Wings like Eagles: Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Daws Roberts and his four Guardians killed their bikes. Sneering once at Mike seated there behind the patrol car, Daws said, “Got a call from my brother, Sheriff Baxster. Fortunately, he survived this wreck and managed to get to a farm house over this hill here to call in for help. Since you’re here, and those ambulances are heading back to Crete, it appears his phone call saved the day, so to speak. Cal was even thoughtful enough to call Grady’s tow service. He’ll be along shortly to haul that bus out of Miller’s Pond for you.”

He slipped his kick stand down, climbed off his bike, and added, “Cal claims the Indian was swerving all over the road, Sheriff. Sounds to me like he’d been drinking–”

“Oh, hell, too!” burst from Rain’s lips. “It was Cal who swerved over in front of–”

“Rain?” came from Mike, slightly above a whisper.

“Quiet,” said Doug, reaching down to squeeze Rain’s knee with a vise-like grip. “Close your mouth. Now!”

Rain winched at the strong grip on his right knee, yet managed to offer Mike a look of defiance. “But that just ain’t true,” he com-plained. “It wasn’t Ben’s fault at all. It was–”

Doug released his knee, swung his arm up, and caught Rain with a swift, backhand to the side of his head. “This really isn’t any of our business, Rain. So shut your mouth. Got it?”

His ears still ringing from the sudden blow to his left temple, Rain glared in anger at his brother, then slowly wiped tears from his eyes. “Yeah,” he said, gritting his teeth as he held up his hand glistening with tears to make sure Mike seen them. “Got it.”

Mike sat there on his hog, clearly understanding why Rain displayed his tears. A look of shame passed over his bearded features, and was quickly replaced by a look of red-hot anger. “You and I are having a talk later, Rain,” he said, firmly, a definite threat in his eyes.

Baxster walked over to Doug’s Harley, looking at Rain. “Besides,” he said, “how am I supposed to believe anything you say now about this crash? You lied to me. You claimed you didn’t know who the biker was the bike belonged to. Can’t rely on you now for an eye-witness, can I?”

It was then that Daws and his four scruffy-looking Guardians focused their attention on Ben Long Soldier leaning against the patrol car. “Should be ashamed of yourself, Chief,” Daws said, snorting in disgust. “Not a lot of folks around here take to kindly to a drunken Indian putting their kids at such risk. I assume those ambulances had hurt kids in them, and I’d say you’ve got a lot to answer for.”

Rain badly wanted to speak up in Ben’s defense, but already he was regretting the fact that he had so boldly defied Mike by gesturing at him with his tear-streaked hand. He knew he was in for a couple of punches to his chest or upper arms that would leave painful bruises on him for the next several weeks. He had no doubt that Mike would deal with him later. And so, he kept his mouth shut, while Daws spoke to Baxster, urging him to arrest Ben Long Soldier for driving while intoxicated.

Baxster stood there, looking uncertain. It was obvious, however, that the words spoken so heatedly by Daws were slowly tipping the scales on the matter. Ben peered at the bus in the middle of Miller’s Pond, remaining calm as if Daws wasn’t digging a deep hole to push him into.

Rain had known Ben Long Soldier ever since he’s started school in Crete back in first grade. He knew him as the first friendly Indian he had ever met, for Ben had such a way about him that he put him at ease with his warm smile and his often soft-spoken words.

When the Lakota was not driving the school bus for the Crete district, he worked as a wrangler for local rancher Bud Ellis, who owned a horse ranch just west of the small town of Sprague. The past two summers, Rain and Chris had been hired by Bud, a rough-spoken, rawboned rancher who was gruff as hell and hard as nails. The tall, skinny older man was not a nice guy to work for, but Rain and Chris put up with the cantankerous old coot, mainly because they had the chance to see the magic of Ben Long Soldier in action.

