Deep down, Charlie had always wanted to be an Indian but with recent events he had begun to reconsider his position. Stranded in a strange little town, with cops on his back at every turn, he has just found out that his best friend and loyal Indian companion Curt Fastwater may be wanted for murder. The only upside of the situation, is that he has just met the lady who could take over his dream life; Ruby Zink. But this tribal girl is in a dangerous line of work. In a small town on the edge of nowhere, she struggles to tame the dark forces that rule her world, as Charlie tries to figure out what's lost inbetween.
It felt as if I could walk through walls to get to Ruby's garden. When we arrived she was sitting by a little pond laden with rocks, water lilies and fat calico colored gold fish looking up at us with large pooled eyes.
Ruby smiled at them and they appeared to smile back.
If I was still hungry, my thoughts reeled mischievously, I'd fry them up and eat them.
"Do those big pretty eyes want to gobble up my gold fish?" Ruby asked me upon seeing the lustful look in my gaze.
"You have to admit those are some fat-happy fish. And I'd be damned happy to eat them," I cooed trying to be cute. "That is if I was still hungry."
I am still hungry. Why am I still hungry?
I gazed at Ruby. She looked sleek, like a little golden brown fish that would fit nicely on a plate garnished with pillows and silk bed sheets.
"I can always tell a fried fish man when I see him," Ruby smiled over me with a rush of light moving through her gaze.
"You better watch yourself, Ruby," Curt cautioned.
Yeah, you better watch yourself.
Ruby became very quiet within herself and looked at Curt with swelling brown eyes. "I know what happened," she said gravely.
He swallowed. "I know."
I felt my breath go shallow and looked to Ruby for some reassurance. "I should also tell you, that I'm in a unique position to help you in any way possible."
Do we have to talk about this? My mind started to jerk painfully. I found dwelling on lustful little fish and silk bed sheets to be much more to my liking.
"Look Charlie doesn't know what's going on and I just as soon keep him out of it."
Ruby looked at me thoughtfully as if assessing my position of complete and utter stupidity. "I'm afraid he's not out of it," she said carefully, "not yet anyway. But for the moment I'm worried about you."
Curt looked sadly at the fat little fish. "Well, the way I see it, I'm a little too far beyond help now."
"You're not too far beyond my help," Ruby said with a peculiar sort of confidence.
"Why Ruby Zink," Curt laughed painfully, "I used to hear stories about you. But I had no idea they were true."
- 1 -
"Yeah, they're true, I'm afraid." Ruby pulled fitfully at her long hair and she got a dark look about the eyes. "What can I say," she whispered carefully as if apologizing, "It's the family business; it's a little hard to get out of it."
God, what does she do?
I felt a pit open up inside me and every part of my heart pulled down into my chest in one slow sad motion. Ruby looked at me as if feeling my disappointment. "He needs to know what happened."
Curt's face hardened. "He doesn't need to know anything." No, I don't need to know anything. "It's going to be hard enough for him as it is."
I gasped and tried to hold myself to keep from shaking. I didn't want to ask but I had to. I gazed at Ruby, feeling little and small. "What's going on?" I stuttered, hoping she would lie to me.
Curt glared at her. "Ruby, . . . don't."
Looking down, Ruby pondered over her hands as if she were carefully counting dainty fingers. Then they curled up into stiff little balls, with the apparant intent of hitting someone. "You know I have to do this," she said giving Curt a steady look. Unable to look at anything else, Curt just veered away and glared out into an angry void.
Ruby's eyes then met mine. "Charlie, two men are dead."
Curt sighed a painful sort of sigh, as if the words came as some sort of awful relief.
"What men?" I asked in a failing voice.
Ruby glanced at Curt, then her eyes returned to me. "It doesn't matter. There's nothing we can do about it now. What does matter, . . . is that Curt, . . . Curt, can't go, . . . go-" With the wet of tears in her eyes, Ruby's words fell over themselves, stopped then started again. "Curt, . . . can't go back to Pine Ridge."
My head started to pound and I was suddenly hit with a cold bout of nausea. It seemed my knees were going to come out from underneath me. In a rush shivers, I feverishly looked around for a landing place. "I don't feel very good."
Ruby got up to guide my failing body to a nearby chair. Resting an arm on my thigh, she brushed back my messy dark curls. "You haven't been feeling very well, have you?"
"No, not really," I offered weakly.
"Charlie hasn't been doing very well lately," Curt said with the panicked echo of a parrot. A swallow pulled at a lump in his throat. "I think it's this flu that's going around. Yeah, . . . it's the flu."
