DEATH HAD a way of screwing up the best-laid plans.
Helen Ketterling was a heavy-duty plan maker. Keeping things in order required a plan. She very much resented any form of plan bomb, and death was atomic.
She stood next to her car in the graveled parking lot across from the Bad River tribal offices and puffed on a cigarette as she watched a trio of old Indian men mount the steps to the front door. Two of them were older than the man they’d come to visit for the last time, but the third one might have been a classmate of Roy’s in about 1940 or so.
In the brief time Helen had known Roy Blue Sky, she hadn’t gotten around to asking him whether he’d finished high school. She didn’t want to offend him by asking the wrong questions. He was a wonderful storyteller, but he preferred folk tales to personal reminiscences, although she’d managed to get a few of those out of him, too. She now knew that he’d fought in the Battle of the Bulge and that he’d been married twice, to young wives, both of whom had died much too soon. He’d told her less about the second wife, the mother of his children, than he had about the first, which was how Helen knew that the memory of the second loss still pained him.
Or had. Nothing pained him anymore. He had found peace now, and as a member of the Bad River Lakota Tribal Council, he was lying in state beyond those bright blue doors.
He was also her son’s grandfather, but no one knew that. No one but Helen.
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