15 February 2011

Chapter 54:"Cap Takes the Plunge," Pt 2

Native cabin near Chitina
An abandoned Native cabin
somewhere along the railroad right-of-way   --Ben Jackson Photo

            Saghanni ggaay ! It’s them ! I saw them at the fishwheel.  They were flying around outside when I last talked with Charles before he left for the fishwheel without me.  I should have known.  I could have stopped it.  Could have. They’re still here. Not a good sign.  Wonder who they’re waiting around for now. Engii!

  Cap reached the front door and knocked loudly.  Read had been drinking some of his own hootch, and was not in the best of moods to talk business.  He feared Cap, who had a deadly fighting reputation.  No one could beat him.  

   Read had a score to settle with Cap for beating him in Jack Palmer’s Place.  Cap did not realize how angry this had made him.  How long he wanted to get back at Cap.  Now he had his chance to even the score.  Revenge would be sweet.

  “Cap, I thought you’d be at the service.”

  “I was at the service, Reed, but now I’m here to finish our business.”

  “What do you mean finish our business ?  Do you think I’m cheating you?”

  “I know you are.  We have a fifty-fifty arrangement, but I’m not getting paid for all the barrels I’m delivering.  I can count.  I’m not stupid as you apparently assume.”

  “Look, Cap.  I don’t really understand.  I want to straighten this out with you.  Hey, I tell you what.  You look like you could use another drink.  I just happen to have a new batch made up out there  in the barn.  That’s what I’m  drinking now.  It’s great stuff.  You ought to try some.   Here, try this.”

  Cap was caught off-guard. He sampled the booze. It was strong, though not that good. It needed more time in the still.  But it was still booze.  Cap was not ready to quit.  Not yet.

Billum family
Chitina Indians: The Billum family at Tiekel in 1906

  “Why don’t you go on back and grab another bottle. No, bring two. We can talk this out while were sharing my new batch.”

  Cap turned away from Bob and walked out the back door toward the barn.  He had gotten about twenty feet out, when he knew.  The largest of the ravens was perched on the peak of the old barn roof. He was looking directly into the eyes of Cap. Cap read him. He knew.
  He had made the mistake he had told himself he never would.  He had turned his back on a man he knew he could not trust.  There was no longer  time to react. He heard the metallic “click” he knew would come just as he read the saghani.   Cap sensed the first of the  steel bullet coming toward him just as he was about to turn around.

  He felt the bullet penetrate his back and realized his time was over.  As Cap began to fall, he caught sight of the other three ravens landing on the roof of the barn, not scared off by the sound of the gunshot. Two more shots blasted out.  Any one of the three would have been lethal.   

            May the Great Creator have mercy on my spirit.   I’ve failed him. God help me.

  The sunlight was deafening, as was the roar of approaching engine No. 71--the Ghost Train.  Cap was walking down the tracks heading toward Nicolai’s camp.  But he was  blinded by the glint of sunlight reflected off the huge brass bell. 

Cap's Dream

vision  --Armando Santini-Reyes

  Kay-yew-nee appeared out of nowhere, barking loudly and pulling at the shirt Cap had taken off himself and tied onto his belt.  Cap was frozen in fear. He couldn’t get himself to move out of the way,  but felt himself being yanked safely off the center of the tracks by the spirit-dog just as the huge engine rushed past him, blowing hot, angry steam over his sweating body.  
  Someone with an unusally firm grip grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet off the edge of the trackbed where he lay stunned.  It was Nicolai.

  “You have not failed him, Tsuuye.  He has sent me to bring you home.”

   May of 1932 was about to turn into June. The railroad would quit running that year, not to return for another three seasons. 

    Bob Read buried the body in his turnip patch.  He rode the Indian bike into town to join the potlatch.  No one would miss Cap that day.  Cap was known to drop out of sight for days at a time. He had been a loner since Johnny disappeared.  He’d even been a loner back then.  Few understood the complex man that was Cap. Not even Shirley, the mother of his children. It would be a month before Cap’s relatives found his body.

  An all-white jury in Valdez found Bob Read not-guilty, even though the circumstantial evidence to the contrary was overwhelming.   Read never returned to Chitina.  Bob’s  partner Tom Weller took over his property at four-mile on the Chitina-Edgerton Road a few months later.

The Great Captain Goodlataw

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