Somewhere in the desert, 1570... A column of hot dust arose behind the men on horseback.

They were ten men in line abreast. They also wore the armor of the conquistador, those Spanish warriors who had for so many years hunted for gold, silver, and other precious items to return with them to their homeland for increased rank and prestige. These men were no different; however, they were being pursued. These ten men were all that remained of over two hundred. The rest had fallen in battle; they were the last of those men to hide what they had taken from these indigenous peoples and who could come back at a later time to recover. There were three large chests full of gold, silver and jewelry made of precious stones and several smaller ones filled with gold coins. Their value to these men was immense; hence the urgency of their mission. They wanted to bury their treasure and return when it was safe from attack. When they could do this they did not know. This land was rugged, and the air stifling. The sun above burned down upon their armor, and their skin shone as brightly as their accoutrements did from sweating profusely under their garments. These were a hearty breed, but even the best

would fall in these temperatures after some time. The leader, Captain Jose Philippe Sanchez, finally called a halt. He raised his right arm, and soon the rest stopped, the dust slowly settling between their mounts. “How much further?” he asked his lieutenant, Jiminez. “Not much now, sir,” he answered quickly. “The cave we spotted before should be upon us before too long.” “It better be,” Sanchez growled irritably. This damn heat was getting to him. The men were exhausted, and perhaps a bit disheartened after traveling for several days in this inferno. The dust was everywhere, for there was no rainfall that occurred here. It got into the nostrils, the clothes, drying everything out and leaving a bitter taste in one’s mouth. Hopefully soon they would be at the end of their journey. “Retrasar, amigos,” the Captain said, his voice cracking with thirst, “take one sip of water out of your canteens, then we continue on.” As one, the men did as their captain ordered, more out of necessity than for obeying a simple command. They were tired and thirsty, ready to get out of this blazing

furnace and back to their homeland, where they would be regarded as heroes once they retrieved their ill-gotten gains. They continued on, skirting some scrub brush and following alongside a dry creek bed. The bottom of the bed was rocky and hence too much for their mounts; however, their guide Jiminez was looking for a smooth spot he had seen on an earlier patrol where they could cross and reach the far bank. The creek bed was fairly narrow, only about ten feet across at its widest. The slope on this side was steep with a five foot drop. Soon he saw what he was looking for. The bank dropped and the stream bed had a smooth, sandy bottom. Here they would cross, and another hour or so ride and they would be at their destination. This last hour would be the most difficult; they were at the base of a mountain, and slowly started their ascent. The trail was rocky, with scrub dotting the landscape here and there. The dust swirled around their mounts’ legs, leaving the men at the end of the line

coughing and wheezing. They put cloths around their noses and mouths to filter out the worst of it, but some eventually got through, causing them to hack and cough at times. Soon they arrived on a small plateau, with some shade trees and a small, bubbling pool of cold, clear water that drained down from the mountaintop. The Captain ordered a halt; the men wearily dismounted, and set about watering their mounts and filling their water bags. Two men started gathering firewood for cooking dinner. The portly lieutenant Jiminez walked over to his superior officer, and took the reins of his horse. Captain Sanchez surveyed their surroundings. Above him the mountain towered, with a gradual slope at the bottom but getting progressively steeper with every foot. Scrub pine and aspens dotted the landscape, giving it an eerily haunted look. He took his helmet off, and wiped the sweat off his brow with a large bandanna tucked into a side pocket. A few more days, he thought, and then we can go back to the ship, and await reinforcements. Then back to this hellhole to regain the treasure they had stolen from the savages. A

king’s ransom in gold, silver, and precious stones that would earn him a respected place in society once they returned to Spain. Now, however, they had to make sure that it remained hidden until they came back for it, if they came back. They were being pursued, and might not make it back to their ship and homeland. They might succumb to the ferocious heat of this land, their bones bleaching in the sand and rocks forever and ever. How many of the savages were chasing them, he knew not. But one thing was for sure; out of his original two hundred men, he now had only ten left. The massacre took place several days ago, and he wouldn’t believe it if he hadn’t saw it with his own two eyes. Blood and gore, the savagery of these people of the land, was unlike anything he had come up against before. He survived numerous battles on the sea, but on land the viciousness of the attack stunned even him, a hard-bitten professional soldier in the service of his King. They needed to get this treasure hidden, and fast before they too were massacred like the rest. The sun was low in the western sky when Jiminez reported back to his superior. “Horses and men accounted for, sir,” he stated correctly. He knew it was useless information he was telling his captain, but it kept his mind off what troubles possibly

laid ahead of them all. “Very well then,” said the Captain. “Make sure everyone beds down early. I want two sentries posted over there on that rock outcropping, and two more to walk through camp tonight. Make sure they get their rest, because tomorrow might be our last day on this earth, Lieutenant.” “Yes, sir,” answered the lieutenant, and went about giving the proper orders. They did not need to be surprised while asleep if the massed savages attacked during the night. Although their rifles would hold them off for awhile, it would only be a temporary respite for the slaughter that was sure to follow once their ammunition was used up. Captain Sanchez reached into one of his saddlebags, and drew out a bottle of tequila that he had kept on hand. He unscrewed the cap, and took a long swallow of the fiery liquid, feeling it burn all the way down. He knew that drinking the alcohol would not help curb the gnawing fear in his belly, but he might not be alive tomorrow to enjoy it more.

The savages called this firewater. and took another sip from his bottle. then he would sit down and eat his supper. Good. Once they were taken care of. Once done eating. he thought. Smoking gave him time to think. It burned one’s throat going down. and to plan their next move. Soon their dinner was done. complete with a pot of steaming coffee.He went and sat down by a small campfire two of the men had built. and with good reason. he made sure the sentries had been posted and sat down again to roll a cigarette. One of the men was heating up some beans while another was making flour tortillas. too good to die out here in this hellish land. he thought to himself. He capped the bottle. keeping themselves busy and getting things done. and put it back in his saddlebags. . Sanchez always made sure the men ate before he did. These were good men. It would obviously being getting to that cave in one piece that his scouts had found. Getting drunk at this critical time would be suicide. for he needed their strength and energy in the days to come. to reflect. But it also turned a man into a crazy person when enough had been imbibed into his system.

and then burying the treasure. He also made sure he made a notation on his map to make sure they could get back here when the time was right. Otherwise, this was all just a complete waste of time. The sun was down below the hills by now, and a few of the men decided to lay out their sleeping packs and rest. They would need all their energy for tomorrow, thought Sanchez. Tomorrow would be the day of the showdown. He firmly believed that in his guts. They would barely have time to bury their goods and would then have to take up defensive positions for the slaughter that was soon to follow. He knew, as his men did too, that their fate was already sealed. But they didn’t show it. They would go down as heroes, and probably die trying. Some said that dying was the end of everything; yet others said that it was a new beginning. Whatever the outcome, they would soon find out…..

Chapter 2

The town of Borderland was aptly named. Surrounded by the land known as Death Valley on the northwest side and by the Mojave Desert on the southeast, it was the last outpost one came to before the California Territories. This town was nothing special; a saloon, livery, general store, barbershop, doctor’s office and plenty of dust and sagebrush to go around. And it was hot. Rumor had it that a man could just sit on the boardwalk, hold a frying pan with an egg in the sun, and it would cook in three minutes. The rainfall in this part of the state was negligible; hence the desert terrain. Here a man wouldn’t last three days out in the blistering sunshine, even less if he had no water with him. They say the sun would fry your brain, and make you see things that weren’t there. The town had an unofficial nickname: Gateway to Hell. The man who rode slowly into town looked like he’d been through the fiery pits. His face was cut up, his clothes in tatters. A few people stared at the stranger, but he ignored them like they didn’t exist. His name was Tom Crockett, and he was by trade a miner. Short in stature, he looked like someone who wouldn’t catch much attention in a crowd. He had a shock of red hair,

a stubbly beard, and an education. He attended college on the East coast when he lived there, and came west to seek his fortune. Unfortunately, the life he imagined hadn’t quite lived up to the hype. He stopped his horse in front of the saloon and got off. He almost fell, but caught himself at the last second, and took his hat off and brushed the dust off himself. He took a deep breath, and walked unsteadily up to the swinging doors and walked in. He ambled up to the bar, and said one word to the barkeeper. “Whiskey,” he said, and ignored the stare of the man. He took the shot glass, watched him fill it, then downed it in one quick gulp. “One more,” and downed that one too. “How much for the bottle?” He paid for his drinks and moved towards a table in the saloon to where he could keep an eye on the door. He sat heavily, wearily, and poured himself a third drink. “Goddam,” said a heavyset man sitting at the end of the bar. “Son, you look like you took on the Clantons and Earps all by yourself.” “Mind your own affairs,” answered Tom angrily. He was in no mood for any

nonsense. His body hurt, and his neck was rubbed raw by the rope that damn near hung him. God, that was a close one, he thought to himself. He tilted his head to down the third swig, and watched as the plump man walked over to his table and introduced himself. “Name’s Matt, and just tryin’ to be friendly, stranger.” “Don’t need no friends.” Tom put the glass down on the table, and sat back with a heavy sigh. “I’d buy you a drink partner, but you look like you’re all set with that bottle,” Matt said. He sat down without being invited, and was given a dirty look for his effort. “Look, mister, ain’t tryin’ to be a nosey feller, but you seriously need the attention of ol’ Doc Wallace. He’s a good man, he’ll fix you up quicker ‘n’ split.” “Sorry for bein’ so rude,” said Tom apologetically. ” Had a rough spell out there in the mountains. Ran into some real troublemakers. Damn near didn’t escape. Bastards tried to hang my ass, but I got away. They jumped my grubstake out there in the mountains, and as soon as I feel up to it, I’m gonna go grab back what’s mine, fair and square!” “Sorry to hear about your troubles, son,” said the fat man. “Seems to be a lot of that in these parts.”

“I will get my claim back,” he retorted, downing another shot of whiskey. He decided that he should get some rest and heal some, to make sure that he was up to the battle ahead of him. Those rustlers and claim-jumpers weren’t going to just hand over his stake. He walked back over to the bar, and asked the barkeep about renting a room. “Sure son, just two dollars a night,” he stated. Tom paid the man, got his room key, and headed up the stairs with his bottle and shot glass in hand. The fat man decided it was time he headed home himself, and exited the saloon. He found his assigned room and unlocked the door. It was simple and sparse, with a bed, night table with a washbasin, and a window that opened up into the street below. He looked out, and saw a few people milling about, going about their business. Across the street were the Sheriff’s office and a general store. He looked to his right and saw the doctor’s office. He thought that maybe the fat man had been right, maybe he did need to see the man and get patched up. He sure as hell felt sore enough for what he’d just been through.

He put the bottle and shot glass down on the night table and laid in the bed. It groaned and creaked but was surprisingly comfortable. He closed his eyes, and in his mind’s eye saw his mine, beckoning him to dig deeper and deeper for its treasures that had not yet been found. He imagined himself finding the mother lode, that big stake that all miners dream about. Soon he was fast asleep, the whiskey taking over his mind, and relaxing him into a black abyss. Suddenly, two shots rang out, waking him. He rolled off the bed, and took a peek out the window. Three men on horseback were outside, with one waving a rifle. He looked closer and saw that they were from the same group who had ambushed him earlier. Holy crap, he thought to himself, they are here to finish me off! He was wide awake now, the whiskey-induced nap totally forgotten. He cursed himself for leaving his rifle in its scabbard on the horse. Goddam! How the hell was he going to get out of this one? He stayed put, and thought that maybe they would mosey on out after having a few drinks.

He just hoped that the barkeep would keep his mouth shut.

He got up and locked the door. Quietly, he tip-toed back to the bed, hoping to avoid the creaky boards that might give him away. Downstairs, he could hear the men enter the saloon, and the heavy clump of their boots matched the thumping in his chest. He could hear their voices, but not what they were saying. Had to do with him, he guessed. Well, maybe they’ll just have a few drinks and leave. Wishful thinking, partner. He looked for a quick getaway out the window. About all he saw was a twelve foot drop to the dusty street below. Well, I guess I could handle that, he thought to himself. Running away had never been his strong suit, but his survival instincts kicked in and he decided to save it for later. It didn’t take long for one to get himself killed nowadays. A look, a wrong move, and it was Boot Hill for you, Jack. A clatter arose outside, and a buckboard with two horses pulled up to a stop in front of the general store in a cloud of dust. A single man was on it, and as it stopped he jumped off and walked into the store. Apparently the commotion disturbed the three banditos, for

they walked outside to see what was causing all the ruckus. Now’s my chance, thought Tom. He got up, unlocked the door, and snuck into the hallway. He looked downstairs at the barkeeper who’d noticed him and put his finger to his mouth. The man nodded in understanding and he slowly crept to the edge of the stairs. He was watching the doorway, and nearly fell when his foot missed one of the steps. He reached the bottom, and crept over towards the piano, where quite literally he would be up against the wall. He kept his eyes on the entrance, waiting for the three men to come back into the saloon. Deke Harrington was as bad as they came. He was lower than a snake’s belly. Standing six feet tall, he was as mean and ornery as a cornered bear. He had a nasty looking scar on his forehead from when he fell off a horse when he was younger, and many surmised that this was the reason he was so temperamental. His father also owned half the town, and he grew up quite spoiled. The other two men with him were Mexican bandits hired out for their gun slinging abilities. Between the two of them they had killed a rumored fifteen men. Tom didn’t want to be number sixteen.

“I knew I’d run into you again sooner or later. His heart was pumping so hard he thought it would burst. and he seriously needed a drink. Deke walked in. Deke spotted him in the corner. He swallowed hard. He gathered himself up.” he said.” he said. because the odds were way against him in this foray. and he could almost feel the barrel of that rifle against his head.He knew he was in over his head. “We’s just havin’ a little fun is all. and an evil grin came across their faces. That lynching stunt you tried to pull on me isn’t going to work this time.” He swallowed his drink in one gulp. started laughing. “Look who we have here. “Hello. thought Tom . ordering a shot of whiskey. Here it comes. fellas.” “Go have fun out in the hills. These bad hombres were out to kill him. and walked up to the bar. “we don’t need no trouble now do we?” “Sheriff. I’m sure your daddy would agree. and walked to the bar. followed by his deputy. well. His throat felt dust dry. “Well. well. followed by his two hired hands.” he nodded in greeting. Do I need to have a talk with him again?” .” The two other men looked at Tom. Just then the sheriff walked in. Deke. and both men continued to stare at each other. We don’t need this stuff here. and make sure he didn’t live long enough to return to his claim up in the hills. son.” he snorted. “Now Deke.

Sheriff. I’ll keep that in mind. For now though. thought Tom. and soon he was at the door. Not by a long shot. His boots raised small whorls of dust as he went along. He walked up to the counter.” the Sheriff admonished Lefty. his two hired hands following close behind.“No sir. “They jumped me out in the hills up yonder. All that was left of them was a slowly settling dust trail as they headed back out of town. slammed the shot glass down on the polished bar.” he said sincerely.” Tom paid for his drink. Must be his . Sheriff. and walked out onto the board walk. He opened it. and a small bell rang as the door hit it. Probably going back to my claim. “Find yourself another claim and you might live to see your next birthday. you don’t.” “Your advice is noted. and walked out. “You sure picked some rattlesnakes to play with. The three men were long gone. he walked over to the doctor’s office.” He finished his drink. I aim to get back what’s mine. Those men aren’t worth your life. and stole my claim. I’ll get even with you someday. “This isn’t over punk.” Then Deke looked back at Tom with an evil scowl on his face. son.” “You’d be wiser to just leave a dead horse lie. and soon a genial looking older man came through a doorway that was curtained off. signaling his entrance.

if its all the same to you. and don’t ask no questions. “We’ve seen plenty of those around here. applying a salve to his neck where the rope had burned him.” said Tom. “How can I help you?” the old gentleman asked. He was shorter than Tom. son. “I’ve seen a lot and been through more. I just need to heal some to retake my claim up in the mountains.” “Well.” said Tom.” he chortled. “Alright. They all walk around with gold dust in their eyes and when their stake doesn’t play out. I know when to talk and when to keep things to myself.workroom. Tom winced as the antiseptic . he thought. I plan on staying awhile. and the glasses on his nose had a bit of the street dust on them. and a little plump around the middle. His hair was white as snow. and cleaned and dressed the cuts on his face. Now let’s see what we can do about those cuts and that nasty welt on your neck. they’re gone.” “I’d be obliged.” “Well. “I was told you’re a good doctor.” The doctor worked quickly. and right now it seems that you need some medical attention and no stupid questions. “How do you do.” said Tom.” “A miner. huh?” answered the doctor. Most don’t stay long though.

” . You might have some broken ribs. and thanks. and put some tape on the end of it to hold it together.touched his face. and unbuttoned his shirt. doc. “now just lay off and take it easy for a few days. grabbed a roll of gauze. while you’re here. wincing a little at the tightness of the gauze. OK?” “Okay. A series of nasty black and blue marks on his ribcage told the doctor all he needed to know. but let the doctor do his work. “Son. “How much I owe you?” “Two dollars. “There you are.” He realized arguing with the man would be useless. “I’ll be okay.” he told him.” “Yes sir. like I said.” said Tom. “Seems you have some sore ribs too. I will.” he said. Soon he was taken care of. He got back up. you might as well let me take a look. He walked over to his supply cabinet. “Just take it easy for a few days.” said the doctor. and thanks again. and began to gently wrap it around Tom’s torso. The doctor finished with the wrapping.” said Tom. and grunted ever so slightly as he got off the table.

his interest piqued now. something that drives men so crazy with greed that they never return. so he decided to make some small talk. He crossed the street back to the saloon. The sun was high in the sky and off in the distance a dust devil swirled amongst the scrub and rock outcroppings. “Rumor has it. “Well.” “What’s that?” Tom inquired. he figured catching up on all the local gossip couldn’t hurt.” the barkeeper drawled.He buttoned his shirt back up and went out the door. Whenever possible treasure or gold was mentioned. he thought. He was the only customer at the time. “not much actually. “How many men have disappeared lookin’ for it?” “Oh. Curiosity got the better of him and since he was going to be off for a couple of days. But there’s a legend about the mountains.” the bartender continued. closing it behind him. worth millions some say. “So what’s the news around here?” he asked the bartender.” the barkeep stated. his heart started beating faster. It was going to be another hot day. and went up to the bar. left over from when the Spaniards were here some 300 years ago. “Greed has more influence . about two dozen that I know of.” “Really?” asked Tom. “ that there is a treasure somewhere up there.

” he added. but thought I’d at least let ya know. and his ribs weren’t as sore as they had been.” he warned. and the only things found were his horse and pack. isn’t it? What. Last one disappeared about three years ago. eat some .” “I wouldn’t if I were you. and some of 'em have two legs!” Chapter 3 Two days later. Is there just that one path into the canyon that takes you up there?” “As far as I know it is. some kind of ghosts or something up there?” “Superstition is a mighty strong thing in these parts. The cuts on his face had started to heal.” “Don’t matter none anyway. “Just be careful. He got out of bed.” “Thanks for the advice. I don’t have any family left. and I just might get rich in the long run. son. son.” Tom said. He’d decided to take a bath while he was here. and the sun shone brightly through the window. “You might not come back at all.on a man than good old common sense. “The local folk avoid the path into the mountains like the plague.” he answered. but I think I’ll give it a shot anyways. Never heard from him again.” “Sounds like something or someone trying to keep a secret. Tom felt much better. its your choice. There's some mighty mean varmints out there in them hills.” “Well. “Maybe in a couple of days I’ll take a shot at it. that is a story now.” “Well.

After he ate and paid for his meal he walked across the street to the general store to gather some supplies with what money he had left. there was a small river that flowed to where he could . then head out into the canyon to start his search. and he had to slap himself to keep awake. he went and got his horse out of the livery. Hopefully.breakfast. and mounted his trusty steed. The bartender had told him that once inside. He headed west out of town. loaded everything in his saddlebags. in the heat of the midday sun and with dust swirling around the horse’s legs. He bought a new knapsack to replace his old one. bacon. whether it be gold or some other precious metal. He ate a hearty meal consisting of biscuits. he’d find something up there in the mountains to supplement his income. He didn’t have much money left. The clop pity clop of the horse soon made him weary. Slowly he made his way down the path towards the canyon entrance. eating utensils. some beans. some eggs and hot coffee. tobacco. and a new tin cup. Falling asleep out here would be a death sentence. Finally. so he had to make do with what he had.

then finally ended with a gentle but rocky slope.water his horse and let it rest for a little while. Damn. but he could still pick his way through the rocky scrub that was prevalent around here. When he got there he found it had dried up some. He checked his map while the horse was drinking. he estimated. which was about 5 miles away. it was plenty for the horse to drink and cool off with. There were a few boulders strewn here and there. No matter. but otherwise easy footing for the horse. The canyon rose steeply on either side of him. he thought to himself. He put his map away and started moving deep into the canyon itself. No way to scale those sides without any rope. The canyon narrowed further on down. ending about forty or fifty feet above his head. it was hot. Nothing but desert and scrub the way he’d come from town. The path he was on ended shortly. looking like a tiny creek rather than a river. and . He figured he had about two more hours before the sun set. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes with his bandanna and eyed his surroundings.

Here it was barely wide enough for two head of steer to get through. The mountain rose in front of him and while the sun was still up. To the left. The trail was fairly straight for a good distance. but then started to . horse and all. until finally near the end he could see the small up slope. He decided to keep going. Straight ahead. Foot by foot did the canyon walls narrow. Another hundred feet or so and they reached a small plateau. was just visible in the rays of the setting sun. a worn trail. If they were moving in darkness. There wasn’t much room up here. then they headed up the slope. and he had to dismount and walk his horse up the further he went.continued on. but they were okay as long as daylight was around. he surely would have fallen over the edge. he surveyed his surroundings. Soon it narrowed considerably. He reined in his mount. the canyon continued on down a very steep grade. to get as far as possible while the light of day was still with him. however. one that hadn’t been used in awhile.

His chest was really starting to hurt now. He thought he should’ve waited another day or so for his ribs to heal. He was going to find that treasure come hell or high water. and had paid for it with their lives. were several scrub pines barely holding their own on the rocky outcrop. To his left was a more gentle rise.wind like a snake. Many before him had done exactly what he was now doing. unyielding soil. He found a rather flat spot under some pine and maple trees and decided to call it a night. Off to his right. curling one way then the other. He would do his damnedest to find that lost Spanish treasure or die trying. He took the saddle and bags off his mount. His breath came in painful gasps with the exertion of climbing all day long. He was getting tired. His horse was in need of rest as well. however. with poplars and more scrub pine rising out of the hard. and tied the horse to a maple tree next to a . No sense pushing it. He’d trekked well over 8 miles today. he thought. but the thought of unseen riches made up his mind for him. where the mountainous terrain was steepest. He didn’t plan on dying. Tomorrow’s another day. and a quarter of that was climbing this damn mountain.

and put the saddle back on the horse. Daybreak came early. followed by his bags. He put the saddle on the ground then opened up his saddlebags. He was soon asleep. He rose. Soon his fire was down to embers. washed his face off in the small pool. snoring gently amongst the trees and chirping of the night creatures. Tomorrow would be longer. then rinsed his utensils in the little pool. Soon he had a nice little fire going. He ate. He had a flask of whiskey in there to help him forget about his ribs. His beans were heating up nicely and the water was soon bubbling. He poured some dried beans in his tin cup and with the water. He took a can of beans out and started to gather some wood for a small campfire to make himself some supper and maybe even a decent cup of coffee. and he laid down on his blanket and saddlebags and took a couple of sips of whiskey to finish off a long day.small pool of water so he could drink his fill and rest. had a cup of hot coffee ready-made. The flames crackled and a soft wind blew the smoke gently away from him. He filled his cup with water to make sure the coals were out for good and began his long journey up the mountain once . he thought.

The right path looked easier to travel than the left. He didn’t get fifty feet and . He looked back down the trail he'd come and decided he’d have to cover some ground while his ribs weren’t bothering him. The barkeep told him to expect a fork in the trail coming up shortly. Large puffy clouds had started to form in the sky. so he decided he’d take a look-see and judge for himself. whether for man or beast. The sun was just cresting the eastern peak and a gentle wind sighed through the brush tops. He walked the last few feet of the trail into a small meadow. Soon he could see the fork up ahead. Here a small stream cascaded down from the cliff above into a little creek where he led his horse to drink.again. and he filled up his canteen. he thought. some crossing in front of the sun to create a cool shadow effect. A day without water in this rugged terrain spelled certain doom. Water was definitely a must to survive in this hot wilderness. creating a coolness which was refreshing to him. with wildflowers and grass being gently withered over with the cool mountain breeze. The further up he went. The horse drank its fill. the more scarce the vegetation. It would be a good day.

he turned back around and headed back to the meadow to take the left fork like the bartender said. especially with no rope. He’d decided to camp in a small hollow in the cliff face. and this was supposedly in the area of where the lost treasure was buried. Disappointed. Several hours passed while he entertained his thoughts. if the legend were true. he asked himself. He damn sure didn’t need a repeat of what happened to him before at his other claim. silver. or what have you. He looked up to his right. would be his last foray into exploring for gold. Then he hoped he would find the cave entrance. He wanted enough to buy himself a nice piece of land to work. He continued on and hoped that no one else was up here. and with a small sense of relief saw a mountain goat staring back at him. and to lead a comfortable existence. He seemed to have made some ground today. The trail ended in a steep crevasse in which he’d never be able to cross. By this time.had to turn back. the sun was getting pretty low in the sky. He hoped that this. It was getting close to midday when he heard the rocks falling. and rest up for what he’d hoped would be the final push tomorrow. . or what? That would be one reason the treasure-seekers before him hadn’t returned. An old abandoned mineshaft.

And if water had been seeping in. Soon tears of regret filled his eyes.” he said to no one in particular.They damn sure wouldn’t crawl out of one if it were deep enough. They played. Stephanie. and she taught him to read. He decided to drink some more of the whiskey. “But I sure do miss you. Female doctors were a rarity in these days. Especially his sister. Once a body fell down there. cursing his foolishness for his lack of selfcontrol. She’d been more of a best friend than a sister. She had wanted to attend Cambridge. and he angrily wiped them away. hope was useless unless one had a reliable partner and plenty of rope. swam. She would always stand up to their father on his behalf. they would surely have drowned. Sis. in England to become a doctor. which was very likely. He wished she was still alive to share what bounty may come his way. His ribs were throbbing with the day’s efforts. he sure missed her. and as he drank and watched the flames in the small fire he made flicker in the gentle breeze. Always trying to help . but that was what she had wanted to do. a long time ago. he remembered the family he had. They did everything together. to lessen the impact of the lashings that were sure to come to an adolescent young boy. By god.

the effects of the whiskey and crackling fire lulling him into a deep black abyss in which all time stopped. He was then a young man of 17. But Stephanie was determined to do what she wanted. and in which the pain finally relaxed its tight grip on him. and the disaster happened five years ago. and the ship that her and their parents had taken sailed smack dab into the middle of a hurricane. but there was nothing he could have done to help avert it. except maybe try and talk them out of it. She was one of those good souls in which there never seems to be enough of. and the only thing found was a plank with a piece of white cloth attached to it that had washed ashore some weeks later. the weather had no ill will against the good nor bad. Five long years of bitterness and anger over the senseless death of his family. no matter what. Unfortunately.others before herself. It sunk with all hands. They were treated as equals. He soon fell sound asleep. Tom then decided to head West to seek out his fortune or whatever else life had in store for him. . in which memories no longer had meaning.

very soon. low-lying clouds flitting between canyon walls to where he could not see the bottom. cutting it almost in half. The snake twitched in its death throes. I hate heights. Just as well. Wide awake now. Tom got himself up off the ground and put the saddlebags back on the horse. not only because of the dampness. Their pace was deliberately slow. He looked down and spotted a four foot rattler about to strike. . Soon. winding between towering cliffs and deep chasms. and together they rode off on the trail up the mountain. Suddenly. and could only dream of what the Spaniards had left behind. but also the trail narrowed considerably the further on they went. He grabbed his rifle out of its scabbard. cold and wet upon his face. he thought. No sense in making a fire for coffee now. and pumped a quick shot into the reptile.The rain woke him up. The valley below was fogged in. the horse started to neigh and jump. he mused. It was refreshing in its moisture. Have to wait until I reach the cave. he thought. He mounted his horse. the rain dripping down off his hat. But he thought again about the so-called treasure.

He noticed some tracks and scrape marks in the dirt. slowly making his way to the small black hole in the canyon wall.clearly not a menace now. and made it alive. past a boulder the size of his horse and there it was. a narrow opening into the side of the mountain. He came round a bend in the path. He got off the horse again to give the animal a break. He got up. He kneeled down and peeked inside. Half the battle was over. He noticed that it dropped slightly. and slowly trudged up the ever-steepening slope. but found he could fit in it. Must’ve been the last poor bastard up here. It was also beginning to get rocky. He’d found it. he guessed. For the next couple of hours everything was smooth as whiskey. he thought. A keen eye and sure foot would be needed now if he was to succeed in reaching the cave entrance. He stopped the horse and dismounted. albeit on hands and knees. tied the horse to a gnarled tree branch that shot up from its rocky . Now I just got to find this treasure.

and wrapped several layers of old cloth on one end of it. He watched the smoke curl up in the air and decided upon his next course of action. hidden for so many years. “let’s see what we have here. Once it was burning brightly. “Well. and he was fairly sweating with exertion and excitement at having made it this far in his travels with no problems. he might have a good shot at finding whatever may lay inside. He took the tobacco pouch out of his saddlebags and rolled himself a smoke. he thought as he sat smoking. There were cobwebs on the sides of the opening. If this was a mineshaft. then set it in the fire he’d made earlier.abode. Chapter 4 At least its cooler in here.” He found himself a stick. noticing that the sun had come back out through the clouds. and proceeded to explore his surroundings. meaning it hadn’t been tampered with for awhile. he thought. . but there will be. club-like in appearance.” he said. He finished his smoke and flicked it off to the side. Now I gotta think about how I’m gonna go about this. son. But if it was horizontal. he wouldn’t be getting very far. Not yet. his mind said. The rain had stopped half an hour ago.

he got down on his hands and knees in front of the cave and started in. the old rotted planks broke with his weight. and wiped his forehead and eyes with his bandanna. Holding the improvised torch in front of himself. He rubbed his head and cursed himself for not being more careful. his hands came upon some planks that were buried with a layer of the fine dust. Suddenly. He picked it up. one of those disasters that miners dreaded along with the possibility of drowning. and then brushed off the wood with a single swipe. and down he tumbled. Just then. smacking his head against the sides of the downward tunnel and finally landing with a thump at the bottom. His torch fell next to him. He came upon some rough-hewn timbers. The tunnel widened out just a little. and surveyed his surroundings. with timbers every ten feet or so. the smoke from the torch burning his eyes. obviously supports on the sides of the tunnel to prevent a cave-in. He coughed once. he slowly made his way deeper and deeper into the cavern. He was starting to sweat again from exertion. miraculously still alight. brushed himself . By now the entrance was just a tiny sliver of light behind him. He paused to catch his breath.

although the pain in his sides made it seem like 30. and winced at the new pains in his abdomen. He had no rope. He estimated it at about 10 feet. and saw that the opening above his head was just out of reach. plenty of head space for him to stand and stretch and about twenty feet across. following its curves with dust from years past swirling around his boots. So far there had been no luck in finding some discarded timbers he could . and the torch was his only companion. This series of tunnels were wider and higher.” he said. “might as well find something to use to crawl up outta this damn hole.off.” He started walking down the tunnel. this is just perfect! He looked up. Soon he came to what he termed a room. “Well. It was cooler down here. He sat and figured out what his next move was. and he now had to figure out how he was going to get himself out of this mess. Goddam. he thought disgustedly. He probably had re-broken his ribs with the fall. and appeared to have been undisturbed for many years.

but didn’t find anything else to catch his fancy. He saw that the room branched off into two separate tunnels. He turned around and entered the left tunnel. One end was jagged. and noticed that it wasn’t perfectly round. He examined the coin. he thought. On the ground in front of him appeared a stick. and wondering how much longer his torch would last. The tunnel wound slowly around in a small arc to his left. and continued on. shining a dull yellow in the light of the torch. he picked up the pace. about two inches thick by about five feet long. A glint in the sand in front of him caught his eye. He picked it up. He reached down and picked up what looked like a coin. He got about 60 feet in and it stopped suddenly. like it had been broken on something hard. I found it! He moved further on down the tunnel. Holy shit. and he wasn’t making any progress setting on his butt. then figured he needed . It had what appeared to be an octagonal shape to it. but he found he could still stand. He pocketed his new-found treasure.improvise into a ladder to get the hell out of here. It started to narrow a bit. so he got up and started down the right fork. and was thicker in the middle. Being able to see only about five feet ahead of him.

Soon he had four steps in place. Oh shit. then used a piece of planking that had fallen down with him as a step. and saw that it was limestone. one problem solved. then on to where he had fallen through the old wood boards. Okay. He scraped until he had some about a foot deep into the wall. started to carve out some hand and foot holds in the soft rock. It appeared it existed after all! He turned around. He sat for a few minutes to catch his breath. He used the stick he’d found and with the jagged end. He looked at the side his head bounced off of. He was about to exit the hole when he heard a single rifle shot impact the edge of the cave. he thought. and reached up and pulled himself out of the hole. punk. then started back out of the tunnel towards the entrance. “We know you’re in there. and . and walked back to the bigger room.to get out of here one way or another to get back above and explore the rest of the tunnels that might lead him to the treasure. he thought. here we go again! A voice hollered out from somewhere in the light.

Well. “I’ll get yer sorry ass sooner or later!” He looked outside. thought Tom. sweat dripping off his brow. How the hell did they know I was out here. and quick if he wanted to see tomorrow! Tom took a peek out of the cave entrance and was rewarded by another rifle shot. “Stick yer head out again. He quickly pulled his head back inside. He figured that his best chance for survival would be to ambush them inside the tunnels. this is a fine kettle of fish I’ve gotten into now. No chance he would make a quick run for his rifle and make it without getting hit at least once by Deke’s desperadoes. His horse was still about thirty feet away from the entrance. But how? He had to come up with a plan. Three to one weren’t very good odds. He needed to come up with a good plan. the fragments hitting the side of his face and opening up a couple of old wounds. He got on his belly and took another quick peek out . he wondered. laughing. rabbit!” Deke hollered.we’re fixin’ to end this little game of yours. once and for all!” It was Deke and his hired killers. Well. three to one and no rifle was worse still. no time for that. wondering how the hell he was going to get out of this one.

careful to skirt the hole that he had made earlier from falling through. “Not lookin’ for anything. Off in the distance. hoping the bluff would work. He was soon disappointed. he thought. and the tunnel soon dead-ended with a pile of broken rock and rubble. give himself a chance to come up with a workable plan. was the black hat of Deke. There was an old saying. Another shot broke the silence. punk. “What the hell do you want?” he asked. Must be one of the hired guns. now he was starting to sweat. He continued on. Deke. Hopefully he could come up with something that would outshine the sun. Another shot and Tom quickly backed up.” he said. He started digging with his . He could just see a hat off to his left.” came the answer. and whatever it is yer lookin’ for up here. He had to stall for time. that if you can’t baffle ‘em with bullshit you dazzle ‘em with brilliance. And fast! He crawled back into the tunnel as fast as he could on his hands and knees. yer lookin’ for something up here!” Okay.of the opening. “Your dead ass. almost straight ahead and about thirty feet up. “Bullshit.

He started to chuckle. He hurriedly cleared out more rubble. If only this barricade of rocks would give him some time. He soon got the refreshing cool blast of air that indicated he was through this cave-in. he told himself. He could hear the three men getting closer.bare hands. He needed a couple of minutes to calm down. and squeezed his aching body through the hole. his breath coming in ragged gasps now. He dug furiously. and quick! He dug more quickly. he might get out of this alive. He sat off to one side. He could hear the three of them hollering and shooting into the tunnel itself. his fingernails tearing and cracking with his effort. He . then suddenly one of them yelped as they fell down the hole he had fallen down earlier. his ribs on fire. Maybe he could dig his way around those bad hombres. He had the feeling that today was going to be a very long day indeed. and was piling rocks up in front of him. Need to get the hell outta here. Soon his breath came in heavy gasps from the exertion. and sweat was dripping off his forehead. They’re coming in. to let his body rest. his ribs hurting now. he thought. until the seriousness of the moment woke him up.

following the new tunnel blindly. with a kind of dampness to it. His foot kicked something loose. A sword! How lucky could a man get? With this he could at least try to defend himself. He hoped he wouldn’t step on a scorpion or snake or something of the kind. feeling his way like a blind man. but continued. He hoped he wouldn’t fall into another trap and drown. He stopped and reached down to see what was impeding his progress. and got to his feet. this time to the left. He continued on. It felt like metal.gathered up his strength. The air was cool. and the tunnel turned again. but with the element of surprise . He picked up the object. Not against a gun. that would seriously ruin his day. then stopped as his hands felt some more of the timbers. He felt his way. About twenty feet and it turned again. wincing as a splinter entered his left hand. Another few feet. and soon noticed that the tunnel turned to the right. Where was this taking him? He wondered what he had got himself into. He slid them across the wood. as he didn’t have his torch with him this time. when he noticed the floor started to slope down just a bit. and slowly felt it.

his heart nearly stopping with the feeling of a thousand knives stabbing him. finding the side of the tunnel again. With that. He felt around him. Maybe he would get lucky. and noticed he was at the end of the tunnel.in his corner. careful not to lose the sword. He had no choice but to try underwater. His lungs felt like they were about to burst. Ankle deep. He swam for a few more seconds. and he had to . and took one final breath. and spit the water out that he had swallowed before his unexpected swim. his right following the contours of the tunnel. he thought. They didn’t know he was armed now. Hopefully it wouldn’t get any deeper. the sword in his left hand. He took a few deep breaths. His feet soon touched a small pool of water. He bobbed back to the surface. Down he went into the bowels of the earth. foot by foot. he dove under water. slowly and cautiously. swimming into another opening. and find a way out of this wet cavern. expelling the carbon dioxide from his lungs. Suddenly his feet felt empty space. and he dropped into the ice-cold water. He kept going. He could hear the sloshing sounds his boots were making now.

hoping it wasn’t St. So far so good. He swam towards it. he calmed down and listened for anything that would indicate he was being followed. Air. they might not and keep after me. he climbed up into the tunnel and laid there for a few minutes. Could this be the other side of that wall? If so. at least he could sit here and rest for a bit. . he thought. Peter’s gate he was swimming to. and noticed that at the far end the tunnel ended in the same type of limestone that he had carved out earlier to escape. and noticed another tunnel further off that was half filled with water. he thought. After a few minutes. He looked up. and burst through into an underground grotto. He started to shake from the cold. Need to rest a little. Then again. Exhausted from his ordeal. He looked down the new tunnel he was in. his heart thumping like crazy. They’ll just figure I fell down a shaft and drowned.come up. His blood was pumping loud in his ears. he thought. Well. precious air! The light came from eerily phosphorescent creatures that were stuck to the walls. I should be okay. and saw a very dim light. but enough to where he could see the tunnel itself. It wasn’t much. He had broken through a cavern about five feet high.

and just listened. he thought. He couldn’t. Deeper he went.He thought about his predicament. He dug and dug. his blood thumping in his body. He hoped his horse would be okay. He’d be dead by the time he stabbed or slashed at one of the outlaws. He had heard something. listening for the faintest sound. Hopefully they were too busy yakking to hear him scraping and digging. Damn! What was he going to do now? There was no way he’d make it out alive. and soon widened it to accommodate the width of his body. they’re still in there. He had no . and soon the tunnel was three feet into the wall. He’d be dead by the time he would reach the entrance to the cave. even armed with the sword. if they hadn’t run it off by now. hoping beyond hope that this led to the other cavern he’d fallen into. Well. Suddenly he stopped. He kept after it. but for how long? They could go out for food. He could wait it out. What was it? Deke and his gang of rowdies? He held his breath. time he had on his hands now. There it was again. What about using the sword? He started to carve into the limestone wall. a faint scratching! Shit. He stopped digging. and after about ten minutes had a hole a foot high by a foot wide.

how he got to this place he did not know. dropping to his knees on the rocky soil and grunting in pain. He turned to his left. going forward to where he knew not. He just had to hope for the best. Maybe even a shelter under some brush that had fallen down. He had lost a lot of blood and his mind was wandering. He looked around him. and thinking he was seeing . He stopped the horse and got off. Some kind of rock outcropping would work for him. for he wasn’t picky. and steadied himself.choice whatsoever. his left arm in tatters. untied it. A slow rain started to fall. On either side of him the cliffs rose to tremendous heights. Chapter 5 John Peppers rode through the canyon. lest he bleed to death. and saw nothing but vertical rock. and he knew he had to do something. His horse kept plodding through. and he needed to seek shelter. He held the pommel of his saddle with his right hand. He got back up. He used that to tie a tourniquet on his arm. The dizziness was getting stronger with the loss of blood. and taking the leather thong that held his bedroll on the horse.

If they found him they would slice him like a side of bacon. He soon gathered a small amount of firewood. and continue on. but soon he had a nice small blaze going. and proceeded to light a fire. He gathered himself under the overhang and set to work. very intent on ending his existence. He was amazed that he actually got away in one piece. being injured and all. walked towards the black hole that showed itself. As soon as the rain let up they’d be on him like a hound to a scent. He soon came upon an overhang. His arm was almost useless. He watched the fire burn itself into embers. and added a few more sticks. but with that posse on his trail he dare not. Hopefully he’d ridden fast enough to elude his pursuers. and he had two men hot on his trail. intent on pursuing him until they came across his body. he thought. although he doubted it. What would he do? Wait for the rain to stop? He hoped he didn’t pass out from loss of blood. He . Well. he wasn’t going to let them do that. It was difficult with the use of his left arm limited. He thought of his predicament. where he could make a small fire and rest. He needed to sleep a bit. He needed to rest up a bit to gather his strength.an hallucination. and thought of his next step. They’d have to earn their pay this day. He warmed his hands on it.

they wouldn’t be able to track him very well. but soon they would be back on his trail. Unfortunately. He tried to pry out the bullet. He unwrapped the bloody mess on his arm and took stock of his wound. slowing the blood flow. He couldn’t afford to lose much more. but if it wasn’t cared for properly. He gritted his teeth and poked around it with his knife. Wisps of smoke rose gently from the fire he’d built. It wasn’t very deep. it would fester. worked it out. He slowly poured . and gasping in pain. He sat back and took stock of his situation. With this rain. and that made a man careless. which sheltered him from the elements. He was already dizzy and nauseous. hunting him down like a wounded deer. He dug a clean cloth out of his saddlebags and pressed it in place over the bullet hole. His breath came in wracking gulps of air. and the wound started bleeding again.needed to get to a town where he could heal and rest up a bit. finally feeling metal on metal. The rain started to fall heavier now. He was in a small overhang. Tombstone was at least a day and a half away. with the sound of thunder off in the distance. and soon he had a pot of water boiling for coffee.

