End Of The Song
Chanting had stopped coming from Taklishim’s wickiup—the only sound was moaning.
The medicine man got what he deserved for sneaking up behind C.J. and clubbing him. Just when the cowboy was besting the Apache warrior that came to claim Imala, too.
C.J. untied the old man’s scrawny, brown mare. The horse had a home-made hackamore of braided cloth strips with reins of rope. There was no saddle, but a smelly blanket, tied to her back with a girth rope, served as padding.
The critter and her gear weren’t much, but if she could haul the Indian uphill, she could carry C.J. back downhill to Cibecue.
No Horse – No Woman
He would get his own horse—Skewy—back, and more.
He had believed he couldn’t live without Imala. Now, he wasn’t so sure. The more he thought about it, what he felt was a depth of soul merging was probably only a casual fling to the Apache maiden.
What if she had those all the time? Somewhere along the line Itza-chu, Great Hawk, got the idea Imala was his. Had she shared her blanket with him too?
Too Hurt To Sing A Death Chant
C.J. cast a glance toward the wickiup where the groaning was coming from.
The old man would probably die since he couldn’t walk with a bullet-shattered knee, and if C.J. stole his horse.
C.J. hopped up on the brown mare and spurred her. If he hurried, he might overtake Imala and Great Hawk.
He gouged the mare three more times, each kick harder than before. The bony animal bounced into a jolting trot for several paces then resumed walking.
C.J. made use of all the profanity he’d learned and created some new, vulgar phrases as he gave in to the horse’s set pace.
The sun was low when C.J. spotted what must be Cibecue—a loose cluster of wickiups scattered haphazardly along a small stream.
The Indian’s mare headed for an isolated lodge that sat higher, back up the bank from the creek. C.J. let her lead since she’d unerringly picked the trail down off the mountain.
At the hut, C.J. slid off the horse and stooped through the doorway. Strange and unpleasant odors hung in the hot air inside.
A small, central fire burned, and on the other side of it, a startled, gray-haired woman stood from a metate. She held a mano like she could throw it and side-stepped along the wall.
She was nearing C.J., so he moved in the opposite direction and let her reach the entrance.
Running For Imala?
C.J. followed her outside. She ran down the bank toward the settlement with a light, quick step that seemed impossible for a woman her age.
Back inside, C.J. found corn tortillas and water from a gourd, much like the Navajos used in Santa Fe. He crammed food in his mouth and washed it down as fast as he could while searching for weapons.
A Medicine Man’s Hut
He found none, but there were wooden pipes and jars of colored powder beside a dirty blanket, probably used as a bed. This had to be Taklishim’s home.
He was thinking of burning the whole thing down when he heard hoof steps. Not wanting to be caught in here like the woman was, he went outside to see Imala riding up on Skewy.
Found His Possessions
She jumped off and spread her arms, palms up in the universal question sign. “What are you doing here? You’re ruining the whole thing.”
C.J. felt heat rise up his neck. “Where’s that boyfriend of yours?”
“Down there with the People, but he’s not my boyfriend.”
C.J. hit Imala on the side of her face, knocking her down. He stepped past her and mounted Skewy. “This is my horse, and you’re a thief. You can hang for that.”
He tapped his spurs to the mare’s flanks and headed the way the old woman ran.
Along the creek, among cottonwood trees, a group of Apaches milled around a fire. C.J. scanned the faces and spotted Great Hawk.
The warrior recognized his enemy, pulled a knife, and with a yell, ran forward.
C.J. shot him through the heart.
Has C.J. sealed his fate? Leave your thoughts now.
Fourteen years after C.J. raised mischief at Cibecue, a battle took place between the Apaches and soldiers from Fort Apache. It’s documented in this article.
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