White Buffalo, A Short Story
The ride from Sunset Beach to Pembroke, North Carolina is two hours. We were half way there and I had asked Steve Eaglefeather the same question five times before.
"So I'm going to meet Jana Mashonee?"
"Don't know," Steve said. "Didn't know the sixteen other times you asked."
"I've only asked a couple of times .... But it is likely, right."
"Maybe," Steve said. "If we can return the white buffalo."
"You mean when," I said and slid my copy of American Indian Story into the CD player. I settled back in the passenger seat of Steve's Avalanche and tried to rest. I had done my P.I. thing the previous two nights on a domestic surveillance and was in need of a little sleep.
We met Doctor Johnson, Dean of UNC-Pembroke, in his office in the administration building. A nervous little man with black rimmed glasses too big for his small face and large nose, he was dressed in a blue seersucker suit that was in style when Andy Griffith was still on TV. Dr. Johnson cleared his throat habitually, as if he had a chronic sinus problem.
"Mr. Justice, the white buffalo is extremely important to Native Americans, as I'm sure Steven has told you," Dr. Johnson was in full lecture mode. "There is a belief among the Lakota Sioux that Whope, goddess of peace, once appeared as a white buffalo and ......"
"What's Whoopee got to do with this?" I asked and was ignored by both men. I yawned, never was a good student.
"...... some believe that she will return after the fourth white buffalo is born." Dr. Johnson said, then turned to me. "We take this seriously, Mr. Justice. It's not a trivial matter."
"What do you want us to do?" Steve asked.
"We simply can’t pay this ransom," he said and cleared his throat.
"Or Sunset Investigations," I said. "But don't worry about that. Steve assures me I will get to meet Jana so I'm good."
Johnson added a cough to the throat thing and shook his head.
"With the animal missing, the video shoot is in limbo," he said.
I snapped around to give Steve a dirty look but he just shrugged as if it didn't matter.
"We're dealing with amateurs here," I said.
"Explain your hypothesis, Mr. Justice," Dr. Johnson challenged as if this was collegiate debating 101. I looked for a blackboard but figured Glenn Beck must have gotten them all.
"Three things stick out," I said. "They asked for too little money, they demanded that Steve deliver the ransom personally, and they let him pick out the location for the transfer."
"What is your plan, Steven?" Doctor Johnson cleared his throat again and so did I. Couldn't help myself. Really, I couldn't.
"We'll meet with them. We'll take the white buffalo from them and then return it." Steve said.
Doctor Johnson looked at me.
"This is Steve's party," I said. "I'm just here to help Steve .........and to meet Jana."
Supper that night was on Steve and we were eating in one of Pembroke's finest establishments, Mariani's. We had a table near the waterfall and the special was blackened tilapia with sauted shrimp and garlic parmesan sauce. Since Steve was paying, I chose the most expensive steak on the menu. But I really wanted to try the tilapia.
"Jana eats here, right?" I asked the waitress when she delivered my perfectly cooked medium filet.
"Who?" She asked.
Steve snickered, I blushed and the waitress disappeared.
"You gotta get a life, J. J.," Steve said.
"Everybody says that," I said. "Tell me about Leroy."
"It's Lee Roy," Steve said. "Last name Roy, first name Lee. Lee Roy."
Steve was eating the tilapia I wanted and it sure looked good. I glanced up when a couple came in the front door. Not her.
"Championship game my senior year here, twenty-seconds on the clock and I threw a pass to Junior Blankenship for the win." Steve said. "Panthers signed him as a wide receiver the following spring."
"And that has what to do with Leroy?" I was drinking my coffee black in deference to my lack of sleep.
"He was the other guy downfield, the one who did not get the ball thrown to him, the one who ended up working at a dead end job." Steve said. "He made some bad life choices, did a stretch at Central Correctional in Raleigh, got mixed up with the Aryan brotherhood....."
"I like this place," I said. "A medium steak is medium, not medium rare or medium well, just medium. Delicious." I cut another bite. "So you choose to make Junior a hero instead of Leroy and ten years later Leroy steals Jana's white buffalo and holds it for ransom. Makes perfect sense....."
"I didn't choose Blankenship," Steve said. "Lee Roy wasn't even open. The buffalo is from a ranch in Texas, it's not Jana's and ...... there was a girl."
"Ain't there always." I said.
Five am found us parked on the bank of the Lumbee river and dawn was less than an hour away.
"What's the plan?" I asked.
"It's fluid." Steve stretched. Long night in the truck.The talapia had caused some high octane problems with Steve's stomach and the results had kept me awake most of the night. He slept like a baby, and smelled like the diaper.
"Leroy will show up with the buffalo in a trailer and he expects to get the money and just walk away?" I asked.
