Blood of Mine

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					                          Blood of Mine
                              Prologue


        Dances in the Sun shifted the loose dry dust with the toe of
his moccasin. His torch cast writhing shadows on the walls of the
cave, adding to the already eerie aura of the stone tomb. His tribe
said this cave was a source of great evil and warned all the young
men and women to stay away from it. Sun thought that if he could
find some tool of this evil, a weapon or magic artifact, he could use
it to fight the white people that were moving in to his nation’s
ancestral home. His toe tapped against some dry bat bones buried
in the dust. He gently sifted them to the top of the dust where his
torch could bathe them in yellow light. As he knelt to inspect them,
his hairs stood up on the back of his neck and his stomach
tightened around a knot. His knee hit the surface layer of dust and
all was dark. Not an ember or a spark remained of his torch. As his
mind leaped to try and comprehend his situation, his left arm
strove to bring the torch in front of his face. It was in that fraction
of a moment that the numbness of his left arm registered in his
consciousness. The understanding of evil began to settle through
the racing thoughts in the absolute void of sound that spread
thickly through the cave. That void suddenly filled with the sound
of his torch hitting a far wall followed by the wet thud of a piece of
flesh striking stone. Burning spread from his left fingertips to his
shoulder, his strong legs reversed the downward momentum of
kneeling to launch him upright. The smell of blood and dust and
smoke filled his nostrils as he breathed in, his heart pounded one
strong thud against its cage. The sharp stings in his neck told him
he would join his ancestors in a very short time, and he hoped his
people would be victorious in honorable battle for their lands.
        Raucharde pulled the leather clad body up into the niche of
the ceiling. He had not fed in near five decades and the warm salty
blood quenched his waking thirst. It had been a long rest, disturbed
by this young Creek warrior. He would have let him go, but this
cave held the last few treasures he had carried with him when he
left his beloved France. Better to feed now and rest another five
decades than to wake again soon filled with the thirst.
        Raucharde squeezed and sucked the last trickle of blood
from the body and stuffed it into a small chamber of stone beside
the niche. Taking another stone, he pushed it into the ceiling
around the chamber. Stone flowed into stone like soft clay being
kneaded together to form one piece. The crunched bones and dry
flesh would never be found.

CHAPTER 1

        Dannie sat looking at the old gray boards and posts that
covered the hole in the bluff. She wondered if it was an old copper
mine. This area was known for copper mines, after all. Or maybe it
was an Indian cave. They say the Cherokee used to live in these
mountains! She lay back on the warm flat rock and let the cool
March breeze caress her brown hair. This was her place. A quiet
retreat on the mountain side that allowed her to look over the
valley stream yet screened her from the prying eyes of family and
neighbors. You could look up from the pasture below and see
nothing but trees. The narrow bench that ran along the side of the
mountain was invisible from below and was hard to spot from
above, as well.
        Dannie turned her attention back to the cave. She wondered
if the old stories about it being haunted were true. The town kids
said that an old farmer boarded it up back in the early nineteen
hundreds. They say he saw the ghost of an Indian that told him it
was a place of evil. She smiled and shivered. The breeze and the
story gave her goose bumps.
         It was time to head back to the house. When she got home
it would be time to feed the cows and chickens. Dannie knew she
would have more time here tomorrow. Today's thirty minutes had
gone by quickly, but tomorrow her brother would be back and he
would tend to the chores.
         Dannie found her mind wandering back to her sanctuary on
the mountain. The alarmed chickens snapped her back and she
killed the feed auger switch. She had overflowed the feed trough a
little, but not bad. Dannie turned back to the door to head out to the
last of the four chicken houses. As she reached for the door handle,
out of the corner of her eye, just briefly, she saw a figure of a man
standing in the middle of the chicken house. She turned her head to
look straight at the silhouette, but there was nothing there. She
stared for a moment as the sea of white chickens flowed in to fill
the empty circle that had held that shadowy figure. The goose
bumps on her arms slowly flattened back out. She turned her head
back to face the door where her right hand hovered over the
handle. ''Silly woman'' she mumbled to the nearest chickens.
