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    • "Ain't hardly nothin' to do but hunker down till she blows herself out." The man squatted, "Rance, is the name. Been watchin' you, doin' a fine job. You'll do Wheeler, you'll do. Try and get some rest, might end up bein' a long night. Least you won't be ridin' drag come daylight, there's a plus for ya."   He stood and made his way to his shelter to await the grub that was coming.   @Bongo
    • Meanwhile, in the main house, Reb Culverson was visiting with his old friend Fightin' Joe Hooker, who was the ramrod for the fledgling Montana Territory Stockgrowers Association, Northern District. He was there to convince ranchers to join and support the organization, hoping it would take root.   "And just what good is this here association ya got started?" Reb asked.   "It'll give us a voice in the territorial government, Reb, that's what it'll do. Once that happens we'll be able to git us some sortta range police to protect the herds, and the ranchers." Hooker responded. "Rustlin' might not be the threat it was, but you know as well as me, it can come back."   "You get anywhere with Lost Lake, 'er that cow thief on the Evergreen?" Reb asked.   "Can't say as I have, startin' with the smaller spreads an' workin' my way up to them two. I'm well aware of both spreads, and the men that own 'em."   -------------0------------   They swept down out of the trees whooping and hollering and firing off a couple of shots as they closed on both sides of a big group of cattle, just as they had planned. The  lone night hawk knew he had no chance of stopping the raiders, or of saving the cattle while he watched the chunk of the herd moving toward and then into the trees at a run.  He emptied his Colt at the raiders, the whipped out his Winchester  and levered several shots in the area where they had disappeared.   He could not know that one of his shots had found its mark. A man that had just joined took a slug in his back and toppled from his horse. Toole and the men continued to drive the cattle toward the dry riverbed as planned. It was an acceptable loss.   The sound of the shots, mere pops at the distance to the main house and the bunk house alerted everyone, and men boiled out of the bunk house guns in hand, only to watch the night man shooting after the rustlers.
    • Out on the boardwalk they stopped, "So we managed ta git a deal right off, thet's good, it is. Now all we gotta do is convince ol' Wentworth to free up the money so's ya don't have ta use yers right off." Amos commented, "Seems a fair deal but like you say, minin's not no sure thing."   "John and Mary are good folks. It's not a sure thing, but you saw the vein, went to the floor and it looks rich," Speed responded. "And it looks to be wider where they stopped digging. I can't wait to get it assayed to see what we've really got our hands on."   "And it should assay out pretty good from the looks of it, though I know so little about copper ore." Alice admitted.   "Well, you saw the copper ore, which is clearly distinguishable from the surrounding rock due to its reddish, mottled appearance. And that surrounding rock is granite which is not easy to work, but it can be done, and, if we have hit it, the veins could be as much as a mile long, a mile wide, and a mile deep!" Speed explained with a grin. "With that equipment we'll be able to not only dig deeper, we'll be able to tunnel, and we have the property to do just that."   "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" Amos exclaimed. Might oughtta buy up what ground ya can aound 'er, jest ta be certain!"   "First things first, let get on up to the bank." Speed suggested.
    • Justus was more than happy to have a chance to get out of the bulk of the wind, although he knew this was far from over.  And he knew they'd be hacking up dirt for days.     With the picket lines set, he moved over to help put up the shelters for the night, pretty quickly deciding that it was a fool's errand...they were all going to be miserable until this let up.   Squinting, he looked out toward the herd, not able to see but a few in the dust, it looked like they had been swallowed by the big, dirty cloud, and weren't even there.  In fact, he had the eerie sensation that all that was left in the world was this small circle of men and horses.   "Ya need me ta do anythin' else?" he called over the din of the wind.   @Flip
    • Doc Gilcrest walked into the bunck house to see Carson on his feet, dressed. "I may not be able to ride, but I can darn sure walk some. Tired of layin' in that bed."   "I reckon you kin do thet, sure 'nough. No body said ya had ta lie there if'n ya didn't want to. Yer stitched up plenty good. Jest leave thet hog leg where she's hangin' fer now, don't need the weight in thet wound."   "So anybody come sniffin' around?" He asked.   "Not so's you'd notice. There's four men down there keepin' watch, but it don't look like Lost Lake's lost any sleep over their man, that is if'n they even know he's gone." Gilcrest offered.   "He seen that brand an' went ta shootin'!" Carson reflected. "I jest shot straighter. Had no choice in the matter. Fool could'a rode on, but, well, that just ain't what happened. Hell of a mess."   "Oh I dunno. So far nobodies come huntin', the boss ain't upset over it, neither's Granger, so you got nothin' ta worry on 'cept gettin' better."   "I should'a been more careful, but maybe there just wasn't no way to be more careful. Up on the side of that mountain is the purdiest view a man could look at. You can see fer miles, see right where they got them cows of theirs. Now that ain't gonna be no easy matter to get to any of 'em. They're deep on Lost Lake range. Gonna be hard to get at, an' worse to get out. We'll lose some men tryin' this one, that's for sure!'   Gilcrest rubbed his chin. It wasn't like Carson to go on about the prospects of a job.

