The six of them settle in to some serious drinking then. As the bottles get lighter, the mood does too. There’s yelling and laughing, even some snatches of song from Ike and Luke, though those usually end after a verse or two with the men arguing about what the words are.
The drunker they get, the better I feel about my chances of pulling this off. At the rate they’re going, I’ll be able to waltz on in and take anything and everything I want.
Ike wanders off to take a piss, and when he gets back he says, “You know what this shindig needs? A game!”
Yooko looks up at him. His head looks kind of wobbly and I notice his eyes kind of cross when he tries to focus on Ike. “Game?” he asks. One of his braves rattles off something, probably asking him what the crazy white man just said, and he shrugs.
“It’s something you do for fun. You gents know what fun is, don’t you?” Ike is still on his feet, weaving slightly.
“Fun,” Yooko says, and nods vigorously. The other braves all start nodding too and a chorus of “Fun” floats up into the air.
“Here’s how you play.” Ike draws his knife. It’s quite the pig sticker, with a blade about as long as his forearm. The Yaquis all look alarmed and hands reach for weapons.
“No, no!” Ike says, holding his other hand out to calm them. “It ain’t like that. Here, Luke and I will show you.” He turns to Luke. “Get up.”
Luke looks up at him blearily. “What’s that?”
“I want to show these savages how to play mumbly-peg. Get up.”
“Mumbly…?” Luke considers this, then smiles real big. “Oh, you mean foot-sticker. Why sure enough. I’ll help.”
He clambers to his feet, staggers sideways, and has to grab hold of a nearby sapling to keep from falling down.
“Now, the point of the game is to get as close to the other feller’s foot as you can without sticking him,” Ike says.
I shift my position so I can see better. This promises to be entertaining and I don’t want to miss any of it.
“If you stick him, you lose. An’ if he chickens out and moves his foot, he loses.” Ike squints at Yooko. “You understand?”
Yooko and the others talk amongst themselves for a minute, then all four nod. They look excited at the prospect of this new game. My opinion of their general intelligence drops a few notches.
Ike takes hold of the pig sticker by the blade while Luke sets his feet. Ike closes one eye to aim, his tongue sticking out a little between his teeth.
Ike lets fly. Unfortunately, the knife doesn’t stick in Luke’s foot or anywhere else interesting. Surprisingly, it flies true and sticks in the ground only a couple inches from Luke’s right foot.
“Gonna have to be a lot closer than that before you see me jump!” Luke hoots. “And now it’s my turn.” When he bends to pick up the knife he staggers sideways and almost falls into the fire.
This is better than those penny shows, and it doesn’t cost a thing.
Luke tries to close one eye to aim, but it proves too difficult for him. It takes too much fine muscle control and each time he ends up closing both eyes instead of just one. So he settles for putting his hand over one eye. None of this lack of coordination seems to bother Ike in the least. He stands there picking his teeth with a dirty fingernail, looking like a man waiting for the stagecoach to arrive.
Luke throws. The knife flashes in the firelight and sticks in the ground right next to Ike’s boot, so close it looks like it shaved off a bit of leather.
Ike doesn’t even flinch. “Huh,” he says, and bends to retrieve the blade. “I’m done playing with you, boy. This is Ike’s game and he don’t lose.”
“Bring it on, hoss!” Luke yells. “Not afraid of you!”
Ike throws the knife—
And it sticks square in Luke’s foot. For a moment Luke just stands there staring at it. He looks up at Ike.
Then he starts laughing.
“Ha! I knew you was all bluster, Ike!” He turns a red, smiling face to the Yaquis. “I win!” When he pulls the knife out of his foot a little pool of blood appears on top of his boot, but he pays no attention to it.
“You care to try again, Ike? Or have you had enough?”
It turns out Ike hasn’t had enough. He starts hollering challenges right back at Luke.
As for the Yaqui braves, well they fall all over themselves in their excitement to get in on this amazing new game they just learned. They pair up and commence to throwing knives at each other, passing the whiskey bottle and laughing.
I’m thinking none of them is right in the head.
A couple rounds go by with nothing more than minor flesh wounds and then one of the braves throws a knife that sticks right in Yooko’s thigh. Everyone stops what they’re doing and stares at it, like it’s a two-headed calf just appeared in their midst.
