Raven in Amber

by Patricia Simpson

 

 

 

 

 

100,000 words

Romantic Suspense

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Ol-Ha-The

Whose fierce beauty inspired this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Prologue

 

Charleston, 1972

           

            Ten-year-old Camille Avery walked across the attic floor, sneezing and calling for her grandmother’s cat. She knew Solomon was up here somewhere. She had seen him dash into the dusty old room moments ago.

            “So-lo-mon,” she called, trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice. She knew that if the cat sensed the slightest threat in her voice, he wouldn’t come to her. And he must come to her. His life depended upon it. Her father, who sat in the car outside, had warned her that he wouldn’t wait forever. As far as he was concerned, the damned cat deserved to be left behind if it couldn’t cooperate like a decent animal.

            “Ah-chew!”

            Camille rubbed her nose and searched the shadowed corners of the attic, sneezing from the dust that kicked up with every step she took. It was odd to see Grandmother Avery’s attic empty. The huge space under the roof had always been stuffed with trunks and boxes full of family memorabilia. But Grandmother was dead now, the house was going to be put on the market, and all her belongings had been sold at an auction or given away to members of the family. Camille glanced around, thinking about her grandmother’s funeral. She wished she hadn’t seen Grandmother’s face all stiff like that. A creepy feeling stole across the skin on Camille’s shoulders and neck and she wished that her older sisters had come back into the house with her. But neither Marissa nor Christine liked the cat enough to look for him.

            “So—lo—mon. Come here, kitty kitty.”

            If Solomon didn’t show up in a few minutes, he would be doomed to spend the rest of his life in his dead mistress’ empty house. That would really be creepy.

            Camille heard the cat meow. The sound came from the chimney at one end of the attic. Though that part of the attic was bathed in shadow, she walked bravely over to the brick column and inspected the wall behind it. The wall was covered with mildew and cracks and rotting shelves, part of the old section of the house that had been built over two hundred years ago, according to the stories Grandmother Avery had told her. Camille held her breath and looked up, trying to see into the gloom where the wall met the rafters. She could hear the cat meowing, but she couldn’t see him. She sidled closer, straining to locate him.

            Then her foot came down on a loose board, flipping up a small piece of the flooring and scaring her witless. With a yelp, she jumped backward, flushing first with fright and then at her own silly behavior. Something glowed near the tip of her shoe. At first she thought of cat eyes, of Solomon’s green-gold eyes and how they glowed in the dark. But Solomon couldn’t be under the floorboards. He just wouldn’t fit.

            Intrigued, Camille hunkered down, craning her neck to see into the space. There, half hidden by the floorboards was a small chunk of yellow-gold rock, or something that looked like a rock. Could it be gold? A buried treasure? A thousand possibilities sprang to mind as Camille pulled out the rock, ignoring the cobwebs that clung to her hand.

            The rock was attached to a leather thong which she used to hold the necklace up to the faint light in the attic. She knew from her science class at school that the rock wasn’t gold. It was amber, fossilized resin formed thousands of years ago. Awestruck, Camille grasped the chunk of amber in her fist while the leather thong draped over her fingers. The amber was heavy in her palms and smooth, the kind of smoothness that made her want to stroke it. How beautiful it was. How ancient. She could feel its age and its worth. And locked inside the amber, as if floating in the gem, was a black feather.

            Who had hidden the necklace beneath the floor? And when? The necklace might have been there for a few years or a few hundred years. If she hadn’t seen it glowing, she might not have even noticed it. Glowing? She frowned in consternation. How could the amber have glowed? It must have been a trick of light, some kind of reflection. Yet there were no windows near the chimney. A chill bristled the hairs on her neck. Then she felt something soft and warm rub the backs of her legs. Startled, she looked down.

            “Solomon!” she gasped. “You silly cat!” She scooped him up before he could run away again, and then slipped the amber necklace into the pocket of her skirt. She wanted to show her sisters what she had found. They’d never believe it.

            Camille hurried down the stairs and shut the front door behind her. Her father’s Monte Carlo idled in the driveway while her sisters argued about who was going to sit up front with their dad. For a moment Camille watched their senseless endless bickering. Then she decided she wouldn’t tell Marissa and Christine about the necklace after all. They wouldn’t understand. They never understood the things she talked about. And they might laugh. She hated it when they laughed at her.


