River 40 -- Resurrection

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River

By Dawn Natelle, edited by Eric

Chapter 40 – Resurrection

So far: The river has died, and River wants to die too. But there is Luv to think about, and her family. The men try to track down the killers, and are assisted by a very attractive and competent OPP officer, and a very plain and incompetent MoE agent.

The men went to the Waters’ house first, and finding it empty, went next door to Nick and Marilyn’s where they found it nearly full of women. River was holding Luv while eating pancakes. Liesl was cooking them. Marilyn, Alison, Shelly and Helen were all sitting around the table. The one exception to the femaleness of the situation was Mark, who had just gotten back from middle school and had found his home empty. He too was eating. Both River and he were no longer nourished by the river, and found their appetites greatly increased.

Ben immediately went to River and plucked Luv from her arms, only to find that his granddaughter roared in displeasure. “She is a little picky right now, Dad,” Marilyn said as he quickly returned the baby to River. “She won’t even let me hold her right now.”

“I see. If these culprits have made it so that I can’t even hug my dear granddaughter, then there will be hell to pay,” Ben said.

“You found out who did it?” Mark asked.

“We have an idea,” Nick said. “We are pretty sure we found the spot where the chemicals were dumped. We have an idea who did it, but we have to catch them in the act. We’re going to set up a watch tonight, and every night until we find them. They will pay for this.”

“There is nothing they can pay that will atone for what they have done,” River said glumly. “But I want to be there with you tonight.”

“I will be there too,” Mark said.

“You will not,” Alison said. “You will be at home, in bed, not traipsing around all night.”

“I am the Protector,” Mark announced. “I will be there.”

“You are 11. Stop pretending you are a teenager. You will do as I say,” Alison insisted, looking at Dale.

“I will look after them, honey,” Dale said. “This is important to him.”

Alison stopped talking entirely, and just glared at her husband.

“We should go and look around the site again,” Wayne suggested. “We can see how many men we can conceal in the trees, and where to put April where she can get a photo safely.”

“I want to see,” River announced.

“You can’t. You need to stay with Luv,” Alison said.

“Luv can come along,” Marilyn said. “I want to see as well. I haven’t been out of the house all day.”

The group went in four trucks. River, Luv and Marilyn were bundled in with Wayne, who drove slowly since he had a baby that was not in a car seat. The convoy went down the river to the spot where the tracks had been. But Wayne kept driving after the other three trucks stopped.

“Keep going, Wayne,” River had said. “I can feel something. They went past the mill, outside of the reserve, and crested a small rise. “Stop here,” River said with excitement in her voice. She got out of the truck after Marilyn, and walked to the low bank of the river, still carrying Luv. She reached out and put her hand into the water, pulling it back quickly from the cold. She stroked her hand over Luv’s face, and the baby gurgled in glee.

“It isn’t dead,” River announced. “It is still here. Weak, but still alive. It can’t warm the water for me, but it is talking to me. The voice is weak, but it is alive.” She handed the baby to Marilyn, who was amazed to get a smile from her daughter for the first time that day. River put her hands into the water several times, leaving them longer and longer each time. She finally filled a canteen with the river water, and stood.

“Come, let’s go back to the others,” she said, and Wayne drove them silently to the other three trucks, with River silently musing over what she had learned.

When they got out, the others looked questioningly at them. Ben was surprised when Marilyn handed Luv to him, and then smiled as the baby cuddled happily into his shoulder.

“We went further up the river,” River said. “When we got here I felt a trace, just a trickle, of something. We drove another few miles up, past the mill, and it got stronger. It was the River. It is not dead. Terribly wounded, but not dead. But another attack like last night’s could kill it entirely.”

“Much of the pollution is lighter than water, and floats to the top. It is what we saw this morning, and what has killed all the fish and animals. But that was only from the points downriver. Up there the water is still pure and cold. And the river spoke to me. It said there is a scar that cannot be healed. Some of the chemicals dumped are heavier than water, and flowed down into a slow spot, right about there.” She pointed into the middle of the river. “Those chemicals are sitting on the bottom there, continuing to pollute the river, and it is slowly killing the rest of the river.” We have to get them out.”

