Chapter 38 ~ A Discovery & A Decision
Joe pulled the BMW into a Mobil station near the I-40 interchange in Kingman. Joe filled the gas tank and watched Sam amble toward the store. He hadn’t noticed Sam’s bowlegs. Joe thought Sam should have been born a cowboy. He smiled and looked down at his legs, straight as telephone poles. Joe played football, ice hockey, and baseball. He always thought the guys who were a bit bowlegged were better football and ice hockey athletes. He topped off the gas tank and walked into the station. Sam was thumbing through People Magazine. Five minutes later they were on I-40 headed east for Flagstaff a bit over two hours away, most of the ride traversed through Native American reservations and Federal government land.
Sam was staring out the passenger side window at the landscape putting one pretzel after another into his mouth conveyer belt style. He stopped for a moment and turned toward Joe, “You know much about Native Americans?”
Joe said, “Not much. The little I remember comes from a history class in high school or college and I’ve forgotten most of that.”
Sam said, “Most people only associate Native Americans with nicknames of sports teams like the Cleveland Indians or the Washington Redskins, or the Florida State Seminoles. Or, with casinos.”
Joe said without looking at Sam, “You’re an expert?”
My great grandaddy was a full blooded Cherokee Indian. I got some of his blood in me. When we get to Flagstaff there’s a Navajo Indian reservation, they call it the res in Tuba City, that’s north of Flagstaff. Let’s visit it. So you can git a better understanding of what it’s like to be a Native American these days. It’s not a pretty sight.”
Joe said, “Some other time, Sam. I’m headed home. I left Columbus to find Joe Ritchie. Glad I didn’t. After what I know about him I might have done something or said something I’d regret for the rest of my life.”
Sam said as casually as a dog flicks a flea off an ear. “Why are you headed home? You got no job. You got no girl. Your grandmother is living in your apartment. What I see you doing is climbing back into the womb. That’s what I see you doing. You want momma to protect you. She can’t do that anymore. You and me, we’re orphans whether we like it or not. Be careful there’s a work zone ahead. It’s gonna narrow to one lane, the left one. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour. There will be a radar trap somewhere in it, you can bet your last dollar.”
Joe shook his head and rolled his eyes. Sam had a way of talking that kind of made sense and at the same time got under Joe’s skin quicker than a doctor’s needle. Joe took his foot off the accelerator, signaled to move to the left lane and pulled behind a sixteen wheel opened bed truck carrying watermelons. Joe’s mind bounced Sam’s words back and forth as if it were a pro tennis match. His mental tennis game was still going on when Sam punched him on the bicep.
“You see that? Didn’t I tell you?” said Sam pointing at an Arizona State trooper who had three cars pulled over and was writing tickets.
Before Joe spoke. His cell phone chirped, a text message. Sam’s left hand moved with the speed of a rattlesnake striking a mouse that wandered too close. He passed the phone from his left hand to his right hand and said, “You’re driving in a work zone. You read the signs, you hit a driver, you could do hard time. If you’re holding a cell phone, you’re gonna do hard time. This is Arizona, not Ohio where they is easy on criminals.”
“Who sent the text?” asked Joe.
Sam looked at the screen and started laughing, “Your fan club president.”
“You’re starting to catch on,” Sam chuckled. He punched in Joe’s four digit passcode and opened the text. Then he read the text. When he finished, he said, “Jody says she sent the info in an email because what she had to say was too long. Which one of these things is an email?”
“The one that looks like an envelop,” said Joe.
“I got it. Isn’t that the damndest thing. I shoulda figured it was an envelop.”
Sam touched the email app and it opened up. “You got lots of emails. After I read Jody’s email, I’ll go through the rest for you and read the important ones out loud. This one must be it. It says, Jody and a funny little symbol then KCMB dot c o m.”
“That’s her, Sam. That’s her email address at the station. Touch the highlighted part and the email will open up,” said Joe.
Sam touched the screen and began to read. His lips moved as he read to himself.
Joe glanced at him and knew it was no use hurrying Sam. After a long moment, Joe blurted, “You finished? How long is this email?”
“I’m finished. I’m finished. What’s your hurry? We’re fifty miles out of Kingman and about a hundred from Flagstaff. The next exit is thirty miles ahead.”
“Thanks for the travel update. What did Jody say?” insisted Joe.
Sam laughed, “I kin pull your chain as easy as I kin flip a switch to turn on a light. Is it this easy for everybody?”
Joe thought about Sam’s comment. There was a bit of truth to it. Marie put up with it and so did his best friend Tony DelPetri. At work, he kept his edginess under control. Once he was out of work, it flowed as easily as water out of a faucet, especially if he was in a lousy mood.
Sam chuckled, “I’m tormenting you, Joe. Before I read the email, prepare yourself, you’re gonna have to make some decisions.”
“Decisions? What kind of decisions?” Asked Joe.
“Jody found Joe Ritchie.”
“She did? Where is he? Is he alive? What’s he doing?”
“That’s where the first decision comes to play. Once you make that decision, the second decision will answer itself.”
“What’s the decision?” demanded Joe.
“Hold on big fellow,” said Sam as if he were talking to a horse. “Let me read the email to yah.”