struggling unsuccessfully to stand up straight. He had grown up on a Native American reservation, raised to respect nature and the power which resided all living things. Blackhorse did not sense any threat emanating from the forest. He drifted off to sleep remembering his youth on the reservation and his first foray into dreamwork with the tribal shaman.
Something tapped on the window. When had he rolled them back up? Expecting it to be a tree branch, Blackhorse was taken aback to see four hungry looking men peering in at him. His hand automatically went to the gun at his hip, as he sat up. They moved back from the car, wordlessly gesturing for him to follow. Blackhorse cautiously got out, eyeing their bedraggled clothing. Without waiting, the group walked away. He followed them at a distance and abruptly halted.
They were going towards the crime scene. For the first time, Blackhorse noticed the luminescence of their skin. The group disappeared behind a stand of trees at the site and he quickened his pace to catch up with them. He tried asking questions, but they seemed not to hear him. The tall scrawny one with a mop of disheveled blond hair beckoned him. Blackshear hesitantly approached, eyeing the others uneasily as he passed them. They stood motionless, staring back at him. The tall one pointed down at the ground. Blackshear was clueless as he gazed down at the tall grass.
“What am I looking at? I don’t see anything.”
The tall one’s only response is to continue pointing at the same spot. Blackshear looked closer and still saw nothing. He abruptly awoke from the dream still feeling frustrated. Morning sunlight was streaming in through the window. It felt as though he had just fallen asleep, but time was always distorted in dreams. Blackhorse climbed out of the car and retraced the steps he had taken in the dream. He approximated the spot the spirit had pointed out. In the early morning light, he still saw only grass.
Blackhorse sighed, on the verge of dismissing the dream as meaningless. It had seemed so real though. In his mind’s eye, he could still see the solemn faces of the men intently staring back at him. Blackhorse hesitated, then he knelt down and ran his hands through the grass in wide sweeping circles. On the second pass, his fingers scrabbling the dirt encountered something cold and hard. He grasped it in his right hand and held it up. A gold signet ring gleamed on his open palm. The initials HS stood out in gold relief at the center of the ornately engraved ring.