The horse took to moving and he chanced a quick look behind him. Maybe he could pull this off. He wiped his face off with a handkerchief and kept moving. He needed to figure out a good plan to get out of this one. He looked around him. and kicked sand into the coals of his fire. absorbing the lifegiving liquid like sponges. He donned his slicker and mounted his horse. They were in a canyon. He packed his gear up. with the rain. At this pace he figured they’d be in town by mid-day tomorrow. The rain let up a little. and saw nothing but vertical rock about fifty feet high on either side of him. They were making good progress. He was sniffing at the air. they wouldn’t be able to follow his tracks. Some cactus sprouted here and there. They were still on his trail. He plodded along. and he didn't get killed in the meantime. with a rocky path.himself a cup and sat back to sip it. His horse neighed softly. nudging it along with a movement of his knees. He might make Borderland if the going was just right. Riding out of here in this weather would probably be his best way to escape. . the hours ticking by. then finally stopped. and he looked over at the buckskin. and he needed to move and find a safer place to heal up. Nothing so far but rain and rock.

They wouldn’t be able to shoot him there. Getting the horse into a gallop.Suddenly there was the crack of a rifle shot. he spotted a small overhang ahead that he could disappear under. Another shot kicked up some dust in front of his horse. They were toying with him. but the horse was clearly spooked. They wanted to enjoy killing him. Something wasn’t right. He calmed him down by stroking his mane. but saw nothing else. He looked to the other side. and saw two horses standing side by side atop the canyon. and quick. Now why in the hell would they do that and just up and leave? It smelled of an ambush to him. First they shoot at him. and miss on purpose. grabbing at his rifle as he dismounted. baiting him. He looked up. but didn’t see anything. He checked to see if there were rounds in the chamber. or in the valley with him. and he started to buck a little. . and slid the bolt home. Another shot. He needed to find a place to hide in. unless they were on the other side of the canyon itself. He was confused. He peeked around the top of the overhang. Even the two horses he had spotted earlier were gone. He reached it and got off the horse. to watch him suffer. and he heard it ricochet off the canyon walls to his right.

He figured that if he dumped it now. A rifle shot replied immediately. holding it out from under the shelter. and he took aim at the lead rider. his horse riderless. If they were going to kill him. They came down the canyon. One of the pursuers shot at him. they would never know where the gold was hidden. he thought. He looked around again cautiously. A shot rang out. One move. rifles blazing. and he would make sure of that. barely missing and chipping a chunk out of the rock behind . and covered it up. he’d be alive later to come back for it. He dug furiously in the rocky shale. He found a stick laying in the dust and put his hat on it. completing it. So. they have me covered. slicing his hands. He would hide it and come back for it later. if there was a later. and the man dropped to the canyon floor.and the last thing he wanted now was to be dry-gulched and left for the buzzards. and I’m dead. He tossed the bags in the hole he had made in the earth. Quickly he opened his saddlebags and dug out the sacks of gold. making sure he wasn’t going to get his head shot off. Wonderful. They saw where he was sheltered. dusting it lightly and putting a diamond-shaped rock on top.

the other two would have a much better chance of surviving. watching them. and waited.him. He swung the barrel over and fired. He missed that time. He quickly chambered another round. They reined in suddenly. but against three more hardened men he would likely die. and were watching like buzzards. He needed to think fast. He chambered another round. He peered at them over the sight of his rifle. He saw when he looked up that he had gotten the third rider. Then his body spun as he was hit in the shoulder. but one of his partners wound up shooting him in the shoulder. and to shoot even faster. That way if one was shot down. and suddenly the one in the middle appeared to draw a bead on him. looking at him. He fired again. and separating themselves. aimed. He was watching them. They weren’t as suicidal as he thought they were. They slowly were forming a semicircle around him. and stopped. His luck was holding. and another rider went down. took careful . He chambered more rounds into the weapon and continued waiting. and squeezed the trigger.

He’d have to remember that to tell his grand kids. He worked the bolt again. raising dust. and fired. again ricocheting off the wall behind him. He watched with amusement as the man he’d shot at dismounted and retrieved his hat. He just leaned back. He quickly chambered another round and took aim at the remaining cowpuncher. The man looked around him. that was funny. He was too high. It wouldn’t be long now that they’d get the range right and hit him again. By God. and he watched as another horse was left riderless. but closer this time. Okay. permanently ending his journey. sighted down the barrel. took a breath. took a deep . He must’ve spooked him.aim. he thought. let’s get this over with. and took off down the canyon. A prolonged gun battle was the last thing he wanted right now. That’s if he lived long enough. His shoulder was hurting. he thought to himself. for his arm was shaking and his left arm was almost useless. and he felt over with his other hand. fellas. and it came back wet with his blood. for he reined in his horse and started back the way he’d come. thought better of it. He lifted the rifle up again. and squeezed again. and this time shot the hat off the closer man. Another rifle shot came at him. The rifle bucked in his hands.

He’d spent his life punching cows and riding the range. it was his left shoulder. and relax some. and a new hat wouldn’t hurt either. It just wasn’t out to be his day. but now he was hit in the shoulder. at least. and stuffed it in the hole. and that was still several hours away. which had started to bleed again. Maybe now with no pursuers after him he could reach town.breath. He was tall and thin. Not only did he have his old wound to tend to. He put the sacks back in his saddlebags and mounted up. The shell had went clean through. Moving slowly but steadily. get patched up. and concentrated on stopping the flow of blood before it was too late. His dark hair clung to his scalp from sweating. so he wouldn’t have to dig it out. he ripped a piece of his shirt off. same side as his arm that had received a bullet earlier. . He grew weak as he dug up the gold he had hurriedly buried. That might at least slow the blood until he could reach town. but with a husky build. and he pointed it back in the direction he was originally headed. He needed a shave. Trouble was. Maybe. He was grateful for that. The horse turned back towards the mouth of the canyon.

There were rumors he had shot a man simply because he beat him in a card game. and he aimed to get even. He had held up over five banks in the past two years. and knew its dangers. He accused the man of cheating. Lamont had ripped him off in a card game in Denver.and he had a fine coating of dust all over. Bud Lamont was a mean. He still had about . for he’d ridden the desert before. But when someone robbed from him. But he sure picked the wrong man to tangle with when it came to Bud Lamont. Bud Lamont made his money the old-fashioned way: he stole it. he was holding up banks. He was the man that was now bleeding from two different bullet wounds for his trouble. and it was clear he hadn’t. he wasn’t scot-free yet. He was a man that wasn’t weak. But because of his swollen ego. and so far had evaded the law. he shot the man dead. he did get even. ornery. However. with the population on his heels ready for a lynching. it was a different story. And the man that did that knew first hand what he would do to get his money back. Well. rattlesnake of a man. now. When he wasn’t robbing stagecoaches and stealing their strongboxes. and was run out of a Colorado mining town for his trouble.

and a man wouldn’t survive out here. and the shootout with Lamont’s hired hands wore him out. and he was weak. He didn’t want to abuse it. It was rocky. He hadn’t eaten anything since that morning. but would be easily defended. The old buckskin had made up some miles today. and needed a rest real bad. bad. with numerous smaller ones littering the desert floor. He also needed to eat something to build up his . and somewhere to water his horse. and wearily dropped out of the saddle. with some scrub brush growing up out of the hot sand. He soon found the shade of a mesa to camp for the night. Little dust puffs arose when his boots hit the sand. dusty smell to it. It was all he had to keep from falling asleep and falling out of the saddle. and many big boulders spread out. especially with very little water. He glanced around him. because walking was the only alternative.twenty-five miles to go to reach Sweetwater. He stopped his horse. He would need to find somewhere to spend the night. and the air had a dry. and saw a few dunes off to his right. He needed rest. He had the mesa to his back. The sun was high in the sky.

and breathed deeply. His hopes rose.. his blade punched through the wall. He stopped digging. and finally broke free. he was back in the tunnel he fell into earlier. Tom had troubles of his own to deal with.strength. Chapter 6 Unfortunately. Then he started digging again with the sword. Laying in his hollowed-out tunnel gave him some time to think. inch by inch. he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His body ached. He dug in one saddlebag. The noises on the other side of the wall subsided. He dug some more. If only Tom was around. A thin sliver of light shone into his eyes. If only he he had his partner along. listening to see if anything stirred on the other side. after what seemed an eternity. his ribs hurt. How the hell did he ever get in this mess? Being a stranger. but it was getting better and better with each passing hour. Finally. that’s how. and he waited a few more minutes to make sure. He took a sip of water out of his canteen. Strangers weren’t very welcome in these parts.. carving himself closer to freedom. He poked his head out and .. He still was in a mess. and produced some jerky. Nothing. and he was exhausted. He was minding his own business. Especially ones that the locals thought might stir up some trouble. he thought..

if it was indeed a gold coin. The smiling face of Deke was looking down upon him from above. “What’s in these hills is mine. And the sooner you get used to that. “Hello there pardner. “Lookin fer some more treasure to steal from me. He just hoped it would be a quick death. He shoved up as hard as he could with the sword. “What you doin’ up here. the better. He was in trouble if they found the coin in his pocket. Then he motioned with the six-gun in his hand. He knew then that the jig was up if that were discovered.” Tom made a pitiful show of defiance. I suppose?” “I’m not the thief.looked up. and the gun dropped into the sand at . The sword lunged straight through his hand. whether my daddy’s name is on it or not. pardner?” Deke asked again. He knew his time was almost up for this earth.” he sneered. He had to do something. what they call seeing red. His body hurt something fierce. “Out.” Tom hung his head in desperation.” Tom pulled himself the rest of the way out of the limestone wall and stood up. It was the last shot his left hand would ever make. punk. and Deke fired. you are. We’re gonna finish this right quick. “Always a smartaleck too. Within his very soul suddenly surged an inhuman rage.” Deke retorted. not a lingering one that would take him days to die.

He fired the gun. with Deke’s screams echoing behind him. He peeked around the corner of the tunnel he was in to see if the man was out or not yet. Sure as hell. and his whimpering moans echoed around the cavern. With a bloody explosion the man’s nose broke. and charged down the tunnel into the roomy cavern he discovered earlier. one came barreling down his tunnel. He reached it. The man emerged from the tunnel. a small hole . he hit the man in the shoulder. and with a surprised look on his face. Good. He swiftly bypassed the roomy interior and chose the left tunnel. where he would have some cover in the slight arc of its turn. The two hired Mexicans jumped down into the tunnel.Tom’s feet. give me time to corner him. He walked up to the man and kicked him in the face. There was another cry of pain and surprise. He picked it up. intending to finish him off. Nope. He figured that one each would take a tunnel. then dropped flat on the sand. He could hear the Mexicans coming. he told himself. He walked past the man and went looking for his partner. following him. and Tom got up.

a calmer mood overcame him and he just slunk wearily into the sand. His horse was still there. His sword had gone clean through the man’s hand. All that remained was a spot of blood on the sand. his back up against a boulder. and he assumed the third was gone. Soon he stood up. He emerged into sunlight. He walked back out to the entrance. and had to blink his eyes. and he left it lying there. and felt a little better. I should go and finish him off. He climbed up out of there and quickly crawled on all fours to the cave entrance. following the blood trail. thought Tom. and he just slumped soundlessly to the sand floor. The blood trail he was leaving left little doubt that he wouldn’t make it to town to get patched up. and struck a match to light it. ridden off by Deke. tied up to the old gnarled tree. He inhaled deeply. But he was gone. rolled a cigarette. But no.appeared in his forehead. . He would deserve it. almost severing it completely. the smoke burning his throat but calming him down. The six-gun fell from his fingers. got his whiskey flask and tobacco pouch out. thought Tom. then looked up to make sure he wouldn’t run into Deke again. He took a slug of whiskey. But two other horses were still there. the odds are a bit better now. Okay.

Many tales existed of their sailors. and the other one wouldn’t be in any shape to take him on anytime soon. exactly. and many losing their lives for their efforts. that design. and despised killing unless absolutely necessary. He knew he’d already killed one man. But then he remembered the stories about the Spanish doubloons that were lost to the seas all those decades ago. and end it now. and the one now in his hand looked very similar. desperately trying to fight the ferocity of the storms. he would be hell-bent for revenge. Anger would blind him until he killed Tom. just how much and how close am I to this supposed treasure. Maybe he should ride out and find him.He knew that if Deke made it to town somehow. He couldn’t help but wonder. The storekeeper had said it was genuine. Where had he seen that shape. so he gave the coin in his pocket some thought. how many of their ships had run into foul weather and had sunk. But that’s not the way he worked. . before? He couldn’t remember. how shiny it was. most likely a most agonizing and horrible death. if it exists? Is this coin in his hand the proof he needed. He was generally an honest man. He remembered seeing one in a coin shop back home.

or was it from some other expedition of the Spaniards? He got up. He took his rifle out of it scabbard and made sure there was a round in the chamber. The fire was down to some . just in case. and sat back again. The animals hunkered down. He nursed the flames back to life. the sun was down low in the west already. there’s no point in trying to go back into the tunnels tonight. and with it all the living things on and around it. Lost complete track of it. Once again. he thought. It can wait until first light. He fell sound asleep with his rifle across his lap. and soon the stars came out. Then he sat down to relight his campfire. finished his smoke. The stars were still shining brightly above his head. he mused. Well. with it getting dark. then got up. How time flew by. A wind came moaning down off the mountain. blowing the flames of the fire and sending embers scattering about. It was still night time when he woke up. and took a deep breath. bright and beautiful in an ink-black sky. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs. took another drink of his whiskey. the mountain settled down for the night. By god. and put the flask back in his saddlebags. signifying the end of another day in the desert.

This treasure hunting gig wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. He looked up at the stars. playing the day before in his mind over and over again. and soon one would be pushing up daisies in Boot Hill. His stomach was growling. Some people made it sound a . He wished that there existed that kind of peace down here. he threw some more sticks on it and watched as they caught the flame and relit. Someone would take offense to what someone else said or did. He poured himself some water for coffee. he put into the small pot to boil for coffee. With some more water from his canteen. and marveled at just how peaceful it looked. But that wasn’t the human way. Then he sat down once again. and then realized just how hungry he was. this is. Crazy world. He hadn’t eaten in over a day. He took out his tobacco pouch and rolled a smoke. and retrieved his saddlebags.glowing coals. He got up and went over to his horse. to give him the energy he’d need to get through another day. Crazy world. and he figured he’d better eat something. he thought to himself. He decided he’d need some coffee and a smoke. then lit it.

and eased himself over the edge until his foot found contact with one of the boards that was still embedded in the limestone wall. He took some salt pork out of his bag and put it in a little frypan to cook. He sat contentedly smoking. Biscuits would complement the meal. Once done.helluva lot easier than it was. and wrapped some cloth around the end of it. It woke him up. He soon reached the room where the tunnels branched off. started the day off just right. enjoying the bite of the tobacco in his throat. sticking the end into the fire. and with a hot cup of coffee. and with a satisfied burp. but he wanted to get an early start in the tunnel. He got down. he’d start looking where he’d found the coin the day before. and was looking at him with a mean. . and started on his way. grabbed another stick to use for a torch. Once he got back inside the tunnels. He decided he’d heat up some more beans too. Tom finished his smoke. He reached the spot where he fell down. The man he’d shot in the shoulder had dragged himself out into this room. rolled a smoke. he got down on all fours to go back into the tunnel. He finished his meal.

the tunnels branched off in all four directions of the compass. His pulse quickened. he had walked about twenty feet in when something shiny materialized yet again on the ground. torch held before him. The next one didn’t promise any more than the first two. He turned around and came back. and when it did. He entered the second one and only got about fifty feet when it dropped into a pool of dark. to work his way clockwise around these four tunnels. and slowly made his way farther into the dark void.crazy I’m going to kill you scowl. Soon this tunnel started sloping down slightly. Gradually it leveled off. cold water. so he kept going the way he came from. but his hopes were soon dashed when he picked up the tiny sliver of glass that had been laying there. But in the last one. This tunnel petered out after a couple of hundred feet. Nothing yet. He threw it down disgustedly and continued on his way. Which one to take? He figured he might as well take the straight in approach. He arrived at the spot where the coin had been found. Soon he had gone another hundred feet when something shiny caught his eye. He ignored him and entered the left tunnel. just like the other one. He bent .

and noticed something hanging from its neck. trying to spot any indication of a door or opening of some kind. the bones laying in the dust for God knows how long. Within the next two hundred feet he found three more of the gold coins. Cobwebs surrounded the figure. He pocketed it. and kept going forward. and it was half covered in the fine dust of the tunnel floor. and he rubbed . He soon came to the end of this tunnel. He had to find something! He couldn’t believe that it would end like this. he thought to himself. Maybe this rumor isn’t a rumor at all. He almost dropped the torch with what the light showed. He had stumbled upon a long dead man.over to pick it up. and sure enough it was another of those coins. He reached out. and retrieved what appeared to be a chain with a funny looking locket on the end of it. He looked again at the long-dead person. his lust for gold overcoming his fear of the dead. It was in the shape of a half-moon. it’s been worth it. with just these five coins. and the tunnel turned to the left. He continued on. Cursing. He watched it nervously as he scooted past. he looked at the carved wall. Holy shit.

But the chain really perplexed him. so he did some thinking while carefully riding down the trail back towards the canyon entrance. Who was the man that he had taken it from? Was he an important historical figure. and loaded his gear on his horse. He needed supplies and the rest of his money was gone. and rode back down the trail they came up. and the only way he could do that would be to head back to town. each the same as the other. They had some strange unfamiliar shapes on them. He pocketed the jewelry and made his way back the way he had come. with some lettering he couldn’t identify. unlucky soul who got trapped in the caves doing the very thing he was doing? Should he say anything or not? He figured he didn’t have much choice in the matter. and a few other items. He tried to open the locket. He figured he’d need a pick. He mounted his horse. . It would take until nightfall to reach town. heading back into town. but the tiny hinge was too encrusted with years of grime and dirt to open freely. another canteen. He would try the doctor first.the corroded metal with his thumb. revealing the letter S in Spanish script. He’d found five gold coins. It would have to be cleaned. some more food. a shovel. Perhaps the bartender or the town doctor could help him in the identification of them. or just a poor. He finally reached the cave entrance.

he said he did. That didn’t set too well with some folks. now he had all the proof he needed in his pockets. He remembered the barkeep telling him that they at least had hidden the treasure before they were all massacred. and . He couldn’t prove any of it. The barkeeper was the first to notice him. Tom didn’t say anything. “I want a drink. He reached the outskirts of town. Well. If these coins existed. but it was just hearsay. then surely the rest of the treasure couldn’t be too far away. who thought that maybe this new youngster ought to be strung up. Five coins that should prove to anyone that the treasure did indeed exist. and some townspeople came running. tied it up. he stopped his horse in front of the saloon. how did it go?” he asked.and perhaps the old gentleman would be so kind as to keep his mouth closed about the gold. Tom sure didn’t need the publicity. “Hey. depending on how far the Spaniards had made it with their treasure. he said. But he also added that he was protecting what was his from a bandit. and went in. He felt that he was close on the trail to finding the mother lode. stranger. One shouted out if he had indeed stabbed Deke Harrington. just smacked his hand on the bar. He didn’t care at the moment.

” he said. but his evidence was mighty thin. Deke? He died two days ago. He came into my office and I tried to save him. thought Tom. After all. There were about ten other men in there. and they knew exactly what was going on. and Deke’s father owned the town.keep ‘em coming!” he said.” Well. this was indeed a chink in the armor. there was just no way for me to do that. Well. but he lost quite a bit of blood. and his daddy’s lookin’ for revenge. Who were they going to believe? He would just have to prove it. just keep him out of his way. to prove that he was wounded when he came into town. getting an evening drink. Tom was a bit perplexed. that spoke volumes to all who were in the saloon. plus the testimony of the bartender. that’s all. “Well son. he did try to dry-gulch him. . you seem to be in a pretty good mood considering. He hadn’t meant to kill the man. He would have to hope that the doc would testify for him. The town doctor was in here. They were ready for an all-out lynching! What the hell was he going to do? He was a stranger. “The man you stabbed. “What do you mean?” he asked. But the townsfolk didn’t want to hear it.

his story was mighty thin. out at my original claim.” “Look sheriff. son. Tom couldn’t believe it. “Son. those men tried to hang me out yonder awhile back. He figured he’d swing for this. proof that might be extremely hard to come across.All in all. so he would have to find some proof. Well son. Who would believe that they tried to kill him at his first claim? Nobody would. Harrington sees it. “You killed his boy. I didn’t murder anyone. see?” Tom showed him the mark on his neck. a stocky man with a cool but cautious demeanor. I was hung out to dry. and he aims to see you swing. don’t prove that they tried to hang you. He was drinking his third whiskey when the sheriff came in.” stated Tom without much effect. I have to take you in on a murder charge. “Sheriff. I even have the neck burn here. sure as shit. “ How the hell can you charge me with murder when I was defending myself?” “Ain’t the way Mr. you have to believe me.” answered the sheriff. and he pretty much gets his way around these parts. please.” he said. Murder? “Sheriff. Him and two hired hands tried to kill me once before. that just proves you have a wound on your neck. “ he retorted. No one in . He tried to kill me.

and the sheriff put the manacles on his wrists. especially if they owed the banker. he went for his gun. The sheriff pulled out his manacles to cuff Tom. He was laying on his cot in the city jail. “ said Doc Wallace. he didn’t mean to kill anyone. get it into the open. “ added the bartender. turned around. In sheer panic. don’t make this any harder than it already is.” “Ya know.” the sheriff said. and there ain’t nobody gonna stop me.” “Yes.” Tom saw that he was not going to win this one. “Whoa there son. he did. son. but they . he thought.” “No it don’t. Sheriff. which most folks did. “But I wouldn’t put it past those snakes!” “Either way you’re comin’ with me. “Let’s go and talk to the judge. “ said the Sheriff. and I was just preserving what was mine.town would help him out. Might as well do this the legal way. “What the hell you think you’re doin?” “I’m getting out of here. Even the doc’ll tell you that. maybe we can figure this all out. Sheriff. “but that doesn’t prove that Deke and his boys did it. “he did come in here pretty cut up the other day. Hopefully he wouldn’t be swinging in the breeze come midnight. Hell. “Now let’s go and don’t make it any worse for yourself.” he said sardonically. I didn’t kill that man. He put his gun on the bar. If you can’t see that you’re as blind as a bat!” “Come on. son.” he agreed.

started the shit. somehow. and he finished it. “What do you think my chances are?” “Unless you have some kind of proof those men tried to kill you. He looked around. about eight feet by eight feet square. He sat in a small cell.” he said without malice. Sheriff. wondering if the sheriff would be kind enough to offer him a cup. I wouldn’t give you . when the door opened. that these men had tried to kill him first. but didn’t see anyone there. Now he just had to prove. He surveyed his surroundings. “Figured you could use a cup of joe. gently taking the proffered cup between the bars and sitting down on the rusty creaky bunk to drink it. and the sheriff came in with a steaming mug of coffee. He briefly thought about banging on the bars or yelling. but with the predicament he was currently in it probably wouldn’t help much. What could he use for evidence that they had started all of this? He thought about it some more. He could smell a pot of coffee on the small potbellied stove.” he said. “Much obliged. with bars on three sides of him. Tom thought about how he could prove that those men had nearly dry-gulched him at his claim. and he killed in self-defense.

and I hope you understand my reasoning. “My hands are tied. I shot one man dead. I’ve a good hunch that there’s a hidden stash of gold and other things up in the mountains. What could he do to prove his innocence? “Well.” He saw his reasoning. the smell of the coffee strangely reassuring. He was in a pickle this time. I talked to the judge. and another I left with a . If you let me out. never to return. I’ll take you up there and prove that to you. If you can come up with some evidence or something. I’m gonna tell you somethin’. about the last one he could come up with at the moment. “kinda hard to prove my self-defense claim in here. You are in there for murder. son. Sheriff. However. “Sheriff.a chance in hell.” Tom mulled that over. you need to do it quick. If he let him out to find proof. he knew. and no respectable judge would just let you out so you can take off. son. he could just as well get on his horse and beat feet out of town. That’s the second place that Deke and his guns tried to lynch me. and you have until midnight tomorrow to show some evidence that those men tried to kill you first. he had a lot of reasons to stay. “ he said finally. isn’t it?” The sheriff agreed. so he tried one more idea.

But I’d be willing to share the treasure if you think its worth it.” “Don’t believe you.” Tom reached into his pocket.bullet in the shoulder. and produced one of the gold coins.” replied the sheriff.” The look on Tom's face spoke volumes. “You need to prove that. son. He took it and weighed it with his hands. to prove the validity that the coin was real. The imprint it made proved to him that it was indeed gold. I have four more that I have hidden. “I'm not that stupid. do we have a deal or don’t we?” Tom asked the lawman. because at the moment he had no one else he could rely on. . Then.” The sheriff just whistled through his teeth. “Is this proof enough for you. “Well. “No sir. If you let me out.” he said sardonically. Sheriff?” The sheriff’s eyeballs got about twice their normal size when he laid them on the coin. “I don't think so. too. Sheriff. I can take you to the tunnels where I found those coins. I was told there was a Spanish expedition that hid several fortunes worth of gold and jewels up in the hills. took a bite of the coin. “Is this it?” Tom decided he could trust the man. and I found these in one of the tunnels I went through.

You’ll get a good rubdown then. They hurt like they were on fire. and he desperately needed medical attention. “We’ll rest once we get to town. and he blinked the sand out of his eyes. and a few stars were still in the brightening early morning sky. and makes it that much harder. boy. my body hurts in places that I didn’t know existed. because his body was getting weaker and . My God. But he couldn’t do that until he reached town. but wasn’t far off from rising. The sun was still below the horizon.” He stretched out as much as his wounds would let him. He wanted to get as much distance as he could while it was still cool outside. He mounted up. The heat just saps the strength out of man and beast. patting the animal on the nose.” he said. and with a click they were off.Chapter 7 He awoke. He reached over and shook his boots. “Easy. He needed to make time today. and hopefully by mid-day he would be there. He didn’t need a scorpion bite in addition to being shot. he thought. and slowly got to his feet. His horse turned his way when it heard him moving and snorted a little. The sun was still below the horizon. He pulled them on.

He grabbed the horse’s . He’d make it one way or another. He started to hope that he was closer to Borderland. and figured he’d need to call the coroner. He felt halfdead. Sand was also blown along with the loose scrub. and probably looked the worse for wear. His body hurt. and some tumbleweeds bounced along uneven paths. He had to. He held onto the pommel of his saddle and let the horse lead. One hour passed. it would get into every bodily opening that existed.weaker. smelling the finish line. and as weak as he was. Soon they pulled up on the main street. three. This man looked half dead. He urged the buckskin on with his spurs. then two. with a bloody shirt and a face that was long ago tanned by the desert sun. Their course was set by the dry. The hostler took one look at him. and he headed straight to the livery to get his horse taken care of. He was wide awake now. The sun rose steadily higher and it started to get hot. and if one wasn’t careful. and the horse started to trot. Dust devils whirled their dance in the distance. he was surprised that he didn’t fall out of the saddle. dusty winds that blew through this area. Soon in the distance he could see some white shapes dancing in the heat waves of the desert air.

” he offered in assistance.” he answered. “Can I help you?” she asked. and found the doctor’s office. “Yes. “Stranger. The doc’s office is just up the street. “Is he busy now?” .reins. The hostler caught it. took a bite.” she said very rudely. sir. “Here’s for the horse. The man just looked at him. and grabbed the sacks of gold. He reached into one of them and withdrew a coin. and dropped out of the saddle. He just looked at her.” he said. “The doctor’s busy. He opened the door. eyeing him up and down. Make sure he’s taken care of. and pulled out another gold coin. his boots echoing on the wooden planks. and took slight amusement in the way her nose turned up at him. and pocketed his earnings. He didn’t go far. mumbled a thanks. He looked at her politely and smiled. and the woman behind the counter looked at him in disdain. He reached in the saddlebags. “Need to see the doc. sir!” John looked around town. you look mighty bad. and stepped onto the boardwalk. reached into a pocket. you’ll have to come back later. “Yes.” he said. flipping the man the coin. and squinted his eyes. on the right.

“judging by how you were banged up. cleaned the wounds with antiseptic.She just eyeballed that coin. “That’s about all I can do for you. and stepped back. taping them onto his skin to keep them from falling off. The doctor was quick and thorough. He eyed the man who had just walked into his office.” he added. slightly balding. doc. appeared at the desk. “How much?” he asked. He removed the old bandages. and took out several coins. Soon a middle-aged man. seeing as infection had started to set in. “Put your shirt back on. and proceeded to clean the wound to prevent gangrene. reached into his pocket.” “Five dollars!” he stammered. The doctor finally finished. Finally he just grinned. I want five dollars. He scraped off the scab. that was a lot of money. John gasped when he poured the antiseptic on it. “Well. He took a bit more time with his arm wound. and proceeded to put his instruments in a soak of alcohol. “There you are. and re-bandaged them. and hurried to the back room.” he said.” said the doctor. and urged him to follow him into his exam room. John did as he was told.” . He couldn’t believe it. son. He walked to the front of the office to pay the man what he owed him for fixing him up. and got up off the exam table. making John wince.

stranger.” John just looked at him. The door opened. son?” asked the doctor. they did. He was eyeing his handiwork. savoring the moment. “Looks like my boys got to you.” said John. He knew he was in trouble now. “Yeah. “You alright. He turned around to walk out of the office. favoring his shoulder. pardner.” . Lamont stalked out.he said. I think you do. feeling his adrenaline kick in. “I’ve been waiting for you. “What was that about?” “Yessir. not all banged up as he was. “Tomorrow at noon. in the street. You have something of mine. He looked at the bandages the doctor had put on. “Hello.” he said. Bud. “That man stole what was mine.” he said. “ said Bud with a leer.” “Yeah.” said John. If his eyes could get any more evil-looking. With that. Bud gave off a look that dripped hate. and only two of ‘em lived to tell about it. and there stood Bud Lamont. winged or not. and John knew he’d been had. he would’ve bet against it. and slammed the door. and I’m not about to back down from him.” “I don’t think so. “ he said. An evil grin was on his face. “Tomorrow at noon. There was no way he could outdraw Lamont.

walked in. It was a small room. Especially for tomorrow. either. and ordered a drink. and he dozed off. tossing fitfully.He walked across the dusty street to the saloon. Soon the whiskey worked on his brain. Upstairs. Okay. and ordered some grub. He didn’t want to die hungry. He sat heavily on the bed. and took his hat off. minding their . he thought. and a window facing the street. He walked down the stairs. and grabbed his gunbelt. The next day dawned bright and hot. He opened the door. He didn’t want to be ambushed. complete with a well-worn bed. He was dead-tired. The cook hurried back to make up his food. He sat in a chair by the window. He gave the man his money. and looked around. He walked over.” he said to the bartender. wiping his brow. he thought. and needed his rest. looked out the window. He walked up the steps and found his room. The man just motioned with his hands. and pointed his index and middle fingers up. John got up. watching the townspeople walk by. pulled his boots on. Two dollars. with dreams of bullets flying in his mind. I can handle that. “I need a room for the night. dresser with a bowl of water on it. and was given a room key in return.

His boots echoed on the boardwalk. It was 11:30. His arm and shoulder still hurt. not that trail chuckwagon stuff. and already a crowd had gathered to watch. and sat back in his chair and enjoyed the moment. and he had maybe half an hour to live. for it may be his last. Would he be able to outdraw Lamont? He wasn’t sure. and realized that he’d slept way too much. . and savored the taste of real coffee. and he stalked out into the dusty street like he owned it. perhaps his final moments as a person. He looked around. He might as well enjoy this meal. waiting like hungry lions for the meat to be tossed to them. adjusted his belt. The cook came out with a plate of eggs. especially with the shape he was in. He untied the thong around his revolver.own business. which read 10:45. That made him angry. He rolled himself a smoke. and walked out of the saloon. along with a steaming cup of coffee. and saw perhaps three dozen people there watching. Soon he would be either alive or dead. and sat back contentedly watching the smoke curl up towards the ceiling. but he wasn’t concerned about that at the moment. and toast. He ate hungrily. bacon. He finished his breakfast. He noticed the town clock.

dressed in his usual black outfit. and John vowed to do everything he could. about twenty yards away. He walked to the center of the street. John felt a hot flash on his right side. Soon Bud Lamont showed up. Both men stood facing each other. because he’s fighting a wounded man. A few souls yelled encouragement to him. he was going to give him the best he could do. He licked his lips again. He didn’t have to wait too long. awaiting his destiny. He was focused on one thing: killing Bud Lamont. his mouth dry. The clock ticked away. he’d either be dead or alive. and the crowd grew anxious. John thought. Both men went for their weapons. Everything happened in . he thought. No maybes. his stomach full of butterflies. and his tongue felt thick in his mouth. but most of them were on the gunfighter’s side. but he ignored them. Bud Lamont stopped in the middle of the street. The clock ticked closer to noon.There were a few catcalls and whoops from the crowd. just here or not. Well. The clock edged closer towards noon. He had a smirk on his face. and fired his weapon. Overconfident. and he licked his lips. and soon noon struck. With the strike of noon. and swaggering like he owned the town. or at least winging him.

At that. shaking his head. Blood spurted everywhere. and had been shot again. and Lamont’s lifeblood was draining out onto the dusty street. and waited. trying to get him to his feet.” With that. totally exhausted and worn out. He was still alive. and looked at the gathering crowd. He was given a stern look by the doctor. and soon found himself in the doctor’s office again.slow motion. “I don’t know how you did it. He stood up. and exited out his neck. but you beat one of the better gunfighters in this part of the West. Doc. He had been shot again. but not accurately. He collapsed into the street. ya know that?” he asked him. he passed out cold.” “Just lucky I guess. “Just lucky. He staunched the flow of blood on John’s new wound with a clean cloth. and looked at the body. He was vaguely aware of what was going on. Several people broke from the crowd to check on the downed gunfighter. . He was on one knee in the dust. “Yer damn lucky. The doctor hurried over. He had won. The bullet he fired entered Bud Lamont’s throat.” he said with a wry grin on his face. He just shook his head. John just fell to his knees. and soon the doctor and several townspeople clustered around him. and he dropped to his knees.

He would often be found chewing on the kitchen table. In a couple of years Eliza became pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. he was used to working hard every day and making the most out of what life had given him. It was no different when he grew older. with just the house and an old ramshackle stable. who they named Lilly after her maternal grandmother. They worked. or anything else that .John Peppers was a simple man. He married while still in his mid-twenties. The impish little grin that she gave her parents charmed them and their neighbors as well. which was more a lean-to than anything. Within several years they had enough money to put down on some ranch land of their own. She loved the attention. Only the time and place were different. chairs. him for a local rancher and her for a bookkeeper in town. to a beautiful redhead named Eliza Wilson. But John tore it down and replaced it with a regular stable. He had curly blonde hair and loved to get into everything. Soon they had several horses and were saving money for some cattle.’ Three years after Lilly came Matthew. was what one would call a ‘Daddy’s girl. Everything was looking good for the young couple. It was small at first. After that the plan was to buy more ranch land and increase their herd. They were well on their way. and saved every dime they made. Born on a farm.

alongside a canyon that he thought of purchasing and using the valley below for grazing. He walked over the canyon wall again and again. he knew a vein of gold when he saw it. She was right. He hastily packed his equipment and tied it to his horse. Not too long afterward some men who claimed they were looking for jobs stopped by the house when John was in town buying up supplies.happened to be laying around the house. By the time he got back to the ranch house he was as out of breath as his mount was. One day. and tied her and the children up inside the house. Then they torched the place. He told his wife what he had found. She was suspicious of it though. laughing . Something seemed different about this for some reason. One had to be careful where one left their belongings while visiting the Peppers’ residence. John was out surveying some property adjacent to his. He fairly jumped off the animal’s back and went rushing into the house. They tortured and raped Eliza. Although by no means a miner or geologist. And the vein he spotted that day turned out to be his undoing. said it would bring only trouble.

Every . clearly marking the graves. hoping the supplies stayed in the wagon as he bounced over the ruts in the road. It was nothing but a pile of stone and ash. He went back into town. His grief was so great he even thought of taking his own life. He urged his mounts even faster. long time. it was gone. He buried his wife and children under the big oak tree in their front yard. Then he would have time to rest. He must seek revenge upon those that had done this heinous act. just putting the end of his pistol to his temple and firing. John just sank to his knees and cried for a long. He dug some dishes and cups out of the charred remains of his house. He jumped off the seat and walked towards what was once his and his wife’s and it was then he saw the three charred bodies leaning up against what was left of the fireplace.as the flames licked at the wooden structure and listening to the screams of those three souls inside being burned alive. their bodies swinging in the breeze. John smelled the smoke. By the time he got to the house. But that wouldn’t bring them back. On the way home. this time buying an entire barrel of whiskey. along with a few strands of clothing. He would not rest until those filthy swine were caught and hung.

He had gone through anything that he might use on his journey. One day he was drinking and walked past the graves of his family. Herb Dolland. It would be just a matter of time. paying slightly higher than market value just to try and help the man . His grief was drowned by the fiery liquid. He and Eliza had about $2000 in the bank. He also made a thousand dollars on the sale of his herd of cattle to his neighbor to the south. that to go without for even one day would be so bad for him that he felt he couldn’t make it through the day. some supplies. hardly eating. He would use this money to live on while he was on his mission. daughter. He said goodbye to his wife. which wasn’t much. He felt genuinely sorry for John and took the herd off his hands. It was then that he realized he needed the whiskey. and the more he had the more he enjoyed it. and son and with his horse. which he would withdraw and close the account. and his six-gun left his ranch. and soon his body was so enamored to the amber liquid that he would get sick if he didn’t have it. determined to find who was responsible for this massacre. When he did only God could help them.day he woke up drinking.

The desert was playing weird tricks on his mind. Eliza was definitely afraid of no one. One piece that he had dug from the remains of his home he had tied around his neck. watching a dust devil wind its way slowly amongst the tumbleweeds and cactus plants. He was so proud of her and his heart ached that she was gone.out. man nor beast. So he had about three thousand dollars in which he would use to avenge his family’s slaughter. with her red hair and green eyes. he thought he would be driven mad. He remembered how beautiful she was. Her voice would rise a little and then she would chew your ears off. Her Irish heritage clearly showed through when she was mad. It was one of his wife’s brooches that she had received from her grandmother when they were . He swore he could almost hear her voice on the soft wind. She always had a smile on her face. He shook his head vigorously and lowered his hat a little more down over his eyes to prevent the sand from blowing in them. when his mind focused sharply on his wife. no matter how bad the situation was. He was riding through the desert and sagebrush one day. too. sighing gently past him and swirling in and amongst the brush and rocks of the buttes and canyons.

He finally made his way to the bar. out in the distance was the distinctive sound of the steam whistle. It was a small town. . About three hours later he swore he could’ve heard a locomotive whistle. He made sure his horse drank his fill. and he followed the trail down from the hill into the eastern part of town. if need be. with the railroad running right through the middle. and sure enough. His main concern. He thought once he reached town he could get another horse to use for a pack mule. After all that time in the desert. he was thirsty. Once he reached the top of the trail. Originally he only took some small samples from the vein and hid the rest with some rocks and scrub brush. Off to his right was a narrow canyon draw he could just go into and make sure he wasn’t seen. It had false-front buildings along both sides of the street. The memory of his family almost made him give up. As he walked in.married. He must be getting closer to another town. he noticed that the place was packed. he ignored the stares of the townspeople and tied his horse up in front of the saloon. and ordered himself a drink. he could look down into the town below and plan his entry and escape. He would try to make himself as invisible as possible so as to not scare off the men he was tracking. About fifty feet into the draw it narrowed down to two arms-length width between the two walls towering a hundred feet above him. He rose up in the saddle and started off once again. He stopped his horse. and maybe go back and dig into that vein of gold he had found. dancing and drinking. then filled his canteens. It smelled of smoke. but he would swear that he could almost smell her perfume on it also. but he swore revenge upon those who had committed this atrocious act upon helpless human beings. As he entered. He found himself weaving between people talking. were the bandits who had murdered his family and burned his ranch to the ground. He stopped his horse and just listened. though.

John learned that tonight was the celebration of the signing of the city’s charter. mining magnate and investor in railroads.” he said thickly. “Come on. John could tell that he needed to get to his room before he passed out. his tongue now starting to catch that whiskey glow.” Sir Archibald just looked at him with bleary eyes and said nothing. he fit right in with this crowd. I have the money to pay for it. he found himself in conversation with an older man on his left. “I need to find a room.” said John. mister.” he said finally to Sir Archibald. please.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. and finally made it into the fresh air and onto the boardwalk.” he said drunkenly to the man at the desk. He was staggering and slipping along the bar. and the line at the bar was long. “Look. These men must be found and must be made to account for their crimes. The way he felt. Sir Archibald was not. In a minute it seemed to sink in to what John had said. old bean. . “Seriously. Everyone was getting blissfully and annoyingly drunk. “seriously. It nearly floored both of them. “I’ll take you to your room while I get one for me. Although John was far from having a thick tongue. After ten drinks.” said John. I find your story absolutely horrible. He got a baleful eye in return. trying to keep his composure.” mumbled Sir Archibald in a drunken stupor.” “Yes. one Sir Archibald Kreasy. an anniversary so to speak. and he pointed across the street. “I’d like a room for the night.” The two men wound their way through the crowd. I don’t care what you think of me. and John walked up to the reception desk. where there was a hotel. it was time to find a table. Soon they made it across the street to the Guild Hall. Off in one corner of the saloon were four men playing cards. “I have to leave early in the morning. He even lost two drinks to the floor when the glass dropped out of his fingers. The two men were talking together like they had known each other for years. “Cross the street is the Guild Hall.After the sixth drink. now weaving crazily to and fro. and that’s why I’ve made it my life’s work to go after them.

He watched as the man in front of him picked them up and headed up the stairs. though. “Yes. he was so nervous. John walked a bit unsteadily into the room and Howard closed the door behind him. something his wife was trying to eliminate from his psyche. and proceeded to uncork his bottle of whiskey again. Much better. and he reached under his counter and grabbed his own bottle. He quickly walked him towards the bed and flopped him down on it. He popped the cork out and took a long swallow. smelling the strong odor of alcohol on his breath as well. “Where in the hell is this man’s room?” asked John. walked back down the steps to his place behind the counter. He quickly took Sir Archibald’s arm from John’s and proceeded down the left hallway. . He was still conscious and walking without aid. He was prejudging again.The eyeballs of the reception attendant just about popped out of their sockets. He left and closed the door quietly while the snores from the passed out patron followed him. “Your room is up the stairs. sir. and third door on the left. helping an enebriated gentleman whom everyone knew as Sir Archibald to his own room.” He dropped them while trying to hand them to John. The two of them smelled of whiskey. and as he opened the door. and was soon blissfully asleep. Luckily his room was the first one on the right. right away sir. Soon a voice hollered down from the top of the stairs. raced around the corner and up the steps two at a time to prevent the two drunken men from falling down the stairs and breaking their necks. John plopped down onto the squeaky bed. He then led John to his room. recapping it and placing it back under the countertop. He also felt like an idiot. He found the door and opened it for him. much better.” he stammered. trying to hold up Sir Archibald while trying not to fall down the stairs himself. He handled his booze a lot better than Sir Archibald did. The reception attendant. whose name was Howard. he thought to himself. pointing him in. to the right. turning around and fumbling with a set of keys. Sir Archibald let loose a loud belch.