 

 

 

 

 


 

 


Chapter One

 

 

Crescent Bay, Washington -- Nineteen years later

 

 

            Camille Avery stood at the crossroad and wondered what madness had compelled her to come to Crescent Bay. She didn’t like to travel, yet here she was--two thousand miles away from her home in Charleston, South Carolina. She had taken a leave of absence from her job and had contracted to illustrate a book on the Nakalt Indians even though she had sold only a few major pieces of her work and still thought of herself as an amateur artist. Madness—that’s what it was. Stark raving early-onset mid-life-crisis madness. Camille clenched her teeth. She was only twenty-nine, her teaching career well on track, her financial future seemingly secure. Why, then, hadn’t it been enough for her? Why this compulsion to escape to the far reaches of the continent?

            Twenty minutes ago a Greyhound bus had dropped her at the edge of the Nakalt Indian Reservation where her friend Barbara had promised to meet her. But Barbara was nowhere in sight. For twenty minutes Camille had waited alongside the lonely highway without seeing a single sign of life. There was no light, no phone, no evidence of civilization other than the decrepit bus shelter behind her. And night was falling like a shroud upon the trees.

            Impatiently, Camille glanced down the gravel road that bisected the highway, and wondered how far she was from the actual town of Crescent Bay. Normally she wouldn’t care if she had to wait a few minutes, but it was getting late and a storm was blowing out of the north, sending frosty gusts and pellets of rain against her face and hands. She was woefully underdressed for such weather.

            A gust of wind blasted her trench coat flat against her legs and whipped her short hair into a platinum flag. She clapped a hand to the side of her head and squinted at her watch. Four-ten. She was out of patience and starting to doubt that anyone would come for her at all. The January afternoon was gloomy and spooky, the forest around her full of swaying cedars and trembling alders. Dead leaves cart wheeled across the deserted highway and impaled themselves on brambles in the ditch. Camille blew on her fists, wondering where Barbara could be. What if she had been confused over her arrival time? Camille had often teased her friend about her absent-minded ways. But could Barbara have forgotten her entirely?

            After another minute, Camille decided to quit waiting and do something productive. She hoisted her heavy suitcases off the ground and set off down the gravel road, singing It Looks Like Rain in Cherry Blossom Lane to keep her mind off the darkening sky and the cutting handles of her bags. As if her song had summoned forth the great God of Precipitation, snow started to blow out of the sky.

            “Ducky,” she muttered under her breath, glaring at the flakes swirling around her. “Just ducky.”

            A half hour later, she saw the first buildings of the reservation--two one-story houses badly in need of paint and a tavern called the Sand Bar. Light poured from the windows of the bar and country western music twanged over the wind. A glowing red R, the neon logo of the Rainier Brewery, hung in a crooked festoon in the window by the door. Camille set her bags down and rolled her aching shoulders as she surveyed the tavern, trying to decide whether or not to go in. She disliked going into restaurants alone, but not half as much as entering a tavern out in the middle of nowhere without a companion. Either she had to stand outdoors and freeze or go in and use the phone to call Barbara. Going in was the lesser of two evils at this point.

            Picking up her bags, Camille trudged to the tavern door, her tired arms and shoulders crying for mercy. She pushed open the door and walked in, and the sour smell of smoke and beer hit her full force. For a moment she just stood there, reeling from the smell and adjusting to the light and noise. Then she noticed all eyes had turned to stare, all male eyes--black and dark brown--as the Nakalt fishermen and sawmill workers surveyed her with suspicion.

            She raised her chin. Because of her hair, she had been the object of stares ever since she could remember. She had hoped the snow might disguise her peculiar white-blond hair, but from the looks directed at her, her hair shone through like a searchlight. Like a light bulb. Like a Q-tip. She had been called all those names and many more. Each cruel label from her childhood still branded her memory.

            “Hey!” A man shouted from the nearby pool table. “Look what the wind blew in!”

            Camille ignored him and stalked to the bar, doing her best to hang onto her bags without bumping anyone.

            A man tipped back his chair, preventing passage, and looked up at her. He smiled. His two upper front teeth were missing and his hair was shaggy and unkempt. He wore an old plaid shirt, open down the front and a tattered, grimy T-shirt. Camille pulled up straight and stared down at him, frost in her eyes to conceal her fear.

            “Pardon me,” she quipped.

            “In a hurry, Miss?”

            “Yes, as a matter of fact.”

            “Relax. I’ll buy you a drink.”

            “Thanks, some other time perhaps.”

