Shielding his eyes against the intense midday desert sun, Brodie chanced a quick glance out from behind the rocks where he was hiding. Mesquite, cacti, sand and rocks were all he was able to make out. There were no signs of his attackers, but he knew that didn’t mean they weren’t out there somewhere. If he had learned nothing else over the past several years on the frontier, he had learned the Apaches didn’t let their presence be known until they wanted, then more often than not, it was much too late.
Slowly Brodie turned and slid back down to sit on the ground behind the boulders. The pain in his side had become excruciating. If he was going to have any hope of surviving, he knew the arrow had to come out and the bleeding would have to be gotten under control and both of those things would have to be done soon.
The shaft of an Apache arrow protruded from his right side, just below his ribs. Even though the tip was buried several inches deep, the shaft had not passed all the way through his body. The barbs of the arrowhead negated any thought of pulling it back out the same way it had entered; Brodie knew it would compound the severity of the wound by tearing up his insides if he tried to pull it out the same direction it had entered.
“Well Hoss, looks like you’ve really stepped in it this time,” he spoke through clenched teeth, trying to fight against the pain. “After all these months, you’ve chased the bastards till they finally caught you.”
After checking the load in the Hawkin, Brodie carefully laid the rifle on the ground next to him. Then he reached around to the small of his back and pulled the knife from the sheath tucked under his gun belt and placed it on his lap.
The mountain man searched the ground around him until he found a branch of mesquite about as thick as his finger. Breaking off a piece about six inches long, he stuck it in his mouth and bit down on it. Then gripping the shaft with both hands, he took a deep breath and thrust the arrow the rest of the way through his side. When the flint arrowhead broke through the skin on his back, Brodie picked up the knife and cut off the shaft next to his skin, where it had entered his body. Then he reached around behind his back, over his hip, grasped the point of the arrow and pulled the remainder of the shaft out through his back.
Fighting back the nausea that was sweeping over him, Brodie spit out the stick from between his teeth and struggled to his feet to chance another look out over the desert. Nothing or no one was in sight as he slowly turned and slid down, sitting back against the boulder.
Unbuckling his gun belt, the mountain man worked the bottom of his buckskin shirt up to his chest, exposing the wounds left by the arrow. He pulled the kerchief from around his neck and stuffed the opposing corners of it into the entry and exit holes in his side in an attempt to impede the bleeding.
“Jonesie me lad, me thinks you best get your ass out’a here or your bones are gonna be a bleaching out here on the desert and your scalp gonna be hanging on some ‘Pache buck’s belt.” He whispered.