When I regained consciousness the next morning I found myself sprawled out on the sofa. I flung myself up. Michael had fallen asleep sprawled across the sofa. Princess Tara napped on her perch, one foot tucked up under her feathers, her beak behind her wing. I shook Michael awake. "Tell me it was a bad dream!"
Two pizza boxes sat on the kitchen table, unopened. I noticed a plastic sheet taped across a gaping hole in the bay window. Margarita lay curled up asleep at Michael's feet, apparently no worse for the beating she took. Cats and their nine lives, I thought. I picked up my phone from the floor, hoping beyond hope for a message from Jean. I found one text message. It was not from Jean:
"You have something I want. I have something you want. We should meet. H"
I dropped the phone and felt my legs give out from under me. I fell onto the couch to keep from falling on the floor. "Whatever have I got myself into?" I thought out loud. "Goddamn Charlie!" But I knew it wasn't Charlie's fault.
"We've got to free her," Michael said.
"No shit," I replied. I picked up the phone and typed out a reply to the text message:
"When and Where?"
"How in the world did they find us so?" Michael continued.
"Oh, who knows? They probably tracked my cell phone, I'm guessing. Or maybe they just did a Google search. I've been advertising my coffee. Wouldn't take a rocket scientist to zero in on me. I've been begging people to come find me, for chrissakes!
"However are we going to find Jean?" Michael asked.
My phone beeped with a notification alert. "I think they're just going to tell us."
"What?" Michael replied, eyes wide in confusion.
I looked at the message and read it out loud to Michael:
"Red Square. Midnight. You and Blue Tara."
"Fuck it all!" I exclaimed.
"What's the matter?"
"We've got about twelve hours to break into the Suzzallo Library and steal the Boas field notes, and figure out how that crystal works."
"We may not need to," Michael replied.
"I'm not usually noted for being the voice of reason, but hear me out. Hamatsa knows we have the crystal. He doesn't know that we don't know how to use it. He's got to respect the fact that we might know how to use it."
"But we have to respect the fact that we know that we don't know how to use it," I replied.
"Yes, but advantage ours. Assuming Hamatsa knows that shamanism is my field of expertise, he's got to give us the benefit of the doubt."
Tara flew off her perch and landed on my shoulder. "We don't have much time," she said. At dusk I need to use the turndum to call the Garuda from the top of one of those monoliths at your school. This Hamatsa has amassed great magic. Even more than I imagined possible. We can not fight him alone. I need help from the other Taras to stop him."
"The turndun is back in Michael's office," I said. "And my truck is parked in the campus parking garage."
"Grab the pizza boxes," Tara said.
I did. In an instant Tara bent time and space to take us back to the U Dub. Getting off the floor of Michael's office, my head pounding, I set the pizza boxes on Michael's desk. As my head cleared I said to Tara, "One of these days you've got to teach me how to do that. Would sure save on gas."
"It's easy," she replied. "If you ever accept that you can live in more than one reality at a time. All you need to do is visualize two places at once and connect them together. Piece of cake, as you say. Maybe one of these days you'll buy me a cake?"
"Help me get Jean back, and I promise I will."
Michael and I left Tara and Margarita in the office to feast on the cold pizza while we ran out to reconnoiter. Red Square seemed perfectly normal.
"No sign of Deportation Police," Michael said. A new coffee cart with a different barista sat parked by the steps to the Suzzallo Library. A bearded guy wearing purple and gold U Dub sweat pants and shirt.
"They probably don't want to attract attention," I told Michael. We walked up the steps into the Suzzallo Library. "Look," I said, pointing to an electronic reader board hanging in the entryway.
"Burke Museum temporarily closed for repairs," the board read.
"I bet," Michael smirked.
We walked into the massive cathedral of learning, with its soaring gothic ceiling sixty-five feet tall. I used to love working in this space during my U Dub teaching days. We headed for the Special Collections room at the back end of the reading hall. The Special Collections room consisted of a big open glass enclosed space divided in two, a collections room and a reading room. Michael recognized the receptionist.
"Hi Nancy," he greeted her.
"Hi Michael." She smiled at me. "It's been a while. Not doing any research these days?"