The Ghastly Smile of the Dead


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Mature Content: Yes. Not nice.

With: Jacob Lutz, Captain Barlow, Ke-Ni-Tay, MacIntosh
Location: Somewhere between Kalispell and Helena
When: Month  29th August, 1876
Time of Day: 3.20pm

 

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Peloponnese was a good girl and always did what was asked of her.  The piebald mare was never 'marish', even when she was in season, always obedient, and she had gotten him out of trouble too many times to count by her amazing equine bravery for, by his own admission, she was far more courageous than her rider. But this was the second time she had shied today. 

 

"Where you going?! No!" The splodgy black and white four-year old had pulled short on the trail, backed up, nearly done a pirouette like a performing gee gee in a circus, or those fancy white dancing horses he'd read about in Vienna, and was now happily trotting off at a 90 degree angle across the prairie with her rider turning in the saddle trying to discern what on earth had spooked his normally steady mount. 

 

"Hey, you don't fool me!" Jacob yelped, and turned her back onto the trail using spur, rein, and slapped croup. He was suddenly worried, though: Peloponnese wasn't just braver than him, he had come to realise, she was also a good deal wiser, and she wouldn't have baulked for nothing. Human will overcame horse-sense, and he pushed her forward, looking ahead: he could see nothing untoward, but he unfastened his rifle holster and drew out the Henry anyway. Peloponnese knew what that meant and he had to find a spare hand from somewhere to rub her withers and shush her whinnying. "I know, I know" he gently cooed as they moved forward, at a walking pace now.

 

Give the animal her due, she had detected the scent a good couple of miles and a long walk away and it was a good long time before he saw it: some sort of low flat wagon with an awful lot of crows and turkey vultures perched on top. Every now and again one or two would jump down to the ground, and there would be a flurry of feather and a couple of the birds would fly up and then settle back down to try and spot a vacant spot at the feast. Jacob felt a little dizzy all of a sudden and was aware of the blood hissing in his ears. "Steady, now, steady" he called softly to Peloponnese, but it was himself he was trying to calm not her.

 

He looked around. Nothing. No sound. Nowhere for anyone to hide. No. There was always somewhere for Indians to hide. He would have to trust to his and his horse's senses. He dismounted and led his horse forward, rifle held in his other hand. The crows scattered, but the turkey vultures were made of sturdier stuff and had to be actually shoed away from... from what? It took him a good few seconds to work out exactly what he was looking at. 

 

They had been men, once. Long, white and skinny looking these corpses were: their faces and hands and arms sunburned though and bodies and faces already starting to swell in the heat. There were black patches of beard and body hair which intertwined with dark black-red areas of wounds: some almost random looking stab and gunshot holes others more deliberate, all of them attracting great shiny flies with their stench. Both men, soldiers by the look of the discarded pieces of clothing strewn about, had been carefully mutilated. He could only hope that this had been done after death. The breeze wafted a sickly sweet stench his way and it was then that he was violently sick.

 

He didn't want to look again, he wanted to run. He wanted to get on his horse and ride and forget he had ever come across the scene. But he couldn't: he looked again, deliberately noting what he saw in his mind. Each man carried a long vertical slash to his thigh -bone deep, the femurs peeping white in the afternoon sun. The genitals were missing, which made him wince on the dead men's behalf, an ugly blood-black patch remained: mute testimony to their emasculation in the afterlife. And the throats were sliced ear to ear, the starkly scalped heads lolling back producing enormous ghastly and grotesque smiles of death. The missing eyes of the men... he didn't know if that was a deliberate act or merely the handywork of the turkey vultures, but what he saw in the mouths of the dead men, and which made him vomit once more, was definitely the work of savage human hands.

 

He staggered to his horse's side and held on to her, steadying himself, breathing. He took a swig of water from his canteen, and eventually felt strong enough to clamber back into the saddle.  He took one last look at the scene. It was almost familiar to him now. The carrion crows and vultures looked at him impatiently: he knew he would have to describe all of this to someone at the fort. The worst part... he couldn't go there straight away.

 

Because of what had happened this morning, because of the person who had made Peloponnese shy as they had set out on this misbegotten trip, he was going to have to go on further down the trail first... just to be sure.

 

 

[To Be Continued]

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Any other day he would have turned back there and then, ridden pell-mell for Kalispell or, perhaps, the Fort and think himself damn lucky not to be lying stretched out of the ground, too, stripped and cut to ribbons: no longer a man, just a suppurating, stinking feast for the flies and the turkey vultures.

 

But he couldn't could he? Damn Arabella! Damn her to Hell!

 

Remounted, he pushed on, wondering to himself how far he would push it. He went a good long way along the trail, waiting any minute for a feathered head to raise itself above the long grass or a shot to sing out and corkscrew through his head before he even heard it coming. But it was eerily quiet. Bees buzzed, birds called in the air or sang from the far off trees. Apart from that, just the sound of his own breathing, and Peloponnese,  and the creak of leather and wood of his horse furniture.

