First Kill – Janet Shell Anderson
Shakespeare said it – “First kill all the lawyers.” I don’t like hearing about dead lawyers, makes me nervous. I’m Charlie Standing Soldier, twenty-nine, a Lakota, an attorney.
Byron D. was a lawyer, a good one I guess. He died on a day just like this, right in this spot on Highway 44, shot in the leg. He crawled out of his car, bled to death in the ditch. The village of Wambli is just over the hill. I live there in what used to be his house. He’s been dead since January 31, 1976, died before I was born. This was back in the bad times on the rez, Wounded Knee in the 70’s, AIM, the FBI, all that. One guy copped to accessory to second degree; one was a juv. Neither did much time for killing Byron. Two others weaseled out. Some are relatives of mine. Nobody in Wambli says much about it.
Snow is heavy along the road; the sky, terrible. Driving’s a nightmare.
People in Wambli say there’s a ghost car drives this road. Sometimes people see a man in the ditch, alive. When they get out to help, no one’s there. But there’s blood, especially if there’s a heavy snowfall, like that day, blood in the ditch, on the bank, on the road.
I hear thunder even though it’s snowing. Booming. My car skids on ice, and I fight the skid but whirl toward the ditch. The impact is horrible.
I’m upside down, my nose, mouth bleeding, blood on my hands, legs. Getting out of the car is murder. I don’t know how much I’m hurt, but something’s wrong. My leg is numb in a way that seems bad.
He’s right there on the snow bank, lying on his side, looking at me. He looks like my cousin. That’s a surprise; I never saw a picture of Byron. Dark-eyed, intent, he looks like a prosecutor. I crawl up and put my arms under his armpits, try to lift him. He’s dead weight. My leg can’t stand much of this.
“Why’d they do it?” I ask.
“I can’t say,” he answers.
Itis snowing worse, and the sky is terrible.
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Janet Shell Anderson is currently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for fiction and the Micro Prize for short fiction. Her work has appeared in Vestal Review, The Grey Sparrow Press, LITSNACK, Gemini Magazine, Convergence, The Citron Review, and other publications. She often writes about the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and is an attorney.