Weldon Springs Story
"Lake 33 Killing Relic"
Chapter 9, Bucks Funeral

Rough Draft of Chapter 9, funeral of a childhood freind who may have been involved in nefarous artifact dealing and may have found something hot in Busch Wildlife Area.


Rough draft, including typos and poorly thought out ideas, all subject to change when I come to my sense.


Bucks funeral

Danny's funeral was an obligation for a childhood friend, but I had said my goodbyes to him before I called the ambulance. What had killed him? What had been eating him alive? Creutzfeldt-Jakob something terrible? 

"Something uncurable from a hooker in East St. Louis," I said.

Calvin looked at me, "What?"

There was a collection of old friends who grew up with Danny and others who worked or drank with the jolly character who had taken the adult name Buck.

So many strangers, but then I had never met the people Buck worked with at the retirement home.

"I didn't know Buck was so popular," I whispered to Calvin.

Calvin looked around and nodded his head. "I bet Buck owes these folks money, and they are seeking some way to collect if they have to beat on the corpse."

"Did we grow up with some of these folks?" I asked Calvin, attempting to superimpose the reckless teenagers I had known as a kid with the respectable-looking people sitting in the rows of chairs.

"Some, there is Randy, Miller, and Johny. Overthere Billy and Walter."

"Nope, been gone too long, don't recall the faces or names," I admitted.

"They know you because you took the fall for the blonde. Even if they do not recall your face, they all know your story," said Calvin. 

"And freshly released from prison," I said. Because it was apparent as soon as people recognized me or were told who I was, they avoided me.

However, the status of freshly released from prison no longer bothered me,

Fuck them.

My brother Rob arrived with a firm handshake and a bear hug. His smile infectious.

"Bro, it's good to see you! But you look like shit," said Rob.

"What can I say? Bland food and difficulty sleeping with criminals," I said.

"You missed a good one the other night. The horse thieves? Ray had them cornered with that lever action he loves. Dared them to pull their pistols. You can appreciate that a rifle or shotgun is scary as hell. They probably pissed their pant when the old man showed up. Steel and ice."

"The old man hasn't changed a bit," I said.

"Damn, it's good you freaking caught them just in time. They had two mares loaded in a stolen trailer already," said Rob.

"The real fireworks started when the deputies arrived and drew on Dad.

Holy shit. He refused to back down and kept his long gun on the thieves, cursing the cops, saying that it was his farm and they were trespassing.

They demanded his gun, and Ray lay in the horse shit to be handcuffed until they figured out who was the land owner of the stables. The old man stood them down, refusing to drop his gun. They were shouting at each other so much that the fucking horse thieves could've walked away because the cops were 100% focused on the old man.

He told the deputies, "This is my property, my barn, and you motherfuckers are trespassing on my property, and you will not handcuff me."

It was like that until the Sheriff showed up. 

Catchpole has no love for Ray, but the Sheriff orders the deputies to put their guns away and politely asks if Dad would put the gun down so the deputies can investigate whatever the night stalkers are doing. 

The old man told me the details while bragging in the Gumbo tavern. And the Sheriff gets credit for breaking up a state-wide horse thief ring."

"Steel and ice, that's Ray. So the old man hasn't changed a bit while I was gone? But damn, who still calls that town Gumbo anymore?" I asked.

"I do," said Rob. "Gumbo sounds so much cooler than Chesterfield Bottoms."

A stranger approached Rob and me, handing us his business cards.

"I'm Dale Ford, Missouri State Archaeologist." 

"Buck had friends in high places," said Rob. "More influence and surprise, and I thought he just liked smoke pot."

"Buck smoked pot? I knew it," I said, "A regular red-haired rasta man."

"I'm heading an investigation into the black market sale of Native American artifacts, and through a series of informants, we tracked the source to this deceased fellow Buck," said Ford.

"The items appearing on the market are Smithsonian quality, priceless, and could've only come from a Mississippian Temple burial mound. Federal crime to raid a Native American grave site."

 

Rob addressed the archaeologist with the greatest sincerity, "Mississippi? Down there in Tupelo or Jackson?"

Fuck. 

I had to turn my head to look at Calvin to hide my grin. Rob probably knew more about the mound-building Mississippian cultural period than the archaeologist.

The archaeologist exhaled in exasperation, looking around to escape, and explained to my brother, "I have to explain all the time; the Native American Mississippian culture is not about the state of Mississippi. It's the name of one of the phases of North American history and religious context.

It is our obligation to respect the culture and artifacts and jail anyone who raids the grave sites."

Rob looked blankly at the State Archaeologists, "Then why do you call it  Mississippi? Why not call it Missouri? We are in Missouri."

"Funny thing," I said, "You guys can dig all day long, but it's called science. Let someone find a scraper on the Missouri River sandbar, and it's a crime?

Danny? I mean, Buck had a lazy streak; there's no way in hell you would catch him with a shovel digging up a mound. How much digging must one do to find a pot or spear point? Your informant gave you lousy information and fingered Buck because he was dying. He was an easy target, and the case is now a dead end."

The archaeologist looked at Rob and me with a disgusted snarl and walked away with Calvin chasing after him. 

"Dale, hey Dale, I found a broken arrowhead on a Missouri River sand bar. Can I keep it? Do you want to look at it? It might be one of those Mississippi arrowheads you are asking about. Reward for those sandbar arrowheads? I can get you a bucket of them and some catfish, spoonbills, and channels. Dale, man, I was catfishing and caught the biggest flathead you've ever seen; it pulled that jug underwater! I thought the boat was going to sink! You know big catfish like they catch in France? Damn, Dale, we're having a fish fry if you're interested."

