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 The Long Road Back - Part Nineteen - ...Without a Paddle - 3700 words

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The Long Road Back - Part Nineteen - ...Without a Paddle - 3700 words Empty
PostSubject: The Long Road Back - Part Nineteen - ...Without a Paddle - 3700 words   The Long Road Back - Part Nineteen - ...Without a Paddle - 3700 words EmptyFri Feb 17, 2017 5:52 am


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

Part Nineteen 
…Without a Paddle

A narrow creek sawn into the rock between high crumbling cliffs (A channel for churning melt water at another time of year)

Weaver sited the rifle again.  

He’d seen a flash from a barrel up ahead, to his right.  He fired and saw the puff of rock spurt up close to where he’d seen the flash.  He also caught movement and some skidding debris.  

He was right. 

At least one of them was up there.  He ducked his head behind a jutting rock, as a returning bullet pinged off the rock just above him.

‘Jeez! Where’d that one come from?’

He checked the rifle again.  Only three more rounds.  The pistol at his waist had five bullets and his gun belt was empty.  It had been emptied by Jed Kid Curry.  Apparently, he also carried a Colt, 45 calibre.  Weaver sneered, but had to admit, he’d have done the same. Weren’t anywhere in here to buy ammo.  He’d have to make every shot count. 

He’d dumped Crease at the stream. 

Once he’d seen how easy that trail would be to follow, it made a lot of sense.  Couldn’t waste a bullet killing him.  But Crease may just hold up the Indian if he came after them.  He was sure he’d winged that Indian.  

They’d gone taring past the trail marker after that Indian.  Then his brain had registered what it had seen, and he’d turned Sally to go see.  Crease had argued to keep on after the Indian.  Finish the job.  

Questioned his leadership.  

Well he didn’t need Crease no more. He’d seen a clear trail to the money, and out.  Sally reared on command, and Crease was dumped.  Left behind in the streambed.  Even if he followed on foot, he wouldn’t know to turn up into this creek.  Weaver had pocketed the marker.

This ambush however was unexpected.  He figured the gang would be long gone, and Heyes and Curry would be hot on their tail.

‘They must have also followed the gang’s trail out same as me.  The gang must have left that Devil’s Apache to get rid of the rest of us, but Heyes and Curry gave him the slip.  They could do that; they probably know every inch of these crags.’

Weaver risked raising his head a little to try see where the second position firing had come from.  A bullet whistled over his head and died in the loose scree behind him.

‘Damn that was close. That’s got to be Curry up there now, to make that shot from that far away.  Had they been waiting for someone to follow them? The Indian? Or had they just heard him following them from the stream?  Hard to follow quietly through water.  Either way, there’s at least two of them.’ 

A third position fired his way. Weaver saw sparks fly off rocks a couple of feet below his boots.

‘Damn …The sheriff too then…’ thought Weaver. ‘I gotta move out of here, or I’ll get pinned in…’

He scrambled backwards to a lower position, keeping his head down and not daring to waste any bullets himself. He couldn’t see any actual targets to fire at anyway.

He had to break cover at the bottom, and used his precious rifle rounds to give himself cover as he ran back to Sally. He was within grabbing distance of her reins when a bullet at her feet frightened the horse, and she pulled the rein out of his hand, and took off full pelt back towards the stream without him.  More gunfire followed in her wake.

Weaver quickly flattened himself against the cliff wall, cursing the high strung mare under his breath.  But he got a good view of where all three of his adversaries were firing from as they continued to sling lead after the horse.  

He narrowed his eyes in thought.

‘They think I’m with the horse’ he smiled. 

He looked around for a trail he could use on foot and started climbing carefully and quietly amongst the loose rocks towards the higher ground above.  He left the empty rifle at the bottom of the climb, it was no use to him now. 

If they thought, he was headed back South, maybe he could get above them, and get the drop on them.

Crease picked himself up from the dunking Weaver had given him, and cursed his bad luck loudly, berating himself for trusting the squint-eyed weasel.  He realised his holster was empty, and spent a long time cursing and rummaging in the loose shales of the streambed to find the large pistol that had belonged to the Bounty Hunter.  

Eventually his hand found the familiar shape of the stock.  It poured water as he lifted it and pushed it back into the holster.

“Damn!” he swore slapping the water out of his clothes in frustration squinting up at the rapidly moving sun.  That had taken too long.  He checked he still had the knife.  That would have to do till the gun dried out.  He looked upstream after Weaver and then downstream, back to where they’d left the Devils Apache.  

He couldn’t decide which way to head, so he headed for some flat rocks surrounded by green bushes over near the cliff wall and sat to dry off cursing his bad luck and worst choice of compatriot. He’d need a little time to think. He closed his eyes and let the rocks warmth sink into his wet bones.

