Apache Devil

Chapter Eighteen

“The Apache Devil!”

Edgar Rice Burroughs

OUT ON the east range a horseman reined in his mount and listened as the rapid reports of rifle and pistol came faintly to his ears. There was something amiss at the Crazy B Ranch and Wichita was there, practically alone! Shoz-Dijiji wheeled Nejeunee so suddeniy that the little pinto reared almost straight in air and then, at a touch of his master’s heels and a word in his pointed ears, leaped off in the new direction at a swift run.

After sending Luke back to the ranch, Kreff’s suspicions, now thoroughly aroused, continued to increase. He began to realize that if they were well founded one man might not be sufficient. He wished that he had sent more. Presently he wished that he had gone himself; and soon he reined in, halting his companions.

“Fellers,” he said, “the more I think about it the more I think that mebby Cheetim’s givin’ us a dirty deal. He may have jest wanted to git us all away from the ranch. He’s tried to get Chita twicet before, I’m a-goin’ back an’ I’m a-goin’ to take Jake an’ Sam with me. ‘Kansas,’ you take Charlie an’ Matt an’ ride after them rustlers.

“Ef you kin pick up some fellers along the way, all right; ef you can’t, do the best you kin alone. So long! Come on, fellers!”

.     .     .     .     .

As the five men entered the hills with Chita, Cheetim joined them. It was evident that he was much elated.

“Good work, boys!” he cried. “I reckon I didn’t pull the wool over ‘Smooth’s’ eyes nor nothin’, eh?” He rode to Chita’s side and grinned into her face. “Say, dearie,” he exclaimed, “you don’t hev to worry none. I’ve decided to do the right thing by you. We’ll spend our honeymoon up in the hills ’til things blows over a bit an’ then we’ll mosey down to the Hog Ranch an’ git married.”

Wichita looked the man straight in the eyes for a moment and then turned away in disgust, but she did not speak. Luis Mariel, sober eyed, serious, looked on. He had not bargained on a part in any such affair as this.

“Well, fellers,” said Cheetim, “let’s pull up a second an’ licker. I reckon we’ve earned a drink.”

They stopped their ponies and from five hip pockets came five pint bottles.

“Here’s to the bride!” cried Cheetim, and they all laughed and drank, all except Luis, who had no bottle.

“Here, kid,” said Cheetim, “hev a drink!” He proffered his flask to Luis.

“Thank you, Senor, I do not care to drink,” replied the Mexican.

Deep into the hills they rode—five miles, ten miles. Wichita guessed where they were taking her—to an old two room shack that prospectors had built years before beside a little spring far back in the mountains. Apaches had gotten the prospectors, and the shack had stood deserted and tenantless ever since.

She felt quite hopeless, for there seemed not the slightest foundation for belief that there could be any help for her. Luke, if he were not badly hurt, or possibly Chung, the cook, could get word to their nearest neighbor; but he lived miles and miles away; and any help to be effective must reach her within a few hours, for after that it would be too late. And even if men were found to come after her it might be a long time before they could locate Cheetim’s hiding place.

Cheetim and his men had finished a flask apiece as they rode, but this was not the extent of their supply—each had another flask in his shirt—so that by the time they reached the shack they were more than content with themselves and all the world.

Once Luis had ridden close beside Wichita and spoken to her. “I am sorry, Senorita,” he whispered. “I did not know what they were going to do. If I can help you, I will. Maybe, when they are drunk, I can help you get away.”

“Thanks,” replied the girl. As she spoke she turned and looked at the youth, noticing him more than casually for the first time, and realized that his face seemed familiar. “Where have I seen you before?” she asked.

“I brought the pinto pony from El Teniente King to your rancho a year ago,” replied Luis.

“Oh, yes, I remember you now. You brought Shoz-Dijiji’s pony up from Mexico.”

“Shoz-Dijiji’s pony? Was that Shoz-Dijiji’s pony? You know Shoz-Dijiji, Senorita?”

“I know him,” said the girl; “do you?”

“Yes, very well. He saved my father’s life; and twice when he could have killed me he did not.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Cheetim who rode back to Wichita’s side.

“Well, here we are, dearie,” he said, “but we aint goin’ to stay here long. Tomorrow morning we hit the trail fer a place I know where God himself couldn’t find us.”

The shack, before which the party had stopped and were dismounting, was a rough affair built of stone and mud and such timber as grew sparsely on the slopes of the canyon in the bottom of which it nestled. A tiny spring, now choked with dirt, made a mud hole a few yards to one side of the building. The men led their horses to the rear of the building where there were a few trees to which they could fasten them. Two of the men started to clean out the spring, and Cheetim escorted Wichita into the shack.

