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Chapter Thirteen - The Return of Prometheus

by Dennis R. Cook


Chapter Thirteen - The Return of Prometheus

by Dennis R. Cook

I felt a tad rough. We had taken naps upon returning down the mountain, and my bones told me a nap wasn't enough. I told them I didn't care how they felt, I had work to do, and they were going along like it or not. They shut up after that.

Steven and I left Old Blackgoat with the sheep and high stepped our way through the meadow toward hell central. Two plain clothed officers monitored the entrance to the crime scene. "Do you think they get off wearing those shades and black jump suits all the time," Steven said as we approached.

"Sure," I whispered, tongue n' cheek, "don't you remember that line from the movies? Chics dig the suit." Having our little joke at the expense of the two officers helped take the edge off. Being at ease addressing the two made it easier to communicate who we were and why we needed to speak with Ketchum again. One officer ducked inside to check for an O.K., while the other detained us.

"You'll find Ketchum in the living quarters," the returning guard said.

Ketchum had a most haggard look about him, no doubt drained from the all night ordeal. "You all have a seat," Ketchum said, shuffling p his lap. "Paperwork," he groaned. "The FBI can't get enough of this stuff. Everything I have on tape to this point has to be transcribed. Gad, this is a mess," he moaned, looking at the mound of papers in his brief case. "Now, what can I do for you fellas'?"

"We'd like to have a look at the vortex again if we might," Steven said.

"No can do," Ketchum said. "That hole in the sky flat disappeared about the time you fellas' left this morning. I've been tryin' all day on my cell phone to contact a spook expert over in Taos to see if she could give us some clue as to what it was.

One darn thing's for sure, ain't no record of any type of vortex apparition in the FBI computer, or the military's MILNET either for that matter."

"Listen," I said, "could we just take a look around the altar one last time? We have some questions of our own we need to find some answers to."

"Suit yourself", Ketchum replied dryly, "just let me know if you happen to answer any of those questions, and don't touch anything, hear?"

A few police science experts worked studiously about the hall dusting for prints as we sauntered through the double doors and strode toward the altar. "Listen," Steven said, "that FBI man is going to discount every theory about Dr. Sheolman's whereabouts that doesn't add up to an earthly answer."

Querying, I asked, "What are you getting at?"

"Don't you see it, Joseph," Steven said, "you couldn't possibly have taken an inter-dimensional journey in your physical body, and yet you believe you did beyond a shadow of a doubt. Isn't that so?"

"Ya'," I said, "but you saw me fly out of that thing. I still don't understand what you are getting at, Steven."

"Delusion", Steven said. "Satan is a master of delusion. Scripture says super-powered delusion will come on our planet in the last day, delusion so tantalizing even the very elect will have difficulty discerning its origin.

"Joseph, it isn't possible for us to be deceived unless we truly want to be. Don't you see? Dr. Sheolman caught us off guard! The rotating motion of the vortex hypnotized us. You thought you took an inter-dimensional journey and I thought I saw you flop out of it. None of it was real!"

"O.K., Steven," I argued, "if the whole thing was a delusion, then it follows there was no pure faith in your boot black can and so on and so on."

"", Steven said, "we've been manipulated into walking down a blind alley. First, Dr. Sheolman planted the torn page on Arlena, then saw to it that neither Arlena nor Torre could observe his escape. The vortex must have been some type of illusionary manifestation with hypnotic appeal, and he must have planted the book where we would find it, too."

"You may be right," I finally agreed, "but where could he have gone? He left his car. All the secret hiding places have been found. I don't understand. It all seemed so real."

"Not at all," Steven said. "The one hitch in his whole plan centered on us ignoring the broken elevator. The FBI or whoever might dismantle the framework of this palatial hideaway block by block, but I would bet you anything the elevator would be last. There are simply too many other interesting rooms to choose from."

"So what is your conclusion", I asked?

"I believe we'll find tire tracks coming out of the gully wash somewhere between our road and the road that leads to the gorge," Steven said.

"Interesting theory," Ketchum said. "I overheard the whole thing. You may just be right. I was going to start beneath the altar, have some people go through the library, check out the fountain in the living room, but I hadn't considered foolin' with the chamber leading to the elevator, or the elevator, since it was busted. I'll get a couple of men on it right away. Meantime, let's take a walk down the mountain and look for those car tracks."

