The sheriff’s department found nothing. No tracks, no blood, no bodies, nothing. After a three-day search of the woods, no trace of Susan or Danny was found. The search was called off.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Redsky,” the sheriff said, his thumbs tucked into his Sam Browne belt. “Whatever happened to them, there’s no trace left. We can’t find a single hair. I wish I could tell you more.”
With a tip of his hat and a hitch of his pants he got into his car. Moments later, he was gone, and I was alone. I stood in the doorway of the house we shared, staring down the road where the sheriff had disappeared. The house behind me was cold and dark. I didn’t want to spend another sleepless night within its empty walls. Neither did I want to leave, for if I left I would feel as though I had abandoned Susan and Danny.
I had taken the Winchester into the woods at first light the morning after they disappeared. I had searched every inch of the ground within a mile of the house, but to no avail. I couldn’t even find the giant tree into which they had disappeared. I expanded my search to take in more of the woods, knowing in the back of my head that I was searching too far. Still, I searched until dusk.
When darkness fell, I found shelter under a pine and waited out the night. I had hoped that the beast would show itself, or that I would hear it shuffling through the woods. I wanted to find the thing and follow it back to its lair. Or kill it, if it came to that.
However, the beast never showed, and I drifted off to sleep after the moon had reached its zenith. I awoke the next morning, my rifle still in my hands. The woods seemed quiet. I stood up, and that is when I noticed the strip of white stuck into the pine bough near me.
I reached out a trembling hand and pulled the fabric from the tree. I recognized it at once. It was a strip from Susan’s night dress. The goddamn beast was toying with me. I was going to need help. I went back to the house and called the sheriff’s department. That was when the fruitless search for my wife and son started. Three days wasted. I was at a loss.
I sat down in a chair on the porch, staring into the woods. In the back of my mind I hoped that if I thought and prayed hard enough, I could will my family into existence. I focused on the place where they had disappeared, looking desperately for a sign.
As I did, I saw someone in my peripheral vision walk up and take the chair next to me. I wanted to turn my head, but I could not seem to move. I continued to stare ahead as the newcomer sat quietly beside me. The light began to fade as dusk set in, bathing the world in hues of pink and violet. The air began to cool and a chilly breeze blew through the boughs.
“Where is your family, Redsky?”
The words were in Cree, but I understood them perfectly. Of all the things I had left behind when I walked away from my heritage, I still understood the language of the People. Without speaking, I gestured into the forest. The man, for it was a man, beside me sat quietly for a while longer.
“Why don’t you go in after them?”
“I did go in after them,” I said, responding in Cree. I could not help myself. Spoken to me, I spoke it back without thinking.
“How did you go, Redsky?”
“I went in with my rifle and searched.”
“You went in with a white man’s weapon and a white man’s determination. Go in with the intent of a Cree, with a warrior’s heart. You will find your family then.”
“What does that mean?” I asked, angrily.
“Return to the People Redsky, become the Wolf. Wear the skin proudly as I did. Only then, you will be able to fight the Akailoominus.”
I turned finally, slowly moving my head to stare at the old man who sat beside me. He was tall, a Cree, dark-skinned with a deeply lined face. He wore simple buckskins and his iron gray hair was loose about his shoulders adorned with two eagle feathers. My heart skipped a beat then. It was Two Eagle. It was my father.
My father who had been dead for fifteen years.
Two Eagle smiled at me, and then stood. He turned and walked away from me. When he walked into the sun, I lost him for a moment. As the sun dropped below the trees I realized I could no longer see him.
As mysteriously as he had come, he was gone.