return to the hompage of police, law enforcement and criminal justice personnel who have authored books

Criminal Investigation (7th Edition)
James N. Gilbert  More Info
Criminal Investigation: Essays and Cases
James N. Gilbert  More Info
The Military-Writers.com 2010 Book of the Year.

Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph
Richard Botkin  More Info
The MIlitary-Writers 2009 Book of the Year.

Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery
Nick Popaditch  More Info
The Military-Writers 2007 Book of the Year.

Leadership: Texas Hold 'Em Style
Andrew J. Harvey  More Info

 

U.S. Cavalry

 

 Shop CHIEF

 

 

 

USAMilitaryMedals.com Military Medals Store

 

 

 

Police Officer Books

The Saga of Standing Soldier

Home | By Police Department | By Police Officer | By Police Subject | Law Enforcement Books by State | Other Law Enforcement Writers | Annual Recognition | Watering Hole | Poetry, Prayers and More | Police Leadership | Police Officer Gifts | Contact Us | Book Reviews | Police and Law Enforcement News | Police Training | FAQs | Press Releases | Link Directory | Advertise | Site Map

By James Gilbert

Standing Soldier wanted ice badly.  His body was on fire and his mouth dirt dry. Consciousness had come slowly to him and when it had, he dearly wished it hadn’t.  Actually, he had been conscious for three hours fighting the panic.  Resisting the urge to look, and see the truth.  He didn’t look then, knowing what would be there.  Wreckage.  A strong man reduced to a dependent pathetic mess.  And that was unthinkable for Standing Soldier.  Just unthinkable.

For Standing Soldier was (or had been) a very strong man.  A cop.  An Oglala Sioux Indian.  How he was a shattered man.  All claims to being a proud Sioux, much less a cop, were in the past.  His dry tongue sought out moisture in the furrows of his mouth.  They wouldn’t let him drink, not even a piece of ice.  Standing Soldier focused one gazed out at himself, again.  It was as if two people were lying in the hospital bed.  One thinking and looking, the other a stranger, badly mutilated and hurting.  He saw the tubes running from every opening in his body but his ears.  Bottles suspended from his upper body.   Liquid cruising through thin plastic tubes.  Gauges, numbers flicking with quick, intermittent gleams.  All into the stranger lying in the bed.  He accepted his situation as a very bad one.  It was the way he has been raised by both father and grandfather.  To accept, accept the world as it was.  Accept your place, who you were, what you were.  He had accepted, not fighting the white world like so many of his brothers.  As with his acceptance he also became a protector to his people.  A “dog soldier,” the old Sioux term that signified the Indian police officer. 

            Organized in the late 1880s, the Indian police originated as a scruffy band of warriors who policed the Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  They were historically dominated by the reservation superintendent and federal government, but were not an independent group supervised by the tribal council. 

            Like his grandfather before him, Standing Soldier proudly waited until the correct age before joining the Bureau of Indian Police.  The memory of his first duty day in June of ’72 still glowed before him.  He had picked up his uniform from the reservation tailor and driven home for judgment.  His pride, the serious acceptance of the heavy responsibility that went with the blue uniform, clung to him like the dust the shadowed the reservation year round.  The silent nod of acceptance and repressed smile of joy from his wife, the shriek of laughter from his small daughter; it meant much.  But his father’s acceptance meant more.  He patiently waited outside the old man’s room.  The old one was sleeping, a mid-day relief from the rigors of being in one’s eighties.   So he waited, and when he heard his father coming from his room he rose.  One Who Sees stopped and stared at his son.  He saw Standing Soldier’s pride and knew it was good.  “Wa ste chea,” the old man softly whispered, the Lakota words for pride.  “I see your grandfather in you.  I am allowed much happiness today.”  Standing Soldier embraced the old man gently. 

            Yes, it was a wonderful memory, to have been filed for old age.  To have been carefully reviewed in private, after a 30-year police career.  Standing Soldier thought of the memory now, nine year later, and his instincts told him that old age was not to be.  He was dying.  The five massive intestinal wounds from the shotgun had not killed him a week ago, but they were slowly accomplishing their purpose now.  He closed his eyes.  And he remembered. 

