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Girl Gone Missing

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Nineteen-year-old Cash Blackbear helps law enforcement solve the mysterious disappearance of a local girl from Minnesota's Red River Valley.

1970s, Fargo-Moorhead: it’s the tail end of the age of peace and love, but Cash Blackbear isn’t feeling it. Bored by her freshman classes at Moorhead State College, Cash just wants to play pool, learn judo, chain-smoke, and be left alone. But when one of Cash’s classmates vanishes without a trace, Cash, whose dreams have revealed dangerous realities in the past, can’t stop envisioning terrified girls begging for help. Things become even more intense when an unexpected houseguest starts crashing in her living room: a brother she didn’t even know was alive, from whom she was separated when they were taken from the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation as children and forced into foster care.

When Sheriff Wheaton, her guardian and friend, asks for Cash’s help with the case of the missing girl, she must override her apprehension about leaving her hometown—and her rule to never get in somebody else’s car—in order to discover the truth about the girl’s whereabouts. Can she get to her before it’s too late?

ISBN-13: 9781641293785

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Soho Press Incorporated

Publication Date: 04-05-2022

Pages: 336

Product Dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Series: A Cash Blackbear Mystery #2

Marcie Rendon is an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation and a speaker on Native issues, leadership, and writing. Rendon was awarded the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award for 2020. The first novel in her Cash Blackbear mystery series, Murder on the Red River, won the Pinckley Prize for Crime Fiction. Rendon was recognized as a 50 over 50 Change-maker by AARP Minnesota and Pollen in 2018. She lives in Minneapolis.

Read an Excerpt


Cash pulled herself up and out of her bedroom window. Her heart beat in her ears and she shivered uncontrollably. She took off running barefoot, zig-zagging across the damp ground. Her eyes darted left and right. She ran toward the plowed field, in the direction that led to town. Her foot sank into the cold wet dirt of the furrowed field. When she tried to pull her foot up, her front leg sank into the dirt even deeper. She threw herself forward, clawing at the mud with bare hands, hearing the heavy, labored breathing of the person chasing her. Fear forced her from her body so that she was soon flying above herself. She looked back to see who was chasing her, but all she could see was a body, the face obscured in the darkness. She looked down and could see herself stretched out in the mud below, buried to her knees, arms flailing. Some of her long brown hair was tangled up in her hands as she struggled to steady herself.

But the body changed abruptly: no longer her struggling, not a short, dark-haired Indian girl, but a pale, tall and bony blonde, who looked up at Cash and screamed, "Help me!"

* * *

On that sunny note, Cash crawled out of bed, got dressed and headed from Fargo to the Moorhead State campus on the other side of the Red River bridge. She nursed a tepid cup of coffee, intended to get her through her first two classes, while she tried to shake the dream from her head.

With a one-hour break between her biology and psychology classes, Cash made a beeline for her Ranchero and retrieved her cue stick from behind the front seat. She took off across campus to the Student Union, heading for the billiard room.

It was beet-hauling season in the Valley, and Cash was driving beet truck afternoons and evenings when her class schedule allowed. Between classes she would stop at the rec hall to practice her game.

The rec hall allowed students twenty-four-hour access to the larger tables and no fee to play with a student ID. Her game had improved considerably since starting college. Barroom pool tables tended to be shorter so as not to take up too much drinking space. But here at the rec hall, the full-size tables were always open. Apparently, Midwest farmer-type college students weren't pool sharks. They spent more time writing term papers and reading textbooks.

Cash was learning a lot at Moorhead State College. She had already found out that most girls her age considered shooting pool a sin, against their church upbringing. While Cash drank Budweiser and wore straight-legged blue jeans and a clean T-shirt under a Levi jean jacket each day, a good handful of the students preferred smoking weed to drinking. They dressed in bell-bottom jeans and sheer peasant blouses: hippie attire. They talked about making love, not war. They flashed peace signs at each other as they crossed the green campus lawn.

