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 The Long Road Back - Part Sixteen - Oh ... That Money! - 2100 words

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Cal

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PostSubject: The Long Road Back - Part Sixteen - Oh ... That Money! - 2100 words    Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:47 am

---oooOOOooo---

The Long Road Back
(Haff & Wong seven)
By Cal

---oooOOOooo---
Part Sixteen 
Oh … That Money!
---oooOOOooo---


The Bounty Hunter followed Weaver as he weaved through the trees in the darkness.  He held the hunting knife out in front of him and wondered if he could risk calling the outlaw’s name. 

‘Too risky.  They had guns …who were they…who had Jones left alive?’ 

He stopped, one hand on his knee feeling winded and dizzy.  

‘Damn …he’d have to risk it.’

He straightened up and took in a big breath in to make the call, as a hand in the darkness grabbed the knife, and he had time to wonder why no sound came from his ruined throat, as he crumpled to the floor.

---oooOOOooo---

“Pull harder, Kid …I’m nearly there” whispered Heyes.

Kid was at the bottom of the twenty-foot cliff at the front of the cave house, pulling on the mule line, sending Heyes up in the basket.  He didn’t look too happy about replacing the two mules, and I don’t think he was thinking Heyes had lost a lot of weight recently, any more either.

“You must be able to reach by now!” he spat out quietly, through gritted teeth.

Heyes reached above him for the ledge, and his hand was met by a smaller calloused hand, that gripped his firmly and pulled him up the last few feet. 

‘At last!‘ thought kid, feeling the line go slack and slumping down to sit at the bottom of the rope with the Colt in his hand.  

His eyes burned, needing sleep, but he stared off into the shadows keeping watch. No one could get close enough to him with a knife, and from here he could make out the log he’d hidden the spare guns behind. He picked up Heyes’ rifle and laid it over his knees.

“Heyes?” questioned Haff quietly helping Heyes to stand on the ledge above. “Late to be visiting?”

“Is Lom here?” began Heyes, “And them young’uns?”

“Lom’s down there” stated Haff as if this were obvious.  “No one’s up here but me. The others …Well …The others left.  They decided to take the boys with them.  They left about six hours ago.” 

Haff stood in front of his home like a sentinel. 

“Wong said you’d probably work it out before morning.”

“They have a guide?” Heyes asked.

“The best” said Haff proudly. “My wife …” He still couldn’t say that without smiling. “Flower of Morning …She can guide them through the Badlands …through the Sacred Valley …and on into the tribal lands.  Don’t worry Heyes, she will leave me a trail …and tomorrow …I will take you, Kid, the Sherriff …and any you wish to follow.”

Heyes dropped his head catching his breath.  Haff interpreted this as disappointment.

“Wheat and Wong… they… were both very grateful …to you and Kid …for coming back to the Hole …to save Wheat from … but …erm …” 

Haff faltered to a stop.

“They didn’t want Lom knowing they were here to collect stolen money” finished Heyes looking up with a sad smile.

“They didn’t want to put temptation in your way” finished Haff with his own crooked smile.

“Well Haff …’fraid I got some bad news for you…”

That wiped the smile off the Indian’s face.

“The Bounty Hunter’s cut Weaver and Crease loose down there …and they know all about Wheat’s money …They’ve also worked out that Flower of morning is their only ticket out of here...” 

Haff’s eyes were getting bigger with each revelation. 

Heyes could see the panic rising in Haff’s eyes and he assumed the Gang leader’s persona and voice to keep him grounded.

“She’s leaving you a trail to follow …. Right?  Do you think …they could follow it too? Are there anymore horses up here?” 

Haff pulled himself together quickly, staring back at Heyes and seeing the logic of the questions.

“Yes …an ‘easy trail’ she said. No …no horses here… all down there… with the Sheriff … Come on!” 

Haff sprang to the rope, tying it off and heading down hand over hand.  

