There’s Been An Attack
C.J. put a foot in the stirrup. “I’ll be right back. Find a place to hole up while I’m gone.”
Esther May cast a view all around. “Are you going to the massacre place?”
“I have to.”
“I’m coming too.”
C.J. swung aboard Skewy. “That ain’t smart. It won’t be pretty.”
Cornelius James Easterly, you can jolly well wait while I saddle up before you go stampeding into a war party.”
C.J. smelled it before he caught sight of the column of smoke. Burning wood mingled with another scent that he never smelled before but instinctively recognized.
He glanced at Esther May. She was pale but had her jaw set and a pistol in her hand.
He rode over until their horses were flank to flank and whispered. “On foot now. Be quiet.”
They crept forward using what trees and brush they could for cover and concealment.
Fire had consumed most of the wagon. Only embers and hotspots marked its outline. Two charcoal lumps lay amid the remains of the cargo. The mules were dead in the harness, lying in pools of drying blood, hosts to swarms of flies.
C.J. couldn’t turn away. These were people he shared breakfast with that morning. He tried to convince himself that they got away—the things he was looking at were decoys to fool the Apaches.
Esther May hit him in the back with a dollar-sized rock breaking his reverie. He saw her by a juniper tree twirling a finger around in the air.
Right. He knew it. They had to look around. Eugene was still missing. He made ever-widening circles around the smoldering mess and bloody mules.
Movement in the corner of his eye caused his heart to pound in his throat. He whirled trying to bring his pistol to bear, but it was Esther May. She strode toward him, face set, and jerked a thumb over her shoulder. As she walked past, C.J. saw that she had her lips pressed together hard. He steeled himself and went where she pointed.
It was difficult to determine if Eugene had put up a good fight. The other side left no one on which to count scrapes and bruises.
It didn’t matter for Eugene.
He left the world as naked as he entered. Since he wasn’t tied to a tree or staked down, C.J. decided they killed Eugene before they used him for target practice.
His body had clusters of arrows piercing vulnerable locations and had also suffered knife work.
Here too, flies found an irresistible attraction.
C.J. lost the contents of his stomach. Bending over to vomit was probably the only thing that kept him from passing out. He threw up until he was empty and even then continued to retch.
Esther May returned with a piece of tarp that had covered the wagon. “The shovels and picks don’t have handles. We’ll find a crevice, put him in it and cover the whole thing with rocks.” She snorted. “Ironic, isn’t it? That’s an Indian burial.”
Should the kids go on or get out of the country? Leave a comment now.
Here’s a short blurb about Apache burial customs.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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