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Dire Wolf of the Quapaw, a Jubal Smoak Mystery

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Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1 - Dire Wolf of the Quapaw

Submitted: March 11, 2019

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Comments: 4

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Submitted: March 11, 2019

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Chapter 1

Redhand shot me in the back.

Felt like a blacksmith had whacked my right shoulder blade with a hot iron. The impact spun me around, knocking me to the ground.

Wasn’t the first time. He’d shot me in July of aught-eight. Shot me from the back then, too, but the slug from his rifle only creased my neck and lower jaw. Left me with a dandy scab and a bit tongue. Hurt like hell; otherwise, hadn’t harmed me much. That first time, I’d followed Redhand into Liberal, Kansas where he and his bunch had gone to deposit two hundred head of stolen cattle. They’d cut the animals from a bigger herd off the Burnett outfit up out of North Texas on the trail crossing the Comanche reservation land they called Big Pasture. Also shot up the ramrod and four other drovers in the process, killing one. Don’t know if Redhand had done the killing, but as the leader, he’d still hang for murder. I’d been sent to arrest Crow, along with as many of his gang as I could, and bring them back to stand trial in Guthrie, the capital city of the brand-new state of Oklahoma.

The incident in Liberal was the first time I’d come to meet Redhand. Although I’d been told by several people what a ruthless and cold-blooded sumbitch he was, I was still not prepared for his out and out meanness.

The outlaw – a member of the Quapaw tribe – and his boys got away after he shot me in Liberal. Shot his way through my possemen, too, and on out of town.

This second time, he was closer and took better aim. Expect he meant to kill me, but I moved sideways the instant he pulled the trigger. Some folks would call that blind luck. I can’t say it wasn’t. Things like that happen to me.

Seems I tend to have that kind of instinct in critical situations—the ability to escape death, if not personal injury. It has happened often enough to where I can’t lay it all on plain luck. Don’t really know how to explain it. Tried in my own mind, thinking on it long and hard at times, like when I was laid up in that Army hospital in Denver. Just seems like I know to make some move when calamity is about to strike. Move enough to perhaps keep disaster from becoming fatal. My momma told me it’s a guardian angel. Suppose it could be. Although, I never really held to that sort of thing. Besides, I figure any guardian angel worth her salt would be able to move me more than just partly out of harm’s way. I just think a person sometimes has extra-sense glimpses that affect his actions. Some more than others like me. The closest I can come to describing it is like having one of those déjà vu things before it even happens . . . like a déjà vu of a déjà vu. Hell, I don’t know.

Take that polo accident. Before it occurred, I knew it was going to happen.  Also knew that a thousand pounds of horse would crush me, so I made a move to dismount. Didn’t really foresee it so much as just sense it. Had to be . . . un-thought out, because no rational mind would consider getting off a galloping horse amid others doing the same. This all took place in fractions of a second, and the movement my body made to get off the horse probably saved my life. Anyhow, that’s the way I considered it later with all that time I had to lay in that hospital bed and think about it.

We were up around Fairland, Oklahoma when I took that second bullet from Crow. Been about a year after the first. Three weeks earlier I just started work out of the U.S. Marshal’s office in Tulsa when word came in him and his gang had robbed a bank in the town of Picher, killing a man in the process. I was still on his trail for that cattle stealing, plus the charges added after him shooting me in Liberal—assault on a Federal officer, attempted murder, that sort of thing—when his latest escapade came across the wire.

became a suspect for multiple homicides that’d taken place near the town of Miami a day after the Picher robbery. Three people named Jakes—two brothers and a woman, the wife of one of them—brutally murdered, and there was a good chance that number could rise to four. The fourth victim, a twelve-year-old blind boy, survived the attack but was critically injured with several slashing animal bites. Not sure he could identify Redhand as the killer, the kid being blind and all, but maybe he could tell us something if he survived.  He was in a coma at the hospital in Miami where they took him.

It took me a day to ride up there. I went to Freeman’s Mortuary first to see the victims.

 Crow Redhand was a Quapaw. The Jakes were Quapaw. He grew up in that area, the sheriff in town told me Redhand knew the victims. Despite his reputation, most around there didn’t think him capable of committing such a crime. Wasn’t so sure based on my own experience. Crow was a mean and ruthless cuss, and is, most killings come by the hand of relatives or acquaintances. On the other hand, after seeing the bodies, I did start to wonder. He, sure enough, put a bullet in my and was a part of two other killings, but the bodies were so mangled it could only have been done by a madman. Not that Crow was sane, just not that insane.

undertaker, man named Ted Freeman, said he’d seen a lot, but nothing like this, not from the hand of a human, anyway.

“When I first started out up in Montana, a man was once brought in mauled by a grizzly. That was the worst condition I ever saw in a killed human body . . . up ‘til now,” he told me.

My reservations about Crow as the killer were further reinforced after I interviewed the person who discovered the dead Jakes.

A neighbor to the slain family – an old Quapaw man called Long Walker – and the Jakes brothers were supposed to go hunting that morning. But the men didn’t show at the agreed-upon spot and time, so Long Walker returned to his cabin. Said sometimes that happened. He didn’t think anything about it. Along about noon, a loud bang rattled his door. He went to investigate and found a big rock thrown against it, but no one was around. Thought maybe it was one of the Jakes. A bad feeling came over him, so he went to their cabin. Found a grisly scene: the men’s bodies ripped to shreds, the woman eviscerated, the walls and furniture awash with blood. It filled him with terror.