 

Then he heard it. Peloponnese heard it too. A horse's whinny. It was a struggling noise, though, not normal. Jacob was scared, more scared than he had ever been in his life. Even asking Clara Redmond for a dance all those months ago wasn't this terrifying. But he had to go and see. There was a curve in the road and Jacob pulled out his rifle and tying up his horse, snuck through the undergrowth like he was stalking game. But when he appeared out the other side, his heart thumping like a hammer, the only living thing was a dying horse: one he didn't dare shoot to put out of its misery. There, too, was a shot up stagecoach and a number of dead people.

 

Mr Ross looked like he had gone quickly at least, wounds in his back and one that had carried off most of his jaw. He hadn't been mutilated or stripped, unlike the next pair, down on the ground was a disembowelled boy with an arrow sticking out of his chest, almost like a caricature of an Indian attack victim, and a once-attractive woman with her throat cut. Probably the same bunch as had attacked the soldiers, but this scene was different, more confused. Someone had put up a fight maybe; the mutilations were hurried, the attackers hadn't stuck around. It was more recent, too, although the flies were already making their presence felt. 

 

Jacob frowned and looked about. There would have been another driver or shotgun. Mr Ross was dead. Miss Chappel maybe? No sign of her anywhere, and, of course, the reason he had followed the trail this far out... Miss Mundee. No. They had either made a run for it and were dead among the forest and prairie grass, or they had been captured, to face a fate worse than death. He looked about for some sign of which way the war party might have gone, but he knew that only an Indian would be able to work that out. He headed back to Peloponnese with a horrible sinking feeling in his stomach, pity for the dead who were victims of this attack, pity more for those who were still, possibly, alive.

 

[TBC]

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Jacob had to ride nearly all the way back to Kalispell to deliver the news, hooking right and following the lake around until he got to Fort Somer. He was fortunate in one respect: any other gangly youth approaching might have been turned away by the bored looking guards at the open gate, but with his Western Union satchel hanging at his side and his long rifle jutting up in its holster, he was by now a familiar sight, bringing telegraph messages to the lonely posting from the nearby 'big city' of Kalispell. Today the lad seemed in an awful hurry though, and his horse was specked with foamy lather. 

 

As he rode in he shouted "Take me to the duty officer, Indian trouble!" dismounted and shoved the reins into someone's hands: this imprecation was only a formality, he was jogging off to the Colonel's office unescorted. He knew the way from his previous visits, and there was no time to waste on ceremony. 

 

He burst in to the office: Captain Barlow was there: a grumpy veteran officer, somewhat surly at the best of times, but a man who knew what he was about. That final factor was worth more than friendliness and pleasant manners in the world right now.

 

"Captain Barlow, Sir!" Jacob panted "Indian trouble on the road to Helena: two of your fellers dead by a wagon and the stagecoach hit a little further on. Three dead, I think at least two white women captivated." 

 

@Wayfarer @Flip

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Benjamin was looking over supply forms, the Army like most big organizations loved paperwork, he did not. But his boredom was about to be brought to a startling end. The door burst open and there was that...he didn't remember the young man's name but he worked to the telegraph.

 

"Captain Barlow, Sir!" Jacob panted "Indian trouble on the road to Helena: two of your fellers dead by a wagon and the stagecoach hit a little further on. Three dead, I think at least two white women captivated." 

 

The veteran officer stood up from behind the desk cluttered with folders and papers, letting go of the sheet he had been perusing.

 

"Alright...slow down now.  I'm gonna ask some questions, just calm down and answer them as best you can, son," he stated as calm as he could be, needed to set an example.

 

"First off, you saw all of this or you were told about it?"  Too often people passed on rumors and those often turned out to be exaggerated or even false.

 

"Oh, do you need a drink to wet your whistle?"  Nervous folks could have dry mouths, his own got that way just before a battle.

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"Alright...slow down now.  I'm gonna ask some questions, just calm down and answer them as best you can, son," he stated as calm as he could be, needed to set an example.

 

Jacob had naturally expected the officer in charge to grab his gun and his horse and summon the soldiers and ride out of there within seconds, he really wasn't prepared for a whole bunch of dumb questions. The man could ask them on the way. "No, we need to go now! We..." he sighed and his shoulders drooped, he knew it would be Barlow's way or no way. "All right. But hurry please."

 

"First off, you saw all of this or you were told about it?"  Too often people passed on rumors and those often turned out to be exaggerated or even false.

 

"I've seen it with my own eyes! I never gonna stop seeing it!" he said, suddenly feeling quite sick. Before, when he had been there, it had seemed like he was looking at something in a dream. Now, talking about it to another person, it all seemed suddenly more real. Luckily for his manly pride, he hadn't got anything left in his stomach to sick up.

 

"Oh, do you need a drink to wet your whistle?"  Nervous folks could have dry mouths, his own got that way just before a battle.

 

"No!... Sir. Did you hear me, they got two white women and I dunno, I don't know who else was on the stage. Dan Ross is dead, and a lady and a boy, I... I recognised them but I don't know their names. They were all... cut up... yeah, can I have a drink, Sir?" he said, a drink, a slug of something. Just to stop himself talking about it if nothing else. 

