Indian Country Noir

Indian Country Noir

by Sarah Cortez, Liz Martínez

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Fourteen brutal and passionate stories by both Native American and non-Native writers, including New York Times–bestselling author Lawrence Block.
Step into Indian Country—which comprises the entire North American continent, from the uppermost reaches of Canada to the island of Puerto Rico. Enter the dark welter of troubled history throughout the Americas, where the heritage of violence meets the ferocity of intent. An integral part of Native American culture, storytelling now takes a bleak turn to showcase the scope of indigenous peoples’ experiences.
Indian Country Noir features brand-new stories by Mistina Bates, Jean Rae Baxter, Lawrence Block, Joseph Bruchac, David Cole, Reed Farrel Coleman, O’Neil De Noux, A.A. HedgeCoke, Gerard Houarner, Liz Martínez, R. Narvaez, Kimberly Roppolo, Leonard Schonberg, and Melissa Yi.
“Whatever the case, each situation is built around individuals doomed by their heritage. Ultimately, each story gives readers a disturbingly insightful and relatively unknown view of the lives of thousands of fellow citizens all but invisible to mainstream America.” —The Denver Post
“Written by both Native American and non-Native authors, the 14 stories in this worthy volume in Akashic’s noir series range geographically from northern Canada to Puerto Rico and from New York’s Adirondacks to Los Angeles.” —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936070824
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication date: 06/01/2010
Series: Akashic Noir Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 290
Sales rank: 577,341
File size: 879 KB

About the Author

Sarah Cortez, a law-enforcement officer, is the author of the poetry collection How to Undress a Cop. Winner of the 1999 PEN Texas Literary award in poetry, she has edited or coedited Urban-Speak: Poetry of the City, Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives, and Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery. Liz Martínez's stories have appeared in Manhattan Noir, Queens Noir, Cop Tales 2000, and other publications. She is the author of The Retail Manager's Guide to Crime and Loss Prevention; her articles about security and law enforcement have appeared in publications worldwide. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.

Read an Excerpt


HELPER by Joseph BruchacAdirondacks, New York

The one with the missing front teeth. He's the one who shot me. Before his teeth were missing.

Getting shot was, in a way, my fault. I heard them coming when they were still a mile away. I could've run. But running never suited me, even before I got this piece of German steel in my hip. My Helper. Plus I'd been heating the stones for my sweat lodge since the sun was a hand high above the hill. I run off, the fire would burn down and they'd cool off. Wouldn't be respectful to those stones.

See what they want, I figured. Probably just deer hunters who'd heard about my reputation. You want to get a trophy, hire Indian Charley.

Yup, that was what it had to be. A couple of flatlanders out to hire me to guide them for the weekend. Boys who'd seen the piece about me in the paper, posing with two good old boys from Brooklyn and the twelve pointer they bagged. Good picture of me, actually. Too good, I realized later. But that wasn't what I was thinking then. Just about potential customers. Not that I needed the money. But a man has to keep busy. And it was better in general if folks just saw me as a typical Indian. Scraping by, not too well educated, a threat to no one. Good old Indian Charley.

Make me a sawbuck or two, get them a buck or two. Good trade.

I was ready to say that to them. Rehearsing it in my head. For a sawbuck or two, I'll get you boys a buck or two. Good trade. Indian humor. Funny enough to get me killed.

I really should have made myself scarce when I heard their voices clear enough to make out what the fat one was saying. It was also when I felt the first twinge in my hip. They were struggling up the last two hundred yards of the trail. That's when I should have done it. Not ran, maybe. But faded back into the hemlocks.

Son of a bidgin' Indin, the heavy-footed one said. And kept on saying it in between labored breaths and the sound of his heavy feet, slipping and dislodging stones. The other one, who wasn't so clumsy but was still making more noise than a lame moose, didn't say anything.

I imagined Heavy Foot was just ticked off at me for making my camp two miles from the road and the last of it straight up. It may have discouraged some who might've hired me. But it weeded out the weaker clientele. And the view was worth it, hills rolling away down to the river that glistened with the rising sun like a silver bracelet, the town on the other side that turned into a constellation of lights mirroring the stars in the sky above it at night.

The arrowhead-shaped piece of metal in my flesh sent another little shiver down the outside of my thigh. I ignored it again. Not a smart thing to do, but I was curious about my visitors.

