• Karen Baney

Joy for Mourning (Desert Manna #2) - Chapter 1



Fort Goodwin, Arizona Territory May 25, 1865 Captain Joshua Harrison led his company of mounted cavalry toward the Gila River Basin away from Fort Goodwin. The sun beat down on his back which caused sweat to trickle down between his shoulder blades. Sergeant Dixon Pike rode up next to him on his chestnut gelding as they neared Widow Feagan’s property.

“No smoke coming from her chimney today,” Joshua said.

“Cap, want me to ride over?” the sergeant asked.

“I’ll come with you.”

As the pair rode away from the rest of the men, loud screams pierced the air behind them. Joshua pulled back on the reins and turned his palomino gelding toward the noise. A group of thirty Apache swarmed the rest of his unit.

Without waiting for an order, the sergeant headed toward the melee as Joshua followed closely behind. He drew his sword and speared the first Apache he saw. The man slid from the end of his sword falling to the ground. Another Apache warrior’s high-pitched screams came from his left. Sergeant Pike shot him with his revolver. Soon a swarm of Apache surrounded them.

The young corporal assigned to his company last week was pulled from his horse. The warriors slit his throat and stripped him of his hair. Joshua clenched his jaw. Another corporal caught a tomahawk with his chest and fell backwards off his horse. The moment his body landed on the ground the Apache braves overtook him.

“Fall back!” Joshua issued the order, but only he and Sergeant Pike remained.

“Cap!” the sergeant warned him.

Joshua turned. A young Apache warrior launched himself toward Joshua and pulled him from his horse. He landed hard on the ground. His breath left in a rush.

The warrior connected a blow to Joshua’s stomach. Then he punched him in the face. Joshua raised his arms as the warrior brought down his fist again. Another man joined the warrior. He kicked Joshua in the stomach repeatedly. He moaned and rolled onto his side. He curled up while blows continued to connect with his body. Then something forceful hit his head and his vision blurred. Then it faded to blackness.

When Joshua woke sometime later, he laid on the ground in front of a fire. His hands and feet were bound. An older Apache man noticed his movement. The man pulled out a long knife and sliced Joshua’s shirt off his body. Then he took the knife and ran it down one leg of Joshua’s pants and then the other. He ripped the clothing from his body.

Another brave joined him. He held Joshua’s head back and said something he did not understand. Then he took a knife and twisted the point into his chest slowly, turning the blade round and round. Joshua bit the inside of his cheek to keep from screaming. The Indian removed the blade leaving a hole two inches in diameter, but only a quarter inch deep. Blood oozed from the wound down his bare abdomen.

The older man stuck his finger in the wound. Joshua writhed in pain until he passed out.

Sometime later, Joshua woke. The smell of blood and dirt overwhelmed him. He shivered as bugs crawled across his skin in the blackness. He could not see. His hands and feet were no longer bound. He felt around the small space. Cold dirt and silt. As he stretched out his arm to find the boundaries of his prison, pain tore through his side. Bile spewed from his mouth.

He fell backwards and his spine pressed up against the damp dirt wall. He looked up. A small circle of light appeared overhead. He had to be at least thirty or forty feet below the opening of the pit.

He crawled along the dirt floor. His hand connected with something sharp. It pierced his skin. He lifted his hand but could not see the warm blood as it trickled down his arm. He tried to move forward, but there were more sharp pointy things on the ground in front of him.

Joshua sat down with his back against the dirt wall. He drew his long legs up to his chest and rested his head on his knees. Lord, help.

A rodent squeaked and scurried nearby. Its long tail flicked Joshua’s foot. He sucked in a sharp breath and pain seared through his middle. Exhaustion washed over him and pulled him under.

Day after day he sat in that dark, dank pit. No one came for him. No one provided food or water. He shivered then burned. Sweat rolled down his naked back which caused more dirt to stick to his skin. Each breath caused a sharp pain in his side.

The longer he went without food or water, the worse he felt. He had no energy to find an escape. He would die in the pit soon. He thought he was ready and prayed he would not suffer much longer.



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