HANNAH SHOOK HER head to chase the flies from her face. She couldn’t
very well swat them with her hands. The flies had begun to swarm around
the bloody bodies and the vultures circled overhead. She shivered
uncontrollably, and not because it was cold. No indeed, it was a hot
sunny day in the late spring of 1867 in that remote part of the Montana
Territory along the Bozeman Trail. Maybe I should have married the good
doctor, she thought. But no, I just had to go off on an expedition
searching for dinosaur bones.
“Damn,” Hex muttered, “I think I just beat Sgt. Grace’s record
by several hundred yards.”
The Cheyenne warrior, a fatal wound in the middle of his back, fell
across the naked woman restrained to the tree. Hex reflected on the shot
the Confederate sniper Grace made that killed Union General John
Sedgwick at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. After reloading via
the muzzle and adjusting the four-power telescopic sight mounted to the
stock, a second shot blasted out from Hex’s Whitfield. This time he
caught a painted brave in the forehead, again reminiscent of Grace’s
The remaining dozen Cheyenne scurried into the nearby brush for cover.
They were armed mostly with bows, the range of which was far less than
Hex’s Whitfield. A few had old rifles, likewise ineffective to return
his fire. Hex fired a shot at them every couple minutes. He was willing
to play a waiting game until the hunters who had become the hunted tired
of being mostly sitting ducks. Not that he had clear aim, but he came
close. After a half hour of this, the savages made a dash for their
horses, mounted them, and quickly rode out of the Whitfield’s range.
Hex left the Whitfield, jumped on his own horse, pulled out the Henry,
and rode fast toward the woman. He jumped down off his horse, Gideon,
pulled out his Bowie knife, and quickly cut the woman free. Her first
inclination was to cover herself with her hands as best she could.
One of the braves did not flee with the others as Hex had first thought
they all had. A crazed Cheyenne wielding a war club and knife now
charged out from behind a smoldering toppled wagon. When Hex pointed the
Henry at him, the brave stopped in his tracks about six feet away. Hex
tossed the rifle to the ground, making it appear to be a battle between
war club and smaller knife against Bowie knife.
For some peculiar reason, Hex liked to give his adversaries in
face-to-face mortal combat names. Perhaps it made the killing more
personal. This one had a deep scar along the jaw line from right ear to
the middle of his chin. Scarface it would be, Hex decided. Scarface
wasn’t as tall as Hex, but he was stockier, although not with the same
Scarface circled warily, gesturing and chanting, attempting to
intimidate Hex. He then rushed Hex, but paused and appeared taken back
when Hex then also flipped the Bowie knife to the ground next to the
rifle. The attacker regained his composure and charged again. Hex
sidestepped the lunge and hit Scarface with a crippling shot with his
right fist to his opponent’s left side, and the stunned warrior
dropped the war club and knife, held his side with both hands, and fell
to his knees. Hex lifted up the painted face and lashed out viciously
with a left hook. Scarface fell on his back, writhing in pain. He rolled
over, struggled to all fours, and attempted to rise. Hex jumped on his
back and snapped his neck, making a sound like breaking a carrot in two.
Hex cut the naked woman free, lifted her across Gideon’s saddle,
mounted the horse, and took off back to the location behind the rocks a
little over a thousand yards away where he had left the Whitfield. The
woman slid off his horse when they stopped and crumpled to the ground,
sobbing. Hex comforted her briefly as best he could and gave her a drink
from his canteen.
“You . . . saved my life,” she moaned, looking at him strangely.
“It ain’t over yet, ma’am. Those savages will be back real soon.
They may have lost you, at least for now, but they want the guns and the
whiskey. They already have the horses. They crave horses even more than
guns and whiskey . . . and women. Well, maybe not a woman like you, not
that there are many of those.”
“You are staring at my breasts,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“Uh . . . sorry, ma’am. We best do something about that.” He
removed his buckskin shirt and draped it over her shoulders. She stood,
slipped it on, and buttoned the front. It barely covered her private
“What do you suppose those Indians were going to do to me?” she
asked, sniffling. “They slaughtered my friends and cohorts and those
soldiers. What would they have done to me?” she inquired again.
“Besides the obvious. Obviously the first one you shot had intentions
of doing something to me with his . . . penis.”
“Yup,” Hex agreed, “I couldn’t see him from the front, but I did
notice he had dropped his breechcloth. You are a white woman, a very
beautiful white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. A great prize for
the Cheyenne. Worth many horses.”
“Is that a compliment?” she snapped.
“Ma’am, you sure talk a lot for somebody who should be in shock.
I’m going back. Can you shoot?”
“Yes, I can shoot that Henry. My husband taught me.”
“Is he . . . down there . . . with the dead?”
“No, he died in battle just before the war ended.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Better in the war than down there, being scalped and mutilated, some
while still alive,” she said softly.
“You might want to save a bullet for yourself if I don’t make it
back, but that’s up to you.”
Hex mounted up and rode back to the scene of the massacre. On second
thought, he didn’t smash the whiskey in the crates that had been
removed from the wagons before they were burned. He took several bottles
and put them in his saddlebags. He then gathered all the guns and
ammunition and threw them in a pile with a stick of dynamite, lighting
the fuse he strung once far enough away. No sign of the Cheyenne, but he
knew they would still be in the vicinity.
Back to the woman, she blurted, “You carry dynamite around with
“What, are you writing a book?” he responded glibly.
“As a matter fact, yes I am.”
“What’s your book about?”
“I don’t know what that is, but don’t tell me now. Tell me later
about the . . . whatever you said your book is about, and I’ll tell
you about the dynamite. Right now, we have to ride to where my camp is.
I have food, other supplies, another horse, and a mule. My name is Hex,
“And mine is Hannah. Pleased to meet you, Hex. Very pleased, under the
circumstances. I owe you big time for saving my life, and don’t you
forget. I won’t.”
Hex secured the Whitfield and Henry and then pulled Hannah up on his
horse in front of him. “It’s not going to be about what those
Cheyenne are going to do to you, it’s going to be about what we are
going to do to them.”
“That works for me,” she replied, nodding. “My friends and those
soldiers are . . . all . . . dead.”
“Hush now, Hannah,” he demanded, holding her a little tighter.
Excerpted from "The Lady Who Loved Bones" by Jack Hazen. Copyright © 2017 by Jack Hazen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.