Eighth May, 1740
from the brush and rushes, feasting on their unprotected skin. Stinging flies swarmed around them, landing on the exposed pieces of skin that weren't covered by mosquitoes.
Swatting uselessly, Manuel led the way. "I'll be covered in welts and drained of blood before we arrive!"
"I did say not to come this way."
"I had hoped to cut a little time off our walk."
"I recall that argument being put forth at the time of our discussion. And what did I say in response?"
"The other way was better. You failed to elucidate how."
"I thought my assessment was enough for you, Brother."
"You usually take my advice without second guessing me."
"You're certainly a nag today. Perhaps it's lack of sleep?"
"Perhaps it's blood loss! Bear more to the right."
"I thought you weren't familiar with this path."
"I didn't say that. I said the other way is better. How would I know unless I'd also come this way? Take to the water. If we swim part of the way, the insects will be less troublesome."
"Are we going to argue all the way to Georgia?"
"It's a distinct possibility unless you let me lead."
"Fine! If that will make you happy and less of an old woman, by all means!"
"Shh!" Sailfish held up his hand.
Although Manuel was mid-cry, he halted, words bitten back. Listening carefully, he heard sounds that could only be made by man. The creak of leather, clank of metal and gruff commentary filled the air.
"At least we've found them," Manuel whispered.
They eased to crouch. Not even swatting the insects now, they listened. Perhaps they could gather the information they needed without infiltrating the camp after all? A flash of red no more than a score of yards ahead reminded them that the British too knew how to secure an area. Backing slowly, they made their way toward the river. Slipping silently into the water, they swam a half mile or so away before hauling themselves onto the bank.
"Now what?" Manuel asked as he squeezed the water out of his hair.
"This was your brilliant plan, brother."
"I hate when you're smug."
"And I hate when you're arrogant, so we're even."
Sailfish dug around in his waterproof pack for something to eat. He pulled out a packet of dried meat, sharing some with his brother. Manuel took the food automatically, with a nod of thanks.
"We can still approach them."
"Oh, aye. We'll not draw any attention marching toward a landing force. We'll be shot before we go a bow's length."
"How's your Creek?"
"Terrible. You knew that already."
Manuel nodded, gazing over the water. Chewing and swallowing, he continued to think. "If we had a good story, a strong opening...."
"We would still get shot before...."
The men dropped low to the ground, listening. They heard movement, talking, the clatter of gear. Swearing quietly, they slid into the water once more. Fortunately, the sounds grew more distant as the scouting party passed. Instead of coming out of the water, they came up for air, kneeling on the sandy bottom of the shallows. The men looked at one another with consternation.
"If they catch us lurking in the water, we will not have a good excuse," Manuel muttered. "We either need to retreat or make up our minds how the hell to present ourselves."
"I had a thought." Sailfish said nothing more.
Manuel, never a patient man, bit back on his impatient outburst. Feeling his anger build, he reminded himself that his Indian brother was less inflammatory and much more even tempered than he. Where Manuel was a man of immediate action, his brother deliberated a long time. Also a man of action, Sailfish only acted when he was sure. On the rare occasion where he did something suddenly, it was because he'd been thinking of it ahead of time. Biting his tongue, Manuel said nothing.