Ben had spent all of his life around horses back on the reservation where he was born. He had learned the secret on how to work with some of the most wild, unruly horses, taught to him by his grand-father, a holy man of the Lakota at Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Ben Long Soldier was a horse whisperer, and for the herds of wild horses Ben Ellis brought to his ranch, Ben was the “last step” they took before being put down with a bullet to the head, if they reached the point of being unbreakable. His success rate for the three-hundred horses purchased by Ben for the past two years had been phenomenal. And Rain and Chris had been included in the “whisper sessions,” fascinated with Ben’s ability to soothe, correct, and tame each horse who passed through Bud’s corral.

That the Lakota man took the time to share his secrets with the two brothers was considered an honor to them.

To sit there now and listen while Daws Roberts lied and convinced Sheriff Baxster that the bus crash had been due to the fact that Ben had been drinking, was causing Rain much distress.

He looked over at Mike Shade, who sat there coldly staring back at him. He then shifted his gaze to Denny, the only one who some-times foolishly argued with Mike or called shit on his decisions and rulings. Hoping to gain his support, so that he could speak up on behalf of Ben, Rain groaned inwardly when Denny simply shrugged and pointed a finger at the wrecked bus out in the middle of Miller’s Pond, as if saying, “It got there somehow now, didn’t it?”

He finally leaned forward and whispered in Doug’s ear, “It was all Cal’s fault, I swear. Cal even had a bottle on him.”
Doug silenced him with a stern look, and Rain just then realized that Cal had thrown that bottle through the bus window. His stomach churned as he thought of the assumption this would lead to once Baxster examined the bus. Despite his fear that Mike would severely punish him later, words tumbled around inside his head as he worked up the nerve to speak them.

“Time for you, ratty asses to be crawling back to your rat holes,” Daws said, offering the three Outlaws a wicked smile and making a shooing motion with one hand.

“Git along little doggies,” he chuckled, though it came out less than humorous.

Mike and Doug exchanged an unreadable look, but Denny who hated being intimidated, snapped, “Go to hell, Daws!”

Mike warned, “Denny? Button it up!”

“Why?” Denny demanded, trailers of his long black hair sliding over his slender shoulders in the spring breezes wafting off the nearby pasture. “We don’t have to bow to him! We’ve been jumping through his hoops ever since he made his threat to make ‘that one phone call.’ Let’s just quit shitting around and call him on it, Mike!”

“Dennis,” Doug spoke his name, turning his stern gaze on him.

Rain quickly looked from Doug to Dennis and then over at Mike. Something was up here, and he was now more than curious as to what had made Daws think he could show such disrespect to the president of the Outlaws. He also wondered why Denny was so agitated and what made him go boldly where no man had gone before by mouthing off so rudely to Mike Shade.

I’m not the only one who is going to get an ass-kicking later, he thought, watching Denny return Mike’s glare with one of his own.

Daws caused all three of the Outlaws to look over at him as he said, “Better put a muzzle on your mongrel, Shade. One more yap or bark from him and I will . . .”

He mimicked holding a phone up to his ear, and grinned at Mike.

It was then that Grady Granger came barreling down the highway in his tow truck. A second deputy drove up behind Grady in a large white van to haul the rest of the students home in. While Baxster herded the kids past Daws and his Guardians, Grady drove his tow truck to a dirt driveway leading into the pasture. Tall, skinny Grady, dressed in his blue overalls, his shaggy red hair sticking out from under his Dekalb hat in all directions, climbed out and unfastened the barbed wire fence preventing him from driving on into the pasture.

He whistled a tuneless song as he worked the kinks out of the wire, and as he turned back to his truck, he waved at those occupying the roadway near Baxster’s cruiser. Rain found the gesture to be bizarre, because no one was certain who Grady was waving at. Daws and his Guardians simply stared silently at the beaming tow truck driver, while Mike, Doug and Denny exchanged curious glances, wondering if one of them should just get it over with and wave back.

“Just get your ass in there!” snapped Baxster as he noticed Grady grinning like a loon and waving up at the road, “And get that damned bus out of there, Grady!”

