He belonged to the Penateka tribe of Comancheria; He was Comanche. Born a warrior on the killing fields of the buffalo where his mother had been stretching hides, the medicine man named him "buffalo bull's back" for the name was to foretell his future as a powerful warrior with a strong back. The Texians just called him, "Buffalo Hump."
The man who named him had practiced good medicine, for Buffalo Hump grew to become a strong Comanche warrior. He had learned to ride before he could walk and legend told how he learned to shoot before he could talk. Invited at an early age on his first buffalo hunt, it was Buffalo Hump who obtained first kill.
For this he was honored with a great feast.
He then made his medicine, and his vision foretold one day he would be a strong War Chief. He would unite his people and together: they would drive out the White man.
For this his father gave him two horses.
He then rode against the White man, glorifying himself in battle, bringing honor to both his father and his people.
For this he was honored with a Give Away Dance.
Other warriors, many much older than Buffalo Hump, followed him into battle. He honored them with many raids from which they could return to the tribe and count coup.
For this he had earned the highest honor: respect.
Upon the tribe's return from the summer buffalo hunt, Buffalo Hump planned his next raid on the white settlers. He had learned the Texians had been defeated at a place called Alamo, and he wanted to see the place where Mexicans had counted coup against the White man. He wanted to make sure the teibos there had been destroyed.
They conducted their war dance then traveled south early the next morning to the caves of the bears. There, they hunted in the darkness of the cave to kill a bear upon whose meat they feasted, as they gloried in the lust of the impending battle.
The following morning, after preparing for battle by spreading bear grease across their bodies, they traveled first west, then south, so as to enter the settlement from a less populated route on the night of the full moon; Comanche moon.
For the young Comanche Indians, the raid would make them warriors.
For the older Comanches, the raid would allow them to profit in goods and reputation.
For Buffalo Hump, it was one more battle to ensure that his vision quest came true.
* * *
A man came walking south down a dusty trail. He had no horse, but carried a worn leather saddle slung over his left shoulder to which was tied a knapsack. His only other possessions were his hat, the clothes he wore, a knife, and a Brown Bess he had picked up off a dead Mexican, which he carried in his right hand.
The road he was on was the El Camino Real, the road leading into San Antonio de Bexar. It was August 27, 1836, a Saturday afternoon when he arrived.
His true interest for coming to San Anton was to take a gander at the Alamo and see how it had fared.
As he approached that hallowed ground, he remembered the shouts that echoed forever after: "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" It gave him a curious sense of satisfaction.
He could see that many of the walls had been torn down and there were scorch marks where the Mexicans had tried, but failed, to burn it down. He thought it was fitting that they could not completely destroy it, just as they could not completely destroy Texas.
There was, however, much destruction. Only a few buildings had actually survived, while the chapel was left in ruins. There were some canons left behind, but by the looks of it, they had been spiked. The Long Barracks appeared to have survived, and the building at the south wall gate was still mostly intact. Otherwise, it was a shell of a building. He wondered if they would rebuild it or tear it down.
He moved on, crossed the bridge, and entered town. As he walked down Presidio Street heading toward the main plaza, he scanned the buildings ahead as he went.
Almost at the main plaza, he found what he was looking for, a saloon. He was in need of both food and drink, preferably the drink first. He had worked up a mighty thirst walking so far afoot.
He entered the saloon, which was nearly empty. He approached a table, looked around, dropped his saddle on the ground, propped his rifle against it, and sat down in a chair.
It felt good to sit.
He looked up, took off his hat, wiped his brow, and placed the hat back on his head. He tipped it back, looked at the barkeep, and asked for something to eat and drink.
"What'll you have?" the barkeep asked.
"I'm might thirsty, so I'll start with a beer. As for grub, I'll take anything you got."
"Easy enough. Beers coming up and I'll fetch you a bowl of soup. It's mostly beef and broth, but there are a few vegetables floating around in it and some taters."
