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23 July 2006
Officer and a Shaman
BY WALTER D. REIMER
An Officer and a Shaman
© 2006 by Walter D. Reimer
August 12, 1935
“Fishing?” Thomas Windsong echoed, cocking his head quizzically. “You say that the Bear was fishing? What, like a wild bear?” he asked.
“No, Doc,” Luke said, “like you or I – with a rod and line. Pretty good at it, too; I saw him playing a salmon while we spoke.”
The equine nodded slowly, glancing up at the afternoon sun. Luke had come to him after lunch to apologize for leaving so quickly the previous night. Sarkozy was still asleep, which was to be expected after losing so much blood, and after completing his written report Luke had gone to meet with the shaman again.
Luke leaned forward in his chair and studied his paws. “I’m not sure what to make of it,” he said. “Everything Mother Hanakan taught says that I should get some straight answers once in a while. But the Bear just stood there and fished. It was like he was laughing at me,” he said, a note of irritation creeping into his voice.
“Hmm,” Windsong mused, moving out of his chair and taking a seat on the grass. “I can hazard a guess or two,” he said as he sipped at his iced tea.
“I’m all ears, Doc.”
“Funny, you don’t look like a hare,” and both furs laughed at the small joke. “Well,” the horse said finally, “I think that the Bear doesn’t want you fishing for information with him. You have to look for it yourself.”
Luke shook his head and his ears flicked as he said, “I was hoping he’d help me out – at least let me know if I’m on the right track.”
The shaman nodded. “Another thing just occurred to me, too – he might be a bit cross with you for having tried to ignore him all this time. Do you have time to take a walk?” he asked, gesturing with a jerk of his shoulder toward the small sweat lodge in one corner of the yard.
Luke considered for a moment as he looked at the squat dome of stretched hides, then nodded his head.
The otter shed his clothes as Thomas made up a small fire, arranging the flue so that the heat would be conducted into the small shelter. Then the shaman stripped and the two entered the lodge. There they breathed deeply of the hot air, Thomas’ voice softly chanting as an anchor, something to tie their spirits to the lodge so that they would not lose track of their bodies when it came time to go back.
Luke’s eyes closed.
When he reopened them he stood on a flat and featureless plain, the same darkly threatening sky overhead. A horse overlaid with a badger-like shadow told him that Thomas was with him, watching.
Then the Bear was there.
Faced with his spirit guide, Luke felt suddenly tongue-tied. “Look,” he finally said, “if you’re angry at me, I apologize.”
The Bear seemed amused. “Your confusion is what barred me from you,” It said.
The otter considered this, feeling a bit foolish. He had resisted when the Bear first came to him, thinking it odd that the totem would seek him out. “But you are listening now,” the Bear said, “and that is good. You need to listen more, so that the darkness you see will stay away.”
Luke drew a deep, shuddering breath of the hot, stuffy air, sweat matting down his fur. He blinked and looked at Thomas, who was studying him with a questioning look. “Did you get that?” the otter asked.
“Most of it,” the town’s shaman replied. “Luckily Badger talks to Bear at times. I don’t often get to overhear their conversations,” he added in an almost wistful tone, “but I did catch what He said to you. Care to try again?”
Luke shook his head. “I have to get back to work,” he said. “Besides, I wouldn’t be able to keep myself centered properly. Linda’s expecting, almost any day now, you see.”
“Ah.” The two men got out of the sweat lodge and bathed quickly after retrieving their clothes. Luke shook paws with the shaman before promising to come back again and heading back to the town.
Kyuquot was a fairly small town with only two saloons and a diner (although one could eat, and eat well, at the Workingmen’s Hall by the docks). Being a small town, news traveled fast and gossip even faster, so when the fox and the lynx sat down for supper at the diner’s small lunch counter they didn’t need to strain to hear what was going on.
It was necessary to maintain their cover, so the lynx had worked for the day at the sawmill north of the town, while the fox had worked at a handyman’s trade, doing odd jobs. Both of them had gotten paid for their work, and had met at the diner to eat and compare notes.
“I hear he’s one of them Russki spies from Vostok,” a grizzled old bear said in a raspy voice to no one in particular as he shoveled apple pie into his mouth. “They shoulda shot him, or let him bleed.”
“Ah, shut yer mouth, Jackson,” an equally elderly mink said as he cleaned his plate with a biscuit. “’Sides,” he remarked, “I heard he was Red Fist, from out New Haven way.” He pushed his plate away and picked up a glass of apple juice. “I’m glad to live here, I’m telling you.”
The fox glanced at the lynx, who asked, “Excuse me, but who are you talking about?”
The bear cocked an eyebrow at his accent. “Canuck, are ya?” When the lynx nodded he replied, “Had a guy get arrested yesterday, and the damn fool tried to kill himself last night.”
“Any idea what he looked like?” the fox asked. “My cousin was last seen headed over this way from Calgary.”