 

@Wayfarer @Flip

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"No, we need to go now! We..." he sighed and his shoulders drooped,  "All right. But hurry please."

 

Barlow was not about to be rushed into some wild goose chase by an overexcited boy. He certainly wasn't calling him a liar but he needed more information first. Regardless it took a while to organize even a small column to head on out.

 

First thing was - so the kid was an eyewitness or passing on someone's else tale?

 

"I've seen it with my own eyes! I never gonna stop seeing it!" Jacob replied.

 

The young man certainly sounded genuine and you could almost see the horror still in the boy's eyes. Benjamin believed him. So the rest of what he would say the veteran officer would take quite seriously now that that was established. He offered the boy something to drink.

 

"No!... Sir. Did you hear me, they got two white women and I dunno, I don't know who else was on the stage. Dan Ross is dead, and a lady and a boy, I... I recognised them but I don't know their names. They were all... cut up... yeah, can I have a drink, Sir?"

 

"I'm listening to your every word, son...." but now the young man changed his mind. Fair enough, he'd just witnessed some awful stuff, anyone was entitled to be shook up.

 

Benjamin then reached into a desk drawer and brought out first a small glass then a liquor bottle. Opening it he poured as he now responded to the kid.

 

"Here ya go. I won't be drinking with you as it is against regulations to drink on duty," he first pointed out then shoved the glass toward Jacob.  That rule was often violated though on the frontier, in fact there was a lot of alcoholism in the army from rankers to the officer corps. Even now scuttlebutt had it that Major Reno had been drunk during the tragic fight at Little Big Horn. Benjamin didn't personally know the man but he knew a few of the officers in the 7th, two of them who died with Custer that black day.

 

"Just gulp it down, it'll put hair on your chest," Benjamin wondered just how old this young man actually was? He looked about sixteen but he had a wedding ring on his finger.

Hell, he was certain the fort had a few troopers younger than eighteen, the so called official age for allowable recruiting but official and real were two different things.

 

While Jacob drank it down, Benjamin shouted out toward the door, "CORPORAL!"

 

His so called adjutant for the day, responded with commendable speed, coming thru the door with a   "Yes sir?"

 

"Yes, I want you to go tell Sgt. Braumann to assemble A Troop for a ride out in an hour. Tell him we will need pack mules as I do not know how long we will be out there. You got that, corporal?"

 

"Of course, sir, right away," the man saluted and hurried on out, but remembering to close the door again.

 

"Alright now, one thing I don't get so far. You are sayin' the Indians got two white women? So how do you know that? Did you see them take the women? Or are you guessing they grabbed these white women?"

 

Captives were going to be a huge complication but also they couldn't do anything anymore for the unfortunate dead but they just might be able to pull off a rescue. Unlikely but they had to try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MacIntosh and Ke-Ni-Tay sat outside the the small cabin they called home. It was going to be another warm one, that was for sure. But it was July, and what they had been told about Montana weather this was normal. Warm rather than hot was always best, though Ke-Ni-Tay might argue that, the Mimbreño was used to temperatures in the triple digits in West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, so to him, it was almost cold at temps the high seventies to the high eighties, mostly the high eighties.

 

There was a sudden flurry of activity. A man rode in and then rushed into Barlow's office which signaled something bad had happened. Something that would call out any where from a patrol to a troop, with scouts, that was almost a given. Yet the two men sat watching and waiting. Everything they might take was leaned against the wall next to the door. It would be good to get out, no matter the reason.

@Wayfarer@Javia?

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Jacob gulped the stuff down. Jesus! Put hairs on his chest? More likely to burn 'em off! Still he was grateful for it. It helped. "Thank you, sir." he said, genuinely. He was suddenly embarrassed by the empty glass: did he put it back down on the officer's desk, keep holding it, offer to wash it up?!

 

Stupid, that you could feel socially embarrassed when the stark dead were lying out there somewhere, and two women were facing the most terrible ordeal imaginable. He thought of Clara - how she had nearly been killed by the redskins; imagining if it were her who had been snatched. He suddenly longed to hold her. 

 

The Captain snapped him out of it. 


"Alright now, one thing I don't get so far. You are sayin' the Indians got two white women? So how do you know that? Did you see them take the women? Or are you guessing they grabbed these white women?"

 

Jacob knew that if he wasn't careful, this was going to sound stupid and potentially even make the officer call off the patrol. On the other hand, he was no use at lying (Clara was a lucky girl in that respect!).

 

"Well, I figured miss Chappel would have been driving, she usually takes the stage out to Helena of a Tuesday. I knew Miss Mundee was on board because a friend told me, she was worried about it, just a hunch, I guess, a funny feeling about it." he shrugged. He was careful not use the word 'Premonition' or the name 'Arabella Mudd'. "That's why I carried on, after I found the soldiers. Silly really, I just... well, I guess it's just as well I did." he said, hoping the Captain didn't think he was crazy.

 

@Wayfarer @Flip

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"Well, I figured Miss Chappel would have been driving, she usually takes the stage out to Helena of a Tuesday. I knew Miss Mundee was on board because a friend told me, she was worried about it, just a hunch, I guess, a funny feeling about it." he shrugged. 

