The material (chapter) in this post is copyrighted by the author and may not be used or copied in any way without the author’s permission.
The wind blew dust wildly around the group of four men as they rode out of town on their already tired horses, but the men didn’t slow down. They’d robbed the bank and murdered a few citizens during the event. They knew they needed to put as much distance as they could between themselves and the posse that would soon follow; it was worth risking the storm to be free.
Communication was impossible under the conditions. As soon as they opened their mouths to speak, they were filled with the gritty sand blowing freely in the dessert despite the bandanas they’d tied over their noses and mouths.
Cut Throat Bill Thackard – the leader – reined his horse to a halt, and after almost running into him, the other three men in the band of outlaws did the same. Tugging his rope off his horse’s saddle, he tied one end around his saddle horn and tossed it to the man closest to him – Quick Shot Dan Westville.
Getting the idea, they all did the same and tied in another rope when they needed more length.
Now tied together so they wouldn’t lose each other in the storm, Bill once again took the lead, drawing them away from town and toward the canyon where they’d made their camp.
The ride through the windstorm was arduous and the already over labored horses had a hard time making their way, but they made it to their destination without any of them collapsing, to the shock of the men riding.
The outlaws had been living slim and hard for weeks, which was why they’d decided to rob the bank in Bristleton; the money was supposed to help them continue their escape to Mexico. Having broken out of prison, stolen horses, and hidden out in the dessert to evade authorities and bounty hunters, they’d had little food for themselves and nothing for the horses. Even water was scarce, causing exhaustion in man and beast.
Once they were safely in the canyon the assault of the wind abated and they could breathe easier since the natural stone walls shielded them from the gritty sand onslaught.
Bill tugged his now tan bandana off his face and grinned back at the other men.
“Almost clear, boys!” he yelled in a hoarse voice.
The rest of the band each raised a hand in a silent cheer, agreeing with their fearless leader, before tugging down their bandanas as well.
Hugging the red lined sandstone canyon wall, they slowed their exhausted horses to a walk, heading toward where they thought their camp was located; it wasn’t until almost an hour later that they realized they were lost.
“Where da hell are we?” Scofield Sam Cuthburt asked.
“We’re lost,” Mountain Man Matt Lander jeered, and spit a stream of tobacco juice into the sand. “Bill lost his bearings in the dust, me thinks.”
Sam laughed, and joked back, “Not da firs’ time dat’s happened.”
“You know I can hear you, right?” Bill asked, turning to glare at the two men.
They fell silent and wouldn’t meet his gaze. There was a reason Bill was called cut throat. Despite being the best “educated” and “proper” one out of the bunch, he’d killed many men back in the prison for “cutting” on him. He didn’t like to be jeered about or made fun of, and he didn’t let anyone get away with it.
“They’s jus’ tryin’ ta ease some o’ da tension,” Dan said, guiding his mount up beside Bill’s. “We be tired, hungry, and hell, we jus’ robbed a bank. Ya can’t blame a man fo’ needing a little laugh. ‘Sides, being lost ain’t the greatest t’ing fo’ us right now either. Where we supposed ta hide out and res’? Horses can’t take much mo’e. . .”
Bill glared at Sam and Matt for a couple more seconds before facing forward again and surveying the landscape. He couldn’t place any of the landmarks and knew for certain they were lost – he just didn’t want to admit that he’d messed up.
“What we gonna do?” Matt asked, spitting on the ground again. “We be almost outta water and I canna take much more of this grit in me mouth.”
“What’s wrong wit’ a lil bit o’ dessert flavor?” Sam asked, elbowing Matt.
Matt spite again and glared at Sam.
Sam laughed, and teased, “I know, ya’d ratha be in da mountains wit’ all dat clear, col’ air.”
Matt nodded and turned his attention to the two men in front of them, who were now talking quietly amongst themselves.
“What we doin’, boys?” he called out. “That posse is gonna be on our tails as soon as the wind dies down.”
“We knows dat,” Dan threw back over his shoulder, “but dey won’t fin’ a trail so dey won’ knows where we gone – dat’s da good t’ing ‘bout da winds’orm. Da bad part be that we’s now los’ because o’ it and need ta fin’ a place to res’ and hopefully fin’ water.”
“We’re going to search for someplace to hole up,” Bill said, nodding. “There are a bunch of caves in the walls of the canyon. Let’s go see if we can find one to hide in – one that hopefully has a stream running through it.”
“Dat’s no’ as’ing fo’ much,” Sam muttered.
Matt elbowed Sam so hard that he almost fell off his horse.
Sam scowled at Matt, who was grinning broadly.
Dan and Bill spurred their mounts and started down the steep bank between them and the canyon floor; the other two followed close behind.