             Policing on the Ridge, as the Sioux reservation was locally known, was no routine task.  A cop, particularly an Indian, walked a wire-thin line among a people who had a fierce pride but lied in gut-wrenching poverty.  It was a combination of the worst of Harlem and the best of rural America.  Alcoholism, child abuse, countless assaults, and a host of other problems were daily occurrences throughout the 4,000-square-mile reservation.  But you also found strong family ties, pride in a people, and lasting concern for one’s neighbor.  It was all mixed together in a swirling government-controlled prairie in the middle of nowhere.  Into this, Standing Soldier threw himself with dedication.  No near-sighted idealist (for he was full-blooded and had lived among the Sioux all his life), yet far from a militant, he truly walked the line.  Whites on one side, red on the other, and blue in the middle. 

            He was patrolling in the old Checker squad car.  It was eternally dusty, had crooked aerials, and was dented like it had been through a meteor shower.   But it always got the job done.   Bordeaux was in the back seat, behind the rested prisoner cage, drunk as a skunk.  Descendant of the early French trappers who had settled in the area, Bordeaux was a regular.  Half French, half Sioux, he needed constant tending.  Standing Soldier stumbled across him in the middle of the road, lying half in and half out of his pitted Dodge.  He was laughing and talking to himself with the glee only a chronic drunk can generate.  This was a twice monthly occurrence, almost always necessitating a trip to the village of Porcupine to drop him off with his wife and seven surviving children.  This day, however, Standing Soldier would not reach Porcupine.  For this day truly began the end of his life. 

            Standing Soldier could sense the trouble in her voice.  Valerie, the dispatcher, was normally very cool, almost nonchalant on the radio.  But it was there, the hesitation, emphasis; it meant trouble. 

            “IB-6, unknown trouble, North Ridge Grocery.  Unknown reporting party was just there, said the place just wasn’t right, and hung up.”

            “10-4, Val, heading for it now.”  That was the gist of it, short and sweet.  But it turned very bitter. 

            He parked the Checker along the windowless side of the isolated grocery, which catered to the sparse Indian population that ranched and farmed the north ridge area.  There were no alarming sounds, but he could hear soft conversations as he walked lightly up the wooden stairs.  Standing Soldier was no fool; he looked in first.  A young white male and female were talking with Neil cloud, the owner.  Neil looked pale was al, just a little pale. 

            Standing Soldier walked in through the open door and instinct took over, for it was then that his brain caught his feet.  “The hands, always look for the hands; it’s the hands that hurt.”  His grandfather’s words of advice echoed through his mind.  He couldn’t see the male’s hands; the girl was standing in front of him.  “How you doing today, Neil?”  Something was wrong; no doubt about it.  Neil looked toward the boy as if to ask permission to speak.  Standing Soldier focused on the boy, locking in on the features first; white male, 5 feet, 10 inches, 16 to 18, thin, bad complexion, short blond hair, eyes cold and dilated.  But what really disturbed Standing Soldier was how he smiled and slowly pushed the girl aside.  And showed his hands. 

            The images evaporated as the hospital door opened and slammed against the empty bed next to Standing Soldier’s.  It was Wayne Westkamp and Heath, faces set for the worst.  Westkamp was assistant chief of the bureau of Indian Police; Heath, the FBI special agent from Rapid City.  “Don’t talk, Sam, we just came to see you, fill you in as best we can,” said Westkamp.  Standing Soldier slowly nodded; he hated the nickname Sam.  Westkamp was White, and, like most whites on the department, felt uncomfortable calling him Standing Soldier.  “He’s still out there, Sam, the girl too, but it shouldn’t be much longer,” said Heath.  Heath spoke slowly, with a clipped ‘I’m better than you’ back-East accent.  He was tall and well-tailored, the perfect example of the new FBI.  A young, open-minded guy, he worked a case until it squeaked.  Heath came from the Boston office to the wilds of South Dakota and northwest Nebraska as one of the resident agents.  He loved the Blue skies, the rough weather, and the lack of crap in the office.  He swore many times to Standing Soldier that if they ever tried to transfer him back East, he’d quit on the spot. 

            “Neil’s dead, he was DOA from the start,” Heath continued.  “They must have hit him right after they finished with you, Sam.”  Standing Soldier watched heath carefully, for they had worked many previous cases, growing close during the years.  They had daughters about the same age, believed in similar principles, and were “$14,000 apart in income.  Heath’s eyes wandered down the tangled mess of Standing Soldier’s body until they fixed on his lower abdomen.  Standing Soldier saw the moistness well up, and saw Heath fight for control.  “We’ve got roadblocks everywhere, questioning everybody.  So far Bordeaux’s our best bet.  He heard and saw it all from your car.  Sobered real fast at the shots and peeked out the back window as they stole Neil’s car.  He’s plenty scared though, knows they’d have cut him in two if they had seen him.”  Heath didn’t know what else to say and fell silent. 

