Being freed from Jeremy sent a wave of new energy through her as she stood in the meadow staring at the woods. She ran into the forest and her skirts caught on a prickly shrub. She screamed and cut the fabric loose. She caught her breath and looked up at the tall tree branches reaching for the sky.
Her gaze scanned the clouds as they separated and revealed the blue heavens.
“Mama,” she whispered.
She lifted her skirts and continued on. Her eyes glazed over as her mind wandered to all of the things she would do the pastor and the deacons. She imagined tracking down and killing every single one of them. It was time that someone ended the evil by committing one final act of evil.
As she reached the outskirts of the Cherokee village, she slowed to a jog. A boy in his mid teens leaped out in front of her. He held a bow and arrow. She stopped and held her hands out in front of her.
“Don’t shoot! I know Inola,” she huffed.
“You are Sally, Jacob’s friend?”
“Yes,” she said with a vigorous nod.
He looked over his shoulder at her.
“In the future, you shouldn’t run like that when you approach our village. It arouses suspicion.”
“Oh, yes. Of course. Sorry.”
“I will take you to Inola’s home.”
“You seem to know English well.”
“We’re all taught English as children. They’d treat us like savages if not.”
“Only a total idiot would consider any of you savages,” said Sally gently. “You deserve the same respect that you freely give.”
He smiled at her and looked away.
As they entered the village, she stared at the ground to avoid the gazes. She didn’t want anyone to see the wild hate she held in her heart for the men she would soon kill. She took deep breaths to calm herself down. She had to conduct herself accordingly for the woman who treated her so kindly despite what the white men had done to her people over the centuries.
“Wait out here,” directed the boy.
Sally placed her hands in her pockets, suddenly feeling like a fool for barging into the village demanding to see a woman she barely knew. A flush warmed her cheeks as Inola emerged from her tipi.
“Sally,” she said.
The older woman clasped Sally’s clammy hands.
“Oh, Inola. Forgive me for coming here unannounced.”
Inola studied her.
“No need to apologize. It must be important for you to come all this way alone.”
“They killed my Mama.”
Inola’s eyes widened and she brought her close with a tight embrace.
“My heart aches for you, dear child. God will punish them in due time.”
“I will punish them,” said Sally.
Inola let her go and shook her head.
“Sally, I understand why you want to take justice in your own hands, but until someone breaks the violence, it will always continue to cycle.”
Talking about her mother’s murder in such a matter of fact way made her feel numb.
“I will break the cycle.”
“Sally, listen to me. Say you succeed in killing all of them. Someone else will then seek justice on you. The killing will continue.”
Sally crossed her arms.
“I won’t let them catch me.”
“Oh, Sally. I am worried about you.”
Sally’s gaze went to the young mothers in the village playing games with their little ones. She remembered how happy Mama seemed when she was younger. It was almost as though she saw her death coming one day.
“She just died this morning,” said Sally. “Did you know that? My mind has only just absorbed what has happened to the most important person to me in the world and here I am telling you what I am going to do with her murderers.”
Inola took Sally’s hand.
“I don’t recall you saying exactly what you would do.”
“I’ll keep it to myself.”
Inola shook her head and glanced up at the skies.
“What about your husband?”
“I never want to see my husband again.”
“I see. Where will you go?”
Sally hung her head.
“The main reason why I came here was to see if you could tell me where Jacob went.”
Inola sighed and wrapped her shawl tighter around her shoulders.
“I know he’s my father. Mama told me.”
“It is good that you know now.”
“Do you have any idea where he went?”
Inola went into her little home and returned with a rolled up map.
“He gave me this map. Here, unravel it.”
“He wouldn’t just tell you where he went?”
“He thought you might be around one day curious about where he went off to.”
Sally held the paper taut as Inola pointed to the red ink mark.
“He said he was going to work at the mine there.”
“Another mine,” sighed Sally.
It was a place in Osage County, Kansas.
“How many mines are there in Osage County?” asked Sally.
“Likely hundreds. He told me that is where he was going to go after he spoke with your mother.”
Sally closed her eyes.
“My town belongs in the pits of hell.”
“Oh, Sally. I will pray for you.”
“Pray for Jacob and for my baby sister, Amber. Please don’t ask God to help me. I’ve turned like they have. I’m a monster now, Inola.”
“Child, listen to me. You have just lost your mother. I see the kindness in your beautiful eyes. Never tell yourself that you have become like those men.”
Sally reached out to hug her.
“Thank you so much for talking to me and for helping me.”
“I am so glad you came to see me. Please take care of yourself. Go to your Mama’s funeral. Let her body rest in the grave before you leave town.”
“May we depart as friends still?” asked Sally.
“Of course,” smiled Inola.
Sally stared into her friend’s wise eyes before turning away. She unbuttoned the top of her dress slid the map into her corset. If she survived saving Amber and finishing off all of the murderers, she would find Jacob in Kansas somehow.
Inola’s words echoed in her mind as she traveled through the dark woods. No one could understand the suffocating pain of grief until they experienced it.
If she didn’t do away with the deacons and Pastor Scottson, no one would. If she did, then the town would be able to start over again with good people running the churches and businesses. The children would have a chance to grow up without seeing their pastor or mother murdered in cold blood.
“It’s all in my hands now.”