I went to the crime scene after the bodies were removed, but I could still envision the horror of it. The remains of the carnage made me swallow my gorge more than once.

A raging snowstorm swept through the bitter winter night of the killings. The four Jakes were viciously attacked in their beds. Anyway, that’s where the boy and his mother were found. It looked like the two men put up a fight, but it didn’t appear they had much of a chance. Long Walker found the boy, but he wasn’t slashed like the others. He was bitten savagely. The old shaman carried him into town to the hospital.

All the violence and mayhem turned the inside of that little cabin into a slaughterhouse. The door was smashed in, kicked from the outside. The cabin was half-filled and drifted with snow from the blizzard, the bodies frozen where they died. The crime scene was badly corrupted by all the coming in and taking out of the bodies, but I found bloody tracks on the floor. I brushed away some of the trampled snow to find more—one human, several . Hard to tell how many, but all canine. I didn’t know enough about tracking to know if they were dogs or wolves. One set was particularly big.

At Freeman’s make-shift morgue, I saw the horror-stricken expressions of the victims still preserved from their freshly murdered state. Long Walker said the boy was under a buffalo robe, the body of his ma laying atop it. A curious thing, he said. It looked like someone placed the boy on the bed and covered him with the robe. Maybe the last act of his dying mother to try to save him? Long Walker didn’t think so. The woman was too mangled to do that. Said more likely her body was put atop the robe to keep it from blowing off. Hard to imagine such a violent and cruel killer taking time to do that. The doctor said the cold probably kept him from bleeding to death, but the body of his mother and the buffalo robe stayed him from freezing. It was a miracle he survived either, bleeding or freezing to death.

Evidence showed the Jakes brother named Elam fired shots from his pistol, a Schofield .45, which was still in his stiff hand when the undertaker came to gather what was left of the bodies. I found two shell casings from .50-70 cartridges on the cabin floor, but the rifle from which they came, was nowhere to be found. My guess, the killer took it with him, along with the ammunition for it. In all the blood, it was hard to tell if any shots hit the assailant or assailants, but no blood trail led from the cabin.

With the boy’s bite marks, the undertaker’s killing by animal theory was likely. However, I found part of a snow-covered handprint on the tabletop, a bloody human handprint. I brushed away the snow to reveal all of it. A large handprint, the left one. It was too big to be the print of any of the deceased, even that of old Long Walker. There were triangular-shaped dots of blood an inch or two beyond the fingertips, like the tips you’d see in a bear track left by claws or that of a wolf. A damn big wolf. Only the print wasn’t a bear or wolf track, or that from any other animal. It was distinctly human. There were plenty of horse and boot tracks outside and inside the cabin, but they were from the men who came to remove the bodies and those of the undertaker. Impossible to determine if any were the killer’s. Although the inside of the small cabin was wrecked, it didn’t appear anything else had been taken . . . besides the rifle, I mean.

Redhand was still a suspect, but only by reputation. He was Quapaw by blood, but no evidence came up to suggest he or his men had been there. No immediate discernment as to motive.

“What do you know about these killings?” I asked Long Walker. “You see or hear anything?” His shack, where he lived alone, stood about a half mile from the Jakes’s in amongst a throng of willows that crackled against the outsides of the hovel in the winter wind. The man was on my initial list of suspects, but not likely. He was ancient and . . . you couldn’t say frail-looking, but boney and bent. Even with tools, I didn’t see him generating enough force to cause the damage I saw. Plus, he was visibly shaken, truly frightened.

Long Walker didn’t answer, only stared into the flames in his fireplace.

“Did the Jakes own a rifle?” I held out the brass I’d found at the scene. “I found these, but not the rifle.”

“Sam has a Spencer,” the old man said.

“You didn’t by chance take it when you were over there, did ya?”

He looked at me with astonishment and shook his head.

“You know a man named Crow Redhand?” I asked the old man.

Long Walker nodded.

seen him around here?”

“Crow Redhand did not do this thing,” he quietly said to me.

“No? You know who did?”

He held his stare into the flames for some time before he answered. “It was the wolf of the ancients.” He turned his black eyes to me. Cold fear flickered there when he said it. He stared back into the fire again, seeking comfort and refuge in its light and warmth.

What he said confused me. “Beg pardon?”

He studied the flames. It took him a few seconds to respond.

“The Dire Wolf killed the Jakes,” he said.

“Who’s this Dire Wolf?” I asked. Figured he was talking about someone he knew.

He spoke in a whisper, almost reverently. “The Dire Wolf is the curse of the Downstream People, the . He is an evil spirit of the Quapaw.”

I sighed and shook my head, knowing how these old Indians liked to throw in a bunch of mythical tribal mumbo-jumbo and superstition to deflect blame from someone they knew. “Well, you know where I can find this Dire Wolf fella?” I asked.

“He cannot be found,” the old man said.

“Really. You have reason to believe he’s taken off to other parts?”

He said nothing for a full quarter minute, his black eyes intently on mine, searching. I could see contempt in them and . Made me nervous.

“No,” old Long Walker answered at last. “He has not departed. Now that he has awakened, he will kill again.”


Check out Phil Truman's Book


Dire Wolf of the Quapaw, a Jubal Smoak Mystery

Fledgling Deputy U.S. Marshal Jubal Smoak pursues the Outlaw Crow Redhand deep into the tribal lands of the Downstream People where a series of brutal murders are blamed on a Quapaw legend.

© Copyright 2019 Phil Truman. All rights reserved.

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