Together With No Plan
C.J. reined to a halt, reached out and grabbed the halter of Esther May’s horse. “What are you doing here?”
“You said you loved me.”
“Not enough to get you killed.”
“I’ll be happy to not get killed for you.”
“Dang it, Esther May. This ain’t funny. This is Apaches we’re going against.”
“Well, what’s your plan?”
She had him there. C.J. was following their trail to exact revenge. He gave no thought to how and when his idea of justice would happen. He mumbled random thoughts hoping some made sense.
Esther May swiveled in the saddle, first looking through the scrubby trees and then at the low sun in the western sky. “It’s getting dark. Let’s stop here and pick up again in the morning.” She dismounted without waiting for an answer. “We should talk about what we’re doing.”
A Perceptive Gentleman – Or Not
C.J. rubbed Skewy’s warm neck in the pre-dawn chill of mountain altitude. “Sorry, gal. That little spot of grass will have to hold you for a while. I’ll find you some water today, I promise.” He lifted the saddle to the mare’s back and clamped his teeth together. Did he make a promise he couldn’t deliver? He should have taken an oath to keep them all alive, but to have a firm chance at that meant turning around and leaving.
Esther May had bedded down behind the trees to the north. C.J. insisted that she locate a hiding place away from him and the two horses in case they were discovered during the night. Making her find a separate spot to assure her safety raised his male ego high as a pole. Not only had he realized her need for an extra margin of protection, but the distance gave her privacy.
Proud of his chivalry, he was surprised to see Esther May arrive with a drawn face and black circles under her eyes.
“You look done in.”
“Too many rocks?”
She got in front of his face. “No. I was scared, C.J. I was by myself. Alone on this mountain wondering why the man who said he loved me wasn’t there to comfort me. This may be our last day alive and you sent me away.” Esther May picked up her saddle. “Let’s find the Indians and get this done.”
Learning To Track
Following the trail was not a problem. C.J. noticed that he was able to discern the difference between the recent tracks of the Apaches and older prints left by deer and other animals. The way the scuffed dirt was a subtle shade of different color, like freshly tilled soil, drew his eye. Smug in his newfound tracking abilities, C.J. tried to determine how many horses they were following. It wasn’t easy since the Indians mostly traveled in single file, but he knew the information was there in the details.
He was absorbed in studying the hoof-prints searching for a slight overlap in impressions when Esther May quietly said, “You see the footprints too?”
Footprints? Caught unaware, a wave of heated terror flushed over C.J. He drew his attention back from hooves to focus on the whole trail.
There they were. Mocassins. On top of the other signs. Staggered and shuffled like a drunk walks.
He stood in the stirrups and craned his neck.
“I see him.”
Who does C.J. see, man or woman, mountain man or Indian? What should they do? Leave a comment now.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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