The barkeep brought the beer, then disappeared into the back. In a few minutes, he brought out a bowl of soup and a chunk of bread, which looked to be a day or two old. He noticed the beer glass was empty.
The barkeep maneuvered behind the bar, and poured the glass full from the tap.
"Stranger in town?" the barkeep asked as he closed off the tap.
"Where you from?"
"Well, I was from Mina, but I seem to have lost my place in the runaway scrape."
"That's a shame. But they got ole Santa Anna."
"I know. I was there."
"What's your name, son?"
"Logan. Logan Sterling. What's yours?"
"Sam. Like the man who's soon gonna be the President of Texas."
"Elections coming up soon, ain't it?
"Sure is. Next month."
"Has Sam Houston put his name in yet?" asked Sterling. He had been walking for several weeks and hadn't heard much news.
"Sure has. Last week. He's going to beat Austin for sure. Sam Houston's the new name in Texas. So, how was it you were with him?"
"Well, I came out of the hills of Tennessee green as a cut seed watermelon. Pretty soon, I did what everyone else did, I had gone to Texas. I settled in Mina and was trying to get me a place started and was a courtin' when Santa Anna chased us all out. Seein' as how I didn't appreciate being pushed, I joined a group calling themselves the Mina Volunteers and we joined up with ole' Sam Houston."
"And you were there when it ended?"
"What was it like?"
"A turkey shoot. We surprised them and they ran. Houston gave us a speech and then we followed him in. We ran a bit, but then we realized we didn't need to. We opened fire and they up an' ran away. We were screaming 'Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!' and pretty soon the Mexicans were all begging "Me no Alamo! No, Goliad!'"
"That's what a lot of the local boys said. Many of them were there cause of what happened at the Alamo."
"Say, where are all the locals? This place is empty."
"Their gettin' ready to crown the new Belle of San Antonio."
"Belles!" Sterling said as he started to get up, "I need to see them."
"Take it easy, son. You can finish your meal first. They first come down the main street here and then to the plaza where the election is held. You can see them as they come by."
"I appreciate that," said Sterling as he regained his seat and continued to eat.
Sterling finished his meal and his second beer, and the barkeep proffered him a third one on the house for his service to Texas. Sterling thanked him and, kicking back, slowly began drinking his third beer. His eyelids were starting to get heavy.
"Say, what happened to your horse," asked the barkeep.
"Done got shot out from under me. I didn't want to go into a fight on foot, but the Mexicans forced me into it. After everything was over and I was obliged to leave, there were no spare horses, so I hoofed it back to Mina. There wasn't much there and one fellow said the Comanches picked over everyone and everything that remained. So, I decided to make my way down to see what was left of this fair town."
"Well, welcome to San Antonio. I think I am hearing the parade coming down the street now. You might want to have a look at some of the pretty ladies."
"Thanks. I reckon I will."
Sterling paid for the meal and two beers, stood up feeling much better, if not a bit light headed, grabbed his saddle and 'ole Bess and headed out the door of the saloon.
A throng of people, mostly men and boys, were moving ahead of a group of ladies, who were walking down the street, smiling and waving to everyone. Sterling stood on the wooden sidewalk, watching the spectacle go by. That was until he caught sight of one young lady, walking towards him. She was so beautiful it took his breath away. She was a little over 5' 4" tall, slender, with brunette hair and big brown eyes. The skirt and blouse she wore were of Mexican design, which complimented her figure nicely. As she walked by, she looked up and smiled at him. He tipped his hat, stepped down from the sidewalk, and fell in alongside her, still carrying his saddle and rifle.
"Howdy, Ma'am. You sure are pretty."
"Why thank you, stranger."
"So, you're the Belle of San Antonio."
"No, I am a contestant to become the Belle."
"Well, Ma'am, as I see it, you're the prettiest one here which means you'll soon be the Belle."
"Well, I hope the judges are of the same opinion as you. Now, I thank you, but I must be going."
As the lady walked away, waving and smiling at the other men, she heard the man ask, "What's your name?"
