"That's not water, you know."
The jug paused as Levi lifted it to his mouth. He squinted at his friend, his head splitting and mouth dry as the dusty ground beneath his feet.
"Don't remember asking, friend."
His tone ended the discussion. After draining the last of the burning liquid he tossed the vessel to the bed and stood, stretching his long arms overhead. Turning he smiled at his friend. He was handsome, if you didn't know him.
"Thought you were Irish. Hair of the dog and all that? Anyway what'd you bring me?"
The man returned the smile nervously, holding out a couple of biscuits wrapped up in a kerchief. He was afraid of him. All of Levi's friends were; that fear was the only reason he had friends. Those not brave enough to resist submitted. They followed him like dogs behind a cruel master, eager for praise but wary of sudden moves. You never knew when he would take it into his head to strike.
"It time to change watch?"
The sun was high overhead, beating down into the dusty bunk house and making the inside close and breathless. He scowled as he buttoned up a greasy flannel shirt. Mrs. Adkins had also refused to do his washing and his clothes were filthy with dust and old sweat.
He waved impatiently at his friend to move out of the doorway and winced as he stepped into the bright light. It was his turn to watch the filthy bastard. Why couldn't they just kill him and have done? He was tempted to blow the whole thing off and lay back down to sleep but he'd pushed old boss man pretty hard and didn't want to try his luck and lose his only source of income. Whores didn't come cheap. Well, talented ones at least.
"Don't know what that prick expects him to say. Not like he's just gonna start singing the second we ask him. Ask me we ought to torture him, gut him, and nail his hide to the side of Cain's house. That'll damn sure send a message."
His companion said something he didn't bother to hear. He cut him off mid sentence.
"Pity about that Cain woman. Wasn't a bad lay, once you got her to quit screaming."
He fingered his knife, eyes trained on the seated figure of the indian.
"But there are ways around that."
The guard he went to relieve just barely deigned to nod, not sticking around for conversation. Levi squatted down and cocked his head, studying their captive. Thunder Crow stared straight ahead, his face fierce but calm. His long hair fell in filthy hanks around his face and his copper skin was grimy.
Without changing expression Levi began piercing Thunder Crow's shoulder with the tip of his knife. He watched the blood run down the man's arm, his breathing quickening and a pulse appearing at the crook of his neck.
"Levi what if someone sees-"
"Who? Miss Beatrix? You afraid she's gonna tell? That little bleedin' heart cunt and her fag-boy can kiss my ass."
He smiled at the brave, his eyes widening and taking on a sick gleam. He came close to his face before whispering,
"You and me are gonna have a little fun!"
Thunder Crow snapped at him, his teeth just missing Levi's nose. Levi wrenched out of the way and lost his balance, falling hard onto his back side.
"Why you piece of-"
Then his eyes fell on something, a small portion of what looked like chewed up food. He studied the indian again, this time in more detail. He was dirtier than the last time he'd seen him, true, but he looked more composed and his lips weren't chapped. The corner of Levi's mouth lifted in a grin.
"Well isn't that interesting."
Beatrix spent the day in a daze, sleep being completely unattainable the night before. She'd always been a bit of an insomniac but she was especially tired today. After seeing Leah off to bed she'd paced the tiny office until it was time to start breakfast. When she closed her eyes or tried to rest unsettling images played against the backs of her eyelids.
Seeing how calm Leah was had reassured her somewhat but she was far from easy. And as soon as she managed to put that ugly business out of her mind something else, almost as frightening and just as unexpected replaced it.
The thing was she hadn't expected him to have eyes... well, like human eyes. In her head she'd always imagined Indians with black, expressionless doll eyes. Despite her father carefully drilling into her the fact that all people were created equal, with equal powers of intelligence and emotion, the prejudice held by so many of her contemporaries had slowly become internalized. She'd expected a savage animal and, while he was far from genteel, met a man.
Sitting down on her bed she rolled her head from side to side, pressing a hand to her neck. Her eyes rose involuntarily to the crack in the wall that looked out on the wagon. She could only imagine how sore he must be. Unable to suppress a quick glance over her shoulder, she scooted across the mattress until her eye was level with it.