 

"Alright but you never saw any captive women? Although, yes the driver part makes sense. I know the stage company has a woman driver," Barlow remarked, deep in thought even as he listened.

 

 "That's why I carried on, after I found the soldiers. Silly really, I just... well, I guess it's just as well I did."

 

"No, it wasn't silly, son. More like diligent. And yes, it was good that you did," the officer suddenly got to his feet, he had a few things he would need before he led a detachment on out, including informing the colonel. One couldn't simply wander off base willy nilly.

 

"Alright, I believe you. We are going to ride on out there and do what we can to find these Indians and if possible rescue whatever captives they might still have with them. I can't promise anything though," he announced firmly.

 

"Oh and I will ask you not to spread news of this around town, not just yet. I don't want people panicking...especially after this Custer business. All reports we've received is the Indians who did that have gone north and dispersed with more troops pursuing them. I'm guessing this is a different tribe or at least war party - probably they heard about Little Big Horn and want to jump in on the glory." 

 

Regardless, after he rode on out he fully expected the colonel would begin taking active defensive measures to keep Kalispell safe. Possibly even evacuate local ranches and farms though he doubted it would come to that. People still had their lives to lead.

 

 

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ooc:  OK, moving on here then....

 

The troopers were saddling their mounts, the veteran sergeant checking the mens' rifles that they were duty ready, and a few 'lucky' troopers assigned to the mules were doing last minute adjustments on the creatures' loads. It wouldn't be long now before the detachment would be riding out.

 

As for Benjamin, he was buckling on his regulation army holster and Colt SA Army revolver, as he emerged out of the Headquarters Building. The colonel had approved of him leading out the search party, the boy seemed to be a reliable source. He also allowed Barlow's request to have Lt. Greene accompany the mission. Just in case they had to split the detachment for any of what could be myriad reasons, Benjamin wanted a second officer who could take charge of one of the detachments. Besides, he needed the experience, not that silly weather balloon nonsense some bigwig back in Washington had come up with.

 

Now last but certainly not least, he approached the fort's two scouts who had been quietly watching the expedition prepare. He knew they didn't need any more time to get ready than to saddle their horses, they traveled light. Upon getting with conversation range, Barlow nodded acknowledgement to the pair.

 

"Gentlemen, as you probably already guessed, we got a problem and we are gonna have need of your services. Long story short, a telegraph rider has provided us a first hand account of two Indian attacks on the road from town to Helena," Barlow was not wasting time on niceties like the weather or whatever.

 

"Appears the stagecoach was hit and there were some dead plus a very strong possibility two women were taken off by the attackers. Then too there was one of our army supply wagons waylaid with two dead soldiers. "

 

"I intend on heading out there to investigate these reports and if at all possible, run down the hostiles and engage. If there are captives, try to rescue them but I know the odds of a good outcome on that might be .........."  he ended his little briefing right there, MacIntosh and Ki-Ne-Tay would know what he meant by that last part.

@Flip @Javia

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"Sort of figured that one when the boy rode in." MacIntosh let out a breath. Both their horse were standing at the hitch rail as the men had planned a scouting trip to hunt for sign. Now there was no need of that. "We'll grab our gear and be with you damn quick."

 

Ke-Ni-Tay was already on his feet and in the door of their quarters to gather up the rifles and whatnot that they would be taking. The stoic Apache said nothing just went about what needed doing. With in moment both men were mounted and heading to where the column was formed.

image.jpeg.a3faf7ec7b8d7552daaff994d15c5bb4.jpeg

@Wayfarer

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Greene had been pretty nonplussed when he had been summoned to accompany the column riding out to investigate the reports of an Indian attack on the stage and one of their supply wagons. Oh, he needed more experience in the field, he knew that: any man in the troop who had been in a single battle had been in more battles than he had. But if there was a break in the data he sent in regularly to the Bureau in Washington then the whole month he'd been doing this balloon business might be all a waste of time. 

 

He changed his mind after he'd spoken to the Western Union boy, Lutz. He knew him pretty well from his previous role as the Fort's Adjutant, as he had logged the telegrams coming in and made sure they reached their intended recipients. Lutz had told him that Caroline was one of the two captured white women. That changed things. All of a sudden, things weren't moving fast enough: the men, the horses, the mules: they were all dragging their feet for some reason. 

 

"Come on Mullins, get a move on will you?" he snapped at a trooper.

 

Once the young officer had rushed off to admonish another tardy trooper, 'Mullins' turned to the Fort's farrier, Bean. "What's eatin' the Lootie?" he asked dumbly. "He's coming down with Brittles Disease" replied Bean, spitting out a wad of chewing tobacco in disgust.

 

Greene approached the Captain and snapped a regulation salute. "Men are ready to move out, Sir." 

 

@Wayfarer @Flip

 

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It might have seemed a rather slow process to some but Barlow wasn't going to rush off and neglect proper supplies (thus the mules) or seeing to it the men were also ready. Finally with all inspected and in good order, Barlow took the lead of the small column and the cavalry moved on out, down the long winding road which would eventually lead to Helena. They weren't going there though, they were going to track down and hopefully find these Indians and then even more hopefully their white captives. He wasn't holding his breath on the last item though.

