Riddles on the Wind (5)

Please be patient. It’s taking a while to get back into the rhythms of writing. The latest death in the extended family has taken it’s toll. Just as we thought everything was settled down, life went to hell in that damned handbasket again. Hope you enjoy the latest installment… 

Jeffreys took the men to the train station the next afternoon. As he watched the train pull slowly out of the station, he could have sworn he saw a pack of wolves race the train. He turned to holler at the station master, but by the time he found him, the wolves had disappeared. On the last car of the train, he saw three of the men wave at him. He waved back.

Andre turned to Felix and Paul. “Damn close. That Mountie, he watch us.”

Paul nodded. “We grab the men pret damn quick. They dressed now. Hope no one count them tickets.”

The other two men nodded. They headed back towards the Second Class cars, where the rest of the pack sat. They watched the scenery flow by and then disappear as the night closed in. The men went in groups of fours or fives to the dining car to eat. They curled up and slept while others took turns on watch.

At dawn, the train stopped to pick up passengers. Some of the men slipped off the train so that when the conductor came through, the tickets matched the head count. As the train started up, Andre and Felix made certain that all the men got back on. When he went back into their compartment, there were two new men. They smiled at Andre. Not certain of what to do, he smiled back.

“You are?” he began to ask.

The first man stood. He towered over Andre. “Big Bear. Cree-Saulteaux. You… Not Metis like these wolf pups, but boss man, Aye?”

Andre nodded. The man’s braids were shot with gray, and hung past his waist.

“This Pasquah. No good son.” Big Bear smiled as he shook the slight built man. “We see your men run for train, and decide that we come too.”

Andre looked over at Felix to see how the shifters were handling the intrusion. Felix nodded. “So, you recognize my friends?”

Big Bear and Pasquah sat down on the floor and smiled. Andre took his seat. He waited to see what the two men would say.

“We see you run. The woods hide many things. Metis, they are a shifty bunch.” Big Bear laughed this time. The tension in the room eased, and soon everyone was chatting. When the conductor came by to ask for tickets, he took one look at the two Indians and then just kept walking. Later, some of the men went to the dining car and came back with sandwiches and sodas for everyone. Afterwards, some men slept while others talked. Big Bear moved over to sit next to Andre.

“You been out a long time.”

“Over three years.”

“Hard to be civilized. What brings you back?”

“My daughter.” Andre was trying to figure out how to explain this to a total stranger who seemed to know him better than anyone since his father-in-law, Brian.

Big Bear nodded. “Your wife, she with her?”

“Non. Dead up that Yukon.” Andre looked out the window, trying to hold back the tears. His emotions were still so raw even after all this time. He felt a warm hand on his. He looked back to see Big Bear looking at him as if he knew everything.

“Hunters?” he asked softly.

Andre nodded.

Big Bear nodded. They sat there in silence as the train clacked down the rails.

Edmonton train station was loud. Full of people. Andre and the pack huddled together. Big Bear had sent Pasquah off to find information.

“We want to head to Leithbridge and then up into the mountains. It is too much for some of us though.” Andre didn’t want to admit that it was too much for all of them. The Mountie had given them money for tickets, but the confusion and crowds were overwhelming them.

“Pasquah will find us. He has a friend. Let us go outside and wait on the grass.”

Andre nodded and the men followed him. Paul was trying not to growl under his breath, and David just looked lost. Once they were outside, the men began to relax a little. Andre thought back to Brian and his sons during the war and wondered how they survived the long sea voyages without going crazy. He was ready to run bolt himself.

An hour later, Pasquah loped across the lawn to where the men sat. He came to a halt in front of his father. “I found Uncle and he has a truck he will let us use.”

“A truck?”

“A big farm truck. We just need to pay for petrol.” Pasquah pointed back at a 1940’s Deuce and a half. It had the wooden sides and canvas top. Another man waved from the window. “We can take you wherever you want.”

Andre looked around at the pack. One by one, they nodded. “Let’s get out of the city.”

Five hours later, Andre pointed towards the turn that would take them up to the valley and home. As the truck rolled past the sawmill, Andre had a feeling of dread overcome him. There were more lights and houses than there had been when they left. He worried that there would be no one there who knew him.

“Turn down that lane,” he directed George, who was driving. George followed his directions until they came to a small house with a sign out front that read ‘Clinic’. “Wait here.” Andre hopped out of the truck and headed for the door. He knocked, and a moment later, Tilly opened the door.

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