Father Brian DeShano is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer pulls him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
Before heading out the door to seek out a shovel and a good spot to bury the dog, Ty dialed the number of his deputy.
"Tony Buday's been abducted," he said without preamble.
Jake's voice was pitched high with excitement. "Wow. The whole rez will be buzzing with this news by noon. Do you want me to assemble our usual group of trackers?"
"First, I want you to pull out all the 911 reports from the last two months. What I'm looking for is any mention of a wolf painted to look like a warrior. Specifically, any mention of a devil dog."
Ty could hear Jake breathing so he knew he was still on the line. "Do you copy?"
"Ah, I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about, Boss. A devil dog... as in a flesh-eating, soul-stealer? That's superstitious bullshit the elders came up with to scare the kids straight."
"I don't have time to explain why I know the devil dog exists. Just get down to the station and do as I ask!"
"Copy. On my way out the door. And, Ty... you owe me a helluva story."
Hands on his knees, eyes scouring the forest floor, Ty pressed himself to find the trail of Tony Buday's kidnapper. The woods beyond the property line were thick with maple and pine trees. Their offshoots struggled to capture some of the precious daylight while forming a natural camouflage for the fiend that slaughtered Wasu.
The tribal policeman tipped his Stetson with his knuckle, reached into his back pocket and pulled out a clean rag. He wiped his face of the sweat he'd worked up burying Tony Buday's hound. Squinting into the distance, he felt a half-formed fear he'd see the devil dog staring him down. Bastard's out there watching... I can feel him.
He pulled a knife from the sheath attached to his belt. Dropping to a crouch, he carefully moved aside leaves and dirt, looking for footprints. Several shallow pools formed a vertical line leading away from where he squatted. He dragged the tip of his knife through one of them and brought it to his nose. It smelled of blood, but he couldn't be sure whether animal or human.
His belly clenched with anxiety. He needed to follow the trail before it got degraded by animals drawn to the smell. Struggling to quell his impatience, he decided to start marking it. That way, when Jana arrived, he'd quickly fill her in before getting down to the business of tracking the killer.
Where the hell is she? It's been over an hour since I called her.
His cousin had promised to pick up Father Brian and head directly to the reservation. Ty estimated the trip from St. Matilde's rectory to the reservation in a squad car would take no more than twenty minutes. Taking into consideration the fog he'd earlier encountered, it might add another fifteen minutes, making Jana's arrival overdue.
Sheriff Oleson may have been unwilling to kick her loose or, worse, Father Brian refused to come?
The latter would present a serious problem. The kidnapper demanded the priest in exchange for Tony.
Ty knew without the priest, there would be no reason to keep Tony alive.
If it comes to that, I'll kidnap the priest myself.
His pocket phone sounded. Ty spat out a wad of tobacco he'd been chewing and cleared his voice. “Longacre, here.”
“Ty, it's Lu. Where are you?” How much do I tell her?
“I'm checking out a B and E.” Not exactly a lie.
There was a pause at the other end. His dispatcher had a sixth sense for when he wasn't telling her the straight story.
“Are you anywhere near the Bree compound?” she asked.
“Ten minutes away,” Ty answered. “Don't tell me the Bree brothers are at each other again. Lu, I don't have time to break up another one of their squabbles.”
“It's Lynn who needs your help this time. She just called to report one of her goats disappeared last night. Says that makes a total of three this week. You know how much she loves those goats, Ty.”
What if the dog I saw has a mate?
“Lu, I'm using my cell phone. Give me five minutes to get to the patrol car and then patch me through to Lynn.”
He hurried to the car and reached for the radio mike. A short time later, Lynn Bree came on the line.
“Hey, Lynn,” Ty began, “I'm real sorry to hear about your goats. Did you or the uncles happen to catch sight of the predator?”
“I can't be sure of anything those two say when they're drinking, Ty. But Russell claims he was out in the shed, two nights ago, getting a bottle from his stash when he heard the goats bleating. He poked his head through the door and claims he had the shit scared out him by an animal rushing past. Said the thing looked like the biggest, damned wolf he'd ever seen in his life.”
“This may sound crazy, but did Russell say anything looked unusual about the animal... I mean besides the size of it?”
Ty heard a gasp at the other end. “He said the... ah... animal had a painted face, Ty. And he felt its eyes were trying to get inside his head. Shit, I thought it was the booze talking.”
“Listen, Lynn. I don't want the uncles tracking this animal. It's very dangerous. Not like anything I've ever seen in all my years of hunting these woods.”
“You're scaring me, Ty,” she said.
“Good. That means you won't let your anger get the better of you and take off on your own search.”
“You know me pretty well.” Lynn's voice was soft and warm.
“Not half as well as I'd like to. But right now, we've got something real bad coming down on the rez, and it would help if I didn't have to be concerned for your safety.”
“Death has been in the wind for a week now,” she said. “I've smelled it, I've heard its wails. Un woawanglake!”
Ty's throat tightened with emotion. “I'll do my best, Lynn.”
“See that you do, Ty Longacre,” she said before clicking off.
I've got a beautiful woman nearly convinced to share my bed and people who placed their safety in my hands. This is not going to be the day I die.
The dispatch radio sounded again. “Yes, Lu?” he answered.
“It's Jake, Boss. Did as you asked and found four reports of people seeing a strange animal hanging around their livestock, no mention of painted muzzles. The reports congregate in one area of the reservation... an area familiar to you...”
“The cabin at Fountain Point,” Ty finished.
“Isn't that your clan's hunting cabin?” Jake queried.
“We've avoided the place since my cousin's suicide. He'd been living there with his boyfriend.”
“Jake get to that cabin," Ty's voice was louder than he intended. "When Jana arrives, we'll meet you there.”
“Don't you want me to confirm the cabin is occupied?” Jake persisted.
“No Jake!” I'm ordering you to stay in your car with the doors locked.”
Jakes's voice wavered, “Don't tell me you believe there's a real-life devil dog out there?”
“I'm telling you not to be a hero because I don't want to have to gather pieces of you to bury."
~~ TO BE CONTINUED ~~