Spirit of the Brown Bear
(Torar Angiyok Aklark)
Aklark sat on the edge of the ice pack staring out
into the darkness. The cold
dawn was still an hour away. He
had brought a whale oil lantern with him when he had left the camp, but it
was behind him now. The light
wasn’t enough to do more than keep him from stumbling in the dark and
right now, he was just thinking anyway.
He could hear the distant cracking and groaning of heaving,
breaking ice. There would be
no more excursions for seals or whales for a while.
Now the group would move more inland, hunt caribou and musk oxen.
His mind wasn’t on that next phase, however.
He was thinking of all the flashing memories that kept revealing
but not revealing themselves to him.
They were tantalizing bits that only showed him enough to ache for
“The mornings on the ice are beautiful,” Utaq
said, approaching from behind. Aklark’s
blue eyes were on him now, studying him.
The little bit of light revealed that the gaze was not the curious,
clinical study of a scientist, but the study of a friend trying to
understand another friend—and what was going on around him. Utaq saw turmoil in this white man he had come to respect.
He now understood why his cousin, Maria had wanted Admiral Nelson
to spend a little time with him and his people.
He still felt this man had been sent to his people from the
spirits, but now he saw it wasn’t just to bring luck to the hunters.
Aklark’s presence had provided a healing to a people, including
himself, who had only seen one side of white men.
Aklark had shown them so much in the short time he had been among
them. Would the effect have
been the same if Aklark had come as Admiral Harriman Nelson?
Somehow, he thought so, but probably not to the same extent, or as
Aklark’s mind was showing him images of his past.
It was making him restless to return to his own world.
Would he forget what he had learned among the Eskimo?
Utaq believed that answer to be a resounding no.
Aklark was a man who learned, retained and gained wisdom from all
his experiences. He had seen
it when he was asking questions of the women as they went about their
daily tasks, or when he was showing the children the ways that various
objects rose or sank in the icy waters.
Utaq remembered Aklark describing one night how a person could
navigate using the positions of the stars.
His hands were very expressive as though he was using an instrument
to help in his figuring. Suddenly
he had stopped and stared at the mittened hands as though what he was
saying had suddenly stopped coming to his remembrance.
Then he had sighed and simply lay back on the hard ground watching
the brilliant stars above their heads.
Aklark had said nothing all this time, but his
eyes told Utaq that the white man knew he had something to tell him.
Somehow, the hunter believed that Aklark had always suspected he
might know something he wasn’t telling.
“Yes, they are.
Stunningly beautiful,” Aklark agreed.
“But I now see other mornings in other places. They are places where I am needed as well.”
“Your people don’t need me for their luck,”
Aklark continued softly. “Tell
me what you know about me.”
The request wasn’t like an order, but Utaq felt
its power nonetheless. “I
only suspected your name and how I was to meet you.”
Aklark still gazed at him, the blue eyes eager and
patient now, not desperate, as they had been at the beginning.
“Do you only suspect now?”
Utaq shook his head.
“No, I believe I am sure.”
“A name is a very good beginning, Utaq.
Please, who am I?”
“Your name is Admiral Harriman Nelson,” Utaq
replied. “But do not
forget, there is a part of you who is named Aklark, the great brown
Aklark laughed softly.
“I was right when I remembered being called admiral.
Harriman Nelson.” He seemed to be tasting, savoring the sound of his own name.
“It sounds very dignified as is your Eskimo
name,” Utaq ventured.
“Thank you. I hope I
have worn both of them well. What
else can you tell me? Why was
I up here anyway?”
“I know very little.
Only that you were in Alaska for some kind of conference.
My cousin asked me to meet you and show you the lands of my
There was relief.
If he was up here for some kind of conference, then he wasn’t
here because of something bad he had done.
Still, he wondered about the horrible dream he had where he had
shot the one that had seemed a friend.
“That I do not know.
But I believe it had to do with the pipelines that have been built
not too far away.”
Aklark sighed and gazed out at the water and ice
again. Time passed with only
the cracking of ice to show any passage at all.
Lights glittered in the sky. The stars, the soft wisps of the
northern lights. “It’s beautiful here,” he finally said.
“More beautiful than the memories that have come
to you?” Utaq asked.
“Some of the memories have been . . . hard,”
he began, remembering. “But
really—no, just a different kind of beauty.
But I will need to go back to that life.
I feel there are duties, things I need to do.”
Things he had to find out.
Utaq smiled in the waning darkness.
Aklark had been among them much longer than he had thought
possible. His own people must
have thought him dead. But
his Anglo friend was right. The
time had come for him to go to the other direction the spirits directed.
“I will miss you, Aklark—Admiral.”
“Please, continue to call me by the name you
Utaq chuckled softly.
“Very well. I like
your InupiaQ name anyway.”
“How will I be able to make contact with any
“I will be traveling with furs and artifacts
shortly after we get to our transition campsite.
There will be phone service at the outpost. Perhaps another few days.
Amoroq wants to make one more hunt in the area and then we will
The two men continued to listen to the ice groan
and creak and though the cold seeped into his bones, Aklark was able to
ignore it as he contemplated. Finally,
he said, “Your cousin wanted me to see things here through your eyes.”
Utaq gazed at his companion in surprise.
He had thought the same thing by her words.