"Really?" Ruby leaned over to feel the shape of my brow. "He does feel a little clammy. Could be the flu."
I made the mistake of starting to think again and felt even worse. "Curt? These men that are dead, . . . is it your fault?"
Curt seemed stunned by the question, then recovered himself. "Look," he spoke slowly, as if words in slow motion would help. "I don't care what you have to think, just as long as you're okay," he said quietly, looking for the right thing to say. He gasped. "But some people might see it that way."
I tried to think deeper thoughts, clever thoughts. There's got to be a way out of this. "You could call a lawyer or something. We could explain."
Curt rubbed my shoulder. "I don't think a lawyer can help help me now. Besides, I've already talked to someone and they seem to think it's best that I just leave."
- 2 -
"Then I'll go with you." I gazed at Ruby, quickly forcing an adjustment to life on the lamb. "She could come with us," I hazarded with a seemingly brilliant plan brewing in my mind. "Yeah, . . . we could go wherever we want. It'll be great, just like a movie!"
"A What?!" Curt glared at me like I was stupid. And of course, I was.
Ruby fitfully pulled away from me and collapsed into her pool chair.
Curt sighed over me. "Trust me Charlie; you don't want to go where I'm going."
"And where's that?" I asked still half numb.
He smiled weakly. "To tell you the truth I'm not sure yet." His face hardened as he turned to Ruby. "You said you could help me. There's some people I'd like to see before I leave. Can you help me with that?"
"That rather depends on who you want to see."
"I'd like to talk to my mom, before I go," Curt said, half choking on his wish. "I need to tell her what's going on and let her know everything's going to be okay." He started to stutter. "And I need to tell her, . . . I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." He looked painfully at Ruby. "That's all I want. Can you do it?"
"I'd have to be careful," Ruby hummed in a gentle sort of way that seemed only slightly criminal. "But I think I can arrange it."
Curt sighed in relief. He looked at me and suddenly gasped. "Oh Charlie!" he said as if apologizing to me. His voice went to Ruby. "What about Charlie. I don't want to leave him here. Can you take him back with you? Or is it too risky?"
"No. Not for me anyway. But when he's ready, I could manage it." She smiled at me in a soft sort of way, "that is, if he wants to go with me."
Yes, I want to go with you.
It was a selfish thought to have and I immediately stuffed it back into my pea-sized brain. "No. No, I have to stay here with Curt."
Curt glared at me as if I'd lost my mind. "No Charlie! You have to go back with Ruby! It may be your only chance to get out of here!"
No, he doesn't understand how it works. "Look Curt, we're friends, and friends take care of eachother. How do you think it'd make me feel to know that when you needed me, I bailed on you?!"
I could tell by the expression on Curt's face, that we were about to get into an argument, and he usually tended to win these things. "Look Charlie, this is my mess! It doesn't involve you! Now, if you want to get out of this shifty-a** town, Ruby is the only one that can take you!"
When I found my legs and stood up, I could actually feel my face harden into stone and my eyes shift, therefore making them more crooked than usual. "The answer," I hissed with the words rattling out of my mouth like nails, "is still NO!"
Curt glared at me harshly. He was, for once, really pissed off.
Was he mad when he-?, . . . Don't think about it.
"Fine Charlie! We'll do it your way! But having you around just makes things more f****** difficult for me!"
"What's that supposed to mean?!" Curt had never talked to me like that before and the very idea of it wounded me somehow. "Oh, I get it! I'm just the stupid white boy! What would I know about anything! God forbid, I get in the way of Heap-Big-Indian as he rides off to the fight! What you think, I don't have the stomach for it?!"
- 3 -
"Charlie, I didn't mean it like that!"
"You meant it it exactly like that! Well, f*** you then!"
A pain suddenly struck me as if someone had punched me in the chest. Everything felt like it was slipping and I grew very light and fell back into my chair. The next think I knew, Ruby was bending over me rubbing my face and hands. "Charlie, are you okay?"
I gasped trying to find my breath before it found me. "My chest hurts."
"You look like s*** Charlie," Curt reminded me.
"F*** you," I reminded him.
"Could you two, cut it out!" Ruby ordered, looking unintentionally cute.
"You need to see someone, Charlie," Curt volleyed back against orders, "and there's no doctor in this town!"
"I'm fine. I don't need anything! Especially from you!"
"What you need to do is calm down," Ruby said as if casting a spell over me.
I gazed beyond her face trying to quell my anger. Feeling too much of myself in her eyes, I looked down at my fingers like a guilty child. "I'm sorry."
"Maybe when I come back, I can bring something for you," she offered. "Can you tell me what's hurting?"
