Chapter 3: The Shaman
Jim stood up out of his seat. “You what?”
But the viewer just nodded. “Just walked right on in. Looks like a native.”
“A native?” Kerri blurted, making for the door. “We’re a hundred miles away from the nearest reservation. How the hell…”
Pushing the other viewer to the side as she reached the offending station, she sat down in front of the screen and slipped the headset over her ears.
Darren Henderson’s voice joined the first-person HeadCam view of an old, weathered-faced man with copper-russet skin and broad features. Kerri squinted at the image jerking in and out of view as Darren shook his head and looked around. “Where’s the Squawk?”
The viewer who had come to fetch them slapped the radio into Kerri’s open hand, and she raised it to her mouth, holding down the speak button. “Darren, can you hear me?” A small burst of static announced her releasing the button and she muttered, “Come on, come on… Please Darren, tell me you’re wearing the Squawk.” Nothing happened, and she pressed the button again. “Darren! Pick up! Pick—oh, for God’s sake.” And she hit the red emergency alarm button on the radio’s face.”
The strident tone reached her ears through the headset and she breathed a short sigh. The camera view ducked as Darren searched for his end and suddenly, the radio hissed and he answered.
Flicking one of her earpieces off, Kerri mashed hard on the radio button. “Darren! It’s Kerri. I need you to take off your HeadCam and hold it in your hand. Hear? Hold it in your hand so I can see.”
Darren didn’t answer, but there was a brief clatter of feedback before the HeadCam jostled and reoriented facing the unexpected visitor.
He looked like an image out of a history book. Most of the locals down at the reservation wore the average American wardrobe, but the man taking up center screen in Darren’s view was dressed in skins, fringed and furred, complete with beaded hems and hide boots. A three-strand bone-and-claw necklace hung from his neck, and his hair was braided and bound on either side of his head with leather wraps. The colors and adornments decorating his person were suggestive of a medicine man or some kind of spiritual leader, but… some of the symbols inked into his leather sleeves were clearly Sanskrit. Maybe the North American version of a shaman?
“Jim,” Kerri hissed, “there’s not supposed to be anyone out here. Uninhabited, you said. No one for miles.”
Jim was gritting his teeth when she looked up at him.
“I had to improvise.”
“We had a budget!”
“James Harper, if you’ve gone and—”
But she cut off as the tribesman began to speak. He was speaking English, but his words were hesitant and heavily accented. Kerri frowned as she watched the screen, but his expansive hand gestures waving Darren away left little need to interpret what he was saying.
Darren took a step back and the image jostled. Kerri squinted harder, leaning toward the monitor, shaking her head as she picked out one or two of his thick words. Spirit land? Go away? Hunting?
She jumped when Jim’s hand suddenly snatched the 2-way from her sweaty fingers.
“Darren. It’s Jim. Point me at this guy.” The sound of plastic rattling came through the speakers and then Darren’s radio floated into view. Jim stood, taking the 2-way with him as he walked back toward the office. “This is Jim Harper, executive producer of Wild—” Then the door to the office closed.
Turning back to the screen, Kerri fumbled both earpieces back into place and turned the volume on the system up. The sound was distorted, but she could just make out Jim’s voice coming from the radio held in Darren’s hand, still calling out to the unnamed tribesman.
Slowly, he approached, stepping hesitantly toward Darren and reaching out to take the radio. Darren made a show of pointing to the speak button and then handed it over. Straining her ears, Kerri tried to pick through the argument playing out before her.
…Thought we had an agreement…
…No, cannot stay…
…Not what we discussed…
…Things not decided…
…Oh yes, they were decided…
…Not all told…
…Tribe will be paid in full…
But then the tribesman and radio were too far away to make out any more. “Jim, what have you gotten us into?” she muttered under her breath. Turning in her seat, she craned her neck to see through the window to the office.
Jim was there, making wild hand gestures as he spoke into the radio, facial expressions making it clear that he was over-enunciating his words and speaking loudly. Jim Harper, you are an absolute ass…
Pressing her lips together in a tight line, she looked back to the screen. The tribesman was facing away from them, listening to whatever it was that Jim was saying. But then he stiffened, turning to look down at the little 2-way in his hand.
Kerri’s brows drew together as she watched the hide-clad native stride back over to Darren and hold the radio stiffly out in front of him. He was too close for Kerri to see his face in the video feed, but she could tell he was staring at Darren’s face.
“Leave. Now. While you can.”
His voice was clear as crystal through the camera’s microphone, and his words sent a chill racing through Kerri’s gut. Then, braids bobbing once as he nodded, he turned and walked away up the rocky landscape.
Jim’s distorted voice joined the feed again. “Don’t worry Darren. It’s been handled. You’re good.”
“Yeah? Then what’s all that about leaving while I can? I’m not going to get scalped in my sleep, or anything, am I?”
Kerri rolled her eyes. Asshat. This isn’t a wild west movie…
But Jim’s answering voice jolted her out of her disgust. “Nah, man. You’re good. Just ghost stories and native legend. I’ve got an arrangement with the tribe. No one’s going to bother you.”
Fuming, Kerri ripped the headset from her ears and marched off in the direction of the office.