With Honor, part 11

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 11

Matthew sat atop his horse, watching the darkening sky.  He had spent two full weeks at the White family farm before Captain Harlan had sent a wagon to bring him back to camp.  The second week had been pleasantly busy, his hands occupied with the work of mending tack and his thoughts increasingly filled with Charlotte.  Even now, the remembered image of her green eyes lighting up with a smile distracted him from his duty.

Irritated with himself, Lieutenant Lewis turned back to his watch.  In the month that followed his return to camp, as his leg completed its healing, the company tried and failed to catch Golden Wolf.  It was easy for the scouts to track him.  The man made little effort to hide as he moved about the foothills, but every time a unit would surround him the bandit leader would somehow slip their net.   While Captain Harlan had been convinced they would have to chase the Wolf halfway across the country before they captured him, their target seemed content to remain in the area.

A few days ago, one of the officers had discovered why.

During a questioning session with the captives, Lieutenant Fisher had identified the bandit’s second in command.  The man, referred to by the others only as Numbers, had loosely filled the role of quartermaster and finance man for the Wolf Pack.  It had fallen to him to make sure the supplies, food, and looted goods were dispersed fairly among the bandits; this was one way that Golden Wolf guaranteed the loyalty of his subordinates.  One of the duties Numbers had claimed as part of this task was hiding the bulk of the bandits’ stolen valuables.  Once the army officers had realized that Golden Wolf had been remaining in the area with the hope of freeing Numbers, it had been easy to create a plan to capture the Wolf.

Matthew blinked a few times to help his eyes adjust as the sun slipped below the horizon.  A torch flared to the south, accompanied by a spoken command passed quietly through the ranks.  At the edge of the caravan, Matthew urged his horse into a slow walk.  The handful of recently-wounded fighters had been placed strategically as decoys.  It was their job to fall behind, leaving a gap in the perimeter to allow Golden Wolf to slip through.

Unsure if the bandit would take the bait, Lieutenant Lewis kept his eyes on the fighters around him, trying to maintain the appropriate distance to create the hole.  After a few minutes, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye.  A dark shape passed through the gap, the legs of the horses in front of him shadowed for a brief moment before it was gone.

It was not Matthew’s task to spot the Wolf, or to fill the hole.  Their opening was merely the first part of a series of tempting situations; the trap lay in the middle, where Numbers and the other bandits were walking, shackled together, surrounded by guards.  Matthew kept his eyes on the horses near him, looking for the tell-tale darkening that would signal more individuals than just Golden Wolf.  It was quite possible that the man had gathered the remains of his scattered pack in the past month.

Matthew was still watching for others when the signal was sounded and torches lit throughout the company.  Tightening up their perimeter, the fighters near Matthew turned outward.  Although the horns meant Golden Wolf had been captured, they couldn’t risk a last-minute attack from other bandits.  After a few moments to secure the captive, the company turned back toward their camp.  With a watchful eye to the darkness on his left, Matthew followed, looking forward to seeing Golden Wolf finally in their custody and brought to justice.