They felt safe, and they shouldn’t have.
Four soldiers were gathered ‘round a fire much larger than they needed. Perhaps it was to chase back the cold night air. Perhaps they needed the flames to feel safe, the light keeping the world at bay.
They might even have wanted me to stumble on them.
If it was the last, well, they were greater fools than I thought.
I stripped down to just the necessities, and I crept forward beneath the cover of darkness and the snapping of the burning logs. The men remained oblivious of my presence as I settled down a few feet from the flames, listening to the men talk.
The voices were sorrowful, and the men were enjoying the universal right of all soldiers, the right to complain. And they were complaining quite a bit.
They spoke of their captain with no small amount of disdain and of their colonel with undisguised hatred. Then, the conversation shifted from the men who had ordered them to stand at the outpost to the man who caused it to be a necessity.
That man was me.
I waited as the moon continued its ascent and then decided they had nothing more worth listening to.
Leaving my Colts in their holsters, I slid the Bowie knife out and eased my way toward the closest man. I moved no more than an inch every few minutes, and soon enough, I was ready.
As the conversation rolled back and forth between the men, I rose up behind the man, his bulk and overly large clothing hiding me. The volume of the talk increased, and I slid the knife between the man’s ribs. Gripping the back of his coat, I held him up as he gasped out his last, his head dropping to his chest as I slid the knife out.
His comrades didn’t notice.
The two men standing stepped close to one another, arguing, and while their attention was diverted, I slew the last seated man.
I watched from behind my dead protector as the two survivors came to blows, and a minute later, they were on the ground, fighting. In their fury, they drew their bayonets and hacked each other to death.
In the sudden stillness, I took the scalps of those I had slain and left the hair of those I did not.