            “Some other time!” his companion elbowed him in the ribs. “Listen to that, would you! Some other time!”

            Camille stared down at the chair blocking her path, hoping the man would recognize her intention to pass, but he just laughed.

            “Ben, leave her alone,” the bartender called, dragging a towel around the bottom of a glass pitcher.

            Camille shot the bartender a glance of gratitude as Ben reluctantly tipped his chair upright, allowing her to pass by. She could still hear him chuckling as she squeezed up to the bar. She felt very much the minority in the roomful of staring Native American men, and was glad to put her back to them.

            “Thanks,” she said to the bartender, turning her lips up in a wan smile.

            He didn’t smile back. In fact, he didn’t look her in the eye. Camille felt a twinge of unease.

            “Want a drink?” he asked.

            “No, thanks. Is there a phone I could use?”

            With a nod of his head, he indicated the pay phone on the wall by the restrooms. To get to it, Camille would have to walk the length of the bar, go past the pool table and skirt the juke box, offering herself at close range to every man in the place. But she had no choice. She had to call Barbara. Camille left her bags at the foot of the bar and straightened her shoulders. Then, focusing her eyes on a distant plane, she walked the gauntlet, without actually seeing the face of a single man or making eye contact. Even though there were a few lewd comments and wolf whistles, she didn’t quicken her pace. But by the time she got to the phone and rummaged in her purse for change, her hands were shaking.

            She nearly dropped the quarter before she got it into the round slot, and then plugged her free ear with her index finger so she could hear over the din of the music.

            Barbara’s phone rang and rang. Camille clenched her teeth and let it ring nine more times. Where was Barb? She was absolutely going to kill her after this fiasco. Barbara was already late by at least an hour. How long could it possibly take to drive from the cabin to the bus stop? Certainly not this long. She’d just have to take a cab. Camille looked down and couldn’t see a phone book, only the empty black plastic binder.

            Exasperated, she clanged the receiver into the cradle and turned. This time fewer men paid attention to her as she returned to the end of the bar. The bartender glanced at her with a dour look in his bloodshot eyes.

            “Is there a taxi around here?” Camille asked.

            The man next to her snorted in answer.

            “I guess not,” Camille murmured more to herself than anyone else as she turned toward the door, wondering what options she had in this remote place. Other than Barbara, she didn’t know a soul here. She had no map and no idea how far Barbara’s cabin was from the tavern. What was she going to do? A hot wave of panic swept through her, tightening her throat, but she refused to give in to it. She suddenly realized how her teaching position at an exclusive girls school outside Charleston had isolated her. She wasn’t accustomed to dealing with the outside world, public transportation or the lack of it, or groups of men. Living at The Lewis Academy had sheltered her from threatening situations but at the same time had taken a toll on her independence.

            Camille set her jaw. She could handle being thrust back into the world like this. She was capable and logical. As long as she didn’t give in to panic, she’d be fine. Barbara’s absence was a minor inconvenience and nothing more.

            “Car trouble?” the bartender asked.

            Camille turned back to face him. “No. Someone was supposed to meet me at the bus stop and didn’t show up.”

            “Where’re you headed?” the bartender asked.

            “To Barbara Stanton’s. Out on Crescent Bay Drive.”

            “That’d be by the Makinna Lodge,” Ben put in, smiling. “Have a drink and I’ll drive you, lady. I just ain’t ready to leave yet.”

            She forced a polite smile. “Thank you, no.” She bent down to get her bags, worrying that Ben or some other man might make a more insistent offer. “I think I’ll wait for her outside. I’m sure she’ll show up any minute.”

            “I wouldn’t hang around out there, if I was you,” warned the man near her elbow. Camille glanced at him.

            “Things is out there. Things in the dark.” His eyes looked bleary, his speech was slurred. He was half-drunk, hardly a man to take seriously.

            “I’m not afraid of the dark,” Camille answered, sounding more brave than she felt.

            “You should be.” The drunk squinted at her and then hunched back over his beer.

            Feeling more uneasy than she had when she entered the tavern, Camille walked to the door. A stocky man with long hair in a pony-tail opened it for her, giving her a warning look that silently echoed the comments of the drunk at the bar.

            “Thanks,” she said, and staggered through the small parking lot to the gravel road. She sucked in the clean air and forced herself to hurry, wanting to leave the Sand Bar Tavern as far behind her as possible in case someone decided to follow her and cause trouble.