” “I don't understand. he wiped his mouth off. and waited patiently for them to cook his meal. “ said John. so he let it drop for now. . drawing his pistol. “It’s a warrant for your arrest. he said to himself. He moved outside into the bright sunshine and onto the boardwalk. “Let’s not have any trouble now.John awoke to a new day with the sun peeking through his window. and hoped that no one would find it. and went with the man quietly. and found that everything was accounted for. He sat down in a wooden chair. perplexed.” answered the man. he thought to himself. The sheriff was limping towards him with an envelope in his hands. He was motioned to sit down in front of a large wooden desk that had seen better years. shuffling them together and putting them in a drawer he had pulled out.” said the sheriff. Good. counted it. Just then he heard a shout behind him. He kept it in a hidden pocket of his jacket. and walked out of the restaurant towards where his horse had been stabled for the night. When he was finished. When the man finally got to him. He got up out of bed and made sure he had all his money. mister. He took it out. one less problem to worry about. Directly across the street was a restaurant. the air was cooler. nice and easy-like.” John could tell that he was deadly serious about this. On it were assorted papers scattered here and there with a large blotter covering most of the wood. Once inside the jailhouse. “What’s this?” he asked. paid his bill. He walked downstairs after gathering his belongings and paid his room tab. “You need to come with me. to which John casually opened. The sheriff took his seat behind the desk and started moving papers around. along with some hot coffee to wash it all down. “Just come with me. he handed him the envelope. He thought steak and eggs would be a good choice this morning. His head hurt and his throat was dry. Too much whiskey again. and he walked over to get himself some breakfast before he headed out of town.

” said John. noting the anger on John’s face. “let’s see if we can’t figure this little problem out. “What do you want?” he asked him. He had to find some way to get a bottle in here. and he’ll identify you one way or the other. Of course he didn’t think that they would. no sirree bob! “Hey! Hey out there!” he shouted. He put his belongings down on the desk and followed the deputy into the back where the cells were. Then the big wooden door swung inwardly just a little bit. he thought. He was in a pickle now. mister. “I need a drink. but he had to try. because of the anger he had for them.” he said. for now. Locked up and no place to go. and the deputy’s head poked through the opening. The only thing was is that they probably wouldn’t let him have a bottle in here. and the shakes would soon be coming on him. Then his day would really get miserable. And to top it off I might get myself hung. I think we need to put you in lock up. If you are who you say you are. banging uselessly on the bars. He was led into the very back one. and the sheriff pulled his gun on him again. partner. I got a marshal coming in from Kansas City in two days’ time. They murdered his family. At this rate. He was being misidentified as a horse thief and murderer. How’s about a bottle of whiskey comin’ my way?” . you’ll hang the next day. this wasn’t going to work at all. He couldn’t believe this was happening. at least his belly was full.” he said. If not. “Only until we get this figured out.” He could see that he had no choice. That would not be satisfactory with him.” John just looked at him. Two days to wait for the federal marshal to get here from Kansas City! Dammit. “I need a drink somethin’ fierce. and the deputy closed the bar door and locked it. looking up at John.“Now then. and he was the one they thought was a murderer! John got up to leave. “No sir. Then he went back out into the office and closed the big wooden door behind him. the real murderers would get away scot clean. just for looking like someone else. This isn’t working the way it should! Well. you’ll be free to go. “I want to talk to you for a minute!” No one answered.

but the fact that this man closely resembled the wanted criminal really dug into his craw. Not only had he wasted time coming here. The sheriff eyeballed the marshal. although he could see recent mortar where someone had tried to do just that. and the deputy came walking back towards him with a glass in one hand and a bottle in the other. He knew that the answer to his question would be an unqualified no. John said one word. He motioned to John to come out. “Well. the alcohol was giving him a warm glow. This couldn’t be the lawman from Kansas City. anyway? He’d rather be hung drunk than sober. If he was to hang. and found out he’d been in a hurry to identify John. followed by a tall. and from how long it took one guessed that he wasn’t finding it. “This won’t be too bad after all now. He looked around his surroundings.” The deputy looked at his boss. he moved in John’s direction and grabbed his chin.The deputy just shook his head and closed the door. After the fifth glass. because he didn’t feel that they would be as generous again. “You better be certain about . As the bars swung open. will it?” The deputy set down the glass and bottle just within his reach. knowing that the real murderer was still running free out there. The walls were about two feet thick to prevent any escape attempts. I’ll be damned!” he said. “This isn’t him.” he said with a little dissatisfaction in his voice. “Let this man free. He had taken the railroad. and turned around to leave. Then it hit him. with two cells on his left further up towards the wooden door. he thought. Sheriff. He smacked his lips and filled the glass. gaunt man with a silver badge on his chest. what the hell was the difference. Then the wooden door opened. and motioned for the sheriff to open the door. the door opened again. His cell was on the end of the hallway. turning it one way. intent on nursing the rest of the bottle throughout the night. and took him into the office to retrieve his belongings. Finally he let go of John’s chin. It was at least a two-day ride from here. and the sheriff walked in. The man looked at him. then the other. “Thanks!” He opened it and swallowed a third of it on the first try. He was looking for something that stood out. if that was to be his fate! A short while later. who nodded his head.

Les. After that one might as well hang up his guns. I guess you’re right at that.” “Not your fault.” “Nobody told me about those scars. and that man isn’t him. It wasn’t his fault that the description on the poster didn’t contain all the information that was needed to convict this man. We were wrong. Les made sure that John Peppers received everything that was taken from him and had him sign for it. I’ve seen Clem up close. An innocent man swinging or being locked up was trouble for a lawman’s career. he doesn’t have the scars on his chin from almost being drygulched by the Colton gang back in ’54. He limped towards his office. Jim walked up to him and patted him on the shoulder. It seemed like every time Jim saw his friend more and more wrinkles creased that leathery visage. we all make mistakes. because his career as a lawman was basically over. then came the talk. but there’s nothing I can do about it. “Otherwise I’d of let him ride free the first time around. we didn’t advertise those scars because Clem is a fugitive.” “I know. Les.” said the sheriff. especially if it was proven in court. I guess I’ll go out there and make sure he has all his belongings and let him go. “Well. “Don’t worry about it. if you say so. and sat behind his desk.” “Alright. Their word was then questioned. just like he was supposed to do. He realized that they had made a mistake. Les. I’d hate to send an innocent man to the gallows.this Jim” he said. he doesn’t have the hole in his earlobe. I’ll go with what you say. We figured that the wanted poster would be enough. First. His word meant nothing and his reputation was sullied forever. where he had to start a report on what had happened to keep it from happening again.” “Yeah. That man will be gone as soon as he’s on his horse. . and I need to apologize to that man.” said Les with a wry look on his face. Second. “There won’t be a second chance.” said Les.” he said finally. but how were they to know without all the proper information being put on the wanted poster? He did his job. You might want to do the same.

With the Federal Marshal coming in to identify him and set him free. but he had no scars on his chin from escaping from a rowdy bunch. He knew he didn’t do the crimes that this Clem Levens did. There was nothing else he could do. He was already a day late in his tracking and he needed to make some time to catch up to the men who had ruined his life. Not only did he not have a pierced earlobe like Levens did. bacon. Once he had everything bundled up. because winter . and some tobacco and added several bottles of whiskey to his trove as well. considering what Jim had told him. He figured that’s where the men would hide out. apparently. a free man. flour. to be free. but he had to prove it. Now he could continue the search for the men who had murdered his family.Then he let him go. Chapter 8 John felt alive again. He then mounted and reined the mustang around and headed north out of town towards the mountains that yearned in the distance. coffee. He bought the usual. he walked outside and tied everything up to his horse. He walked across the street and went into the general store to buy some supplies. he didn’t have to worry about being followed by the law.

and he had aches that he never thought he would ever feel. He rigged up a cooking surface and started to cook some bacon and flour to make tortillas. Being dependent upon alcohol on a daily basis had ruined his health. Only change the future. he got up and retrieved a whiskey bottle from his pack and sat down and slugged a good portion of it before he capped it and stared contentedly into the fire.would be coming soon to the highland areas and he wanted to make sure he could still track them. As the heat rose. and he needed to find a place to bed down for the night and give his horse some well deserved rest. No sense in reliving the past. He felt as if he let his family down by going into town by himself. His travels had taken him to a mountain range. and prepared his bedroll while his horse drank. . he thought. Then he gathered some sticks for firewood and soon had a small fire going. until the sun set in the west off to his left. when they all should have done so. Finally he found a spot under some aspen trees that was fairly flat and had a nice little pool of water from which his horse could drink. His body hurt. took the saddle off. but the thoughts he got while sober were too damning to keep reliving over and over again. He stopped there. On and on he rode.

looking for the elusive glint of light on metal to give his enemy’s position away. and a dust devil swirled among the tumbleweeds. He saw a few snakes amongst the scrub. He drew his pistol out of its holster and waited. but that was about it. A man in town told him that three men had rode off in this direction. Another whang of a bullet ricocheting off the rock wall behind him.That was the way that it had to be. He was sweating profusely now with the advent of the desert heat. The sun was high in the sky. either. and he threw himself flat onto . and not too long ago. The horizon shimmered in the desert heat. Simple. but he would do his damndest to make sure those responsible faced their judge and jury. His family was dead. Or was it a rifle barrel? He spurred his horse onto a faster gait and jumped off behind some boulders that had lain dormant for thousands of years. He took off his hat and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. So he decided he’d follow and see what kind of trail he could come up with. he noticed a flicker of light off to the south. and he would avenge their deaths. Stuffing it back in his pocket. It might take him forever.

and as soon as he reached the top he dropped flat on his stomach to survey his new ground. and fired in the general direction in which he had seen the sliver of light. with a rocky path on the left side of it. He peeked around the corner of the boulder. fired a shot. but it would be risky. He decided he had to chance it. He would be exposed all the way to the top. and was rewarded for his efforts with a bullet hitting the dirt in front of him. he was a dead man. He couldn’t see where the assailant was. then took off hell-bent for leather for the top of the abutment. Another bullet his way was the result. If he went to gather up the reins of his horse. but assumed that he was on top of the other side of the rock wall where he could hide himself well. .the desert floor. because there was no other way out. and behind him was a wall of limestone. John took another look. He took one last look around the corner of the boulder. He needed to find out where his assailant was. He had in front of him two good-sized boulders that provided good cover. He decided he would try to make it on top of the limestone. How the hell was he going to get out of this one? He surveyed his surroundings. Several shots whined in the dust behind him.

The man shooting at him was about three hundred yards away. He put his pistol on the ground in front of him. He sighted just a little above the man and pulled the trigger. They would shoot him down in cold blood if that’s what it took to silence him. and found what he was looking for. he figured. Of course. very slowly so as not to give whoever it was behind him a reason to shoot. probably from someone trying to hang . However. almost too far for his rifle to shoot accurately. There were a few good hiding spots but not many. He sighted his rifle between two rocks. The only difference was the style of clothing he wore and the earring in his left ear. but the man he faced could’ve been his twin.All around him was a scattering of rocks of all shapes and sizes. His neck was scarred up. and was rewarded with a rifle shot across his path. he had to try. “Hold it!” said a voice behind him. He didn’t much expect an answer. He quickly slid across on his stomach to one of the bigger rocks. He was rewarded when he saw the man drop. hands in the air. these men didn’t need any reason. “What do you want?” he asked as he turned around. with some scrub brush thrown in for good measure.

the gold that was buried out here a long time ago by Rebel sympathizers who didn’t want the money to go to the North during the Civil War.” “What do you mean. mister. “Who are you?” The other man just chuckled. “What gold?” Clem’s façade didn’t waver. What I am interested in is that rebel gold you have hidden somewhere. you’re me?” asked John.” said the man victoriously. “Finally get to meet the man who got to sit in jail in my place!” John just looked at him. except in . well. “Well now. I’m you. The man was the same height. I don’t have to say that I had a brother or not.him at one time or another. pardner. He swore he was standing in front of a mirror.” The man just chortled and kicked at the sand with the toe of his boot. “I never had a brother or a twin or whatever. and looked just like his mirror image. He was speechless for the first time in a long time.” John was puzzled.” John was dumbstruck. What was he talking about? He didn’t know about any gold out here. “What gold? Well. same weight. “You should know who I am. He didn’t know what to say. I really don’t know and could care less. well. “Well.

you’re going to help me and my boys to that loot. being dealt a crappy hand at poker. but the gun muzzle made him change his mind. then we’ll figure out what happens to you after that. Clem didn’t answer him. Apparently this man was up to no good and because he looked like him he was the one getting the worst of it. Hidden gold? Rebel sympathizers? What was going on around here? He wasn’t sure about anything. No one had ever heard of a lost treasure out in these lands before.” he said. John mentally took a step back and considered his situation. His mind was reeling. “Then your world will really come crashing down around you. there was one. Here he was. and together they sat down while Clem tried to explain to him what was going to happen. and the look on his face indicated he was quite serious about what he said. “First of all. But judging by the serious look on Clem’s face. He then walked back to John with the intention of tying him up. He walked backwards towards his horse and got the rope that was dangling from the pommel. John started to rise to his feet. The outlaw led John to a cave that was carved into the limestone walls of the canyon.” “What do you mean?” asked John.the mines themselves. still puzzled as to what was going on. The . and there was nothing he could do about it.

He had a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach and he closed his eyes and tried to think about all his options. He looked closer at Clem. and there weren’t very many. John was surrounded by three no-good evil men. and on his neck was what looked like a rope burn. Sonuvabitch! So he’d found his family’s killers. Clem went to the cave entrance and hollered out to his unseen partners. I have him!” Within ten minutes. Then he remembered something about the sheriff talking to the Federal marshal. something about a neck scar on a man.only thing he knew was that he had to get back on the trail to finding the men who murdered his family. They all had smirks on their faces and carried themselves with the arrogance of one who knows he’s won the battle. Somehow he had to get free from these men and get his guns back. That would be the only way to take care of these murderous thieves once and for all. The hole in his earlobe was there. come on in. Just perhaps… . He thought that maybe he could use that to his advantage. or rather. “Okay boys. they found him! Now what? How was he going to get himself out of this predicament? He thought about his options.

How could he possibly get free and get his pistol back? It looked pretty hopeless and he knew it was a long shot. He was thirsty. then looked at Clem.” . and he sorely wished for a tumbler full of whiskey right now.He outlined what was going on. The lack of alcohol lately caused him some problems. Freedom looked to be as far away as the nearest star in the heavens. It might help him think a little better. and if they did. he thought. they wouldn’t have any whiskey. He watched as they all shook their heads. He started to shake and his voice cracked with thirst. “Might be worth somethin’ to ya to have something with ya. The one thing that he did have going for him was the fact that they didn’t know that he was looking for them. He was surrounded by three armed and dangerous men. He just shook his head. He was tied up. Now his body was really craving the alcohol. “Ravings of a drunk. How could he possibly use that to his advantage? All he needed right now was a drink. they surely wouldn’t give him any. Maybe one of these men had a bottle… Naw. “Any of you boys have a whiskey bottle with you. and not for water.” They looked at him skeptically. by chance?” he asked hoarsely.

and figured that perhaps he could get this one to turn to his side. but this here fella was willing to part with thousands of dollars of treasure just to be free. I’ll trade it for what I know about the gold he’s lookin’ for. Then they smiled a big toothy grin. John could almost feel their greed. He could almost see the smell of victory on these mens' faces. “Said I knew where it was. S’posin’ I told you two where it was. with a beard full of trail dust and the curiosity of a nine year old. “One of you gives me a gun.” said John. John looked at the other two men standing guard. Clem didn’t promise much to them for ambushing this man. Something didn’t smell right in the cow pasture. John thought about this one.” “What do you mean?” asked the shorter one. “Clem said something about a lost rebel gold treasure. It was his only shot at getting out of this alive. and walked out of the cave. these two were clay ready to be molded to another leader’s whim. and without him. what would it be worth to ya?” The two men just looked at each other. then maybe he’d make it out of this alive. So if he could turn these two to his side. He smiled at both of them. Clem was the leader.he said. and proceeded to work his bonds that .

“Where the gold is?” the one named Manuel asked. Soon he had the knots free. then so be it. It was his life they were playing with. Unfortunately. and other worldly goods. we might let you live!” He turned to his partner and laughed. slapping his leg and finding all of this humorous. diamonds. and soon. that didn’t seem possible. and decided that he had no choice other than to trust these two men to his fate. John weighed all his options. He just sat there with his hands behind his back. He needed to get a hold of his gun belt so he could get out of this mess. watching the flicker of the small fire that . He. would have to let the cards lay as they fell. and take it from there.much looser behind his back while they stared at each other and dreamt of piles of gold. “You tell us. If destiny chose that he die. He didn’t have much of a choice either way. They looked at him. and smiled their toothy smiles. but he still needed a weapon. whether he like it or not. John didn’t find it the least bit funny. His bonds were loose enough to where he could get his hands out. and he had to come up with something good. but kept his hands behind his back to make sure his captors were fooled. Unfortunately.

” was all the man said. He wriggled through his bonds some more while watching his captors. get some food in his belly and then make a break for it. He decided that he’d wait for a little while. and it was beginning to wear on his nerves. pointing it menacingly at his chest. He set up a tripod for a kettle. He hadn’t eaten for two days now. who were more interested in what was going on outside the cave. either. He looked over at . “You eat when we eat. how about some grub? I’m starving!” he shouted to the two men watching him. One of them picked up his rifle and walked towards him.they had started. The crackling of the small fire gave him some measure of comfort to hide the sound of his struggles. After the water started to boil. so shut up. “Hey. It was a look in which John didn’t much care for. Soon the other man came in with some provisions and added some more sticks to the fire. John noticed that he had a tired look on his face and that the look in his eyes was such as that in which a man will kill in cold blood with no remorse whatsoever. He also hadn’t had a drink. It reminded him of how hungry he was. he added some beans and on a flat rock started to roll some tortilla shells. and poured some water in it to heat up.

” Juan just looked at his old friend and nodded. senor. The two Mexicans looked at each other. you do what you want. and white man here been complaining he’s hungry too. “Yes. “What the hell are you laughin’ at. “What we do with him?” As he finished his sentence. I have bad feeling that Clem is going to try and double-cross us.” Manuel looked at John. He looked like a pirate. he thought. just figuring out where to spend all those dollars you keep promising us. Clem walked into the cave entrance. I have same feeling too.” He pointed his rifle barrel towards John emphasizing his point. One thing he . son?” asked Clem with a nasty look on his face. noticing that he had put another fancy earring in his earlobe. Maybe we could double-cross him first. All he needed was a parrot to sit on his shoulder. muchacho.” His compadre just nodded. and not waiting any longer. He started to chuckle to himself. “Hokay. “Clem says he be back soon. “But I’m keeping a lookout. We have to keep our ears and eyes open. He tough hombre. “What are you two planning?” he asked. Juan.his partner and spoke. I’m hungry now.” Juan smiled at Clem. I’m hungry myself. “Nothing.

then the white man would die. soon. “You’ll be singin’ like a bird soon. but he restrained himself. he told himself. spitting out the remains of a tooth and blood.couldn’t stand was being laughed at. “We want the location of that gold. son. who was busying himself with the food. He didn’t need to stir up any trouble amongst them.” John didn’t look up. He’d wait until they had the gold in hand.” answered Juan. Clem snorted and looked at John.” John said to him. and he rolled back onto his haunches. He’d seen enough of these hombres around that he knew soon . “You’ll die for that. He wanted so bad to undo the rest of his bonds. and by the time we’re through with you you’ll be begging to let us take you there. Several men had died because of just that. feeling the effects of the kick that Clem had just given him. Soon. and he sure didn’t want to fight on an empty stomach. that would come soon enough. which by now had started to smell real good. “Nothin’ senor. Time was on their side. and he would wait. at least not yet. nothin’.” he promised him. He looked over at Manuel. Now was not the time for revenge. Soon he felt his head slam to one side. he just sat there staring into the sand. His stomach was as empty as the rest of them.

What passed for coffee was also given to him in a tin cup. Then he would make his move. Why settle for the small stuff when the whole world was waiting to be had? He chuckled to himself at this new-found energy he found himself with. Then a thought passed through his evil mind. since they looked so similar. scarred face. and a smile slowly spread on his leathery.they would be fighting amongst themselves for what they wanted and all he had to do was sit back and enjoy the show. The others sat around their small campfire and started eating their food also. and he got up and walked outside the cave entrance to . Soon he was done. would he be able to pin it on this guy here. Lose the earring and put some hand cream on his neck to hide the rope burn and he could probably get away with it. The one called Manuel walked behind him and undid the rope tying his hands so he could eat his food. He figured that a few more robberies that he could do. Just once did Clem look at him from eating. surging with every bite of his food. perhaps hold up a stagecoach and a bank or two. Then a plate was put in front of him consisting of two fried tortillas and some baked beans.

. and this time just glared at the outlaw.” John.smoke a cigarette. the more the plan formed. you dirty sorry…. I don’t think so. You can kill me if you want to. pardner.” Another kick to his face was his answer. I’d be. He spat out blood again. the evil grin still on his face. letting the smoke whirl around his head as he was deep in thought. His first thought was to get him to show him where that vein of gold was located. then he’d stash it and get rid of these two Mexicans and go on the robbery spree of the century. . his face bruised and sore from where he’d been kicked. “If I was you. And all the while they’d be looking for someone else! Now he would have to drastically alter his plans. “Alright. who were watching with interest. you ready to talk?” He turned around and walked towards John. “No. An evil smile slowly grew on his face as thoughts of immense riches danced in front of his hazel eyes. but you’ll never find that vein of gold. spat out the words to Clem. He looked at his two Mexican sidekicks. and other valuables danced through his head and the more he thought about it. Visions of untold amounts of gold. diamonds.

and lessen the chances of their being followed. John. followed by Juan. John knew they were paid killers. and since that was where they had captured John. Now whether that would be hours or days he knew not. “Be easier on you. with Clem in the lead. Clem figured they had a better chance of it up in the mountains.” The two desperadoes hauled John to his feet and marched him out of the cave. to talk. It’s time to move out.” barked Clem. This much he knew. and soon. A small wisp of smoke followed them out into the open. and they all mounted up. and . heading in a northerly direction towards the mountains. Several hours later found them plodding along. senor. but he had to give himself every possible moment.” he said with no emotion in his voice. he would stay alive that much longer. Juan kicked sand into the coals of the small fire to put it out. would be their best guess as to where the motherlode was hidden. whether they had the gold or not. “and put him on his horse.The one called Juan had his machete out and was sharpening it with a stone. but he figured that either way they’d kill him. “Get him up. Without it.

Then his attention turned to his current predicament when one of the horses whinnied. They were at the base of the mountains now. He stared up at the stars in the sky. The millions of pinpoints of light on the blackness of the sky was truly amazing to behold. They also needed to water their mounts. marveling at how beautiful such a sight was. They picked a spot amongst the scrub elders and oaks that were springing up from the rocky outcropping they had happened upon. and the unmistakable rattle that followed it. as they were needing food and a good rubdown as well. Here there was a small trickle which grew into a nice little pond for the animals to drink from. and in the east the sky was beginning to darken just a little. he thought. and figured this would be as good a place as any to camp for the night. The smell of flowers was in the air as well. and the sunset painted an idyllic picture for this little spot of nowhere. Oh. Off in the distance the great buttes shot up as though they were fingers pointing at the heavens.Manuel bringing up the rear. great. John sat and mused throughout most of the night. a rattlesnake and him with his hands tied! Now what? Should he wake up one of the Mexicans and have him .

” said Clem authoritatively.” He did as he was told. “What the hell…!” hollered Clem. By now they were all awake and alert. you wanna get that snake ‘fore it gets me or the horses?” he called out to no one in particular. “Juan collects rattles to give to son!” Happily he smiled as he hacked off the rattle and added his macabre trophy to his bag on the back of his horse. Then he watched a dark form slither past him. over there. Next. and move back slowly. Man after man alighted upon his mount. One gunshot was as good as another. “Don’t worry. heading towards where the horses were tied up. Got ‘im with one shot!” said the man. because being bitten out here was as much of a death sentence as a hanging was in town.shoot it? “Hey. senor. “Alright. . picking up the dead snake by the tail and wriggling it in front of him. “Keep quiet. let’s get going. he put his pistol in its holster and took out his knife. and the foursome strode out of their peaceful little camp. A single gunshot made him and everyone else jump up. Soon a voice spoke beside him in the darkness. No doctors were on duty out here in the great outdoors. and the man soon passed. Juan is very good with pistol.

John took stock of his surroundings. making a mental note to himself to keep track of where they were. In the years before that he’d . They stopped for a rest. Chapter 9 Jim Patterson had been a federal marshal now going on ten years. They picked their way through the scrub and cholla and made pretty good time. and made a small campfire at the base of a scarp that went straight up for over 100 feet. and the trail got rockier. It looked pretty bleak for him. His hands were still tied securely. towards the mountains. perhaps there was a way out of this disaster. They headed north. and off to their right and left stretched the desert for miles and miles. Soon they picked up an old Indian trail that took them directly into the mountains themselves. just in case. The air grew cooler and noticeably thinner the higher up they went. and his weapon was still with Clem Levens.John glanced around at the surroundings. If there was a way to get one of his hired guns on his side. He was no closer to freedom now than he’d been this morning.

Matter-of-fact and no nonsense about it. no doubt. where it was rumored that he had tamed it better than the Earps tamed Tombstone. but the man was going to need some help down the line sooner or later. he figured he’d better follow this John Peppers.been sheriff of a town called Sweetwater. As the man headed out of town. and said his goodbyes to his friend Les Johnson. He wasn’t sure what exactly it was. But he had to admit that Clem Levens and John Peppers sure as hell looked like they were made with the same mold. where he’d been buying supplies. practically grew up together. and had . cold facts of a case. He was Les’ deputy a long time ago. He believed he was who he said he was. He watched as the man got up on his horse after coming out of the general store. the dread in his belly grew worse and that little voice in his head told him that this man was walking into a heap of trouble. but it was the way in which he said it. He’d known the sheriff for many years. because deep in his belly he had a bad feeling about the man. not likely to believe stories and only interested in the hard. He walked back into the saloon. He was a no-nonsense man. In this matter.

He eased off a bit. He wasn’t sure when he would see this town again.learned from the best. then mounted up. on the third day out. there were at least two sets of horse prints that had been following John as well. He didn’t want the man to know he was being followed. he was certain that it was at least two men. and tobacco to take. From what he could gather. he started noticing several more tracks in the desert sand. coffee. trying to give them no more leeway than a half a day ahead of . not for any legal purpose but for the simple expedient that he might need some help in the future. He gathered his supplies and loaded them on his horse. no good will come out of it. Now it was time to do some trailing. And when men follow other men this deep into the desert. No good at all. The bad feeling in his guts just wouldn’t go away. but he at least had a week to find out. He stopped when John stopped and only wanted to keep him within sight of the horizon. He figured he’d need at least a week’s worth of food. He walked across the street to the general store to get himself some provisions as well. and as he stopped and gathered his bearings. Sure enough.

The man disappeared around the canyon wall and soon Jim remounted his own horse and followed the prints in the sand. not this far off. He pulled up against a canyon wall to hide himself from the shooter or shooters and waited. He would have to be careful now. Closer and closer he got. He backed up his mount to hide it in some scrub while he jumped down and took a look. he got back on the trail and followed to where he left off. A shape was moving up yonder on the canyon wall and making its way down a narrow trail. But he didn’t know who it was. and knew that John would be in trouble. Then on the fourth day he heard rifle shots. He tied his horse to a piece of scrub pine and found himself a little niche in the rocky outcropping to where he could see and hear what was going on.him. After half an hour. to make sure that he or they didn’t notice that they were being followed. . He found a spot in between two big boulders the size of houses. Then something made him stop his horse in its tracks. It was a single man on horseback. That would explain the shooting. noticing that the ground was getting rockier the further he went. until finally he was surrounded by boulders.

and polished black boots. and moved around to his right to try and flank whoever it was that was lurking inside it. His bleach-blonde hair fell off towards his shoulders. and stopped. he had dark skin. Then the man turned towards the cave entrance and dismounted from his horse. but he wasn’t of Spanish origin. and he rode easily like he was the king of the castle and knew it.and found himself looking at a cave entrance. holding his breath. a roan whose coat shone in the sun. . He had taken three steps when he heard the clink of a horseshoe on bare rock. One man was leaning against the wall smoking a cigarette and he was wondering if this was the man he had seen on the canyon wall. He turned around. He carefully made his way back towards his hiding spot and decided to wait it out. The man on the horse was different. though. He watched as the man disappeared back into the cave. He definitely sat like he had an air of authority about him. and standing not twenty feet away was a man astride a beautiful horse. He had on a dark shirt with a gray vest.

until he was almost directly above the cave entrance. Clem Levens! He’d been stupid not to have known that before. jewels. He pretty much figured John was their prisoner by the way they acted. they were getting slack. If they were any good. east. He wanted to get closer to hear what they had to talk about. Soon he heard tidbits coming his way about gold. making sure that they weren’t being followed. just your run-of-the-mill trail horse. looking north. they must figure that John knows something about minerals to keep him company. But he wasn’t one to curse his good luck. One was always on guard. south. and other such valuables. he would continue on course and see what developed. That was the major difference between John and Clem. they would have noticed him by yesterday at the latest. Of course. four with John. either. Well. That was one thing that could be . So there were three of them. John didn’t own any fancy horse.“What are you two planning?” he heard as the man walked further into the cave. He made his way further and further. and west and back to the north again. the blonde man on the horse. He also wanted to see who he was dealing with. He began to walk around his right flank again. Problem was.

A small wisp of smoke still curled from the small fire that had been there. but there was a fine line between tough and barbaric. “Get him up and put him on his horse. He rubbed his muzzle to make sure that he didn’t get spooked. and that would slow them down. one had to be tough to survive in these lands. It’s time to move out!” Jim was instantly awake. He’d shoot a puppy if it looked at him the wrong way. and see what developed come morning. He approached the cave with his weapon drawn. He was just that type of man. then started off for the cave entrance to see if John or the others had left some type of clue as to who besides Clem he was dealing with.said about Clem Levens. just in case. Even the Indians weren’t that savage. It was still dark when he heard a voice rasping in the brisk morning air. and let the other riders go until they were just out of sight. grabbing the reins of his own horse to keep it quiet. The man would most likely be weak with hunger and thirst. He walked back down the trail towards his hiding spot and decided to wait it out the night. Granted. and towards the back of the cave were . he didn’t have a decent bone in his body. Now he had to formulate a plan to escape with John in tow.

or perhaps several stages on the way. walked out and looked in the general direction in which they had ridden. which would help greatly in hiding him. didn’t matter if it belonged to a big company or granny’s life savings. Although he knew that John did indeed look like Clem from the front. Gonna cut through the mountains and hit Tombstone. He made his way through some rocky scrub and found himself among some pine trees. from the back was another story. They must want him for something special. while the outlaws’ was almost a white. they’re going north. John’s hair was a chestnut brown. they would spot him on the trail easier than a buzzard finding some dead meat. So they were traveling with him tied up. If they were as careful as they ought to be. he thought. Man was too damn lazy to go out and get a real job. He crested a ridge. That would be about Levens’ type. and looking down saw the trail that they would have taken through the . He followed the tracks for awhile. North. then veered off to his right. he thought disgustedly. he’d rather just steal it.several rope fibers. He looked around for a little while and finding nothing else of value.

they could form a raiding party for the couple of stagecoaches that did go through there at times. They were definitely heading towards the mountains. Once there.desert. Then he took some supplies out of his pack and began a small fire to make something to eat. he thought. . he put away his utensils and watched the fire crackle down to embers. He got off his horse to rest it awhile. Maybe Silver Pass? That was possible. he would let them lead on. it was a meal fit for a king. and laid it on the ground to lean against. it was getting darker and he would need to find a place to camp for the night. that he could feel in his bones sure as arthritis when the weather changed. There would also be plenty of grass and water for their horses too. It was the where and when that he wasn’t sure about. Some bacon and jerky sounded pretty good right about now. After he was done eating. He tied his horse onto a cedar branch and watched the animal chew disinterestedly while his mind’s gears were churning as to Clem’s motives. then he was soon fast asleep. Besides. Now that he had a general direction. Along with a steaming cup of coffee. He was planning something. he thought. He took the saddle off his horse.

“Now that you decided you’d tell us about that vein of gold. He’d tell them about the gold vein he found.” he said with resolution. “The gold is in a rich vein in the Davis Mountains.He decided that he’d have to just go along with these men and see what happened. His . He was tired. As for the rebel treasure. “Alright. and was sick to death of being around people such as these men.” he said finally.” he said.” said Clem. about two days from here. he had no clue as to what or where it was. talking to his hired hands. you see boys. He swung a nasty right hook that caught John right in the jaw. “I don’t know about any hidden treasure. now you can tell us where that hidden Rebel treasure is now can’t you?” John looked at his captors with astonishment. wearily.” Clem had a look of victory on his face. and would definitely be no help there. “I can’t help you there.” “Oh. “there’s always a peaceful end to what troubles the world today.” A sneering look appeared on his face. and it still wasn’t enough for these greedy men. He’d just given up information that he swore he’d die with. I think you can. “There now. I’ll lead you to where it is.

Levens turned around in shock. “He no good to us all beat up. But no.” he told the man on the ground. and his head snapped over again. Then he extended his arm and Levens grabbed it. he thought. But surprisingly it didn’t come. but he no good to us dead.head snapped to his right. “Sorry. Just get these ropes off me mister. and Manuel had Levens’ arm in his vise-like grip.” he spoke again. He wiped the little blood spot on his lips off on his sleeve angrily.” he snarled to Manuel. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. and Manuel hit him with a hard right. knocking him to the ground. I only know what I know. “He lead us to gold. senor. hokay?” The look in Clem’s eyes was murderous. But he still needed them. and he was about two seconds from pulling his gun out of its holster and gunning down this arrogante hombre.” he protested. that wouldn’t happen. pulling himself up. He looked up. because then it would be a fair fight! He spit out more blood and shook his head. then we kill him. and see what happens next. He was rewarded with another right. ready for the next blow. “Men have died for less. . and another tooth came out with the spit of blood.

Manuel. but it seemed like years to him.” . If he could possibly talk one of these men into giving him one. there was some in his pack. the pain would leave for a little while. he thought. “just get a bottle or two out of there and let’s have a good time. and finally got to his feet. that they were starting to fight amongst themselves. Wait a minute. Then it’ll be my turn.” he said. The pain in his heart was still terrible. why don’t you dig in my pack and get us a bottle?” he asked hopefully. “Hey.Besides. just keep right on doing what you’re doing. he swore silently. if he gunned Manuel down. He laid back in the sand and watched the clouds chase each other across the sky. John watched all this with interest. It seemed that his thoughts were coming to fruition. It was only a couple of months. of how much he missed them. and he wished he had a bottle right now. It was then that he started to think about his family once again. That’s fine. he’d have to deal with Juan too. watching him like a hawk. They untied him long enough to eat and drink a cup of coffee. “No trick. then retied his hands behind his back. The other man just looked at him. He’d even the score in due time.

“He makes one move he’s a dead man. John’s tongue was getting loose. “What is this treasure you’re talkin’ about?” he asked finally. He held it up to John’s lips for him to swig some of the alcohol too. “Thanks. and took out two bottles of whiskey.” He then took his pistol out of its holster and laid it on his lap for everyone to see. who in turn gave it to Juan. Manuel uncorked the second bottle.” said Clem.” he said in relief. “Besides. then at Juan and Clem. Manuel got up and untied John. keeping the rope next to him. “No tricks.” said John. Manuel shook his head. “Go ahead. “Now could you untie me so I can drink with ya?” he asked. Manuel. He was curious as to what it might be. pardner.Manuel walked over to John’s horse. Then Clem started his own dialogue. what could I possibly do?” Manuel looked at him again. The other three men just looked at him. you have all the guns. and soon it was empty. I promise. opened up his pack. He then uncorked one bottle and took a long deep swallow. He then gave the bottle to Clem. . They passed it around for several minutes. Now maybe he could talk this man onto his side and possibly get out of this mess.

he . painting pastel colors on the desert and the buttes that protruded from them. The sun was setting now. “Either way.” He paused for effect. it was said to be buried in these here mountains. He was right in that respect. give him something to ponder and kill the boredom. if it ever did exist?” he asked.” John thought about that. much less in these mountains. “How do you know it was buried in these mountains. Off in the distance. and I aim to get it!” Manuel and Juan just looked over at each other. “It’s amazing what those two can do to loosen up someone’s big mouth. somewhere in the millions. rumor has it that a Confederate unit in charge of a cache of gold headed west before the surrender. in order to make his escape quicker. but didn’t say anything. John caught the quick glance. Rumor also has it that this gold was worth quite a few bucks. through the shimmer of the day’s heat. then drinking would. He wanted these three to be as separate as possible.“Right before the end of the war. then took another swallow of whiskey. “Tongues move freely with whiskey and money.” answered Clem. But he himself had never heard of a lost cache of Confederate gold out here. Money talked. and if that didn’t work. He would have to think about that for awhile.

He didn’t think it was the latter. At least he could get the circulation going in his extremities that way. so maybe it was just a figment of his imagination. In the direction of north. although they blended in with the curve of the horizon and . Out here. A flash of light off to the north caught his attention. which really didn’t bother him at all. He could clearly see four men.could see a “lake. He stared at it just a bit longer. Soon they would have to forage for some more dry wood to keep this fire going through the night. He stared into the embers of the fire. and he imagined that he’d be on that work detail. As he kept his eyes peeled. Jim crept slowly up to the rocky outcropping that he’d been using as an observation post. A rabbit. just a trick of the desert. though. he spotted something that looked like movement.” which in effect he knew to be a mirage. he didn’t spot it again. it could be anything. then shook his head. or perhaps another mirage. he thought. which was to his right as he was sitting. but one never quite knew what to expect out here. Something’s playing with my head. and threw some more sticks into it. a tumbleweed being blown about by the wind.

with the light of the setting sun in the corner of his right eye. especially with men as dangerous as these ones. he got up and quickly moved out of the open into an arroyo where he soon spotted his horse munching contentedly on some grass he had found there. He didn’t think they were shooting at him. and crawled around the corner of a big boulder to see what was going on. he better get up and go look for his mount. Been riding him too hard. He definitely did not want to move any closer. Just then he noticed that his horse was gone. Well. “What the hell are you two doing?” hollered Clem at the two gunslingers. They were shooting their guns into the air and hollering some war chants. With one last look towards the south. “Well boy. obviously an aftereffect of the prodigious amounts of whiskey they had consumed. and he could do his spying later on. They truly . and he could hear yelling off in the distance. but one was never too careful. for they would spot him. Besides.the heat of the sun. He dropped automatically. it took off to look for food. Aw hell. Just then. I guess we camp here tonight. It wasn’t known as fire water for nothing. he couldn’t see that well anyway. he thought to himself. huh?” he said to the horse. the sound of gunfire erupted.

“Alright. But then that’s the way the desert worked sometimes. However. “And make sure its nice and tight too!” Juan stumbled over to Manuel. Clem didn’t see it that way. and fell right into his partner’s lap. Being half lit-up with whiskey he couldn’t be too sure himself of what he saw. especially with no cover around. you idiots. Juan. He hadn’t drank as much as the two Mexicans did. John was feeling pretty good himself at this point. Besides. they’re liable to shoot anytime. Maybe that flash was a trick in his mind. Should he make a go of it? No. and were letting off a little bit of steam. not yet. bent over to get the rope. Clem was watching him good and his pistol was still within easy reach. tie him up again.felt as if they were untouchable at this moment.” ordered Clem. they holstered their weapons and continued to consume what was left of the second bottle. and it wouldn’t help to get up and run. so he was still relatively sober. Roaring . but then again maybe it wasn’t. He would wait a little while longer. He turned around and took another look in the north. “Knock it off. you’ll have half of Arizona after us!” Sullen but not satisfied. he thought.

with laughter, he got up and slowly made his way over to John, where he proceeded to attempt to tie his hands behind his back. After about ten minutes of fumbling, he stood up and admired his handiwork. It wouldn’t hold a calf, but just maybe this man it will, he thought. By now the sky had darkened considerably, and Manuel was snoring away, his bedroll tucked behind his head. Juan wasn’t very far off, and Clem had his eyes on John all the way. He figured that he might as well get some shut-eye, because tomorrow would be another long day. Jim, now a little bolder with the onset of darkness, took a peek over the arroyo wall he was in and looked towards the campsite ahead of him. All he could see was a small pinpoint of light which he assumed was the campfire, and nothing else. He figured that the yelling and shooting had been caused by drinking, and that meant that they would be passed out. Unfortunately, so would John. Clem he wasn’t too sure about, but he had to make a decision soon. His supplies were almost gone, and he needed to rest his horse up. His mind made up, he got up from behind the dirt and rock wall where he was and started off on foot towards the point of light. It seemed to him that they were about half a mile

ahead, and it would take him about twenty minutes to get there. He checked his weapon to make sure it was loaded, and left the thong untied. He walked along at a good trot, and the closer he got the slower his steps became. He didn’t want to wake them up. Three against one in a gunfight, even if they were drunk, was not good odds. He was about two hundred yards away now, and could smell the smoke from the fire, which had died down to embers. Another 5 minutes and he was at the hundred yard mark. He could make out three forms lying on the ground, with the fourth slightly hidden behind some rocks. This he had to assume would be Clem Levens, because as crooked as the man was, he was not stupid, and wouldn’t lie out in the open. There was a small crescent moon out, and he could just make out what was in front of him. The last thing he needed was to step on a stone and wake up these men. Only one he wanted awake, and unfortunately he was passed out with the others. At fifty feet away, he pulled out his gun and kept a steady pace towards their camp. A wolf howled

off in the distance, and he froze. One of the men snored loudly and turned around, getting more comfortable, then returned to snoring. Soon he could make out their faces, and he found John, just on the far side laying on his back. He crept quietly around the others, careful so as not to wake them, and pulled up next to him. Keeping his eyes on the others, he shook him a couple of times. “John,” he whispered, trying to keep his voice as low as possible. “John!” John stirred, but did not awaken. He shook the man again, and this time was rewarded when he opened up his eyes. Quickly Jim put his hand over his mouth to keep him quiet, and motioned with his index finger over his lips. “Come on, man, let’s go!” Jim helped the man up, keeping his eyes on the other men, and soon they were backing away from the campsite, heading in the direction of the arroyo where he had spotted Jim moving about. So far so good. Now, what about his horse? “I need to get my horse,” he said hoarsely, as if he’d been the one hollering earlier that evening. “No, it’ll wake them up!” whispered Jim back angrily. He knew they would have to, though, because his one horse wouldn’t carry both men for very long.

