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Ghost Dance

By: Dale C. Uhlmann

This book is dedicated to the loving memory of my Aunt Ida Chellini, whose wonderful stories about her own haunted house directly inspired the Howard House sections of both Chindi and Ghost Dance. May Aunt Ida, who has recently passed away, and her ghosts, rest in peace.

Chapter 1

Estelle's slim 5'9" frame wretched uncontrollably as her stomach, though toughened by over fifteen years of experience at both Physicians' Emergency Trauma Center in Dayton, and, most recently, the Carlton Psychiatric Center, had suddenly betrayed her. Seismic quakes, stemming from the very pit of the thirty-five-year-old black nurse's slender body, had forced her to turn her back on the gut-wrenching scene that Jimmy's agonized screams had alerted her to. Her slight frame shook spasmodically, and her thin, trembling fingers, each digit of each hand, including the thumbs, adorned with a different, brilliantly colored sapphire ring (everybody at the Center commented on her fondness for jewelry) tightly grasped her frail abdomen, as if it would splinter in two at any moment. Geysers of mustard yellow and coffee brown vomit shot from her mouth, defiling the purity of her carefully starched white nurse's uniform. Her throat burned as her own vomit threatened to choke her. Instantly, due to shock and weakness, she lost consciousness and collapsed into the heap of foul gastric putrescence that had now obscenely spoiled the meticulously waxed and buffed ceramic tile floor.

But Jimmy, the Center's slightly rotund and jocular sixty-five-year-old night custodian, did not complain. That would have been out of character for Jimmy, whose boisterous "hey, there, you sexy women!," with which he humorously greeted the night nurses, including Estelle, every evening, delighted one and all. No, Jimmy didn't complain about the mess. He couldn't…his tongue had been violently torn from his mouth.

"Rag Man," a normally shy and placid patient, had left his room and sneaked behind and jumped Jimmy when he had been singing one of his favorite songs to himself (as he often did), "Proud Mary," while unplugging his buffing machine from the west wall socket. Rag Man's incisors had bitten into Jimmy's jaw like those of a ferocious shark, and with a tenacious pit bull death grip. Utterly immobilized and quickly-and mercifully-going into shock, Jimmy had fallen prostrate to the floor he had just carefully attended to.

Jimmy's body must have seemed like an open buffet table to the lunatic, who, with his own two powerful hands, had ripped Jimmy's tongue from its fastenings, and then, with a carving knife that no one knew how he had gotten, had savagely eviscerated his victim's ample belly. What Elaine had seen before activating the sirens and then fainting was Rag Man's devouring Jimmy's large intestine as eagerly as a child hungrily lapping up a plate of Chef Boyardee macaroni. His mouth had been stained with the tomato-red sauce goblets of Jimmy's blood.

The two burly, crew-cut-domed security personnel, who were able to control their own stomachs at the sight of such a gruesome repast, pulled Rag Man away from his meal and subdued him with a Ranger head lock, ramming his face into the copious pool of blood and tissue. As he was brought to his feet and hurried away to a confinement cell, Rag Man reverently addressed some invisible presence over and over again: "Master, I have done thy will. What more can I do to prepare thy way?"

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Prior to this shocking murder, "Rag Man" (so-named because of his eccentric attire of battleship gray institutional pajamas, asphalt boots, and dingy, olive green rags. These rags he would wear around his neck as fashion statement scarves, along with three matching rags of different garish colors, two from the sides and one from the back, of a battered navy blue baseball cap), a bizarre Johnny Apple Seed child-man in a black goatee, had been a local celebrity, and a Cartlon tourist attraction. He would daily tread miles of the city's sidewalks on daily, and in any type of weather, always headed for some unknown destination. That destination had turned out to be Carlton University's renovated Howard House, named after the University's original founders, and now a museum. He had been searching for the proprietor, his biological mother, Althea Brewster, whose body, that fateful day, he had found when Dr. Naomi Walker had decided to permanently silence the clairvoyant before she could reveal her as the mastermind behind the Carlton Plague/chindi killings. Ever since that day, Rag Man had led an unassuming, benign life within the confines of the Carlton Psychiatric Home-until now.

Rachel Russo-Graffanino had learned about the atrocity while home during a summer sabbatical she had been granted from Carlton University, where she was now an Associate Professor of Pan-Am Studies. With some leisure time now on her hands, she soon found herself, ironically, becoming hooked on that which she, as a serious scholar, had long derided, tabloid TV. One morning, she had come across The Charlie Fleming Show, a nationally syndicated program whose dysfunctional guests rivaled the roster of any carnival show, or the real-life deformed performers of director Tod Browning's 1932 horror classic Freaks, which she and her husband Nick, both film buffs, had seen one evening on cable TV's Turner Classic Movies. "One of us! One of us!" the couple, who had been married for six years, would each playfully quip to each other in the characters' high-pitched voices before some under-the-cover nightly foreplay.

Nick couldn't resist kidding his wife about her newly found passion for tabloid TV. "How can an intelligent woman like you, with a Ph.D. to boot, watch such crap?" he asked, while dressing in front of the bedroom mirror, buttoning his rediped, white cotton shirt, tucking the shirt tails into his navy blue cotton dress jeans, and adjusting his silver cufflinks.

"It's not crap," insisted Rachel, although secretly she knew he was right. But she was transfixed by the spectacle of supposedly mature adult members of the audience, their faces twisted into clownish masks of ridicule, hooting and jeering at a pair of young African American women, who were Siamese twins joined at the waist, fighting over the same man who had incredibly managed to impregnate them both! "It's American popular culture at its worst" continued Rachel, sipping on freshly brewed coffee from her ceramic cup, the cherry red letters "Carlton University" emblazoned across its pale blue surface, while she sat in the center of their beige living room sofa, her bare feet propped up on a small pile of soft matching cushions. "It's passion…it's spectacle, Coliseum style…it's drama…it's…SO DAMNED FUNNY!" she burst out laughing. The sight of both women battling over control of their shared trunk, and twisting in opposite directions, one in amorous pursuit of their mutual lover, and the other frantically determined to rush into the audience and cold-cock an obnoxious Goth teenage boy who had dared to call both of them "a couple of Siamese hoes," resembled a dog chasing its own tail. Rachel (as well as the unruly studio audience) was now in convulsions.

"Well," conceded Nick, knotting his cranberry, white striped cotton tie and slipping on his silver tie clasp and charcoal gray tweed sport coat, which he had earlier gotten from the bedroom closet. "I guess it makes people realize that their lives aren't so screwed up after all."

"Right" laughed Rachel, as she arose from the sofa to see Nick off for the day. He had picked up his black leather briefcase, whose handle he now held by his right hand, and had walked over to the living room, near the doorway.

"You're off for three months while I have to work, and with a big trial coming up, too. What's fair about that?"

"Honey, I'm gonna be working , too. It's not like I'll be soaking up the sun all summer. I'm on paid sabbatical; so I can research my book on Native American poetry, remember?

"You call thatwork?"

Rachel knew that he was only joking, and that he loved being a second-year lawyer with the Dallas Park law firm. He had given up his dream of a major league baseball career when his ailing left shoulder had given out one final time, during a tryout with the San Diego Padres. A realist, he had decided to move ahead with his life, attend law school, and earn his legal diploma. After he had passed the Bar, he did some free-lance legal research for about a year before landing an independent contractor position with Park, a successful civil attorney for the past fifteen years. He had recently been promoted to a full-time role as Park's top pleadings and motions attorney. He had been asked, though, to make one sacrifice: refraining from wearing his right pierced earring at the office, in keeping with a more "professional" appearance. Because removing and reinserting the earring had proven so annoying, he had decided to just not wear it altogether. Still, he felt that the recent financial security he was enjoying was worth such a sacrifice, especially since it now allowed the couple to at last begin a family.

"Aaah, poor baby!"! Rachel replied to his mock pouting, embracing her husband and warmly kissing his lips. "I'll have to make it up to you somehow, now won't I?" she laughed softly.

"What did you have in mind?" Nick grinned.

"I'll think of something," Rachel promised, playfully twirling her right forefinger around Nick's lower lip.

All of a sudden, their attention was diverted by the elevated tone of the commercial that now blared across their condo: "COMING UP, ON ACTION 12 NEWS AM UPDATE, 'LOCAL INDIAN LEADER FIGHTS TO HOLD A 'GHOST DANCE' OVER CORPORATE LAND! JACK DOBSON. IS HE PROPHET OR CON MAN? ACTION 12'S SYLVIA MCFARLAND WILL HAVE THE EXCLUSIVE STORY!"

"'Con man!'" bristled Rachel, who was part Italian American and part Delaware Indian, her face suddenly turned in the direction of the TV. "That's what they always call Native American activists!"

"Yeah," said Nick in a foreboding tone. His grin had suddenly turned into a frown, and there was now a distant look in his eyes, as if the mere mention of Dobson's name had changed his entire mood. Rachel, who had learned to read Nick's temperament as well as she could her own, knew that something was wrong, despite his attempt to act if nothing was the matter. "Well, I gotta go" he announced, quickly kissing her on her right cheek. "Bye, hon."

"Bye," Rachel replied, as Nick trod out the door to his hunter green Ford Taurus, which, due to last evening's dry, early June weather, he had parked outside of the couple's two-car garage. As he pulled out of the driveway, Rachel, mystified by Nick's sudden change in mood, wondered if he was hiding something from her, but she did not have time to speculate any further, for now her attention was riveted by the breaking news of last night's murder at the Carlton Psychiatric Center. "THIS JUST IN-A STORY RIGHT OUT OF SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, began recently hired co-anchor Suzie Alvarado, whose dark Puerto Rican American looks, the station was convinced, would play well against those of her waspish partner, Tom Wellington, and increase their 10AM newscast's sagging ratings, especially among male viewers. Chauvinistically, they had, unbeknown to her, considered her journalistic talents, and experience at five other major stations across the country, less important than her beauty and cultural diversity, but already local praise of her broadcasting talents was quickly proving to skeptics that she was not just an ethnically suitable "pretty face."


Rachel numbly listened to the grisly details as if in a daze. She remembered Rag Man's innocent and sorrowful eyes as her mind instantly took her back six years ago, to her first meeting with Carlton's newest homicidal psychopath.

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Chapter 3

"He killed my mother!…He killed my mother!" Milton DeFalice (AKA "Rag Man") had intoned helplessly over the battered, duct taped-bound body of Althea Brewster. The immediate suspect had been Len Cody, whom both Rag Man and Rachel had seen fleeing from Howard House that day. A pitcher for the AAA Carlton Scouts, Cody was, Rachel had been convinced, the reincarnation of Maman-Ti, an ancient Delaware medicine man now in control of the murderous chindi spirit unleashed by the team's desecration of sacred tribal burial grounds. Later, she would discover that Cody was no reincarnation, but the innocent, unwilling puppet of her own mentor, Dr. Naomi Walker, who had taken control of the chindi, and who had been trying to blame its crimes on Cody.

"Wait!," wait!," Rachel had cautioned Rag Man when discovering him lamenting over his mother's body before calling the police. Although in the six years following the ending of the crimes (and the deadly plague that had accompanied them), Rachel had not seen Rag Man since his commitment for the mentally ill, she could never forget that forlorn, lost puppy dog look of his. She found it impossible to believe that this same timid, overgrown waif, a cross between Johnny Apple Seed and a '60s hippie, could be, as the Carlton media would soon call him, "Rag Man, the Cannibal Man."

Suddenly, the sharp ringing of her cordless phone transported Rachel back to the present. She picked up the phone from the right edge of the sofa, pressed the "TALK" button with her left forefinger, and placed the phone to her left ear. "Hello?" she answered. "Uh-huh…Uh-HUH! I see. Well, I'm glad you called, Marissa. Just be calm. They won't hurt you. I'll be down as soon as I can. Okay, bye." She pressed the "END button and placed the phone in its recharging stall, attached to the kitchen's west wall.

"My God, what ELSE is gonna happen today? Don't they know I'm on sabbatical?" Rachel muttered to herself on her way to the couple's bedroom closet to change, untying her robe and tossing it on the living room sofa. Now in her Bali white lace bra and panties, she rooted through the closet. Not caring about fashion at the moment, she threw on the first thing she could find, her husband's denim blue work shirt which, because she was in a hurry, she left largely unbuttoned, simply tying the garment up in a knot above her slim waist. She then donned a pair of faded old blue Lee jeans, pale blue athletic socks, and well-worn black and white-bordered Converse sneakers, and quickly fastened a turquoise Delaware bandana around her long, flowing raven black hair, parted in the middle, and, on certain ceremonial occasions, braided. Before leaving, she slipped on a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses, which she plucked with her right hand from the tan suede purse she had flung, with her other hand, over her left shoulder. Then, she was out the door, which she made sure she had securely locked from the inside, and was backing out of the garage in her six-year-old silver Hyundai, which she was now planning to trade in for a newer model. Soon, she was at Howard House.

"Now, calm down, honey. Calm down" she consoled the still obviously distraught student assistant, who was rotating shifts with other girls that summer as museum tour guides. "They're more afraid of us than we are of them" Rachel assured the tall, freckled, short-cropped red haired girl while removing and folding her Ray Bans with her right hand and placing them in the work shirt's top pocket.

"That's hard to believe, Dr. R-G" (an informal acronym that Rachel had asked Marissa to call her). "Shit, I was so scared, I think I pissed down my new slip" Marissa complained, adjusting the damp hem of her powder blue pants suit. This outfit, plus the new, notch collared, white, flowered cotton blouse, hose, and black, high heeled dress shoes she had purchased for this summer job had already put her back a full week's salary, she liked to complain to her friends.

"Okay, okay" replied Rachel. "Just tell me what happened."

"I can do better than that," Marissa replied. "I can show you." She then led Rachel up a short flight of steps to the second floor. There, they paused, and looked down at the newly carpeted velour floor, soiled by a trail of blood stains that led directly under the oaken door to the master bedroom. "They still look damp" remarked Marissa.

"Unlock the door," whispered Rachel, fearing what they would find inside. Marissa silently complied, tremulously opening the door and flipping on the light switch, revealing the results of havoc that had been wreaked by no human hands. The four-poster bed had been torn apart, the mattress half hanging from the bedsprings, and the sheets and pillowcases shredded, as if by a wild animal. Lamps and ornaments lay smashed on the wooden floor boards, on which the blood stains continued to trail, abruptly ending by the east wall, whose violet flowered wall paper was similarly streaked-with the bloody handprints of a small child.

"Those are still here, too" Marissa explained. "I was just firing up the museum's computer, when I heard what sounded like the Iraq War going on upstairs, from this bedroom. When I unlocked the door, this is what I found. So I locked it up again and decided to call you. What 's going on here?

"I don't know" answered Rachel, who did know that the Howard House ghosts were only this disruptive when renovations to the House were underway-or when imminent danger was at hand, "but it's getting very cold in here!"

Marissa realized that she was right, and soon both of them were squeezing their forearms and rubbing their hands together, trying to keep warm. Their frozen breaths now emanated from their mouths, despite the toasty 80 degrees outside. Before either one could comment on this incongruity, the bedroom suddenly slammed shut on its own. Despite Marissa's frantic efforts, she could not open it, even with both hands pulling on the knob. Rachel stood in the middle of the room and waited…for what, she knew not.

Then, the light went completely out, plunging the room into total darkness. Marissa whimpered in fright; Rachel cautioned her to remain calm. Suddenly, a small shaft of incandescent light-the only light in the room, and from some unknown, unearthly source, shone from the ceiling, illuminating that same wall where the blood spots had inexplicably ended. Thin beams of what appeared to be dust began to crystallize from nowhere into a small figure, its back turned to the two onlookers, and its body transparent, shining like phosphorous. It was one of the Howard House ghosts, the cherubic little boy with wavy, chestnut brown hair that had been spotted dozens of times during the years. As always, he dressed in the same outfit, a miniature Victorian navy blue frock coat, with matching vest and apple red cravat. His little palms were covered with the damp blood that he had evidently picked up from the floor, and which he was now copiously staining the wall with. From the intent concentration on his face, he appeared to be frantically attempting to peel away the now crimson wallpaper, why, Rachel could scarcely guess.

"Oh…my…God!" exclaimed Marissa. "I think I'm gonna pee my pants again!"

"Quiet!" admonished Rachel. "Let's see what happens next."

Immediately, the child, unable to make even a dent in the wallpaper, began to cry, although neither Rachel nor Marissa could hear a single sob. At that moment, as if responding to the child's plight, a second figure seemed to materialize, an elderly charwoman, her face stained by soot, and wearing a light gray Victorian cleaning outfit and matching cap. Instantly, Rachel and Marissa knew that they were in the presence of both ghosts.

Like her small companion, the charwoman, too, seemed both transparent and phosphorescent. Her back, also, was turned to the two spectators, as she began to kneel and embrace the sobbing child, maternally cradling his head against her bosom and consoling him with silent words of comfort. Then, quickly, their bodies began to de-crystallize into the earlier dust-like substance, and they were gone. Immediately, the electric light came back on, and the room's temperature quickly returned to normal. Marissa again tried the doorknob, with her right hand; this time, it opened easily.

"I was right," remarked Marissa. "I DID pee my pants again!" There, as proof, was a small puddle of urine on the middle of the floor, where she had stood transfixed at the sight of the two ghosts. "I'm gonna go home and change. Is that all right, Dr. R-G?"

"Yes, by all means, Marissa. Go ahead, I'll lock up for you," Rachel replied distantly, utterly preoccupied with this latest mystery. The last time that the ghosts had behaved this mysteriously was in response to the chindi killings. What catastrophe did this new haunting foretell?

"And I thought this was going to be a QUIET sabbatical!" Rachel tried to laugh to herself on the way back home, but inwardly she was filled with a secret dread of what these bizarre events really meant. Meanwhile, on the seventh, maximum security, floor of the Carlton Psychiatric Center, Dr. Walter Harris was discovering that events there were, likewise, far from quiet.

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The Carlton Common Pleas Court had called in Dr. Harris, a Columbus specialist in delusional psychopathic therapy, to monitor Rag Man's mental condition before a hearing on the defendant's ability to stand trial. Dr. Harris, a stout, wiry twenty-seven-year-old African American with an immaculately trimmed goatee, had earned his BS at Carlton University before accepting a post graduate scholarship in Chicago, so he had looked upon this appointment as a homecoming of sorts. Although a comparatively young man, he had already carved an enviable reputation for himself as a specialist in his field, and handled dozens of similar assignments across the country. No case he had worked on previously, however, had prepared him for what awaited him at the Carlton Psychiatric Center that morning.

In the temporary office that had been assigned for him, Harris slipped on his white clinical coat over his light blue cotton shirt and burgundy tie, and pinned his security identification badge to his right lapel. He then asked for Rag Man's file from the seventh floor's head nurse. While holding the file in his left hand, he efficiently flipped through its voluminous dog-eared and coffee-stained pages with his right, until he came across a copy of the attached police report on Jimmy Trevalian's murder, and paused, intensely studying it for several minutes with his piercing hazel eyes. At last, Harris closed the file, tucked it under his left arm, breathed a long, contemplative sigh, and calmly said to the two security guards that were waiting to accompany him, "let's go." The three men then left the office, and paused near the twin, aqua green double doors while one of the guards buzzed his partner and the Doctor in. They now left the Center's sterile, hermetically sealed bubble, and entered what staff members called the "Netherworld."

It was a visit to the living hell of another world. The seventh floor was dimly lit, and the patients' cells were equipped with protective, shatter-proof glass screens, so that the Doctor and the guards could monitor their every move without putting themselves at risk. There was much to fear. One occupant, a young woman, was twisting and squirming on the left edge of her pale blue sheeted and blanketed bunk, screaming incessantly at the imaginary sewer rats crawling inside her institutional gown (the same color as that of the bunk sheets, covers, and pillow cases, the same color for all clothing and accessories issued to patients in the "Netherworld"), which she frenetically tried to tear from her body.

"Shut the fuck up, bitch!" shouted an obese, shaggy haired middle-aged man sitting in the center of the gray cement floor, in a pile of his own feces.

"Hey, nigger!" yelled a young, shaven head Neo-Nazi with swastikas tattooed on both arms, and who lunged against the center of the glass barrier. If this God damned glass weren't here, I'd slit your fuckin' throat!"

Trained professional that he was, Harris ignored the disgusting sights and sounds and walked on until he reached Rag Man's cell. There, he sat down in a steel folding chair at a table near the cell, flanked by the two guards, placed the file across from his left forearm, where he could easily glance over and cross-reference his questions, and began to speak over the table microphone. Although the glass screens were not soundproof, and all parties could hear each other clearly enough, the microphone and cell receivers sharpened audibility, without either side having to shout.

Rag Man, now clothed in a hospital gown, but still wearing his trademark rag-festooned ball cap, but having been forced to relinquish his asphalt boots for the pale blue hospital slippers that everyone else wore here, sat in the west corner of his cell, in the middle of a cot covered, to his right, with the remains of half-eaten flies. He seemed to be in some type of trance, staring out the window and muttering to himself incessantly, "I am waiting, Master. I am waiting."

"Good morning, Mr. DeFalice. I'm Dr. Walter Harris, of the Columbus State Psychiatric Hospital. I've just been assigned to your case, and am here to help you."

Rag Man suddenly turned his face in Harris's direction, smiled, and said softly, "Good morning, Doctor. You'll have to excuse the mess, but I've just finished breakfast, and haven't had a chance to clean up yet."

"That's quite all right, Mr. DeFalice. Don't let me disturb you." Even from a distance, he could tell that Rag Man's dark brown pupils were dilated, as if from hypnosis. He quickly took out a miniature tape recorder from the breast pocket of his clinical coat with his right hand, placed it on the table in front of him, and pressed the record button with his right index finger.

"Tell me, Mr. DeFalice, do you know why you're here?"

Rag Man did not reply, but was preoccupied with a fly buzzing around his head. Without a word, he caught the fly in his two outstretched hands, as deftly as an outfielder hauling in a fly ball, gently cradled it, paused, glanced up at the Doctor, and asked, "Would you like to have it? These blue bottled ones are real good!"

"No…no thank you, Mr. DeFalice, I've already eaten."

"Okie Dokie!" replied Rag Man, who then broke into a wide grin and eagerly swallowed the insect whole. "Man, that's sweet!" he observed, licking his lips.

"Mr. DeFalice, please, let's get down to business. You're here because you've been charged with killing a man, a night custodian, Jimmy Trevalian. You remember Mr. Trevalian, don't you?"

"No," Rag Man answered, matter of factly.

"You took tore out his tongue and ate it. Then eviscerated his stomach with a carving knife and ate his large intestine. Where did you get the knife?"

"What knife?"

"Now, listen, Mr. DeFalice, a convenient lapse of memory is NOT going to get you off. If I'm going to help you, you've got to be honest with me, okay?" Now,…"

Dr. Harris' explanation was abruptly cut short by an ardent request by Rag Man. "Listen, Doc, could you get me a match box-and some spiders?"

"A match box? Spiders?"

"Yeah, I want to keep all the flies I can catch and feed 'em to the spiders."

"And then what will you will do the spiders?" Harris asked warily.

"Why, I'll eat 'em, of course. Then, I'll have the twice the lives I'd get from those puny flies. Then, if I could feed them spiders to some nice, fat birds and eat them, I could fuckin' live forever!"

"Twice the lives" whispered Harris to himself, as if he had just discovered the key to his patient's disorder. He paused for a moment and replied, "All right, Mr. DeFalice, I'll see what I can do. But in the meantime, I need to ask you a few more questions. Now, let's begin with…"

Suddenly, Rag Man broke out into a scream of agony, fell prostrate to the middle of the floor, closed his eyes, and started to shake convulsively. He then began to mutter, over and over, words that Harris had never heard before: "Lenape," "Manetuwak," and "Messingw." After a few minutes, Rag Man stopped shaking, opened his eyes, and began murmuring in English the name "Dobson," and the words "Ghost Dance." He then shakily rose to his feet, carefully swept the remains of his "breakfast" to the floor, lay his head on his pillow, stretched out on his bunk, closed his eyes, and replied, again to some invisible presence, "Yes, Master, I'll ask for her. I'll ask for her."

"Who, Mr. DeFalice?" asked Harris. "Who are you talking to-and about?"

"Rachel. I have to see Rachel…I have to see Rachel." Soon, Rag Man was asleep.

Harris glanced over his right shoulder at the two guards and asked "Whose Rachel?"

"He might mean Rachel Russo-Graffanino, Doctor, one of them replied. "You know, the half Indian girl who's now a professor at Carlton U. She's probably in the file."

"Oh yeah" Harris answered, as he glanced through the section of the file he had not yet had the time to read, that dealing with the chindi killings. "Her phone number is here. I'll have to contact her." As he read her name, he couldn't help feeling that he knew her that they had met some time before. In any event, there was no time to worry about that now; he had other matters to attend to.

"Okay, gentlemen. I'm through here today. Let's get out of here."

Back in his temporary office, Dr. Harris ran a Google search on his laptop computer of the strange words that Rag Man had muttered, and discovered that they were of Native American origin, specifically from the Delaware language. He knew, based on the information in Rag Man's file, that Rachel could help him, and by the time he had called her, she had returned home from Howard House. She agreed to meet with the Doctor at the Center the next day.

"Thank you, Dr. Russo-Graffanino, I appreciate your time and help. See you tomorrow." As he pressed the "End" button with his right index finger and replaced the receiver with his left hand, Harris couldn't help but feel that he had definitely met Rachel before, but he couldn't quite remember when.

"Oh well, no biggie" he assured himself, "I'll find out soon enough." In the meantime, he had some transcribing to do, so, with his left index finger, he pressed the "Record" button of his tape recorder and began trying to make some sense out of what ever he had learned about his new patient today.

"Milton DeFalice, also known as 'Rag Man'…" he started reciting into the recorder. "Patient is suffering from psychotic auditory delusions, his attempting to communicate with some unknown presence whose voice he believes he can hear. Patient is also convinced that he needs to consume cumulative lives in order to survive-might possibly explain both his cannibalism and his obsession with other life forms. My initial diagnosis is that he is schizophrenic zoophagous, and not competent to stand trial. He is also homicidal. Lifetime confinement, hospitalization, and medication all will be necessary. In closing,…" he paused momentarily before concluding, measuring his final words carefully, "though I suspect there may still be something more about this case that I have not yet discovered." As he pressed the machine's "Off" button, he felt, confidentially, that that "something more" could best be described by the word "sinister."

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Chapter 5

On the same morning as Rachel's most recent encounter with the supernatural, and Dr. Harris' meeting with his new patient, Nick was pulling into his reserved parking spot on the fifth floor of the Ayers Law Building, which housed the Dallas Park Law Firm. As he boarded the elevator to the third floor, where Parks' office was located, he couldn't get out of his mind the news story concerning Jack Dobson's activities. He dreaded telling Rachel that his firm had taken the Mathias Health Services' case against Dobson's group, and that he himself would have to assist Dobson in the trial, slated to begin next month, in Zanseville, where Mathias' corporate offices were located.

The corporation had filed suit against both Dobson and the Equal Rights for Minorities Group, a local organization that had provided backing, funding, and legal support for Dobson's planned Ghost Dance. This Group had filed an answer to Mathias' complaint attempting to block the ceremony. Mathias claimed that it still owned the still vacant ground on which Dobson planned to hold the Dance land that had been set aside for future hospital expansion, and which was right across the street from the Hospital's Trauma Center. The complaint alleged that such a ceremony, with the local and national publicity it would court, would interfere with the nearby Trauma Center's normal operations. The Equal Rights for Minorities Group had argued that the site had special symbolic significance, claiming that, according to oral legend, it had been the site of an alleged 1816 massacre by State militia against a peaceful Delaware Indian group protesting government opposition to open tribal spiritual celebrations. Furthermore, the Group had claimed, Dobson had a Constitutional right to hold the Dance under the Native American Freedom of Religion Act. Religious freedom and cultural sensitivity notwithstanding, the Dimitri Poulis law firm felt that, because the proposed site was still technically privately owned ground, the case was a sheer winner for Mathias, and would net not only substantial legal fees, but exclusive future lucrative business with the corporation. Because he had over-extended himself lately, he and his associate, Stacy Morgan, didn't have time to handle the case themselves, so he decided to refer it to Dallas Park, and gain an extra profit from a handsome referral charge, as well as from splitting the legal fees with Dallas. Unbeknown to Dimitri, however, trouble was on the horizon.

