Slocum can’t resist the charms of his beautiful captive.
Slocum is on the trail to Billings, Montana, with a load of farm equipment when his wagon train is attacked by a Cheyenne war party. Under siege, he kidnaps the chief’s daughter, Snow, and holds her hostage as a ticket to safety. It doesn’t hurt that she’s easy on the eyes and even easier on the soul.
But as the Cheyenne princess begins to steal his heart, he finds himself in some real trouble. Because when outlaws along the trail try to take away his prize, Slocum will have to show them that no one takes what belongs to him—not if they want to get away with their lives…
About the Author
Jake Logan is the author of the long-running Slocum western series, featuring the adventures of gunslinger John Slocum.
Read an Excerpt
War-painted bucks concealed behind juniper, elder brush, and boulders on the hillside fired their rifles, and puffs of gun smoke drifted upward. Every once in a while, one of their lead bullets struck a taut canvas wagon cover with a loud pop. The wagon train men were behind the circled thirty freight wagons, either on their bellies or swabbing out their rifle bores with brushes on long rods. The midday heat made Slocum remove his felt hat and wipe out the hatband sweat with his kerchief. Hell of a damn deal. At least his livestock was in the corral of circled rigs, and most were alive and none seriously wounded so far.
One of the freighters took a shot, and at the loud explosion, Slocum swore out loud. “Damnit, if you can’t hit one of them red devils, save your ammo. We’re going to need those bullets, and they won’t come back for us to use them.”
“Ira got him dead on with his Sharps fifty-caliber,” someone yelled from the north side.
“I’m not complaining about that. I mean just dumb shooting.”
“How long are they going to stay out there?” The question came from someone resting on his belly underneath a wagon bed, with just his dusty run-over boots showing. He, no doubt, was watching for any movement from the attackers.
“Hell, if I knew that, I’d have joined Custer and saved his ass at the Little Big Horn.”
“Hell, that sumbitch probably knocked up your daughter.”
“I don’t have any.”
“How do you know? You may have had several. You’ve sowed enough seed out here.”
Amused, Slocum shook his head. “Keep your eyes on them, men.”
“Slocum, are these Arapahos?”
“That, and Cheyenne.”
“Who’s their chief?”
“If I knew that, I’d call him out for a parley.”
“Yeah, and he’d probably eat you for supper.”
“Watch for them, boys. When they move on us, it will be quick.”
If the Indians didn’t initiate another raid by sundown, he aimed to slip outside to spy on them and see what he could find out about his enemy. Indians were bad about having big war parties to celebrate before they struck the next day. If they had any firewater, they’d get drunk as hell, too. If they did, and he had a chance to kill them, several would never wake up to fight.
In another day, the wagon train water supply would be used up out of the barrels strapped on the sides of each freight wagon. That meant Slocum needed to end this siege within the next twenty-four hours. Chances of an army patrol coming by to rescue them were slim to none. He hadn’t expected such an active war party, but the Bozeman Trail hadn’t ever been a healthy road to Montana, not even a year after Custer’s demise.
His train was loaded with farm equipment. He’d left out of Omaha late, hoping to reach the Billings country with the freight before fall. A riverboat on the Missouri River in early spring might have been a better choice to ship it, but they could haul settlers for more money than what the freight would pay for space.
So he told Charlie Hackett he’d do his best to get the implement freight up there before the snowflakes flew. The trip so far had been a hard, hot, dusty job, but they’d had hardly any breakdowns or setbacks while they crawled like ants westward and then northward. In fact, they were way ahead of what Slocum called his mental schedule when this band of two dozen or so warriors picked them out as a prime prize. If they knew the wagons were only carrying pitchforks and mowing machines, they’d never have stopped them. All the Indians he’d ever known weren’t interested in any such instruments of labor.
• • •
Before sundown, he talked to Indian Joe, a tough Sac-Fox Indian he’d hired in Omaha. There was also Buster Johnson, who he’d added in Fort Laramie, and an ex-army teamster who called himself Whethers. The four parleyed by themselves over some fresh coffee, squatting in the Wyoming dust to make plans for the night.
“If they have a powwow tonight and get drunk, we should be able to cut enough throats to make them think about leaving or not charging us again. Either way, we damn sure need to get on up to that Tongue River.”
Buster spit tobacco juice aside. “We sure do need to do that.”