"I suspect he will attempt to kick my behind, then kill or maim the buffalo and leave me to take the blame for the whole thing." Steve said.
"So he'll bring help."
"Okay," I said. "What do you want me to do?"
"You hide in bushes, Kemosabe."
"Excellent idea," I said, getting out of the truck. "I hate the smell of processed Talapia in the morning."
We both heard them turn off the main highway and start slowly down the dirt road. I ducked back a bit farther into the bushes. Should have worn some camo.
Three guys were piled up in the seat of the rusted out mid seventies half ton Chevrolet truck. It was a short bed step-side and the part that was not rust colored was the ugliest shade of blue I ever saw. As it passed my spot in the bushes the truck stopped and the three men pulled ski masks over their faces. The driver scrubbed the truck into first. As it growled down the hill toward Steve and the riverbank, I saw what I assumed was the south end of a northbound white buffalo sticking out of the back of the trailer.
Steve got out of his truck with a green duffle bag in one hand and his .45 Kimber in the other and I figured it was a good time to get fluid. Breaking from cover, I ran directly to the rear of the trailer, and followed as the truck moved down the road. The truck stopped. The driver got out on his side, the other two on the passenger side.
While everyone was watching Steve, I eased up behind the truck's tailgate.
"Drop the gun," the driver said. "and bring the money over here."
Instead, Steve took two steps forward then tossed the bag into the air. Before the driver could tear his eyes away from the bag, Steve snapped the Kimber up to rest rock solid in a two handed grip at center mass.
"You might be fast, but you can't get us all," the driver mumbled through his mask, his gun hung useless by his side.
"He doesn't have to," I said. I had gotten into a right hand kneeling position behind the truck. "I hope you guys turn around before the shooting starts. Might be hard to explain shooting you in the back when the cops show up."
It was so quiet for a minute you could hear the chiggers having their morning coffee.
"How about it, Lee Roy," Steve said. "This a good day to die?"
Calling his name seemed to take all the bluff out of old Leroy, and he cursed then dropped his pistol limply to the dirt. After taking Saturday night specials off the other two guys, we cuffed them together and to the front bumper of the pickup. I called it in to the local Sheriff's Office and we unloaded the buffalo. By "we" I mean Steve.
"Is it okay?" I asked.
"He better be." Steve glowered at the three men as we passed them and took the animal down to the Lumbee for a drink.
The longer it drank, the angrier Steve got. When it finally lifted it's head it nudged Steve's stomach with it's massive black nose then raised it's head and stared at him. As far as I could tell, neither blinked for a couple of minutes.
"His name is Lightning Medicine Cloud." Steve looked over at me and then grinned like a school boy with the keys to daddy's Mustang, a six-pack, and a hot date.
We pulled in at the football stadium with Lightning Medicine Cloud in the trailer behind Steve's truck. A bustling crowd had gathered on the field and polite applause ensued punctuated by the occasional war cry. I sat in the Avalanche and tried to sleep while Steve was congratulated, slapped on the back, and lavished with praise. Every now and then I spotted a young lady with long black hair that had her back to me and then I had to watch until I figured out it wasn't Jana. Eventually. I closed my eyes....
"Go back to sleep," Steve said sliding in minutes later. "I'll have you back in Myrtle Beach in time for your court appearance. Just barely, but we'll make it."
Too tired to speak and barely awake, my head rolled over on the headrest and I watched as a black Corvette Z06 passed us headed into the stadium. I fell back asleep thinking about the lady driver and the out of state vanity plate I saw in the rear view mirror:
I want to thank Woody Sampson, a guy I only know from Facebook, for sending me the information on Mariani's. I have no idea if Jana eats there, but it looks like a great place and I will check it out the next time I go to Pembroke. I also want to thank Jana Mashonee for allowing me to use her name or at least for not sending the internet police to see me about stalking!
For anyone who is not a Jana fan (hard to imagine, I know!) the two words mirrored on the license plate are ONE TRIBE. That's a reference to the words in her song and video "The Enlightened Time". If you haven't, watch it on Youtube sometime.
J.J. Justice and Steve Eaglefeather are characters I dreamed up for my book Justice @ Sunset which will be finished...... someday. The only similarity between me and J.J. is our taste in music. Well, maybe not the only one.
Everyone tells me I should get a life too!
Thanks to Buck Moore for the link!
Thanks to Bobby Richardson for the link!
- Legend of the White Buffalo
Legend of the White Buffalo
Here's the original report that inspired this story.
A Little Jana Music!
- Jana Mashonee - The Hunt - YouTube
From Jana Mashonee's GRAMMY nominated album, American Indian Story. http://www.janamashonee.com/store.html Click here to purchase! NEW ALBUM COMING JANUARY 2...
Hub about Jana's Charity
Hub Short Story On How Justice and Steve Met.
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