The short, stout, fifty-one-year-old balding, bespectacled Park, a lifetime bipolar patient, had once again grown tired of taking his seemingly endless rounds of medication, which had always seemed to forever need adjustments, and had convinced himself that he could control his condition through other means. Whenever he decided on such a course of action, it always proved to be a sure recipe for disaster. Four years ago, his depression, uncontrolled by the running and the low carb diet he had tried instead, had grown so severe that his secretary, Carol, had found him in the firm's basement, eating spoonfuls of Kibbles and Bits dog food from a cereal bowl. "Oh, what the hell, my father's Korean ancestors always ate dogs!" Dallas had quipped. His manic phase had been just as unpredictable. During that same period, he had suffered such severe insomnia that, since he couldn't sleep anyway, he figured he might as well make himself useful. So, for six weeks, he worked the midnight shift as a clerk at a local Sheetz gas station before arriving to work each morning at his firm. This double schedule quickly took its toll, and soon he was in Carlton City Hospital, suffering from nervous exhaustion. Rest and returning to his medication would cure him, but, even at that, he could not resume full time legal duties for nearly three months.

Since that bleak time, Dallas had rebuilt both his health and reputation, and now his practice was humming. He was now handling all types of civil litigation: wrongful death suits, personal injury complaints, divorces and disillusions, and sexual harassment claims. In fact, he was receiving so many referrals from other firms that he badly needed help. This was when he had hired Nick as an independent contractor to handle the indispensable legal research and motions and pleadings drafting that he no longer had time for, first as an independent contractor, and now as a full time hand. Dallas had been impressed by Nick's dependability, and by his research and writing skills, and Nick, by Parks' brilliant legal mind. That mind, though, was now once again showing signs of erosion.

After four more years of medications, Dallas was now totally fed up with being a "pill head," and had decided once more to go off of them. Within a week, the inevitable disastrous results were noticeable. His insomnia had recently returned, as severe as ever, and he was so "wired" that he would often work until 2AM at his office, including weekends, and call Nick at odd hours of the night just to ask him about this file or that. Soon, his fourteen-year marriage was beginning to suffer (as it had before, only this time, worse), and his now estranged wife was demanding custody of their two teenage daughters. Now, he had fallen into a deep depression. In fact, the only things that were keeping him going were his work and the highly caffeinated coffee that now constituted the bulk of his diet. He ate like a bird, both Nick and Carol had noticed, mainly carrot sticks and oranges, which he took with him each day in a tieing plastic baggie, part of his "new" strategy, along with weightlifting, to combat his bipolar condition sans medicine. There were some days when he seemed like the old Dallas-talkative and friendly, but studious and dependable. On other days, he seemed abnormally quiet, nervous, and highly irritable, chain-smoking like a fiend in order to calm his strained nerves. This would be coupled with bizarre behavior, such as arriving at the office in shoes, but no socks, or leaving pornographic magazines for clients to read in the outer office lobby. These an embarrassed Carol would quickly dispose of in the trash basket before anyone else could find them. In short, no one knew if Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde would show up from one day to the next.

"Hi, Nick! Good morning, Carol!" a smiling Dallas greeted the two as he reported to work that morning. "Mr. Hyde!" Nick remarked to himself, as he noticed his boss's unusual attire. He was wearing a tomato red Carlton Scouts ball cap, a dingy beige windbreaker, a navy blue cotton T-shirt with white lettering reading "Joe's Crab Shack" on the front, some frayed-cuffed Rustler blue jeans, and a pair of old, grass-stained white Nike high tops-and without socks.

"He must think it's Casual Day," whispered Carol to Nick after Dallas had disappeared behind his office door to read the morning mail. She, unlike her boss, was dressed professionally: a tan notch blazer/skirt suit, with hose, and dark gray, high-heeled dress shoes. The short forty-two-year-old African American woman, who had been his secretary for the last five years, sat down at her desktop computer near the west window of the office's receptionist room to continue working on the firm's billing statements. Pushing back the medium-length shiny black hair that fell over the left side of her oval face with the palm of her left hand, she glanced at the figures on the ream of sheets next to her right elbow and sighed "well, onward and upward." Before she could begin, however, her phone rang. Instantly, she picked up the receiver with her right hand and placed it to her left ear while pressing the "Talk" button with her right index finger.

"Hello, the Dallas Park Law Firm" she answered. There was a slight pause, and then she said "Yes, just a moment, please."

"Nick," she smiled. "It's 'Mr. Whiner' again."

"I'll take it in here," he laughed, heading for his office, whose east wall, painted in eggshell white, like the rest of the office, was decorated with bright Carlton Scouts pennants, while on the center wall hung his framed law school diploma. "This ought to be good" he chuckled to himself. He picked up the receiver from his desk phone with his right hand, placed it to his right ear, pressed the 'TALK" button with his left forefinger, and sat down in his black leather swivel chair, anticipating another frantic, but entertaining, call from their favorite neurotic client.

"He-llo?" the whiny voice on the other end of the line asked. "Is this Mr. Graff-an-i-no?"

"Yes, it is."

"This is Cory Ma-a-a-thews. I'm calling to see if my settlement check is in yet."

Cory Matthews, a roofer, had suffered a debilitating back injury when he had fallen through an unsecured loading platform at a condominium construction site, and had won a $85,000 negligence settlement from the condo association. The only trouble was that he had gone ahead and signed papers for a down payment on a new house for he and his wife before the settlement check had arrived, and the down payment was due tomorrow, by 4PM. For the past week, he had been calling every day if his check was in, so Melissa and Nick did not have to guess at the reason for this latest call.

"No, Mr. Matthews, I'm sorry. It hasn't come in this morning's mail" answered Nick, sorting through the letters and advertisements in his mail tray, centered between his 1994 Carlton University baseball trophy and a framed wedding picture of him and Rachel.

"Well, if I don't have that money by 4 PM tomorrow, I'll have to pay the realtor an $8,000 late charge. Do you think Mr. Park would write me a check for the eight thousand? I'll pay him as soon as I get my settlement check" replied the nasal-voiced client.

"I don't know, Mr. Matthews. I'll have to ask Mr. Park, but, in the meantime, we can fax a letter to your realtor explaining the situation to him and asking that he grant you an extension."

"O-o-o-h, that would be won-der-ful!"

"All righty, Mr. Matthews. If I get Mr. Parks' okay, I'll call you back later to get your realtor's name, address, and fax number."

"Thank you, Mr. Graff-an-i-no. You have a nice day."

"You, too, Mr. Matthews. Goodbye," Nick answered, as he pressed the "END" button on the phone set and laid down the receiver. "Jeez!" Nicked exclaimed, as Carol, who had been listening nearby, entered his office.

"Well, let me guess," she joked, folding her arms across her chest in a mock serious fashion. "He was asking about his settlement check again, right?"

"Hey, you got it, first time!" laughed Nick. "You're good!"

"Tell me, did they teach you to deal with clients like this in law school?"

"Hell no," replied Nick. "Friggin' idiot! Nobody told him to buy a house before he even got his check."

Carol smiled, but her smile quickly turned to an open-mouthed expression of alarm, at the barrage of profanities from their boss's nearby office. Despite the fact that his door was close, both Nick and Carol could hear the blue language loud and clear.

"God damn! Son of a bitch! Mother fucker!"

With the same agility that he had displayed as a pitcher while fielding ground balls hit back to him, Nick sprung from his chair, raced to Dallas's office, flung open the door, and confronted his irate boss. "Dallas!" exclaimed Nick. "What the hell's the matter?"

"It's that friggin' Flannigan!" he replied, shaking a batch of papers in his right hand. "I no sooner file a reply to his Motion for Summary Judgment in the Armbruster case-two days ago, in fact-and he sends me a service copy of his friggin' 'Motion to Strike' my reply!"

Tom Flannigan was the type of attorney, according to both Dallas and many other Carlton lawyers, who gave their profession a bad name. Long adversaries, the two were currently squaring off in a nasty defamation case in which Cashmere Armbruster, the Carlton Clerk of Courts, was suing the Carlton Tribune for a recent article exposing his alleged past ties to illegal gambling. Dallas, who was representing the Tribune,claimed that the suit was frivolous, defending the paper's right to publish statements from reputable sources about a public figure. Armbruster's complaint, on the other hand, alleged that the Tribune knew that the stories were libelous, and was asking for over $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The trial had been set for April 8th, but already the Court docket had grown about three inches thick, due to Flannigan's constant amendments, supplements, replies, and, his favorite weapons, motions to strike practically anything that his opponents filed. It was just such a motion that Dallas had just blown up about.

"That bastard!" Dallas complained. "I'd like to go over to his office and punch him right in the nose! Listen to this cock sucker: "`Parks' confusing and disjointed reply to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment should be dismissed by the Court as lacking 'good ground for support.' Opposing counsel's explanation is akin to stealing cookies from the cookie jar, putting them back, and then denying that he had taken them in the first place.'"

"There it is again, Nick. That fuckin' cookie jar argument of his!"

Nick smiled, listened quietly, and let his boss vent.

Park continued reading: "'The gravamen of opposing counsel's argument is that…'" Dallas broke off for a moment to comment on his opponent's pretentious language. "That pompous ass! Who the hell uses words like 'gravamen?`" Again, Nick listened and smiled indulgently.

"`The gravamen of opposing counsel's argument,'" Dallas repeated, "`is that the Carlton Tribune is protected by the first amendment, and by Mr. Armbruster's status as a public figure. NONSENSE! The 'bottom line' is that…'" "Wow!" Dallas paused. "He just loves that 'bottom line' bullshit, doesn't he?" He then continued. "`The 'bottom line' is that the Tribune either knew or should have known about the libelous nature of its aforementioned statements about Plaintiff, who has suffered damages as a result. Therefore, the Court should strike opposing counsel's entire reply as sham and frivolous!'"

"Why, that mother fucker! You just wait! I'm gonna cut him a new ass hole!" Dallas vowed.

"Look, Dallas" Nick tried to reason with his boss. "The best thing you can do with Flannigan is to ignore him. The more you try to answer him reply for reply, the more determined he'll be to bury you in procedural paper work. You know how mean and vindictive he is. Every reply from you becomes a personal vendetta to him. This whole thing has become a blood feud between you two, and you don't need that right now."

"I know, Nick" Dallas replied. "But, Jesus Christ, this guy would make a murderer out of Mother Theresa!"

Before Nick could respond, their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of two visitors, one, a medium-built man of about forty, with olive skin, a receding dark brown hairline, and pencil-thin moustache, and glasses. He was dressed exquisitely in a three-piece slate gray pin striped business suit, burgundy shirt, a garish red, and white flowered tie (Nick could tell that all three were made of silk), gold cufflinks, and expensive Italian tan leather shoes. The other was a tall, slightly robust looking young woman whose mass of curly, dishwater blonde hair delicately draped the shoulders of her rose red, violet print cotton sundress. She carried a thick, bound manila file under her right arm and a black leather purse over her left shoulder.

"Hey, Dal!" the man jovially greeted Dallas, extending a hearty right hand, and evidently ignoring his colleague's excessively casual office attire. "How ya doin' this morning?"

"Okay" replied Dallas. "Nick, this is Dimitri Poulis. Dimitri, this is my assistant attorney, Nick Graffanino."

"Hi! How's it's goin,' Nick? Dal tells me that you're the best damn briefs and motions guy he's ever hired."

"Well, I try my best, Mr. Poulis."

"I'll bet you do. Hey, before I forget, I'd like to introduce my associate attorney, Stacy Morgan. She handles all our civil cases, while I take care of the criminal litigation. She's worked with Dal on a lot of cases before."

"Hello Nick," Stacy smiled, tossing her head with a coquettish shake of her head (although to Nick it reminded him of a horse flinging its mane about) and extending her right hand. "Nice to meet you." As she bent over-deliberately a little further than necessary, he felt-Nick could help but notice the bountiful cleavage that the sundresses' low bodice generously displayed. Stacy saw that he tried to avert his eyes as he replied "Nice to meet you, too." She smiled knowingly.

"Well, we'd better give Dal the file" Dimitri reminded Stacy, "and be on our way. We've got a pretrial in about an hour."

"Here's the Mathias file, Dallas," Stacy said, handing the voluminous documents to Park with both hands. "I'll contact your office next week about pretrial strategy. I have a lot of ideas that I'd like to with you-and Nick." She turned to Nick and smiled coyly. Nick knew that she was flirting with him, but he had no intention of encouraging her.

"Okay, gotta go" said Dimitri. "Our work's never done. You know, fightin' for the common man and upholdin' the Sunshine Law! Talk to you guys later."

"See you next week, Dallas" added Stacy. "Goodbye, Nick" she smiled flirtatiously, again extending her hand. "I know I'll enjoy working with you." As they shook hands in parting, Nick felt her hand giving his an extra, affectionate squeeze and noticed her again bending over in a slightly exaggerated fashion, so as to give him another glimpse of her cleavage. As she and Dimitri walked out the door, he wondered, half seriously, how long it would before she'd try to jump his bones. Well, he assured himself, he was a mature adult, married to a woman he absolutely adored, and who could-and would-say no if he had to. At the moment, he was more worried about how he would break the news to Rachel that he would be actually-and actively assisting in a case against a fellow Delaware Indian activist.

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Chapter 6

The next morning, Rachel arrived at Carlton Psychiatric Center, and was greeted warmly by Dr. Harris, who instantly rose from his chair, smiled, and shook hands with Rachel. The large white block letters "Carlton University" on her gray V-necked short -sleeved shirt, and her braided hair (today was a special ceremonial day in the Delaware calendar, commemorating the Festival of the Great Mystery, or Great Spirit), instantly reminded him of where and when he had met her before.

"Hey," smiled Harris broadly, pointing at Rachel with his right hand's extended forefinger, "weren't you my freshman English Comp teacher? Your name was just 'Russo' back then, wasn't it?"

"Yeah," Rachel laughed. "I'm married now, but back then I was a T.A. going for my Masters. I later got my Ph.D."

Harris grinned even more broadly. "Want to know how I remembered you?"

"How?"asked Rachel, intrigued.

"Your hair," he replied, pointing at her braids. "I'd always brag to my roommates about how my English teacher was a real American Indian. They were really impressed!"

"I think I remember you, too, Dr. Harris, although I've had so many students since then."

"Please, call me, 'Walt.'"

"Okay, 'Walt.' I do recall you being a very good student."

"Yeah?" asked Harris, with a mock frown. "Then how come you gave me a B instead of an A?"

Rachel laughed, "Now look…"

"Just kidding" Harris jovially assured her, "just kidding."

"Okay, and you can call me 'Rachel.'"

"Deal! I was gonna get some coffee. Want some?"

"Sure," answered Rachel.

"Do you take cream and sugar?"

Rachel nodded.

"Great! Have a seat, and I'll be right back."

Rachel sat in the desk's opposite swivel chair and waited while Harris walked to the adjacent lobby's coffee machine and returned with two large white Styrofoam cups of coffee, one in each hand, and offering Rachel hers with his left.

"Thank you" said Rachel, holding the cup carefully with both hands.

"No problem" answered Harris, placing his own cup with his left hand on his desk, and sitting down in the chair opposite from hers. "So, are you still teaching at Carlton?" he asked, between sips of his coffee from his right hand.


"You said you're married now?"

Rachel nodded, carefully sipping the hot coffee. "In fact, my husband's a lawyer."

"A lawyer, huh?" Harris responded, a serious expression now forming on his face as he folded his hands contemplatively on the top of the balsa desk. "Well, we may need his service too, before too long. Rachel, how well do you know my patient, Milton DeFalice,-'Rag Man?'"

"Not very well at all," answered Rachel. "I came across him six years ago, at Howard House, when I went to see Althea Brewster about a voice mail message she had left me earlier. I found him kneeling over her body. Of course, we later learned that she was his mother, and that"-she hesitated for a moment, her face flushed with bitterness as he recalled those terrible events-"her murderer was my teaching advisor, Dr. Naomi Walker."

"And that's the last you saw of him?"


"Do you know of any reason why he would ask to see you?"

"No," answered Rachel. "I've never seen him since, and we've never been in contact with each other-never. And yet you say he's obsessed with seeing me now?"

"He asks about you practically every hour on the hour. Rachel, do these words mean anything to you?" With his right hand he picked up from his desk a piece of notebook paper on which he had written the strange words that Rag Man had uttered yesterday morning.

Rachel placed her now empty plastic cup on the desk in order to read the paper. The lines of her forehead furrowed, and her dark eyebrows almost knitted themselves together as she studied the words intently.

"Why, these are Delaware tribal words" remarked Rachel.

"Can you tell me what they mean?" asked Dr. Harris.

"Well" began Rachel, pointing to each word with her extended right forefinger, "the Delaware tongue is a derivative of the Algonquian language family. This word, 'Lenape,' means 'The People.' 'Manetuwak' is a word meaning 'lesser spirits'-similar to angels in the Judeo-Chrisitian heritage-and the word 'Mesingw' refers to the guardian spirit of all the game animals. Half of the Mesignw's face was black" explained Rachel, demonstrating with the ring finger of her right hand, "and the other side was red-so frightening was its face that little children were warned to be good, or else the Mesignw would get them."

"Okay, and what's a 'Ghost Dance?'"

"Well, it's a ceremonial dance that was, at one time, performed by many native Americana tribes, in order to reunite the living and the dead, an event that is supposed to precede the return of traditional Native American culture to the entire world. The last known Ghost Dance was held in the 1950s, by the Shoshoni."

"And the Delaware?"

"We haven't held one in decades, although…it's funny you should ask…a Delaware activist by the name of Jack Dobson is fighting for his group's right to hold one in Carlton. It's been in the news lately."

"Yeah, I know. Milton mentioned his name, too, but I don't think he's been following this or any other story lately. He's been too busy butchering innocent people and eating flies and spiders."

"Rag Man?" asked Rachel. I heard, of course, about the murder, but…flies and spiders?"

"I think I can confide in you, Rachel. You've been so close to this case already, there's no reason not to. You see, my patient is a zoophagous. Do you know what that is?"

"Strangely enough, I do," answered Rachel. "I remember reading Dracula as a freshman, and one of Stoker's characters, a lunatic named Renfield, was a zoophagous. He believed that he had to consume 'cumulative' lives in order to survive…flies, spiders, birds, cats…"

"He never got to humans, though, did he, Rachel?"


"Well, our 'Rag Man' already has out-Renfielded Renfield by butchering Jimmy Trevalian, evidently believing that his own life depended on consuming Jimmy's organs, and hence, his life. Follow?"

"I think so," said Rachel, "but I can hardly believe that of Rag Man. He seemed so innocent to me, the kind who would never even harm a fly."

"Now he eats them," Harris replied glumly.

"Well, you're the psychiatrist" remarked Rachel. What ever he's suffering from, I hope you can cure him."

"I'll try," answered Harris, "but my immediate concern is to keep the State from giving him the needle. I've been asked to make a full report on his mental condition and fitness for standing trial, but I think I already know what my answer will be."

"He can't be sane!" insisted Rachel.

"Not when he believes there's a 'Master' that he claims talks to him.

"Oh my god!" exclaimed Rachel, and, then calming herself, remarked "Walt, I still don't understand why he wants to talk to me-or how he learned these Delaware words-or how he could know anything about Jack Dobson."

"Well, maybe we can find out. Are you ready to talk to him now, Rachel?"

"Yes," replied Rachel.

"Good, but don't let what you see and hear in that place upset you. You'll be perfectly safe."

"Right," replied Rachel, who had just finished her coffee (Harris' was only half-consumed, but he would warm it up and finish his later). She rose from her chair and followed him to the aqua green double doors, escorted by the same pair of guards who had accompanied Dr. Harris yesterday, one of whom promptly buzzed the two visitors in.

This was Rachel's first visit to the Netherworld, but the place instantly introduced itself to her nostrils, which burned with the foul, overpowering stench of human feces. The cause of the olfactory assault: the obese patient who had moved beyond merely sitting in his own filth to actually finger painting self-depreciating obscenities on with his bowel excrements on his own naked body while squatted on the floor, the words "Dick Head," "Mother Fucker," and Cock Sucker." She was immediately reminded of a line from the 1946 Boris Karloff classic Bedlam, one of Nick's and hers favorite old movie, set in the eighteenth century St. Mary's of Bethlehem's asylum. At one of point, Karloff categorizes his various patients, one of who is the type he has decided to "let wallow in their own filth." Reflexively, Rachel gagged, and, with her right hand, pulled a white cotton handkerchief from her purse, holding it over her nose and mouth. Harris, who was used to such bizarre behavior, simply hurried her along, the two guards in tow. "Are you all right?" he asked courteously.

"Yes," nodded Rachel, the still grasping the handkerchief tightly. "Poor souls" she remarked to herself, recalling Karloff's co-star, Anna Lee's, comments about the patients in Bedlam, "`They're all in themselves and by themselves.'"

As the stench faded, she was able to return the handkerchief to her purse. But now the brick stucco walls of the Netherworld reverberated with the screams of the woman who had convinced herself yesterday that rats were crawling in the folds of her smock. Now, she imagined that they had bitten her on the face, and had backed herself up against her cell's off white padded wall, screeching in agony. Then, another sound caught the group's attention, especially Rachel's, for the foul-mouthed Neo-Nazi in the nearby cell had now found a new victim to verbally harass. "Hey, Pocahontas! Come over here, and let me suck your big tits!" he yelled, his face and hands pressed against the glass shield. "Come on, baby, don't let that nigger get all that sweet Indian pussy! Save some for this horny little white boy!" He jumped up and down, in front of the center of the glass, like a chimpanzee in heat.

"Don't let get to you, Rachel" Harris bent close and whispered in her left ear. "He gets off on humiliation. If you show him any kind of reaction, he'll just keep it up."

"I know," Rachel replied in a hushed tone of voice, keeping a straight face, and suppressing her outrage.

Fortunately, the sounds of both the obscenities and the screaming soon died away, as the group now rounded a corner and approached Rag Man's cell. There, Harris motioned Rachel to sit down at the right side of the table beside him, facing his patient's cell, by the microphone, which he now adjusted.

"Hello, Mr. DeFalice" Harris, standing over Rachel's shoulder, announced into the table microphone. "You have a visitor, Dr. Russo-Graffanino, so please try to behave yourself." He then sat down in the steel folding chair to Rachel's immediate right, and motioned Rachel to sit down in the chair beside him, facing his patient's cell, by the microphone, the swivel top of which he now swung in her direction.

Rag Man was sitting on the right edge of his bunk, about a half dozen large black spiders crawling from an open matchbox that Dr. Harris had given him earlier, on the far left edge of his mattress.

"I'm eating now!" complained Rag Man.

"I know, Mr. DeFalice, but, please, Dr. Russo-Graffanino is very busy this morning, and she can't stay very long. Won't you please talk to her now? You can eat later."

"Oh, I GUESS!" whined Rag Man, like a frustrated little boy who has been told that he can't go outside to play. He nudged the arachnids back into the box, which he held in his left hand, with his right, closed its flap with his free hand, set the box on the floor, along side his left foot, and rose from his bunk, trudging, with a pronounced pout on his face, to the middle of the cell's unbreakable glass window to talk to his visitor. If Rachel hadn't known that he had brutally murdered and cannibalized a man, she would have found his behavior quite amusing.

"How are you, Milton?" asked Rachel tremulously.

"Oh, all right, I guess" replied Rag Man glumly, "though it's hard to get a decent meal in this place."

"Milton" Rachel pressed on, "do you remember me?"

"Why, sure I do," answered Rag Man. "You tried to help me when I found my mom at Howard House…dead. That was awful nice of you, Rachel, awful nice."

"Milton" asked Rachel, trying to get the lunatic back on track. "Why did you want to see me?"

"Why?…why?" Rag Man held the fingers of his left hand to his mouth, trying hard to remember. For about half a minute he was silent. Then, he suddenly exclaimed, "Hey! Yeah!…Okay…I remember now! The Master wanted you here!"

"Milton, who is the 'Master?'"

"Why, "He who is to come!" replied Rag Man, his voice rising in exultation.. "He who will restore the power of the Leanape people!…He who right a terrible wrong, and who will usher in the Golden Age!"

Suddenly, he stopped, as his dilated pupils retreated into the back of his head, and he began to chant, over and over again, "Dobson…Ghost Dance…Dobson…Ghost Dance."

"Milton, listen to me!" Rachel implored him, shouting over the microphone, "Do you mean Jack Dobson? Do you mean Jack Dobson?"

"Jack Dobson" Rag Man repeated the name reverently. "He will make it possible. His hand will reveal all! The Ghost Dance must be performed…if the Lenape are to survive!…"if the Lenape are to survive!" Then, a sudden fatigue came over Rag Man, who slowly closed his eyes, reeled momentarily, and then fell into a stupor onto his bunk.

"This was the way he was yesterday" Harris informed Rachel. Come on. We'll get no more out of him this morning. Let's go back to my office."

Rachel nodded, and as they, accompanied by the guards, walked past the patients' cells on their way out, she paid no attention this time to the mad girl's screams, nor to the Neo-Nazi's renewed obscenities. No, her mind was too preoccupied with what she had just heard from Rag Man, especially his insistence that her people's very survival depended upon Dobson's planned Ghost Dance. As she left, she asked Dr. Harris to keep her informed about his patient's condition. As she drove away, she was convinced that she would be back, and that, for the good of her own people, she would have to somehow contact Jack Dobson herself.

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Chapter 7

Rachel didn't quite know what to make of Rag Man's rambling words, but she knew that she had to learn more about Jack Dobson. When she returned home, she sat on the right side of the sofa, ran a Yahoo search on her home laptop, and located Dobson's website. She learned that he was a Delaware shaman, and that the Equal Rights for Minorities group had paid for the website's promotion of the pending Ghost Dance. The website claimed that this would at last be a way of at providing peace to the souls of the victims of the 1886 massacre, and of preventing cataclysmic evil from destroying the city of Carlton, as retribution for the killings. If so, was this the imminent danger that the Howard House ghosts' recent activities had alerted her to? Rachel wondered if, as a way of helping Dobson fulfill his mission, the Great Spirit had appointed a manetuwak to reach her through Rag Man, a now homicidal lunatic whose mental affliction would somehow make him receptive to the spirit guide's influence. Moreover, Rag Man's past ties to her could have been employed to initiate the necessary contact. True, Rag Man had killed a man at the insistence of some type of "Master," but this belief, she was convinced, was due to his own psychotic delusions, at had had nothing whatsoever to do with the benign manetuwak, whom he evidently also called "Master," and who had no doubt commanded him to ask for her. That the Great Spirit might commission one of his own celestial servants to use even a cannibal killer's help to aid the Delaware people, and to save their innocent white brothers and sisters (for the Great Spirit looked on all races as His children) was not inconceivable. "The Lord works in mysterious ways," holds theologians; the Great Spirit, whom Rachel was convinced was the same Supreme Being as the Judeo Christian God, was no exception, she told herself. She even wondered, as presumptuous as it seemed, if contacting Dobson might not be part of some Divine Plan, so she left a message on his website's "Contact Us" box, explaining her concerns, and asking Dobson to phone her or email her back as soon as possible.

These and a thousand other concerns flooded her brain while she waited for Dobson's reply. She tried to research her book, but it was impossible for her to concentrate on anything else. She tried, however, to momentarily forget about Dobson and, for the time being, concentrate on another, more personal, issue. Because of Nick's new financial security, the two had decided that now to time to start having a child. Accordingly, Rachel had taken herself off the Pill for several weeks, and, though Nick had no difficulty getting an erection, he just could not bring himself to a climax, a problem that both baffled and frustrated him. During their lovemaking, he seemed uncomfortable and uptight about something, and she wondered if that was the problem. She hadn't figure out what she could do about it, but, in any event, they would try again tonight.

While the couple made love that night in their darkened bedroom, Rachel sensed that despite his arousal, Nick still could not bring himself to climax. Again he seemed uncomfortable, ill at ease, as if there were some concern or worry on his mind. Rachel suggested that they rest for a while before trying intercourse again. Nick agreed, apologizing for his lack of performance, despite Rachel's assurances that there was no need to apologize, that all he needed was to relax. He, nude, rolled off her, and on to the center of the powder blue mattress, and lay on his back, his head propped up against his pillow, while she, likewise naked, crawled over and rested her head on his bare chest. He lovingly caressed her long, soft hair with his left hand; she, in turn, ran the fingers of her right hand through his thickly matted chest hair, alternately licking and kissing his earlobes, neck, and breastbone in attempt to newly arouse him. Soon, she could feel his renewed erection, but also sensed the still lingering tension in his shoulders.

"I'm sorry that I'm taking so long tonight, Rach, Nick said again.

"That's all right, honey" Rachel replied. Deciding to try a different approach, she nonchalantly remarked, "At least you don't smell like an old goat!"

Nick laughed. "What are you talking about?"

