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Tashunka waited outside the sheriff's office long past when Roddy said he'd meet him, trying to stay warm inside his running truck. Roddy apologized for the delay and invited the old fellow to come indoors for some fresh coffee. "Doctor Wahkan had some interesting things to say," the sheriff told him.

Tashunka followed Walker inside and sat shivering in his seat until the coffee was ready. "And what of the three stupid boys who took a bullwhip to a plains Indian and didn't think he'd have friends who could think of doing something far worse in retaliation?"

"The three stupid boys were still there looking perfectly miserable until they laid eyes on the dead girl. That seemed to make their whole day. Would that Headwater had a bigger hospital. They wouldn't tell me what was so funny. I figure you're about to tell me."

Tashunka leaned back in his seat nursing the coffee. His eyes landed on a photograph of the elder Sheriff Walker, now deceased. Two years already? "Everyone greatly respected your father, Roddy, both White Wing and Red Wing alike. I was there at his Final Rite."

Roddy flushed with sudden anger, but it was not directed at the old Indian. "And I, his only son, trained to replace him, was not permit- ted to be there at his precious Rite because I don't believe in fairy tales about angels and sun gods and killing relics and I made the mis- take of letting everybody know that."

"Sheriff, if you allow your heart to grow black then you will take everything I tell you as coming from the left hand of the damned. What you call the 'killing relic' sets the Church of Green Dome apart from all other faith assemblies. It is evidence of divinity which can be seen."

Roddy glared at him while he took another sip of coffee, then lowered his eyes. Soon he was calm again and said, "You are absolutely right, Tashunka, and I know how important the relic is in the life of your Church. So let us call it by its right name, the Golden Gift."

"You know Mark Lange was the first Prophet of the Church, and Wanica was his Apostle. When Wanica died, Prophet Lange chose Peter Two- feathers to replace him. Then Lange himself died, making Twofeathers the Prophet, and he in turn chose Klaus Hansen to be the Apostle, though he was very reluctant to do so. Years intervened before he was pressured to name Hansen."

Roddy nodded. "Yes, I know authority in the Church moves from White to Red Wing and back, over and over so long as heaven and Earth last. That was the theory, anyway. It worked like a charm until the day the authority actually moved to the Red side and the White side didn't much like it."

Tashunka said, "Red and White wings swap power but the Golden Gift stays in the Red Wing. God gave it to Chief Wanica, who gave it in turn to Twofeathers. Hansen says the Apostle should have it. Twofeath- ers thought it would quiet things to personally give it up, but he gave it to Gabriel Shybear."

"Gabriel Shybear. That explains how he got his whipping. And he said his house and the Temple had been ransacked too. They must have been trying to beat the Golden Gift out of him. Oh, it's a good thing I never embraced the faith of the Green Dome Church as my own, Tashunka. It's much too violent for me.'

"It gets better," Tashunka said. "Twofeathers said he was setting aside the rule that Greendomites can only marry their cousins, in just one instance, so that Gabriel could marry Kim Zinter. When they heard that the Apostle, Klaus Hansen, and half the Bunners stood up and walked out of the Temple."

Roddy smiled at Tashunka's use of the word 'Bunners'. By strict canon law all Greendomites had to wear their hair in a ponytail, even the men, but in the White Wing this ponytail was done up in a bun, even for the men. He shuddered at how close he had come to being a Bunner. But even people who had nothing to do with the Church knew about their biggest hobby horse. For a time the Mormons had polygamy. The Greendo- mites have mandatory cousin marriage. Roddy knew a deep current of racism ran among the Bunners but the requirement for consanguineous marriages had kept a firm lid on it. Kim Zinter was fourth generation White Wing at least, she'd have no kin among the Red Wing. Her mar- riage and any subsequent children would have blown the door wide open.

As though he could read Roddy's mind, Tashunka said, "Hansen would see this marriage between Jerry and Kim as a horrible disease infecting the body of the Church. Their children would have marriageable cousins in both wings and it would just grow worse from there."

"So now I have a possible motive," the sheriff said.

Deputies Bill and Bob rushed in just then and threw a Cellophane bag on the sheriff's desk containing the murder weapon. "We found it," Bob said, "Just like you guessed, Sheriff, not more than throwing distance from the body."

The blade was thin and flexible, nothing more than a steak knife per- haps.

Roddy picked up the bag and frowned with disappointment. "This game isn't as fun when the other side isn't even trying to win. Not a run- of-the-mill Sears Roebuck kitchen knife: no, something handmade, some- thing an admirer would make special just for the Church Apostle.'

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