Charlie first met Pica Toana by accident behind his father’s log cabin in the woods by the lake. It was the fall of 1955, Charlie was 13 years old.
It was day break, his father grabbed his axe & headed off into the woods. “You coming Charlie?” he yelled. “In a minute” he mumbled, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
By the time Charlie had hauled himself from the bed & staggered into the main area of the cabin, his father had disappeared. “Great” thought Charlie, now I’ll have to hunt my own breakfast & cook it.
He looked out of the window at the still waters of the lake, it glittered like a jewel, inviting him in. Charlie, still in his night clothes wandered onto the porch of the cabin.
The Sun was climbing slowly in the sky, “Oh Well” Dad will be here soon enough, he muttered to himself. Charlie grabbed the fishing rod & tackle & strode down the steps of the cabin.
The cabin had been built in the 1800’s around the time when the last Indian had been driven across the Nephora Valley & into the great plains. It still stood in its original cladding bar the adjustments that the second generation of Hook’s had updated it with. The arrowheads were a dominant feature of the cabin & Charlie had spent many a summer holiday trying to pull the arrow heads out of the cabin walls, but to no avail.
Charlie tried to yank an arrow head on his way past the door. This time, he noticed that one of the arrow heads was missing. Puzzled, he stared at the blank space for a minute, rubbed the spot where the arrow head used to stand & then carried on down the steps. “Dad must’ve pulled it out” he thought to himself & thought no further of it.
Humming “Old Man River” Charlie walked over to the water’s edge & cast the bait into the lake. The lake was chilly that morning & the water cold & still. Not a ripple on the surface, thought Charlie. He remembered the times Jack & he used to skim stones across it.
He got a bite quite quickly, it was a medium sized Roach. Charlie headed back to the front of the cabin to the Pin Pit where the Indian’s used to tie their horses by the lake. He left the Roach & line & ran back up the steps of the cabin to fetch the wood.
When he returned, Charlie noticed immediately that the fish had gone! He glanced around in a panic, but the air was still & he could not smell or see anyone.
Heart pounding, he reached for his Bowie Knife & undid the clasp until the blade was naked. Charlie started walking back to the cabin. There was another gun in the cabin apart from his father’s. This was the back up in case the Winchester failed. He fetched the Carbine from its scabbard & cocked it & shut the cabin door.
Charlie locked the cabin door behind him & fastened all the windows. He decided he would wait in the cabin until Father returned. Charlie waited for a while & started getting a bit hungry & there was no sign of Dad.
He decided to play a game until father returned. He opened his father’s diary & tried to memorise the page numbers entries were listed on. He had never read his Dad’s diary as Father always kept it locked up & he knew he shouldn’t read it as he would get into trouble.
There were numerous entries & notes & numbers the relevance of which he couldn’t understand. Then he noticed something strange. One of the pages had been crossed out, but Charlie could faintly make out some of the words that had been crossed out.
“Make peace, war is lost… I carry a burden inside me, why did I do it?, I was forced to”
After a while he got bored of this game & of reading the entries.
After a while Charlie grew impatient & peered out of the main cabin window. There was no sign of the mystery person or thing that had taken the Roach.
It was nearly noon & Charlie had not eaten since the journey to the cabin the night before.
They had stopped at an old diner on Route 40. It was run by Jukovic, an old classmate of his father’s. Jukovic was a Polish immigrant who, like Charlie’s father had left Poland during the Nazi occupation to seek out a new life in the West.
The meal had been typically Polish – a bit of beef, some gravy & plenty of potatoes & bread. Charlie had feasted on the beef & gravy, but had mainly avoided the potatoes & bread.
He felt himself wishing he had eaten all the potatoes & bread now. Impatient & hungry for Roach, or anything at all, Charlie peered out of the main door & carried on down the steps Carbine cocked & at the ready. He was wearing his Dad’s old Polish army hat to give him courage. There was no sign of intruders; Charlie went round the side of the cabin, past the Pin Pit & toward the lake. The lake was eerily calm.
As he crossed the trees, he heard a rustling sound. It was too late; as he looked around he saw something glinting in the sun come spinning right at him out of the clearing in the woods. It spun towards him in slow motion & before he could move, caught him in the chest & right shoulder. Everything went dark....