It was still a stretch for me to accept Dr. Sheolman's presumed disappearance as nothing more than an elaborate hoax. If I had been hypnotized, then I had been put way, way under, and had been darn lucky to come out of it at all. Had my will been weaker, it would seem that I might have remained under Dr. Sheolman's spell for months, even years.

It scared the heck out of me to think about it.Steven just about had me convinced by the time we reached the exit ramp. But I wasn't certain some doubt wouldn't linger in my mind even if proof could be found to back up Steven's theory.

Walking down the gully wash which separated the mountain from the highway wasn't easy. Brush piles, downed trees, broken beer bottles, slippery, moss- covered rocks and the like, made the way treacherous. Patches of plain dirt that would reveal tire tracks were few and far between. I was afraid we were wasting our time. If Dr. Sheolman had left a trail, it wouldn't be easy to find. We had to cross our fingers his presumed departure had been through a clearing, otherwise, we would have to wait until Ketchum's men uncovered something back by the elevator.

Thank God that wasn't to be the case. Not three hundred yards down the gully everything gave the appearance of falling into place. Ketchum recognized the wide track tread marks etched in the road bank as those of a late model king cab pickup, a six wheeler.

"Someone's Navajo Cadillac sure rolled outta' here in a hurry," Ketchum said. "Looks like whoever it was headed west. Could be to California by now. All we can do is alert the highway patrol from here to the coast to be on the lookout for a six wheeler with New Mexico plates. I'll have them check the MVR list to see if Sheolman had a second vehicle registered in his name. May come up dry on both counts....This guy ain't exactly predictable."

"Maybe we can help," Steven said. "We don't want you to arrest us for withholding evidence, but we might know where Dr. Sheolman headed. We've been tailing him for several weeks now. His secretary, a Mrs. Begay, told our friend Old Blackgoat about Dr. Sheolman's periodic trips to the west coast that just happened to coincide with various Satanic meeting dates."

"Easter was coming up," I interrupted, "and we wanted to follow Dr. Sheolman and see if he would lead us to some bigger fish."

"You see," I said, "we had good reason to believe Dr. Sheolman was responsible for the rash of sheep thefts on the reservation, including some belonging to our friend Old Blackgoat."

"How so?" Ketchum asked, showing interest?

"Old Blackgoat and I decided we had better keep an eye on his sheep before they began disappearing, too," Steven resumed. "Late one night two mysterious figures appeared out of nowhere and carried a few of Old Blackgoat's sheep to the valley of the mountain we're standing on right now."

"How'd you know they'd come here?" Ketchum asked. "You clairvoyant or something?"

"Simple," Steven said, Old Blackgoat had a hunch this was their hiding place, so we drove up here to see. You know, even police have that kind of foresight.

Ketchum frowned. "I guess Old Blackgoat's hunch was correct."

"Yes," Steven said, "it was."

"Then why in heaven's name didn't you inform the proper authorities right then and there," Ketchum demanded testily. "You might have spared that young couple the indignity, pain and shame they endured from Sheolman up here last night. What's a matter with you people, anyway!"

"You're jumpin' the gun," Steven shot back, bristling with his Peterian fire. "Even though we got a glimpse of Dr. Sheolman that night, all we had was a figure, no more. And that view came in a vision. Even Old Blackgoat wasn't willing to be convinced at that time that Dr. Sheolman was the culprit. Even after we followed him to Los Angeles, definitive proof, proof that would compel or justify us contacting you, didn't present itself until last night."

"Alright," Ketchum conceded with a conciliatory gesture of his right arm, "I thought you fellas said something about knowing where in the Sam-- hill Sheolman might be headed. Before I go sendin' any of my men on some Gol-dang wild goose chase, I have to have some facts. Now which one of you two visionaries is gonna' fill me in on how you know where this Dr.Sheolman headed."

"Listen," I said, "we're all exhausted, and the proof of that is the testiness we're beginning to exhibit. There's no sense coming to blows. What say we get together tomorrow morning around ten. A good night's sleep will make what we have to say about Dr. Sheolman's whereabouts much easier on all of us. If Sheolman is going where we think he is, he will still be there in the morning, if not, what we have to tell you is irrelevant. And, who knows, you all may have him in custody by then anyway."

"Suits me just fine," Ketchum said. "And speaking of getting' that guy into custody, I've got to get an all points bulletin goin' on that Navajo caddy anyway. Besides, I get the feelin' I might have trouble swallowing what you fellas think you know. So O.K., see you at the parkin' garage around ten in the mornin'....and no hard feelin's, just doin' my job."

