FICTION SERIAL (part twenty): Fisticuffs

Two soldiers and two women on porch, with Afro-American woman and man to right, Fort Verde, Arizona

After a failed scout the newspaperman takes sides.

By chance the mail came in early and with it the local paper from town. Just as reveille played there was a pounding at the door. John jumped from bed fully dressed.

“Lieutenant Weldon! Look at this!” Jones whispered.

Katherine came up behind them.

“Morning, Mrs. Weldon. Land sakes, lieutenant, it came out fast, didn’t it?”

Weldon scanned the story from the newsman, running his fingers through his hair. “The ineptitude and corruption of Colonel Dixon James became apparent…The lieutenant and his men behaved admirably, even heroically…saving their fallen comrade and putting the savage Apaches on the run…the prisoners were mishandled by the colonel…the writer suggests the true heroes should be put in charge of military operations in our victimized territory…”

“It’s bully, sir, don’t you think?”

Weldon said nothing for a long while and then passed the paper to Katherine.

“I thought you’d be happy, sir. I don’t gather you are,” Jones said.

“Jones, don’t let any of the men see this,” Weldon warned, glancing across the empty land.

“But why, sir?”

“The colonel will have our heads for this.”

“WELDON!!” came a thunderous shout. Jones backed away to face the colonel as he trotted over to them. “You sneaky, lying son-of-a-bitch!” James ranted, waving a copy of the paper in Weldon’s face. “You think you’ve won? You’re a goddamned, ill-bred, half-wit. I have friends, Weldon, who will vouch for my word against this trash!”

“But sir, we were all there,” said Jones.

James clobbered him.

Weldon did not miss his chance to get the better of the colonel this time. His fist hit James’ jaw with such force that Weldon figured he’d broken his hand. The colonel didn’t fall, but staggered back, cradling the side of his face. It was light now, and the men had gathered on the parade grounds in silence not wanting to spoil the show. Katherine stood, gaping in the doorway.

The colonel lunged forward, but missed his mark and spit blood. “You son-of-a-bitch!”

Weldon grabbed him, but before he could get off another punch the colonel dragged Weldon to the ground, kicking and throwing fists. Katherine stepped between them, timidly tugging at the colonel. James turned and clutched her by the neck throwing her against the wall. Weldon dragged a lantern from atop a nearby crate and smashed it over the colonel’s head, shattering the glass and slashing the colonel’s face and neck. “You piece of shit! NEVER touch my wife, you miserable bastard! I’ll kill you!”

While James pulled shards of glass from his bloody face, John pulled a knife from his belt and went for the colonel’s throat, but the colonel flipped him with a horrible grunt.

“Men, take this rascal to the guardhouse!”

No one stepped forward.

“Sentiment may cause some of you to side with this little family here. But I can assure you that army regulations do not. This man has tried to kill a superior,” James said with blood dripping down his chin, “and it’s my right to put down insurrection—mutiny. The crime is punishable by death, boys. So I suggest that someone step forward to bring this outsider, this scoundrel, to the guardhouse.”

Five men stepped up, and as James stumbled to his feet they all took out their revolvers and aimed them at the colonel.

“You must be bloody joking, fellows. I’m not the enemy,” James chuckled uncomfortably. “Recognize your folly.”

Jones stepped forward. “We know you stand to make a pretty penny when the Indian rations arrive. We know that you’ve cheated us, and General Stoneman don’t much like you neither. But we’ll stay shut up if you let Lieutenant Weldon be.”
John tried to sit up, but James pushed him down.

The colonel took out a rag and wiped his face. He picked one last shard from his forehead. “That sounds like a deal I can live with, Jones, you snake-in-the-grass. I underestimated you. You caught me with my trousers down, but it won’t happen again.”

***Watch for the fully re-edited version of my novel THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD to be released soon! In the meantime enjoy some tasty bits:

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

PART EIGHTEEN HERE

**Image courtesy Library of Congress

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