"My paternal grandfather" Rachel explained while stroking his breastbone with her right hand and telling her story. "For some strange reason-he might have been bipolar-he went three straight weeks without bathing, and my grandmother refused to 'give him any' until he took a bath, which he finally did, about a week later. It's a good thing he did, too, or else neither my father nor I would ever have been born!"

The two laughed heartily, and it was clear that her strategy had worked, for Nick now felt less tense. He began to respond more enthusiastically to Rachel's renewed foreplay, of caressing and kissing his chest up and down, by nuzzling the nape of her neck, first lightly, and then ever more passionately. She, in turn, closed her eyes, wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulders, and arched her back, her body reacting like a finely tuned instrument to his skillful and tender attention to one of her especially sensitive and responsive erogenous zones. And then, with both hands, she gently grabbed both sides of the back of his head and maternally drew his face to the warmth and softness of her ample bosom, cradling him there, lovingly. Nick's inhibitions now seemed to be gone, for he soon lifted his head, delicately cupped the smooth edges of her face with his two strong hands, and kissed her warm, eager lips. Then, he took her in his arms, gently shifted his body weight so that he was now on top. Her legs spread and knees up, he resumed intercourse. Rachel's hands hugged his neck and held his head under her chin, urging him along by squeezing his lower torso with her long legs, which she had tightly wrapped around his lower body. He drove deeper and deeper while her body twisted convulsively. Soon, he sensed that she, her eyes still closed, mouth open, and panting breathlessly, was ready to orgasm, and he to climax.

"Come on, sweetie!" she whispered between pants. "Don't stop! Don't stop! I'll help you!" Her right arm embraced his neck, which she buffeted with light kisses tightly, while her pelvis gyrated to her husband's thrusts. Come on, honey! Cum inside of me! Cum inside of me!" she urge him. Finally, he did, and the exhausted couple, both of their bodies covered in perspiration, as if the two had just run a quarter mile race together, held each other closely, panting and breathing heavily. Then they fell away from each other, and lay on their backs, Rachel opening her eyes and vigorously wiping the beads of sweat from her brow with the back of her left hand, and Nick running both his hands through his tousled, naturally wavy, chestnut brown hair. Soon, he held out his arms to Rachel, who, accepting the invitation, once again lay against his chest while he wrapped his arms around her. Warmly nuzzled in the soft mattress of his chest hair, she closed her eyes and smiled, her left arm draped over his right biceps while he, with his left hand, caressed her soft, bare shoulders. "Mmmm!" she murmured. That was so-o-o good! I don't think you had any trouble that time!"

"Nope, I think we finally did it, Rach!"

He smiled as she opened her soft, green eyes, gently raised his wife's chin to his lips with the thumb of his right hand, kissed her lovingly , and then let her rest her head on his chest again. Soon, their eyelids became heavy, and they both fell asleep.

Their rest, however, would prove to be all too short, for a mere few minutes later, their bedroom bureau phone rang shrilly.

"Who the hell can that be?" Rachel groggily complained, her eyes still closed, as Nick gently nudged her off his chest, rolled over on his right side to turn on the bureau lamp and answer the phone. Reluctantly opening her eyes, she turned her head to glance at the bureau clock, and exclaimed, "My God, it's two in the morning!" She then hastily gathered with her left hand the white cotton bed sheets around her bare breasts, and scooted over to the bed's left side, puffing up her pillow with her right to cushion her head. As she lay back in bed, her eyes half-closed, she listened to Nick's conversation. He sat on the bed's right edge, his left hand holding the receiver tightly against his right ear.

"Hello?…Oh, it's you, Dallas."

"Not again!" groaned Rachel, under her breath. "Doesn't he ever sleep?"

"Oh, no, don't worry about it, Dallas. Rachel's still up."

"Yeah, right!" commented Rachel sarcastically, her eyes now tightly closed, but still listening.

"Uuh-huh?" continued Nick. "The Mathias case? You have some new strategy in mind? You want to do opening arguments, not Stacy?…You don't want her to really do anything at all?…Well, Dallas, I don't know what Dimitri will say. Won't he be pissed?-won't she?…Okay, Dallas, okay. You're lead lawyer. We'll talk about this tomorrow; it's awfully late."

"You got that right," said Rachel.

"Okay, see you tomorrow. Good night." As Nick hung up the receiver, she asked him, "What was that all about?"

"Oh, Dallas couldn't sleep again" Nick explained. "He called me from the office about a trial in Zanesville I'm gonna have to accompany him and a lawyer from the firm that referred the case to us, Stacy Morgan. Seems he doesn't want her to play any type of role at all-something about trying to win the jury's sympathy for him, alone, against the other side's flock of lawyers, or whatever shit he meant. He said he doesn't want any of Mathias' lawyers at the trial with him, and he wants her and I to sit in the back of the courtroom, in the visitors' gallery, and just bring in papers and exhibits. He wants the jury to think this is 'David and Goliath.' You knowategy."

"Who's the other side?" asked Rachel, out of curiosity.

Nick hesitated before answering, but thought, "What the hell? She'll have to know sooner or later."

"It's…uuh…it's the Mathias Corporation. They're fighting a Native American Indian group's plans to hold a religious ceremony, something call a 'Ghost Dance,'" on corporate-owned grounds."

This news caused Rachel to open her eyes in surprise.

"Is a man named Jack Dobson heading the movement?"

"Yeah, I think so," answered Nick, crawling back into bed, laying his head on his pillow, and drawing the sheets around his naked body. Rachel turned on her right side to question him further.

"Nick, Dallas isn't taking the opposing side, is he?"

"Yeah, he is. We're representing Mathias."

"You mean to say that you're going to help him with a suit against my own people?"

"He wants me to assist him during the trial, yes. Now, can we please talk about this in the morning?"

"Nick!" Rachel exclaimed in disbelief. "How can you do this?"

"Look, Rach, it's a question about the law, not about Native Americans, okay? We're just looking at this from an objective legal standpoint: a private company's right to protect its own property from disruptive demonstrations."

"Disruptive?" asked Rachel, her voice rising in indignation.

"Look, it's the law…it's my job. It's not personal!"

"Not personal? The hell it isn't!"

"Rach!" shouted Nick, losing his patience, and then calming himself, knowing that he had no right to speak to her that way. "We're both tired," he explained slowly, "we both need our sleep. Now, I don't feel like discussing this right now. We'll talk about it in the morning, okay?" With that final word, Nick reached for the light switch with his left hand and turned on his opposite side, his back toward his wife.

Rachel knew that any more arguing on her part would be futile right now, and let the matter drop for the time being, lying back on her pillow, staring into the darkness while the early morning traffic from the open bedroom window drummed in her ears, and thinking about what she would tell him tomorrow that would somehow persuade him to change his mind about helping Dallas with this trial. In any event, she was convinced that once she had talked with Jack Dobson, she would have more reason than ever to believe that this Ghost Dance might mean life or death to both her tribe and the entire city of Carlton-and she was determined that Nick would not unknowingly do his part in bringing about this tragedy.

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Chapter 8

The next morning, Rachel quietly rose from bed, slipped into a black Victoria's Secret lace bra and panties, which she selected from her bottom bedroom bureau drawer, and hastily donned an off-white, red pinstriped cotton blouse that had been hanging in the couple's closet. Because of the already sultry morning heat, she buttoned it about a quarter of the way up, and rolled the long, uncuffed sleeves to slightly above her forearms while lithely stepping into a pair of sky blue bedroom slippers that lay in the corner of the bedroom. A few minutes later, Nick arose, stretching and yawning loudly. He quickly put on a pair of dark gray and checkered Joe Boxer shorts that had lain at the bottom of the bed, and walked into the kitchen to greet Rachel. Her back was to him, as she silently stood before the coffee grinder, her face a mask of intense contemplation while thinking about last night's conversation. Nick affectionately slipped his hands around his wife's hips and embraced her waist from behind. "Good morning, hon" he greeted her, kissing her on the back of her neck, slightly above the blouse's wide open collar, but Rachel remained impassive to his obvious efforts to make up for last night's argument. "Morning" she replied flatly, slipping as deftly from his embrace as a veteran NFL running back from a rookie defender's clutches. She bent over their gas stove to remove a Teflon frying pan from its bottom compartment, and then stood upon her tiptoes to reach the top compartment of their cupboard for some salt, pepper, and canola oil. Then, with her left hand, she briskly opened the refrigerator for a carton of eggs and a tub of low-fat margarine, all the while not facing Nick once, and saying not a word to him.

"What?" asked Nick, genuinely baffled, flinging his arms outward in consternation.

"Nothing," responded Rachel in a low voice, her shirt back that faced him as bland and as uncommunicative as he would have found the totem-like expression on her face.

Silently, Nick showered, got dressed, and sat down in his navy blue rayon shirt and cuffed sleeves and lavender cotton tie, which he had just clasped, at their dinette table, where there sat a plate of freshly prepared scrambled eggs, toast, a glass of orange juice, and an off white ceramic cup of coffee, with cream and sugar. She sat across from him, sipping her own coffee with her right hand from her Carlton University cup, eyes averted to the right in a side way glance deliberately avoiding his gaze-and still as mute as a mannequin.

Finally, Nick broke the silence. "You know, Rach" he began, "these eggs are great, but I get the feeling that if I'd said they tasted like horse shit, I wouldn't get any more of a response from you than what I'm getting right now. What the hell's bugging you, anyway?"

"You know," answered Rachel, staring at the kitchen's off white wall.

"Oh, Dallas's call last night. That's what you've got poking up your ass!"

"Yes!" shot back Rachel, her olive green eyes ablaze with anger as she finally looked into her husband's face. "That's what's 'poking up my ass!'"

"Oh, Christ, Rachel! I don't need this bullshit right now!"

"It's not bullshit,' Nick! It's about rights and principles! Mathias, you, and Dallas are trying to deny Jack Dobson his right as an American citizen to practice his religion openly. It's just another kick in the ass to Native Americans. That part really doesn't surprise me, though. It's almost to the point where we're used to being shit on. But I never thought that you, my own husband, would be in bed with these fucking suits, who couldn't give two shits about people's rights, just so they can go on making money, eating their surf and turf, and swallowing olives from their little martini glasses! IT'S JUST A JOB! I T'S NOT PERSONAL!' WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO SNOW?"

"Look, Rach, no preaching right now, okay?" pleaded Nick, rising from his chair, and putting on his chestnut brown sport coat, which matched the same colored cotton slacks that he had been wearing at the table. "It's too early in the day!"

Nick, we've got to talk about it. I don't want you to take any part in this case."

"Oh, that's just great!" Nick replied sarcastically. "I'll just go in this morning and tell my boss 'Dallas, I'm sorry. I'd really like to help you and Stacy in Zanseville with the trial, but my wife said I can't.' What kind of man would he think he I am?"

Even though Nick hadn't meant what he said, he knew how chauvinistic it sounded, and that he had said the wrong thing to Rachel. She bolted from her chair, folded her arms defiantly across her bosom, and asked "And what's THAT supposed to mean?

"Nothing! Jesus Christ, Rachel, don't start going Women's Lib on me right now! You know I didn't mean that. It's just that…I can't see why you can't understand that his is NOT an anti-Native American case-it's a personal ownership case."

"Uuh, you know better than to get into a semantics war with ME!" replied Rachel, the college English professor.

"Yeah, I know" answered Nick. You have a Ph.D. I don't. But I'm a lawyer-you're not."

"Oh, I'm just an 'educated fool.' I wouldn't know justice if the lady hid me right across the face!"

"You're no lawyer, Rach. That's all I'm saying. Why don't you just stick to what you do best? Teaching students and writing books, and leave the law to me!"

"The next thing you'll be telling me is that you want me barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen!" She still hadn't forgotten his earlier, albeit unintentional, sexist remark.

"You're acting like a typical, hot-tempered Italian woman," accused Nick.

"And you're acting just like a bull-headed, stubborn Dago!" shot back Rachel.

Both Rachel and Nick instantly stopped shouting at each other, realized the absurdity of their remarks (both had Italian-American ancestry), and started laughing simultaneously. That was all it took. The war had ended, and a truce declared.

"Hey," said Rachel smiling, holding out her arms to Nick.

"Hey, 'Tiger Lily,'" grinned Nick, responding with his favorite term of endearment for her, and hugged her lovingly.

"I'm sorry, honey" Rachel announced, resting the right side of her face and both her hands against Nick's right shoulder.

"I'm sorry, too Rach," Nick answered. She embraced him with both arms around his neck-the same neck that she had been tempted to strangle earlier, and their eyes closed and lips met in a kiss of mutual reconciliation. "It's just that" he continued," I guess this case has been wearing me down, that's all."

"Nick, couldn't you talk Dallas out of it?"

His mind is made up, Rach, and besides, I don't want to piss him off. We need this job, honey, especially if you and I are gonna have a kid together. And besides, who knows how long you'll have a job-what with these damn state budget cuts to higher education? I just don't want to take any chances, that's all."

Rachel knew that we had just said made sense, she still couldn't entirely forget her meeting with Rag Man, and her own intuitions of imminent danger. Even if there were the slightest chance of Dallas's winning the case and jeopardizing the Dobson Ghost Dance, she felt that it was her duty to do what she could to convince Nick not to help bring about what she was certain would be disaster for thousands of innocent people.

"I know," Rachel answered him, moving her head off his shoulder and facing his shirt front, eyes downcast as the fingers of her right hand nervously fiddled with his front buttons. "But there's been some strange events going on at Howard House lately, and…"

"Oh, not those galloping ghosts again!" exclaimed Nick incredulously.

Rachel simply ignored his skepticism and continued, still fingering his shirt buttons while fumbling for her words, "…And Rag Man has been acting even stranger. You know, I told you the other day…"

"Honey," interrupted Nick. "This guy is a friggin' nut, okay?-a loony! He's crazy!"

"But Nick," Rachel tried desperately to explain, gesturing wildly with her hands and alternately glancing at the kitchen front bay window. "He knows Delaware words. He knows Delaware religion. He knows Jack Dobson…He as much as told me that there'd be great danger if the Ghost Dance weren't performed."

"He knows Jack Shit!" interjected Nick.

"Nick," Rachel continued, ignoring his last remark, "He as much as told me that there'd be great danger if the Ghost Dance didn't go on."

"Oh, come on Rach," replied Nick, backing away and flinging his own hands in exasperation. "You're not gonna go supernatural on me again, are you?"

"And I suppose I was wrong last time, huh?" responded Rachel defiantly, "about the chindi?"

"No, you weren't, Rach, but . ."


"Now, look, I'm not gonna argue with you. You were right then, but you're just wrong now. I know it! Now, come on, honey," he implored her, holding out his arms to her as they embraced again. Rachel rested the right side of her face and both of her hands firmly against Nick's chest as before, while he stroked her hair with his free left hand. "I don't want to fight" Nick assured her.

"Oh, Nick, neither do I, only… pleasepromise me you'll try, one last time, to talk Dallas out this case, okay?"

"Rach, I already told you…" Nick began to protest, but before he could say another word, Rachel gently pressed a cautionary forefinger to his lips with her left hand, glanced up, smiled, and asked again, "please?"

"Okay, 'Tiger Lily,'" Nick grinned. "See ya tonight."

"Okay," Rachel answered, smiling, as their eyes closed and their lips kissed once more.

Once again their war had ended-at least for now. But over at the Dallas Park law firm, the one between Park and Dimitri Poulis was just beginning-and Nick was walking right into the line of fire.

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Chapter 9

As Nick entered the office later that morning, he anticipated trouble. Unfortunately, his instincts were correct, for he could hear Dimitri Poulis' booming, angry voice over Dallas' receiver, even without the benefit of a speaker. Carol sat at her computer, likewise hearing every word, both her face and stomach tight with tension. She was typing up Dallas' Motion to Strike Tom Flannigan's earlier such motion-he had disregarded Nick's advice and had decided to continue his private war with his vindictive rival after all. But this war seemed like a mere pissing contest in comparison to the global conflict that was now erupting between Dallas and Dimitri.

"He called about fifteen minutes ago," said Carol. "And they've been going at it ever since."

Nick inched a couple of steps closer to his boss's office, but it was scarcely necessary, as the hostile exchange thundered throughout the building, even through the half open door.

"What's the matter with you, Dal? Have you gone fucking crazy?"

"Dimitri!" Dallas responded, the receiver pressed firmly against his right ear while sitting at his desk in a tattered gray hooded sweat suit. The "Carlton University" white block letters were stained bright yellow with dried mustard, and the pants had two Montana-sized holes in the knees. The same grass-stained Nike high tops, again, sans socks, completed this picture of sartorial splendor. "If you're referring to the fact that I have a mental illness, then that's pretty damn low-even for you!"

"Now, look, Dal," Dimitri fired back, "what the hell's gotten into you? Now you suddenly don't want Stacy to do opening arguments, cross-examinations, or anything. I think you've fuckin' lost it!"

"She doesn't have the experience to handle a big case like this. She's only a third-year lawyer, and I don't want her fucking up my case!"

"You mean you'll fuck up this case! Damn it, Dal, I've already spent a hell of a lot of money on the expert witnesses that Stacy's provided. I want more for my investment-and my referral fee-than you just using her as a gofer to help bring exhibits in and out and hand you papers in back of the fuckin' courtroom!"

"Hey, I'mlead attorney, and if you don't like it, I'll just step down and let Stacy run things."

"What is that ?-a stunt?-a fuckin' stunt?"

"Ah, fuck you!" exploded Dallas.

"Fuck you!" shot back Dimitri.

"Thanks, Dimitri" Dallas replied sarcastically. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do." With that, he pressed the "END" button with his right ring finger and slammed down the receiver with his left.

"Jeezus!" exclaimed Nick.

"You haven't heard the last of it" Carol informed him in a nervous whisper. "Stacy Morgan is supposed to drop by within a half hour. She's as pissed as Poulis is! And between the mood Dallas's mood right now and her temper, we may have to call out the riot squad!"

"Nick, are you there?" asked Dallas in the doorway of his office.

"Yes," Nick answered.

"Well, come on in. I've got some things I want to go over with you about the Mathias case before that fat ass bitch gets here."

Nick followed his boss into his office, with all the enthusiasm of a "Dead Man Walking," fearing what new plans he now had in mind.

"Dallas, what were you and Dimitri arguing about over the phone just now?"

"Oh, that stubborn Greek!" Dallas complained, resuming his seat at his desk. "He can't get it through his thick skull that this is strategy. I don't want the jurors to see anybody else up there with me at the front of the courtroom, except Mr. Hampton, Mathias' representative. That's why I didn't want any of their big shot corporate attorneys on this case. The jury is supposed to believe that it's not Dallas and the mighty Mathias Corporation's legal dream team going up against some poor, pitiful Indians. It's the other side's full legal team against little Dallas Park, all alone up there, and fighting on his own, with only a bare bones legal staff in the back of the courtroom-you and Stacy-for support, to funnel papers and exhibits to me. But if all three of us are up there, they'll think that both the Poulis and Park big money law firms are just trying to run up attorney fees by making sure that Indians stay on the reservation, and keep blowing their money on casino gambling!"

"But aren't you wasting her talents in having her do so little? After all, she did do most of the background work on this case."

"Don't worry about her," Dallas insisted. "She and you are still gonna make a significant contribution, and be in on the strategy every step of the way- just behind the scenes, that's all."

"But Dimitri isn't too happy about that, is he?"

"Ah, don't worry about him! He's only pissed because she probably told him that if she doesn't get to run the trial, she isn't gonna blow him any more!"

"Well, I don't think we oughtta go there, Dallas" Nick replied, wanting to at least give Stacy the benefit of the doubt.

"Why not?" asked Dallas, grinning mischievously.

But before Nick could respond, Stacy Morgan, her face rigid with anger, strode into the office, delivering a perfunctory and icy "good morning" to Park. As she turned toward Nick, her face softened, and she managed a smile and a genuinely friendly "hello" to him. But when she faced Dallas, her face resumed its former granite hardness, as she, with her right hand, slammed her purse, which she had hung over her left shoulder, on Dallas's desk. She then folded her arms across her pink, notch-collared silk blouse, framed by a smart looking rayon plaid blazer and matching skirt. Dallas, mouth taunt and hands folded under his chin, and his elbows resting on the desk top, stared into her angry, sapphire blue eyes.

Each side prepared itself for battle. Stacy fired first.

"What's going on here, Dal? I thought I was part of the 'Team!'"

"You are, Stacy," Dallas replied.

"Then why am I not gonna be doing opening or closing arguments, or cross examinations? Dimitri is furious, and I don't blame him. I thought we had a deal here."

"We do," Dallas calmly answered. "You and Nick will go with me to Zanesville and take part in the trial. What's the problem?"

"I'll tell you what the problem is," Stacy fired back, resting her hands on either side of the desk and bending over, her bosom heaving with indignation and her voice rising in anger.

Dallas motioned for Nick to close the door, which he promptly did, and stood listening from the west corner of the office.

"I'm not some delivery gal just there to shuffle papers back and forth! I'm a damned good attorney, and I did all the footwork and legal research on this case. I wrote up the pleadings. I did the depositions. I answered the interrogatories. I at least deserve to do opening arguments!"

"No!" Park answered adamantly. "You do know your stuff, but you're just a third year lawyer. You're not ready to do a major case yet."

"That's what you think!" Stacy retorted, placing both hands defiantly on the hips of her matching plaid skirt.

"Let me tell you something!" Dallas said, pointing his right forefinger at Stacy. "When I was a third year attorney, I worked for Pete Miller, a veteran civil lawyer, on a personal injury suit. I didn't always agree with Pete, but you know what I did, Stacy? I kept my mouth shut, watched, and learned. And that's what you're gonna do."

"Why do you have it in your head that I don't know what I'm doin'? Are you afraid I'm gonna get up in front of the jury and 'shake it?'"

"Well, I have seen you in trial, and you are a bit…flamboyant."

"Yeah, because I'm a woman, right? It's the same old story, isn't it? If it's a female lawyer, she's 'flamboyant'…and pushy. But if it's a male lawyer, well, he's just 'direct' and 'aggressive!' Still just an 'old boys' club,' huh?"

"That has nothing to do with it, Stacy. Look, this is strateg y. I want the jury to think of this as 'David and Goliath,' and if I'm gonna be 'David,' I can't let the jury see you-or even Nick -with me."

"Oh, bullshit!" replied Stacy.

"Look, if you can't see that there's a strategic advantage to be gained from this, then that tells me you're really not ready to handle a big case like this."

"Have it your way!" Stacy retorted, again placing both hands on the desk and confronting Dallas, face to face. "But if you screw up this case, word's gonna get around, and neither your firm nor mine will get the kind of fees that Mathias is paying to win this injunction. Just remember that!"

She promptly grabbed her purse with her right hand, re-slung it over her left shoulder, and stormed out. As she did, both Dallas and Nick could have sworn she remarked "stupid ass!" under her breath. Nick followed her. Then, she suddenly stopped, turned, and asked Nick to do his best to change his boss's mind. "Why, did you know that he doesn't even want to use any of my big charts, with the graphic timelines for the jury to follow? My firm spent a lot of money on those. But, no! He's gonna use some rickety old chalk board and just write the information down." She then put both hands on her hips again and asked rhetorically "Why?" "STRATEGY!'" she answered, smiling sarcastically and nodding her head in mock enthusiasm, her great ball of blonde hair shaking up and down, like a cheerleader's pompom. "`STRATEGY,' MY ASS! I don't think he knows what the hell's he's doing! Did you see the way he was dressed? Does he really to intend to meet clients dressed like THAT?"

"Well" Nick replied, "he may have seemed a little eccentric, but I think he knows how important this case is."

" Eccentric?" she asked incredulously. "Come on, Nick, he's crazy! Do you honestly want to keep working for this nut?"

"I can't talk to that right now" Nick answered curtly, disturbed by Stacy's insinuation that he should leave Dallas, to whom he felt such loyalty and gratitude, and defect-presumably to her side.

Stacy, sensing his discomfort, decided to retreat for the time being. "Okay," she conceded. "We'll talk about it some other time. Right now, I've got to get back to the office. Look, we've got about a week to go before trial. Do you think you could try to talk him out of this crazy scheme?"

"I'll try," agreed Nick.

"Thanks. See you later," she smiled, and left. "How do I get into these messes?" he wondered, after as she had gone. "And why the hell does Dallas insist on keeping the both of us 'behind the scenes,' and run everything himself? He had never known his boss to be a control freak. It just didn't make sense. It was almost as if some alien being, or otherwise otherworldly force, had possessed Dallas and willed him to make these irrational decisions. Nick entertained this notion for only a moment, and then dismissed it from his mind, telling himself that this was something that Rachel might say. He chided himself for being so foolish and resolved to get down to his work for the day. He had clients to meet with later. As he sat at his desk and started thumbing through the voluminous party's file, he was unaware that an unexpected-and traumatic-turn of events at the Carlton Psychiatric Center would forever change the course of his and Rachel's life together.

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Chapter 10

"Get me outta here, man! Get me the fuck outta here!" demanded a frenzied Rag Man, who violently smashed his right shoulder against the middle of the plate glass window, which would not give, despite his best efforts. Undaunted, he tried again and again, each time losing his battle against the unyielding shield. He foamed at the mouth like Stephen King's Cujo, the saliva staining the pristine glass. He ranted. He raved. He cursed. He even rambled audibly to himself in Delaware, like a Pentecostal speaking in tongues. "Get me the fuck outta here!" he again demanded.

"Mr. DeFalice, what's wrong?" asked Dr. Harris, flanked by the two guards who had called him about this disturbance. He was shocked by this totally unexpected mood change on the part of his normally quiet, and even meek, patient.

"I want the fuck out!" he repeated, again smashing his shoulder against the impenetrable glass.

"All you're gonna get out of this is a dislocated shoulder, Mr. DeFalice. Now, just calm down, or I'm afraid I'll have to anesthetize you!"

"Yeah! Put that mother fucker under!" interjected the Neo-Nazi from the nearby cell. "If there's anything I can't stand it's a friggin' nut case who won't keep his mouth shut."

"Mr. Schnars, please be quiet! I'm handling this!"

"Just tryin' to help, Dr. Nigger!"

"Well, I don't need your help" Harris replied, trying to remain professional, but still barely holding his temper at a racial slur that he would not have tolerated under any circumstances, but especially not now, in the midst of all this chaos.

"Let me the fuck out!" again demanded Rag Man-"or let me see Jack Dobson!"

There was that name again.

"Jack Dobson?" queried Dr. Harris.

"That's what I said!"

"If I let Mr. Dobson see you, will you stop these shenanigans, and behave yourself?"

"Just let me see Jack Dobson!" repeated Rag Man.

"All right, Mr. DeFalice" Harris replied as calmly as he could, searching his left clinical coat pocket for Rachel's cell phone number. "I'll try."

As Harris left, Rag Man's subsequent excited cries of, "The Master is coming!…The Master is coming!" filled the dark corridors of the Netherworld, combined with the Neo-Nazi's simultaneous retorts of "Shut the fuck up!" and "Eat some flies and spiders, ass hole!" Greater pandemonium could not have been imagined in the deepest recesses of John Milton's hell, and the Doctor couldn't wait to escape the ear-splitting cacophony.

Once back in the sanctuary of his office, Harris hurriedly called Rachel's number.

In the meantime, Rachel had received an email reply from Jack Dobson, referring her to as a "Delaware sister" whom he looked forward to meeting. He said he very much appreciated her interest in his group's movement, and wanted to learn more about Rag Man's surprising obsession with him. They had agreed to meet at the Carlton University coffee shop at 10AM.

Since this was the beginning of the Summer I term, the shop was filled with students, but Rachel had no difficulty spotting her contact at one of the small tables in the far south corner. He was a tall, lean Native American with a Delaware bandana (identical to the one that Rachel had chosen to wear that day) around his should-length peppercorn hair, parted in the middle. She knew instantly that she was in the presence of a great, venerable leader. His face, obviously toughened by years in the harsh sun, was a road atlas of wrinkles and crevices, but these seemed only to enhance, by contrast, his deep, piercing gray eyes-the most intense and penetrating she had ever seen. On his forehead was a jagged, vertical scar that looked as if the original wound had been opened and reopened frequently, so deep seemed the scar tissue. Dressed in a blue denim jacket and jeans, a black cotton T-shirt, and tan, genuine snake skin boots, he reminded her of a Native American mural suddenly come to life.

"Excuse me," Rachel said, as she approached his table. "Are you Mr. Dobson?"