I could tell you, but it doesn't matter anymore.
"What he needs is to go back with you," Curt argued in a softer tone. "Then he can see someone."
"I told you, NO!" my voice flared up. "And I meant it!"
Cut sighed and found the nearest chair to sulk in.
"It's okay," Ruby tried to smooth things over. "Maybe he can come back with me later."
Curt gazed at me with pleading eyes. "Please Charlie, would you think about it? It really would be the best thing."
"Maybe," I said half lying. The truth was, I was too deeply hurt to think about it.
I felt Ruby's fingers tingle through my hair again and fade away. Troubled by the need to feel the shape of a soothing body against me, I resisted the urge to wrap my legs around her hips.
God Charlie, why don't you go with her?
"It'll be alright," Ruby tried to ease Curt's mind. "If I handle things right, I should be back this evening. When I know for certain, I'll contact you and let you know the when and the where of it, that is if I can get Luta's permission." Ruby became quiet for a moment and gazed over me like she thought I was beautiful. "And you, . . . try and keep those pretty eyes from eating everything."
"Okay," I promised, with my gaze nibbling at the buttons of Ruby's red flannel shirt. "I'll be good."
Sometimes, it's so hard to be good.
Then something dark poured into our garden. The crisp sound of steps, harshly ordered the mind's attention. I turned to see Luta standing there.
"Zintkala Ciscila," He said looking at Ruby coolly, "you are here."
Ruby nodded her head pensively as if all the sudden she had iced tea water for blood. "Tiyopa Luta," she bowed her head, denoting an almost required expression of both fear and respect. "How are you?"
"Was'te. And you?" he asked dangerously.
- 4 -
I wish I could feel warm and fuzzy, like before.
That seems to be what I remember most; what I was thinking. Little passing thoughts that seemed insignificant and trivial as they rolled around in my mind like pretty word toys to amuse and distract me.
Matches. Where's my matches? Oh, . . . there they are.
"I do okay," she gasped with talking breath giving her away.
"And why are you here?" he asked his voice colder still.
"I came to help Curt with some things." Trying to smile pleasantly, Ruby became very awkward. "I was going to call you and let you know what I was doing, but I didn't want to trouble you, if it wasn't necessary."
"It is always necessary to contact me," Luta stated in a heavy tone that directly conflicted with his youth, "when you're dealing with people in my care. Surely you know this by now."
I could tell Ruby was afraid of this man but she held herself cool. "I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
"It should have not happened this time," Luta cautioned with a vile stare.
On impulse, I got up and stood as protection between Ruby and Luta. "Oh come on man, it's no big deal."
Luta looked over me as an unwelcome intrusion. Before he had the chance to say anything, Curt put on the charming smile he saved for emergencies and tried to use it to distract our guest. "Don't mind him. He's just being his usual, pain in the a** little self."
Luta's knife like brow slashed upward as he glared at Ruby. "You will take him back with you," he ordered her.
Ruby's big brown eyes, swelled larger. "Well I-"
"I can't leave," I cut her off carefully and politely. "I have to stay here with Curt and help him out."
Tiyopa Luta, looked me over again as if he was using some sort of mental blade to cut me open for a peek inside. "Oh, I see. You are too weak and afraid to go back." His jaw clenched in a way that made him look like he had rocks in his mouth. He glared at Curt like he was going to spit one at him. "That's why you make a place for this little wasi'cu. Because he's too weak and scared to go back."
That hit the wrong way!
"Excuse me?!" Luta's tone had royally pi**** me off. "May I ask what in the f*** you meant by that?!"
"Your little Wasi'cu boy, doesn't know his place," Tiyopa motioned dangerously in Curt's direction.
"Charlie, could you please shut up!" Curt snapped.
"Where do you get off, telling me to shut up!" I shot back. "This guy just waltzes in here, pushes Ruby around and I'm just supposed to do whatever he says?! F*** that!"
I heard Ruby's begging whisper from behind. "Charlie, please-"
Tiyopa Luta got a look in his eyes that nearly turned me into ice. "I think this Wasi'cu," the man smiled as if he had the power to have me struck by lightning, "doesn't understand who he's speaking to."
Curt swallowed hard.
"No he doesn't. But I'll explain it to him!" Curt grabbed me harshly and drug me out the garden into a nearby corridor and slammed me against a wall. Yet, another thing he had never done to me before. "Jesus Geronimo Christ! Have you lost your f****** mind!"
I really must of screwed up big if he's using, Jesus Geronimo Christ.
Curt was in the practice of saying, Jesus Geronimo Christ, only in the most dire of circumstances.