They made their way over to the horses, and John untied his from a branch of juniper that stuck its way out of the desert floor. Slowly, quietly, they backed away from the camp with Jim keeping his eyes on the others. He turned to tell John to hurry it up when a click of metal on metal instantly got their attention!

Jim shot first and talked later. “Ride, boy, ride!” he hollered at John, all the while shooting at Clem and his hired guns. Three to one were bad odds, but he had the advantage of surprise on his side, plus the fact that they consumed two bottles of good old whiskey. His first shot took down Manuel, his second missed, and his third shot struck Clem in the leg. Juan started to get up, and fired at him. A bullet whizzed past his head, and he shot a fourth time, sending Juan to the ground. He turned around and started running towards where he left his horse. John held back a little, and soon they were both on John’s horse riding back to the arroyo. “Am I glad to see you!” John shouted in happiness. “I thought I was a dead man back there with those coyotes!” “We’re not out of this yet, son,” Jim said matter-of-factly. “We still need to get the

hell out of here!” They soon arrived at the arroyo to find Jim’s horse where he’d left it. He jumped off John’s mount and saddled up on his own, and then the two of them took off up the dry wash, avoiding big rocks and sand pits along the way. John kept looking behind them, but didn’t see a dust cloud following them, so after about fifteen minutes of hard riding, they came upon a shaded spot where they both got off their horses and tied them to the saplings taking shelter in the coolness of the overhanging ridge. Jim gave his six-gun to John to re-load, and pulled his rifle out of its boot mounted on the side of the horse. “C’mon, we need to get to high ground,” he said grunting with the effort of climbing the slippery gravel. Soon they were on top of a ridge looking down into the valley from whence they came, when they spotted a cloud of dust heading their way. Jim couldn’t tell how many riders it was from this distance, but he knew he’d winged at least two of them. They would soon find out. They both lay prone on top of the ridge and Jim fired off a warning shot to the riders down below. It was met with a return shot that went way over their heads. He took careful aim at the point of the dust

cloud, aimed just a little forward, and squeezed off a shot. At this distance he still couldn’t tell if he hit something or not, but it seemed as if the cloud had slowed down some. “You been following us?” John asked questioningly. Jim just looked at him. “Yep. Had a feeling in my belly that something bad was gonna happen to ya, and sure as hell it did.” “I’m grateful, Marshal,” said John. “I’ve been tracking some gunmen who killed my family a while back, and I think I might have just run into them. Not sure, but time will tell.” “Sorry for your loss,” said the Marshal, and sighted down the barrel of the rifle, squeezing off another shot. “Times are tough nowadays, aren’t they?” John took his time answering. “Yes, sir,” was all he said. “Looks like your friends enjoy punishment,” said Jim, pointing down into the canyon with the barrel of his rifle. “They don’t know when to quit.” “They seem to think that I have knowledge of where some secret Confederate gold is buried around these parts, Marshal, and I honestly don’t have a clue as to what they’re talking about.” “It always revolves around gold, or silver, or such doesn’t it?” Jim said, shaking his head. “Besides, I’ve been in this territory well on forty years, and I haven’t ever heard of no lost treasure, at least from

guns did. As soon as he reached ground level. He fired back. this time hitting Clem in the shoulder and knocking him off his horse. and hit John in the right forearm.” he snorted through painful gasps. well. Just a flesh wound. and we can end this soon enough. it hit Juan right in the middle of the forehead. He walked over to where Clem lay wounded. leaving them stranded. killing the man instantly and dropping him to the ground like a sack of flour. no problem. Juan fired. a shot buzzed over his head and thudded into the limestone cliff behind him. His next shot was right on target. “Well. Clem Levens was in front. Manuel was nowhere to be found. John took the pistol and went back down the gravel trail towards their horses. He’d be damned if they were going to get there first and untie them. well. John would’ve dropped dead right then and there. well. He must still be at the camp nursing his wound. Now the odds are getting better and better.the Rebels that is. tearing open a gash in the skin. If looks could kill. he thought. “Looks like you . Fortunately they didn’t. with Juan following right on his heels. and kicked his gun away. he thought. well.” The riders below soon came into view. The man had a look of pure hatred on his face.

Judging by the amount of blood spilled in the sand. and grabbed the picture from the man.finally won this round. coughing up blood. the good guys won this time.” John kneeled down beside the fallen gunfighter. got Clem up in the saddle. They took the last remaining horse in tow. Jim just let him have it out. Clem just smirked. kid. “This picture ought to be enough for ya. “Seems like I get the last laugh.” he said. Clem. taken just a couple of years ago. If only he didn't die on the way. It was Eliza and him. don’t it kid?” “Yeah. bloody foam forming on his lips. “ said Clem. and swore that he would get him to town to swing in the breeze. “How do you figure that. Then the grief overcame him. John reached down. and when he was done. He dropped the pistol and put his hands up to his face. He didn’t hear Jim coming down the slope behind him. He looked up at the scumbag on the ground. an d prepared for their trip back into town. no matter what. . He didn’t even feel the hand on his shoulder. they rode to the campsite to check up on Manuel. His gun never wavered from the downed mercenary. and his eyes were filled with the tears of the mourning. he'd make him suffer in other ways. Clem?” asked John. the haunted vision in his mind once more. he was already dead.

so at least he would have a partner. that would take up a considerable amount of money. to acquire the rights to the piece of property that their find was on. They went into the saloon and had a few drinks. enough to live on and buy more supplies. Three days later. . pondering his future. The next day found them at the bank. that much he knew. they reached the area where the vein was found and mined out some of it. They then headed back into town with a few pounds of nuggets in their packsaddles. He wanted to rebuild his house. The grocery store owner eyed their gold with a gleam in his eye that he probably hadn’t had since his teenage years. He plodded along next to Jim. and he didn’t have the cravings for the whiskey like he normally would have.Jim told him that he thought retirement sounded pretty good anyways. and then across the street into the Golden Arch Hotel. where they got rooms and decided to rest up for the night. John’s heart felt less heavy. However. Then their next stop was the land grant office. leaving some of their precious metal in the banker’s vault. As they got further and further away from the camp.

John went looking for a home. . mainly to inquire further about the lost Confederate treasure. John wanted to do a little prospecting on his own.They went to the newspaper and put an ad in for some extra hands to help them work the find. He found one that an old rancher was selling off because he couldn’t take care of it anymore. they’d be set for the rest of their lives. While Jim was supervising the mine. it was fairly cheap. They built a barn close to the fir trees on the hillside to keep them warm in the winter months. and he wanted to be the one to find it. of which they decided that Jim would supervise. It had a big picture window in front that showed a wonderful view of the mountains off to the south. and then some. If he could find that. and soon they set up some of their hands to handle the daily chores of raising cattle. It was in those very same mountains that the hidden gold was reputed to be hidden in. and he figured he could rebuild his ranch anytime. and they had several pasture lands to graze from during the warmer time of the year. Besides. The property also came with three hundred acres of prize grazing ground.

“What say. who wanted to talk shop.” “How about tomorrow?” John asked him. Sir Archibald. “Hello.” “Good day to you too.” John slammed down a few quick ones. All his affairs were in proper order. “I’m free all day and we could sit around and have a few drinks. if you aren’t too busy old chap. talk some business…” “Splendid. so he didn’t see any problem with it happening. On his way in he met his old friend Sir Archibald.” “Done. He had had a few and then a few more. and his words were slurred just a bit. Until tomorrow…” “Good day.” “Nope. “I hope it won’t be an inconvenience. His next stop was at the bank. You just show up and we’ll take care of business. then exited the saloon.One day while in town. to get a letter of credit for the building of a second barn. “What can I do for you today?” “I would like to come visit you at your discretion. splendid.” John said politely. of course. Sir Archibald. old bean?” the Britisher asked.” said Sir Archibald. John walked into the saloon to have a drink. . railroad business. sir. to talk some business. then. my son.

was quickly ushered into the manager’s office. all wearing neckerchiefs for masks. one voice stood out. The bank was being robbed. she did manage to fill the bags and pass them back to the robber. but if you want. and with him in it! Chapter 10 There were four of them.He walked down the boardwalk towards the bank. was so frightened that she almost passed out. Count to one hundred. John got up and quickly looked around. Amongst the commotion. “Alright. The iron gates were open. “Fill ‘em!” The teller. Suddenly. out in the bank proper there was a commotion. He threw several bags to the teller. who had only started working here a little over a week ago. we can do this the easy way. ladies and gentlemen. and . and once inside. with the ladies screaming and the children crying.” he was saying. It was Spartan in nature. He was apparently the leader of the robbers. I want you on the floor on your stomachs. we can do it the hard way too. which was typical for a business day. “Now ladies and gentlemen. with files on one wall and the main safe directly behind him. However.

fellas. First one that raises his or her head off the floor won’t have one left after we’re done with you!” Immediately everyone dropped.” said one.after that you may get up. He’d been through a traumatic experience once with a gang. except for John. “Oh. For a moment he had that pang of fear in his belly. Everything else was obscured. “Round up a posse!” yelled the bank manager. and closed his eyes. Immediately everyone in the bank got to their feet. They had . They were seen running past the big bank window and getting onto horses. we got us a tough guy. His left eye was hazel. or you won’t see the next sunrise!” John did as he was told. But he was close enough to the man to forever recognize him anywhere. All John could see inside their masks was the eyes and the nose. but it soon passed. and he made it out alive. The robbers hadn’t missed his defiance. so why shouldn’t he now? The robbers took one last look around and disappeared out the door. mister. but his right eye was white! It was a very odd combination indeed. heading south out of town. “Down on the floor. who took his time getting onto the floor.

He then headed west. When he jumped off his horse he had to look up at his massive foreman. and several others went rushing to their homes to get their rifles. “What’s wrong. We just got the news and were getting . “We got trouble. and five minutes later be throwing bodies out of the saloon. shotguns. and in half an hour he was there. Several men went rushing out the door. “Big Mike” Henderson was waiting for him. John got up off the floor. John. He would walk little old ladies across the street.ruffled his feathers by robbing “his” bank. He walked briskly towards where his horse was tied up and got onto the animal. towards his ranch.” he stated. Mike?” asked John. His foreman. and six-guns. The man was aptly named. His ruddy face belied the fact that he was as kind-hearted a soul as they came.” he said without emotion. He had no temperament for foolishness and lazy people really irked his hide. boss. He stood six foot five inches. “It collapsed an hour ago. “It’s at the mine. dusted himself and calmly walked out of the building. weighed in at two hundred sixty pounds and none of it fat.

It took about twenty minutes to get there. but that hope dwindled with each passing moment. He walked over quickly and looked at where the man was pointing. Boss. The whole entrance was collapsed downward. He was covered in gray and black dirt from the mine itself.” chirped up a man named Howard.ready to head over there to do some diggin’. and . Furiously the men dug deeper and deeper and finally they had the man’s face uncovered. A hand stuck out of the pile of rubble. and once on site. including his partner Jim Patterson. fifteen people would be dead. and he hoped that there was an air pocket behind this so the rest of the men would be alive. and headed out towards the mine itself.” This was bad. and his eyes were closed. “I think he’s dead. real bad. He wasn’t breathing. The first digging crew was relieved by the second. “Get him out of there. leaving one to guard the ranch house and cattle. If it caved in on all the miners. the doc’s on his way!” ordered John. Several men were taking turns digging it out. hoping that the man was still alive. Then someone hollered by the entrance. he could see the devastation for himself. as if a mighty hand from heaven had struck it down. He started barking orders to his crew.

and coughing out dust. John.they started going at the pile of debris with a fanaticism that only John could appreciate. I just hope we can get the rest of my men out of that hellhole before its too late. right?” “Yes.” he said.” “That’s okay. okay?” “You know best. John. you’re doing everything you can. The doctor quickly rushed over to the man laying on the ground.” said the doctor. as far as I know. Mike and the rest of the hands. Doc.” answered John. and a few minutes later the miner started spitting fluid up out of his lungs. Just calm down and see what happens. covered in dust. doc. along with Doc Weller. For awhile he heard nothing. A few minutes later. he’s earned it. Several scampered . “He’s gonna need some good bedrest for a few days. He took out his stethoscope and began to listen for a heartbeat. beating yourself up isn’t going to save those men. Soon the digging crew had a tunnel through the pile of debris. “Look.” “Well. He pushed on the man’s chest with both hands. pulled up to the scene. with some doubt creeping into his voice. “I think he’ll be okay after a day or two.

” “What do you mean weakened? As if in deliberate?” “Yup that’s what I’m sayin’ it looked like to me.” The other man had a fit of coughing before he replied. Jim Patterson was the last one to leave. John caught up with Jim. Calm down. There were spots where the timber had been weakened. He walked around them and checked on them to make sure they were okay. dirty and dusty but alive. One by one they emerged. They don’t cut themselves. he told himself. now this. but something went wrong. What’s going to be next? He couldn’t wait for the next fiasco to rear its ugly head. Yeah. hoping to find other survivors and bring them out into daylight. thought John. What’s going to happen next? Is the sky going to fall down. or what? .through the tunnel.” First he gets kidnapped. Don’t get spooked in front of the men. ya know. Lucky this time around. “What happened. then gave them several days off to recuperate from what could have been a devastating tragedy. “We did. They were lucky no one died. Jim? I thought we had this all shored up according to specs.

What did Jim say. But who would want that? He couldn’t think of anyone offhand. A nice hot steaming cup of joe to help ease him into relaxation. He would talk more with . The man in the bank really puzzled him. He had some paperwork that needed attention and he wanted a distraction to get his mind off all these problems. Then the men at the mine started to worry him again. He couldn’t think of any of his hands who would do something like that. All his enemies were dead. Who could possibly want to wrong him? He had to do some thinking on this puzzle. Nor anyone in town. John would have to talk to the sheriff about that come morning when he rode into town for supplies again. for that matter.He got up on his horse and rode back to the ranch. It seemed as if someone or something was working against him. Once done. he got up from his desk and went to make a pot of coffee. He put his thoughts aside and finished the paperwork that he had been neglecting. and wanted to see him fail. that they had been cut deliberately? Something wasn’t right here. That would help clear his mind. One eye a different color? How odd was that? He could be identified anywhere just by that feature alone.

every day that passed was one day farther that the robbers had on them.” said the man. especially those eyes of his. He looked . but Jim wanted to talk to you for a minute. Then he made himself a simple supper and decided to call it a night. “Sorry to bother you boss. His hand went to the brooch around his neck. Then he remembered that tomorrow morning he would meet Sir Archibald in town. He went to lay down in his bed. Maybe then they could clear this up together and find a solution. opened up the massive wooden door. However. and there was a knock on the door. he took it off his neck and placed it in his desk drawer.Jim once he got back to the ranch and was rested up a bit. He wasn’t rich yet. It was Big Mike. with him leading. He wanted to know what the British man had to offer him. He decided to send some of his men. and walking through the living room. to find these men once his business with Sir Archibald was completed. but he had a nice savings in his safe and once they caught the robbers of the bank he would have even more. He would know what the man looked like. and for the first time since the tragedy. He got up.

“I was talking to the men earlier. “I’ve kept you up too long so I’ll go back to the bunkhouse.worn down and tired.” He put down his cup of coffee and stood up. But be careful John. after gathering all the facts from the rest of the crew that he had been trapped with. so I can’t say much more than that. You look beat. But I don’t have proof yet. send him on over. and go ahead and get some rest yourself. He walked in without knocking as John was pouring himself a cup of coffee. “Hey John. “Well. Mike. Someone is ramrodding us and getting away with it. Jim?” asked John. something isn’t smelling right. and I have the distinct impression that one of them isn’t who he seems to be.” He took the proffered cup of coffee and sipped at it in silence.” was the man’s answer. Soon Jim came over from the bunkhouse. “Okay. I think we have someone here working on the inside for someone else. We’ll get to the bottom of this one way or the .” “Yessir. First the timbers are cut. I got some more bad news. then we’re missing ore that was shipped to the surface.” he said. “What do you mean. and sat down heavily in a chair.

so he shouldn’t have any problems there. Just lovely. He didn’t want to be followed. Now John was more restless than ever. and he wanted to keep it that way. “Okay. get some rest. As he sat down. Sir Archibald . John. He finally reached town. I have to go into town tomorrow and take care of some business and while I’m at it I’ll do some snooping around. Jim was the only one who knew about him heading into town today. As far as he knew. Now we have a saboteur in our midst.” He walked out of the house and shut the heavy wooden door behind him. so he mounted up and headed into town to meet Sir Archibald. have a good night. he kept a watchful eye out.” “Right. and went into the diner to order breakfast.other. As his horse plodded along.” John looked at his friend. They would be busy cleaning up the mine shaft today. he thought. “and thanks for the coffee. after more than an hour of tossing and turning while the facts in his mind drifted around and kept him awake. John decided to get an early start.” said the former lawman. Jim. The new day dawned bright and hot. He went to bed and finally fell asleep.

‘tis a fine morning. a bit hung over but nattily dressed without so much as a speck of dirt on his suit. We can talk at the same time. The well-dressed gentleman sat down at the table and ordered his meal. is it not?” he asked John. you’ll have my answer in one week’s time.” he stated with hesitation.” John answered him.” he said. “Yes it is. “We can afford one week.” “Really? How much time can you give me to think about all of this?” he asked. “Now what’s this business you wanted to talk about?” “Well. it revolves around some of your land.walked in the door. “By the way. “Sir Archibald. please join me for some breakfast. “Yes. “One of the railroads wants to cut across a small portion of it. He would need time to think it through. how . “Of course you would be compensated for your troubles.” said John. and then we’ll have to look elsewhere if your answer is no. depending on what part of his land they wanted to build on. He wanted to stall for time. as something like this would take a great deal of thought.” added Sir Archibald.” “Oh do they now?” This was the first that he had heard about this.” “Very well. “I would say about ten dollars an acre.

thank you for a wonderful start to the day. He took one last drink of tea from his cup. I also understand you have a mining operation going on up around there. and he wanted to make sure there were no foul-ups in that department as well. sir. as well.” said John.” said John. wiping his mouth with his napkin. then went across the street to the general store. Sir Archibald. “No.” “Very well then.” he answered. There were some supplies that he needed to order in for the end of the week. Sir Archibald.” said the Britisher. it’s paid for.” “Fair enough. Old man Grissom took his list and set aside the items that he did have. finished with his meal already. John walked down to the sheriff’s office . getting up himself. John went over and paid for their meals. With that. “Please. and promised he would have the rest by the end of the week. The railroad would help your business there considerably.” “One week then. who got up. I insist. “Then you’ll have a definite answer from me.much land are we talking about here?” “We’ll be needin’ about a hundred acres for the tracks and station. and walked towards the cash register.

“Take a look through these and see if you recognize any of ‘em. hoping it would trigger something in the man’s memory.” The man across from him just looked up. “I don’t seem to recall anyone around here having that distinct look about them. and sat down opposite the sheriff. sheriff. who was just finishing his breakfast. “Alright. “It involves the bank robbery the other day.” “That’s very odd around these parts.” he said.to talk to him about the robbery the other day. but none matched up with the man with the .” John scanned through the drawings. “One eye was green and the other was almost white. He was disappointed when the sheriff couldn’t answer him right away.” said the lawman. what can I help you with?” “Well sir. He walked into the sparse office.” he said. I remember a very distinct man. whose eyes were two different colors. then finished his coffee. “I need to pick your brain a little.” He turned around and handed the reports to John. getting up from his chair and walking over to the WANTED posters hanging up on the brickwork wall.

” That name triggered a response from John.unusual eyes he had seen the other day. none of these men here fit the description. “No sir. and I’d like to see it . not really. I haven’t heard anything since from ‘em. Not a word from any of ‘em except to say that they chased ‘em into the Davis Mountains. but I don’t know what these other fellers would be doing hiding up in those hills. Age and the stress of the job were starting to take their hold on his body. That is some of the most rugged land in these parts. He took a deep breath and continued speaking. sheriff.” “Possible. “Nope. do you have some kind of a plan to capture these men?” “No. “The Davis Mountains? Isn’t that where the supposed Oldtimer’s Mine is located at?” “Legend has it that it is.” “Maybe that’s the whole point. that they can get into that kind of country and lose the posse. It’s just that they took some of my money from the bank too. Why are you asking. Any word back from the posse chasing these men yet?” The sheriff walked back to his seat and sat down heavily.

and shook the sheriff’s hand. He walked towards his horse and got on. since I’m a deputy. This may give you some extra leeway if and when you catch up with those varmints. John. Here’s a badge.back where it belongs.” The sheriff got up. He headed out of town.” John stood up and did so. Jim and a handful of men were already there. and took a trail only known to him that led straight through the pastureland that the railroad wanted to purchase that conveniently led right past the mine. sheriff. He reached the entrance in about fifteen minutes at a fast trot. heading for the mine. John Peppers. “Raise your right hand. I won’t let you down. shoring up the walls and . He wanted to check on the neardisaster that had occurred yesterday. I guess I better start huntin’ down some clues.” was all the sheriff said to him as he turned around and walked out of the office and onto the boardwalk outside.” “Very well. “I hereby deputize you.” “Keep me informed. “I do. as a sworn law enforcement officer in the state of Arizona. Do you accept this privilege?” John swallowed slowly. and have a look with his own eyes. son.” “Thanks. “Well.” John pinned the badge on his vest.

John. They ran off with some of our money too. Get the mine producing again and I’ll be back in a few days. he loaded up some supplies on a fresh horse and started on his journey towards the mountains. my friend.” said Jim as he saw him. and good luck to you too. I’ll be gone a couple days. so far so good. so you’ll be in charge here. He would need to be careful once he got into . and am going to start tracking those bank thugs just as soon as I can.” “You want me to come along?” “No. I’ll swing by the ranch and let Big Mike know to keep his eyes open there.ceilings of the tunnel and cleaning out the debris.” “Where you headed to?” asked Jim inquisitively. Be careful.” “Okay. if nothing else goes wrong. “How’s it going so far?” John asked him. “I’ve been deputized by the sheriff. I need you here. “Well.” “I will. We’ve got about thirty feet shored up good right now and we should be done by tonight.” “Okay. John headed down the trail towards the ranch house to let Mike know his plans. Once that was done. “Howdy.” With that. He wanted a progress report so he could focus on tracking the bank robbers if everything here was taken care of.

There were four of them and only one of him. He not only had to worry about the men he was chasing but also the natural elements as well. taking with it some tumbleweeds that had gotten caught up in the swirl of the wind and sand. and another day to start tracking those men. because if they had lookouts posted they would see him before he saw them. On his right a dust-devil blew through a small wash. Towards daybreak. He listened a little more. he arose and shaking his boots just in case a scorpion had . He figured it would take most of the day just to get to the mountain base. then dozed off once again. and together with his bedroll. used it as a headrest and fell asleep. He needed to be careful now. Towards nightfall he found himself at the base of the mountains. On he rode through the desert. He made his way through the scrub and cactus keeping an eye out for tracks and rattlesnakes. He took the saddle off his horse. and not light a fire for fear of it being seen from up above. and scouted out a spot to spend the night. and he needed to take his time and be cautious.the open. Around midnight he was woken up by the howl of a coyote on some far-away canyon calling out to his mates in the night.

and looked for a trail heading up. Towards noon he took a break. He needed to have the advantage of surprise. Up they went. He mounted up. dismounted. he carefully put out the fire and put away his utensils. winding around the pines and aspen with an occasional clump of oak in between. but he didn’t . An hour later.wrangled its way into one of them. He went around the right flank of the mountain before spotting a gravelly trail that wasn’t too steep for the horse’s footing. Being daytime. but he still needed to be careful with the smoke. put them on. he heard rock falling on rock and stopped dead in his tracks. but all it turned out to be was a hoot owl or eagle flying overhead. then walked his horse up the winding trail. He stopped several times thinking he heard something. Off to the left of the trail lay an open area. and decided to make a small campfire to make himself some coffee and something to eat. then saddled his horse. He tied up his bedroll and attached that to his horse as well. His gut was telling him someone was up on the ridge above him. but that they hadn’t spotted him yet. the air getting cooler with the height. he figured that it would be hard to spot the flame. As soon as he finished eating.

He skirted the open area and made his way further up through the canyon. On his right the scrub got thicker. finding himself in a dry wash that would be full of rushing water come springtime. barely wide enough for him to pass through. looking out across a flat plain. He kept his six-gun in its holster for now. Here he could see most of the flat area. not wanting it to flash in the sunlight and attract unwanted attention. He stopped to listen for awhile. and still be hidden behind these boulders. He moved silently through the brush with the occasional small branch cracking under his boots and was soon up on top of a ridge.want to go there. He was getting closer. keeping his eyes open above and in front of him. but heard nothing. Into the scrub he went. careful not to send loose rock falling and making his . The wind blew the grass gently as it sighed through the canyon walls. He moved up quietly through the wash. They would spot him for sure. and he decided he’d tie his horse up here to graze and drink from the small pool that trickled from above. and this would end with him being the loser. and the smell of smoke was in the air.

He could make out one or two forms but that was all.presence known. Four guns against one usually won out in these kinds of matches. and tried to focus his eyes on the smoke. His only disadvantage would be that he would have to assault them from in front. Sound would travel far in these canyons. They had their backs to the canyon wall under a small overhang that shielded them from directly above and to their right side. and still the fire was a fair distance away. Slowly he made his way down. and here they had the advantage. keeping his eyes on the smoke wisp and what was in front of him. He lay on his stomach. He needed to make his way down a slight slope. and he had to be extra careful not to give away his position. . He still had the advantage of surprise with him. Here the smoke smell was stronger. He topped a rise and found himself looking down into a canyon. They were still a ways away. and he could see wisps of it floating up from what looked like a small campsite in the distance. Soon he was among the boulders. then hide in the boulders that had gathered about two-thirds of the way down the grade. and he wanted to make full use of it. and he would be exposed if he tried to stay on top of the canyon.

” answered his companion. as the wind would barely carry through it. talking amongst themselves. for he only had supplies for a day or two. On he moved. They were going to stay here until the ruckus quieted down in town. Soon he could hear them clearly. He could almost hear the men talking if he listened very carefully. slithering against the canyon walls and hiding behind rocks when he could.By this time the sun was directly overhead. well. I say we get the hell outta here today. “Sittin’ here like a bunch of buzzard bait.” “Yeah. “When the hell we getting’ outta here. “We should be in . “The saloons and women will be waitin’ when we leave. The heat was building in the canyon. ya hear?” The man named Jud just mumbled something incomprehensible and picked up a loose stone and threw it against the wall. Jud? Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. There had to be a different way in here.” he barked angrily. which meant that he had to make this quickly.” “Since when was this a voting matter. because they had made it in with their horses. No one will track us up here. and I vote we go now. keep your shirt on. Red?” asked one voice “Another day or two.

he climbed a little higher on the ledge and scooted back amongst some boulders and scrub and sat down to wait. then shut the hell up!” John moved in closer. The opening was just wide enough for a man and a horse to get through without all the climbing he had done. if you’re so damn unhappy. “We’re gonna stay put ‘til I say we move. careful not to dislodge any loose rocks and give away his presence. “Well. “If not. instead of bein’ up here in these damn mountains waiting for ‘em to come get us!” The man named Red spoke again. then leave.” said a much deeper voice. As soon as they were both gone from sight. then turn off to enter a small opening in the far canyon wall. So that’s how they got up here. “Both of ya shut the hell up. ya got that?” Both men mumbled their agreement.downtown Tombstone livin’ it up right now. He figured he was within fifty feet of the men when he heard another voice speak up. “Now go and gather more wood for the fire. Apparently they didn’t want no trouble with this feller. he thought to himself. We’ll be happy to split your share among us three. .” He laughed loudly. and quit your gripin’!” From his hiding spot John saw two figures mount up on their horses and head back the way he had come.

Then he realized his mistake. he figured. Dammit! They’d found his horse. His horse! He’d left it down in among the brush. most likely to be cleaned from all this infernal dust out here. or shooting at some animal that had the misfortune of getting trapped down there with them. trying to burrow himself deeper under the rocks to keep from being spotted. and would soon be looking for him. or just target shooting? He held his breath and waited on the ledge. Two of them gone. When should he make his move? He thought about it seriously for several moments until he heard the thunder of horses’ hooves on the rocky plain getting closer and closer. while he heard a rifle being taken apart. The men must have gathered firewood in a hurry. and finally one of the riders spoke to their leader.Down below he could hear the clicks of a gun being loaded. Suddenly John heard a shot! Did they know he was here. Must be target shooting. We was gatherin’ the firewood and saw a saddled horse . “Simp. and two left down below. No. or he’d be full of bullet holes by now. The horses and their riders got closer and closer. Then another shot. we got trouble. and another. they couldn’t know that he was here.

He figured he could hide in there for a little while. anyways! He should have left the horse lower on the slope.down by the waterin’ hole!” The men got off their horses and unholstered their guns. and maybe he had time enough to find another hiding spot before they searched above their camp on the ledge. and he needed one quickly! He just lay quiet for awhile and soon heard scraping sounds coming from below him. He held his breath and didn’t move a muscle. Damn. He needed an advantage. John could almost feel their eyeballs boring through the rock ledge straight into him. don’t kill him yet!” He heard as the men scattered in all directions. “Probably watchin’ us right now!” “Okay. Now his surprise was blown but good! “Somebody done come up here.” said Simp. The most obvious places they’d look were behind rocks and such. didn’t see anything. anyway. He was trapped like an animal. He took one final look around the rock. don’t panic. and made his move to the right where some scrub lay.” said the one named Red. until they found him. but didn’t know . They knew that someone was here. “Go lookin’ around and if you find him you bring him to me.

Once on top. Behind him was some more scrub oak on a small slope and he figured that it would be his best bet to hide. He looked off to his left. he dropped himself flat on his stomach and just listened. Why the hell did he put himself into these situations? He’d found that ever since his family died he had been taking a lot of chances. to shoot him in the back like some yellow-bellied cowards that they were. six-gun drawn. . “Nothin’ up there. he went back down the grade to his companions. looking for tracks. There was the boulder that he had just come from behind. and saw that one of the men was investigating the climb up to the ledge. being careful not to make any noises. his heart beating hard inside his chest. He scrambled out of his hiding spot and climbed quickly up the slope. He took a peek over the ridge. that he was gambling on life. His only hope that death would come quickly. and off to his right was the flat ledge. He came up. And with the badge on his chest. Simp. Not seeing anything.who. and looked around. One of these rolls of the dice would be his last.” He heard the other man grunt. they probably wouldn’t hesitate to kill him.

man came up the slope and he instantly recognized the eyes. He looked around. “Well. a bigger. “He’s up here. Soon another. “Hidin’ in the bushes!” Then the man started laughing. Simp!” hollered the one called Jud. probably from a life of fighting and living hard.” John kept looking at the spot that the man had just went down. He knew the sound of a hammer being drawn back. He was a big feller. It was the robber who had looked at him. I’ll be damned Red! For once you’re right. where it smashed. He carried his pistol in one hand and a whiskey bottle in the other. His face had scars on it. there’s no one here!” John watched as he turned around and went back down the slope.” Just then John heard a click behind him. “Then where the hell is he? His horse is just down the canyon aways. He turned around slowly. and the man just stood there . so he has to be around here somewhere. John looked at him. This must be the one they call Simp. and threw it down on the rock ledge. with black hair. As far as he could see it was the only spot that one could get on top of the ledge.“Then where in the hell is he? He’s around here somewheres. standing six and a half feet tall. downed the contents of the bottle. and his arms went into the air.

The men had just finished roasting a rabbit that they had shot earlier that day. have you?” . well. and John realized how hungry he was once he smelled the roasted meat on the spit.” His eyes slanted evilly. Once again he was a captive of some outlaw gang. boy? You haven’t learned your lesson. “and bring it on up here. Slowly he got to his feet. “I know this fella. and stumbled down through the saplings and made his way down to the floor of the canyon. well.” he said derisively. Jud. He knew this was it then. where they all could get a good look at him. “What’s wrong with you.with his gun pointed at his head. Once we get ready to leave we can use it as a pack mule. How nice! Bring him over here!” he ordered. started laughing at John. Jud and Red grabbed him by the arms and pulled him over to a rock outcropping. Simp recognized him instantly. Now John knew he was in deep trouble. “And he’s a lawman too. “Well. “Go grab his horse. “Bring him down here!” Simp said. This here fella won’t need it no more!” Then he too.” said Simp. where they tied him up and took his gun. Ran into him in the bank. He had forgotten to eat lunch.

He wouldn’t be able to move if he wanted to.” said Simp. “You won’t be able to rest near a civilized town.” Simp smiled at him. this won’t hurt but a little bit. “No one will know you’re missing for a coupla days.” John was kicked violently in the back by the big man.” Jud soon showed up with John’s horse. . He got up with scraped knees and knuckles. but otherwise said nothing. and for what? For holding up a bank. and gave John a roundhouse that split his lips wide open. We’re leaving as soon as we’re loaded up. and this time John fell onto the rocky floor of the canyon. Blood poured freely from wounds that had just begun to heal. and after that we’ll be long gone into Mexico by then. you’ll be hunted the rest of your days. pal. He was turned roughly around and tied up to a stalagmite sticking out of the canyon floor. “and make sure he’s tied down good and tight. The man kicked him again. “Now fella.” he said finally. “Load the supplies onto this horse here. “You kill me.” said Simp. They were going to torture and kill him. and this time the rope was wrapped around his entire chest as well.John finally had the nerve to speak back to them. He felt like a trapped animal.

and turned it. “And I’m sure you have a way to pay for whatever it is you think we’ll need?” . and I’ll go get them. The bar door swung open. I’ll be armed and you won’t. He chose one from amongst several on the ring. The sheriff looked at him. “Simp. but no funny stuff.” “You write down what we need. inserted it into the lock.” said the sheriff. The man fished it out of his pocket and handed it to him. and he asked to see one of the supposed coins that Tom had. so don’t try anything.The man named Red spoke up. greed and curiosity soon got the better of the sheriff. He took a look at it. It was Jim Patterson! Chapter 11 As with all men. The teeth imprints told him all he needed to know.” and pointed with his rifle barrel in the direction of the small entrance canyon. and turned around and got the jail keys off the hook in his office. Everyone looked in the indicated direction to see a single man on horseback riding towards them. “Well.” “You have a deal. we got company. though. Sheriff.” Tom said. and reached down on the bed to retrieve his hat. and bit into it. “Okay son. do we have a deal or don’t we?” Tom asked the lawman. John squinted through his eyes and could just barely make out who it was. wiped it off with his sleeve. “We’ll need some supplies from the general store.

“I am going to use one of the coins. I really don’t have any other choice. And don’t say where it came from. food. and wondering how the hell he was going to pull this one off. and he walked out the door. Maybe that would convince the sheriff to see his point of view. He gave the list to the lawman. he thought. and proceeded to write out a list of supplies they would need. Tobacco. some rope. we won’t ever have to worry about finances again. He was in a small office with a potbellied stove. how about that list?” He sat down at a dilapidated table. brickwork for walls. and several wanted posters tacked up. Tom just sat there. Just use the one I gave you for compensation to the storekeeper. He sat there sipping his coffee. Soon the lawman came back with the supplies he had written. eyeballing his surroundings. and he refilled his cup.” “Ok. Besides. The dead man should still be there. if that rumor about the lost Spanish treasure is true. They proceeded to . He still had to prove his innocence. Maybe the man he shot in the shoulder would still be in the tunnels. and some utensils for the sheriff. The coffee pot still sat on the stove.

Soon the two were on their way out of town. The sheriff still didn’t trust him. just in case. There were fresh tracks here.load everything up on their horses. and the look he had was venomous. and killed his brother Juan. Tom . and may God help them when he found them! Tom and the sheriff slowly made their way back to the cave entrance where the gold coins had been found. and tied him up to the same gnarled branch as before. He reined in his horse. He would heal a couple of days. with Lefty leading the pair. and the sheriff reached up on the wall and took down a rifle. Manuel de Garcia swore he’d get his revenge on the man who shot him. then follow the two into the hills. then went over to inspect the opening in the side of the mountain. Another pair of eyes watched the two head towards the mountain path. like someone dragging a foot behind them. The sheriff tied his horse off. so he decided he’d just play it safe for now and see what happened. He grabbed some extra ammo boxes for it too.

How do I know you don’t have something down that tunnel there that you can use to kill me?” “Sheriff.” said Tom. “I just want back what was mine in the first place. but the sheriff got up and grabbed his arm.” he said.” he said. and pointed to the left opening. this here is one of the pair of gunslingers that tried to lynch me at my other claim. I won’t try to hurt or kill you. and to find the treasure of the Spaniards. sheriff. and sure enough. . the dead man. The tracks ended at the place where he originally fell through the wooden planks some time before. “Just a minute there partner. and noticed that there were droplets of blood as well. The sheriff bent down to search the dead man for any identity but only found a few bills in his pocket. he thought. “See.” he said.inspected the tracks. only one man was there. He tried to change the subject. “All it proves is that you shot and killed another man. He started to go down the tunnel. and just your word saying he was one of the three that tried to hang you. “This is the tunnel that I found the gold coins. He guessed that the man he shot in the shoulder had finally made his way out. “This doesn’t prove anything. He made his way down.” This just kept getting worse. I give you my word. “We’ve got a dead man here.” he told Tom. no identity.

we’ll just see how it goes. . Manuel told the doctor to send the bill to Deke’s father for fixing his shoulder up.which I do believe exists somewhere in this mountain. Somehow though.” he answered. Why be greedy. and had seen just about all the tricks. he thought. son. He still had four of the precious coins in his possession. and maybe a few shots of rye would help even more. Besides. He had given him some pain medication.” He reached out with his hand to prove his intentions. sheriff. He didn’t mind sharing the treasure with someone. that’s where I found the coins. “I would suggest the left tunnel. another pair of eyes watching his back was in his best interests at the moment. He’d go over to the saloon.” he said sardonically. “Where do we go from here?” he asked. but it didn’t seem to be helping much. Back in town. and warily the sheriff took it. “Alright. his gut didn’t tell him that this would be one of those times. it hurt. He’d been around for a long time. Hopefully soon he would have a lot more. as long as that someone was somewhat honest and trustworthy. maybe in one of these very tunnels. Goddam.

He served up Manuel’s drink. his pockets would be bulging with coins. and placing some coins on its polished surface. then pointed to his glass for a refill. . putting a napkin underneath the glass. and everyone in there took a look. Then he realized they were just looking at his shoulder bandage. For a minute he thought he had a wanted poster of himself. He didn’t know how he was going to tell Juan’s wife that he was dead. they were staring for so long. that his family should be left to beg and go hungry while these white men walked around with plenty of coins in their pockets. Revenge was going to be bittersweet for him. mister. and get his fire really going. It didn’t matter that they broke the law. He watched as the Mexican gunslinger gulped it down.” said the bartender. ordered a drink. and the one who did kill his brother Juan. He drank his second shot and motioned for a third. Somehow it just didn’t seem right to him. “Sure. He looked around the saloon. Manuel would drink a few of these.He walked in the swinging double doors. Well soon. He walked up to the bar. He would kill the man who tried to kill him. they brought in money to feed their families. and then he would go back and they would live a better life than they had.

he thought. most sitting around tables with cards in their hands. seems to be some kind of gringo. well-kept bar. and his stomach growled. Look what he did to me.” said the bartender.” “Well. “The meal needs to be paid for up front. not some of the slums that prevailed in other towns. With the mission he had in mind. senor. “Who that white man come here all cut up?” “You should know. He liked an orderly. but damn. that sure smells good. No credit.” he added The Mexican smiled at him. stranger. not stopping his washing of his glasses. way I hear it.There were about a dozen people in here this time of day. The smell of several different tobaccos permeated the air.” was the reply. while the smoke gently curled upwards and swirled around the ceiling fan that lazily circled overhead. no. senor. While he was waiting. “Oh. he sure didn’t need to get drunk. he figured he’d ask the barkeep a few questions. maybe you got what you deserved. He decided he’d order a steak and some potatoes before he drank too much. and tossed several coins on the bar. a toothy white smile. . When was the last time he’d eaten? Hell if I know. however. He caught a whiff of some beef being cooked. He did have a conscience.

the steak even better. Helluva way to make a living. Damned if he’d be ripped off again by one of these goddam gunslingers. hiring for the highest dollar offered and no questions asked. He left his gun unslung just in case that sonuvabitch walked in here. Blowing the dust off. And his . well worth what he paid for the meal. Next thing he remembered was waking up on a cot surrounded by bars. He’d take a shot of the rye every now and then. the one in which the fire water made him do some pretty crazy stunts. come hell or high water. just like he liked it. He purposely picked this one because he could see who came in or out. he figured it hadn’t been used in awhile. He grabbed the whiskey bottle and sat down at a table. He was going to kill him. decided it was enough. Last time he was on a whiskey drunk he spent the night in jail over in Gila Bend. dancing around with a pretty little thing and drinking his fill. and rung it up on the cash register.The bartender eyed it. By now he was getting that familiar warm feeling in his belly again. He was having the greatest time of his life. It was medium rare. Seems like they were everywhere nowadays. The potatoes were good. and he savored every bite.

with treasure galore. it was going to be much better. and would be the envy of even the Mexican president. No way. He would go back to Tijuana a hero. not in the ramshackle mud and tin huts that they called home now. He needed to go to the general store to get some supplies. he thought to himself. A smile popped up on his face. Well. Not for all the pesos in Mexico City. He and his family would live the life they deserved to live. he wasn’t going to do that here. Well. and what he had left he figured he could make do until he killed that bastard and stole what was going to be his. no sir. with the sheriff following close behind. his white teeth showing and black bushy eyebrows curled over cynically with the thought of the rich treasure that he figured was rightfully his. He had something important to do. Tom led the way down the tunnel. but his brother’s death would damn sure not be for nothing. They had traversed about another two hundred feet when they came to another cave-in. some plans to make. His livery bill shouldn’t be too much. .head was pounding. he swore. maybe not rightfully. too.

and dirt and rocks came tumbling down in front of them. “Methinks we are now in deep shit!” The earth shook. and the sheriff soon followed suit. It also smelled of dampness. then try to find soft spots in the walls on each side of this tunnel. The air on this side of the tunnel was getting cooler. Soon they had an opening big enough for themselves to crawl through.” he told the sheriff. “I hope that was your stomach. “We double back. Tom figured that parts of this tunnel had water in it. the ground stopped shaking. Now they really were in deep shit. He got down and started moving rocks to the side. They came upon some water that filled that end of the tunnel. After about five minutes.” said Tom.” answered the lawman.“Looks like we have to dig some more. “I wish it was. “ said Tom. The tunnel entrance was effectively sealed off. “What now?” asked the sheriff. Suddenly a low grumbling sound hit their ears. and it would take them some time to dig themselves . and another twenty feet or so and his guess was right.

not looking forward to getting soaking wet again. neither man had found anything. “Son. He hyperventilated to clean his lungs out. The sheriff looked at him like he was crazy. Should they go forward. through the water. he surfaced in an air pocket which had formed.” “It’ll be okay. Well. Now they really were in a pickle. I found a tunnel before by doing that. about . Finally. then took one last deep breath and jumped into the water. The sheriff. started to do the same. might give you a heart attack halfway through.” he said. Sheriff. He swam and swam. Tom started to feel his way on his side of the tunnel for some soft spots that might give way to other tunnels. feeling nothing but rock above him. It wasn’t much. that water is colder than a witch’s teet. he thought. It felt like a thousand knives stabbing every inch of his body as he hit the water. taking a chance that it will lead to nowhere. do or die. wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to do this in these caverns.” he responded. Might as well get it over with.out of this dilemma. After coming up to the water. or stay here and hope they stumble across another tunnel to get out of here? Tom decided for them. after a fit of coughing. “I’m going in the water.

as if it had been . A fire would be nice right about now. He hit it again. He was shivering as he walked up the sand. it was a cavern of beauty. Slowly he opened it up. and was rewarded with a dull thud. however. I’m freezing! He hit it a third time. He swung at it. but it was air. Had he found the Spaniard’s lost treasure finally? He walked up to the first cask he came to. and the rusty lock fell off in pieces. Not only for the air it gave him to breathe. It had an old rusty lock on it. and slowly opened the chest. very old by the looks of them. but ten feet in front of him sat two crates. and he found himself in another cavern. this time creating a spark. He searched around. What would he find? Would it be the lost treasure he had been seeking? Only one way to find out. hit it. It had a musty leathery smell to it. he thought. Five more hard strokes brought him onto a sandbar. and found a rock about the size of a coconut to beat the lock off. Carefully he moved forward on his knees. not only from the cold but from excitement as well.three inches from the rock face. This time. He rested a few minutes. then took another deep breath and continued on.

here for many. for he had never seen such riches. and pearls. He would prove to the sheriff that this treasure did exist. for there were gold necklaces. How they would get it through the watery tunnel. and opened his knapsack. thought Tom. He’d been . “I’ve found the jackpot.” He climbed up out of the water. he thought. and broke water with a man staring worriedly at him. treasures which had lain dormant for many hundreds of years. emeralds. and which would bring their owners much wealth. how the hell was he going to get it back across the underground tunnel? He would have to swim back with just a handful of items to prove to the sheriff that he had indeed found the Spaniards’ lost treasure. some gold coins. In it were gold coins. Oh my god. The contents made him shiver in anticipation. Oh well. He started swimming back to the tunnel. jewels. I’ve found it! Now. The sheriff marveled at the treasures. many years. having to stop for air at the midpoint. Quickly he gathered some items and put them in his knapsack. Sheriff!” Tom exclaimed excitedly. rubies. could be worse. “I need you to help me get it across here. and many other items in gold and silver. they would have to figure out. He continued on. He looked at him and gave him a smile.