"Yes," he answered, in a voice that seemed both young and old at the same time, and with a cold hollowness that, despite his smile, initially took her aback. His voice had the same effect on her as the sight of the diamondback rattlesnake in the Carlton Zoo Reptile House, which, as a child, she had toured on an elementary school field trip many years before. She remembered how she had curiously, but tentatively, approached the glass case, marching up to it, but stepping back simultaneously. She had been in awe of, yet, at the same time, frightened by, the reptile's appearance. She now felt the same way about Jack Dobson, but his courtly charm eventually won her over.

"You must be Rachel. Please sit down, my daughter."

"Thank you," Rachel smiled, trying to forget her initial reactions to this enigmatic figure. She let her purse slip off the right shoulder of her plumb-colored cotton peasant tunic and fall gently on the table, and sat down in a royal blue plastic fold-up chair directly across from her host.

"Would you like some coffee, my dear?"

"Why, yes, I think I would" she answered, rising from her chair.

"No, my dear, please remain seated. I will gladly get it for you" Dobson said, raising a cautionary left hand that seemed as wrinkled as his leathery face. On his left ring finger, she noticed, he wore a black onyx ring with a silver center bearing the Delaware insignia of a tribal mask and a boat, surrounded, clockwise, by a bear claw, a cross, a branch, and a turtle. He rose, bowed courteously, and headed for the check out counter. When he returned with only one white Styrofoam cup, Rachel asked, "Aren't you having any?"

"I never drink…caffeine" he explained, resuming his own seat. "Certain types of Delaware herbal teas are much more suitable for my pallet."

"Oh, I see," Rachel replied, raising the Styrofoam cup to her lips and sipping from the hot brew, which, minus sugar or cream, was unexpectedly and repulsively bitter. The taste elicited the same, involuntary sour-and painful-expression on her face when, as a child at the orphanage, the nuns had stuffed bars of soap in her mouth whenever she had dared to speak Delaware.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Dobson, noticing her grimace, said. "I forgot to ask you if you wanted sugar or cream. You see, I never use either myself.

"Oh, that's all right," Rachel assured him, setting the cup down beside her right elbow. Secretly, she was wondering if he ate or drank anything since, in the long hours that they would spend together that day, she would never see him with either food or beverage.

"Well, Mr. Dobson-"Rachel began.

"Please, my dear, call me Jack."

"Well, then, 'Jack,' I realize how important this Ghost Dance is to your people."

" My people?" asked Dobson. "Why, I hope that, despite your mixed blood, you count yourself among our group, too. After all" he asked, raising his weather-beaten hands and waving them about circularly, "do you not wear the Delaware ceremonial head dress?"

"Yes, I do," Rachel replied, "but I'm afraid that I don't know that much about the reasons for this ceremony of yours."

"BUTCHERY, my dear, pure BUTCHERY. Our website has informed you of the senseless slaughter of own people at the hands of the white heathens who looked upon as savages…obstacles to their way of life. Our people's souls" he explained, with a far-off gaze in his eyes, "men, women, and children, cry out to me in the night. They are condemned to forever wander in darkness, prisoners in that cursed netherworld that few of our people believe in, but which I know exists-that nether region that separates them from their ancestors. It is only through the Ghost Dance that they can find blissful and everlasting peace, and enter the Eternal Hunting Ground."

"I understand," said Rachel, moved by the words of a man whom she was now convinced was a true prophet. "Mr. Dobson-I mean Jack-I know that the Mathias Corporation is fighting in court for an injunction."

"That is correct," answered Dobson.

"Well, I think you should know" began Rachel, choosing her words carefully, that the Dallas Park Law Firm-my husband is an attorney there-is representing the corporation in this case. In fact, he's going to be assisting Mr. Park at the trial in Zanesville."

"Why, all the more reason we should meet today, my dear Rachel!" exclaimed Dobson, breaking out into an excited smile, totally different from the reaction that she had anticipated, and spreading his arms about in a paternal gesture. "The Great Spirit no doubt intended to bring us together this day, so that we may help each other-I, to bring a new daughter, whose unique support will be of immeasurable aid to us, into the fold. Because of your courage during the Carlton Plague murders, which we all knew, when we had read about them in the newspapers, were the acts of a chindi, you have since become something of a local hero to our people, and an inspiration to all the Delaware. Our group needs such a role model. And you, in turn, will gain the wisdom you need to convince your husband to give up this barbaric fight against us. The Great Father does indeed work in mysterious ways, does he not?"

"Wow, you're not kidding!" Rachel thought to herself, now absolutely enchanted by the man.

Suddenly, their conversation was interrupted by the musical jingle of Rachel's cell phone from inside her purse.

"Oh, just a minute" she explained, unzipping the purse's front compartment with her right hand and removing the small silver phone with the left. She flipped open the folded phone with a deft flick of the fingers of her right hand, held it up to her left ear, and pressed the "TALK" button with her right index finger. "Excuse me, please."

"Of course, my daughter," Dobson assured her.

"Hello?…Oh, Walt, how are you?…I'm fine, thanks…Oh, my God!…He wants to see Jack Dobson?…Well, what a coincidence! I'm talking with him right now, here, at the University coffee shop…Yes, he's right here…Well, I don't see why not…okay…okay, I'll ask him, and call you back right away…Right…Thanks so much for calling …okay, bye." She withdrew the phone from her ear, pressed the "END" button, and talked to Dobson, who had been listening attentively.

"Jack," she began, placing the cell phone on the table beside her right elbow and the still unfinished Styrofoam cup of bitter black coffee, "that was Dr. Walter Harris, at Carlton Psychiatric Center. Remember I told in you my email about one of his patients, Milton DeFalice, 'Rag Man?'"

"Oh, yes, the lunatic who has mentioned my name during his ramblings."

"Right. Well, he almost went berserk today, demanding to be either released, or to see you-and right away, too. But that's not all. He's speaking in Delaware again. I have a feeling that, if he sees you, maybe we can learn exactly what type of spirit has contacted him-because there's no other way he could have learned our language, and its spiritual terms. It might help you in your fight against Mathias-it may even save some innocent lives, because I can't think of any other reason for these events. Are you free for the next few hours?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"Good! You can follow me in my car."

Dobson again raised a cautionary left hand, and explained, "I'm afraid that I do not drive my dear Rachel. I take public transportation. Fortunately, the University is within easy walking distance of my apartment. So, you see, I have no car."

"Well, that's all right" Rachel assured him. "We can ride together in my car, and be at the Psychiatric Center within fifteen minutes. I'll be glad to drop you off at your apartment when we're done."

"Very well, my daughter" Dobson answered.

"Great!" Rachel replied, using her cell phone to call Harris back, and to notify him of their plans. As they rose from their chairs and walked to the parking lot, Rachel was inexplicably filled with a mounting sense of anxiety, anticipation, and, yes, terror, at what revelations this meeting might unveil.

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Chapter 11

Dobson and Rachel spoke little on the ride over to the Carlton Psychiatric Center, although he occasionally remarked on the historical significance of this street or that as having once been the sites of key Delaware settlements. He spoke with such authority, knowledge, and, she felt, nostalgia, that she got the distinct impression that he may have actually lived in those places himself-an absolutely absurd notion, of course.

As they approached Howard House, on the right hand side of the street, it was now her turn to play tour guide. But as soon Dobson turned his head in the direction that he right hand pointed in and he saw the building, he instantly tensed up, and sat stiffly and erect in the Hyundai's passenger seat. She also noticed a slight trembling in his hands, and a look of anxiety in his eyes-anxiety, and a very real suggestion of terror-even, she thought, hate. To her recitation of the House's history, including its ghosts, he said nothing, and it was only after they had passed the House that he could sit back in his seat and relax. Perhaps his trepidation had been due to the universal Native American belief in all ghosts as evil beings, but then she remembered that he had tensed up the minute he had seen the building- before she had told him about its hauntings. She could not account for his strange reaction to a place that he had presumably never seen-much less visited-in his life.

When Rachel introduced Dobson to Dr. Harris, the meeting was cordial enough, although she could have sworn that she had noticed a definite expression of surprise on the Doctor's face as they shook each other's right hand-why, she could not tell. After briefing Dobson on Rag Man's case, and on standard security procedures, Harris, in the company of the two same guards who had escorted them earlier, led him and Rachel into the Netherworld.

As the group entered its depressing, dim, shadowy corridors, Rachel was pleasantly surprised that, unlike her last visit, she was breathing feces-clear air, and that her ears were not assaulted b y the shrill refrain of shrieks at imaginary rats. The two patients who had been responsible for these memories were now gone, having moved to other institutions. As she saw a small maintenance crew cleaning both empty cells, she couldn't help feeling that it was like seeing the vacant cages being prepared for new, incoming exhibits at the Carlton Zoo's Reptile House, but she wiped the insulting metaphor as quickly as she could from her mind. After all, she chided herself, these were human beings, not animals. She realized that if she really thought that way, she was no better than Karloff's cruel Master Sims in Bedlam. But as they rounded the Netherworld's east corner, they were instantly "greeted" by Schnars, the Neo-Nazi. The presence of the group's new member was not lost on the troublemaker.

"Well, well, well" he exulted cockily from behind the center of the plate glass window, hands on hips. "Look who's back! Pocahontas and her big tits, along with 'Dr. Nigger' and his two butt buddies! Hey, Sitting Bull!" he now addressed Dobson. "Who're you doin'?-the Doc or Pocahontas? Or are both of ya reamin' her cute little ass hole, huh?"

Rachel had learned from Dr. Harris to put on the best Buster Keaton stone face possible and simply ignore Schnars. That's why she was mortified when she saw Dobson suddenly halt, break away from the group, and march straight up to the window.

"No, Jack! Don't!" she warned him. But it was too late. Dobson was already inches away from the glass, silently confronting his antagonist face to face.

Schnars, naturally, felt more than up to the challenge. Standing with his legs spread and hands defiantly on his hips, he issued his challenge to the Delaware leader. "Well, what do you want, Sitting Bull? You want a piece of me?-huh? Well, tell 'em to take this fuckin' window down, and I'll kick your teepee ass all the way to the happy hunting ground! I'll…"

But Schnars never completed his threat. Rachel saw-or thought she did (it must have been optical illusion, she finally decided-Dobson's gray eyes suddenly shining red in the dim light, like two blazing coals, and fixing their gaze on Schnars' face. Instantly, he stopped talking, and sat down on the right edge of his bunk, head up and erect, as if at attention. With blank eyes, he simply stared into the distance. Later that day, Dr. Harris would examine Schnars and diagnose this condition as a catatonic trance, no doubt brought on by his own dementia. But for now, he, like Rachel and everyone else there, was just grateful that he, for whatever reason, had decided to shut his sewer mouth.

"Come on" Harris motioned to Dobson, who, silently, rejoined the group. Rachel turned her head to the left to check on Dobson's eyes; they were gray, not red, as always, and they were brighter than her own. It must have been an optical illusion-or her imagination-she told herself. And yet…

Before she could complete her thought, the group was at Rag Man's cell. He was squatting in the middle of the floor, furiously, and, with both hands, stuffing into his mouth June bugs and Death's Head moths (two new delicacies he had ordered), his lips stained with fragments of crumpled wings and tiny carcasses. Rachel, Dobson, and Dr. Harris sat down at three separate chairs. One of the guards helped the Doctor adjust the table microphone, while the other stood at Rachel's left elbow.

"Mr. DeFalice?…Mr. De Falice? May I have your attention, please? You have visitors, Dr. Russo-Graffanino and Mr. Jack Dobson."

At the mention of Dobson's name, Rag Man jerked his head up, still chewing on the insects, wiped his mouth as cleanly as he could with his left smock sleeve, and scrambled to his feet. Scampering to the center of the window like a docile terrier, he dropped to his knees, held his head high, fawning and staring in rapture at the still seated Dobson, as if he were in the presence of a messiah. "Master" he remarked softly, but loudly enough for all to hear.

Dobson rose and waved both his outstretched hands in an upward fashion, beckoning Rag Man to rise. He did so obediently, still staring in wide-eyed reverence at the Delaware leader. Dobson then resumed his seat and spoke into the microphone that Dr. Harris had now swung in his direction. "What can I do for you, my son?" Dobson asked.

Rag Man seemed puzzled by Dobson's question. "What can you do for me? No, Master. What more can I can do for you?"

"For me?"

"Yes, Master. I have done as you had requested."

"As I had requested?"

"I've proven my loyalty to you, have I not, Master, by eating your flesh and drinking your blood, by killing the white infidel?"

"Jimmy Trevalian," Rachel leaned across and whispered into Dobson's right ear. Dobson nodded.

"Oh, yes, my son, yes. You have done well," replied Dobson, humoring the lunatic.

"And I've summoned your Delaware sister, and have brought the two of you together, so that your forces may join on the great Day of Reconciliation."

"Yes, my son. You have."

"And…will I not be rewarded, Master, for having prepared the way for you, on the day of the Ghost Dance, when the Great Wrong shall be righted?"

"You shall, my disciple, you shall."

"Thank you, Master. Thank you. And now, may I rest? I am so weary, Master, so…weary."

"Yes, my son, by all means. You have earned your rest."

Having received the blessing he had been seeking, Rag Man walked over to his bunk, placed his head on his pillow, and stretched out in a prostrate position, closing his eyes as before, and soon falling fast asleep.

"I think we'd better go now" Harris whispered to Rachel and Dobson, and all four were escorted out of the Netherworld by the guards. Once seated in Dr. Harris' office, there would be many questions, but few answers.

"What the hell was all that about?" asked Harris.

"The delusions of a poor, deranged man" remarked Dobson, his hands folded studiously on his stomach.

"In all likelihood, yes," Harris replied, "but that still doesn't explain how he knew your name, and your plans to hold this 'Spook Dance' of yours."

Dobson raised his left eyebrow in consternation.

"Sorry, 'Ghost Dance.' I just think it's strange that he seemed to know you-to know all about you. I'd like to know why."

"As would I," Dobson replied.

"Then how about some answers?" responded Harris, with a tone of genuine annoyance in his voice. It was clear that, for some reason, perhaps one that even he himself couldn't clearly explain, he distrusted Dobson.

"Is this an interrogation, Doctor?" Dobson asked.

"Now, look," interrupted Rachel, sensing the growing antagonism between the two men, and raising her left hand to call for a détente. "There's a very simple explanation. Rag Man has an obsession with devouring living things. That's proven. In his delusions, he must have connected Mr. Dobson's name, which he probably heard from some nurse discussing the Ghost Dance story, or maybe over the Center's TV, with his dementia, and used it for an excuse. In his mind, he made Mr. Dobson into a Messiah figure, so that he could deny the truth of his mental illness to himself. Now, doesn't that sound like a perfectly rational explanation to you, Dr. Harris?"

"Well, I am impressed," Harris replied sarcastically. When did you graduate from medical school, Rachel, and how long have you been practicing?"

"Well, look, if you're gonna be a smart ass about it" retorted Rachel, swinging her purse over her right shoulder, and rising from her seat in indignation.

"Okay, okay," he replied, motioning with both his hands for her to remain seated. "I'm sorry. I guess my nerves are a little frayed, too." As she sat back down, he took a deep breath and continued. "What you said makes perfect sense, Rachel-I, being a psychiatrist, should know. But…it just seems too easy…too pat."

"Well, in that case, I have only one other suggestion," offered Dobson.

"Hey, right now, I'll buy anything!" Harris assured him.

"Either my Delaware daughter is correct, or your patient, even the lowliest of servants, is the Great Spirit's instrument in bringing the Delaware together, and making possible the great Day of Reconciliation-through the Ghost Dance. It was unfortunate that this poor soul's confusion cost an innocent man his life, but who knows? Even that may have served a yet unknown purpose. But the most important thing is that his words have confirmed my first feelings-that we are indeed in the presence of the Great Spirit."

"Now, look, Mr. Dobson, with all due respect. I'm a doctor. And the last thing we need right now is 'Ooh, ee, oo ah,ah, bing, bang, walla walla bing bang!'"

"WALT!" protested Rachel.

"Do not trouble yourself, my dear Rachel" insisted Dobson, raising his left hand in dismissal. "Dr. Harris is entitled to his opinion. I would not expect a rationally trained mind like his to automatically accept that which our people have known for centuries-that there are truths that cannot be measured by either modern medicine or science. Shall we go?" he asked, rising from his chair.

"I think so," replied Rachel, similarly rising to her feet.

"No offense intended, Mr. Dobson" Harris assured him, as he escorted the two to the door, although he still hadn't completely resolved his doubts about his new visitor.

"None accepted Doctor," Dobson smiled.

"I'll keep you updated Rachel," added Harris.

"Thanks Walt, Rachel answered.

On the drive back to the University, Rachel and Dobson talked about what they had learned from Rag Man today, and made plans to meet again soon. Rachel had already decided to join Dobson's movement, and to help him out in any way she could-even if it meant more battles with Nick over where his true loyalties should lie. As they stood together in the University coffee shop parking lot and said goodbye to each other, Rachel offered her right hand in friendship. As they shook hands, she discovered what had evidently startled Dr. Harris when he had shaken hands with Dobson: the man's grip was as cold as ice. It was if she had just touched the hand of a corpse. Again, she felt, it must be her imagination working over time. Perfectly understandable, she assured herself, as she got back into the driver's seat of her Hyundai, for it wasn't every day that an Italian/Delaware girl suddenly found herself as part of the Great Spirit's Divine Plan. "Now I know how Joan of Arc must have felt!" she laughed.

But elsewhere, the mood was anything but jocular. In the Netherworld, Schnars, who was still sitting on his bunk, suddenly broke his silence. Responding to some unknown voice, he whispered softly, "Tonight? At midnight it will be there? Yes, Master."

That evening, precisely at midnight, after a short sleep, Schnars arose and carefully searched under the middle of his bunk. He found what had not been there before-had never been there before-but which was inexplicably there now, just as the voice had promised: a switchblade. Schanrs took it in his left hand, ran his fingers delicately over the blade's razor-sharp surface, and swung it about, admiring its balance. With a gleeful smile, he then went about his appointed task.

The next morning, the custodians were mopping up their own vomit at a sight that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. Sitting on his now blood-splattered bunk, eyes wide open and head thrown back, was Schanrs, still holding in his left hand the now crimson-stained switchblade. He had followed the voice's orders perfectly, for there was now a moist, gaping cavity in the crotch of his institutional gown. He would utter no more obscenities: his mouth was stuffed with the foreign object that he had hacked from his own body and had literally rammed down his own throat and stopped his air with-the bloody stump of his own penis.

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Chapter 12

When Schnars' deadly self-mutilation was reported to Dr. Harris, who had been granted full authority over the Center's psychopathic ward, he ordered the Netherworld turned upside down and everyone interrogated: staff (including both doctors and nurses), patients, security, and maintenance. He was determined to discover how the fatal switchblade had gotten into Schnars' cell. Not even Rag Man was spared from questioning, especially since no one had yet explained how he had obtained the knife that he had used to kill Jimmy Trevalian. When he decided to visit Rag Man again, his patient was sitting on the left edge of his bunk, helping himself to a box of squirming night crawlers, his latest craving. With his right hand, he expertly plucked a worm from the box, tilted his head back, dropped it into his open mouth, and swallowed it whole, like some obscene pelican, repeating the process each time with a different worm. When asked again how he had gotten the knife, Rag Man simply answered, between worms, that "the Master provides all."

"Are you saying that these weapons were delivered to both you and Schnars through some kind of metaphysical FedEx service?" asked Harris over the microphone.

"The Master provides all" repeated Rag Man. "The infidel had to die, and so did the Great Sinner. He dared to blaspheme against the 'Master.'"

"Do you mean Jack Dobson?"

"The Master," replied Rag Man reverently.

"That's it!" exclaimed Harris in frustration. "I'm sick and tired of this 'Master' bullshit! Mr. DeFalice, I swear, I'm going to get to the bottom of this yet!"

As he rose from the table, accompanied by the same two guards (who were called Abbott and Costello by the more sarcastic patients in the Center), Harris returned to his office. He was now convinced, more than ever, that the word "sinister" did best describe this whole sordid affair-and that Jack Dobson was somehow behind it all. Rachel's explanation for Rag Man's behavior may eventually prove correct after all, he conceded, but he was suspicious of Dobson, and not just because of that unsettling handshake. He distrusted what he felt was his too smooth demeanor, feigned piety, and overall air of self-importance. He was convinced that the man was a charlatan, and that Rachel had allowed herself to be taken in by him. Well, that was her business. But he didn't trust him, and, judging from the strange effect he had had on Rag Man yesterday, he decided that he would no longer allow him to see his patient.

Meanwhile, Rachel was preoccupied with personal issues of her own. Nick was preparing to leave for Zanseville that same morning, and Rachel had decided to try one last time to persuade him to drop out of the trial.

"Drop out of the trial?" Nick asked incredulously, now fully dressed in a white cotton shirt, navy blue pinstriped rayon suit, and apple-red, white polka dot silk tie. He had deftly locked the lid of his fully packed tobacco juice brown leather suitcase, which lay in the center of their still unmade bed and was preparing to say goodbye when Rachel had once again requested that he not go to Zanseville, and risk his boss' displeasure. "You must be nuts!"

Rachel, who was still clad in her white Miss's pink striped notched cotton pajama sleep shirt and slippers, lowered her head in embarrassment and ushered a loud sigh of exasperation while a noticeably pained expression crossed her high cheek boned features. She was obviously hurt by the remark.

"Now, come on, Rach!" said Nick. "You know I didn't mean that!" He had forgotten how sensitive his wife was to the subject of mental illness, because of her later mother's delusional condition.

"Forget it" replied Rachel, dismissing the remark with a wave of her right hand. "I just wish you'd consider what you're doing!"

"What I'm doing is my job" Nick insisted. "Jesus Christ, Rach! We've been all through this before!"

"But Nick, you don't understand. Jack Dobson's work is important-it's vital! And you're trying to prevent it! Can't you see the harm you'd be doing, not just to my people, but to others?-to yourself?"

"Look, Rach," answered Nick, punctuating his angry words with his left hand's pointed forefinger. "I AM SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT JACK DOBSON! If you think he's so high and mighty, why didn't you marry him?"


"No, I mean it," added Nick sarcastically, slipping on his tan raincoat, for the morning was overcast. "I know you're disappointed that I'm not an American Indian!"

Rachel was silent for a moment. She had never before seen Nick's eyes so hard, or heard such a resentful tone in his voice. The two stood about six inches from each other, neither one knowing what to say or do next. Finally, Rachel spoke. "In that case," she began glumly, "maybe I shouldn't tell you what I was going to tell you."


"My period is late."

" How late?"

"Very late."

Nick shook his head, glanced at the bedroom floor, hands pensively on his hips. Then, he stretched his arms out to his wife and held her close, his right arm around his waist and his left cradling her back as she pressed the right side of her face close to his chest.

"I'm sorry, honey," he admitted, his left hand moving up to her hair, which he stroked tenderly. "But don't you see? That's all the more reason not to jeopardize my job. If we're gonna have a baby, we need both our incomes. I've told you that before. And the fees that we'll be getting from this case will be hug e. We'll need that money."

"I know Nick," she replied, raising her chin and staring into his hazel eyes, which were now free of their earlier hardness, as soft as always. "I'm just afraid."

"Now, don't worry," he assured her, gently raising her chin with the thumb of his right hand, and kissing her mouth lovingly, their eyes momentarily closed in the warmth of their mutual love for each other. " Nothing's gonna happen" he said, as she stared into his kind, considerate eyes, while he continued to steady her chin with his thumb. Everything will be fine. The trial shouldn't last over a week."

"You'll call me every night?" asked Rachel, earnestly.

"You bet," Nick smiled.

"I love you," Rachel said.

"I love you too," answered Nick, as they again closed their eyes, and their moist lips met in a warm goodbye kiss.

"Talk to ya later, 'Tiger Lily.'"

Rachel broke into a warm, broad smile. "Okay, honey" she answered, as Nick, now with suitcase in his right hand and black briefcase in the other, headed out the bedroom, for the front door. She followed him, smiled again, and stood in the middle of the front porch, smiling and waving goodbye with her right hand as he backed his Taurus out of the garage and headed off down the street for the expressway, blowing his horn when he was on his way. Secretly, despite her brave, optimistic front, she was still fearful, both for her husband and the entire city of Carlton, for she was convinced that disaster would somehow follow in the wake of this trial.

But she was now to find another reason for fear, because her ringing cordless phone now called her back into the house. It was Marissa, who had called to inform her of more unrest at Howard House. As before, Rachel promised to hurry, and to join her as soon as she could.

"Shit!" she remarked to herself, unbuttoning and removing her sleep shirt, which she flung carelessly on the center of the bed, and kicking off her slippers. She stood barefoot in her beige Playtex under wire bra and panties while rooting in her top bureau drawer for a canary yellow, short sleeve Old Navy rayon open neck sport shirt, along with a pair of mud-brown NYK jeans. "First, it's Rag Man, and now these two again" she muttered, as she sat on the right edge of the bed and dressed quickly. "They're becoming real pests!" she went on, donning a pair of charcoal gray socks and slipping into and tying up the same Converse sneakers as before. Throwing her purse over her left shoulder, she hurried out the door to the garage, and was soon at Howard House, confronting an even more distraught than earlier Marissa.

"You don't know how hard it's been, Dr. R-G," the student tour guide complained. "This is the last really good skirt and slip I have, and it's been all I can do to keep from pissing all over myself again. They've scared me so much, I've got a good mind to send my laundry bill to them!"

" Pleas e, Marissa!" pleaded Rachel, holding out her cupped hands and raising her upturned palms in consternation. "Just get to the point. What's been going on here?"

"Well, those two shits must have gone a rampage or something last night. The second floor is a mess. The paintings are splattered with blood, all of the ornamental glass wear is broken, and the entire second floor carpet will have to be replaced."

"Why?" asked Rachel.

"It's all covered in some kind of disgusting green shit. I've never seen anything like it in my life!"

"Come on," insisted Rachel. "Let's have a look."

As the two ascended the steps to the second floor, they began to gag violently. It was as Marissa had said. Globs of turtle-green ectoplasm, which smelled like a dozen spoiled brown eggs baked twenty-four hours in a tanning booth, littered the velour carpeting. Both women pressed both hands over their noses and mouths tightly. As Rachel looked about the hallway, she heard the brittle crunch of glass underneath her Converses. As she glanced down, she saw splinters of glass everywhere. She was glad that she was wearing shoes. Then, her heart sank at the sight of the priceless oil paintings of Emily Howard, the family matriarch, her husband John, and their children, Trudy and David, all soiled by the copious blood that flowed down their painted faces in rivulets. The cost of renovating the paintings alone, not to mention that of replacing the carpet, would be astronomical. Worse yet, the antique glass wear was irreplaceable.

"Let's inspect the bedroom," whispered Rachel.

Marissa nodded, and used her right hand to pull out her key chain from her blazer breast pocket, while still covering her mouth and nose with her left. Reluctantly, though, she had to use her left hand to search for the correct key, so she did her best to hold her breath while frenziedly trying to locate it before the stench overpowered her. When she found the right key, she quickly inserted it into the lock with her left hand and turned the knob with her right. When the door gave way, she stepped into the sanctuary of the room and breathed a long sight of relief. She then flung on the light switch with her left hand and motioned with her right for Rachel to follow her. When both women were inside, they remembered that they had failed to notice, due to the foul odor they had encountered, that the blood spots they had seen previously had been cleaned from the hallway, and from the room, as well. In addition, the bed had been made and the furnishings returned to their proper place. Since all seemed in order, both Rachel and Marissa were about ready to leave, when suddenly the room's humid temperature, as before, began to drop, and soon they were shivering again, their breaths plainly visible, as earlier. Before either one could say a word, Marissa distinctly felt a pair of strong, yet invisible hands firmly grab her by the shoulders and shove her backwards out of the room. She screamed in terror as the door, on its own, swung shut, as before. Rachel knew that it would do no good, but she still impulsively rushed to the door and tried to force it open with both hands, as on the last occasion, but the knob would not budge. Then, as earlier, the light went out, and Rachel spun around to the sound of soft footsteps behind her back. She then saw two pairs of phosphorescent shoe prints, one pair clearly child size and the other adult, both running from the front of the door, past Rachel's immediate left, and ending at the front of the east wall.

Before Rachel, mouth agape, could react to this manifestation, two separate streams of tiny dust specks seemed to shoot from the ceiling to the floor, materializing into the physical forms of the little boy and the old charwoman. Both were furiously scraping away, with their fingernails, at the impenetrable wallpaper. Uncountable minutes passed until the two inexplicably ceased, and turned their heads in Rachel's direction.

Both smiled, not in joy, but what seemed to Rachel to be an expression of relief, as if some terrible burden that neither she nor anyone else knew anything about had just been lifted from their shoulders. Almost immediately, the pair dissolved into dust speckles that flew up to the ceiling and completely vanished. Then the light came back on, the temperature normalized as before, and frenzied knocks on the door commenced, followed by Marissa's frantic calls of concern: "Dr. R-G! Dr. R-G! Are you all right?"