Sporadic rifle fire from somewhere upstream woke him.  Weaver had caught up with the gang then.  

‘Hope they kill him!’ he sneered. ‘But I got to get out of here myself.  I’m gonna be needing a horse.’ 

He pushed himself off the rock and down into the stream by the bushes.  He was just about to start out upstream on foot, when he heard the jangle of harness behind him.   He slid down between rocks finding the cover of the vegetation, smiling.

‘That Indian pony will do me just fine…’


As Heyes rode upstream, he was holding a green bank note above his head so that the bright morning sunlight would stream through it.  His concentration was rapt, his gaze keen.  

His eyes closed in a slow blink of resignation and his lips pursed up into a sneer.  

‘There it is. Marked, just like Lom said it would be. But it’s clever.  Real clever.  Far from obvious, and the devil to spot if you were all fired up after a job …unless, of course, you’d been tipped off and warned to look out for it when the high rollers came to town, spending money like water.’ Heyes shook his head slowly, seeing the scenario play out in his mind’s eye.  Wasn’t a pleasant image.

‘Would I have spotted that mark?’ he asked himself.  He sighed heavily stuffing the note back into a pocket. On impulse, he grabbed up a second, higher denomination note from the saddle bag, and lofted that too.  Within seconds, he let out a disappointed groan as that too was mocking him with the mark.  He crumpled the offending note in his gloved hand and pushed into a pocket.

‘What now?! That makes us flat broke again’ he thought.

Sporadic rifle fire, not too far ahead, quickly reminded him, he didn’t have time for any of this now.  It had been rifle fire ahead, just a little while ago, that had slowed him down to a cautious walk along the side of the stream. He’d made the turn around the high cliff and was headed North again.  The stream was wide and shallow at this point, a mere ghost of its gushing presence during the spring melt. Heyes hadn’t seen another trail marker, but from the direction of the firing he’d heard, he could make a fair guess that they’d used the creek trail.  It would be passable at this time of year. Just. All he had to do was find it.  There were an awful lot of melt channels running into this stream.

‘I can’t have passed it already’ he thought, looking back over his shoulder, his eyes snagging on the saddlebag again.

‘What could I do with $50,000 in marked notes?’ he mused.

He shook himself, sending the saddlebag an angry glare.  He’d have to keep a tighter rein on himself.  This wasn’t the time to be thinking about the money…

‘But I would have noticed… wouldn’t I?’

Heyes growled in self annoyance and set his hat forward to shield his eyes.  He loosened the strap keeping the Schofield safely in its holster, ready for business.   He left the rifle in the boot, deciding stealth was his best plan here.  He’d try and find the narrow opening to the creek.  He knew it was hard to spot but he’d used it once or twice before on game hunting trips. He’d climb that as quietly as he could, and try and get near enough up behind his quarry, to use the pistol.

He nodded to himself.  

This was better. 


He snugged up the glove on his firing hand. He had to find out who was firing at Weaver and Crease.  (He had a theory about that) And help whoever they were, in any way that he could.

He moved his chestnut mare to the very edge of the stream bed, rounding some flat rocks and scrubby vegetation, scanning up and ahead for trouble and signs of the elusive creek mouth.

The mare stopped, ears forward staring into the bushes.  Heyes’ weary mind was wandering again.  He shouldn’t have even been examining the note.  Now wasn’t really the time, but he had to see for himself.  He’d had to know if he would have been fooled.  Had to know if he would have lead the whole gang to Denver and perhaps, from there, straight to the Wyoming Territory prison. 

Heyes shook himself again, wiping his tired eyes, as they threatened to close in a yawn. 

‘CONCENTRATE!’ he growled to himself.

He couldn’t answer any of his questions anyway, so now, as well as being bone weary, he was feeling the guilt of the poor leadership he hadn’t earned, and was berating himself for not being able to stay focussed on the task in hand. With true Heyesian logic, he was both annoyed at Kid, for not being with him to stop him obsessing about the marked notes and stay vigilant, and worried about what Kid would think when he discovered that they were broke again.

‘I wish Kid was here.’ Heyes thought distractedly.  ‘Something bad always happens when we split up.’ 

Crease watched as Heyes came into view.  The ex-Devils Hole gang leader was holding something above his head which was taking all his attention.  Crease’s eyes went wide as he realised Hannibal Heyes was holding a bank note up to the sun.  As he watched a second note was pulled from the saddlebag, lofted overhead and then pushed into a pocket.  

‘Heyes has the gang’s money!  He’s suckered them all out of it.  Wouldn’t that be right! And now he’s gloating over the haul.’ thought an incredulous Crease.  ‘Hah! Weaver’s chasing nothing!’ he realised suddenly ‘I can take it all.’

