When the attack came, it was swift, hard and deadly. The first sign of it was when one of Bullock’s men fired a rifle at Finch. Then the horde of howling men charged into the three partners’ camp.
Campbell had heard the shot, and he looked up quickly, a sliver of cold fear lancing into his bowels. He wasn’t afraid for himself—it would take a hell of a lot more than a gunshot and some screams to scare him after what he had been through—but he was worried for Morning Sun and their almost-year-old child, a boy they had named Coyote Heart.
All that passed through his mind in less than an eye blink. Then he was up and racing toward his lodge. He fired his rifle from the hip, hitting one man—he thought it was Edgar Purdy—and then barreled into four other men. All five went sprawling across the snow. Campbell lost his rifle in the collision, but he didn’t care. It would be useless except as a club with four enemies so close.
He managed to get to his feet, though it took some doing. The ice was treacherous and made every movement an adventure. Campbell jerked out a pistol, rammed back the hammer with the heel of his left hand and fired, just as a man named Rudy Beck was about to grab him. The man slumped against him with a loud moan, then fell to the ice.
Campbell clubbed down another one—Will McCaw—with his pistol barrel and kicked McCaw in the stomach as he fell. With just a moment before the next man would be on him, he took a fast look around.
Sharp and Finch were fighting like wildcats, though Finch seemed to be favoring one shoulder, as if he were wounded. He saw a couple of bodies on the ground near his two partners. But then it was time to turn back to his own battlefield.
Two more of Bullock’s men—Del Harmon and Jed Moss—had joined the two—Bob Hogg and Ty Hubbard—who were left standing. All four pounced on Campbell, whose feet slipped on the ice-covered snow and before he knew it, his back slammed on the hard ice, and four men were scrambling to hold him down.
But Campbell wasn’t about to just give up. He cursed in English and Gaelic. His knees and elbows flew every which way. He bit, kicked and punched. Several times he knocked one or two enemies off him, only to have them surge back into the brawl within moments.
This went on for what seemed like an hour to Campbell, before he decided he’d had more than enough of this scrabbling around on the cold ground. He managed to get himself turned over, so he could get his hands and feet under him, all the while enduring the blows his foes kept pouring on him. With a mighty shove, he pushed himself up, Harmon and Moss falling off him.
On his feet, Campbell kicked Moss in the face and elbowed Hubbard in the throat. He got his knife out, slashed Harmon across the face and then plunged the blade into his chest.
Campbell fell to his knees when someone clubbed him on the nape of the neck with balled fists. He shook his head for a second to clear it and then shoved himself up again, doing so easily despite the fact that one foe was clinging to his back trying to wrestle him down. Campbell hooked his toe behind one of the man’s ankles and jerked it forward.
The man’s foot went out from under him, and he fell backward, carrying Campbell with him. Campbell had counted on that, and he dug an elbow into the man’s side as they hit the ice.
Campbell pushed himself up quickly stomping down hard on the man’s kneecap, and then on his chest. Just as he tromped on the man’s throat, someone clubbed him on the back of the head with what Campbell assumed was a gun butt.
Not that he really had any time to think. He simply collapsed, half atop the man he had just injured. He was not out, not quite yet. He dimly saw a figure looming over him, a knife in his hand. As he tried to put up at least some resistance, he felt the knife punch into his chest, followed by the sticky wetness of his blood.
Then he lost consciousness.