I remembered Nancy from my teaching days. Very attractive middle-aged woman. Jewish. Fluffy short black hair. Engaging brown eyes. Brilliant smile between full rouged lips. Buxom. Snappily dressed in a wool skirt and Pendleton jacket.
"Oh you know," Michael replied. "Heavy teaching load this quarter."
"Too bad," she said.
"I am looking for materials for a senior seminar I'll be teaching fall quarter on Northwest Coast Kwakwaka'wakw," Michael lied. "Special Collections has the Franz Boas field notes from Fort Rupert that cover the topic. I'd like to look at those."
"Franz Boas? With an S?" Michael nodded. "Let me look." Nancy ran a quick search on her computer and wrote down a reference number. "Okay. It should be over here." She walked up to the first row of collection stacks and counted down to the appropriate cabinet. Right away I noticed a bright red sticker taped over the lock.
"Oh, sorry Michael. This cabinet is restricted for security purposes. I'm not allowed to open it."
"Security purposes? What the heck does that mean?" I asked Nancy.
"Could be anything. Unfortunately I'm always the last to know. I just work here, you know."
"That's okay Nancy," Michael replied. "I'll take it up with the librarian and see what we can work out." We walked out of the library back out onto Red Square.
"That's okay Nancy?" I said with some annoyance to Michael.
"Not to worry. Now we know which cabinet it's locked in. We'll have Tara break us in tonight and get it out.
"In case you haven't noticed, Tara is going to be a little bit busy tonight. And so are we. And that wouldn't give me anywhere near enough time to go through the material."
"Yes, but it will give us an advantage. It's a matter of perception. If Hamatsa thinks we know something we don't actually know, we can use the not knowing to our advantage. We'll do what we can," Michael said.
We ran across Red Square to a Bartell Drugs across the street from the campus to buy a case of beer and a spool of rope. The beer for us, since we faced a long night. The cord for the turndun.
A great man once famously said, "Flying is the art of getting tossed at the ground, and missing." In my dream I was flying. Or more accurately, plummeting toward the ground. Me and Jean. Arm in arm. We were flung toward the ground. And missed. And thrown up again. And flung back toward the ground. Repeatedly. And repeatedly. At some point it my dream it seemed to me we wouldn't miss. Or was this really a dream? If this wasn't a dream, how long could Jean and I keep flying before we smashed into the pavement? And why was it so dark in my dream?
Right at dusk we trouped out from Michael's office to Red Square. Me, carrying the crystal and turndun. Tara perched on my shoulder. Michael carried the magic harpoon. Margarita strolled along bringing up the rear. Thankfully, Red Square seemed unusually deserted. At this time of the evening students generally were off eating dinner or home cramming for tomorrow's classes.
"Why do you suppose the goons haven't raided your office?" I asked Michael.
"Probably because they don't know about it," Michael replied. "One of the university's best kept secrets. The department doesn't like to advertise its academic slums."
Step One. We nonchalantly walked into the Suzzallo Library. You would think two adult males accompanied by a parrot and a cat, and carrying some unusual items such a harpoon, a rather large crystal, and a slab of wood would draw some notice. The students working or studying in the library mostly had their heads buried in their books, laptops, or mobile devices.
Except for some confused glances from some passing students we walked uninterrupted across the great reading hall to the Special Collections room. Of course, being after hours, the room was closed and locked for the night.
"Okay Tara," I said. "Do your thing." Tara bent time and space to connect where we stood out in the hall with the collections cabinets inside the locked room. Apparently I was getting used to this, because I only suffered a slight dizziness as Tara bent time and space. Unfortunately, any noticeable noise accompanying the time and space bend got drowned out by the blaring alarm bells inside the Special Collections room. The students studying in the hall probably noticed us suddenly standing inside the locked room. If not Michael and me, they certainly noticed a rather large crystalline blue skinned totally naked Amazon with a battle axe strapped to her waist. Several students walking by the room dropped their books and belongings as they stopped and stared.
"Do what you need to do," Tara said. She grabbed the turndun from Michael. And just like that Tara and Margarita disappeared.
"Well, thanks a lot!" Michael exclaimed.
