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 (8 page)

BOOK: The Peacemaker
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Prudence's head swung around. "Don't," she said, her blue eyes snapping with sparks of anger.

Indy let go and stood back. God! What had possessed her to do such a thing? It wasn't for her to be concerned about how Prudence behaved. Let her fall at his feet in front of the whole camp. Let her make a fool of herself!

Deciding she didn't care what Shatto thought or how big a fool Prudence made of herself, she turned and started back into her quarters. She was just about to close the door when he passed by. His dark gaze pinned Indy where she stood and held her there, unmoving—not even breathing—until he and his braves had ridden around the corner.

 

To get her mind off the morning's event, Indy sat down at the table and began making a list of supplies and food she would need. She looked up when her father and Captain Nolan entered.

"Afternoon, Miss Taylor. Nice to see you looking so well," said the captain as he removed his hat. He gave her a warm, friendly smile that she was glad to return.

"Thank you, Captain, and same to you. But shouldn't you be back in bed?" She stood up and gathered her paper and pencil. Obviously her father had brought the captain to their quarters for a purpose, probably to have a private discussion, and she didn't want to be in his way.

"Doc says it's okay as long as I don't do anything too strenuous." His gaze slowly traveled from her face to her hair, which she had let down and braided into one long braid.

"Sit down, Captain," the colonel said abruptly.

Indy could tell that her father wasn't in the best of moods. She thought it prudent to take her pencil and paper and go sit down in the farthest corner of the room where she could be as inconspicuous as possible.

The colonel spoke without preamble. "All right, Captain, I'm tired of veiled suggestions and innuendo. You obviously have something to say, so say it."

"May I speak freely, sir, man to man, rather than captain to colonel?"

"You may," was his harsh reply.

"I know you read Major Clarke's reports upon your arrival so you're aware that he was making some progress with Cochise prior to his death."

"I am aware of his efforts, yes."

"I can only assume then that you are also aware that the Apache situation has worsened since you took command of Camp Bowie. Desertions are higher than ever before and the morale of the entire camp is at an all-time low. As much as I hate to say it, sir, your by-the-book methods and tactics are unsuitable for the frontier and for Apache warfare."

Indy stared at the items on her list but didn't see them. Pulling a breath and holding it, she waited for her father's reply.

"Is that all, Captain? Aren't you going to say something about my incompetency or my inability to command my men?"

"No, sir." Nolan handed him a piece of paper. "I've been asked to give you this. It's a petition to the War Department asking that you be removed from command here. Nearly every man has signed it."

The colonel took the proffered petition and read it over, then looked up, his face a stone mask. "I didn't come here to win friends, Captain. I came because the War Department made a mistake. I was supposed to have been assigned to the President in Washington."

“I'm sorry, sir.”

The colonel leaned his head back and glared at the man across from him. "Yes, I'm sure you are. You think this command should have been given to you, Captain?"

"No, sir," came the quick reply. "But I do think the command should have been given to someone with experience in dealing with Indians."

In a level voice the colonel said, "You risk a great deal talking to me in this manner, Captain. I could take offense and have you charged with insubordination. It could be the end of your career."

"Yes, sir. I'm aware of the risk but am willing to do whatever it takes to save lives."

Indy dared a sideways glance. They were glaring at each other like two warring bulls. The friction between them could have ignited a fire.

"You're a brave man, Captain Nolan," the colonel said at length. "Few men would dare say the things you've just said to me."

"There's a lot at stake, sir. Not just Bowie, but the future of the Arizona Territory."

There was a long pause. The colonel gazed out the window, seemingly lost in thought. But Indy knew better. He never lost himself in thought. A minute later he said, "Suppose you tell me what I should do to make sure that petition never finds its way to the War Department."

Nolan looked uncomfortable with his role as mediator. "Throw your rule book away. The only way to control the Apaches is to fight them on their ground, and to do that you have to think and act as they do." At the colonel's quizzing look, he went on to explain. "They rely on concealment and surprise. The other day was the first time in four years I've seen them
before
they attacked. And I'm sure I saw them because they wanted me to, though I don't know why. You need to employ an Apache scout to—"

"A scout?" Colonel Taylor shook his head vehemently. "That would be putting every man, woman, and child at Bowie at risk. You can't trust a man who would go against his own."