“Right, Sheriff,” Grady said, still grinning goofily.

He waved at up at the roadway again, and this time, Rain saw Ben Long Soldier give Grady a silent nod. He was quite surprised at what Grady then said, “Ben, my boy, you shouldn’t drink and drive. Now look what you went and done! Now I gotta fish your ol’ bus out Miller’s Pond, and that is not gonna be no easy job!”

As Grady climbed back in his truck and proceeded down the dirt track leading into the pasture, Mike said, “Let’s go. Your Pops is gonna wanna know about Chris. The sooner we tell him, the better.”

Doug and Mike both kicked over their bikes, but Denny sat there, staring holes in Daws.

“Dennis?” Doug shouted over the roar of his Harley. “Get your damned bike started, or you’re gonna find yourself alone and on your own!”

Snorting in disgust, Denny leaped up high and came down, his right foot landing on the pedal of his kick starter. His bike thundered to life. He shook his head at Daws and continued to sneer at him as he joined Mike and Doug wheeling their bikes around and shooting on down the roadway toward Sprague. Rain glanced back to offer Ben Long Soldier an apologetic look.

I wanted to tell Baxster, he thought, about that bottle that Cal threw, but I didn’t get the chance.

Doug opened his throttle then and took them soaring to keep up with Mike Shade speeding down the highway

Wings like Eagles: Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Ben swiftly approached the first ambulance as it skidded to a stop behind the patrol car. The drivers of both ambulances switched off their loud sirens and two techs climbed out of each vehicle. Ben busied himself leading them back to the kids scattered in front of the patrol car. As the techs assessed the injuries, Sheriff Baxster shoved Rain rather roughly against his car, releasing him. Baxster began at once to bark out orders to the techs, loudly instructing them how to load the victims of the bus wreck into their ambulances. The techs exchanged knowing looks and continued doing their jobs despite the bellering of Sheriff Baxster.

Thunderous rumbling came from the direction of Sprague a mile down the road as three bikers on Harleys came roaring toward the place of the accident.

“It’s Doug and Denny,” Chris said through clenched teeth as one tech led him away to one of the ambulances. “They’ll know whose bike that is won’t they, Rain?”

Rain used his eyes alone to urge his little brother to remain silent, then glanced at Sheriff Baxster. Chris nodded and allowed the tech to lead him away to the first ambulance parked behind the patrol car.

Doug Nelson, older brother to Rain and Chris, pulled his bike up ten feet away from the cruiser. At nineteen, Doug was tall and lean, with collar-length dark hair, that curled down just below his ears and flipped up in wild curls above the collar of his ratty-looking black leather jacket. He sported a neatly-trimmed beard on his ruggedly handsome face, and with his deep blue eyes he studied his surroundings with an intense look that unnerved Rain. Especially after he inspected the mangled hog in the ditch and the bus mired in the pond, and then focused his unwavering gaze on his little brother.

By raising one eye brow, Doug indicated that he demanded an explanation. Rain started to say, “Some maniac on that bike–”

“Maniac?” Denny blurted. “That bike belongs to–”

“Dennis!” Doug snapped, using his given name with a bit of force behind it. “Rain was talking. Don’t be rude. You just cut off what he was telling me.”

Doug nailed Denny with a glare that spoke volumes, and rail-thin Denny shook back the long strands of his raven hair and offered him a look that bordered on insolence, until he saw Doug’s eyes travel over to Sheriff Baxster.

Giving a firm shake of his head, Doug silenced 17-year-old Denny.

“Do you know who that Harley belongs to?” the big Sheriff asked as he as he lumbered up in front of their bikes. “You guys ride with the Highway Outlaws, don’t you? So, the rider of this hog was one of your own, is that what I understand?”
Doug and Denny exchanged knowing looks. Doug shook his head and said, “Yes, Sheriff, we ride with the Outlaws. But no, we don’t have a clue who this bike belongs to.”

Baxster looked away from Doug and zeroed in on Denny seated there beside him on his own chopped 1200 Harley. “You were about to say, that this bike belonged to who?” he asked, sternly.

