Read Shadow Woman Online

Authors: Thomas Perry

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General

Shadow Woman (4 page)

BOOK: Shadow Woman
9.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Jane heard her flight announced
over the loudspeaker, picked up her canvas bag, and walked toward the
gate. She held herself with her spine straight and looked directly
ahead, never allowing her eyes to focus on those of the other
travelers, never turning away to give them permission to study her.
She walked quickly, joined the line after it had begun to move
efficiently but was long enough to include a lot of other people who
would be more interesting for a bored observer to stare at than she
was, and disappeared into the loading tunnel.

As soon as the plane was in the
air, Jane pushed her seat back as far as it would go and closed her
eyes. She had been anxious for two nights, trying to work out a path
for Pete Hatcher that wouldn’t lead him in front of a gun
muzzle, then spent the third running. She knew she could sleep only
fitfully now, because she had not dreamed in four nights and her mind
was holding a jumbled backlog of jarring impressions that would
plague her sleep. But lying with her eyes closed prevented other
passengers from trying to talk to her, and that was another of her
precautions. The road home was where the worst of the traps were,
because she had already given dangerous people a reason to want her.
That was when they would be making their best attempts to track her
or place friends of theirs in her path.

Jane got off the plane in
Chicago and found another, under the name Tracy Morgan, that took her
to Rochester, New York. In the airport store she bought a packet of
pipe tobacco, then drove a few miles southeast of the airport to
Mendon.

Jane parked her car along the
road above the bend of Honeoye Creek and walked to the quiet little
park at Mendon Ponds. She sat where she always sat when she came
here, at a picnic table with a surface scarred with carved initials,
took out her manicure kit, and trimmed and buffed her nails.

The two little lakes were glassy
and greenish. The tall, thick trees along the bank away from the road
grew out of the water from submerged roots and protected the ponds
from the tiniest breeze. The only ripples came from long-legged water
bugs that skittered across the surface now and then.

Three hundred feet away, up the
grassy bank, a mother with very white legs and feet sat in the shade
of a sunhat and big dark glasses, watching her two little
golden-haired children digging with plastic shovels in the muck. If
the mother wasn’t careful, they might actually find something,
Jane thought. The People had lived here once. That black mud made it
easy to grow corn, beans, and squash with a digging stick, and the
weeds came right up with a tug.

The village was called
Dayodehokto, a phrase that meant “a bend in a creek,” so
the rows of longhouses had probably been close to the stream on the
far side of the trees, but the cultivated fields had stretched for a
couple of miles in all directions. A Dutchman who came through here
in the 1670s counted 120 longhouses with twelve or thirteen fires in
a line down the center of each one. On opposite sides of each fire
were a pair of compartments, where two adult women slept with their
husbands – when the men were home – and their children.
After allowing for the usual exaggeration, Jane guessed the village
would have contained nearly three thousand people on June 23, 1687,
when this quiet little spot had its moment of importance in global
politics.

For twenty years, Louis XIV, the
Sun King, had been ordering successive governors of New France to
exterminate the five Iroquois nations, but particularly the Senecas,
who lived the farthest west and were most disruptive to the fur trade
with the Indians of the western Great Lakes.

He had received no satisfaction
in the past, but this time he had found himself a soldier. The
Marquis de Denonville efficiently assembled the total military force
of New France – probably a thousand soldiers, traders, and
trappers. The Sun King sent him two thousand French regular troops,
half the number he had requested, along with a regal apology about
being strapped for cash. Denonville gathered six hundred allies from
the Indians of the west – Miamis, Illinois, Potawatomis,
Hurons, Ottawas. They all met at Fort Niagara, where the river
emptied into Lake Ontario, traveled in four hundred boats and canoes
to Irondequoit Bay, and marched south along the trail to this
village.

The army was confident that the
people they were attacking were almost all women and children. Seneca
men were out in the forests for most of the year, hunting or raiding
distant tribes. The Senecas had no reason to expect an attack,
because they had been assured that Louis XIV and their ally the
English king James II were friends at the moment.

