FROM HERE ON I AM INTERJECTING A DOG THAT SHOWS UP OUT OF NOWHERE WAY BACK IN CH -10 OR SO. I AM ALSO SIFTING TO FIRST PERSON BECAUSE I FIND THE THIRD PERSON USING DEAC’S POINT OF VIEW ISN’T WORKING FOR ME. I WILL GO BACK ON REWRITE AND ADD THIS IN. the dog will add more options to the story at every crisis point.
The Rafter B was quiet. There were horses in the corral, a couple tied with saddles on at the hitch rail by the bunkhouse, and one rider way off to the other side headed in. From the horse count, there were at least 22 men on hand to keep the party lively and me on my toes. As I watched from the same point Tor and I had used before, I prayed. It was a simple prayer, “Lord, help me please.”
I didn’t know what else to say.
Ezekiel, THE DOG, hadn’t been around for some time, at least since the shooting started after I was discovered at the Lazy E. No worry, sometimes I think that dog is an angel from God and other times he hits me like a demonic spirit. He does keep saving my bacon, at least on occasion. I could have used that dog right then. His smile and tail talk louder than most words.
As I watched, one man walked from the bunkhouse over to the barn. In a couple of minutes I could hear the bellows pumping in the forge and saw smoke come from the chimney. That gave me the location of two of the men. The front door on the house opened and out step Diane. She was looking back over her shoulder like someone was giving her instructions.
She flipped her hair by throwing her head around and walked to a swing chair. Her standing there was doing things to me. She had obviously had a chance to clean up and change clothes. There was no sign of any bruises that I could see from this distance. She sat and started rocking it back and forth with one foot while she tucked the other underneath her. As she rocked she kept throwing her hair. I got the feeling she was trying to say something to anyone watching. She knew it would have to be me because no one else knew she was a captive and her father was dead, except the outlaws of course.
‘What could she be trying to say, Lord?’
The flip was always in the same direction, to her right. Every time she did the flip her hair would fall over the right side of her head and promptly slide back to the left. What was she saying, if she was saying anything?
She lifted her right hand and arm so the arm rested on top of the swing back. She knocked on the wood a couple of time and then slowly extended her pointer finger and brought the hand to a quiet position with that finger pointed.
Okay, so there was something over that way that was important. The sun was over there and a couple of hours from setting. I was sure she was not pointing at the sunset. There were no colors painted, yet.
I tried to focus on the area to the west from her angle. There was nothing but wide open spaces, or so it looked from where I was. Then I saw the dog. He was sitting very still about two hundred yards out from the side of the house. Anyone not knowing what that dog looked like would only see a scrubby bush if he could see anything looking into the sun like that.
Had she given something to the dog to give me if I showed up? Was she her dog? Questions I had no answers for at that time. One thing was sure, I was going to move around and join that dog about sundown.
After a few minutes she talked with someone inside the house, stood up, stretched like she was tired and going to bed, turned, and walked into the house with her left arm slapping the wall beside the door jamb three quick times with her knuckles. Three raps. Three shots. Danger or trouble. Most of the time it was the signal for ‘I need help.’ Was that what she was doing?
An answer slapped the back of my mind. She needs help to get to the dog or that way. Wait, she signaled she is going to bed for the night at a really early, too early for a young gal. She is going to sneak out of the bedroom on that side of the house and go in that direction and will need help. ‘Lord, you and I know she needs all the help she can get.’
I started sliding backwards toward Solomon. Once I reached him, we walked slowly, very slowly so we kicked up no dust, away from the house until it was relatively safe to mount up and head west.
The darkness took a long time coming that evening.
When it did, Solomon and I headed for dog.
There was no dog.
I could see the light of a lamp through the front room window. The window on the same side, but further back on the house was opened half way and dark. I watch standing in from of Solomon just in case someone saw us from the ranch. With the two merged figures a watcher would see neither horse or man, instead it would be some object like an old tree or something of the kind.
A dark figured eased out of the back window to the ground. It was easy to see the dark against the white wash on the wall. I assumed it was her and watched her move to the back corner of the house before dropping to hands and knees and crawling toward me ever so slowly.
The bunkhouse door swung open and one of the hands stepped out for an after dinner smoke. I had never seen them eat dinner. The thought just came to me.
A figure moved at the front room window. The fat man stepped to the window and looked out.
He knew she was leaving. He knew sooner or later I would show up. The hands were staying undercover so I would not be scared off by their movements or presence. This was all just one big trap to catch me.
