Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Sean O’Brian paced around his office with a cellphone to his ear. “For sure tis biscuits to a bear … I din imagine that gombeen would do us any of his poormouthing favors. The last election I named our governor … mad as a box of frogs.” Sean took a leather-covered Gaelic Irish bible from a bookcase and placed it on his desk as he listened. “I want that Momett girl out of his fekin’ hospital … now!” He opened the ancient book and ran a finger down a long list of ancestral names. “You just do whatever needs done to the stook.” His finger stopped at the bottom where his and Margie’s names were written in ink side by side. “Aw, sure look it … and God have mercy on us all!” He had just ended the call when Margie walked in with two cups of coffee and a tiny piece of paper in her right hand.
“I was rinsing dishes and loading the washer when an exhausted sparrow tapped on the kitchen window with this in its beak. She handed Sean the message inked on what looked like homemade paper along with his cup of coffee.
“Your Momett have a sure way of avoiding postage don’t they?” Sean said as he read the note.
Teng lost from
“There is no mail service inside their sanctuary … you know that.” Margie said as she took a sip of her coffee. “Abigail must be frantic. Teng is the youngest of all the Momett children … and each village can have but one child.”
“If I remember my lore … until one of the members dies … right?” Sean took a bottle of Jameson Vintage Reserve Irish Whiskey from behind a stack of ledgers and added a half ounce to his cup. Margie snatched the liquor away from him. “At six-hundred dollars a bottle you’ll be drinking us into the poor house,” she said. “Besides that doctor you hate to visit, warns you every two years about drowning your liver … doesn’t he?”
“I don’t need some himbo telling me to climb in a boat when the water’s rising … now do I?” Sean stirred the hot coffee with his finger and sighed with satisfaction when he took a first sip. He pointed a dripping finger at the confiscated bottle. "Look at you there, happy out with me losing my first mate."
Margie ignored him. “When an adult Momett dies … only then will the village’s child start adolescence and only then can the village can bring forth another little one … but only then.”
“Momett procreation leaves out a bit of pleasure don’t it?” Sean put his arm around his wife and pulled her close.
“We don’t have time for any of your randy shenanigans tonight,” she pushed him away. “I’ve got to pack a few things before I leave.”
“’We are all of us in the gutter … but others are looking at the stars.’ Off to Motha is it then?” Sean looked at his wife with adoring eyes.
“A regular Oscar Wilde you are,” Margie said. “Abigail is my friend … and I won’t leave the poor-dear alone with her troubles … not at a time like this.”
“And I won’t leave my own precious Saint Brigid alone when she goes out mending hearts!” Sean beamed as he followed Margie upstairs to their bedroom.
Teng nearly fell unconscious when R.N. Morgan touched the burning cigarette in the same place where Doctor James made the incision for the blood test. A wad of sterile-gauze- stuffed in her mouth- muffled the scream. “Your skin is hard to cut … but it does burn,” Edith sniffed the air and smiled. “It smells like the fields of straw-stubble my father used to burn in the fall.”
She used a disposable cloth-wipe to scrape away the charred skin and laughed when Teng rolled her eyes in agony. “What are you about fifteen?” she asked. Teng moaned. “That’s old enough to realize there is a lot of pain in this world … lots of it.”
Mrs. Morgan opened a drawer and pulled out a large pair of stainless-steel forceps. “That’s a nasty bruise on your leg,” she giggled. “Did you get that when that truck hit you? It’s so swollen that it should be bleeding.” She unlocked the forceps and clicked then between her fingers like scissors. “Let’s see what an extra little bit of pressure can do!” She pulled a handful of loose skin around the bruise and was just about to clamp the surgical instrument when voices came from the hallway. “Doctor please … can you transfer me to another hospital?” Gail Thomson’s whiney voice came from just down the hall.
“Why Mrs. Thompson, whatever could be the problem? I thought you liked it here! Isn’t Nurse Morgan just the nicest caregiver anyone could ever hope for?”
“She seems nice …” Mrs. Thompson’s voice was just a whisper. “But I wake up and I can’t breathe … and I keep having these nightmares … where she is not nice at all!”
“Dear Mrs. Thompson” Doctor Richard M. Burnside’s unmistakable voice answered along with the hospital administrator’s. “Perhaps we can prescribe something to make you sleep without dreams.”
What he doing here this time of night … and with Candor?
