Joseph Lewis is the next author to contribute to my Character Traits Series. Like many of my author friends, I met Joe, as I call him, via social media. A longtime educator, he writes thriller mysteries. I’ve read and learned from all of his books, which have exposed the ugly world of human trafficking and other badness in our lives. His books also have an interesting connection to the Navajo Nation. So, fittingly the character he shares is George Tokay from his latest novel, Betrayed. Here. I will let Joseph take over.
George Tokay is a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy raised in the traditional way. He is a member of ‘Azee’tsoh dine’e or The Big Medicine People Clan, which is one of the oldest clans among the Dine’. His grandfather was a Haatalii, a medicine man. The Navajo elders referred to both George and his grandfather as Hosteen Tokay, a term of respect. His grandfather had been training George from an early age to follow in his footsteps, however, his family had been murdered and he was orphaned. A high school counselor, Jeremy Evans, adopted him and George now lives in Wisconsin. George still practices his heritage with reverence and appreciation, speaking his native tongue and wearing his hair long in the traditional style.
George is quiet by nature, reserved, and content to observe and then act accordingly. He is adept at riding horses, tracking, shooting- particularly with a rifle, and with a knife his grandfather gave him at a coming of age ceremony when he was twelve.
He has suffered greatly. Not only with the death of his family, but he carries the scars of killing at least nine men who had come to kill him or members of his adopted family. He is given to visions and dreams where his grandfather speaks to him. Law enforcement, his newly adopted family, and in particular, the FBI listen when he speaks and take his visions seriously.
EXCERPT FROM BETRAYED:
George and Rebecca stopped at the top of the long dirt driveway leading to the Yazzie ranch. From a distance, it looked quiet, almost sleepy. Neither George nor Rebecca knew him, but it was mid-morning and there should have been some activity.
George thought back to his own home a lifetime ago. Robert might be racing around the yard with his sister, Mary. William might be in the barn working with the horses. His mom and grandmother would be hanging laundry or cooking a meal.
However, there was no laundry hanging on the line. There were no kids playing in the yard. There was no smoke coming from the chimney, and there was no fire in the outdoor stove.
Maybe no one was home. Maybe they were in Round Rock at the trading post.
Impatient, Rebecca flapped her reigns and made a clicking noise getting her horse to move forward. George followed at first, but as they neared the ranch, he sped up next to her.
He whispered, “Rebecca, wait. Something is wrong.”
She pulled on the reigns to stop her horse. She turned, stared at him, and whispered, “What?”
George frowned and shook his head. “Stay back.”
Rebecca reached for her rifle and laid it across her lap. George’s rifle was within reach, but he kept his right hand on his knife.
“Hello, the ranch. Mr. and Mrs. Yazzie?” He and Rebecca waited, but no one responded, nor did anyone appear in the doorway.
George was at once patient and impatient. He felt he needed to give the Yazzies time to respond, but he knew something was wrong. His “Navajo thing.” A sixth sense sort of thing. Many times, his grandfather would speak to him, sometimes appear to him. Always warning, counseling, or guiding him.
One more time George yelled, “Hello the ranch! Mr. and Mrs. Yazzie!”
George dismounted, handed his reigns to Rebecca, took his rifle out of the scabbard and held it like a sentry, his finger above the trigger, not on it.
The smell. He knew the smell. In three short years, he had experienced this same smell. Nothing like it. Stronger in the hot desert air, and not at all pleasant.
He held a hand up to Rebecca, though he didn’t need to. She hadn’t moved.
George knelt down, bowed his head and shut his eyes, and asked whatever chindi might be present for permission to advance. He promised to find out the truth of what he suspected had taken place, and to bring their spirits justice as well as peace.
He opened his eyes, and instinctively searched the ground. He found tire impressions in the dirt, as well as footprints in at least three different sizes. A shell casing- large caliber. Then another, and another. On the left side of the driveway, there were small caliber casings.
Hard to do in cowboy boots, but he tip-toed into the front yard avoiding any footprints he saw. He would mark and take pictures of them later. The closer he got, the pock marks caused by bullet holes became more noticeable. So were the broken windows.
And the smell. Dark, thick, and wet.
George flashed back to his own ranch home and he imagined his grandparents, his mother, his little brother and sister huddled together in the driveway. He pictured his brother William on the slope watching over the sheep. His cousin had described the two scenes to him, and as he did, George knew his cousin had purposely held things back.
He pictured Brian’s home. The mess of blood, bone and tissue that covered the desk and computer in the office. The dark wet stain in the hallway. Though he had never seen what was behind the bedroom door, he knew who was in there and he suspected- correctly, according to Graff- what had happened.
Just like he knew what had taken place inside the Yazzie home as he stood in the doorway. Wanting to go into the house, but not wanting to. Knowing what he would find, and not wanting to find it.
George turned to Rebecca who looked anxious. He shook his head. Rebecca’s response was to grip her rifle tighter.
Cautiously, George took one step inside and held his breath. His second step took him into the kitchen.
Mrs. Yazzie lay on her back on the floor. Blood had pooled on either side of her like angel wings. George touched it and found it tacky, not wet, but not dry. Her death was recent. Further back in the room towards the hallway were a teenage boy and a preteen girl. The boy lay on his stomach with his arms outstretched overhead, the back of his shirt ripped open and bloody. George counted at least four bullet holes, maybe more. A bloody trail led to the girl. Bullet holes had shredded her blouse leaving the back of her shirt bloody. It looked to George as though she had not died right away, but had tried to crawl to safety.
The only person George didn’t see was the old man.
Staying to close to the wall, George moved further down the hallway and peered into the nearest bedroom. Pock-marked walls and shattered glass blown in from a window. George surmised that the shooters moved around the house and fired indiscriminately into the ranch home.
The second and last bedroom appeared in the same condition.
The old man was not in the house, and there weren’t many other places to look for him.
George left the house, held up a hand to Rebecca to stay put. He patted his knife once to reassure himself, and then crept around the side of the house towards the barn. He stayed close to the walls, but had to cross an open area to reach the barn. He took a deep breath, hunched over, and sprinted to its side.
Staying low, George took off his cowboy hat and peered into the barn from a crack between two broken boards. He set his hat on the ground behind him and tiptoed to the doorway. He peered into the barn, first just one eye. Then he stood up and entered.
He wasn’t surprised at what he first saw. However, further back in the corner in a small corral, he saw something he didn’t expect to find.
BOOKS: Here are the links to Joseph Lewis’ books:
Lives Trilogy: https://amzn.to/2QKpwuY
Caught in a Web: https://amzn.to/2GrU51T
Spiral Into Darkness: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L15328K