“Tomorrow we find these two outlaws,” Esben said, pointing at the two wanted posters he had spread out on his blanket next to the fire. Max Bentley and Wilson Kerrick. A couple of horse thieves.”
“That is good. Your people have been stealing horses from my people for many sleeps. It is time the Lakota got revenge.”
“Well, you will get your chance for revenge tomorrow. They were spotted up near the area of Socorro. We’ll ride out first thing in the morning,” Esben replied, grabbing the posters as a burst of wind snaked around his ankles. “Now settle in and get some sleep.”
“I do not wish to settle. Your people have settled my people on a reservation near the mountains. I love to roam over the prairies. It is there I feel free and happy, but when we settle we grow pale and die.”
“Damn, Shoots Plenty, stop talking, will ya’? I don’t know who the hell you’re talking to half the time. You are either telling another story, or you are complaining about something. I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”
“You should listen to this, Wasichus. A long time ago the land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers on its banks. These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo, steal my ponies, and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting. When the white man comes in my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him.”
He turned and looked at Esben and found him asleep.
“I enjoy this killing of the white eyes,” he said, “where I get your paper money for doing something I would proudly do for nothing.”
Sleeps Plenty threw another log on the fire and pulled his buffalo robe around his shoulders and closed his eyes while softly chanting.
The next day they found themselves on a rocky windswept ridge. Esben was glassing down on the outlaw camp below. They were near Socorro, about thirty miles west of Agua Dulce.
“We will stake our horses here and approach on foot,” Shoots Plenty said.
They found six horses staked out, while the two rustlers slept, rifles close by their sides. Esben and Shoots Plenty readied their own rifles, and then Esben called out, “In the name of the law, come out with your hands raised.”
“We are not the law, Wasichus,” Shoots Plenty told him.
“I know that, but they don’t.”
The rustlers scrambled up, groping for their rifles.
“Don’t go for your guns,” Esben yelled out.
“You ain’t no law dogs,” Max Bentley replied as he raised his weapon and triggered a shot. For a moment the flat explosions of Winchesters broke the desert silence as each man brought his gun into play.
Esben cracked the hammer on his Colt .45 and fired. Max Bentley was struck in his right arm, rendering it useless. Esben fired off two more quick rounds. One striking Bentley in the neck and the other in the left cheek, killing him instantly.
Wilson Kerrick, a killer, and ex-convict, fired a shot at Shoots Plenty, but the Lakota warrior dropped him with the first round from his Henry .30-.30 Lever-Action Repeater Rifle.
Shoots Plenty emptied his rifle into Bentley. The first slug punched into Bentley’s belly, but the outlaw held his kneeling position. The Lakota pumped three more .30–30 bullets into Bentley’s torso. Yet somehow the stricken rustler stayed up, gamely trying to get his gun back into action. Shoots Plenty’s final shot drilled into Bentley’s left temple, ripping through his head and out his right ear. Bentley fell face forward, dead when he hit the ground.
Shoots Plenty said “That Wasichus showed more nerve under fire than I have ever seen displayed by a white eye before. Perhaps he is part Lakota.”
“That part would be his black heart,” Esben replied.
They cautiously walked over to the fallen rustlers, both were dead. They collected several new Winchesters from the camp, threw the bodies across the stolen horses, packed everything else that needed to be hauled out and headed north.
“Maybe now we can eat that one-eyed mule you ride and you can take one of these fine ponies.”
“I told you, we ain’t eatin my mule. So just quit askin.”
Shoots Plenty stared at the mule and finally said, “Let us get the man with the box that captures a white man’s soul. You can send it to Captain Smith so he can see that we killed these bad men, Kerrick and Bentley. They are beginning to smell as bad as that one-eyed mule you are riding.”
By the time they reached Ten Miles Well, a journey of 25 miles, the corpses had swollen badly in the heat. They sent word via wire for the Agua Dulce coroner, but he refused to come. Finally, the justice of the peace at Socorro, who had jurisdiction over the area, rode up with a wagon to take the bodies from them.
Two days later they received the reward money and left Ten Miles Well in search of the renegade Apaches who were terrorizing ranchers on the Texas Panhandle.