This is not true. It is a story. Similar situations may have occurred in real life, but any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
This story is about the Sioux girl, Emmy Pond
1.WHERE I COME FROM: Grandma Artichone hated the Sioux. Pretty non-P.C. in this day and age when all tribes unite in despising the white man.
Grandma Artichone was a wild old woman – probably the last traditional Ojibwe in our family tree. She was the oldest woman in the state of Minnesota when she died. She was long before my time, dying in the 1940s. She made maple sugar, speared fish, harvested wild rice, and hunted for her food. Twice year she would walk or snowshoe out to the shore and get drunk. Story is – she passed out drunk while snowshoeing home one year when she was about 100. She froze herself pretty good and they stuck her in a nursing home in Superior, Wisconsin. She waited until spring – then she escaped. Nothing was heard of her for three or four months – when she reappeared at her cabin on the Cross. Sheriff Emil Nelson went up to Cross River and tried to get her to go back to the nursing home. She came close to braining him with a cast iron fry pan. My aunt has the pan yet. Emil left before she could make an impression.
The next time he visted the Cross, he brought Deputy Frank Smith. Grandma Artichone
was ready for them and produced the business end of an old cap-lock shotgun. Sheriff Nelson decided shooting her to get her to the nursing home was counterproductive and let her be. She lived there in the woods – same as always – until she died about five years later. Deputy Frank told me about this. He’s still around – in his 90s.
Reason Grandma Artichone hated Sioux – or at least the family legend is – her first husband, or possibly her father, was scalped by the Sioux. I’ve done the math, and it is possible it was a husband – if she married very young. At any rate – there’s little doubt she hated them.
I remember sitting around the campfire talking with grandfather and Joe Sabatier. Joe was some kind of cousin to grandfather, and was raised by Grandma Artichone. It is said Joe lost his stripes, in the service in WW II, for decking a fellow soldier – for no other reason than the other soldier happened to be Sioux.
As the campfire grew low Joe began waxing eloquent on the positive attributes of the Ojibwe - ”peace-loving, generous, sweet-hearted people,” according to Joe. Grandfather apparently couldn’t help himself and asked Joe, “What about the Sioux?”
I remember the sudden fire in Joe’s eyes. “Snakes!” “Evil, blackhearted, owl eating, sons of the devil” were a few of his more printable epitaths.
“You know,” Joe said, “I believe if a Sioux came walking out of the brush just now – I’d have to shoot him.”
Sweet-hearted Ojibwe that he was.
It was funny, yet the seriousness of Joe’s demeanor kept any of us from laughing
Sioux and Ojibwe warred from about 1600. In 1680 Sieur du Lhut (for whom Duluth, Minnesota and Duluth, Georgia are named) arranged a short term treaty. The wars, which soon resumed – lasted until 1858 – by most accounts. My grandfather used to say the Ojibwe would win when the battles were in the woods, and the Sioux would win when the battleground was prairie.
Grandfather was always ambivalent about our native genes – at times denying that we had any – or any French Canadian ancestry either. I don’t suppose there is more than a tea-spoon full of native blood running in my veins anyway. It wasn’t hard for grandfather to ignore his native roots. He took after the Welsh side of the family tree – with pale skin. It wasn’t so easy for his brother, George Washington Morse, who was native at a glance. George married one of the DeFoes from the Red Cliff Band. They had a daughter who looked exactly like my mother – with skin a few shades darker. My mother, who burned rather than tanned, used to envy her.
I guess I never thought too much about it when I was young. We lived in Angwassig (the flooded forest). My school-mates were Finn and Indian. I wasn’t aware that some were Indians for quite some time. They wore no feathers and looked nothing like the Indians on TV (when we had a chance to watch someone’s TV). There was one girl named “Stephenie Ojibway.” I always meant to ask her if she knew there was an Indian tribe with the same name. One day it dawned on me that with dark skin, black hair and eyes, and a name like “Ojibway,” it was quite possible she was an Ojibwe Indian. I felt quite thick.
One of my Angwassig friends was Karen Belcourt, also Ojibwe. She was sweet and shy. Her uncle was Vernon Belcourt who later started AIM, the American Indian Movement.
In summer, we lived on Wake-em-up Bay on Vermilion. We were about two miles from the Bois Forte Indian burial grounds. We kids would walk there on the trail along the lake. I was raised Christian, and the spirit houses were spooky. Long ago, they were made of birch bark. By the time I was young, they were made of boards. There is no food on the long long road of the dead, except the giant strawberry, and each house had a small hole under the front gable – just large enough to deposit food for the dead. It was a solemn place among stag-horn sumac, and the waves lapping the pebble beach always seemed mournful to me. I never saw anyone there but us kids.