 

As they set a moderate pace, there would be no hard galloping as it would needlessly blow the horses and in the end slow any true progress or leave them blown when they did require a hard burst of speed out of them. Many an officer pushed his troopers and their mounts too furiously and regretted it.

 

Up front with Barlow was the young lieutenant and also both scouts. After a bit, Benjamin spoke up.

 

"Alright, Lieutenant, since you haven't been on one of these before, you listen to me and listen good. We might have to split the column up down the line. Or I might end up taking a bullet in a skirmish. Either way, it will put you in a position of commanding a detachment or the whole unit. Now, we have us the benefit of these two civilian scouts. Civilians as in you can't simply order them around like they were lowly privates."

 

"So, they are here to be our eyes and ears. And when they do find something they report back. I want you to heed what they tell you.  They're experienced at this. So I trust what they see and what they say. Now in the end, you make the decisions but ignore their advice, if they give it, at your peril. We want those ladies alive but we don't want another Custer disaster on our hands. You have the troopers to think of also. Don't just throw them away."

 

He'd already said a mouthful so he stopped and eyed the young officer, "You got that, lieutenant?"

 

@Flip @Javia

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Greene was living in two different worlds, or rather two separate trains of thought tortured him as they rode out that day. The first was professional: would he act well on this mission? He was an officer, it wasn't enough to be merely brave; to fight like a man and to die like a man if needs be: he had to make decisions: decisions that could cost other men their lives if he made a wrong one.

 

And all of this under the gaze of a hardened, professional superior officer like Barlow! Maybe an arrow between the eyes would be a blessing. 

 

Then there were his personal feelings about Caroline. There was something about the girl: not just the beauty of her face or the sound of her tinkling melodious voice or the funny way she wrinkled her nose when she laughed. There was a certain pride, a strength to her: it wasn't complete, there was a frailty there too, flaws, more than one, but she was proud enough to overcome them: to carry on being herself no matter what anybody else thought of her. 

 

Somehow this made the idea of her being captive to a bunch of savages that could do anything to her the more unbearable. He tried not to think of what unspeakable outrages the Indians could commit upon the proud and pretty singer. 

 

The Captain gave him a talking to. Nothing he didn't already know. He wondered if the Captain really though he needed to be told these things or it was a sort of insurance policy for when Greene messed up. Barlow could at least say 'I told him not to do that..."

 

He'd already said a mouthful so he stopped and eyed the young officer, "You got that, lieutenant?"

 

"Yes, Sir!" he replied obediently. He glanced over to MacIntosh and the Indian. He tried to stop thinking about Caroline, or how he felt about her. He tried to think about Second Lieutenant Joseph W. Greene, U.S. Cavalry, and what he needed to do to fulfil his duty. 

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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MacIntosh sat there for a few moments then rode over to the young Lieutenant, "That's the problem with being a young Lieutenant, Mister Greene, always the lectures and advice. Makes a man wonder why them senior officers gnaw on 'em. Well, he wants to keep you alive. So just hold on to what you can use, and let go of the rest. Easier that way. We'll get through this."

 

Then the scout rejoined his Indian partner and the two rode out of the post together as they had so many times before on missions quite similar to this, and all of them desperate missions in one way or another.

 

"Lootentant name fit him, Green." Ke-Ni-Tay said.

 

"It surely does. Keep an eye on him." MacIntosh suggested. He knew that if there was a fight, and there probably would be one, watching anyone but ones self was nigh impossible.

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The detachment simply headed right down the road which would eventually lead to Helena to the south, southeast. The telegraph rider turned out to be accurate - unfortunately. They first came upon the stage, parked right in the middle of the road but no team of horses, those had either been stolen or driven off.

 

But then there were the bodies. A man and a boy were horribly mutilated, the man scalped and both disemboweled, eyeballs pried out, tongue sliced away,  ears and noses gone. It was stomach turning. Though not unexpected to Benjamin. He knew the Indian belief that one went to the happy hunting grounds with one's physical body  so ripping that body up made it impossible for the soul to live his new life normally so horribly mutilated.

 

There was a woman too, she was also dead but her corpse was not as horribly treated. Still, dead was dead. Their closer approach had chased off a few birds who had been pecking away at them but a vertible cloud of flies buzzed about all three unfortunates.

 

The veteran captain knew human decency required a burial for these poor souls but that might be problematic for now. They would simply lose more time while burying them that could be better employed chasing down the killers. Plus, there was no sign of the woman driver and the saloon gal. Which jived with Lutz's account that he feared they had been taken prisoners.

 

They'd been dead for hours, they already were behind in the critical timeline to catch these Indians, who always set a hard pace.  There were many signs of unshod horses about the area, Indian ponies. They headed not south but east up into the high hills and ridges, a lot of it wooded.

 

"Sergeant!  Have some men load up those bodies into the stage to get them off the ground, throw some blankets over them. We do not have time to bury them now," Barlow made his decision.