Steven and I arrived back at the sheepfold in time for dinner. As if by woman's intuition, Sarah had anticipated our hunger, and surprised us all by coming to camp and preparing some chili.

"What smells so good," Steven said, lifting a pot lid to get a better whiff of Sarah's cooking.

"Navajo surprise," Sarah answered propitiously, sporting a Cheshire catlike grin that made me a tad suspicious. "Go ahead and try some," Sarah said. "It's ready."

"What is it, really?" I asked Steven, not quite sure what to expect after seeing her grin.

"You'll just have to take pot luck," Steven said, filling himself a bowl full.

Soon Old Blackgoat, Steven, Sarah, and I were digging into a hearty bowl of good old Texas Chili. Every bite tasted like manna from heaven. Enchanting perfume and enviable camp-site chili. I just had to get to know Sarah better. Maybe she wasn't all that cold and distant after all.

After dinner Old Blackgoat surprised us by pulling a guitar from his camper and singing some of his favorite Navajo tunes. The campfire, guitar, and full moon made for a perfect evening under the stars. Too bad Sarah couldn't stay longer. Guess our rock pallets didn't look so appealing, but I knew the reality was,...she had business, and, it,...was none of mine. Ha!

I was out like a light when bedtime came. Bleating sheep and chirping birds blended with other nocturnal sounds to produce an odd mountain rhythm that was remarkably conducive to deep somnolent sighs. In plain English, that's snoring.

I wouldn't have dreamed anything could have brought me out of the warm comfort of my sleeping bag, not even a resounding thunderclap directly above my head, but Shep's incessant barking around 2:00 A.M., had me on the verge.

Old Blackgoat finally had to climb out of his sleeping bag and bring the dog to his bedside in order to calm her down. She settled down after that. I couldn't help noticing, however, that although Shep was quiet, she continued to pant heavily. Saliva dripping from her tongue by the cupful indicatedshe was still nervous about something.

I sat up in my sleeping bag and gazed wearily out into the moonlit darkness. Trees drew a fortress of shadows all around the meadow. They seemed to speak of days when a quiver of arrows measured the stature of an Indian brave against the reflection of virgin waters, released for an eagle's admiration on a buffalo plain.

A screech owl arced high over the meadow and warned its mate of our campfire below, while a large buck, replete with multiple point headdress cast his moon-lit shadow on the field below us, his powerful sinews glistening in the moonlight for a brief moment, before the blazing moon slid in behind a lone feathery cloud wisp effortlessly floating across the nighttime sky, leaving only a glowing orb to caress the darkness.

At first light Old Blackgoat was up rummaging through a rustic looking old tool chest he had stowed away in the back of his camper. A tad curious, I walked over. Steven was still snoozing away.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to sneak up on an Indian from behind?" Old Blackgoat blurted out when I was about ten feet away. "I could have mistaken you for a bear."

"Sorry," I said, "didn't mean to startle you."

"You didn't." Blackgoat said. "I heard you coming through the fence like a heard of buffalo. If I had been Dr. Sheolman, you would have been a dead man."

"Did you find whatever it was you were looking for?" I asked, trying my best to get a look at whatever it was he was holding in his hands.

"Right here," Old Blackgoat said, holding up a sawed off, double barreled shotgun in one hand, and some shells in the other.

"Why the gun?" I asked, taken aback a little.

"I think my old friend the bear was close by last night," Old Blackgoat sighed. "He knows I will be insulted if he kills any of my sheep, but he will try anyway. I will be ready for him."

"Do you think Shep was barking at the bear last night?" I asked.

"I am sure of it," the old sage said.

"Can you kill a bear with that thing?" I asked, pointing at the deadly looking weapon.

"No, no, no, of course not," Old Blackgoat said shaking his head. "The bear is my friend. If I was superstitious like my ancestors, I would say his presence on this mountain would bring us good luck. I'm only going to salt his backside a little to remind him this is my mountain, then maybe he'll return to Colorado where he belongs."

"But won't that only make the bear angry?" I asked.

"No, I don't believe so," Old Blackgoat said. "I talked with myself long about this very thing last night, and I decided if I was trespassing on someone's mountain, and they shot me in the butt with rock salt, I would be smart enough not to return. I believe the bear is at least as smart as I am, that is why he will attack my sheep today, he needs me to test his resolve. I will not disappoint him.

