Invitation To The Commander
Esther May stepped back from the Major’s desk and waved her hand, palm up, at the open door. “Come with me and see your savage prisoners,” she said. She was swaying the major; she could see it in the twitch of a grin he tried to hide under his mustache and the crinkles around his eyes.
C.J., on the other hand, wasn’t helping.
“Esther May, that’s enough. You can’t barge into the commander’s office and tell him how to run his fort,” he said. “Let’s go.”
“This isn’t the usual problem I run into,” Major Winslow said, “where a white woman advocates for Apache prisoners. Tell me more.”
“She doesn’t mean anything, sir,” C.J. said. “She’s just soft-hearted, that’s all.” He tried to take Esther May’s elbow.
Thanks, But No Thanks
She shook him away without taking her eyes off Winslow. “I can speak for myself, C.J.” She leaned forward, knuckles on his desk. “The fact is, you have three old men locked up in a stifling adobe container—you can’t call it a building—with no water, no food, and no medical attention to their wounds.”
“Ah, yes. You said one has been shot.”
“Are you an officer and gentleman enough to come see them and hear what they say happened?”
“C’mon, Esther May,” C.J. said. “Let’s leave!”
“Yes,” Winslow agreed, grabbing his forage cap. “Let’s see what has stirred our young heroine’s choler.” He rounded the desk and offered Esther May the doorway with a slight bow and extended hand.
Jails And Guards
The room-sized stockade squatted isolated from other buildings. Hard, rock-filled dirt lay bare around the low structure, highlighting the adobe’s plight as a carbuncle among buildings. The private on guard duty sat asleep on the shady side, his back against the wall, his rifle in the dirt.
And An Observer
“Ooh, he’s gonna be in trouble.”
Esther May jerked around at the small voice. “Sally! You weren’t supposed to follow us. Didn’t your daddy tell you to stay away from here?”
Sally pointed at Major Winslow. “Daddy says the major will always take care of me,” she raised and jutted her chin. “So I came.”
Winslow jerked his gaze between Sally and the horrifically awake private scrambling to his feet, trying to match a salute to his skewed cap brim.
The unhealthy shade of red in Major Winslow’s face grew darker. “Why weren’t you standing guard, private?”
“Uh, I dunno, sir.”
“Where’s the Sergeant of the Guard?”
“Find him and get him here right now!”
The private sprang ahead several steps before remembering his rifle. He turned to retrieve the firearm.
The private scurried across the parade ground to the enlisted men’s quarters, reappearing within seconds, trailing a man buttoning his tunic with three-stripes on the arm.
Both men ran up to Major Winslow, came to attention, and saluted.
Winslow puckered his lips while letting them hold their salutes. In a surprisingly soft voice, he asked, “Am I disturbing you, sergeant?”
“Do you see an Army issue Spencer rifle in the dirt, sergeant?”
Esther May felt Sally grip her hand. The youngster trembled, her mouth clamped shut while trying to grin. This was a Sally moment to cherish.
“Yes, sir.” The sergeant’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. Esther May hoped he didn’t have to swallow his chaw.
Winslow returned the salute allowing the men to drop theirs.
Chain Of Command
“Who’s the Officer of the Day, sergeant?”
“I think it’s Lieutenant Southern, sir.”
“Lieutenant Kicker,” Sally whispered out the side of her mouth.
Esther May squeezed her hand to keep her quiet.
“You don’t know for sure?”
“I can find out, sir.”
“You do that, and get him here now!”
“Yessir!” The sergeant galloped away.
“Now, then, private, unlock the door. I want to see the prisoners.”
“Um, I don’t have a key, sir.”
The veins on Winslow’s face became noticeable once more, his volume increasing accordingly. “Why not?”
“Sergeant Donal—the Sergeant of the Guard, keeps them, sir.”
“Get the key!”
The private sprinted away for the second time. His sweat rings somewhat more extensive.
Winslow surprised Esther May when he winked at Sally and said, “I’ve got to make more impromptu walks around the fort.”
“You talk our talk,” the man stood with one companion while a third sat and held his arm to his side, “but that is an Apache knife in your belt.”
“It is,” Esther May said, “and I have two more—taken, not given.”
“You would have to kill to take them.”
“I am Riding Woman.”
“We don’t know that name.”
“I hope you learn it. Now, tell the story, and I’ll speak your words to the white commander.”
What will the Apaches say? Don’t forget to leave your comments.
Think Esther May has an easy job as translator? Catch this video of Apache words with their spelling.
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