Apache gunhawk, p.3
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Apache Gunhawk, p.3

           Monogram Press
 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Virginia was thrilled with the arrival of the new baby, but not with the news that Bill was now leader of the gang. That, along with hearing of the close calls during the last raid and Ace’s death, her fears of something happening to her husband were doubled. He tried to convince her that this had been a happenstance and he would not let anything like that happen again. Ace had been getting old and perhaps had gotten a little careless. He should have called off the job as soon as things started to go wrong. He assured Virginia that he would never make that mistake, but she didn’t fully buy it. Then he presented his plan to her; that they would move into Denver. He would change his name and present himself as a traveling salesman. This would explain absences away from his family for prolonged periods. Meanwhile, Virginia and the kids could live comfortably and respectably as a part of an upper-class society. The boys could go to good schools and grow up to be something other than what he and his father had been. He would always keep the gang life separate and the boys would never ever hear of, nor see the Wolf’s Lair.

  She was skeptical at first, but when they settled in the city as Bill and Virginia Nolan, with their two little boys, Bill, Jr., or Little Bill as they liked to refer to him and their younger boy, Tommy, she began to believe that it just might work. They bought a large white frame house in a well to do neighborhood. Bill took on roles of leadership in various civic organizations and Virginia became very much involved in several social events, becoming acquainted with other women from the upper crust of Denver society.

  Bill would go away from time to time on his so called sales trips and come home with enough money, to continue keeping up with the neighbors. He never spoke of the Wolf’s Lair members of the gang, or what he did while he was away. After a while Virginia began to almost believe that they were a normal family, living a normal life.

  As the boys grew older and went to school, Virginia was becoming very satisfied with her life. She no longer feared danger to her husband and was no longer uncomfortable around people of authority, such as police and officers of the court. In fact, they were friends with many who served in those professions. It began to feel as if the days of hiding and fear of the law was far behind them.

  The boys grew like weeds and kept her busy. No one doubted that the boys were not true brothers although they had distinctively different personalities. Tom was quiet and shy; the serious, studious type in school and Little Bill was a hell raiser from day one and never cared for school. Yet the boys were good friends and got along well, even though Tom was always covering up for his older brother’s mischievousness

  But as all good things must eventually come to an end, the idyllic life of the Nolans, could not last forever. One day as the boys clamored out of the little one room school house in which they were in the fourth and fifth grades, respectively, they didn’t notice the tall lean man wearing a black frock coat and derby hat lounging against a tree on the other side of the schoolyard.

  The boys were laughing and giggling as they raced across the school yard to meet their parents, who had a habit of often strolling arm in arm along the shady lane toward school to meet the boys. As Bill dropped Virginia’s arm and stepped away, both arms reaching out for the boys, the man stepped away from the tree, dragging a pistol from a shoulder holster under his coat. With Bill’s attention on the boys, he didn’t see the man, but Virginia caught the movement out of the corner of her eye. The man had his pistol up and leveled at Bill’s head, when she screamed. Bill flinched, just as the weapon roared. Hot lead whizzed past his face, missing him by less than an inch. Virginia reached out for Bill as the pistol roared again. She felt the impact and sudden burning pain as she stepped in the way of the bullet. She sagged against her husband and he fell to his knees, trying to hold her up. Wet, sticky blood oozed through her frilly dress and covered his hands. He looked up, just in time to see the assailant, standing there with a smoking gun in hand. His cadaverous face was dark and his eyes bulged with mixed fear and awe at what he had done. Instinctively, Bill reached under his coat where he would normally be wearing a gun when not at home. There was none, for Tom Nolan, respectable citizen, never wore one. He glared at the man and saw him turn and run away, his mission bungled. Bill didn’t know him or why he was after him, but he would never forget his face.

  The boys were now crying and falling against their mother, screaming for her to be all right. Bill pushed the boys back, speaking low and reassuringly to them as he lowered Virginia’s body to the grass. She smiled feebly for a half second, looking up into Bill’s face, then, died quietly.

  There was no explanation for the attack and the neighborhood was shocked. No one could understand why a nice couple, such as the Nolans, should be the target of an assassin. The general assumption was the man must have had robbery in mind. Beyond that, there just was no other explanation.

