Esther May’s courage fled. Chews Loud was no taller, but she was no match for his strength.
He jerked her around, making her dance for footing. His right hand brandished the knife used to stab Snake Bite. He swung the blade as if reenacting the killing. His left hand entwined Esther May’s hair and shook her head in emphasis to his bragging.
“You will tell how I stole you. My first wife will be honored to learn Riding Woman is my second wife. She may let you keep your name to show that I have your power.”
He pushed and shoved her around with ease while guiding her through the trees toward the river.
Esther May thought she had seen a shadowy figure moving near them. Was the lieutenant trying a rescue? Was he worried that Esther May would be cut or stabbed before he could overcome Chews Loud?
Esther May had to give him a chance—even if it cost her a patch of hair. She set her feet, lunged forward, and yelled, “Charles!”
Her hoped-for escape turned into humiliation when Chews Loud yanked her head back, and she fell on her fanny.
The Apache pulled Esther May’s hair backward and down until she faced straight up, exposing the front of her throat. His blade nicked her below the chin. She smelled the effects of a bad tooth on his rancid breath when he whispered in her ear.
“I’ll pack mud in your mouth, and you won’t spit it out until I say—”
His skull sounded like a melon cracking as Abuela connected with a sycamore branch.
Chews Loud collapsed.
Esther May grabbed his knife and pushed him away. She rubbed her sore scalp and widened her eyes in the darkness. “Abuela? I thought you were Charles.”
Esther May got to her feet. “We need to get help for Snake Bite. This idiot,” Esther May kicked the unconscious man, “stabbed him.”
“Snake Bite is dead,” Abuela said. “Now we kill this one if I haven’t already done it.”
“We can’t just kill him, Abuela.”
“They must know what to expect if they challenge Riding Woman.”
Esther May checked to make sure Chews Loud was still breathing. She rubbed her scalp and kicked him again.
What’s worse?” she asked the old Apache woman. “To die trying or fail and be laughed at?”
“You know which is worse.”
“And,” Esther May continued, “Chews Loud is Tsúyé’s son, so I imagine any embarrassment would be painful.”
The Chief’s Son On Display
The next morning on her way to the laundry pots, Tesahay found Chews Loud tied to a tree. His hair had been cut off except for the foremost part that hung down over his brow. A cut on his head was raised to an impressive height by a swollen bump.
Esther May watched from behind the hillside chaparral as Tesahay spun and ran back to the village for help.
Four men, including the chief and a medicine man, trotted from the village to the semiconscious Chews Loud.
From her vantage point, Esther May saw Tsúyé’ grow more agitated. Further inspection of his son revealed the soles of Chews Loud’s moccasins were cut out, the back of his loincloth was cut away, and his mouth full of mud.
“Well, Lieutenant Charles Bodkin,” Esther May whispered to herself, “while you’re off hunting hostiles, I hope I haven’t turned friendlies into enemies.”
What do you think? Has Esther May started open warfare? Don’t forget to leave your comment below.
Chews Loud murdered Snake Bite and may face tribal consequences. Geronimo tells a little about tribal law and other customs in this short article.
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