That evening the Zinter house on U Street was turned into a ransacked mess. A hooded invader held Gabriel at knife point while two others searched through it, but they didn’t find what they were looking for. Gabriel was grateful his wife had seen this all coming and made herself scarce. She had already laid out the broad outline of how it would go. “This attack is important to Michael’s plans,” Robyn had told him. “You should just let things happen.”
After Gabriel’s attackers had searched the house che was taken into Robyn’s backyard and hung by small ropes wrapped around hez arms from a basketball hoop. Despite hez great height, Gabriel’s feet, tied together around the ankles, dangled a few inches over the concrete of the patio.
“Cut his shirt off so he’s not wasting my time.”
Gabriel recognized the voice as belonging to that of Johnny Sunkel. When hez shirt fell away in strips another voice said, “Look at that, he’s got little titties!” Gabriel knew that voice too. It was Larry Porter.
“Where’s the Golden Gift you fucking fairy?”
“It’s in the Temple, Johnny.”
“You don’t know our names!” There was a whistle and a crack. Gabriel grunted. It took about a second to fully disconnect from the sudden slash of astonishing pain.
“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” said Larry. “Of course it’s in the Temple. But we just came from there and we turned that place upside down too. So where in the Temple is it, exactly?”
“I don’t know, Larry. When I need it for the Last Rites, Kim just gives it to me.”
“You ain’t staying hitched to that Zinter gal,” another voice growled, and Gabriel identified him as Scott Hilling
“After I pass out, Scotty, make sure you fellows keep going until I bleed out. Then hide my body, because I’m in this sort of club, see. Red Wingers. We look out for each other. If they find out you did this to me they’ll pick over your feet for two or three days with a sledgehammer, blowtorch and knives like they were leftover turkey.”
“This is gonna pinch some.”
Johnny hurled his whip at Gabriel’s back again, two more times, whistle and snap. The boys kept waiting for Gabriel to scream, but instead they started to see a white layer of fat underneath the bloody split skin on hez back. Scott and Larry turned away and started puking.
With hez right hand Gabriel reached into the space-time pocket that always tracked with him and came back out of it holding the Golden Gift. Che extended the shaft long enough to cut the rope binding hez left hand. Then che switched the relic to his free hand and cut hemself down from the basketball hoop.
Johnny swung the whip right at hez face but Gabriel let it fly into the relic while it fully deployed as a shield. The black dome simply ate the whip, leaving little more than a riding crop for Johnny to swing. Then Gabriel cut hez legs free. All three of the boys ran away, but Gabriel was in no condition to run after any of them. Fortunately the neighbors had heard and seen the whipping and called it in, so the boys who attacked Gabriel only just made it away in time before deputies arrived.
At the little hospital that served Headwater Sheriff Roddy Walker asked if Gabriel saw who it was that messed up him up.
“I don’t know, sir. They wore black hoods over their faces.”
“Did they tell you why they were doing it?”
“They didn’t like me marrying one of ‘their’ white girls, sir.”
“How do you feel, Gabriel?”
“Not any better than the last time it happened, sir.”
“The last time? You’ve been flogged before?”
Gabriel nodded, and stared at Doctor Wahkan, who could confirm.
“It’s a Kuwapi thing, Sheriff Walker. The young men of the People camp out on the plains overnight and have at each other to see how much they can stand. But I suppose they grew tired of the game when they found out you were cheating.”
“They found a better game they called Peace Pipe.”
Three days later Klaus Hansen came to the same hospital. Certainly it was not to visit Gabriel, who had been released the same day he checked in, but instead he came to see Gabriel’s attackers. Doctor Wahkan was still muttering about the “animals” who had slowly turned all six of their feet into just so much ruined hamburger, requiring a clean amputation of each one.
Every time the three boys were visited after their operations, first by their parents, then by the sheriff, and later by Klaus, they took to sobbing miserably. It was not so much from the pain they were still suffering but from the memory of the hell they had already suffered. Their tormentors worked day and night, just like Gabriel told them would happen. The perps wore no hoods and used their real names as they went about their bloody business, yet even now their victims refused to identify them at all, other than to say they were “Indians”.
“Where’s the Golden Gift?”
“Gabriel had it the whole time.”
“You searched him, strung him up like a pig, and horsewhipped him, but Gabriel had it on him the entire time? So where did he have it hidden, Johnny, in his asshole?”
“I don’t know!”