” “I thought you wanted to prove your innocence in the Harrington case. Oh shit. I’d forgotten about that. go back into town. His lawman’s intuition told him to keep his eyes open. or was he hiding . “then we carry it to the horses. not look at them. But now. Once this monkey was off his back he could take his time. “First we get it all across.paid to protect them. immediately regretting his stupidity.” “How about this: we leave the treasure where it is for now. Where was he? Was he up here looking for him. and he’s gone. he found that he could put his daughter through college. load it up in the saddlebags. and not worry about anything or anybody. and then come back when all this is behind you?” the sheriff suggested.” said Tom. and still live comfortably with his wife for the rest of their natural born lives. He still wasn’t a hundred percent sure about this deal. son. getting patched up. “ said Tom. “Okay. and head for town. what do we do now? “ he asked him. “That sounds like a plan to me. we need to talk to Doc Wallace. Only one man can tell the truth about what happened. Might be in town for all I know. The only problem he was worried about now was the man he’d shot in the shoulder. do it right. “I do. he thought. get your name cleared. Sheriff. So when we get back to town.” the sheriff reminded him.

he just wanted the other one dead. the man had killed his brother. and killing his partner. He burped contentedly and walked down the boardwalk to his left until he came to a bench. no matter what. Manuel walked out of the saloon. He lit up. and with a murder charge already against him. He’d want revenge against Tom for leaving him for dead. How was he going to do this if the sheriff was with him? He had no quarrel with the lawman. and the heat of day hit him like walking into a blast furnace. Unfortunately. . especially if family was involved. and he would have to pay his debt with his own blood. He walked through the swinging doors. then sat down. He reached into his shirt pocket for the cigarillo he had stashed there. he’d have to deal with the man sooner or later. An eye for an eye. a belly full of supper and whiskey. his father always told him. that was another issue he didn’t need to bother him at the moment.out in town? Or did he leave town? No. unbeknownst to him. Well. the very person he didn’t want to see was already in town planning his revenge. Maybe he didn’t yet know about Deke. Either way. he didn’t leave.

and maybe he could make a bit more killing the bastard for him. the coolness immediately refreshing. He’d gotten lucky there. he thought. that was what the game was all about. for shooting me. He opened the double door and walked in. at the very least. Either way. He waited until the teller was done . keeping it cool for the people who worked here. he still owed him half the money he promised. the gringo was going to pay for what he’d done to him and Juan. Whiskey had a way of loosening mens’ tongues. Good thing it wasn’t his shooting hand that was laid up. He figured. After all. That’s another thing the bastard’s gonna pay for. He told all about the man who got arrested for Deke’s murder.albeit a bit difficult with only the use of one arm. he figured. He’d found out about Deke while talking in the saloon. and the skinny man he’d struck up a conversation with at the bar was singing like a bird. wasn’t it? He got up and walked down the boardwalk to the bank. Fans circled lazily on the ceiling. and that him and the sheriff had taken a gander out of town early in the morning. that he should pay Deke’s father a visit.

Two minutes later. she came out. The effect on the young girl was immediate. followed by an older man with white. ma’am.” he said politely. towards a door with the word MANAGER painted on the glass. He was well-dressed in the manner of any banker. I need to talk to Mr. Blonde hair tied up in a bun. Manual thought. his gravelly voice reverberating with a deep bass-like sound. her eyes turning down coquettishly. then walked up to her. “One moment. “Afternoon.with the current customer. She was a pretty thing. “Tell him it’s a friend of his son’s.” She walked towards the back of the bank. and opened the door and glided in. . He walked around the counter and stuck out his hand. with a gold watch in one breast pocket. smiling his best toothy smile. “May I ask who is calling on him. sir. She knocked three times. bushy hair. sir?” she asked. Harrington.” Manuel answered evasively. with sparkling hazel eyes and wearing an ankle-length red and white dress. and I’ll see if he’s available. and I have a business proposition I’d like to run by him. for she started blushing. how may I help you?” he asked. “John Harrington.

the man that killed your son also shot me. Deke owed me some money. “Well. “Legitimate business ventures or not?” “Senor. senor. so to speak. and we received only half of what was owed for our services.Manuel extended his hand. then you get the hell out of town. for honest pay. He should have taught the boy some manners.” said Manuel. All I want from this world is an honest day’s work. senor. senor. he might be alive today if he did. simple man. It was more of an order than a request. “We agreed upon $500 apiece. “Perhaps I can offer you my services as well. He was almost afraid to ask.” “So what can I do for you. something he truly regretted.” “Oh. Your son. and I was one of your sons’ partners in his mining adventures. you see. “ said the old man. senor. He also killed my brother. “As you can see. I see. “My name is Manuel. “I’ll give you $200. Deke was a spoiled brat from day one.” “How much are we talkin’ about?” the elder Harrington asked. He hired my brother and I for protection.” The look on his face was one where his price was nonnegotiable. I am an honest. Mr. and I aim to avenge Juan’s death with his blood. my brother and myself acquired claims that had appeared to have been abandoned. senor Manuel?” asked the banker.” .” said Manuel.

” “Very well. senor. Manuel did not foresee this happening. But he was in a position to make a lot more than that. “Give me until tomorrow to think about it. “Your son did nothing wrong.” said Manuel. and walked out of the bank. and would gladly kill the gringo who shot him for five dollars. “He was merely an innocent bystander who was dry-gulched by a stranger. soon we will meet. Manuel flashed another charming smile to her. he thought evilly. my friend.” lied Manuel. He just wanted a . He pictured an angry father hell-bent on revenge. “I’ll be staying in a room above the saloon if you need me any further.” John Harrington looked at him.” With that. stroking his beard thoughtfully.“Perhaps my son got what he deserved. deep piercing blue-grey eyes. senor. “ said the banker unexpectedly. Soon. He’d had enough of these damn gringos. willing to pay any price to hang the man that killed his son. his business concluded. the elder Harrington turned on his heel and walked back into his office. slamming the door so hard it rattled the glass. He’d tell the old man anything to make a buck. and I’ll let you know my decision then. The young teller looked frightened. and this time you are the one that will lay in the sand spilling your blood. It put a smile on his face to picture avenging his brother this way.

sat down at a table. Might as well drink my fill tonight. he could do whatever he wanted. he mused. He walked back to the saloon. Soon his belly was full of the liquid fire. Best wait until all this had settled down before he pulled a stunt like that. he decided. and a smile broke out on his face. Putting the half-empty bottle on the nightstand. got his room key. That’s it. and proceeded to order himself a whiskey. carrying his bottle and room key. and it was time to sleep it off. that would be foolish. Should he try to rob the bank? No. When he got to the assigned door. After his third shot. and perhaps earn a few coins in the long run. but I will have more coins in my pocket too! He laughed to himself all the way up the stairs. . He paid the bartender. With the sheriff out of town. I’ll leave in the morning. he unlocked it and went inside. because tomorrow I am on the trail of Juan’s killer. he bought himself a bottle. bang! Not only will I avenge Juan.pocketful of money and a way home. He just thought of killing one man. and continued drinking. to go back to his wife and son. and when I find the gringo. and asked for a room. he took his gunbelt and boots off and was soon sound asleep.

He looked in the rather shabby mirror. and asked for a whiskey. then opened the door and walked out into the hallway. droopy eyelids. He put them on. He went down the stairs. 9:37. The cold water felt good. Manuel shook his head. seeing the red eyes. and sat up in bed. Time to get up and talk to the old banker about a job. Then. slammed the shot glass on the polished mahogany bar. on not quite steady feet. waking him up. he thought. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached for his boots. and walked out through the double swinging doors of the saloon. He wasn’t here for a contest for the good-looking. and several day-old stubble on his face. walked up to the bar.Sunlight shone bright through the dusty window of his room. He chuckled at his joke. clearing the cobwebs of last night’s drinking bout. Oh well. He drank it. and stood to put his gunbelt back on. He looked out the window at the clock on top of the bank. he walked over to the washbasin on the other table in the room and rinsed off his face. He walked along the boardwalk until he was across .

but between the distance and the dust they were raising he couldn’t tell who it was.the street from the bank. then stepped off the creaky planking and with dust swirls in his footsteps. He squinted his eyes. What the . I will be more than happy to present his head to you!” With that. “Here’s what my son owes you. He figured he’d better pick up some supplies. he thought. Harrington met him at the door.” Manuel wanted to calm the man. It was the sheriff and the gringo. he tipped his hat and walked out of the bank. heading for the general store. and then head out as fast as possible to catch the gringo in the act of whatever it was he was up to. Manuel smiled his most white-toothed smile. Goddam. “Senor. He was loading up his horse when he spotted two riders coming into town from the direction of the mountains. after I leave here. to find that sonufabitch who murdered my brother. I aim to ride up into the mountains today. approached the door to the financial institution. You bring me his head and I will give you another five hundred.” Harrington seemed undisturbed. please. “Do you know who is out there? The sheriff is with that man. Soon his whole plan went down the river. coming back into town. “Senor Harrington.” He handed him a wad of bills. and he has until tonight when he swings from the gallows.

They dismounted and walked in the building. Perhaps he might shed a light on the mystery of the wounded man. They walked in. Perhaps they had found something up there in the hills. obviously in a hurry. “Oh wait. and the doctor soon made his way in from the back room. shot in the shoulder. with the now familiar bell ringing in their appearance. figured it wasn’t my business to know what . and headed west towards the mountains. creaky boardwalk to the doctor’s office. something they’re not telling anyone. “What are you talkin’ about?” “There was a man comin’ in here yesterday. let me guess. They watched a dusty plume leave town. No one comes back for no good reason. Tom opened the door. They walked over the old. Tom looked at the sheriff and suggested they talk to Doc Wallace. Sheriff?” he asked. Manuel eyed them with suspicion. “What can I do for you. isn’t it?” Perplexed. Their buying done. they proceeded to load everything into their saddlebags. intent on finding out whatever those two had been up to. “I patched him up best I could. probably about the man that left here yesterday. He mounted his horse. He needed to find out. Something is brewing. Not paying any attention. and stopped in front of the general store. the sheriff looked at him. he thought. “ explained the doctor.hell am I going to do now? They went past him.

and a mouthful of pearly whites. The sky was getting a bit cloudy.” said the sheriff. “Storm brewing up. and said.” “By chance was he shot in the left shoulder?” asked Tom. “ I don’t need to be all snookered up. “We might as well stay the night. “Yes he was.” he said. “with a scar on his right cheek. “One of the three that tried to drygulch me. The sheriff looked at the doctor. He wanted to find out for sure if this was his man or not. “How about a few drinks to relax?” “I’ll have one or two. “That’s the one. They walked through the swinging doors.” answered Tom. about this tall. “It’s him.” “Okay. They took one look at the sheriff.” said Tom. “Had a nasty scratch on his cheek too. “ answered the doctor. “ said the sheriff. . “What did he look like?” “Oh.happened to him. They crossed the boardwalk into the street.” Tom looked at the sheriff. It was fairly busy tonight.” he said. going towards the saloon for a drink or two.” “Gotcha. entered the saloon.” he added.” Tom and the sheriff thanked the doctor for his time. with some dark skies on the horizon. indicating about a foot above his head. looked pretty recent. that’s about it for me. and ordered their drinks.” Tom looked at the sheriff. with a couple of card games going on on several tables in the place.

he reached his office without so much as a complaint about a horse pooping in the middle of the road and someone stepping in it. see if anyone else needed to be tossed in the clink for the night. something the doctor told him was eating at his conscience. he thought. It was a house rule that once a game was started. Could that be his . Arizona was famous for that kind of thing. Maybe tonight I can get some peace and quiet. whether intentional or not. Men would be killed on the spot for cheating at cards. or even for looking at another man the wrong way. Soon the sheriff left. That was the way it was out here in the West. Boot Hill was a place a stranger usually wound up in. God knew there was enough of the drunken bastards. The man he’d fixed up swore revenge upon a miner who had killed his brother. So far so good. Maybe it will be a calm night. the death toll would be a lot less than what it normally would be. He had to check on his duties. no matter what. However.and decided to play it straight. No one put up with anyone else’s bullshit. That way. all firearms were to be handed to the bartender for safekeeping. Tombstone.

along with taking his partner’s life. Besides. Tomorrow was going to be a long day. and the two of them would head back into the mountains to reclaim their found treasure before someone else took up a mind to do it. No. He tried the knob. and smiled to himself. He knocked on the doctor’s door. then go get Tom from his room at the saloon. but he wouldn’t take any chances. either. the doctor won’t be in tonight. he didn’t want to disturb the man if he was sleeping. and . and closed the curtain. and turned and walked away to go home. He’d try again in the morning. or tomorrow as well. He decided to look up the doctor and talk to him while he had the chance. back to his wife. and it could wait until then. It was locked. He had seen to that. He’d have to talk to the doctor. Nothing. and go to sleep.current partner? He wasn’t sure. He just wanted to ask some routine questions. eat some dinner. he was bonetired himself. Manuel saw the sheriff leave the doctors’ office. No one could pin anything on him. He laid back in bed. Little did he know that someone else already had a mind to take what they had found.

I don’t think you will be. he stopped his horse and dismounted. Not only had he befriended this man. John was enraged. “Damn Jim. When he was within spitting distance.” said Jim. and plus the takes we get from stages and banks will make us rich enough so that we can retire to the sunny beaches of Mexico..” Despite his pain. of course. each with a little senorita on our arms.” “That was me. Jim Patterson.tomorrow the white gringo would be dead as well. “I took some nuggets outta there that will definitely add to my account.” “But the mine…. I’m the boss of these here fellers. Chapter 12 He slowly made his way towards the gang of outlaws. Jim? Why?” “A lawman’s pay isn’t worth the paper its printed on. Federal Marshal. but he . With this little setup I can retire a helluva lot quicker than I could doin’ it the legal way. son. son.” John could hardly believe his ears. John looked at him and breathed a sigh of relief. am I glad to see you!” Jim looked over at the bleeding man. and using my badge gives us an advantage. a traitor? “What the hell. “No. You see.

Jim. spitting out blood and his fury. He was a Mexican they used as a guide and tracker and once . “Okay then. Simp. let’s go and get our senoritas!” The rest of the men mounted up and together as a group made their way down through the narrow canyon pass that they came up through. He needed to get out of here though. The buzzards would soon be flying overhead awaiting their next meal. “Everything ready?” The big man just nodded at him. “You dirty back-stabbing bastard!” he spluttered. son. How could he be so gullible? “You won’t get away with this. Now it all made sense. Jud took the point through the narrow pass. They had tied the rope tighter this time. Now he found out he was being stabbed in the back by the one person he thought was his friend. My hands will come looking for me sooner or later!” “Sure they will. and bringing up the rear was Willy. Jim.thought he could trust him. and following him was Red.” He looked at Simp. and he found that he could not struggle against his bonds very much. but by that time we’ll be long gone. John could do nothing but scream in fury and in pain. if that is your real name.

Simp. He set out to do the right thing. and once again had let . but his guns spoke louder than any voice ever did. and then rob the stagecoach when it came through tomorrow morning. They just needed to make sure they were all in position at the right time. we’re not quite done yet. “How much was the take from the bank?” asked Jim.” answered Simp.” “How much?” he asked. They ambled on down the worn path through the mountains towards the base to where they’d make camp for the night.they got out of this territory he would take over the point from Jud and lead them to their siestas in Mexico. we shall live to the ends of our lives rich men!” “Oh. “And with your nuggets. and they couldn’t afford any mistakes. There’s gonna be a stagecoach comin’ through town tomorrow night that is carrying the Army payroll for Fort Yuma.” Then both men started laughing. There were going to be armed guards riding this stage. knowing that they had gotten away with it. He was a quiet man. John couldn’t believe his crappy luck. but it should be in the fifty to sixty thousand dollar range. “Not sure. “About ten thousand. and we’re going to get it.

and finally slipped it out of the rope. After a few minutes he had to rest.himself get captured. and he didn’t have any water with him. The heat was getting to him. They had made sure that it was tied tightly. then exhaled. but found it to be futile. They had taken it when they took his horse with . He took a deep breath and held it for a little while. he could loosen the rest of the rope and be free. If only there was some way to get just one arm out. and the ropes seemed to loosen up just a bit. He had heard about that trick working for some people and wondered if it would work for him. but it was too far to reach for him. He wiggled some more and tried to puff out his chest some. He would still need to find a way to make it to town. He knew getting out of here was his first problem. He soon spotted one that might work. He grabbed the stone and started slicing through his bonds. He looked around him. He leaned towards his left side. His concentration kept wavering. and found that he could finally reach the stone with his arm free. He did it twice more. He struggled some more with the rope. looking for some piece of sharp rock or something that was within reach. He wiggled his left arm. and he was sweating profusely.

he couldn’t rest. Maybe he would be able to find some water once through this small canyon. He looked up at the sky and saw that the canyon walls towered above him. He got his other arm free and tore the ropes from his body. no matter how bad he wanted to. After about a half hour walk he made it to the entrance and started his way through. After what seemed to him like an eternity. John started walking across the canyon floor towards the narrow passage. He started to saw back and forth on the ropes again. and retreated into the shade the overhang offered. the world before him opened up with a panoramic view of the desertscape far down below him.them. looking for something that he could use. He had to make it. Trees and bushes appeared around him. There of course was nothing but the still smoldering fire that they had used to cook their dinner with. followed by several more. and he . He could hear the chirping of birds and the thud of rocks on his boots as he made his way deeper into the canyon. and soon one strand broke through. determined to make it through. He aimed for the passage and just plodded along. one foot in front of the other. He stood up. He had to get help and track down these hombres.

He had to make it. His mouth was parched and dry. he stood up to survey his surroundings. He soon spotted a small spring that fed down from the mountaintops. Down the rock-strewn trail he went. Dead-tired and weary. After he had drunk his fill. he made his way across the desert. By the time he reached the bottom.immediately started looking for signs of water. he just had to. and even swallowing was difficult. and eagerly cupped his hands and drank the precious liquid. it was nearly dark. He was in the small glade where he had tied up his horse. . through cholla and scrub and miles of sand. but it must’ve been the heat playing tricks on his eyes. especially Jim. There was no way that as long as he was alive was he going to let those men. passing familiar clumps of greenery and trees lining the path downward to the base of the mountain. get away with this. Now he had to make his way down the mountain and across miles of desert before he got to the town. and he figured he’d better start making better time. His eyes kept on wanting to close for lack of sleep. He thought he could see it off in the distance. and he was getting thirsty again.

Soon around midday his stomach started growling. He was more concerned about snakes and scorpions. Soon puffy cotton balls of clouds would form. but in the dark it was hard to spot the right ones. He shrugged it off angrily. and the town slowly came into view. and looked behind him. He figured he’d gone about five miles during the night. and plodded on. The mountains were off in the distance. He needed to keep going if he was to survive. He looked up ahead of him and saw that his destination was still far away. With the rise of the sun came the heat. He just put his head down. either of which would end his journey real quick. He was exhausted. But it was five miles closer to his destination than he was. He stopped. which wasn’t much. Daybreak found him walking along slower now. He did know that some cactus plants had water in them. Several hours passed.Unfortunately he had nothing with him that he could carry water in. careful of where he was walking. He trudged along and was soon on the . and the dryness of his throat was as irritating as it was real. It started as a shimmery layer of air on the desert floor and worked its way up. giving him temporary respite from the heat of the sun’s rays. wanting water more than food right now.

“Got stuck up in the mountains chasing the men who robbed the bank last week.” he said. “John!” said a surprised voice.” That sounded find to him.” he exclaimed. They caught me and took my horse.boardwalk. “You can use mine. she looked just like Eliza did. which he drained quickly.” she said. Along the way he . “Where did you come from?” “Water. he had her horse saddled. With her red hair and green eyes.” he croaked. Julia. and quickly made his way to his ranch. He walked along the boardwalk until he came up to the saloon. then staggered into the cooler air inside. It was Julia. that’s much better. That one went just as fast. as if he’d just been dropped by an invisible stagecoach. except that she was a little taller. Once there. “Ah.” “Thanks. “I need to borrow a horse. He asked for another. “How about a beer.” He took the proffered stein and drained it in one gulp. People were looking at him strangely. I been walkin’ ever since. the owner of the saloon. “It’s over at the livery stable. I owe you one. and took off in the direction of the stable. She hurriedly gave him a glass. and you tell me what’s going on. wiping the foam off with the sleeve of his shirt. if you want to honey.” he said.

They took my horse. Mike. They caught me up in the mountains and were talkin’ about more robberies and holdups. and mounted his horse. and the other half guarding the house here.” he told John. “Well. They were talkin’ about it up in the hills. and we’re going to telegraph the stagecoach company of what’s going on. You will come with me into town. “We need to warn the stagecoach company. running into several more hands hiding in the brush with rifles at the ready. Then I want you to round up a posse and I’ll get the sheriff .” “What?” asked Mike incredulously. its possible. “We got some word that those bandits would be coming back here. Mike this is what I want you to do. sir.was stopped by several armed guards. I want half the hands guarding the mine. “What the hell is going on here?” he asked as Big Mike stepped out from behind some trees. and Jim’s one of them. Together the two men made their way towards the ranch house.” he said.” he answered. I have to talk to you and it don’t concern no one else. “but I believe they’re going to go after the stage tonight.” ‘Yes. “Okay. Now follow me to the ranch house. “Are you sure?” “Sure as me sittin’ here talking to you.” said John.

. watching his property. Big Mike had all the hands going to their respective posts. and left the house to gather up the hands. let’s go.” he said. boss. he thought.” he said to him. “So Jim’s in on this. “I need a fresh horse. These men deserve a raise. you say?” he asked. John walked over to the telegraph office to let the stagecoach company know what they were up against.informed and ready.” “You got it. By the time he’d eaten a quick meal and dressed. While Mike was having a beer. He was on the porch waiting for him when John walked out the door.” Mike took off and was soon back with another roan. once we get through with all this mess. then went back to the saloon. They stopped off at the livery first. Then he walked back to the sheriff’s office and gave him an accounting of what had happened in the past couple of days. they found it strangely quiet. saddled and ready. Along the way were several of his hired hands. As Mike and him entered town.” Together the two men rode down the trail towards town. John went into his room and changed clothes. dropped off Julia’s horse. “I can’t believe that. We grew up together. After that we’ll play it by ear. “Okay. “I had to borrow Julia’s from the livery.

” “Believe what you want to. Slowly two men walked out of the saloon.” said John. Other than that. Now if none of you wants to go I will respect his wishes. He walked down the boardwalk to the saloon. Sheriff.” “Have it your way. using his badge to throw the scent off of them and somewhere else. here’s what we’re going to do. “Okay then. and eyeballs followed them out. John took his beer and swallowed it in one large chug. “He’s in cahoots with that gang. you men. What about the rest of you men?” Again they all looked at each other.” insisted John.” said John. Any takers?” The men just looked at each other. I’m in charge and what I say goes. This time no one moved. Have a beer on me and we’ll figure out a game plan. and slammed the door closed behind him. but it’s the truth.no way would he do that. then. “Until I know just what the hell is going on. You take three men and scatter them on the . “That’s two. “Okay. where in the meantime Mike had rounded up a good halfdozen men. “Okay. “Alright.” The remaining men lined the bar and started drinking. Mike explained things to you.” “I’m going to stay right here. Then him and Mike found an unoccupied table and laid down the game plan.” he said.

Further up the trail there’s some boulders and scrub. and bathed the boardwalk in an eerie yellowish hue. socializing and drinking the night away. Wait there until we get into town. . and try and trap those men within the town limits. and those who were going were usually staggering out. he got himself another beer. The back door will be open. I’ll try and steer them into town. I want you to commandeer it. and I think that’s where it will take place. Then he went upstairs in the saloon and took a nap. Soon the lights came on. Don’t let no one take it anywhere. There was a melting pot of people coming and going. Once it’s here. but they managed to shake it off and go their own way. I’m going to try and push the stagecoach towards town. I’m going to take the remainder and wait along the route where I think the stage will be hit. The saloon was filling up with its evening gathering of patrons.” After making sure Mike understood his plan. There was a few that got thrown out.south side of the trail. Night was falling on the sleepy town. Get the soldiers off the coach and have them take the strongbox and wait in the bank.

He kept the local tailor in business just by the sheer number of jackets he had custom-made for him. The saloon was the center of night time activities. Sir Archibald was reveling in tales of the Far East to a saloon . He was the proper gentleman at all times. With his impeccably groomed suit to his bulbous red nose. he looked like a cross between a butler and a circus clown. and let them go about their business the next morning. drunk or sober. as he was pretty much every night of the week. however. One of them always ran off with one of his jackets. He would give anyone the shirt off his back if they were cold. but you wouldn’t know it if you talked to him. But the people of Sweetwater accepted him as one of their own. especially the pretty saloon girls. being in part for the revenue he helped to generate by running several mines and hiring out local folks versus claim jumpers. Sir Archibald Kreasy was among the revelers. He was fairly wealthy.Sweetwater at night wasn’t much different from any other town. and the sheriff usually had his cells filled within the first few hours of business. Tonight was no different. He let them sleep it off. charged them a small fine for drunk and disorderly.

The nap he took refreshed him immensely. the familiar old sting of the alcohol making the world around him more bearable. He decided that he wanted a shot of whiskey to go with his beer. He ordered it. He still missed his family. and bring the regular passengers into town along with the moneybox. She was almost a deadringer for his deceased wife. He needed to keep his wits about him regarding the plan they had for tomorrow. saying hello and how-are-yous. Ah. and John was having a drink with his men. especially when he saw Julia making the rounds. and having them tossed in jail would sure satisfy his yearning for revenge. and he felt pretty good tonight. he thought. He was going to get even with Jim and his gang of cutthroat robbers and thieves one way or the other. He mustn’t let such thoughts ruin such a fine evening as this. Julia was mingling among the customers.girl named Shirley who had yet to claim tonight’s jacket. and the thought of that hurt him tremendously. and as soon as it was poured it was tossed down his throat. His plan was to place four of his men inside the stagecoach. Then when they hijacked it they would be surprised to find out that not .

The town was growing by leaps and bounds. happy to be as they were and happy that a steady stream of income was coming in through the mines and through John’s cattle business. Jim would hold back. Once they had the stage stopped. John’s men on both sides of the trail would slowly converge on the stopped stagecoach. discussing their parts of the raid for tomorrow. but they were willing to sacrifice their lives to put an end to this menace. and would soon be as big as Kansas City in a few years.docile stage riders were inside but a group of well-armed men. when they were in between the men inside the stage and the men further out. they would close the pincer. the townspeople were reveling in theirown little celebration. Then. But others had designs on the small town as well. trapping them within the circle. then heading on to Fort Yuma with the Federal payroll strongbox attached to it. Then he . just so he wouldn’t be identified if and when someone got caught. A few men might die trying. stopping in Sweetwater. They would rob the stagecoach coming from Tucson. But in the meantime. The four men sat around the campfire.

Being a big man. His light snores were drowned out in the laughter and crackle of dry wood in the fire. but on this trip only one soldier would be present.could tell the local law enforcement that he was his prisoner and was wanted in Kansas City for whatever crime he decided to come up with. He was already sleeping on his bedroll as they were passing around their second bottle. He was as bad as they came. He didn’t want no part of Simp. he was to grab the strongbox and rip it off the stage while the other three men held their guns to the stagecoach customers and Army detachment. He just got back up and sat back down. not lead. Typically it would be a driver with two soldiers. Simp was the brawn behind the brains. They sat around the fire eating their beans and jerky. With an amount of between fifty and sixty thousand dollars at stake. and passing a whiskey bottle around. That would save the man’s neck. Red was a fair-size gent. Jud was the lightweight of the outfit. no one did. but he preferred to be led. Simp slapped Red so hard on the back he darn near slammed him into the fire. hence the attempt. He could . they wanted to make sure their plan was foolproof.

have brawn when he wanted to. He was the quiet man of the bunch. Idle talk turned into serious talk. it was rumored that he had followed a man who broke out of Yuma Territorial for a month straight. getting them out of numerous jails and out of several scrapes that otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to . going all the way to Los Angeles. Willy was the outfit’s tracker and guide. but Willy was an easier moniker to remember. he wouldn’t be able to accomplish his goals. He wanted to retire with some money. He ran into this bunch over in New Mexico. but even with a Federal Marshal’s income. but most of the time he was just a hired gun. There he shot the man in the kneecap and brought him back to Arizona. and he’d been a member of the group ever since. Kansas to be hung. Jim Patterson was sick to death of the law. He was cool. and the others would up and take care of it. calm and efficient. He could usually smell trouble a mile away. He could also track a man through the desert as well as an Apache could. His real name was Jose Panuello. He had been a lawman for going on thirty for forty-eight years of his life and it was dull and didn’t pay very much. He was there to take a man back to Dodge City.

into Mexico. fell asleep. Towards daybreak. His full name was Thomas Gordon Simpson. and was busy making a fire to heat . No one could ever take that from him. and had stayed up the latest. and he wasn’t about to let that fall from his hand like so many grains of sand. but Simp had been his name since he was little. He’d been in and out of prisons and jails for most of his adult life. the man who finally convinced him to join their little clique was Simp. short for Simpson. Jud had revived himself. He was looking forward to being with a senorita and a tequila bottle. He did need his rest. Come morning the stagecoach with the gold would be ripe for the taking. He had drunk more than any one man in this party had drunk. however.do. The man who he had come to get was Red for murdering a prostitute. There they would be free from persecution and the United States Law. so nothing scared him anymore. He just wanted a nice chunk of money to tide him over for his retirement to Mexico. They figured on one more easy hit before heading down to the land of the Aztecs. Simp. All the men were ready to head south. Around midnight the last of them.

At least in the lawman’s creed he could expect a fellow lawman to obey his orders. “How we gonna split everything?” asked Simp.” “Okay. and this was about the only time that he would. away from the others’ ears. if you say so. The men ate what was cooked for them and finished their coffee. and the early morning fire brought heat into the campsite. He was normally a very cruel man. and Jim and Simp woke up a little while later.” said Jim. The smell of the coffee was good.water for coffee. He had genuine concern in his eyes.” the big man agreed. and glanced over at the others from time to time. as was Willy. Soon Red was up. Simp. He would have to be careful. but working with these outlaws tamed that wild beast. He would have to be .” answered Jim. “We’ll let ya know. quite disturbed about being questioned so much. “When we headin’ out to ambush that stagecoach?” asked Red. Simp and Jim walked off to one side to talk to each other. because he was the only one who knew the secret trail out of here into Mexico. Once he gets us into Mexico he’s dead meat. “Like I said. “We’ll get rid of Jud and Red and that will leave just Willy against us. Jim lit a cigarette while listening to the big man. They would need to kill him last.

Mike. I’m not gonna worry about it none. He longed for the quiet life himself. just a nice quiet life. I’m not sure yet. dusty day. “I don’t know what it is. me too. The look in his friend’s eyes answered his question for him. my friend. and several others .” Jud said. “I have a bad feeling about this. “What you plan to do with your share of the stash?” asked Red.” answered Jud.” “What do you mean?” asked Red inquisitively. He just wanted to settle down. “but I would like to start a ranch somewhere where I can be left alone and in peace. me too. After that he was buzzard bait.” “Well. raise a family. Red” Jud finally said. but I can’t shake it.” “Yeah.kept alive until after the border crossing. “Well. but I will be keepin’ my eyes and ears open. nervously looking in the direction of Simp and Jim. John. Jud and Red started talking amongst themselves. “Yeah.” agreed Red. somethin’ like that. “You mean being dry-gulched after this is over?” His friend shook his head.” “Yeah. The town slowly arose to the beginning of another hot. I’m sick and tired of running and have nowhere to go. and maybe some horses or cattle too.

Then John looked at Mike. John reached out . As he passed Sir Archibald.were already up and eating breakfast.” John agreed.” John said. Today’s going to be an interesting vision of the future. John?” asked Sir Archibald. “You got that right. he dabbed his mouth with his napkin and got up to leave. They mumbled their good mornings back to him.” “Do you have enough men. Take your men out of town and position them on the south ridge. boss. “I mean.” he said cheerfully.” he stated. just short of the junction.” With that.” he said. do you think you’ll have enough hands to do the job and end this gang’s terror on the land?” “I sincerely hope so. “Just tea for me. and were finishing their coffee when Sir Archibald came into the diner. the man stood up and held out his hand.” “Right. “I hope so. and got up and left. my friend. While you’re doing that I’ll take mine and we’ll get set up on the high ground to the north. “We have a couple of hours yet before we have to get set up. then invited Sir Archibald to have a seat. “It will be an interesting day at that. John watched the big man go. “Top of the mornin’ to ya.

He thought that Jim was a good man too. Then he took one last look at the sheriff and walked out into the . Then he grabbed a rifle from the rack on the wall and chambered several rounds into it. He took his six-gun out of its holster and made sure the chamber was full. and slung it over his shoulder. “We’re ready. “I’ve known him since we was both kids. when you are.” “Thanks. We’ll need it. “This should hold us for awhile.” John left the diner.and shook it.” said John. He also took a box of ammo and put it into a pouch he had brought with him. then we’re going to go get set up. “Luck of the Irish to ya.” “I still think you’re wrong about Jim Patterson. then stretched his lean body.” he said. sheriff. and sat down across the desk from the sheriff.” the man said.” “I don’t make this accusation lightly. He opened the heavy wooden door.” John stood up. and I don’t agree with what you said the other day. until he seen him come through that pass up in the mountains. “When you headin’ out?” “Soon as everyone gets here. He looked disheveled and seemed like he hadn’t slept in several days. and walked down the boardwalk to the sheriff’s office.

That was the first sign of trouble. stabbed with a scalpel to his heart. He must’ve been tired. He got his boots on and walked downstairs into the saloon. He had been up early that morning. Chapter 13 Tom woke up to another bright sunny day. and left his door unlocked for pretty much everyone to walk in. “What’s wrong.bright sunshine. with someone banging on his front door.” said the lawman. The sheriff went over and jimmied the door open. and they found him lying on his back with his own surgical scalpel . closing the door behind him. His wrinkles seemed even more pronounced than usual. Sheriff?” he asked inquisitively. the sign of strain on his face. noting the look on the other man’s face. “Doc Wallace is dead. Waiting for him at the bar was the sheriff with a grim look on his face. The man said that his wife was going to see the doctor and the door was locked. because everyone in town knew pretty well that the doctor never locked his door. The doctor was usually up well before dawn.

” the barkeep answered. Then his eyes spotted what looked to be a cigarillo tip on the floor. “He looked like he had something brewing in that head of his. yes he was. we need to find him. Robbery wasn’t a motive. they noticed that everything else seemed to be in its place. heading out of town. Tom. as far as I can figure. He was wearing a shoulder bandage. He didn’t know offhand who in town smoked those particular cigars. but he left earlier this morning. next to the body. . “that Mexican fella that was in here last night smoked something that sure looked a lot like the cigar you’re describing.sticking out of his chest. too” “Okay. he slept here last night. “ said the bartender. Which way did he go?” “He headed out of town towards the canyon. I just wonder if he knows anything about that supposed treasure that’s buried up in the mountains?” The sheriff and Tom looked at each other. sheriff.” “Any clue as to his whereabouts?” asked the sheriff. “You know. Along with the pool of blood. but he would damn sure find out. “Looked like he was in a big hurry.” said the barkeeper. “No sir. sheriff. wasn’t he Stan?” “Now that you mention it.” “Well then. we need to find this fellow and quick. “I think the treasure is his secondary goal.

and . and would have revenge on his mind. just kind of a dull throbbing. Well. and his shoulder was starting to bother him. He left town early. He was in the canyon proper. The gunslinger wouldn’t take being shot at very lightly. but they weren’t sure how much he did know. That cigarillo on the floor was a mighty strong clue. I aim to give him a chance if he wants it that bad.because I’m the target.” Manuel had made good time. because he didn’t want to be spotted leaving. and if we can match it up with him. “As far as I’m concerned. “Now look son.” said the sheriff with a stern look on his face. However. either. The sheriff just looked at him. They guessed he didn’t know about the treasure. he’s wanted for questioning involving a murder and we think that he was the last patient the doc had seen.” Tom said. and knew he was right. there was always someone else up at that hour.” said Tom. “I’m the one that shot him and he wants his revenge. he’ll swing for sure. let’s not go starting something we can’t finish.

He soon reached the small plateau. That would sure make up . He remounted his horse. Mouths have a permanent way of being closed up. but he felt that he would talk too soon. if they did they would be back. and claim the gold. He didn’t want to stab him. and decided to rest for a bit. and maybe that’s what those two were doing up here all that time. and ruin his plans. get rid of the sheriff. Maybe he could ambush both of them in the caves. because by now the town knew about the doctor. and started back up the trail. He needed to find himself a good hiding place among the rocks. Sure. Then revenge would be his. He got down off his horse and surveyed the surroundings. He did mention something about a lost treasure up here. He could get his revenge. An evil grin crossed his face. Perhaps they had found it. he’d take care of that little problem as well. and he’d just lie back and let them do all the work.once he got back to town after completing his business here. and a plan hatched in the back of his mind. or whatever it was. all to himself. somewhere to ambush that gringo when he least expected it.

but that wasn’t to be. the better it would be for him. and took a quick rest. swung them around his neck and gave his horse a smack on the rump. and passed the large boulder. His body was still down in the cavern where he left it as far as he knew. He walked up the trail. Once all this unpleasantness was over. If they spotted it. He wished he had his brother here with him. they would know he was up here in the hills. He needed to get rid of his horse. He put his saddlebags down. the opening to freedom. and proceeded into the cave. took off the saddlebags. and the less those two knew. The animal whinnied and headed back down the trail. and his plans would not come to fruition. It was much cooler in here . I’d get shot in the other arm too. he chuckled. he would take his brother’s body down off the mountain and give it a proper burial with his family surrounding him. surveying the countryside. There it was. for that much gold. he thought to himself.for what had happened. Financial freedom that is. He got off. He was close enough to the cave entrance to walk anyhow. though. Hell. laughing. He picked up his bags. the way it should be.

and following it. broke through on the other side with a great whoosh of breath. to see for himself what was on the other side. landing on his feet. He walked over and put his bags down in the dust beside the body. His heart was filled with pure hatred of the man who did this.than the outside temperature. He threw his bags on the ground. he promised. He felt like his lungs were about to give out when he came to the bottom gradually rising. He almost lost his breath. into the big room that held his brother’s body. but continued on. and dropped down the hole. he dove in the icy cold water. and soon came upon the end of the tunnel that was filled with water. Soon. The only thing different was that the body was on its back. and soon he was at the opening in the floor. and it shocked him like a thousand lightning bolts hitting him all at once. He decided he’d chance it. Taking a deep breath. staring upwards. very soon now we will have our revenge. He went down the left tunnel. He climbed . He picked up his bags and continued on down the passageway.

The gold.slowly onto the sandbar and saw then the box laying open in the sand. they were to make sure they could use the surrounding terrain for cover. He sighed and closed the chest when a dim glint caught his eye. and was disappointed in what he saw. where they spaced themselves apart every hundred yards or so. He rubbed it with his shirttail. The stage would be coming right between the two groups of men. Half of the moldy letter was missing. and other jewels his eyes had sought were simply not there. John had taken his men and spaced them throughout the clump of aspen and willow trees on the north ridge. diamonds. They made sure they had a clear field of fire. he thought. He opened up the chest. and the trail was about fifty yards from them. Well now. Once the shooting started. He rinsed it off in the water. and the emerald within revealed itself to him. and the gem encrusted within the latticework of silver shone a dull green. written in a language he assumed was Spanish. Once the order to advance had begun. Mike took the men assigned to him to the south ridge. He reached down in the damp box and pulled out what looked like a small pebble. All that was inside was what was left of something that appeared to be a letter. it wouldn’t stop until there were . and it stank to high heaven. He scraped some of the mud off that had fallen in. And too bad it will soon be all mine. and the smile on his face dropped. there was a hidden treasure.

otherwise the killing and raiding would go on and on. That still cut the odds somewhat. while John and Mike’s outfit had about six. John also received the telegram back from the stagecoach company informing him that they were aware of the situation. He also wanted to recover the money stolen from the bank. Once the shooting started. Now all they had to do was wait. it would be guaranteed death to run out. .dead men scattered about. That left three armed men on the stagecoach. but John didn’t have a choice. but the outlaws had three good hands with guns. angry that they weren’t taking more precautions against the suspected raid on their stagecoach. John threw down the paper and stalked out of the telegraph office. It would seem that the odds favored them. Upon reading this piece of news. and that there would be two armed men inside the stage itself. This had to stop here and now. five thousand of which was his. There was a total of twelve against four. They made sure their chambers were full and that they had plenty of ammunition handy. plus Mike and his three men and John with his four.

the sun rising higher in the sky and the heat rising right along with it. they turned off the trail and headed towards the ridge to the south. He looked down the line at his men. Each man checked his weapon and double-checked their ammo supply. otherwise it could get rough. They rode on. They kept on. There were several ridges around that they could use for cover until they actually assaulted the coach itself. and got ready to bushwhack the stagecoach. and concentrate on each man doing what he was supposed to do. These men weren’t stupid. blowing sand in their faces. knowing they had to ambush the stagecoach at just the right spot. but they wanted to do it where the ridges were closest together. Of course there was always the risk of an ambush. Several dust devils blew with the slight breeze that had picked up. but they had to put that thought aside for the moment.Simp and the rest of his gang mounted up. After an hour of riding. towards the trail that the stagecoach would arrive on. Then they headed east. Mike watched the men riding up the trail towards them. and looked back. they were going to hit the stagecoach at the narrowest point . to hide themselves and their mounts until the stagecoach arrived.