On the first day. the French
expedition made good progress down the trail toward this spot. They
marched with half the Canadian woodsmen and Indians in front, then
the French army, and then a rear guard of Indians and woodsmen. On
the second day they reached the edge of the cornfields but found them
strangely deserted. At this time of year, the Month of Strawberries,
the corn was still unripe and needed constant tending. The fields
should have been full of women, chattering as they weeded and turned
the soil. The marquis conceded that his tactic of surprise had
failed, but he was sure the mission might still succeed if his men
were quick enough. The French force ran toward the village in their
eagerness to cut down the fleeing women and children before they
could vanish into the forest.

The front of the column passed
within a few yards of something they were not expecting – a
group of Seneca warriors lying on their bellies in the brush. The
Senecas waited until the vanguard had moved on, then tore into the
center of the column, where the French soldiers were, first firing
their rifles and then falling on the soldiers with tomahawks and war
clubs. The French fell into disorder, firing at trees, bushes, or
their Indian allies and then scattering along the trail in both
directions. The Senecas killed over a hundred and then disappeared
into the forest again.

It took the marquis the rest of
the day to rally and reassemble his men, then force them to set up a
secure camp for the night. In the morning he cautiously advanced into
the village of Dayo-dehokto and discovered that the ambush had been a
delaying tactic. The longhouses were already in ashes. The only
living things left were two old men who had stayed to exercise the
privilege of dying while defying their enemies. They were obligingly
cut into pieces and boiled to make soup for the French allies.

It took Denonville’s army
six days to burn all of the cornfields here and the fifty thousand
bushels of dried corn that had been stored. When that had been
accomplished, the marquis, less optimistic now, marched on to two
more deserted villages, then returned to Montreal to contemplate what
a lot of trouble he had gone to just to cook up two old men.

The Senecas and the rest of the
five Iroquois nations retaliated by making New France from Mackinac
to Quebec a very dangerous place for a couple of years. They attacked
Frontenac and Montreal, killing hundreds and carrying off hundreds
more. French traders traveling in the far north disappeared. It would
be a hundred years before the villages in Seneca country would be
raided again. The next time it would be the Americans, and again the
women would lead their children into the forest in time to escape the
scheduled extermination, leaving the enemy to be satisfied with
burning cornfields.

Jane gathered her nail
clippings, smiled and nodded at the woman and her children, and
walked along the perimeter of the pond into the trees until she came
to Honeoye Creek. The area around the pond was a favorite picnic spot
for people from Rochester, and not one in a thousand knew anyone had
ever lived here. It had become one of the secret places.

Jane took out the package of
tobacco she had bought in the airport. “Jo-Ge-Oh, it’s
me,” she whispered. “Jane Whitefield.” She
sprinkled a pile of brown shreds on the flat bank where the Little
People would be sure to find it. “Thanks for the break in Las
Vegas. Pete Hatcher is gone now.” There was no such thing as a
prayer of supplication in the old religion, only ways of giving
thanks.

She scattered the crescent
fingernail clippings along the muddy bank. “This ought to keep
the possums and raccoons away while you light up.” The Little
People had a terrible tobacco addiction, and they prized human
fingernails because the scent kept away the animals that were
bothersome to anyone that short.

Since she was a child, Jane had
particularly admired the Jo-Ge-Oh, because they took the hunted, the
wounded, and the defeated and hid them from their enemies. Time was
different for the Jo-Ge-Oh, so the person they helped would simply
vanish and then emerge from the forest thinking he had been with them
for a day, but find it was now many years later, after all his
enemies were dead and buried.

Jane liked to visit the Little
People in places where Senecas had once needed to fade into the
forest. The three hundred years that had passed on Honeoye Creek
might not make much difference to the Little People. It might be a
few days to them. And here was a Seneca woman, not changed much from
the last one they’d seen on this spot, coming to bring them the
customary present, as women like her had been doing for thousands of
years.