So what does this have to do with anything? Well, I’m getting to that. I’ll turn the page…
In the three years since I retired – after thirty years in law enforcement – I’ve taken to watching “cop” shows on TV. I’m not sure why. I never watched them when I was a cop. Perhaps it’s because – in the shows – everything makes sense. They are morality tales where the bad guys get what’s coming to them, the victims are avenged, and the good guys always win. Everything is figured out – everything is wrapped up – and there’s a conclusion. I seldom found this to be the case in real life police work.
I suppose I’ve had some post traumatic stress issues. At first, after retirement, I kept busy around the house and property with small building projects and fixing all the broken things my wife had put up with while I was working. I seldom went anywhere, unless I walked or paddled my canoe. It got to the point where I had to charge my car battery before going anywhere because I drove the car so seldom.
About six months ago, my good wife said I needed to get out and do something – spend some time with people. I finally let her talk me into it and called a neighbor who lives down the lake. He has a small company that transports disabled people from their homes or nursing homes to hospital, clinic, and dental appointments.
It has been good. Everyone is glad to see you. In thirty years of law enforcement – very few people were glad to see me. It’s a nice change.
Yesterday, however, at a nursing home on Park Point, I saw a name on a patient’s room which brought back memories. Nickie Starkweather is considerably younger than me, and I really didn’t want to know why she was in a nursing home.
I first met Nickie when she was young, blond, and vivacious. I was a young cop, green as grass, and Nickie worked in a diner that all the local law enforcement frequented. She and her friends all had the “big hair” look prevalent in the early 1980s. They would flirt with us – something that usually left me red-faced.
It wasn’t too long and Nickie took up with David Starkweather. The Starkweathers were a Scots clan in the area and David’s life consisted of drinking and fighting. He was good at both. Nickie and David were married and soon produced several kids. Nickie started appearing regularly in public with a black eye, or other marks. She always said she was just clumsy.
About this time, I moved back to my roots in the north country. I tried working in a larger jursidiction – only to find I despised it. I moved further into the north woods and worked as a rural deputy, mostly on my own or with one or two other officers. Within a couple of years I was very surprised to see David and Nickie had moved into the area. Nothing had changed in their relationship. Nickie looked ten years older than the last time I’d seen her.
We began getting calls from the neighbors. David was arrested multiple times. Nickie was referred to the woman’s coalition, but she would never testify against David and he was never convicted. We (the local cops) even tried using more force than necessary when arresting him if he resisted (he always resisted). He would just laugh. He was born for fighting. Should have shot him in the head.
Seeing Nickie’s name on the nursing home door brought back many images I had repressed. I thought many dark thoughts and wondered what it all meant. Most of all, it made me think of the Sioux girl.
How did I get into all this?
I was tired of construction. The rewards were good – if you were working. But one winter of extreme cold weather on the Duluth waterfront made me decide I needed another occupation. After several attempts at “higher learning (an art degree?)” I went to a very good law enforcement program and graduated second in my class. I was soon hired by a small county, local to that area, as a deputy sheriff. My schooling had led me to believe I knew quite a bit about my job.
I knew nothing.
I remember clearly my first multiple fatality accident, my first floater, my first murder scene, my first bad fight. Somehow, these memories are clearer than other, more horrible incidents that would follow. It was, of course, new and interesting. I was still in the “Here’s your badge, here’s your gun – go have fun” stage.
One of my first arrests was a drunk driver. I followed the driver to his home at a rather high rate of speed, and grabbed him, after he’d exited his vehicle, on the front porch of his house. I never made that mistake again. If they got home – I let them be – and dealt with any consequences later – with back-up.
I almost had him in the rear of the squad – being a little too green to get him cuffed first, when his girlfriend and brother came storming out of the house and got in my face. What started as a shouting match – soon degenerated into shoving, then punching – with the girlfriend jumping on my back – trying to scratch my eyes out. At some point I was able to radio for help with my portable radio – then someone (never could tell who) grabbed my gun – though they were unable to dislodge it from my holster.
This was the point where my world changed, and I realized “I could die out here!” I turned on my attackers and, holding my portable radio by the antenna (they were a big brick of a thing back then) began smacking them, one after the other, on the head with it. I was able to retrieve my side-handle baton from the car and – as a State Trooper pulled up to the scene, the trooper got out and began laughing helplessly.
