IN THE WORKS
Lindy Lockwood wandered through the museum's Indian village. Her grandfather loved to watch all the old westerns being rerun on cable – The Virginian, Cheyenne, Maverick, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Wanted: Dead or Alive. Of course, Grandpa Lockwood loved all those old John Wayne movies, too, and though Lindy was loathe to admit it to her friends, after watching True Grit, Hondo, El Dorado and The Shootist with him, she had come to love them, too.
She ran her fingers over the side of a tipi, wondering what it had been like to live in a hide lodge, to wash in a river and cook over an open fire, to deliver a baby in the wilderness without drugs or a doctor. She grimaced at the idea. Obviously, women in the Old West had been made of sterner stuff than she and her friends.
Lindy moved from one remarkable display to another, fascinated by everything she saw, from the beautifully beaded moccasins and fringed, doeskin dresses to the huge buffalo robe which was surprisingly soft. Now and then she picked up a flyer or a post card and stuffed them into her bag.
She paused in front of a glass case displaying a warbonnet. Leaning forward, she counted over twenty-five feathers and that was just on one side. The placard in front of the case informed her that only eagle feathers were used, because the Indians believed eagles were the most powerful birds. Some tribes also believed that eagles carried their prayers to the Great Spirit. These days, Native Americans were the only ones allowed to own eagle feathers. They considered it offensive for anyone who had not earned the right to wear a warbonnet to do so. To be given an eagle feather was an Indian's highest mark of respect and was usually given to someone who had shown selfless courage or performed an act of valor. These days, only enrolled members of recognized Native tribes were allowed to collect eagle feathers.
A nearby, glass-fronted case held a variety of bows and arrows, as well as vintage rifles, pistols, and Bowie knives.
Walking on, she passed a number of blankets and baskets, all with beautifully woven designs.
A small tipi stood in a dark, out-of-the way corner. She almost passed it by, but something made her stop. She studied the moons and stars painted on the lodge skins, the suns and jagged lightning bolts, wondering if they meant anything or were just for decoration.
Curious, she bent down to look inside and then, as if pulled by an invisible hand, she stumbled inside. It was eerily silent within the hide walls, as if she had entered a different world. She frowned as she heard the sound of a distant drum. Where was it coming from? She hadn't seen any drummers and there was no one else inside the lodge. And no drum.
She shivered as a thick gray fog engulfed her, carrying with it the scent of smoke and roasting meat. The faint sound of chanting seemed to echo off the hide walls.
Feeling suddenly weak, she sank down on the bedroll in the back of the lodge and closed her eyes as the world around her began to spin.
And then everything went black.
Someone was shaking her shoulder, speaking to her in a language she didn't recognize or understand. Alarmed, Lindy bolted upright, felt a rush of panic when she glanced at her surroundings. She was inside a tipi. A small fire burned in a pit in the center of the floor. An old woman clad in a fringed doeskin dress stood over her, shaking a bony finger and chattering at her in a foreign language.
Scrambling to her feet, Lindy grabbed her handbag and darted outside, only to come to an abrupt halt.
The museum was gone and she was surrounded by nothing but prairie and blue sky as far as she could see. A horse herd grazed on the short grass beside a slow-moving river. There were tipis everywhere. And Indians. Lots and lots of Indians.
She glanced behind her. The old woman stood in the entrance of the tipi, but it was the tipi itself that held Lindy's gaze. It was exactly like the one in the museum.
What was going on?
She took a step back as a man wearing nothing but a breechclout and moccasins strode toward her. He was tall and broad-shouldered, his skin the color of copper. A jagged, white scar ran from his left shoulder to his waist.
He stopped a few paces in front of her, his narrow-eyed gaze moving over her from head to foot. "Who the hell are you?" he asked. "How did you get here?"
Lindy blinked at him. "Who the hell are you?"
He lifted one brow, his dark eyes glittering with amusement. "I asked you first."
"I'm Lindy Lockwood," she said, hating the tremor in her voice. "And I don't know how I got here."
He glanced at the tipi behind her, then grunted softly.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"In the white world, I'm Adam Tremont. They know me as Dakotah here."
"What should I call you?"
"Where am I?"
"You don't know?"
"Would I ask if I did?"
He grunted softly. "This is Dakota Territory."
Dakota Territory! Stars above! Feeling foolish, she asked, "What year is it?"