  There was a large turnout for Virginia’s funeral. The boys were devastated and clung to their father as their mother was lowered into the ground.

  Although, the community offered their condolences and sympathy, Bill knew it would be a matter of time before further investigation might ensue and eventually lead to the discovery of his true identity. Besides, what was he to do with the boys, now. Without a mother to care for them while he was away tending to business, he must care for them himself. But how? There was only one way and he knew Virginia would not have approved, if she were there. But she wasn’t there. He would have to do what he swore he would never do. Bill Nolan would sell his beautiful home in Denver and move away for good, never to be heard from again. Only Bill Noonan, feared leader of the Wolf’s Lair gang would carry on with his boys living with him in an outlaw stronghold.

  The boys adjusted to the new way of life, quickly. They were at the age where bad memories faded quickly and were replaced with the attention of the other members of the gang and the wid- open spaces to play in without having to go to school. Young Tom seemed to miss his schooling, but Bill saw to it that he was provided with reading material.

  Bill and Sid taught the boys how to ride a horse, handle a lariat, and follow a trail. Little Bill was particularly adept on picking up outdoor skills and he looked up to the members of the gang and their ways. He was especially fond of his Uncle Charlie Noonan. Charlie was now beginning to age, but still had a maturity similar to a young boy. Much to the elder Bill Noonan’s chagrin, Little Bill was fascinated by Charlie’s exaggerated stories. He was eager to learn to use a gun and his Uncle Charlie was quick to show him how.

  Bill Noonan was quick to put Charlie in his place. Letting him know in uncertain terms that if the boys were to learn to use a gun, he would do the teaching himself. He wanted to make sure that the boys learned the proper respect for a shooting iron and to use it responsibly and appropriately.

  The boys grew up quickly, growing in skills and confidence there in the stronghold and never seemed to mind being cut off from the outside world, during the first few years, but as they grew older, they began to want to see what else might lie beyond the stronghold. By the time they were teenagers, they had honed the many skills of outdoor life and were rapidly coming to the age where they began to think they could contribute more than just carrying out the necessary chores that supported the outlaw gang. Both boys were now good shots and good trackers and they were tiring of being left behind while the others rode off to adventure.

  They had taken care of the gardening, growing food for the men and went out hunting, keeping the lair in meat supply. Little Bill’s constant whining about being left behind aggravated Bill Noonan to all ends. When his patience finally gave out, he agreed against his own better judgment to let the boys accompany them and learn the ways of the trail. It was understood that the boy’ would not be involved in any of the jobs. They would merely be a support team that maintained temporary camps for them and hunt for game, keeping the outlaws supplied. It was on one of these trips, that led into southern New Mexico, that Tom Noonan first met up with the young Indian boy known as Hawk.

  Tom
and Little Bill had been hunting and had just emerged from the woods onto a grassy knoll. Tom was leading his horse with the carcass of a deer slung across the saddle. Little Bill, astride his own horse, was carrying their current cache of game in a canvas sack tied to the saddle horn. It had not been a bad morning’s work and both lads were satisfied with what they had to bring back.

  It was here atop the knoll, that the two brothers saw the young Apache boy scaling a gravel bank, on the far side of the canyon, apparently gathering wild strawberries, that grew abundantly there. He appeared to be a little younger that either Tom or Little Bill, but he looked like he was built solid and was very muscular. Above him, at the top of the gravel bank, the boys could see another Apache youth creeping through the rocks. This one was taller and darker than the boy gathering the berries and was obviously older. He peered out around a large boulder near the edge of the bank and watched the younger one below, who was now about halfway up the bank; his moccasined feet, slipping in the gravel as he reached out for some plump, ripe berries.

  The lad behind the boulder above, stepped back, leaned against the big rock and started pushing it, letting it rock back and forth as he tried to dislodge it.

  “What’s he trying do?” Tom said, not really asking a question. He knew full well what was happening for it was obvious that the older Apache boy meant deliberate harm to the one on the bank.

  “Don’t worry about it,” Little Bill said. “None of our business. Besides, if one Injun wants to get rid of another, I say let him do it and there’s one less redskin around”

  “I think we should warn that kid,” Tom said, ignoring Little Bill’s remarks.

  “Looks like we’re a little late for that brother,” Little Bill Chuckled.