I must have looked daggers at him – as he quickly sobered up – then began to laugh again as he told me, as he pulled up, it looked like nothing so much as someone playing “Wack-a-mole” at a video arcade. He said as one of the miscreants would get up off the ground, I would run over and give them a good poke in the guts with my baton. Another would get up, and I’d run over and serve them up the same – and so on.
Put in this light, I had to give a weak chuckle myself, but it hadn’t felt like any laughing matter while I was going through it.
The first fatal accident I investigated, a male driver – just over the legal limit for alcohol – was T-boned by a female driver coming off a side road. She’d run through the stop sign. It was completely her fault, but the poor drunk driver she hit – got the shaft – because he was over the legal limit.
Both vehicles were pickup trucks, and the female driver was a member of the local rescue squad, and I knew her – though I didn’t realize it was her for a time. She was wild, running up and down the road – with two compound fractures – one on each leg – screaming, and looking for her grand-daughter. When she hit the other pickup – her nine year old grand-daughter had been thrown through the wing window on the passenger side of her pickup – too small a space for a girl her size. I finally “captured” the female driver, though I had to sit on her to make her stay still – and keep her from doing herself further injury. As members of the ambulance crew arrived, I was able to search for the grand-daughter – who was in the ditch, hidden by tall reeds. There wasn’t a mark on her, though I could feel the bones moving in her head when I checked for a pulse. She must have died instantly. No one was wearing a seat belt. It wasn’t a requirement at that time. In my entire career, I never cut a dead body out of a seat belt.
The first summer I was often out in a boat, doing “water safety” patrol. This consisted of checking boaters for life jackets, “flying the flag” and letting people know the county was on the water, and very occasionally making an arrest for operating a watercraft while intoxicated. My first such arrest almost cured me forever. The boater (asked him where crap.he was from) – he replied, “Muh-muh-muh-muh-muh-muh-Millerville, in a very musical tone) his wife, and his aunt and uncle were as intoxicated as I have ever seen four human beings. I confiscated two gallons of moonshine (no telling how many gallons they started out with), and none of them could be considered, in any way, sane. I managed to get the husband into my boat and cuffed (laying in the bilges and kicking at my legs) and attempted to pull their boat back to shore (after ripping out the spark-plug wires on their motor so the wife wouldn’t take off in a different direction). The aunt and uncle, rather elderly, threw things at me, while the wife, big as a whale and screeching all the while – climbed up to a precarious perch on the front deck of their boat and tried to pull in the tow line so she could get at me. Fortunately she wasn’t strong enough or coordinated enough to do so – and even more fortunately, she didn’t fall in. When we reached shore, their children appeared (little devils!) and shot at me with sling shots from the dock until other deputies arrived in response to my frantic radio calls and proceeded to fall down laughing at my predicament. Amazing how you remember this crap.
One day, while riding around in my little boat, I noticed a rather nice speed boat pulled up on a shoal. I pulled up and hailed the boater. From behind the boat stepped a young girl. She was wearing a two piece bikini that left little to the imagination, and was incredibly good looking. Beyond that, she had a gracefulness that immediately reminded me of a young doe. I could see she was native, but I could also see she wasn’t Ojibwe. She was slender, had high cheekbones, and perfectly symmetrical features. She had some of the most beautiful deep brown eyes I’ve ever seen. Confronted by such grace, I managed to trip over the anchor rope (twice!). The motor on her boat had quit and I towed her to shore.
I remember little of our conversation. Mostly she didn’t talk much. What can I say? I was a young man, and my head was turned. When I filled out my report – I realized I hadn’t even asked her name. Fortunately, I had the boat registration, and used the name of the registered owner – Ferguson. I wasn’t too quick to put two and two together.
I found out she had a store in town. I found out her name was Emmy Pond. Her being a store owner surprised me as she was obviously younger than I. I went to the store twice. Once for a hat I didn’t need, and later for a pair of blue wool trousers (it was getting on toward winter) that I did need.
She didn’t talk much, but she had a sweetness about her. She had the manner of some older Ojibwe women I’ve known. They never look at you. It’s considered impolite. Even knowing this, it made for confusing conversation. She told me she was born on the Rose Bud rez – proof, if I needed it – that she was Sioux. At the end of my second visit to the store – she let me know that her husband had bought the store for her.
That was it for me. I reined in my interest, and buried my infatuation. I don’t mess with married women now and I didn’t then.
