William wasn’t used to such high-quality drink, and it affected him strangely. He pulled out his Bowie knife—passed down from his Uncle Simon’s old things—and started for the mountains where a band of Apache camped.
“Bill, what are you playing at?” Fahy asked.
“Apache tizwin. I heard it’s good drink. I’m gonna try it.”
“How? No, I can’t let you go up to the Indians in the middle of the night.” Fahy wanted no trouble with the peacefuls on his watch. “Weldon, how about a race—you versus Buck here. Winner gets bragging rights at home and what’s left of the spirits.”
Buck vomited, but was shoved along by the drunken men around him to take the challenge. They led him and William to the horses, and Fahy had the two fleetest ones saddled. The moon lit the flat grounds for a quarter of a mile. Someone ran to alert the sentries. Spectators wondered as the race began how the two would stay afloat as they mounted the horses drunkenly. The rushing air woke them both to the spirit of competition and they flew over the land. One was no better than the other, but at the specified end point William raced on to the Indian drink in the hills.
Only Buck was close enough to get William and turn him, but he had not been given orders to do so and he sat on an army horse. He slowed just long enough to hear Fahy yelling for him to follow William and pushed his horse forward.
William slipped out of sight, hidden by the dark and rugged terrain. Buck, getting sick every so often and lost, tried to follow what seemed to be a trail, but hoped his horse knew better. Something stirred to Buck’s left and barreled towards him on the narrow path. Buck clutched the small gun he had with one hand and the reins of his excited horse with the other. William’s riderless horse dashed past them back toward home. Buck pushed forward.
A small firelight and William’s familiar silhouette, drinking tizwin with a few of the older Apache friendlies around a bed of embers, appeared in a clearing just ahead. They aimed their weapons at Buck, who said, “Friend. I’m a friend.”
William staggered to his feet long enough to make signs that Buck was no trouble. He tried to grab Buck’s gun, but Buck wasn’t having it. “Willy, we have to get out of here.”
“No, try some of this …” William passed the tizwin, but Buck’s body revolted at the taste of it and he vomited again.
The Indians laughed.
“Let’s go—now!” Buck said.
“You go,” William replied, shoving him. “No one asked you to come.”
Buck waved his gun.
“Buck, put that away! Are you crazy?”
“William, we have to go!”
William lunged forward trying for Buck’s gun again and they wrestled. A shot rang out. The old men joined the fray, trying to break up the two boys, and into the confusion galloped Fahy and a few of his men. Upon seeing the cadet held around the neck by an Apache, Fahy took aim at the Indian, grazing him but angering the others, who took up their weapons in the murky light of early dawn.
Fahy and his men struggled and cursed at the tight spot they were in on this narrow trail. They slipped off their animals and used them as breastworks, aiming into the ruckus. Stray bullets and arrows whizzed into the air amidst the shouting and stumbling.
Buck jumped on his horse after losing his gun in the scuffle and became an instant target. William stood like a wilting statue of wax. Now other Indians from the camp took positions behind the rocks and shot.
“Get out of the bloody way, cadet!” Fahy shouted, but Buck refused to leave his spot until he got William.
His voice was no use, so he pulled off his boot and threw it at William, getting his attention, and then pushed through the mess and took William by the hair on his head, helping him climb aboard.
Fahy shouted, “Leave the bastard who got us into this!” But he let the two get by him and down the path a short way.
Buck’s scarf at the neck shone in the breaking dawn. William felt a jolt and Buck’s body went limp, but William steadied him and took the reins. The Scotch and tizwin were still at work on William, and he soon passed out and slipped from the horse with Buck in his arms.
As the sun peeked through the tall pines on the hilltops, the Indians disappeared into the woods. The younger ones edged their way in to carry home their drunken elders as Fahy watched in disgust.
“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”