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Bulletproof

Bulletproof

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Bulletproof

Longueur:
266 pages
4 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Dec 28, 2001
ISBN:
9781462830039
Format:
Livre

Description

Caught between an ambitious Major Fenwick, commander of Fort Hughes, and Chief Horse Who Runs On Tiptoes, leader of a small band of renegade Cheyenne, Casey Beymer is forced to teach those Cheyenne how to play baseball in order to save his own neck. At first the Indians are reluctant to learn the white mans game, but then Casey finds the secret to arousing their boundless enthusiasm.

When the Fort Hughes team succumbs to smallpox just before a high-stakes Fourth of July game in Denver, the Cheyenne, and Casey, are drafted to replace them---with startling results.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Dec 28, 2001
ISBN:
9781462830039
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

I've been trying to write all my life because I've enjoyed reading all my life. My little brother and two sisters got the benefit of first efforts, but the stories never measured up to Tom Sawyer or Winnie the Pooh, so I changed to writing advertising copy and newpaper reporting. In 1982, between jobs, I decided to take a whole year and write this book. It took that year to do the first draft and the next seventeen years to get it right. I owe many people thanks, but it was my writer's grtoup that doggedly insisted that I do it over and over until it was really a novel. I am 73 years old and have been a farmer, a soldier, a sheet metal worker, fine artist/commercial artist, copywriter and news reporter. I have also been a teacher and story teller, a husband and most important, the father of two fine children.

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Bulletproof - Lee Hodges

Hodges

Copyright © 2001 by Lee Hodges.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book was printed in the United States of America.

To order additional copies of this book, contact:

Xlibris Corporation

1-888-795-4274

www.Xlibris.com

Orders@Xlibris.com

Contents

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

Many thanks to my family, especially my daughter and son, my writer’s group and the friends that supported my writing in one way or t’other. My thanks also to those people who sponsor and staff the various writer’s conferences. They are always interesting and always informative.

CHAPTER 1

Major Fenwick slumped dejectedly in his saddle, his rigid West Point posture forgotten. Here they were, not much more than three miles from the fort and a courier had just arrived with a message from Captain Keogh stating that the reported Indian attack had been the fantasy of a colonel new to the frontier, an officer who had not yet learned the difference between the movement of an Indian village to a new camp site and a war party. The two day race to return had killed three horses and had almost done the same to the patrol’s wounded. All for nothing. How would that look in a report to the General? He briefly considered not sending in a report. No, I can’t do that, he thought, that wouldn’t be military.

As they topped a ridge, the fort appeared before them. Major Fenwick straightened in his saddle and sighed. Had to keep up appearances, you know. Custer would never let anyone see that he was discouraged and I won’t either. He pulled his mount to a stop and uncased his binoculars. Egad! The fort was swarming with soldiers. They lined the parapet, they trooped on the parade ground between rows of tents. The fort was practically blue with uniforms. This was astounding! Had to be that either General Crook or General Terry had arrived unannounced. Action at last!

He pricked his mount with his spurs. The horse merely waggled its ears. "C’mon, Brownie. I know you’re tired, but let’s go. He jabbed harder. Brownie sprang forward and galloped the remaining distance, through the gate and straight toward the stables. Fenwick tugged on the reins and finally managed to steer the animal toward Fort headquarters. In the act of dismounting he froze, one foot in a stirrup, one pointing toward earth. That soldier was a woman… Sergeant Gladstone’s wife, and that one the sutler’s. He peered closely. They were all women. No! Wait that was a teen-aged boy!

Rennie! he shouted, Rennie, you goddammed knothead! Rennie!

Lieutenant Rennie ran from the orderly room, arms outstretched. Major! You’re just in time, Thank God! The Indians may arrive any minute.

There ain’t any Indians! There never was any Indians! What are all these women and children doing wearing uniforms?

Lieutenant Rennie looked crestfallen. I didn’t want the Cheyenne to know how short handed the fort was. I hunted up every uniform I could and dressed the women, children and civilians in them.

Conscious of how ridiculous he must look hanging half out of his saddle, the major finished dismounting. He leaned his head against his panting horse and fought for composure. Actually, he thought, the lieutenant had done very well. Not West Point, but effective. It’s the sort of improvisation I might have done.

He raised his head and smiled. Good thinking, he said, but he couldn’t help a little twinge of jealousy. Damn Shavetail.

Now, a week after the patrol’s return, they were locked into the usual army routine. More from boredom than anything else, Fenwick called a meeting of his senior officers.