"Oh shit!" I replied. I looked out at the crowd of students gathered by the windows of the Special Collections room gaping at us. I took the harpoon and smashed in the lock on the cabinet hiding the Boas field notes, and pulled the cabinet open. Inside I found half a dozen leather bound legal size note books. I pulled one out to check its contents. Page after page of notes meticulously written in German, English, and Kwakiutl. "Jackpot!" I exclaimed.
"How do we get out of here?" Michael asked nervously, agitated by the crowd of students watching us from outside the room. I could see sweat pouring down his brow.
"Easy. Door's locked on the outside. Not the inside." Sizing up the situation we faced, I yelled at Michael, "Take the notebooks." I grabbed the harpoon and the crystal. Running up to the door, I turned the latch and pulled the door open. We ran out with our loot. The crowd parted like the Red Sea to let us through. I hoped to Hell that Tara could make this all right again before the night ended. Otherwise this wouldn't do my academic reputation any good at all.
We ran out into the square. No one tried to stop us. "Take the notebooks back to your office," I told Michael. "Start going through them and find the key to this crystal. I hope you read German."
"Ya sure ya betcha," Michael replied.
I ran out to the monoliths looking for Tara and Margarita. "Damn!" I found Margarita huddled next to one of the monoliths, hissing. Hissing at a squad of Deportation Police laxsa that surrounded her. I counted six goons. Each packing a machine gun. Taking a chance, I bluffed. I held the crystal out before me and lowered the harpoon. Five of the six goons dropped their machine guns and ran away into the night. The sixth goon just stood there. "Sorry buddy," I said. "Downside to being a zombie. You're not very quick on the draw." I pointed the harpoon at him. He collapsed to the pavement. Dead. Margarita growled and whirled, and loped off his head with one of her giant steel claws.
"Where's Tara?" I asked. Margarita stretched up the side of one of the monoliths and meowed. I looked up. The top of the monolith one hundred and forty feet in the sky was lost in the blackness of the night.
Then I heard the strangest sound I have ever heard in my life. A vibration more than a noise. A vibration that began to pulse. The pulsating vibration caused by a spinning airfoil, the turndun. The vibration pulsed and grew in intensity as the turndun twisted and spun round and round at the end of its cord. Round and around the top of the monolith. Up and down. Round and around. The vibration kept growing in intensity as the twisting and spinning increased in speed. The vibration took on a physical form that starting pounding me and the monoliths. Margarita howled. I dropped to my knees and clamped my hands futilely over my ears. I can't do much more of this, I thought to myself. Soon the vibration rattled every cell in my body. The vibration shook the very foundations of the monoliths and it seemed to me that they began to sway. I feel over on my side. Just when I began to think the vibration would drive me insane, the sky appeared to explode in a blinding flash of light that turned night into day. Like an atomic bomb going off. The pavement shook as if we were riding out a Cascadian earthquake.
And then stillness. Absolute quiet and absolute darkness. I felt strong hands gripping my shoulder and pulling me up off the pavement. As my senses returned I realized Blue Tara was standing before me. I threw my arms around her. She kissed me. The heat radiating from her glowing crystalline blue skin seeped into my body and gave me a renewed sense of purpose.
"I am so sorry," Tara said to me.
"Sorry? About what?"
"The turndun is lost. The vibration caused it to dissolve into atoms. I can only hope that it served its purpose to awaken Garuda while we still have time."
"I don't care about the turndun," I replied. "I only care about rescuing Jean."
I saw shadows moving out of the corner of my eyes. Margarita growled. I heard the rustling of wings. Large wings. Out of the darkness surrounding the monoliths four feathered creatures appeared, as if coming out of a dense fog. The four furies. Qoaxqoaxual, the giant raven. Hoxhok, the giant crane. Gelogudzayae and Nenstalit, the condors.
Qoaxqoaxual, the giant raven stepped forward and fluffed its feathers. "You are early," it said. "My master demanded your presence at midnight."
I grabbed the harpoon, but Tara restrained me. "Are they worth your friend's life?" I raised the harpoon, but I noticed that Tara took hold of her battle axe.
I stepped toward Qoaxqoaxual. "How is this going to go down?" I asked the giant raven.
