Lieutenant Wesley Southern spewed disgust as he spoke to Esther May. “You’re pathetic, Indian Lover. It wasn’t enough for you to bust these useless, old men out of jail, but now, the whole fort knows I want the cowboy taught a lesson.”
He pulled the bottom of his tunic down, the belt up, and squared his shoulders. “So, I have to make sure he gets it. Please don’t insult my intelligence with your weak attempts at diversion. I’ve had a long day.”
He waved Wally forward. “Proceed, private.”
You Should Hear This
Esther May couldn’t control her grin and wished for a moment that Liluye understood English so the soldiers could hear, but she had to speak Apache. “Fire a warning shot, Liluye.”
If the report of the shotgun blast in the quiet evening wasn’t enough to make the soldiers jump, the branches disappearing from the end of a juniper limb next to Edwards’s head did the job.
“Lay down your rifle,” Esther May told Edwards. “Your head’s the next target.”
Edwards dropped the Sharps and raised his hands.
The Rest Of You
“All of you drop your guns and step away from them,” Esther May said, “and I’ll try to keep you alive.”
The men wasted no time obeying.
She spoke in Apache. “Bent Hands and Gray Head, get their guns.”
C.J. said, “Now, fancy officer. How about our tussle?” He pulled on a pair of thin gloves.
Esther May held up her hand. “I don’t want to interfere with your pleasure, C.J., but could you postpone it?”
“Why? I’m ready now.”
Esther May didn’t answer. To the soldiers, she said, “Take off your clothes.”
To a man, the victims gaped at her.
C.J. said, “Esther May, what are you doing?”
“I don’t want ’em to be able to say white people harmed them,” she said. “But these guys have mistreated my friends—even shot one of ’em. Being released from a jail they shouldn’t have been in doesn’t count as justice. Now, it’s coming.”
She pulled her pistol and waved the barrel over the men. “Undress.”
As the cavalrymen stripped, Singer rejoined his companions. “What’s Riding Woman doing to the soldiers?” His question was met with shrugs as the old Indians kept their attention on the whites. Gray Head said, “We’ve got their guns; I guess she wants their pants too.”
Down To Dirty Whiteys
The men from Fort McDowell stood in their longjohns and boots.
“Why’d you stop?” Esther May asked. “Strip down to your birthday suits. Air ’em out.”
Ain’t Gonna Do It
She was met with protests and refusals, even from C.J., until she told Liluye, “Another warning shot, please.”
This time, the blast kicked up gravel that fell among the group.
When the men were each in their pale, white altogether and on their knees, Esther May had their hands tied behind them and spoke to the Indians.
Clean ‘Em Up
“The soldiers need a haircut. Do not take the skin, but cut their hair down to it.”
As Bent Hands approached with his knife in hand, Wally’s eyes grew pie tin large. He managed a feeble, “They’re gonna scalp us.”
Lieutenant Wesley Southern, West Point graduate, Class of ’85, lost control of his bladder.
Edwards fared best. Gray Head had a flint knife sharp enough to cut hair easily.
The bully, Wally, suffered worse when Bent Hands cut the man’s mustache off with a dulling metal blade.
Esther May couldn’t tell if he was crying or his tears were a sympathetic reaction to hair pulled from his lip. It didn’t matter. When she looked, all three soldiers were wet-eyed with plenty of nicks and scrapes on their scalps, tops of ears, and down their necks.
Naked White Men
With the men of the Sixth Cavalry bare as ghosts, Esther May had them stand. “Now, we’re going to show compassion, fellows. We’re not stealing a thing. Your clothes and horses will be at Camp O’Connell waiting for you. The only thing is, when we cut you loose, you’re gonna walk back down the wash to Fort McDowell.”
“We can’t walk that far barefooted,” Wesley said. “We’ll never make it.”
Esther May bit her lip. “I don’t see why not. Nice gravel to walk on, puddles of water if you pay attention. Why you should be there this time tomorrow if you start now.”
“Tonight?” Edwards shook his head, painting lines of blood from several cuts on his freshly bared scalp. “I can’t see in the dark. Have mercy, lady.”
“It’s dark because that’s when you started this show,” Esther May said. “I don’t care if you want to walk in the sun, but you’ll take off now because I don’t want you anywhere near my camp.”
“At least let us have our hats.” That was Wally, who looked a lot smaller without his unkempt mop. “We’ll need ’em come sunrise.”
“About those,” Esther May said. “The men have been admiring your hats. Don’t you think it would be a nice gesture if you gave them to the Indians?”
Wally continued to show his colors. “I’ll never give an [expletive] Indian anything but a quick trip to his happy hunting ground.”
Hot water dumped on her head couldn’t have heated Esther May quicker, but her voice stayed calm. “Look at it this way, gentlemen. You can give them hats or your remaining hair.”
Has Esther May turned vicious? What do you think? Remember to comment below.
Liluye seems to prefer a shotgun. Perhaps someday we’ll learn why or where she got it. Meanwhile, here’s an article of favored guns of the west.
To read the series, click here for the first post. This will be Tales Old Roy Told. Tap the down arrow in the Archive box to open the list. After Tales Old Roy Told, work upward.
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