I do have one other clear memory of Emmy Pond in that small western town. It was a clear hot night of the county fair, and I and a couple of other deputies were doing security. We were sitting in the beer garden (drinking coffee – on the house), joking, laughing, and listening to the band play “Freebird,” when Emmy came in with a man easily twice her age. I recognized him as “Ferguson,” his first name escapes me – if I ever even knew it. It was obvious there was tension between them, and as we got up to leave, Emmy turned toward me and looked at me full face for the very first time with a look of anguish and longing that I’ve never forgotten.
That was it. Pretty much a non relationship. A pretty girl with unusual good looks that sticks in a man’s mind for a long while.
I moved on. The prairie is not my home. I actually get slightly uneasy and anxious in prairie country. A friend once commented on the ease with which my children move through rough country, brush and trees. It’s not surprising. We’re forest people.
My next job was very active. I enjoyed the job very much, but not the country, which was still semi-prairie. Eventually, I moved north to my home country. I met an unbelievable young woman – as unusual to me as any woman could be. Beautiful, an eastern blue blood with Mayflower ancestors – who went to the best schools. I have no idea what she saw in me – and I don’t to this day. She has taken up many of my likes, while others still leave her puzzled – like my affinity for the sauna (“Why would anyone in their right mind want to heat themselves up to 200 degrees – then jump into the lake through a hole in the ice?”).
We had children – incredible children – who (thank God!) take after their mother.
So, as I mentioned earlier, I worked first for a large department – then for a small rural department. During these years, I became involved with people who were interested in the history of our area. As many of the local geological features of the area are named after members of my family – it was a natural interest for me.
I began spending time volunteering at a local fort, built in 1804. There I met a woman named Maggie Poole. She was some part Ojibwe. I went maple sugaring with her and her husband one year. There is a reason for mentioning Maggie. Back to that later.
One night, while on duty, I responded to a call. It was a party, and the party-goers were in their 20s and early 30s. A woman had “fallen down the stairs.” Both she and her husband were known to me. She believed in “open” marriage. He did not. She said she had fallen. He said she’d fallen. Everyone else hadn’t seen a thing. I was ready to leave (an officer needs something more than suspicion) when a woman appeared in the living room and began screaming at the husband. It took me a minute or two to realize it was Emmy Pond.
It had been years since I’d seen Emmy Pond. At first, I noticed no difference. Even intoxicated, she still exhibited grace I remembered, and her looks – if anything – had improved. Something in her manner however, gave me pause. For one thing – she began screaming at me at the top of her lungs – asking why I wasn’t arresting the husband. I attempted to explain the lack of evidence. Not good enough for her. I finally took her aside and asked her if she thought she could get the wife to tell me what had happened. I placed the two of them in the back of my squad – until the wife began yelling that Emmy was crazy and she wanted out. I let them both out, warned everyone against driving drunk – and left.
A few days later, I ran into Emmy waiting tables at a local ice-cream and burger cafe. She took my order, and when she returned with the food, she said, “You used to work in Buchanan County.” I admitted that was so, and she began talking to me like we were old friends. I asked her what had become of her store, and a dark look passed over her face. “My ex lost it gambling.” That was about the end of our conversation.
For a while – I’d see Emmy around town – and in the bars – often in the company of a cafe owner, Gust Anderson. Gust was a stinker. He was an alcoholic and drug user. He had about four useless kids in their late teens and 20s, and appeared to be somewhat unhinged. His mother had put up the money for the cafe, and Gust was steadily turning a fairly decent establishment – into a dive. I later made a friend of a former member of the Gyspy Jokers – an outlaw motorcycle gang – who told me he had been Gust’s sponsor – when Gust applied for membership in the gang – but in the end Gust was the only person he’d ever heard of who’d been rejected for membership. Gust was just too far out there (for an outlaw motorcycle gang? They’ll take anyone!).
Emmy then switched sides – so to speak – and began a relationship with Ralph Lindquist – the only member of the local police department that I didn’t trust. Ralph was married – but that had never stopped him before.
Up the shore, an old family motel along the lake was undergoing major renovation. A grandson of the original owner, Dicky, was taking over the operation and he had big ideas. The family owned about a 1/2 mile of lake front, and the 12 unit motel was razed to the ground and a major hotel went up in its place – along with numerous condos along the shore. Dicky was often seen in local watering holes with James Forth (not his real name – you’d know his real name) a major league baseball player of national renown. It wasn’t too long before we began to hear of copious cocaine use, and sales, by Dicky and James Forth.
Emmy would disappear from the area for periods of time. Several months might go by – with no word of her. After one such absence, she reappeared on the arm of Mr. Forth.
