“I must say this quickly, Lieutenant. A young man is badly wounded back there. My friends are with him and I am off to fetch Dr. Stevens. I can make much better time if I cut across the valley here. Adios, sir.”
“That’s a no man’s land out there, miss!” he yelled as she charged away in a cloud of dust.
Bandido was well-rested and she gave him full rein. They tore across the flat sun-baked desert. Callie leaned forward, her head against Bandido’s neck, whispering encouragement. The scent of sagebrush and creosote, the fresh wind in her face as they galloped through the fierce Mexican landscape, made her giddy.
They had already covered half the distance when Callie saw three
riders approaching rapidly from the left. She saw the puffs of smoke and gave Bandido a kick as the bullets whizzed over them.
She became enraged. “You bastards try and shoot my horse, will you!”
There was a slight rise ahead, and once over it she swerved Bandido off to the left and doubled back. The bandits came over the rise and suddenly she was gone. They slowed. “Donde esta la gringa? Que-” A bullet ripped through his heart before he could finish.
Riding parallel to their path, a hundred yards away, was a rider-less pony. The bandits squinted and saw the glint of gunmetal under the horse’s head.
Callie lay astride Bandido, exactly like the Comanche she learned it from, her left leg hooked over his back, her left hand grabbing the saddle horn, her right leg controlling the horse with quick little movements, leaning forward and firing from under his neck, all but invisible to the bewildered Mexicans.
“Ride steady, Bandido,” she spoke into his ear, “I won’t let them hurt you”.
She realized she probably had only a few bullets left in the Colt’s chamber. She had to make them count.
The two riders split up and began to ride at her from different directions. “Matar el caballo!” the larger man shouted.
She drew a bead on the bandit, pressing hard against the horse’s neck to steady herself, constantly reassuring him into a steady gallop, and squeezed off the second shot.
The big Mexican somersaulted backwards out of his saddle, just as the third bandit advanced and fired successive shots, the last grazing Callie across her shoulder and back.
She screamed half in pain, more in rage, clutched her back instinctively and lost her grip on the saddle, hitting the ground hard, then bouncing back up, grabbing Badido’s neck with both of her arms.
The horse slowed down, enabling her to regain control.
When the remaining rider saw his other comrade go down, he beat a fast retreat.
Callie went after him.
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