  At that momen,t the big boulder dislodged and started to roll down the bank, taking an avalanche of gravel with it. The young boy on the bank, jerked his head upward in response to the noise of the rolling rock and gravel stones. He eyes widened with fear and he threw himself sideways, trying to dodge the path of impending disaster. He fell back as he jerked sideways and began to slide and roll down the embankment. The fusillade of debris waved over him as he rolled up short near the foot of the bank; a foo- deep pile of gravel having been heaped ahead of his descent and more rolling over his legs, burying them deep enough that he could no longer move. The large boulder itself had lodged against the foot of the bank and one corner of it had rolled over the lad’s feet, pinning him down securely.

  Tom and Little Bill could see the frustration in the older boy’s face as he stood there on top of the ridge and gazed down at his failed attempt. He shook his dark head and stalked away, probably hoping the boy would die eventually, trapped in this lonely prison of dirt.

  “Come on Little Bill,” Tom urged. “We’ve got to go help him.”

  “Not me, little brother,” Little Bill protested. “I ain’t helpin’ no Injun. If you want to, go ahead. But, I’m going home.”

  “Fine,” Tom said, disgruntled. He pulled little Bill from his saddle and shoved the canvas bag full of game toward his brother. “Here, take this with you.”

  “You gonna make me carry everything back alone?” He protested.

  “Your choice,” Tom said flatly, dropping the sack at his brother’s feet. “See you back at the Lair.” He climbed into the saddle and started down the hill.

  Little Bill grimaced and sighed resolutely, “Crazy bugger,” he oathed to himself; then picked up the canvas bag, turned and headed for home.

  The Indian boy was half buried in gravel and was passed out, when Tom reached him and knelt before the still body. He placed his fingers under the Indian boy’s nose and felt a faint wisp of breath. Good. He was still alive. Tom used the stock of his rifle as a makeshift shovel and dragged the deepest part of the stone pile away from the youth’s body. Once he had cleared the most of it, he went to work with his hands so he would not hurt the lad as he cleared the rest of the debris. When enough had been removed, Tom tried to lift the boy free. He was able to roll him onto one shoulder, lift him enough to slide his own knee under the youth and prop him up, but his feet were still pinned by the boulder.

  Tom removed his canteen that had been slung over his shoulder and rode beneath his left arm while out hunting. He sloshed a little on the boy’s dark face, trying to revive him. Finally, the boy stirred in his arms, his mouth opened partially and his eyes began to twitch. Tom lowered the mouth of the canteen opening to the boy’s lips and poured a trickle into his mouth. The lad coughed on it at first, then, instinctively started to drink and swallow eagerly.

  After a couple of swallows, Tom pulled back on the canteen. The boy’s hands reached upward, gripping empty air and his eyes opened. He squirmed suddenly, shocked at the sight of a white face inches from his own. Fear and anger welling up in his dark eyes. “Hold it! Just hold it!” Tom urged quietly and calmly. “I’m here to help you.”

  He wiggled again against Tom’s grasp. Tom pushed the canteen back into the boy’s face, urging him to take it and hoping the boy would see it as a peace offering.

  The boy grabbed it eagerly and drank thirstily. This time Tom let him go at it. Let him keep control of the canteen.

  “Just take it easy and I’ll get you free from this rock,” Tom said, hoping the boy could understand him, as he stepped back away from the youth and turned his attention to the boulder.

  As he examined where the big rock pinned the Indian’s foot, he could see that the foot had been buried by debris first, before the rock rolled on it. Hopefully, this had cushioned the boy’s foot somewhat. He scraped away at the gravel, digging down underneath the foot. When he had cleared a large pocket, he glanced at the boy. “This may hurt some,” he said. The young Apache glared at him, silently. Hate burning in his eyes.

  Gently and steadily, Tom pulled at the boy’s leg. He heard the young Indian groan with pain and saw his young face twist with torture. Resolutely, Tom continued to pull until the foot slid free. He let the boy writhe in the dirt until the pain subsided and he was once again able to open his clenched eyes. Then the boy hungrily attacked the canteen, gulping large swallows and breathing heavily.

