Brother of the Quill
A fine chapter. Rich, visible description and interesting plot twists.Chapter 6 – Outside the James’ home, St. Joseph, Missouri – 8am 25th May 1865
“We wish you well Kate, but I do not think we will see you round these parts again. My money’s on Terrell.” Squinting his eyes, Frank James looked through the rising sunshine at the young girl mounted on the black Stallion. Blankets strapped to its flanks, Winchester and Colt holstered and a Bowie Knife tucked into a leather belt that wrapped tightly around her skirt.
“You’re one crazy girl, but me and my brother are obliged for your exquisite company Miss Clarke.” He grinned and she smiled back, before kicking her booted heels against the Stallion and turning to leave.
The rains came on her second day of riding, just as Jesse had predicted, and they arrived with a vengeance that soaked everything though, including Kate, within minutes.
Pulling the thin poncho over her body and hooking the Stetson down low she ducked her head into the driving downpour, and headed for the old Indian funeral stones, high in the mountains at a spot that looked out over the landscape for miles. It was where Frank and Jesses had told her to go.
It took another hour to reach the shelter of the hollowed-out caves near the stones, but horse and rider eventually eased under the protective outcrop of rock and Kate breathed a sigh of relief. The rain was driving across the entrance to the cave, but inside they were well protected.
A fire would have been heaven sent but she resisted the temptation to light one. This was the trail of the Missouri Bushwhackers and she had no idea how near she was to them … or not, but she did not wish to be detected. Instead, having tethered her mount, Kate crouched down into her blanket and closed her eyes.
She had no plan, no strategy, and now, with a howling storm blowing, she began to have doubts. It had all seemed so simple back in St Joseph. Acquire the weapons, get a horse, then pick up Terrell’s trail and kill him. She had never thought it through as far as what to actually do if or when she found him. If he was to appear right now at the entrance to this small cave Kate had no idea how she would react.
She pulled the brim of her Stetson down further and gazed out into the darkness, wishing right now that William was here with her. She had had plenty of time to grieve him as she took over a week to get from Wakefield’s Farm to the James’ home. Laying in a covered wagon, hallucinating through exhaustion … she had dreamed of William and happier times gone by … but every time she woke, her living nightmare had returned.
Frank had been right, she must be crazy. What chance did she have against Terrell and his mob? She had courage for sure, but lacked anything by way of expertise.
The rains had stopped and the storm eased when Kate opened her eyes. Somehow, she had slept solid for eight hours without moving and now her bladder screamed for relief. The day was already bathed in sunshine and the warmth crept into through the opening to the cave as Kate squat in a corner, her cotton drawers round her ankles and her skirts pulled up, while the Stallion watched with interest.
Taking a handful of coarse grass she wiped the drops away as best she could and stood up … then froze. Coming towards her were two Indian braves.
Indians! Fuck she hadn’t even considered encountering any savages … They were likely renegade Chickasaw, angry natives avoiding the reservation and still fighting the US Government. Kate guessed that the fact she too was fighting the Federal State would count for very little in their covetous minds should she claim to be on their side!
But in they came, lean, muscular bodies silhouetted against the bright opening to the cavern.
Kate could not recall ever moving so quickly in her life. With her drawers still locked around her ankles she threw herself sideways and fumbled for the Colt, having temporarily discarded the belt prior to her ablutions. The Winchester was closer to hand and she grabbed at it as the braves spotted Kate and came hard at her. She squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened and panic set in. It quickly registered that the bullet must have jammed in the barrel!
The full weight of one of her attackers crashed into her and knocked her sideways. His powerful grip closed around her wrist and caused her to drop the rifle, which, along with the Colt was gathered up by the second warrior.
Kate could smell the musky odour of his crotch as he pinned her down, his muscle-bound thighs astride her neck.
“Now I take you back to Chickasaw camp with me white woman,” he grunted in a heavily pigeoned English, and Kate stared up at him helplessly. He reached casually behind his strident position and closed his fingers onto one breast. He twisted hard and Kate groaned.
The brave laughed, “We take you alive and I promise that at my camp you will scream for many days before we allow you to die!”
Strangely Kate felt no fear. Only a calm acceptance that she had failed in her quest, and that she was now going to pay for her mistakes. In a single moment she tried to prepare herself for the rape and torture that would come her way, and in that brief time the face of the warrior that towered above her exploded into a welter of blood and bone as he was hurled sideways away from her prostrate body.
The second brave turned quickly and was similarly dealt with. Confused about what was going on, Kate pulled herself into a sitting position and pulled her drawers up.
“Some shots huh lady? Took this one’s head right off his shoulders! Cole Griffin at your service ma’am.” The man facing her dressed in dusty clothes, sporting a thick leather waistcoat, took a somewhat extravagant bow.
“The Winchester … the bullet … it stuck … I …” Kate blurted out her words, “It jammed, or I would have had them otherwise.” Kate responded trying hard to keep the hysteria out her voice.
“Otherwise don’t count Miss …”
Kate looked him hard in the eye and said, through an expressionless face, “Kate Clarke,” she held out her hand.
“Lucky for you I came around when I did, Miss Clarke. You minded to tell me what you are doing out here in territory riddled with the Chickasaw that won’t go to their reservation, and Bushwhackers who still think the war is going on?”
Kate simply stared at him and said nothing. She picked up her gun belt and refastened it low on her hips, making sure he saw the Colt. She did not trust this stranger who had appeared from nowhere, she could not afford to.
“Okay have it your way Miss Clarke. If you want to eat breakfast with me, there are trees and a small stream ten minutes ride away. We can set a small fire without been seen.” His eyes widened in hope. Cole Griffin clearly wanted the company of a pretty girl … it had been a long time.
Kate hadn’t really eaten for over a full day and her stomach was screaming for food. She nodded.
To Be Continued ...