            Westkamp had watched Standing Soldier while Heath spoke.  He didn’t like what he saw.  His best Indian officer – no, his best officer – chopped up like he’d been gored by three bulls.  He’d catch the hyped-up bastard who did it and squeeze his neck until his brains spewed out his ears.   He reached out and placed his hand on Standing Soldier’s arm, trying to find a spot free of the tubes and feeding lines.  The futility of his anger drained it of force as quickly as it welled up.  “I can’t catch anyone, not anyone,” he thought.  “Two years to retirement and I just want to make it in one piece.”  The often-vicious life of the reservation cop had left its mark on Wayne Westkamp.  Knife scars, cigarette burns, and even two arrow wounds were evidence of his 12 years on patrol.  Looking at Standing Soldier made him feel lucky, and want out. 

            Heath felt awkward during the brief silence, which seemed like hours.  He didn’t want to see his friend like this, a guy who’d been so big that he cracked the wind like a semi as he walked.  And the smell in the room was making him feel ashamed for wanting to leave.  “Maybe we’ll have some photos tomorrow, Sam.  Washington is hustling on this one.”  Bureau headquarters was indeed hustling because of the sensitivity of the case, which happened on the same reservation that had produced the Wounded Knee confrontation of 1973, and the connected death of two FBI agents.   Although Heath doubted any connection, deep grudges still smoldered between the Indian police and American Indian Movement radicals, more than enough to provoke a revenge killing. 

             “You know he’s not going to make it,” Westkamp said.  They rode in the nondescript government auto, Heath driving.  Westkamp slumped in the seat beside him.  Westkamp was flushed, his heart still racing after the hospital visit. 

            “He’s not going to make it, and we’ve no real leads,” Heath said softly almost to himself.

            “But you said Bordeaux saw them!  Saw them come out, get into Cloud’s  . . .” Westkamp trailed off when he saw the sick look on the agent’s face. 

            “He was drunk off the scale, Wayne!  Took one quick look and nose-dived under the seats.  Christ, we even took him to our hypnotist three days ago.  He couldn’t tell us anything, nothing to add to the little Sam gave us.  Every time the hypnotist would take him back to the grocery, he’d act like he was drunk again!” 

            They turned from each other and watched the pines rush by, not really seeing them at all. 

             Standing Soldier waited until they left, sensed rather than saw the realization in their eyes, and wept.  It made the pain throughout his chest much worse to cry, so he stopped.  His emotions had alarmed the nurse monitoring the machines at the nurses’ station.  She arrived to medicate him.  Standing Soldier now closed his eyes when anyone from the hospital staff came into the room.  Doctors, nurses, attendants, the custodians, an endless army of prying eyes.   As soon as he heard the hydraulic hiss of the door opening, he’d lock his eyes tightly shut.  The shame of it.  He could not bear the shame of total dependency upon others.  Being gawked at like a freak.  Not after being the one who had been admired – providing, supporting and helping – not when the shotgun had taken away his ability to eat, walk and love.  It was over.  The hands had done it. 

            As the young man with the bad complexion pushed the girl from him, he raised the shotgun from behind his leg.  Standing Soldier had hunted prairie game since age nine, and knew shotguns.  This one looked like a mean snake.  He took it all in during the seconds in which it happened.  The memory flashed before him in distinct segments.  Just like watching slides with the family at Heath’s place.  Images projecting on his brain, out of control, clicking through.  Push girl, gun up, rack it, fire!  With no time to draw, Standing Soldier was in the act of diving behind cloud’s glass counter, filled with turquoise, when half of the shotgun’s pattern caught him in the gut.  No real pain at first, jut the force of it spinning him towards and out the door.  He lay on the steps looking up into the cloudless June sky, and heard poor Neil cloud plead for his life.  The shotgun ended Neil’s protests abruptly.  The gripping pain started, radiating back through his spine as he closed his eyes.  He felt them rush by and drive off.  One of them stepped on his outstretched arm as they fled.  Just one word, the boy to the girl, “Move!”