He said as much. “You
will have to ask her when you return to your own people.”
They sat there in congenial silence for a while longer.
“By the way, I found this yesterday.
I was going to ask if you could understand the language in this
notebook.” Utaq pulled out
the little notebook and handed it to Aklark.
Holding it to the light of the dim lantern, the
admiral opened it and then almost dropped it in shock.
“Where . . . where did you get this?”
Aklark’s voice almost shook, so great was his consternation.
“It was several miles from the village where
some men had camped for at least one night.
I think they were watching us,” Utaq replied.
“Do you understand the words?”
“Yes, I understand the language, but can’t put
a name to it.” He gazed at
it for a few more minutes. “They
were looking for me, trying to determine if I was truly dead as they had
planned. They didn’t see
anyone resembling me in the village and assumed that I wasn’t here.”
He looked at Utaq. “There
are many things I don’t remember, but I do know that these people are my
enemies and very deadly. I’m
glad they didn’t recognize me. For
your people’s sake.” The
People’s Republic, he thought, putting name to his feelings of
anxiety. Utaq handed him the lighter.
Aklark recognized the symbol on this, too. “Enemies,” was all he said.
“We will have to watch carefully from now on,” Utaq said gravely.
Crane’s next destination was the police station,
which, thankfully, was in a building separate from the jail. He was allowed to look at and verify the few belongings that
had been found. There had
been the admiral’s wallet with its ID and credit cards.
The wallet had been chewed on and the contents strewn around, but
was still easily identified. Some
of it had been difficult, though, and Lee had wondered if, indeed, he was
on a wild goose chase. He had
shaken that off and felt the determination that had marked his whole
philosophy of the situation from the first day he had heard the news.
Somehow he couldn’t help but feel that somewhere out there, the
admiral was waiting.
When he got back to the motel, Lee sighed, tired
but strangely satisfied. He
had finally been proactive, rather than simply responding to events that
had been thrown at him. It
had been a frustrating three weeks. He
pulled out the mobile phone that the admiral had been working on and
called the Institute. This
was the best thing they had to a secure line and he was grateful to have
it, even if it didn’t have a long battery life.
you find out anything?” Angie asked, almost frantically. He remembered with a twinge of guilt that he hadn’t
contacted anyone since he had left Seaview and he hadn’t
contacted the Institute for longer than that.
“Yes, a couple of things.
The local law enforcement people showed me some of the admiral’s
belongings they recovered at the crash site.”
“Doesn’t mean a thing, Angie. They haven’t been able to positively identify all the bones, but more importantly, I might have something that could be useful. I want you to dig into the background of a Gerald Whitley, an environmentalist from the University of Idaho. I think he may be the person responsible for the admiral’s disappearance. I have nine other names I want you to check on, too. I also found out who the admiral was supposed to meet and what he was supposed to do up there.”
“I already found out what he was supposed to do
up there, too, Lee. The FBI
sent me some information since the last time I talked to you,” Angie
told him. “He was supposed
to have met some of the indigenous people in the area.”
“Well, I got a little more than that.
I was finally able to get in to meet the young woman accused of the
admiral’s . . . murder and I don’t think she had anything to do with
it. I think she was setup by
someone else. I wouldn’t be
surprised if some of the old People’s Republic bigwigs used the
situation to get rid of their number one thorn in the side.”
“Lee, I’m not even going to ask how you
managed that little feat. Last
I had heard the lawyer wasn’t letting anyone see her unless he was with
her. But your theory about the People’s Republic could very well
be right. If that’s the
case, then you need to be careful, too.”
“I will. Chip
is taking Seaview back to the Institute, by the way.
And I’m going up to the area Machetanz indicated in the Flying
Sub tomorrow to find the contact person.”
“They keep telling me the spring storms are
particularly bad this year, especially up north.
Please watch for those and be careful.”
Angie sounded worried.
“I will, Angie.
I’m going to leave the phone with Seaman Porter.
Contact him with the information you find so he can take it to the
local police if necessary. At
the very least, I don’t want a young woman wrongly accused of the
going out in the Flying Sub alone?” she asked, horror struck.
“Yes, I’m going alone,” Crane answered in a
tone that indicated he wasn’t interested in debating the point. “I need Porter here. When
you give him the information you find, he’s going to hire a bush pilot
and join me.”
“All right, Lee. Please
be careful. I don’t think I
could stand anything happening to you, too.”
He was touched by her concern. “Thanks, Angie. And
I will.” He clicked the
connection off and set the phone down.
Porter showed up at their motel an hour after
Crane. “Any success,
“Yes, I think so,” Lee said and then gave an
overview of his experiences. “What
did you find out?”
One of the bush pilots told me that someone else had gone out in
the same vicinity several hours before the admiral, but that the storm had
caused him to fly to another airport until it blew over.
Problem is, the pilot never returned to Fairbanks and the other
pilots don’t know where he is.”
“How convenient,” Crane muttered, rubbing his
do you think we’ll find this Utaq?”
“Don’t know, but I want you should stay here
and wait for information. I
think this Whitley sounds fishy and the Institute is going to find out
some very interesting things about him.
Then you can come overland with a reputable bush pilot and meet me
at the village. I’ll leave
you my Institute expense card.”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“I know you will, RJ,” came the confident answer.
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