3

The
bus labored up Delaware Avenue out of Buffalo, building its momentum
slowly after each stop, then coasting to the next one, until Jane saw
her corner. She stood up, and the driver pulled over to let her out
under a streetlamp. She walked along the uneven sidewalks across the
south end of Deganawida in the dark, her canvas bag over her
shoulder, her feet feeling without effort the places where the
concrete slabs were pushed up by the big old trees, as Jane had
learned to do when she was little.

She walked along Erie Street,
unconsciously noting what was going on behind the lighted panes of
glass without staring at them. She probably knew the occupants of
every third house in the little city. Her parents had known more of
them, and her grandparents still more, because they could have told
her who was related to whom for generations back.

Jane felt so good about having
these sidewalks under her feet, so glad to breathe the air in a place
that made sense to her, that she allowed herself to think about what
it would be like never to leave again. For the first time in two
weeks, when her mind was drawn to Carey McKinnon she did not goad it
away from him. He was going to ask her again if she would marry him.
That would be in six months, and that was not much time to get ready.
It occurred to her that if she had been someone else, getting ready
would probably have meant worrying about trivia: dresses and china
patterns. But what Jane Whitefield was going to have to worry about
was how to make the bride invisible.

Jane let her eyes settle on her
house as soon as she had turned onto her block. There were no lights,
no curtains that had been moved since she had left, no cars parked on
the block that she had not seen before. The reading lamp near the
corner window in Jake Reinert’s house next door was on, and she
took a couple of steps along the sidewalk in front of his house until
she could see a slice of light under the blind of the porch window.
She saw the book on his lap and his thick, pink, callused right hand
tilting it up a little as he read, to keep the lower segment of his
bifocals on it.

He and her father had been
raised side by side in these two old houses on this quiet street, and
by now he seemed to be able to sense subtle changes in the atmosphere
– a footfall on the porch next door would bring him to the
window. She had even seen him stop what he was doing to stare if he
heard the engine of a car going by that he didn’t recognize.
She had her house wired with a very good burglar alarm, but she had
met people who made a living fooling better ones than that. She went
to her car in the garage and took her house key out of the lining of
the rear seat, then walked back to her front door, unlocked it, and
slipped inside quickly to punch her alarm code into the glowing
keypad before it could go off.

She stood in the doorway and
studied the signs. The air in the house was stale, so no window had
been broken. Before she had left the house she had vacuumed the
carpet, leaving a pattern and the pile pushed upward. The carpet had
no indentations from heavy feet. She walked to the table beside the
couch and lifted the telephone off the cradle. The dial tone was
clear and distinct, so nobody had disconnected the phone line to
isolate the alarm system. She was home.

She set the telephone back on
its cradle as the bell rang, vibrating her fingertips. “Hello,”
she said into it.

“Hi, it’s me.”
His voice had a smile in it, as though his throat were tight.
“Welcome home.”

“Hi, Carey,” she
said. She blocked the little laugh of pleasure that almost escaped.
Then she wondered why she had to and remembered that she didn’t
have to anymore. She was home, and this was Carey. “How did you
arrange this?”

“I don’t know what
you’re talking about.”

“You’re so full of –

“Wait,” said Carey.
“I’m getting a psychic image. Take about five minutes to
unpack that black bag you’ve got over your shoulder, take a
shower – and I wouldn’t mention anything so indelicate if
I weren’t a board-certified physician – but I sense you
have to pee. Then the archetypal little black dress. And matching
underwear: you might get into an accident, and the gang in the
emergency room is very critical. Nothing too flashy, but not the
jeans-and-sneakers ensemble you’ve got on now.”

“Jake saw me come home and
called you.”

BOOK: Shadow Woman
9.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Valley of Unknowing by Sington, Philip
Wolf Moon by Ed Gorman
Under His Cover-nook by Lyric James
Wildlife by Fiona Wood
Beware the Pirate Ghost by Joan Lowery Nixon
Salvation for Three by Liza Curtis Black