Gentlemen, we have to do something about the drunkenness in this command.

Major Fenwick’s gleaming boots rested on his desk. He used his riding crop to spin the golden rowels of his spurs. The Major had served with General Custer in the Seventh Cavalry for a short time and had adopted the General’s fondness for the flamboyant. Like Custer, he wore his hair long and yellow. His spurs sported huge Mexican rowels, gold plated, and his pistols, one on each side, butt forward, had ivory grips. The golden buckskin jacket on his narrow shoulders was a copy of Custer’s, heavily fringed around the chest and on both sleeves.

Captain Fountain, of K Company, leaned forward and carefully knocked the ash from his pipe into an ashtray made of a turtle shell.

It’s because the men have nothing to do in their off-duty hours, Sir. Boredom is driving them crazy. Even going to the guardhouse provides some excitement.

I notice that K Company doesn’t have quite as many drunks as A Company. Captain Sanders, your unit is a disgrace.

Not my fault, Sir. Most of them are foreigners and the sweepings of the city gutters. Some can’t speak English. Half of them have spent time in civilian prisons. It isn’t our fault that recruiters send us foreign scum. Shouldn’t let them in the army, only Americans. Foreigners have no stake in this country.

Major Fenwick shook his head.

That isn’t the problem, he said. The men need discipline. Custer’s way is best. He has the same kind of rabble that we do, but they drill five hours a day. Their uniforms are clean and their leather shines just like mine. The enlisted men toe the line; they go by the book. If they don’t, he buries them in a pit, fifteen feet deep and covered with boards, and lets them bake in the sun. After a few days in there, on bread and water, they straighten out.

Captain Fountain objected, But that’s illegal punishment, Major. Army regulations won’t allow it.

Captain Norwick Buck Sanders snorted. Fountain had only been with the command for a month. He had a lot to learn.

He said, Fountain, out here we make our own regulations. We have to deal with this riffraff, not some fat-headed general in Washington.

He turned to the Major.

Sir, if Fountain keeps babying the men of K Company, they’ll be forever ruined for army life.

Why you—

Major Fenwick’s crop slammed against the table with an explosive Whap! Both Captains jumped. Sander’s chair fell backwards with a clatter.

Gentlemen! Let’s not engage in personalities. The fact is, the men in both companies are the same, yet K Company has half the court-martials of A Company. The record is clear, Sanders, even you can see that.

Sanders, having retrieved his chair, sat down and said, It’s a mystery to me, Sir.

Fenwick turned to Captain Fountain. How do you account for it, Robert?

Robert Fountain hesitated, then he opened his tobacco pouch, inserted his pipe and stuffed it, using his forefinger to scoop the tobacco into the bowl.

As usual, Fenwick thought, slightly irritated, he’s trying to think of the most diplomatic way to answer.

Fountain stuck his pipe in his mouth and pulled the pouch’s drawstrings closed. I try to give them something to do in their off hours. I sent back east for some seeds and had them plant our garden. It has the added advantage of improving the food situation considerably, as you know. We have enough left over for A Company, but Sanders won’t let his men buy any. I even offered to let them have some for nothing. one of the men in my company was a cook for a large restaurant in New York. I made his position permanent and I assign him helpers every day. The men gripe about doing woman’s work, but I think it relieves their boredom and they love the food.

Why on earth would a chef enlist in the Army?

He got in a fight with an assistant who was propositioning his favorite pastries chef and accidentally choked the assistant to death. At least he says it was an accident. The Judge was one of his most devoted customers, so he gave him a choice, the army or prison. The food in our mess is excellent, as you know, Sir.

Fountain was referring to the fact that all the officers, including Sanders, ate at the Company K mess every day.

Buck Sanders exclaimed, And I say that feeding your men all that civilian swill will make them soft. Beans, hardtack and bacon keep the men hard, eager to fight.

If you tried that diet yourself, you’d be so full of gas, you’d be desperate to commit suicide. Damn Indians can smell Company A coming ten miles away.

Captain Sander’s face turned beet red. He jumped from his chair and glared at Fountain, then turned as if to leave. Major Fenwick’s feet slammed against the floor.

Sit down, Sanders, and stay down. I don’t know how much more punishment that chair can take.

He frowned at Captain Fountain to let him know how he felt about his unusual lack of diplomacy. Fountain will go around the barn twice to avoid offending anyone, he thought. He must feel strongly about this. Granted he isn’t a West Point man and even worse, he came up from the ranks during the war, but he is usually more circumspect. The man holds too many surprises.