  Tom examined the boy’s leg and ankle. No bones seemed to be broken, but the ankle was swelling badly. He pulled off the boy’s moccasins and the boy gasped with pain. His feet were also swelling and it was hard to tell if any of the small bones were broken. Tom pulled his hunting knife from its sheath and the Indian growled a warning in Apache at him. “I’m not here to hurt you. I just want to cut your pants leg away from you, so it won’t be so constricting.”

  The boy went silent and relaxed a little as he saw Tom slice a slit in the fabric, then sheath his knife in his belt.

  “Do you understand English?” Tom asked, hopefully.

  No answer. The boy just stared sullenly.

  “Do you have a horse nearby?” Still no reply. Tom had not seen one, but that did not mean the boy couldn’t have one tethered, someplace out of sight.

  “Look,” Tom pleaded. “If you understand me, you’ve got to talk to me. I only want to help. If you have one, I need to get you on it. You won’t be able to walk on your own for a while.”

  Still, the boy just glared.

  “Well, you can’t stay here,” Tom muttered with frustration. “I’ll just have to put you on my horse.” He rose and started toward the youth. The boy cringed back and shook his head, the long black hair whipping in the slight breeze.

  “So, you do know what I’m saying. Good. Tell me where your home is and I’ll take you there.” Tom reached down to lift the boy and the boy slid backward, eliciting another groan as he disturbed his injured leg and foot.

  “See. You’ll just hurt yourself if you don’t let me help.” He pulled the lad to his feet, lifting him quickly, hoping to keep the weight off his leg as much as possible. The boy gritted his teeth and tried to stifle any sound that might indicate that he was hurting.

  In one full swoop, Tom swung the young Ap
ache into the saddle. He kept the pony’s reins wrapped around one wrist and pulled tight, just in case the boy could manage to bolt the horse forward and take off on his own. He had doubted that the boy could do it, but he didn’t dare take any chances. He was right. The boy landed firmly in the saddle and remained still; obviously hurting a great deal from the movement.

  Tom swung up behind the saddle and prodded the horse in the flanks. It started forward seemingly aimlessly at first, because Tom was not directing him in any particular direction. “Which way?” Tom asked over the boy’s shoulder. No answer.

  “Guess I’ll just have pick it myself. You can save us a lot of time if tell me.”

  Still no answer. “All right,” Tom said, pulling the reins and turning his mount toward the east and started forward.

  They had gone but a few yards when the young Indian squirmed and pointed to the left. “That way,” He said.

  Tom smiled and turned his horse northward.

  They rode several miles into the mountains. The boy pointed the way occasionally but still refrained from talking. After about a half hour, Tom reined beside a mountain spring. He stepped down and pulled the boy from the saddle and set him gently on the ground next to the pool of cold water. They rested here for a while, the boy’s feet and ankles dangling in the cold swirl of the spring. Tom soaked his bandanna and swabbed the lad’s legs, gently. The boy closed his eyes and relished the relief. When he finally opened them again, he glanced up at Tom, the anger and hatred seemingly subsided and his eyes began to brighten.

  “I am called Hawk,” the boy said, taking Tom by surprise.

  Tom smiled and offered his hand, “Good to know you, Hawk. My name is Tom” The boy did not take his hand, but his lips cracked into half a mile. Tom, knowing he shouldn’t push his luck too fast withdrew his hand and nodded that he understood the boy’s reluctance.

  By the time, the boys had rested and remounted, they were beginning to get along. Tom was careful not to pry too much into Hawk’s business and although he had seen the other Apache that tried to kill Hawk, he was reluctant to tell him what he had seen and refrained from asking him if he knew what had actually happened and who it was that wanted to harm him.

  The two boys were finally getting to know each other when they rode out of the narrow canyon into the wide meadow, just south of the Mogollon Mountains, which peaked into a sawtooth edge against the distant horizon. The meadow was filled with tipis and wickiups. The village was a beehive of activities with women and children working in gardens and tending to the mundane chores of curing buffalo hides and making clothing. Fires poured smoke into the clear blue sky as many of the squaws attended the cooking pots.

  Tom had never been in an Indian village before, and was impressed by the industriousness of the tribe. He had heard so many stories from the members of the gang about lazy Indians and their savagery. But, what he saw here was a civilization and a way of life. They were people, like any other people, going about the business of making a living and providing for themselves.

