Read The Peacemaker Online

Authors: Chelley Kitzmiller

Tags: #romance, #historical, #paranormal, #Western, #the, #fiction, #Grant, #West, #Tuscon, #Indian, #Southwest, #Arizona, #Massacre, #Cochise, #supernatural, #Warriors, #Apache, #territory, #Camp, #American, #Wild, #Wind, #Old, #of, #Native

The Peacemaker (5 page)

BOOK: The Peacemaker
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Indy shivered at the mention of her father's name. She dreaded the confrontation,
had
dreaded it from the moment the idea of joining him had been conceived, though she'd convinced herself that once he saw what a help she was, he'd forgive her for disobeying him. But now, after what Captain Nolan had unintentionally revealed, she wasn't so sure.

Her eyes stung with welling tears, but she quickly squeezed them back, took a deep steadying breath, and straightened her shoulders. She would not let her father catch her with tears in her eyes; he loathed crying or weakness of any sort.

Sergeant Moseley asked the man closest to him to help with the captain. Together, they lifted Nolan down to two other soldiers who carried him into the hospital.

Captain Nolan had  not regained consciousness, but the  sergeant assured her that his chances were   good thanks to Shatto's field doctoring.

Shatto.

The formidable Apache warrior had not been out of her thoughts since they'd left Apache Pass. Stamped upon her memory were the hostile planes and angles of his face—lean and hard—his skin darkened by the sun and burnished by the wind. And his eyes . . . God, his eyes . . . She would always think of them as
killing eyes
. Looking into their cold, black depths had frightened her as nothing ever had, but later, when he'd come after something for a bandage . . . his eyes had fascinated her—the
man
had fascinated her in a way that was completely beyond her understanding. Even now, just thinking of him produced an odd emotional reaction and an even more peculiar physical reaction that made her straighten her spine and clamp her knees together.

"Ma'am?" Sergeant Moseley stood before her.

Indy looked up, interrupted from her thoughts. She rose slowly, holding on to his arm for support, and moved to the back of the ambulance. A collective gasp of surprise went up among the onlookers, followed by one woman's "Oh, the poor child."

Sergeant Moseley jumped down, then reached up for her. Just as he set her on the ground there came a sharp command.

"Attention!"

Officers and enlisted men alike came to attention at the commander's order. The few women present, officers' wives and several laundresses, moved back out of the way.

Colonel Charles Taylor, a flint-eyed career soldier, shouldered his way through the assemblage. "You may take your ease, gentlemen," he said in a carrying voice. "Report, Sergeant!"

"With all due respect, sir, your daughter has been injured. I was just about t'see her into the hospital, but now that you're here, you might want t'take over."

"I would not, Sergeant. Miss Taylor is here without my permission. I want no part of her."

"Well, then, sir. Could my report wait just a moment till I get her inside?"

"It could not."

Indy felt herself begin to sway and grabbed on to the sergeant's arm for support. "Father, please. I know you're angry with me, but I really don't feel well."

"Quiet, daughter. You will speak only when spoken to. Now, you were about to report, Sergeant?"

Sergeant Moseley gave Indy an apologetic look, then turned to the colonel. "We were attacked by Chie's bunch on our way back from San Simon."

"Any wounded or casualties?"

"Yes, sir. Would've lost more, including your daughter here, if Shatto's band hadn't showed up and driven them off."

"Shatto. His name seems to keep coming up quite often around here. Do you have any idea why he would come to your aid? What his motive is?"

"Motive, sir?"

"Yes, Sergeant. Motive. Has he asked for anything? Food? Supplies? Guns or ammunition? Information?"

Sergeant Moseley shook his head. "No, sir. He said they was out huntin’ when they saw us.”

The colonel appeared to give the answer some consideration. "I suppose anything is possible, but I don't understand how a few breech-clouted savages could accomplish what your detachment could not."

"If we'd had us a few more men and better horses, we might have been able stop 'em sir. But as it was, we didn't stand a chance."

"More men, Sergeant? Perhaps you think I should send the entire garrison after the mail? Have you considered the possibility that the ambulance and its unauthorized passenger slowed you down and made you less effective against the enemy? And speaking of the ambulance, Sergeant Moseley, where are the magazines and newspapers Captain Nolan was to pick up?"

"They wasn't there, sir. Just the regular mail."

"Then there was no need for the conveyance after all?"