“Did you mention he ought to forget all about the Zinter girl, or did that slip your mind too?”
“I did tell him,” Scott Hilling whined, “but I don’t think he listened to me! What’s the world coming to when you can’t even get a little respect?”
Klaus Hansen and Paul Bergin returned to the Temple, but not, as it turned out, with their tail between their legs.
“I agreed to see you fellows again,” Kim said to them, “but if you act like a couple of high school students and storm out again when you don’t get your own way, it will be the last time we ever meet.” And Kim was perfectly able to follow through on that threat. Seeing the future, she could simply avoid going anywhere they went.
“It is you, rather, who have one slim chance to reunite the Church,” Hansen said with his trademark insufferable arrogance. “Paul and I must get our old jobs back, or the reunion will never come to be. That point is my nonnegotiable.”
Kim sighed and turned to her husband. “Will you, Gabriel, resign the office of Deacon?”
“I will not.”
Hansen shrugged, said, “You can’t push a rope.” He prepared once more to leave the office with Bergin, muttering a string of curses that completely obscured what Dory quietly said.
Kim asked Dory to repeat harself.
“I said, I will resign as Apostle of the Church.”
Kim opened the Printer’s Manuscript of the Green Book once more and penned the following entry: APOSTLE DORIEL SHYBEAR, RESIGNED, JAN. 20, 1943. Dory signed it, and Kim entered her initials. “It’s done,” Kim said. “The office of Apostle is vacant. Will you, Klaus Hansen, take har place, or is Paul not getting Deacon still a non-negotiable sticking point?”
Klaus turned to Paul and said, “A temporary setback, Paul, nothing more. It will be remedied soon enough.” Paul nodded. Then Klaus faced Kim once more. “Very well, Mrs. Shybear, make the appropriate entry.”
She wrote KLAUS HANSEN, APOSTLE, JAN. 20, 1943 and turned the book for his inspection and signature. When he was done, Robyn applied her initials.
Looking at all the recently entries she said, “I just had a sudden image of someone in 2043 reading this and wondering what it must have been like, this whole sudden flurry.”
Hansen said, “The Reformed Church is gathering this morning to meet down at our own temple. Will you meet with them, Prophet Shybear, and affirm our schism has reached an end?”
“And I would have them meet the new Deacon. One of our parishoners passed away. I would have the Deacon perform the Last Rites.”
Dory was incredulous. “The Last Rites in that barn?”
“It would do much to bring healing between the Red and White Wings of the Church,” Bergin put in.
“Can it not wait a week until Gabriel can perform the Last Rites properly in the actual Temple?” asked Robyn.
“It has already been two weeks,” replied Hansen, “and the corpse is beginning to grow . . . unpresentable.”
Robyn nodded her head. “We should do it, Gabe. Everything leads up to a blank wall for me. But the Lord showed us that we always need to trust God with the faith of a little child and when it is necessary we should take that leap into the dark.”
“I’m glad I don’t have to see it,” said Dory.
“You wouldn’t be much welcome down there anyway,” said Paul.
“I have to retrieve the Golden Gift,” Gabriel said, “and I would not have our former Deacon Paul Bergin know where I keep it, as he is no longer an officer of the Church.”
Paul said, “This is not a problem. I can drive the Prophet to our own temple, and Apostle Hansen can bring you along in his own truck after you fetch the Relic.”
To this Robyn and Gabriel agreed, and they shared a farewell kiss before they parted, knowing that it was indeed farewell.
As Hansen drove Gabriel down off the mountain he said, “The sight of you kissing that girl was disgusting, do you know that? You’re not cousins. Hell, you’re not even the same species!”
“Sir,” replied Gabriel who concealing his own disgust over Hansen, “the Bible and the Book of Green Dome acknowledge only ethnicities. We read only of peoples and kindreds and tongues, not Whites and Blacks and Red Men. Races are artificial things.”
“What the hell do you mean artificial? Are you asking me to doubt what I can see with my own two God-given eyes?”
“Sir, consider the aborigines in Australia. They have Caucasian and Mongoloid genes, but they are as dark as Negroids. Even our Lord Yeshua is a lovely coffee-with-cream brown.”
Hansen grew angry at that last remark and pulled the truck over to the side of the road. “Get out. I can’t stand to be anywhere near a blasphemer, let alone one who entices our women to become traitors to their own race.”
“I still need to round up the Golden Gift,” Gabriel objected. “What about the Last Rites?”
