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Free at Last (Short Story No. 26)
These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
The Bozeman Trail
Blackie and Red, brothers and members of the infamous Porter outlaw gang, drove the wagon containing the two captives along the Bozeman Trail. They intended to deliver the paleontologist Hannah Monroe and the Arapaho princess Sweet Water to Captain Taz at his camp outside of Helena. Taz planned to negotiate a trade with Yellow Bear, leader of a wild bunch of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. Taz hoped to trade whiskey and the captive women to Yellow Bear in exchange for the Dog Soldiers causing chaos with a raid of Helena. They had done so before when Captain Taz and his outlaw gang robbed the bank in Helena.
When Taz and his gang had robbed the bank in Helena, Yellow Bear and his Dog Soldiers had rode on in ahead and caused havoc. The Indians galloped through the streets howling their war cries and shooting their fire arrow everywhere. The smoke from burning buildings concealed the arrival of Taz and his gang on camels, and they robbed the bank easy-peasy. Except for Judah Johnson who got shot and killed and Seth Morris who got shot and captured. Now another member of Taz’ gang, Slim Porter, had been murdered in Helena by a young Chinese prostitute named May Ling. Taz desperately wanted to avenge him. Not only that, but May Ling had observed Taz murdering his lover, Velma Kleinschmidt. He had killed her to keep her from talking and then put a bag over her head and strung her up on Hangmen’s Tree. He wanted to string May Ling up on his favorite tree.
Black Wolf, Sweet Water’s father, and his band of Arapaho were in the vicinity along the Bozeman trail. They had only a few days before joined some Cheyenne and a few Lakota Sioux in a skirmish against soldiers of the U.S. Army and a hay-cutting crew of civilians near Fort Smith. The Indians would have massacred the soldiers and civilians but for the fact that about a week earlier the soldiers had received new and better weapons. Obsolete muzzle-loading muskets had been replaced with breech-loading Springfield Model 1866 rifles. The new guns could fire 8 to 10 rounds per minute as compared to 3 rounds per minute for the old muskets. Also, the new rifles could be easily reloaded from a prone position.
The garrison at Fort Smith, which was two-and one-half miles away, had built a fortified corral for the protection of the civilian hay cutters. It was 100 feet by 60 feet. Large logs had been laid on the ground and a lattice framework had been erected above the logs. Trenches had been dug at each corner, tents and a picket line for livestock were inside the corral, and outside the corral were three rifle pits.
On August 1, 1867, soldiers on guard against surprise attack on a nearby hilltop warned the soldiers and civilians of a large group of Indians approaching, and they ran for the corral. The soldiers fired a first volley from the corral and the Indians rushed the corral, thinking it would take some time to reload the old muskets. The soldiers surprised the Indians with the new breech-loading rifles. The battle continued for most of the day. Reinforcements from the nearby fort consisting of a full company of soldiers and a howitzer finally arrived late in the day and the Indians that had remained gave up the attack.
This is like pulling teeth
Black Wolf was extremely upset over the defeat and loss of his men and horses. He had heard news of the Crow horse rustlers and sent his best horse thief, Bent Feather, and a few others to steal some horses from the horse thieves. Not only did Bent Feather steal horses from the Crow, he brought back some information that Black Wolf had sought relentlessly. Information about Black Wolf’s daughter Sweet Water. Bent Feather told Black Wolf that two white men had taken Sweet Water from the Crow hideaway and were nearby.
“How did you get that information?” Black Wolfe asked Bent Feather.
Bent Feather replied, “The same way Hex Hawkins got information out of me. You may remember that he had some dental forceps that he heated in a fire until red hot. Then he grasped the thumbnail on my right hand with the forceps, pried the nail from the nail bed, and then tore it free. When he took my left thump with the apparent intent to the same thing, I started talking. So that’s what I did to the Crow leader, Little Eagle. He told me everything I wanted to know.”
“Where did you get the dental forceps?” Black Wolf inquired.
“That small wagon train of Germans we raided,” Bent Feather replied. “There was a bag of medical tools in one of the wagons. Also, some strange but very sharp knives in the bag.”
Black Wolf, Bent Feather, and the rest of the band rode out to find Sweet Water. It didn’t take long. The Arapaho braves, decked in paint, came over a slight elevation, spotted the wagon with the captives, and raised a shout. The Porter brothers made friendly signals, which were ignored by the Indians who continued to advance and circled the wagon. The circle gradually became smaller in diameter until a rush was made and Blackie and Red were disarmed and bound together with thongs.
Black Wolf freed his daughter Sweet Water and Hannah. Sweet Water embraced her father while Hannah screamed, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. we are free at last!”
Sweet Water introduced Hannah to her father. He reminded them that they had met before. “In the camp of the Mormons when they held you and my daughter and those other women captive. Hex Hawkins and I rode in and traded two dozen horses for ten women. Where is Hawkins these days?”
“I don’t know,” Hannah replied, “but I sure would like to know where he is. I haven’t seen him since I left on the steamboat Victoria with all my fossils to go down the Missouri River to St. Louis. I had hoped that Hex would rescue me after the Victoria was sunk and we were taken by Taz. Like Hex rescued me when I first got to the Montana Territory, and he saved me from a fate worse than death when I was tied to a tree naked by the Cheyenne after they massacred the other members of my expedition.”
“And you were not raped by these men?” Black Wolf questioned.
“No,” Hannah responded, but she pointed at Blackie and Red and said, “Those two stripped us naked and put their hands on us while they pleasured themselves. They said Captain Taz would cut off their balls if they raped us.”
Quid pro quo
“You are going to get your balls cut off anyway,” Bent Feather cackled.
The Indians built a large fire, stripped the Porters naked, and began to torture them. They heated arrowheads in the fire and held them in contact with naked flesh. Then each brave threw their sharp-pointed knives at the restrained Porter brothers. The knives stuck in their flesh. Bent Feather heated his forceps but it was not the victims’ thumb nails that were of interest to him. No, Bent Feather grasped first Blackie’s testicles with the hot forceps. And then, when Blackie lost consciousness, he turned his attention to Red and retrieved the sharp scalpels from the medical bag.
# # #
Miles away Sheriff Leslie Baxter, also known as Shorty, was likewise screaming. They had found Princess Takuhatahime’s missing snake. The princess was now performing the sex act she had promised upon return of her snake.