By Les Williams
John Walking Horse is reading the paper at a small table in the dinning room of the Shady Rest
Retirement Home. A lukewarm cup of coffee, and a plate smeared with what is left of his eggs, bacon
and toast are off to one side.
His white hair is tied in a ponytail. Black reading glasses are perched on his hawk nose. A wide brimmed,
high crowned smoky gray cowboy hat with an eagle feather in the hatband sits on one of the chairs
beside his table “Hello Indian, I thought I might find you here.”
Looking up at the man standing next to him, he replies, “Sean Hagarty you old Irish geezer.”
“Look who’s calling who old, you aged warrior. At sixty nine I’m a year younger than you,” the new
comer said, pulling back a chair to join his friend. Hagarty at five foot ten is four inches shorter than the
man seated next to him. His frizzy gray hair looks like that of some cartoon character that stuck his
finger in a light socket.
“Then show a little reverence white eyes. At least among my people of the great Sioux Nation, we treat
our elders with respect.”
Taking a glance around the room to see if anyone is within hearing of him, Hagarty leans forward, and in
a lowered voice says, “Now that we have our pleasantries out of the way, have you thought about my
Walking Horse places his glasses in the front pocket of his customary blue chambray shirt. Putting down
his paper, and pushing his plate aside, he takes a swallow of his coffee. Scrunching up his face, he
shakes his head.
“Let’s go outside,” the Indian said placing his hat on his head.
They push their chairs back and leave the dining room for the staff to clean up and get ready for the
They take a seat on a bench facing the front of the building. One of the numerous shade trees that give
the retirement home its name is behind them.
“How about my plan?” asked Hagarty.
Stretching his long legs out in front of him and crossing his arms across his chest, Walking Horse said,
“I’m thinking on it. I like your idea of pay back. My father would be proud, and get a good laugh out of it
Both men are quiet as they watch a few of the residents come and go. Some strolling by, while others
wait out front under the covered roof for the home’s bus to come and take them to their appointed
rounds of doctors visits, to town, or the mall.
Of all Hagarty’s crazy ideas, this one is the most intriguing, and yet the most risky. His others have been
half-baked compared to this one. There was the time he wanted to get vendors licenses to sell hot dogs
on a street corner. Then he thought of becoming taxi drivers, forgetting that having a driver’s license
would be a prerequisite. And the topper was, that is until this plan, his idea of taking a four-week
correspondence course to become realtors with guaranteed sales of six digit figures…yeah right. But this
new one could definitely be life changing, in more ways than one.
“Will it work?” asked Hagarty.
His reverie interrupted Walking Horse said, “It’ll need some careful planning.”
“This is not like robbing a bank or savings and loan. Heck, people may even envy us, wondering why
they never thought of this themselves,” said Hagarty, crossing one leg over the other and scratching his
“There is that,” said Walking Horse shifting to one side so he was facing his friend and placing his arm on
the back of the bench. “The best time to pull this off would be on Saturday night.”
They sit in silence for a moment, watching the small bus fill up, and pull away from the entrance of Shady
“Why Saturday?” asked Hagarty.
Walking Horse is about to reply when a howling sound comes from his right.
They turn in that direction in time to see an orange fuzz ball flash by shortly followed by a barking
mangy gray and white dog. The two men watch until the animals are out of site and the yaps and yowls
“Think about it. The place is closed for the weekend. With Monday being a holiday, nobody will discover
the loss until at least Tuesday,” said Walking Horse.
“Why not Friday night?”
“Saturday gives us an extra day to plan. Besides I’ll need to call Jackie, see if she will be driving Saturday
“Where do you want to meet?”
“How about now in my room?”
“Let’s go,” said Hagarty rising from the bench.
Both men reenter the building and are greeted by a woman seated behind a counter. She’s about thirty-
five years of age, and wearing a blue blazer, and gray slacks. Across the isle from her is a large open
area called the Sunshine Room with a big screen TV, on which a game show is playing. There are several
chairs, two couches, end tables and a coffee table on which are scattered an assortment of magazines
and newspapers. They walk down a wide hallway, turn right and enter a room in the middle.
“You take the desk chair, I’ll sit on the bed,” said Walking Horse picking up the phone and punching in
“Is Jackie Kwon in? I’ll wait,” he said before placing his hand over the mouthpiece. “We’re in luck. She
was about to hit the streets.”
Hagarty nods his head in an acknowledgement.
“Jackie, Walking Horse. Good and you? That’s good. Remember the little thing we discussed? Yeah that’
s right. It’s a go. Are you on duty Saturday night?
Ok, I’ll give you a call on your cell instead of going through the switchboard. Yeah you too.”