And then there were the college jocks, the students from small-town, conference-winning sports teams who were big-shot scholarship jocks now. They were too undersized for any professional team they might hope to be scouted for. And who knew to look for them in the Red River Valley of the North anyway?

There were also the studious kids — students who in their small towns had been picked on, teased or ostracized because they got A's in algebra without cheating, who read Macbeth and enjoyed it. The ones who willingly stayed after school to create potions in the under-financed science labs of the high schools ruled by the captain of the football team and his cheerleader homecoming queen.

Cash had always played 8-ball for money, but here at college she had learned how to play 9-ball against fraternity jocks who considered it the only pool game worthy of their time. It kept her in shape for the money-making games at the Casbah — her home bar — over in Fargo, on the North Dakota side of the Red River.

She removed her cue stick from the fringe leather case she had made a few years ago. She screwed the two lengths of stick together and rolled it across the green of the nine-foot table.

She chalked the tip of her cue and broke the rack. She started with the 1-ball, then went ball by ball in numerical order, attempting a bank shot for each one into an opposite corner. She frustrated herself with her failures.

She stretched her five-foot, two-inch frame over the pool table, her cue stick resting easily on the arch made between her thumb and curled pointer finger.

"Cash, there you are!" Cash's zone was broken. Shhi...t. She nicked the edge of the cue ball sending it toward the 11 but about three inches off. She slid back off the table and turned to see Sharon hopping down the three rec hall steps, her flared bell-bottoms swirling around her platform shoes. Hippie girl.

"I was looking all over for you after science class. I'm in love! Do you think he's married? Do you think he fools around if he is? Don't you just love his hair, the way he kinda swoops it back over his forehead? And his bod ... man."

Cash leaned over and aimed at the 11-ball again. "Who are we talking about?"

"Mr. Danielson." Sharon hopped up on the tall stool, crossed her legs and opened her long sweater jacket, her braless chest visible through the sheer gauze of her Indian-style shirt. "From now on I'm sitting in the front row, just like this." She tossed her long blonde hair over her shoulder. "You can sit in the back row close to the door all by yourself. I want to be right up front where he can see all of me."

"You're crazy." Cash watched the 11-ball drop smoothly into the far-left pocket. She scanned the table looking for the 12-ball and calculated the best angle for a bank shot. "He's an old man."

"He's only thirty."

"That's half dead."

"Mary Beth said she heard from someone that some of the teachers give A's for head."

"What the heck are you talking about?" Cash stood on tiptoe to reach across the table to line up on the 12. She was also learning that college hippie chicks wanted to talk about free love, weed and ending the war in Viet Nam more than anything else.

"You know, head: a blow job, go down on him."

"There are easier ways to get an A."

"Maybe for you. Do you ever study? He is so groovy."

Sharon exaggerated the flip of her hair over her other shoulder.

"Thought you had a boyfriend."

"Haven't you heard? Make Love, Not War." Sharon giggled.

"Come on, grab a cue and play against me."

"Sure, Miss Shark. That's not a game. That's just me moving the balls around the table for you." But she hopped off the chair and grabbed a cue from the wall as Cash racked the balls. Once again, Cash didn't hit the balls hard enough for any of them to drop. She was going to have to spend a few sessions just practicing her first shot, she could see.

"Open table," she said to Sharon.

Sharon walked around the table. "So ... what should I shoot?" "Try that solid right there. Nick the edge." Cash pointed at a spot on the purple ball. "Nick it soft and it'll drop right in."

Sharon slammed the cue ball into the solid purple. The ball dropped into the pocket followed by the cue ball. "Argghhh! This is why you ran out of class? To shoot pool?"

"Yeah, I drive shift tonight. Needed a few practice games." Cash ran five stripes before miscuing. "You have solids."

Sharon aimed at the 7-ball. "Did you hear about that chick who disappeared from Dahl Hall? Kids are saying maybe she got pregnant and went home. Then someone said she hitchhiked down to the Cities, but she hasn't come back. Her parents were at the Dean's office this morning." Cash watched Sharon get a lucky break, accidently dropping the 7 in a side pocket.

