Apache Devil

Chapter Sixteen

The Jack of Spades

Edgar Rice Burroughs

LUIS MARIEL, profiting by the example of the Americanos, stood up to “Dirty” Cheetim’s bar and drank cheap whiskey.

“Wot you doin’, Kid?’ asked Cheetim. “Nothing,” replied Luis.

“Want a job, or hev you still got some dinero left?”

“I want a job,” replied Luis. “I am broke.”

“You got a hoss, ain’t you?”

“Si, Senor.”

“Come ’ere,” he motioned Luis to follow him into the back room.

There Luis saw a tall man with sandy hair sitting at a table, drinking.

“Here’s a good kid fer us,” said Cheetim to the sandy haired man. “He aint been up here long; an’ nobody don’t know him, an’ he don’t know nobody.”

“Does he savvy U.S.?” demanded the man. “Si, Senor,” spoke up Luis. “I understand pretty good. I speak it pretty good, too.”

“Can you keep your mouth shut?”

“Si, Senor.”

“If you don’t, somebody’ll shut it for you,” said the man, drawing his forefinger across his throat meaningly. “You savvy?”

“What is this job?” demanded Luis.

“You aint got nothin’ to do but herd a little bunch o’ cattle an’ keep your trap closed. If anyone asks you any questions in United States you don’t savvy; and if they talk Greaser to you, why you don’t know nothin’ about the cattle except that a kind old gentleman hired you to ride herd on ’em.”

“Si, Senor.”

“You get thirty five a month an’ your grub—twenty five fer ridin’ herd an’ the rest fer not knowin’ nothin’. How about it?”

“Sure, Senor, I do it.”

“All right, you come along with me. We’ll ride out, an’ I’ll show you where the bunch is,” and the sandy haired man gulped down another drink and arose.

He led Luis north into the reservation, and at last they came to a bunch of about fifty head grazing contentedly on rather good pasture.

“They aint so hard to hold,” said the sandy haired man, “but they got a hell of a itch to drift east sometimes. They’s a c’ral up thet draw a ways. You puts ’em in there nights and lets ’em graze durin’ the day. You wont hev to hold ’em long.” He took a playing card from his pocket—the jack of spades—and tore it in two. One half he handed to Luis. “When a feller comes with tother half o’ this card, Kid, you let him hev the cattle. Savvy?”

“Si, Senor.”

“Oncet in a while they may a couple fellers come up with some more critters fer you. You jest let ’em drive ’em in with your bunch. You don’t hev to say nothin’ nor ask no questions. Savvy?”

“Si, Senor.”

“All right. Let’ em graze til sundown; then c’ral ’em and come down to the Hog Ranch fer the night. You kin make down your bed back o’ the barn. The Chink’ll feed you. So long, Kid.”

“Adios, Senor.” Luis Mariel, watching the tall, sandy haired man ride away, tucked his half of the jack of spades into the breast pocket of his shirt, rolled a cigarette, and then rode leisurely among the grazing cattle, inspecting his charges.

He noted the marks and brands, and discovering that several were represented, concluded that Cheetim and the sandy haired man were collecting a bunch for sale or shipment. Impressed by the injunction to silence laid upon him, and being no fool, Luis opined that the cattle had come into their possession through no lawful processes.

But that they had been stolen was no affair of his. He had not stolen them. He was merely employed to herd them. It interested him to note that fully ninety percent of the animals bore the Crazy B brand on the left hip, a slit in the right ear, and a half crop off the left, the remainder being marked by various other brands, some of which he recognized and some of which he did not.

The Crazy B brand he knew quite well as it was one of the foremost brands in that section of Arizona. He had tried to get work with that outfit when he had brought the pinto stallion up from the border for El Teniente King. At that time he had talked with Senor Billings, who had since been killed by Apaches; but he had been unable to secure employment with him. Later he had learned that the Billings ranch never employed Mexicans, and while knowledge of this fact aroused no animosity within him neither did it impose upon him any sentiment of obligation to apprise the owners of the brand of his suspicion that someone was stealing their cattle.

Luis Mariel was far from being either a criminal or vicious young man. He would not have stolen cattle himself, but it was none of his business how his employers obtained the cattle that he was hired to herd for them. Since he had come up from Mexico he had found means of livelihood through many and various odd employments, sometimes as laborer, sometimes as chore boy, occasionally in riding for some small cow outfit, which was the thing of all others that he liked best to do. It was the thing that Luis Mariel loved best and did best.