He had no choice but to hold his ground now. Mike thought they should’ve been further east. otherwise a lot of good men were going to die this day. and they needed to be alert now. one of which he couldn’t believe his eyes. the lawman was in cahoots with this bunch! John had also watched the five men riding up the trail from the east. His jaw just dropped. He watched and hoped that they wouldn’t see Mike or his men. He looked to his right. but that might have put them too far out of the action when John’s group rushed in. and the wind blew gently through the tops of the trees. the man who came down from Kansas City to identify John from the outlaw Clem Levens. catching them in . It was the stagecoach coming.between the two ridges. Their plan was to let the outlaws make the first move. He made sure all his men were properly situated and wouldn’t be prone to jump the gun. then ambush them from both ridges at the same time. otherwise the shooting would start too early. They had to time this just right. He counted five heads. making the leaves rustle slightly. John was right. and far off he could see the makings of a dust trail winding up on the horizon. The air was dry and dusty. It was the Federal Marshal.

Jim swore to himself. and he made a mad dash for the cave entrance. “Alright.” he started. we'll get shot for sure.” Manuel pocketed the trinket he held in his hands. they were seen by the group. Jim just looked up at the big man. and we need to do somethin' about it. that someone knew their plans.a pincer movement that would surround them. He quickly took a deep breath and dove underwater. Unfortunately for them. and they hunkered down behind a rise and a thicket of trees to review their plan. He kneeled down on one knee and gathered his men together around him. His lungs felt like they were about to burst. and decided to leave the cavern to the souls that were trapped here. He started under the water when he heard a low rumbling coming up through the mountain. swimming hard towards the opening at the other end.” “The damn stage is comin' and we're goin' with the original plan!” Simp stated factually. There's probably other men on this side of the road further on down. a strong sense of urgency clearly . He came up with nothing but slime. That only meant one thing. and he finally broke through into clean air on the other side. The rumbling continued. Jim and his gang knew that this was soon to be an ambush. From what Simp said. He rinsed his hand off. we need to figure something out. and shook his head. and sloshed his hand through the rest of the gunk in the chest. he saw four or five heads sticking out behind the trees over on the other side of the trail. “No good. fear and adrenaline taking over his body now. Simp. Dammit. “Someone's over yonder wantin' to drygulch us. and the way it looks to me is that I smell a trap. noting that it stunk like a rotted corpse.

waiting for the inevitable shooting to start. he would pray for their souls. hoping to save all of their treasures and trinkets from falling off of mantelpieces and shelves. He hoped that no one was up there when this happened. slowly burying him alive in the cavern that had shown him so much promise. then grew into a . They knew from experience that once that happened. Chapter 14 John and his men watched the stage getting closer. He watched helplessly as tons of rubble poured down in front of him. saving their knick-knacks for another day. and if they were. and started to climb the timbers that were there to use as a ladder. Everyone in town heard the rumbling. the only thing left of Manuel was his right hand sticking out between the rocks. slipping once. The townspeople ran towards their homes. the closer it got. and turned to stare at the mountains. and the rumbling grew in intensity. the ground would start shaking. and things would break.guiding his every move now. His vengeance and his greed had cost him his life. and knew what had happened. Earthquake. He finally dragged himself onto the dusty cave floor above. a golden future. All eyes were intently on this moving piece of man's machinery. it still remained strangely quiet. twice in his urgency to get out of there. Once the rumbling stopped. and watched a slowly rising cloud of dust coming from the mountains. He found the original cave entrance. leaving a small dust cloud in its wake. One man stood on the boardwalk. Soon the clippityclap of horse's hooves reached their ears. However.

” Tom eyeballed the man. whom he'd known only for a few days. He wasn't quite sure about this man. Mike.” said John. Dammit. stopped in the middle of the road. “We were finagled. a gritty dirt that was foul-tasting. They soon caught up with the stagecoach which was. “I'm . see what happens. and John and his men just looked at each other. “What can I do for you?” asked Tom. They'd been beaten again! Tom got his horse ready to head back into the mountains. The portly man was watching him with interest. “What happened. thought John. Boss?” he asked.” he said. “I hear tell you're lookin' for a treasure. wondering just how in the hell he knew all that. The stage passed. unfortunately. they knew it was an ambush! Now what were they going to do? He called his men together. ears nose and mouth.thunderous noise as the stagecoach approached. someone tipped these guys off.” All his men gathered their horses together and mounted up. they knew about us bein' here. He spat out a mouthful of grit and looked at his men. On his way over to the livery stable he ran into an old friend. making him uncomfortable. Matt. “Word is that you're seekin' that old Spanish treasure that they say exists somewhere up in those mountains. clearly confused. not even slowing down. meeting up with Mike and his crew. “Let's mount up and follow that stage into town. He was soon walking alongside him. Nothing was happening. The dust it raised left dirt in everyone's eyes. then made their way through the slowly falling duststorm to the other side of the road.

” said Tom. if that's what you're getting at. “That treasure is haunted. Matt looked at him square in the eye. “He is the one that killed Doc Wallace and he's gonna swing for his crime.” he said. noticing that several heads were popping out from behind the trees that were in the copse. He stopped. “Tom!” it said happily. “I'm going up there one way or another. and went to see if there was anyone hurt inside.” “I aim to bring him back to town. He was still a ways away from getting out of this mess with his head still attached to his neck. and the straps had snapped and left them on their own. a familiar voice rang out. He cautiously approached it. and soon he heard the click of several weapons focused on him. or afraid of ghosts and such? He didn't mention that he was already up there.” he said finally. “No one's seen him since he headed off towards the canyon that leads to the mountain. and there was his buddy John. He dismounted. and turned slowly around. “ said Tom.” He swung up on his horse. After about an hour's ride. “Everyone who goes lookin' for it doesn't come back. have you seen that Mexican gunslinger around. the better. “Not since he left town the other day. The less people knew about what went on. and had found some gold coins. whom he had given up for dead after hearing about the fate of .” Tom just looked at the man. What was he getting at? Was he supposed to be superstitious. Suddenly. “By the way.doing some investigating. Matt just pursed his lips and looked at his boots. by any chance?” he asked. he came upon a stagecoach that was lying on its side in the road.” he said in response. He turned. The horses were gone. and headed south towards the mountains.

He figured that his friend was long gone. and looked straight into Tom's eyes. .” was all he said. Tom looked at his old friend and just smiled. and soon decided upon a course of action. cholla. “A Federal marshal is in the gang that we're trackin. and had made something to eat and were drinking a little whiskey to relax when they started to get serious with their conversation. “it seems that this town's sheriff isn't too keen on having to follow criminals. trailing them through the sagebrush. Everyone mounted up.his family.” John swore him in.” he said without batting an eye. They had made good progress. and soon were following the Simpson gang. I have nothing better to do.” said John. and an extra hand won't hurt none!” Tom thought about it for about five seconds. “Count me in. The sun was slowly settling in the west when the men decided to call it a night. Tom told them of his adventures in the old abandoned mines. He walked up to Tom and gave him a great bear hug. and cactus of the desert. “He's on the take. partner. the more the merrier! I'm sorry about Liza and the kids. “Well. I'm just glad all these guns are on your side!” John motioned for the men to come out and put their weapons down. I got someone on my tail as it is. Tom. John.” said Tom. “What say we trail the varmints that robbed this here stage? They's headin' west as far as we know. so deputize me and make me a member of your posse. and John reveled his listeners with tales of his. Each man listened intently to the other. “We figured you was one of those snakes comin' back to pick through the wreckage. or dead by now. and as they say. “It'll be okay. and just shook his head.” he added sympathetically. “No. John looked at him.

and there were several eager pairs of hands waiting to open it. the lock came apart. He just looked up with a shocked expression on his face. The box fell off of Jim's horse with a dull thud in the sandy soil. They couldn't wait to get off the horses and count the loot they had stolen from the stagecoach. “Move your behinds.” he added. “ he said. trying to ease the tension. “All this trouble and all we got was a box of dust!” He swore disgustedly and walked towards his horse. the damn thing was empty! Red just stared at Simp. Smith and Wesson open this here box for us!” He pulled out his revolver and with two shots. “Hold on there. and opened the box. Day turned into night. We'll just have to figure something else out. “Where the hell you goin?” asked Simp.so be prepared no matter what you do. “Fighting amongst ourselves isn't going to get us rich. It didn't matter that two people were dead because of their greed. fellers. spluttering with rage. “Goddam. Simp and the gang had ridden to their hideout. How I have no clue. Jim knelt down in the sand to pull off the stillsmoldering lock. “We plan and we plan and all . Simp stood up and backed off a little. The lock had to be dealt with first.” he said. They knew they were gonna be ambushed. so they took a break and waited to see what morning would bring them. however. “I'm done with you fellers. “Nothing! Not so much as a lousy five dollar piece!” Simp couldn't believe their luck. boys. and Jim knew what was coming next. Let's let Mr. After all they went through.” Red jumped in with his two-cents worth.” said Red disgustedly. The look was venomous. a weather-beaten slab of sandstone that was carved out of the side of a cliff many years ago.

and that was that. of course. Tom. Willy spoke up next. “Senor..” said Jim. Too bad for them that he was gone.” No one said anything.” “Let me think.that ever happens is nothing. and went to find out what happened in their absence. to Mexico!” He got up on his horse and started riding away. looking around at each man in turn. then head up towards Tombstone in the morning.. Jim took out his six-shooter. He was counting on the news not traveling that fast. took careful aim. They also needed to let the sheriff in on what was going on and to see if he was any closer to Doc Wallaces' killer. He got no answer and holstered his weapon. “We just need to plan a little more ahead. There they would telegraph the stagecoach company and let them know what happened. “I think we settle down for the night. chasing after a dead man. Unless.” he added. what we do now? We wanted men and no gold to show for it. and fired one shot. Little did he know how determined his former friends were. “Anyone else wanna abandon me?” he asked. John. We killed two people for nothing! And soon our faces are gonna be on wanted posters from here to Colorado! I'm a goin' South. anyone has a better idea. and the rest of the men decided to head back into town. Red toppled from his horse. They proceeded to the saloon. and lay unmoving in the dust of the desert. The bartender told them about the earthquake and how the sheriff left . stroking his chin thoughtfully.

it seems that you can't trust anyone these days. John just swore. He stared at his friend. and I aim to . my friend. my friend.” he added. There the two men could talk in relative peace and quiet. Better wait til daybreak. “If that's what ya'll want to do. “ said Tom nonchalantly. and walked over to Tom. “I found something up there. Tom?” asked John. and they all ambled up to the bar to place their orders. if you say so. I've heard rumors of a Confederate treasure hidden in the mountains around here. The sheriff was supposed to wait until they got back! “I'd give 'em a day John. “If we head into the mountains tonight we'd be askin' for trouble. “So what do you think of all this. He thought that Jim was on their side. that would start a stampede in this town. John looked around at the various clientele that frequented this establishment.” John just stared at his friend in astonishment. then looked down at the amber liquid in his glass. and noticed that they were all as dusty and dirt-covered as they were. Not only did he have the stagecoach robbery to worry about. like it or not.” John just looked at his partner. “No need. swishing the whiskey in his glass. now knowing that Jim was part of the group that was in on it. without anyone overhearing their private conversation. Was he the one that cut the timbers? He didn't want to believe it. but his true colors finally came out. then taking a drink of the potent liquid. “he said. “I thought I'd let ya know. who let out a burp.” answered Tom. He finished his drink. “Okay.town to head up into the mountains after the man that killed the doctor. and we'll continue our hunt tomorrow first light!” The saloon was busy when they walked in. but he had to face the facts. almost in afterthought. but also his mine. then let's drink up. John. I'm here to help ya. “Well. motioning for him to follow him outside.

take what we want. Suddenly. or would Willy lead them into a trap? He didn't trust any of them.” he said. First the stage robbery went bad. their interest clearly piqued now. and walked slowly back into the saloon. and disappear over the border til everything cools off!” . There's word out that some of the rebels got away and took some of Jefferson Davis' gold out here and buried it. “What are you talkin' about. and I bet there isn't a handful of men working it now. would turn on him next? Jim.” “What do you mean. Jim had an idea! “Gents. then he had to kill Red in cold blood. Willy nodded his head in agreement. Who else.share it with whoever helps me find it. fellers. “Well. there's this gold mine that I was working for John awhile back. We could go in there. Tom. Confederate treasure?” “Just what I said. to come back later when they thought the South would rise again.” Tom just pursed his lips at that. “I know of a mine we can knock off!” The others gathered around him quickly. he wondered. Simp was aggravated with the whole deal. Jim?” asked Simp.

. Bush Jr.High Mesa by Clifton L.

To Lori. This is the process that has been going on for millennia. who was proud Chapter 1 The wind blows eternally through the desert. constantly eroding the rock and the scrub that barely clings to life there. and will continue to do so. .

causing giant buttes to rise up against the sky as if in defiance of mother nature. But the one man who was slowly riding through this part of the desert took no notice. He knew he would have to find a camp that was out of the beaten path to hide his secrets. watching the man several hundred yards ahead of . or up at the sun. and make a living mining or lumberjacking. with another death on his conscience. making sure that he was heading in the right direction. He'd have to shoot his way out of another town. He could then put his past behind him. Little did he know that he had a shadow. however. square shouldered and slightly hunched over who had seen plenty of years. if he was lucky enough. The most unusual feature about this man. and he wasn't about to let some young wet behind-the-ears punk take him in. because his face was on wanted posters around the Arizona Territories and that it wouldn't take much for some young buckaroo to spot him. Once someone recognized him. That was something that he didn't need nor want. providing of course the locals didn't ask too many questions. He eased his mount through the worst of it. Layer by layer these goliaths represent time. That was something he could do without. lanky man. Perhaps even working for the railroad. The bounty hunter reined in his mount. He had been on the run going on for five years now. allowing one to look back at the geologic processes that formed our planet. He figured another day or two would find him in a small mining town or camp to where he could start his new life. while the other was an albino white. he could just blend in with the other misfits who found their way into these establishments. He didn't want to spend the next 20 years in Yuma Territorial. it was all over. as the sun slowly rose in the east and sank in the west. and the soil became hard and rocky. One was green. and found that it was a winding trail that headed towards the mountains. were his eyes. he didn't have to worry. to a mining town where he could hide and remain hidden. only glancing occasionally to his right or left. He was a tall. On and on he rode. and stopped. He figured that once he reached a camp. with the sun high at his back. He was on his way to Colorado. As long as it was a job. He found himself on a trail that slowly rose through the canyon.For thousands of years water and wind have eroded the land.

and continue on into the canyon to where he could finally trap him. He dropped off his mount. and looked behind him. but heard none. Simp stopped his horse. look around. and decided to camp for the night. Out here a man needed water. He listened intently for awhile for any noises on the trail. and tilted his hat down over his eyes. and led his horse around to the southern part of the canyon. and let his mind wander through the mists of time. just out of sight of whoever might come up the trail and try to trap him. The sun was setting. and opened up a package of jerky. He could almost smell the skin he was so confident of his success. He soon dozed off. He had a gut instinct that the man knew what he was doing. He didn't want to make a fire and make himself that much more obvious. but he had the disadvantage of knowing that his prey knew he was being followed. He started to hear the noises of the night. and killing this man and bringing back his guns and horse were trophies that he did not want to see slip away. and he was no exception despite living in these harsh conditions all of his life. The horse tracks led right up through the canyon. his ears picking up where his vision left off. He had an idea he was being followed. All he needed right now was the whole tribe on his tail. Here there was a small stream that slowly flowed down from the mountains above. He let his horse drink. to make the pursuer known. clear liquid. The bank they had held up in Borderland had been an easy job. He watched him stop. the birds and owls and other such nocturnal creatures doing their thing. He reined in. He could easily follow the man. then got down and filled his animal skin with the cool. One he could deal with. The sun was low in the western sky. and had come into this canyon on purpose. and he decided to make camp for the night.him. with just several more minutes of daylight left. He looked around. and had netted each of them about . one hundred was another story. and took his pistol out of its holster and laid the weapon within easy reach. He was on a mission to gaining a reputation. and he made no move to conceal his travels. trying to find the best possible area in which to trap the man. He laid back against a flat rock. for he left a trail a blind man could follow.

Simp saw that he had no choice. Willy headed back to Mexico. He pointed his rifle directly at Simp's heart and said two words. and his eyes widened when he saw that Simp's eyes were two different colors. but he was tired of it. Normally once a person left the state in which a crime was committed they were home free. . He reached down. He figured that he had about two hundred dollars worth of gold in his packs to make him through the next few weeks. Normally they would have headed for the border. and wondered what it would be like to never have to run again. tossing it behind him in the dirt.” he stated. “How. “Get up. What was he to do? Simp saw the hesitation in the man. from what he recollected. and they wound up splitting up and scattering after awhile. The man just looked at him. pinning it six inches away from his pistol. and it seemed that he bore no hatred of Simp. The man had no expression on his face. He wondered sometimes if it was all worth it. He had no interests in making notches in his gun barrel like he did when he was just a kid. He looked at one eye.three thousand dollars. to try and hide out until the heat was off. then the other. After that he'd just have to get a job or go back to being a bandit. of having to hide all the time. but then they heard about an army payroll coming through and decided they would hijack that as well. and he was disgusted by it. and a foot soon stepped on his arm. He looked up. straight into the face of the bounty hunter. All he knew was that he was tired of running. He reached for his weapon. and realized that this was no ordinary man indeed. He was simply doing what he was being paid to do.” he said. and he headed up north. towards Colorado. He had killed enough men in his day. and wondering when some punk kid would decide to take him up in the offer of a gunfight. brushing the dust off of his pant legs. and picked up the six-shooter. and was instantly wide awake. and slowly got to his feet. and decided to try and talk his way out of this. He stared up at the stars. like metal on rock. But he kept running for fear of swinging in a noose. Jim and Jud wound up getting arrested. Either way he didn't care. but a new law made it a federal offense and now he was on the run from the feds as well. That didn't go to well. He knew a little more now. He heard a noise.

He slowly sunk to his knees. “Nice horse you got there. Willy. dismounting and chuckling to himself. “You no kill. he buy.” “Good to see ya. his rifle clattering on the rocks. senor. “What's wrong with you?” he asked. “Willy. not since the mine incident. The animal chewed on it contentedly. and angry that Willy had damn near killed him too.” answered Simp. The horse rubbed his head against Willy's hand. Who'd you steal it from?” he asked. Just then a rifle shot sounded far off. “Looks like Willy save your ass. and slowly looked around for the shooter. All he had to do was keep talking. dusting himself off. Recognizing the Mexican guide. “You like my eyes?” he asked. “Nothing wrong. slowly realizing that he was gaining the upper hand in this. withdrawing a dried-out carrot stick. Simp instinctively ducked in the dirt. shaking the Mexican's hand. “Where you heading. The man just nodded. and pitched forward in the dust.” the guide answered. It was a few minutes later that a rider slowly trotted up the rocky path towards where he lay. and slowly the rifle he was holding lowered. and they had split up. “Oh no.raising his right hand. Then he realized that the bounty hunter was staring in amazement at him. “Up north to where its safe from varmints like you. pointing to his peepers. “Bounty hunter have you for supper. . They hadn't seen each other in over five years. patting the horse on the nose. The Mexican just gave him a big. toothy smile.” he said. friend. He eyeballed the stallion that Willy rode up on. and a pink. Simp got up. and he reached into one of his packs. Willy no steal.” he said finally. and maybe he could worm his way out of this predicament. right?” The hunter just continued to stare.” the big man answered. frothy foam came from between the hunter's lips. what the hell did you do that for?” he asked gruffly. big man?” he asked Simp.

giving it ample time until they made their way.” “Okay. I aim to find that treasure!” Chapter 2 They ran across the stagecoach road heading south. He mounted his horse and turned it back out into the desert. Soon they were trotting through the cholla and Saguaro in a southerly direction. they found themselves a hiding spot and waited for the stage to pass. senor. Willy couldn't have shown up at a better time.” was his reply. Willy. Simp figured that once they got to Mexico. On the second day of . As soon as a plume of dust was spotted. “Word is its hidden in a gold mine. He needed his spirits lifted and going back to the outlaw ways was going to do it for him. “Okay. But by God. no?” The big man thought about that. they could lay down a base of operations close to the border. either. despite the danger of being identified. Simp? I have hacienda we can use as base.“Why don't you come back to Mexico with me. and decided to stay on it to make time. have you heard any more about that Rebel treasure that's supposed to be hidden somewhere around here?” he asked the guide. We'll head into Mexico. ya talked me into it. instead of heading into Colorado where he'd be more likely to be spotted. and make strikes through Skeleton Canyon or follow a stage trail up through one of the border towns and make good their getaway. Willy can't figure it out. we'll play it by ear then. then someone else say it hidden in a silver mine. heading out of the canyon. Lots of senoritas and tequila. and make raids across the border.” he said finally. “By the way. Head back into Mexico? That might not be such a bad idea after all. Soon he felt like a second wind had blown through him. “Only bits and pieces.

Willy made sure the small fire they had made to boil coffee was out. and her . Some of the miners had tried to take advantage of her.” Willy stated. “What you think that was. and slammed the fiery liquid down her throat. and wondered just what exactly was going on. senor?” asked Willy. and soon set back off on the trail. ready to move. motioning for a refill in the process. senor. An hour after sunset they spotted the faraway lights of a town in the distance. They sat back down. Red was shot in the back by Simp for wanting to leave the outlaw gang and the others wound up getting arrested. It burned all the way down. They didn't see anything. they decided that it was just too dangerous. but were thwarted when all they did was rob an empty box. but they also knew they'd be spotted and that was a risk they weren't ready to take just yet. “I don't know. They both jumped up and peered through a crevice in the rocks to see if they could find who was shooting and at what. The two men glanced around them. they were sitting in amongst some rocks and scrub eating jerky when a rifle shot sounded close by. heading towards a new destiny in the land called Mexico. and stayed hidden during the day and followed the ruts at night. except that she was much younger and gullible then. Soon dusk came. After that things just kind of fell apart.” “Couple more days. Jim was still awaiting trial and Jud had been hanged. and she could drink with the best of them. Her name was Dori Smith. On the fourth day of their journey. but decided against going there. They both could've used a drink. From what they heard. and no shots followed the first. it wasn't a known fact. He was originally hired to lead the other four men out of the Arizona territories after they robbed the Army payroll coming in from Kansas City. She grew up in a mining town just like this one. we be over the border.” answered Simp. “but we better not be here at sundown.this. and Simp mounted his horse. arched her head back. She raised the glass to her lips. But that was just hearsay. and she wiped off her lips with her sleeve and put the shot glass down. and they prepared to leave their hiding spot. killing two men in the process. chewing on a piece of smoked meat. She sat at the bar. nursing her fifth drink.

tipping his hat sarcastically. well. He ambled up to the bar. hello there darlin'. She stopped in town to drink herself numb after having to bury her baby brother. That made her extremely dangerous.father intervened.” he said. “Well. He figured to be a ladies' man. No one did that to him. She downed her sixth drink and was nursing her seventh when Rusty Miller walked in. He was all she had left in this world. She was afraid of nothing or no one. But what she lacked in size she more than made up for in spirit and determination. Rusty. well. cocking it as if to strike her. but he hadn't quite yet met Dori Smith. with her gun attached. and would let no man nor woman. “we got us an impertinent little filly!” He reached back with his right hand. and Rusty remembered that fact. She was tough.” he said. She stood five foot six inches tall. “Well. not any man nor woman. Ray had been known to be pretty fast with a six-shooter. and she aimed to find the man who shot him down in cold blood. She'd been called names from A to Z and was still standing after all was said and done.” he said. fighting. Rusty wasn't the type to take no from anyone. and the men that tried to romance her found that out the hard way. and sat there eyballing her. stand in her way. She had 30 years of experience packed into her twenty-two year old frame. “No one strikes a woman in my bar!” Rusty turned to look at Ray Holloway. and had an attitude that a steer couldn't knock out of him. She had held a grudge against men ever since. He raised his right boot and placed it on the brass rail footrest. from the hat on her head to the well-worn boots on her feet. ordered a drink. especially a woman. making him coil back in surprise. and she was proud. and the bartender grabbed his wrist. and casually leaned over to stroke her hair. and didn't care if her appearance made others uncomfortable. for that matter. or gunplay. slowly lowering his arm and . In his mind he was the cream of the crop. and weighed a hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet. Back in the day. the man who'd grabbed him. for that matter. and vowed to be even better than them when it came to drinking. She would walk the ends of the earth to find out. She viciously slapped his hand away. “Not tonight. with dirty blonde hair. being shot and killed in the process.

“Mister.. It was Rusty Miller. her heart slowing back to its regular number of beats.” “You're welcome.” She walked out of the saloon. “My pleasure. She bit down. He finished his drink. slid her six-shooter out in one smooth motion. dropped a coin on the bar. What's your problem. pardon me. Besides. voice dripping with sarcasm.” Dori said to her rescuer. and pointed it at her attacker. “Just 'cause a woman don't cotton to ya do you have to attack her comin' out of a saloon!” She kept the pistol pointed at him. or are you just plain ornery?” she asked him finally. and turned to walk out of the bar. and he was smart enough to notice that the end of the barrel never wavered far from aiming at his heart. and just glared at her. she reached in her pocket. and anytime. and much obliged. and swore softly. blood coming out where she'd bit through the skin. “Do you always attack people coming out of a saloon. He looked down at the teeth marks in his hand. what's your problem?” she asked him. and the man yelped and let her go.” he said. and glared at her. ma'am. her eyes locked with his. and was caught off guard behind her as someone picked her up and clamped a hand over her mouth. took out a coin. slamming the bat-wing doors in the process. ma'am. flipped it backwards towards him. and would have swung for doing it. “Thanks for the drinks.. Before he could say anything. and slowly holstered her weapon. “Thanks..smiling at the lady. took a left to head to the hotel to sleep it off..” “Miss will do for now. She dropped to all fours.” she said. chuckling to himself as he wiped out several glasses and laid them behind the bar. . “I could've killed you. “You didn't have to defend me. mister?” Rusty shook his hand. I'd rather look at your face than his!” he laughed. She stood up slowly. “Well. and he deftly caught it in the air. miss. “What'd you bite me for? I wasn't gonna hurt ya!” he stammered. The man was holding his hand. and walked out.

She got up and looked out her window. she turned her back on him and stalked off towards the hotel. his mind slowly working out the details of his plan. She quickly went through what had just happened to her on the boardwalk. and lay down on the squeaky bed. The occasional couple strolled by. it sure as hell won't be the kind you keep!” With that. He rolled a smoke. “Leave me alone. and walked to the hitching post to where his horse was tied up. and decided that she . Dori reached her room and opened the door. Perhaps he could talk her into helping out the establishment and perhaps not. she took a deep breath. She figured he was just a lonely cowboy who wanted to get cozy and comfortable with a woman. he wouldn't be doing that with her. and headed west out of town. after a few drinks and after she had calmed down some from her predicament with the cowboy in front of the saloon. If I want company. That she could do without. He lit his cigarette. Well. she was fast. boots clomping on the boardwalk. and by how she responded. But he needed people that were fast on their feet. and the cowpunchers heading towards the saloon whirled up little puffs of dust in their wake. She thought about what she needed to do. unfastened her gunbelt. which helped to sober her up from too many shots of whiskey. He reined in. That's what the saloon girls were for. The last thing she needed would be to be jumped and hogtied like some farm animal. Once inside. and decided that it was just an isolated incident. What neither of them noticed was the man who was leaning against a post in front of the general store watching their exchange with amusement. and that could think their way out of danger. She figured she'd better be careful. He just watched her go. back to his ranch house. She walked over to the washbasin and rinsed off her face. She was far from being a saloon girl. He decided he'd try later. and tossed the burned out match to the sand. no way. finally being swallowed up in the cloud of dust that was so prevalent in these parts. He liked what he saw. His eyes carefully took in how the man tried to grab the girl. and calmly lit it.She glared back at him. He didn't want to raise eyebrows just yet. the gentle desert breeze catching the flame and slowly bending it to and fro.

Willy was a good tracker though. They would find him guilty of conspiracy and hang him on the spot. Jud and Red were both gone. Nah. and he was only the first out of many. She hadn't been there since she left several years ago. you go get supplies. and Simp made himself as comfortable as he could. “By the way. and greet him and Aunt Clara with a surprise visit. leaning up against a boulder that was surrounded by scrub and sand. because he didn't like to share his wealth. and whether they wanted him dead or alive. A strange thought had crossed his mind. so that thought was tossed out. he had to admit. Willy deserved better than that. even the heat in the middle of the day. they don't know you there. if you say so. Mexicans were as commonplace around the south as the Saguaro plant. he thought. kicked off her boots. He saved his life back in the canyon by shooting that bounty hunter. he. and Simp gave him some gold out of his sack for purchasing the items. Soon she entered a world where dreams came true and problems melted away. The way he figured. right.” said Simp. the guide could go to town and restock their dwindling reserves and wouldn't be noticed. They could probably come up with some kind of plan once they .would head to Uncle Bob's ranch early in the morning. depending upon the reward placed upon his head. The locals didn't take too kindly to a law enforcement officer being in on the take. Yeah. and she figured that now was as good a time as any to let them know she was still alive and well. senor. Not they. I be back shortly. he figured. What if they were to break Jim out of lockup? Would they be able to do it? It was possible. She walked back over to the bed. Would he just dump the Mexican once he didn't need him anymore? More than likely. get me a couple bottles of whiskey. he. he thought about what he was going to do. and one more wouldn't be noticed or have attention paid to him. He was the only one besides Jim who didn't complain about anything.” Willy rode off towards town. and laid down with a gentle sigh of relief. and Jim might as well be. To while away the time until Willy returned. I could use 'em!” “Okay. Especially since he was a former lawman. Willy agreed. “Willy. He'd be a good backup man in case he needed one.

taking out one of the bottles of whiskey and handing it to Simp. either. and set one down on the counter top to pay for his merchandise. and drew long and hard on the bottle before smacking his lips and wiping the sweat from his face.” he said happily. . The man uncorked it. inspecting the nugget. reached under the counter and placed a loupe in his eye. tying the reins loosely around the rail there. Willy had everything put into a large burlap bag and walked out with his goods. then mounted his horse. Once done. He looked east of town. and saw the Davis Mountains in the background. It took just a couple of minutes for his eyes to adjust to the limited light and was soon walking up and down the aisles looking for the supplies they needed. He would be a useful ally then.reached Hell's Gate and figure out how to release the man. stopped his horse. reining its way back out of town towards their hideout. He pulled up in front of the general store. and got off.” he said. He walked into the store. When he said everything looked fine. and his horse raised a cloud of dust galloping through the cholla and cactus. where the air was a little cooler. and one more gun watching their back wouldn't hurt anything. He stared at them for a few minutes. and watched as the store clerk added it all up. almost walking into another man coming into the store. walking up to his horse and tying the sack to its rump. his white teeth showing like the bleached bones of a horse out in the desert. he took out a small sack that contained gold nuggets. senor. The man scooped it up. He walked up to the counter. and dismounted. Willy just bowed down and tipped the sombrero. that's for sure. trying not to arouse suspicion on him. “Excuse please. The man just looked at him. He would owe them his life. “Watch where yer' goin'!” said the man angrily. He sat and thought about that while he waited for Willy to return from town with their supplies. “Now that's what I needed. and raised his sombrero just a bit more to see better. He grabbed three bottles of whiskey and another box of ammunition. Willy trotted into town like he owned the place. He soon reached the spot where they were camped out for the day. and Willy gave him a smile. He hoped no one would follow him. and set everything down.

Once there. Just one bottle of that would make one's toenails curl and straighten their hair! He took another deep gulp from the bottle.. After about a mile or so she turned around to see if anyone was following her. and handed the bottle to Willy. There would be plenty of time left for that once they reached Willy's hacienda in Mexico. Willy figured on two more nights. He put it down. As soon as they reached Willy's place would they know that they were safe.He took another large swig. she thought. and headed for the door.. he knew. She walked down the steps. Chapter 3 Dori rose from her nap and quickly slid her boots on. they shouldn't be getting snookered while still on the run. then corked it closed. Instead of this rotgut whiskey he could be sipping on some premium tequila. She took a quick glance out the window. that is. Those were the quality liquors. Not yet. and they would be at the border. they would have to cross the river and head straight on through any villages they came across. With that taken care of.” Of course he was right. saying “I will later on when we're on the way again. Once the sun was down they could make more time and get further and further away from the hangman's noose. then attached the gun belt to her lithe waist. she walked outside into the bright sunshine and headed towards the livery stable to collect her horse. and went over to pay the proprietor what she owed him. But she wouldn't put it past that . She paid the hostler and was soon heading out of town in a cloud of dust. He declined. As long as Don Trujillo didn't find them. and watched as Willy stoked up the fire for their evening meal. the bottles with the worms in them.

reaching for their weapons. She'd lose that battle for sure. and noticed that their quarry had stopped also. then soon heard another horse coming up the same trail. The man who watched her leave with interest had no such qualms about hitting a man or a woman. When they were ready to leave. leaving a beautiful orange-purple glow to the sky. Little did she know that her uncle and aunt held the key to stopping the railroad from coming through this town. and peered around a copse of trees. for that matter. but she wasn't about to fistfight with a man. and would show hoof prints quite easily. What was going on? He didn't think that they were being spotted. because the riders just kept going. That was probably not the best thing to do. The sun dipped below the horizon. And for the sum he was offered. Simp and Willy packed everything up and prepared to move out. Him and Willy remounted and decided to follow the two riders. After about half an hour they reined up. They decided to keep their distance. and with casual indifference. and this man was paid to change people's minds. Simp got off his horse. and there weren't too many men out here in the West who were too keen on a man hitting a woman in the first place. Once the mine papers were taken care of. they heard horse's hooves and quickly dismounted. Adam Carlson could have his way with this miserable little town. walked over to his horse and got on. He fully intended to find out the information he needed and was willing to go all out to get it.man Rusty to do so. he would be paid the balance of his fee plus a bonus. just to see what was up. long hair flailing in the breeze. since she injured his male ego. so to speak. and then the chubby railroad tycoon J. With the sun down all he could see were . He lit a cigarette. because the soil was a mix between dirt and sand. he thought. Simp took a peek and noticed that a single rider was going by at high speed. He reined back and was soon following the fast disappearing dust cloud that was Dori and her horse. he didn't plan on failing. Besides. they could easily follow their trails. What the hell. heading towards Bower's Canyon. a woman? Out here? He watched her go for a little longer.

So.” he said finally.” said Simp. The two men soon were about fifty feet away when they heard the woman scream. hang out with us?” “I don't have any pressing issues at the moment. and maybe catch a break in the process. What is is that you're safe and you can go on your way. where you going?” Simp could feel the strong will of this lady. but that's really none of your concern now. grimy men. Where you headin' to?” “Ma'am.” “The name's not important. Willy gave him a dirty look. but there were definitely two riders. and back at him again. and when the man saw them. “What do you mean. “I don't think he'll try it again anytime soon. “No room for another long lost traveler?” she asked. no disrespect. They both rushed the man and woman. dust blowing in the wind.. “Yes.” she said evenly. to Mexico. “Ma'am. and Willy put his rifle back in its scabbard. and I'd feel a lot safer with two strong men to travel with. is it?” “Well. The man reached his horse and took off. rubbing her throat with her hand.. with Willy in tow carrying his rifle.” she said. “It seems I owe you a debt of gratitude. are you alright?” he asked.” The woman just looked at the two dusty. She looked at Willy. it might be if I plan to hang out with you two.shadows. Now what would a woman do out here at this time of night? What and who was the man following her. She really didn't expect these two to take a woman along with them. thanks to you. “It seems you two have been on the trail for awhile. except for the man who just attacked me. Simp took a shot and missed.. once again.?” she asked. “Depends. “South. Simp drew his weapon and slowly advanced. “Home of tacos and tequila. taking one last look at the direction in which the man took off in. and what was his business? Maybe they ought to find out. mister.. one being a female. and saw the man clamping his hand over her mouth. “On. but he ignored it. but it was .” Simp holstered his weapon. Simp just looked at her in surprise. that's where we're goin'” he added... he made a mad dash for his horse.

He wasn't proud of that incident.worth a shot. You don't want to know his real name.” she said. “I'd still like to come with both of you though. “Welcome aboard. amigo. aiming it directly at her heart. He just chuckled at that remark. and without warning. “They call me Simp. “Why don't you get your butt down here and let's find out.” Simp looked at Willy. he thought to himself. He stood in front of her.” said Simp. She held her fire. and he was surprised at the strength in it. Especially after almost getting killed just a little while ago. “Good. and he decided that she would make a most useful ally right then and there. Simp was the first to start the conversation. who just shrugged his shoulders. “Are you as tough as a man. She crouched and drew at the same time. He knew it first hand when he killed those two men during that botched stagecoach robbery. and glad to meet ya'll. reholstering his weapon. She soon did the same. and thought that she might come in handy. and they both mounted their horses and headed south. and my mother died during childbirth for my brother. “My daddy was killed trying to defend me from some perverted miners. drew his weapon. “Any family around these parts?” he asked.” he said finally. very good. Shooting a man in self defense was one thing.” he said. killing just for the hell of it was another. and walked down towards the trees in which she was standing. not really expecting a response.” she said.” She stuck out her hand. and he walked up to her with his hand outstretched. point-blank. though. That was a total waste there. I reckon. Dori. He looked back at Dori. and what made it worse was that there was no one to take revenge on. Willy just made the sign of the cross over his poncho. and instantly her demeanor hardened. and this here's Willy. “I'm sorry for your loss. So its just me and the range.” Simp felt sorry for her.” was all he said. “Name's Dori. the hammer clicking back on the pistol. or just a wannabe?” he asked her. To lose so much at a young age was hard on a person.” she snapped back. . “I buried my baby brother just the other day. “Up to you.

and Willy was taking notes in his head. ya know. and anything else we can get our hands on. I'm gonna be honest with ya.” He expected her to just stop and turn her mount around. Besides. “Could be in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. The only thing she couldn't figure out is why they . We're heading to Mexico to let things cool down. do you know how much it was worth.” she replied. if you'll help me. Even if she did know. but it was a gold mine. She had just met them and regardless if they had saved her life. as if deep in thought. and it wouldn't hurt me any to split it three ways with both of you. well. “Not that I know of. “Yeah. Mining camp rumors. He decided to take a wild long shot. “You know. but I wouldn't swear to it.” She pursed her lips. Simp was impressed with this girl. then a silver mine.” he said.Either way left a sour taste in his mouth. because we're both wanted men in the Arizona Territories.” he had to admit. I would let you know. She took her time to think. “But I'd like to find it. and we're not quite sure what to believe. everyone has a bad side. but never paid it no mind. “Well. “Have you ever heard of someone burying Confederate gold out here somewhere?” he asked her.” “We've heard the same thing. Won 't know til it gets found. the rumor of the lost treasure was just too much to resist. Dori. But she kept riding. But all I have is hearsay and rumors. right?” “True. trains. “We're not exactly the kind of people you wanna hang out with. There were estimates of it to be in the millions. I was told it was buried in some gold mine somewhere here in Arizona. He was doing all the talking. heading back into town. Already she was showing signs of being a cool customer. by any chance?” “Who knows?” she answered. We rob banks.” “Is there a map or anything like that that you know of?” asked Simp. I did hear of something like that when I was younger. don't they?” she said. she wouldn't tell these two idiots. “If I had the slightest clue to where it was at.

' She just looked at him. Can't say that I did.” she answered. The Confederates had secondhand equipment. it had all melted in my coat pocket!” She laughed at the memory. “Well.” . Everything was old and that money would have come in handy to finance their war effort.” was all she said. from the uniforms they wore to the artillery they fired. “Once. or anything like that?” “Nope. but he figured that if he had to trust her. “Well. she had to trust him too. ya know. Perhaps on the orders of Jefferson Davis himself! They rode on in silence for awhile. plus maybe some ore out of a mine. “Have you ever stole before?” he asked her. “oh. “but we have warrants in half the towns around here so we're trying to avoid them like the plague. “We should be in Mexico tomorrow. It was then that she noticed his albino eye. That bounty hunter the other day had him spooked. If that happened. stagecoaches. we've robbed a bank or two in our day. chuckling.were so short of funds that they would bring that much currency out here to bury it. “By the time I got home. Every now and then they would hear a wolf howl his evening song to his mates. gently touching upon the subject. Willy led the way.” he answered.” she said. “Nothing other than that? No banks. and the other two talked quietly amongst themselves. But apparently someone higher up wanted this gold hidden. “Why are you asking me?” Simp really didn't want to tell her their past. I'm kinda easy to identify. to keep the Union soldiers from getting it. his next date would be with a hangman's noose. you gotta do what you gotta do. and he would like nothing better than to avoid capture at all costs.” she said. since he knew every trail and hiding spot between here and the border. watching the horizon from east to west to make sure they weren't being followed. about two years ago.” said Simp. the stars above shining brightly over the desert landscape. I walked into a general store and swiped a pound of butter. “Why are your eyes two different colors?” “I don't have the slightest clue.