"My master is prepared to trade your woman for that witch," the raven said, pointing an immense wing at Tara. I glanced at Tara. She stood expressionless.
"How do I know my friend is okay?" I asked.
"I say so," the giant raven replied.
"Not good enough," I insisted. "I want to see her." I started to lower the magic harpoon.
"Raise your weapon," a voice out of the darkness demanded. I peered into the blackness of the night, searching for the source of the voice. Three figures emerged by the monoliths. My heart raced.
"Jean!" I cried out. I instinctively wanted to run to her, but Tara grabbed my shoulder.
"Careful," she whispered in my ear.
Jean appeared out of the darkness. I thought I could see tears in her eyes. A tall man with disturbingly pale yellow scalloped skin and gleaming red eyes stood next to her, his arm wrapped around her throat. A tall svelte dark skinned woman stood behind him.
"Hamatsa!" Tara exclaimed.
Hamatsa whistled. Nanes, the monster grizzly bear, lumbered out of the darkness to stand at his side, like a very large puppy. Hamatsa placed a gloved hand on the monster's head. I noticed a jagged scar across the side of its face where Tara's blade had slashed it.
Michael came running out of the darkness yelling, "I've got it. I've got it! I found the secret word." He stopped when he realized we had company. "Oh my God!" he exclaimed. "It's Hamatsa."
"Who's that other woman with him?" I asked.
"Most likely that would be Kinqalatlala, his slave. His procurer of bodies."
"So are you going to tell me the magic word?" Michael whispered in my ear. "That's it?" I said, startled. "That's the magic word? You sure? He nodded.
"Oh, don't start with that again," I groused.
"Hey, I didn't have a whole lot of time to work with. I did the best I could."
"And I thank you for that," I replied.
"Is Jean okay?" Michael asked.
"I'm hoping so. They just arrived."
"What's the plan?"
"Plan? What plan? I'm just making this up as I go. What's the plan, Tara?"
Tara looked at me. "You must be prepared to act when I give the word. Do exactly as I tell you to do. Understood?"
"Yes ma'am," I replied.
His arm around her neck, Hamatsa forced Jean to step forward. "This woman means something to you," he said. "To me she's just flesh."
"They told me you were all dead!" Jean cried out. Hamatsa choked her.
"Silence!" he demanded.
"We never gave up on you Jean," I told her. "We're going to get you out of this."
"The only way you will get her out of this is by giving me Blue Tara. You disobeyed my command to come here at midnight. I should punish you for that." Hamatsa bared his fangs and glanced hungrily at Jean. "I have not enjoyed dinner tonight yet."
"Well, you and me both, buddy. And seems to me you're a bit early for our soiree as well."
"I assumed Tara would try to summon her coven to assist her in executing her nefarious plans. You think those witches want to help you? Let me assure you they only seek to help themselves. They use whatever people they can to help them achieve their goals. And then they discard them."
"And what would those goals be?" I asked Hamatsa. My fingers tightened their grip on the harpoon.
"Domination, of course."
"Isn't that your goal? And the goal of the one called Winalagalis?"
"You have been misled. I serve our Dear Leader. He only wants to secure peace and prosperity for his people. Resistance is futile."
"Yeah, that sounds familiar. But you're not getting Tara. And you're not going to harm Jean." I took a deep breath. "So here's the deal. You're going to release Jean and I'll let you get your pasty putrid face and your menagerie out of here with your heads intact." I slowly lowered the harpoon.
"Go!" Hamatsa ordered his overstuffed teddy bear Nanes. The monster charged at me baring its gigantic ivory incisors. The creature caught me off guard before I could aim the harpoon. I jammed the end of the harpoon into its teeth and down its gullet.
"Die! You fucker," I yelled.
The monster clamped its teeth down on the harpoon and snapped its end off. I spun around desperately trying to avoid its fangs as the creature lunged past me. Before Nanes could stop and turn to charge me again, I pointed what was left of the harpoon at its gigantic head. The creature did not attack. I realized that a battle axe protruded from its skull, planted squarely between its eyes. The monster groaned and collapsed on the pavement.
"So much for following my instructions," Tara scolded me.
