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pg. 171 © e. lee caleca all rights reserved
Detective Sergeant Hansen Bell drove back down Saunders Ferry Road and pulled into the trailer park.
“What do we have, Jack?” he asked Officer Boston.
Boston pointed to the second trailer on the left. “Take a look.” The trailer had already been taken over by the forensic team.
"In there, sir,” said one of the officers.
Bell walked toward the back of the trailer. Kerry Woods lay on his side in his bed. The sheets were soaked with his sweat.
“What do you make of it?”
Team leader Tim Cooper was leaning over the body. “We can’t tell for sure yet, Han, but it looks as though he might have died naturally. Found insulin in his medicine cabinet. The guy was a diabetic. Could be nothing more than a self inflicted accident.”
“Thanks, Coop. Keep me posted.” He walked out to the street and stood with his hands on his hips. His sixth sense told him this was no accident. “Where the hell are you, Wes.”
Bell was raised in a small log cabin out on the Sandy Valley Road. His mother was a full blooded Cherokee who married a white man. He was raised by his maternal grandparents who owned most of the hill up along where Drakes Creek meets the Dan Kirk Branch. They had had no electricity, no flush toilets, and no heat or air all the way up to 1984.
Han used to run around those hills barefooted summer and winter alike. He’d play in the river branch and catch snakes with his bare hands. He could mount a running horse by grabbing it’s mane as it ran by him and swinging his long body up and over its back.
His mother had remarried after she divorced his father and she lived with her husband at their Kodiak Lodge out in Hohenwald. She knew everything there was to know about native plants and Hansen learned how to survive out in these woods. He knew which plants gave water and which ones were poisonous. Yes... a man could survive out in these woods for a while if he wanted to.
He looked up the street, going back in his mind to his roots, then he turned back toward the row of trailers trying to make some kind of connection between Justine Enright, owner of this trailer and a decorated war hero, and Westmorland Henry, former special operative for the U.S. Army. Could there be something in that? He scuffed the dusty ground with his boot.
Han looked hard at the dry earth in front of him then crouched to get a closer view. He touched the dirt and rolled it between his fingers, his eyes following the faint trail of blood to his left that led into the woods.
“Boston!” he yelled across the lot. Jack Boston came running. “Follow me. And call for the K-9s. We’re going after Henry.”
Wes Henry lay less than a quarter of a mile through the woods. Han had set off, his face bent to the ground. Jack Boston stayed behind him, watching his superior officer move his head from side to side, touching broken branches and trampled undergrowth.
“How do you know it’s not some animal that did that?”
“You can tell by the pressure on a snap combined with the height of the broken branch - the size and weight it takes to make it. Like this one.” He laid two fingers on a tree branch. “Wes Henry is 5’10”. If he were moving through these woods - and if I’m right about that blood, he’s injured - and he reached up to support himself on this branch, he’s the right height and weight to cause a break like that.”
“How about a deer?”
“Deer don’t eat Salvia.”
"Salvia Divinorum. Diviner’s Sage. Sage of the Seers.” Salvia grew profusely in the woods along the stream banks. It liked the low light and high humidity. It was the first plant Han had learned about.
“Take one leaf and roll it up, like this,” his grandfather had told him. “Put the leaf in your mouth and suck the juice from the leaf slowly.” He was seven years old.
He remembered how he and his grandfather had laughed and gone running through the trees. When the psychoactive plant wore off twenty minutes later, he remembered the sensation of insight, calmness, and connection with the woods. Once a year, every year until he was fourteen, he would go with his grandfather into the woods and chew Salvia leaves. Each year he chewed more leaves than the year before and for longer periods of time. When he was fourteen, his grandfather had told him to go on his vision quest.
“Continue to chew the leaves until you find your spirit guide, your healer,” his grandfather had instructed him.
He had gone into the woods around the cabin and stayed there for seven nights. He remembered the shaman dancers, being in the ring of fire, and being levitated above the ground. He remembered the faces of children whose hands were outstretched, reaching toward him, crying to be saved from the snarling Red Panther.
When he returned to the cabin, his grandfather had asked him what he had seen and he had told him.
“You will help to save those who are in danger. You must dedicate your life to this. You will be called Tall Oak, that wood which is strong and reliable, which can be burned for warmth and protection, cut for shelter, and carved for vessels. You will be a servant of the people.”
“Sir?” Jack Boston had been watching the detective curiously. He seemed to be lost in thought.
They could hear the dogs. The police didn’t use Shepherds anymore. They had too many hip problems that couldn’t seem to be bred out of the animal. The Bel Malinois was the uber dog used on most forces around the world now. The Belgian breed were loyal, intelligent, independent thinkers and they trained well.
F.T.O. Martin Rollins was an old army dog handler. He talked into his lapel mic. “Sir, we found Wes Henry.” He ordered his canines away from the body.
Hansen Bell called Paul Dubhe and the call went to voicemail.