Curiosity killed the Chippewa, as my grampa, who had also been to Carlisle, used to joke.

For some reason the picture of the superintendent's long face the last day I saw him came to mind. Twenty years ago. He was sitting behind his desk, his pale face getting red as one of those beets I'd spent two summers digging on the farm where they sent me to work for slave labor wages — like every other Indian kid at the school. The superintendent got his cut, of course. How many farm hands and house maids do you need? We got hundreds of them here at Carlisle. Nice, civilized, docile little Indian boys and girls. Do whatever you want with them.

That was before I got my growth and Pop Warner saw me and made me one of his athletic boys. Special quarters, good food and lots of it, an expense account at Blumenthal's department store, a share of the gate. Plus a chance to get as many concussions as any young warrior could ever dream of, butting heads against the linemen of Harvard and Syracuse and Army. I also found some of the best friends I ever had on that football squad.

It was because of one of them that I'd been able to end up here on this hilltop — which, according to my name on a piece of paper filed in the county seat belonged to me. As well as the other two hundred acres all the way down to the river. I'd worked hard for the money that made it possible for me to get my name on that deed. But that's another story to tell another time.

As Heavy Foot and his quieter companion labored up the last narrow stretch of trail, where it passed through a hemlock thicket and then came out on an open face of bedrock, I was still replaying that scene in the superintendent's office.

You can't come in here like this.

I just did.

I'll have you expelled.

I almost laughed at that one. Throw an Indian out of Carlisle? Where some children were brought in chains? Where they cut our hair, stole the fine jewelry that our parents arrayed us in, took our clothes, changed our names, dressed us in military uniforms, and turned us into little soldiers? Where more kids ran away than ever graduated?

You won't get the chance. I held up my hand and made a fist.

The super cringed back when I did that. I suppose when you have bear paw hands like mine, they could be a little scary to someone with a guilty conscience.

I lifted my little finger. First, I said, I'm not here alone. I looked back over my shoulder where the boys of the Carlisle football team were waiting in the hall.

I held up my ring finger. Second, I talk; you listen.

Middle finger. Third, he goes. Out of here. Today.

The super knew who I meant. The head disciplinarian of the school. Mr. Morissey. Who was already packing his bags with the help of our two tackles. Help Morissey needed because of his dislocated right shoulder and broken jaw.

The super started to say something. But the sound of my other hand coming down hard on his desk stopped his words as effectively as a cork in a bottle. His nervous eyes focused for a second on the skinned knuckles of my hand.

Fourth, I said, extending my index finger. No one will ever be sent to that farm again. No, don't talk. You know the one I mean. Just nod if you understand. Good.

Last, my thumb extended, leaning forward so that it touched his nose. You never mention my name again. You do not contact the agent on my reservation or anyone else. You just take me out of the records. I am a violent Indian. Maybe I have killed people. You do not ever want to see me again. Just nod.

The super nodded.

Good, I said. Now, my hand patting the air as if I was giving a command to a dog, stay!

He stayed. I walked out into the hall where every man on the football squad except for our two tackles was waiting, including our Indian coach. The super stayed in his office as they all shook my hand, patted me on the back. No one said goodbye. There's no word for goodbye. Travel good. Maybe we see you further down the road.

The super didn't even come out as they moved with me to the school gate, past the mansion built with the big bucks from football ticket sales where Pop Warner had lived. As I walked away, down to the train station, never looking back, the super remained in his seat. His legs too weak with fear for him to stand. According to what I heard later in France — from Gus Welch, who was my company commander and had been our quarterback at Carlisle — the superintendent sat there for the rest of the day without moving. The football boys finally took pity on him and sent one of the girls from the sewing class in to tell him that Charles, the big dangerous Indian, was gone and he could come out now.

Gus laughed. You know what he said when she told him that? Don't mention his name. That's what he said.

I might have been smiling at the memory when the two men came into view, but that wasn't where my recollections had stopped. They'd kept walking me past the Carlisle gate, down the road to the trolley tracks. They'd taken me on the journey I made back then, by rail, by wagon, and on foot, until I reached the dark hills that surrounded that farm. The one more Carlisle kids had run away from than any other. Or at least it was reported that they had run away — too many of them were never seen again

That had been the first time I acted on the voice that spoke within me. An old voice with clear purpose. I'd sat down on the slope under an old apple tree and watched, feeling the wrongness of the place. I waited until it was late, the face of the Night Traveler looking sadly down from the sky. Then I made my way downhill to the place that Thomas Goodwaters, age eleven, had come to me about because he knew I'd help after he told me what happened there. Told me after he'd been beaten by the school disciplinarian for running away from his Outing assignment at the Bullweather Farm. But the older, half-healed marks on his back had not come from the disciplinarian's cane.