“How?” Nick said. “You haven’t met the fool from the MoE. If it isn’t in his book then he won’t be able to help. And to him, help is something that is months away.”

“We don’t have months,” River said. “I’d like to start today, right now. It is killing the river. But I guess it can wait until tomorrow. But we have to get started as soon as possible in the morning. And we have to make sure that no more filth goes into the river.”

“We have to catch them in the act,” Nick said. “If we just get them with the chemicals a sharp lawyer will say that they were just doing a test on how to empty barrels. Chemical has to hit the water for our case to be ironclad.”

There was a major argument between the two. Nick wanted evidence, and River wanted to protect the river from more damage. Finally they agreed that once the first drop of chemical hit the river the natives would pounce, minimizing the additional danger to the river.

There were several dozen good hiding places in the area, enough for 10 bowmen, River and Mark, Dale, Nick, April and two other photographers she was bringing from the high school to cover different angles. The cameras the students carried would have slave shutters triggered by the flash of April’s camera. When it flashed, theirs would as well. All they had to do is aim and focus.

One of the natives would have a CB radio, with the other end in a cabin with a phone. If the perps showed up, a call would be made to Const. Harper in Terrace Bay.

The plan was completed back at the Waters’ house over a supper that Alison grudgingly supplied, assisted by Helen and her daughters. Alison was still a bit stung by her children being allowed to participate in what she considered a dangerous operation. As various natives started coming in carrying bows and quivers full of arrows, her mood worsened. She had to feed all of them as well.

As she ladled stew onto Tall John George’s plate she looked him into the eye. “You make sure that nothing will happen to my kids. Keep Mark close to you. He is too young for all this.”

The gap-toothed man smiled at her. “Mark will be okay. He is good. A true warrior of the people. He is young, but the river has taught him much. Much more than I have. You shouldn’t worry.”

“I am a mother,” Alison snapped back. “Worrying is my job.”

At nine p.m. the men started to head out. Sunset was a half hour away, and they wanted to be well hidden before darkness fell. Luv was still in her good mood again, so River had no qualms in leaving her with Alison and Marilyn and joining the men. April and one of her students were also female, but the rest of them were like a war party. Trucks were taken to a cabin about two miles from the ambush point and left there, with the group walking the rest of the way on foot.

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Todd O’Neall didn’t mind working the night shift. Last night they had started at midnight and were done just after 2 a.m., but got paid for the full eight hours. Tonight was going to take longer, since they needed to make three trips to the river. After the test last night went so well they decided to get rid of all the rest of the barrels tonight. Then they wouldn’t have to worry for another few weeks.

Sid had been a bit concerned about the effects of the chemicals on the river, but rationalized that it couldn’t get any more polluted. They would clear out the stock of chemicals and then claim innocence when the Ministry came calling. Apparently Sid had a plan to deal with them.

Todd was leading four of his buddies on this task. They had been high school mates of Sid back in high school in Hamilton. While Sid had gotten a job with a paper mill down there, the other four started to work for the mob, in the protection racket mostly.

Todd had been seen on a video camera torching a store that had refused to pay for protection, and had to lay low. Then he got the call from Sid. His old friend had been made manager of a plant somewhere up in the wilderness, and needed some muscle. Todd needed to get out of town anyway, so he gathered a few of the boys together and they drove up north of Lake Superior to the little town Sid worked at. They were hired on at the plant, replacing a few Indians that Sid claimed weren’t working out. But they really didn’t do much mill work. Mostly they did little jobs for Sid. Like the time that they beat up the guy who was making noises about a union.

They had tried a similar operation last winter on a young lawyer that was causing Sid problems. Twice they had gathered around his house in the early winter darkness, when the man normally came home. They planned on giving him a beating. But both times they found that wolves were also watching the house, and were chased back to their van down the street. The second time Gus had gotten bitten by one of the wolves. Luckily Sid called off the hit after that, although Gus needed nine stitches at the little joke of a hospital in the town.

Tonight things went quicker at the mill. The men were better at using the forklift to load the eight drums onto the truck. The fact that they had to do two more trips meant they also were hustling, and just before 1 a.m. they were driving away with all four men in the crew cab.

