Mark of the Shadow Part 13: A Little History
“Carlson you can barely walk. I won’t have you coming with us,” said Rolph.
“I won’t let you just leave me here,” he replied. He lowered his voice, “I don’t feel at ease here. Please.”
“Come on Rolph, let him come,” I said.
Rolph sighed, “You don’t understand Anne, he’d slow us down. We need to find the cure, and fast. We’ve already lost time… Listen stay with your Uncle while I go talk to the chieftains. Say your goodbye. We’re leaving when I return.”
Rolph strode off leaving me by Carlson’s side. He was sitting up now at least. The bullet hole in his leg seemed to be healing but he still couldn’t put weight on it without pain.
“I’m sorry Carlson, looks like you’ll be staying here,” I said.
“It’s OK. It weren’t your decision. Sides maybe I’ll learn something while I’m here, huh?”
“Ya, and when were done we’ll come right back and take you back with us, and you can come live with me and Daddy.”
Carlson smiled. “Well that would be nice wouldn’t it? Course this war don’t seem to want to end.”
“But daddy’l be there at the end right?”
“Yes. One way or another ol’ Max will make it out. He always does.”
Well that was just the thing I needed to hear. One less thing to worry about. Still I wondered what Daddy was up to now and then.
“So, your headed to he mountain meadows massacre site? Watch out I hear tell it’s haunted,” said Carlson.
“Don’t joke about things like that Carlson.”
“Your right. Guess we know to much now huh? The world ain’t so fun knowing there is something out to getcha.”
When Rolph showed up I said bye to Carlson. He gave me a big sloppy kiss on the forehead. And then we left.
It was just me and him again. On the road, on horseback.
“I did it. Just like Carriage said I would. And they agreed, like I knew they would,” said Rolph after a while on the road.
“What, what’d you do?” I asked.
“The Goshute tribes are now obligated to help the US army fight the Mormon’s case something breaks out again. Seems they were more than willing seeing as how some Mormon’s ambushed um out by the lake during a hunt.”
“Was that when we were at the lake.”
“Right, same day. And in return they don’t get pushed off their land. No instead they just die. So there aint gona be no use for their land anymore. Either way the white man wins.”
“So why’d you do it? I thought you wanted to help the indians.”
“I do, but they have information they wouldn’t give me unless I helped them. They view this as help. So after we find the cure I can go get what I need then maybe we can save this god forsaken place.”
Silence for a while. I took out the doll John had given me. I held it close.
At night by the fire I asked Rolph, “Why’d John give me this doll? Said it was his daughter’s. Don’t his daughter want it?”
“I don’t pretend to know what goes on in that mans head half the time, and I don’t rightly want to tell you the history of that doll for you’d forget your love of it.”
“Please Rolph, John seemed so sweet it’s hard to believe he would kill like you said he did.”
“He is sweet, or was. We all were some time, that don’t mean we don’t got to kill…” Rolph indicated to his pack where his rifle stuck out barrel first. “Long time ago,” Rolph began. He was poking the fire with a stick then through it into the fire. “When I first met John, he was so full of hope. Like we all were. His baby girl had just been born. Maria I believe. We were in Europe. Yes Italy. I bought that doll for his daughter from a local seamstress. I used to fancy her. She had dull red hair and the most wonderful eyes.” Rolph smiled, a rare occurrence. “We, all of us, were happy for a while. He didn’t get to see Maria much but he knew he was keeping her safe by being out there with me hunting these things.”
Rolph sighed, “One day we got back from a trek. It wasn’t long. We left for maybe two days. His wife had been killed, his daughter marked. John was destroyed for weeks. He could barely talk, perhaps if he had his daughter wouldn’t have become so weak. We’d never known a child to have been marked before. We didn’t know the effects. For a while he tried to train her, like we’d been trained. To fight against the urges, control.” I thought about asking why Rolph hadn’t taught me these things, but I decided it was best to let him continue.
“Well, the mark was progressing faster than any we’d seen before. She was smaller than you. Maybe five years old. She was only barely alive before life decided to leave her.”
“She died!” I said.
“No, well, no. But life was leaving her. John didn’t sleep, hardly stopped to think. He asked every contact we had, read anything he could on the Shadows. I helped, but in the back of my head I knew we couldn’t save her. Finally John found something. Mention of a cure in an old text of latin. We scoured everything, we knew we were close. But we never found the cure.
“John wouldn’t believe me when I told him Maria was dead. Hell I wasn’t sure myself for a while, but it was the only explanation. One day she’s so sick she can’t barely open her eyes and the next she’s gone, no trace besides her few belongings that she’d ever existed. He kept looking course, until he was convinced that there was no cure, and that his eyes had betrayed him. I had to stop him from cutting them out. Perhaps, perhaps giving you her doll was his way of moving on.”
“But what if it meant something else,” I started crying. “What if he’s saying there is no cure!”
“Listen to me. He was right, I checked. There are multiple mentions of a remedy throughout history. Were on the right track, don’t you worry. If this cure is anywhere it’s here in America. I spent five years with John looking for this cure when his daughter was dying or dead. If anyone can find it, we will.”
I didn’t like knowing that Rolph had done this before. But somehow it felt OK. It was me after all, Rolph had told me how strong I was at fighting the affliction. We would find the cure, and we could all live happily after that. John could be cured too.
Then maybe he could become happy again.