The sun was not yet overhead of the Mogollon Rim foothills. Fresh, juniper-scented air was only disturbed by the sound of Taklishim, the medicine man, chanting in his wickiup and, Imala said, blowing sacred smoke.
While Imala built a second brush-covered hut, C.J. had sat in the shade of an alligator juniper. He rubbed his back against the tree trunk and watched a rider coming up the draws and over hillocks.
It was probably some kid come to fetch Taklishim to cure mama’s bad tooth or make grinding on her metate easier. C.J. chuckled at the possible house calls an Apache settlement might need.
Then He Was Here
It wasn’t until the rider rode into camp that C.J. got a good look at him.
At least six feet tall, the Apache warrior dismounted as quick as a kitten and had grabbed Imala.
C.J.’s Mind Plays Catch Up
Time had gone twisted for C.J. All the leisure of watching the rider come had seemed like yesterday, but here he stood. Imala had called him Great Hawk.
C.J. drew his revolver. “LET HER GO!”
Great Hawk spoke brief Apache words to Imala before shoving her in the direction of his horse. She stumbled but kept her footing and put her hand on the horse’s neck.
“NO!” C.J. ran closer, but Great Hawk turned his back and walked toward Imala.
Use Of Force
C.J. fired a round into the dirt beside Great Hawk’s moccasin. After hearing nothing louder than Taklishim’s toneless chant for days, the gun’s report was an ear-ringing blast.
That should do it. C.J. expected Great Hawk to jump and make wild-eyed appeals for mercy.
A Different Reaction
Great Hawk turned with aggravating slowness, pulled his knife and crouched.
“Look, stupid, this ain’t no pop-gun. You’d best show some respect.” C.J. leveled his sights on Great Hawk’s chest.
Great Hawk’s charge caught C.J. by surprise. As Great Hawk leaped and slashed with his blade, C.J. stumbled backward, fell, and fired.
The shot missed, but the muzzle blast was close enough to singe away a large patch of Great Hawk’s hair.
Great Hawk was on the ground.
“Did I hit him?” C.J. dug his heels in and scooted on his back away from the Apache. He rolled over, wobbled upright, and took aim.
Great Hawk felt his scalp with his fingertips and dropped his jaw in an exaggerated yawn several times.
C.J. dragged a sleeve across his mouth and spat out the dirt he’d somehow tasted. “C.mon over here, Imala. I won’t let him hurt you. Don’t be afraid.”
She stood still next to Great Hawk’s horse. “I have to go with him, C.J.”
“He claimed me according to our ways.”
“How? By pulling on your arm?”
“No. Months ago.”
“Well, I claim you according to my way. How about that?”
“I have to go.”
You’d Take Him?
Great Hawk was on his knees, looking for his hunting knife. His ear and the area of burned-off hair was scalded red, spotted with gunpowder black.
“Do you want to go with him?” C.J. failed to keep the whine out of his question.
“I could do worse, I suppose. But no, I’d rather be Imala to the people.”
OK, It’s Done
“Then it’s settled.” C.J. pulled the hammer back on the pistol. “This ends here.”
The numbing shock of the club at the back of his skull only allowed C.J. a fleeting second of awareness. The ground was coming up fast, and Taklishim was no longer chanting.
Will C.J. suffer the loss of Imala or even his life? Leave your comment now.
Here’s more on the corn grinding devices that C.J. thought about.
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If you received this post last Monday – 8/17 – I apologize for the duplication. It was, and still is, scheduled to send on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. I may have had some pizza grease on my fingers when I hit “schedule”, and it slipped on through. Sorry.