Sometimes being tall is a disadvantage. I swung the harpoon right over the top of Jean's head and smashed it into Hamatsa's face. He staggered backwards and Jean jumped free of his choke hold.
"Are you okay?" I asked her, taking her hand. She nodded. The four furies encircled Hamatsa and Kinqalatlala as Hamatsa howled in pain from my blow.
"You will pay for this!" Kinqalatlala exclaimed. "Laxsa! Take them." Four squads of black clad Deportation Police laxsa emerged from the darkness, forming a tight box around us. Machine guns pointed straight at us.
"Take them alive," Hamatsa ordered. Big mistake. That gave us the advantage. We could kill goons with impunity.
The goons started firing their weapons and charged us. Wait, I thought. What happened to taking us alive? I felt a strange sensation in my body. Not the sensation of being riddled with bullets, but the sensation of seeming to become detached from my own body. To become detached from my own reality. As if I observed another me in another dimension.
I watched with some amusement as streams of bullets passed harmlessly through my body, and Jean's body, and Michael's and Tara's and Margarita's bodies, as if through thin air, and smashed into the monoliths. I looked quizzically at Tara. "I took us out of their time and space ever so slightly," she said with a wink.
The goons emptied their magazines, and Tara shifted us back to their reality. They had no more bullets in their machine guns to fire at us. I lowered the magic harpoon and swept it over the lines of goons. They collapsed where they stood. Thankfully the harpoon still functioned in its truncated version. The furies spread their wings and running into the darkness took flight and disappeared into the black night.
Hamatsa took a glass canister out of his pocket and smashed it on the pavement. A black cloud roiled up and a mist rolled out in all directions, covering the pavement, like liquid nitrogen released on a movie set. As the mist touched each dead goon he stirred and jumped back on his feet.
"Water of Life," Michael said.
"Reload your weapons!" Kinqalatlala yelled at the goons. Tara swung her battle axe at two of the goons closest to her and lopped their heads off. Magarita whirled with her steel claws and took off the heads of two more goons.
The others aimed their machine guns at Tara and Margarita. I dropped the harpoon and grabbed the crystal. Extending it over my head, I chanted,
The laxsa froze. The crystal began to glow. At first barely perceptibly. Then brighter. Finally, a brilliant translucent light emanated from the crystal and bathed the monoliths with a blood red hue.
Hamatsa covered his face with his gloved hands and retreated into the darkness. Unexpectedly, Kinqalatlala dashed forward and dived at me, knocking the crystal out of my hands. Qoaxqoaxual, the giant raven, swooped out of the black sky and latched onto Jean's shoulders, and pulled her into the air screaming. I screamed. Jean disappeared into the darkness. I heard the screech of a large bird in my ear and felt powerful claws grab my shoulders and lift me into the air. One of the condors grabbed me and we flew seemingly straight up. The furie set me down on top of one of the monoliths and took off into the darkness. As I struggled to gain my bearings I realized Hamatsa and Jean stood on the next closest monolith. Just like my dream.
Hamatsa put his arm around Jean's neck, choking her. With his other gloved hand he pulled her shirt collar away from her neck and bared his fangs. I didn't even think. I ran across the monolith I was perched on and jumped with all my might. I just managed to clear the space. My momentum propelled me straight into Hamatsa. I smashed my elbow into his face, knocking him back. He lost his grip on Jean.
I grabbed Jean's hand. "Jump!" I yelled. We jumped for the third monolith, hand in hand. We failed to reach it.
We flew through the darkness, hand in hand, arm in arm, just like in my dream. I couldn't tell if we were plunging toward the pavement, or plunging toward the sky.
"I love you!" I yelled at Jean.
"I love you!" I heard her reply.
I seemed to have a dream within my dream. Overbearing darkness suddenly changed into blinding golden light. So blinding I still couldn't tell if Jean and I were plummeting toward the pavement, or the sky.
A magical figure of immense proportions appeared. So large it filled the entire sky. So large it appeared to be above us, and below us. In front of us, and behind us. The immense figure of a majestic and fearsome bird. The blinding light emanated from the massive bird's golden body. Its white face and massive beak gave it the appearance of an eagle. An eagle with a golden crown. Its blood red wings spread across the horizon.
"Garuda," I said to myself.