"Let me go, okay," I gasped losing the feeling of my feet beneath me. Feeling sick I feverishly grabbed on to thoughts of Ruby to steady myself and started to panic instead. "We're not going, to just leave her out there alone with him, are we?!"
"Ruby can take care of herself. It's you, I'm worried about." Curt's breath collapsed on top of itself. "S***! Look, . . . this is my fault. I didn't realize exactly who Luta was when I first met him. But I do now!"
"Why?" I asked with my throat pinching at the words. "What kind of man is he?"
"The kind of man that can look at you the wrong way, and you'll drop dead or, . . . wish you were dead. So, please, please, try and refrain from profoundly, pi***** him off! Okay?!"
"Look, if he's that terrible," I whispered as harshly as possible, "then why in the hell are you dealing with him?"
"He's my only way out of here. I have no choice." Curt shot a whistful glance to the garden. "But you do. Look, . . . just stay away from him and anybody like him and you'll be fine."
Well, that's vague.
"What do you mean, anybody like him?"
"I mean, . . . I mean-" Curt started to nod himself into a tizzy. "God, I don't know what the hell I mean! Look, the only people you need to listen to are me and Ruby. And if there are certain persons that she tells you to stay away from, then you just do it, . . . okay?"
"Okay." I swallowed dry air with one single thought aching inside my mind so badly forming it into words scorched brain cells. "Curt? Does Ruby do bad things?"
"No," he whinced painfully. "She just helps people who do bad things," He gasped. "Or in my case, . . . badly stupid things."
It's better to think of that way; Curt just did something really stupid. Something badly, horribly, stupid.
Curt pushed back to the garden with me drawing on the lines of his heels. When we returned, the flowers seemed brighter and Ruby was sitting next to her pretty fish, just as before.
The big scary Indian is gone, . . . thank God.
"Curt," Ruby said gravely, "Tiyopa Luta, is waiting for you out front. You have to go with him and I don't think he'll take NO for an answer."
"I don't think anyone has ever said NO to Luta a day in his life." Curt sighed and turned to leave. "Charlie, I'll be back."
"Okay," I muttered only half believing it.
"Fastwater?" Ruby called after him. Curt stopped to look back at our personal Tribal Princess. "Luta wants to hook you up with some people from the ah, . . . old days."
"Oh wonderful," he said in a tone that wasn't wonderful. "Am I supposed to like the sound of this?"
"I don't know? One is a friend that heard you were having some trouble." As she spoke I carefully gazed at Ruby trying not to let her see me. Ruby's pinching her fingers. She looks cute like that, pinching her fingers. "There's someone else;" she said in a shadowy voice, "a former client, . . . if you get my drift. You may want to see her. You may not."
Curt's skin turned as white as it was ever going to get. "You're not talking about, who I think you're talking about?" The expression on Ruby's face was answer enough. "And you took care of her after what she did?!"
"Someone had to. It was a pretty bad situation."
"Bad for her, . . . worse for others," he shuddered coldly.
"Now don't be like that," Ruby cautioned. "She's risking a lot by coming here. Even through she's under Luta's protection there's a number of people who'd love to get their hands on her."
"And why in the hell would Luta want to bring her here," he asked sourly, "to do my nails?"
"One of Luta's little tests." Ruby's brows flared. "That's the way Luta works; a test and a prize."
"Jesus Geronimo Christ," Curt hissed under his breath, and he was gone.
"What was that about?" I asked on stupid remote control.
Ruby just smiled awkwardly. "Can't say. Client confidentiality. You understand."
No, I don't understand.
"Now, . . . don't pout." Ruby stroked my face gently. "Listen- I want you to go lay down, rest and think about feeling better."
The words hit my sences backwards. "You're like him; Luta," my voice stuttered softly. "You think I'm weak."
"I didn't mean it like that."
"No, . . . of course you didn't mean it like that," I said with a bitterness leaking into my soft sound. But catching a glance from Ruby's big baby browns and feeling thoughts of soft skin against my fingers, I was willing to forgive her. "Can you stay?" I asked trying to be flirtatious.
"I wish I could but duty calls." Watching her moon over the pretty little fish, I hoped she would change her mind. "I should warn you; it's going to be a tough few days. If you haven't figured it out yet, this place tends to attract creeps of the highest and lowest order and we don't need anymore problems then we have."
"So I've been told," I reminded myself.
"It'd be best just to steer clear of anyone until I get back." Half breaking my heart, she got up to leave. "Now, if you need anything," Ruby's voice deepened, "go to Mary Lou. She's my girl and takes care of everything."
Mary Lou? . . . Well, it would figure.
A Novel by Thunder Falcon
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