             Standing solder’s wife slowly rose from her kitchen chair and looked through the door at One Who Sees.  The old man sat in his son’s study, his bony frame settled in a chair like a sack of sticks, a red bandanna wrapped around his neck, which was no thicker than a fence post.  He sat, staring inward, lost in thought.  With the death of his wife five years past, his move to his son’s home had been quickly accomplished.  There had been no guilt, no resentment over the intrusion; that was the white world.  The Indian world exemplified the extended family concept.  Relatives, friends, even casual acquaintances lived with one another and shared. 

            Dorothy walked to the old man and lightly touched the back of his deeply wrinkled neck.  He was elsewhere.  She glanced around at Standing Soldier’s world.  Photographs of him proudly standing in his uniform, trunk of a chest puffed out.  Eighteen handgun trophies resting against a wall choked with plaques.  Her eyes came to rest on a bronzed nightstick given to Standing Soldier by the local 4-H Club.  The kids had given it to him for taking them to the state fair when one of the bulls made the finals.  Her throat tightened.  She suppressed a scream starting in her chest. 

            Dorothy glanced back to the old man, staring out the window now, mourning, at a place where only the Wicasa Waken, those who follow the holy like, knew intimately.  Standing Soldier’s father entered the Sioux holy life when he was 14.  A quiet introverted youth, much different from his boisterous peace office father, he fully embraced the sacred Sioux medicine Life after his dream.  The Sioux are called to the Life by being a descendant of a medicine man, or thorough a dream which guides them to the Life.  The dream had come in the fall.  Though he never revealed the substance of the dream, the following morning he presented himself before his father and announced his vision quest.  One Who Sees’ father, who had resembled Standing Soldier in size and exuberant nature, looked down at the youth and knew.  Words were not needed between the two.  The boy always had the ability to know one’s inner feelings, to see what was not there, yet there.  One Who Sees ascended into the hills, seeking total isolation.  He fasted for four days – the vision quest.  When he returned to the reservation village, all could tell by his face.  He had become one of the holy ones, a healer to the ill, interpreter of troubled dreams and visions, guardian providing countless services.  In a sense, a mystic cop. 

            At an early age it became evident that Standing Soldier would not go the holy way, but the way of his grandfather.  But One Who Sees’ influence had left its subtle touch upon him.  He too possessed the intuition and sensitivity, the acceptance of all things, natural and supernatural. 

            Dorothy knelt at the old man’s side and lightly rested her head in his lap.  One Who Sees rubbed her temple with his fingertips and softly chanted Standing Soldier’s name. 

             Heath had come into the hospital room quietly today.  He waited patiently while the nurses sponged Standing Soldier.  They chatted incessantly oblivious to the man they rinsed, acting as though they were the second crew at the car wash.  They left, still going o about a night supervisor.  Standing Soldier had lain rock-still throughout, the rhythmic flare of his nostrils the only indication that he lives. 

            Westkamp no longer came to visit.  He was drinking heavily now, gaining weight, going to fat, missing work frequently.  When Heath went to his mobile home, concerned that Wayne was going over the edge, Westkamp wouldn’t allow him to speak of Standing Soldier.  Wayne was through.  He couldn’t handle his administrative duties, and produced an endless stream of excuses when called upon to venture out into the field. 

            It has been three weeks since the shooting.  Standing Soldier had dropped from his admission weight of 196 to 130, and was visibly sinking into himself each day.  The doctors told Heath that he had totally lost the will to live and was literally forcing his own life from his body.  Heath dutifully reported the progress of the investigation to Standing Soldier each day now.  He never received a response or acknowledgement from his friend, whose eyes seemed eternally locked against the horror surrounding him.  “The two latents from Cloud’s car haven’t been made yet.  But we’re checking all regional and local sources; police department, sheriff’s offices, licensing agencies – you know, the usual.  He’s a local, Sam.  I’m sure of it.  We think the girl split on him shortly after the shooting.  Counterman at the bus station in Rapid gave a possible.  Denver office is on it full time.”  Heath spoke with false animation in his voice.  He was trying to carry the conversation for two, knowing Standing Soldier was listening.  “It was probably drug-related, don’t you think?  It smells like that sort of thing.”  Heath halted, the echo of the words seeming much too loud and forced.  He slowly exhaled and looked down at Standing Soldier.  Heath’s wife said he’d aged five years in three weeks.  “Nice of her to point that out, real sweet,” he thought.  But it was true.  “See you tomorrow, buddy.” 