“Fuck the Last Rites. What would be the point of sanctifying a body if the minister of the Rite is a blasphemer? The Lord is brown like coffee? Get out.”
Gabriel did as he was commanded, and Klaus Hansen peeled out in the snow, leaving Gabriel stranded on the side of the road halfway down the mountain. Che decided to hoof it back up to the Temple where Dory was waiting. Still, the move was entirely expected. It wasn’t like Klaus was going to let Gabriel be witness to what came next.
What came next was murder.
A short distance northwest of Green Dome was a place where the borders of the states of Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska all came together in a little fenced-off lot. When Hansen arrived he saw that only Paul Bergin’s truck was parked there, and only Bergin could be seen standing in the little corral. ‘
A bloody lump of dead and naked girlflesh lay at his feet, covered with much blood that was nearly cool enough to freeze. Paul stood there staring at Robyn’s body, not quite believing that he actually did it. He kept repeating to himself, “I’m going to hell!”
“Shut up, Paul,” Hansen told him when he drew near. “You’d only go to hell if you didn’t do it. Is that the knife?”
Paul nodded. He had entirely forgotten about the murder weapon, but it was still grasped in his gloved hand.
“We can’t afford to be caught anywhere near that thing. Throw it away right now. Anywhere, but throw it as far as you can.”
Paul hurled the blade on the snowy wastelands lying off to the west somewhere in Wyoming. The blade flashed once in the morning sunlight and disappeared from view.
“Now help me lift her on this.”
There was a short post and a little sign about chest high that marked the exact place where the three states came together. The sign was canted at a forty-five degree angle. They draped Kim’s body across the sign, letting her head and arms bend backwards and her legs droop down. It looked positively New Testament.
After that, Hansen circled the area a few times to make sure Paul hadn’t dropped anything. Good. Even the snow splattered with the girl’s blood was clear.
“Walk with me to my truck.”
Hansen dropped the tailgate. In the bed of the truck were two sets of coats, clothing and boots laid out beside a cardboard box. Hansen took off the boots he was wearing and threw them in the box, along with his blood-stained coat, shirt and trousers. In the cold of high plains January he quickly put on new outer garments, then sat on the tailgate to put on new boots.
“Throw your gloves in the box, Paul. Then do exactly what you just saw me do.”
“How are you going to get rid of the box?”
“Trust me, I’ll have it done in such a way that nothing, absolutely nothing will remain to tie this back to us, as long as you don’t forget to dispose of the set that knife came from when you get back home. Cheer up, Paul, we just saved the Church, you and I. Shybear couldn’t see it, but if that girl had children it would have meant the end of both the White Wing and the Red Wing. There wouldn’t be anymore wings, just an unholy hodge-podge growing like a cancer until it ate everything.”
Huge swaths of the high plains still lay under snow that first fell in November of ’42, but it was a dry cold and the roads were clear. From the air Headwater looked like an abstract map drawn in fine black ink on paper bleached an unearthly white.
The victim was found by a man in his eighties named Tashunka. He was older than the town of Headwater, a mere boy of the People when the Golden Gift came to Wanica in that final hunt. The biggest animal he ever killed was a coyote baited with a rabbit he caught in another trap. Tashunka almost didn’t see the girl. Her body was dangling at a roadside attraction that had always bored him. On a map somewhere one line terminated on another. Three states came together at this place, but even when there was no snow Tashunka had never seen any lines.
What caught his eye was not so much that the dead girl was naked but how her head and arms drooped back, and how her feet didn’t touch the ground, as though she were nailed to an invisible cross. So he backed up his truck and parked in the little tri-state corral. There were two other set of tire tracks in the snow and two sets of footprints which became a tangled net near the body.
Tashunka tried to be careful in his approach to leave the site clean for the sheriff. He could see no movement of the girl’s chest and no condensation from her mouth. The dead girl was too pale to be one of the People. Of a certainty she had part of the White Wing of the Church of Green Dome. Her ponytail gave that away. And Tashunka wept with frustration that he could not do the simple kindness of closing her frozen eyes staring out upon eternity.
Tashunka recognized the dead girl at last: Kimberly Zinter. Then he wept more deeply, knowing why she was murdered and guessing who the killer must be. Of a certainty the unhappy union of the Red Wing and White Wing of the Church was finished. He retraced his steps to the truck.