“I’m going to use a buffalo hide to conceal myself,” Slocum said. “Each man should have two revolvers, but don’t use them unless you can’t use a knife. If you get in trouble, we’ll try to come to your aid, but one gunshot will bring the camp down on whoever fires it.”
“What if we can stampede their horses?” Joe asked.
“That would damn sure work,” Slocum agreed. The loss of their horses would be a big blow to their plans.
“They usually have boys wrangling them. They aren’t hard to sneak up on.”
Slocum agreed. These three men knew their business. “Around three o’clock on the Big Dipper we all should be back here in camp. Each of us will slip out in different directions, so they don’t notice. You men know how to fight Injuns. Do it.”
The three men nodded. They rose, drank the last of their coffee, and tossed their empty metals cups in the soapy wash water on the stand. Slocum got his buffalo robe out of the back of his supply wagon. He checked the loads in his Colt from the holster and the extra cap-and-ball .30-caliber model in his waistband. The second was a small gun, but it was effective at close range. Wild Bill Hickok liked that model. Said those big guns were unhandy and hard to get swung around when you needed firepower quick in your fist.
His foreman, Jim Lacey, came by. They shared a nip apiece off a good pint of Kentucky whiskey. “You four got it planned?”
“We hope. If I don’t come back, it will all be up to you.”
“You better come back, Slocum. These damn Indians have me upset.”
“Hell, they may be like smoke in the morning—gone. They do that.”
“And they don’t, too.”
“I’m going out the west way. See you, Lacey. Be back about three in the morning, if not sooner. I plan to come back in one piece.”
“Lots of luck.”
“Thanks. I figure I’ll need it.”
Slocum left on all fours under the cover of the stinking, heavy hide. A rifle would have been nice, but he needed both hands to keep the buffalo robe over him. The skin would blend in better with the sagebrush than a blanket. He went a ways, then stopped and listened to the drums in the distance. They were having a big dance up there. Good. He and his men needed to get some of them eliminated to notch down their numbers.
In a short while, he reached a sandy dry wash and used it to go north. He paused every little bit to listen for any sound. Stopped, he heard one or more people breathing damn hard. He cautiously rose up some to learn the direction of all the private grunting.
Whoever it was, they sure were a long ways from their festivities. He climbed up the bank and kept low on the move with his Bowie knife in his fist. They weren’t far over the lip, but he couldn’t see them. Then he spotted a man’s powerful bare back in a sitting position. There must be a woman under him. He heard her moans of pleasure, but no need in risking his self getting any higher. No way he could see her until he stood over them.
The man spoke in a deep bass voice, in the Cheyenne language. Slocum felt certain this man was a leader, extracting his pleasure from some squaw. He crept closer, concentrating on the man still seated on her belly, who rambled on unaware of being watched.
Then Slocum made his charge. His Bowie blade in a downward strike went to the hilt deep in the middle of the Indian’s back, and a stifled scream died in his throat. The man pitched forward on top of the squaw under him. His knife had silenced the buck for good. It was her Slocum had to silence next. With a great effort, he heaved the Indian’s thick body aside and caught her by her heavy braids before she could scramble away from him.
His other hand clamped tight over her mouth. Chills ran up the cheeks of his face. Naked as Eve, she was a slender-bodied young female and wild as any prairie chicken he ever caught under a gun-fired net. But he had suppressed her screams, for the moment.
“I’ll take my hand away if you won’t scream. Otherwise, I will gag you.”
“. . . you bastard. My father will kill you for what you have done to him and me.” Her voice in a whisper, he figured she didn’t want to be gagged.
“Darlin’, he’d’ve killed me if he’d had the chance. What’s your name?”
Her back straightened. “I am a Cheyenne princess. My name is Snow Flake.”
“Mine’s Slocum, Snow. I better get you back to camp. Who was he?”
“Bull of Thunder. My husband-to-be, of course.” She was dressing in her snowy buckskin dress.
“Who is your father?”
“Man of Pipes.”
“I’ve heard of him. Maybe, if he wants you bad enough, he might trade with me. Now, no tricks from you. Head for that ring of wagons.”
“Are you the chief of those wagons?”
“I am.” He took the man’s ammunition belt to sling over his shoulder, and the buck’s new Winchester. It was a much better gun than most of the men in his camp had.