Willy fried up some tortillas for supper and they had some jerky. “Yeah. They were nearing their destination. That would explain the life of crime that he'd taken up since he was a teen. They soon reached the spring. What else do you have on your resume?” Instantly embarrassed and miffed by the sharp tone of her voice. we've done a bank . “Did you know we robbed a bank in Borderland?” he asked Dori. somehow.” answered Simp. and finally he got sick of it and just stayed home. he said nothing. He still wondered why that had happened. and let the horses drink their fill and rest for awhile. either. Her expression never changed. Pa used to whip him for being late coming home from school when he stayed after to try and comprehend the niceties of schoolwork.” “None taken. and said nothing. The conversations soon turned serious.” she said. and would then take the time to rest up and drink. According to Willy. you told me that already. and just kept on going. His face turned a bright red and Willy thought for sure that he would get up and wallop her good. I can see that. Most women would have shouted themselves hoarse by now. “no pun intended. On they rode. The only time she said anything was when he talked to her. they were about half an hour away from a spring. but she said not a word. They figured they'd stop one more time to water the horses and let them nibble on some grass. He was kind of used to people noticing the different pigments of his eyes.“Yeah. But he surprised himself even when he just sat there and stared into the fire. he was the bully in school until his pa made him quit to help work on the farm. He was always bigger for his age. She didn't complain once about the conditions or about having to keep on the move. “Oh. She looked at him with those piercing blue eyes. They made a small fire and Simp passed around the half empty whiskey bottle he'd been drinking from earlier. until the dawn's rays in the east made a grab for the sky and took the sun with it. He always thought he was different. He had to admit that Dori was a tough girl. in the fields from sunup til sundown. He'd learned his lessons the hard way. and liked to pick on the younger kids. that if he was a genetic defect.

“Southeast Station. and within an hour came upon railroad tracks. “Something in the breeding or whatever. He held his gun at the ready. Go to the outbuildings and see if there's anyone else. sooner or later. He dismounted and walked up on the boardwalk. Willy was the first to look at the sign. It just normally takes five minutes to rob that.and a stage or two here and there. “I honestly couldn't tell you. He had a neat little hole in his . “This one's dead.” “I don't know. They decided to follow them for awhile until they came up to an abandoned station. At first he didn't see anything.” he said to the others.” “Hokay. then hope that the man riding shotgun doesn't blow you to smithereens!” She popped the last of her tortilla into her mouth.” “Well. I have the feeling that he'll be back.” he said. “The easiest are the banks. “Someone ambushed the station.” he said truthfully. and flipped him over onto his back. With a stagecoach you have to wait for it to show up. but the facts didn't lie. but then he walked behind the makeshift counter and saw a man lying face down. Something didn't smell right here. so my suggestion would be that we get a move on while we can. and his hand went for his gun instinctively. and walked into the building. It didn't even have the station keeper with it nor a team of fresh horses. senor. his lifeblood on the floor underneath him.” “Who was that man tailing you?” he asked.” she answered.” he said. With the downed sun on their right they headed south along the stagecoach trail. It shouldn't be deserted like it was.” They put out their little fire and mounted up. “What makes you have those different color eyes?” Simp didn't have an answer for that.” he called back to the others. and stared into the fire. Simp was uneasy. Willy. slowly making his way in the entrance. and walked out the door. Simp walked up to the dead man. “Seems like you have something he wants. “I've never seen him before in my life.

and all horses are gone. She soon returned with a big tray full of tacos. because there was nothing they could do for a dead man. Something was eating at his guts about this one. to let them know that they were still being followed. They pulled up to the hitching post in front. Was it him.” “We need to get the hell out of here. Simp put Willy on point because he knew where they were headed. and beers for everyone.chest right where his heart would be. Chapter 4 All three walked out of the station and mounted their horses. Instantly his mind flashed back to the mysterious man that had attacked Dori earlier. “No one there. They continued on their trek to Mexico. Someone did this to warn them. They took . and his eye caught a glint of silver reflecting in the sunlight. The coolness revitalized all three and since the cantina was across the street. and had to live with that fact for the rest of his life. Willy soon returned and made his report. burritos. but usually it was self-defense. Only once did he shoot a man in the back. and picked up a spent shell casing. There was no sense in staying here.” said Simp. Willy had a girl fetch them some food and cool drinks. tied their horses up. and walked inside the cool. That would explain all the blood. It was like a breath of fresh air. dark interior of the building. He looked at the body again. He'd had to kill in the past too. He wondered what kind of coldblooded creature would do such a thing. A couple of hours passed when they finally crossed over the border into Mexico. A 44 caliber slug. and soon were at a small white adobe building. He and Dori just kept following the Mexican. He bent down. or someone else? And why would they slaughter an innocent man and take the horses? This all didn't make any sense to him.

“Last time I was down here I had the shits for a week. and saw that it was some local banditos coming into town to quench their thirst. but with a much darker complexion and thinner legs. She was a beautiful girl. though. I tell her. She will take care of you while we here in Mexico. a scowl on his face. “Ah. Suddenly there was a commotion outside.” he said. Damn gringo thinks he runs the show. senorita. if that what you want. “Very proud. “Senor. He walked back into the hacienda. he thought. “Where is your wife?” she asked. “Is hokay. She didn't want to listen to Simp piss and moan all the while they were down here. taking another swallow out of the bottle. She was shorter than Dori was. Even Dori got in on the act with that. either. but her tongue ran before her mind did. letting out contented burps.” he added.their time eating. she take after her mother. The small dark- . my oldest daughter. He took a long swallow of that one.” he said. “Hokay senor. and Willy motioned for everyone to stay still and be quiet. He walked outside. watching over all of us. she had to admit.” he answered. just locals coming to town for drinks. “Willy.” Simp got to his feet. “And not that watered-down dog piss. tell your daughter that I want whiskey. senorita. bless her soul. too. and afterwards drank their beers. “Willy. and praying for our souls.” she said. He chugged the rest of the bottle. she in heaven. Ungrateful bastard. and Dori stared at the girl.” Dori got up and decided to walk around town.” he answered. making the sign of the cross across his chest. hokay?” Simp just nodded his head. not beer. he thought to himself. then put it down and uncorked another one. She walked into the cantina and ordered herself a whiskey. instantly regretting her stupidity. this is Maria. He felt sore in spots that he didn't know he had. you must be proud to have such a beautiful daughter. She should've figured out that she was no longer among the living. senorita.

He deftly picked it up. to see if he could catch up to them. She slammed the shot. and it would have been the end of it. He cased out the place as much as possible without drawing undo attention to himself. He made it as far north as Nogales. and that's when he decided to leave. and where there was a bank. He needed action. He would head for the nearest town and pore through the wanted posters. Simp was bored. and decided to spend a couple days in town to see how things went. The man who shot at him had two different colors in his eyes. That's what he would do. Hell. and made mental notes of the comings and goings of the different people that went there. He didn't know the men personally. if she was gonna be around these kinds of people. All they had done since arriving was drink and tell tall tales. and motioned for another. If it hadn't been for those two idiots who showed up. It was high time that they jumped on the robbery bandwagon. he thought. and she slapped a coin down on the polished mahogany bar. she might as well get a good glow on. she thought. so he didn't have a clue as to their ideas. The other two were at the cantina having a drink when he mounted his horse and decided to cross the border by himself. . so he figured that they would head towards southern Arizona or possibly Mexico. He noticed they headed south after they stopped chasing him. studied it. he would have had her. That would be helpful.haired man behind the bar served her promptly. He was tired of just sitting around and carousing. He would peruse the wanted posters and see if this man was perhaps wanted by the authorities. Maybe that's where he should start. and put it in his pocket in satisfaction. and then he would make up his mind as to his destination. He would now have to find out where they headed and go there. Look them up and see what kind of backgrounds they came from. Soon he had a rough idea of how he would pull it off. The stranger almost succeeded. he thought. there was money. but at least it did have a bank. see if they were criminals or something of the sort. It wasn't much in the way of towns.

He went back to his hotel room and laid down on the bed. “Goddam. He figured that he wouldn't miss it anyway. Together they headed north towards the border to try and find their friend before the law found him. The clerk gave him a paper to put his name and address on. with Dori in tow. Sonuvabitch gonna get his ass in sling again!” He raced towards his horse. and he handed the paper back along with a fifty dollar bill. Willy. “Can't tell him nothing!” “Don't worry. then when the explosion went off he could just help himself to the cash. one way or another. “Nothing here in town. He could pull it off early in the morning right after the bank opened its doors. Maybe he could put a longer fuse on it. and he figured that he was deserving of it. Now all he needed to do was to get a hold of some dynamite and blasting caps. and thought that he would need a diversion. He would buy some dynamite and blow up the furthest building from the bank. Yeah. That shouldn't be a problem in a mining town. Where is there in town anything of value?” Willy thought for a moment. seeing as how sooner or later it would wind up back in his pocket. that would attract the attention of the townsfolk. he thought. of course. Dori and Willy got back from the cantina to find Simp and his horse gone. he'll be back. You should know that by now. he decided to start a savings account. After all. insist on speaking to the bank manager while the vault was open. that would be better. Providing the safe was unlocked. so he figured he'd do that once he woke up. He figured that way there would be more attention on the explosion than on the bank. . he had a big afternoon planned.” said Willy disgustedly. He can't resist the temptation to steal something.To make himself look even more honest. They would all go running to see what happened and he would just walk in calm as can be and walk out with all the money. He walked in the bank and told the teller he wanted to start the account. A nap relaxed the mind as well as the body. He went back to his hotel room. content with the fact that his grand plan was coming to fruition. He must've went back across the border.

Now was his chance! Simp jumped up. he purchased a case of dynamite and several blasting caps. and took off his hat. “What can I do for you today. He stood in line behind a lady with a shawl around her shoulders. “Well. He nervously wiped his face and neck off with a handkerchief.” he said.Simp woke up. sir?” she asked politely. running back towards where his horse was stabled. either. and ran into the vault. The manager soon showed up... “we normally don't let anyone in without an appointment. thinking it was the end of the world. out the door. a chubby man with red cheeks and a thin hairline. He attached the caps to the sticks and laid out about twenty feet of fuse cord. ran out the back door into an alley. He hid behind the . got his boots on and walked out of the room. “Well. sir. and waited his turn. He grabbed sacks of money. you can. and headed down the boardwalk towards the general store. He then lit the cord and quickly made his way back into town to the bank. BOOM! The dynamite he planted blew up. The bank manager went running out the front door to see what was happening. Then he walked further on down to the end of town. Once there. but seeing as how no one else has his attention at the moment. He was getting kind of nervous by the time the teller called him to the counter. He went down the stairs. and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. but I'd really like to talk to the manager about all my options.” He followed her petite form behind the bars and sat in the proffered chair. Everyone scattered. He walked in.” she looked around. “I'd like to start a savings account. and set up the dynamite.. please follow me. “So what can we do for you. and not a minute too soon. just like everyone else.” “Well. and taking all he could carry. found an empty building. He wanted to hurry to catch the bank manager to where he would be in a position to forget to shut the vault.. looking like he just ran five miles with all the sweat that was pouring off of him. son?” he asked.

looking for the saloon. trying to make good time and hide in the base of the mountains before they discovered what had happened. nodded once. and the description of him matched the discolored eyes perfectly. The man in the picture looked like the man who had shot at him. The man stood a good six foot five. Now he had a name. with a pearl handled revolver on each side of his waist. until he came up on the one he was looking for.town buildings. and probably weighed around two hundred and fifty pounds. he urged the horse on to a gallop. He wanted to see if he could identify the man who had taken a shot at him and repay him in kind. All he had to do was ask around and soon Mr. and none of it looked like fat. probably from too many fistfights. He looked at the sheriff. He should be easy to spot with those different colored eyes. casually flipping through the stacks of drawings. He was wearing a black stetson with a matching dark colored vest. Simpson would be pushing up daisies in Boot Hill. intent on looking at wanted posters at the city jail. and he disappeared like a wraith in the night. and go hunting again in the morning. He looked up as the man entered his jail. He turned around and walked back out of the sheriff's office. and immediately was put on edge by his looks. Soon he made it to the livery stable and loaded the sacks of cash into his saddlebags. and walked over to the wall where the wanted posters were hung up. He perused them. It was time for a couple shots of whiskey. They looked well-worn and the man had a scarred face. He glanced up and down the boardwalk. just like the other ten men he had put there. He had that clue to go on at least. He then mounted up and headed out of town at a leisurely trot so as not to attract too much attention. He looked at the name on the poster: Thomas Gordon Simpson. The stranger made his way into Tucson. He walked into the jail and the sheriff was sitting with his feet up on the large wooden desk. he figured. Now that he knew who he was looking for he could kick back for tonight. Once the town was in the distance. watching for people but they were all too interested in the building that blew up. . Soon the swirls of dust hid him from sight.

He knew that he shouldn't have left Willy and Dori like that. They tied their horses to the hitching post. He stopped the horse again. and found their way to the saloon. He made his way through the creosote bushes and yucca plants and tried to think about what his next move would be. and with some small sticks lying around. He walked over to the outcropping and kneeled down in the still-warm sand. he'd be in a world of trouble trying to explain why he had it.590 in cash. whistling to himself. Besides. Or at least that's the way that it seemed. A man gets a bellyful of alcohol in him and he's ten feet tall and indestructible. He stopped the horse. He thought that maybe stashing the cash somewhere might be a good idea. He then covered it up. He dug a hole about a foot deep. They stepped up on the . One does not come across that kind of cash just lying around in the desert sands. He didn't see any unusual dust swirling up other than the normal dust-devils that popped up here in the desert from time to time. and dusted themselves off. but he needed to find an area that was identifiable only to him. He soon came across a small outcropping of rock amongst the creosote bushes and got off his horse. and put the saddlebags in it. He got up and remounted his horse. took one last long look around to familiarize himself with the landscape so he could find it again. and continued on. but the temptation was too much. Ten minutes later he had an amount: $2.Simp slowed his horse down to a trot to give the animal time to rest up and see if he was being followed. if a lawman caught up with him and he had all this cash. turned his head towards town. put a small marker on top of the sand. and made his way back along the stage road. and about two hundred in coins. and looked from horizon to horizon to make sure that no one was coming. preparing to head back to town to blend in with the locals and shed any doubts about him. He took the saddlebags off and proceeded to count the money inside. By nightfall they were across the border. Chapter 5 Dori and Willy made good time. He reined in his mount.

Then they turned themselves to the task of trying to find Simp. He looked right. Willy had no clue as to the big man's whereabouts. Simp slowly trotted back into town. then wended his way back inside.boardwalk and proceeded through the bat-wing doors into the brightly lit dance hall. weaving a crooked path between other revelers towards Dori and the bar. They were pretty sure he would stand out in a crowd. one of them belching in Willy's face and laughing at him. She motioned behind her. The man held his gaze for a minute. and let the man and his companions pass. and figured that if he were in town this would be the most likely spot to find him. and soon picked up that someone had robbed the bank in town earlier that day. It seemed like some kind of celebration was going on. But for a big man he was quick. and at that moment he caught his eye. They found an opening. from the opposite direction in which he had come. So he stood aside. They were packed two deep at the bar and all the tables were full. and downed her drink. Go figure. when the stranger in black walked in. Willy was listening to the casual conversations going on around him. and that's when he noticed the big man staring into the room at the bat-wing doors. and walked quickly outside to see where the man was heading to. He turned and looked at the man in black. He watched the drunk men saunter on down the boardwalk. He reigned in . The last thing he wanted now was to draw attention to him and Dori. up and down but saw no sign of the tall stranger anywhere. and was nowhere in sight. and she just looked at him with a fear in her eyes. trying to recognize anyone. he had to be in this one. and ordered their drinks. she figured.” and spread her arms wide. Dori was looking around. Willy downed his drink. then he turned around and walked out. He took a long look at the faces in the saloon. and said “That's the one that tried to attack me earlier. People were everywhere. which was what they were hoping. She turned quickly for fear of him recognizing her. He bumped into a drunk coming out. He sighed and turned to walk back into the saloon. She looked at him. left. Of all the small towns in the West. She ordered another. all the while trying to make herself blend in with the other patrons at the bar. He turned to tell Dori. and quickly stepped out of the way.

his horse at the saloon, and tied him up. He brushed the dirt off of himself, and walked into the den of inequity. A drink right now would sure quench the thirst in his throat, especially after a long, dusty ride through the desert. He made his way to the bar when he noticed the pair standing at the end of it. Sonuvabitch, he thought, they followed me! He walked up to the two, and grabbed them by their arms. They turned around in surprise, and smiled when they saw that the man grabbing them was Simp. “Where you been?” asked Willy. “We leave cantina and find you gone.” “I had a bug up my behind, my friend,” was his answer. He had a smile on his face as wide as a steer's horns. “We need to head back down South, after I have a few drinks, that is.” “Word is the bank in town was robbed today. You wouldn't have any ideas about that, would you?” asked Dori, already on her fifth drink. “Nope,” he snarled, and motioned them outside. Once there he let her have it. “Don't you ever, ever, ever mention something like that in public again, lady, or you'll be out on your keester!” he exclaimed angrily. He was so mad he wanted to slap her in the head just for making a comment like that. “You never ever say that to me again!” “Sorry,” was all she could say. “Willy say we get the hell out of town. We have another problem,” the Mexican guide added. “Dori say man who follow her is here in town. We need to bug out, and quick like.” “Who?” he asked. “Look, Simp, I don't know who he is or what he wants, but he attacked me the other day, and would have probably killed me if you hadn't shot at him. Now he's probably looking for you too, with your different colored eyes and such, you won't be hard to spot.” Simp thought about that. She was right, of course. Having two different colored eyes was a bit of a disadvantage, especially when someone was looking for you. “Alright,” he said, “let's mount up and head

out of town. Just follow me and don't ask no questions, okay?” They both nodded their assent, and untied their horses from the rail. They mounted up and were soon on their way to where Simp had stashed the moneybags. But unbeknownst to them, they were being watched. The big man in black made a mental note of the general direction in which they went, and went to the livery stable to retrieve his own horse. He paid the man off, and mounted up, following in the dusty hoof prints of the three that just left. He rode at an easy trot. The sun was just about to set, and he still had plenty of light in which to follow them. He just didn't want them to know they were being followed. He needed to be careful, and catch them at just the right time. He didn't worry that he was outnumbered three guns to one, for he could hold his own in a fight, whether by fists or guns. He'd put plenty of men on their backsides in his time, and would probably put more down. But he was being paid to finish this, and with half the money already spent, he needed to finish this and get this girl back to her husband, whether she wanted to or not. He would carry her kicking and screaming if he had to. He would rather not, but times were tough, and a man had to make money no matter what. He'd never left a job unfinished, and he wasn't about to start with this young filly. If the two men with her decided to protect her, well then so be it. He'd gunned down his share of wannabes before, and he wasn't at all worried about using his six-shooters.

Once they were well out of anyone possibly hearing their conversation, Simp turned to them and told them that he had robbed the bank and had come out here to stash the money. Willy just smiled that toothy grin and Dori had a look of amused surprise on her face. That's why he was so angry with me, she thought to herself. They left the rutted road and clumped in among the creosote and lechuguilla, careful to avoid anything with stickers on them. The last thing they wanted to do now was put down a horse. After half an hour they reached a small outcropping of rock, and Simp dismounted. He looked around once more, and reached down and scooped the dirt away from where he had buried the money. Soon he had the moneybags back in his possession, and put them on his horse.

“Now we need to vamoose,” he said, and noticed a small dust trail coming up the way. “Uh-oh, we might have trouble,” he added. The others turned to look the way he was and noticed a small dust cloud making its way towards them, too. They trotted back to the road, and kicked their horses into a swift gallop, raising even more dust. Dori would have lost her hat but for the string she tied on it to keep it from doing just that. The cool desert air felt good on her face, but she knew or rather, had a feeling, of who was following them. The big man in black, that's the only explanation for it. No one else was looking for them, or for her that she knew of. She knew that these two were wanted, but no one in town had given them a second glance, much less wanting to chase after them in the desert after the sun went down. They were all enjoying themselves in the saloon too much. Simp took another look behind him, and saw that their three horses were making a good dust cover. They made a series of turns, and found a clump of saguaro to hide behind. He waited for the dust to settle down, and noticed that their tail was still on the way. They continued on, and were soon upon the railroad tracks that headed towards Kansas City. They followed the tracks for awhile, then crossed over and headed in the opposite direction, towards their pursuer. He didn't know who it was or why he was following them, nor did he care. All he cared about right now was disappearing and making themselves scarce. Probably some knucklehead in town noticed his eyes, and was coming for the reward. But the more that he thought about it, the less it made any sense. If that were the case, they would have arrested him long before he robbed the bank, or even while he was in making his 'fake' deposit. No, it was someone else chasing them. Maybe the big man dressed in black? Possible. He already tried attacking Dori once, and he got a good look at Simp after the man had shot at him. If that were the case, they needed to find a hiding spot, and either disappear or shoot it out with him. Trouble was, the sun was down and it was getting dark. No one in their right mind would want to have any gunplay when you couldn't see two feet in front of you. They followed the tracks for a few minutes more, and then made a hard left once again, to swing back

into the hills that surrounded the town. They needed to disappear; heading into Mexico wouldn't stop this man. He would just pursue them across the border. There was a good chance he wasn't a Federal Marshal or a sheriff, and he wouldn't much care much for the niceties of the law.

It was right after they got going again that they noticed they were being followed. Damn, he swore to himself. This dust leaves a trail that a blind, deaf, and dumb man could follow. Well, so be it. He'd been spotted. They took off at a fast trot at first, sticking to the stagecoach road, then headed off towards the tracks. He analyzed the situation, and thought that they might make a beeline back for town, so he slowly arced himself to his right to try and cut them off. He stopped for a minute, to gather his bearings, and noticed that they were following the tracks back into town when they suddenly veered to their left a gain. Nope, he thought, they were going to hide in the hills. He urged his mount even faster, and soon the black stallion was foaming at the mouth with its exertion. He needed to cut the distance as much as possible with the light going quick. He stopped to give his horse a brief rest, and slowly looked at his options. He could continue straight and try to hunt them in the hills at night, or he could circle back towards town following the tracks, and camp out just outside of town in case they made for it in the morning. He thought that would be their best course of action once daylight came. Or they may just try to cross the border again. Either way, he would be ready, and border or not, it wouldn't stop him. He'd been paid a nice sum for this job, twice as much as he normally charged, and would finish it, come hell or high water.

They finally made it to the treeline, and hunkered down in a little hollow with a good view of the way they had come from. They didn't want to be surprised by whoever this man was. Maybe he was a bounty hunter, Simp thought. Now why would anyone want to hunt him down? He hadn't robbed a bank in five years, except for today, and hadn't done anything that he could think of since then. They tied their horses up in a small copse of trees to let them rest, and nearby was a small pool of water from which they could drink. They needed their horses fresh for the morning, so they put them to where they could drink and

munch on grass for the night. “Who is this guy?” Simp asked Willy. The slim Mexican just shrugged his shoulders. “Don't know, senor,” he said. “Maybe bounty hunter?” “Maybe,” said Simp. “But who's he comin' after?” It was then that both men simultaneously looked at Dori. “What? Why you two lookin' at me like that for?” she asked, wondering where this was all going. “I haven't done anything, not that I know of anyway.” The two men looked at each other, then back at Dori. “Is there anyone who would want you dead or alive, for any reason, that you can think of?” Simp asked her point-blank. She thought for a minute then shook her head. “No, not that I.....Wait a minute, I got it now!” “Well, you gonna let us in on it?” asked Simp impatiently. He was getting irritated with her now. “I think I know who's causing all this,” she said, finally. “My ex-husband.” “Your ex-husband? What do you mean, your ex-husband?” “Well, I kinda took something that belonged to him, or rather, to his family, and he holds grudges,” she admitted. Well, thought Simp, that would sure do it. Leave it to a woman to do some crazy stunt like that. “What'd you take?” he asked. “Oh,” she said, “only about five thousand dollars!” “Is that it? I can't see anyone wanting that back!” he shot back sarcastically. My god, what kind of mess did this girl get them into? It wasn't bad enough that they could get themselves in trouble, now they had to deal with her problems too. They took turns keeping an eye out for their mysterious shadow. The small fire that Willy had built to make coffee with was slowly dying into hot embers, and they wanted to keep it as small as possible. They didn't want to be surprised. All three had their weapons at the ready just in case they were ambushed. Dori took the first watch, then Willy, and finally Simp stayed up until dawn came. There was no sign of

their pursuer, so he woke the other two and they broke camp, making sure the fire was out completely, and then mounting their horses for the long ride back into Mexico. They wanted to put as much distance between themselves and their shadow as possible, and ride as much as they could in the early morning hours to get a good jump start on the day. By mid-day they had about 10 miles between them and town, and were just coming up on the border when they noticed a small dust trail following them. Dammit, thought Simp, we didn't get as much of a head start as he would've liked. He motioned to Willy, who took a look in the direction in which he was pointing, and they started galloping towards the border and minimal safety.

Chapter 6

The stranger wasn't about to let his prey off that easy. He was up well before daybreak, and had gotten his horse ready for the long ride south. He figured that they would make a line to the border, and once again his guts told him that he was right. Now he just needed to catch up and stay behind far enough to where he could watch their every move. They could try, but they weren't going to get away that easy. He had been a tracker for many years, just as his father and grandfather had done. He had learned his lessons well, and had made a living out of hunting human beings. It was a lucrative business, and it kept him fed and never short of money. He had almost given it up once before, when he was engaged to a beautiful redhead, but it didn't work out. She up and left for San Francisco one day and he never even got a letter explaining why. Ever since then he figured he'd keep his mind on his work, and not worry about any womenfolk. To him they were just a distraction, and a distracted man is a broke man. He reached for his water jug and took a quick sip. He replaced the cap, and peered far ahead to the horizon where his prey was. Nothing. Not so much as a faint dust cloud. Now where could they have

then dismounted and walked towards the entrance. He remounted his horse and headed west. he figured. and noticed a set of railroad tracks off in the distance. It took a second or two for his eyes to adjust to the darkness after staring at the bright sand all day long. and walked further into the building. urging his mount on to try and catch his prey. turned around. and leaned up against the warm adobe. There were empty cans littering the floor. Dammit. and this was the only shelter for miles. He figured that he would at least stop at the station to make . and made his way back to the door. not even the sigh of the wind. He stood up. and walked back to his horse. It was then that he realized that they had probably turned west to head into the wind. pistol drawn. with just the one table and three chairs and an old broken down desk in the far corner. He walked around the corner of the building.hidden out here? There was nothing but scrub. and he soon approached a broken down hut bleached white by the sun. So there must be a station around here. with Simp poking his head up occasionally to check to see if their shadow was still following them. he thought. not wanting to kick any of the cans and make any noise to announce his progress. He heard nothing. He peered around the back and still there was nothing. though. when something caught his eye. How could he let this happen? He was better than that. He pointed the stallion's head in that direction. He saw nothing but desert. That must be where they had stopped. He crouched down behind a table. He peered off to his right. and listened. They were directly ahead of him. He holstered his weapon. It was spartan in nature. He listened intently for a minute or two. and he walked carefully towards the open window. He reached the window and peered outside. he would follow the tracks and see if they had stopped to rest their mounts. and walked in. After a mile or two more. prickly cholla. and creosote. Well. The three amigos laid down in the small wash. He tied off his horse to the hitching post. he spotted an adobe building off in the distance. and a man couldn't hide very well behind any of that. trying to attract as little attention as possible. he thought. I lost 'em! There was no possible way. where their tracks would be blown clear of the sand.

He also set out some beef jerky for them to munch on. Dori went back to her cleaning. Soon Willy came back in. so he took out the two remaining bottles of whiskey he had in his saddlebags. “We'll split this up three ways. he was secretly hoping that Dori might want to come with him. and therefore give them a little more time to hide. and not just hiding out. but held. senor?” he asked the big man. and busied herself with sweeping all the cans and other trash into a pile in a corner. and were immediately hit with the relative coolness of the station versus out in the open desert. He then took the moneybags off of the horse. Simp and Willy both got up. and his face lit up when he saw the contents of the moneybags lying there. they got up and brushed themselves off. and tied their horses to the hitching post. the murkier the desert heat would make it harder to see them. As he said that.” he said. while Simp opened up some cans of beans that they had with them. Willy.” he said. then I think it might be a good idea if we all separated and went our own way.” Simp just smiled. “What we do now. They wanted to make sure that he was gone. He also counted on the fact that the further they got away. “No sign of danger. to put our friend in black on the wrong track. and dumped the contents on the table. and headed back to the relative safety of the station. knocking their .sure that they weren't there. They reached the adobe hut. After half an hour of laying in the dirt. “Yeah. senor. He was finding her presence comforting and she wasn't too hard on the eyes. A fire was impractical due to the smoke rising. “Wow. Dori found a broom in a closet. you still have it. I still have it. and proceeded to sit down gingerly in one of the rickety chairs. and Willy sat down opposite Simp. Dori and Simp got busy making a simple meal. It creaked under his weight. either.” he said. Suddenly a screech came from the other end of the hut. while Willy kept a sharp lookout for their shadow. senor. leaving Dori to whistle under her breath. which one would be able to see for miles. remounted their horses. They entered the building.

Hopefully no one else would have a claim on it. as if he didn't hear the man.” he said. “Well. then? We find this mine and work it? Or do we head south to Arroyo del Fuego?” They agreed unanimously.” “How far. but now they had a map to a silver mine.” said Dori. senor. Not only did they have the bank loot. and pulled up a piece of paper. it sure is. and smiles crossed their faces.” Willy looked at it.chairs over in the process and drawing their weapons. shaking the paper to dislodge the remainder of the dust and dirt from it. “Well. “It sure does look like a map to a mine. “what should we do? Follow this map. he answered him. is a map to a silver mine. Finally. “That. heading there would throw off their would-be shadow.” Simp said. “What's wrong?” he asked. “Yeah.” Simp looked at each person in turn. The mine should be about two miles off the tracks. He watched the Mexican carefully. or head back to the hacienda?” “We're not gonna do nothing down there but drink and cause trouble anyways. and then we shall see. They would head toward the mine. otherwise this trip would be a complete and total waste of time. I'm no miner. She reached down into the pile of trash that she was sweeping.” The three of them just looked at each other. “We follow the tracks about three hours north. and perhaps they could trap him in a .” he said. but this looks like a map to a mine. after what seemed like fifteen minutes but was actually two. handing the paper over to Simp for inspection. Besides. “And if the directions are correct. He looked at it and whistled. this mine is not too far away from here. and they all knew it. Wonder what its doing here.” she said. and stake their fortune there. and blew the dust off of it. Its the very least we should do. if my eyes don't deceive me. “so I propose that we head to this mine and check it out. a bit wrinkly and with many folds and creases in it. “Are we agreed. But having a map and having the actual silver were two different things. Willy?” asked Simp. He was staring into space.

He ripped some of his shirt into shreds and wrapped it around one end of the stick. and followed Willy into a small wash which gradually widened out to become a canyon. They saw that it was timbered up to a point. They were nearing the base of the mountains now. Simp and Willy went to investigate the opening while Dori was cooking their supper. they gradually widened the space between the path they were on and the tracks themselves. They breathed a sigh of relief. then packed up their belongings. and kept on going. They all finished eating. This they would use for a torch to check out the cavern more closely. and had seen a small mountain goat on top of the canyon rim. Only once did Willy hold up his hand. grabbed the map. With that in hand. . and put that end into the fire to use as a torch. they would veer off in that direction and head directly into the sun. following the tracks. They had good protection from the elements and from any surprise attacks. He figured they had about another hour of riding to do. their first good hot meal in a while. and Willy walked around until he found a stick about two inches thick by about three feet long. find out what he was up to. After another hour they finally found what they were looking for: a dark hole in the side of the canyon wall. and then should be at the mine. albeit a narrow one. and it seemed to Simp that they were making good time. They stopped. to throw off any followers. giving the party the signal to stop and be quiet. but he knew that she was a tough lady and would keep going. when he heard rocks above falling. and polished off one bottle of whiskey. Dori was looking a bit ragged by this time. and headed north. and Simp figured that once the sun touched the tip of the mountain peak in the west. He led them over some fairly rocky ground where hardly anything grew. He let Willy ride point. It was much cooler and darker than they thought it would be.canyon or arroyo somewhere and ambush him. Here they would camp for the night. The ground was level for about fifty feet. they proceeded to enter the mine and check out things for themselves. and decided to light a small fire and heat up some beans and bacon. since he knew more about this area than he did. As they traveled alongside the tracks. He turned and his gaze followed the area to where the rocks had fallen.

except that they were still concerned with whomever was trailing them. She seemed to be a good woman. Willy heard him get the fire going again. but other than that she appeared to be running from something. Soon the campfire was down to glowing embers. and woke up. It just didn't make any sense. but he wasn't sure. and he figured that if they wanted to get an early start in the mine. They looked at each other. their bellies full and the whiskey making them sleepy. Was there something she wasn't telling them? Soon the sun's rays hit the tops of the trees above them.” said Simp. and didn't have much to say. and took out a hammer and chisel from one of his bags. but didn't hear any other noises. a noise coming up the canyon. and that he might as well get up. waiting for trouble. He figured it was just a rockfall or another mountain goat making noise. He suddenly awoke with a start. and none of them had ever seen him before. they said. She looked at each in turn. and the two talked together in low tones so as not to wake Dori. walked over to his horse.” she said. and they had yet to see how she handled a gun battle. Simp figured that it was nice to have the company. and Dori finally rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and woke up.then it slowly started to angle downwards. “We'll see if its a good morning in about another hour. He figured that daylight was only a couple of hours away anyways. He got up. The others were already fast asleep. and gently blow it away from them. but it was no amount worth having her killed. come and get it while its hot. They made it about two hundred feet in when Dori hollered down into the opening that their supper was ready. “Good morning. that she told them that she stole five thousand dollars from her ex-husband and they could see him being upset about that. and how to put an end to it. he needed to get his rest too. took one more look at some of the timbering. watching the slight breeze in the canyon slowly swirl the smoke of the fire around. and they laid back and relaxed. All they knew was that this man was a professional. He then headed back into the mine . Sure. Soon Simp dozed off. and headed back towards the entrance. He immediately reached for his sixgun. They sat around the campfire eating. He reached out with his hearing.

“What's eating him?” asked Dori.” she said. He pointed at the rock wall. but he could ride on top of the canyon and shoot straight down. walked over to his horse. he just like that. He finished rolling. Standing next to her with a pearl-handled . and disappeared. Willy finished his coffee and got up. they were surrounded on three sides. you got to see this!” he said excitedly.” She got up and poured herself a cup of steaming coffee. If that man in black got the slightest idea of where they were. and walked towards one of the bigger boulders. Then he sat back contentedly and smoked. “We be okay. and there was nowhere for them to hide. senorita.” Willy walked back outside.” She hoped that he was right. and Dori was sitting by the fire. and took another sip of coffee. She took another sip. blowing out small rings with his mouth. There were a few big boulders strewn about. He a loner. then come back.” he said.entrance. “I have to use the little ladies' room. set her cup down. Nothing like the bite of tobacco in the back of your throat to wake you up and make your day better. okay. don't you think?” she asked him. Dori got up. “No one bother us here.” said Willy. “Oh nothing. and lit it with a stick from the fire. senor. “Lookit this. Granted. Willy just waved to her. Willy took it and looked at it. Willy got up. “Hey. He sat back down and proceeded to roll himself a smoke. Simp came out of the mine entrance. take it outside. licked the paper. Willy. and with his hammer and chisel broke out a small piece of rock. but not as many as she liked. Willy just looked at him. “I see nothing. and glanced around the canyon. “Kinda out in the open here. No one know we here. He led the Mexican into the shaft and they walked in about twenty feet. After about fifty feet there was a shaft that ran on a ninety degree angle towards their right.” “Oh. and he kneeled down.” “Okay. and grabbed a pouch of tobacco. enjoying the full flavor that it offered her. he'd come in here guns blazing and there was nowhere to hide except in the mine entrance. and went to follow his partner into the mine.

I aim to make more money hauling lil miss pennyfoot here back to her husband and collecting the reward on her head. a deep. back into the . Dori had the look on her face of pure terror. “What she to you? What she to me? She's worth a lot of money to me. No.” Willy had his daughter to think about. she's hurt him right at his worst sore spot. I've been paid to haul her ass back to her husband to pay for what she's taken from him. Mexicali. And I aim to do what I'm paid to do. I know you two did that. “My name's unimportant.” “That's the smartest thing you've done all month. anyway. that's what. “Trouble is. I guess I have no choice but to let you have her. the man who's payin' me to get her. “Well. He didn't even look at it. That is. She didn't dare move for fear of having a slug in her brain. “Yeah. I'd let me and her just ride off into the sunset and forget about us. rooted to the spot.” “What she to you?” Willy was visibly shaking now. for the man would blow a hole in Dori's head bigger than crap. “Oh shit. Not just yet. my friend. so if I was you. seems you have upper hand. What could he do? Maybe talk his way out of this? “Why you want her? What she done to you?” he finally croaked. What's your next move. even if you combine everything you and your friend stole from the bank in Nogales the other day. he didn't want to die. Mexicali?” Willy just stood there. unless you wanna start wearing a wooden suit. man in black? How much it cost for you to forget the bounty on her?” The big man just leaned back and roared out laughing.” he said menacingly. and he dropped the rock. now. “You don't have enough money.” Willy didn't know what to do. He couldn't reach his gun fast enough.revolver pointed at her head was a very large man dressed all in black. my friend. “She never hurt a hair on my head. and I honestly could care less. senor. The big man spoke. right in the billfold. “Now.” He ignored the look of stupidity on Willy's face. husky voice that reverberated throughout the canyon.” said Willy.” said the big man. The fact that I have this lady is. There's nothing you can do about it. “How much you want.

” He started laughing at that. and wished that there was something he could do. he backed into the mine entrance and sat down to start counting. “And don't come out. The big man just smiled as he figured that he wouldn't have to watch his back anymore. and don't come out until you've counted to a hundred. and dug out some rope out of his saddlebags. Outside the mine entrance. he set about lighting the fuse. trapped like rats. grabbed the reins of Dori's horse. “Get your ass in that cave. He could finally buy a ranch and settle down. He dug a little hole and placed the dynamite in it. the stranger dragged Dori over to his horse. and wouldn't have to do this anymore. one's options were limited.” Willy didn't seem to have a choice. He needed to find Willy. not to mention collect the last half of the payment that he was due. then walked back to the hole in the side of the canyon. Simp gathered himself up and swore. They were about halfway down the wash when the dynamite went off. That would set him up handsomely. He then dug out some dynamite and cord out of his pack. Once lit. He tied her up.mine. But what? With a gun pointed at someone's head. he thought. mister. He had the person he was hired to find. and started back out of the canyon. he walked back to his horse and got up.” said the big man. With that done. He ran back into the cave to where Simp was to let him know what happened. who looked absolutely terrified. and now it was off to Kansas City to bring her back to her husband. A loud BOOM reverberated throughout the canyon. Damn. With a last look at Dori. then tied her to her horse. and a large cloud of dust followed them out. he figured. He heard her muffled screams outside as the stranger dragged her off. and make sure he was okay. His question . or she gets it straight through the brain. That's if you can count. Chapter 7 The dust in the cave almost choked the two men into oblivion.

“then sealed us in here. Once they got out of their tomb. The two men made their way back towards the entrance. and soon had an airhole in which to breathe. just delay us long enough to disappear with Dori. Since the man in black planted the dynamite in the ground. thought Simp. Dori never say where she was from. “Holy shit. choking and coughing some more. then spitting out a big wad of dirt. They noticed that the man left their horses but took Dori's. it absorbed most of the blast. saw that they were indeed trapped.” he answered. senor. senor. “I don't think he wanted to kill us. as far as Simp was concerned. Now they just needed to figure out in which direction they were headed. Simp took off his hat and wiped his dirt-caked face with his sleeve.” said Simp. we'll head towards the tracks. Willy. and figure out something . “Where you figure they went.” Oh lovely. He just wanted to get the hell out of here. hacking and coughing from the dust. Just great. They started to move the rubble by hand. and they soon had dug their way out of their predicament. “Okay. Willy. Willy thought for a moment. “What happened. As he was digging he was looking at the ore.” he said. coughing himself. “Don't know. “Okay. and once the dust settled. He had some explaining to do. Let's go look at the damage. We trapped. lookit all the gold dust mixed in with the silver!” Willy was too busy digging to worry about precious minerals. and wouldn't be able to travel very fast. That meant that he was slowed down. Willy?” he asked him. “Big man took Dori. Willy?” asked the big man.” Simp thought about that for a minute. along with an occasional flake of gold.was answered in a few minutes when the guide slowly made his way back towards him. until we can dig our way out. they both sucked in the fresh air like they had never had any before. and spotted bits and pieces of silver in it. if we make this work. but now they had to figure out how to survive in here. and Willy did the same. Not only was Dori gone.

get a good hot meal and stretch out a little bit. then reached one of the stagecoach stations nearby. He just looked back at her and chuckled. and once he got to Kansas City he would buy a ranch somewhere outside of Dodge City and settle down. He untied her long enough for her to eat her meal and stretch out. but he wasn't in the drinking mood until he had delivered his . he thought. she would give him a ton. but she was hogtied like a calf at a rodeo. she was madder than a rattlesnake being teased with a stick. I do my best. you big bastard!” she shouted at him. Ten thousand dollars. Ah. She was already griping about the rope that held her bound to her horse. but found that it was no use. The captain wanted his wife back something fierce for what he paid him.from there. “Let me go. Well. Not only had this man caught up to her. That would buy a lot. He had it all planned out that the two men that were with her wouldn't have any clue as to what direction they were heading in. give or take. he thought. senor. Either way he would make money. then make money sending them to the railhead in Abilene to be shipped out east. He figured they'd be in Kansas City in about 3 days. He figured he could buy up a nice chunk of ranch land and raise horses or cattle. but she was a feisty one! She was one of his more challenging captures.” Dori was pissed. She shrugged against her bonds. He had whiskey in his saddlebags. Maybe we can pick up their tracks in the sand. then they headed about a mile out away from the station and made camp for the night. she might as well get used to it. depending on how much trouble she would give him. they were too tight. was no laughing matter in this day and age. It was gonna be a long ride. which it was doing right now. She couldn't even scratch her nose when it itched. and about being hot and all. And if he was any judge of character. He found a large rock in which to tie her up to. and he counted the days. He figured that they would spend the night there. so he was in no hurry. They followed the railroad tracks for most of the first day. and then proceeded to make a small fire and boil some water for coffee. with half up front.” “Maybe.

He didn't care. They thought that since he was so good at tracking that he was part Indian. She gave him a dirty look. His name was Jacob. But the Welsh in him gave him his black hair. Probably tear apart a saloon or two just for old times' sake. He was a big man by most standards. and he did it well. but most men called him Jake. Hunting deer or bear was one thing. and got her off her horse to walk around a bit. English. He became very good at his profession. He was a mix of Irish. his mother died while giving birth to him. “What could you possibly gain to kidnap me? I have no idea . always working when the other kids could play or go to school. raising cows. man nor beast. hunting a human being was another. and he was afraid of no one. and as a child growing up he could never figure out why. He was no stranger to hard work. He loved the thrill of the hunt. Federal Marshals. Then he would have all the time in the world to get drunk. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. His father always blamed him for that. all the while looking straight at her captor. She finally decided to ask him some questions. but that was all. And get drunk he would. but his father did at least teach him to read and write. His family came from Europe. He found a rock outcropping that would protect his back. Finally he decided that they stop for the night. and whole towns even to hunt down even the most elusive prey.bounty. and tilling the land. He never did attend a school. He grew up tough and strong. He'd taken on some of the worst dregs of humanity that the West had to offer. and his hands were calloused from years of digging post holes. He had worked hard all his life. He wanted to make sure that his son would keep up the family tradition and become a feared bounty hunter. so good in fact that his name was almost legend when it came to bounty hunting. German and Welsh. But that wasn't the case. as long as he got paid for his work he did it. He'd been hired by sheriffs. and from what he remembered. and had sent many a man to prison. He'd been raised by a strict father. He even loosened the ropes that bound her. and the life he led only challenged him that much more. standing six foot five and all muscle. and by all standards his hair should have been as red as a sunset. She stretched out and walked a little back and forth.