It was only ten minutes to the dump spot, just outside the mill. They had to drive slowly, since they didn’t want to spill any chemicals into the back of the truck. If they did, they would have to wash it. That stuff was nasty. Tonight clouds blocked off the moon, which had lit the way last night. But they were using the headlights on the truck as they drove, and there were several flashlight units to illuminate the disposal effort.

Todd backed the truck up to the river and set up the lights while the boys let down the tailgate and wrestled the first barrel off. They just started to tip it towards the river when all hell broke loose.

A shrill girl’s voice shouted stop, and then there were flashes from all over the place. Gus and Tommy let the barrel bounce back to its upright position, which caused some of the liquid in it to backsplash, getting the stuff all over them. They both started to scream bloody murder. Wolves suddenly appeared all over the place, and the boys were not fans of those beasts.

Todd reached into the pickup and grabbled the rifle in there. He pulled it out, and then suddenly heard several twangs. He looked down and saw that there were three arrows in his arm. Two went right through his hand and wrist and into the rifle stock, while another went into his upper arm. All he knew was that it hurt like hell. As he looked around he saw a horde of people surrounding them, almost all natives.

There was a woman taking pictures. She took shots of each of them, as well as shots of the truck: front license, loaded bed, tailgate down, even a shot of the mill logo on the truck door.

Another girl was tending to Gus and Tommy, wiping the chemicals off their faces with water from a canteen. The boys looked bad. The acid they were dumping was dangerous, and had eaten deeply into their faces. The water she was sponging on them seemed to lessen the pain, but there was going to have to be a lot of plastic surgery done on those faces to make them look human again.

Then the cops showed up. One car with two cops. A man and a pretty hot-looking blonde lady cop. They started looking around, and took the names of three natives, who then came along and painfully pulled their arrows out of his arm and the rifle. The cops took the rifle, and then the young girl who had been tending Tommy and Gus came over and dabbed some water onto Todd’s three wounds. The pain lessened immediately and the bleeding soon clotted.

Then a second OPP car appeared, with two more male officers. The four arrested the gang and bundled them off to the holding cells in Terrace Bay. One officer remained on site to secure the scene and conduct more interviews. Todd noted it was the cute blonde as he sat in the back of the squad car with a moaning Gus.

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“Ben, can you drive Mark home?” River asked. “Mom is going to be going nuts. What time is it anyway?”

“It’s 4:30,” Nick said, looking at his phone.

“An hour until dawn. Or at least pre-dawn, when we will be able to see. Can someone call Kyle Audette and get him out here? Tell him I also need some barrels. Empty ones, maybe six for a start.”

“What are you planning to do, ma’am?” the officer asked.

“There are heavy metals from yesterday’s batch polluting the river, about over there,” River pointed. “They are causing serious damage to the environment, and I think we have a way to get them out.”

Const. Harper looked at the spot that River had indicated and decided that it was outside of her crime scene, so she didn’t argue the point.

“I don’t want to leave,” Mark whined.

“Mom needs someone with her,” River said patiently. “I’ve got to stay here, but your job is done. You are the Protector, and I am safe. You did your job. Now go and try to pry mother off of the walls I’m sure she has been climbing worrying about us.” Mark smiled at the mental image and then went off with Ben.

A few minutes later Kyle and George rolled up. They towed a trailer with an odd contraption on it, and there were six steel drums on the back of the truck. “We worked all night and got the modifications done, River,” Kyle said. “Is that what you wanted?”

It was Kyle’s golf ball retrieval machine which River had seen the first time she had been in their shop. Only they had replaced the wire net that scooped up golf balls with something halfway between the head of a spade and a bucket. It could pull up a half a cubic foot of silt from the river bottom.

“Let’s see if it works,” River said, and Kyle backed the unit up to the bank of the river. From there he extended the boom into the river and aimed it, under River’s guidance. The first three scoops to come out were just sand, but they were dumped into drums. The next one, though, hit pay dirt, and a scoop of foul-smelling material came up and went into the drums. River gasped. She could feel a tremor of relief coming from the river as the filth was removed.

For the next two hours they brought up scoop after scoop of material. At first there was about a 1:1 ratio of hits to misses, but then they improved. River could feel the river strengthening.