"Begging your pardon, sir, but I was about to say that you should employ an Apache scout to train a select group of our own soldiers to travel, attack, and fight like Apaches. Once trained and properly outfitted, it would be like having a whole company of qualified scouts. They would know Apache tactics, desert survival skills, tracking, and a hundred other things that are a warrior's way of life. Those skills combined with Army discipline, arms, and ammunition would give
us
the advantage for once. Do you see what I'm getting at, sir?"

Indy pressed her lips together. How could her father not see? It was all so logical and reasonable. Never in her life had she wanted so badly to speak up, but she had promised her father that she would not interfere.

"I'm not blind, Captain. I admit I do see some merit in what you are saying, but I can't say I wholeheartedly agree with you. There's a lot more to solving the Apache situation than what you've outlined. A lot more."

The captain leaned back against his chair. He looked tired, pained, and, Indy thought, defeated. She knew exactly how he felt.

"The idea I just expressed, sir, is not mine alone, but Sergeant Moseley's and some of the other men—veteran Indian fighters." He started to get up. "The mail goes out day after tomorrow." He took back the petition, folded it neatly, and stuck it in his pocket. "The men hope you'll consider what they've asked me to say, sir."

"Blackmail, Captain? Or mutiny?"

"You asked me what you could do to stop the petition from being sent. I've told you, sir. If you choose to think it's mutiny or blackmail, that's up to you."

"And if I agree to employing a scout, who would I get?"

"There's only one man for the job. Shatto."

Indy snapped her pencil in half and looked up.

The colonel gave an ironic chuckle. "Shatto again."

"Yes, sir. Shatto again. His coming here today only proved what we all suspected anyway—that some of the Apaches want peace and are willing to fight other Apaches to get it. Shatto has the skills we need, sir. He's cunning as a fox and as deadly with a knife as any longshoreman. And there isn't an animal or human he can't track."

Indy turned her eyes on her father and awaited his reaction with a pounding heart.

She didn't have to wait long. He stood up and pushed his chair back, the legs screeching as they scraped the floor. "Shatto." He ran his fingers through his hair and walked away from the table. "I don't like it, Captain. I don't like it at all. What kind of man would train others to fight and kill his own?"

"Begging your pardon, Colonel, but you don't understand the Apache structure. The tribe is broken up into divisions, bands, and family groups—each of them having their own leader or chief who makes the laws for his people. Their loyalty doesn't reach to the other units. In that way, they're no different than we are."

"How's that, Captain?"

"The Yanks and the Rebs, sir. People of one race fighting against each other."

"I'll give the matter some consideration."

"Yes, sir. I'll tell the men."

Chapter 5

 

 

Shatto. All of Bowie was talking about him—the soldiers, the women, even the half-dozen children. They recounted every story they knew—the time Shatto had given the puppy to the Clarke boy, the rescue of the mail detachment, his bringing Chie's braves to the colonel for punishment and others.

They wondered. They speculated. They placed bets on the colonel and on Shatto.

Indy was just as eager to learn of her father's decision as everyone else, though she couldn't see he had any choice but to agree, what with the threat of the petition being sent to the War Department. How utterly humiliating. A petition! Signed by nearly every soldier at Bowie! She had expected him to rant and rave, but he had said nothing and went about his business acting as if nothing had happened.

Midmorning she packed up the stew pot, pie dish and gingham bread cloth and paid a call on Ava Burroughs. She was delighted to find Aphra and Opal there too. The three officers' wives sat in a triangle, a large patchwork quilt spread between them. All the while they talked they never missed a stitch, except once, when Indy mentioned Prudence.

"I've always felt sort of sorry for Prudence," said Ava, "to go from the social position of a major's wife on Officers' Row to a widow working as an Army laundress--it's such hard work for so little pay."