"Here," Old Blackgoat said, "you take the gun and stand watch while I make breakfast."

Steven was still sawing logs, but the sound of bacon sizzling on the hot griddle, and it's crisp, tantalizing aroma, soon brought him up.

"Oh, my," Steven said, stretching the kinks out of his limbs. "I didn't realize how sore walking up and down this mountainside was going to make my legs."

"You're right, there," I said, "but no pain, no gain."

"Are you two going to eat, or complain," Old Blackgoat said.

Herding the sheep up the mountainside helped us work the kinks out of our muscles. It wasn't nearly the chore I thought it would be. A few hundred yards up the slope and my leg muscles felt stronger than they had in some years.

Shep was as feisty as usual. One minute she was ahead of the sheep slowing their pace and the next she was behind nipping at the heels of the stragglers. She was a marvel to watch, never losing her concentration for a moment. That's why I was caught off guard, when, within yards of the spring, she left the sheep, and made a beeline through the trees. Her fierce barking told the tale.

"Bear!" Old Blackgoat said.

Steven took charge. "Blackgoat," Steven said, "get between Joseph and me. Joseph, you take the right flank, I'll take the left. We'll surround the bear. He won't know which of us to charge. Wave your arms and yell. The bear should become confused and run off.

Moments later when we broke through the tree-line in full view of the spring, the bear was in the process of chasing down Shep. Both were headed straight for Old Blackgoat. Old Blackgoat didn't hesitate, forcing a round of rock salt smack dab in the middle of the beast's right shoulder. That stopped him. Bellowing and bawling, the bear turned and sped off a few feet, but didn't keep going.Seeing Steven flailing his arms brought the bear up short, dead in its tracks. With all ferocity, the thing raised itself to its full 8-foot height, and began making its way toward Steven, bellowing and growling like the behemoth it was.

Old Blackgoat took aim a second time, but there was only the click of the hammer against a dead round. Shep charged the beast and began tearing at the fiend's ankles. Steven was frozen in his tracks.

One swipe of the bear's mighty piston like arm sent Shep sprawling into the icy spring water. Then it was too late. The bear was down on Steven. Only microseconds separated Steven's crumpled body from the bear's sharp talons and fangs...but it wasn't to be.

Two titan arms formed around the bear's neck and waist, momentarily restraining the beast from it's prey. A head appeared, and then the trunk of a mighty creature. Prometheus had returned!

The titan rained a crunching blow down upon the primeval beast's leathered skull, buckling the knees of the predator,.. ending the challenge. Within moments the misplaced grizzly vanished into the coniferous jungle.

Prometheus extended his arm to Steven to help him up.

"Praise God!" Steven said, brushing needles and dust from his duds.

"Are you alright?" Old Blackgoat and I asked, rushing to Steven's side.

"Don't know," Steven said, still trying to catch his breath. "Man, I thought I had bought the farm. Thank God for you, Prometheus," he said, grabbing hold of the titan to initiate a bear hug of his own.

"It's all my fault," Old Blackgoat moaned, interrupting the celebration.

"What do you mean, all your fault?" Steven said, turning to comfort Old Blackgoat. "No one can take the blame when a bear goes mad and tries to maim everyone with whom it comes in contact."

"Maybe so," Old Blackgoat said humbly, "but I should have checked those salt rounds to make sure they were good. I've had them in my tool chest for years."

"Forget it," Steven said. "Everything turned out fine. We're all fine. The bear is gone. Prometheus is back."

"Maybe not all fine," I said. "Where's Shep?"

"Right here," Old Blackgoat said, stepping aside to reveal a very wet and panting pup at his feet.

"You brave dog, you," I said, kneeling down to thank the canine with a good head rubbing and chin scratching. Of course I was thanked for my praise with a healthy shaking of Shep's body, spraying water droplets all over me.

"Except for a few bruised ribs," I think she'll be fine, Old Blackgoat said.

"Well," Steven sighed, "let's round up those sheep. By the time we locate them all, it will be time to meet with Ketchum again."

There was not an iota of doubt in my mind that the timing of Prometheus' arrival would eventually be of infinitely greater value to us than the morning could reveal. Gathering the sheep, however, didn't leave us any time to powwow. I couldn't imagine whether Prometheus would be willing to disclose his true identity by revealing himself to Ketchum. If he would, however, I thought we had an excellent shot at convincing Ketchum to concentrate his search for Sheolman in southern California. After all, Prometheus lived what Steven and I saw in the Spirit.