 

He looked to Greene and the two scouts,  "Well, we now know for sure young Mr. Lutz was right about this and I am quite confident he is right about the missing women. It complicates things."

 

"Step one - we need to at least get eyes on them from a distance. McIntosh, why don't you and Ke-Ni-Tay go see if you can find the bastards. Hopefully without being seen yourselves. Whatever path you take we will be trailing behind at a distance, we both know you too can set a faster pace than my company."

 

He called his unit a company but that was an exaggeration, they were definitely short of a full strength company but it's what they had and it would have to do.

 

@Flip  @Javia

 

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"Well sir, we'll do that." He pointed to the Apache looking for sign and, finding it. "Whatta ya got?" He shouted to the Indian.

 

"Take some time, track crisscross, lead off many ways, but we follow and soon tacks come together. Maybe ten-twelve warriors but no more." Ke-Na-Tay called back.

 

"Good sized party Major, but  I think we can take 'em. Problem being they just might kill the women, if they haven't already, when we hit 'em."

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@Javia@Wayfarer

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He looked to Greene and the two scouts,  "Well, we now know for sure young Mr. Lutz was right about this and I am quite confident he is right about the missing women. It complicates things."

 

Greene was vastly relieved that they were back talking about the matter in hand: it was a distraction from the stomach churning sights and smells of that charnel house of an ambush. Was he the only one who had nearly thrown up? The Captain and the two veteran scouts and the grizzled NCOs he could understand: but even the newest recruits seemed to have stronger stomachs than he did.  

 

"Step one - we need to at least get eyes on them from a distance. McIntosh, why don't you and Ke-Ni-Tay go see if you can find the bastards. Hopefully without being seen yourselves. Whatever path you take we will be trailing behind at a distance, we both know you too can set a faster pace than my company."

 

"Well sir, we'll do that." He pointed to the Apache looking for sign and, finding it. "Whatta ya got?" He shouted to the Indian.

 

The young lieutenant watched the Apache scout with interest: here was a man with the same pair of eyes, the same kind of nose, as the rest of them: looking at exactly the same scene, yet how much more did he see - and how did he put what he saw together in his differently built mind? When the red man grunted his reply, Joseph was not disappointed.

 

"Take some time, track crisscross, lead off many ways, but we follow and soon tacks come together. Maybe ten-twelve warriors but no more." Ke-Na-Tay called back.

 

Greene looked again at the scene. Nope. Even though he now knew the 'answer' it still looked like a meaningless mess of tracks and vegetation. 

 

"Good sized party Major, but  I think we can take 'em. Problem being they just might kill the women, if they haven't already, when we hit 'em."

 

"What do we normally do in a situation like that? Is it best to sneak up or try and rush 'em?" the green Lieutenant asked the more experienced men. Maybe it was a stupid question, but he wasn't out to impress these men: only action would impress them and, he imagined, then not much!

 

These three knew that they could rely on each other: The Captain, The White Scout, The Indian. All he was to them was just another soldier in the troop: one with fancy gold framed shoulder straps and a slightly better tailored uniform, but just another soldier until he proved himself more. 

 

@Wayfarer @Flip

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

ooc: Sorry, I did not catch that Javia had replied.

 

IC:  The Indian was looking down at the tracks.

 

"Take some time, track crisscross, lead off many ways, but we follow and soon tracks come together. Maybe ten-twelve warriors but no more." Ke-Na-Tay called back.

 

McIntosh said, "Good sized party Major, but  I think we can take 'em. Problem being they just might kill the women, if they haven't already, when we hit 'em."

 

"Fortunes of war. There is no guarantee on things on this," Barlow sighed.

 

"What do we normally do in a situation like that? Is it best to sneak up or try and rush 'em?" asked his second in command.

 

It was a fair question, he wished he had a firm answer but he did not. Barlow would try though.

 

"Well, pretty much what we are hoping to do now. That is first off you have to find them, not easy if they don't wanna be found. Then once you do, you need to judge the odds, take into account the local terrain, see if you also can get eyes on the captives, and then come up with a quick plan."

 

"Normally you know the army likes to engage the hostiles at a good distance, take advantage of our Sharps carbine range but in this case we won't be able to do that. We are going to have to rush 'em so we can get to the women. That make sense?"

 

"Alright, McIntosh, go do your job and be careful. If you get into trouble remember we will be trailing behind you, head back that way."

 

 

 

 

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Given their orders, MacIntosh and Ke-Ni-Tay started out at a lope, they would ride a ways out then start the search for the actual trail the warriors, along with their captives, had taken. It would not be a great distance, or so they thought. Neither had much experience with the Arapaho, they were far more familiar with the Sioux, Cheyenne and Blackfoot.

 

The troop was dropping father and farther behind the pair, who had slowed, stopped, doubled back, then found the trail. They were good, and finding the trail had not been as easy as they had thought with the constant misdirection. But, as they followed what appeared to be the trail of the men and their captives they were getting deeper into the trees, aspens, thick stands leading to some others, lodge pole pine, fir, and Ponderosa Pine, Ke-Ni-Tay raised his hand. They had been tricked yet again. They backtracked until the Apache found the trail once more, which doubled back to the original route, just farther along.