It became obvious with time that Emmy was not above imbibing in Forth’s drug of choice. It got so it was a long while since I’d seen her sober.
One day, while on duty, I received a call to come into the office. At the office I was surprised to see Maggie Poole. Maggie informed me that her sister lived in town and was deeply involved in drugs and would I talk to her. The sister’s name: Emmy Pond (never did get the reason why their surnames were different – yet both bodies of water – or the fact that Maggie was Ojibway and Emmy was Sioux). I told Maggie, if she was to get Emmy to come into the office – I would talk to her.
I asked Maggie what the story was with Emmy’s ex – Ferguson. Maggie’s continence darkened, and she spit out her words. “My step father was a heavy gambler. He gave Emmy to Ferguson to wipe out a gambling debt. She was 15 at the time.
I didn’t want to think about the possibility. You hear a lot of stories in law enforcement, and most of them are exaggerated, or completely untrue. I’d hate to think this one was true.
One day, Maggie appeared – Emmy in tow. Emmy was contrite, Maggie was obviously more mother figure to her than a sister. There must have been 15 or 20 years age difference between them. The talk was pretty much a waste of time, with Emmy promising to “do better,” then leaving. Maggie stayed for a bit and told me she felt like Emmy was going crazy – recounting several strange incidents involving Emmy’s sanity.
I arrested Emmy twice following the meeting with her and Maggie, once for assault and property damage in a bar, and once for DUI. During both episodes it appears that there was something to Maggie’s fears, and that there was something not quite right about Emmy. Some loss of touch with reality.
One very strange incident: I received a non-specific “you better send a squad” call to a large old house out on the shore. A gambrel roofed semi-mansion at one time – it had been converted into a tri-plex with an apartment on each of three floors. Emmy’s apartment was under the eaves. I went to the door, knocked, and finding the door open, entered. All the lights were on, and there were lighted candles everywhere – dozens of them. I checked all the rooms and found something strange in the bathroom. The bath was full of hot water, and there were towels and kleenex floating in the water. There was a tinge of blood to the bath water.
I heard a noise in one of the closets. I entered the closet – no one there. I heard a noise under the eave, and found a small doorway. I entered and found a long, but not very high, hall-like area under the eaves. As I went, I continued to hear noises ahead of me. I came to the corner of the roof and found the passageway continued. In the end, I followed the passageway all the way around the house. As I exited the passageway into the closet – I heard the door to the apartment slam.
I had no idea what was going on. I was disgusted, as my uniform was a filthy mess from crawling through the passageway. I got in my squad and left. About two miles down the road, I saw a figure walking. It was Emmy. She was sober, in fine spirits, and dressed to the nines in totally clean clothing. Thinking I’d been following her through the passageway in her apartment – I was non-plussed. She’d had no time to walk two miles – let alone clean herself up and dress. I spoke with her a bit – it was getting crazier and crazier – she said she’d been to the cave of the elders of the higher power and they were in agreement with her. So beautiful. So crazy. There was something about this experience – the inconsistencies, that made me wonder if I was dealing with something dark and supernatural.
Maggie showed up at the office a couple of days later. She said Emmy was trying to give herself a home abortion. The meaning of the blood-tinged bath-tub full of kleenex and towels became suddenly clear.
I received an order for a psych eval on Emmy. This was suddenly changed to a civil committment, and I went and picked her up. The “matron” was a police secretary who was crazier than Emmy. Half way to the state hospital, she went berzerk on Emmy (she was very fat and ugly and beautiful women always got her going). I had to stop the squad, get the secretary out and tell her in no uncertain terms that if she didn’t knock it off – I was going to leave her beside the highway.
I didn’t see Emmy around the county for several months. When I did, I was her buddy. She thanked me for standing up for her.
Emmy began coming by with information on drug users and dealers. At first, I was dubious, but her information proved reliable. Eventually, she came with information on Forth and Dicky’s drug dealings. She said Dicky was building a new wing on the hotel and all the furnishings were in a Mexican style – with the furniture being imported from Mexico. In each piece of furniture – painted in bright colors – were holes filled with cocaine. The cocaine drill holes were then covered over with putty and paint. The next furniture delivery was going to be in a week and a half.
I sat on this info for day, then decided it was too big for me and contacted the state bureau of criminal apprehension. I heard nothing back. I heard later they’d sent one agent who’d questioned Dicky and Forth – who of course denied everything. The agent was also careless enough to mention me by name.