“We brung along some grub,” he said. “It wont be much of a weddin’ breakfast to brag on, but you wait ’til we git back to the Hog Ranch! We’ll have a reg’lar spread then an’ invite every son-of-a-gun in the territory. I’m goin’ to treat you right, kid, even if you haven’t been any too damn nice to me.”

Wichita did not speak.

“Say, you can jest start right now cuttin’ out thet high toned stuff with me,” said Cheetim. “I’ll be good to you ef you treat me right, but by God I aint a-goin’ to stand much more funny business. You kin start now by givin’ me a little kiss.”

“Cheetim,” said the girl, “listen to me. You’re half drunk now, but maybe you’ve got sense enough left to understand what I am going to say to you. I’d a heap rather kiss a Gila monster than you. You may be able to kiss me because you’re stronger than I am, and I guess even kissing a Gila monster wouldn’t kill me, but I’m warning you that ef you ever do kiss me you’d better kill me quick, for I’m going to kill myself if anything happens to me —”

“Ef you want to be a damn fool that’s your own look out,” interrupted Cheetim, with a snarl, “but it wont keep me from doin’ what I’m goin’ to do. Ef you’re fool enough to kill yourself afterward, you can.”

“You didn’t let me finish,” said Wichita. “I’ll kill myself, all right, but I’ll kill you first.”

The men were entering the room; and Cheetim stood, hesitating, knowing the girl meant what she said. He was a coward, and he had not had quite enough whiskey to bolster up his courage to the point of his desires.

“Oh, well,” he said, “we won’t quarrel this a-way on our honeymoon. You jest go in the other room there, dearie”, and make yourself to home; an’ we’ll talk things over later. Git me a piece of rope, one o’ you fellers. I ain’t goin’ to take no chances of my bride vamoosin’.”

In the small back room of the shack they tied Wichita’s wrists and ankles securely and left her seated on an old bench, the only furniture that the room boasted.

Out in the front room the men were making preparations to cook some of the food they had brought with them, but most of their time was devoted to drinking and boasting. Cheetim drank with a purpose. He wanted to arrive, as quickly as possible, at a state of synthetic courage that would permit him to ignore the moral supremacy of the girl in the back room. He knew that he was physically more powerful, and so he could not understand why he feared her. Cheetim had never heard of such a thing as an inferiority complex, and so he did not know that that was what he suffered from in an aggravated form whenever he faced the level gaze and caustic tongue of Wichita Billings.

The more Cheetim drank the louder and more boastful he became. Wichita could hear him narrating the revolting details of numerous crimes that he had committed.

“Yo shua ah some bad hombre, ‘Dirty’,” eulogized one of his party.

“Oh, I don’t claim to be no bad man,” replied Cheetim, modestly. “What I says is thet I has brains, an’ I use ’em. Look how I fooled ‘Smooth’—sent him off on a wild goose chase an’ then swipes his girl while he’s gone.” They all laughed uproariously.

“An’ he better not get funny about it neither, even ef he don’t like it. I kin use my brains fer other things besides gettin’ me my women. Ol’ man Billings larnt thet. He kicked me out oncet; an’ I suppose he thought I was afraid of him, but I was jest waitin’. I waited a long time, but I got him.”

“You got him? You did not. He was kilt by Injuns,” contradicted one.

“Injuns, Hell!” ejaculated Cheetim. “Thar’s where I used my brains. I killed Billings, but I was cute enough to scalp him. I —”

Drunk as he was, he realized that he had gone too far, had admitted too much. He looked wickedly about the room. “What I’ve told you is among friends,” he said. “Ef any of you fellers ever feels like you’d like to join Billings all you got to do is blab what I jest told you. Savvy?” In the other room Wichita Billings, listening, heard every word that Cheetim spoke, and her soul was seared by shame and vain regret for the wrong she had done the friendless red man. She reproached herself for not listening to the counsel and the urging of her heart, for she knew—she had always known—that she had battled against her love for Shoz-Dijiji, had trampled it beneath her feet, that she might encourage her belief in his perfidy.

If she could only see him once more, if she could only tell him that she knew and ask his forgiveness; but now it was too late.

She heard Cheetim speaking again. “You fellers finish rustlin’ the grub,” he said. “I’m goin’ in an’ visit my wife.” This sally was applauded with much laughter. “An’ I don’t want to be disturbed,” he concluded, “Savvy?”

.     .     .     .     .

