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The Laws on the Rez

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When I re-read this for about the fourth time, I couldn’t believe I missed so many errors. I also had some changes I wanted to make, so hope this works!

Sargent Mathias, of the Cheyenne Tribal Police Department, was bored, something that could was a hazard of his job. Either too boring, or too frantic, there never seemed to be an in-between. Chasing speeders wasn’t in his job description, but at times, like now, it became part of his job simply because he was there.

He’d been following the silver Acura MDX for a while, simply to annoy the driver on one hand, and because they were consistently driving five to nine miles an hour over the speed limit. The ticket wouldn’t have been worth it, but he was curious as to why the driver of such a nice, though not new, SUV was heading towards the rez. He was contemplating giving up the chase and passing the driver on the next stretch of road, when the deer changed all of that.

He watched the buck dash across the road, hoping the driver would miss it. There might be sufficient room, if the driver saw it in time. If not, he might have to call for an ambulance, or at least a tow truck. Deer tended to be the cause of smashed in grills, radiators, and a lot of trouble in general. They were also a delicious food staple.

Then the driver pulled a neat bit of driving. Whoever they were, when they had stepped on the brake the car started to spin. Instead of careening off the road, the driver neatly brought it back under control. It was a neat piece of driving, and as a cop, Mathias could appreciate it. He thought the driver might continue after righting themselves, but instead the silver MDX pulled over to the side of the road.

Mathias pulled in behind, his blues flashing. He jumped out of his SUV and ran over to the side of the Acura to make sure the driver was all right.
He or she had his head on the steering wheel, long dark brown hair falling in a curtain, disguising their features. He waited a moment, then tapped gently on the window. When there was no response, he tapped again.

“Are you all right?” he asked, wondering if they heard him. The window rolled down and the driver raised her head, looking blankly at him for a moment.

He reached in and unlocked the door. “Come on,” he said, “I think you need to take a walk,” and took hold of her slender hand. She didn’t resist, but meekly allowed herself to be pulled out of the car, still not speaking.

“My name’s Mathias, what’s yours?” He was trying to make conversation and it was then that he noticed her eyes. A pale violet blue, startling in her face. She wasn’t Indian, he thought as he looked for the familiar features that might give away a Native American heritage. She had high cheekbones in her heart shaped face, a straight nose, generous mouth, and her skin had a pale gold cast that stopped just short of ivory.

“My name’s Alia, Alia Kassam.” She said nothing more as they walked until she suddenly sank to her knees. “I can’t believe I did that,” she said, “By all rights I should not have been able to pull it off.”

“That was a neat bit of driving you did, for a moment I was afraid you were going to crash into a tree, or worse. Where did you learn to drive like that?” He waited, giving her time to answer.

“The Bureau, I mean the FBI. I worked for them up until a year ago as a forensic pathologist, then when my parents got killed I retired. I just couldn’t take it anymore; death became way too personal.”

A Fibbie? This woman did not seem the type. He wondered what he could find if he searched her car, anything that would revealed her history? He decided to wait to process what she had told him, and guided her to a path up the hill.

“There’s a nice place to sit up here, with a pretty view. You still look shaken and I don’t want you behind the wheel until I know you’re ready to drive.” He directed her to a clearing high on the hillside. There was a log where he planned to sit with her, but when they reached it, she gave a gasp and covered her mouth.

“No,” she whispered, barely audible, and pointed. She hadn’t screamed, he noticed. He followed her finger and saw a young Indian girl lying on the ground, looking for all the world like she was sleeping, until you looked closely and saw the ugly red wound on her forehead. It was all too obvious how she had died.

“Such a pretty girl,” she said, “What a shame.” She looked around, taking in the beauty of Wyoming mountain country. “I could do a cursory exam, if you like. It wouldn’t be official since I’m not with the Bureau anymore, though I’m still a forensic pathologist. Are we on reservation or county land?”

He thought for a moment, “Wait until I get my crime scene tape. I’d appreciate it, though we’ll have to keep it unofficial. Can I trust you?”
“Yes, Mathias,” she said and smiled. She had a nice smile. She knelt on the ground, looking at the girl, and he thought he saw her wipe a tear from her eye.

“Be right back,” he promised, and practically ran to his cruiser and back up the hill where he found her looking at the body.

She looked up, “He hit her with a rock, see, but I think he threw it away so no one could find it. No way to tell which direction, but he probably didn’t throw it in the direction of the road. I’d like to find a hospital so I could do a rape kit and an autopsy. I bet he raped her, but I don’t know if it was pre- or post mortem.” She paused, “You still haven’t told me if she’s from the reservation.”

He sighed. There were times when he was glad to hand things over to the feds. His department didn’t have the funds to investigate felonies, so he was only allowed to handle misdemeanors. If he did have her do an autopsy, it would be breaking the rules, but how often did he cross paths with a FBI pathologist? And if the girl was on county land, it would mean handing her over to Walt Longmire before he had a chance to find out what happened.