She turned, smiled, and said, "Muriel Hill. Miss Muriel Hill."
Logan watched her walk away, smiling at how she had emphasized the word "Miss."
He was tired and needed some sleep, not to mention a bath, but he couldn't resist watching Muriel Hill being crowned the winner so he could say, "I told you so." He decided to continue on and join the crowd in the main plaza.
After the ladies gathered together in the main plaza, each was introduced and asked to say something to the crowd. Some old guy talked for a bit and introduced a table where three other old men, all with bushy beards, sat. Then another young lady was introduced, and Logan figured out she had been crowned last year's Belle of San Antonio.
Finally, the old guy said he was going to announce the winner, and, just as Logan had predicted, it was Muriel Hill. There was a lot of cheering and then a decorative headpiece was given to Muriel by the previous Belle. People then began migrating over to where the food and drinks were set out and a band had started playing.
Logan Sterling, still toting his saddle and rifle, walked up to Muriel.
"I told you, you would win."
"It seems you were right, Mr. . . . ?"
"Logan. Logan Sterling."
"Well, I appreciate your confidence in me, Mr. Sterling."
"Call me Logan, Ma'am. Like I said, you were the prettiest lady by far in the bunch, it didn't take much to figure out you would win."
"Are you always right in your predictions?"
"Yes, Ma'am. Most of the time. Like I predict I'm gonna marry you."
"Excuse me, Mr. Sterling? You're not from around here are you?"
"But you say you are going to marry me."
"Do you have a job, Mr. Sterling?"
"Do you have land, Mr. Sterling?"
"Um, no, Ma'am, but I got some comin' to me."
"Then how do you expect to support a new bride, Mr. Sterling?"
"Well, I'm supposed to get some land for helpin' out Mr. Houston, so I thought I could file on some land in Mina. It's a beautiful area with lots of trees, so the land could be cleared for farming, a garden and a cabin. We can sell the timber to people a comin' to Texas, and anything we don't 'et."
"I am sorry, Mr. Sterling. I am a practical woman, and a man without a job or a deed to land is simply not fit to marry. I wish you well, Mr. Sterling. I really do."
"Well, thank you Ma'am. I'll see about that job and the land and I'll let you know," he said, entirely undiscouraged.
"You do that, Mr. Sterling," she replied with a half-smile at the man's rather matter-of-fact way of talking. She then turned and joined the crowd for refreshments.
Logan, tired of lugging the saddle and the rifle, was also just plain tired, so he sought out a hotel to bed down in. He had seen one on the way down Presidio while he was looking for the saloon, so he made his way back up the street toward the bridge.
He came to the hotel, obtained a key, and went up to the room. He planned to rest a moment, then find himself some new clothes and a bath. However, as soon as he sat down on the bed to rest, he was fast asleep.
* * *
He awoke with a start, not entirely sure where he was. He recalled the hotel room he had rented in San Antonio and realized he was in bed having fallen asleep.
It was nighttime and the room was dark. He looked around trying to figure out what had disturbed his sleep and it was then he heard the gunshots and the shouting outside on the street.
He sat up, stepped out of bed, and made his way to the window. There were some horses traveling north out of town, crossing the bridge, but he could not make them out in the dark. Their profiles in the dark were not what he would have expected to see. The horses were small and the frames of the men did not have the right shape to them.
He looked down the other end of the street, toward the plaza, and he heard a lot of shouting. Men were starting to come out onto the street with either pistols or rifles in hand. Logan, being already dressed, grabbed his rifle and headed out of his rented room.
When he made it out onto the street, there was still a commotion going on, with a number of men talking about what the Indians had run off with, who was injured, and what to do about it. He then heard someone yell that Ranger Cole was coming up the street, and everyone turned.
An older man with a full mustache and several day's growth of dark stubble came riding up the street on horseback, flanked by two other men, also astride horses. They pulled up their reins in front of the crowd, and the man in the center asked, "What happened here?"
Everyone starting shouting at once.