Knelt down on one knee, with his left hand he wrenched the big knife out of Thunder’s back and then holstered it behind his back. He wouldn’t get much more killing done that night. But he did have a strong trade item—the chief’s daughter.
On their approach to the wagons, Slocum alerted the night guards. “Hold your fire. It’s me,” he warned.
“Well, who in the hell is she?” a guard asked.
“Watch her,” Slocum said, giving one of his men the rifle and ammo belt. “She’s the chief’s daughter. Her name’s Snow. His name is Man of Pipes.”
“Get any of them?”
“Her husband to be—he’s dead now.”
“What we going to do with her?” Kimes, the lead driver, asked.
Slocum frowned at him. “Quit licking your chops. She is damn sure not here for you to rape or torture. Anyone lays a hand on her, I’ll cut that hand off. Am I clear?”
“Sure, sure, I was just asking.”
“If she acts tame, let her loose. If she tries to escape, tie her up. You savvy that, Snow? Being tied up will hurt you.”
She nodded and sat on the ground near the glowing coals that reflected on her light tan adolescent face. There was a cool night wind and the fire’s heat must have felt good. Her husband-to-be lay dead. She must realize that her life would change quickly in the hands of her worst enemies, who had no respect for her rank.
Slocum went and looked for his foreman.
His man, Lacey, appeared sleepy-eyed when he joined Slocum, and he looked hard at her. “What did you fetch back?”
“The chief’s daughter. We will have to wait to see how they react to our efforts tonight.”
“She’s a pretty good catch.”
“I thought so. Her husband-to-be, who may have been a main warrior, is dead.”
“We’ll know something by dawn, won’t we?”
“Yes. I don’t want her raped or mishandled. Assign some men to be responsible for her. I told her as long as she didn’t try to run off, I wouldn’t tie her up.”
“I can do that.” Lacey yawned.
Slocum went off to find his bedroll to get a few hours of sleep before the others returned. On his back, under his soogans, he stared at the million stars.Thanks, Lord, for another day . . .
Lacey woke him. Kneeling beside Slocum’s bedroll, his man spoke softly. “Everyone is back. They had some success.”
“Good.” Slocum threw back his covers and buckled on his six-gun rig while getting up. “Where are they?”
“Over at the campfire.”
His boots pulled on, he said, “Better go see. How’s my princess?”
“Wrapped in a blanket and sleeping, or playing possum.”
“Good.” He put on his hat as they hurried to the campfire.
“Anyone run off their horses?” Slocum looked the men over for an answer.
Joe nodded. “They won’t have many to ride today. I scattered them best I could.”
“I managed to send about three to the happy hunting grounds for good Injuns,” the buck skinner, Johnson, said and spit tobacco aside. “That means there are considerable less to whoop around and shoot at us.”
“We did well.”
The sun had slipped up over the horizon when someone called out, “Hey, I think we have a deal coming. There’s a buck with a white flag riding this way.”
Slocum went to see who it was. Sure enough, he had a large white flag. No doubt a part of the bedding from some less fortunate settler that they’d killed. “I think we can do some swapping.”
“Her, for what?” Kimes, his lead driver, asked.
“A ticket to get back on the road.”
“You trust them?”
“About as far as I can toss them. Get me my horse and a rifle. I’ll meet him.”
“Be damn careful. Could be a plot to kill you,” Lacey said and headed off to get him his needs.
Slocum studied the rider. Then he went over and shook Snow, still asleep under the blanket. “Get up, Snow. Who is this man out here?”
She wiped the sleep from her eyes, then hurried to her feet. For moment she stared at the rider approaching. “Little Bear.”
“Good. Go back to sleep.”
She frowned at him. “Why ask me his name?”
“When I call him Little Bear, he’ll wonder how I know his name, won’t he?”
She agreed and went back by the fire ring.
“Don’t let her escape,” he said loud enough over his shoulder. Then he mounted the stout red roan horse with the cropped ears that he called Sitting Bull. Rifle loaded and laid across his lap, he booted Sitting Bull out of the wagon ring to meet Little Bear.
They stopped thirty feet apart.
“How are you, Little Bear?”
The brave’s eyes fluttered; he was obviously taken aback by his name escaping a white man’s tongue. “I come to ask if you have our chief’s daughter.”