Heyes looked over the dark edge, pulling a reluctant face.  He really wasn’t up for all this physical stuff yet. He gave the rope a couple of pulls before joining Haff on the descent. 

“KID …KID!” Heyes hissed back down the cliff below him. “KID!?”

“I think he may be asleep…” said Haff quietly. “I can hear breathing.”

Haff got to the bottom and steadied the rope for Heyes.  Heyes stepped carefully off the rope, onto his still sore leg, and managed to kick a snoring lump at the bottom as he did so.

“What? …who?” groaned Kid, his eyes springing open.  

Heyes was about to say something very uncomplimentary to his younger cousin, when a twig snapped over by their camp.  Kid was rudely quieted by Heyes’ hand thrown roughly across his mouth.  Heyes’ face was just inches from his own, the index finger of Heyes’ left hand raised to his lips, his head shaking.  

Heyes grabbed Haff and pulled him out of the small pool of light at the bottom of the rope, pointing back towards the bedrolls and the fire and indicating he’d heard something suspicious. 

Another twig snapped in the darkness. 

Kid stood, wide awake, raising the Colt and giving Heyes back the rifle. He pulled the others back along the cliff into the deeper shadows away to his left.  

They crept silently, hardly breathing, testing every footfall for moving rocks and snap-able twigs, till they were in the deep cover of darkness between the rocks and could turn and watch the clearing at the base of the cliff.

First Crease, then Weaver, appeared in the small pool of light at the bottom of the rope, only a few feet from where Kid had been asleep in the shadows just moments before.  Crease pointed up, gripping a big knife between his teeth as he began to climb. 

The knife was bloodstained. 

Weaver nodded and started right on up the rope behind Crease.  They both looked warily around, and continued looking back over their shoulders as they climbed, realising just how vulnerable they were leaving their backs to anyone down here with a gun.

‘Whose blood could it be?’ thought Kid.  ‘Lom’s?... or the Bounty Hunter’s?’  

He carefully aimed the colt.  

Heyes took hold of Kid’s shooting arm, shaking his head. 

Haff’s eyes were also following the climber’s progress, his own large serrated knife already in his hand.  Heyes saw the intention in the Indian’s hate filled eyes and grabbed another arm, rolling his eyes. He jerked his head back along the cliff, pulling at his companions’ arms. 

They got back into the tree line and Heyes led the way back along the cliff towards the remaining horses.

“There’s no one left up there for them to kill” he explained to Kid’s questioning face.  “No money and no guns for them to find.  At least we know where they are… which is more than we can say for the others… Lom’s down here somewhere …and he may be hurt…” 

“So is that murdering Bounty Hunter!” hissed an annoyed Kid Curry.  

Even in the dark he could have easily made that shot. ‘A coupla legs’ he thought ‘Wouldn’t ‘ve had to kill them.’

Haff also looked very annoyed with Heyes. He was perfectly prepared to cut two throats of men planning to use his wife as a hostage.

At that moment sounds of disturbed animals could be heard from up ahead and all other thoughts were forgotten.  

Somebody was over by the horses.

---oooOOOooo---
Lom had freed his hands and was working on his feet when Heyes, Kid and Haff broke cover of the trees and crossed the grassy clearing to the horses.  

Although it was unnecessary now, Haff bent and cut the leather binding Lom’s feet and quickly removed the gag with a mumbled apology.  Lom stood up and grabbed Haff by the front of his tunic pulling him off his feet.

“Why I oughta…” he began, but was quickly stopped by a Heyes gloved hand thrown across the newly ungagged mouth. 

“Shhhh!” admonished Heyes.

Kid removed the Indian from Lom’s grip and placed him back on his feet.

Heyes gingerly removed his hand.

“Why he….” Started Lom.

Heyes clamped the hand back, looking at the bandanna gag in Haff’s hands meaningfully.  Lom’s shoulders slumped. His eyebrows admitting defeat.  Heyes carefully removed his hand. He smiled when no further rant was forthcoming from the Sherriff.

