Attempted Arrest (The Cave)
Adversity is the trial of principle. Without it, a man hardly knows whether he is honest or not.
-- Henry Fielding
Before Despina gets into the mood to see others, her retreat is invaded by the sheriff, in his official capacity, not in his friendly, possibly romantic mode.
Blocking the entrance, feet spread wide, arms folded across his chest, he demands, "Where's Cu?"
Despina purses her lips, making a popping sound, then answers, "I really don't know."
"I highly doubt that.” Mick’s frown deepens. “The evidence indicates otherwise."
"Evidence? As in, admissible in a court of law?" Despina grows shrewish, speaking sarcastically. "May I be so bold as to inquire just what evidence we are alluding to?"
"You do know the name of this cave, don't you?" His expressive eyebrows shoot up.
"La cueva sonora," Despina parrots.
"Do you know how that translates?" Mick’s eyebrow shoots up.
"Right. Echo, as in, carries up to half a mile for sounds uttered facing the right way, in a substantial volume," he says sarcastically.
"You mean slightly upward and angled toward the rear?" Despina turns her body as she speaks, aligning it with the northwest corner.
"Wouldn't that fall into the realm of 'here-say and innuendo'?" she inquires sweetly.
"Not in this cave!" Mick retorts vehemently.
"Because you WANT to believe otherwise?" she asks softly. "I see."
She glances down at her wet clothes and trembles.
"How'd you get wet?"
"There's a pond and a waterfall here, you know? Well, I sort of fell in."
"Fell?" Mick’s brow furrows.
"Sort of." Despina stares at the ground.
"From?" Mick’s voice and eyes harden.
"You know that rock the boys dive from?" She peeks up at him without raising her head.
"The one with all the rocks right below the surface if your aim is bad?" Mick crosses his arms over his chest.
Pointing her finger in agreement, she says, “That's the place."
"You fell in the dark from there, and just accidentally landed in the one clear spot?" His tone tells her he’s not buying her story.
"It would appear so, sort of," Despina qualifies.
"There's that 'sort of' again." His eyes bore into her.
"Yes." She nods her head affirmatively.
His mind works at warp speed. "There's more here than meets the eye. A suicide leap?" Mick guesses in “interrogation” voice.
Indignant, Despina raises her voice. "Good heavens, no!" Her face turns red with outrage.
"Then?" Mick queries sarcastically.
"If it becomes absolutely necessary. It's off the topic." Despina’s voice is soft. Her eyes roll up and to the left as she reaches the end.
"Meaning Cu wasn't with you at the time, Dee?" Mick says dryly, recognizing the body language for “lie”.
"No." She meets his eyes boldly.
Mick gives her no quarter. "No, he wasn't, or yes, he was?"
"He was. You flatter me to think I could find my way in the dark to a place I have only been once; a place with no path to it, in the dark."
"You have quite a reputation for finding caves in the dark when no mere mortal could."
"Oh." Despina’s eyes widen.
A smile lurks behind Mick’s lips. "Oh."
"I had guidance that time," she states primly, looking away.
"Cu's non-existent tail lights?" Mick suggests.
"And may I be privileged to hear the current explanation of that one, Dee?" Mick’s voice turns syrupy.
"You won't like it," Despina’s voice warns. She folds her hands as if for prayer and stares at them.
"Try me," his soft voice suggests.
Despina purses her lips. Hardening her tone, she informs him, "You're not an Indian."
"Not an Indian? Not an Indian? Have you 'gone native' on us already?" He looks sternly at her. "Try me."
"Cu's mother was a medicine woman, right?" Despina’s lowered eyes rise in a look that sets Mick on fire whenever he sees it. She seems impervious, unaware that she has flirted.
"Yeees," his voice encourages.
"She was in the cave." A resigned sigh accompanies that admission.
"A woman dead what, three, four years? In a cave with an overgrown entrance?"
"Yes. Talking to me -- telling me where I should go. Since I had no expectations and was trying hard to follow Cu, I was evidently receptive. Then when we got there, she told me what I should expect to have to do to save Cu. She really freaked me out. She’s afraid I’ll fail, probably because I’m not Indian."
"Well, that theory is certainly interesting, to say the least. Is it an original?
"Pretty much, but not entirely." Despina again drops her eyes to her clasped hands.
"Oh. And may I inquire who else contributed?"
"La Ciega, the Blind One, María. She told me the next day that Cu's mother has frequently made visitations after her death to many tribe members when they had special problems. Generally, I think, though, the Indians invoked her spirit, which I don't know how to do."
