Pass The Beans and Bullets, Please.
Atá Halné couldn’t bring himself to go the full mile downstream as he had told Easterly. He chose a site just far enough away from the freighters that they wouldn’t smell his smoke. For privacy from travelers on the Las Cruces road, he stopped deep under the trees next to the Rio Grande yet not so close to the water that mosquitos would bother him. The campfire was to keep any long-range fliers at bay. He planned on a cold meal of jerky and biscuits. Coffee too, as long as there was fire to boil water.
First responsibilities must be met. Atá Halné unsaddled his horse and led it to drink in the river. Thirst satisfied, they returned to where he left his saddle and bedroll. The area satisfied him and he grinned. White men would call it a camp, but to the Indian it was a sheltered place to spend the night. His animal could reach plenty of grazing within range of a forty-foot lead rope with enough grass left over for a pad under his own bedding.
He hobbled the sorrel gelding and was picking up tinder when hurried yapping rose above the gurgle of the river. It sounded like a dog barking. Atá Halné froze. A dog? Was the sound coming from the road or the direction where he left Easterly? He wasn’t sure.
A shot from a large-caliber weapon echoed through the trees. A heavy weapon, like his partner’s muzzle-loader.
The Navajo ran to his saddlebags for his Colt Pocket Pistol, he didn’t like the name Baby Dragoon. There was nothing baby about it. He had never fired it other than at small game, but at five shots, it could do some serious damage to large predators. He freed the gelding keeping only the hackamore and swung aboard bareback.
Crack! Crack! Sharp reports of a smaller gun snapped down the river channel.
Atá Halné kicked his mount into a full run. The race from under the trees to the road and back to the freighter’s camp seemed to take hours. He heard no more noise.
Blood On The Ground
He rode hard, arriving in a sliding, haunch dropping stop. A woman stepped from behind the wagon with a pistol aimed at his chest.
Atá Halné glanced at her. Would she shoot? Apparently not. He swept the scene with his pistol. There was no movement, not now.
The man Atá Halné had seen with the firewood lay sprawled on his back, dead eyes clouding over as they stared at the sky. A neat, red hole turning black adorned his forehead. Easterly’s rifle lay under his arm.
The cook had fallen on his side, a ladle in his hand, a smile on his face, and a hole in his head.
Hund lay motionless in a red mangled mess near Easterly.
Atá Halné tucked his gun under his belt and returned his attention to the woman. “You look unharmed. Did you do this?”
She swung her revolver to the freighters. “Just them.” She indicated the dead man near Easterly’s rifle. “He shot the dog, then saw me. Thank God he had a muzzle-loader. He didn’t have time to reload before I got him.”
Turning to the cook she pointed at him with her chin. “That idiot was actually happy to see me. Twisted moron.”
Atá Halné went to Easterly. “He’s not hurt! Looks like he’s asleep.”
“Yeah, they drugged him just like they did me.”
At a whimper, the Navajo checked on Hund. “The dog’s alive, but his left rear leg is almost off.”
“Do you want me to put him down?”
“Not yet. Got a knife?”
Poor Hund! Will he live? Who’s the woman? Leave a comment.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.
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