Edith Morgan quickly covered the burn marks on Teng’s finger with a bandage and then turned up the level of Rohypnol flowing into her IV bag to instantly knock her out.
She removed the gaze from the girl’s mouth just as the two doctors walked into the room. “I’m glad that you are tending to our most valuable patient so thoroughly,” Dr. Burnside smiled as he looked about the room. He crinkled his nose when he saw the bottle on the counter. “You’re using Rohypnol as a sedative?”
Nurse Morgan was raised on a farm but she could think fast on her feet. “Everything is strange about this girl,’ she explained. “She’s allergic to every other anesthetic we tried … She tends to get violent.” Edith gestured to the restraints holding Teng down. “And she’s been demanding to leave. I thought it best to keep her relaxed and calm.”
Philip D. Candor, the hospital administrator spoke up. “Actually giving her that date rape drug might be a good thing. She won’t remember a thing … if we have to release her to the authorities.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Doctor Burnside was already pulling the IV out of the girl’s arm. “Governor Brown called. He wants this girl out of Montana immediately. Some guy named Sean O’Brian has been squeezing his head in a political vice. If she’s not gone in thirty minutes … she walks.”
“Is there something I can do doctor?” Candor and Burnside were already lifting the unconscious girl into a wheelchair.
“My contacts are parked outside,” Doctor Burnside said. “You can ride along and make sure she keeps breathing … Candor will find someone to cover your shift.”
“Where are we going?” Nurse Morgan asked as she pushed the wheelchair down the hall.
“Somewhere that we can make the girl talk,” Burnside said. “The DNA lab put me in touch with some very highly connected research people back east who promised to help … pharmaceutical heavyweights. This girl with her new genetic code is worth over a hundred million dollars dead or alive … she has to have come from somewhere. Imagine a whole village of these chromosomal mutants. They could be worth billions!”
“And we will all share in the good fortune,” Candor’s eyes were like flashing money signs.
“We’ll all get a piece of the pie,” Doctor Burnside said. “But I’m the surgeon so I’ll do the cutting … and of course … I’ll eat first.”
Sean O’Brian parked the Lincoln Continental Mark IV behind the dilapidated farm house on River Road. “Most people figure that Joseph Callahan Senior, Egbert’s grandfather, had a secret way into Motha Forest,” he told Margie as they entered the abandoned building. “He used a giant species of spiders to weave special fabric for his textile mills. The transcontinental railroad had just sacked hundreds of Chinese Oibrithe and Joseph paid out wages to dig a mile-long tollán under Motha’s impenetrable walls of iron-trees. Teng must have come through his secret passageway when she left the forest … and also that Ollphéist that was set on her!”
Sean and Margie made their way down a flight of rickety stairs into a dark, dusty cellar. Sean lit an oil lamp hanging on a wall. In one corner of the room, behind bundles of rotting linen, a trap door was open; stone steps led into the darkness. “This is where she came out!” Margie pointed to footprints in the fabric dust then gasped as she grabbed her husband’s arm.
“Now what would a fine lass like you be afraid of with me here?” Sean lapsed into an exaggerated Irish brogue … pleasantly surprised at his fine wife’s trust.
Margie pointed toward a much larger set of prints following the first. “A Hodmedod,” she whispered. “You don’t know how terrible these creatures are.”
Dr. Burnside and Nurse Morgan loaded Teng into the back of a blue van containing a refrigerator and expensive medical research equipment. A bald man with thick eyeglasses sat in the driver’s seat - another man sat on the passenger side. “Just start driving,” Burnside ordered. “I’ll tell you were to go after we’re away from here.”
“Let’s get one thing straight right up front!” the bald man said. “You will get your cut but I don’t work for you … and there’s been a change of plans. It’s too risky trying to smuggle the girl out of the country alive. We have highly skilled people in our pharmaceutical consortium who can synthesize any of her special genetic properties … all we need is a small sample of her flesh and blood.”
“I didn’t agree to this … and the girl belongs to me!” Burnside was furious and started to open the back door. The man in the passenger seat turned and thrust the barrel of a 9mm Glock automatic into the narrow space between the doctor’s eyes.
“Now you tell us where would be a good place to dispose of what’s left of her body,” the man with the gun said.
“The desert,” Dr. Burnside stammered. “I know a very remote place in the desert.”
“I bet you know a lot of places,” the man holding the gun snickered.