Dannie stepped through the door into the unseasonably warm
March sunshine. She shook off the encounter and continued with
the daily chores. When she was done she headed home.
         Wayne and Dannie had inherited the farm from their father.
He had passed two and a half years before, September third of two-
thousand-one, from skin cancer. Dannie had been twenty six then
and Wayne had been twenty three. Randal, their father, died at a
relatively young fifty four years old. Their mother had left when
they were young. Dannie was ten when Randal and Annie got
divorced, and while their mother, Annie had remarried two years
later, Randal dated once in a while but never remarried. So the two
grown children inherited the farm and another property that Randal
had on the lake. The farm consisted of six-hundred-forty acres with
two cattle barns, four chicken houses, three houses, two storage
barns and a large tractor/machine shop. The two had discussed
splitting the property, but since they both wanted to work it they
decided to just keep it in joint ownership. Dannie had never
married and had never even seriously considered it. She hadn't had
a boyfriend since the seventh grade. Even now at twenty eight she
wasn't much interested in relationships or men. Maybe when she
got older she would be. Wayne was a different story! At twenty
five he was married to his second wife and had his third child on
the way! His first wife he had married at eighteen and a year after
had his first son, Marc. Fourteen months after Marc was born they
had Shane. At twenty three, he and Marie had divorced and Marie
left the boys with Wayne on the farm. Six months after their
divorce, Wayne and Dannie's father died. Just a month back,
Wayne had married Sandra and then told Dannie that Sandra was
four months pregnant! With Marc being six and Shane five they
were going to have a newborn, hopefully a girl in five months.
Wayne, Sandra and the boys lived in the big family house in the
center of the farm. The house had been built in eighteen-ninety-
nine and was still in the original layout with the exception of two
added bathrooms. The two story, two-thousand-six-hundred square
foot home was large and open in design. Dannie had many
memories of growing up there. She lived in the more modern
house on the ridge overlooking the farm valley. While not quite on
top of the ridge, it was just a short walk to the crest that overlooked
the pasture valley opposite the farm valley. The cave was situated
west of her house by one quarter of a mile, and two thirds of the
way down the mountainside. The much smaller house that Dannie
lived in was a modest two bedroom one story that had been built in
nineteen-ninety for her Uncle Stewart. Stewart had lived there for
just five years before he moved to California. He had come back
for Randal's funeral and then left without ever saying a word to
either Wayne or Dannie. Not that it bothered either of them, as
Stewart had always been that way. He and Randal spoke very little
and had none of the closeness that Dannie and Wayne shared.
Once Stewart had moved away, Dannie's father Randal had let
Dannie move into the house. Shortly after that he deeded it over to
her. Though it was modest, Dannie loved her house. She had put a
lot of work into it and still put a bit of work in maintaining it. It's
small garage held her pickup and her tools, the second bedroom
was her office and library. While it wasn't ''girly'' it was
comfortable and it was home.
        Dannie pulled off her boots on the front deck and padded
into her home in her stocking feet. After a quick shower she threw
a steak in the oven and some vegetables on the stove. While dinner
cooked she looked out the kitchen window into the woods. Her
eyes pointed to the trees, but her mind wandered into the night and
explored the darkness of the mountain. When the food was ready
she poured a glass of tea and took her plate to the living room
where she sat in front of the fire in her cozy recliner. She ate in
silence watching the flames dance over the remains of once proud
trees. It was almost too warm to have the fire going, but the
temperature could drop quickly after dark. Dannie finished her
steak and vegetables and sipped her tea. She set the plate on the
end table and waited. The fire crackled and popped in the brick
confines that housed it, low but still full of heat. That warmth
bathed Dannie's face and hands, filling her eyelids with the weight
of restfulness. Her head sank back in the warm cushion of the chair
and her curled legs under her began to tingle. She forced her eyes
open. Wayne would be here soon. The clock hands were creeping
up on eight o'clock. Stretching her legs out from underneath her
and her arms over her head, she slid herself out of the chair and
into a standing position. She yawned as she whisked up her plate
and glass and sauntered to the kitchen. As she set the plate into the
sink and started the dishwater, she saw Wayne's headlights shine
into the living room. As he pulled up in front, she heard the motor
shut off. She washed the plate, fork, knife and serving spoons
quickly. Just as she dipped the vegetable pot into the soapy water,
Wayne walked in.