Lindy blinked at him. South Dakota? Eighteen seventy-three! That was impossible. She had to be dreaming. Or maybe she'd fallen and hit her head and she was lying unconscious in a hospital somewhere.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"You're a long way from home."
Lindy stared at him, confused by his native attire and his flawless English. He was remarkably handsome, with long, inky-black hair any woman would envy, and eyes the color of dark chocolate.
Alarm skittered down her spine as she realized that a large number of people had gathered around them. Most regarded her curiously. A few with suspicion.
One of the men spoke to Adam and they talked back and forth for several minutes.
"What's he saying?" Lindy asked.
"Wiyaka Sapa is chief. He thinks you must be a spirit."
"A spirit! Why would he think that?"
"Because you appeared out of nowhere in Magaskawee's lodge. She's a shaman. A holy woman. Wiyaka Sapa thinks she must have summoned you from the Great Beyond."
"That's ridiculous. Even if such a thing were possible, why would an Indian summon me?"
Adam shrugged. "Best to let Wiyaka Sapa think that's what you are for the time being. The Lakota can be very superstitious. Better if they think you're a spirit than a witch."
"A witch!" Lindy exclaimed.
"Superstitious, like I said."
"Who are you? How is that you speak such good English?"
"My father was a teacher from back east. I lived with him awhile."
"Oh." Lindy glanced around. Most of the crowd had wandered away, although a few children lingered, their eyes wide with curiosity. "What am I going to do now? How am I going to get home?" And how did I really get here? She didn't believe in time travel. And she certainly didn't believe some old woman had summoned her. But unless she was having an incredibly bad dream, those seemed to be the only two viable options.
"For the time being, I guess you'll have to stay with Magaskawee."
"But…I can't even talk to her."
"She can speak English if she wants to. In any case, I'll be around. I can translate for you if necessary."
"Thank you." Lindy glanced past him. Many of the people had gone back to their own lodges, others were standing outside in small groups, chatting. She was pretty sure she was the main topic of conversation. It made her uncomfortable, being the subject of their scrutiny. She wondered what they really thought, and how long she would be here. And how in the world she would ever get home. The thought that the old woman had summoned her was ridiculous. This couldn't be happening, she thought, fighting a rush of panic. She had to be dreaming. That was the only logical explanation. She would soon wake up in the museum and have a good laugh.
Adam regarded her for several moments. She was a pretty woman, with a cloud of golden-brown hair and blue eyes. She wore a short-sleeved shirt the same color as her eyes, a pair of black pants, and pointy-toed brown boots. She clutched a large bag to her chest. It was easy to see she was frightened. Not that he could blame her. She looked as out of place here as he did back east. "Would you like to go for a walk?"
"What? Oh. Yes, I guess so." Anything to get away from all those curious dark eyes.
"Why don't y leave your bag here?" he suggested. "No one will bother it."
She hesitated, then shook her head. At the moment, it contained all she owned.
She followed him out of the village. They walked along the bank of the river until they were out of sight of the camp. A short time later, he stopped near a fallen tree.
Lindy sat down on the trunk, her bag at her feet. Dear Lord, she thought, please let me be dreaming. This can't be real. I don't belong here.
Adam sat beside her, careful to leave enough space between them so as not to spook her. She looked like a frightened deer, ready to bolt at the least provocation. "What were you doing before you showed up here?" he asked.
"I was in Los Angeles, visiting a museum. You know what that is?"
"Yes," he said dryly. "They have them in the east."
Feeling her cheeks flush with embarrassment, she said, "Oh, right. Well, I was visiting a Sioux exhibit. I went inside a tipi that was painted with stars and moons and the next thing I knew, I was here."
Adam stared out at the river, thinking that was the damnedest story he'd ever heard. And yet his maternal grandfather claimed to have traveled the Spirit Road into the future. If he could go into the future, why couldn't she travel to the past?
"How am I going to get home?" she wailed, and broke into tears.
Adam blew out a breath. Then, not certain if he was doing the right thing, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. She stiffened at his touch, then collapsed against him. Unable to resist, he stroked her hair. It was soft as corn silk beneath his hand and smelled faintly of soap and flowers. The quiet sound of her sobs made his heart ache for her. Whoever she was, wherever she'd come from, she was out of her element. And, dammit, so was he.