“He wasn’t about to say nothing,” came from the third member of the trio of bikers.

Rain looked over at Mike Shade and actually cringed when he saw the big guy offer Denny an angry scowl. His eyes actually conveyed that they would be having a talk about his brother’s stupidity later. As many times as Denny had picked on him as older brothers often have done since the beginning of time, Rain actually felt sorry for Denny, because Mike as president of the Outlaws, usually set most of the bikers who rode under his leadership straight with his fists.

Seated there on his own monster of a bike, Mike resembled your typical biker, long, dark hair, full shaggy beard, broad shouldered, deep-chested, wearing his dusty black leathers like a second skin. He, too, had blue eyes like Doug, but when Mike peered at anyone with his piercing gaze it was usually for one purpose, to intimidate.

He shot Denny an intense gaze. “You don’t know who rode this bike, do you?”

“Nope,” Denny said, lowering his gaze in a show of submission to his president. “Not a clue.”

Baxster snorted, “Bullshit! You’re as mouthy as your obnoxious little brother here!”

“The one,” Doug said, “that I’ll be taking home from here? Rain? Where’s Chris?”

Rain gestured toward the ambulance pulling away from the scene of the accident. “He got a busted arm in the wreck, Doug. It was a bad break, too. There was a bone sticking out of–”

“They’ll be taking him to the Crete hospital then,” Doug said. “Come on. We’ll get you home and tell Pops about this. He’ll likely want to drive to Crete to give Chris a ride home in the old wagon.”

As Rain stepped toward his brothers and Mike Shade, Baxster snapped, “No, you’re not going anywhere until I am done asking you questions, kid!”

Rain froze in mid-step. “I’m not telling you a damned thing,” he said. “My brother already told you who caused the wreck. Just take his word for it, it happened just like he said.”

Baxster started to persist, but with Doug nailing him with his cold looks, his words trailed off halfway through his sentence as he said, “Covering for that Indian don’t cut it with me . . . ”

“Rain?” Doug said, firmly. “Climb on back. We’re going home.”

Nodding, Rain climbed on back of Doug’s 900 Sportster and settled his back against the padded sissy bar. Doug was about to kick his bike over, when the sound of thunderous rumbling filled the air.

Mike Shade looked off down the highway, where five large bikes flew past the two ambulances on their way to Crete. “Shitstorm,” he said, with a frown, “and we’re gonna be in the middle of it.

Daws Roberts and his four Guardians rode their Harleys directly up behind Baxster’s cruiser in reckless disregard for the safety of the ten kids standing there watching the last ambulance speeding away. The Guardians sent the kids scattering like a flock of starlings, and they bolted and ran around both sides of the patrol car, placing Sheriff Baxster between them and the five, black-clad bikers from Crete.

Dawson Roberts, older brother of Cal and president of the Guardians, was a large man in his early twenties. He, too, had long, golden hair like his brother, but where Cal was scarecrow thin, Dawson was built like a tank, with broad shoulders, a thick chest, and muscular upper arms.

Daws and Mike Shade had once fought before, and Rain had been there to watch their fight. It had been brutal, each of them trading blows, delivering them like well-swung hammers, battering away at each other with violent intensity.

Anyone of their well-placed fists would have sent Rain hurtling into a world of pain, sending him to a wake-up time of next Wednes-day. And as Rain sat there cringing through the first ten minutes of their bloody brawl, he determined he did not ever want to be at the receiving end of either of the two big bikers. They lasted for another five agonizing minutes, going toe-to-toe, both of them giving as good as they got.

In the end, Mike had dislocated Daws’s jaw, and he had slumped to the ground there in front of the Sprague General store, passing out from severe pain. And yet immediately after delivering such a brutal blow, Mike had cradled his mangled hand against his chest, three of his fingers bent at awkward angles.