About a month later, our church held a family marriage seminar at the hotel in question. I was a little dubious about attending – knowing what I knew about the place, but in the end – we attended. While a number of the couples from our church (including the pastor and his wife) received partially finished rooms – my wife and I were put up in a palatial suite – for much less than the asking price. All the furnishings were Mexican
folk items, brightly painted. Oddly enough, all the furniture had odd one inch holes here and there in the woodwork. Definitely a “gotcha” from Dicky and Forth.
Emmy, about this time, began taking up with Tom Niskanen. He was bad news from a bad news area of the county – our local equivelent of “hill-billys.” Niskanen was a mad man. He worked for Dicky at the hotel.
I kept an eye on Dicky’s hotel. One piece of information that Emmy brought me was an address in central Minnesota – in a jurisdiction where I’d worked at one time. My brother still worked for the Sheriff’s office there and he told me he’d never been to that address and knew nothing about it. A few days later, he called and said he’d driven out to the address and found several large new pole buildings and, to his surprise, a landing strip. He said there was no one around. He said one of the pole buildings had multiple wooden cases that looked military, but he didn’t know what was in them.
I drove to my brother’s place and we went up to Camp Ripley, the national guard camp. We knew one of the civilian workers there and questioned him about the wooden cases my brother had seen. Near as he could figure – my brother was describing M-14 rifle cases.
We went out to the address. We parked a 1/4 mile away and shlepped through the woods, “walking quiet in the woods” as our grandfather had taught us, coming up to the pole building where my brother had seen the wooden cases. There were three men near one of the other buildings and I took some long range photos of them. I kept an eye out – while my brother opened one of the cases. There were M-16s in it. We took one away with us – and a quick trip to the gun club showed it was a fully automatic weapon – illegal in our state. In the end it appeared the M-16s were stolen from Camp Ripley, but I never did hear all the particulars.
Things happened rather fast then. One of the men in the photo was identified – and had an open murder warrant. He was a gun-runner and drug runner and that was the reason for the air strip. Soon, we were guarding the perimeter roads while the FBI swat team approached the buildings. I’ve never had much count for the FBI (another story), but that swat team crawled across an open field to reach the buildings, and I never saw a one of them. Arrests were made, and guards were posted on the site. My brother made some pretty fair overtime out of the deal.
We never could make a connection between the gun-running and Dicky.
Back on the shore, Emmy had gone to ground. She’d given Niskanen the boot and I heard she’d moved up to the north end of the county in the big woods. I never saw her again, but I’d hear things from time to time.
Niskanen married a woman from Iowa with a couple of kids. Within a year Niskanen and his new wife had a child of their own. Then there were rumors she was leaving him.
One night, my partner Billy and I were jawing in the squad room when we received a phone call. Billy picked up, and I watched the color drain from his face. He said, “We’ve got to go.” Billy had been working a couple years by that time, and in retrospect, I should have questioned him more about the call. We took my squad (we should have taken both squads) and went to an apartment address at the edge of town. When we entered, we could see the door to the upstairs apartment was kicked in.
We opened the door and started up, announcing our presence. Billy began telling me that the caller had said he heard a loud noise and someone saying “Here’s Johnny!” About that time, Niskanen leaned over the bannister at the top of the stair and began firing at us with a high-powered rifle. I’ve always been blessed with faith enough to figure God has control of such things and I don’t have to worry about them. I returned fire, catching a glimpse of Billy’s face – eyes like saucers – and thought, “Your world just changed.”
We took cover at the bottom of the stair, then realizing a high powered rifle could easily reach us through the walls or ceiling of the wood building – we took up spots outside – on diagonal corners of the building – so no one could leave – calling for assistance on the radio. Niskanen took several pot-shots at us out of a second story window. We hesitated to return fire with our handguns or rifle and shotgun as we’d discovered, by that time, that Niskanen was holding his wife, baby, and his wife’s two young sons hostage.
Before the first squad arrived, we’d talked Niskanen into sending out the two young boys (in their underwear). The response was great and after several hours, a deputy got a bead on Niskanen and shot him in the face. He opened his mouth at just the wrong (or right) time, and the bullet, a full metal jacket, didn’t kill him. We ran up the stairs and grabbed him and secured the rifle. The wife and baby were rescued.
The wife had left Niskanen, got in touch with the “Woman’s Coalition.” As most of this group was composed of lesbians – they didn’t trust the cops – most of whom were male – and consequently, we had no idea they were using this residence as a “safe house.” Hmmm. Safe house with no phone. Capitol idea!
The wife, after leaving Niskanen, had called her ex-husband from Iowa and asked him to come and pick her up. He had just arrived when Niskanen broke in and shot him in the head. We arrived shortly after.
