Walking Wolf

Walking Wolf by Nancy A. Collins Read Free Book Online

Book: Walking Wolf by Nancy A. Collins Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nancy A. Collins
Near, flashing me a sympathetic smile. “Back in Chicago, I read stories of how the heathen Indians kidnap the hapless offspring of Christian settlers and raise them as their own, but I never thought I would be so fortunate as to meet such a specimen! Marshal Harkin, it would be my utmost pleasure—nay, my sacred duty!—to take this wretched, confused youth and instruct him in the ways of Christian brotherhood and make him a useful and productive member of society!”
    Harkin shrugged. “If you want to take on the boy, that’s your business, Reverend. Just make sure he stays out of trouble, y’hear?”
    The Reverend Near’s “church” was a shack placed on the farthest edge of town. The only thing that separated it from the other one-room shanties in Vermilion was a crude whitewashed cross nailed over the front door like a horse shoe. Inside it was one large room, divided in half by a couple of blankets suspended from a clothesline. The front half housed a couple of long benches and a wooden lecturing podium made from soap boxes.
    â€œWelcome home, my son!” exclaimed Reverend Near, flipping back the room divider with an expansive gesture, revealing a potbelly stove, a table, a chair, a stool and a narrow cot. Behind the stove, a built-in ladder led to a half-loft.
    As I stood and looked around, not quite certain what to do or say next, the Reverend pulled a black bag out from under the cot and began rummaging through its contents, still talking the whole time.
    â€œWhat’s your name again, boy? I didn’t quite hear it the first time.”
    â€œBilly. Billy Skillet.”
    â€œAn excellent name for such a fine figure of a young man! But first things first—before I can begin instructing you, we must get rid of these heathen adornments,” he said, gesturing to my breechcloth and riding chaps. “A proper Christian gentleman doesn’t parade around dressed like a wild Apache!”
    â€œComanche,” I corrected.
    Reverend Near looked up from his black bag, peering at me over the tops of his smoked spectacles like an owl getting ready to snatch a mouse. “Never smart talk me, boy! The Lord says honor thy father and mother. And, as of this moment, you are now my son—at least in the spiritual sense. Is that understood?”
    â€œYes, Reverend.” Actually, I didn’t understand, but it seemed like the right thing for me to say. After all, I was new to the White Man’s ways, and I was in no position to judge what was right or wrong.
    â€œAs long as you remember that, we should have no problems getting along,” he said, his voice once again friendly as he pulled a large pair of scissors from the depths of his black bag. “Come here, Billy,” he said, gesturing for me to draw closer. I hesitated, my eyes fixed on the gleaming metal shears he held in his hand.
    â€œYou needn’t fear me, my boy!” he laughed, showing too many teeth for my liking. “I intend you no harm!” Still uncertain, I took a timid step forward. The Reverend, scowling impatiently, grabbed me by one of my braids. “I said come here! Are you deaf, boy?” he thundered.
    Before I could reply, he neatly severed my right braid, taking it off level with my ear lobe. I yelped in alarm, clutching the side of my head as if mortally wounded.
    â€œYou needn’t carry on so,” the Reverend clucked, waving the scissors in front of my nose. “The way you’re behaving, you’d think I was skinning you alive! Now sit down and let me tend to that remaining pigtail of the devil.…”
    I shook my head violently, backing towards the blanket that divided the living quarters.
    â€œBilly, you’re making your father very angry with you!” growled the Reverend. He’d removed his spectacles and I could see that his pupils were dilated. I also noticed that he gave off a strange smell—one I would later

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