            Heath bolder the room; he took in a deep breath in the hall and immediately felt ashamed.  In his haste to leave the room he nearly collided with the wimpy custodian dragging a huge bucket of disinfectant through the hall.  “Oh Christ, let me the hell out of here,” he thought and headed for the exit in near panic. 

             It has come to One Who Sees during the very early morning.  The memory of the vision was still very fresh, its colors still vivid, meaning puzzling.  He worked it over in his mind, knowing instinctively that it related to his son.  An evil one . . . in the form of the ferret.  He had been awake when it occurred, thinking of Standing Soldier, a boy of 12, weeping at his grandfather’s funeral.  Refusing to let go of the old one’s body.  There had been great love between the two.  The colors had then filled the corner of the room, undulating and twisting, forming into shape.  As a holy one he had experienced visions many times, naturally and peyote-induced.  He saw the swirling colors shape into the animal, which appeared twice its natural size.  Tones of green and yellow blended and circled around the image, creating a whirlwind of form.  A ferret, with slick shiny hair and cruel eyes, raised itself on hind legs and looked directly into One Who Sees’ eyes.  The old man swallowed, remembering how the chill had settled into him.  The swirling colors had then turned deep red behind the animal.  He closed his eyes, breathing rapidly, the final part of the vision terrifying him even now.  The ferret smiled a chilling predatory leer, revealing two rows of blood-stained razor teeth.  It began to shuffle towards him.  Clamped between the teeth was a large scrape of blue material secured to a single gold button.  The animal began to hiss, repeatedly. 

            The old man rose from the bed to gain control of his thought.  The memory released a flood of perspiration, chilling him.  The ferret had moved oddly towards him, as if dragging something with a hidden paw.  It advanced to within several feet, hissing louder as it drew nearer.  It stopped just inches from his face and finally vanished in an upward vortex of wind and color. 

            The vision was a warning.  It could not be denied.  The cloth was a uniform, a blue uniform, a police uniform. . . Standing Soldier’s uniform.  One Who Sees dressed, quickly.

             The night nurse was talking softly as she made the bed with him in it.  Belinda was one of Rapid city General’s best.  Grossly overweight and spilling with compassion, she had fought illness with a vengeance for 31 years, She was four times a grandmother, and just wanted to burst into tears every time she saw him.  “You’ve got to do better, honey, you’ve just got to.”  Multiple infections, abscesses, draining all over, Lord in heaven why?  She’d seen cadavers in nursing school that looked healthier than Standing Soldier.  She gave him a week, not a day longer.  She’d known Sam casually, before.  A crack of a grin crossed her face as recalled the image of him patrolling past her place in that toilet of a patrol car.  Oh my, look at him, will you just look.  He couldn’t be more than 95 pounds.  “There now, don’t you feel a whole lot better, Hon?”  The bed made, she snapped off the television, which she habitually turned on as she tidied up a patient.  A singing Muppet band faded from the screen. 

            Standing Soldier opened his eyes as the door hissed shut.  The darkened room settled around him.  The feeling was still there.  It had crept upon him during the early morning hours.  At first it was a non-specific, uneasy feeling, developing into a sense of alert, and finally danger.  The cop in him knew the felling well.  The same feeling you got at a mean family fight call.  Man and a woman, at each other with knives, pots, whatever.  Walking in and seeing them both turn towards you, venom in their eyes.  Unity now in the mutual hate of the new target.  Danger.  Don’t relax.  It could end up bad.  Real bad.  The instinct had always been strong, had only failed him once, really.  At Cloud’s North Ridge Grocery.  The feeling returned stronger now.  Someone, or thing, was coming for him, he just knew it.  The alarm buzzer on his bedside pump sounded, startling him.  The suspended bottle of liquid nutrients that fed him through the subclavian artery was now empty.  The bottles had to be changed every five hours.  He closed his eyes as the nurse’s footsteps neared. 

             Heath dug at the back of his neck.  It ached like sin on a holiday.  His office light was one of the few that burned in the federal building.  He was surrounded by piled of fingerprints cards that were so high they would have hidden him from anyone who tried to locate the body behind the desk.  Working his only lead, he drove himself at the cards.  He had been at it for seven hours since the others had left.  He was driven like a maniac.  The tiny ridges were running together badly now, and the fluorescent lights were burning his eyes crimson.  Heath had been an FBI fingerprint clerk, attending college at night, finally making special after eight years.  He knew prints.  And he knew the two latents before him were the only hope.  Elimination sets from Cloud, his family, friends, even the ten year old who had washed his car, had been taken.  No, the two latents were the suspect’s.  He was sure of it. 

