Company K left the Aravaipa River and climbed up an incline to the plain of Camp Grant.
Esther May’s pulse thumped the sides of her neck at the sight of Lieutenant Charles Bodkin riding on the supply wagon. Three mounted scouts left the column and headed for the stables while the infantry trudged behind.
The Lieutenant saw Esther May and waved. He hopped down and headed her way. He pulled up his bandana and wiped his face leaving some sweat-streaked dirt.
Who Says What First
Esther May thought he was gorgeous and found herself suddenly bashful.
Thank goodness,” Charles said. “I was really, really hoping you’d still be here.”
That was the best thing he could have said to her. If it wasn’t daylight and in front of the troops, she may have grabbed him in a hug.
“Well, I thought I’d rest the horses for a while yet if that’s all right with you.”
Charles Bodkin’s thick mustache couldn’t begin to hide his wide grin. His eyes crinkled around the edges, and he said, “I see the tent is still up.”
Bashful No Longer
“Yes, and we don’t have to worry about posting a guard tonight, either. Those Apaches I was worried about are—wait a minute.”
Esther May chewed her lower lip and glanced toward the sycamore tree. “One may still be lying down there.”
“I’ll find out.” Lieutenant Bodkin drew his service revolver and took a step before Esther May grabbed his arm.
“It’s not like that, Charles. He’s dead.”
Tell It All
Esther May had to tell the whole story of the fight with Snake Bite and Chews Loud.
“It was my fault, Charles. I thought—hoped—you’d return, so I waited too long. I wasn’t paying attention, and I let them get too close. Abuela saved me.” She shook her head. “I told your Private Franks about Snake Bite, and he said he’d pass along the information.”
Let’s Find Out
Lieutenant Bodkin took Esther May’s elbow and led her to the orderly room and Sergeant Laurey.
“Sergeant, there’s a dead man down by the sycamore tree.”
Laurey didn’t bother with a salute. “It’s been taken care of, sir. Everything’s been cleaned up, the grounds patrolled, and no threats are suspected on the tent. If you wish to keep it set up.”
Esther May felt heat on her cheeks and was thankful Sergeant Laurey kept the last sentence non-committal, with no snide looks on his face. It wasn’t even a question: just a comment.
Charles gave a brief nod. “Thank you, Sergeant.”
The subject was dropped. Esther May assumed the matter wouldn’t be addressed again. A happy, warm sensation floated through her chest and took her breath away.
An Army Bivouac
The second night in the tent was everything Esther May wanted. She had bathed with soap, and Charles knew she wasn’t a high-toned, tea-serving lady. She was free to be herself, and Esther May Cooper, cowgirl, Indian fighter, herder, and soon-to-be homesteader, melted in the arms of a military man.
“Were you in the War of Northern Aggression, Charles?”
She heard his chuckle as it rumbled in his chest. “The northern states called it the War of Southern Aggression, and yes. I was there as was most of the country, it seemed.”
“And you liked it enough to stay in the Army?”
A long sigh escaped his lips as she traced a fingertip across his stubbled chin cleft. “No sane person likes war. It’s another word for waste, and I think most of it can be avoided.” Another sigh of finality. “But if one side wants to fight, there’ll be a fight.”
What About The Future
“How long do you plan on staying in the Army, Charles?”
“I don’t know. There was a lot of fast promotion to be had during the war. I was a brevet Major, and while it doesn’t sound like much, I saw how the higher officer corps lives. It wouldn’t be a bad life now that the war’s over.”
“Do you think you could be a homesteader here in Arizona? Maybe run some cattle?”
He held her tight for a long kiss. “Let’s talk about it when I get back from the next patrol.”
“What? You just got back.”
“I still need to find the hostiles.”
Will Esther May talk Charles into staying a little longer? Don’t forget to leave your comment.
Four years after Esther May enjoyed the evening air at Camp Grant, Tucson citizens and their allies massacred women and children in their rancheria five miles from Camp Grant. The deed has lingered in history as The Camp Grant Massacre. Here’s an article about it, and here’s a video. The video is a little long, but has fine pictures and Indian songs.
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