Just the start, he'd told me, his voice calm despite it all, speaking Chippewa. They were going to do worse. I heard what they said they'd done before.

I knew his people back home. Cousins of mine. Good people, canoe makers. A family peaceful at heart, that shared with everyone and that hoped their son who'd been forced away to that school would at least be taught things he could use to help the people. Like how to scrub someone else's kitchen floor.

He'd broken out the small window of the building where they kept him locked up every night. It was a tiny window, but he was so skinny by then from malnourishment that he'd been able to worm his way free. Plus his family were Eel People and known to be able to slip through almost any narrow place.

Two dogs, he said. Bad ones. Don't bark. Just come at you.

But he'd planned his escape well. The bag he'd filled with black pepper from the kitchen and hidden in his pants was out and in his hand as soon as he hit the ground. He'd left the two bad dogs coughing and sneezing as he ran and kept running.

As his closest relative, I was the one he had been running to before Morissey caught him.

You'll do something, Tommy Goodwaters said. It was not a question. You will help.

I was halfway down the hill and had just climbed over the barbed-wire fence when the dogs got to me. I'd heard them coming, their feet thudding the ground, their eager panting. Nowhere near as quiet as wolves — not that wolves will ever attack a man. So I was ready when the first one leaped and latched its long jaws around my right forearm. Its long canines didn't get through the football pads and tape I'd wrapped around both arms. The second one, snarling like a wolverine, was having just as hard a time with my equally well-protected left leg that it attacked from the back. They were big dogs, probably about eighty pounds each. But I was two hundred pounds bigger. I lifted up the first one as it held on to my arm like grim death and brought my other forearm down hard across the back of its neck. That broke its neck. The second one let go when I kicked it in the belly hard enough to make a fifty-yard field goal. Its heart stopped when I brought my knee and the full weight of my body down on its chest.

Yeah, they were just dogs. But I showed no mercy. If they'd been eating what Tommy told me — and I had no reason to doubt him — there was no place for such animals to be walking this Earth with humans.

Then I went to the place out behind the cow barn. I found a shovel leaned against the building. Convenient. Looked well used. It didn't take much searching. It wasn't just the softer ground, but what I felt in my mind. The call of a person's murdered spirit when their body has been hidden in such a place as this. A place they don't belong.

It was more than one spirit calling for help. By the time the night was half over I'd found all of them. All that was left of five Carlisle boys and girls who'd never be seen alive again by grieving relatives. Mostly just bones. Clean enough to have had the flesh boiled off them. Some gnawed. Would have been no way to tell them apart if it hadn't been for what I found in each of those unmarked graves with them. I don't know why, but there was a large thick canvass bag for each of them. Each bag had a wooden tag tied to it with the name and, God love me, even the tribe of the child. Those people — if I can call them that — knew who they were dealing with. Five bags of clothing, meager possessions and bones. None of them were Chippewas, but they were all my little brothers and sisters. If I still drew breath after that night was over, their bones and possessions, at least, would go home. When I looked up at the moon, her face seemed red. I felt as if I was in an old, painful story.

I won't say what I did after that. Just that when the dawn rose I was long gone and all that remained of the house and the buildings were charred timbers. I didn't think anyone saw me as I left that valley, carrying those five bags. But I was wrong. If I'd seen the newspapers from the nearby town the next day — and not been on my way west, to the Sac & Fox and Osage Agencies in Oklahoma, the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, the lands of the Crows and the Cheyennes in Montana, the Cahuilla of California — I would have read about the tragic death by fire of almost an entire family. Almost.

I blinked away that memory and focused on the two men who paused only briefly at the top of the trail and then headed straight toward me where I was squatting down by the fire pit. As soon as I saw them clearly I didn't have to question the signal my Helper was giving me. I knew they were trouble.

Funny how much you can think of in the space of an eyeblink. Back in the hospital after getting hit by the shrapnel. The tall, skinny masked doctor bending over me with a scalpel in one hand and some kind of shiny bent metal instrument in the other.