Diane was confident of her escape through the open window that the fat man had left open on purpose, that she stood and walked rapidly all hunched over. Her in those dark clothes were going to be very hard to see from the house or the bunkhouse as she got further and further away.
She was coming right at me like she could see me.
I moved off her path a good fifty feet and covered Solomon’s muzzle so he would not make a noise.
The bunkhouse door opened again and two men stepped out. They gather two sets of reins from the horses tied there and swung into the saddles before riding to parallel her path. The outlaw in the barn came out on horseback and paralleled her on the other side. The fat man moved out to the porch and took up position sitting in the swing. He obviously planned on hold court from that position after his boys caught me and drug Diane back.
So, he still did not have her signature on the deed that he needed, was my first thought. My second was he would kill her this time and forge a signature or make up a very large story to cover his occupying the Rafter B. A third thought was that he could burn the barn with the two of us in the ashes and no one would be the wiser when he bought the place from her just before the accident.
Tor and I were the only ones that knew where her father’s body was and Tor was not going to do any talking. I was in his way as much as the gal.
‘Lord, I need Your help.’
As Diane came abreast of me I said, “Keep riding. You’re being followed. Don’t worry, I’ll meet up with you.”
She started a bit, but kept it calm. “Please hurry. I just know they’re gonna kill me soon.”
“Did you sign the deed over?”
I turned to check on the followers. The single rider was coming straight at me and the other two were out of sight in the dark and probably behind a rise in the land. Diane kept in going without changing pace.
There was a rope on my saddle, but I had never roped anything in my life. Even when the other boys were roping hay bales and fence posts, I sat and watched. Dad raised me to be a phony preacher just like him. I really fooled him.
As the single rider came on I moved toward him going from one tree to another until I was in a great position. He saw my horse and got real cautious, climbing down off his horse, and creeping forward. As he passed by position, I clubbed him on the back of the head with my .44. He fell like he was dead.
I rode to intercept the other two followers.
By the time I caught up with Diane she was out of the woods and moving quickly across an open grassy plain. Dark spots shaped like cows dotted the country side and a clump of what appeared to be trees could be seen in the distance. I decided the best thing to do was just ride up to her and escort her on her way. The two gun dummies could follow or attack, I really did not care.
We talked a bit as we rode. Out of the corner of my eye I watched for the riders off to the left and could not tell them from cows or elk in the grass. There were just dark shapes here and there. All I could think of was they were snakes in the grass and just as difficult to see..
We arrived at the trees which surrounded a spring filled a small pond where the cows in the past had left their sign of many visits in the past. “You keep on riding and I’ll see what I can do about them two.” I nodded in their direction.
Two dark spots turned to come straight at us as the distance between them widened. I said a quick prayer under my breath and settled in to a great spot behind a tangle of tree trunk and scrub brush, and waited.
The first one to catch sight of me had his six gun in hand. He started to to raise the pistol, so I shot him out of the saddle. As I fired, I heard a shot behind me and felt a round graze my left arm like a hot iron. I turned to see the a shadow bringing his sights to take another shot at me. He didn’t like it that I did not fall down and die with his first shot. His second shot missed. He needed some practice. He wasn’t going to get any practice, I shot him out of the saddle. He fired at the sky as he fell.
I rode like my horse’s tail was on fire to catch up with Diane. “Let’s ride.”
She kicked her horse into a run alongside me. We covered some ground for about ten minutes when I called, “Let’s ease’em down to a gallop and head toward the east and the mountains. We need some cover.”
Morning found us snuggled into a clump of rocks in the foothills with a small, very small fire keeping us warm. As soon as I could make out separate rocks a hundred feet away, I saddled the horse, woke Diane, and we left the place. Swinging up into the saddle caused my head to swim and I had to hold on with both hands to keep from falling. That wasn’t good at a time like this.
“You know how to get outta here to some civilization where we can find help and a bit of rest?”
“I think so.”
“You lead, I’ll follow.”
As we rode I told her my problem. The look of fear on her face scared me.
“Just keep going if I go down. You won’t be able to put me on a horse, so you get to safety. If you can hide me a bit, that would be good, but don’t leave my horse with me. Take him down the trail a mile or so, and let him go.”
“What do I do then,” she asked.
We discussed that issue for a bit, until she went silent. I dropped back further.
It was dark, very dark. I was on the ground and it was cold. A blanket was over me, my head throbbed, and it was dark. Trying to stand was a failure for the first two times. I was able to stand only if I held on to something solid, like the tree next to my blanket. “Diane,” I whispered.
“Diane,” I said in a normal voice, except there was a twinge of fear that I didn’t like in the sound of it.