Scalpers sitting by a campfire.
From the darkness beyond the campfire, they could hear their horses stomping and chuffing .
“Don’t like these winds,” Bugeye said.
“Don’t nobody like these winds,” Lee Myers said.
“Horses, specially,” Bugeye said
“Not nobody especially,” Myers said. “Not me, not you, and not cows neither.”
“No, cows not neither,” Bugeye agreed. “But horses most of all.” He was thinking, If I ever win one goddamned argument, I’m gonna lay down and die!
“You sayin’ horses hate south winds more’n me and cows?”
“The Mex call ‘em, Santa Anas,” the kid said. Both men looked over at him with disgust and he raised his hands in mock surrender. "That's what they call 'em…”
Myers shook his head. “You don’t know how god-awful foolish you look in that hat, do ya', kid?”
“Look, Lee,” Bugeye continued, “All I’m saying, the only point I’m making here, is horses don’t like south winds. That’s all I’m fuckin’ saying!”
Myers went back to staring at the lively flames of their wind-blown campfire. Overhead, stars dove in silver streaks across the moonless sky.
The horses continued stomping.
“Go check 'em, Kid,” Myers said. He began rolling a cigarette.
“They don’t like these winds,” Bugeye said. "Simple as that."
The kid tossed the dregs of his coffee into the fire and set his small black bowler lower on his head as he got to his feet.
“And get more wood," Bugeye said.
The kid turned to say something back to Bugeye, then thought better of it. He walked off beyond the reaches of the fire.
“This fire’s already too big,” Myers said to Bugeye. “We don’t need more wood.”
“You feel it too, don’t ya?” Bugeye asked.
“I always do with a fire this big.”
“Yeah, well, be nice to get into Chihuahua tomorrow.”
Myers finished making his cigarette and sat back against his saddle.
“I figure the scalps will fetch a couple thousand easy,” Bugeye said.
“In gold, right? The Mex pay in gold for Apache scalps?”
“That’s what I hear,” Myers said. “A hundred in gold for each buck. Fifty for a squaw, and twenty-five for the pups.” He pulled a burning stick from the fire and lighted his cigarette.
“We got a few Mex thrown in.”
“They won’t know the difference,” Myers said.
“I hear there's a parcel of good lookin' sportin’ girls in Chihuahua,” Bugeye said.
Myers sat up straight and waved his hand for silence. Both men held their breath as they peered out into the dark. The kid had not yet returned and the horses were now side-stepping and pulling hard on their leads. Myers flicked his cigarette away and drew his sidearm.
"Kid, you out there?" Bugeye hissed.
“Shut-up, Bug!” Myers whispered.
Bugeye scooted back from the fire; five feet, ten feet, his Colt Dragoon in his hand, heavy and cocked.
The fire hissed and popped and smoke blew first in one direction, then another, then back again. Swaying branches moaned overhead in the trees. A moment passed, another, and a lone wail of agony erupted, engulfing the night, filling both men's ears, then vanished.
“Jesus God,” Bugeye said in the sudden silence.
They came then, into the firelight, some with lances and others with bows. There were twelve, maybe fifteen. All had their faces painted a ghostly ash white. They wore knee-high deerskin moccasins curled at the toes. One had a small black bowler perched on his head; one wore a red Mexican Calvary tunic turned backwards. Another had a woman’s bonnet tied at the neck with a pink bow. He held the kid’s bloodied head by the hair and waved it in the air.
Bugeye jumped to his feet. His gun, somehow forgotten, fell to the dirt. He opened his mouth to scream when an arrow ripped through his neck and came out the other side. He remained standing, his mouth still open as blood poured down his shirt front and back.
Myers shot Bugeye in the head, thinking as he did so, it might be the only nice thing he’d ever done in his life. He then put the gun to his ear, closed his eyes, thought briefly about hell, and pulled the trigger.