“I have her and she’s safe. No one will disturb her in my camp, or touch her. She is unchained on her word not to escape, so she is in no pain, nor will she be punished or threatened in my care.”
“My chief, her father, asks for her back.”
“Well, Little Bear, I figure as long as I have her, your war party won’t attack my wagon train and we can go on to Montana. I have little to eat here in my wagons. They’re full of of iron and wood to farm with. Nothing here that the Cheyenne can eat, wear, or care about. At the south end of the Crow country, I will give her back to you. But from here to there I will use her for safe passage. Little Bear, you will tell her father and your brothers they must come unarmed and take her home from up there. You have my word that she will be unharmed.”
“I will ask him if that suits him.”
“Take your time. Tell him she will be respected, but she is my pass to get that far north.”
The brave stopped. “How do you know my name?”
“My God told me who you were.”
Little Bear nodded and then spurred his horse away. Slocum smiled after him. That trick had got the buck just like he’d expected it would—a little confused.
Slocum rode back, handed a fledgling his rifle, and dismounted Sitting Bull. “Well, they are thinking about my offer.”
“What did you offer them?” someone asked.
“To return Snow to them at the south end of the Crow land unharmed, if we are, too.”
“Think it will work?”
“We have the ace in the hole, boys. That’s her.”
“Did you shock him calling him by his name?” Kimes asked.
“Maybe somewhat. But he damn sure didn’t expect my terms either.”
“What will we do next?”
“I plan to move out in the morning, with Snow riding up front with some of us.”
“You’re damn sure of yourself, is all I can say.”
Lacey joined him. “Yes, we will see. What about her for now?”
“Make someone guard her around the clock. She’s our pass to Montana.”
“I can do that.”
“Good. We’re less than half a day’s travel from the river. We’ll load up. She can ride with me and Johnson at the head of the line on a lead rope. We should get to the Tongue River by mid-morning to refill barrels and water this stock.”
He went and found the new rifle he’d brought back and spent the rest of the day cleaning it. The renegades sent him nothing that day to answer his request.
• • •
The next morning, they ate breakfast before dawn and hooked up their teams of mules and horses to the thirty wagons. The animals needed some better graze and a belly full of water. The Tongue River bottomland could furnish both. They were less than a week from Billings, so Slocum hoped his plan worked. Johnson had chosen a horse and Texas saddle for Snow, and a rope lead to keep horse and rider safe and in sight. Her pretty brown legs were exposed in the morning sunlight. Slocum knew she could ride any horse this outfit had.
No sign of anything, but he gave Lacey instructions: If any Cheyenne showed up, Lacey and the wagon train should break off and make a circle out of the back half of the train. He gave the same order to Kimes in the number one wagon. The animals were slow getting to a pace that he liked to see. Water and graze later would help fuel them for the next day.
The low sagebrush across the wide, flat valley couldn’t conceal much. The Bozeman Trail wagon tracks ran northward and things looked clear. By Slocum’s estimate, the line of tall cottonwoods along the Tongue was maybe a mile north.
Suddenly, two pistol-armed bucks jumped up from the ground in front of them, and it seemed they appeared out of nowhere. Slocum shot the one on the left in his bare chest. Johnson took two shots to stop his man. However, his horse shied in the process and he dropped Snow’s lead rope. Quick as a cat, she stood in the stirrup, stretched over the horse’s neck, and sought the lead. Slocum saw she had hold of it and he spurred Sitting Bull to catch her.
The race was on. She wasn’t looking back, but her heels were working over the bay horse’s side as she rode. Then, with a cross-over motion, back and forth with the lead rope, she began whipping him to run faster. Sitting Bull had his half ears laid back like he must have done this before. No doubt, many times, when his former Indian owner closed in to ride beside a buffalo and shoot him in the heart, behind his front legs. Inch by inch, he drew closer to being beside Snow.
No need to urge the powerful pony; he knew what was expected and was fast closing in. She swung the lead rope at Slocum, but he caught the collar of her dress, jerked her off her horse, and slammed her over his lap. Then he made a wide circle, slowing Sitting Bull down to a walk.
“No.” She struggled over his lap as he held her in place.
“Catch her horse,” he told Johnson, who’d caught up and reined his horse in.
“Any more sign of them?” Slocum asked.
Johnson shook his head. Then the buck skinner rode on to capture the bay that had stopped a hundred yards ahead of him.
