The full moon lit up the rocky landscape around him. He could see all the way across the large valley to the cliffs and sloping plateau on the other side, thirty miles away. Two thousand feet below, the river was a thread winding through the valley floor. The town just below him clung to the side of the mountain. He could see people walking in the gas-lit streets - moving in and out of the loud saloons down on the main thoroughfare. The town dogs, made restless by the moon, barked and howled sporadically. The night was warm and full of stars.

It was foolish, he knew, to be here. He shouldn't have been anywhere near the town. He placed his new shotgun under a dark rock ledge and, almost in spite of himself, slipped quietly down a small ravine that ended abruptly at a dirt street in the upper section of town.

Keeping as much as possible to the shadows, he moved silently past the large Victorian houses. Most of the homes were well lit from the inside. He was intrigued and baffled by what he saw in the windows as he passed by. He had never seen the domestic lives of the whites so close up before. He did not understand what he saw - their closed in houses, their restrictive clothes, their separation from one another . . .

He shook these thoughts from his mind and descended further into the town, down a run of steep, dark, wooden stairs. He found himself coming out onto another street, this one in the upper business district. Across the way was a saloon. He recognized this kind of place immediately. It was here that the whites sold the drink that made men crazy. He could tell by the loud, slurred yelling that spilled out of the place. It was, again, something he could not understand about these people. The front door opened, and a lone man stepped out. He began walking down the street past the stairs, unsteady on his feet. He was dirty and wore torn overalls and a gray, moth-eaten sweater. He looked like one of those whites who dug into the earth, what they called a miner.

Natches waited until the miner was just past him. Quickly and noiselessly he came up behind him. All at once he drew his knife , slipped his arm around the miner's neck, and pressed the point of his blade up under the man's chin.

"Don't speak!," he hissed in the white man's ear.

Out of the corner of his eye, the miner could tell that it was an indian that was behind him.

"Easy now, chief," the drunk man whispered and weaved,"Don't worry. You just go easy on that knife of yours and I'll be quiet. I'll buy you some liquor. You don't have to stick a knife in me."

"I am looking for a woman."

"I know what you mean, chief, I was just headin down to the cribs to get one myself." The miner chuckled quietly.

"She has yellow hair and blue eyes."

"Well, I'd like to help you, but there's quite a few women in this town that would fit that description."

"There is no other woman like this one."

Slowly, a look of understanding came upon the miner's face.

"I don't believe it. You must be talkin about Lillie Langtry. You got to be crazy, chief. Who the hell do you - !?"

The miner stopped abruptly. Even in his drunken condition he could feel the blade pierce his flesh and a small trickle of blood run from his chin down along his throat.

"Where is she?," demanded Natches.

"Okay, okay. Easy does it." The minder pointed up the hill to a massive four-story stone building. The full moon lit up the huge red stone columns and portico on the front of the structure. "That's the Hotel Montana. That's where she'd be staying. Now, I told you what you want to know. Why don't you get that blade out of my neck and let me go home?"

The Apache was tempted to open up the miner's throat to silence him, but he had grown tired of killing, very tired. He released his captive and, with a hiss, pushed him away. The miner, stumbling, turned to face him. Then, continuing to watch the indian, he backed slowly away. After a few steps, he turned, ran down the street, and disappeared down some stairs. Natches watched him go and then bounded back up the stairs he had just come down, heading for the hotel.

As he slipped furtively through the shadows, the stupidity of his actions came to him again. He looked at the hotel. This is madness, he thought to himself. She has already given me her answer. It was as if he no longer knew himself. These thoughts whirled in his mind as he climbed up the hill in back of the hotel. The slope was so steep that he could look in the windows of even the top floors only twenty yards away.

Photo courtesy Jerome Historical Society

There, in one of the windows, he saw her. She was dressed in one of those large stiff ornate things that the whites called a gown. She was beautiful anyway. There was a man with her, putting a cape over her shoulders. He opened a door for her, and they were gone. Natches scrambled down the hill around the side of the building, keeping to the shadows, and came around to the front of the building just in time to see the couple come out, enter a horse drawn coach, and pull away. He followed them.

*      *      *       *

A group of men burst violently into the office of Sheriff George Ruffner. He was sitting at his desk, feet up, reading the paper. The men were all yelling at once, something about Lillie Langtry and an indian.

Ruffner calmly raised his hand for the men to be quiet and smiled.