He watched as Heyes came closer, preparing his shooting hand and releasing his pistol, as the firing ahead got louder. Crease’s hand fell to his own pistol. It was still wet from the dunking Weaver had arranged for him.  He didn’t have a rifle either. 

They’d checked all the spare guns over before they’d left the camp.  Only three had bullets in them and were worth taking.  There hadn’t been any extra ammunition with their haul either.  Weaver had taken the peacemaker and the rifle, leaving Crease with the large pistol belonging to the Bounty Hunter. Frustratingly, that wasn’t the right calibre for the bullets he carried in his gun belt, but it had four bullets in it.  

Crease sneered nastily, watching his prey approaching like a spider flexing its legs on its web. Heyes was in no hurry to join the fighting ahead. 

He didn’t need to risk the wet gun, or the precious bullets. He had the Bounty Hunter’s knife.  Crease liked knives and this one had already served him well.

Crease looked behind Heyes, to his back trail.  There was no sign Heyes had company, and the rifle fire ahead confirmed that Weaver had already found Curry and the Sheriff.  Heyes was all alone and he didn’t look like he’d had any sleep any time recently either.

This would be easy pickings.

More shots could be heard from upstream.  

Heyes pushed his mare’s backside into the vegetation at the edge of the stream, scanning above and ahead for trouble.  Crease saw his chance.  Knife in hand, he launched himself at Heyes, pulling him out of the saddle.


Kid had got himself side-tracked.  He stared at the impassable wall of rock in front of him and decided he may have been mistaken when he’d decided that this was the creek bed that lead to the trails North.  

No horse could, or had recently attempted to, climb that.

He shook his tired head.  He didn’t need to go get himself lost up here.  He’d have to double back and re-join the stream below.  The creek mouth he was looking for couldn’t be too far ahead of there.  

A few distant shots were muffled by the high walls, but it got Kid’s attention again.  Wearily, he pulled his horses head around.

“Come on Boy …Heyes can’t have got too far ahead.”


Heyes grabbed the hand with the knife instinctively, and wrestled with his assailant, trying to get on top to push the other man’s face below the water’s surface.  He felt the Schofield slip out of his holster and saw from the corner of his eye, the mare carry his rifle out of reach.

He hated knife fights!  The Bounty Hunter’s big hunting knife loomed at him.  He concentrated on that blade as it was pushed closer and closer to his neck.  He brought a knee up into Crease’s body, trying to get some space between them so he could use a boot to push the man away.  

Crease used his own weight to pull both of them further out into the stream and joined Heyes in the lethal game of trying to get on top, and drown the other man. 

The knife sliced Heyes’ shoulder in a roll, but the cold water and the adrenalin meant he didn’t really feel it.  The sight of the blood in the water gave him a jolt though, enough to see he’d have to finish this quickly. The dark eyes blazed and the jaw set in a feral snarl.  With newly found strength born of fiery temper, Heyes lifted Crease to stand, and sent the knife’s blade, still held in Crease’s fist, across the exposed neck as he shook the outlaw’s head back.  

Crease dropped the knife, before he cut his own throat with it, and pushed a cold hard fist into Heyes’ solar plexus.

Heyes let go of Crease, balling up his own fists for a left-handed uppercut to Crease’s exposed chin as he came out of his winded slump. 

The outlaw stumbled backwards, fighting to stay upright then just as Heyes straightened up to face another onslaught, Crease grabbed up the knife and ran for the chestnut mare with the saddlebags full of money and the rifle of course, and took off downstream.

Heyes stood panting in the stream, watching Crease splash away.  His hand fell to the empty holster and then to the gash on his shoulder.  The cold bath had definitely woken him up.  He pulled on his wet hat with a huge sigh and turned to scour the streambed for his pistol.


Crease was feeling triumphant.  Not only did he have the money a knife and a drying pistol; he now had a rifle, and yes… spare ammo.  He grinned manically as he pushed the horse to full gallop.  All he needed were supplies of food, and he’d find his own way out of Devils Hole.  There had to be another way back to the South and out through the outlaw camp.

He headed back to the cave house and its supplies.

Heyes plonked the wet Schofield into his holster, hitching the strap that held it secure, stable doors and bolted horses going through his head.  He turned to look up stream and was surprised to see Sally come skidding around the corner, rider less. 

He turned away quickly so as not to spook the mare then, casually whistled, just like he’d heard Weaver do it the night before.  Sally’s ears pricked forward and she watched the still figure stood in the water doing nothing much.  Not paying her any attention at all.  But she’d heard the whistle.

She snorted.

