Where Are The Others?
Esther May reined in to stare at the tracks in the road. She was following what looked like the recent prints of one horse. There should have been four – there were four, but three disappeared.
She turned to scan her back trail. The hills on either side gave no clue why riders would branch off the road. There was nothing in any direction except for the broken terrain of the mountain.
The single set of hoof marks must be Skewy’s, but they didn’t show her if C.J. had met the vaqueros or, like her, had trailed them until they turned away.
Esther May pulled out a canteen and sipped the tepid water while mulling over the situation. The rest break she took at the creek was necessary for her animals, but she also wanted to let the riders pass.
They were behind her again.
What if they were paralleling the road as she did to avoid detection? In that case, she may have almost ridden up beside them.
But if the tracks on the road were C.J.’s, they let him pass without bother. Would the vaqueros grant her passage? Nope. To assume she’d receive the same treatment as a man would be a way to wind up hurt or even dead.
How To Decide
On a whim, Esther May copied something she’d seen her father do numerous times. She spat into the wind to see which direction she should take. The deed wasn’t as accomplished as her father’s, and she laughed softly and wiped her chin. All young ladies should learn that gracious act.
Esther May left the road in the direction fate, or wind, dictated. She’d be alert for tracks and change sides if any appeared.
On To The Settlements
Finally! Esther May crested a hill and saw that she was over the mountain. It was all downhill from here to the mines. That could be signs of civilization way off in the distance.
The urge to get back on the road and travel faster was strong enough to send her in that direction. She meandered through the thinning trees, the pines giving way to junipers.
Her horse raised his head and perked up.
She stopped and listened.
Faint voices – men.
Not Waiting Around
Esther May stood in the stirrups, turning her head. Downhill at the end of a rocky ridge was a boulder formation. She’d give up the higher ground, but the rocks offered the only protection she could see.
That’s where she went at a gallop.
Someone shouted behind her.
There was room to pull the horses in between some rocks. She grabbed the Henry and a box of shells from the saddlebag and scrambled to the gap in a stony spire.
Three vaqueros, the third one being led by the second, were trotting toward her.
Esther May fired in front of them. The bullet’s impact kicked up dirt and sent a ricochet screaming through the air. The first horse shied abruptly and almost tossed his rider.
She chambered another round and put the rifle sights on the next man, but he stopped while the first rider got his horse under control.
Esther May did a quick memory check. These had to be the same three vaqueros she saw earlier and wanted to let pass her, but there was something different about them.
And that last horse looked familiar, was it … Skewy?
Yes. That was C.J. drooped in the saddle.
The first rider swung his hat in a wide arc. “That was not polite, chica.”
Is Esther May mistaken? Are the riders friendly? Leave your thought and comments now.
Perserverance in a confrontation can decide the outcome. Check out what Billy Dixon did.
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