“Oh, oh, here comes trouble,” Nick said, and River could see a small car appear with a Ministry of Environment decal on the door.

“What is going on? What are you all doing?” Agent Westerbrook said, his eyes darting back and forth between the crime scene and the dredging operation.

Fortunately the female constable took charge and spoke with the agent first, explaining how the men had been caught in the early morning.

“Why wasn’t I informed?” the agent whined.

“The police were not even called until the men had been apprehended by the locals,” Const. Harper said.

“These people … can’t you do something to stop them from interfering? This is not the way an investigation is supposed to happen.”

“These people, as you call them, did us a great service last night. If it were not for them, the contents of these eight barrels would be in the river right now. And, according to one of the men, they were planning on bringing two more loads and dumping them. We have already charged the four who have done this and plan to deal with the company tomorrow … er, later today.”

“What are they doing over there?” Agent Westerbrook asked.

“I’m not sure, but I do need a chemical analysis of the contents of each of these eight drums. Can you provide that for us?”

“Yes, certainly, I have a kit in my car.”

River’s dredging operation gained over an hour during the time the agent was with the constable, and while he was taking his samples. During that time the river told her that she had removed just over half of the heavy metal contaminants, and that the river was no longer at risk. It could never heal completely until all the filth was gone, but at least there was little danger in the river completely dying.

“What are you doing? Do you have a dredging permit?” Westerbrook said when he finally got over to River.

“This is reserve land, and the reserve doesn’t need any permits,” River announced tersely. She hadn’t met the man before, but she had heard what the men had said about him yesterday.

“I’m not sure about that,” the agent said. Permits were always required, but the manual did say something about native lands being special situations. He would have to study the addendum to the manual to see what the rules were for native reserves. At any rate, these people were continuing to dredge.

“God, that smells awful,” the agent said as a particularly full scoop was dropped into a nearly full barrel.

“Yes, you might want to test that,” Wayne said. “It is some of the heavy metal pollution that was dropped last night.”

“What?” shouted the agent. “That is polluted material? You must stop now. This is part of my investigation. If we find heavy metal contaminants in the river, we will bring up dredging equipment from Toronto to clear the material. You have to stop now. The manual is clear on this.”

Const. Harper had been listening intently. “This manual you speak of. Is it a law, or just regulations and policies of your department?”

“Well, I don’t know. It is what I was trained to operate under.”

“Tell me, does it specify penalties? Mention whether or not crimes are summary conviction or indictable? Talk about jurisdiction?”

“It mentions jurisdiction,” the agent said. “It tells me what is within my jurisdiction, and what is not. Criminal matters are left for the police and the courts.”

“I see. In that case it sounds like your manual is a policy and procedures document, and therefore cannot be used to infringe on the rights of these people to dredge their river. You might want to call your office and get a clarification about that.”

“I will, immediately. This has to stop.” He fished out a cell phone and tried to dial. “There is no service out here,” he fumed. “I’ll have to call from town. Until I get back here, I don’t want to see any more dredging done.”

He hopped in his car and sped away. River had paused for a moment but then went back to directing Kyle in scooping out more filth.

“How is it that you know where to dredge,” the officer asked River as another scoop of evil-smelling material came up. River had to think fast.

“These boys have waded in the river all their lives,” she lied. She was one of the few people who could stand to be in the icy river, and she had never been in near here. “They knew there was a low area here, and it is natural that any pollutants would roll into it from that dumping area. The smell of that stuff tells us we are in the right place.”

“But you said a while ago that the stuff was half gone. And that the river was being healed. What did you mean by that?”

She was smart, River realized. She decided to come clean with her. But not right now. “It is complicated,” River said. “If you want to come out here in a month or so I can give you some background on our people. I will tell you the whole story then.”

“Okay,” Const. Harper said. “You say ‘our people’. Surely you are not First Nations?”

“Actually, I am partially Ojibwe,” River said. “Not enough for card status, but the band here have made me an elder at a very young age. I will explain it all to you if you come visit next month. I think the river will be ready for visitors by then.”

“I’ll be glad to come by,” Const. Harper said. “Where is your lawyer friend? And some of the others are missing too.”



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