“How do you know it was rape?” he asked her, “Or that there was only one perp?”

“After fifteen years in the Bureau, I’ve learned to trust my instincts.” She stood up, looked around, “I’m guessing the crime was committed here, like I’m guessing it was one person. Look, I know you’re only supposed to investigate misdemeanors, but if you can find a way, I’d like to do this autopsy for you. I owe you a favor, I appreciate your checking on me. I hate bureaucratic red tape, and if I can get the autopsy done for you, she won’t have to wait until they get around to it. I wouldn’t advise mentioning my name though, if you can help it.”

So, there is more to you than meets the eye, he thought, and it intrigues me. He was sounding like Standing Bear. There was also the fact that he found her attractive. Like many Native American men, he didn’t date white women as a rule, but he found this one appealing She was not the normal kind of pretty, but he found her alluring, and tempting. This is trouble, Mathias, he told himself, you better be careful, someone sees you with a white chick, and you’ll never hear the end of it. But so far he had the impression that this one might be worth it.

“Do you have a place to stay?” he asked, moving to safer ground, but every time he looked at her eyes he felt himself being drawn in.

“No, I need a hotel room and food—badly. I’ve only eaten breakfast and I’ve been driving for a long time. I was supposed to meet Auntie on the rez, but I think I’ll have to cancel and see her tomorrow. I’m just too tired. I need a meal and about ten hours of sleep.

“Auntie? Who’s Auntie,” he asked, puzzled. There was no way, despite her coloring, that she had Cheyenne blood.

“She’s a third cousin or so by marriage, on my mom’s side. I have no idea how the family pedigree runs. She’s some sort of cousin, but Mom always had me call her Auntie out of respect. When she heard I retired from the Bureau, she called and asked me if I could help her with something.” She shook her finger at him, “I’ll only tell you if you find me a restaurant and a place to stay. I am so tired I’m not surprised I almost hit that deer.”

He smiled, a nice smile she noticed. “If you don’t mind casinos, there’s a hotel attached to the Four Arrows casino, a fairly nice one. How long are you planning on staying?” he asked.

“How long? Don’t know, but I might look around for a temporary rental. I think I’m going to be here a while. Annie’s cousin could put me up, but I’m not so sure I’d be welcome on the rez, even though I’m not FBI anymore.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” he said, as he picked up his phone and speed dialed a number. “Yeah, this is Mathias. I want to book a room for someone, she’ll check in in about an hour or so.” He leaned over and smiled at her, “Can’t she give all that to you when she checks in? Great. Oh, and if you see him, tell Jacob I need to talk to him.”

He looked down at the body. She was definitely on county land, so he was going to have to call Walt Longmire and tell him he’d found a body. That also meant either he would have to wait, or call someone from his office to wait until someone from the Absaroka Sheriff’s office arrived. He wasn’t going to neglect the crime scene, and he wasn’t going to disturb the body.

He also wasn’t going to keep Alia waiting there with him, as much as he’d like to. He could see the violet shadows under her eyes, and could tell she was tired. It had been a piece of good luck that she’d been able to maneuver out of that spin.

He put his hands on her shoulders, and much to his surprise he kissed her gently on the lips. “How did you last fifteen years in the FBI?” he asked, “You seem too soft hearted, too caring.”

“That was the advantage of being a pathologist, you don’t have so much with the living, though I spent my fair share in the field. With the dead, you want to do for them what you can. They come to us without a name or identity sometimes. My job was to find out all I could before I handed them back to their families. I know, I sound crazy,” she said.

“You sound like a Cheyenne; we have a closer relation to our dead than white people do. I’m turning her over to the county. I was hoping to take you for a late lunch, but I’ve got to wait here until someone arrives, and maybe help with the crime scene. I’d like to take you to breakfast tomorrow, if I can.” He hoped she’d say yes.

“Sure,” she replied, “But I buy—I owe you that.” Sure was not what she seemed.

He’d been flirting, and he thought she was responding, but wasn’t quite sure. You are not getting away, he thought, not unless we both think it won’t work out. Just this once I’m not going to worry about what my constituents might think. He pulled a card out of his pocket. “In case you need them, here are the directions to the casino. I’ll call you as soon as I get a chance, and let you know what they found out.”

“See if you can get them to let me do the autopsy, I feel like I’m invested in this now. And, I’d like to go to breakfast with you. Just call me and let me know.”

“I’ll walk you down to your car.” He placed his hand gingerly on the small of her back. She didn’t pull away, and when they reached the cars, she kissed him swiftly on the cheek and got into her Acura. At that moment, unfortunately, he saw Vic pull up in her truck. Your timing is lousy, Filly, he thought and watched Alia pull away as Vic opened her door.