"Yes, Marissa," Rachel responded, "I'm fine." With one clockwise turn of her right hand on the knob from the outside, the door easily opened. "I think I'm gonna have to change my clothes after all" Marissa exclaimed from room's threshold, glancing down at her urine-stained hose. "That just about did it for me!"

Rachel didn't answer her, but walked to the east wall, where a sizeable hole, which she could see now in the light, had been made in the wallpaper. Underneath the paper, he could see mortared brickwork, obviously part of a false front. This puzzled Rachel, since she knew that all of the House's walls were made only of plaster. Why was this wall different?

With both hands, Rachel continued to peel away the remaining paper, revealing a wall that had clearly been constructed over the interior plaster, and many years before. Rachel stared intently at the wall for several minutes. Finally, she said, "Before you do anything else, Marissa, go down to the basement and try to get me an ax, or a crowbar. I've got to see what's behind this wall!"

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Chapter 13

Marissa rushed down the stairs and returned as quickly as she could with a sturdy crow bar whose handle she grasped with her left hand and handed to Rachel, who placed both of her hands around its slender base.

"Stand back!" Rachel warned her, as she swung the crowbar as hard as she could with both hands against the century-or-so-old brick. A half dozen swings vigorous swings were enough to disturb the mortar, which began to tumble from its base in large flecks, filling the room with dust, and causing both women to cough. Undaunted, Rachel brushed away the copious beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead, and that were now falling into her eyes. She lay the crowbar down, wiped her eyes clean with the backs of both of her equally sweaty hands, and then stuck her head through the sizeable opening in the wall that she had formed. Marissa stood in the doorway, anxiously looking on.

"You'd better call the police" Rachel announced, pulling her head back out and casting a side ways glance at Marissa. "I think I've just found a human skeleton inside."

Marissa gasped loudly, not only because of this news, but because another jet of involuntary urine had just dripped down her legs, creating a tiny puddle at her feet. "Anything to get out of here!" she answered, scampering out the door.

While waiting for the police, Rachel continued to pound away at the brick with several more two-handed swings of the crowbar, until she had made an opening large enough to climb inside. By this time, her face, upper chest, and exposed forearms were ringing with new sweat, severely staining the armpits of her sport shirt. Once inside, the temperature seemed even stuffier, but not nearly as stuffy as it must have been for the occupant of this secret tomb. From the size of the skeleton, she guessed that it must have been a male, and there was what appeared to be a deep horizontal fracture on the victim's forehead. She sincerely hoped that he had died before his entombment. Otherwise, this would appear to have been a real life of enactment of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" (in fact, the skeleton's hands had been manacled to the plastered back wall in the same fashion as in this classic short story). This, Rachel told herself, would have been definitely one for Robert Stack's old series, Unsolved Mysteries. The victim had worn a royal blue Victorian frock coat and matching trousers, a white shirt, which was now so dingy as to be almost unrecognizable, and a cherry red and white striped cravat around the long ossified collar. All had been badly maggot and mouse-eaten through the years. What remained of a pair of black boots and navy blue socks were on the skeleton's feet. The most disturbing feature of all, though, at least to Rachel, was a decayed turquoise bandana on top of the skull, along with ceremonial braids around the stringing wisps of now long, gray hair. It was obvious that the victim had been a Native American, and, judging from the distinctive braids, very likely a Delaware.

Then her eyes fell on a disgustingly yellowed piece of folded paper lying on the dry rot-damaged wooden floor to the left of the skeleton. It had evidently fallen from the remains of the right trouser pocket. Picking it up carefully with both hands, she gingerly unfolded it and read the brief, but disturbing message, scrawled in dark blue pen:

I know what you've done, Malcom Reynolds. Soon, the whole world will know, too, of your vile wickedness. The innocence that you have destroyed here will not go un-avenged.

The note was unsigned, but there was no doubt that the victim knew who had written it, and that it had been sent to him as a means of luring him to his death.

Impulsively, as she heard the police sirens approaching the House, she refolded the note and, with her right hand, stuffed it into her shirt's breast pocket. She scarcely knew why, but somehow felt that it was important that she keep it.

Once she was finished reporting the incident to the police, she drove home and took a shower. That evening, though the television was on, she was not paying attention to that night's sitcom reruns. She couldn't help but read again and again, the note, as she sat on her sofa in a white summer nightgown. She wondered what crime had he committed. Whose innocence had he defiled? Or had this been merely a trumped up charge designed to cover a racist hate crime-possibly against a Delaware brother? Without further information, she knew she would never find these answers. Remembering that she had promised Jack Dobson that she would help with his group's public demonstration early the next morning while he was conferring with his lawyers in Zanseville, she then decided to forget about the cryptic message for the time being, and get some sleep. She placed the note in her bedroom bureau's right hand drawer, and went to bed. Still, she slept fitfully, as the questions that this message from so many years ago had raised haunted her through the night.

The morning skies were overcast when Rachel later awoke grudgingly to the buzz of her bedroom alarm clock. The air was muggy and unstable, but the group had still decided to picket outside the hospital anyway, per their previous plans, despite possibly severe imminent weather, which, fortunately, would bypass Carlton today, as the skies would open up around 10AM. A group of about a hundred or so Delaware men, women, and children, wearing silver buttons with Dobson's face emblazoned on the front, had gathered on the sidewalk immediately across from the Hospital. Although she didn't know it at the time, this was the largest turnout yet for the demonstrations, and was due to the news that the Rachel Russo-Graffanino had joined them, and would be working with them today. When Rachel arrived at the picket site, a smiling little boy dressed in a striped battleship gray Carlton Scouts uniform eagerly offered her a button from the large cardboard box that he was marching up and down next to. She took the button from his pudgy little right hand and, with her left, pinned it to the right notched lapel of the ocean blue, and rose print Hawaiian cotton camp blouse that she had tucked into a pair of white NYDK jeans, and next to her purse's shoulder strap. The people greeted her warmly, and she felt, held her in awe. Although flattered, the unpretentious Rachel was distinctly uncomfortable with such attention and fanfare, and was determined to show them that she was just one of them. She insisted on doing all the jobs that they were doing, so she started by parading up and down the sidewalk, holding high over her head a broad, apple red banner with bright gold letters that read "FREEDOM OF RELIGION MEANS NATIVE AMERICANS, TOO." Others were carrying similar signs and banners. Periodically, she would put the banner down and shout into a plastic orange megaphone that she held in her right hand, "MATHIAS IS NOT BIGGER THAN THE BILL OF RIGHTS! SUPPORT THE GHOST DANCE! SUPPORT THE GHOST DANCE!" Occasionally, a group member would relieve her while she helped others greet interested passerby and record their signatures on yellow legal notepads that served as petitions.

It was during one of these shifts that a short (about 5'5") gray haired and bearded Native American of about sixty marched up to her, ostensibly to sign the petition. He wore a tan rayon sport coat and color coordinated slacks, light blue cotton shirt and navy blue, white tailed deer-decorated nylon tie. As Rachel was about to hand him the tablet that she held under her right arm, he quickly pressed into her left hand with his right a note, looked nervously about him, and hurried away.

"Wait!" she shouted, but he paid no attention, and kept on walking, northbound, down the sidewalk.

"Cindy," Rachel said to a nineteen-year-old girl in a cherry red and white spotted head bandana, a pear green tube top, low riding Faded Glory blue jeans, held up by a black and silver studded belt, and wearing a light brown rawhide purse over her right shoulder and tan sandals over her bare feet. "Take over this spot, will you?" Handing the girl the tablet, Rachel sat down on a nearby transit bus bench, unfolded the note slowly with both hands, and read the handwritten message:

If you are Dr. Rachel Russo-Graffanino, PLEASE meet me at the Carlton Hospital McDonald's at 3PM today. This is URGENT!

Was this a hoax or a scam-or a cry for attention from some desperate, unknown admirer? Or did it mean exactly what it said? She wasn't sure, but there was only one way to find out, so she decided to follow the note's instructions and meet the odd little man, as he had requested.

At 3PM, Rachel, who had seated herself in one of the restaurant's booths, waited patiently, sipping on some McDonald's Land coffee. A few minutes later, her visitor arrived. He spotted her instantly, and hurried to the booth through the throng of customers--hospital personnel as well as patients' friends and relatives-gathered there for a quick meal before visiting hours began.

"Dr. Russo-Graffanino?" he asked anxiously.

Rachel nodded.

The little man uttered a sigh of noticeable relief and closed his eyes for a few seconds, collecting his emotions. Then, having regained his composure, he opened them, and asked, "May I sit down?"

She nodded again, and placed her cardboard cup, which she had been sipping from her right hand in front of her.

"I want you to know," she began, "I'm not in the habit of meeting strange men in public places on the basis of hastily written notes shoved into my hand. How did you know my name, and what is it you have to tell me that's so 'urgent.'"

"Doctor," he tried to explain, nervously folding and unfolding his hands and speaking softly. "I'm not at liberty to tell you how I know your name. You must simply believe me when I say that I came here at some considerable risk to myself. If he knew that I was in Carlton, and had spoken to you, he would kill me."

"Who?" asked Rachel?

"I-I cannot tell you that right now," he stammered.

"Now look," she replied sternly, "you either start telling me what this is all about, or I'm walking!"

"Wait, Doctor, please" he implored her, raising his right hand, which, she had not noticed earlier, bore a Delaware insignia ring on his finger, identical to Dobson's, except that Dobson wore his on his left hand. "The man who calls himself 'Jack Dobson'…stay away from him…he is a devil!"


"He is a devil who has come to lead you and the Delaware nation astray-for his own evil ends."

"How do you know this?" she asked skeptically.

"Again," he said, glancing down at the table, "I may not tell you as yet."

"Okay, that's enough!" Rachel exclaimed. "I've got better things to do with my time than to listen to this bullshit! Look, do yourself a favor, buddy, and go home to your wife and kids! No, better yet" she added, pointing her right index finger in his face, "check yourself in to the Carlton Psychiatric Center and ask for a friend of mine, Dr. Walter Harris. Mention my name, and he'll take reall y good care of you!" Rachel rose from the table, flung her purse with her left hand over her right shoulder, and turned her back on her strange visitor, who, impulsively following her out the door of the McDonalds, grabbed her right elbow with his left hand, in a desperate attempt to restrain her. Instantly, she whirled around. "Take your hand off me, or I'll get the police!" she snarled.

"I'm sorry" he replied. He pulled his hand back as quickly as if he had just accidentally touched a searing coal. "But I must warn you, you cannot trust this man who calls himself 'Jack Dobson!'"

"And why not?" asked Rachel, her voice full of annoyance and arms crossed defiantly over her chest, demanding an answer.

"Because," he slowly responded, " I am Jack Dobson!"

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Chapter 14

"What?" Rachel exclaimed in disbelief.

"It's true," the stranger insisted. "I am Jack Dobson. This other man is an imposter who has stolen my good name and identity in order to prepare the way for his sinister revenge.

"`Prepare the way.'" These were the exact same words, Rachel remembered, that Rag Man had used to refer to his 'Master.'" But then Rachel told herself "This is nothing more than a coincidence. Don't be taken in by this man."

"Wait a minute" she responded, holding both of her hands out in a "stop" gesture." "`Revenge'" for what?"

"If I tell you now," he tried to explain, wringing his hands, "I'm afraid you won't believe me."

"You're right," Rachel replied, with a mock friendly smile on her face. "I don't believe you. Goodbye!"

As she turned to leave, the stranger implored her to stay. "Please, Doctor. I beg you to hear me out. You hold the lives of thousands of people in your hands. Please listen to me, and I will tell you what I can."

Something in the earnest tone of his voice convinced Rachel to stop, and at least grant him a hearing. She turned to face him, but as she looked into his acorn brown eyes, full of fear and anxiety, she wasn't sure that she had made the right decision after all. They stood for several seconds, just silently staring at one another, and waiting…he for an answer- any answer-and she, for some sign that she was not about to make a fool of herself. Finally, without exactly knowing why, she decided to hear him out after all, even though, she felt, she might very well regret it. Still, she had made up her mind, and told him, "Go on."

He smiled slightly, breathed, deeply, collected his thoughts, and began what, to him, was, as indicated by his now solemn expression, obviously the most important story he would ever tell another human being. "You see, Dr. Russo-Graffanino, my Christian name is Jack Dobson, but my Delaware name is 'Running Deer.' I have been an Ohio tribal shaman for forty-four years, in Dublin, near Columbus. See my tribal ring?" He held out his right hand for Rachel to inspect the ring that she had noticed earlier.

" That doesn't mean anything," she scoffed. " Anyone can wear a Delaware ring-or get a chief imitation made, and claim to be a true Lenape."

" Precisely!" he replied, withdrawing his hand. "This man who calls himself 'Jack Dobson,' does he not wear an identical ring?"

Rachel nodded.

"Then how can you be so certain, based on what you've just said, that he is telling the truth?"

"Look," she answered, shaking her head, "I can't prove a negative- no one can. I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that, Mr. 'Running Deer!'"

"Here," he said, taking a photograph from his right breast jacket pocket and beckoning her to examine it. She took the photo in both hands and studied it closely. There, in full Delaware ceremonial garb, including feathered headdress, braids, and tan leather smock and pants, the shirt decorated with the same symbols as on his ring, only larger, was Running Deer. In the picture, he stood holding his right hand in the left palm of a tall, aristocratic-looking Delaware woman of about fifty, with high cheekbones and an aquiline nose, and braided graying dark brown hair. She wore a similar leather smock, minus the symbols, and a long, matching skirt. Both were smiling. Squatting in front of the couple was a likewise smiling young Delaware boy of about ten, in a bright blue T-shirt and Rustler blue jeans, held up by a light brown and ruby red snakeskin belt.

Running Deer walked over to Rachel and pointed out the two other people in with his Delaware ring finger. "That is my wife, Shasheen, and my grandson, Wesley. His mother, my daughter, had been killed, along with her husband, in a motorcycle accident. We then adopted Wesley, and raised him as our own, but he never got over his parents' deaths-he suffered terrible nightmares the rest of his life. He's gone now."

"I'm sorry," Rachel said genuinely moved by a story of an orphan whose tragic life reminded her so much of her own childhood. "I truly am, but what does this have to do with me?"

"Doctor, this isn't going to be easy for me to tell you, but Jack Dobson-the man you've met, and has pledged to help-had kidnapped my family in order to force me out of the way, so that he could appropriate my identity.

"Why your identity?"

"He needed the name and identity of a respected Lenape leader-a shaman. And what better choice than a man whose past is in Dublin, hundreds of miles from faraway Carlton, so that no suspicious parties would likely investigate his story? Better yet, he knew that Shasheen and Wesley were my only surviving kin, and that without them there would be no family members to collaborate my own story if I ever decided to cross him.

"Shasheen and Wesley-you said he kidnapped them. Why didn't you stop him, or try to find them?"

"I tried to find them, but I could not. He had imprisoned them in some desolate location known only to himself and his followers. And, as for stopping him, I dared not. He threatened to have them killed if I dared to interfere with his plan, using my name, to force the Mathias Corporation to let the city permit him to hold this so-called 'Ghost Dance.'"

"Why 'so-called?'"

"Because, my dear, there are no souls to bring to on that spot. No innocent Delaware were killed near your hospital- none! It is merely a myth-a lie-designed to mislead you and all the others he has used for his own purposes."

"This is almost too incredible to be true," Rachel remarked.

"And what's worse, six weeks ago, I had learned that he himself had murdered my wife and grandson. He had manacled my wife by the wrist to a stone post in some obscene hovel, and had forced her to watch as he violated Wesley again…and again…and again! After he had satisfied his depraved desire, he had the boy's throat with a Delaware knife--as if my grandson had been nothing more than a pig to be butchered! Then, he had violated her, skinned her alive with the same knife, and cruelly left her to die, slowly-in agony and degradation."

"My God!" responded Rachel.

"I vowed," he exclaimed, raising and shaking his right fist in wrath and gritting his teeth tightly, "that I would track him down and kill him if I could, and avenge this unspeakable sin!"

"Why," Rachel asked, deliberately interrupting his tirade and changing the subject, because his actions were beginning to draw the attention of passing onlookers, "did you think Icould help you?"

"You may not be aware of it," Running Deer replied, lowering his fist and steadying himself, "but this man, as a way of gaining credibility and recognition, publishes the names and professions of his newest members on his website. When I found out that you were the Carlton college professor who had defeated the chindi, I thought that you, both a courageous and an educated woman, would most likely listen to reason, and would know that I spoke the truth!"

"Running Deer," Rachel asked carefully, still not sure whether she should trust him, "if this ghastly story is true, what's the real reason for this Ghost Dance?

"He wants revenge against the city for the action committed against him long ago, an action that took place in the heart of Carlton, and which deprived him forever of burial in the sacred ground now occupied by the Hospital. With this Ghost Dance, the evil manetuwak or spirit guide that he served-and continues to serve-could restore his full powers to him. He would then be invulnerable, and nothing could save the city from his vengeance."

"Are you trying to tell me that this Jack Dobson is some kind of evil sorcerer or witch?"

"Worse! He is a wicked shaman who thirsts for both dominion and revenge. Years ago, someone had put an end to his depravity, and thought that the city was safe. But that was a false hope -he has waited for over a century, for the right time, to revitalize himself, and to seek his terrible vengeance. No one will be spared- no one!" My wife and grandson were merely the first victims-but not the last, I fear-of his evil curse!"

"And how might he carry out the rest of his plans?"

"He would need help-help from those of feeble mind and the weak will, most likely. They would be most susceptible to the weakened-but still potent-powers he has now."

"`Weak of mind'…'feeble of will'vRag Man? Dallas Park, a manic depressive?" she wondered to herself.

"Will you help me?" Running Deer asked.

Rachel thought for a moment, and then answered. "I'll tell you what. Let me think about it for a couple of days, and check some things out. Then I'll get back to you. Give me your phone number and I'll call you."

"Fine," responded Running Deer, pulling a small notepad (the same one on which he had written the contact note) from his right breast jacket pocket with his left hand, while plucking a pen from his left breast pocket with his right. "Only please do not wait too long. Each day you delay, the closer this devil will be to his final goal."

"Don't worry," answered Rachel, as he wrote down his phone number and placed the note in her right outstretched palm. "You'll be hearing from me soon."

That evening, Rachel spent another restless night on the sofa in her nightgown, in front of the TV, filled with doubt and torn by uncertainty. She knew she would have to speak with Dobson some time, tell him about this man and his strange story, and hear his side of the story. Only Nick's phone call, informing her that he had had a safe trip, was in Zanesville, and would try to be back home as soon as he could, offered her any relief. At least, she assured herself, things were going well for him. Little did she know how terribly wrong she was.

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Chapter 15

Nick, Dallas, and Stacy had all arrived separately at the Zanseville Holiday Inn, where, each night following the trial, they would meet at the hotel bar and, over a few drinks, "powwow" over the day's results and plan future strategy. Dallas had chosen the term himself, as a good-natured joke, since he knew that Rachel was half Native American. At that first "powwow," however, which would be held the second evening, following the first day of the trial, little did Nick or Stacy know that both of them would be drinking to forget what had taken place that day. Dallas, however, much to his two partners' amazement, would be "up," and seemingly oblivious to the disaster that would, even then, be starting to ring down around his ears.

The warning signs that day were as unmistakable as Indian smoke signals, or, more to the point, a flock of carrion-hungry crows hovering over fresh road kill. Nick had decided to consult with his boss early that morning, in order to clarify his and Stacy's roles during jury selection. Nick, who had just dressed himself in his best silk shirt (banana yellow in color) ruby red rayon tie, and stone gray cotton suit, knocked on Dallas's door.

"Come in," Dallas answered. When Nick entered, he was surprised that his boss was not yet fully dressed. Instead, he was wearing only a white cotton T-shirt, olive green rayon slacks, to be worn with his matching sport coat, and a pair of black loafers (this time, thankfully, with socks, dark gray).

"Hi Nic," Dallas said, standing in the middle of the room, and studying the opposing side's brief, which he held in both hands. "Oh, it's about time, huh? Well, I guess I'd better finish dressing." He placed the brief down on the still undisturbed, neatly made bed (had he slept at all last night?), and turned around to walk to the closet to get his white silk dress shirt. Nick then saw that the back of the T-shirt had a ragged Grand Canyon-sized hole that Dallas had apparently-and incredibly-never noticed. Nick knew that this fact, combined with the man's chronic and severe insomnia, did not bode well for his boss' stability that day.

"What did you want to see me about, Nick?" asked Dallas, as he removed the shirt from his hanger with his right hand, put it on, and began buttoning up the front.

"Oh, nothing, Dallas," replied Nick, feeling that he should inform Stacy right away about his boss' behavior. "It'll keep. I'll see you in the courtroom."

"Sounds good!" smiled Dallas, as he began to slip his power red silk tie over the now buttoned collar.

Nick beat a hasty retreat, and walked to the hotel dining room to meet Stacy. At this hour of the morning, they had the place all to themselves. She had just gotten her breakfast, a cream colored china bowl of hot oatmeal, a glass of orange juice, and an off white ceramic cup of black coffee, and laid the cork brown plastic tray on a table near the east corner. With her right hand, she removed her purse from her left shoulder, placed it near her right elbow, and sat down in one of table's three green steel folding chairs.

When Stacy saw Nick, she smiled broadly. "Good morning, Nick," she greeted him.

"Good morning Stacy," Nick replied glumly as he sat down in the chair across from her.

"So, what's up?" she asked. "You don't look too happy."

"I think I may have good reason, Stacy," Nick answered. "I'm sure Dallas is still off his medicine. It looks like he was up all night again, and, this morning, he's wearing a rag for an undershirt."

"Do you think he's manic?" asked Stacy warily.

"I can't be sure, but I think we're both gonna find out soon enough."

"He'd better not screw up this case, Nick!" Stacy warned him, between sips of the glass of orange juice that she held in her right hand. "If he does" she continued, "word will get around fast, and then no one will refer any more cases to him, because, if I know Dimitri, he'll use his connections to shut off all new business to him. That, and Mathias might even sue him for legal malpractice. In any event, he'd be ruined, and then you'd have to look for another job."

"Well, let's not worry about that yetm" Nick responded. "Maybe we're just worrying about all of this for nothing."

"Yeah, maybe" Stacy replied, "but I still don't understand his reasoning. I've worked on this case from the beginning, and I should be doing opening arguments!" she insisted, while emphatically tapping the middle of her open neck orange rayon blouse with her right index finger. "But if I can't do that-or closing arguments-I should at least do cross-examinations." Then she smiled and said, "I wish you'd speak to him, and ask him to change his mind, Nick. I know he'd listen to you."

As she spoke, Nick felt her right foot slide over to his left, flirtatiously wrapping the sole of her high heel black shoe against the toes of Nick's mahogany brown loafer. She then tossed her head so that a long wave of blonde hair that had fallen across the right side of her face now moved over to the far left, so that he could more clearly both of her luminous blue eyes. She also leaned forward, which caused her cleavage to pop up noticeably above her blouse's buttoned middle. With a half smirk, she asked, in a low, seductive voice, "what d'ya think?"

Instantly, Nick felt his stomach tighten, his pulse race, and a fire ignite throughout his thighs. He had never met a woman like Stacy before, and she was fully aware of the effect she having on him, as she smiled and chuckled lightly, obviously having fun flirting with a man whom she personally found quite attractive.

"What d'ya think?" she asked again, teasingly.

"I think…" stammered Nick, "I think…"

She smiled again, raising her left, heavily lined eyebrow.

"I think…I'd better get going. I'll see you in the courtroom" said Nick, rising from his chair, and hoping that she didn't notice the sizeable bulge in his crotch, although he knew she had to.

"Okay, hon" she grinned again. Don't forget about what I asked you," she added.

"I won't" replied Nick on his way out the cafeteria exit.

"Oh, my God!" Nick thought to himself, when he was alone in the lobby, dabbing his sweat-covered brow with the white handkerchief that he had just plucked with his right hand from his blazer breast pocket. "What the hell am I doin,' workin' myself into a lather and getting' a bone over this tease? I'm no kid! I've been around the block! She's just usin' me to get to Dallas. I know that, but-Jesus Christ, what am I gonna do? I'm only human!" Then he said under his breath, "No, God damn it-No! I'll just tell her, like Bogart told Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon, 'I won't play the sap for you!' She's not gonna ruin my marriage, just because she wants to be courtroom star!" But as he reassured himself of his faithfulness, his father's words, when they had had their first "birds and the bees" talk so many years ago, plagued him like an abscessed tooth: "A stiff dick has no conscience!"

Nick then hopped into his Taurus and drove to the courthouse, which was, fortunately, only five minutes away. The courtroom was still empty, so he had no trouble finding an empty seat by the rear spectators' gallery, per Dallas' instructions.

Stacy arrived just minutes later. She straightened the shoulders of the peach rayon sport coat that she had selected to match the rest of her outfit, which consisted of the orange blouse she had worn at breakfast, and a plumb-colored cotton skirt, smiled at Nick, and took the first seat to his immediate right. Within ten minutes, they were joined by about twenty-five other men and women, prospective jurors who, likewise, took their seats in the gallery.

Then, the Equal Rights for Minorities' legal representatives entered the courtroom, led by Rosanna Sanchez, the lead attorney, a young, tall, bespectacled Latino woman who was carrying a tan briefcase in her right hand. Her dark brown hair was done up neatly in a bun, and she wore a rose colored, chiffon ruffled top, tied up at the neck, a royal blue rayon business suit, a white suede purse over her right shoulder, and black, designer high-heeled dress shoes and hose. Accompanying her was her co-counsel, Ahmad Al-Azar, a middle aged, dark skinned, balding Egyptian man in an iron gray rayon suit, a white silk shirt, and a barbershop pole striped cotton tie. Also in the group were two paralegals. One was a young black man, with a neatly trimmed moustache. He was dressed in a powder blue rayon suit, an aqua green cotton shirt, and a tan, white striped silk tie. The other was a slightly older looking, auburn-haired woman in a cotton beige crew neck top and violet rayon blazer and skirt, and with a mauve leather purse over her left shoulder. Both carried identical coal gray briefcases in their right hands. "This is the legal dream team, all right," remarked Nick to himself. The final member was, of course, Jack Dobson, who, this day, still wore his ceremonial Delaware bandana, but was dressed impeccably in a two piece maroon rayon business suit, a white, blue pin striped cotton shirt, and a navy blue, and gray striped silk tie, replete with black designer shoes. Unsmiling and solemn, he took his seat at the table with his lawyers.

Opposing counsel next arrived. Dallas, who was carrying numerous files, but no briefcase, under his right arm, looked tried and disheveled, with his glasses shoved down his nose, his hair barely combed, and his tie sloppily knotted, with one loop noticeably longer than the other. "Oh, my God!" Stacy audibly groaned. Park was accompanied by John Hampton, a tall, forty-three-year-old, graying man, who was dressed that day in a silk royal blue pinstriped suit, wine colored shirt, and navy blue, white polka dot tie, all three made of silk. While the other men in the courtroom all wore the same silver tie clasps and cuff links they always wore with their outfits, Hampton had an ostentatious gold pin in the center of his, as well as solid gold cufflinks. The two sat at the table to the immediate left of their opponents.

Next arrived the court reporter, a middle-aged woman of about average height, with short, graying hair, and glasses, and dressed in a light pink crew neck top and an off white pants suit. She sat at her appointed chair with her equipment, to the immediate right of the Bench. Then, the bailiff, a stocky, red haired man of about thirty, in a tan uniform shirt cotton shirt and matching trousers, and dark brown rayon tie with a simple silver clasp, entered. He called the courtroom to attention, and to rise in the presence of the presiding Judge of the Sixth District Court of Common Pleas, "the honorable Margaret Harper." Judge Harper, a short (about 5'7") middle-aged black woman, entered the courtroom from the rear entrance behind the Bench. Her hair was in a short nap, and she wore the notched collar of her pink cotton blouse outside the lining of her judicial robe. She sat down, and announced over the microphone "Good morning. Please be seated." After opening instructions and introduction of counsel, the day was ready to begin with jury selection.

Both Nick and Stacy were appalled at Dallas' selections. Unbelievably, he let sit three unlikely candidates: a half Cherokee woman, an African American spokesman for the local NAACP, and an elderly man with a prosthetic left leg, who, a year ago, had won a medical malpractice suit against Zanseville Community Hospital, which was also owned by Mathias. What was Dallas thinking of? He had just picked two jurors who had minority (one definitely native American) sympathies, and the other, a good reason to distrust hospitals and their corporate owners. "Well, that doesn't mean they won't keep an open mind" Dallas incredibly explained to Nick and Stacy during recess, over his two partners' vocal objections.