            She hustled past the two houses and around a bend in the road, stepping into a puddle full of chilled water that soaked her shoe and nylon stocking. Barbara, in her forgetful way, had failed to mention the fact that Camille should have brought a down parka and boots. Frowning, Camille continued, throwing glances over her shoulder to make sure she wasn’t being followed. The road twisted through a grove of cedar which blocked the wind but also blocked the light. Camille could see nothing but black shapes on either side of her. The hairs on the back of her neck rose and she quickened her steps, breathing raggedly with the effort of lugging her bags at a half-run.

            Suddenly, a black shape swooped down at her, cawing so loudly and frightening her so thoroughly that she shrieked and dropped her suitcases, shielding her head with her forearms. The bird swooped again, flapping its huge wings close enough to her face that she felt a draft. Camille lost her grip on her panic and screamed.

            The bird swooped again. Camille caught a glimpse of its body. The bird was at least two feet long, with a wing span of three feet or more. What kind of bird was it? And why was it attacking her? Screaming, Camille flailed her arms to keep the bird away and stumbled through the grove.

            She broke clear of the cedars, skittered around a bend in the road, and ran headlong into a young man. He grabbed her to keep her from falling backward and then held her away from him, staring at her as if she were crazy.

            “What’s the matter?” he questioned. “What’s going on?”

            “That bird!” Camille sputtered, pointing behind her. “That bird attacked me!”

            “What bird?”

            Camille broke away and whirled to look behind her. No bird was in sight. She couldn’t believe it had vanished so quickly. But there had been a bird. Even though the youth couldn’t see it, she knew it had been there, for she wasn’t the type of person to succumb to wild imaginings. Unable to explain the bird’s disappearance, Camille slowly turned back to the young man, her shoulders drooping.

            “There was a bird in those woods back there,” she insisted. “It flew down at me!”

            “I don’t see any bird.” He craned his neck to look past her.

            “It was there! It was huge!”

            “Well, it’s gone now.”

            Camille glanced at him. He was taller than her by a head, even though he was not more than fifteen or sixteen years old.

            “I heard you screaming,” the youth went on. “I thought someone was being killed or something.”

            “No, it was just that bird--” Camille’s voice trailed off as she ran a hand through her hair, pushing back her bangs, damp from the run and the fright she had experienced. She was shaking and unnerved and trying hard not to let it show.

            “What are you doing out here, anyway?” the youth asked.

            “It’s a long story.” She retied the loose belt of her trench coat. “I was supposed to meet someone, but she never showed. And I was walking to her cabin when that bird attacked me back there.”

            The youth raised his black eyebrows at the mention of the bird again. But he quickly hid his expression of disbelief and blew on his cupped hands. She felt no threat from the shaggy-haired boy. He was taller than she was, but his face was open and innocent, with kind dark eyes.

            “Do you want me to walk you to where you’re going?” he offered, hunching his shoulders inside his jeans jacket. He looked as cold as she felt.

            “Would you?” she smiled in relief.

            “Sure.” He shrugged again. “I’m just killing time out here anyway.”

            “I’m not really sure where my friend’s cabin is, though.”

            “Who’s your friend?”

            “Barbara Stanton. Someone told me her place was near the Makinna Lodge.”

            “Oh, yeah, Barbara’s. You must be her friend from Charleston.”

            “Yes!” She smiled again, relieved to finally meet someone who could help her. “Barbara was supposed to have picked me up at the bus stop, but she didn’t make it.”

            “You walked all the way from the main road?” he asked, incredulous.

            “Yes.”

            “Barbara’s cabin is about four miles from here. But my Uncle Kit can give you a ride.”

            “I’d appreciate it.”

            He smiled.

            “I’m Camille Avery,” she said, offering her hand.

            He took hers, suddenly shy. “I’m Adam Makinna.”

            “Of the Makinna Lodge?”

            “Yeah.”

            “I’m so glad to meet you,” Camille squeezed his hand. “I can’t tell you how much!”

 

 

            Adam Makinna took her around another few bends in the road until they came upon the outskirts of a small town dotted with lights. One of the first houses they came to, a brown ranch style home with a bare front yard and a black Jeep Cherokee parked in the driveway, belonged to George Makinna, Adam’s great grandfather. In the deepening dusk, the colors grayed and blended like a murky watercolor. Adam led Camille up the walk and ushered her inside, cautioning her to be quiet.