Replacing the phone Walking Horse opens the top drawer in the nightstand next to the bed. He brings
out a note pad and pencil.
“Do we have transportation?” asked Hagarty putting down the latest edition of Native Peoples magazine
he is thumbing through. “If so we can check that off our list.”
“Done,” said Walking Horse, propping a pillow against the headboard, leaning back and stretching out
before making a check mark next to an item on the list. Above the bed is framed a print of the well-
known painting End Of Trail.
“I’ll bring my lock picks,” said the Indian.
And so it went, as they methodically go down the list item by item.
On Saturday night, they are patiently sitting in chairs across from the reception desk. They look like they
are reading when the two are actually waiting for their chance to leave the building unseen. When the
attendant behind the front desk leaves to enter the women’s room the two men exit the building, cross
the lawn, and walk two blocks to fortieth and Summer Street.
Taking no chances of being seen, they wait in the shadows under a linden tree. Moments later a checker
cab pulls up to the curb and both men get in.
“Right on time Jackie,” said Walking Horse. She is a slender, five foot four Asian woman with short black
hair and almond shaped black eyes that twinkle when she smiles. An American couple adopted her when
she was an infant.
“I was filling out my log when your call came,” she said looking in the rear view mirror and giving a big
smile to the Indian.
Glancing from one to the other Hagarty said, “OK you two, lets try to keep the passion in check. The
redskin and I have a job to do.”
Winking at Jackie, Walking Horse replies, “You betcha Red Rider.”
After the short drive Jackie said, “OK gentlemen, and I use the term loosely, here we are. Call me when
you’re ready to return.”
Leaving the cab, they lean against the brick wall as the taxi heads down the alley and rounds the corner.
Walking Horse removes the eagle feather from his hat. He raises it over his head, shakes it two times in
the four directions chanting “Hey ya hey ya hey ya hey ya”
“Is that some sort if Indian good luck offering?”
“Some thing like that. Or maybe it’s a rain dance. I can’t remember which exactly.”
The Indian takes out his lock picks. He moves to the door at the rear of the building, and begins on the
lock until he hears the familiar click.
“Bingo,” he said.
Before going in, they put on a pair of blue booties over their shoes, like those worn in hospitals, and pull
on latex gloves. Following close on the Indians heels, Hagarty carrying an old tattered gym bag, enters
and closes the door.
Both men pull out penlights. They take a turn around to become familiar with their surroundings. The
front of the building has a long counter behind which are a few gunmetal gray filing cabinets, and an
office with a window facing the street entrance. A small desk and chair is off to one side against a wall.
On the opposite wall is a small stand with a plastic water cooler and some conical shape paper cups.
“I think what we’re looking for will be in his office,” said Walking Horse.
They enter the small workstation. Hagarty opens his duffle bag and begins removing several items. First
out are a blue tarp and a roll of duct tape.
The two men proceed to put up the tarp on the glass window in the office, and tape it in place to shield
the light from the outside world. While Hagarty seats himself at the desk, and boots up a computer,
Walking Horse again takes his picks and begins working on the lock on a door behind the desk. Inside
the small room, he flips on the light, kneels beside a safe, and begins turning the tumblers.
“How are you doing?” he asked as he swings the safe door open.
“It’s as I thought, this guy’s not very imaginative. I’ll be in the system shortly.
Taking a draw sting bag back to the safe, the Indian said, “I’m in business.
The hard parts done. I’ll just make a little withdrawal.” For once Hagarty has come up with a good plan.
Even more amazing, it was well thought out.
Wonders never cease. Once it’s all finished, what changes will this bring?
Both men are silent as they go about their work. Walking Horse finishes removing the contents of the
safe, leaves the door ajar, and goes out to sit in a chair by the desk where Hagarty is busy typing away
on the keyboard.
The Indian pulls out a dog eared Louis L’Amour paperback western, crosses his legs and begins to read.
Neither man speaks while the Irishman works away. The only sound is the turning of the pages of the
book; Hagarty’s tapping on the keys, and the hum of the AC kicking on occasionally.
“That’s it,” said Hagarty looking up at the clock and seeing it is ten o’
clock. “Call Jackie, and we’ll close it down here.”
Walking Horse pulls out a cell phone, and makes the call. The two men begin returning their provisions
to the gym bag. They erase all evidence of their being in the building.
“Wait by the door and let me know when Jackie gets here,” said Walking Horse handing the gym bag to
A few minutes pass before Hagarty leans in to say their driver has arrived, and goes out to wait in the
cab. Walking Horse finishes up inside. Outside, the Indian closes the door, and smashes the glass by the
“How did it go?” Jackie asked driving down the alley and heading to the place where she picked the two
“So far, so good. This will work,” said Walking Horse stretching his long legs out in front of him the best
he can in the cramped back seat.