"Sort of 'the blind leading the blind'?"
"I guess so." She shivers again.
His flashlight flickers over her. "You'd best get out of those wet clothes."
Incredulously, she responds, "Here?"
"Unless you envision teleporting back to the campfire to dry out." Mick’s voice is laced with sarcasm.
"Teleporting? I never teleport. The tracks are there!" Despina’s trembling finger indicates the cave entrance.
Pointing the flashlight downward, he says, "No shoes."
"Oh. Shoes leave tracks in cave dust," Despina realizes, thinking aloud.
"Yes,” Mick replies. “I've seen them."
Despina’s eyes widen. In a disbelieving tone, she asks, "You checked?"
Mick tips his hat. "It's my job, ma'am."
Despina wiggles her bare feet.
Mick flicks the flashlight to her feet, watching her toes curl in embarrassment. "So, where did you leave your shoes?"
"In the pond," Despina admits softly.
Mick shakes his head in disgust. "Oh, for Pete's sake."
Self-righteously, Despina explains, "I couldn't swim in them."
Mick puts his hands on his hips, sending the flashlight beam careering through the upper reaches of the cavern. "I was afraid it might be tit for tat."
"So, how did you get to the cave barefoot, in the dark, soaking wet, without leaving TRACKS in the dust?"
"There ARE tracks!" She again points to a beaten path from the entrance of the cave to the area under the smoke hole where she lay.
"Wet ones?" A wicked glint shines in Mick’s eye.
"But not teleportation," he prods.
"Not supernatural intervention, guidance by ghosts, or knocking from Ouija board?" he mocks with a lilting Irish tone, trying to lighten the mood.
But instead of smiling, Despina replies with considerable heat, "No!"
Losing patience, he raises his voice. "How, then?"
Defiantly, she crosses her arms over her chest, mirroring his former stance. "The same way I left the camp fire!"
"Cu CARRIED you?" Mick’s eyebrow shoots toward the moon.
She nods reluctantly.
"But the noises were 'here-say and innuendo'? When you were carried off in full wedding night regalia?"
Despina’s eyes grow luminous and huge. "Wedding night?"
"Yes. You mean you didn't recognize the get-up?" Mick seems genuinely surprised by her honest shock.
Despina’s mouth drops open in astonishment. "I am supposed to know the culture of an obscure tribe I never heard of before who are NOT written up in the literature?" Her hands move to her hips as she leans forward, her “Irish” up.
Tapping his nose with his index finger, Mick inquires in a nasty tone, "Which you've read?"
With an I-told-you-so nod of her head, Despina fumes, "Which I've STUDIED. Extensively; a necessity in a place where everything happens as undercurrents, slight hints, and subtle signs the uninitiated don't even see!"
Mick’s posture relaxes as he instantly becomes conciliatory. "He's still not talking?"
"No. I only have outsider's opinions that he even LIKES me!" Despina tosses her head up, chin impossibly high, her voice trembly, as if close to tears.
"Oh, come on now!" Mick’s tone clearly indicates he’ll condone no histrionics.
"The 'evidence' again? I'll give you 'evidence'!" Furious, Despina tips her head back, yanks her soaked sweatshirt over her head and emits a caterwaul of sound, gasps and shrieks, focusing into the cave's northwest corner. Finally she stops, gasping for breath. Whipping her shirt at the unsuspecting sheriff's face, she startles a strangled, aborted cry from him. The flashlight's glare caroms wildly across the cave's upper reaches.
Silhouetted in the smoke hole, she spies Alberto and Miguel. Tracking the erratic sweep of the light still further, in an unexpectedly accessible niche near the roof is a flicker she takes for Cu. Oh, pray the sheriff doesn't ask me if I know where Cu's gone now... I need to distract him.
"There you go, Sheriff; instant reputation."
He stares at her, dumbfounded.
"But I'm not quite sure just what sort of a reputation you and Cu have managed to give ME tonight."
Still stony silence.
"Oh, well; reputations are rarely what they're reputed to be. May you wear yours wisely."
Last updated 3/10/10 Corrected sweatshirt, Ouija 2/25/10 Added more “tells”. Added watching her toes curl; Removed , then hugs them to her. 2/14/10 added “tells”. 12/17/09 removed She dropped start of In a cave. 7/23/08, corrected here-say twice; rearranged/changed "I am supposed to know the culture of an obscure tribe”; added “Extensively; a necessity in a place”; added “,” she continues in an attempt at a lightness she does not feel. “” (9/23/04 - quote added. Renamed 9/14/04.)
Word Count: 1522