Worse yet were his opening arguments, possibly the worst in the history of modern courtroom litigation, as Stacy would later remark. His first mistake was his reliance on a mobile chalkboard as a visual aid. As Stacy had predicted, it lacked the color and the flair of the elaborate time chart that Dimitri had paid for. In addition, his uncharacteristic mumbling rivaled that of Marlon Brando in the late icon's best days, and his dry, halting delivery gave his presentation all the excitement of a physic lecture delivered by a professor on Valium. Dallas' lack of sleep from the previous night was painfully obvious. At one juncture, he was fumbling in one of his files for a copy of Mathias' deed of ownership to Carlton Hospital and its grounds. Over a full minute passed until he had to admit to the jury "I can't find it right now." It would have hardly mattered, though, to the jurors, even if he had, for he had long ago lost them. Most were now checking their watches. Almost all of them had turned into zombies; the old man had nodded off.

That evening, Stacy and Nick drowned their sorrows in a table at the hotel bar over some whiskey sours. Unbelievably, a jubilant Dallas actually celebrated with a Bloody Mary. "I think things went great today" he insisted, "but I have to warn the both of you not to be overconfident just yet. Remember, this was just the beginning, and we have a long trial ahead of us yet, and overconfidence is the one thing that could still sink us!" He turned his head first to his immediate right, at Nick, and then to his left, at Stacy, staring firmly into each of his partner's eyes, to make sure that they both had understood him clearly. Then he excused himself to use the restroom.

" Overconfidence?" Stacy asked when she was at last alone with Nick, and could speak frankly. "He's got to be kidding! Opening arguments are the most important part of a trial, and we lost 'em, Nick! We lost 'em!" He looked like a tired old man up there! That lousy first impression is gonna be damn near impossible to shake! We might as well close up shop and go home, 'cause there's no freakin' way in hell we can win now!"

Nick didn't say anything, but he knew she was right. Why couldn't Dallas see that?

The next day was no better. The Equal Rights for Minorities' side presented its case first, calling Jack Dobson to the stand. On cross examination, Dallas seemed tongue-tied in Dobson's presence, and was again suffering from Marlon Brando disease, so badly, in fact, that Judge Harper had to ask him several times to please speak up. He also seemed unusually deferential when addressing Dobson, praising what he called the leader's integrity, conviction, and courage. One would have thought that Dobson was his star witness. Stacy, especially, was aghast, since Dallas had not asked any of the questions that she had insisted he ask to challenge Dobson's motives and credibility.

Determined not to let him make the same mistake tomorrow, when it would be their turn to present their own witnesses, she insisted, at that evening's "powwow," to direct examination of their own expert witness, Dr. Paul Bernandino. Much to Nick's and Stacy's astonishment, Dallas was as conciliatory as he had been with Dobson earlier that day, and agreed without argument. That was the first night since they had arrived in Zanseville that Nick had his first really good night's sleep.

The next morning, he met Stacy in the hotel cafeteria to discuss her line of questioning, over coffee.

"Good morning Stacy," he greeted her as he sat down to the same table with her as before, and, again, directly across from his partner. "Good morning Nick," she courteously replied, but, to Nick's surprise, curiously flatly, and without a trace of a smile on her face. Her hands fiddled with the pale blue porcelain cup of black coffee before her. "It seems," she announced, "that I'm not doing direct after all. Apparently, I'm an 'egotistical bitch'-that's what he called me over the phone this morning, at about 6-and that, when it comes to courtroom style, I don't know my 'ass from a hole in the ground!'"

"But I thought this was all settled last night!"

"I know, but apparently he changed his mind. These abrupt changes in major decisions-oh, Nick, I think he's manic!"

Nick didn't know what to say, but he decided to talk to Dallas himself, and "feel him out," by not admitting that he knew about his change of plans.

"I'm sure glad you decided to let Stacy by having her direct" he told his boss in the hotel lobby, about a half an hour later.

"Stacy's not doing direct, Nick," Dallas answered, wearing a pair of designer sunglasses, and carrying his oak brown briefcase in his right hand, while on his way to the hotel parking lot.

"What do you mean?" Nick asked, still playing dumb.

"I mean I thought about it again, when I got up this morning, and it's bullshit! I don't want her fucking up our case, especially now, when we're on a roll!" He definitely sounded to Nick like a man in denial.

"Don't be fooled by her," Dallas continued, taking his keys from his right trouser pocket with his left hand, stopping, and unlocking the left passenger's side door of his metallic silver Toyota Camry. " She wants to be the 'Star.' She wants to make a name for herself, and impress Dimitri. She doesn't care about the 'Team,' Nick. She wants to divide us, so she can look good! He tossed his briefcase into the car's passenger seat, slammed the door with his right hand, pointed his left forefinger at Nick while still holding his keys, and said " Don't let her do it!" Then, he promptly unlocked and opened the driver's side door, climbed into the front seat, and drove off to the courthouse.

On his way to the courthouse, Nick pondered what Dallas had said. He didn't know who was right, and who was wrong, but he did know one thing: Dallas Park was off his medication, and his irrational behavior was costing them this trial.

Dallas' performance that day was just as lackluster, and, Nick feared, left the door open, as Stacy had warned, for Mathias to sue them for legal malpractice. On the stand was the company's expert witness, Dr. Bernandino, a tall, distinguished-looking man with a shock of white hair parted neatly in the middle, and wearing, that day, a plain gray silk suit, white, red striped rayon shirt, and a maroon cotton tie. Dr. Bernandino was Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin's School of Law, and was an authority on both property and constitutional law. Per his deposition and earlier conferences with both Dallas and Stacy, Dr. Bernandino was to testify as to Dobson's misinterpretation of the Native American Freedom of Religion Act's definitions of private and public property. Dobson claimed that the underdeveloped site across from the hospital had once been Delaware land, and that its present lack of use meant that the site was still, de facto, Indian property. Dr. Bernandino had been prepared to explain how fallacious that argument was, in that previous Indian ownership was a moot point, and that, furthermore, lack of use did no t inherently constitute a private organization or company's abdication of ownership. But by the time Dallas finished, Stacy felt as if she could gladly wring Dallas' neck, Dr. Bernandino seemed both bewildered and disgusted, and Nick was fidgeting as nervously in his seat as on the day of his first Confession. He had asked absolutely non e of the questions Dr. Bernandino had been prepared to answer, merely requesting as summary of the Act's history and purpose, one that did not, in any way, call into question, or challenge the opposing side's argument. What Dallas had asked Dr. Bernandino for, under oath, was information that any first year law student could have provided-and at a fraction of the $5,000 fee that Dimitri's firm had paid for his services.

During the court's subsequent lunch recess, Dr. Bernandino met with both Stacy and Nick in the center of the courthouse parking lot. "I'm afraid I wasn't able to help you much" the Professor had to admit. As he climbed into his teal blue Honda Accord, and drove off, Stacy knew that he was right. She turned to Nick, tears welling in her eyes, and said "We lost the case, Nick. You know that, don't you? He didn't ask any of the questions I'd gone over with him. And tomorrow he wants me to bring transcripts of his deposition of Dobson, to share with the jury. So, is that what we're gonna do during these next couple of days?- read to 'em? Oh…my…God!"

Her right hand nervously pulled a pack of cigarettes from her purse, which hung from her left shoulder. With her likewise trembling left hand, she plucked one from the pack, put it in her mouth, and placed the pack back in her purse. She then took a pocket lighter from the same purse with her right hand, lit the cigarette with her left, and, with her right, put the lighter back. She had tried to quit smoking, and had not smoked in close to two months but what the hell, she thought, this was an emergency, and it was as good a time as any to start again. She stared off into the distance and took several deep puffs. After about two minutes, she took the cigarette from her mouth with her right hand, tossed it on the pavement, and crushed it out with several steps of her left foot. Then, she turned to Nick and announced "There's only one chance left. It's a long one, but we've got to take it. He's got to let me do closing arguments. If we can make that one last strong impression on the jury, maybe-just maybe -we can pull this thing out with a 'Hail Mary.' But you've got to help me, Nick."

" How?" Nick asked warily.

"When I bring this up to Dallas tonight at the "powwow," you've got to be there with me-and support me."

"I don't know, Stacy" Nick hesitated.

"Look Nick," she tried to convince him, "You've got to be thinking about your future. I've seen you in action, and you can write one kick ass brief! But you've got to wonder how long you'll be able to work for this guy, in his condition. Dimitri could use a talented legal researcher and writer like you, and you know I'd put in a good word for you!"

"Stacy," Nick tried to explain, "Dallas has done a lot for me, and I'd feel like a heel if I'd leave him like that."

He started to leave, but Stacy's right hand grabbed his tightly, and he stopped and turned to listen to her final argument. "Then look at it this way," she pleaded. "Is it fair to our client to let him continue in this way?-or to Dallas even?"

"No," Nick had to admit. He paused, thought the matter over for a moment, and said "I'll see what I can do, Stacy."

Stacy smiled, and, with her right hand, squeezed his warmly, and answered "Thanks, Nick. I knew I could count on you!" She continued to smile at him, longingly. She was attracted to him (she admitted to himself), and, indeed, had never tried to hide it. He knew it, too, and, for a moment, both felt the type of "sparks" that Nick himself had first felt when he had met Rachel. This realization, though, frightened him, and he knew that he should get away from her as soon as possible, or yield to temptation in a moment of weakness. "I'll see you later" he simply told her, and returned to the courthouse.

Than night's "powwow" began amicably enough, but fell apart in no time when, at the same table that they had sat around the evening before, Stacy broached her request.

" No!" Dallas replied adamantly.

"Dallas, we have no other choice," Stacy argued. "You're not thinking rationally, and not helping our client at all, the way you're going now. Dallas, you're in your manic phase!"

"Ah, come on!" Dallas scoffed, over sips from the Bloody Mary he held in his right hand. "Do I look manic?"

"That's just the way the condition is" Stacy tried to explain. "A bipolar patient like you who's not on his medication can't control his phases, or may not always recognize the symptoms-the insomnia, the erratic mood shifts!"

"Thank you very much for your expert diagnosis, Dr. Morgan!" he replied sarcastically. "I know what this is all about. Dimitri wants you to run things. Mathias's injunction has nothing to do with it. We're here for one reason, and for one reason, only -to give you a chance to shine! Gee, I forgot all about that!," he derisively said, and slapped his forehead with the back of his left hand.

Stacy glanced furtively in Nick's direction, silently begging for support. Knowing that he now had to speak up, Nick reluctantly told him "Dallas, this isn't about Stacy. It's about Mathias, and its right to the ownership and supervision of its own property."

"That's it!" announced Dallas curtly, abruptly finishing his drink. "I've had enough of this shit! Tomorrow, before the jury arrives, I'm going to the Judge to demand a hearing and settle this once and for all! Mathias is gonna have to decide who the hell it wants running this damn case: me or her! I'll tell you one thing Stacy," he added, rising from his seat and pointing at her with a defiant right forefinger, " one of us is goin' home tomorrow-and it's not gonna be me!"

As he stormed out of the lobby, Nick had no idea that what had happened this night in Zanseville would pale in significance with tomorrow's revelation awaiting Rachel in Carlton.

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Chapter 16

Later that same day as Dallas' abortive direct examination of Dr. Bernandino, Rachel had reached Jack Dobson by phone, during the lunch recess. When Rachel had told him the name of the man she had met earlier, Running Deer, and had finished relating his disturbing story, he was silent, as if that news had struck him mute. Rachel had then waited for what had seemed an interminable time for a reply. When Dobson had finally spoken, it had been in a voice laden with a curious and chilling mixture of fear and hate: "That man is my enem y! You must not trust him, Rachel. He is a rival shaman who has long deceived and cheated the members of his own tribe, warped by ambition and greed. Desirous of power, he wanted to be the leader of my group. But when the others finally saw through his lies, they banished him. Thereafter, he vowed to destroy the movement, by all means necessary. This is first step: to turn my followers against me by planting the seed of distrust, starting with you, whom, even in this short time, has gained the trust and admiration of my little group, and whom I have grown to love as my own daughter. Don't let him divide us, Rachel!"

Dobson had spoken so fervently that Rachel had felt foolish for having even listened to Running Deer's incredible story. It had clearly all been a sham. After all, what proof had he offered her? She had merely seen a ring and a photo (both of which could easily have been doctored), and heard unsubstantiated accusations against a man who had already carved a reputation as a respected local Native American activist, and whose website had galvanized hundreds of loyal supporters across the state. She had made up her mind: she would have nothing more to do with Running Deer.

The next morning, on a typically sweltering and humid mid June day in Ohio, Rachel was pounding the sidewalks of Carlton again. The same little boy gave her a new pin that everyone in the group was wearing that day. The silver front now featured a resolute Jack Dobson, arms majestically folded across his chest, and standing in front of an American flag waving over his right shoulder, with a bald eagle soaring over the bright blue skies over his left. She promptly attached it, again near the right shoulder strap of her purse, to the bodice of her white jersey tube top that accentuated the newly acquired tan now gracing her bare shoulders and upper chest. She had already spent quite a bit of her spare time outside, attending, when she could, to the roses and violets she had decided to plant in the front lawn, and sunbathing (always with strong, UV protective sun block, of course) in the backyard, on a lawn chair, in her lime green string bikini. For extra comfort, she had decided to wear this day an old pair of Denim shorts, which likewise emphasized her equally tanned legs. She also wore a pair of comfortable royal blue summer sandals on her bare feet, which proved to be a Godsend, due to all the standing and walking around she was doing, for once again, she insisted on taking her turns at the megaphone, banner, and petition jobs.

Around Noon, when the group was about to break for lunch, Running Deer, dressed in the same suit and deer decorated tie as before, impatiently pushed his way through the crowd, eager to see Rachel. When she saw him, her normally soft, expressive eyes instantly grew slab-stone cold, and the corners of her mouth, bright with the ruby red lipstick she had applied earlier that morning, turned downward, in an intimidating frown.

"Dr. Russo-Graffanino" he shouted enthusiastically, and expecting, based on their last conversation, at least a civil, if not, friendly reception. But when he saw the arctic expression in her eyes and the near snarl on her lips, he knew instantly that, in the meantime, she had spoken to Dobson again.

"You stay away from me!" she snapped.

"Why, Doctor, what do you mean?"

" I mean," she replied vociferously, "that I know who you really are! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, turning on your own people like this, and slandering a great leader like Mr. Dobson!"

"Doctor, I don't know what you're saying, or what that man has told you, but I assure you, he has poisoned your mind against me! Everything I've told you has been the truth!"

" Yeah?" she asked, her tanned, bare arms crossed defiantly over the bodice of her tube top. "Well, I've had enough of your games, and if you pester me again, I'll have you arrested, and charge you with both stalking and harassment!" She turned her back on him and started to walk briskly down the street.

Wait, Doctor! Please!" he implored her, following her frantically. "What can I say or do to convince you? Is there nothing you can tell me?"

Rachel suddenly halted, pivoted around, and replied "Yes, come to think of it, there is," and said sarcastically, right forefinger extended, " Good luck to yourself!" She then turned her back on him, and continued walking.

"So, Doctor" answered Running Deer, calmly, and with a note of resignation and regret in his voice. "Malcom Reynolds is to win after all!"

At the mention of the name 'Malcom Reynolds,' Rachel abruptly stopped dead in her tracks, as violently as if she had run into a Mac truck. She again pivoted, took a few steps toward Running Deer, and stared at him, with an open-mouthed look of utter astonishment on her face. Finally, she spoke. "Where did you hear that name?" she asked.

"In my visions" Running Deer replied. "My spirit guide, last night, took me on a journey of discovery, into the realm of the unknowable, to which we shamans have been trained, for centuries, to enter, according to the most secret of rituals. There, my manetuwak gave me the true name of my enemy, so that I may share it with you, and convince you to turn from the great sin you are helping him to commit."

"Go on…please" said Rachel, now certain that he was telling the truth, since she knew that no one else could possibly have known about the name on the message she discovered in Howard House without the help of a true spirit guide or manetuwak.

"My manetuwak" Dobson continued, " also showed me, for a fleeting moment, a great, empty house on the grounds of what appeared to be a school of some kind, a house represented by the letter 'h.'"

" Howard House!" Rachel answered in amazement.

"Yes" replied Running Deer, " Howard House!"

Now that he had completely won her trust and confidence, Rachel told him the entire story of what she had found that day: the secret tomb, the skeleton, and the note bearing the name 'Malcom Reynolds.'" Running Deer listened attentively, and then said, "it suddenly becomes most clear to my why these spirits have appeared to you. They wantedyou to find that tomb, and that letter!"

"But for what reason?" asked Rachel.

"To stop this imposter's reign of terror, my dear. Malcom Reynolds, and this man who calls himself by my name is one and the same person!"

" What? How can that be? Malcom Reynolds has been dead for over a century!"

"His body may have died, my dear Professor, but not his spirit. I believe that Malcom Reynolds was a diabolical man who used the ability strictly forbidden of all true shamans -to transfer, through mystic arts, his soul, after death, into another form. But in order to restore himself to full power, he must perform an especially sacred ceremony-the Ghost Dance."

"But why? If you're right and no one had really died on that spot across from Carlton Hospital, what would be his point? Who-or what could he possibly bring back?"

"Why, himself, of course, as he was over a hundred years ago-young, virile, and all powerful!"

"And the only chance he has of performing this Dance" responded Rachel, pointing her left index forefinger at Running Deer to punctuate her point, "would be by beating the Mathias Corporation in court!" The pieces of this macabre puzzle were fast coming together in her mind.

" Exactly!" replied Running Deer.

" That," Rachel emphatically concluded, "would be why he recruited me, to help win even more of the Delaware over, and to convince Nick, my husband, who's on the opposing side, to pull out of the trial. Without Nick's help, Dallas Park, the lead attorney, would be sure to lose!"

"He would leave nothing to chance" Running Deer assured her.

"Running Deer" said Rachel, considering a new tract of logic, "you told me that he would, most likely, use the 'weak of will' and the 'feeble of minds' in his plans."

"Yes" answered Running Deer.

"Well, Rag Man, a lunatic at the asylum, killed a man on instructions, he claimed, from his 'Master,' who also instructed him to ask for both Reynolds and myself. Reynolds could have taken over his mind, ordered the murder, and commanded him to bring us together, in effect, so that-I see everything now-so that I could help him and use my influence on Nick!"

" Precisely!" responded Running Deer.

And Dallas Park! Running Deer, Dallas is my husband's boss, and Mathias's attorney. He's been bipolar for years. Do you think Reynolds could have used him, too, by exploiting-even intensifying-his condition? My husband's called me every night since he got to Zanseville, and he said, just last night, that, if he didn't know any better, he'd think that someone had paid Park off to 'throw' the trial! His behavior has been that bizarre and unexplainable! Is it possible Reynolds has enslaved him, too?"

"Doctor, as I've told you earlier, he would leave nothing to chance! Anything is possible!"

Rachel then shook her head in frustration. "There's still a lot I don't understand! Why does he have to hold the Dance on that location? And what connections do the ghosts-and Howard House-have with him?"

"I suspect, Doctor" answered Running Deer, "that we will find the answers to those questions at that unhallowed place."

"At Howard House?"

He nodded.

"But how?"

"There is only one way, my dear Professor." His voice was heavy with trepidation, as he revealed the dread course of action he knew they had to take. "We must go there ourselves- as soon as possible-and contact the dead!"

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Chapter 17

While Rachel and Running Deer were pondering this next move, Stacy, in Zanseville, was planning hers -unbeknown to her, exactly according to Dobson/Reynolds's wishes.

That morning, Dallas had arranged for a hearing in Judge Harper's chambers. Present were Dallas, Stacy, and John Hampton, and, for the other side, Rosanna Sanchez, Ahmed Al-Azar, and Jack Dobson. Judge Harper, dressed in a slate gray, pin striped double breasted blazer suit, and carrying a white suede hand bag in her right left hand, briskly entered her chambers, closing the door on the way in, and setting the purse on the mahogany desk top. She then sat down, directly facing her already seated visitors. "Well, can anyone tell me why we're here right now, and not in the courtroom?" She folded both of her hands before her on the desk, fiddling her thumbs in an expression of annoyance.

"Well, your Honor" began Dallas, "I've requested this hearing because there's been an irrevocable breach between Ms. Morgan and myself. I'm afraid we can no longer work together on this case."

Hampton looked astonished. Sanchez leaned over and whispered something into her co-counsel's right ear. He in turn whispered her message into Dobson's left ear. The Indian leader responded by merely raising his eyebrows in what appeared to be nothing more than only mild surprise, at most. Had he been somehow expecting this news? Judge Harper's reaction was more caustic. "So you two want a divorce, is that it? I'm afraid you're in the wrong court!"

"This is serious, your Honor" Dallas tried to explained. "Ms. Morgan and I disagree on our approach to this case. This is kind of continued divisiveness would not be fair to our client, Mr. Hampton, or the Mathias Corporation.

"I suppose," responded Judge Harper, "my question is 'What do you want me to do about this?'"

"Your Honor "Dallas requested, "I ask that you disqualify Ms. Morgan from this trial, effective immediately."

She didn't answer him directly, but instead turned to her right to get the opposing counsels' response to this latest development.

"Ms. Sanchez, Mr. Al-Alzar, how do you two feel about this?"

Sanchez answered first. "Well, my first reaction, your Honor, is to wonder if this is some sort of ploy for a mistrial."

"I concur" answered Al-Azar.

"Mr. Park?" the Judge now turning back to her left, asked Dallas.

"It is most certainly not!" Dallas insisted.

"Ms. Morgan" Judge Harper, craning her neck several inches in the same direction, asked Stacy, who was sitting several chairs away from Dallas, "let me hear your side of this story."

"Well, your Honor, it's my feeling that Mr. Park is mismanaging this trial. His decisions have almost certainly been influenced by a serious illness of his-he is bipolar."

" So?" responded Judge Harper. "A lot of extremely intelligent, talented, and capable people-from all walks of life-suffer from bipolar manic depression."

"Yes, but, your Honor, Mr. Park has currently discontinued his medication for personal reasons. He's in a severe manic phase at this very moment!"

Dallas waved his hands incredulously, and had a bemused smile on his smile, as if to say "Ah, come on!"

"So, what are you asking me to do, Ms. Morgan? To disqualify Mr. Park instead?"

"With all due respect to Mr. Park, yes, your Honor."

"Have either one of you discussed this issue with your client, Mr. Hampton?"

"No, your Honor" Hampton said. "In fact, this is the first time I've even heard this 'problem.'"

"Well, then, Mr. Hampton" she responded, directing her gaze one more chair down, at their client, who sat to Stacy's immediate left. "How do you feel about the quality of Mr. Park's representation? Have you been satisfied with his services?"

"Well, your Honor" Hampton tried to answer as tactfully as he could, "I have to admit that I haven't quite understood the reasons for a good many of Mr. Park's decisions thus far."

At the sound of those words, Dallas's face collapsed in genuine shock, while Stacy's lighted up with hope at this less than ringing endorsement.

Hampton continued. "But I can't really make a decision on such an important matter without first consulting with my company's Board of Directors."

"Okay, here's the deal" Judge Harper decided, glancing back at forth at both parties while relaying her instructions. "I'll cancel today's activities and continue the trial tomorrow. We'll all meet again, here, today, at 1PM. Mr. Hampton, you will call your company and let us know by then of their decision. At that time, I expect this issue to be settled!"

As the hours ticked by, Dallas stayed in the hotel bar, nervously smoking, and drinking one Bloody Mary after another to calm his nerves. After bringing Nick up to date on Judge Harper's decision, Stacy spent the time in her room, reviewing the case while reclining on her bed and reading the court reporter's transcripts of the previous days' activities. Finally, 1PM had arrived, and the hearing reconvened in Judge Harper's chambers.

"Well, Mr. Hampton" the Judge turned her head and asked Mathias' representative, "What is your company's decision?"

"Your Honor, we want Ms. Morgan to represent us the rest of the way!"

This unexpected news was devastating to Dallas, who had honestly thought that he had built a winning case for his client. He felt humiliated, but accepted Mathias's decision graciously. He thanked the Judge for her time, magnanimously wished Stacy luck, and said that he wanted his associate, Nicholas Graffanino, to stay on, and to assist Ms. Morgan throughout the rest of the trial. He then admitted that he was tired, and intended to return to Carlton, to rest. He left that day without even checking out of his room, and without saying goodbye to anyone.

Nick felt sorry for Dallas, whom he liked and respected immensely. He thought he was a real gentleman and a fine lawyer, and knew that his boss had felt that he himself had done the best he could for their client.

But Nick knew that he had to move on, and concentrate on helping Stacy, who promptly flung him into a whirlwind of preparations for closing arguments, including ordering of brand new exhibits, charts, and illustrative graphics. Rosanna Sanchez would go first, followed by Stacy, and she wanted to be ready. Nick went to bed early that night, exhausted by the last minute helter-skelter for what he feared would probably turn out to be a futile, last ditch effort anyway, but he knew that they had to give it a shot.

At 2:30 in the morning, however, he was awakened by his hotel bureau telephone. Shirtless, and wearing only the drawstring pants of his pale blue, white striped cotton pajamas on this hot summer night, he sat on the right edge of the mattress, his right hand pressing the receiver firmly against his left ear.

"Hello?" he asked, still half asleep, but instantly alert when he heard Rachel's voice on the other end of the line.

"Rach, honey! Is there anything wrong? You sound like you've been crying. Now, get a hold of yourself, baby, and calm down" he said gently. "It can' t be that bad!"

"Oh, Nick" answered a sobbing Rachel, utterly distraught, and in a state of shock. "It's Dallas! He's committed suicide!"

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Chapter 18

When Dallas had returned to Carlton later that afternoon, he had gone immediately to a bar, where he had tried to drown his depression in five tequilas. Then, he had driven to the Ayers Law Building and used his key to enter his then vacant office. Once inside, he had composed a letter, addressed to his estranged wife, and his two daughters, on his office computer, and had downloaded, printed, and signed it. He had then left it on his desk. It had read:

Patty: I want you and our girls, Shelley and Kim, to know that I'm terribly, terribly sorry for what's happened. I didn't mean to hurt any one of you. What I'm about to do, I can't avoid, but it's for the best. I can't live with this illness any longer, and with the knowledge that I've been stabbed in the back by the people I've trusted the most. I know that the Lord will understand. Goodbye. Love, Dallas.

Evidently, he had then taken the pistol that the police, alerted by a custodial crew when they had heard the subsequent gun shot, placed the barrel into his mouth, and promptly pulled the trigger.

Due to this horrible tragedy, Judge Harper had decided to postpone the trial for the rest of the week. It was just as well, for Nick, numb with shock, was on autopilot, and was in no condition to continue helping Stacy at the moment. To him, the next few days seemed like a blur. Afterwards, he would barely remember either calling hours or the funeral, both of which all of Dallas' legal colleagues, including Tom Flannigan and Dimitri Poulis, as well as Stacy, attended, despite their past differences, and the unusually chilly, rainy, late June weather the morning of the services.

During the funeral, Rachel could sense Stacy's attraction to her husband, like a predator recognizing her rival's scent markings. Rachel did not fail to notice how closely Stacy followed the two of them outside the church, and the way in which she obviously was eyeing Nick at the cemetery, making sure that he was never far from her sight. As a result, when Nick and Rachel were about ready to leave, and Nick introduced the two to each other, Rachel could summon up little more than an icy "hello" to which Stacy replied with an equally frosty greeting. Both women had implicitly acknowledged their mutual enmity, like two lionesses competing over their pride's sole male. Thus, when Nick left late Sunday evening for Zanseville, with the trial ready to resuming on Monday, Rachel had considered driving down and staying with him at the hotel, in order to protect her interests, but at the last minute, fearing that Nick would think that she didn't trust him, had decided not to. Besides, she couldn't have gone anyway, because she had promised Running Deer to meet him at Howard House that day, where she knew there was a task ahead of them far more important and pressing than even her own marital concerns. Still, she couldn't help but wish that they had arranged for this meeting a couple of days later, but she realized that they had lost enough time already, due to the unexpected tragedy and their subsequent obligations, and that time, more than ever, was of the essence.