A pinto stallion, racing like the wind, bore its rider toward the Crazy B ranch house following the shots that had attracted the attention of the Apache. Fences intervened, but though there were gates in them Shoz-Dijiji had no time to waste on gates. Straight for them he rode Nejeunee; and the pinto took them in his stride, soaring over them like a bird on the wing.

Chung, kneeling beside Luke in the ranch yard, voiced a startled cry as he saw a pinto stallion, bearing a feared Apache warrior, rise over the bars of the corral; but Chung did not flee. He stood his post, though scarce knowing what to do.

Luke’s six-shooter was close beside his hand; but Chung was too surprised to think of it, and a second later the warrior had reined in beside them, his pony sliding upon its haunches for a dozen feet.

Throwing himself to the ground Shoz-Dijiji knelt beside Luke.

“What has happened?” he demanded. “Where is Chita?”

Luke looked up. “Oh, it’s you, Shoz-Dijiji? Thank God for that. A bunch of skunks jest rid off into the south hills with her. I ain’t hurted bad, but I cain’t ride. You go!”

“Sure I go!” As he arose Shoz-Dijiji stripped his clothing from him in an instant, and when he leaped to Nejeunee’s back again he wore only moccasins, his G-string, and a head band.

“I get help” he cried, reassuringly, waving his rifle above his head, and an instant later he was racing for the gate.

Down the road from the west thundered Kreff and Jake and Sam just as Shoz-Dijiji swept through the gate. “There’s the Siwash killed the Boss!” shouted Sam, who was in the lead, and the words were scarce out of his mouth before he had drawn his gun and opened fire on the Indian. Jake joined in the fusillade of shots; and Shoz-Dijiji, turning upon the back of his war pony, sent a half dozen bullets among them before he vanished into the hills. It was only the rapidity with which their mounts had been moving that prevented any casualties.

“Even a coyote will fight for his life,” soliloquized the Apache Devil; but he did not feel like a coyote. Once more he was an Apache war chief riding naked upon the war-trail against the hated pindah-lickoyee; and just as he rode from the sight of the white men he could not restrain a single, exultant Apache war whoop.

Into the ranch yard thundered Kreff and his companions. They saw Luke trying to drag himself to his feet and stagger toward him.

“You lop-eared idiots!” he yelled. “Wot in Hell you shootin’ at him fer? He’s ridin’ after the fellers that stole Chita.”

“Stole Chita?” cried Kreff. “I was right! Cheetim!”

“I didn’t see Cheetim,” said Luke. “Whoever it was rid south into the hills. Git the hell out of here and git after them, an’ ef you see that Apache leave him be—he’s the best friend Wichita Billings’s got.”

“Chung, you git Luke into the bunk house an’ take keer o’ him ’til we gets back,” Kreff called over his shoulder as the three spurred away again, this time following the trail taken by Shoz-Dijiji.

Plain before the trained eyes of Shoz-Dijiji lay the spoor of his quarry. Swiftly he rode. The errand, the speed of his fleet pony, his own nakedness stirred every savage instinct within him. He had never expected to live again; but this, O, Usen, was life! He dipped into the pouch at his side and drew out a little silver box that he had never expected to use again, and dipping into it with a fore finger he banded his face with the blue and white war paint of the Apache Devil. He could not lay the colors on carefully at the speed Nejeunee was carrying him; but he wore them, as a ship of war runs up its battle flag as it goes into action.

.     .     .     .     .

As Cheetim left them and entered the rear room of the shack, the men in the front room nudged one another, chuckled, and took a drink. They were wiping their mouths with the backs of their hands when the outer door swung open, and a painted warrior stepped into the room.

Luis Mariel, who was standing in a corner, looked wide eyed at the newcomer. The other men reached for their six-shooters. “The Apache Devil!” cried Luis. Shoz-Dijiji looked quickly at him. “Lie down!” he said to him in Spanish. Already he had commenced to shoot. He asked no questions. A man fell.

In the back room Cheetim and Wichita heard the dread name as Luis cried it aloud. Cheetim had just entered and closed the door behind him. He was approaching Wichita as Luis spoke the name of the scourge of three states. At the first shot Cheetim crossed the room at a bound and leaped from the window. A half dozen shots followed in quick succession. Four men lay dead in the outer room when Shoz-Dijiji sprang to the door of the smaller room and swung it open, just in time to see Cheetim mounting a horse in the rear of the building. He recognized him instantly; then he turned toward the girl.

“You hurt?” he demanded.

