“I saw a truck near our driveway,” Jeremy admitted to Annie when asked if he saw what she saw. “Do you think it was Mitch?”
“I know it was him,” Annie said. “If I could prove it I would have him arrested for breaking the no contact order. I’m going by and have a word with him tomorrow.”
“I’ll go with you,” Jeremy offered. “I think Mitch has gone off the deep end, and there is no telling what he might do.”
“No Jeremy, remember the no contact order includes your entire family,” Annie pointed out. “If you make contact it might jeopardize the order.”
“At least have him meet you at a public place, Jeremy said.”
“I’ll be fine,” Annie said. “He is more afraid of me than I am of him. Besides, there is no way he would be willing to meet me.”
“Jeremy is right you know,” Dorothy said. “If you insist on going, I’ll go with you.”
Jeremy realized there was no need to argue with Annie. Once she made up her mind there was no changing it. “Good night and you two be very careful,” he said as he went inside.
After eating a big breakfast of bacon and eggs, Jeremy began packing for his return back to the university. He had enjoyed his winter break with his expanded family, but he also missed his friends back in Norman. His work was interrupted by the doorbell.
“Do you know Annie Wolf or Dorothy Howell?” A Cherokee Marshall asked.
“Yes,” Jeremy answered as his heart raced. He knew something serious was wrong. “Are they alright?”
“There has been a shooting,” Marshall Raymond Bearpaw said. “They are alive but I don’t know how bad it is. Both were also shot but Mrs. Howell isn’t as serious as Mrs. Wolf. Mr. and Mrs. Downing are both dead.”
“They’re dead?” Jeremy asked in puzzlement.
“Yes, it appears that Mr. Downing shot the two elderly women and then his wife and himself,” Raymond said. “Do you want me to give you a ride to the hospital?”
“Thank you, but I’m okay to drive,” Jeremy said as he tried to compose himself, but it was obvious he wasn’t.
“I had better drive you,” Raymond insisted.
“Alright, let’s get to the hospital,” Jeremy relented as he dialed Nancy’s cell phone.
“Mom, meet me at the hospital,” Jeremy said in a trembling voice. “Annie and Dorothy have been shot by Mitch. He then killed Kay and himself.”
“Oh my God!” Nancy exclaimed. “We’ll go back to the high school and pick up Scott and Molly. Which hospital were they taken to?”
“I would imagine that Annie is at Hastings Indian Hospital and Dorothy at City Hospital,” Jeremy said.
“They’re both at Hastings,” Raymond interjected.
“Marshall Bearpaw said that they’re both at Hastings,” Jeremy said.
“We’ll meet you there,” Nancy said.
“Are you sure that Dorothy is at Hastings?” Jeremy asked Raymond. “She isn’t Cherokee is she?”
“No, she’s a Cherokee Freemen descendant,” Raymond said.
(Note: Cherokee Freemen were former slaves of Cherokees who were given tribal rights following the Civil War. http://www.cherokeebyblood.com/blackindians.htm#A Treaties between Indian Tribes and the US Government provided for free medical care for tribal members.)
Jeremy learned that Dorothy was still in emergency and that Annie was already in surgery. “Are you alright?” Jeremy asked as he rushed to Dorothy’s side.
“I’ll be fine,” Dorothy assured him. “Mine was just a flesh wound, but I’m concerned about Annie. They said she had lost a lot of blood and took her to surgery right away to try and stop the bleeding.”
“What happened?” Jeremy asked as tears began to flow.
“I tried to talk her out of going to see Mitch,” Dorothy began. “I told Annie that I had a bad feeling about this. She admitted that she also had a bad feeling, but said she was afraid of what might happen to Molly if she didn’t go. She said that Mitch was a coward and wouldn’t bother Scott, but he would Molly. She didn’t want me to go with her, but I’m just as stubborn as she is.”
“When Annie confronted Mitch about watching your house from the driveway, he pulled a gun on her. I immediately called 911. Mitch saw me on the phone and shot me. Annie grabbed for the gun and he shot her. When Kay heard the shots she ran out of the house and I guess it startled Mitch. It appeared that he shot Kay before he realized who it was. He then put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.”
“Was Cody there?” Jeremy asked.
“No, I don’t believe that he was,” Dorothy said. “The Marshall thinks he has gone back to school at Weatherford. They are trying to get word to him now.”
“Dorothy, are you alright?” Allen asked as he arrived just as Dorothy finished her account of what happened.
“I’ll be okay,” Dorothy assured him. “Where are Nancy and the kids?”
“They are in the waiting room,” Allen said. “Nancy didn’t want to leave them alone right now.”