Heyes heard the splashing feet as the wary mare came to investigate him.  He kept his body language relaxed, pushing his shoulders down from his ears and slowing his breathing.  One ear became warm and steamy as the panting mare nuzzled for attention.

Heyes slipped a booted foot over the end of the dangling rein to anchor her, then pushed backwards till he could reach up and stroke her neck without looking at her.  

In a swift sudden movement, he was up and in the saddle.  

Sally feeling a little taken in, reared and tried to shake the uninvited guest off her back.  Heyes hugged low to her neck and urged her to put all her chagrin into chasing down Crease.


As Kid emerged from the side creek into the main stream again, he felt his big black slip on the wet rocks and land awkwardly.  He dismounted to check one of his horse’s rear hooves. It was fine.

Suddenly he heard loud splashing and was surprised to see Heyes’ chestnut mare charging towards him.
“Heyes” he called. “What’s happening.  Did you find Weaver? I found Haff, but I took the wrong creek bed out, I’ve been half way up that one.”  He turned to point back up the creek he’d just descended.

Crease staying very low over the chestnut’s neck, saw Curry and instinctively reached for the pistol.  At the last second, seeing the back of Curry’s head as he turned away to point, Crease changed his mind about risking firing it, and lofted it high and brought the stock crashing down on the top of Curry’s head as he passed.  He felt Curry’s skull give very pleasingly under the weight of the blow and saw The Kid’s knees buckle as he sped on.

‘Hah.. dead for sure… and didn’t even need to waste a bullet.’ Sneered Crease.  ‘What a way for a notorious gunslinger like Curry to go… that’ll give Heyes something to keep him busy for awhile.  Try and find somewhere to bury your partner in here …that’s if you can find him!’

Heyes saw the blow.  He wasn’t far behind Crease. Sally was a swift animal.  He felt sick to his stomach, as he both saw, and heard his partner take the full force of that pistol blow, and fold into the water at his horse’s feet.

He pulled Sally to a skidding, resentful stop, and quickly got to Kid’s side.  He lifted his head clear of the water and pulled him over to the shallow edge.  Another creek joined the stream at this point and there was a narrow gravel beach to pull Kid clear of the water on to.

Heyes dropped his head to Kid’s chest to check for a heartbeat and breathing hardly daring to hope his partner might have survived.  

‘That blow would have floored a mountain goat!’ 

He lifted Kids head and gingerly felt under the brown floppy hat for crushed bone and blood. 

His wincing concerned face turned confused. His hand felt the mangled, dented remains of the metallic tin dome Kid had purloined from the Bounty Hunter.

Heyes pulled the tin dome out into the sunlight, holding it up to look at it from all angles, not sure if he was believing what he was seeing.  He stared down at his unconscious cousin in wonder, just as said cousin started to open his bleary blue eyes and groan.

“Ow” complained the prostrate one.  “That hurt…”

“Hurt!?” shouted Heyes incredulously.  “I thought you were dead… I heard that blow from over there… No one could have got up from….  But you had this… thing… in your hat…How? Why would you even… ? When did you…I mean… How did you even think of…”

“Heyes… HEYES….”  Kid held his aching head.  “Will you shut up… MY HEAD HURTS.”

“But…” Heyes was waving what was left of the battered dome in Kid’s face.  “Where’d you get this?”

Kid focussed his tired, bleary eyes and the mangled dome then on his cousins dumfounded face, and smiled knowingly.  His cousin couldn’t take mysteries or feeling he’d been left out of something.

“Let’s just say… you’re not the only genius in the family” smiled Kid, laconically through the pain behind his eyes. “You know…I still took a blow to the head.  Who was that? I take it …it wasn’t you… hit me?”

“NO! Of course it wasn’t! That was Crease.  I got Weaver’s horse …so he’s gotta be dead or injured.  Either way he’s on foot …”

“Dead on his feet…” put in Kid.

“Well yeah …whoever’s shooting at him can have him …You OK to ride? ‘Cause Crease was headed Lom’s way.”

“Oh I’m fine Heyes… ain’t slept in days…missed breakfast… been hit on the head by someone I thought was my partner… “ Kid rolled his eyes at Heyes, rubbing the back of his head carefully.  “People you think are dead …turn out to be alive.  Spending my time chasing murderers …all over Devils Hole… “

The rant continued.  

Heyes smacked Kids knee with a satisfied smile and stood up.  Kid would live, he seemed to be functioning normally.

“Good. Come on then” he said, walking back to the horses. “Now we gotta save Lom!”

“Of course we do…” groaned Kid, carefully trying to get to his feet.

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The Long Road Back - Part Nineteen - ...Without a Paddle - 3700 words
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