Jackson looked the fox up and down. The vulpine was tall and well-muscled, with fur of a reddish-gold that must have surely made him a hit with the ladies. “No, looked nothing like you,” he said as he finished his meal and paid his bill. “Short gray-furred little guy.”
The fox nodded. “Wasn’t him then,” he conceded. “Thanks.”
The bear acknowledged him with a grunt as he ambled out of the diner. The lynx and the fox paid their bills and stepped out into the early evening.
“Peaceful, eh,” the lynx observed.
“Right about that, Bob,” the fox replied as he shouldered his tools. “So, what d’you think? Dead end here?”
“Hmm. No, Doug, I think we should hang around here a bit longer. Remember what that bear said – he was short and had gray fur.” He pitched his voice lower as the two walked past a small shop. “And they did tell us that he’d probably dyed his fur.”
“Well, only one way to find out,” the fox mumbled, “but I vote we get some sleep and start out fresh in the morning.” He grinned. “I hear that these people like to vote on things.”
“Yeah,” Bob grumbled, “when they’re not trying to steal workers away from us.” The two walked to the docks, and found a pair of empty cots at the Workingmen’s Hall for the night.
The sun was setting, and its light shone through an open window when Sarkozy slowly drifted awake. He felt so stiff and weak, and at first he had no recollection of what he had done. Memories came back in a rush, however, when he saw the bandages on his wrist. He tried to sit up, but failed and subsided to the bed with a soft groan of frustration.
“Ah, I see you’re awake now,” and the fox turned his head to see a red squirrel close the book he had been reading and lay it aside. “I’m Dr. Travers. Would you like something to eat?”
“Why . . . why did you not let me die?”
The squirrel smiled gently. “Because it’s my job, old boy. I’m a doctor, you know. Now, you lie quietly and I’ll get you something to eat. Oh, and don’t bother getting up; you’re strapped to the bed.” The squirrel got to his feet and walked out of the room, while Sarkozy tested the straps that held his ankles and waist fast to the bed. He gave up trying to fight free of the restraints, and lay there panting as Travers returned with a bowl of soup.
“Now, I’m not going to let you gorge yourself,” the doctor said as he placed the soup on a small table and moved it to within easy reaching distance. “And perhaps you could satisfy my curiosity. Your name, for example.”
The slim fox spooned up some of the soup and took his time before replying, “My name is Ferenc Sarkozy. They say I have done terrible things, but I am only trying to get away.”
“Get away? From whom or what?” Travers asked.
August 13, 1935
“Now, don’t forget,” Luke told his wife as he got ready to leave their house, “I’ll be stopping by for lunch. And you,” he paused to kiss her, “remember what Mother Jezebel said, and keep off your feet as much as you can.”
Linda grinned at her husband. “I will. You get along to work.”
He left the house and took the bus into town, pausing in his walk from the bus stop to the police station. Should he check up on Sarkozy first? He considered for a moment, wondering if Pete would want him to, then headed up the hill to Doc Travers’ house.
“Doc? Hey, Doc!” he called out several minutes later, his fist rapping on the front door of the red squirrel’s house.
“Come on in,” Travers’ voice responded. “I’m in the surgery.” Luke pushed the door open and walked in.
In the brightly sunlit room at the back of the house he found the prisoner sitting up in bed as the doctor patiently replaced the bandage on the fox’s wrist. Travers looked up while taping the bandage tight and said, “Good to see you, Officer Kelso. Just finished changing the dressing on your friend here – ah, there we are,” he remarked, sitting back on his stool. “He has a most interesting story to tell.”
“I wouldn’t put much stock in his stories, Doc,” Luke said. “He’s charged with fraud, and a good swindler tells a lot of lies.”
“I am no liar,” Sarkozy sniffed disdainfully.
“That so?” Luke asked. “How do you explain the charges from Canada, then?”
“They want me back,” the fox said quietly. “They will say what they want, if it can bring me back to them.”
Luke crossed his arms across his chest and leaned against the doorjamb. He studied the slim fox as if he were some kind of insect he’d caught scaling his bathroom wall when he suddenly recalled what the Bear had told him the previous afternoon.
Well, there was no harm in just listening to what the fox had to say, so Luke nodded. “I’m listening. Talk to me.”
Sarkozy looked at the doctor, who nodded before turning away to put away his scissors and adhesive tape. “I . . . I was a teacher, at the University of Budapest,” Sarkozy said. “I taught math and physics, and did research. I was too small, you see, to fight in the Great War, but there was need for men of science afterward.” The fox met the otter’s gaze and held it. He didn’t look away, or fidget nervously as he spoke.
“You know, of course, about the Germans,” the fox went on, lifting his uninjured paw and scratching at his chest fur. “Any fool could see that another war could start in Europe, and I wanted no part of it.
“So, I ran away, and I have been running.”