"Nope, didn't hear that."

"That's right, you got special exemption to live off campus.

I hate the dorm: curfew, no boys allowed ..." Sharon missed her shot. "This chick was in our science class--blonde, used to wear a miniskirt and sit in the front row every class? Danielson was always calling on her. She'd tilt her head and cross her legs before answering the question. His eyes were never on her face Bet she was getting A's. Your turn."

Cash took aim at the 10. "Where's she from?"


"The girl who's missing, dingbat."

"Oh. Shelly?" Sharon answered as if asking Cash.

"Shelly. The town of Shelly?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Just curious." Cash had a three-ball run and lined up to bank the fourth. She missed the shot.

"Your shot."

"Hey, Cash, you got any enemies?" Sharon asked under her breath.

"Not that I know of, why?"

Sharon rolled her eyes up toward three people — a guy and two girls — standing on the steps leading into the pool table area. They looked like they could be college students, except instead of hippie clothes they wore straight-legged jeans, T-shirts and jean jackets. Just like Cash. One of the girls had her hair in two braids that hung down the front of her jacket, the other had hers pulled back in a ponytail. The guy had messy braids, like maybe he had braided them a couple days ago and hadn't redone them yet. None of them were smiling. They were clearly looking at Cash and Sharon.

Cash lit a Marlboro. She took a long drag before she lined up on the 8-ball. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the three of them come down the steps toward the table.

They stood watching. Finally the guy said, "Play partners? Me and her" — pointing at the girl with two braids — "against you and her."

Before Sharon got the "no" out of her mouth, Cash said, "Sure. Rack 'em up."

It was a silent game, clearly between Cash and the guy, their partners missing shots each turn. Sharon was so nervous her cue stick shook whenever she attempted a shot. Cash played cat and mouse — not doing exactly her best but not letting him win easily either — playing just well enough to keep him convinced he was better than her but that maybe she was okay.

With one ball left and the 8-ball, he asked, "Straight 8 or last pocket?"

"Straight 8 is fine," Cash said.

His partner finally spoke. "Where you from?"

"Family's from White Earth. I live over in Fargo."

"How come we haven't seen you at any of the Indian student meetings?" asked the girl with the ponytail.

"I didn't know there were any."

"Every Friday night. At Mrs. Kills Horses."

"Potluck," said the girl with braids, missing her shot at the 8.

"Where's that?" Cash had no intention of going.

"3810 10th Avenue," the guy said. "She makes Sloppy Joes so there's always something even if no one brings anything."

"And beer," said the ponytail. "If you got an ID, bring some beer."

Cash rethought going. "3810 10th Avenue?"

"Yep," said the guy, making the 8-ball and laying the cue across the table. "We're going to talk about bringing AIM up from Minneapolis."

"AIM?" It was the first time Sharon spoke since the trio had arrived.

"The American Indian Movement," answered the girl with braids, looking the blonde hippie chick up and down with a frown and one eyebrow raised.

Sharon stared back at her, peace and love gone from her blue eyes.

The girl with the braids looked at Cash and said, "See you Friday."

The three turned and left the rec hall. Cash re-racked the balls. "One more game. Then I gotta go."

"My boyfriend attended an AIM meeting down in the Cities when he was there last year for the Miigwetch Mahnomen powwow.

They're pretty radical. Red Power and all."

Cash wondered to herself how Sharon knew how to pronounce miigwetch and Mahnomen so perfectly, but didn't ask. Instead she said, "He goes to school over at NDSU?"

"Yeah, that's where most of the North Dakota Indians go. Something about the BIA money coming out of the Aberdeen office and NDSU being cheaper than sending them to school out of the Dakotas."

Another thing Cash hadn't known before starting college: her BIA money came out of Minneapolis because she was enrolled at the White Earth Reservation, which was just about forty-five miles east from where they were standing in Moorhead, Minnesota. When Wheaton, the county sheriff in Norman County, had convinced Cash to register for school, she learned she would be attending on a BIA scholarship. Wheaton told her the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe had signed a treaty with the United States government that guaranteed higher education to tribal members who wanted it. So she may as well go, do something with her life besides farm work, he said.