"One at a time, one at a time," the man said.
One of the men in the crowd, evidently a known authority figure, began speaking.
"The Comanches came into town just before Midnight and hit us quick. They emptied out the livery stable, shot several of the men who tried to stop them as they fled with the horses, and they captured Muriel."
Logan's stomach turned at the name and he asked, "Muriel, the lady who just became Belle?"
"That's her," came the reply.
Logan looked up at the men on horseback and asked, "Are you all going to do something?"
The man looked down to find the person with the pertinent voice and, upon spying Logan, said, "What do you expect me to do son?"
"Someone called you Ranger Cole, shouldn't the Rangers be going after them?"
"I wish I could son, I wish I could. We've had raids all over this area from the Indians as they think we're vulnerable because the Mexicans have retreated south. In part, they're right. And now the problem is, Santa Anna's gone agin' the treaty he signed at Velasco and he's amassing his soldiers along the border. I've been ordered to recall all of the Rangers in the area and to head south to protect against another invasion. I can't spare the men."
"Then give me a horse and I'll go," demanded Logan.
"I can't son. I can only provide a horse to a Ranger."
"Then make me a Ranger."
The man in the center, Ranger Cole, turned to the other two and started talking amongst themselves. After what seemed like forever to Logan, Ranger Cole looked to the other two for what looked like approval and, both giving a nod, he turned back to face Logan.
"Alright son, I hate to see the little lady come to harm. I can swear you in as a Ranger and give you a horse. I'll also give you these two men to go with you. This here is Noah Smith, he's a good tracker and can help you foller them Comanches. This other gent is Ranger Bill McGee. I need to leave one Ranger back here in San Anton, so I reckon I can be him."
"Thank you, Sir. I'll grab my saddle from the hotel room and be right back down."
"You a stranger in town?" Cole asked.
"Yes, sir. Name's Logan Sterling."
"How come you ain't got a hoss?"
"I was from Mina and joined the Mina Volunteers who fought with Sam Houston. My horse was shot by the Mexicans."
"Good man that Houston. You get your things together, then I'll swear you in, while Noah fetches you a hoss."
As Logan Sterling had little in the way of possessions, it did not take him long to grab his hat, knife, and saddle. He checked over ole' Bess to make sure she was ready and that he still had enough ammunition. Once again, he threw his saddle over his shoulder picked up his rifle and went to check out of the hotel. The proprietor, having heard the exchange outside, told him his room was free and he wished him luck in recovering Miss Hill. And with a polite thank you, Sterling was out the door.
At the same time, Noah Smith came riding up the street trailing a fine looking Black. He handed the reins to Sterling and, upon taking them, he took the time to introduce himself to the horse. He talked to her gently, telling her what was in store for them, and that she would get to do some fast riding. Assured of at least some connection to the horse, he threw his saddle up over the saddle blanket Smith had already placed on the horse, cinched and buckled the straps, and with one final gesture to the dignity of the horse, he mounted her and drew rein.
He turned to Ranger Cole, who asked him to raise his right hand, and he swore an oath. Cole told him he would be paid $1.25 a day, but he was going to have to pay for his own horse out of the money he earned. He also told him that although McGee only had a month on, he was technically in charge, but then each Ranger needed to think and act for himself. "I wish you Godspeed in rescuing Miss Hill and thanks for volunteering."
Logan, thanking him in turn, looked over toward McGee and Smith.
"Are you gentlemen ready?" he asked.
And with only a confirmation nod, Sterling directed the horse up Presidio, across the bridge and out of town.
* * *
The tracks of the unshod ponies were easy enough to follow in the light of the full moon (technically the day after it had been full). It was also clear after a dozen miles or so that they were headed due north, for regardless of the terrain, they did not appear to waiver from that direction.
Logan, who had been in the lead, fell back alongside Smith.
"What's due north of here?"
"Not much," came Smith's reply. "Between here and the Colorado River, is the Guadalupe, the Blanco, and the Pedernales."