         ''Hey, sis. No leftovers?'' Wayne quipped through his wry
grin.
         ''Not for you! How was the auction?'' Dannie hoped it had
gone better than the February one had. She deftly dipped her tea
glass into the not-so-soapy water and washed it out. As she set it in
the drying rack with the other dishes, she turned to face her
brother.
         '' Pretty good! Sold everything we took over there AND got
fifteen good heifers! Couldn't have wanted better!'' Wayne seemed
truly pleased as he strode across the living room to the kitchen
area. He took a stool at the small island and propped his boots on
the rungs.
         ''Everything go OK here?'' he finished.
         ''Just fine.'' Dannie didn't even think of her encounter in the
third chicken house.
         Wayne pulled all the receipts for the sales and for the new
cattle out of his pocket and set them on the counter.
         ''Want something to drink?'' Dannie offered as she scooped
up the receipt.
         ''Sure!'' Wayne responded.
         ''You know where the glasses are.'' Dannie spun on the ball
of her foot and headed for the office.
         ''Gee, thanks sis.'' Wayne's sour face was lost on Dannie's
back. ''So nice of you to offer.'' he got up and snatched the glass
Dannie had just washed out of the drain rack. As he turned to open
the fridge, Dannie's voice called out from the end of the hall.
         ''My pleasure! Make sure you wash it when you're done.''
         ''Of course. Wouldn't want you to burn my pickup or
nothing'.'' Wayne poured a glass of tea from the near empty
pitcher, leaving less than a mouthful in it. He put the pitcher back
in the fridge and swigged down the sweet, brown tea.
        ''You might wanna put a pot of water on the stove and start
it to boiling.'' Dannie's stocking feet made just the barest of
whispers as she sock-skated into the kitchen, ''or I might start
something afire.''
        ''There's still some in there!'' Wayne popped as he set the
glass into the dishwater. ''Gotta run, Sandra and the boys are
waiting on me to eat dinner. I'll see you tomorrow.'' he made a line
for the door, smiling as he exited. Dannie grinned at his beck as he
went out and peeked at the pitcher in the fridge. ''You shit,
Wayne.'' She muttered and closed the fridge. Rather than make
more tea, she went back to her chair. Before she curled up in it, she
threw three more logs in the fire. She snuggled in and listened to
the new voices from the fresh logs add to the song of the fire. Soon
her eyelids began to slip down, filled with the warmth of the fire
and the meal in her belly. Her body relaxed into the grip of the
recliner and her head sank into it's cushioned headrest. Before the
last tensions were chased from her arm by the fire-heat, she pulled
the recliners wooden handle. As it lay back, she uncurled her legs
and stretched into a restful position.
        Dannie woke and stretched. She cracked her eyelids to peek
at the fire. Nothing but embers. She slowly rose and went to the
wood bin. After reloading the fireplace, she headed for her room.
        Morning found Dannie sitting at the kitchen table savoring
her first cup of coffee and waiting for the lazy little winter birds to
rouse from their slumber. Those first pinkish purple rays of sun
streaked the clouds with pastel color. Dannie padded to the coffee
pot to pour her second cup. The little birds were starting their
cacophony of warm ups in preparation for a day of singing. Dannie
sat back down to watch and listen for just a few more minutes. She
heard Wayne start the tractor on the farm side of the mountain. He
had already finished the morning feedings and was moving hay
from the barn to the hay feeder. Dannie turned on the little
television and watched the weather. Winter was coming back to
the Ozarks today. The weatherman told of a cold front moving
through by noon and temperatures returning to wintry normal. By
dark it would be in the low twenty's and by midnight the low teens.
Ah well, she had had two weeks of days in the sixties. All good
things. She finished the coffee and rinsed out her mug, clicked off
the little television and headed to the front door. Before opening it,
she remembered to grab her jacket. Quietly she slipped out of her
silent home and into the morning orchestra of bird songs, cows
mooing and squirrels chattering. The gentle breeze of yesterday
was already picking up and smelled of the chill air it brought. She
pulled her keys from her front jeans pocket and headed for her
truck.