I remember the Chief Deputy saying the ex-husband’s head was split like a melon and asking me if I wanted to go look at him. I couldn’t see any point in carrying that memory around and declined. I’ve seen enough dead bodies.
Niskanen got a life sentence.
Maggie Poole flagged me down on the state road. I pulled over and she said she thought I would be by. She asked me if I’d heard anything about Emmy lately. She said she’d been up to Emmy’s place and couldn’t find her. She thought something might have happened to her. I told her I didn’t know where Emmy lived. Maggie tried to give me directions, but even though she knew where Emmy lived, she wasn’t familiar with the area and I couldn’t make sense of her directions. We made plans to meet the next week and go up to Emmy’s place.
About a week later, I drove up to Emmy’s place with Maggie. Turned out she lived on the far end of Morse Station – big pine land once owned by my great grandfather. It looked like she’d just gone back in the woods and taken over, a small, mostly log, cabin.
The interior was a shambles. A chair and table were busted. I had Maggie back out of the place and carefully moved items – locating what appeared to be a blood trail. I backed out of the place, took Maggie back to town. I called the BCA. They confirmed the blood as human – and later as Emmy’s, but said there wasn’t enough to confirm she was dead. We searched the area a few times, but I’ve stepped over wounded deer in those woods without seeing them, and finding a body – if there was one to be found – is an almost impossible task. We have numerous people still missing in the forest.
I spoke with Niskanen in prison – clearing up a few things. On a whim, I asked him about Emmy. He laughed, and said, “You need to talk to Gust.” “Gust who, I asked. Niskanen laughed, and said, “Think about it.”
I realized later he was talking about Gust Anderson. I meant to go talk to Gust, but something always came up.
One Friday night – just before deer opener, I was on Suicide Hill Road when I received a call of an accident on the expressway at Axe River – a couple of miles away.
When I arrived, it was apparent a pickup, with two four-wheelers on a trailer, had made a left hand turn from the outside lane – right in front of a semi-truck. The semi had run over the pickup, and the semi trailer and pickup were on fire. The asphalt is still melted in that spot. I see it every time I drive by. The tires, battery, and a seemingly endless supply of ammo were exploding all over the place. The pickup driver was laying in the middle of the roadway as bullets were flying and ricocheting around his head. I grabbed hold of his collar just as a first responder ran up and said, “You can’t move him!” I said, “He can’t stay here!” and pulled him into the ditch.
His name is Robert Johnston, and every time I see him – to this day – he thanks me for saving his life. Happens seldom enough.
I got my chance to see Gust soon enough, but any kind of coherent conversation was out of the question. I responded to a shooting call at Gust’s restaurant. It was after hours and Gust, two of his useless kids and his new girlfriend were sitting in a booth. The girlfriend, Sue, was pissed. She said Gust had been shooting into the ceiling. I covered Gust with the squad shotgun and asked him where the gun was. He began to reach into his jacket for it, and covering him closely I barked, “I’ll do that. I pulled the pistol, a six inch .22 H&R, and stuck it in the pocket of my cargo pants. Gust came out of his seat yelling, and accusing his girlfriend and his sons of various wrongs. Gust was walleyed drunk, and no amount of talking was going to settle him down. The party worked their way outside. I continued to cover Gust who had nothing but contempt for the fact I was pointing a shotgun at him (doesn’t that mean anything anymore?). I told him he had to be cuffed and placed in the squad. He said he was going home, and turned around and started away. I kicked him in the peroneal nerve, but he was so drunk it made no difference to him. He turned and charged me. I butt-stroked him across the chest with the shotgun butt and followed it up by poking him in the belly with the gun barrel. He heaved all over the place – his sons came running, and I promised to shoot them if they didn’t back off. Working alone has its disadvantages.
The sons finally talked Gust into letting himself be cuffed and placed in the squad. He made bail Monday morning.
Some days later, I ran into Robert Johnston, out of the hospital and limping around (He thanked me – once again – for saving his life). He said he was concerned about his younger sister. Turned out she was “Sue,” Gust’s new girlfriend. Robert said he’d been unable to get hold of her, and Gust wouldn’t tell him where she was. I was surprised. Robert seemed a decent enough sort, while Sue was a pretty tough cookie. I hadn’t pictured them as brother and sister.
I went to the cafe, and spoke with one of Gust’s useless sons. He was very evasive and told me I would have to talk to his father.