“Yes sir, we’re in the money,” Hagarty said crossing one leg over the other, placing his hands behind his
head, and leaning back in the seat.
After exiting the taxi, they make the short walk back to Shady Rest. The Indian makes quick work of
unlocking the door, and with out anyone’s knowledge, they are back in their respective rooms.
Three days later they are lounging in the Sunshine Room of the Shady Rest reading the paper.
“You never did tell me how you got your name,” said Hagarty as he turns a page.
“You mean John?” asked the Indian putting his section of the paper down on his lap.
“No you old redskin, Walking Horse,” said Hagarty, with vexation in his voice.
“Oh…well my mother had a vision of a horse walking back and forth before I was born. An appaloosa I
believe it was,” Walking Horse said looking over at his friend. When Hagarty makes no comment, the
Indian goes on.
“What, you don’t buy that?”
When his friend remains silent, Walking Horse shrugs his shoulders and continues.
“When my grandfather was still in a cradle board with his mother outside, horses that were not picketed,
would walk up to her and nuzzle my grandfather. This happened many times, and so she named him
“I’ll buy that,” said Hagarty before the two men resume reading the morning paper.
“Look what we have here. It says the tax collectors office was robbed, and a substantial amount of
money is missing from the safe. Can you imagine that?”
“What’s this country coming to when the tax office is robbed,” said Walking Horse shaking his head.
“There may be more to it than that. Seems like the man in charge, Ira Cash, may have been
misappropriating funds. An anonymous call to the police alerted them to that possibility. The caller told
them to check Cash’s computer records. They think it may have been a disgruntled former employee
who made the call. Imagine that.”
“A crooked tax man? Is nothing sacred any more?” asked Walking Horse.
“It says here,” said Hagarty folding the paper in half, “Cash has been under suspicion of embezzling.
Evidently he has been living higher than his salary of tax collector would be able to support. The police
think the robbery was staged to hide the fact, but he claims innocence in the theft.”
“Sounds like Mr. Cash was getting a little greedy with the county’s money.
Innocent, isn’t that what they all say? Let’s take a little stroll,” said Walking Horse rising up from the
couch and setting the paper on the coffee table in front of them.
Outside the two men take in the pleasant morning. The smell of fresh cut grass lingers in the air. They
sit down on a bench beneath a large bradford pear tree. For a moment they are both silent. What was
he going to do with his share? At his age he has no desire to travel the world, or take one of those bus
tours. He doesn’t gamble, and gave up drinking. He has too much freedom to take up with some
woman, although Jackie could change his mind about that. So, what’s left? The sound of Hagartys voice
brings him out of his reverie.
“Walking Horse, you didn’t you hear a word I was saying. Were you in some kind of Indian trance?”
“No, I was wondering if it was worth the effort…what we did.”
“This is your pay back, remember? You’ve made Cash pay restitution to your father for the taxes he
illegally collected from him when he lived on the reservation.”
Walking Horse removes his hat, unties and reties his ponytail before replacing it and said, “My father didn’
t have any formal schooling. He didn’t know the law or how it worked. Later he told me about the
taxman. With your help, I tracked him down. As you know, that’s why we came here.”
“I was only helping a friend. I know you would do the same for me. Now that I have some extra cash, I’
m giving some thought to moving to a warm climate.
Florida, California, maybe Arizona. Move to one of those seniors communities, take up golf, and learn to
Stretching his legs out, and placing his hands behind his head Hagarty continues, “On second thought,
maybe I’ll just hang around here with you. I have some other thoughts how we can pass our time. What
Letting out a groan the Indian looks to the sky, raises his arms and said, “Wakan Tanka, hear my plea
and help us all. Hagarty’s got more ideas.”
Lowering his arms and crossing them across his chest he said, “I think I’ll give some of it to an Indian
school in South Dakota. Let some poor kids have the opportunity that their parents never had. Give
them a chance to have a better education, maybe go on to college. That’s how I went beyond high
school, somebody helped me.”
“You were always a little soft hearted, but that’s good. I admire you for that. What do you think Jackie
“Her mother is ailing. Now she’ll be able to care for her. There is one thing I splurged on,” said Walking
Horse checking his watch.
“Oh, what’s that?”
“Come on, I’ll show you,” the Indian said and starts off walking to the west side of the building followed
by the Irishman. There parked in the visitors section is a red 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Elderado
convertible with Jackie Kwon sitting in the driver’s seat. Hagarty can only stare, words failing him for one
of the few times in his life.
“Funny isn’t it. We do the crime and Cash pays the time. Kind of a reversal of fortune,” Walking Horse
said a smile crossing his lips.