Katie answered the phone. “Hello? Oh hi, Tal.”
“No, René’s still asleep. Should I wake him?”
“Okay, I’ll let him know, bye.”
“What’s up?” René stumbled out of the bedroom.
“Tal says to stay here tonight. They’ve called off the search; it’s raining too hard.”
“No, Katie we’d better get going.”
“René, Tal knows these things. He’s right in there with everyone. That’s what you tell me, so trust him. Eat your hamburger then go back to bed. You’re not going to make a difference if we leave now or in a few hours.”
“Okay, but can you go and get gas, the tank is almost empty.”
“Sure, now get some sleep.”
Katie walked into the night. The stars were gone, hidden behind a thick cloud cover. She was glad to be alone, to sort her thoughts and allow more time to reflect on her return to Dinétah, her Navajo reservation. Although this was her homeland, Katie had been run out of the place a year ago when she witnessed a supernatural event near the ancient Anasazi ruins in Tsegi Canyon. In her mind, an increase in lawlessness and the rise of gang mentality were the reasons this Yéiitsoh evil had come to influence.
Just over a year ago Katie returned to the reservation to help Pelipa, who had been raped and stabbed. The knife was so near to her heart she was fortunate to be alive. But Marquita, Pelipa’s sister, was killed during the same episode.
A train horn blasted the quiet night reminding Katie of the time she spent with the Colgraves in Gallup. That was another railroad town on the other side of the vast 27,000 square mile Navajo reservation.
Katie straddled a boundary between two worlds, the bilagáana, the white man’s place, and Dinétah, the Navajo world. Both Gallup and Flagstaff were railroad towns, taking land from the Indians for their transportation corridor. The bilagáana’s iron horses started their incursion in the 1880’s with the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, continuing in the twentieth century with Route 66 when the automobile eclipsed train travel. Now Route 66 is called Interstate 40 and skirts the southern boundary of the reservation.
Katie drove to the Flagstaff train station, parked the car, and wandered the historic area. She needed a moment to think. Although she wanted to return to be an animal doctor for her people, she realized Rory would be forever out of place in Dinétah. By accepting his marriage proposal, she felt obligated to stay in California. But this situation was different; this involved the disappearance of Pelipa, Katie’s friend, and the love of René’s life.
Plus, the incident eased Katie’s mind allowing her to shift her distrust from Yéiitsoh evilness in general to one particular event, Pelipa's disappearance. This was not as large as an entire reservation falling under Yéiitsoh influence and allowed Katie to see her peoples' problems on a more individual basis.
That was the difference between being run off the place and coming back to help; she no longer felt powerless. She was here for someone else, and that made her stronger. As she walked the historic streets, she heard the train whistle. That’s what she was waiting for; her train fix was coming into Flagstaff! She hurried back to the station to watch it pull in.
Katie was forever and always enthralled with trains, drawn to the magnificence, the promise of where the tracks led, and the powerhouses that drove them. When she was growing up on the rez she heard of the trains running through Gallup. And then, when she began staying in Gallup with the Colgraves, she heard the whistle through the open windows every night.
Five engines were pulling almost a hundred cars of freight eastward across the Rockies. She counted each car as the rumbling wheels vibrated the ground. It was so exciting to be this close to a train. It wasn't a passenger train and didn't need to stop here. It just rumbled through Flagstaff as Katie watched.
Now with her adrenaline heightened she called Rory. It was only eight o’clock there so he wouldn’t be in bed yet.
“Hello,” Rory answered.
“Hi, this is Katie, sweetie. How are you?”
“Pretty good,” he replied laughing. “It’s probably been a whole four or five hours since you last called. Are you bored?”
“No, I miss you Rory, and I wanted you to know.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m still in Flagstaff. I put René to bed. He looks like dog shit. Now I’m wandering historic Flagstaff, and it reminded me of the days we visited Old Sacramento.”
“What’s the news?”
“Tal says the rain has shut the search down. They’re also waiting for search and rescue dogs so they won’t be going out until dawn. I’ll let René sleep till one or two and then we’ll take off. I want to be there at dawn when the search and rescue people start. What’s your schedule?”
Rory was pleasantly surprised at Katie’s desire to talk. She wasn’t the chatty Kathy type of person, and neither was he so this low-level conversation was new and different. She must be under a lot of stress, he thought. “Now I wish I had come too,” he confessed.
It made her feel guilty. “No, I can do this, honey. It’s no big deal. You need to stay there. I haven’t come back for you to rescue me all over again. I just want you to know how much you mean to me. I want to be with you Rory, remember that okay?”
“Music to my ears darling.” These words were very welcome. His biggest worry with Katie was she’d up and leave him, and run back to her reservation. “I’m scheduled to put that progesterone implant into Selena’s female tiger. You’re going to miss out.”
“That’s cool. Yeah, I'm sorry I won’t be there. Still, I’m glad I can be here for René. Who’s helping you?”
“Honey wants to help. Jen’s left for San Francisco; her flight to Australia is tomorrow.”
“Is she going by herself?”
“Probably, she’s still mad at Randy. I think Janie is dropping her off.”
“Well, I’m done here, Rory. I’m going to try to catch a nap before we leave. I’ll talk to you later. Take care; I love you.”
“I love you too bye.”
Inside the apartment, Katie checked on René. He was sleeping again.
Realizing she was tired, Katie crawled into bed. Not five minutes into her sleep she heard an animal noise, a growl, then scratching. Opening her eyes, she was startled to see shadowy twilight had replaced the darkness. She rolled over towards the wall, and closed her eyes.
Hearing another noise, she opened her eyes to see shadows moving across the white wall. Suddenly the room turned icy cold. Katie sensed a dangerous presence overcoming her. She felt as though she had been tazed; something was paralyzing her. Then she realized she couldn’t talk, couldn’t yell for help, but was still able to move. She got up from the bed and walked in the eerie twilight darkness. Katie didn’t try the window but for some reason she knew it wouldn’t open.
Minutes later a drumming sound started, coming from the backyard. As the volume increased the temperature inside the room dropped further. Katie could see her breath.
At first, she saw nothing. The drumming grew louder, and three or four men appeared behind the fence. It looked like they were trying to climb over, but couldn't quite manage to bring their legs up high enough and swing over. They began to chant.
Then she noticed her breathing started to sound like snoring. She thought, okay maybe if I snore loud enough I'll wake up. The drumming and chanting diminished.
She snored louder and louder, and finally woke up, and knew she was back because it was dark in the room again and the whining in her ears diminished.
God dammit! This happens every time I come back! Something doesn’t want me here. But she was too tired to worry. She closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
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