R5

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R5 - SHIPROCK

At the debouchment of the Green River Gorge Captain John Smalley woke up from his midmorning nap and ducked outside the fort stockade to see what was making an infernal racket and a horrible smell. When Paul Morrison saw him he took off his hat and said, Twenty-eight free range cows for the United States Army Cavalry, sir, compliments of their owner, yours truly, Paul Morrison. This was indeed the way things were done out here, palms greased with money and goods in return for other favors.

Well, the Cavalry is much obliged, Mr. Morrison, came the reply. I'm Captain John Smalley, commanding Fort Shiprock here. And if there's ever a favor we could do for you in return, please don't hesitate to ask.

There is the trifling matter of the red skins up there at the Green River ford. Sneaky bastards ambushed us when we were halfway across.

Captain Smalley took his pipe out in his hand and squinted in disbelief. His handlebar mustache danced as he asked, Northern Raiders?

Morrison shook his head. Wrong markings. I figure these are locals.

The Captain put his pipe back in his mouth. That can't be right. The local Indians are real peaceful. Their chief even speaks good American.

These Indians didn't look like the kind to give up, Captain. We had to kill some of 'em. They're probably harassing the rest of my herd right now on the north bank. If you hurry you can catch them before sunset.

Captain Smalley agreed with a sigh, and he gave the appropriate orders to gear up the fort for action. A bugle call was soon heard. Two hours thereafter about forty mounted soldiers crossed the little tributaries and limesilt islets of the ford, accompanied by Morrison.

They found a small group of the People's hunters rendering a fallen cow down for steaks. Smalley recognized the battle dress of Chief Malekwa and steered a course for his little group. Presently he and his men formed a circle around the chief and a handful of his hunters. Smalley told another officer, Lieutenant Lambert Wells, to take most of the unit toward Issaquah to engage the rest of the Indians, and hand-picked four soldiers to stay behind with him. As the lieutenant rode off with his thirty-four men, Smal- ley and Morrison moved closer to Chief Malekwa while the four soldiers sup- porting the Captain orbited them all at a stately trot. God damn it Chief, you know better than to start acting like the Northern Raiders.

What are you going to do to him? Morrison asked.

Take him into custody for cattle rustling. That'll have to do. The rest of these red fellows here were just following orders. They got families to feed. I'm going to let them go so they can pick themselves a new chief.

Malekwa understood perfectly what Smalley wanted to do to him, and he decided not to go peacefully. He had the Golden Gift in his hand and he pointed it right at Smalley. The black shaft leaped out with its hideous sucking sound and sliced the head of Smalley's horse clean off. And then Smalley himself was rendered in two. That black line remained there, drinking in light and air, while five more orbiting horses and men ran right into it, including Paul Morrison.

After that Malekwa used the Golden Gift to get rid of the bodies of the men and the horses he had slain, but he knew the killing range of the Golden Gift was not longer than a spear. Against a troop of whites armed with firesticks he would be helpless. They would kill him, and his warriors, and no doubt all of the women and children and old men in the camp of the People as well in retribution for killing the white chief. Then the army of the whites would have the Golden Gift. Malekwa needed to think fast.

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