"Can they make the Colorado in a day."
"Sure, they got spare horses."
"And above it?"
"By tomorrow night, yeah, they'll be just across the Colorado."
"But not back into Comanche territory."
"Well, the ways that see it, everywhere is their territory."
"But they won't quite be back amongst the safety of their people."
"No, that wouldn't be until the day after."
"They'll stop somewhere. Where?"
And with that, Logan Sterling spurred on ahead and they continued traveling north in silence, following the tracks of the unshod ponies by moonlight.
When the sun came up, it made the tracking easier. As the tracks continued traveling roughly due north, even when they lost them because of changes in the terrain, they just continued north until they picked them up again. Although Smith was the tracker, Logan remained out front, in part because the tracks were easy to follow, but mostly because he was desperate to rescue Muriel before anything happened to her.
They stopped with little frequency, only long enough to rest their horses. Logan knew he was pushing them hard, but he had no choice. The Comanches had spare horses, captured from the livery stable; they did not. The Black was a good horse and she was holding her own. As both Smith and McGee's horses were keeping up, Logan continued to push throughout the day.
By sundown they were approaching the Colorado.
Logan turned toward Smith and asked, "Where are they planning to cross the Colorado?"
"Their headin' for the shoals, it's an easy crossing. West of there the water is too wide and east of there it gets too deep."
"So, what's due north of the shoals?"
Smith thought about it some, but before he could answer, the man who had spoken nary a word since they left spoke up.
"Bear Cave," was all he said.
"He's right. They're far enough north to believe they're safe from pursuit, and it would be the perfect place for them to stay until sunrise," added Smith.
"Do you know the caves?" asked Logan.
"Sure do. I grew up in that area and used to play around in 'em even though Pa said to stay away from 'em cause they were dangerous. Heck! That was why I always went there," replied Smith.
"All right, Bear Cave it is."
* * *
The sun was down and the moon was up over Central Texas, and the three Rangers continued following the tracks of the Comanche horses by the light of the moon. They reached an area where Smith held up his hand and McGee stopped beside him. Logan, hearing the other horses pull up, turned, directing his horse back to the other two.
"This is it. We dismount and walk it in from here," whispered Noah Smith.
The three men dismounted, tethered their horses to a tree, and Smith led the way with Logan immediately behind him; McGee watched the rear.
As they moved forward, the terrain began to change, becoming more hilly, with rocky outcroppings and less trees. Smith moved around the base of the area, looking to approach from a particular vantage point. As they did so, Logan thought he heard the blow of a horse from ahead of him, not from behind. There was a good chance their hunch was correct.
Smith found the angle of approach he wanted and using hand signals, he asked Sterling to follow him and McGee to stay put. They moved forward in a low crouch, trying to move quietly in their boots. As they approached nearer, they could smell smoke, but could not see it. Smith then pointed toward an area that was elevated, but mostly flat.
As Logan focused his eyes, he could see what Smith had been pointing at. There was a large round opening in the earth, large enough to fit two riders abreast. There was a faint wisp of smoke rising out of the hole.
Smith touched Sterling's arm, then motioned toward the ground. There was Indian sign leading up toward the hole. Their hunch was now confirmed. The Indians had stopped, thinking they weren't being pursued, to stay overnight in the comforts of the cave. Muriel had to be in there.
Smith waved his hand, motioning for them to retreat. They backed up slowly, keeping their eyes on the hill, before finally turning and joining back up with McGee. Smith then entered the woods and began walking away, back toward the horses.
Once there, he crouched down and began to whisper.
"They're in there all right. Their horses are probably tethered on the other side of the hill, but other than a guard, most of them are probably in the cave. Through that hole in the earth, you can climb down to the cavern floor and it is a big wide cave right there. Plenty of room for them to rest and have a fire without it showing.
"We need to enter the cave from another entrance I know. The problem is, we're going to have to pick our way through the dark, but once we do, we'll be able to surprise 'em. We'll have time. They won't be leavin' until right before sunup.
