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Indian
Burial
Ground
by Nick Medina

All Noemi Broussard wanted was a fresh start. With a new boyfriend who actually treats her right and a plan to move from the reservation she grew up on—just like her beloved Uncle Louie before her—things are finally looking up for her. Until the news of her boyfriend’s apparent suicide brings her world crumbling down. But the facts about Roddy’s death just don’t add up, and Noemi isn’t the only one who suspects something menacing might be lurking within their tribal lands.

After more than a decade away, Uncle Louie has returned to the reservation, bringing with him a past full of secrets and horror and what might be the key to determining Roddy’s true cause of death. Together, Noemi and Louie set out to find answers…but as they get closer to the truth, Noemi begins to question whether it might be best for some secrets to remain buried.

Excerpt

Noemi

The bathroom door opened just then, and I’m sure we were both glad it did. From within, black leather boots, skinny jeans, a black tank top with a rainbow heart bedazzled across the chest, shiny lips, and puffed-up hair emerged. Mom.

Her eyes widened. Fear momentarily cracked her made-up face, and a scream of terror in response to the strange man standing in our living room almost rang out, transforming instead into a cry of joy at the last second, right when she recognized him. “Louie!” She did a little hop, her boots thumping against the laminate floor. “Don’t do that to me!” A second later, she was in her brother’s arms.

“Lula,” he cried.

We’d gone years without phone calls, video chats, and greeting cards. Sometimes we’d exchange texts on birthdays and holidays, filled with statements like Hope you’re well, rather than questions that might encourage conversation.

Mom looked up at him, taking his face in her hands. “You cut off your hair. It’s gray.” Even though she was three years older than him, Mom’s hair has been chocolate cherry my entire life. “Let me turn back time for you.” She laughed. “My god, what are you doing here?”

“Pow wow,” he said.

“I wish you’d have told me. Everyone’s going to be so surprised to see you. But this is perfect!” She clapped her hands. “We’re meeting friends at the Blue Gator tonight. You can meet Noemi’s boyfriend. My new guy’s gonna come by too.”

“No he won’t,” I interjected from the couch. Mom threw a dismissive wave in my direction.

“Say you’ll come,” Mom said.

“Sure. Yeah.” He seemed to reassure himself again. “I’ll meet you there after I check in at the hotel.”

“Why not stay here? I know it’s a little small for-” Mom paused, finally looking past her brother. “Where’s Holly? Jill?”

“Can we-?” he started, but was cut off by a trio of stern knocks against the door.

It wasn’t Holly or Jill.

“Chief Fisher,” Mom and Uncle Louie said in unison the instant I opened the door. Luke Fisher wasn’t chief of the tribal police anymore, but he had been for so long that most of us still called him that. Most days, he still acted like he was on the job.

“Noemi.” His hands reached for mine as his eyes gave Mom an acknowledging glance. They lingered a little longer on Louie, but whatever he’d come to say took precedence over the friendly reunion that might have otherwise occurred.

“What is it?” I said. Luke wasn’t the type to just drop in for visits. He wasn’t the type to just stroke the back of your hand either.

“Let’s sit,” he said.

I didn’t want to.

“It’s Roddy,” he uttered. “I know how close the two of you are, so I thought I should tell you before-”

“Tell me what?”

His old hands, veins stretching the thin skin, squeezed mine. “He was hit by a car.”

“What?” I shrieked. Mom did too.

Luke glanced at the sofa, but I hadn’t changed my mind about sitting. “I’m really sorry.”

Sorry. I’d never known how much weight a word could hold until Luke uttered it.

“No!” Tears appeared as if a magician had waved a wand in front of my eyes.

“Tribal PD will figure out what happened.”

“You’re saying . . . ?” Though I heard what he was saying, I couldn’t grasp it. Didn’t want to.

“I’m sorry,” he said again.

“How?”

“He was out on Grand Nacre Drive. The driver said he came out of nowhere.”

That didn’t make sense. I’d texted Roddy a couple hours earlier, confirming our plans for the night. He was going to pick me up at eight. I told Luke as much. “He didn’t say anything about driving anywhere else.”

“He wasn’t driving. He was on foot.”

That made even less sense. “It’s the height of summer. Roddy hates walking in the heat.” There were only two reasons to be along Grand Nacre Drive: to get to the casino or to leave it. “Was he at the casino?” I asked, knowing he had no reason to go there.

Luke’s shoulders hitched. “There’s a lot to figure out.”

I pulled my hands away from his and braced myself against the wall. Reality wasn’t yet registering, but I knew what I’d lose if I lost Roddy. Hopes, dreams, second chances. Without him, all I’d have were memories, regret, and forty years in the rearview mirror. Mom told me the years would go fast, back in my twenties when $130k-the amount of my trust fund, thanks to years of per capita payments I couldn’t touch until I turned twenty-one-seemed like a million bucks. And Mom was right, the years came and went like sparks. And, like the money, I’d wasted them all.

“When?” I asked Luke.

“About an hour ago.”

I looked out the window. The sun was below the horizon. All that remained of its light was a fiery orange band like the ring around a lit cigarette. “It must have been light when the accident happened.” Anger rose within me. “Was the driver drunk?”

“Noemi . . .” Luke threw his head back and cupped his brow. I’d never seen him so unsettled. “It might not have been the driver’s fault.”

“He’s blaming Roddy?”

“She’s saying . . .” Eyes clenched tight, he slowly exhaled and then, finally looking like the authority he’d always been, as his arms fell to his sides and he gave it to me straight. “The driver said Roddy lunged in front of her vehicle. You’ve already said yourself that Roddy didn’t like to walk and that he hadn’t mentioned going anywhere today. There’s concern”-his voice softened-“that this could have been suicide.”

“What?!” I shrieked again. “No fucking way. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t. We had plans. We were gonna get out of here. We were gonna get tattoos!”

“There’s a lot to figure out,” he repeated.

“What exactly did the driver say about Roddy?” Uncle Louie asked, stepping closer to Luke.

“According to her, he jumped in front of-”

“He wouldn’t!” I insisted.

“With the way word travels around here, I might as well tell you everything.” Luke exhaled another deep breath. “The driver ran for help. When she returned to Roddy, she saw a coyote standing over his body . . . with blood around its mouth.”

My stomach churned. I finally sat. Mom plopped beside me, wrapping me in her arms, while Uncle Louie, paler than before, inexplicably locked the door.

Excerpted from Indian Burial Ground by Nick Medina Copyright © 2024 by Nick Medina. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About The Author

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Nick Medina appreciates blues-based music, local folklore, and snowy winters. A member of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, he drew on personal and family experiences, along with research into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) epidemic, to inspire his debut novel, Sisters of the Lost Nation. He has degrees in organizational and multicultural communication, and has worked as a college instructor. He also enjoys playing guitar, listening to classic rock, and exploring haunted cemeteries and all sorts of spooky stuff. Learn more online at nickmedina.net.

Photo by Ashely Suttor 2022

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