         Dannie muttered bad words about fords as she torqued the
oil pan bolts back down on the ancient grain truck. This time it had
been the oil pump. As she finished she scanned up the engine and
down the transmission for any upcoming problems.
         ''Crap'' she muttered. The rear u-joint looked like it was
about to fall apart. She spun the creeper around and skated her way
down the drive train to closely inspect it. It would have to be
replaced before the truck was driven again. She slid out from under
the old thing and stood up from the creeper. Stretching, she looked
at the parts shelves to see if they had one. A John Deere u-joint,
but that wouldn't fit the old Ford. It appeared that a trip to town
would be the chore for this morning. Nine o'clock and already
turning bad. Dannie hated trips to town. She washed her hands and
took of the coveralls, trading them for her jacket on the coat pegs.
Walking to the main house, she looked around to see if Wayne was
close by. No luck. She hopped up the steps onto the porch, passed
the porch swing and nearly tripped over Marc's' big wheel as she
turned the corner to the door. Stepping over it, she knocked.
Sandra came to the door holding her mop.
         ''Dannie! Heading to town?'' Sandra always seemed happy
to see Dannie.
         ''Yep. Gotta get a part. If Wayne comes back before I do,
tell him not to take the truck, it's not ready.''
         ''Sure. Is it bad?'' Sandra's question was as sincere as it gets.
         ''Not if he doesn't drive it. I'll have it done thirty minutes
after I get back.'' Dannie turned and stepped back over the big
wheel. As she crossed the porch, she heard the door close. She
wondered if Sandra was really as simple as she came off. She
hopped in her truck and headed down the half mile driveway to the
main road. Town was forty minutes away. She turned up the music
and drove.
         Town wasn't big, not like going to Springfield, but it was
too big for Dannie. Four hundred people should not live in an area
smaller than forty acres. It was just too crowded. As she turned
into the parts store Dannie noticed a new building under
construction further down the road. It was something big. She
parked and went in the little store. Inside she went straight to the
counter.
         ''Haven't seen you in a minute!'' Vic's smiling face did
nothing to make Dannie's mood any better.
         ''Sixty seven Ford seven ton dump, three speed, need a u-
joint.'' Dannie's bluntness was lost on Vic.
         ''OK, beautiful!'' He typed the information into the
computer. ''We got five.''
         ''I'll take them.'' She dug into her pocket for the cash.
         “All of them?” Vic tried to make eye contact “What if
someone else needs one?”
         “Then you better get to ordering.” Dannie’s tone stayed flat
as she looked up into his eyes rather than at the cash in her hand,
her expression one of pure business.
         “OK. I’ll be right back.” Vic left the counter and entered
the stock room. Every time, the same thing. Vic tried to get her
attention, and Dannie refused to give it. She waited as Vic
retrieved her parts. Just a few minutes and Vic came back with the
five small boxes. Dannie's curiosity about the new building was
eating at her.
        ''What's the new building, Vic?''
        ''Apartments'' Vic's tone was enthusiastic. ''That'll be forty
seven seventy eight.'' He smiled at Dannie. She handed him the
money and picked up the stack of five boxes. Vic got her change
and receipt and tucked them into the top box.
        ''See you on the next trip, Dannie!'' his smile stretched
across his narrow face.
        ''Yep, see ya Vic.'' Dannie's face had no smile as she
headed back to her truck.
        ''Apartments'' she mumbled as she set the boxes on the seat.
''Just what we need, more people.'' She started the truck and headed
for home. She had already been in town too long today.

Chapter 2

Dannie sat down on the flat rock, facing away from the barricaded
cave entrance. She serenely gazed over the small valley. The thin
fog gave the fields a grayish color, obscuring the lush green of the
grass. The early morning sun was muted by thin clouds. She
poured a lid of coffee from the thermos and recapped the vessel.