            Camille stepped into the home, and the warmth from the fireplace met her chilled face like a soothing blanket. She sighed and glanced around, noticing that four old men sat on the floor in front of the fire, their legs folded beneath them, their eyes closed. One of them had both palms raised as he chanted in a monotone and swayed forward and backward. His arms were the emaciated limbs of the truly ancient, more like weathered wood than flesh and bone.

            The interior of the house lay in shadow, with only the light of the fire to illuminate the long room. Camille could see the outline of another man standing to the side of the fireplace on the far wall, his arms crossed, his head at such an angle that Camille was certain he was looking at her, the only one in the room to take notice of her arrival. The even voice of the old man droned on.

            Adam closed the door quietly and held a finger to his lips when Camille turned to ask what was going on. Was she a witness to a Nakalt ritual? Barbara’s manuscript about the Nakalt had mentioned many different ceremonies, some never seen by outsiders or even most members of the tribe. Camille watched in awe, wishing she had a sketch pad. She’d just have to remember the scene so she could draw it later to enclose in the book she was illustrating for Barbara.

            The chant droned on but Camille didn’t mind. She was thankful to be in a warm room. Her feet were blocks of ice, her hands were numb with cold, and the tips of her ears burned. Gradually, she thawed as the chant continued. Then she noticed how warm the amber amulet felt against her skin. Surprised, she put her hand to her chest, wondering what was happening.

            She wore the necklace always, nestled against the gentle slope between her breasts and out of view. It was her personal talisman, and she never showed it to anyone, not even Barbara, afraid that showing it to the world would lessen its magic. But in the nineteen years in which she’d worn the necklace, she’d never felt it grow warm like this. Never once had it caused her fear or surprise--not until she had come to this strange place.

            In a few moments, the amber would be downright hot. What was going on? Surely she wasn’t imagining the temperature change; if it got any warmer, it would burn her skin. But she couldn’t very well paw at herself to pluck it out of her shirt, not in front of a roomful of strangers. Camille shut her eyes, wondering how hot the amulet would get and how long she could last without asking to be shown the bathroom, all the while ignoring the nagging voice inside her that demanded an explanation for the amulet’s strange heat.

            Not a second too soon, the chanting stopped and the heat of the amulet tapered off. Camille breathed a sigh of relief, wondering what was happening to her. For a woman who didn’t let her imagination get the better of her, she was certainly having a weird evening--first the huge bird and now the strange behavior of the amber.

            She opened her eyes and was shocked to see the old men scrambling to their feet at the sight of her. One of the men stepped forward, his eyes ablaze with anger.

            “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded. His face was covered with liver spots and wrinkles.

            Camille gaped at him and then realized he had directed the question to Adam, who stood behind her. She stepped aside.

            “I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t--” Adam blurted.

            “You didn’t what, boy!”

            “I didn’t--” Adam looked at Camille and then at the man standing in the shadows across the room, as if searching for the right words. “Hell, I didn’t--”

            “No profanity, Adam Makinna.”

            “Yes, sir.” Adam hung his head.

            The old man surveyed Camille coldly. His lower jaw protruded over his upper, like a bulldog. “You had no right to interrupt our ceremony.”

            “I’m sorry,” Camille said, chagrined. “I didn’t know.”

            “You profane our sacred prayers.”

            Camille felt the color drain from her face. “I had no idea. I’m truly sorry--”

            “Let her be, Charlie,” said the man at the far wall. He sauntered across the floor. “She is obviously contrite.”

            “But this in an outrage!” The old man’s chest heaved with anger. “A woman--a white woman--has witnessed the resurrection prayer!”

            “I know, Charlie. But what can one woman matter? You and Old Man must have chanted that resurrection prayer every night for a hundred years. One off night isn’t going to matter.”

            Camille glanced up at the man speaking such sensible words, but couldn’t make out his features in the shadows of the dimly lit room. She caught glimpses as he spoke, of a face comprised of sharp angles, narrow nose and flaring jaw line. But she couldn’t tell how old a man he was, or whether his face reflected the authority she could hear in his deep voice.

            “Don’t be flip with me, Kitsap Makinna,” Charlie retorted. “You may choose not to practice the old ways, but your grandfather and I know better than to anger the Spirits.”

            “Don’t you think the Spirits would countenance an honest mistake?” Kit asked, laying a hand on Charlie’s shoulder and bestowing a smile on him, a smile that Camille was certain could melt a women’s heart in an instant--not the heart of a sensible woman like herself, certainly, but one of those other females easily swayed by masculine charm. Then Kit leveled his gaze upon his nephew. “It was an honest mistake, wasn’t it, Adam?”

