Just Another Indian – Chapter One

In this, at least, he was telling the truth: his mother wanted the car back by nine o’clock. If it wasn’t, Crawford would lose the privilege of using it for a few days.

“You guys got some beer?” Shelley asked.

“Sure,” Corrigan piped up from the back seat. “You going to help us drink it?”

Crawford drove east out of Confederation Park, as if he were taking Shelley back downtown. She showed neither surprise nor concern when, instead, he turned onto Avenue H and headed south. She did not know, and Corrigan had apparently forgotten, that Crawford had borrowed Corrigan’s knife earlier at the Albany and had not returned it.

The route took them down to Spadina Crescent West, past the Queen Elizabeth Power Station and onto a gravel road that followed the banks of the South Saskatchewan River out of the city. Within a few minutes they turned left onto Valley Road, a paved stretch of rural highway that was rapidly developing into a prosperous commercial district, featuring garden centres, berry farms, and, further along, the recently developed Moon Lake Golf and Country Club. Crawford knew the road well.

As Shelley fiddled with the radio, he flirted with her, stroking her leg and brushing his hand against her breast. Again, if she was nervous, she didn’t show it. These two are obviously losers, she might have thought. How dangerous can they be? She had been in situations like this before and nothing horrible had happened. Well, not quite. Once a white man had raped her in his shack on Avenue M South, but she wouldn’t be that stupid again. Besides, she had met Crawford before. He was overweight and he smelled like sweat and chemicals, but he didn’t really seem that bad. She would drink his beer and party a little, then they would take her back downtown.

Twenty minutes after leaving the city, Crawford turned onto a dirt road. The battered Nova bounced and shuddered in the washboard ruts. To one side was a tree farm, to the other a farmer’s field. The road led to Bare Ass Beach, a popular summer destination for uninhibited Saskatonians who found the expanse of river sand an ideal place to doff their clothes and soak up some sun. But it was evening, and there was no other traffic.

Before the turnoff to the beach, Crawford coaxed the Nova off the road and drove as carefully as his diminishing patience would allow across a stubble field to a grove of trees. Crawford knew the place well, but perhaps Shelley was surprised to find a natural clearing defined by willows. There was ample evidence of earlier parties—soggy beer boxes, empty cans and bottles, a blackened pit where fires had burned that summer—but tonight the grove was deathly still. Perhaps, too, she was surprised at the ribbons she saw hanging from trees, the tobacco pouches, and the piles of willow branches that had been used for sweat lodges that had subsequently been dismantled on instructions from an Elder. The grove was well known to First Nations people as well, not as a party venue but as a site for traditional ceremonies.

Or perhaps, in the last few minutes of her life, she noticed none of these things.

Crawford drove through a cut in the grove and parked the car out of sight. He turned off the engine and tossed the keys to Corrigan in the back seat. He ordered his friend to get the beer. Obediently, the little man got out and opened the trunk, removing the case of Pilsner he had purchased with Crawford’s money earlier that evening. Back in the car, he handed Crawford a bottle. He opened another and passed it to Shelley. The two men gossiped about mutual acquaintances they had known in jail while Shelley made short work of her beer. She was after a quick buzz, nothing more. Corrigan and Crawford were not exactly stimulating companions.

Noticing Shelley’s empty bottle, Crawford told Corrigan to go for a walk. Corrigan had played the scene enough by now to know his role by heart. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he said, laughing at the tired old joke as he closed the car door behind him. Beer in hand, he strolled a few metres away, then stopped to roll a cigarette.
Back in the car, Crawford was making his pitch: he wanted sex, and he wasn’t about to pay for it. After all, he had supplied the beer and given her a ride to her friends’ place. If Shelley wasn’t game, she would suffer the consequences.

Shelley wasn’t game, but she knew she didn’t have many options. She was probably frightened by now. But the beer was working, and that might help. She could only hope that this rank thirty-year-old would be quick. If she closed her eyes, it would be over in a few minutes. They climbed into the back seat.

While Crawford abused her body, perhaps Shelley allowed herself to travel back to One Arrow, where she remembered real friends and community. Or perhaps she thought of a better life, the one she would have when she left the street and went back to school. She wanted to take a computer course. She knew she was better than this. She didn’t belong in this world of round-the- clock partying, drugs, and flophouses. But she was only sixteen. There was lots of time to get her life together.