"If you have any matches or candles in your saddlebags, bring 'em along. Get everything you need, we won't be comin' back here until we have what we came for."
Smith and McGee made their way over to their saddlebags and opened them up. Logan remained where he was. He had nothing else he could bring, other than Ole Bess and his knife.
Once they were all ready, they followed Smith through the woods, moving away from the hole in the earth. Again, they came to an area were the woods gave way to more rocky terrain and where the chaparral, thought Logan, was as thick as the hair on a dog's back.
As they picked their way through, Smith suddenly stopped and began peering around. Logan could see the earth dropped away in several places and there were more rocks protruding from the earth. Smith then apparently found what he was looking for as he began to climb down into some semblance of an arroyo. They followed the bottom until they came to the end of what looked to be a gully. In the side of the hill stood an opening into the earth wide enough that a man could fit through as long as he walked in a crouch.
"Stay close," Smith said as he looked back at the others.
"We need to move very cautiously or we might find ourselves in a hornet's nest."
That was all he said before turning back toward the hole, crouching down, and entering the tunnel. Logan wondered if he meant that for real, envisioning a hornet's nest inside the cave, before he ducked his head and entered, McGee following.
Making their way through the tunnel, it was not long before they could stand upright, which made movement a lot easier. However, they no longer had any light from the moon, and Logan thought to himself if was as dark as the inside of a cow, but as cool as a Texas morning. The air was almost cold, causing Logan to shiver once, and like everything else in Texas, it was humid.
Smith continued to pick his way slowly through the caves, sometimes halting because his foot had run into something. The passageway he was taking them on was crooked, and often so narrow, they had to turn sidewise at times. At other times, it was wide enough for two men to travel abreast and Logan sometimes found himself walking next to, but still slightly behind Smith.
The Stygian darkness, however, was unnerving for Logan. Holding his hand in front of his face, he could not see it. In addition, there were strange smells, including the strong smells of minerals and that of ammonia.
At one point, when Smith had halted, Logan whispered, "What's that smell?"
Smith had a simple reply: "Bat shit."
They continued moving forward, stepping over and around rock formations they could not see. Logan was thankful Ranger Cole had sent Smith along with him, as he probably would have found the first entrance to the cave and would have entered that way, knowing of no other alternative. It was because of Ranger Cole and Smith, he was probably still alive at that very moment.
Smith halted again and whispered, "This is it. I think we're getting close. No more words and try not to make a sound until we get to the large cave. There should be at least some light from the fire and the opening in the ceiling should give us the moon to see by."
He was right. They came to a place where there was a sudden bend to the right and, once making that turn, they had their first sign of light. They could see the embers of the Indian's fire glowing in the distance. Because their eyes had been in the dark so long, that little light seemed to light up their entire surroundings.
The time it had taken to reach the large cave must have been several hours, Logan reckoned, for it now had to be well past Midnight.
As they drew closer, they could see the location of the fire more clearly. They then followed the smoke from the fire as it drifted upward toward the ceiling where it gathered there before drifting out of a hole in the ceiling about 30' high; the first entrance to the cave. There was what amounted to a pile of rocks leading up to the opening, so a person could climb up out of the hole or down into the cave by scurrying up and down those rocks.
The Indians were all asleep, lying some distance away from the fire, just on the edge of darkness. There appeared to be no one standing guard as they were evidently confident they had not been followed. On the far side of the cave, where no Indian slept, there was the carcass of a bear, the skin and head off to one side, and chunks of meat and bone off to another.
Logan spotted Muriel in no time. She was at the back of the cave, lying on an Indian blanket, bound hand and foot, beside a very large warrior. He started to make a move toward her, but McGee stopped him in his tracks. The quiet man pointed at Smith and pointed left. He then pointed at himself and pointed to the right. Then he pointed at Sterling, followed by the girl.
Sterling understood. They would watch his back and flanks as he approached Muriel to try and rescue her. He nodded and began moving straight for the girl lying on the floor.