"Exquisite torture," I said. "No one does it better than Calvin."

"Hey Dale, Dale, come back man," said Rob.

We laughed, and many of the strangers stared at us.

"You notice all the undercover agents at this wake?" I asked Rob.

"Yes, they stand out like a box of McIntosh apples in a row of Granny Smiths. Too alert, too fit, even the fake biker with the long beard and braids is cleared-eyed and far too alert for a funeral."

"And the biker has the wrong boots," I said. "Feds? DEA, ATF, Archaeologists? Ever hear of undercover Archaeologists?"

The state archaeologist was leaving the funeral with Calvin still in tow.

"Have you seen Danny in the casket?" I asked.

"No, I did not want to look."

"Come on, one last time," I said, pulling my reluctant brother.

Considering the large crowd there to pay their last respects, we stepped in a short line.

Long ago, Rob and I said goodbye to our friend Danny when he became an adult named Buck.

 We looked at the patched and powdered face that was once our childhood friend Danny.

"Kim tried to get him to lose weight to enlist in the army, didn't happen," said Rob.

"Look at the wig and better clothes than he owned in real life. If I had not seen him before he went to the hospital, I would not have recognized him," I said.

"Wonder if Mike will show up for Buck?" asked Rob, looking around.

Jodi and her husband intercepted us as we left Buck's casket.

"We want to thank you again for the blood donation," said Jodi.

I nodded my head, "They weren't going to accept my blood donation because I have tainted prison O-Negative until you insisted."

"We would rather have the girls alive with your tainted prison blood," said Brian, "Than the other option," and he pointed to Buck's coffin with the staged potted flowers. 

"We thank you."

I thought Jodi was going to hug me, but instead she shuffled backward.

"I have to get the girls out of the sun," said Jodi.

When Jodi was out of hearing range, Brian said, "I guess Buck told you I was the middle man moving those artifacts to the buyers? Jodi and I need money for the girl's heath care. No one will give us health insurance, so I'll do whatever I can to bring in money."

Brian looked around at the strangers at Buck's funeral.

"I wanted to let you know that if Buck told you where he was getting that stuff, I need to move some more for a little money. The girls need treatment. Let me be blunt. My girls will die if I don't start feeding more money into the healthcare system." "I'm desperate, and I have buyers for those death-head pots. What do you think those warriors on the pots represented? Buck said you knew shit." 

I exhaled deeply.

"Did you see that archaeologist Dale Ford here at Bucks funeral? He is fishing for the source of Buck's artifacts. You might want to back away. My Taliban warning sense is talking; if they fingered Buck through a snitch, they have already identified you as the transport mule. If I were you, I wouldn't go anywhere near Busch Wildlife Area for a year or more." 

"Stuff came out of Busch? Wildlife Area?" asked Jodi's husband. "Buck told me they came from a mound he found from down on the Gasconade River bluff."

"Did Buck look like he was the outdoor type?" I asked.

"I don't think you understand my situation," said Brian. "My girls need treatment in the hospital, and I have to risk everything to come up with more cash. I'm desperate. They need medicine. That's all that matters."

"I get it, man. I'm not their father, but I get it; the girls have my blood now. I memorized Buck's location and will make you a map. But you should avoid Busch Wildlife Area and let the buyer collect what they want from the cave."

"A cave?" asked Brian. "But Buck told me the artifacts were found in a mound."

"A cave, not a burial mound with that stuff. I can make you a map," I said.

A look of relief swept across Brian's face. "We're already in your debt. 

"Something else," I said. "What the hell killed Buck? Never seen anything like this before, and we found some evil shit in Iraq. The thing is, I have yet to go to the cave, and I don't know what is in those drums."

Brian averted his eyes.

"Buck told you about the leaking drums, right? I can't explain why they are in the cave, but I've wondered if that killed Buck."

I grabbed a funeral flyer with Buck's photo and the words "In loving memory" in flowing script, flipped the paper over, and began to draw the map.

"The drums might be another reason to stay far away from the cave?" said Jodi's husband.

"Yep, Okay, Lake 33, Dardenne Creek, Kraut Run Creek? The old cemetery here? The old bridge ruins? Follow this old logging road until it ends at Dardenne. You will find the cave entrance, and I'm guessing Buck was lazy hiding the entrance. He said a groundhog den showed him the cave entrance."

"Groundhog Day?" said Brian, "Every day over and over?"

"Not exactly," I said, pointing at the coffin and the facsimile of my childhood friend.

"Thank you," said Brian. "You are saving my girls' lives; I can pay for treatment."

"Not a problem," I said.

I looked for my brother and saw Rob and Calviln laughing too hard with some strangers who could be old friends from another lifetime.

There were other strangers who looked too healthy to have been friends with Buck. One of the strangers walking past Buck's body suddenly yelped in pain and jerked free a hidden ear plug. 

He circled the casket again, studying the digital readout of a hidden meter, "Shit, shit! 

The stranger spoke into a hidden microphone, "Get a hold of the Chief. We got a hot one; the Geiger counter is maxed out. This casket is hotter than Chernobyl. I don't know what the fuck this fellow was doing, but get the DOE to bring in a lead-lined body bag and one for the coffin."

The person with the Geiger counter and I made eye contact.

The stranger turned from me and said, "Houston, we have a problem. The deceased is hotter than Nagasaki."


Next chapter

Or Return to Chapter 8 of Lake 33 Killing Relic

Return to Chapter 1 & 2 of the the Weldon Springs Story, Lake 33 Killing Relic


Return HOME from Buck's Funeral Chapter 9


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