I can’t have a feud going on between my officers, Bob. Things are bad enough in this ungodly wasteland as it is. You will apologize to Buck Sanders. He’s a damn fine company commander, with a good record.

Fountain’s rebellious expression belied the mildness of his words.

Yes, Sir. I apologize, Bucky. He said, using the diminutive of Sander’s nickname because he knew he hated it. What I said is true, though. I feel sorry for you, Major, every time you have to walk through their barracks for inspection. If they could bottle that stuff it would kill Indians.

Harumph, the Major cleared his throat and thought, Fountain knows damn well that I always inspect A Company on the parade ground. Do you think your plan for keeping your men busy would work for A Company too?

"Perhaps, Sir, it’s worth trying. Better food will help a lot, and you might restrict the sale of liquor at the sutler’s.

What? The entire post will desert, or mutiny!

Not if you give them something else to do, Sir.

Well, what do you have in mind? Tea parties?

Fountain puffed at his pipe and looked at the ceiling. He seemed ill at ease, as if he were afraid he was putting his neck in jeopardy.

Baseball, Sir.

I don’t understand.

When I passed through Fort Kearney on the way here, the men had organized themselves into baseball teams. You remember, Sir, we played it back during the War. Some of the men called it rounders. Each Company at Fort Kearney had at least one team, some had two or more. At first, they played in their regular fatigues, but the men were so enthusiastic about the game that they used their company funds to buy baseball uniforms. Morale was high, discipline excellent, and the General bragged that he had the best troops in the country. In fact, he said he believed that he owed his last promotion to their efficiency.

Captain Fountain had strummed a nerve in Fenwick’s soul. Promotion, by God! I’ve been a Major so long, he thought, I believe I was born one. I can’t even remember being a captain. It was a fact that Fenwick had been a Major before the war, and except for a brief stint as a Lieutenant Colonel near the end, he had been one of the few officers in his West Point class who had not risen to greater rank.

Do you know anything about the game, Fountain?

Yes, Sir. I fancy myself as a pretty good pitcher, Sir.

Then form some teams. We’ll see how the men go for it. Forget the uniforms until we see if your experiment works. We will talk, Buck, about improving your company mess and about forming teams in A Company.

Captain Fountain jumped to his feet, his face shining with enthusiasm.

Yes, Sir! I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Fenwick smiled, leaned back in his chair and thoughtfully tapped his riding crop on the palm of his hand. He let his face grow stern, cold and impersonal in the best West Point tradition.

Make it work, Captain Fountain, or you will regret it.

He watched the excited Captain trot out the orderly room door, not the least fazed by the threat.

Colonel Bernard Fenwick had such a nice ring to it, I’d like to hear it again. It’s almost as nice as Major General Bernard Fenwick. Who knows? It’s only a few jumps. I’ll take Robert Fountain along as my adjutant. I’ll make him a Major, to show my gratitude. By the time I retire, I may be a full general.

He came back to reality. Now, Buck, let’s talk about Company A.

Chief Horse Who Runs on Tiptoes had an uneasy feeling somewhere between queasy and ready to vomit. His young braves were hot to go on the warpath and the Chief knew they didn’t have a chance against the pony soldiers. For one thing, most of the older, seasoned warriors no longer wanted war and had stayed on the reservation. They had seen the futility of fighting the Blue Coats, who outnumbered even the buffalo, and had guns that shot farther and faster than the Indians’. The guns were more of a worry than the number of soldiers. As the older warriors said, Man for man, we’re as good as ten soldiers any day. By rights, we should have whipped them long ago, but how do you fight someone who does not battle for glory and honor, but for money? Who will do anything to win, even take orders from someone else? We kill a white man and the Blue Coats burn our lodges and all the food we have stored for Winter. Our women and children starve. This is not civilized. We are men and we fight like men. The Pony Soldiers fight our women and children and kill our horses, this is not the way of warriors.

Chief Horse Who Runs on Tiptoes was of the same philosophy as these older warriors, but, I will go too, he told the young men, "even though leaving the reservation is a wrong thing to do. The White Man has said we must live here, eat their tame buffalo and hunt no more. I believe we have no choice, for I have been to Wash-kink-tone with Chief Red Cloud of the Sioux and have seen that the white man is as many as the leaves on a forest of aspen. I think their women have big litters, like bitches; ten, twelve babies at a time, so that they must have many nipples to feed their pups. This I would like to see.

There will be twenty white men to take the place of each one we kill. If you are determined to leave the reservation, someone must go with you to show you how to fight with wisdom and honor and with the skill of the old ways. I will show you how a warrior dies.