An hour later Tashunka returned with Sheriff Roddy Walker to the little fenced-off area nigh to the road. The tri-state marker was a wooden beam embedded in the ground, one foot square with a sloping top, and Kimberly’s back rested on this, held fast by frozen blood. The sheriff told deputy Bill to start snapping pictures while deputy Bob followed Roddy around with a notepad and took down a running commentary.
“I need to steal your sole with my camera, Chief,” Bill said, so “lay it out there.”
Tashunka smiled weakly at the joke and lifted one leg as best he could. Bill got a photo of the bottom of both the old Indian’s boots to make sure they could differentiate his footprints from that of the perps. Then Tashunka was left behind as Bill methodically photographed his way to the girl’s body..
When the sheriff and his deputies completely surveyed and documented the murder scene they all pitched in, lifted Kimberly free of the survey marker, and laid her gently on a foldaway stretcher that sheriff Walker had brought with him. Tashunka was surprised to hear the sheriff shout an oath. Roddy has read the plaque that Kim’s body was covering and realized they were at the exact place some surveyor decided the corners of two states ran flush against the border of a third. At a stroke that made the case Federal.
Then they walked the body out of there, pausing a moment for Tashunka to get another close look at it.
“This was Kimberly Zinter,” he told them, and he put his fingers on her face just long enough to melt the eyelids so he could close them. “I’ve seen her at Temple.”
The sheriff dug around in the glove box of his truck and came back with a manila folder containing a photo, which he compared to the dead girl’s blood-streaked face.
“The gentleman is right, boys. This was the local girl the FBI was looking for. One of the two, anyway.”
He noted how the girl wore a headdress that was similar to one that some of the Kuwapi townspeople often wore. It was a lattice of beads adorning two sharp white horns.
After the deputies carefully loaded the body of the girl in the canopy of the department’s green 1940 Dodge half-ton truck, Bob said, “So this wasn’t gonna be our case from the gitgo, even if she wasn’t lying dead spread out over three states. What do we do now, sheriff?”
Tashunka said, “I remember when you were just a boy, sheriff, and I remember when you left us. None of your men are Greendomites. You might not be up on Church politics and they can’t help you. I don’t know who did this terrible thing to the girl but I can tell you why.”
But inactivity had cooled the sweat under Roddy’s coat and he shivered in the face of a stiff wind from the frozen plains.
“This is not the place, Tashunka,” he said, “This body must go to our little hospital. But if you meet me at the station in an hour I will listen to what you have to say about this.”
After that Sheriff Roddy drove deputy Bill and the body around the large hill near the crime scene which was named Green Dome. It was almost five thousand feet above sea level, but only eight hundred feet above the town of Headwater, and it was never green at all in January.
“I just can’t win, Bill,” Roddy lamented. “Half the male population of Headwater between 18 and 45 is off killing Japs and Krauts and Eye- talians. Things were getting real quiet around here. Then the FBI sets up shop and stay all summer. Now I got my first homicide.”
They passed the stretch where the Bureau parked their trailer but there were no lights on and no smoke from a wood stove.
Bill said, “The FBI was here last summer but now people are saying they saw some G-men back in town, staking out the bus station and ask- ing people of they’ve seen our victim and another girl named Sofie Krause. Those girls were in federal custody somewhere for half of last year, but apparently they’ve escaped and made the FBI look … hell, they are incompetent.”
“But they wouldn’t kill the girl for doing that, if your thoughts are trending on those lines, Bill.”
Roddy drove around the northern slopes of Green Dome and Headwater came into view. With a thousand souls it was the biggest town for a hundred miles around.
Bill asked, “What do you want me to do after we give the body to Dr. Wahkan?”
“Develop the film and file it,’ Roddy told his deputy. “Then get back to the scene and help Bob look for the murder weapon. I didn’t see prints leading away from the marker so I figure the perpetrator either tossed it away or kept it. To know what he chose would be a good thing for me to know.”
The town’s sole doctor was known as Wahkan to the People, but the whites called him Plenty Practice. No one had ever died under his knife, but even a local legend such as Doctor Wahkan could not call back the dead.
“Kim Zinter,” the doctor said when he saw the bloody corpse. “Heartbreaking. And her father died only last year. I can’t “imagine how Clara is going to take this.”
The sheriff looked inward and frowned deeply, knowing he must be the one to tell her.
Dr. Wahkan donned a pair of rubber gloves. “I have never carried out this protocol for you before, Sheriff, and for your father I only had to do so three times. That alone tells you how, in the main, Headwater really is a good place.”