"We couldn't have known that, sir."

"I'll expect a full report on my desk first thing in the morning, Sergeant. Dismissed." He turned on his booted heel and walked away.

Indy gave a gasp of disbelief. What kind of father was he that he could leave her after all she had been through? Certainly not the same man who had long ago held her and Justice on his knee and sang military songs to them. That man had loved her, cared about her, and called her his "little girl."

Stricken by her father's cold-heartedness, Indy felt her spirits plummet. Had she been so absorbed for the last seven years in trying various ways to gain his forgiveness that she had failed to recognize the truth—that he would never forgive her—or that he no longer loved her? She couldn't bear thinking about it. Maybe when she felt better she would give it her consideration, but not now.

Taps blew but no one moved. Indy saw the women's expressions of confusion and pity and wished she'd used the good sense God gave her and had stayed in St. Louis.

 

From atop his pinto, Shatto had watched the ambulance disappear around a bend and out of sight. Two questions nagged at him. Why had Chie attacked the mail detachment? What would have been the detachment's fate if he and Toriano hadn't spotted the dust cloud and brought the whole hunting party to investigate? He knew the answer to the second question but not the first. The troopers would have been tortured and killed in various ways and the woman . . . Chie was particularly fond of raping white women. Because of having a white father, Chie didn't hold with the Apache belief that raping a woman would take away his luck.

At Toriano's signal, Shatto reined Valiente around and followed the others back into the pass to begin the unpleasant task of gathering the dead Chie had left behind.

Much later, after the band had made camp for the night, Shatto hunkered down near the campfire and set the rabbit he'd caught to roasting. Beside him, Toriano sat cross-legged, poking a broken arrow shaft into the burning mesquite wood.

Toriano was the first to speak. "Chie is no more Apache," he said, staring morosely into the flames. "No Apache leave warriors behind for vultures to eat."

Shatto's dark eyes reflected the firelight. "You must accept what Chie has become. He no longer calls you his brother. He calls you enemy, and he will kill you if he can."

"I know what you say is true, but it is very bad here." Toriano placed his hand over his heart. "I cannot forget that we were children together."

Shatto leaned forward to sniff the roasting meat. The rabbit was young and fat; its meat would be tender and tasty. Roasted rabbit was one of his favorite meals and normally the smell made his mouth water, but tonight he was immune to it and to his hunger. "I have been thinking," he said in a low voice. "Chie is many things, but he is not a fool. He would not attack the bluecoats unless he had something to gain: guns, ammunition, supplies, something…." His voice trailed off.

"But there was nothing," said Toriano.

Shatto stirred the fire. After a long moment he said, "There was the woman."

Toriano cocked a brow. "Chie has three wives already. Why would he want the white woman?"

"Because she is the bluecoat colonel's daughter," Shatto stated without inflection. "There was no reason for Chie to attack the mail detachment,
except
to capture the woman. Such a woman would be worth many rifles, ammunition, and horses." Fat drippings fell into the fire and sizzled, sending the flames higher.

Toriano cut Shatto a sideways glance. "Do you think the bluecoat colonel would pay so much for his daughter?"

"I don't know, but Chie must have thought so. His band grows larger each day. He calls himself their chief. It is for him to find ways to get his band the rifles and horses they need to fight the white eyes." Shatto rose to his feet and moved away from the firelight. Other thoughts snapped at his heels but he forced them back. The blue-coat's daughter was not his concern.

Speaking over his shoulder, Toriano said, "Your thoughts are quiet like thunder, my friend."

Shatto crossed his arms and assumed a spread-legged stance in defense of Toriano's mind reading. "If my thoughts are so noisy, then tell me what they say."

"They say Shatto would like such-a-woman for
his
woman."

Shatto drew a long breath. "And can you hear my thoughts now, shaman?"

Toriano cupped his hand around his left ear. "They say . . . Shatto is angry at Toriano for listening to thoughts."

Shatto nodded. "Then you only heard half of them." He returned to the fire and removed the rabbit from the long stick.

Toriano looked up. "Half? What other half?"

Shatto bit into the rabbit and started to walk away. "That you can go catch your own rabbit!"

 

At the bugler's call of reveille, Indy woke with a start from a deep sleep. In reaction to the ear-piercing blast, her eyes flew open and her body stiffened.