“No. Oh, Shoz-Dijiji, thank God, you came!” The Apache called to Luis who came running to the door. “You,” he said, pointing at the youth. “You know the Apache Devil. You know what he do to his enemies. You take this girl home. If she don’t get home safe the Apache Devil settle with you. Sabe?”

He crossed the room to the window.

“Where are you going?” cried Wichita.

“To kill my last pindah-lickoyee,” replied Shoz-Dijiji, as he vaulted across the sill.

“Wait! Wait, Shoz-Dijiji,” the girl called after him; but Shoz-Dijiji, war chief of the Be-don-ko-he, war chief of all the Apaches, had gone.

The little pinto stallion was scrambling up the steep canyon side as Luis Mariel cut the bonds that held Wichita Billings. The girl ran to the window.

Far above she saw war pony and warrior silhouetted against the darkening sky; and then Shoz-Dijiji, last of the war chiefs, and Nejeunee, last of his wild friends, dropped below the crest and disappeared.

For several minutes the girl stood at the window gazing out into the gathering night; then she turned back into the room where Luis stood just within the doorway.

“The Apache Devil!” There was a shudder in Wichita’s voice. Her eyes discovered Luis. “Oh,” she said, as though she had forgotten his presence, “you are here?”

“Si, Senorita.”

Again there was a long silence.

“The Apache Devil!” Wichita squared het shoulders and lifted her chin. “I do not care,” she cried, defiantly.

“No, Senorita.”

The girl looked fixedly at the Mexican youth for a moment as though his presence suggested a new thought that was formulating in her mind.

“What is your name?” she asked.

“Luis, Senorita,” he replied; “Luis Mariel.”

“You said that you would help me, Luis, if you could. Do you remember?”

“I remember, Senorita.”

“You can, Luis. Ride after the—the Apache Devil and tell him that I want him to come back.”

“Gladly, Senorita.”

“Go,” she urged. “Hurry! Go now!”

Luis glanced behind him through the doorway into the other room and then back at Wichita.

“And leave you alone, at night, with all these dead men?” he exclaimed. “Santa Maria, Senorita! No, I cannot do that.”

“I am not afraid, Luis,” she said.

“S-s-st!” exclaimed Luis in a hoarse whisper. “What is that?”

They both listened.

“Someone is coming,” said the girl. “Perhaps—perhaps it is he.”

“There is more than one,” said the youth. “I hear them talking now.” He stepped quickly into the adjoining room and, stooping, took a six-shooter from the floor where it lay beside one of the dead men. Returning, he handed it to Wichita Billings. “Perhaps these are more of Senor Cheetim’s friends,” he suggested.

Together they stood waiting. The sounds of approaching horses ceased, and all was quiet. Wichita knew that whoever it was that came had reached a point where the shack was visible for the first time and were doubtless reconnoitering. Finally a voice broke the silence.-

“Chita!” it called aloud, ringing and echoing through the canyon.

“They are my friends,” she said to Luis and ran through the outer room to the front doorway.

“Here, ‘Smooth’!” she called. “It is all right. I am in the shack.”Luis came and stood just behind her shoulder. It was not yet so dark but that features might be recognized at short distances. The two saw Kreff riding forward with Sam and Jake. Luis layed a hand on Wichita’s arm. “They are Cheetim’s friends,” he said. “I know that first one well.” He brushed by her, his revolver in his hand.

“No!” she cried, seizing his arm. “They are my own men. The first one is my foreman.”

“Here’s one of ’em, boys!” cried Kreff as he recognized Luis. “Here’s the damned Greaser that brought me thet lyin’ letter from ‘Dirty.’ Git out o’ the way, Chita!” and leaping from his horse he ran forward.

“Stop!” cried Luis. His weapon was levelled at Kreff’s stomach.

“This boy is all right!” exclaimed Wichita. “Put your guns away, all of you.”

Slowly and with no great alacrity Kreff and Mariel returned their revolvers to their holsters. The other two men followed their example.

“What’s happened here?” demanded Kreff. “Has anyone hurted you, Chita?”

“No, I’m all right,” she replied. “I’ll tell you all about it later. Get your horse, Luis, and take the message that I gave you. I’ll be starting back for the ranch now. I’ll be waiting there. Tell him that I shall be waiting there for him.”

Kreff looked on, puzzled, as Wichita gave her instructions to Luis. He saw the youth mount and ride up the canyon side. Then he turned to the girl. “Where’s he goin’?” he demanded. “Who you goin’ to wait fer?”

“For Shoz-Dijiji,” she replied. “He did not kill Dad—it was Cheetim. Come along, now; I want to go home.”

Apache Devil - Contents    |     Chapter Nineteen - The Last War-Trail

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