Copyright© 2018 by UtIdArWa
I had gathered everybody, animals and ladies together on the trail. Now What? I had no idea about what to do next. I did know that we needed to put some distance between us and the bad guys. But with Jughead loaded down, we weren’t going to be moving very fast. I decided that moving towards Elk City and reinforcements was our best bet. But I would need to stash my supply pack so that the women could ride double on Jughead. I knew he could handle the load, and we could move fast enough to stay ahead of the bad guys.
With that in mind I started backtracking to a cave I knew about. It was off the trail about 20 meters and, unless you looked it was invisible. I could use it as a cache. As we were moving, Professor Barth started trying to call out on her cell phone. I didn’t say anything, But I knew there was no signal up here. I figured it would keep her busy and out of my hair. When She started complaining about the signal, the younger one told her to be quiet.
While we were moving, I had several thoughts going through my head. First was that the 3 stooges would probably be coming after us. If anything, I had insulted the leader, Mr. Big. He wasn’t really injured, just his ego. But with guys like him the image is everything. I had embarrassed him in front of the other 2. He couldn’t let that pass. The other 2 were wounded. Not critically, At least not to the point that they couldn’t move. But they would definitely slow down any pursuit. I figured that the skinny one would give it up in a heartbeat. But the fat one was obstinate, stubborn and not smart enough to know better.
Unfortunately, I had the same problem with these 2 women. I wasn’t sure about their woodcraft abilities. The younger one had impressed me, and I hadn’t seen anything to complain about yet. But The older, professor, was a problem. She was dragging her feet and didn’t seem too interested in getting away. She was definitely more interested in her cell phone.
My advantage was Margarite and Jughead. If I had everybody mounted, we could move a heck of a lot faster and longer than the convicts could. Which, with a little luck would put us in Elk City, Late, But a heck of a lot safer than in the middle of nowhere.
The thing was, I didn’t want to just drop that load of supplies by the side of the trail. Mr. Big and his buddies would be sure to find them. And that would give them a chance to hide out longer. That’s where the cave came in. I could dump my supplies, mount everybody up and ride hell for leather to Elk City. That would leave the bad guys in the dust, without supplies and soon to have Paul and Myself heading back and tracking them down. That sounded like a plan. As we were walking, I told the 2 ladies what I was going to do. The professor immediately started to complain and down talk my plan. I should call the FBI, Police, CIA, The president, congress and the senate. She couldn’t ride a horse. She was tired and hungry and thirsty etc...
Finally, the younger one again told her to shut up, or she would give her back to Fatso. The professor blanched white and shut up.
I whispered thanks, and asked her name. “I’m Suzanne Williams. And you are Matt Reynolds. I asked the waitress at the diner.”
I guess I blushed. At least my face got hot. “I’m flattered that someone as young and good looking as you would care about some broken down saddle tramp like me.”
Here came that Mona Lisa semi smile. “Mr. Reynolds, You’d be surprised what Mabel told me about you.”
Now I KNEW I was being played. This was some kind of practical joke Mabel set up. “I’m going to have a word with Mabel. Meanwhile we’re here.”
I stopped everybody and, once again, told the professor to be quiet. As I listened, I couldn’t hear anything. After a couple of minutes, I moved off the trail through the brush. And sure enough there was the cave. As we got closer to the cave, I could tell that there was a problem. I could smell that there was a problem.
I stopped my little convoy before we got any closer. I had smelled that odor before and it didn’t mean anything good. I told Suzanne and Barth to stay put while I checked things out.
I continued on about 20 feet and found the cave mouth. The odor had gotten worse, the closer I got.
Maybe some animal has crawled in there and died. Maybe a bear or cougar had dragged a kill in there. Whatever it was I was reluctant to find out. Taking a deep breath, I walked into the cave.
The cave started out narrow, shoulder width and a little shorter than me, so I had to stoop a little. I had been in this cave before and knew that it would widen out about 4 feet in. As I got to the first chamber, the odor got worse. And I found the source of it.
Caleb and Jackson were tossed against the cave wall to the right. Both had obviously been dead for a while. I could see that Caleb had his throat cut, very deep. Jackson, meanwhile seemed to have been shot, multiple times, in the chest. I looked down and could see the expended brass.
Scattered around the cave was a jumble of mining, camping and cooking gear. I’m not a forensic expert, But I would be willing to bet that right after I talked to Caleb in town, the 2 gold bugs had headed up to my mountain. I’m sure that they would have been excited to get started and probably not paying too much attention. But then, now a days who expected to walk into a Dodge city ambush. They may even have invited Mr. Big into their camp. Either way it got them killed. And gave Mr. Big enough supplies to stay hidden in the mountains.