“How did you know her name, Doctor?”
“I saw this girl last spring when her mother brought her in. And I also saw another girl who is the same age, one named Sofie Krause. They both had the same symptoms.”
Dr. Wahkan pulled Kim’s headdress away, but the two white horns remained in place. Removing the jewelry and holding out the jewelry, he said, “No doubt you have seen something similar to this before.”
Roddy nodded. “I know it is a Kuwapi thing. My first guess was Kim was wearing it because it was starting to catch on as a fad among the white kids in town. Sort of like their so-called music.”
Wahkan reached down to grabbed one on the horns on Kimberly’s head and shook it. This caused her whole head to shake as well. “Actually, they wear the jewelry to cover up the fact that these horns are real.”
“I’ll be damned,” Roddy said. “I never guessed!”
Dr, Wahkan lifted Kim’s hair so the sheriff could see the skin of her scalp where the horns emerged from her skull. There was a smooth transition. The skin simply hardened and merged with the horns, yet the horns themselves were not mere a feature of the skin, like calluses. They were rooted to the bone.
“We call this the Change,” the doctor told him. “Naturally both girls and particularly their parents were alarmed when it started to happen to them, but they were actually quite safe. The Change is known among the Kuwapi people. It spreads by sexual contact.”
“You seem to know a lot about it, Dr. Wahkan.”
“I know that among the Changed are the Begotten and the Made. I know both the Begotten and the Made can Make the Change, but only the Begotten can beget the Change. I told Kim and Sofie the Change had been present among some members of the Red Wing for a human lifetime and more, and if you believe the Green Book it goes back much, much further than that. But when I tried to explain all this to their mothers they wouldn’t believe me. They took the girls somewhere to get a second opinion, and now Headwater is infested with outsiders.”
“Headwater is a good place, Doctor, just like you said, but the killer deliberately draped her body across three states. That forces my hand. I must report this crime to the very outsiders who have made things less good here over the last few month. But I can’t believe she was killed just for wearing Red Wing jewelry.”
“A flirtation with the Red Wing might run deeper than a penchant for hair accessories,” the doctor suggested. And with that, in the full view of the sheriff, he began to run the body of the girl through the necessary indignity of an autopsy.
The town of Headwater, true to its name, sat at the source of the Squaw River. Paved road ended there, as did the railroad. There were no hotels. West, north, and south of the town was nothing but empty grasslands. No one from outside of town ever spent the night in Headwater because no one ever passed through. The Bureau had to crane off a trailer on national grasslands just to have a place for its agents to sleep.
The Church of Green Dome had steadily lost adherents since peaking in 1915 but there were still many congregations scattered across America and even a few in Europe. When families of the deceased came to Headwater for the Last Rite often the only place for them to stay was the Temple itself.
The C Wing had six modest rooms which were offered to visiting fami- lies for their brief stay of a day or two. Klaus Hansen had never giv- en them much thought. As far as he knew or cared the beds made them- selves, so when he arrived at the temple with Paul Bergin in tow he was startled to find Dory and Gabriel cleaning the rooms.
“What is this?” he demanded.
“It went with the position of Extraordinary Lay Minister of the Last Rite,” Gabriel replied. “Somebody has to get the rooms ready, and now I guess the Deacon does it.”
“Then what’s she doing here?”
“Cousin Dory is pitching in.”
“I’m reclaiming Sundays for the White Wing. I only want Red Wingers to be here, if they must, on Wednesdays.”
Dory and Gabriel, being Red Wingers both, made as though to leave, but Klaus said, “Not you, boy.”
“I’ll pick you up at five, cuz,” said Dory on her way out.
“Where’s the Golden Gift?” demanded Klaus after Dory was good and gone.
“It’s right here in the Temple, sir, just as we agreed.”
“How do I know that’s true?”
“This is the Temple of Green Dome, sir. Liars have no part in the life to come.”
“Show it to me.”
“Sir, my father told me to only bring it out at need.”
“You need to show it to me.”
Gabriel unlocked a supply room similar to the one downstairs in the temple basement. A red butter cookie tin sat on a shelf. It was empty but Gabriel needed the can for his trick. When che reached outside of the universe it always looked like somebody chopped hez hand off with an ax, which would need explaining. Gabriel produced the relic. To Hansen’s eyes it looked like che pulled it out of the tin.
“How do I know that’s not just something you whipped up in metal shop and painted gold? Make this box disappear for me.”