He made it half-way across the cave to where she was lying when she suddenly sat up. Unlike the Indians, she had not fallen asleep, and had seen Logan. Her sudden movement, however, caused the large Indian to move; Buffalo Hump sensed something was wrong.
What happened next was a blur. Logan brought Ole Bess up and fired, but the Indian was rolling away and the shot missed. As it struck the ground where the Indian had been, it ricocheted upward, leaving Buffalo Hump unharmed. The report of the rifle blast, followed by a scream, echoed so loudly through the cave, not a soul remained asleep.
Two Indians charged Logan before he could reach Muriel, but another rifle blast, simultaneous shots from Smith and McGee, echoed throughout the cave and one of the two dropped to the cavern floor. McGee had found his mark.
Smith, being the closest to the fire, ran forward and kicked it, trying to stomp out the fire in the hopes of gaining an edge on the Comanches and adding to their confusion.
The other Indian rushing Logan came in so fast, Logan could only manage to raise Ole Bess to defend himself. The Comanche was faster and managed to duck under the rifle as it came up, and was on Logan before he knew it. Although he had the advantage on the Comanche by weight, the Indian was wiry and quick as a cat. Logan tried grabbing on to him, but found he was as slick as an eel. Logan realized he was difficult to hold onto because he was greased from head to foot in bear grease.
Logan and the Comanche were now in a wrestling match, but every time Logan managed to throw the Indian to the ground, he would squirm away like a snake and pop right back up and jump on Logan again. He could not manage to hold him still for more than a moment because of the oil, which Logan soon found himself covered in.
As the two wrestled, Smith and McGee had moved in to prevent any Indian from joining in the fight or attempting to retrieve Muriel. Any that tried were met with a smashing blow from their rifle butts.
The Comanche again moved in on Logan, his black eyes gleaming like a panther's in the dark. Logan sidestepped, turning his body, and placing his foot behind him, he backhanded him directly into the cavern wall. As the Comanche spun around, his forward movement was arrested suddenly, his head having struck rock. He was momentarily stunned as blood began pouring from a head wound. It was all the time Logan needed to draw his knife and drive it deep into the Comanche's chest. The Indian collapsed, dead, stabbed in the heart. Logan was pleased to have sent the Comanche to the "Happy Hunting Ground" in the sky.
Once again, becoming aware of his surroundings, Logan saw Smith and McGee's backs were to him, and Buffalo Hump and the other Indians were making their way out of the hole in the ceiling.
"Grab the girl," McGee said, "They'll be back when they realize they're not surrounded."
Logan, realizing the truth of McGee's statement, moved toward the girl, reached down, and manhandling her, he threw her over his shoulder. He turned as Smith lit a candle, illuminating the cavern.
"Let's move," was all Smith said as he started to return from the way they had come.
Logan followed and McGee again took the rear position. The candle flickered as they tried moving quickly, knowing full well they would soon be pursued. Smith tried shielding the guttering candle with his hand, but it reduced the amount of light, causing them to have to slow down anyway.
They could hear the Comanches beginning their pursuit, while at the same time they were hit again with the horrid smell of ammonia. This time, with the benefit of the light, they could see the bat guano spread across the cavern floor and, looking up, the colony of bats the guano belonged to.
"Stop," said Logan, as he pulled up short.
He turned to McGee.
"Reload your rifle and fire it toward the ceiling."
McGee caught on quickly, and was loading his rifle as they listened to the sound of moccasins slapping on the cavern floor behind them.
McGee had the rifle loaded and turning, just in time to see the first Comanche warrior round the large rock, fired into the ceiling. The explosion echoed loudly throughout the cavern complex as the colony of a million bats took flight all at once, filling the cave with chaos.
"Keep moving," shouted Logan above the din of the squealing bats who were making their way toward the cavern opening, flying straight into the Comanches. The Rangers continued to move as fast as they could without extinguishing the candle.