Perhaps, he had added to himself, I can persuade them that their war is futile and get them to return to the rest of the tribe before too many are killed.

He regarded the ragged band across the fire from him. Flickering flames emphasized the youth of their faces and projected their dancing shadows against the walls of the cave that sheltered them from spying eyes. They were nineteen in number, armed with knives and crude spears. Less, if you did not count the three youngest boys, who were barely in their teens.

If I do not act wisely, he thought, they will be nineteen of our most precious youth dead, including Spotted owl, my only remaining son. The burden is almost too much for me. At least my son has a good bow and good arrows. I taught him how to make them myself, and he is a careful craftsman.

The Chief turned over his broiling stick, careful not to jostle it against the others. Tonight, they had a cow to roast, and, after a whole day with nothing to eat, he was grateful. Tough, stringy beef wasn’t as tasty as buffalo hump, but tonight it was a feast.

Listen to me, my children, this is what we must do. Before we go to war, we must scout the enemy to see what they intend.

Wildcat Eats His Young, at twenty the oldest of the boys, did not conceal his antagonism.

How do we do this, Grandfather of Grandfathers? Shall we send them a message on the talking wire, asking them to tell us their plans? Shall we send our prettiest maiden to sleep with their chief? Why? We already know they intend to wipe us out.

Chief Horse raised his brows and smiled as he looked around the circle.

See? This is why I came with you. We have a fool who mocks knowledge and experience instead of listening to one who has gone to war many times. Tell me, do we know how and when they intend to attack us? Do you know where?

Wildcat’s eyes dropped and he seemed to grow smaller in size.

What is your plan, Father? Spotted Owl asked.

How many of you speak the white man’s tongue?

Spotted owl and two other boys raised their hands.

Tomorrow you will go to the soldiers’ fort. I would go, but they know me too well. You will be dressed like Crow, our traitor brothers who camp beside the fort and help the Pony Soldiers. If you do not talk Cheyenne, no one will bother you. They will think you are children of the Crow. Listen to everything the soldiers say and report back to me the next night.

What if we hear nothing important? Spotted Owl asked.

Then we will do it again the following day, and the next. Soldiers talk about everything. They do not know how to keep secrets. If something is going to happen, we will soon know it.

In his dream, Chief Horse Who Runs on Tiptoes, saw that the pony soldiers did not fall to the Cheyenne’s arrows and bullets.

Chief Horse shot arrow after arrow into them, until they looked like long needled porcupines, but they did not fall. He snatched up a fallen rifle and fired as many shots as the fingers of both hands, point blank, without the slightest affect. The grinning pony soldiers continued to kill Indians. Bloody bodies lay everywhere, all Cheyenne. Somehow, without seeing it, he knew that Spotted owl was one of them. The soldiers’ blue coats and leggings had turned to white. Chief Horse realized that they wore some kind of magic clothes that protected them from arrows and bullets. Fear, like the blow of a war club, struck his breast. He dropped his useless weapons and frantically burrowed into the ground to hide from the soldiers’ relentless pursuit.

Chief Horse awoke and sat up. His heart raced as if he had run for miles. His arms felt weak and trembly. Dazed, he looked around. The fire had died to glowing coals. The others in the band were scattered around the feeble heat, blanket covered lumps. outside the cave the insane giggle of a horny coyote provoked a reply from every high rise in miles.

The dream had seemed so real, like a holy dream or a naming dream, yet it had come on its own. He had not sought it.

I wonder what it means? Should I tell it to my warrior children and risk being called a feeble old coward? Shall I shame myself before my own son, thus shaming him?

He heard a slight movement behind him and turned to look. A small, dark shadow approached.

What is it, my father? Something troubles you.

The Chief smiled fondly at the concern in the boy’s voice. Spotted owl was a good son, at thirteen winters the image of the older brother who had died on his first warpath before owl was born.

It is nothing. I merely had to do some more thinking about our plan. It must be the best we can make.

He held his blanket wide and let the boy creep under and sit beside him. Side by side, they watched the eastern sky lighten over the foothills.

Father, ever since I was ten summers and began learning to be a man I have yearned to count coup. Do you think the Pony Soldiers would notice if I took a scalp just before I left the fort?

The boy’s trusting, innocent face pulled at Chief Horse’s heart strings. He tried to look thoughtful, as if he were seriously considering this question. Such a good boy, he thought, always ahead of the other boys, always trying to follow in the footsteps

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