The Mystery Tomb

By: Eva Pohler

“Yeah. Sorry about that.” Although his seatbelt looked like it was in working order, Tukihëla did not belt himself in as he turned the key in the ignition.

“Wait a minute,” Samantha objected. “Don’t tell me you don’t ever wear seatbelts.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You know, there is a law about this.”

“Why is it anyone else’s business?”

She folded her arms. “I thought you were smarter than that.”

“Right.” He started to pull from the drive.

“Wait a minute,” she objected again. “I’m not going anywhere without a seatbelt.”

“The middle one works,” he said with a grin as he applied the brakes. “Do you want to sit in the middle?”

Inwardly, she groaned. She would feel stupid sitting over there beside him like a teenager out on a date.


She slid over despite her burning complexion and fastened the belt, hating how aware she was of his body.

He shook his head as he pressed his foot to the accelerator. Before he could pull out of the drive, Samantha noticed his necklace come untucked from beneath his shirt. It was the Mësingw on a round piece of petrified wood. Her hand reached out of its own accord and held it, shocked as much by the sight of the seal as the heat of his throat against her knuckles.

“It’s the Mësingw!” she said.

His hand flew to hers and clutched it as his foot hit the brake again.

They rocked forward and back.

“I’m sorry,” she muttered. His hand squeezed around hers in a defensive gesture, nearly crushing her fingers. “Let go.” She could barely breathe.

He released her hand and tucked the ornament flanked with bones back beneath his shirt.

“It’s the tribal seal, the image we’ve been looking for all this time.” She didn’t add it had tried to suffocate her last night.

“It’s Misink. Short for Misinkhalikàn.”

“That’s what my grandma calls him! The Lenape of Oklahoma call him the Mësingw.”

“Your grandma?”

“Yeah. That’s why I’m here.”

He arched a brow, but she held her tongue, not wanting to make him angry again.

Tukihëla parked in front of a cute café on a street lined with shops and full of tourists. After sliding across a booth from one another and giving the waitress their order, Samantha said, “So tell me what you know about that burial ground.”

“Grandfather says never to tell stories in the summertime. You’ll have to wait till it gets cold.”

“Ahh, Grandfather. You mean the Lenape people.” She smiled.

“You know about Grandfather?”

“Of course. I’ve been studying the Lenape for four years now. They were known as Grandfather to the other tribes because they were among the first Native Americans to meet and sign treaties with the European settlers.”

“That’s right,” he said, clearly impressed.

“They signed the treaty with William Penn in 1682, and I believe the first treaty they signed with the U.S. was in 1778, or something like that, shortly after the American Revolution anyway, at Fort Pitt.”

“You know your history.”

“The U.S. was going to establish an Indian state, and at its head would be the Delaware nation, with representation in Congress.”

“And as we know, that never happened,” he said dryly.

“Do you say Lenape or Delaware?”

“Lenape, because that’s what we call ourselves. Delaware was a name imposed on us by the Europeans.” He leaned back in the booth. “So go on. I’m interested in hearing your version of the Lenape people.”

“Okay.” She blushed, feeling like a school girl about to be tested. “European settlers continued to push the Lenape and other tribes west, so they settled in Indiana Territory, but then in 1818, signed another treaty giving away their land there. From Indiana they went to Missouri, then Kansas, and finally to Oklahoma by 1867.”

The waitress brought them their coffee.

“Thanks,” Tukihëla said. Then, he turned back to Samantha. “They may have signed treaties, but you know they had no choice. They were tricked. The white settlers refused to leave their lands, and even though Native Americans raided and killed to protect their homes, the white settlers kept coming.”

Samantha dumped several packets of sugar into her coffee and stirred. He sure had a chip on his shoulder, which she wouldn’t have expected from the grandson of a man as wealthy as Brandon Gellermann. Rather than argue about the ethics of European immigrants colonizing America, she changed the topic back to the burial mound on his grandfather’s land. “We believe those bodies we discovered to be a chief, his wife, an infant son, and eight warriors buried around them. It seems they died in battle. We found weapon fragments buried with them as well.”

Tukihëla smirked. “Why do you assume it was a battle, Beck? That’s history for you. You can make it anything you want. They weren’t warriors. They were farmers—men and women. It was typhoid.”