More recently he had been reduced to the expedience of performing the duties of porter around the bar of “Dirty” Cheetim’s Hog Ranch in order that he might eat to live and live to eat. Here, his estimate of the Gringoes had not been materially raised.

Pedro Mariel, the woodchopper of Casa Grande, was a poor man in worldly goods; but in qualities of heart and conscience he had been rich, and he had raised his children to fear God and do right.

Luis often thought of his father as he watched the Gringoes around “Dirty” Cheetim’s place, and at night he would kneel down and thank God that he was a Mexican.

Many of the Gringoes that he saw were not bad, only fools; but there were many others who were very bad indeed. El Teniente King was the best Americano he had ever seen. Luis was sorry that El Teniente had no riding job for him. These were some of the thoughts that passed through the mind of the Mexican youth as he rode herd on the stolen cattle


Up from the south rode Shoz-Dijiji. From the moment that he crossed the border into Arizona his spirits rose. The sight of familiar and beloved scenes, the scent of the cedars and the pines, the sunlight and the moonlight were like wine in his veins. The Black Bear was almost happy again.

Where there were no trails he went unseen. No longer were the old water holes guarded by the soldiers of the pindah-lickoyee. Peace lay upon the battle ground of three hundred years. He saw prospectors and cowboys occasionally, but they did not see Shoz-Dijiji. The war chief of the Be-don-ko-he knew that the safety of peace was for the white-eyed men only—he was still a renegade, an outlaw, a hunted beast, fair target for the rifle of the first white man who saw him.

He moved slowly, and often by night, drinking to the full the joys of homeland; but he moved toward a definite goal and with a well defined purpose. It had taken days and weeks and months of meditation and introspection to lay the foundation for the decision he had finally reached; it had necessitated trampling under foot a lifetime of race consciousness and pride in caste; it had required the sacrifice of every cherished ideal, but the incentive was more powerful than any of these things, perhaps the greatest single moral force for good or evil that exists to govern and shape the destinies of man—love.

Love was driving this Apache war chief to the object of his devotion and to the public avowal that he was no Apache but, in reality, a member of the race that he had always looked upon with the arrogant contempt of a savage chieftain.

In his return through Arizona he found his loved friend, Nejeunee, an obstacle to safe or rapid progress. A pinto pony, while perhaps camouflaged by Nature, is not, at best, an easy thing to conceal, nor can it follow the trackless steeps of rugged mountains as can a lone Apache warrior; but, none the less, Shoz-Dijiji would not abandon this, his last remaining friend, the sole and final tie that bound him to the beloved past; and so the two came at last to an upland country, hallowed by sacred memories—memories that were sweet and memories that were bitter.

Luke Jensen was riding the east range. What does a lone cowboy think about? There is usually an old bull that younger bulls have run out of the herd. He is always wandering off, and if he be of any value it is necessary to hunt him up and explain to him the error of his ways in profane and uncomplimentary language while endeavoring to persuade him to return. He occupies the thoughts of the lone cowboy to some extent.

Then there is the question of the expenditure of accumulated wages, if any have accumulated. There are roulette and faro and stud at the Hog Ranch, but if one has recently emerged from any of these one is virtuous and has renounced them all for life, along with wine and women.

A hand-made, silver mounted bit would look as well and arouse envy, as would sheep skin chaps, and a heavy, silver hat band. A new and more brilliant bandana is also in order. Then there are the perennial plans for breaking into the cattle business on one’s own hook, based on starting modestly with a few feeders to which second thought may add a maverick or two that nobody would miss and from these all the way up to rustling an entire herd.

Thoughts of Apaches had formerly impinged persistently upon the minds of lone cowboys. Luke Jensen was mighty glad, as he rode the east range, that he didn’t have to bother his head any more about renegades.

He was riding up a coulee flanked by low hills. Below the brow of one that lay ahead of him an Apache war chief watched his approach. Below and behind the warrior a pinto stallion lay stretched upon its side, obedient to the command of its master.

Shoz-Dijiji, endowed by Nature with keen eyes and a retentive memory, both of which had been elevated by constant lifelong exercise to approximate perfection, recognized Luke long before the cowboy came opposite his position—knew him even before he could discern his features.

“Hey, you!” called Shoz-Dijiji without exposing himself to the view of the youth.

Luke reined in and looked about. Mechanically his hand went to the butt of his six-shooter.