            “I was just trying to help Miss Avery. I told her you’d give her a lift, Uncle Kit, that’s all.”

            “I didn’t mean to cause any trouble,” Camille interjected. The dark gaze landed on her then, and she felt herself flush. “I--” Additional excuses died on her lips. Flustered, she broke eye contact, glancing at the old man who had chanted. He stared at the far wall, his black eyes glowing in the darkness beneath heavy lids. Even though she knew he wasn’t looking at her, Camille sensed he was listening intently, tuned to something deep inside her. Camille’s heart felt as if it had stopped beating. She wasn’t wanted here. And she didn’t want to linger another minute.

            “I’ll go,” she said breathlessly, turning. “I’m sorry to have interrupted.” She reached for the handle on the front door and pulled it open.

            “Wait a minute,” Kit called after her.

            Camille fled from the house, Adam at her heels, and Kit striding to catch up as he pulled on his coat.

            “Miss Avery!” he called. His voice was deep and commanding, but Camille ignored him and kept walking toward the town. There were no sidewalks and she sloshed through mud and standing water without bothering to go around the wet areas. She had to get far away from the house and those ancient listening ears. She had to get to something familiar, a place where she could collapse and regain her composure.

            Kit and Adam caught up with her.

            “Miss Avery--” Kit reached for her arm, but she shook him off.

            “Please leave me alone,” she said, staring straight ahead. “I’ll take care of myself.”

            “Don’t let Charlie get to you.”

            She took a deep breath, battling the urge to break into tears. It wasn’t just Charlie that had got to her, it was everything on the reservation, especially that old man with the emaciated arms and knowing eyes. “Please, I need to be alone!”

            “She needs a ride to Barbara Stanton’s cabin, Uncle Kit,” Adam said. “I told her you’d take her.”

            “Sure. We’re going out there anyway. What do you say, Miss Avery?”

            Camille stopped, weary and worried, but so nervous her jaw was as hard as stone, her teeth painfully clenched together. She crossed her arms over her chest.

            “I don’t want to cause any more trouble.”

            “You’re no trouble,” Adam put in while he cocked his head to see the expression of her lowered face. “It was my fault. I shouldn’t have taken you in there.”

            “An understatement, Adam.” Kit urged Camille to turn around and retrace her steps to his Jeep. Camille pulled away from the hand that cupped her elbow, but he seemed to take little notice of her reaction to his touch. She walked alongside the two Nakalt men, listening more to the rumble of Kit’s voice than to the words he was saying to his nephew.

            “If your father were alive, he’d whip the tar out of you, Adam.”

            “I thought they’d be done with the ritual when I got back.”

            “Well, they weren’t. And you never should have brought a woman into the house, not even if she was Mother Teresa.”

            “But why are you so mad, Uncle Kit? What’s it to you? You don’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo, do you?”

            “Even if I don’t, I still respect the elders. I observe their rules and respect their wishes. You’d be wise to do the same. You’re a Makinna, Adam, a descendent of great chiefs. You must keep that in mind in everything you do.”

            “My dad said those days were over. No one cares about the old chiefs anymore. I know you don’t.”

            “I care, Adam. I just don’t expect an ancient one to turn up and solve everybody’s problems.”

            They reached the car and Kit strode to the other side of the Jeep. Adam let Camille sit up front while he settled into the back. Camille sank into the bucket seat, thankful to be off her feet after nearly two hours of walking and standing, not to mention her long bus ride from Seattle. She sighed and was aware that Kit studied her as he started the car. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the seat cushion, trying to force the tenseness out of her neck.

            “Don’t you have any belongings?” Kit asked as he backed out of the driveway.

            Camille slowly opened her eyes as the realization struck her. She had forgotten all about the suitcases she had dropped in the road during the bird attack. With her luck, someone had probably driven over her bags and ruined her clothes, not to mention her drawing equipment. Where had her mind gone? Since her first step onto the Nakalt Reservation, she had entered a topsy-turvy world over which she had no control. She felt as if someone had blindfolded her, spun her around, and sent her stumbling in the dark. She had never liked the game of Blind Man’s Buff. And she liked the Nakalt version even less.

            Camille glared out the window. If her clothing and supplies were ruined, she would take it as a sign and go back to Charleston where she belonged.