The women attacking the O'Reilly Brothers' shack seemed to be American Indians. But, of what tribe he could not tell. They were more barrel-chested than any male Apache. They were war-painted like Wichitas. And, they were three feet taller than the tallest Osage he had ever seen.
These women were virtually Amazons!
"Dutch; Tom. Follow me."
The two men indicated followed their captain down the hill, and over the northward-facing side of the white picket fence. Using the tombstones as cover, they continued to run at a crouch, one pair always covering the third.
Once they were finally opposite the shack's front door, they were better able to see that the gunfire was coming from several open windows. Most of it, twelve-gauge shotgun blasts that already claimed a few of the attackers. The rest, however, were playing a waiting game. Running up to just within maximum firing range of the shotguns, and then jumping back.
Making the defenders waste precious ammunition.
"OK, men," whispered Lewis: "On 'three,' open fire at will. Aiming for the heads and throats. Understand?"
Tom and Fleischer nodded. Whereupon, Lewis counted to three with his right hand.
Three of the topless viragos suddenly developed rigid posture, before falling to the ground, face-first. The initial shock and amazement of their comrades resulted in four more casualties. Three with bullet holes where their ears had been. And, one clutching at her throat in pain, as she choked to death on her own blood!
The rest finally determined where the new source of gunfire was coming from, and split up.
"Looks they're trying to flank us, Cap," declared Bigby.
"Get the others down here. Pronto!" Lewis ordered.
The former nodded, and cupped his hands.
He had shouted the Cherokee word for "We stand alone." A phrase that Lewis had adopted as a signal for immediate reinforcement, during the war, anytime any of his men had found themselves outnumbered by enemy patrols.
Moments later, Hiram and Salty came galloping down the hill. They split up, in order to catch the left-flanking viragos between them. The old horse marine, blazing away with his Colts from ahead of them, while simultaneously driving them into a fusillade from Hiram's Spencer.
This allowed Lewis, Fleischer, and Bigby to split up, themselves. Switching over to their Colts, they caught the right-flanking viragos in a triangular cross-fire as the latter came running through the cemetary towards their attackers' previous position!
When the last one fell dead, Lewis immediately ordered a cease-fire.
"Salty! Hiram! I'm going up to the shack. Meet me, there. Tom? Dutch? Keep a close eye on the bodies. Make sure none of these gals are playing 'possum."
His men did as instructed. As Lewis climbed over the stretch of fence parallel to the front door, he shouted out his name and rank, so as not to be mistakenly fired upon as a new enemy.
"I just want to see how many you of might be wounded," he added: "So we can ride to town and get Doc Kramer, up here, fast as possible."
"No need," came a strangely hoarse reply: "He's already in here."
The next sound Lewis heard was a wooden bolt being removed from behind the front door, followed by the door itself being reopened. Out of it stepped Leif O'Reilly, looking just as Lewis remembered him. Shorter than the young captain, but twice his age. Wearing blue jeans and suspenders over the lower half of his dingy white long-Johns. And, with an increasingly gray beard on his face while walking on a wooden prosthetic that had replaced the lower portion of his right leg (lost to a cannonball during the Mexican War).
"It's good to see you again, Lew."
"Likewise, Leif. But, what's been going on, here? And, where's Big Sam?"
Lewis was referring to Leif's younger brother. A Mongolistic giant of a man with a mental age of five.*
"This is all that's left of him."
Lewis gaped in open-mouthed astonishment as the grizzled old caretaker lifted up what the younger man initially thought was a doll carved from an apple core.
Except for the fact that its arms and legs were moving.