Paul Bergin set down a cardboard box he was carrying.
“What’s in the box, sir?”
“Old clothes and shoes. Never mind what’s in the box, just make it disappear with your alleged relic.”
Gabriel squeezed the Artifact. The hissing shifted down in pitch as the black rip in reality grew, drinking in the light and air of the room. Hez ponytail tossed in the growing breeze as he lapped up the box into nothingness. He tried not to damage the floor but it was unavoidable.
Neither Klaus Hansen nor Paul Bergin had never been so close to the Golden Gift in operation. They were entranced by the sheer otherworldliness of it. Gabriel was amazed at hez self-restraint for not slicing the men in half where they stood.
When the thrill of the Golden Gift wore off, Hansen said, “Put it back in the can and lock this room back up.”
Gabriel gave a very convincing performance of putting the Artifact away. Slight-of-hand never entered the mind of Klaus.
When it was done Klaus told hem to hand over the key and the look on his face seemed to dare hem to show even a twinge of insubordination, but he got nothing. “Who else has a key?”
“Mr. Bergin never returned his key after he quit.”
“I never quit,” Bergin said.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Hansen said. “Your wife is dead.”
“Oh, I know, sir.”
“What do you mean, you know? You don’t seem too cut up over it.”
“Cut up. I get it, sir.”
“The last thing I need from you is your mouth, boy.”
“She predicted it would happen, sir,” Gabriel said. “Besides, our Lord himself said, ‘He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.'”
“Do you know what I believe, son? I believe the death of your so-called wife makes me the Prophet of the Church. And I believe you still have some rooms to clean.”
Tashunka waited outside the sheriff’s office long past when Roddy said he’d meet him, trying to stay warm inside his running truck. Roddy apologized for the delay and invited the old fellow to come indoors for some fresh coffee. “Doctor Wahkan had some interesting things to say,” the sheriff told him.
Tashunka followed Walker inside and sat shivering in his seat until the coffee was ready. “And what of the three stupid boys who took a bullwhip to a plains Indian and didn’t think he’d have friends who could do something far worse in retaliation?”
“The three stupid boys were still there looking perfectly miserable until they laid eyes on the dead girl. That seemed to make their whole day. Would that Headwater had a bigger hospital. They wouldn’t tell me what was so funny. I figure you’re about to tell me.”
Tashunka leaned back in his seat nursing the coffee. His eyes landed on a photograph of the elder Sheriff Walker, now deceased. Two years already? “Everyone greatly respected your father, Roddy, both White Wing and Red Wing alike. I was there at his Final Rite.”
Roddy flushed with sudden anger. “And I, his son, was not permitted to be there because I don’t believe in fairy tales about angels and sun gods and killing relics and I made the mistake of letting everybody know that.”
“Sheriff,” admonished Tashunka,”if you allow your heart to grow black you will take everything I say in a way I do not mean.”
Roddy glared at him while he took another sip of coffee, then lowered his eyes. Soon he was calm again and said, “You are absolutely right, Tashunka. At a minimum I know how important the relic is in the life of your Church.”
Tashunka said, “Red and White wings swap power but the Golden Gift stays in the Red Wing. God gave it to Chief Wanica, who gave it in turn to his son Jashen. Klaus Hansen says the Apostle should have it. Jashen thought it would quiet things to let it pass on, but he gave it to his son Gabriel Shybear.”
“Gabriel Shybear. That explains how he got his whipping. And he said his house and the Temple had been ransacked too. They must have been trying to beat the Golden Gift out of him. I count myself fortunate I never embraced the faith of the Green Dome Church as my own, Tashunka. It’s much too violent.”
“It gets better,” Tashunka said. “Jashen said he was setting aside the rule that Greendomites must marry only their cousins, in just one instance, so that Gabriel could marry Kim Zinter. When they heard that Hansen and half the Bunners stood up and walked out of the Temple.”
Roddy smiled at Tashunka’s use of the word ‘Bunners’. Greendomites had to wear their hair in a ponytail, even the men, but in the White Wing this ponytail was done up in a bun. He shuddered at how close he had come to being a Bunner himself. But even people who had nothing to do with the Church knew about their biggest hobby horse: mandatory cousin marriage. Roddy knew a deep current of racism ran among the Bunners but the requirement for consanguineous marriages had kept a firm lid on it. Kim Zinter was fourth generation White Wing at least, she’d have no kin among the Red Wing. Her marriage and any subsequent children would have blown the door wide open.