The previous week's cold front had moved out by Monday, and the weather was now a more seasonable and sunny eighty-five degrees. Consequently, Rachel had decided to wear a simple, comfortable, v-neck black cotton halter that day, along with a pair of blue Levi cut-off jeans, and beige summer sandals on her bare feet. She met Running Deer, clothed that day in a cherry red, and white speckled bandana, a cement gray cotton T-shirt, blue denims, and high, tan work boots, and carrying a black leather satchel over his left shoulder, in the otherwise empty parking lot of Howard House (the building had been closed indefinitely, due to the recent damage to the upper level, but Rachel had borrowed Marissa's key). Before entering, Running Deer asked Rachel to let him read the note she had found on the floor of the hidden tomb that day. She promptly removed it, with her right hand, from the front lining of her purse, which she had slung over her right shoulder, and gave it to Running Deer, who unfolded the frail document gingerly with both hands, and studied it as carefully as if it were as important as the Rosetta stone. In the meantime, Rachel's left hand reached into her corresponding side's shorts pocket for her key chain, on the right side of which was the door key, which, with an unusually queasy stomach that had been plaguing her every morning for the past week, she placed in the lock and turned clockwise with her slightly trembling right hand, for her stomach was especially nauseous this morning. She entered and flipped on the light switch with her right, while Running Deer, who had tucked the note into his front shirt pocket with his left hand, followed.

Once inside, they mounted the stairs to the still littered upper level, where Rachel unlocked the bedroom door and turned on the light. The skeleton had been removed, of course, but the tomb itself had not yet been closed, one of a myriad of renovation projects planned for the coming months. According to Rachel's previous instructions to Marissa, a medium-sized balsa desk, and two hunter green plastic folding chairs, set up across from both ends of the table had been placed in the middle of the room. On the top of the desk, Running Deer promptly set down his satchel with his right hand. He then unzipped it with his left, and, with his right, removed a variety of ceremonial objects and placed them on the table, one by one: three candles, two urns, and a white bass drum with a dark canvas center. While he was it, he also took a light brown leather pouch from his satchel, untied it with his left hand, and, with his right, began sprinkling various earth green and gray native herbs into the center of each urn. He next pulled a match box from his left side jeans pocket with his right hand, opened the top flap and took a single match with his left, as deftly as if he had just plucked a single petal from a delicate rose bush, without damaging the other flowers, and struck the black flint surface, igniting the match and lighting, first the candles, and then the two urns. Instantly, the room was inundated with the scent of clover incense. Running Deer then sat down and asked Rachel to turn off the light. After she had done so, he asked her to be seated.

"Now, Professor" he began, removing the note form his shirt pocket with his right hand, unfolding it with both as carefully as he had before, and placing it in the middle of the circle of objects in the center of the table, "You must remember what I have told you. As I begin the ceremony, place your hands before you on the table, fingertips spread. Then, you must evoke the two spirits to join us, and to reveal to us what they will. No matter what happens, you must not leave your seat; you must not withdraw your hands until they make contact with us, or else communication will be broken, and all will be lost, for the ceremony cannot be repeated. Do you understand?"

"Yes" Rachel answered.

"Then let us begin" Running Deer said.

The shaman closed his eyes and began to rhythmically beat the drum with both hands to the pulse and cadence of ancient Delaware chants that even Rachel had never heard before, words spoken only by the highest of shamans. As Running Deer continued to chant, the glow from the candle and the wisps of incense surrounding his face both gave his visage an almost spiritual quality.

Per her instructions, Rachel began to implore the two spirits to appear to them. "Oh, spirits of this house, we know that Malcom Reynolds is among us again, and that he already done great harm. He is prepared to do more, unless we can stop him. But we need your help-we need to know what had happened here so long ago. The dark secret that you two have lived with all these years must now be told, or his plans for revenge will succeed, and hundreds-perhaps thousands -of innocent people will die! Please, let the past reveal itself!"

At that moment, the room temperature began to precipitously drop. Rachel shivered in her halter, her breath freezing in the increasingly frigid air, Running Deer's chants now punctuated by his own frozen breath. But both kept to their assigned tasks, Rachel continuing to implore the ghosts to appear while the shaman continued his drumming and chanting.

Then, a blast of arctic wind, from some unknown dimension, caused the door to slam, an action that, in an instant, extinguished the candle, plunging the room into total darkness.

Running Deer stopped his actions and cautioned Rachel to remain seated. He told her that the ceremony had succeeded, and that soon they would learn the truth they had sought.

Almost immediately, a glowing red light began to emanate from the recesses of the now empty tomb. Running Deer turned his chair around until he, like Rachel, could see the unearthly spectacle from the same clear vantage point. The glow began to grow into what resembled a searing ball of fire, in the middle of which was a discernible yellow form that was taking shape, an enlarged image of the small note that still lay on the table. Then, the note itself instantly erupted into flames, leaving only a small pile of ashes.

At that precise moment, the enlarged facsimile in the middle of the fireball began to dissolve. In its place, before Rachel's and Running Deer's astonished eyes, was something resembling a tableau, on which, like a faded, crinkled, un-restored motion picture print that had been copied so often that it had lost its original sharpness and clarity, a newsreel from the past started to play itself out, as if on a theatre screen.

In this otherworldly "film," the ghosts' captive audience could clearly see the entire scope of the Howard House upper bedroom as it had existed over a century ago, clean, and neatly furnished. Into the room stormed a tall, lean man in his early thirties, Malcom Reynolds, dressed in the same clothing as the skeleton she had found. Although younger, and with black, braided hair, he was clearly the same man who had first introduced himself to Rachel in the Carlton University coffee shop as "Jack Dobson." His hard, granite eyes glanced about the room furiously, looking for the author of the note that he clenched in his left hand, and then stuffed loosely into his left trouser pocket. "Where are you, you despicable old crone?" he shouted. "Show yourself!" he demanded.

Suddenly, the old charwoman entered, carrying a large, sharp spade in her right hand. Her light blue eyes were steely cold, her mouth set firmly in grim determination. The two stared silently at each other from across opposite ends of the room, like a couple of infantry commanders preparing for battle, and trying to anticipate each other's moves in advance.

The silence was broken by the frenetic cries of " Grandma, Grandma, where are you?" Into the room ran the little boy, who, upon seeing Reynolds, broke into a terrified scream, and clung to his grandmother's apron for protection, crying hysterically. Now Rachel, at long last, had learned the ghosts' true relationship.

The old woman instinctively hugged her terrified grandson with both arms, but still hanging on to the spade in her right hand. "Don't worry, she reassured him, "he can't hurt you any more-he'll never hurt anyone again!"

"How dareyou threaten me?" responded Reynolds, "you decrepit old mummy, I who will soon have this entire town-indeed, the state, and even the whole country -under my control!" He turned his right hand up in a gesture of arrogance and power, and then lowered it to his side.

"Not as long as there's breath still left in this old body of mine, Malcom Reynolds! I know what you've done! You've killed both my daughter and my son-in-law because they'd found out about you and your secret, unholy practices-the spells you used to sicken the town's cattle, poison its water, destroy its crops, and kill their children! You've sacrificed both young boys and girls to your heathen spirits, but not before robbing them of their innocence and purity, in order to glut your own depraved desires-as you did to little Toby, here! You would have killed him, too, if I hadn't have gotten him away from you. But he'll never escape the horrible effects of what you've done to him-never-you…you…MONSTER!" The child continued to cry incessantly, tears flowing from his red eyes and burning his tender, cherubic cheeks.

"Neither you, nor any other white woman will ever talk to me that way again!" he answered defiantly. Soon, this whole town, once I have fully devastated and then rescued it from its troubles, will fall down and worship me, for my power will be omnipotent!"

"Not after I tell them what you've done! They'll know that you're the cause of all this misery and corruption, and they'll hunt you down and put an end to you-you BEAST!"

"Those will be the last word you will ever utter, you dried-up old hag!" Reynolds vowed, rushing at her headlong.

But the old woman was prepared. "Stand back, Toby!" she warned her grandchild, who darted from her side and watched, wide-eyed and horrified, in the west corner, near the doorway. With both hands, she wielded the spade like an ax, striking Reynolds in the forehead, and instantly knocking him unconscious. As he laid prostate on the floor, a deep, jagged, vertical wound opened up on his forehead, and rich, red blood began to pour down his closed eyes. His adversary bent over, looked into his face, and said "I knew your arrogance and pride wouldn't allow you to ignore this note and keep away, once you'd figured out that I'd written it! I came here ready to deal with you once and for all, as you'll see, in more ways than one!" Then, she scooped up her still sobbing grandson in both arms, and left the room, locking the door behind her.

What seemed like ten to fifteen minutes passed before she returned and unlocked the door, accompanied by four sturdy men, evidently from the town, bearing several bags of cement, along with a wheelbarrow of bricks, masonry tools, and manacles and chains. "Thank God, Mrs. Howard and the family are in Europe right now" she muttered, as she directed two of the men to drag Reynolds' body to the far end of the room, to the east end, while their partners began to attach the manacles and chains to the wall. Then, the other two hoisted Reynolds by the shoulders and shoved him flat against the wall, forcing his arms up, and fitting them into the manacles. All of this movement had caused the note to fall from his pocket onto the dirt floor where the original wood paneling ended, near his left foot.

Then, all four men began the masonry work, while the charwoman, arms folded across her bosom, watched from afar. Soon, the wall was erected, brick by brick, and nearly completed, with only one line of four bricks remaining.

At this point, Reynolds began to open his eyes, the blood still flowing from his forehead wound. He looked about, down, and forward, and instantly surmised what was happening. He initially seemed frightened. Then, when he spied his adversary, and knew that she had behind this nearly completed, and ghastly, operation, his eyes again turned cold, as before, and he announced, " You think you've beaten me, you harpy. Very well!

I may die, but my spirit will live on, and return, though it may take me a hundred years or more, in another form! And when I do, I will do, on the day of the great Ghost Dance, when, on ground where my bones would have been buried in honor, I will regain my full power, and have my revenge on this accursed town!" As he ranted, the men continued silently with their work, until one last brick remained to be inserted.

"And you" he vowed to the charwoman, "you and that little brat of yours, who cried like a girl when I had finished getting all the pleasure I could from his body, shall be with me on that day. Neither one of you will be able to rest after your deaths-which will be very soon, I promise you, for, in my dying breath, I will summon a chindi to strike the both of you dead within three days! Then, together, your spirits will forever wander the halls of this house that you too so love. You will never leave it! Only if I am permanently consigned to the land of the dead will either one of you be released, but that, my dear witch, will never happen! That is my curse, and the two of you will live with it throughout all eternity!"

"Shut his foul mouth!" she ordered, as the last brick was at last put into place. "Now" she said, "let's lock up, go into town again, and come back with some thick plaster and matching wallpaper, so that no one will ever know what happened here today!"

With those final words, the tableau was consumed by the fireball, which literally burned itself out, and shrunk into nothingness. Instantaneously, the door flew open on its own power, providing much needed illumination from the outside corridor, and the coldness left.

Neither Rachel nor Running Deer could speak for several minutes, so awed both of them had been by the experience they had just had, until Rachel could finally bring herself to say "Now we know everything about what's happened in this house. And I know what I have to do now. I've got to leave for Zanseville ASAP, tell Nick what we've seen here today, and prove to the Court that this Dobson is an imposter."

"You may be able to convince your husband, Professor" Running Deer answered, but how you will get anyone else to believe such a fantastic story without proof?"

"I won't tell them the whole story" Rachel explained, "only that this man has stolen your name and has tried to deceive the court. You've got to come with me, and bring proof of your identity, so that we can convince them that he is a fake. Change your clothes, and meet me at my house in about half an hour. If we can get there before the trial ends, we may still be able to stop Reynolds, and save Carlton from destruction!"

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Chapter 19

As soon as Rachel got home, she changed into a more formal purple, and white lily sundress and high- heeled coal gray shoes, and applied mascara, eyeliner, and apple red lipstick in the bathroom medicine cabinet mirror. As she finished, her nausea, which she had forgotten about during her and Running Deer's extraordinary psychic experience, now returned in full force. She rushed to the porcelain toilet, both hands over her mouth, not vomiting, but retching, due to severe dry heaves (the "heebie jeebies," as she called them) into the porcelain toilet. Then, after gradually catching her breath and regaining her strength, she washed her hands and mouth out in the ceramic bathroom sink, and, with her left hand, opened the medicine cabinet, and with her right, searched for what she knew would provide an instant explanation for her recurring problem. Quickly, she found the answer, and her suspicions were confirmed; it would be just one more bit of news for Nick when she'd see him in Zanseville.

About five minutes later, Running Deer, once again wearing his suit, deer emblazoned tie, and black dress loafers, arrived in his olive green Ford Ranger, which he parked and locked in Rachel's driveway, in front of Nick's now vacant side of the garage. Since Rachel knew the way to the hotel and the courthouse, they would drive down together in her Hyundai. She hoped and prayed that they would get there in time.

But her hopes would prove to be wrong, for the two ran into two long delays, one a fifteen-mile lane closure that cost them about a half hour, and, the other, a fifty-minute delay caused by a jackknifed truck. "Damn it!" she muttered under her breath, "orange barrels and plough jockeys in a friggin' hurry! What else can go wrong?" Running Deer said nothing, but simply looked on indulgently.

Meanwhile, Nick met Stacy in the now packed courthouse. As she entered, carrying her exhibits and charts under her right arm to the mobile easel that been set near the left side of the table, she asked Nick, "how do I look?"

"Very professional and business-like" he answered.

She was wearing a navy blue double-breasted notched jacket and matching skirt, along with hose, and a new, cranberry colored suede purse, and white high-heeled importer designer shoes.

"'Professional and business-like,' that's what I want to hear" she smiled. The two of them sat down at the same table, no longer shunted to the "back of the bus," as they had been under Dallas, but now in the front center of the courtroom, directly facing the jury. Mr. Hampton, their client, soon joined them, shaking hands with them and taking his place at the table as well.

Then, the bailiff announced Judge Harper, who gave each side fifteen for closing arguments. Rosanna Sanchez went first, and it was clear, when she had finished, that her team was convinced that her closing presentation had clenched the case for Jack Dobson, who sat in the courtroom with an insidious, victorious grin on his face.

That grin, however, soon turned to a grimace of alarm, when Stacy was at last allowed to show her full legal skills and professional aplomb. She delivered a closing argument that dramatically emphasized, through colorful illustrative charts and graphics, what Dallas Park had failed to do: expose the legal holes in the group's arguments, including its blatant misrepresentation of the Freedom of Religion for Native Americans Act's definitions of property. She was especially skillful at pointing out that the group had offered no proof of the historical accuracy of the alleged massacre, nor any convincing explanation as to why the Dance could not be held at a different location, away from the Trauma Center. Most effective was her attack on Dobson's questionable credentials, and gaps in his personal history. She even accused him of being a con man and a demagogue. Even though Sanchez objected to these statements because Dallas had not first introduced them during the trial, and the Judge sustained these objections, the jurors still had heard them, and must have been impressed, Nick felt, by her courage and daring, for he could tell that she, unlike Dallas, had their full, undivided attention. The opposing side must have thought so, too, because Sanchez and her associates, every two minutes or so, it seemed, had their heads down, conferring with each other, and with Dobson, whose frown clearly demonstrated his obvious umbrage at Stacy's character attacks, and his concern over the jury's reaction. Their heads were still down when Stacy finished, and the Judge began instructing and charging the jury. Stacy had shown herself to be a true courtroom lawyer that day, making Dallas's earlier refusal to use her talents even more inexplicable. In fact, Sanchez herself, as well as Ahmad Al-Azar, personally congratulated her on her performance. "That dame's really given us a run for our money," remarked Sanchez to her colleagues on their way to the courthouse cafeteria for coffee.

While waiting for the jurors to decide on a verdict, Stacy paced to and fro in the middle of the courthouse parking lot lie a caged tiger, chain-smoking nervously. Nick, meanwhile, sat a few feet to her right, on a nearby curb, drinking from a can of Diet Pepsi that he had just purchased from the courthouse vending machine on his way outside. Knowing how nervous Stacy was, he decided to say little, but congratulated her, too, on her skillful closing arguments, reassuring her that, if they still wound up losing the case, it would not have been without a fight. "It all depends" Stacy answered between puffs, "how they took my attack on Dobson's credibility. I think it'll be won or lost on that. Damn it, if only Dallas had brought those questions out earlier!"

Nick nodded sympathetically, idly fiddling with the now empty soda can in his right hand. After about ninety minutes, Nick suggested going back inside, to the sanctuary of the courthouse air conditioning, as the weather this day was unusually hot and humid. "Okay" Stacy agreed, finishing her remaining cigarette, flinging it to the pavement with her right hand and crushing it out with her left shoe. Nick rose from the pavement, tossed the soda can into a nearby trash container, and followed Stacy into the courthouse. Once inside, they heard a loud, buzzing alarm throughout the first floor-the signal from the deliberation room that the jury had come to a decision. "Well, Nick" Stacy bravely smiled, "I guess it's 'Showtime!'" They then walked to the courtroom, sat at their front table with their client, who had been notified by the bailiff of the Court's reconvening, and anxiously awaited, along with their opponents, who likewise had been notified, and taken their places at their table, along with Dobson, for the jury's verdict.

Soon, the nine men and women of the jury entered. Then, the bailiff announced Judge Harper, who, upon taking her place at the Bench, asked the jury's foreperson if his colleagues had reached a verdict.

"Yes, your Honor" answered Frank Warner, the elderly man with the prosthetic leg.

"Then please give the signed verdict form to the bailiff" instructed the Judge.

Mr. Warner gradually rose to a half standing position, and, with his arthritic, slightly trembling right hand (for the gentleman had palsy), placed the form in the bailiff's left hand. He then approached the Bench and delivered it the Judge, who accepted it in her right hand. She neatly unfolded it with both, and began to read. This whole process, from the request for the verdict, to Judge Harper's reading, only took a few seconds, but seemed like hours, especially to Stacy and Nick, but the ordeal would all be over now.

Judge Harper began reading, the court reporter busily pounding away on her computer. "We, the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, find in favor of the defendant, the Equal Rights for Minorities Group.'"

That was it. Dobson had won, in no small part to Dallas Park's mishandling of the trial, which, unbeknown to anyone else, had been according the malevolent shaman's plans. He sat there in the courtroom, not even his legal representatives, each of whom shook hands with and congratulated him, could guess the evil behind their client's smile, and his true, immediate plans.

Stacy and Nick apologized to Hampton, who, while not personally blaming them, was obviously bitter, and said that his company might still file legal malpractice charges against both Dallas Park's estate and the Dimitri Poulis law firm. With nothing more that could be done, Stacy and Nick drove back to the hotel, Nick, in his Taurus, and Stacy, in her silver Porsche, both dreading the long, disappointing journey back to Carlton.

As Nick began removing his spare clothing from the closet and laying them neatly on the seat of a nearby beige leather hardback chair in his room, in preparation for packing, he took off his plaid rayon jacket, silver cufflinks, and azure silk tie and silver clasp, and placed them all on the chair's back. While unbuttoning his sun yellow cotton shirt, he wondered what the immediate future might now hold for him and Rachel. Dallas was dead; unless he could prove that he could run that firm on his own, would he still have a job? Stacy had promised to put in a good word for him with Dimitri, but could he afford to hire him if the Mathias Corporation were going to sue him for malpractice?

Then, a loud and pronounced knocking at his door jarringly interrupted his thoughts. "Come in," he answered. It was Stacy, who half closed the door behind her on her way in. From her slightly red eyes, she looked as if she had been crying, but managed a smile, and said "Hello, Nick. I just wanted to say goodbye, and to let you know how much I've appreciate all of your help. And don't worry about your job. I'll talk to Dimitri, the first thing when I get back, about arranging some kind of position for you. I don't know what it would be, or when you'd start, but I promise to bring it up with him."

"Thank you Stacy," Nick smiled. He looked sheepishly at his feet, and then straight in her eyes, and told her "I want to say again that I think you did one hell of a job in there today, and that I'm proud to have worked with a talented lawyer like you. I think I've learned a lot from you!"

"Oh, thanks Nick," she replied, breaking into tears again, and holding out her arms for a friendly farewell. So long, partner" she said.

"So long partner," Nick responded himself, and they embraced. He had intended to let her go right away, but he somehow could not bring himself to withdraw his arms from her waist, so intoxicated was he by the warm scent of her body, the sweet fragrance of her perfume, and the softness of her hair as it brushed against his face. She, in turn was smitten with the broadness of his shoulders, the gentle strength of his arms, the stoutness of his chest, and the scent of his body. Both of their pulses were racing, and before they knew what was happening, their eyes were closed in passion, their tongues lapping each other, and their mouths locked in passionate kisses. Impulsively, she unbuttoned Nick's shirt, tearing it off his shoulders and running her eager hands up and down his bare chest. Meanwhile, he was busy unbuttoning and removing her jacket and burying his face in her ample cleavage that protruded from the top of her black lace Maiden Form bra. Soon, they were both naked, furiously making love to each other, and tumbling into Nick's still unmade bed, giving vent to their uncontrolled passions.

At that moment, Rachel and Running Deer had finally arrived in Zanseville. When Rachel found the courthouse empty, her heart sank, for she knew that the trial had ended before she had had a chance to notify the Court about Dobson. It would not be too late, though, to warn Nick, and to present him with new evidence that he could use to possibly reverse the jury's decision, and/or get a new trial.

With that new plan in mind, Rachel drove to the hotel, hoping that Nick hadn't left for home yet. She was delighted to see Nick's Taurus still in the parking lot, and told Running Deer to remain in the Hyundai while she talked to Nick. Sprinting up the walkway to the hotel's entrance, she entered the lobby and walked briskly to the room #7, where she knew Nick was staying, on the first floor. When she arrived, she was surprised to find the door half open, and walked in. There she stood, in the middle of the room, frozen, her mouth open in shock. Her husband and Stacy Morgan were in bed together, both stark naked. Both were half asleep, exhausted from their obviously prior lovemaking, due to the abundant sweat from their bodies that had discolored the white silk bed sheets wrapped around their lower portions. Stacy was nuzzled in Nick's chest hair, her right hand playing with its soft, thick tufts, while he, with a blissful smile on his face, and head comfortably propped up on a pillow, caressed her bountiful blonde main with his right hand.

"Nick!" Rachel shouted. Tears of outrage welled in her eyes as she rushed out of the room. She trotted as fast as she could, out the hotel exit, and to the parking lot. Soon, Nick was running a few feet in back of her. He had hastily thrown on his shirt, which he had not had time to either button at all, or tuck in, along with his trousers, and nothing but a pair of black sandals on his feet, desperately trying to overtake her. "Rach! Rach!" he yelled. "Please wait! Let me explain!"

"Fuck you, you bastard!" Rachel replied, refusing to stop, turn, or look him in the face.

"Rach, stop!" Nick repeated, finally running in front of her and forcing her to stop, although she still refused to even acknowledge him, deliberately turning her head sideways, to the left.

"Now, listen, you don't understand!" he tried to explain, grabbing her loosely with both hands by her shoulders.

Rachel immediately shook his hands of, and now, boldly looked him in his earnest eyes. "Oh, I understand, all right!" she retorted. "I understand that you can't keep it in your pants-that you couldn't wait to get back down here, back to that God damned slut, and fuck her brains out!"


No, Rach, that's not true! I wasn't planning to do anything! I just lost control of myself, that's all. It just 'happened!'"

"Yeah, well, I used the home testing kit before leaving this morning, 'cause I've missed my period, and my stomach's been killing me. I found out there's another thing that's 'just happened,' you bastard!-I'm pregnant!"

Nick stared on, utterly stunned, as she again started to cry. "I'm pregnant! I'm going to have a baby-our baby!"

"Rach," said Nick, asking for forgiveness by offering her both of his arms in a comforting embrace, but Rachel would accept nothing from him.

"Keep away from me, you son of a bitch!" she screamed. Copious tears now streamed down her cheeks, mixing with the streaks of mascara that had started to run from the moisture. "I'm going home!" she told him, "and I never -never-want to see you again!"

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Chapter 20

Rachel hopped into the driver's side of her Hyundai and told Running Deer that they were returning to Carlton immediately. On the way back, she said not a word about her conversation with Nick, and Running Deer respected her privacy by not asking about it, although he did notice that she had been crying. Instead, they talked about their plans for the next day. They were to meet at the site of the proposed Ghost Dance at 8AM, across from the Trauma Center, on land that had once been Delaware burial ground, Running Deer had tradition, and where Reynolds, according to his plans, would have been originally buried. If they could somehow convince Dobson's followers that he was a fake, perhaps they could still prevent the Dance from taking place.

Rachel slept little that night. The vacant spot on the right side of the bed would have been occupied by Nick, and despite her feelings of hurt and betrayal, she still missed him terribly. She tried to tell herself that their marriage was a part of her life that was now over. She would get a divorce, fight for custody of their baby if she had to, and raise and support the child on her own. Other women had done that; she would, too. She didn't needa man to make her life more fulfilling, she had to convince herself, again and again, especially a man who had given in so easily, as Nick had done, to his sexual urges and had violated her trust in him. But no matter how many times she told herself that, she would remember the day she had first met Nick, when he was a docket clerk, and she a TA at Carlton University, how he had supported her in her fight against the chindi, how they had fallen in love and married, and, how, yes, she still loved him, even after all he had done, and wanted him so badly by her side, here, and now.

Finally, the morning arrived, putting an end to both her restless, sporadic sleep and her torturous emotional ambivalence. She arose promptly and, after a quick cup of coffee and a bagel, hoping that something on her stomach would ease her persistent morning sickness, dressed quickly, in the same halter, shorts, and sneakers she had worn at the last Ghost Dance meeting, flung her purse over her right shoulder, and was out the door. She reached the Ghost Dance site in a matter of minutes, parked her Hyundai at the left side of the street, across from the Trauma Center, and hopped out of the car, looking for Running Deer, who arrived at almost the same time, parking his truck behind Rachel's car. The gallant shaman, in the same speckled bandana, concrete gray T-shirt, denim jeans, and work boots that he had worn at Howard House, disembarked, and march side by side, across the street, with Rachel, to confront Dobson/Reynolds.

About a hundred Delaware had gathered that day to prepare for the Ghost Dance, hanging up bunting around their group's stand, carrying signs and banners, and decorating an old maple tree that stood in the center of the vacant lot (and which had been scheduled to be removed for later hospital expansion) with eagle feathers, as an offering to the Great Spirit. When she saw Rachel, Cindy, the young girl who normally handled the petitions, asked her if she was going to help them with the preparations, or even take part in the Dance herself. Rachel merely shook her head and, in her right hand, took a megaphone from the ground, and began to turn in different directions while addressing the crowd.

" Delaware brothers and sisters, listen to me, please! You all know me, Rachel, your friend, and you know that I'd never lie to you! Stop what you're doing immediately, and go home! Jack Dobson is a fake, and a fraud! He has lied to you, and he has lied to me! Do not help him with this Dance! Nothing but evil can come of it! You must believe me!"

Running Deer motioned with his left hand for the megaphone, and began to address the crowd himself: "My friends, listen to this great Delaware sister, I beg of you! My name is Running Deer, shaman of the Dublin-Columbus Delaware! I am the real Jack Dobson! This man is an imposter who has killed my family, and who is using all of you as pawns, in his vile plans for power! He will dispose of you as soon as he has no further use for you! Do not be led astray!"

Immediately, a booming voice cried from the crowd "Do not listen to this dog!" Across the lot, in his familiar snake skin boots, strode Malcom Reynolds, wearing a long sleeve canvas brown crew neck leather shirt over his denim jeans. The shirt was decorated with symbols of the sun, moon, and stars. He stopped several feet in front of Rachel and Running Deer, and turned sideways to address the crowd. Never, though did he turn his back totally on Running Deer, who handed the megaphone back to Rachel. In the meantime, the crowd had grown silent, listening to every word with rapt attention.

"And do not listen to her, either!" he continued. Rachel Russo-Graffanino is not a true Delaware sister. She has lived too long in the white world, and is a traitor to our cause!"

"That's not true!" Rachel shouted. "He is the traitor, a wicked sorcerer, whose spirit guide is an evil manetuwak, a demon! He wishes to use the Ghost Dance to destroy this city-both Delaware and white alike. You must not let him do this!"

"You speak lies with two tongues-both white and Indian!" retorted Reynolds. "I curse you!" he continued, and spat the ground in front of Rachel's feet.

This show of disrespect brought Running Deer into the fray. He rushed at Reynolds head long, and toppled him to the ground, pounding his face with both fists, and opening up the forehead wound that had long ago been inflicted by the charwoman. Blood flowed down his face, but eyes fixed themselves on Running Deer. As with Schnars, they were now like two burning red coals whose illumination was so strong that even Rachel could see them from a distance. Running Deer's strength utterly left him, as if some invisible hand had pulled an essential power plug, and he fell prostrate to the ground.