Abigail was standing by the trap door when they climbed the stairs into the old mill. Sean was fascinated by her homespun clothes and the hood with eye holes that covered her face. “I knew you would come,” Abigail said. “Sixth sense is very strong in our people … even from a distance with good friends … with enemies you have to be a lot closer.”
Margie glanced at the cloth garments the woman held in her hand. “If you would please wear these kawls while you are here,” Abigail pleaded. “I know that we don’t share the same ideas of modesty, but it would make the others in the village feel more comfortable if you both did not appear to be walking around naked.”
“I’m so sorry about Teng,” Margie said as she put on her hood. “My husband has promised me that she will be returned safely to you.”
“That I will,” Sean boasted. “When my pretty Bean an tí asks me to wear a casóg in the summer … I don’t ask for the temperature … I just wear it with a smile.”
The eyes looking out from slits in the hood stared at Sean. “I hope that you are right!” her voice quavered.
A midnight blue Lincoln parked in the no-parking zone right in front of Missoula General Hospital. The two suited men, one with a close cropped Hitler mustache and another sucking on a lollypop swept through the entrance foyer like they owned the place. “We’re here to see a girl named Teng,” The brutish looking man sucking the candy on a stick and wearing a two thousand dollar Armani suit told the woman at the desk. “Which room is she in?”
“Teng is in room 419,” the old woman told him looking at her register. “But you can’t go up there … visiting hours are over … you’ll have to come back tomorrow … and any contact with this patient must be approved by Dr. Blackburn.”
“Teng is checking out,” the man with the mustache told her as they headed toward the elevator. “Tell Doctor Blackburn to send us a bill.”
As soon as the elevator door closed, the woman at the desk called security.
“The entire Cottonmouth River vanishes into a hole in the desert floor,” Dr. Blackburn pointed to a large outcropping of rocks up ahead. “The locals call it Magician’s Canyon.”
“And you can assure the pharmaceutical consortium that if we toss what’s left of the girl into this hole she’ll never be found?” The driver shut off the van and opened his door.
“Nothing that ever goes in that hole ever comes out again,” Dr. Blackburn shook his head. “The Blackfoot Indians used to call it Naoóyi Aohkíí the Mouth of Hell … an open place on the face of the land, forever drinking the river and trying to drown the raging fires below.”
“You said you needed skin and blood samples …” Nurse Morgan was looking at the unconscious girl and licking her lips. “Let me do the cutting … please.”
“Let’s take a look at this mouth that swallows rivers before you have your fun,” the man with the glasses said. “This sounds like it’s going to be fun, just watching a sadist like you work … but when I do something … I have to be sure.”
Margie and Sean followed Abigail deep into Motha Forest. A dozen huts made of woven straw panels were clustered in a meadow filled with wildflowers. Several hooded people rushed out to meet the strangers. They all hung their heads when they realized that Teng was not with them. “These are my friends,” Abigail told the villagers. “Mr. O’Brian has promised to bring our darling Teng back to us.”
“The Momett have been in council ever since the sparrows stopped chirping,” Abigail said nervously. “It is a sure sign of death that surrounds one of our members .. and they have already started constructing Teng’s replacement.”
Four solemn Momett women were busy in the center of the village stuffing and hand-sewing a tiny scarecrow around a long table. A bleating miniature goat and a yowling kitten wandered around the huts obviously looking for the lost child.
“On each of life’s journeys,” Sean sighed looking at the distraught pets. “Death is never far behind … all the living can do, is to keep moving and never look back.”
“How do you get the sparrows to do your bidding,” Margie asked Abigail to change the subject. “I was amazed when that little bird brought us your message.”
“When a Momett dies,” Abigail said. “A sparrow carries the departing soul to a newly formed child. A little bit of the spirit is left behind in the bird. The sparrows are as much a part of this village as we are.”
The two suited men were rattling the locked door of room 419 on the fourth floor of the hospital when two armed security men rushed from the stairwell. “Put your hands in the air and move away from that door!” The first guard shouted. Both nervous men had guns pointed at the bulky intruders.
“There must be some mistake,” the lollypop-sucking man said as he raised his arms in the air and smiled. “We’re just here to make sure my niece is okay.”
“Absolutely no-one goes in that room without authorization,” the first guard said. “Now move away from the door!”
“Sorry … we should come back tomorrow!” both suited men brushed past the nervous guards on the way to the elevator.
