After tussling with Colonel James, Lieutenant Weldon brings back Indian prisoners, ending the scout on a sour note.
The men followed as Weldon went off toward the supposed Indian camp. They made quiet time and chanced upon the faintest light from the smallest fire in a ravine. Weldon signaled for his men to crawl on their knees, and finally their bellies, as they inched over to the boulders that concealed their progress. The small camp had a few shelters. Two braves sat at the fire.
At Weldon’s signal the soldiers fired into camp startling, but missing the two. Weldon slid, walked and tumbled after them, shot again and caught one. Another went down, but the rest escaped into the darkness. The soldiers tore the shelters and ransacked them for whatever they thought worth taking. A mother and child huddled inside one, too panicked to move. Weldon grabbed the woman and tied her hands after passing the child to another soldier.
“Shall we take the heads of the braves to show the citizens?” asked a private.
“No, let’s get the hell out of here,” Weldon replied, taking the woman by her arm as the sun rose. “We have prisoners and injured men to worry about.”
Sending two more men to stay with the sergeant, Weldon led the rest of the party back to camp just as the men there finished their morning coffee.
The colonel and the reporter shielded their eyes from the morning glare as the men came in. A shirtless James stood sipping coffee, his suspenders hanging around his legs, but the reporter trotted up for news. Weldon brushed by him. The others were happy to give their accounts of the events so far.
“Weldon, again you defied me!” James yelled, scratching the peeling sunburn at his chest.
“Sir, the sergeant is hurt but safe for now,” Weldon said with the Indian woman in tow. “I suggest we start back as soon as possible for Camp Grant.”
“Weldon, make the preparations. I’ll see to the prisoner,” James said, spilling his coffee at Weldon’s feet and handing him the cup before pulling up his trousers.
Weldon threw the tin on the ground and went to get the men from the stream.
The Apache woman screamed when the colonel cut her clothes from her. “Take a good look at that quim, boys.” James laughed, inviting the boys to poke her with their guns. No one did. The colonel took her by the hair and dragged her to his wagon. A few of James’ cronies cheered. The newsman had stopped writing and watched with his arms folded and his face dumb as stone.
“What the hell’s going on?” cried Weldon running up. “Where’s the child?”
The writer reported, “Nits make lice as they say.”
James cursed from the wagon. Weldon and a few others jumped on back but it was too late. The girl fell out before them.
“That filthy bitch bit me!” the colonel announced, jumping down. He grabbed his pistol. The men pulled at James, but he was not to be deterred. The woman tried to run but James caught up with her and knocked the butt of his gun against her skull with a heavy thud.
No one laughed now. One man vomited as the woman lay oozing blood and brain.
“Private Darlington, get rid of this mess. Pick a friend to help you,” the colonel ordered. At that moment the poor private had no friends. He tapped Jones on the shoulder and received a savage look.
“By jinks, these Indians have soft skulls,” James said. “I hardly hit her.” He glanced at his audience and once at the lifeless woman, small and soft. “Weldon, get us out of here. I’m tired of this scouting business,” the colonel stated with a touch of emotion. “You got us into this mess, now you get us out!”
James ordered a large fire set to the wagons and anything else that could not be taken along. Darlington and Jones wrapped the woman in a blanket and rolled her over a steep hill until she hit rock. The ground was too tough to dig and there wasn’t time.
PART ONE HERE
PART TWO HERE
PART THREE HERE
PART FOUR HERE
PART FIVE HERE
PART SIX HERE
PART SEVEN HERE
PART EIGHT HERE
PART NINE HERE
PART TEN HERE
PART ELEVEN HERE
PART TWELVE HERE
PART THIRTEEN HERE
PART FOURTEEN HERE
PART FIFTEEN HERE
PART SIXTEEN HERE
PART SEVENTEEN HERE