Rachel rushed to her friend's side and helped him to his feet. He immediately assured her that he was all right. Reynolds then turned to his followers, waving both of his hands dramatically and asking, "See? This man attacks me when I least expect it! His actions prove his deceit! But I will leave the decision up to you. Shall I lead you, and complete the great work we have begun together, or shall this traitorous 'sister' and her lying friend? Speak, for the tortured souls of our ancestors, whose innocent blood had enriched this soil so many years ago, cry out- even now -for release and peace!"

Their response started in a low murmur, and then grew in volume until the unanimous answer filled the entire area: "Ghost Dance!,'" "Ghost Dance!,'" "Ghost Dance!'"

With a smile of smug satisfaction, Reynolds pulled a bright fire engine red bandana with his left hand from his right jeans pocket, cleaned up the now clotting blood, and rejoined his followers, many of whom reached out to pat him affectionately on the back, and to shake hands with him. It was clear to both Rachel and Running Deer whom the group had pledged its loyalty to, and that there was nothing more they could do to change their minds. They had no other choice but to stand back and watch disaster take place.

About seven members of the group, three men and four women, wearing identical "ghost shirts" over their as Reynolds, formed a circle around the tree, in front of which stood Reynolds, face set solemnly and arms at his side. Then, he began the ceremony. With outstretched hands raised over his head, he chanted, in the ancient Delaware tongue, an assortment of prayers and exhortations. When he had concluded, he loudly clapped his two hands, which he still held above his head, together and then lowered them to his sides, the signal for the dancers to join fingers, one by one. They now started a frantic, circular dance around the tree in a clockwise direction, to the rhythm of tom toms wielded by an elderly man seated in the middle of the crowd. Soon, this sound reached deafening proportions, and the dancing became increasingly frenetic.

At that moment, the skies, which had previously been so bright, now clouded over, and thunder and lightning began to rend the heavens, while a brisk, strong wind started to pick up velocity, soon reaching speeds of over 60 mph. Instantly, many members of the crowd began to scatter, and to take shelter under the bunting, or wherever they could, as hail stones began littering both the vacant lot and the street.

At that same time, in the Carlton Psychiatric Center, Rag Man, who was sitting in the middle of his cell bunk, leaped up, ran to the center of the glass shield, and started proclaiming ecstatically "The 'Master' is coming! The 'Master' is coming!" Simultaneously, in Howard House, the ghosts of the charwoman and her little grandson squatted and huddled in the bedroom corner near the empty tomb, covering their ears with both hands against the dreaded sounds of the Dance.

Then, a lightning bolt as jagged as Reynolds' forehead scar struck the maple, splitting it in two and causing the frightened dancers to stop the ceremony and run for cover. But Reynolds moved not a muscle, as the lightning illuminated the hellish triumph in his now burning red eyes, as well as his evil smile.

When this happened, Rag Man bellowed jubilantly "The Master is here!" At that same moment, the ghosts of Howard House both began to silently cry.

At the Dance site, a remarkable thing now occurred: Reynolds' entire form began to physically change. In a matter of seconds, the braided hair from his bandana became jet black, his wrinkles disappeared, though the scar remained, and his body was now young and lithe. During that same transformation, his clothing had also changed. He was now bare-chested, and clothed in a hunter green Delaware leather loincloth, chaps, and moccasins, with a tomahawk in his left hand. The turbulence and hail now ceased, as quickly as they had begun, and the skies opened up again.

The now fully rejuvenated Reynolds defiantly strode across the street, as his former followers fled from him in terror. He was headed to the center of town, to begin his revenge.

"It's started, Professor, it's started!" Running Deer exclaimed. I've got to stop him!"

"Running Deer! Don't!" Rachel warned him, but the gallant old warrior would not listen, and rushed at Reynolds, but this time he was prepared. With one mighty sweep of his arm, he flung the tomahawk directly into Running Deer's face; the blade buried itself between his eyes. With an agonized scream, Running Deer fell to the ground and instantly went into shock, blood pouring down his cheeks and neck. Rachel ran over to him, knelt before his body, and tugged the hatchet out with both hands, flinging it aside. Then she pulled a large red polka dot bandana from her left jeans pocket with her right hand, placed it on Running Deer's face, and, with both hands, began applying pressure to the wound.

Quickly, though, Reynolds yanked Rachel up by the hair with his unbelievably powerful left hand, interrupting her actions, and forcing her to her feet. His icy eyes stared into her frightened face as she spoke. "So, you seek to defy me! Very well, my ' Delaware daughter!'" he said sarcastically. "For your treason, only a special punishment will do-not death, but something far worse!" He paused for a moment, glanced down at her bare stomach, exposed by the halter, which constantly rode up, and continued. "I can sense that you are with child, a girl, I believe!" Rachel's breath came in tortured gasps, terrified by what ghastly scheme he had in mind. "Nine months from now" he said, placing his left hand right hand firmly on her abdomen, and causing her to instantly recoil from his touch, "this child shall be born as cold, and as dead, as a slug! That is my curse on you, and you shall…"

His words were cut short by a sharp blow to his jaw with the tomahawk, wielded by none other that Nick! He had returned to Carlton yesterday evening, but had stayed the night in a hotel, hoping that, with the start of a new day, Rachel would have calmed down, and been in a better position to his sincere apologies, and his fervent desire for reconciliation. He had decided to visit the Dance site today, confident that she would be there, and thankful beyond words that she was.

As Reynolds staggered, he involuntarily dropped Rachel to the ground. Immediately, they ran off to his Taurus. Rachel hopped into the front passenger's side while Nick scooped up the still unconscious Running Deer in his arms, laying him in the back seat, and peeling off down the street. When Reynolds had regained his stamina, he retrieved the tomahawk with his left hand and wiped away the blood from the cut that Nick had inflicted on his chin with the back of his right, vowing to catch up with them later. Right now, he told himself, he had more important plans to finish.

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Chapter 21

Nick and Rachel knew that they couldn't use Carlton Hospital, because of Reynolds' close proximity, so they decided to take their badly injured friend to nearly Cedar Circle Hospital in Wooster, where the shaman was immediately admitted to the Emergency Room. As Nick and Rachel sat together in the waiting room, sipping coffee from white Styrofoam vending machine cups, the two finally had a chance to talk.

Nick looked haggard. His hair was disheveled, he had not shaved, and his once neatly pressed yellow dress shirt that he had worn on the last day of the trial was now wrinkled, dingy, and sparsely buttoned, sleeve cuffs undone, and his un-tucked tails sloppily hanging below the waist of his unbelted and equally wrinkled beige cotton Dockers slacks. On his feet, he wore only black sandals, but no socks. It was obvious that he, too, hadn't slept much the night before, as his eyes looked bleary and bloodshot.

Sheepishly fingering the rim of his cup, which he nervously held in his slightly trembling right hand, he penitently un-burdened his soul to Rachel, fervently hoping and praying that she would forgive him.

"Rach," he began, speaking almost in a whisper, "I'm a shit heel- I know it." He sighed deeply and continued, each word a torture, yet, at the same time a cathartic relief. "Yesterday, I hurt the one person who means more to me than anyone else-than anyone else will ever mean to me-in this world, and that's you. I don't know what to say, Rach. I did something I thought I'd never do: I thought with my dick, and not my head. And I'm so terribly, terribly sorry!"

"Nick," Rachel tried to reassure him, but he insisted on first finishing what he had to say.

"No, wait, please. I have to say this first, Rach, okay? And then, if you still want a divorce, I'll understand." He took another deep breath, tears welling up in his already red, sleepless eyes, and continued. "I told Stacy that I didn't blame her, that it was my fault, but that there couldn't be -and wouldn't be-anything else between the two of us, and I meant it, Rach-I meant it! I never want to see that awful look of pain in your face again. I couldn't take it! And I never want you to be hurt this badly again! I love you, Rach, and I know I don't want to go on without you! Life doesn't mean anything to me if you-and our baby-can't be a part of it!"

Nick placed his now empty cup on the small table piled with Readers' Digest and People magazines at the right side of his seat, while Rachel's left hand dropped hers in the nearby trash basket on he left side. As Nick lowered his head into his hands, his body shaking with sobs, Rachel reached over, wrapped her left arm over his right shoulder, and caressed his neck. She then took both of her hands, gently raised his head, and cupped his face. His eyes looked hopefully into hers, which never as bright and luminous as now. Then, her own tears started welling up as she spoke. "Nick, do you really think I'd want to live the rest of my life without you?" She smiled, and kissed his lips lovingly. Then, they embraced, and, resting his head on her right shoulder, he repeated, over and over again, "It'll never happen again, Rach, never- never!"

" I know, I know," she reassured him, soothingly caressing his tousled hair with her right hand. Then, because they both liked old movies, she remarked, in order to break the tension, "You know, I could have said, "`Love means never having to say you're sorry!'"

In response, Nick lifted his face and managed the first smile he had been able to have for days, and said "Hey, 'Tiger Lily!'"

Rachel smiled and replied, "Hey, you dumb dago, you!," and they both enjoyed a mutual chuckle before closing their eyes and embracing for another kiss.

"Uuhm, excuse me" announced a voice, and they turned their heads to acknowledge the presence of Brandon Wu, M.D., the E.R. doctor on call that day. A young, tall, Chinese American with dark hair parted in the middle, and dressed in aqua green scrubs and white Converses, he shook hands with both Nick and Rachel, who had risen to greet him. He then updated them on Running Deer's condition.

He had just come out of shock and had regained consciousness, and had asked to see Rachel and Nick, the man the doctor had told him had accompanied her to the hospital. He also told them that their friend's vital signs were good, but that, because of possible heart trauma, he should be kept over night for observation, so that various tests, including and EKG and a cat scan, could be administered. Then he escorted them to Running Deer's private bed behind one of several identical blue, and white striped sliding curtains, and left, so that they could talk with him alone.

The top of Running Deer's face, from his forehead to his nose, was covered, other than his eyes, with layers of thick white gauze. He was dressed in a blue and white checkered hospital gown, with a tan wool blanket extending from his waist to his bare feet, and had an oxygen clip in his nostrils, an IV line in his right wrist, and several other lines connecting him to a heart and pulse monitor at the right corner of his bed.

He smiled when he saw Rachel, who introduced him to Nick.

"That wasn't very smart what you did" Rachel said, her left hand patting his right wrist, "but you macho men alway s have to try to be heroes!" she laughed.

Running Deer managed a slight chuckle, and replied, "I had to do something to try to stop him, Professor." Then he grew serious again, and asked what had happened afterwards. Rachel proceeded to tell him about the curse that Reynolds had placed on their unborn child, and how Nick had rescued her at the last second.

"But not before he had completed his curse on the child," Running Deer replied. "That makes it all the more imperative that Reynolds be destroyed, for as long as he lives, the child is in dire danger of being born dead!"

"What can we do?" asked Rachel.

"A reverse Ghost Dance, by a native Delaware afflicted by Reynolds' touch- you, Professor-must be performed, on the same spot where the first had taken place, and according to prayers that only I can administer!"

"But Running Deer, you've been hurt! You can't possibly leave this place!"

"I will regain my strength-I must -for this task ahead! But one more thing remains to be done."

"What's that?" asked Nick.

"Present at the ceremony must also be the one whom Reynolds' spirit had first contacted, the one responsible for firstputting this scheme into operation."

"Rag Man?" asked Rachel.

Running Deer shook his head.

"Dimitri Poulis!" exclaimed Nick. "He was the one who kept pushing that referral to Dallas, pumping it up as a 'can't lose' case-a 'sure winner!' He seemed, right away, obsessed with this case, and insisted that nobody but Dallas could handle it. If he had given this case to some other lawyer, and not to Dallas, in the state of mind he was in his, Mathias would have won! Do you think Reynolds could have used his powers, even from afar, to influence Dimitri to give this case to Dallas, no matter what?"

"As I have told your wife, Mr. Graffanino" Running Deer answered, "he would have left absolutely nothing to chance!"

"Then I think I know what we have to do" replied Nick. "Rach, I'll drive you back to Carlton. Reynolds is sure to be gone by now, and you can pick up your car and follow me to Dimitri's law office. With any luck, he'll still be there, and if he is, we'll bring him back, don't worry!" Then, with his left hand, he grabbed a plastic bottle of ether from a nearby sink and stuffed it into his right hip pocket. "Come on, Rach!" he said.

"We'll see you later, Running Deer" she told him, planting a good luck kiss on his right cheek.

After picking up her Hyundai, Rachel followed Nick's instructions, and, within twenty minutes, at around 4PM, they arrived at the Ayres Law Building, where Dimitri's office was also located. She parked her Hyundai beside his Taurus in the third floor of the parking garage, and told her to wait for him. On his way to the elevator, he saw Dimitri's slate blue Cadillac, and knew he was still there.

As luck would have it, Dimitri stepped out of the elevator just as Nick was about to get in.

"Nick!" he exclaimed in surprise, holding a reddish brown leather brief case in his right hand as he disembarked and stood outside the now closing elevator doors behind him. "What are you doin' here? And what's happened? You look like you spent the night in a cement truck!"

"Dimitri" Nick replied, "I haven't time to explain now, but Rachel's parked outside, and you've got to come with us-now!"

"What the hell are you talkin' about?" Dimitri asked.

"Dimitri, I haven't time to explain. You've just got to trust me."

"Fuck you!" retorted Dimitri. "You sound just as loony as Dal used to be!"

Suddenly, the lights went out in the parking garage, cutting off the electricity, and the security cameras as well.

"Christ, what's happening now?" exclaimed Dallas, turning his head in different directions, in an effort to spot his Cadillac, which he hoped the sunlight filtering in from the open corners of the lot would still allow him to find.

Now that Dimitri's attention had been diverted, Nick seized his opportunity, yanking the ether bottle out of his pocket with his right hand, emptying it into a white handkerchief that he had yanked with his left hand from his left pocket, grabbed the back of Dimitri's head with his right hand after letting the plastic bottle fall to the garage's cement floor, and pressed his face into the handkerchief. Dimitri's instinctive cries were muffled by the handkerchief, and, immediately his arms started flailing and thrashing, like those of a drowning man, dropping the briefcase he had been carrying. Then, his eyes started to flicker, and, unconscious, he began falling to the ground, but Nick, who had now dropped the handkerchief, quickly slipped both of his hands under his armpits, holding him up half way, and dragging him to the Taurus. Nick dropped him gently by the car, opened the back door with his right hand, and, with both hands, slid him into the right side of the back seat. He then said to Rachel "Okay, Rach, let's go! Meet me back at Wooster, at the hospital!" Then, off they drove, little realizing that, at this very moment, Reynolds was well on his way to fulfilling his revenge against the town of Carlton.

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Chapter 22

When Rachel and Nick returned to the hospital, Nick took a strong rope that he had stored in his trunk, tied it tightly around Dimitri's body, and wrapped a gag around his mouth, so as to keep him confined and quiet when he regained consciousness. Then they made arrangements with Dr. Wu to release Running Deer from the hospital, with their friend signing forms agreeing to accept full responsibility for the risk involved.

In the meantime, Reynolds, his youth and full power restored, had been on the rampage. On his trek into the heart of the town, he had destroyed sewage cables, water lines, parked vehicles, and homes, churches, schools, and municipal buildings by hoisting his tomahawk into the heavens, at which time the skies would darken, and be filled with jagged lightning bolts, one of which would strike the uplifted tomahawk, turning its blade ghostly white with some kind of diabolical energy. He would then point the tomahawk to the target of his intended devastation, which would then spontaneously explode in a cataclysm of smoke and fire. One such target had been the municipal power lines, an attack that had resulted in the outage that had plunged the Ayres Parking Garage into darkness, and disabled the security cameras, thus concealing Dimitri's kidnapping. Flesh and blood had proven just as susceptible to the tomahawk's power, as police officers, firefighters, and even innocent bystanders and pedestrians died painfully and horribly in the ensuing inferno when the weapon was pointed at any one of them. Within a mere hour of Reynolds's campaign, martial law had been declared, evacuations planned, and the National Guard alerted, as the heart of Carlton resembled a war zone, the smell of smoke and fire, and the odor of burnt human flesh, charred fragments of which had splintered about the surrounding area like grenade shrapnel. But Reynolds was not finished. He had one very special target in mind: the nuclear power plant that lay about ten miles east of the city center. He knew that if he could destroy this site, his revenge would affect future generations, as the town would be plagued for decades by the effects of nuclear contamination and fallout. Then, and only, then, would his revenge be complete, at which point he would dictate terms to the city's white leaders for the relief from the devastation that only he could provide. He would then extend his power base to the rest of the state, and even the nation. Any who would oppose him, white or Indian, he would destroy. He now marched down the city sidewalk as Rag Man had done six years ago, and, like his slave, inexorably toward a destination that only he knew, but unlike Carlton's then benign Johnny Apple Seed, spreading death and destruction wherever he went.

Meanwhile, before they would leave the hospital, Rachel, Nick, and Running Deer discussed privately their plans. They would all ride in Nick's Taurus to the Ghost Dance site, where Rachel, alone, would perform a reverse dance, according to Running Deer's instructions, and in the presence of himself, Nick, and, most importantly, Dimitri Poulis, who had just gained consciousness in the back seat, and, totally confused and frightened, thrashed and kicked in a futile attempt to loosen his bonds. The two helped their gallant, but still weak, friend into the back seat, the left of Dimitri, while Rachel climbed into the front passenger side and Nick into the driver's side. They headed off for the Dance site, but first would have to stop briefly back home, where Rachel had to take a can of pumpkin orange exterior paint, which had been reserved for redoing the shutters, from a can in the garage, and, with a brush, draw the ceremonial Ghost symbols across the front of her halter. "I'll have to get rid of both this top and my bra after today" she remarked to herself, while quickly applying the symbols with broad strokes from the small brush she wielded in her right hand. "Oh, well, it's for a good cause" she admitted, humorously, as she applied the finishing touches before replacing the lid of the paint can and dumping the brush into a tin bucket of water she had filled up with the garden hose. She then closed and locked the garage door, and again jumped into the Taurus's front passenger seat, thinking "the things a hero has to do to save this town!" Then, on the way over, Running Deer gave her instructions about the reverse Dance, which she would perform according to the rhythm of the special chants he would deliver at the time of the ceremony.

When they had finally arrived at the Dance site, Rachel helped Running Deer, who was now dressed in his earlier clothes, and with a single thick of heavy gauze now covering the wound between his eyes, where the full wrapping had earlier been, from the car, their right hands holding each other tightly together, while Nick carried the still struggling Dimitri to what remained of the shattered oak, large pieces of heavy, jagged bark strewn about the stump. Nick placed Dimitri on the ground, near the stump's immediate left side, and backed off about four feet, close to Running Deer, who still held on to Rachel's hand, but soon insisted on trying to stand under his own power, which he managed to do, albeit a bit unsteadily. He then told Rachel to go over to the front center of the tree, and, upon his signal, commence dancing, according to the instructions he had given her earlier. Rachel did as he had instructed her, and waited while Running Deer first offered a special prayer in Delaware that, translated, read "Oh, Great Spirit, help us in this hour of need! Give your brave daughter the courage and wisdom she needs! Help her do what she must to save the innocent, punish the wicked, and avenge the victorious!" With that, he raised both of his hands high above his hands and clapped them together, the signal for Rachel to begin. As he started chanting in Delaware, she timed her movements according the rhythm of his subsequent claps, which he delivered in the same fashion, at integral junctures during the ceremony.

Rachel danced in a circle around the maple as the other dancers had before, but now counter clockwise. She would pause whenever she reached the front, spin around, stand in one spot, and twist and turn her lower torso spasmodically, legs spread and hands akimbo, and shake her head violently up and down and sidewise, causing her long, free hair to fly wildly about her then tightly closed eyes. Then, she would resume her circular dance before stopping in front of the tree for yet another special stage in the ceremony.

Meanwhile, there was turbulence in the now early evening dusk air, as the skies once again grew dark and cloudy, and thunder and lightning started to rend the sky, for, at that very moment, Reynolds had arrived at the top of a high grass knoll overlooking the heavily guarded and electrically wired fence-off nuclear power plant. He was now ready. Sneering contemptuously at the gauntlet of armed guards like a lion at a pack of hyenas daring to try to steal the spoils of a kill, he had raised his great tomahawk to the sky. Immediately, the clouds, as dark as Reynolds's soul, had started looming over the plant, followed by crashing thunder. The blade, struck by one of the subsequent bolts, had once again grown white hot with the destructive power that had then, literally, roasted the guards in their very boots, leaving once again, only piles of scorched flesh and ashes where human beings had once stood. He had then lowered the blade to his side, taken one last look at the power plant, smiled wickedly, and prepared for the final blow that would consign the town of Carlton to decades of death. He now raised it again, high to the still stormy sky.

At that same moment, at the Carlton Psychiatric Center, Rag Man, who had, just minutes before, dropped to the floor of his cell, by the center of his bunk, and had been crouching like a fawning dog, now started screaming hysterically "Master, beware! Master, beware!" At Howard House, the ghosts, still squatting and huddling together, had uncapped their ears and turned to their right, staring, side by side, and into the vast distance, at something only they in that building could sense, their eyes wide in ecstatic anticipation.

Then, Rachel, her skin now glistening with perspiration, collapsed, exhausted to the ground, in front of the tree, as Running Deer stopped his chants, bowed his head silently, and softly whispered a barely audible prayer, again, in Delaware. Nick ran to Rachel's side and cradled her in both arms, while Dimitri, his eyes wide with terror, stared at a gigantic, ragged bolt of lightning that had instantaneously formed from the center of the sky, and that dwarfed the other bolts in both size and speed. It traveled like a comet, westward, to some unknown target. That target was Malcom Reynolds. In a matter of seconds, the bolt struck the upraised tomahawk before any of its smaller and slower cousins could reach the pseudo lightning rod, making as explosive a sound as a sonic boom, and racing directly down Reynolds' arm, and throughout his entire, corrupt body. Immediately, he was incinerated in a huge fireball, his agonized screams as loud and as long as those of the innocent victims he had sadistically molested and tortured. When the flames and smoke and dissipated, all that remained of his terrible and unholy pilgrimage was the charred tomahawk on the otherwise vacant, scorched, and smoldering grass.

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Chapter 23

Nick lightly patted Rachel on her face with his two hands, in an effort to bring her two. As soon as she opened her eyes, Nick asked, "Are you okay, Rach?"

"Yes," she nodded, closing her eyes momentarily in exhaustion. As he helped her rise to her feet, they noticed that Dimitri Poulis had passed out. As soon as he was sure that Rachel had regained her stamina, he rushed to Dimitri's side, and started untying him. As he undid the last rung, Dimitri gradually opened his eyes, glanced frantically about him, and asked Nick, who, hands on both knees, was standing over and observing him closely, "What the hell's happened? Where the fuck am I?"

"You mean you don't know?" asked Nick.

"Hell, no, I don't!"

"You don't remember anything?"

"What the fuck are you talkin' about, Nick? The last thing I remember is stepping into the elevator to go home. That's all!"

"Running Deer, what does this mean?" Rachel asked her friend, as she rose, walked over to the brave shaman, who had been observing the proceedings from his fixed spot.

"It means, Professor," he replied, his tired eyes lighting up in an epiphany of revelation, and breaking into a smile of relief, " that it's all over! We have won! Malcom Reynolds has returned to eternal night, to the Land of the Dead- forever -and your child is safe!" At the sound of those words, Rachel glanced down at her abdomen and smiled, tears of joy beginning to form in her eyes.

But those tears would soon turn to those of sorrow, for Running Deer began to gasp for air, and to place his right hand in the middle of his chest. He started involuntarily closing his eyes tightly, and collapsed on his right knee to the ground. Rachel rushed to his side, but it was too late. He took another tortured gasp, still holding his chest, and fell completely prostrate to the soft grass. He opened his eyes but once, as Rachel knelt over him. "I go to visit my family now," he said slowly. "Soon, I will know why all this had to be." He coughed, and then continued. "May I say, Professor to have known you, and to call you…a true Delaware daughter!" He managed a slight smile, closed his eyes, exhaled one more time, and was gone. With both arms, Rachel gently cupped and raised his face to hers, kissed his forehead, and cradled him as she had her grandfather when he had died six years ago, in his fight against the chindi. Like her grandfather, he was a proud, honorable gentleman, and a true shaman. She was proud to have become this man's friend and ally. She closed her eyes and sobbed audibly.

Meanwhile, other unexpected events were happening elsewhere. At the moment of Reynolds' destruction, Rag Man had fallen, face down, to the floor. When he had awakened, he had staggered to his feet, looked around his cell in genuine confusion, and called out for the attending doctor. The two guards, who had been observing these strange proceedings on the ceiling monitors in their office, had notified Dr. Harris. When Harris had arrived at Rag Man's cell, and had asked if he was all right, the lunatic had had no idea who this doctor was, or why he had been placed in the Netherworld. Later, when questioned further, it was apparent that Rag Man had absolutely no memory of the last six weeks, including his murder of Jimmy Trevalian, and scoffed at the very notion that he had ever craved lower life forms for consumption. Harris, who would admit, confidentially, that this case had definitely been "one for the books," subsequently recommended to the Court that Rag Man be declared criminally insane, and therefore unable to stand trial for his crime, and that he remain under state supervised care for the rest of his life.

In Howard House that day, the old charwoman and her grandson, at the same moment of Reynolds' destruction, had suddenly found themselves blinking and squinting at a great light emanating from within the open tomb. At the center of this bright light had appeared a long, winding tunnel, and they had heard, for the first time in over a century, the sounds of singing robins, and had felt the sensation of warm, fresh air upon their bodies. Immediately, they had risen to their feet, and had found themselves drawn to the tunnel's center. It was to this spot that the two had headed, smiling, and hand in hand, as they had walked into the tunnel, knowing that their long, accursed ordeal had at last ended. The brilliant light had bathed their two bodies and had swallowed them up on their way out of Howard House, and onto their blessed destination. The House, ever thereafter, would remain quiet, and no more would either ghost again be seen in its corridors.

Days later, after Rachel had contacted the Dublin-Columbus Delaware and made special honors funeral arrangements with them for Running Deer, Nick and Rachel returned to Wooster, to pick up her Hyundai, which they had left at the hospital. When they arrived at the Emergency Center, Rachel found that her car had been ticketed for overdue parking, and towed to the municipal impound lot. They then had to pay the ticket and the impound release charge, in order to get it out. "Well, it figures," laughed Rachel to Nick. "The last time I was a hero, my car was ticketed, too! That's the gratitude I get! I just can't win!" Nick chuckled sympathetically.

Circumstances, however, would soon be looking up for the couple. Bearing no hard feelings, Stacy had made good on her promise to speak up for Nick, and Dimitri, while still not completely understanding the explanation that Nick and Rachel had given him for his presence at the Ghost Dance site that evening, had hired Nick full time to replace Stacy, who had decided to leave, in order to set up her own practice. And nine months later, Lilith Fawn Graffanino (her first name, a shortened version of 'Tiger Lily,' and her middle name, in honor of their brave, departed ally, Running Deer) made her debut into the world. The nurses at the delivery room of the Carlton Hospital Maternity Ward marveled at how beautiful a baby she was. Indeed, with her black hair and green eyes, she resembled a miniature Rachel, but with, as her parents would later discover, her father's smile. She would be baptized and raised in the Catholic Church, according to her paternal grandparents' request, but still be taught, by her mother, ecumenical Delaware traditions.

When they had brought their baby home that chilly March day and laid her to sleep in her crib, in a spare area of the house that Nick had renovated into a nursery, it was finally time for the couple to relax. Rachel, who had been given time off, with pay, by the University for maternity leave, changed from her light brown wool sweater and dark gray cardigans into her bathrobe and slippers, sat in a plush lavender living room recliner, and took a long, contended sigh. Nick slipped off his slate gray wool sport coat, which he promptly placed on the back of the other, identical recliner, to Rachel's far right, loosened the collar of his beige cotton dress shirt, as well as his dark brown tie, walked over to the sofa, and sat down on the far right cushion, next to his wife. With his left hand, he casually picked up a copy of the Ohio OBAR Magazine that, as a member of the Ohio Bar Association, he had subscribed, to, and had gotten through the mail that day. He leaped through the magazine, paused at a headline that had caught his eye, and said "Hey, Rach, listen to this: "`Local Chippewa group in southern Ohio petitioning the city of Mansfield for the right to hold a ceremonial 'Ghost Dance' over municipal ground!'" Instantly, Nick could not bring himself to keep reading, as a feeling of fear ran through his body like an electrical current. Instantly, Rachel felt the same, foreboding sensation, and the two, for several seconds, stared at each with disbelief…and concern for the immediate future.

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