“No shoot!” said Shoz-Dijiji. “I am friend.”

“How the hell do I know that?” demanded Jensen. “I can’t see you, an’ I aint takin’ no chances.”

“I got you covered with rifle,” announced Shoz-Dijiji. “You better be friend and put away gun. I no shoot. I am Shoz-Dijiji.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Jensen. The one thousand dollars reward instantly dominated his thoughts.

“You no shoot?” demanded the Indian. Luke returned his revolver to its holster. “Come on down,” he said. “I remember you.”

Shoz-Dijiji spoke to Nejeunee, who scrambled to his feet; and a moment later the pinto stallion and its rider were coming down the hillside.

“We thought you was dead,” said Luke.

“No. Shoz-Dijiji been long time in Sonora.”

“Still on the war path?” asked the cowboy.

“Geronimo make treaty with the Mexicans and with your General Miles,” explained the Apache. “He promise we never fight again against the Mexicans or the Americans. Shoz-Dijiji keep the treaty Geronimo made. Shoz-Dijiji will not fight unless they make him. Even the coyote will fight for his life.”

“What you come back here fer, Shoz-Dijiji?” asked Luke.

“I come to see Wichita Billings. Mebby so I get job here. What you think?”

Many thoughts crowded themselves rapidly through the mind of Luke Jensen in the instant before he replied and foremost among them was the conviction that this man could not be the murderer of Jefferson Billings. Had he been he would have known that suspicion would instantly attach to him from the fact that Wichita had seen him near the ranch the day her father was killed and that on that same day the pony he now rode had been stolen from the east pasture.

“Well, what do you think about it, Shoz-Dijiji?” parried Luke.

“I think mebby so she give me’ job, but Shoz-Dijiji not so damn sure about her father. He no like Shoz-Dijiji.”

“Don’t you know that her ol’ man’s dead?” demanded Luke.

“Dead? No, Shoz-Dijiji not know that. Shoz-Dijiji been down in Sonora long time. How he die?”

“He was murdered jest outside the east pasture and—scalped,” said Luke.

“You mean by Apaches?”

“No one knows, but it looks damn suspicious.”

“When thls happen?” demanded Shoz-Dijiji.

“We found him the mornin’ after you took thet there pony out of the east pasture.”

Shoz-Dijiji sat in silence for a moment, his inscrutable face masking whatever emotions were stirring within his breast.

“You mean they think Shoz-Dijiji kill Billings? Does Chita think that, too?”

“Look here, Shoz-Dijiji,” said Jensen, kindly, “you done me a good turn oncet thet I aint a-never goin’ to forgit. I don’t mind tellin’ you I aint never thought you killed the ol’ man, but everyone else thinks so.”

“Even Chita?” asked Shoz-Dijiji.

“I wouldn’t say she does and I wouldn’t say she doesn’t, but she aint never took off the thousand dollar reward she offered to any hombre what would bring you in dead.”

Not by the quiver of an eyelid did Shoz-Dijiji reveal the anguish of his tortured heart as he listened to the words that blasted forever the sole hope of happiness that had buoyed him through the long days and nights of his journey up through hostile Sonora and even more hostile Arizona.

“You get one thousand dollars, you kill me?” he asked.


“Why you no kill me, then?”

Jensen shrugged. “I reckon it must be for the same reason you didn’t kill me when you had the chancet, Shoz-Dijiji,” he replied. “There must be a streak of white in both of us.”

“Good-bye,” said!Shoz-Dijiji, abruptly. “I go now.”

“Say, before you go would you mind tellin’ me fer sure thet it wasn’t you killed the ol’ man?” asked Luke.

Shoz-Dijiji looked the other squarely in the eyes. “If Wichita Billings offer one thousand dollar reward to have Shoz-Dijiji killed she must know Shoz-Dijiji kill her father. Good-bye. Shoz-Dijiji ride straight up coulee, slowly. Mebby so you want one thousand dollars, now you get it. Sabe?” He wheeled Nejeunee and walked the pony slowly away while Luke Jensen, slouching in his saddle, watched him until he had disappeared beyond a low ridge.

Not once did Jensen experience any urge to reach for the six-shooter at his hip or the rifle in its boot beneath his right leg.

“I could shore use a thousand dollars,” he mused as he turned his pony’s head back toward the Crazy B Ranch, “but I don’t want it thet bad.”