“I’ll go sit with them and she can come back and see Dorothy,” Jeremy offered.
Jeremy spotted Nancy with an arm around Scott and Molly. Molly’s eyes were red from crying and Scott was staring into space.
“What happened? Are they okay?” Nancy asked when she spotted Jeremy.
Jeremy briefly explained what he knew and that Annie was in surgery, but that she could go back and see Dorothy. “I’ll wait here with Scott and Molly while you go back and see Dorothy,” he offered.
After several minutes of uncomfortable silence Molly finally said, “All of this is my fault.”
“There is no way this is your fault,” Jeremy tried to assure her.
“Hell no,” Scott agreed. “Dad is the one that had gone crazy.”
“Well maybe if I would have let him…,” Molly stopped and mid sentence and began to cry.
“Let him what?” Scott asked. “Did he try to molest you?”
“He came to my room one night when he had been drinking and tried to get into bed with me,” Molly managed to say between sobs. “He said that it was okay because it was in the Bible, and that Lott had sex with his daughters.”
“That sorry son-of-a-bitch,” Scott snapped.
“I told him that if he touched me that I would tell you and that you would beat the crap out of him,” Molly said.
“Why didn’t you tell me about it?” Scott asked.
“I guess I was embarrassed and I knew you might kill him and end up in jail,” Molly said.
“It’s over now,” Jeremy said as he pulled her into a hug.
“The doctor is with Dorothy,” Nancy said as she and Allen joined the three. “She will probably be released to go home. I’m taking her home with us for a few days.”
“Is there any word about Annie yet?” Jeremy asked.
“She is in recovery now,” Allen said. “She’ll be going to intensive care later.”
Annie began to feel her spirit leave her body and the pain. She was in the seven sided council house with the Sacred Eternal Flame illumination the interior. The flame felt warm and heartening. People from the seven clans were seated in the seven separate areas of the council house facing the fire. Smoke from the fire filled the room before finding its way to the smoke hole in the roof.
The smoke filled room caused Annie to struggle to breath. When she stopped struggling for air she began to feel calmness. The smoke began to clear and she spotted her departed husband among the people of the Wolf Clan. She began to feel herself drift toward him when he rose and said, “No my love, it isn’t your time yet. Your work in the world of the living isn’t done.”
Annie’s husband placed her hand in the hand of young Cherokee man wearing a breechclout and leggings. “You must finish teaching him the ways of the Cherokee. You must teach him the way of your Paint Clan. Your clan is the clan of the medicine men.” he said as he disappeared back to join the members of Wolf Clan.
Annie looked at the face of the young man and realized it was Jeremy. Jeremy gently squeezed her hand and led her out of the council house. The brightness of the sun after being in the dimness of the council house caused Annie to squint her eyes.
Jeremy sat holding Annie’s hand in the ICU as he prayed. He wasn’t sure of to whom he prayed. His family wasn’t regular church goers, and Mitch’s religion had raised many questions about God.
Jeremy thought he saw movement of Annie’s eyelids. He gently squeezed her hand and though he felt her squeeze his hand back. “Her vitals are improved,” Jeremy heard the nurse say. He had not realized that she had entered the room.
“I have to change her dressing and I will need you to step outside for a while,” Nurse Mattie said.
When Jeremy returned to Annie’s room she was in wrist restraints. “Why does she have these on?” He asked Mattie.
“She keeps trying to pull her intubation tube out Mattie explained. “She is a fighter, and I’m amazed at how well she is doing. It wouldn’t surprise me that she can come off the respirator by tomorrow.”
“How is she doing?” Allen asked as he entered the room.
“Mattie said that she may come off the respirator tomorrow,” Jeremy said. “How are Scott and Molly doing?”
“Nancy took them home,” Allen explained. “Those kids have been through hell recently.”
“What will happen to them now?”
“Nancy and I will try to adopt them. Would you be okay with that?”
“Of course it would. I’ve been reading up online about how you could adopt them. When I was reading I also read that they couldn’t be placed in a home unless it was an approved foster home. How were you and mom able to get them placed with you so soon?”
“Annie must have had a premonition about all this,” Allen began. “She had encouraged Nancy and me to apply to become foster parents. We were already approved by the state and the Cherokee Nation when Mitch beat Molly. We’ll talk to an attorney next and start adoption proceedings.”
“What about Cody?”
“Cody is an adult, but he will always be welcome in our home. Besides, he is away at college. Speaking of college, when do your classes start?”
“Monday, but I’m not going back until Annie is okay.”
“That could take some time. You can’t miss that many classes.”
“Then I’ll just transfer back here to Northeastern.”