Okay. get these ropes off of me and we'll see who outdraws who!” He just looked at her and smiled. “How much is my husband paying you?” she asked. Or is it? “How much?” she persisted. She'd given him 5 years of her life. “Well. He took out his knife and she started to get nervous. I'll take the ropes off of you so you can eat and make yourself comfortable. All I can say is. but he sliced up some bacon to put into the pot.” “My ex-husband did this.” said the big man.” “I sincerely doubt that. one way or another. “I'm only worth ten thousand? What a cheapskate!” She was outraged. she thought. if you must know. He mixed in the bacon with the beans and was stirring it around. ten thousand. She took the proffered plate of bacon and beans and proceeded to eat. “That dirty lousy no-good bastard!” He smiled at her again. maybe he would get lax with her. Give me a hard time and I'll give you a hard time back. nor do I care. and noticed that it would soon be dark.who you are. After I deliver you to your destination your fate is not my concern. its as simple as that. It was good. plain and simple. lady.” he said. nor your husband. and she was only worth ten thousand dollars? What a jackass! She'd get even with him. money isn't his thing. but she figured that she might as well do as he wished. She . “Better get your bedroll ready. “Be dark soon. But I won't be this nice again. “Really?” she spouted. and she figured the less she fought. I have no quarrel with you.” She thought better about arguing with him.” She just scowled at him at that comment. He was just doing a job. Now if you'll be kind enough.” he said finally. “I could double it. I am merely doing a job for which I have been paid. “I'm not impressed with your show of bravado. didn't he?” she sputtered. she thought. I have been paid to do a job. “Ma'am. It didn't seem that he was out to be cruel or punish her in anyway. He looked up at the western sky. stirring the pot of beans. There wasn't much choice in the matter from what she could see.

and they both wondered where he was taking her. with the six-shooter at her waist. Not that he blamed him. Maria. Soon she was fast asleep. They had one daughter together. she'd look better in a pretty dress than in the coat and dungarees she was wearing now. Granted.” was his answer. and she thought about how beautiful and bright they looked. . Ex-husband or not. Soon the stars started to come out. They soon spotted double horse tracks heading north. hardworking man. “She didn't give you any clue whatsoever as to where she was from?” Simp asked the guide. he was bound and determined to find her. But when she died. and until the sickness took her away from them she had always worked hard at making sure her family had a good supper at night and a good breakfast in the morning. who was ten at the time. didn't think it fair that God should take her Mama away from her. she did have a nice figure. and was upset that she had been taken. He figured that it wasn't fair. staring up at the sky for hours at a time. senor. she was an attractive woman. But there was nothing they could do. He was beginning to think that the big man had the hots for her. But he had to admit. She remembered then as a little girl how she used to stare at the sky at night in their backyard. Simp and Willy were still trying to figure out in which direction they had gone. not a clue. and all she had that day was the cup of coffee by the mine before this bozo showed up. It was times like this when he missed his wife the most. never even swore. She had a warm feeling at the memory of that. and the outside world existed no more. It had been a long day. he renounced his belief in God and started to drink more. “No. Even Maria. She ate and with a contented burp. set her plate down and went to lay on her bedroll. and she had turned out to be a very beautiful young lady. Although his life had turned to petty theft and robbing banks.didn't realize she was so hungry. He had grown quite fond of Dori. He never stole. Consuella always prided herself on having the cleanest house in the town. that he should have her back. when Consuella was alive he was a good.

and hand carved the headstone himself. She also wanted him to know that there was a boy in town named Diego that she wanted him to meet. But she kept up a strong facade and did as she was told. as usual. he helped her at the cantina when he was not working in the fields. he often told her stories of how much money he made. after work. The only thing Maria wanted for was the love of her father. Deep down he was a good man. not like a slave. and he was often hired out as a guide for the Texans who wished to bring their cattle up from Mexico to Texas and Kansas. She stayed home in the hacienda. but he never came home with it. He always made sure that Maria had the best of everything. to buy her material to make her own dresses and such. but she also wanted her father to know him first before they did such a thing. He was too set in his ways. but then the alcohol took over and it became less and less frequent. But she didn't argue with him. Most women who married were often treated no better than animals. but still. After she died.She had developed tuberculosis. She was seventeen and a woman now. and the fact that she was . Diego was a good man for her. She missed the old Father terribly. He would always bury it somewhere and in his room was a map of where all the money he stashed was hidden. she was disappointed in her father for his choice of making a living. He learned the trails well. working occasionally at the cantina across the street to make a few pesos of her own. that she had been seeing. and it benefited him in the long run. He took his knowledge of the trails and paths and turned that into a life of crime. but she still missed her father. He knew the land like the back of his hand. and she didn't want to see him hurt. and he treated her like a woman. Even Maria started to wonder about him. But when he did come home. and all the town doctor could do was to tell Willy to make her comfortable. At first he went to her grave every day. but felt that she couldn't do anything about changing him. he buried her in a corner of their land. She knew he was better than that. she sat in the hacienda alone waiting for her father to come home. except for in a pine box. That was when he started to head across the border and he'd come back with sacks of coins or wads of bills. her papa. She always had the fear in her belly that he would cross the border one of these days and not come back. Now. She wanted to marry the boy.

“Let's go. .” Oh great.. He looked at the woman sleeping across from him. He kicked her feet again. helped her remount her horse. They didn't make a fire for fear of being spotted and had a meager meal of jerky and water. no matter if it was for a town sheriff or for a personal reason. and Willy soon spotted something amidst the creosote bushes. and once again they were on the way to Kansas City. She left it not only because her husband lived there. That's what he got paid to do. time's a wastin'” he said. He kicked at her feet. but because she hated the city life and wanted to carve a niche for herself out in the untamed lands of the Western territories.treated as an equal was something that she was proud of. a tell-tale sign that someone had been here recently. mumbling in her sleep. then stopped to eat. and put water on to boil for coffee. She thought about that little problem fast and furious for awhile. lady. to come home to his family. and she got up and glared at him. Soon they were on their way again. pointing at the ground. The sky in the east was brightening. “Eat yourself some breakfast. Kansas City is a long ways from here. But first he needed to come home. He felt no malice towards her. “two sets of tracks. and every solution that she'd come up with batted zero. to get his blessing. then we hit the trail. He got up. to come back from where he happened to be at this moment. And now here she was being dragged back into it by this lout. she thought. He tied her up. Diego would take care of her. and her children. Jake was up at the break of dawn. back to that town. if they were so blessed. and she stirred. But she wanted her father to meet him. for she was just a bounty.” he said. Simp and Willy followed the tracks for several miles. If only there were some way to make him change his mind. with one heavier than the other. Track people and bring them in. “Look senor. and he decided it was time for her to get up.. started a small fire.

and didn't want to be shot at in turn. and nodded his agreement. He'd already shot at a man because of her. they came across a small firepit that was still warm. “Where do you think they're headed?” he asked the guide. senor.” “Wonderful. Simp looked in the direction indicated. Especially one he'd only known for a few weeks. That's why he would go to such lengths to rescue her from the big boy in black.” he said. they could go anywhere. They followed them all the way to Albuquerque. but it would also slow their prey down. I'd swear to it. “Not long. then headed north.Must be big man's horse. senor. then headed northeast towards Santa Fe. So many towns and forts. Good. Several hours later. pointing the way northeast. But something was nagging him at the back of his mind. and decided on a course of action. The weather changed on them. Plus. senor. too. just maybe. They barely had enough time to dig out their slickers before the deluge began. “There. and followed the tracks down out of the outcropping of rock. “Hard to tell. They were here. Willy got off his horse. They needed to find a shelter to spend the night. and held his hands above the embers. He thought he was actually starting to care for her. If the stranger . and kept their eyes open as their horses plodded forward. look at this string. Now they could make some time knowing that they were behind them.” said Simp disgustedly. He looked around the horizon. something that he hadn't felt in years. With the rain it would make it harder to track them. they would head towards the nearest town with a railroad. Simp figured that maybe. with a thunderstorm blowing in off the mountains and soaking man and horse. but could see nothing but a haze.” Simp looked down. They rode east until they came upon the railroad tracks. Chapter 8 Simp wasn't too sure about chasing after a girl.” he said. just wonderful. he thought. So they were on the right path.

Ten thousand dollars would make any man do it. it could be a very bad encounter indeed. Little did he know that one of the men tracking him was an expert. though. tying it up to his horse just as soon as he walked out . which he seriously doubted that he would want to do. They walked the boardwalks of town that day. So many variables. it was also more dangerous. perhaps he was close by. soon we'll meet again. for their travels would take them across the great prairies where there was no water. thought Simp. both in animal and human. until he knew that they weren't being followed anymore. And this time I won't miss! Jake and Dori were well on their way to Kansas City. but a few people said they did remember someone of that description with a woman. But Jake was willing to take the risk. Now it would be his turn to be the prey. While in La Junta he stocked up on his supplies. then it would be a several day ride through Comanche territory. and he fully intended to keep that promise. It passed through Comanche and Apache territory. He would not only have to defend himself. Soon. especially by himself. and would do just about anything to rescue her from the big man. After that. they decided to lay up for the night. he figured that once they were in Santa Fe they would be home free. my friend. Although the Cimarron Trail was shorter. and in the morning would cross the Mora River. He had given the Captain his word that he would bring his wife back. but also the woman too. So. Most came back as no. which took them most of a day and a half. He also bought a new rifle and scabbard. he didn't count on the two men who were following them. Maybe they'd lay up in Santa Fe until things cooled off. buying plenty of ammunition and food. He would find out soon enough. and followed the trail that led to La Junta. they were on the right path. But he found with each passing day that he cared for Dori more and more. asking anybody and everybody if they had seen the man in black. He also bought two more water jugs. However. If not. They left Albuquerque. they were on God's good graces. it was enough to drive Simp nuts. so many situations that this could go.kidnapped Dori on the orders of her ex-husband. If he was far enough away they might take the train to their final destination. and with just the two of them by themselves. Once there.

People were bustling to and fro. Dori had told him of some lost Confederate treasure that was buried out here somewhere. they finally reached Santa Fe. Being a bounty hunter. so he decided . He showed the sheriff some papers. he had the right to ask the local sheriff to keep her in his cell overnight. much less the both of them. He soon found it. and he walked out the door. God alone knew how much of a pain in the ass it would be to get her to Kansas City in one piece. He decided he'd rent a room first. After several days of travel. There were several rivers to ford. while the hotel was straight ahead and slightly to his left. He helped her off her horse. or who had buried it. Jake slowly led them towards the livery stable. with a mixture of ranchhands. He stood there for a minute or two. where their horses would be taken care of.of the store with it. He knew where she would sleep. He figured that once he dumped her off and collected his bounty. The only problem with that was that no one knew exactly where it was. It was something he could do without during this trip. He didn't have any family anyway. then head towards the saloon to see if he could pick up any local gossip. and that had piqued his interest. It was much cooler in here than on the street. He hoped that she was as good with a gun as she was with her mouth. and cattle barons mingling among the dirt street. whereas he could sleep in a nice comfy hotel bed. Besides. The saloon was off to his right. and he introduced himself as a bounty hunter. He was glad that the woman wasn't giving him much trouble. his spurs rattling along the boardwalk. cowpunchers. and had Dori locked up for the night. and the two of them slowly made their way along the boardwalk looking for the local jail. plus a lot less headaches. going from one place to another. he could return by train and go treasure hunting. and he could find suitable lodging for the night. He only worried that she might wind up shooting him in the back. But taking the train out of Sante Fe would save them several days of travel. The town was bustling with activity. He let the sheriff know where he would be. and plus crossing Indian territory didn't thrill him in the least either. just taking in the sights of the town. and opened the heavy oaken door.

and the two men did the same. All of these thoughts were going through his mind as they entered town. Tomorrow he would go to the train station and get their tickets. and rescue her without any bloodshed. and no one could change his mind. Once his mind was focused on something. Being on the stage road. But first things first. to work hard and play even harder. Sure enough. then another two or three days on the way back. but he didn't seem to be the type. They packed up their gear and got ready to move out. stable his horse and pay up for a week or so. He figured two more days and then he could collect his money.” he said in a friendly tone. That was how he was brought up. he'd do his best to whup him. Soon they could see the outskirts of Santa Fe. and passed it to Willy. Soon Willy had a small fire going. But playtime came only after everything else was taken care of. it was that or nothing. a stagecoach pulled up on them and slowed down when Simp hailed the driver. they figured that that's what it was. “See any riders headin' into town on your way out?” The driver shook his head. and he would be ready to go looking. And if Simp got into a fight with the man. much obliged. who did the same. Simp and Willy were about four hours out of Santa Fe when they saw a dust trail heading right towards them. “Not since we left town. and get rid of this big mouthed little filly before she drove him nuts. took a slug.” “Okay then. But their options were limited. and they were eating their first hot meal in several days. They wanted to surprise the stranger and Dori if possible. trotted down the main street.” The stage continued on its way. They could try to negotiate a deal with the man. but instead of heading directly into town and possibly spooking the stranger. “Howdy. Simp decided to uncork the last bottle of whiskey. they decided to camp out about a mile from the outskirts. Early morning found them rising before the sun was up.the best way he could spend his time was by working. but he stood a good four inches taller than he did and probably outweighed him by a good fifty pounds. . mister.

and pulled up to a hitching post in front of the general merchandise store. “Jail. They no more than took ten steps inside when they noticed the big man coming down the stairs. They found out that the hotel was down the street two blocks. Simp surprised himself that it was just that easy. He knocked Simp over. “Now. and grabbed Simp in a great bearhug. “Now we do it my way. right. and Simp let loose a roundhouse that knocked the big man on his behind.” he said between breaths. The man dropped him and covered his eyes. not to mention buy some more badly needed supplies. The man just grunted something. getting straight to the point. and Simp counterpunched that caught the man on the jaw. leaving several pairs of eyes just staring at them. missed. and found out quickly that it didn't work. and came down the remaining stairs like a big black bear. One final kick to the ribs. busting his lips wide open and the blood started to spurt all over the floor. too. I'm gonna ask you one more time.” the bruiser stated. The big man took the first swing. He watched in amazement as the man just wiped off the trickle of blood and smiled at him. and the big man was down for the count.” With that. “Where is she?” The man in black just spat at him. They tied their mounts to the pole and walked into the store. and crossed the dusty street. He took his thumbs and pressed into the man's eyeballs. “Where is she?” asked Simp. feeling the grip on him lessen. to try and get the layout of the town. and wouldn't last long in the open desert if that's what it came to. Simp just walked straight up to the man and watched as his eyes widened in surprise when he saw the two dusty travelers. Easy. He then walked up to him and kicked him straight in the mouth. and almost took Willy with him. fists balled up. and took their supplies out to their horses. The two men got up and faced each other. They soon came upon a folding billboard that had 'Humble Hotel' painted on it and walked inside to inquire about the stranger. They were almost out of food. He hated to mess up their carpet. Simp clapped both hands on the man's ears to make him let go. but he didn't start the . Yeah. the two men turned around and left the hotel. squeezing the breath out of his lungs. They finished packing up.

and back up at him again. who he assumed to be the sheriff. They crossed back over. and were soon at the solid oak door with oversize hinges on it.fight. Sheriff. watching them. this woman is becoming more trouble than she's worth. The man just stared at him. “I'm here to get this woman out. that's all.” “Bullshit. “No. how much?” The man didn't know whether to laugh or cuss them out. Damn. He looked at Simp. the other man did.” “You're wanted. Who the hell were they.” and he walked around the corner of his desk to the drawings hanging on the wall. They entered. “Just who the hell do you think you are. he thought. Damn! . and grabbed at the bars. sure as hell. “you look familiar. but I'm not blind. “I don't think so. back down at the paper. and spoke to the sheriff.” With that he drew his gun and pointed it at him. He just ended it. She got up quickly. God Almighty hisself?” he hissed at Simp. and pulled one out. and he started to bristle at the edges. waiting for more smartmouth talk. Now. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Dori sitting on a bunk in her cell. The man just eyed him up and down and pointed further on down the street. “Where's the bounty hunter who brought her in?” “At the hotel bleeding all over their floor. “You Gordon Thomas Simpson?” Simp thought quickly. I've never seen you before. How much?” he asked point-blank.” Simp just stood his ground. I'm old. prancing in his office and demanding information? That didn't sit well with him. you hear me son?” He stared into those multicolored eyes of his and suddenly a light clicked on in his head. Simp smiled back at her. my name is Johnson. You're Simpson. Now he was being arrested on an old warrant. and approached the man sitting behind the desk. He thumbed through the pictures. “You don't traipse into my jail and demand a goddam thing from me. I believe. on the other side. They stepped out on the boardwalk. “Wait a minute. son. smiling at the two men. Simp groaned inwardly. and he walked up to the nearest man and asked him where the jail was.” he stated slowly.

He thought fast and furious. The stranger that he'd beaten up stomped in. wondering how in the hell he was going to get out of this one. sweetheart. They definitely wouldn't grant him bail. His face was still bleeding. “Don't worry about me.” he said. and Willy and Dori walked out of the office into the brilliant sunshine. so you got yourself a deal. He obeyed. he laid down on the small cot. they walked down to the livery stable to retrieve her horse. banging against the rock wall with a loud thud. An idea that started to sound pretty good right about now. and once he saw Simp sitting in jail. Chapter 9 Simp laid there staring at the ceiling. “What's it gonna be?” The lawman thought for a minute. and it was his eyes that were his undoing. unless he started to wear an eye patch. is it?” He shushed her argument with a slash of his arm. and with that feature of his looks that he couldn't change he really didn't stand a chance of being free forever. “Okay. “I want to press assault charges on this man. sheriff. He'd been charged with robbing the bank in Borderland. creaking on rusty hinges. She ain't broke the law here that I know of. sounds like a fair trade to me. I'll go quietly into a cell if you just let the girl go. “It'll be okay. In the meantime. The door swung open. “Yeah. There was just no way to hide it.” He kept the gun pointed at him while he fumbled with the keys to unlock her cell. and slowly nodded his head. Just then the door slammed open. and he looked madder than a wounded bull. Now that ain't a crime now. She didn't do anything to anyone except ruffle some cowpoke's feathers. Someone apparently recognized him. and even he knew it. and he motioned with the barrel at Simp to get in. They would come up with something. Willy here will take good care of ya. and galloped out of town in a cloud of dust to find somewhere to think about their next move.” With that said. he growled like a grizzly and turned to face the sheriff. and Dori hugged him as he passed her by. because he'd take off.” he said. a long time ago. his swollen lips making him sound like he had a .

” Simp decided to add his two cents to the conversation. there was nothing else to do in here. you big lout. but here I do the talkin' and you do the listenin'. but the sheriff had just cost him five thousand dollars.lisp. “I still have five thousand to collect to bring her back. Hell. My hands are tied. and you let my bounty go too. He was the one that started this whole shebang anyways. son. and he just clasped his fingers together behind the back of his head and layed back down. The sheriff just looked at the big man in astonishment.” “Bring her to where?” the sheriff asked him. Simp wanted to laugh. an' I been followin' her for almost a year now. “Yeah. clearly puzzled. anyway. “I was hired to track that girl down.. calming down somewhat.. Not yet. “Well. too.” said Jake. so there's really nothing I can do about it. Stealing his girl like that. and slammed it hard behind him. I don't know who you think you're talkin' to. He was stewing like a fish in a pot. he thought to himself. They could hear his . You got that. and hope Willy and Dori came up with some kind of escape plan. you sorry.” he spluttered in rage. she's not your girl.” For his trouble he was given a very dirty look. my gun does the talkin' for me.” With that. “To Kansas City and her husband. and just as hot. Not only did Simp beat him at his own game. she's not broken any laws here in town that I'm aware of. “Ex-husband.. but was still clearly pissed. Jake turned. Maybe he should do it anyway. “Your day's comin'!” The sheriff spoke up. sheriff. That thought made him smile. purposely being nosey.” he said angrily. “Whoa there fella. But it would only make him madder. back off the war paint. grabbed the door. so if you don't wanna end up wearin' a wood suit I'd shut up and listen to what I have to say!” The big man backed off a little. big boy? I don't give a rat's ass how big you are. “You just wait.. partner. Jake pointed his finger at him. Now wait a minute fella. “That man there did this to you?” he asked. Just sit and bide his time.

I hereby declare that this is that special occasion!” “Thanks. I'm obliged. “However. . then you hightail it outta town and there's no hard feelings between any of us.” said Simp as he drank. “I suppose there's no negotiatin' to get outta here. is there?” “Son. And now he wanted to press assault charges. Simp couldn't believe his ears. and been waitin' for a special occasion. He reached in and retrieved a bottle and two glasses. Robbing a bank was an offense that many people didn't cotton to. Damn. enjoying the burn all the way to his stomach.” he said. He handed him a glass and tilted his head back.” the sheriff added. my friend. Simp chuckled at the irony of it. They both started laughing at the comedy of it all.” Simp just groaned. If the sheriff of Borderland ever got ahold of him. and had decided that it was time to make it rougher on the outlaws that they did catch. The man was going to let him 'escape. sheriff. and what would folks say of me if I let ever' lawbreaker out just because I liked him? They'd hang me from the nearest oak tree. son. getting beat up. A big man like that. and took a nap. The way your story sounds.” he said. pouring a sizeable portion in each glass. and you sorta get the keys and let yourself out while I'm a'nappin. “Bottoms up!” and swallowed the fiery liquid. and sat down on his cot. closed his eyes.” He just winked at that.' “Works for me. “Looks like you worked him over pretty good.stomping on the boardwalk as he left the office. and the sheriff just looked at him with a smile on his face. They checked to make sure they weren't being followed. I've had that for years. he'd swing for sure. I pride myself on runnin' a tight ship. “we wait 'til that big fella's outta town. sheriff. and she got off her horse. He handed the glass back to the lawman. Willy and Dori stopped at an old abandoned mine shaft about two miles out of town. reaching down to a draw on his desk and pulling it out. and laid down. “Now that there is good ol' Irish whiskey. well. He blew the dust off the bottle and uncorked it. He then got up and walked over to the cell that Simp was in.

He had risked his life and lost his freedom over her. “Willy make fire. because if it wouldn't have been for her. so she just smiled and walked towards the shaft.” She wasn't quite sure how to take that.” said Willy. eating their meal in silence. He was so angry that he forgot where the livery stable was. It was just as well. “You make a good addition to our little group. “No problem. got his horse and paid the man his fee. “What now?” she asked him. Finally he reached it. senora. “Careful. She got up and angrily stalked around. He was so mad at the sheriff for letting his bounty go that he wanted to swing at every man he came across on the boardwalk. He figured that there was no way they would stay in town if they knew . That made him even more mad. and had to ask someone which way to go. Only the sigh of the wind through the trees disturbed their thoughts. intent on recapturing his prize.” cautioned Willy. She just knew that they had to do something for him.” she said gratefully. He soon had a small blaze going. and put a pan on to fry some bacon and beans. since he had no liquor in his pack.” she thought out loud. He also put on a pot of water to boil for coffee.” said the guide. she thought. If she fell down the shaft he had no rope in which to pull her out. getting off his horse and gathering some small chunks of firewood. we eat. But deep down she knew that they had to get Simp out of jail. She wasn't sure if the Jake was going to come after her again or not. He mounted up. wondering what might come next. none of this would be happening now. They sat there. Jake was steaming hot. Her cell. “Wonder how long its been since someone's been here. Back in town. She turned around and walked back to the horses. How were they going to get out of this predicament? Dori felt that it was all her fault. senora. and rode out of town in a swirl of dust. Whiskey made one careless. and the least she could do to repay that would be to get him out of that cell. don't fall down hole. wondering how they could break him out of jail.“Thanks for comin' after me.

and crouched down behind a creosote bush. She was worth five thousand dollars to him. . and was soon within eyeshot of the mine. and he figured that this would be a good time for an ambush. his focus now intently on her. He finally stood up and walked towards the two. He again slowly made his way back up alongside the face of the cliff. He slowly edged his way along the rock face. He slowed his horse. and I aim to collect. nothing less. and he soon had her tied up again and in handcuffs. and slowly made his way up the draw towards the mine. and once they saw who it was. It was starting to get dark now. He could hear a little better here. and saw nothing but two riderless horses. They both whirled around in shock and surprise. “Yes. She reluctantly went. me again. One horseshoe on a slab of rock would give him away just as sure as a coyote's howl in the night. then stopped. and soon saw two people coming out of the shack. and reached for the reins of her horse. the other one must be the Mexican. come hell or high water. He drew his gun. He peered around the edge of a boulder. for the man he got in the fight with was in jail. and suddenly heard voices. noticing that they were talking about how to bust that man out of jail. The sun was completely down now. talking in low voices. The only other place they could go would be somewhere outside the town limits. He watched the little Mexican out of the corner of his eye just in case he went for his gun. they wouldn't if he had anything to do with it.that he was still here.” he said. He scuttled back the way he had come. then put her in the saddle. Well. One he could tell was definitely the girl. He got off and proceeded on foot lest they hear him coming. and it was getting more difficult to see. He urged his horse on even faster. and he aimed to collect his bounty. Dori just groaned inwardly. and he had a pretty good idea of where that might be. “Not you again!” she said angrily. “Hands up!” he ordered. nothing more. He had found out that there was an abandoned copper mine just a couple of miles outside of town that might serve as a refuge for those two. and he kept an eye on Willy. You're worth five thousand to me alive. He motioned with his gun barrel for her to walk down the draw towards his own horse.

Do not come looking for us. He was rewarded when the horse toppled. grabbed his rifle. that old trick wouldn't work. . Willy got off his horse and took the reins of Dori's in hand. throwing its rider onto the desert sand. He scrambled up to his feet and grabbed his own weapon. There wasn't much blood. His horse was unharmed. and a grunt of pain when the man tried to stand. and aimed into the swirl of dust he saw from the two horses galloping away. Well. without proper care it would quickly become gangrenous and he would lose an arm. He figured that Jake must have been shooting at him to keep him off balance. aiming at a point just ahead of the lead horse. so it wasn't a fatal wound. He fell flat on his face and listened as the bullet ricocheted off the rocks behind him. He kept his rifle barrel pointed on the man while he mounted his horse and rode away. to keep him from watching which direction they were heading. Then Dori and he pointed their mounts back towards town to where a good hot meal and Simp waited. but a pretty good marksman with a rifle in his own right. Not only that. holding his left shoulder. so he stood there like a stone statue. He ran over to his horse. So he decided to head back into town to tell Simp. What the stranger didn't know was that Willy was a first class tracker. not knowing what to do or how to do it. only momentarily stunned over the fall. However. He just looked down at the man in black. Just then a shot made him jump. There really wasn't anything else he could have done. He watched the two of them ride off in a cloud of dust.Chapter 10 Willy just stood there with his hands in the air. He held his breath and squeezed. Not with Willy. anyway.” He got a dirty look for an answer. He quickly jumped up on his own horse and headed towards where the downed horse was. Willy hollered after him to not come back. Then he put his body between the shooter and some rocks that jutted out of the canyon wall. Soon he reached it. and found that he had indeed hit the big man in the shoulder. “I tell you once more. Next time I aim for the head. He would never have been able to outdraw the man. mister.

and shook him awake. He woke up with a start and rubbed his eyes. Ribs'n'Things. Each day that passed made his wound that much worse. “You still in danger as long as big man in territory. “But where will we go. and that meant heading back into town. though. He walked over to the sleeping man. They ordered steaks and sat and talked while they waited for their meals to come. but that would be it. He still could shoot with his right hand.” He smiled. Willy gave her a serious look. . dozing off when the sheriff walked up to the cell door and unlocked it. senora. I guarantee it. and patted her hand. and let him know that the man was gone for good. no matter what the little Mexican had said. It would give him some time to think of a new plan of attack. We need to hide you because he come back. And they would pay. taking the roundabout way. no matter what. they headed straight for the sheriff's office to check on Simp. he could still walk and talk. Or so they at least hoped. so he just wrapped a piece of his shirt around the neat little hole in his arm and decided to head back into town. He would make sure of that.” She sighed. Pay with their lives.Back in town. “We get Simp. Willy? I have no friends or family around here. then he'd run the risk of infection. He nudged the stallion in the flanks. It looked like the bullet went clean through. and together they headed back towards town. He needed to get his wound tended to first. You have friend in Willy. Next they left the jail and walked over to the only restaurant in town. then we get out of town.” “You wrong. and no man in his right mind would pass it up. okay?” She just nodded her head and smiled back. and agreed that he was right. which was nice. Maybe he could put it off for a day or so. Simp sat in his cell. They wanted to keep him up to date on what was happening. This was far from over. Five thousand dollars is lot of money. and revenge was building in him like a volcano about to blow its top. Although he was wounded. wiping the sleep out of them.

He wasn't as clean and polished as her ex-husband with his college degree and commission.” Simp just nodded his assent. gathering himself. mister. She surprised herself with her thoughts on the matter. but apparently had found one. time to get goin'. and it didn't help his mood any to find out he was in the saloon drinking. “Now git goin'. She walked up and gave him a hug. anyway. back towards Benson and then south to Mexico. he couldn't be choosy. he thought.” There. his time was short and so was his patience with this town. Now Dori had heard it for herself. Willy paid the man. He went looking for the town doctor.” he said good naturedly. Willy smiled his big toothy smile and the sheriff ambled in and hung the keys up. if you say so. and thanks again. He had said it. and looked past the lawman. She inhaled in surprise. “That stranger will be back. The three amigos left the sheriff's office and headed down the boardwalk towards the livery stable to gather their horses. All I wanted to do was get this woman back. sheriff.” said Simp gratefully. and pretty much dragged him back to his office. swung his legs over the edge. “Okay. He shook his head and stood up.” He sat up. The sheriff moved aside to let him pass. I expect you to be out of town within half an hour. He didn't care that it was closed. Sure enough. heading east in a cloud of dust. I didn't come lookin' fer trouble. Oh well. Then he would go after the three people that he hated most in the world. He needed to get some antiseptic on his wound and get it bandaged up properly. Jake was fuming mad when he got to town. Not only did he get beat up but had . She didn't come out here looking for a man. Dori and Willy were there waiting for him. and her eyes widened. and they mounted up.“Let's go. Your friends are here. After that you're all mine. but she saw a diamond in the rough that just needed a little polishing. then grabbed his arm. “and I don't wanna see you anytime soon!” “You won't sheriff. He walked over to a peg hanging on the wall and handed Simp back his gun. He grabbed the doctor.

my friend. He walked his way over to the sheriff's office to have a little talk with the man he fought with. He went for his six-shooter and pumped five rounds into the ceiling. but didn't see any clouds of dust rising from the horizon. and they were empty. “Gone. If caught he would swing for sure for shooting a lawman. and Jake took a big swig of the bottle on the desk through the haze of gunfire. The look on his face was murderous. The way it was his bounty hunting days were over. He pushed the good country doctor through the door. and once in the hills. and made himself comfortable on his exam table. “Where's the man you had in here?” he demanded. he saw the sheriff leaning back with a drink in his hand. and they would pay with their lives. Good. Your bounty huntin' ain't no good around here. and as he opened the door. They had insulted him more than once. Especially in cold blood the way he did. He watched while the man cleaned the wound and wrapped it up. then slowed its pace.gotten shot as well. He'd kill all three of them. and maybe he'd have the good fortune to make a strike for himself. he fumed. and got back on his horse. . The man just stared at him. He looked over at the cells. They had seriously pissed him off now. then head north to the mining towns of Colorado or somewhere to take the heat off.” He exploded. He left the office. and then stomped out the door to his horse. and his rage boiled over. dead or alive. that would give him some more time. He wasn't afraid to swing a pickaxe if he had to. Well. He'd get the girl back. By now probably about 20 miles away. He turned around to see if he was being chased. He rode his horse hard for the first couple of miles. he could probably get away with it. and with all the little tricks of the trade he knew. he would disappear. now he would be the one being hunted. he thought. The hell with the money. Then he gave him some coins to pay for his treatment. intending to find his quarry before they disappeared into the mountains. they're still trying decide if they want to organize a posse to chase him down. never to be heard from again.

He was examining her from top to bottom. “You just keep your hands to yourself. and flipped through them. He was in no mood to put up with any impertinence. Somehow. My. and ready for a bath and some hot meals. A hot bath and hot meal would do wonders to ease their minds from the past few days. She noticed him smiling at her and looked down at the floor in embarrassment. “Forgive my friend. where a squirrely little man was standing. but somehow he decided that the man was stubborn as a fence post.” he said unashamedly. An hour after they entered the hotel. and walked in the door. “How much?” he asked. They stopped their horses in front of the hotel. They both felt human again. she is a beautiful woman once she cleans up.” He took out some bills from the saddlebags slung over his shoulder. and wouldn't listen to anyone or anything other than a bullet. “Don't look at me that way. Willy told Simp he had threatened to shoot him again if he showed up. got all the desert dust off of you. though. He eyeballed them.” she said. We'd like two rooms and we're more than happy to pay the going rate.Four days later. tied them up. they were clean and had a meal in their bellies. and definitely liked what he saw. and walked out the door in a dignified manner. They walked across some Persian carpets towards the main desk. Simp just smiled when he saw Dori emerging from her room. they arrived in Benson.” said Simp. and it wasn't the jail. they felt that their adventures were just beginning instead of ending. he thought. The man slid across two sets of room keys. baldy? You figure our money's not good enough? Who owns this place? I wanna talk to the owner. “We want two rooms. She .” she said furtively. They were tired and dirty. her eyes darting around. not her little flabby bald-ass flunkie!” Simp looked at her. “You're a pretty little thing when you're cleaned up. sir. and they headed upstairs to their respective rooms to clean up. The man told him. and he counted out the money. and told her to just calm down. They wanted a place to sleep. then asked them what they wanted. growling like a momma bear. “What's the matter. As long as you-know-who didn't show up again.

Simp just stared helplessly at her.. Willy went to the bar. She kind of fell for him. and about the only thing he could do was give her a shot of morphine to make her more comfortable. and there was Jake. The town was out for a lynching now. “Get the doc!” he was hollering. and he knew it. but it would do no good. and knelt at her side.” “Yeah. “Oh wonderful. senora. and fell to the boardwalk. her breath coming in ragged gasps. and Willy picked up the girl and brought her inside. If looks could kill. and it came away wet with her blood. He moved her hand away from her belly. Willy get you a drink. An inhuman rage started to light inside of him. and slowly poured the liquid into her mouth.” she said. a gunshot brought both of them out of their reverie. ya know you can't do this. the big lout. Simp was tying the knot as the sheriff entered. Two men eyed Jake. He marched out towards the big man. standing in the middle of the street with a six-shooter in his right hand. The bullet had blasted her insides real good. a lot of good those laws are doin' for her. but when he looked at the wound.. truly empathizing with the man. tears streaming out of his eyes. huh sheriff?” he snarled. He got up. fully intending on killing him this time. and watched her lifeblood pour off the tables and onto the floor. The sheriff had arrested Jake. Simp looked down at her. and someone had already been sent to get rope for a hanging. . “Here. “Now Simp. He cinched the noose tight. Suddenly. and slowly made their way to the doctor's office.” he said. She wondered what would happen if she and he got together.. They looked down the street. and the whole town knew it.wasn't fooling anyone. and got her a shot of whiskey. Jake would have been struck down by Simp's eyes..” he said. Chapter 11 The doc finally showed up with his little black bag in his hand. and he looked at the man who had done this. he just shook his balding head. There was nothing that he could do. “That's what we have laws for. He'd gone too far by shooting a woman.

where he's gonna stay. and he quickly went over to her side.. He walked down the boardwalk to the doctor's office. and she was gone. “Gimme a shot. senor. or form. and he was amazed that she was the only one who had been hit.” His look took on a softer demeanor. Then he personally would take her body and bury it in the town cemetery... no matter what. That was forbidden. There was a law. one didn't shoot a woman.” said the sheriff. Suddenly Willy was at his side. in any way.” she got out. then walked up to the bar. But she was an innocent.. and slowly picked it up in his arms and carried it out the door. and he had broken that law many times. He was watching her last moments on this earth. “And I'll shoot the first man myself that tries to break him out!” Simp knew the man was right. “Where is that scumbag anyways?” “In a cell. .. Her head flopped over to the side. There were too many witnesses around who had seen him do it that there would be no possibility of him getting off on it.I did love.you. She died a needless death.and gave it to another man to go loop around a tree branch. and that was not acceptable.. Dori was gone. cradling her left hand in his right. and they both knew it. and walked over to Dori's body. and there would be no forgiving someone that did that. Jake would have his chance to stand trial.. Then he pulled himself together. At least if he would've been killed the world wouldn't have missed him.. and keep 'em comin'!” The bartender poured him one. He couldn't believe it. He put her hand up against his forehead. She took the bullet that was meant for him. shape. But he never. ever shot a woman. “I. then kissed it gently. and he did the same thing. and watched him guzzle it down. “She's askin' for you. then he would hang. “What. where she would be until a casket could be made up for her. He refilled his glass. ugliest female on the face of the desert. He sat there for a minute to compose himself. The streets were full when he unloaded the shot at Dori. He needed to avenge her death somehow. It didn't matter if she was the meanest. and her eyes closed. sweetie?” His eyes started to fill with tears.

“What's this key for?” he asked. and didn't know what to do. leaving Simp alone with his thoughts. With that. and slowly left the room. and he drank some more. Then it wouldn't bring Dori back.” was the man's answer. His heart ached. There was absolutely no reason for a man to shoot a woman. senor. and in it was a key. He got up. His anger would make him swing with the breeze. Later that night he was sitting on the edge of the bed thinking about what happened. It was tearing him up inside that she had to die for a bullet that was meant for him. What if he had walked out that door first? He would've caught the bullet.” Fine. . “Senor. He really realized now just how much she had meant to him. “I need to talk to you. He would see Jake hang for what he did to her. just reflecting on the time they had together. He did it out of pure spite. and he had to act accordingly. But first he would make sure justice was served. For the first time in his life he was confused. drinking whiskey and staring out the window at the street below. he put his hat back on. Simp looked at it. He was torn up inside. But Jake had thrown a wrench into his plans. it is important. senora Dori. She whispered something about bank. then slowly took it into his own hand. “Senor. and that was point-blank.” he said. and let the guide into the room “What's so goddam important that it can't wait 'til morning?” Willy took off his hat and stared at the floor. which would take another four or five days at least. “I don't know. and Simp would be there to pull the lever on the trapdoor. angry that he would interrupt his grieving. “Senor. its me Willy. He usually had a clear-cut way of doing things. not really expecting the man to know.” said a voice on the other side.” “Leave me alone Willy. He wouldn't see him hang until the judge arrived from Kansas City. There was a soft knock on his door. pass away she wanted me to give this to you. and she would still be alive. He sat and cried for a long time.” He held out his hand. before she. and he ignored it. Very much.He sat there with her body for awhile. and for that he would pay. And he would miss her.

All he was concerned about now was how he was going to get out of here. But he had a plan forming in the back of his head. He meant to kill Simp. cuz its one of the last you're gonna git!” Jake just looked at him and smirked. waiting for the deputy to leave. He didn't figure no one would be there looking. otherwise they would've found the buck knife he hid in his boot. The deputy brought him his evening meal. He finally slumped on the uncomfortable cot. He'd eventually get his revenge on Simp and the Mexican. restless as a polecat. and he sat back down on the cot with the tray. but that would be it. He figured that once that girl's funeral came around.Jake sat in his cell. They'd be so cocksure that their jail was secure that he believed that's what they would do. just soup with some bread and a cup of coffee. Damn unlucky shot there. After he ate. They didn't search him very well. and slid his tray on the floor underneath the bars. and flopped down on the cot. for he would need his strength in the next day or so. He finished. and eventually have enough dug out to kick a hole in the wall and steal a horse. so he just scooped it up and tossed it out the window. he would dig some more on the mortar. He would have to hide the pile of mortar that was adding up. Now the townsfolk would hang him sure as dust was dry. but it was good. He shouldn't of killed the woman. and there was no appeals or no wa y a judge would see it any other way than plain murder. and he jumped back over to the wall and started digging some more. It wasn't anything special. Soon the door closed. and picked it up. . and when the time came to break out. Surely they might leave one man to guard him. He ate hungrily. son. but he wasn't sure how or where. they would be more interested in their own affairs. “They'll be buryin' that woman tomorrow. he'd be able to try and break out of this flea-bitten rat trap while everyone was gone. he could do it and do it quick. Hope you enjoyed the meal. and looked at Jake. and laid down with the thoughts in his head racing around like a dog chasing its tail. Soon the deputy came in. He would use that to start digging some of the mortar from around the blocks. but she walked out of the saloon first. it was a mistake.

He waited to see a dust cloud . He soon found a nice roan. which was quite out of the ordinary for him. He walked out the doors. and walked in. He had the body in it already. dust flying. This time tomorrow. He even shaved. and riding fast. He headed out of town towards the hills. and walked down the stairs. and took off. Every eye in the saloon was on him. and he took off down the back alley way. he pocketed the key and walked out. Soon he was looking like a gentleman. waiting for its owner at the saloon. They loaded the box. and it was something that he didn't look forward to. He didn't want to disrespect her memory by showing up filthy. Jake just watched the procession and started drooling with the fact that he would be a free man soon. and then went up to his room to take a bath and change. and that was the signal for the ceremony to begin. looking for a horse to steal. and easy to please. He was told that it was to a safe deposit box. he figured he'd be ten miles out of town. and not a soul in town saw him. and all that was needed was for some strong backs to place it on the back of his wagon for the long last haul up to the cemetery. Several wreaths of flowers had been brought up. looking towards town. He dug furiously at the mortar and soon had a foot-wide hole in the wall. Well. Easy to trick. and were soon there. He kept kicking and digging. They walked slowly towards the cemetery to where the new hole was dug. how he loved them. Thanking them for their trouble. and wiggled his way through the broken mortar. down the street to the coffin-maker's shop. he stopped and turned.Simple folk. and he jumped up. he was now the new owner of it. He glanced around. for later in the day they had to lay Dori to rest. making sure nobody spotted him. He shook Simp's hand. and the preacher was there ready to do his part. then formed a procession behind it. He went to the saloon for some bracers. and he did his best to behave normally. tied up nice and neat. Simp took the key to the bank and asked them about it. After about half an hour. but not with them.

until they saw the nice little hole in their precious jail cell. and off they went. higher and higher into the mountains. He nudged the roan in the ribs with his heels. but saw none. It was a somber crowd that entered the saloon that day. Chapter 12 Simp and the rest of the townsfolk headed back into town. and the drinks were on the house. that is.that would indicate riders coming out this way. He was home free. Then all hell would break loose. The talk was less than boisterous. ' .

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