Yooko starts laughing first. Ike joins in and the rest follow. Yooko’s laughing so hard that when he pulls it out he loses his balance and falls down. Quite a lot of blood is running down his leg, but he doesn’t seem to notice until one of the braves points it out to him.
Lying on the ground, still laughing, he takes off his new kerchief and ties it around his thigh. For some reason that starts a whole new round of laughter for everyone.
I feel like I’ve stumbled onto some kind of crazy ceremony that I don’t understand. Is this really what whiskey does to people? Am I that dumb when I’m drunk?
The game peters out after that. I count three people who are actively bleeding and two more who seem to have stopped bleeding. The drinking after that is interspersed now and then by one of them holding up his wound and showing it off like it’s a trophy and the others laughing.
Finally, they settle down and begin dropping off to sleep. The fire dies down to just a glimmer. The snoring competition begins.
I stand up and stretch some of the sand out of my joints. I head over to Yooko first. One of my pistols is gripped in his hand. The other has come out of his belt where it was tucked and is lying on the dirt. I pick that one up first, dust it off and check the loads.
I sweat a little prying the other one out of his hand. He doesn’t stir until I’ve got it free, but then he grumbles in his sleep and starts fumbling around for it. Thinking quickly, I put a chunk of wood into his hand. His fingers close on it and that seems to make him happy because he settles down and goes back to snoring.
Next I go to Luke for my hat. He has it pulled down over his face and when I lift it up I get a start.
His eyes are open.
It takes a moment to realize that he’s not seeing anything. He’s just one of those strange people who sleeps with his eyes open. There was a cowboy on the Bar T did that sometimes.
Still, I don’t like the feeling and I reach out and close his lids. It’s just not natural.
Ike’s last. I want that gold dust he’s carrying. It won’t make up for the share of treasure from the temple of Totec that I didn’t get—not by a long shot—but it’ll sure enough help.
I crouch down beside him. He’s lying on his back, his mouth open, his arms down by his sides. Real careful I reach down inside his coat—
His eyes snap open and fix on me. They widen as he recognizes me. “You!” he hisses.
He starts grabbing iron and I club him in the temple with the butt of my gun. I don’t shoot because I’m still hoping to keep this quiet. If I knock him out quick, I might still be able to get out of here without rousing the others.
But old Ike has an iron skull. The gun butt skips off his head and doesn’t do a thing to slow him down.
He brings his gun up and I slap it aside. He loses hold of it, but before he does it goes off, the bullet tearing through the trees overhead.
General pandemonium breaks out.
“I’m gonna kill you!” Ike howls. I’m standing, trying to back away when he sits up, lunges forward and bites me on the leg.
It hurts. I crack him on the head again and he’s losing blood now, but it doesn’t seem to bother him all that much.
Meanwhile, Yooko has responded first. He leaps to his feet with a bloodcurdling yell, brings his gun around and fires at me point blank.
Except that he’s no longer holding a gun. He’s holding a stick and he hesitates, looking down at it in confusion.
I start to swing my gun around to bring him down, but Ike chooses that moment to pull his teeth out of my leg and go for my arm. My shot goes wild, but it brings Yooko out of his daze and he leaps over the fire and throws himself at me.
I manage to duck under his charge, twist and pivot while he’s on top of me, and use his own momentum to toss him down on top of Luke, who’s just climbing up out of sleep, dirt and leaves in his hair, looking around in confusion.
Yooko lands on top of Luke and they both go down in a pile.
The other braves are having a harder time shaking off the large quantities of whiskey they drank. One jumps up, trips, and falls into the fire, where he starts thrashing around, spreading coals everywhere, some of which get into the tall grasses. The fire starts to spread.
The other two start shooting without examining their targets too closely first. The first one’s shot goes wild. The other one’s doesn’t, and his friend goes down with a leg wound.
Ike has gone back to biting again. I shake him off and when he tries to get up I kick him in the chest. He falls back and gets tangled up in Luke and Yooko who for some reason have started punching each other.
Time to hightail it out of here.
I kick a mess of coals and bits of burning wood at the brave who’s still on his feet. I snap off a quick shot at Ike, though in the general confusion I can’t tell if I hit him.
And I get the hell out of there.
Go to Chapter 1 of Ace Lone Wolf and the Lost Temple of Totec.