Gold Mountain
Chapter 21

Copyright© 2020 by Graybyrd

Apparitions

Bertrand Adams sat in a steel chair behind a steel table with a gray linoleum surface. The chair’s legs were bolted to steel brackets drilled and anchored into the concrete floor. The table’s legs were similarly secured. Neither could be torn loose or broken apart to be swung or hurled as weapons. Adams stared fixedly at three people sitting in similar chairs behind an interview table facing him ten feet distant.

A one-way mirrored viewing window spanned two-thirds of the wall behind them. They wore buckskin clothing. A young girl sat at one end. Her white, beaded buckskin dress flowed down over her high-topped moccasins. Adams had never met her but he knew her. She was the girl in the photograph given him by an investigator he had hired. She should be dead.

The older man sitting in his regalia was all too familiar. The so-called shaman, Michael ‘Mike’ Peterson, closely associated with the younger buckskin-clad boy sitting to Peterson’s right. A boy! Adams viewed with him disdain. Not even of age! Eighteen? Too young to drink, to borrow money, to contract for property. A damned kid!

His nemesis!

Who were these meddling fools? Where did they get their control, the power, the balls to tear his life apart, to bring teetering to the abyss of catastrophe himself, Jason Embridge, Augustus Atwood--the entire Alpine-Colorado enterprise? Prison and ruin faced them all!

The old man in buckskins glanced to his left, then to his right, and received nods from each. He raised his right hand. He briefly extended a forefinger to point at Adams.

“It is time. We begin.” The three sat motionless for half minute, staring at Adams.

Adams winced at the old man’s gesture. He wanted to get out of the chair, up from the table to bolt for the door. But his hands were locked in handcuffs to a short chain through a ring bolt in the table top.

Nor could he rise from the chair. A waist chain wrapped around the chair back through another ring bolt and his ankles were cuffed and locked onto the chair legs.

Adams resented the extreme restraint forced upon him, chained like any violent criminal. I am a respected OFFICER of the COURT! he silently raged. I am NOT a common criminal to be treated this way!

He did notice the odd fact that his handcuffs and the steel cuffs on his ankles had leather-covered pads that protected his flesh from their cold bite. He’d never seen, never heard of such padded restraints except, perhaps...

Oh NO! he screamed to himself. They use padded restraints on mental patients so they won’t injure themselves when they ... when they turn violent and try to hurt themselves!

I AM NOT INSANE!

No! he disciplined himself. Show nothing. Stay calm. Control yourself. Say nothing, show nothing, yield nothing! Give NOTHING away. Be strong!

Adams stiffened himself. He braced himself rigidly against the chair. He clasped his hands firmly together. He inhaled a steadying breath, forced his eyes to focus above their heads and picked a small crack between the sound-dampening tiles above the mirrored window. I am unshakeable! They cannot touch me! he resolved.

When Mike raised his hand and extended a finger, it cued Amber and Otto to start the 16mm film cameras rolling. Both were set on tripods, aimed through the one-way mirror, pointed at the people seated on the other side. The cameras held wide-angle and telephoto lenses on a rotating lens assembly. Otto started with the wide-angle lenses to include the backs and heads of the three seated figures, the tripods raised for a clear view of Adams and his table down to his feet. His legs, secured as they were, were visible under the table. If anyone or anything approached or touched Adams where he sat, it would be seen and filmed.

Otto had urged that two cameras be used. One would be reloaded while the other ran. There’d be no break in the record. An assistant placed microphone stands, a pair on each side between the tables. One pair faced Adams; the other, the group. A set of audio cables ran to the cameras. Another set ran to a pair of reel-to-reel wire recorders.

The cameras whirred; the wire recorders spun up and began recording.

Mike sat motionless but he stared at Adams, focusing on his eyes.

Marilee raised her hands to begin making small gestures, weaving motions, fingers opening wide, then closing, tracing a pattern with hand and finger movements. She made no sound.

Graydon raised both hands. His fingers touched the beadwork pattern of his headband, then moved to his temples. He inclined his head forward, his fingers making small massaging movements from the band to his temples and back. He began to chant.

Mike stared, his eyes accusing, seeking to pierce Adams’s mind. Graydon’s eyes rolled behind closed lids, his head nodded, following the rhythm of his soft chant.

Adams stared at them, not believing what he was seeing.

What IS this shit! he mentally protested, confused. Mumbo-jumbo? They’re laying some kind of weird INDIAN shit on me? Hell, I can sit here all day. I might even get a laugh out of this show. Are these jokers for real?

Over time, five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter hour. Graydon’s chant grew louder, faster, shifting from guttural, throbbing moans to shrieking cries.

Marilee’s hands swept more broadly; she snapped her fingers in rhythms and patterns; her hands soaring above her sightless, expressionless face, weaving intricate imprecations and gestures.

Mike’s unholy fierce eyes hinted that he might at any moment hurl himself onto his victim in throat-rending rage.

Adams’ senses rebelled. His thoughts now went far beyond conscious ridicule of the scene. His emotions overrode the defense of his cynical, mocking mind. Sweat rolled down his forehead; his armpits soaked his coveralls. He squirmed. Trickles of sweat rolled down his back.

The tongue in his mouth turned dry. He tried to swallow; he choked. His throat clenched. He gasped for moisture. None would come. Frightened, unable to reason to regain control of his senses, his resistance failed. He was a rabbit frozen in fear. The hawk, the fox, and the snake drew closer, ever closer.

Mike joined Graydon’s chant, blending, filling the room with a crescendo of unearthly sound such as no White man had ever experienced. Marilee, caught fully in her trance of mind and motion, wildly increased her hand patterns, hammering down on the table. It became a booming drum, the beats intertwined with the chant. In unbelievable, fantastic fashion, the assault upon the senses gripped, ensnared, and entrapped Adams, mind and soul.

He sat rigid, catatonic, his mouth open in a rictus of mindless surrender. Time streamed, looping, no longer ticking from past to present. Now it surged around and around in a maelstrom of scenes of past acts, memories, pain and fear.

Adams stared but saw nothing. The people, the walls, the room, all dissolved into an unfocused cone of internal vision.

Oh God NO! OH GOD PLEASE NO! Protesting, shrieking, shrinking back. He was frozen. No escape.

It was his father.

His father would beat him. And smile. And beat him again. Never on his face. Never where it showed. Always on his back, his ass, his thighs. Sometimes he would bleed from many cuts. Sometimes he did not bleed but was raw, his skin a riot of welts. He hated mirrors. He didn’t want to see. The pain was unbearable; the sight would be worse.

You are fat, disrespectful, pitiful, disobedient, an ugly pig! His father would shout each word, punctuated with a blow from his brass-studded belt.

Not every day. Not even every week. Sometimes a whole month would pass and twice or--God! It would be every day for a week!

He was forced to stay in on weekends while Father took sister and mother for a drive or shopping or to visit a relative across town. He had few friends but if one came to invite him to play, he had to say Sorry, no! I’m tending the baby.

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