            Operating on his hunch that the suspect was local, he’d badly neglected his other 16 active cases, gathering up fingerprint cards by the van load.  He focused on any local source where a young male would have been fingerprinted.  Washington had already computer-checked thousands of possibilities – arrest cards from the area already on file.  But there were hundreds of cards taken for lowly misdemeanors, people picked up for investigation and never charged, and the like, which never made it out of the police department.  And there were the non-criminal cards, from jobs that printed as a condition of employment.  He had them all. 

            With a sign, bordering a defeat, heath clutched a card, pressing the metal magnifying ridge counter to his eye.  The touch of it against the now reddened tissue made him grimace. 

             All who were needed were there.  The elders of the reservation, the 12 aged Wicasa Waken, with a combined age of nearly one thousand years.  One Who Sees had summoned them in the pre-dawn hours to his son’s home.  He quickly explained in Lakota the vision, his interpretations, and what had to be done.  The 12 nodded after the explanation, all knowing One Who Sees’ wisdom and clarity of purpose.  “The evil one will come to Standing Soldier.  I ask your help in the Yuwipi.”

            The ceremony of the Yuwipi, the ancient Sioux ritual of communication with the dead, was rarely enacted.  The Sioux greatly feared the dead and attempted communication through a medicine man only in the most extreme situations.  But the old man had senses the power of the vision, and knew only the highest powers could succeed against such an evil.  The memory of the ferret was so fresh that he was certain he heard the hiss still. 

            All fasted and meditated during the day.  Shortly before sunset they shuffled into Standing Soldier’s study, the plaques reflecting their movements.  They divided into four groups.  One Who Sees stood facing them in the center of the room.  The number four holds tremendous significance for the Sioux, representing the four directions of the earth.  Its presence in some form is essential to the success of any ceremony.  One Who Sees began to chant, the others following in song and drum.  After many songs to the dead and the Great Spirit, One Who Sees was bound securely, as dictated by the rites of ancient proceeding.  The star blanket was thrown across his shoulders.  Beneath the knotted ropes ad blanket he held a faded tintype image, and wore the heavy woolen overcoat – the coat of his father, thick and blue, with five stout gold buttons.  As the room fell into total darkness, chants rising in sound and tempo, he hummed the ancient songs while fingering the raised letters of the buttons.  The letters were still sharp on the raised surface, I and P.  Indian Police.

            The ceremony lasted four hours.  All who were present agreed later that such power was rarely witnessed.  Following the ceremony the exhausted men removed the blanket from One Who Sees and saw the power.  The ropes were untied, the ancient proof of communication.  The old man was clearly spent, his body bathed in perspiration.   He has traveled far, and at the end of his journey, spoken his request.

             Standing Soldier was in agony.  The synthetic morphine derivatives brought only surface relief.  The pain had fixed itself in an area directly above his solar plexus, spilling down into his abdomen.  The infection was running through his body, corrupting, unchecked.  Even his teeth had abscessed.  The feeling of imminent danger was so strong now that his eyes constantly swept the room in search of the hidden enemy.  The door opened.  His eyes clamped shut and slowly opened.  Standing Soldier immediately sensed his father, and looked toward him.  The old man walked to him gently placing his tanned hand against the burning forehead.   Standing Soldier nearly died at that moment, the relief of the touch was so powerful against the waves of pain rushing against him.

            He spoke, or rasped rather, in a voice not heard for weeks.  “Do you sense the danger, father?”  Something comes for me, soon.  The pain, so bad.  End it.”  The old man felt a sorrow unsurpassed in his eight decades of life.  “The circle completes soon, Standing Soldier.  I have brought these things for the danger; they must be kept close.”  He placed the patinaed tintype into his son’s hand, noting how tightly the bones and veins raised from the skin.  Removing the carefully folded overcoat from his arm, One Who Sees placed it on the single chair in the room.  He folded it in a natural manner, buttons carefully aligned.  The effort of speaking has exhausted Standing Soldier so that he lapsed into fitful sleep.  The old man moved to the window that faced the city park.  Whirling Frisbees, a brigade of joggers, couples locked against each other.  His eyes traveled upward to the Black Hills that framed the city.  Sacred land.  It was well that the room looked to them.  He moved to the foot of the bed, arms outraised, and began the intonation. 