“He jumped me!” hissed Lom pointing at Haff.  “And those boys have run off …taken two of the horses….”

“Lom… Lom…” Heyes was waving his hands at the Sherriff to quieten him down. “Believe me that’s the least of our problems…”

“I knew HE was up to something when he insisted on moving the horses …when I saw him fetch them young’uns … I followed …they didn’t know I was awake coz I left some brush under my blanket …and….”

“OK …OK… You weren’t the only one to try that trick…” said Heyes, trying to stem the flow. “The Bounty Hunter freed Weaver and Crease …and I guess as we know you’re not dead …they must have killed him …now they’re up in the cave house after the gang’s money…”

Lom’s face was still.  He’d stopped mid-sentence and still had the shape of his words on his lips.  He studied Heyes’ face seeing the veracity of his words.

“What money?” he managed.

“Fifty thousand dollars” contributed Kid.

“Oh …. that money!” said Lom disgustedly, making Kid, Haff and Heyes all look really confused.  

They didn’t know Lom knew anything about the money?!?

“Yeah …That money” smiled Heyes shaking his head.  “Well …Flower of Morning …Haff’s wife …” 

Heyes nodded to Haff as the Indian stood a little taller and threw out his chest at the tall Texan.

“She’s leading Wheat, Kyle and Wong out of here through the Badlands, and she’s leaving us a trail to follow …We know they’re headed North… so that’s where we’re headed …NOW….no need to wait till sunrise.  Weaver and Crease are up in the cave house …but they ain’t gonna find nothing up there.  They’re going to work out real quick what’s happened… and try and pick up the other’s trail …soon as it gets light.  We gotta get going … warn the others …and cover up that trail…”

---oooOOOooo---

The cave house was silent.  Crease lifted the hide flap over the cabin like entrance and peered in.  Weaver came and stood in the entrance listening.  

Nothing.  

Not a breath.

“They’ve already gone” he said more to himself than to Crease.  “Taken the money and run.”

“Huh?” asked Crease.  “You sure?”

“You think you’d ‘ve got this close if that Indian had still been here?” sneered Weaver.  

Luckily for him, Crease didn’t pick up on the implication that Weaver had let Crease lead to flush out any guard.

“What now?” asked Crease.

“We know Heyes, Curry, the Sheriff and them two scrawny pack rats are down there somewhere.  Well this here’s a very defendable position.  Let’s take this place apart.  There’s gotta be guns up here somewhere…”

They found some rosined torches by the door and lit a couple. 

The cave house was bigger than they thought. They were delving around in the back recesses, when they heard the rush of hooves outside, as all the horses left the canyon below, to follow the stream bed out and down through the trees.

Both the outlaws ran back to the cliff edge.  

With torches lofted they could see nothing in the darkness below.  A bullet pinged off the rock face behind Weaver’s head and they dived for cover, flinging the torches over the edge and covering their heads.

“Damn!!” swore Weaver.  “Come on we gotta get down there …See if we can catch us a pair of those horses …quick …before they scatter.”

He ran to the rope and began to climb down hand over hand.   

Above him Crease threw himself onto the rope and began to slide down quicker as he had gloves on.  He fell into Weaver, who cursed as his hands were trampled by Crease.  He let go of the rope and fell backwards into the darkness.

“You OK Squint?” asked Crease as he hit the solid ground at the bottom of the climb. 

“Think you fell…” he added unnecessarily.

“Oh… $£!% !…What the…?!?” said a groggy Weaver 

“OOOOH …. I’m better than OK.”

Crease could hear the smile in Weaver’s voice even if he couldn’t see him.  

Weaver walked into the pool of light at the bottom of the rope carrying all the spare guns.  They’d been wrapped in a blanket behind the log that had broken his fall.  

How fortunate.

“Come on …them horses couldn’t have got far …not over this terrain…” He whistled loudly.  "My Sally will come to her master's whistle ... and she sure won't let no one else ride her."

---oooOOOooo---
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