There were two bangs almost like gunshots as the two guards were disarmed and knocked to the floor unconscious. “But that’s not going to happen.” The mustached man said as he kicked open the door.
Room 419 was empty. Sheets trailed from the hospital bed … the patient had obviously left in a hurry.
“The boss is going to be angry,” the lollypop sucking man punched a hole in the room’s-wall with his fist. “We got here too late!”
Sean and Margie watched as the villagers hung the effigy on a pole and began to walk around it in circles … chanting, tearing at their own clothing and pulling out tiny bits of straw that they scattered on the future member of their village.
“How long does this ritual go on?” Margie asked Abigail.
“All night,” Abigail said hanging her head. “Each member of the village gives a part of themselves to create the new life. If everything is successful … a new Momett will emerge with the first rays of dawn.”
Sean looked flustered. “I put my best Chicago soldiers on this,” he stammered as he tried in vain to get cell phone reception. “We have to give them more time.”
“The iron wall of trees that surround this forest also blocks out all human communication with the outside world,” Abigail said. Tears were beginning to soak the front of her kawl. “We have some very observant owls watching the farm house and the old mill … Teng’s fate is now in the night’s hands.”
“For a nurse who gets such pleasure from causing pain to others … she sure didn’t like having her fingers broken … just before they both went in for a swim.” The man with the glasses said as they drove away from Magician’s Canyon in the blue van.
“That fool doctor offered me a million dollars if I’d let him go,” the other one chuckled. “He doesn’t realize that with our very generous employer … we make that each payday.”
“All we got to do now is deliver our very expensive package … and we can call it a night!” The man with the glasses said. “Whatever we got in the back of this van must be very important … to someone.”
“I’ll be glad to get out of Montana!” The other man shook his head. “The radio said there’s been some kind of monster tearing apart farm buildings and slaughtering chickens all over the western part of this state.”
“Sounds worse than my bloody neighborhood back in the south side of Chicago each time the White Socks lose,” The man with the glasses laughed.
The sky above the Momett village was beginning to lighten. Sean and Margie watched the chanting Momett with growing sadness. “I was so sure of my people,” Sean moaned, “they’ve never let me down before.”
“You did the best you could,” Margie told him. “That’s all anyone can ask of a good friend.”
Ten minutes later, with a blast that sounded like a hard rain falling, every sleeping sparrow in the trees took to the air. The Momett stopped chanting and stared at the sky. The massive flock of birds flew like a giant cloud toward the east. Several of the Momett men ran from the village in the direction that Sean, Margie and Abigail had traveled in on. Minutes later they returned with a just-waking Teng in their arms. “Two men in a blue van just dropped her by the farm house entrance,” they shouted.
“I promised I’d bring the wee lass back now didn’t I?” Sean pulled Margie close and kissed her through the mouth-opening in her hood.
“Teng is back safely … but what about the Hodmedod? We can’t let a horrible creature like that just roam around the countryside!” Margie pleaded with her husband as she caressed his cheek through the soft material.
“I’ll fix it … my pretty Bean an tí,” Sean told her. “I’ll fix everything … I promise.”
Comanche County Sheriff’s Deputy Bert Skinner dropped Mathew Robyn (Bob) Vineyard off at Spare-A-Dime in Cloverdale. The all night café was a favorite hangout for truck drivers all over western Montana. A table filled with laughing men gave Bob their undivided attention. “What? No room in the jail and they had to bring you here!” A burly man called Road Rage yelled.
“Where’s that Pete you’re always bragging up … out of fuel on the flats?” another asked.
“My Peterbilt 579 is on the economy side of Monida Pass with the radiator tore out and most of my front-end scattered from Hell to breakfast!” Bob accepted a shaking cup of coffee from the waitress and finished it in three gulps.
“You run-down some poor rancher’s cow?”
“I come around a curve and locked up all eighteen brakes … almost jack-knifed a skateboard loaded with logs … there was this thing, big as a house, hunched over a dead moose. When the damn thing stood up, it must have been nine foot tall! What looked like a rotted old flour sack covered its ugly face. Like a fool, I laid on my air-horns.
“Bigfoot!” several of the men suggested.
The rest of the truckers at the table all laughed, all except Tony Barrow. The old man had driven the big rigs for thirty years and was a life-long resident of Cloverdale. “It was no Bigfoot,” he said as he thickened his coffee with more sugar. “What you saw was a Hodmedod!”