             Standing Soldier woke with a wrenching start.  It was quite late.  Deep night.  His room was as dark as the other side of the moon. Only the bedside machines provided muted, flickering light.  The sparse hospital room had turned cold, colder than he could ever recall.  His heart was beating like a runaway jackhammer trying to fly through his sternum.  It was coming.  Never had he been so certain of anything.  It was close, and coming on.  He clenched his hands involuntarily, feeling the sharp edges of the tintype.  No need to look.  It has been his most valued possession, this tin image.  Minutely scrutinized countless times by a young Indian boy.  He had poured over the picture, trying to emulate its subject.  A massive man, his round gentle face pitted with childhood smallpox scars.  The wool uniform coat, Sharps rifle and oversized badge.  Sitting in a studio char, head frozen against the next brace holding him still for the exposure.  His grandfather, warrior cop, primed and full of life at 30 years of age, 1906.  The remembrance, the feel of the slick plate at his side, it somehow calmed him. 

             Heath was near total exhaustion.  Coat and tie off, rolled sleeves and open vest.  The cards to be examined were down to a stack of nearly 200.  They were non-criminal mostly, from job applicants from around the area.  He had made the latent match six cards when the knowledge of it, the realization, hit him like a kick in the scrotum.  He spewed cards to the floor as he whipped back to the matching card.  He had it.  Breathing deeply, he closed his eyes and opened the, and looked.  Ten whirling black blots named a killer.  The left index and thumb.  No doubt.  None!  His whole body trembled with the explosion of adrenalin.   “Now bastard . . . now,” he whispered to the empty squad room, “You’re mine.”  He reversed the card to read the identifying information and his eyes bulges with the shock.  The adrenalin high drained out of his body as quickly as it came, leaving him hollow and weak.  He fought the urge to urinate.  “Oh sweet Mary, Mother of God!”  Heath toppled from his chair, heading for the door.  His right hand pressed against the holstered revolver as he ran for the car.  

            The card had named the killer.  But it was the faded employment stamp, slapped on at a lazy angle by the bored personnel manager, that had got him moving.  It read in chilling block letters: APPLICANT: RAPID CITY GENERAL HOSPITAL.  POSITION: NIGHT CUSTODIAN.  (ACCEPTED)

             It was outside his door.  The shuffling, grating sound had advanced to his room ad stopped.  Standing Soldier waited, breathing shallowly, rapidly.  Eyes open now, he would at least see the evil before it. .. The door opened, its hydraulic hiss loud beyond reason.  He turned and saw the custodian, small in frame, with the cruel dead eyes that he could never forget. Into the room he came, dragging the disinfectant bucket behind him.  The door swung shut with a finality that made Standing Soldier want to vomit.  He stopped at the foot of the bed, lips forming into a smile.  “Hi, prairie nigger.  Remember me?”

            The custodian was a loser, had been from his first breath of life 19 years ago.  An amoral – animal-torturing, woman-hating bastard of a local whore.  The perfect psychopath.  A bomb of a brain waiting to flash, fuse sizzling shorted with each miserable day.  “I’m tired of waiting for you to go, man.  You’re making me nervous, you know, not dying.”  He spoke casually, flat.  Like when he had told the boys yesterday about the sucking night supervisor making him scrub the delivery room twice.  “You know, you really fooled me.  Lying out on those steps, blood all over you.  Man couldn’t be alive.  I should have known it‘d take two shots for a red pig.  Won’t happen again.”  He moved out of the light, back in to the darkness, setting the broom and bucket against the corner.  “Won’t be a minute now.” 

            There was electricity building in the room now, heavy, and becoming more intense each second.  The hair was standing up on the back of Standing Soldier’s neck and hands.  The custodian emerged from the darkness, the blade of the skinning knife catching the light from one of the bedside pumps.  “I’m going to give you a second mouth, Standing Soldier.  Right across your throat.”  And he walked toward him. 

            He would not yell.  Won’t try to stop him.  Bound to his bed with tubes, arms thin as pencils, body full of pus.  Let him do it . . . now.  Standing Soldier closed his eyes, waiting for the pain to end his greater pain.  The room seemed now to be almost vibrating with an energy tension of its own.  The custodian stopped, glancing about, confused.  Objects fell from the bedside table, spinning through the air.  The draped flapped a maddening rhythm, driven by an unseen force.  Standing Soldier’s vision was blurring, his thoughts clouding in the shock of it all.  There seemed to be a high pitch clearly audible now, coming from the darkened corner of the room, where the lone chair rested, blue coat carefully folded.  A burst of wind from nowhere whipped the tintype from his hand, the image spinning toward the chair. 