As she set it down on the dry leaves at the base of the rock, she felt
a chill over her neck. Goose bumps rose on her arm and chills
chased down her spine. Dannie smiled. That feeling stirred in her
something thrilling and she loved it. She slowly turned her head
toward the cave, the smile still tugging her lips as her eyes peered
at the old wood straining to see beyond it. For just a heartbeat she
thought she saw something move. A glimpse of darker darkness
between the old slats. Her thrill heightened. She slowly drew her
feet off the leaves and coiled them beneath her body, raising
herself with her arms and turning to square her shoulders with the
cave mouth. The movement happened again. The darker darkness
moved to her left and drew away from the dry, gray wood. She
rose slowly and stalked to the edge of the boards, trying to see
deeper past the gap. Her ears strained to hear into the cave. As her
hand lightly touched the wood she knew... There was something in
there. Dannie stood frozen at that closed cave for what felt like
eternity. She finally remembered to breath. Nothing moved in there
for the span of fifteen slow deep breathes. The excitement began to
fade. She took a slow step back, letting her left hand part from the
boards and drop slowly to her side. She knew it was more than
imagination. She felt something there. She backed away another
slow step. Perhaps the ghost or maybe something even more
fantastic! She took one more, slow step backwards. The stories
might be true, or maybe just the tip of an even greater legend.
Dannie turned on her heal to face her coffee. The thermos lid sat
on the edge of the stone where she had left it. She took the last step
to it and squatted down. As she took her first sip, she heard the
birds, crickets and frogs suddenly burst into song all around her. It
was at that moment she realized that the forest on the mountainside
had been completely silent during the fifteen minutes or so that she
had been locked in focus with the shadow on the other side of the
barricade. She decided that she was going in there. After she
finished her coffee she would go back to her house and get her tire
iron out of the truck. She could use it as a pry bar rather than go all
the way to the farm to get a real pry bar. She had a heavy duty spot
light in her closet. She would get that as well. Dannie had to know
what was in that cave, today. She slugged down the rest of the
coffee and reached down for the thermos. It was gone. Dannie
looked down at the dry leaves. There was no thermos. She looked
all around at the forest floor. Nothing. The thermos was missing.
She turned her head back toward the closed cave. Surely not. There
were no gaps big enough for a finger, much less a full sized steel
thermos. She tried to dismiss the idea, but it just wouldn't go away.
Her thermos was inside that cave! She was sure of it! She set the
lid back down on the rock. Turning slowly away from the cave she
stepped down and began walking for home.
        As Dannie came down the path to her back porch, another
eerie feeling overcame her. Her skin tingled and her excitement
rose. There on the porch next to the back door sat her capped
thermos, cup that she had left on the rock just a few minutes before
included! She froze in her tracks when she saw it. Her eyes panned
from the door across the back of the house to the garage, then back
the other way to the forest, twenty feet from the left corner of the
house. No sign of anyone or anything that may have moved the
thermos. No tracks in the dewy grass other than her own from
leaving earlier. No wet prints on the porch. The goose bumps
began to rise again. She remained still. Alert to even the slightest
movements around her. All seemed normal. Birds, squirrels, bugs
and rodents all carried on their normal, noisy morning activities.
Dannie began walking toward the porch again. Still cautious she
walked up the stairs and across the deck to stand in front of the
back door. Looking down at the thermos she tried to reason in her
mind that this happened in a normal fashion. She could not come
up with anything that seemed even remotely reasonable. Dannie
squatted and lifted the thermos to her eye level. She inspected it
carefully for any sign that an animal had moved it. There were
none. No teeth marks or saliva, no animal prints on the porch. She
decided that the ghost was real and had brought her thermos home.
She hoped as she looked at the doorknob that he had not taken up
residence in her little home. She stood and reached for the
doorknob, thermos gripped in her left hand. She trembled slightly
just before gripping the knob. She turned it and pushed open the
door. Standing for a moment, almost not breathing, she listened for
any sounds in her house. Silence to her ears, but the morning
sounds of the wildlife could easily drown or mask anything from
within. She stepped in and closed the door. Taking a deep breath,
she listened again. No sounds out of the ordinary. She moved
through the house slowly, checking each room as she came to it.
Nothing, no shadows and nothing was out of place. Dannie
gathered her spotlight and pry bar. At the last moment she decided
on a cap and visor light as well. Carrying the bar and light and
wearing the cap fitted with the visor light she headed back for the
cave.

				
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