“All of your classes from OU many not match a degree plan from NSU and it would add time before you graduate. No Son, you need to stay at OU, and that’s what Annie would tell you to do if she could.”
Annie began to move around and attempted to move her hands. “Does she have to have these restraints on her wrist while we’re in the room?” Jeremy asked Mattie.
“I’ll remove them as long as you’re in the room. But, if you have to leave even for a minute let me know and I’ll place them back on.”
As soon as the restraints were removed Annie took her right hand and made motions on her left as if writing.
“Do you want to write a note?” Mattie asked.
Annie nodded yes to indicate that she wanted a pad and pencil. Although she was still very weak, Annie scribbled, “Go back to OU.”
“Annie, I can’t go back until you’re better,” Jeremy said.
Annie then scribbled, “I ok. GO!”
“I think you had better agree before she gets out of that bed and slaps you around,” Allen laughed.
“Okay Annie I’ll go back,” Jeremy agreed. “But, I’ll be back as soon as my last class of the week is over.”
Annie nodded her agreement and drifted off to sleep.
“How is Annie?” Dorothy and Nancy both asked when Jeremy and Allen arrived back home from the hospital.
“Unbelievable and she will probably come off the ventilator in the morning,” Allen said. “She even wrote a note telling Jeremy to go on back to Norman.”
“I’m so glad she will be okay,” Molly said as she placed a bowl of steaming hot stew in front of Allen and then Jeremy.
Mmm this is good,” Jeremy said.
“Molly made it,” Nancy proudly announced.
“Cody is home,” Molly said to draw attention away from her.
“Yes, he has already made funeral arrangements,” Nancy said.
“When is the funeral?” Allen asked.
“Wednesday at 2:00,” Nancy said.
“I’m not going,” Scott said with a bit of anger in his voice.
“Do I have to go?” Molly asked.
“You two are old enough to make up your own minds,” Nancy said. “All we ask is that you’re sure about your decision.”
The discussion was interrupted by the door bell. “I’ll get it,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy opened the door to see Cody and a man approximately the age of his parents at the door.
“Hi Jeremy,” Cody said. “This is Uncle Jim and we’re here to take Scott and Molly home.”
“Come on in,” Jeremy said. “I’ll get Mom and Dad.”
“He said that we were here to get Scott and Molly, and not your mom and dad,” Jim virtually shouted.
“Listen, this is our home,” Jeremy shouted back. “If you want to come in and act civil, then come in. Otherwise, I suggest you leave.”
“What’s going on here?” Allen asked when he came to investigate the racket.
“We’re here for the kids,” Jim shouted.
“First of all, this is our home,” Allen said. “I suggest that you tone it down if you don’t want me to throw your ass out.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Scott angrily shouted.
“I’m your uncle and you’ll go if I say so,” Jim argued.
“I don’t think so,” Nancy said. “Scott and Molly were placed here under court order. Try to take them against their will and we’ll have you arrested.”
“You haven’t heard the last of this,” Jim said as he pulled Cody out the door with him. “I don’t want my niece and nephew living in a house with a fag.”
The next morning, Jeremy was surprised to see that Annie was off the machine and breathing on her own and out of intensive care. Other than hoarseness in her voice, she seemed fine.
“The rest of the family will be here soon,” Jeremy explained as he kissed Annie on the cheek. “I woke up early and decided to come and see you. I didn’t sleep well after Jim Downing came by and wanted to take Scott and Molly.”
“That Reverend Langley is behind this,” Annie declared. “Get that phony Bible thumper on the phone for me.”
After looking up and dialing the number for Annie, Jeremy handed the phone to her. “Hello Preacher,” she began. “This is Annie Wolf and I need to talk to you as soon as possible. Yes, that will be fine.”
In about 25 minutes there was a light tap on Annie’s door and a man that Jeremy recognized as Reverend Langley entered with a Bible in hand. “Mrs. Wolf, I can see that our prayers have been answered and that you are doing well.”
“No Preacher,” Annie replied. “I’m sure that you were praying that I too would die. But sit down and we’ll visit.
“Not with that fag in the room,” Reverend Langley said.
“Jeremy will stay, and you will talk to me,” Annie said. “Besides, you and I both know that you’re gay also.”
“I’m leaving,” Reverend Langley said, but he then saw that Jeremy was blocking the door. He knew that at 5’ 6” he couldn’t force his way past Jeremy and reluctantly sat down.
“First, I know that you’re behind Jim going to the Morgan’s last night,” Annie began.
“You don’t know that,” the reverend protested.
“Oh, but I do,” Annie countered. “And, I’m telling you now that you’ll put a stop to it.”
“Mitch always said that you’re a witch and was afraid of you,” the reverend said. “But, I’m not afraid of you.”