My left hand grabbing the surgeon's wrist before the scapel touched my skin.

It stays.

The ether. A French accent. You are supposed to be out.

I'm not.

Oui. I see this. My wrist, you are hurting it.

Pardon. But I didn't let go.


It says it's going to be my Helper. It's talking to me.

They might have just given me more ether, but by then Gus Welch had pushed his way in the tent. He'd heard it all.

He began talking French to the doctor, faster than I could follow. Whatever it was he said, it worked.

The doctor turned back to me, no scalpel this time.

You are Red Indian.

Mais oui.

A smile visible even under the mask. Head nodding. Bien.

We just sew you up then.

Another blink of an eye and I was back watching the two armed men come closer. The tall, lanky one was built a little like that doctor I'd last seen in 1918. No mask, though. I could see that he had one of those Abraham Lincoln faces, all angles and jutting jaw — but with none of that long-gone president's compassion. He was carrying a Remington .303. The fat one with the thick lips and small eyes, Heavy Foot for sure, had a lever-action Winchester 30-06. I'd heard him jack a shell into the chamber just before they came into view.

Good guns, but not in the hands of good guys.

Both of them were in full uniform. High-crowned hats, black boots, and all. Not the brown doughboy togs in which I had once looked so dapper. Their khaki duds had the words Game Warden sewed over their breast pockets.

They stopped thirty feet away from me.

Charley Bear, the Lincoln impersonator, said in a flat voice, We have a warrant for your arrest for trespassing. Stand up.

I stayed crouching. It was clear to me they didn't know I owned the land I was on. Not that most people in the area knew. After all, it was registered under my official white name of Charles B. Island. If they were really serving a warrant from a judge, they'd know that. Plus there was one other thing wrong.

Game wardens don't serve warrants, I said.

They said he was a smart one, Luth, Heavy Foot growled.

Too smart for his own good.

My Helper sent a wave of fire through my whole leg and I rolled sideways just as Luth raised his gun and pulled the trigger. It was pretty good for a snap shot. The hot lead whizzed past most of my face with the exception of the flesh it tore off along my left cheekbone, leaving a two-inch wound like a claw mark from an eagle's talon.

As I rolled, I hurled sidearm the first of the baseball-sized rocks I'd palmed from the outside of the firepit. Not as fast as when I struck out Jim Thorpe twice back at Indian school. But high and hard enough to hit the strike zone in the center of Luth's face. Bye-bye front teeth.

Heavy Foot had hesitated before bringing his gun up to his shoulder. By then I'd shifted the second stone to my throwing hand. I came up to one knee and let it fly. It struck square in the soft spot just above the fat man's belly.


His gun went flying off to the side and he fell back clutching his gut.

Luth had lost his .303 when the first rock struck him. He was curled up, his hands clasped over his face.

I picked up both guns before I did anything else. Shucked out the shells and then, despite the fact that I hated to do it seeing as how guns themselves are innocent of evil intent, I tossed both weapons spinning over the edge of the cliff. By the time they hit the rocks below I had already rolled Heavy Foot over and yanked his belt out of his pants. I wrapped it around his elbows, which I'd pulled behind his back, cinched it tight enough for him to groan in protest.


Excerpted from "Indian Country Noir"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Akashic Books.
Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Page,
Foreword by Richard B. Williams,
Joseph Bruchac Adirondacks, New York Helper,
Jean Rae Baxter Eastern Woodlands, Canada Osprey Lake,
Gerard Houarner New York, New York Dead Medicine Snake Woman,
Melisa Yi Ontario, Canada Indian Time,
A.A. HedgeCoke Charlotte, North Carolina On Drowning Pond,
Mistina Bates Memphis, Tennessee Daddy's Girl,
O'Neil De Noux New Orleans, Louisiana The Raven and the Wolf,
R. Narvaez San Juan, Puerto Rico Juracán,
David Cole Tucson, Arizona,
Leonard Schonberg Ashland, Montana Lame Elk,
Reed Farrel Coleman Los Angeles, California Another Role,
Lawrence Block Upper Peninsula, Michigan Getting Lucky,
Liz Martínez Chicago, Illinois Prowling Wolves,
Kimberly Roppolo Alberta, Canada Quilt like a Night Sky,
About the Contributors,

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