As he rode into the ranch yard later in the afternoon he saw Wichita Billings standing near the bunk house talking with “Kansas.” Luke was of a mind to avoid her, feeling, as he did, that he should report his meeting with Shoz-Dijiji and dreadIng to do so because of the fear that a posse would be organized to go out and hunt the Apache down the moment that it was learned that he was in the vicinity.

But when Wichita saw him she called to him, and there was nothing less that he could do than go to her. She had finished her conversation with “Kansas,” and the latter had gone into the bunk house when Luke reached her side.

“Walk up to the office with me, Luke,” said the girl. “I want to talk with you,” and he fell in beside her as she walked along. “I have just been talking with ‘Kansas,’” she continued, “and he tells me that a few head are missing off the north range. Did you miss any today or see anything unusual?”

Had he seen anything unusual! There was a poser. Luke scratched his head.

“I wouldn’t say that they was any more critters missin’;” he replied, “an’ I wouldn’t say as they wasn’t.”

He looked down at the ground in evident embarrassment. Wichita Billings, who knew these boys better than they knew themselves, eyed him suspiciously. They walked on in silence for a few moments.

“Look here, Luke,” said the girl, presently. “Someone is stealing my cattle. I don’t know who to trust. I’ve always looked to ‘Smooth’ and you and ‘Kansas’ and Matt as being the ones I sure could tie to. If you boys don’t shoot straight with me no one will.”

“Who said I warn’t shootin’ straight with you, Miss?” demanded Luke.

“I say so,” replied Wichita. “You’re holding something out on me. Say, I can read you just like a mail order catalogue. If you don’t come clean you’re through your pay check’s waiting for you right now.”

“I kin always git another job,” parried Luke, lamely.

“Sure you can; but that isn’t the question, Luke,” replied the girl, sadly.

“I know it ain’t, Miss,” and Luke dug a toe into the loose earth beneath the cottonwood tree. “I did see somethin’ onusual today,” he blurted suddenly.

“I thought so. What was it?”

“An Apache—Shoz-Dijiji.”

Wichita Billings’ eyes went wide. Involuntarily her hand went to her breast, and she caught her breath in a little gasp before she spoke.

“You shot him?” The words were a barely audible whisper. “You shot him for the reward?”

“I shore did not,” snapped Luke. “Look here, Miss, you kin have my job any time you want it, but you nor no one else kin make me double cross a hombre what saved my life—I don’t give a damn who he killed—I beg yore pardon, Miss—and anyway I haint never belieyed he did kill your paw.”

In his righteous indignation Luke Jensen had failed to note what appeared to be the relaxation of vast relief that claimed Wichita Billings the instant that he announced that he had not shot Shoz-Dijiji. Could it be that Wichita, too, had her doubts?

“Did you ask him about the killing?” Demanded the girl.


“What did he say? Did he deny it?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say he did and I wouldn’t say he didn’t.”

“Just what did he say?”

“He said that ef you was offerin’ a thousand dollars fer him dead you must be plumb shore he done it.”

“How did he know about the reward?”

“I told him.”

“You told him?”

“Shore I did. I don’t think he done it. Ef I hadn’t told him he was a comin’ here an’ some of the fellers would have plugged him shore. You ain’t mad, are you?”

“You are very sure he didn’t kill Dad, aren’t you, Luke?”

“Yep, plumb certain.”

“But he didn’t deny it, did he?”

“No, an’ he didn’t admit it, neither.”

“There may be some doubt, Luke. I’m going to draw down that offer, because I can’t take the chance of being mistaken; but as long as I live I shall believe in my heart that Shoz-Dijiji killed my father. If you ever see him again, tell him that the reward has been called off; and tell him, too, that if ever I see him I’ll kill him, just like I think he killed my Dad; but I can’t ask anyone else to. Send ‘Smooth’ here when you go back to the bunk house.”

As Luke was walking away the girl called to him.

“Wait a minute, Luke, there is something else,” she said. “I have just been thinking,” she continued, when the youth was near her again, “that the Indian you saw today might have had something to do with the cattle stealing. Had you thought of that?”

Luke scratched his head. “No, ma’am, I hedn’t thought of that; but now that you mention it I reckon as how it ain’t at all unlikely. I never seen one yet that wouldn’t steal.”

“I guess we’re on the right trail now, Luke,” said the girl. “Don’t say anything to anyone about seeing him. Just keep your eyes open, and let me know the minute you see anything out of the way.”

