When ex-special agent Joe Windfeather returns from the jungles of Central America to the reservation where he was raised, he brings chaos with him. This Death Bird narrowly misses killing the woman he loves. To get rid of this monster he must bring a parrot fetish to a taboo place in the jungle and leave it there. He may or may not survive.
Shrugging his shoulders to rid himself of a growing uneasiness, Joe trotted toward the pow-wow area, already hearing the drums. They grew louder as he approached, making him feel their irresistible throb in his blood until their rhythm flung him into the dance already in progress. He joined the group of men forming a circle, his movements already one with the drums.
Without conscious thought his feet formed the steps he’d learned as a child. Everything faded as be became part of the dance, part of the drums, he and the other men creating a whole, back to the days when they all were Anishinabe.
The drums stopped abruptly. As though they’d known this would happen, the men stopped, too. He stepped from the circle, Joe again. When the drums began again, the rhythm was different for the women. He watched them take their place in the circle, Lena in a red, yellow, white and black costume. Did that mean Bear was her spirit animal? A powerful one, if true.
The women began their dance and Lena was so graceful he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Not until his felt a vibration against his side and realized it came from that damn fetish. What the hell?
Before he could bring himself to touch it, dread hit him so hard he staggered. And looked up. The same huge dark bird he’d seen at his jungle outpost hovered overhead. The Death Bird.
“Danger. Take cover! he shouted. “Now!” Then he flung himself at the dancers, pulled Lena from the group, threw her face down and covered her with his body.
He heard shouts and screams, but didn’t dare move from his protective position. He felt the wind from a great swish of wings and somehow knew if he hadn’t been in the way, the Death Bird would have taken Lena. She’d been its target.
“It took Mary,” a woman cried. “It’s gone now, but it took her.”
Underneath him Lena struggled to free herself. He rolled off her, stood and reached for her. But she was already scrambling to her feet. “Mary was the one next to me,” she whispered.
“What the hell was it?” A man growled.
“The Death Bird,” Joe muttered.
“I didn’t see it,” Lena said.
“Biggest damn bird I ever saw, the man said. “What the hell kind of bird gets that big?” He stared at Joe
“Don‘t know,” Joe said. “Only saw it once before, in a jungle.” Nobody else saw it then. But now those who looked up saw what I saw. Why?
Lena, looking skyward, intoned words, some of which he didn’t recognize. Mide words? Two of the older men joined in.
Joe knew with terrible certainty that Mary would never be seen again. He wished he could vanish. Her death was his fault, because if he hadn’t returned to the rez, Mary would be alive today. The parrot had found him here and he ought to’ve known that would bring the Death Bird.
Lena put a hand on his arm and drew him aside. “Don’t drown yourself in blame,” she said in a low tone. “Yes, it’s your fault, but you didn’t draw the Death Bird here deliberately. I need you to keep a clear head so we can find a way to free you from this evil spirit.”
“Burn the parrot fetish?”
She shook her head. “Chances are it wouldn’t let you. What you need to do is consult with the Mide Elders. And don’t think of leaving the rez. Why bring death with you to other places when your only chance to stop the evil is here.”
Leaving the rez had been his next thought. “You think Mide Medicine can help?”
Again she nodded. “I remember you wearing that crow feather band when you were a kid, Crow’s your spirit animal and he’s a bird. That should help.”
“That damn parrot’s a bird, too, and it brings the Death Bird.”
“She, not it,” Lena corrected.
Joe frowned. “How in hell can you know the sex of that damn thing?”
Lena shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I will fast and also let the Elders know they must, so we can purify ourselves before the ceremony, Keep the fetish safe, for we will need it.”
Joe grabbed her arm. “I need to see you safely home. The Death Bird—”
“—was after me. Yes, I know. Fisher warned me. I was careless in thinking the pow-wow dance might protect me.”
So fisher was her spirit animal. A small but deadly hunter.
“I acted on impulse when I threw myself on top of you.”
“You acted because you know, as I do, we’re fated to be together. The Death Bird also knows this and wants to eliminate me.
Fated to be together?
She grinned at him. “Don’t look so startled.”
One of the Elders approached and said something to her in the old language. Joe still remembered enough so that he caught the gist. The Elder was also a Mide and had told her there’d be a meeting tomorrow evening. The old man then stared at Joe for a long moment before he turned away.
“I don’t think he trusts me.” Joe said.
“Why should he? You’re dangerous. So come on, my dangerous friend, and walk me home.”
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