The only way the Guardians had saved face after Mike had leveled Daws, was for them to claim Mike actually had tears in his eyes after landing the winning blow. Rain, from his place on the bench on the store’s porch, had surmised that tears did fill Mike’s eyes, running down his bearded face in a mad torrent.

The President of the Highway Outlaws, peevishly wiped them away with his left hand and let loose with a string of curses at the five “candy-assed pussies” who had ridden there with Daws. He then challenged anyone of them to stand in the gap for their fallen leader. Not one of the Guardians had accepted his challenge. Instead, they had picked up Daws from where he had fallen.

After waking him up, the big biker, dazed and in pain, had actually climbed on his hog, trying his best to look mean and pissed off. But Rain could clearly see that Daws barely managed to kick his bike over, and as he weaved his way out of Sprague, Mike Shade had left his own bike parked beside the store, and slowly, painstakingly made his way to the Nelson house two blocks up the street.

Rain had fell in beside Doug and Denny as they joined their badly injured president, noting tears still flowed down Mike’s cheeks even as he said, “Best get your Pops to look at this hand. It hurts something fierce.”

It was Rain’s first lesson he learned about brutal fist fights: Not all of them ended well for either fighter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wings like Eagles

Chapter Three

Sheriff Clyde Baxster brought his cruiser screeching to a halt on the highway beside the pasture. He killed his siren, yet left his rotating lights on to signal to any oncoming traffic that they were approaching the scene of an accident.

Clyde Baxster was a big man, whose barrel chest and beer-gut belly stretched his brown uniform shirt to the max. He had a Marine-style buzz cut and a craggy face, with jowls that sagged and a crooked nose that had been broken once or twice in the past. Most folks in Crete and the two small towns of Sprague and Martel surmised that the reason Clyde had such a dark red-toned face was due to the fact that Clyde seemed to always be in a rage about something or other. Most came to the conclusion that his temperament did not suit him well for the job he had as the county sheriff overseeing Gage county. Anyone who ever had an encounter with him often claimed, “Clyde is just an overgrown bully with a badge.”

As he heaved his large bulk out of his cruiser, Rain could see that Sheriff Baxster was in his usual dark funk. He surveyed the mangled Harley in the ditch, glanced back toward the bus half-submerged in Miller’s Pond, then glared rather heatedly at Ben Long Soldier stand-ing there before the fifteen kids, some injured, and most badly shaken from the wild ride off the highway and into the pond.

“What in hell happened here, Long Soldier?” Baxster snarled.

Rain badly wanted to defend Ben to let the annoyed-looking Sheriff know that the accident had not been his fault, but Ben spoke first, saying, “I will explain that as soon as you help me get some of these injured kids up on the roadway, so that they can treat them properly, Sheriff.”

He nodded his head slightly in the direction of Crete, where the lights of two ambulances could clearly be seen. Sirens wailed, piercing the country air like mad banshees as the ambulances raced toward them. Sheriff Baxster narrowed his eyes and snapped, “You telling me how to do my job, Long Soldier? Now, I asked you a question, and I demand an answer. What the hell happened here?”

Rain actually cringed as he watched Ben give a silent shrug of his broad shoulders and purposely turn away from the fuming Sheriff. “Fine. Play it that way, Sheriff,” he said. “Rain? Could you help your brother to the road?”

For a moment, Rain stood there, staring in disbelief at Ben as the big Lakota kneeled and scooped up Bobby Morris, being careful not to jostle his broken leg too badly. Ben rose to his feet and carried Bobby past the pond, and toward the barbed wire fence. He hefted his slight form up into his arms and nodded at Sheriff Baxster indicating he should step down into the ditch to lend him a hand.

Guiding Chris toward the fence, Rain held his breath as he watched Baxster glaring undecidedly down at Ben from the roadway. “Sheriff?” he heard Ben softly intone.
Baxster grumbled and cursed, but ambled his way down into the ditch. He shot daggers at Ben with his eyes, but managed to take Bob-by from him, and surprisingly gentle for one so big, the Sheriff carried the injured boy up onto the highway. Having no better place to lay him, Baxster settled him carefully on the trunk of his car. He wheeled around then to address Ben once more, but Ben had already walked back to the berm in the pasture to aid two other kids who had been hurt during the wreck.