"Why don't you and your boyfriend come to the meeting on Friday night? And I can meet Mr. Free Love," said Cash, breaking the rack with force. This time the 1-ball dropped in a pocket. "I've got solids."

"Sloppy Joes and beer? I'll see what he says. Can't imagine he'd turn that down. Only thing sweeter would be some good smoke," said Sharon. "He liked what those AIM folks were talking about."


"Guess they started a street patrol down in the Cities. The cops were picking up Indians from Franklin Avenue at closing time, just putting them in the trunks of their car and then dumping them down by the Mississippi or beating them up. So AIM started a patrol to get folks home safely. They talk about Indians standing up for their rights. My boyfriend says they're like the Black Panthers, but Indians."

Cash had no idea what Franklin Avenue was, but from Sharon's tone she assumed it was like NP Avenue over in Fargo where all the cheap 3.2 bars were and chronics like Ol' Man Willie started and ended the day in their favorite booth. 'Cept up here in the F-M area, it was old white men who were chronics, not Indians.

NP avenue was also where she called home, drinking at the Casbah bar each night — or each night when it wasn't beet-hauling season. She put in about an hour at the pool table after a day in the fields, playing for free drinks and the occasional dollar or five-dollar bet before heading to her apartment down the street. The only thing she knew about AIM was a couple one-night stands she'd had with a guy she called Long Braids. He had been on his way down to Minneapolis to meet up with AIM for some protest out east when their paths had crossed up Bemidji way.

"Thought those three were coming to beat you up." Sharon interrupted her thoughts, making a straight-in shot, but missing her next one. "Don't know why you all look so mean all the time."

"Hmphh," breathed out Cash. She had a four-ball run before sinking the 8. She started to unscrew her cue and put it away in its fringed leather case. "Gotta get to work."

"Are you going by your apartment? Can you drop me off in Fargo?"


Cash and Sharon left the Student Union and headed for Cash's Ranchero. They passed groups of students on the campus lawn, studying, flirting, protesting. Get Out of Viet Nam. Sharon talked the whole time about Danielson, then about her boyfriend's little sister who didn't like her because she was white, then again how she thought the three Indians in the pool room were coming to beat her or Cash up. Cash half-listened. With the rest of her attention, she drove and daydreamed along to Pasty Cline singing about someone's kisses leaving her cold.

"Can we find some rock and roll?" Sharon reached for the radio dial and changed the station. "Here we go: the Rolling Stones."

In Fargo, Cash stopped in front of the Maytag appliance store. Home. Sharon got out, waving as she walked west. Cash watched her go. She figured that after a bit Sharon would stick out her thumb to hitchhike the remaining mile to NDSU.

Cash ran up the stairs to her apartment, threw her schoolbooks and notebooks on the white enamel kitchen table that served as a place for her to study and eat. She lit a match, turned the gas burner on low under the tin coffee pot that still had coffee from the morning. She went into the next room and pulled off the clothes she had worn to school and tossed them over the overstuffed chair that held her "almost" clean clothes. She grabbed a different pair of jeans off the floor and jerked them on. It was the same pair she had been wearing all week while driving beet truck. She shook out a T-shirt and flannel shirt from the floor and put those on too.

Driving beet truck wasn't as dirty as driving during combine season when chaff and wheat bits got into all the creases of your clothes and the dust coated your hair like baby powder, but the smell of the beet plant clung to your clothes. Cash figured it would be Christmas before the smell washed out completely. She wore a flannel shirt because the heater didn't always work in Milt Wang's trucks.

She quickly braided her waist-length hair into one long braid and pulled on her jean jacket. She filled her red Thermos with hot coffee and opened the fridge as if there might be food in there. Two bare shelves with a half-dozen carton of eggs looked out at her. She'd have to grab a tuna sandwich at the Silver Cup.


Excerpted from "Girl Gone Missing"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Marcie Rendon.
Excerpted by permission of Cinco Puntos Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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