The morning light barely penetrated the dirt-encrusted windows, but it was enough to see the neat row of iron bedsteads that stretched down the wall beside her. They served to remind her that she had spent the night in Camp Bowie's hospital.

Her brow creased with memories from yesterday—the attack, her father's hostility, and Dr. Valentine's pronouncement that she had suffered a concussion and would need to be watched throughout the night.

She rolled over onto her back, moaning with the effort. There wasn't a muscle in her entire body that didn't protest at being disturbed. She could only guess at the number of black and blue marks that must cover her body.

Surprisingly, her head didn't hurt all that badly—just a sort of dull ache instead of yesterday's merciless pounding. And the blurriness and disorientation were gone. All in all, she felt better than she had expected.

"Miss Taylor?"

She jumped at the familiar voice that came from the other side of the curtained screen. "Is that you, Captain? Are you all right?"

"Yes, ma'am," he replied weakly. "Doc says I'll be laid up awhile, but the arrow didn't hit anything vital." There was a long pause. "What about you? When Shatto was working on me, he said you'd been hurt. I—I figured maybe you'd shot yourself . . . like I told you to do. God Almighty, I wouldn't have told you to do it if I'd had any idea we'd be rescued."

Indy curled her fingers around the edge of the woolen blanket. The thought of what she had nearly done chilled her from head to toe. "I thought he—Shatto—was like the others," she began, her mind taking her back. "He was so—so fierce-looking. He didn't say or do anything to lead me to believe he was friendly. He just stared at me." She paused, remembering. "I was so frightened. Then, he grabbed me and took the revolver away. I thought he was going to ra—" She broke off and lowered her gaze to her hands and unclenched her fingers. Her knuckles were white.

"I know how he must have frightened you—what you must have been thinking. I'm sorry. I remember seeing him there at the back of the wagon. I tried to tell you, but I must have passed out."

Indy sat up in bed. Beneath the thin hospital mattress, the straw-filled bed sack rustled and crunched.

The door opened and Dr. Valentine came in, carrying their breakfast trays.

"Well, now. How are my two patients this morning?" Though the silver-haired doctor looked old and frail, he walked with a spring in his step. He smiled as he set one of the trays down on Indy's lap. "You look a mite pale, young lady," he observed. "Are you feeling all right?"

"I'm a little sore, but I guess that's to be expected."

"Yes, I should think so." He leaned forward and examined her eyes and the side of her head. "No more disorientation?"

"No."

"Nausea?"

She looked down at the tray on her lap. "Not yet."

The doctor winked and laughed, then left her to deliver the captain's breakfast. Minutes later he excused himself, saying he had some reports to write up.

Indy didn't touch her food. Her growling stomach stated in no uncertain terms that she was hungry, but she felt as jittery as a beehive, a fact that she had chosen not to tell the doctor for fear he would make her stay in the hospital longer. She looked down at the tin plate. Over the years, her father and his friends had had a lot to say about Army food, but she'd never seen it or tasted it before now. The salt boiled beef had fallen apart like wet straw and lay atop a disreputable-looking biscuit that was surrounded by lumpy brown gravy.

Nerving herself for the worst, she plunged her fork into the biscuit and broke off a bite-size piece. Much to her relief, it tasted better than it looked, but after a few mouthfuls, she put the fork down and set the tray on the bedside table, deciding the challenge was too great after all.

Sometime later Dr. Valentine came back and sat on the edge of the bed. In many ways he reminded Indy of her maternal grandfather, with his sky-blue eyes and drooping white mustache. He'd put on square spectacles and they rode close to the end of his bulbous red nose. He peered at her from over the top of the wire rims. "I see no reason to keep you here another night; there's really nothing I can do for you that a little time won't cure. You will, however, need to rest for a couple of days." When she opened her mouth to speak, he held up his hand and effectively cut her off. "I know that you've just arrived and you need to unpack and get yourself settled in, but I can't allow it. You've suffered a severe blow to your head, young woman, and you need time and rest to heal. You could do yourself some serious damage if you don't follow my orders."

"Now, I've taken it upon myself to get someone to help you. In fact, I spoke to the woman last night and told her the situation. She was more than willing to offer her services. She assured me that she would call on the colonel this morning right after reveille and request his permission to prepare a place for you within his quarters. Her name is Prudence Stallard. She'll be here late this afternoon. Until then, I want you to rest."

BOOK: The Peacemaker
8.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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