* * *
They first rode southwest before eventually turning due south. They had found their way safely out of the cave and back to their horses, cutting Muriel's bonds, before riding. Knowing it was only a matter of time before they were pursued, all three of the men thought the same thing without speaking: if they could just make it across the Colorado, more than likely, the Comanches would not pursue.
They were wrong. They did pursue.
Buffalo Hump had tried to slow the young ones up, but they did not want to lose their rightful honor to count coup upon returning to their people. So, the pursuit had continued. The Comanches, however, no longer had the advantage of fresh horses for they had abandoned the extra horses in their haste to catch up to the Rangers.
The three Rangers, with Muriel riding on the Black with Logan, had made it across the shoals before the Indians reached them. The Comanches had been delayed by locating the Ranger's trail and because there was no one leading them anymore; they had effectively become a mob when they abandoned Buffalo Hump.
After making the southern shore of the river, they turned and fired, scattering the Indians, who then cautiously crossed at different locations, while the four continued their race south for San Antonio.
They rode hard, and their horses were nearly spent, but they kept ahead of the Comanches, who had settled into the chase. Logan remained in the lead with the other two close behind. When they were able to see San Antonio in the distance, Logan fired 'ole Bess into the air. Smith and McGee, seeing what the new Ranger was doing, also fired at intervals into the air. As they drew closer to town and saw some movement ahead, they took off their hats to wave frantically at the townsfolk and to spur their horses onward.
Coming up fast on the bridge, they could see men forming up on the other side, with their rifles pointed in their direction. All they had to do was make it across the bridge, and they would be in the safe embrace of San Antonio and a host of proud Texans with their guns. As soon as they hit the bridge, they knew they were safe.
Once all three horses cleared the bridge, the townsmen closed up the gap, leaving no space by which the Comanches could pass, and they began to open fire. The Indian pursuers were forced to pull up their horses and change directions as none were foolish enough to enter the bridge. They shouted and gestured at the Texans in one final act of defiance, but their bravado was lost on the cheering huzzah that came from the other side of the bridge.
As the Indians retreated, so too did the Texans, as they made their way back into town to gather around the Rangers. Logan and the others had slowed to a trot and stopped where everyone was gathering to hear the story that derived from all the commotion. He helped Muriel down from the horse to take a seat on the steps up to the wooden sidewalk. As the townsmen returned on horseback and on foot, the story unfolded, and cheers went up for the rescue of the Belle of San Antonio.
About the time the story was finished being told, Ranger Cole came over on horseback, congratulating his Rangers for a job well down. He looked over at Smith and McGee and told them they could take time to get fed and rest up, and they could join them down on the border later in the week.
"As for you, Mr. Logan," said Cole as he turned toward the young man. "Stephen F. Austin authorized me to issue land grants in lieu of cash rewards for any heroics in encounters with the Comanches."
He handed Logan a piece of paper.
"I think your rescue of the young lady qualifies. Not sure what is going to happen with the upcoming election, but I am sure it will be honored."
He was referring to the upcoming election on September 5th between Austin and Houston.
Logan turned toward Muriel and looked her in the eyes.
"Well, Miss Muriel, I now have a job and some land, along with the land from fight'n with Mr. Houston. We can get married now. All's we need is a preacher."
One of the men in the crowd who had been at the bridge with his rifle spoke up.
"I'm a preacher, son."
Logan looked at the man then back to Muriel.
"Will you marry me Ma'am? Right now?"
Muriel flushed and she said, "Yes!"
The preacher broke out his Bible, said some words from the Good Book, then pronounced them man and wife.
After Logan kissed the bride, he went over to his saddle and took out a piece of paper from his saddlebag. He turned back to Muriel and presented her the papers.
"Here's the land papers for fightin' with General Houston, and here's the paper for land for rescuing you. Pick us out a nice piece of land up near Mina, and make it official. When I get back, we can move onto the property."
Muriel looked stunned. She asked him, "Where are you going?"
"To the border," he replied, "I'm a Texas Ranger now!"