Grant was laying, head down hill, arms and legs askew. With every breath, a bright red froth of blood coated his lips in a darkening patina.
“Don’t move around too much, son,” Tom said.
Fearing that Grant would drown in his own blood, Tom gently dragged his limp body into a depression formed when a giant ponderosa had toppled, ripping the soil from the steep hillside.
“This here is the only level spot on this whole mountain…and this big root snag will be a nice wind break till I get back.”
Tom retrieved Grant’s crushed Stetson and then scraped together a pile of soft dry earth and pine needles. Lifting the young man’s upper body, he covered the mound with the hat and pushed it into place beneath Grant’s head.
“I made you a nice pillow outta that new hat yer so proud of.”
Grant’s horse came to a sliding stop beside Luke at a hitching rail near a stable. Grant was smiling with satisfaction as he dismounted.
“Tom, that was hugely exhilarating! It is a good thing that you warned me. I was nearly unhorsed when this animal burst into a run.”
“Well sir, I’m happy with ya!” Tom replied.
Grant noticed a young dark complexioned boy of about fourteen years who had crawled through the corral fence and was leaning on the rail. The boy was accompanied by a black and white collie dog, which walked around Grant sniffing his new clothing and boots. Apparently overcome by some odor, which demanded his attention, the collie suddenly grasped Grant’s leg between his front paws and began moving his pelvis in a simulated act of mating. Grant’s cheeks turned crimson as Tom and the boy laughed.
Tom said, “My little ol’ head was swimmin’ with the remembrances of the year before when I saw my own kin hangin’ from fences, gutted and skinned like so many slaughtered sheep. I took one quick look around and decided to high tail it for the next station. Knowin’ Injuns like I did, I knew damned well that they had some lookouts on a ridge somewhere just waitin’. I don’t mind tellin’ you that by then I was one scared child.”
“Had the Paiutes taken all of the horses?” Grant asked.
“Good question, the fact is that they’d not taken all the horses. They had left one. Nice lookin’ long legged roany gelding. All saddled and ready too. Just like it had been left by the station folks before they was killed.
They mounted the horses and Dixie lead the way as they rode out onto the open prairie.
As the horses plodded along, Grant said, “I’m already enjoying it.”
“Enjoying what?” Dixie asked.
“You just told me to relax and enjoy it, take it as is comes. Well I’m already enjoying it.”
“As am I,” she said, turning her face away from him.
“I’d like to know something,” he said.
“You ask and I’ll try to answer.”
“Why were you so mad at me after the plane crash? It wasn’t really my fault you know?”
“You looked an absolute fright. Your face and clothes were covered with blood and I thought you were terribly hurt.”
Tom walked into the den and poured himself a tumbler of Scotch whiskey.
“I’m gettin’ a little headache. Maybe a sip or two of The Glenlevit will belay the pain. Would you care for a snort?”
“No thank you. I surely won’t get any work done then,” Grant said.
“Suit yourself but this here is the finest Scotch Whiskey a man can illegally import.”
Tom picked up his glass and walked to the door.
“Let’s go sit on the porch. There’s a breeze in the shade and I haven’t been out in a week.”
Tom sat in a wicker swing while Grant sat in a chair with his notebook.
During dinner, Grant and Dixie listened as the murders and robberies were the main topic of conversation.
“I just can’t believe that Buck would do such things,” Dixie protested. “I know he hurt Grant but that was about jealousy. What reason has he for doing these horrible things?”
“Darlin’,” Tom said. “Buck is just one mean sumbitch, if you’ll pardon my French. You didn’t hear the story from the Sheriff. It was enough to turn your stomach. We all thought we knew him, but we didn’t. He’s bad and that’s all there is to it. He can only end up in jail or dead…and it was his call.”
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