“All right, Miss, I’ll keep a right smart look out,” and Jensen turned and walked toward the bunk house.

As Wichita waited for her foreman her thoughts were overcast by clouds of sorrow and regret. The animosities that were directed upon Shoz-Dijiji were colored by the shame she felt for having permitted her heart to surrender itself to an Indian. That she had never openly admitted the love that she had once harbored for a savage did not reconcile her, nor did the fact that she had definitely and permanently uprooted the last vestige of this love and nurtured hatred in its stead completely clear her conscience.

It angered her that even while she vehemently voiced her belief that Shoz-Dijiji had killed her father she still had doubts that refused to die. She was bitter in the knowledge that though she had suggested that he was stealing her cattle, deep in her heart she could not bring herself to believe it of him.

Her somber reveries were interrupted by the approach of Kreff.

“There are a couple of things I wanted to speak to you about, ‘Smooth,’” said the girl.

“Fire away, Chita,” said the man, with easy familiarity.

“In the first place I want you to pass the word around that the reward for bringing in that Apache is off.”

“Why?” demanded the man.

“That’s my business,” replied the girl, shortly. The words and her tone reminded Kreff of the dead Boss—she was her father allover—and he said no more.

“The other thing is this report about cattle stealing,” she continued.

“Who said there was any cattle stealin’ goin’ on?” he asked.

“Luke has missed a few head off the east range.”

“Oh, that kid’s loco,” said Kreff. “They’ve drifted, an’ he’s too plumb lazy to hunt ’em up.”

“‘Kansas’ has missed some, too, from up around the Little Mesa on the north range,” she insisted. “I don’t know so much about Luke, he hasn’t been with us so long; but ‘Kansas’ is an old hand—he’s not the kind to do much guessing.”

“I’ll look into it, Chita,” said Kreff, “an’ don’t you worry your little head no more about it.” There was something in his tone that made her glance up quickly, knitting her brows. His voice was low and soothing and protective. It didn’t sound like “Smooth” Kreff in spite of his nickname, which, she happened to know, was indicative of the frictionless technique with which he separated other men from their belongings in the application of the art of draw and stud.

“You hadn’t ought to hev nothin’ to worry you,” he continued. “This here business is a man’s job. It ain’t right an’ fittin’ thet a girl should hev to bother with sech things.”

“Well, that’s what I’ve got you and the other boys for, ‘Smooth.’”

“Yes, but hired hands ain’t the same. You ought to be married—to a good cow man,” he added.

“Meaning?” she inquired.


“Are you proposing to me, ‘Smooth’?”

“I shore am. What do you say? You an’ me could run this outfit together fine, an’ you wouldn’t never hev to worry no more about nothin’.”

“But I don’t love you, ‘Smooth.’”

“Oh, shucks, that aint nothin’. They’s a heap o’ women marry men they don’t love. They git to lovin’ ’em afterwards, though.”

“But you don’t love me.”

“I shore do, Chita. I’ve allus loved you.”

“Well, you’ve managed to hide it first rate,” she observed.

“They didn’t never seem no chance, ’til now,” he explained; “but you got a lot o’ horse sense, an’ I reckon you kin see as well as me thet it would be the sensible thing to do. You cain’t marry nothin’ but a cow man, an’ they ain’t no other cow man thet I knows of thet would be much of a improvement over me. You’ll larn to love me, all right. I aint so plumb ugly, an’ I won’t never beat you up.”

Wichita laughed. “You’re sure tootin’, ‘Smooth,’” she said. “There isn’t a man on earth that’s ever going to try to beat me up, more than once.”

Kreff grinned. “You don’t hev to tell me that, Chita,” he said. “I reckon that’s one o’ the reasons I’m so strong fer you—you shore would make one grand woman fer a man in this country.”

“Well, ‘Smooth,’ as a business proposition there is something in what you say that it won’t do any harm to think about, but as a proposal of marriage it hasn’t got any more bite to it than a white pine dog with a poplar tail.”

“But you’ll think it over, Chita?” he asked, drawing a sack of Durham and a package of brown papers from his shirt pocket.

“You dropped something, ‘Smooth,’” she said; gesturing toward the ground at his feet. “You pulled it out of your pocket with the makings.”

He looked down at a bit of paste board, at one half of a playing card that had been torn in two—one half of the jack of spades.

Apache Devil - Contents    |     Chapter Seventeen - Cheetim Strikes!

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