“What are going to do to me?” Snow asked in a small voice.
“I damn sure might spank you, when I get those wagons and horses to the river. I told you not to try to run on me, didn’t I?”
“There was shooting. I was afraid.”
“Two more licks for lying.”
“You won’t spank me—” She tried to look back to plead with him. He forced her down again over his lap.
“You disobeyed me. You have one coming and you’ll get it when we make camp.”
“Oh, don’t spank me.”
“You will be spanked when we make camp. You acted like a little kid running away when you promised me you wouldn’t do this. I don’t have time to mess with you now. I don’t know if your relatives will try to raid us again, but they might.” He stood in the stirrups to look across the flats—so far, no other sign of them.
“Let me up.”
“You can ride right there all day. You disobeyed me.”
“You are hardheaded.”
“No. I didn’t lie to you. You lied to me.”
No answer. She squirmed some more on his lap.
“Be still.” She obeyed him. No sign of any attack. But they now had fewer bucks to worry about than the number that had come to make war with them on the road the first time.
The wagon teams were coming at a jog in a long line and making lots of dust, but Slocum saw no sign of any Indians, either on foot or horseback. He short loped the roan for the river. They needed to be careful not to colic any of their animals once they reached the water. That would be all Slocum needed at this point, so they couldn’t let the thirsty animals over-drink at first and get bellyaches.
Snow beat on his leg. “I must get down. I must get down. I won’t run.”
With his hand full of her dress, he pulled her up and then gently set her down. On her feet, she nodded at him, looking very somber. He turned his head while she raised her dress to squat and relieve herself. Where was the war party? No sign of them. But he knew damn good and well they were still out there somewhere.
He spun Sitting Bull around, still looking for any threat. Nothing. He bent over in the saddle and swept her up on the cantle behind his back.
“Thank you,” she said softly, seated behind him.
He never answered her, except to say, “Hang on.”
With that accomplished, he set out in a hard lope for the river to be sure there wasn’t a trap set up for them to run into there. She clung to him, but as an expert horse rider, she had no trouble riding behind him. The small river was in the open and hardly a place for anyone to be hidden. He slid Bull to a halt to look over all the country. Nothing was in sight. They could circle the wagons and water the animals here. There was also lots of graze to fill them up and rest them the balance of the day. That meant that in the morning, under guarded caution, they’d start north again, past the fatal Custer site and headed for the Crow reservation.
Slocum rode back and told Lacey to set up camp and have each driver water his horse with care and then graze the animal close by. Maybe Johnson and Joe could locate the renegades’ camp and activities. A week or two and they’d be in Billings and could unload the freight. A week might be too stiff a schedule for Slocum to accomplish, but at most he was within two weeks of reaching his destination.
He met with two of his scouts.
“No sign of them.” Johnson spit tobacco aside.
“You two can make some wider circles and look for them. Both of you be careful. We’ll rest today here. Get our horses and mules healed, and I plan to start north again in the early morning,”
They agreed and left him to go on the scout. He rode around talking to his drivers, who were relieved they’d had no more attacks. Tough men, but also ready to deliver their loads and take a breather. Only a few of them bore minor injuries from the raid. His outfit was damn sure made up of tough frontier freighters, and they’d been tested over the past few days.
He motioned for Snow to slip off his horse at the main wagon. Lithely, she slid off Bull’s rump and straightened her dress. Out of the saddle, Slocum stretched and reset his pants and gun belt.
“If you ever try to escape me again, I will bust your butt and keep you in ropes the rest of the time you are with me. Do you hear me?”
Subdued, she nodded. “I won’t. I promise you.”
“Well, you better remember it won’t be a threat.”
“Yes, I will. You have no woman?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No woman.”
“Why not?” She traipsed along with him, her dress fringe whipping around in the strong wind.
“I don’t stay long anywhere.”
“She could not go with you?”
“White women like to be rooted.”
He found his cook. “We’ll be here until dawn tomorrow. Be sure they fill all the water barrels.”
Jasper scratched his gray beard and used his thumb to indicate Snow. “Figure her kin left us?”
“I have no idea. I simply want to get up there and unloaded.”
The older man narrowed his blue eyes. “Are we hauling stinking buff hides back?”
“If you want to be paid, I’d say yes.”
The cook wrinkled his nose. “Even the damn food I cook will taste like that.”