On the other hand, if Prometheus kept his identity secret, any attempt to convince Ketchum we were feeding him any more than pie-in-the-sky fantasy would be a waste of time.... I couldn't picture Ketchum as the type who placed any great stock in the truth of spiritual realities such as dreams, visions, and apparitions.

Steven had said it all the day before. If we were to be realistic we had to assume the FBI would concentrate their investigation on evidence that was visible and tangible. I didn't think Ketchum could run away and hide from Prometheus. Prometheus was the key.

I was in the process of closing the gate as Shep chased the last wayward sheep into the corral, when, out of the corner of my eye, I happened to catch Prometheus looking my way.

"What's on your mind?" I yelled at Prometheus, as I finished lifting the makeshift wire latch over the binding post of the sheep pen gate.

"Hey, man, I understand you and Steven need my help convincing that Ketchum man you call FBI, that the things of the Spirit are real," Prometheus yelled back.

"That's right. But how did you know?" I trailed off. "You've been reading my mind again, haven't you?" I asked, smiling. "Yes, we need your help. Will you help us?"

"Of course, dude," Prometheus said. "I want to see how this FBI unbeliever looks after I make a believer out of him.

"Hey, what's going on?" Steven asked, tossing a shovel aside he had been using to rid the arena of sheep piles. "Is it time to head down the hill?"

"It's cool, dude," Prometheus called to Steven, "I'm going with you."

Steven appeared stunned.

"Let's go and see that G-man dude," Prometheus said, smiling like a cat with it's head in a fish bowl.

"O.K., O.K., just give me a second," Steven said.

Ketchum had softened somewhat from our encounter with him the previous day. He gave us a toothy grin as we approached him, then turned to rummage through the trunk of his government vehicle. He had managed to lift a camcorder from its foam ringed case by the time we reached him.

"Who's the big fella'?" Ketchum asked, utilizing his powerful, persuasive voice to seize command of the moment.

"I am Prometheus!" thundered the titan, in his most magnificent, (out of this world), baritone voice, before greeting Ketchum with his hand extended.

"Well," Ketchum said, raising eyebrows with wonder as the powerful being gripped his hand, "I'm very glad to make your acquaintance."

Ketchum shook the hand of Prometheus, but withdrew it quickly when he realized the vice like grip of the titan was going to be a bit much for his knuckles.

"Whoo-wee, big fella'," Ketchum said, "that's some grip you got there. What are you anyway, a wrestler?"

"That is not correct, dude," Prometheus said matter-of-factly. "I am an angel of the most high God who has earned the right to my salvation like a man."

"Is zat, so?" Ketchum said, taking a step back in order to size Prometheus up with the kind of curious glare only a true Texan could muster. "Now, just how do you expect me to believe that? You might be a bit oversized for a man, but I done seen men like you totin' hay bales around Texas farms when I wuz a kid growin' up way down yonder.

"Very well, then, dude," Prometheus said, "I will show you I do not lie."

With that, Prometheus turned and took great strides toward the highway, disappearing from our sight in seconds.

"Now what do you suppose your friend is up to?" Ketchum asked, giving us all a puzzled look that mimicked our own curiosity.

Moments later we had our answer. Prometheus shocked us all. He was carrying Old Blackgoat's friend, the bear,.... on his shoulders!

Steven and I retreated to the front of Ketchum's car for cover when we saw the look on the bear's face and compared it to Ketchum's. They were both so wide-eyed we thought the laughter we were holding in would make us burst.

But Prometheus wasn't finished with his little demonstration. When he came within a few feet of Ketchum he vanished right before his eyes, leaving the bear suspended in mid-air, some ten feet above the cowering G-man.

"Alright!" Ketchum said. "Uncle! I'm convinced! I'll believe anything you say from now on, just get that Gol-danged bear outta' here. The thing gives me the willies."

With that, Prometheus reappeared and put the bear down. We all watched it scurry down the gravel road and out of sight.

Ketchum eyed us keenly. "What's the big fella's part in all this?"

"Let's go inside," I said. "You might want to sit down while we clue you in on some facts of this case. The rest of the story will make what you've heard and seen so far seem mundane."

"Somehow," Ketchum said, wide eyed with wonder, "I don't doubt it one bit. Let's go back inside. I need to be a sittin' down for the rest of this boogeyman tale.

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