As though he could read Roddy’s mind, Tashunka said, “Hansen would see this marriage between Gabriel and Kim as a horrible disease infecting the body of the Church. Their children would have marriageable cousins in both wings, and with each passing year it would just grow worse.”
“So now I have a possible motive,” the sheriff said.
Deputies Bill and Bob rushed in just then and threw a Cellophane bag on the sheriff’s desk containing the murder weapon.
“We found it,” Bob said, “Just like you guessed, Sheriff, not more than throwing distance from the body.”
The blade was thin and flexible. It was just a steak knife.
Roddy picked up the bag and frowned with disappointment. “This game isn’t as fun when the other side isn’t even trying to win. Not a Sears Roebuck kitchen knife: no, something handmade.’
Next came a duty Sheriff Walker found to be every bit as distasteful as his father described. Roddy recalled the recent death of Erik Zinter. How does one tell a newly-widowed woman that her entire family has been wiped off the face of the earth?
The young woman who answered the door was not Clara Zinter. Her hair was a rich, dark red. She had eyes that were a light, icy green, striking for being so rare, but she was a little too chubby even for a time before models made being as skinny as a beanpole sexy. What stood out to Roddy, however, was the horns. She had two white horns on her head just like the victim. In fact, Roddy was looking at the spitting image of the deceased. She stood in the doorway patiently waiting for him to speak. He pulled out his file to be sure. Identical. So this must be Kim’s twin sister. He cleared his throat and said, “Good afternoon. I’m Sheriff Walker. Is Mrs. Clara Zinter at home?”
“Mother isn’t here anymore,” the young lady said, “She’s with her own folks in Pennsylvania. I’m Robyn. Do you want to come in? I’m sure you have questions and it will be better than standing here in the doorway.”
Roddy took off his hat and accepted her offer. The hardwood floors were covered with throw-rugs. He could smell the light odor of a gas furnace. A radio tuned to Headwater’s one station was playing “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo” by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. Robyn turned it down.
The sheriff said, “Please, Robyn, if you could turn the radio off entirely. I afraid I have very bad news for you.”
The girl complied, then she invited the sheriff to be seated. He did so and got the overall impression that the Zinter family was firmly situated in the middle-class. Not destitute by any means, but not ostentatious either. A small coffee table lay between them. Robyn smoothed out her plaid dress and Roddy saw that she wore bobby socks and saddle shoes. “You were about to tell me that you found the body of my sister,” Robyn said, “and that she had been brutally stabbed to death.”
On one level Roddy felt relief. His duty to notify the next-of-kin had been mooted. But Robyn had stated things she should not yet know. “You dont seem to be too upset about it,” Roddy said, taking a small notebook and pen out of his jacket liner. The sympathetic bearer of bad news was a detective again. “When did you know your sister was dead, Miss Zinter? Did an old Indian fellow pay you a visit today?”
“Call me Robyn, please,” she said. “One name. Robyn. Not Miss Zinter. Nobody else has visited me today, Sheriff. I find it difficult to say how I knew she died. If I tell you the truth you will probably think I’m a little crazy.”
Roddy said, ‘Robyn, this is a murder investigation so I exhort you to hold to the thought that whatever you tell me must always be the truth. As for believing you are insane, frankly, I’m already having trouble with your attitude toward the news of your twin sister’s murder.”
“Sheriff, have you ever heard those stories about identical twins who seem to have a link that defies any explanatio? Twins who were separated at birth? They never met, yet they they led lives with coincidence piled upon coincidence, with the same type of job, and even the same type of spouse.”
“And the same type of horns, Robyn? Are you Begotten, or Made?”
“Made. Same way. I hated the idea of people telling us apart.”
“Are you telling me you have some kind of radio in your head that let you know what was happening to your sister? Because if that’s what you’re saying, I wouldn’t believe you were insane. I would run you in to the station for knowing material facts about this case with no plausible explanation why.”
“Sheriff, there’s no need to do that. I’m going to give you three tips that will break this case wide open for you in record time. If they don’t pan out, I’ll still be right here because this is where I live. Then you can do what you will.”
She held out a pinky. “One, the murder weapon was from a set that is now missing one knife.” She held a finger with a wedding ring. “Two, tomorrow is trash day.” She held out her middle finger. “Three, someone clever enough to make this bigger than a local case is too clever to get his own hands dirty, but he might have a willing sidekick who is not quite so clever.”