 

It was clear that a game of cat and mouse was in play, not that the Arapaho knew there were men following, more of a just in case, that was when they came down a gentle slope to the pass between two steep ridges, the tracks were clear.

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@Wayfarer@Javia

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"Well, pretty much what we are hoping to do now. That is first off you have to find them, not easy if they don't wanna be found. Then once you do, you need to judge the odds, take into account the local terrain, see if you also can get eyes on the captives, and then come up with a quick plan."

 

Greene nodded to show his understanding.

 

"Normally you know the army likes to engage the hostiles at a good distance, take advantage of our Sharps carbine range but in this case we won't be able to do that. We are going to have to rush 'em so we can get to the women. That make sense?"

 

"Yes, Sir." Greene nodded again. He wished that this was the sort of thing they'd taught them at military academy: not what Napoleon had done at Austerlitz. 

 

"Alright, McIntosh, go do your job and be careful. If you get into trouble remember we will be trailing behind you, head back that way."

 

The young lieutenant watched the experienced hard-bitten scouts go: he couldn't imagine a time when he would be the experienced hard bitten one, like the scouts or the Captain. But if he lived long enough, one day he would. Maybe.

 

@Flip @Wayfarer

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As time went on, it became almost inevitable that there would be a sudden encounter what with literally four different groups riding about the rugged landscape. It turned out to be both sides scouting elements. Emerging from a treeline, McIntosh and Ke-Ni-Tay looked up to see an equally startled pair of armed warriors not even one hundred yards separating them.  Both stopped, simply to assess the situation more fully. Neither pair could see any other signs of more riders.

 

It was one of the Arapahos who made the first move, leveling his Henry rifle and snapping off a shot at the cavalry scouts.  Even as the shot reverberated thru the hills and trees, both Indians turned their mounts about and headed away as fast as they could in the opposite direction as McIntosh and his Apache comrade.

 

***

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Benjamin heard the shot in the distance, hard to judge how far away only that it was both faint yet clear enough it had to be a gun report. He raised one hand to halt the column and then decided to listen if the firing would continue. For all he knew it was some hunter bringing down a deer?

 

@Flip  @Javia  @Bongo

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The Apache was out of the saddle and kneeling as his rifle came up and he squeezed off a shot. MacIntosh struggled to hold his animal still and barely got off a shot before the two Indians disappeared. His Apache partner was on his horse as both bolted forward in pursuit of the two Arapaho warriors.

 

MacIntosh suddenly pulled back on the reins and his animal slid to a stop, Ke-Ni-Tay right with him, charging after their opposites blindly could get them killed, as the two they chased were no longer in sight, and with the trees and the vegetation of the country, there was no dust to follow. So they pulled up.

 

Ke-Ni-Tay and McIntosh both could track, and sign was everywhere. It would be best to wait on the troop, but both men felt they were close to whatever camp the hostiles might have, and that would be where the women would be held, if they still had them.

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@Bongo@Javia@Wayfarer

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There! Two more shots soon followed after the initial shot. That cinched it, no deer hunter. His scouts had found the Arapahos or even worse the Indians had jumped them. He had a direction to orient on the firing and it was ahead of them.  Benjamin glanced at Lt. Greene.

 

"I'm betting our scouts have found the Indians, one way or the other. Let's head toward the sounds."

 

Then he raised his arm to wave forward and called out in a commanding voice, "Troop, at the double, follow me!"

 

Yes, it was indeed possible they would be riding full into an ambush but that was the risks one needed to take. Soldiering was not a safe career. The scouts might be in trouble. And then there still the women prisoners.

 

The cavalry now picked up speed as they rode toward the 'sound of the guns', a tried and true military option.

 

***

 

The Arapaho scouts had hurried to get the hell out of there, not waiting to see if they were being chased. They wanted to let their war party now there were waischus coming.

 

@Flip  @Javia @Bongo

 

 

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"I'm betting our scouts have found the Indians, one way or the other. Let's head toward the sounds."

 

"Yes Sir!" returned the young officer: if he sounded enthusiastic, it was because he was: all the waiting around had allowed the doubts to nibble at his mind: his worries about how he would fare in action. So far, the Captain hadn't done anything that he wouldn't have done, which was a relief. Funny, going into battle, he expected to be worried about getting wounded or killed: instead he was more concerned about anything happening to the gruff Captain - for that would leave him in charge and responsible for the lives of the captives and the men of the troop. 

 

Then he raised his arm to wave forward and called out in a commanding voice, "Troop, at the double, follow me!"

 

Greene put his spurs to his mount, careful, of course, not to outstrip his commanding officer in their wild gallop! Greene did spare a hand, just for a second, to make sure his revolver was actually in its holster, and felt himself smile, despite the seriousness of the situation, at the thought of getting surrounded by Indians and having to ask them to wait, just a moment, while he went back to the Fort to fetch it!

 

The cavalry now picked up speed as they rode toward the 'sound of the guns', a tried and true military option.

 

@Flip @Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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