Crawford’s act did not take long, and Corrigan soon heard him shouting at Shelley in the car. “You bitch! You know you liked it! Don’t look so pissed off!”

But Shelley too obviously had not enjoyed it, and John Crawford was enraged. He slapped the young woman across the side of the head. Shelley screamed and grabbed for the door handle, trying to get out. Crawford pulled her back and punched her full in the mouth, splitting her lip.

Outside, shivering in the cool evening air, Corrigan watched as Crawford stumbled out of the little Nova. The younger man opened a beer, breathing heavily as he began to drink. Corrigan said nothing, but watched again as Crawford threw open the rear door of the car. He saw that Shelley was naked and crying, and her face was battered.

“Tell him to take me home,” she pleaded. “I just want to go back to the city. I won’t go to the cops.”
Corrigan had no time to consider her appeal, as Crawford reached in and started pulling Shelley out of the car by one arm.

“I’m not done with you yet,” he declared. “We’re going into those bushes and you’re going to give me what I want!”

Dragging the nude and now-hysterical young woman from the car, Crawford hit her a few more times, then she fell to the ground. Corrigan got into the car to warm up as Crawford dragged the screaming girl into the bushes.

“It looked like he was punching her in the stomach,” he testified later in court.

When Shelley fell silent, Corrigan became curious. He got out of the car and went to investigate. Crawford was standing over Shelley. A knife—Corrigan’s own precious knife with the gold handle—was protruding from her abdomen. There were other wounds, too, Corrigan saw. Shelley had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest and side.

Dumbfounded, he said, “John, for Christ’s sake, what did you do?”
“I killed her,” Crawford replied without emotion or apparent regret. “She’s dead. Get some branches. Help me cover her up.”

Corrigan gathered branches and leaves and spread them carefully over the body, keeping a careful eye on Crawford as he did so. The murderer had removed the knife from Shelley’s abdomen and was holding it as he watched Corrigan do his bidding. Once the body was covered, the two men drove back to Saskatoon. Corrigan, animated and frightened, castigated Crawford for the senseless killing; at the same time, he harboured justifiable fears for his own life, so he was careful not to go too far in his condemnation.

Crawford pulled into an alley in Riversdale, a lower-income neighbourhood that hugs the west bank of the Saskatchewan River south of downtown. He rolled Shelley’s clothes into a ball and tossed them in a dumpster. He had already decided to burn his own clothes and throw the knife into the river under the Broadway Bridge. He planned to return to the grove and knock out Shelley’s teeth, so that the corpse, if it was ever found, could not be identified through dental records, though he never carried out this plan.

In the meantime, his curfew was approaching. With Corrigan still in the car, he drove home to his mother’s house on Avenue Q North. There he removed his bloodstained jeans and sweatshirt, and showered in the basement bathroom. He then drove Corrigan back to the Albany.

By the time the remains of Shelley Napope were found in the fall of 1994, there was little physical evidence left to aid investigators in determining what had taken place on the night she was killed. Given the degree of decomposition of the body, it was impossible even to establish a probable cause of death. The only people who knew what had happened were John Crawford and Bill Corrigan.

That both men were present at the rape and murder of the young Native woman was never an issue. Crawford and Corrigan both agreed, subsequently, on the circumstances that led to her being taken to the willow grove southwest of Saskatoon. On audio tapes secretly recorded by the RCMP, Crawford—in calm, clipped tones, as if he were discussing the weather—clearly confirms many of the specifics of Shelley’s murder. His only surprise was her name.

“I thought her name was Angie,” he said.

Order Your Copy of this Canadian bestseller
$30.00 CA (covers GST, shipping and handling)

[wp_cart_display_product name=”Just Another Indian by Warren Goulding” price=”30.00″ thumbnail=”https://askewcreek.com/wp-content/uploads/JustAnotherIndian-cover-flat-150×150.jpg” description=”Canadian Bestseller” thumb_alt=”Canadian Bestseller Just another Indian”][show_wp_shopping_cart]

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00