            The custodian stepped backward, mouth gone dry.  The movement in the chair stopped him, rooted him to the carpet.  Standing Soldier’s heart pounded savagely at the shock of the recognition, his left arm aching terribly.  The warrior was here for justice.  Standing Soldier accepted, and the circle closed. 

             Belinda heard the ruckus as she sat at her station reviewing surgical prep slips for the morning.  “Now what?”  At first she thought it was the antiquated air conditioning system gone haywire again.  Down the hall, by Standing Soldier’s room she heard swirling noises, blowing and bumping.  It was the high nasal scream, echoing down the hall, that propelled her to her feet, softball—sized needs crashing into her desk.  “Hold on now!” She yelled to nobody in particular, and lumbered down the hall, one prep slip still in hand. 

            Twenty steps from Standing Soldier’s door a second scream ran up her spine.  Everyone on the floor was awake now, frightened, calling out.  She seized the door knob, the sweat making a tight grip difficult.  It wouldn’t budge.  It was as though a sucking wind was pulling it back to the frame with each try.  She heard Heath’s footsteps pounding up the stairs and down the hall.  Looking like a deranged escapee form the mental floor, he shoved her aside and slammed his body repeatedly against the door.  It just would not give.  The crashing and swirling was growing louder and more intense.  “Come on, pull with me!” he yelled above the din.  With mutual effort they succeeded in pulling the door open a crack.  Straining to hold against the opposite pressure, he angled his head, squinting into the room.  The sight found a lifelong place in a dark corner of his mind.  A human-shaped mass, funneling and twisting, had the custodian off the ground.  By his neck.  The door sucked closed.

            They stood listening, looking at each other, helpless.  Words were useless against the power within the room.  It ended suddenly when a heavy weight crashed against the door form inside.  The calm stunned them into immobility.  It took them both to push the door open with the weight of the custodian’s body wended against it.  Heath stared at the body sprawled on the floor, head angled unnaturally, like one of his daughter’s cast-off dolls.  Belinda rushed to Standing Soldier, thinking he had never looked so at peace in all the time he’d been there. 

             One Who Sees watched the white ceremony from the hilltop.  So many had come, most in uniform, their badges catching the sun and flashing.  He had never witnessed a police funeral before, and found the formality and stiffness distasteful; it was not the Indian way.  Standing Soldier had died that night, as his father knew he must.  A massive coronary.  Family and friends had elected not to attend the white ceremony.  They waited quietly in the shade pines for the uniformed mass to leave.  Dorothy and the other women stood away from the men, black shawls framing their faces.  Standing Soldier would be given to the Great Spirit in the Indian manner, wrapped in the blue wool coat, his body placed beside his grandfather.  They would be together, as they had always been.

            The honor guard fired the final salute.  Heath and Westkamp walked through the parking lot, the dust rising in puffs from the loose gravel.  Police cruisers dodged them, hustling back to the five states form which they came.  They were shadowed figured through the windshields, subdued, grim at the loss of yet another.  Heath and Westkamp neared the government auto, each with his own thoughts.  Westkamp fumbled for a smoke, wanting a drink badly.  The agent watched the Indians on the knoll. 

            “How did you report it, Heath?”

            “Just like it happened.  The suspect was killed in self-defense by the victim.  Asphyxiated, with a resultant broken neck.”

            They glanced at each other, then away.  Wayne walked around to the driver’s side and got in.  “Come on, heath, it’s over.”  Heath stood staring at the flag-draped casket.  Only when One Who sees crossed his line of vision, leading the others, did he leave. 

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A former police officer with the Berkeley Police Department (California), James N. Gilbert joined the University of Nebraska (Kearney) as the Criminal Justice department as Chair in 1988.  Dr. James N. Gilbert received his BC from California State University, Long Beach; his MS from Eastern Kentucky University; and, his Ph.D., from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is the author of Criminal Investigation and Criminal Investigation: Essays and Cases.

 
 

© 2006 - 2011 Raymond E. Foster, Hi Tech Criminal Justice

© 2006 Hi Tech Criminal Justice, Raymond E. Foster

Disclaimer