Copyright © 1999 by Thomas Perry

All rights reserved.

To Jo, Alix, and Isabel

Their Great Men, both Sachems and Captains, are generally poorer than the common People, for they affect to give away and distribute all the Presents or Plunder they get in their Treaties or War, so as to leave nothing to themselves. If they should once be suspected of Selfishness, they would grow mean in the opinion of their Country-men, and would consequently loose [sic] their Authority.

—Cadwallader Colden, The History of the

Five Indian Nations Depending on the

Province of New-York in America, 1727.


There were still moments when the old life seemed to be on the verge of returning—there would be something out of place near the vanishing point of her sight or in the periphery. A bit of the past seemed to materialize for an instant, just long enough to catch Jane’s eye and cause her to remember it, then recede again to become indistinguishable from the soft, familiar landscape. Sometimes it would be no more than a sound—a spring- loaded metallic click-scrape noise that turned out to be a door bolt slipping into its receptacle, but could have been the slide of a pistol cycling to snap the first round into the chamber.

Usually it would be a man who made her uneasy. A few times it had been men in crowds who had resembled other men from other times. Once it was only a stranger in a deserted mall parking structure who happened to be walking in the wrong place for too many steps—a bit behind Jane and to her right, where she would be most vulnerable to attack. The old habits of mind emerged again in a reflex. As she prepared her body to make the sudden dodge, her ears listened to his footsteps to detect a change in his position. Her eyes scanned the area around her to record its features—the shapes of parked cars she could put between them, small pools of bright light on the pavement to avoid, the railing she could roll over to drop to the next level down without running for the stairs. Then, as each of the others had done, this man changed his course, unaware that he had startled her, and walked off in another direction. Usually it had been men. Today, it was just a young girl.

From a distance, the girl looked about fourteen: the thin, stringy blond hair that kept getting in her eyes; the narrow hips and bony chest; the clothes she wore that were a little too tight and too short, but made Jane wonder about her mother rather than about her. The girl first appeared on the Seneca reservation, and that was the first sign. She was too blond to be somebody’s cousin from Cattaraugus or Allegany, and too young to work for the government, and Jane couldn’t see any obvious explanation of how she had gotten there.

It was twelve miles from the Tonawanda reservation to the house in Amherst where Jane and Carey lived. Since Jane had begun to construct her new life she had spent more and more time on the reservation. First, she had visited friends and relatives, then let the friends talk her into going with them to meetings about tribal issues. At one of them she had volunteered to work in an after-school program to teach the old language to kids who had not learned it. All of them knew some words and phrases, and a few could make sentences, so the classes were easy and pleasant.

Jane had held her walks three times a week for over a year on the day when she first noticed the girl. Jane had waited on the high wooden front porch of Billy and Violet Peterson’s house under the tall hemlock and watched for the school buses. When enough of the children had gathered, Jane had gone inside with them and talked. The simple, inevitable logic of languages was appealing and satisfying to her students: “ah-ga-weh” is mine, “ho-weh” is his, “go-weh” is hers, “ung-gwa-weh” is ours, “swa-weh” is yours, “ho-nau-weh” is theirs.

But a language carried implications and assumptions that had to be explained. There was a history even in its lapses and absences. A modern Seneca conversation was filled with borrowed words for the things that filled the children’s houses—computers, television sets, microwave ovens.

Jane found herself taking the group out to walk the roads and fields and woods of the reservation to talk about the world. Whatever scurried across the path ahead of them or hung in the sky above or shaded them with its branches she could talk about without words from new languages.

Most of the time, if Jane saw a teenaged girl watching, she would wait until the girl’s curiosity led her close enough, then invite her to join the walk. This girl appeared at the edge of a distant stand of sycamores, then disappeared. Jane saw her five times that day, but the girl never came closer. Jane couldn’t help knowing at each moment the route the girl must be taking, and where she would appear next. That was part of what Jane had spent years training her mind to do. When she had seen the girl twice, she could follow the rest of her progress with as little conscious effort as a hunter needed to track the trajectory of a pheasant.

Jane asked her little band of linguists who the girl was, but each of them waited patiently for someone else to answer. Jane said, “If she comes to join us, I want everybody to make her feel welcome.”

But she didn’t. The last time was when Jane got into her car at the Petersons’ house. Jane considered driving a quarter mile, then quietly making her way back through the woods on foot to come up beside her for a talk. Jane lowered her head and pretended to search for something in her purse while she kept her eye on the rearview mirror. The girl was coming out of hiding to talk to a couple of Jane’s students. Now that she could see her clearly, Jane began to feel a vague sense of discomfort.

There was a haggard, feral look around the eyes, and a set to the thin lips. It was a small-featured, precocious look that reminded Jane of the undercover policewomen they sent into high schools to impersonate students. Jane started her car and slowly pulled out onto the highway. If the girl was just a girl—maybe a friend of one of the kids on the reservation—then probably she would overcome her shyness by Monday. If she wasn’t, then Jane had accomplished what she had needed to: she had memorized the face.

Almost certainly, this was just another time when Jane’s old reflexes had been triggered by something innocuous. She glanced at her watch. She would have just enough time to make a few calls for the hospital fund drive and then get ready for dinner.

Jane finished setting the dining room table, then walked back into the kitchen to wash the crystal wine glasses by hand. She had noticed that there were water spots on them. If Carey had been here, she would have said it was because the last time they had been put away, she and Carey had both been suffering from the ill effects of having used them the night before. They only had wine with dinner on special occasions, and special occasions always ended the same way in this house. The wine glasses would end up somewhere in the bedroom, and the dishes would be left for morning.

As Jane rinsed the two glasses and reached for the towel, she saw in her memory her mother making the same motion in the small house in Deganawida. Her mother had probably been the happiest woman Jane had ever met. She had also been a fraud. She had decided at the age of twenty—or twenty-two, as Jane had corrected her after her death—who she wanted most in the world to be, and then spent the rest of her life impersonating that woman. It had been a very sophisticated, wise thing to do, and what had prompted her to do it had been the same five or six years that had given her the sophistication.

Jane had grown up knowing little about her mother that was true. Her mother had been an expert at cheerful evasion, and when Jane would ask insistent questions, she was capable of lying with tenacity and consistency. What was true was that Jane’s mother had somehow turned up in New York at the age of sixteen alone. The next five or six years were what she never spoke about. Jane had learned a little after she had grown up. Her mother

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