Sniffling, she lifted her head. "Sorry. I'm not usually so emotional."
He shrugged. "I guess you've got good reason to cry."
Embarrassed by her outburst, she reached into her bag, searching for a tissue. Turning away from him, she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She had to be dreaming, she thought again. But what if she wasn't? What if she was really here? And if she was, how was she ever going to find her way home? Please, dear Lord, please let me wake up in the museum where I fell asleep.
When they returned to the village, the air was filled with the scent of roasting meat. Children ran though the camp, laughing and giggling. Dogs snarled over scraps and bones. Men sat outside their lodges or strolled through the village while the women tended the cookfires or looked after their children. It was a remarkably domestic scene.
Adam escorted her to Magaskawee's lodge. Jerking his chin toward a nearby tipi, he said, "That one's mine, if you need me."
"Thank you." She watched him walk away, pausing now and then to speak to this man or that, laughing at the antics of a toddler who had obviously just learned to walk. With nothing else to do, she sat down and observed the scene around her. It reminded her of camping with her mom and dad when she was a little girl. They had slept in a tent, cooked over a campfire, washed in a bucket of water drawn from the river. Her dad had taught her how to fish. Of course, there had always been a town nearby. Stores, doctors. Civilization.
She looked up when Magaskawee tugged on her arm, then handed her a tin plate that held a hunk of meat, something that resembled bread, and a handful of blackberries.
The old woman mimed eating, then shuffled back into the lodge.
After putting her handbag aside, Lindy regarded the food in front of her. What kind of meat was that? She knew from watching an old movie that some tribes ate their dogs. Were the Lakota one of them?
Lindy looked up at the sound of Adam's voice.
"The bread is made with ground corn, nuts and seeds and sweetened with honey. It's pretty good."
"Mind if I join you?"
"I'd be glad for the company." She nibbled on the bread. As he'd said, it was good. "Why do you live here?" she asked. "You said you lived in the east. Why didn't you stay?"
"I didn't like it. I spent the first fourteen years of my life here."
"So, your mother is Lakota?"
"Yeah. My father had come out here to do some research for a book. He got lost and after he'd been wandering around for several days, one of our people found him. He was in pretty bad shape. My mother looked after him until he was well enough to leave. But by then, they were in love. He stayed here until she died and then he took me back east with him."
"That must have been hard for you."
A muscle twitched in his jaw. "He cut my hair and put me in city clothes, but there was no way to hide the color of my skin. He sent me to school." Adam snorted. "The girls were afraid of me, but not the boys. They hated me. Every day on my way home, one of them challenged me to a fight. City kids," he said with a sneer. "They finally kicked me out of school. My father passed away three years later and I came back here where I belonged. Back home."
"Don't you miss all the conveniences of the East?"
"Houses. Streets. Shops. Nice clothes."
He lifted one brow.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you."
He laughed softly. "You didn't. And no, I don't miss any of those things. There's a freedom here that can't be found in the white man's world."
"What do you mean?"
"The whites live by the clock. They work to buy things, often things they don't need. They worry about paying their debts and what their neighbors are doing. My people eat when they're hungry, sleep when they're tired. We make the things we need, hunt for our food."
Lindy nodded, although she didn't completely understand his reasoning. How could anyone prefer wearing rough buckskins when they could wear fine linen? Or live in a hide lodge when they could live in a nice house with running water and heat and shelter from the elements? Why hunt for food when you could buy it at the store? Life in the past might have its advantages, although she couldn't imagine what they were. Medicine was primitive, transportation was slow and often dangerous, infant mortality was high. Still, living in a city, even a city in the past, had to be better than a hide lodge in the middle of nowhere.
That night, as the Lakota scattered to their lodges, Magaskawee motioned for Lindy to come inside. She gestured at the pile of furs in the back of the lodge – the same ones Lindy had fallen asleep on -- and indicated it was time for bed. Lindy smiled, thinking that if this was a dream, or even if it was reality, she was right where she needed to be. With luck, she would wake up back in the museum.
Lindy removed her boots, then slid under the furs, certain she would never be able to sleep in this strange place with its unfamiliar sounds and smells. She listened to Magaskawee moving around, heard the whinny of a horse, the muffled cry of a baby, the bark of a dog. Somehow, it all blended into a lullaby that sang her to sleep.