Indy was incredulous. Her face drained of color.

Ava, looking up from the quilt and seeing Indy's surprise, apologized profusely. "I'm sorry, Indy. I thought she would have told you."

Indy shook her head. "No, she hasn't said anything about being married."

"Well, it wasn't much of a marriage," Ava returned, bending her head back to the quilt. "Major Stallard was nearly twenty years older than Prudence. He found her working in a Nogales saloon and offered to marry her if she'd make a decent home for him."

"Some bargain," Opal said sarcastically. "All she did was drive him crazy with her wanton ways. And then—the poor man—hardly married a year when he up and died. Just like that!" She snapped her fingers and rolled her eyes. "Mercy! What a stir that caused."

"How did he die?" Indy asked.

Aphra giggled.

"Aphra!" Opal scolded. "Behave."

In spite of the warning, Aphra giggled again.

Indy looked over at Opal. Opal looked back, smiled, then set about rethreading her needle. "Doc Valentine said he'd never known a man to die . . .
like that
... in his bed and all. He said his heart just gave out. Thought it must have been the excitement."

This time when Aphra started to giggle, she put her hand over her mouth to make it look like she was coughing.

Finally, Indy realized what Opal was saying. "Oh," she said at last. "I see. How awful." With some difficulty she maintained her composure.

Opal pushed her needle into the quilt. "You'd never know Prudence was a widow—the way she goes about flaunting herself and flirting—like she did yesterday with that Indian. Next thing you know she'll be jumping on the back of his war pony and riding off with him to his wickiup."

"Opal! You shouldn't talk like that in front of Indy. Whatever will she think?" Ava asked.

Opal snorted. "I just hope Prudence has the good sense to stay away from Shatto if he does come here to train the men."

"What do you think your father will decide, Indy?" asked Ava. "Of course, our husbands are all in favor of it, but it's your father who has to make the decision."

Indy studied her hands. "I really can't say one way or another. He doesn't talk to me about Army business."

All three women looked up at her at the same time.

"That's too bad," said Aphra.

"Yes, indeed," added Opal.

Indy had felt uneasy with the gossip about Prudence but now that they had turned their full attention on her, she felt even more ill at ease. She suddenly realized she could be making better use of her time organizing her kitchen and learning how to use the cook stove.

She rose. "If you ladies will excuse me. I really have to be getting back. I haven't begun to organize my kitchen yet." She started for the door.

"Oh, wait a second. I just remembered something," Ava called out. "I meant to tell you yesterday but with all the goings-on, I forgot. Julie Myers—she's the young woman whose husband was killed the other day—well, she's leaving for San Francisco day after tomorrow to join her family, and she's looking to sell most of her belongings to pay transportation costs. I thought you might be particularly interested seeing as how you don't have much furniture yet."

Indy stared off at nothing in particular. The young widow's sad face came to mind. "How awful to lose her husband, then to have to sell her things."

"They're just
things
, Indy. Army wives know better than to become attached to material possessions. Chances are she couldn't take them with her anyway what with weight restrictions and all. It's customary to hold an auction to sell things off. Anyway, if you're interested, it's tomorrow morning, just two doors down. She has some nice pieces. Mostly items she picked up from an auction a year ago from another Army wife."

At the door, Indy smiled and said, "Thank you. I suppose I
could
use a comfortable reading chair and a few other pieces."

After leaving Ava's, Indy walked around behind Officers' Row. Each of the officer's quarters had its own small, detached kitchen, set approximately thirty feet back from the main building as a fire precaution.

She was thinking about Prudence—feeling sorry that she'd had such a hard life. Then Opal's comments about Prudence's wanton ways nullified that sorrow and brought back the resentment she had felt yesterday.

"Any word on whether Shatto will be coming?"

Indy gave a start. Suddenly Prudence was standing in front of her, holding a basket full of neatly folded laundry. "No, nothing yet." She felt like screaming the answer, but instead she opened the kitchen door and stepped inside.

BOOK: The Peacemaker
6.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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