“I’m not a witch, but you should fear me,” Annie said with a laugh that would make one shiver.
“It isn’t right for those kids to live in the same house with that fag,” the reverend said.
“Gay, the word is gay,” Jeremy said as he stood still blocking the door.
“You heard Jeremy,” Annie said. “You will not use that word again unless you’re talking about yourself. You, of all people should know about being gay.”
“I know the Bible tells us that it is a sin,” Reverend Langley said as he started thumbing though the Bible looking for a particular verse.
“You can stop thumping that Bible, you hypocritical bastard,” Annie said. “You and I both know that you and Mitch were lovers since you were teenagers.”
“That’s a lie,” the reverend screeched.
“Let me tell you something Preacher,” Annie calmly said. “When you were teenagers Mitch’s mother, Betty, came to me with a love letter you had written to Mitch”
“I didn’t write a love letter to Mitch,” Langley argued, but he was obviously shaken.
“Oh, but you did,” Annie smiled. “Betty gave me that letter to put in my safety deposit box until she could decide what to do with. She died before she ever asked for it back. You can stop denying that you’re gay, at least to yourself. I don’t care one way or the other if you’re gay, but I do care that you preach against those that have no choice about their sexuality. You should know that yourself.”
The reverend opened his mouth to speak, but Annie said, “I’m not finished yet, and then you may speak. I know that you plan to blame the Morgans, and Jeremy in particular, for the death of Mitch and Kay at the funeral. That wouldn’t be wise for you to do that.”
“You don’t know that,” Langley protested.
“I know more than you think,” Annie laughed. “If you chose to ignore my warning your congregation will see your love letter to Mitch.”
“You wouldn’t do that,” Reverend Langley protested. “That’s blackmail.”
“Yes, it could be blackmail,” Annie agreed. “But, I’m an old woman and not likely to spend any prison time. However, you and I both know that I’m smarter than you are and that I could release it in a way that wouldn’t incriminate me.
“What do you want from me?” Reverend Langley caved in.
“I want you to do what is right,” Annie smiled. “You will not place the blame for the Downing’s death on anyone but Mitch. You will not preach against any minorities and gays in particular. And, you will call off Jim about custody of Scott and Molly. I know there is no chance you could get custody, but the Morgans don’t need that hassle.”
“I want that letter then,” Reverend Langley demanded.
“That would be up to Jeremy after I’m gone,” Annie said. “He will get possessions of my personal property.”
Reverend Langley looked at Jeremy with pleading eyes. Jeremy smiled and said, “You might get the letter when you publicly out yourself.”
“You know I can’t do that,” the reverend said.
“You were willing to out me,” Jeremy said. “I don’t deny that I’m gay, but I don’t advertise it either.”
“You have your answer, now you may go,” Annie said.
“Do you think he will cause any problems?” Jeremy asked after Reverend Langley left.
“He’s not very bright, but he is smart enough to know that he has lost on this,” Annie said. “I am worried about Scott. Molly will be fine, but Scott is in pain. I’m gravely concerned about him.”
“What can we do?”
“Let me talk to him alone. On the second thought, I want you in on the talk too. I’m supposed to train you to be Cherokee. This would be a good start of your training.”
The talk with Scott that afternoon seemed to be going nowhere. He seemed to be tuning Annie and Jeremy out. Finally, Jeremy said, “Look Scott, I know how you hurt. I too have gone through a lot of pain. I was angry at the whole world when Blake was murdered. But, mostly I was angry at myself because I wasn’t there to protect him. You can’t continue blaming yourself for any of this. It will eat away at your heart.”
“He’s right, you know,” Annie said. “Have you seen how happy Molly is now?
Scott began to wipe tears from his eyes when Jeremy handed him a tissue box. “I’m so confused about all of this,” Scott said. “I should have protected Molly and I didn’t. Yes, I know I couldn’t be with her 24 hours a day. But, I can’t help feel that had I been there she would have been beaten by dad.”
“Scott, she is happy now,” Annie reiterated. “She still loves and respects you as we all do.”
“I know why I’m not sad that Dad is dead, but I can’t understand why I’m not sad about Mom,” Scott said.
“Kay had no self worth, Scott,” Annie said. “Mitch took that from her years ago. In her state of mind, she wasn’t capable of protecting you kids.”
Scott and Molly decided to attend the funeral, but refused to sit with the Downing family. Reverend Langley must have taken Annie for her word and placed the blame for the shootings on Mitch’s mental illness.
Jeremy drove away from Tahlequah on his way back to Norman feeling better about Scott, but he had a nagging feeling that a change was about to come about in his life.