Warpath; Pt-3 A Gunsmoke Story. As always all rights to the characters and backgrounds belong to their creators. Matt and his patrol are following the trail of the missing guns. But they are about to find out that someone else is also on the trail too. Rated K+
As the troop rose to the northeast, Matt quickly discovered that most of the men in his command had not been soldiers for very long. In fact with the exception of Sergeant Ross, none of them had ever been west of the Missisicipi River before.
Silently cursing Col. Anderson under his breath they rode up to the two burned out wagons. Turning to Lt. Ryan, Matt said "All right here's where we start." Turning to Chester he said "Take two men with you and scout down to the south." At the same time he told Ross "Sergeant take two men with you and look for sign to the north." Ross saluted and took two men and rode away. Chester moved off with his men. The rest of the troop dismounted and started to look around.
Ryan walked along with Matt in silence for a time then asked." What do you expect to find here Marshal?" Matt turned to the young Lieutenant for a moment considering what to say.
"There has been something about this that does not feel right."
How do you mean?"
"The fact that the one rifle was left for one thing." Matt replied "A repeating rifle is like good out here, and one in that good condition? There not an Indian alive that would not give their soul for it."
"True" Ryan said "Most of my men would kill for a Winchester. In case you didn't notice we're equipped with single shot rifles."
"Yes I did notice." Matt said with a grimace on his face. "One reason I hope we don't run into trouble out here." Matt got no further when one of the troopers let out a shout.
Matt and Ryan looked round there were three Indians riding slowly pulling litters behind their horses approaching. Matt looked round some of the troopers grabbed for their rifles, "Put those down!" he ordered. "They're frendlies."
Ryan looked on with a skeptical look "Frendlies you say?"
"Yep." Matt said. "Peaceful as they get." The three Indians rode up to Matt and Ryan.
The lead rider was an old man. His eyes brightened as he recognized Matt.
"Big Dillon" he said "Long ways from Dodge."
Matt laughed "Yes Spotted Elk, a real long ways.' Tuning to Ryan "This is Lt. Ryan, Ryan that is Spotted Elk and his two grandsons. They are Cherokees." In a move that surprised Matt Ryan snapped to attention and saluted Spotted Elk. "A pleasure, Sir"
Spotted Elk considered the young man "Young warrior is a good man, Big Dillon."
Matt looked to Ryan; "I'm starting to think so too." Looking at the litters. "Had a good hunt this year."
"Yes" spooted Elk said "We will have meat for a long time." Ryan looked at the rifles that the Indians were carrying and was amazed that they were old flintlocks. "Spotted Elk. you hunt with these?" he asked
Ryan was almost in awe. "Could I see yours?" Spotted Elk handed Ryan the rifle. "Unbelievable." Ryan said, turning to Matt. "This is an old Brown Bess, and in perfect condition."
Both Matt and Spotted Elk smiled as Ryan handed the weapon back. "A very good rifle, sir"
"Spotted Elk." Matt asked "Have you or your sons cut trail with any Arapahos?'
Spotted Elk shook his head "Arapahos. No. But we saw wagon and riders heading north."
Ryan asked "How long ago?"
"Maybe two and days ago."
Matt and Ryan considered this. "It would be about the right time." Matt said softly.
"But why North?" Ryan said "If there were Arapaho. Wouldn't they head south?"
"If they were Arapaho." Was the answer.
Matt turned back to Spotted Elk "Thank you my friend you've been a great help."
Spotted Elk raised his right hand "Go in peace my brother." And the three rode off.
Ryan watched as they rode off considering what was said. " I don't know what to make of it.
Chester and his patrol rode up; "There was no sign down south, Mr. Dillon" Matt nodded and considered the possibilities. "I think we'll head north there's something about this that still does not add up." Ryan looked uncertain, Matt noticed this. "What's on your mind?"
Ryan hesitated for a moment and then spoke up; "If we go north and the Arapahos were responsible. We lose the guns."
Matt replied "But if we go south with no sign of anything at all we lose them for sure. Dazing toward the north; "There are other Indians to worry about besides the Arapaho."
Any further comments were delayed by the return of Sgt. Ross and his men. He dismounted and walked over. "We saw wagon track along the way, appeared to be heavily loaded too."
Chester asked Ryan "What do you think Lieutenant?" Looking to Matt and smiling "I guess we ride north." Matt turned to Ross "You heard the man, let's ride." The patrol turned to the north. The trail left by the wagons was easy enough to follow. They appeared to be heading closer to the Kansas/Nebraska border. They had rode to a small stream when Matt called a halt for the night. Matt and Chester kept looking around, Ryan rode up; "What is it?" Matt looked to the horizon. "Something doesn't feel right." Looking to the small hill they were next too. "We'll make camp there, and Ryan. We'll have a cold camp tonight."
Ryan hesitated, but agreed "As you say Marshal." And moved off. Chester rode up."You thinking what I am Mr. Dillon?"
Matt was still looking around "I think we're going to have company tonight, Chester." Then they both rejoined the soldiers. But Matt kept looking to their trail. He knew when trouble was around. And he was right for in the cover of the trees was another group of riders who was looking for the Winchesters as well. They had traveled from the Black Hills; they were Lakota's, or Sioux Indians. There were only 4 in this scouting party, but sometimes that's enough. The leader of the band said nothing. He watched as the soldiers made their camp, and he paid particular attention to Matt and his actions. He had a grim smile on his face; "That one is wise." He said to himself. The leader of the Sioux scouting party was a wise leader too for he was already well known to the white man. They called him Crazy Horse. And now Matt and his patrol now have his undivided attention.
To be continued: