Is This A Trap?
The Apache stumbled, holding his arms out for balance. His many scratches were visible since all he wore was shin-high mocassins and a breechclout. Attached to a rawhide belt was a leather scabbard holding an antler-handled knife and an empty, soft-hide quiver. Around his head was a wide band of red cloth. Except for his scratches, he seemed uninjured.
Esther May leaned over, grabbed C.J.’s arm and whispered, “Do you think he found strong spirits among Silas and Miriam’s possessions?”
“Dunno. Might be a trap. Keep a lookout.”
On High Alert
As if obeying his own edict, C.J. became aware of everything: the different smell of the juniper and pine trees, the strong equine odor of his saddle, the silence of the mountain breeze, a bird flitting past the leftmost field of his vision, the crunch of horse hooves.
The lurching man had to hear C.J. and Esther May riding toward him, but he stumbled onward.
“Be ready!” C.J. spurred Skewy. The little mare leaped forward closing the distance. C.J. pointed his pistol between the Apache’s shoulder blades. The warrior drew his knife, spun to face his assailant, wobbled backward and fell on his rear.
The Indian sat on the ground swinging his blade in an arc, a fierce scowl burrowing his forehead. Finger-painted charcoal black lines spread across his cheekbones. His lips were pulled back revealing teeth clamped in a grimace of defiance.
A Measure of the Enemy
A shiver of knowledge went up C.J.’s spine and lodged in his brain. An epiphany, sure and factual.
Here sat a fabled Apache warrior. More hardy than an Army mule and more deadly than a cornered mountain lion. A man tough enough to be created of mesquite and cactus. A man who wouldn’t be bested by a boy from Pennsylvania.
It was a good thing he sat astride Skewy. C.J.’s legs had gone weak. They wouldn’t have supported him if he had to stand at that moment while staring at the face of unyielding hatred.
She Sees Him Differently
Esther May rode up. “Is he winking at us?”
C.J. frowned and looked closer.
The Apache was glaring in their direction blinking one eye then the other. He regained his knees and finally his teetering stance. He held one eye closed his knife ready.
C.J. dismounted. His weapon was also in hand.
Stress in Esther May’s voice was evident. “What are you going to do? You can’t shoot him just standing there.”
“I’ve gotta get that pig-sticker away from him.”
“I’ll shoot it outta his hand if I have to.”
“You can’t shoot, C.J. Don’t you see something’s wrong with him?”
“Got a better idea?”
Esther May scanned their surroundings. “Maybe.” She started to dismount.
Think of Another Way
“No!” C.J. Didn’t yell, but he was loud. “Don’t get off. If we’re both afoot and this guy can get one of our horses we’ve had it. He may not be able to walk, but I bet he can ride. He’d have a whole slew of his friends on us before we could get back to the road.”
Esther May recovered her seat and backed the gelding away.
Pleased that she listened to him, C.J. holstered his revolver, found a tree branch and swung it as hard as he could.
He struck the Apache’s knife hand.
The only sound was the splat of wood on flesh. The Indian staggered a few steps but kept a firm grip on his blade.
Esther May uncoiled her riata. “I can help.” She swung a full loop over the wobbling Apache and pulled his ankles together.
His arms flailed, and he fell without a whimper. He rolled onto his back and held the knife point to his chest.
Don’t Let Him Do It
Esther May screamed.
C.J. jumped on him and twisted the knife out of the Indian’s hand.
He had wrenched the weapon from an Apache! C.J.’s moment of insurmountable pride peaked, followed by gut liquifying fear.
The Indian had both of his hands in C.J.’s hair and was pulling down. The Apache meant to chew the young cowboy’s face.
The branch C.J. had used as a club thunked against the Apache’s skull. Esther May had used it to maximum effect.
A groan, the first sound from the Indian, escaped his lips. His twitching eyes rolled up and he lay quiet.
What’s wrong with the Apache? What will Esther May and C.J. do? Leave a comment now.
Blows to the head are dangerous. Here is one of many excellent articles referencing traumatic brain injury.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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