258 pages, 16 photos
$24.95 hardcover (ISBN 978-1-890689-26-1)
FINALIST, 2007 BEST BOOKS USA BOOK NEWS
FINALIST, 2007 NEW MEXICO BOOK AWARDS
SILVER MEDALIST-HISTORICAL FICTION, 2007 BOOKS OF THE YEAR, FOREWORD MAGAZINE
FINALIST, 2007 SOUTHWEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR, TUCSON-PIMA PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM
FINALIST-HISTORICAL FICTION, 2008 INDIE EXCELLENCE BOOK AWARDS
Here is a look at the opening of the book. Give it a read and you will see why everyone is so excited about this book.
Prologue: Tres Castillos
At dusk, the Tarahumara scout reported back to Colonel Terrazas that Victorio’s band was making camp in a rocky meadow by a small lake, which was in the shadows of the three peaks known as Tres Castillos. Speaking through a translator, he estimated that nearly two hundred of the hated Apaches were camped in the same spot. There were lookouts, he added, but his fellow Tarahumaras had located them.
Terrazas could hardly believe his good fortune. After tracking and fighting Victorio for months—and always losing—he finally had the Apache chief where he wanted him. He wondered why Victorio had camped in such an unprotected place, far east of the safety of the Sierra Madre range. He could only surmise that Victorio was leading his people back across the border into the United States and had no idea that the Mexican forces were closing in on him.
“Lieutenant,” he said to his second in command, “tell the scouts to kill all the lookouts. Then divide our forces into four units and surround the Apache camp. On my signal of three shots, we’ll attack the camp. Give the order to kill all the Apache men and take their scalps—with the bounty on them, they’re worth a small fortune. Try to take the women and children alive so we can sell them as slaves.”
“Yes sir,” replied Lieutenant Padilla, who was mentally calculating his share of the scalp reward.
When heavy rifle fire riddled his camp from all sides, Victorio knew his people were trapped and that there was little he could do about it. Somehow, the Mexicans had located the Tcihene camp and surrounded it, pinning his band down with little or no cover. The lookouts had never called out a warning, and soon the Mexican soldiers had advanced, shooting anything that moved. Adding to Victorio’s problems was the fact that they were nearly out of ammunition. Nana, his second in command, was off on a raid to find more bullets, but had not yet returned. Victorio was thankful that his sister and son were with Nana and not in camp to face certain death.
With two of his best warriors, Victorio took cover in the cluster of boulders closest to the lake. But the soldiers quickly located his hiding place and directed a steady fire into the rocks.
“I have only two bullets left,” shouted Das-Luca. “What shall I do?”
“Shoot two Mexicans,” Victorio answered grimly. His ammunition was spent, so he pulled out his knife. It was only a matter of moments before the soldiers realized they had no ammunition and charged into the rocks. Das-luca fired his last two shots and then turned helplessly to his leader.
“Let us die with honor,” Victorio told his men, “and not by the guns of the enemy.” They knew what he meant. Following his lead, they pulled out their knives. “On my signal,” he told them, hearing the shouts of the approaching soldiers. Then he sang a short prayer:
Ussen, giver of life to the Tcihene,
You have led us in battle, so now,
Lead us to the Underworld and peace at last.
The two warriors watched Victorio, their knives pointed at their chests. When he nodded his head, all three Tcihene warriors plunged the knives into their hearts.
Later, after scalping the dead and celebrating their victory by passing around bottles of mescal, the Mexican soldiers built a bonfire and burned the Apache corpses. Colonel Terrazas ordered a body count for his official report. After about a hour, Lieutenant Padilla reported back that ninety-three of the enemy had been killed, including twenty-two women and children. He added that sixty-three women and children had been captured, and that no warriors had escaped.
“Here is the scalp of Victorio,” he said, passing the bloodied mass of black hair to his commander.
“Good work,” Terrazas told him, taking the scalp and placing it in his saddlebag. He dismissed the lieutenant and then rode upwind to escape the stench of the bonfire.