Troy D. Smith
After a bit of a lull, we have returned to Wolf Creek with guns blazing.
Volume 13 sets the stage for many stories to come, as the tenuous peace achieved with Old Mountain's Kiowa band is endangered. Fort Braxton has a temporary new commander, vainglorious Major Joab Putnam, whose determination to win personal glory will endanger the fragile peace the army has made with the Kiowas… and put the people of Wolf Creek in harm’s way.
Starring as Ford Fargo in Massacre!:
Troy D. Smith
Charley Blackfeather moved quietly along the riverbank, his feet in the water and his belly sliding in the mud. Occasional rocks made him wince, but the Cimarron had rubbed the stones smooth enough for them not to leave cuts. He slid against a fallen log and let his shadow merge with the rotting limb when two women walked along not five feet away, chattering away about their lovers. Charley smiled, just a little, then waited for them to get their buckets of water and trudge back toward the main encampment.
He flopped on the grass and wiped off as much mud as he could. He wore moccasins. Getting the water out of them took only a few seconds. The hide plastered itself to his feet when he snugged them back on. It would take some time for them to dry. By then he would have finished his scouting and have returned to the Army encampment a mile to the south.
Moving in shadows, like a shadow himself, he neared the settlement. Old Mountain had moved his people here a little over a month ago and given up their traditional hunting grounds in exchange for peace. A few fires smoldered. Some women stirred and went about their tasks in the pre-dawn hour. Nowhere did Charley see anything unexpected. After watching the sleepy routine of a camp not yet awake for another day, he crept back to the river, cut south and then fell into a ground-devouring stride that returned him to the cavalry encampment in less than ten minutes.
Major Putnam had ordered him out. As such, he should report first to the commanding officer. He ought to. Instead, he turned to where Dent had bivouacked C Company. The captain sat by a low fire, poking it with a stick. He never looked up as Charley neared.
"Your moccasins are wet. They make sucking noises when you walk in the grass."
"You make sucking noises when you talk." Charley hunkered down by the fire. The feeble warm helped dry his clothing.
"I saw nothing. Old Mountain's band has settled in well. Along the bank, away from the Kiowa, a small band of Cheyenne have pitched their camp."
"I saw only peaceable people."
"Time to report to the major." Dent got to his feet, then froze. Charley stood and rested his hand on a knife sheathed at his belt.
Major Putnam came from the darkness, the commanders for A and B Companies a step behind him.
"You were ordered to report directly to me, Mr. Blackfeather."
"Got turned around in the dark."
The two captains snickered. Putnam barked at them to be silent.
"I trust your skill in the field exceeds your ability to follow orders."
Charley fingered his knife, then took his hand away. Arguing with this self-important man accomplished nothing. The sooner he gave his report, the sooner they could return to the fort or even go out on patrol and do some good. Dent had mentioned a gang of road agents sighted over Ulysses way.
"Sir, you're here now. Charley can let us all know what he found." Tom Dent nudged Blackfeather.
"I saw no sign of hostiles. The Cheyenne are near the Kiowa settlement."
"What do you mean you saw no hostiles?" Putnam spoke with a slow, cold stream of words. "Were the braves preparing for a raid?"
"I saw nothing of that. If anything, the camp was empty of braves." He related what he had overheard of the two young women talking of their lovers.
"So, they are not in camp?"
"It wouldn't seem that they are, sir," Dent said.
"That means they are out raiding."
Charley started to speak, then clamped his mouth shut. Even Dent was struck speechless.
"That's it. They are out marauding. This gives us the perfect opportunity to quell their rebellious spirits."
"That's a mighty good line, Major." Wilson Marsh came over, scratching himself. He yawned wide. "Mind if I use that as a caption for a photograph?"
"Shut your mouth, Marsh." Dent interposed himself between the photographer and commanding officer. "Sir, Charley didn't mean that the men were out raiding. They could be hunting."
"Oh, yes, they're hunting. I know it. I feel it." Major Putnam thumped his belly. "Instincts, Captain. They are away from their camp taking scalps."
"Old Mountain signed a treaty. He gave up the warpath and his hunting grounds for our protection. We're supposed to protect the Kiowa, sir."
"Captain, you are out of line. The presence of the Cheyenne shows an unholy alliance has been forged. They will murder women and children in their sleep."
"The Kiowa might have done that before. Not now," Charley said. "I know Old Mountain. He keeps his word."
"Your report has been received, Mr. Blackfeather." Major Putnam stepped away so he could address all his officers at the same time. "Gentlemen, prepare for battle. A Company will ride directly through the settlement. B Company will come up from the south and prevent escape any way except across the river." He fixed his pale eyes on Dent. "C Company will circle about, and attack the Cheyenne from the east." He glanced at Charley, then back. "Is that understood?"
The other two captains agreed. Putnam pushed Charley to one side and shoved his face within inches of Dent's. "Are my orders clear, Captain Dent?"
"No, sir, they aren't. I want your orders in writing."
"Very well, Captain."
"What about me, Major? I can't get my wagon around to keep up with Captain Dent's troopers."
"Remain here, Mr. Marsh, until the fighting is over."
"What fighting's that, Major?" Charley tried to get an answer, but the officer spun about and walked away with the other two company commanders. Charley turned to Dent. "What fighting, Tom?"
"There's not going to be any. We'll wait for his written orders, then get ourselves into position. When the major sees there's no resistance, he'll back off."
Charley Blackfeather silently went to get his horse. Dent had more faith in the major than he did.
Check out the action now!