The lamp behind her was too bright to admit any vision so she snuffed it and regained her seat, impatiently waiting for her eyes to adjust. Finally they did and she could peer out into the dark. The moon had waxed a bit since last night so she could more clearly see the scene before her. The Indian Brave was looking straight at her. For a silly moment she was convinced that he could see her and she pulled away. Blushing at her folly, she was soon peeking back out at him, her hands and nose pressed flat to the boards as she strained to better make out the features of his face.
He was very handsome, in a roguish sort of way, and though he'd been prisoner here for three days his chin was still smooth. He was dressed in buckskin leggings and loincloth with a tattered cloth shirt. Over this he wore a chest plate of sorts, crafted of a mixture of bone, shell and glass beads. He'd also worn beads in his hair; she'd noticed that as she examined him the night before. A feather had been twined there, too, but most of it had ripped away, presumably in the struggle of his abduction. His hair was long and straight, a bluer black than the strands hanging around her face in drooping, two-day gone rag curls.
She drew back and touched her face meditatively. She was well used to being called pretty, and considered herself to be so, but what was his opinion? Did he prefer the wild beauty of his own women, or, as was proving to be her case, was novelty attractive?
Then she remembered herself and blushed furiously. He was a wounded prisoner who was being tortured and starved. As if he could spare a thought for her.
Thunder Crow watched the light go out in the woman's house. She occupied his mind for a good part of the day, and almost all of the night. It passed the time and was pleasurable by its own merits. She was strange looking, but still appealing. Lids shut he imagined her tilted eyes and funny nose. It was as if someone had taken their thumb and moulded it until the bridge formed a curve. He imagined what it would feel like under his fingers. Would the skin be warm or cool? He knew it would be soft. Everything about her was soft; he'd decided that early on the first day.
Well, except for her will. For such a tiny thing she was fierce, and had stood her ground against the white-haired devil. Curiously she'd relented to the dark man. He hadn't seemed half as much a threat.
Did she love him then? He thought that over for several moments. No. She didn't. She wouldn't have shouted so to him. And anyway if she did it was of no consequence. When he took her back with him she'd learn what a real man was and would soon forget him. He'd decided that on the first day, too.
It was the custom that, if overpowered and taken prisoner, you would either kill the man that abducted you or take his sister or daughter or some other girl from the tribe as payment. Of course if the opportunity presented itself you were to do both, but escaping in the night with the woman and a horse would be easier. The swelling in his foot had gone down, and he thought it would bear his weight, but he didn't welcome the thought of fighting on it. He couldn't wait much longer for it to heal, though. The first blizzard would come soon and snow made it too easy to track a fugative. Especially one with a captive.
That raised another concern. Would the girl come willing? He half thought that she would- though white women were extremely skittish about that sort of thing. If an Indian girl didn't already have a beau she was usually content to go with the man who'd proved himself stronger than her tribesmen. White women had become so used to weak, soft men that strength seemed to have little allure.
Well, if she did fight she would find him a sterner master than her dark man. In the midst of his reflections she appeared. She was too far away to see clearly but he knew her face well enough by now to picture it. She really was lovely. Lovely dark hair and eyes that seemed to snap with life. He glanced at his guard but he was awake and alert. She wouldn't come for him tonight.
"Ink-pa ta-ya na-wa zin,
Na.. si-na ci co ze...
Ma... ya... Ma-ya...
Le-ciya Ku-wan na..."
The man beside him spoke.
"None of that, now."
His voice was firm but not unkind. And besides, he'd slipped him a crust of bread after taking his shift. Thunder Crow was quiet, watching as she returned holding a lit lantern. Her house was lit up for some time but eventually the light went out again. Hunching deeper into the threadbare blanket they'd given him he turned his face toward her, closed his eyes and contemplated the most important question of all.
What did white women wear to bed?
The song is an old Dakota love song. I have no idea what the words mean but I trust it is sufficiently swoon worthy.