I worked through until morning, and was just getting ready to go home (my key was in the car door lock) when Gust’s son, whom I’d spoken to the evening before, came to the office. He said he really needed to talk to me. He said Sue had been missing for several days, and when he asked Gust about it, Gust laughed and said, “You won’t have to worry about her anymore – she’s no longer around.”
I called the sheriff, and we went and talked to Gust. While the sheriff was talking to him – I asked Gust if he minded if I looked around the cafe. He said, “Go ahead, knock yourself out.”
In the basement, in spite of obvious attempts to clean up, I located several blood smears, and on close inspection, fine blood spatter on the ceiling and one wall. We later discovered Gust had hit Sue twice over the head with a piece of galvanized water pipe.
We arrested Gust, and I went home. By the time I returned that evening, Gust had told the sheriff the Sue was no longer around – and that she was at rest “in the woods.” The sheriff had driven around with Gust asking him just where Sue was, but Gust spent the time yanking the sheriff’s chain.
A couple of days later an ex chief of police, Allen MacDuff, sitting in his deer stand off Big Bluff Road, noticed a lot of varmints and carrion birds a 1/4 mile from his stand. A check showed something he was not interested in dealing with, and he backed out and called us. Sue had been chopped into 80 pieces. It is an old ploy. Make the meat available and the varmints will eat the evidence. If it had been any other time of year – other than hunting season – with so many guys in the woods – Gust might have gotten away with it.
Gust took a plea.
A couple years before I retired, I took a trip to the state pen and spoke with Gust. I asked him about Emmy. His mind, never too steady, appeared to have gone completely, as he laughed and said, “She’s the cherry on the Ice Cream Sundae.”
One night, after I’d been retired about a year, I was sleeping, and suddenly sat up, wide awake. I went to the study and looked for my great aunt’s journal. She worked for the forest service for 40 years, and always kept a journal. After an hour of looking, I came across the passage I was looking for.
“North of Lake Pokegama, mid-way between the east and west end (she wrote) about 300 yards from the lake, is a deep canyon – invisible from the shore. On the east end is a frozen waterfall – made of igneous rock. Walking due north from this “frozen Waterfall” one comes to the portage between This Man Lake and That Man Lake.”
I remembered reading this, years ago, and thinking the portage route had changed.
“You’ll know you’ve found the trail (she continued) when you see the Ice Cream Sundae.”
The following Monday, I loaded my canoe, filled my pack and headed north for the Roadless Lands. I passed Morse Station, where my mother was born, and parked near Sawbill. I paddled my canoe into the northern waters paddled by my family for so many generations. At That Man Lake, I looked for a likely spot for an old portage. The old portages often follow water courses, so I walked the creeks. About the third creek, there was nice high ground and the ghost of a portage trail. Turning west, I came on a ridge that dropped into a rocky hollow. At the bottom of the hollow was a most unusual rock formation. Starting from ground level, it flared on one side, almost like a goblet. On the top were rounded rock, white quartz surrounded by a strange and unusual brown rock, looking like nothing so much as scoops of ice cream covered with chocolate syrup. I’d found Aunt Virginia’s Ice Cream Sundae.
I climbed the formation. Not terribly surprised, I found a skull on the summit. I left it there, backed down, and paddled home.
It was Emmy. The sheriff’s office searched the surrounding area. Cause of death remains unknown and no other bones were ever found. I have no doubt Gust killed her, chopped her up, and scattered the remains – just as he did with Sue Johnston. From what I’ve heard, Gust is completely off his rocker and further interviews with him have produced nothing.
Maggie died four or five years back. Gust will be released in 2016 – probably to a nursing home. Niskanen is still in the state pen. He has aids.
Dicky stuck his inheritance – and all the equity in the hotel – up his nose. He left the area and I’ve heard nothing recent. Forth opened a sports bar on the shore. It was open about three years, then went under.
Robert Johnston is still hunting; I ran into him up on the Drummond Line this fall – and of course he thanked me (again) for saving his life.
None of this story really makes sense. For some years I wondered if I had done “this” or “that” – if things would have turned out different for Emmy Pond. I finally gave it up as a bad job. Police work, by its very nature – puts you in touch with people for very short periods of time – dealing with very specific short-term issues. I no longer try to figure it out. I do wonder about Emmy from time to time. I think of her the way I first saw her on those western prairie lands – with “Freebird” playing in the background. In my mind she’s just like a bird struggling to be free. She was not my love. She was not even really a friend. I think of her all those years ago, and I wonder if she wasn’t just a young man’s dream.
Me, today, I paddle quiet waters, listen to the loons, and show my grandchildren where the wolves walk and the eagles fly.