  Away from the tipis, gathered in a circle, Tom could see several warriors sitting in what looked like a tribal conference. The hackles on the back of his neck prickled and a cold shudder skittered along his spine as he saw one of the warriors point toward him. Heads turned and there was a disturbing murmur of voices. The seated warriors suddenly stood and the group marched toward the center of camp. The women and children had momentarily ceased their work and stared at the horse approaching with the white boy and Indian youth riding double.

  A middle aged squaw made her way through the throng of spectators. She was extremely thin; gaunt was more the description, and her raven hair, now streaked with strands of gray draped the sides of her lean tired face. The whites around her dark eyes were prominent and her skin was not so dark as the other members of the tribe. She shouted something in Apache and young Hawk responded as she ran up beside them. Her gaze fixed on Hawk’s ripped pants leg and the swollen ankle and foot. Again, she spoke in Apache. This time, more concern and urgency in her voice. By now the warriors of the tribe had gathered around. Tom felt mighty uneasy from the stares.

  Seeing Tom’s discomfort and the mistrust of his own people, Hawk spoke in English. “This is my mother, Lone Sparrow,” he said. Then to his mother, he said, “This is my friend.” He pointed to Tom. “He helped me when I was hurt.”

  Hawk’s mother looked up at him, still a little distrustful and wondering what had happened. Although he had spoken to his mother in English, which indicated that she understood, Hawk quickly rattled off a lengthy dissertation in Apache so the elders and braves could understand as well. Tom wondered if he was telling anyone about the other Indian boy who had rolled the rock down on him. Did Hawk even know that someone had deliberately tried to harm him?

  The tribal leaders began to mumble among themselves as Hawk started to slide off the pony’s back. Tom stopped him, slid to the ground first and helped the boy down, supporting him somewhat so his feet would not have to take his whole weight. His mother stepped to his side and took him under one arm to help. Hawk limped a step or two. He smiled a little, feeling his strength coming back and reassuring him that the pain was subsiding.

  “Thank you for helping my son,” she said, as she looked into Tom’s face. Her breath almost caught for a second and she felt a strange affinity to this young man. “You.. you are very kind.” Her words spaced out as she stared into his gray eyes, thinking there was something strangely familiar and somehow even haunting about this young white man. Tom was feeling something strange also and shifted shyly back and forth on his feet, feeling awkward, yet…something else. Suddenly, her attention was distracted as one of the warriors stepped forward and touched her arm. He said something in Apache. His eyes were piercing and his nostrils flared. Whatever he was saying, it sounded like anger.

  The squaw babbled something back, sounding almost defiant. He answered back in disgust, then turned and walked back toward the other warriors. “I am sorry. My husband, Nachez, says you must go. Please do not be offended. It is his way. It is not mine and I would like for you to stay, but whites are not welcome here by the elders. It is best that you go, before it becomes dangerous for you. Please know I am thankful to you.”

  Tom nodded and tipped his hat to her. “I understand,” he said. Then to Hawk, “Think you can stand on your own now?” He started to step back and release his grip on the young man’s arm.

  “Yes, I am much better now. Besides, my mother will help me,” Hawk said with a smile. “But wait. Before you go, please take this as a token of my thanks.” He lifted a beaded necklace from around his neck. There was a wooden carving of a bird at its center. Eagle or Hawk, Tom thought. Probably a Hawk.

  “Thank you,” Tom almost stammered, hardly knowing what to say and took it from the boy, knowing that to refuse it would be to insult him. “I will wear it proudly.”

  He removed his hat and started to lift the necklace to his head. “Wait,” Lone Sparrow said and stepped forward, taking the necklace from him. She had to reach high and Tom had to bend slightly and lower his head for her to place it around his neck.

  As she settled it in place, Tom lifted his chin and found himself staring into the dark pools of her eyes; their faces inches from each other. There was a softness, almost of wistfulness in her gaze, and she smiled warmly. Tom half smiled, a strange sensation waving over him and he straightened up, stepping back toward his mount and placing his hat back on his head. “Good-bye,” he almost choked it out. Turned swiftly, climbed into the saddle, neck reined his horse back around to face the way they had ridden in. He kicked his mount in the ribs sharply, whipped him with the reins and sent him galloping off across the meadow toward the mountains from whence he had come.

  CHAPTER FOUR

 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll

Other author's books:


Add comment

Add comment