The room went dead silent. All the men knew Ruffner. He didn't smile often. When he did, it didn't mean he was happy. At first glance, Ruffner seemed mild mannered and courteous, but when it came to enforcing the law another man emerged. They had all seen him in action, smiling as he took a man down. He had the cold calm and certainty of a rattlesnake. Quick with his temper, and fast to pull his gun, he had taken out five Mexicans singled handedly in a raging gun battle that started at the Fashion Saloon and ended up at a house down in Mexican town.

When he said shut up, they shut up.

"Alright, now one person tell me what the hell this is all about."

A shabby man with a slight neck wound stepped forward deferentially, hat in his hand.

"Sheriff, you gotta come. There's this crazy Indian. He almost killed me. He's looking for Miss Langtry. I don't know what he's going to do. It can't be no good. You gotta stop him."

The man's eyes pleaded with the Sheriff. Even though the miner was obviously drunk, Ruffner could sense the urgency of truth in his voice and manner. Coming off his chair like a coiled spring, he grabbed his shotgun from the rack on the wall behind him, and shouted toward the back of the jail.

"Ben, get out here. We got trouble!"

*      *      *       *

The Apache could hear strange music start up on the top floor of a big brick building on the main street of town. If he could have read, he would have known that it was coming from the opera house on the third floor of the T.F. Miller Building. All he knew was that he had followed the coach into the busiest section of town. It had stopped in front of this building, and he watched as the woman and the man entered. Remaining hidden was becoming almost impossible. There were too many people around. He didn't know what to do. His lack of control over his own actions was beginning to frighten him. He had never allowed himself to be driven by his emotions like this. It was alien to him. He was hiding in the brush of a small park just across the steep side street that bordered the building. White people walked by a few feet from him, talking, laughing, oblivious to his presence. He shook his head and tried to control his breathing. He began to get a hold of himself, realizing that he must go. There was no other alternative. He had the responsibility of leading and caring for what was left of his people who were still, at this moment, in hiding from the white soldiers down south. The thought of his people cleared his mind. He looked around, plotting the route for escape. The street cleared in front of him and he got up, ready to sprint up the hill and out of town. Then he heard her start to sing.

It was her voice. He was sure of it. It rang out like nothing he had ever heard. Smooth, clear, feminine in a way that caught hold of him and would not let go. He couldn't resist it. Without thinking, he crossed the street, leaped up to the metal fire escape, and climbed to a third story window. Inside, he saw a large ballroom with ornate glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There were many whites sitting side by side in long rows - all looking in the same direction.

From where he was, a pillar blocked his view of her. He stepped over the railing of the fire escape and onto a narrow ledge jutting out from the building. He inched along the ledge until he reached another window. There, he could see her. A smile swept across his face. Her voice was remarkable as the rest of her. Unlike most whites, it came not from the throat and mouth, but from deep inside of her. He whole body sang. He could feel it in his own.

Just then he heard a commotion below. He turned his head and saw a group of men walking excitedly up the street. In the lead was a large purposeful-looking man holding a shotgun. As the group drew closer, one of them yelled.

"Look, Sheriff! There he is! Up on the building by that window!"

Before the man finished speaking, the Apache sprang from the ledge, landed on the wooden sidewalk below, and bolted up the street away from the men. He was almost out of range before Ruffner could swing his shotgun around and let go with both barrels. Even with their killing force gone, the shotgun pellets stung as they tore into his right shoulder. He stumbled and kept running. Behind him, he could hear the men yelling, hooting, and laughing. He could hear them trying to run after him, but he knew he was too fast for them. Pistol fire chased him up the street and into the darkness of the stairs that led to safety.

*      *      *       *

Jack was in a rage.

"I told you never to go off on your own, Lillie! You should have waited for me to get to Prescott before you came over the mountain! That was Natches, for Christ's sake. Natches!! There's no telling what he would have done.!"

"I know," said Lillie. She smiled slightly as she looked out the hotel room window.

*      *      *       *

As he looked back on the town below, he realized that the men had not bothered to follow him immediately. They might organize a party and try to track him down, but that did not worry him. They would never catch him. His shoulder hurt, but the damage was not too bad. It wouldn't prevent him from traveling. The moon was still up. He could make many miles by dawn. He held her voice clearly in his mind as he turned and, smiling, moved up the mountain and out of sight.

Two Nights Later      by Terry Molloy       Copyright 2000      All Rights Reserved

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