Rain pulled up the top strand of barbed wire and helped Chris to climb through to the other side. He quickly joined his little brother, guiding him up and out of the ditch to the roadway beyond.

“You’re that Nelson kid,” Baxster said, “from Sprague, right? Tell me how this happened?”

Rain pointed at Cal Robert’s mangled hog laying crumpled in the ditch, but it was Chris who spoke first, saying, “That maniac on that bike swerved in front of us, and Ben ended up leaving the road trying to avoid running him over, Sheriff.”

“That true?” Baxster asked, looking over at Rain for confirmation.

Not being particularly fond of cops, Rain simply nodded.

“Who,” Baxster asked, “was the maniac on this hog?”

Chris looked over to Rain. Rain shrugged and said, “Don’t know. It all happened too fast.”

Baxster nailed Rain with a stern look. “Do you clearly see,” he said in a conspiratorial whisper, “my first priority here, kid? I need to determine exactly what happened. Don’t know why you guys are being so loyal to Long Soldier over there, but if you expect me to believe this one motorcycle was the cause of all of this, you better give me a fuller explanation.”

Chris grimaced and said, “We are telling it true, Sheriff. Ben had no choice but to swerve out of the path of that biker. That’s when he lost control and fishtailed off the highway. It wasn’t Ben’s fault–”

“I’ll be the judge of that!” snapped Baxster, watching Ben as he lifted the top strand of barbed wire to allow several injured kids to pass through the prickly barrier without scraping themselves on the sharp barbs.

Baxter turned his heated glare on the Nelson brothers, and over the steadily increasing wails of the ambulance sirens, he said, “Biker? You telling me the guy riding the bike was a biker? Any idea what gang he belonged to? And you said, Ben lost control? So, contrary to what you previously told me, it was Long Soldier’s reckless behavior that resulted in school bus number 13, from the Crete district middle school, crashing into Miller’s Pond, correct?”

Chris fidgeted and looked to Rain. “See?” Rain told him. “Do you see now what Pops was saying about redneck cops?”

Baxster took offence at this. “Hey, you little smart ass! I demand more respect than that!”

As Ben led the rest of the kids up onto the highway where they huddled around the Sheriff’s cruiser, Rain said “You said your first priority was to find out what happened here. When your first priority should have been seeing to us kids. Making sure we were all right. Instead you come off, blubbering your Hitler Gestapo bullshit, looking for someone to blame. You just want to nail Ben with the wreck. Ain’t that true, Sheriff Baxster?”

“Why you little son of a bitch!” Baxster snarled, clearly insulted by Rain’s show of obstinance.

“Trading words, are we?” Rain said, puffing out his chest and lightly pounding on the orange Harley emblem at the center of his wife beater, imitating a gorilla showing his dominance. “Son of a bitch, huh? You don’t know how deeply those words cut me, Sheriff. So let me fire some back at you, you fat-ass bastard!”

Baxster moved so fast that Rain had no chance to dodge his meaty hands closing tightly on his upper arms. The big cop swung the scrawny kid around and planted his slender frame against the side of his car. Despite being dizzy from the swift manhandling, Rain shook back the long strands of his dark hair, stuck out his chin in defiance, and glared back at the enraged Sheriff.

“Whoa,” said Ben, “let’s turn this down a notch, okay? We’ve got injured kids who need treatment, Sheriff Baxster. I don’t know what you said to ignite such a fire in Rain there, but something surely set him off. This is not his typical behavior. Perhaps, he is in shock from the wreck.”

“No,” Rain said, defiantly, “this lard ass already has his mind made up this was your fault, Ben.”

Shaking his head, Ben walked past the seething Sheriff, saying, “Told you I would explain what happened once we saw to the kids, Sheriff.”