It was time I got started. I’d walk back to Hespurus and secure a horse there. I hadn’t had Hawk long, compared to Smoke, but he was a good horse, especially in the mountains. I had brought my Henry rather than the shotgun and I cocked it. Something must have happened. Maybe Hawk figured it was time to wake up, but as soon as I cocked the rifle, he snorted, shuddered again and stood up.
I let him stand to get his bearings and then went over to check the blood coming from his head. I had to grab him and pull his head down as he didn’t relish me probing around. From what I could tell there was just a groove across the top of his head with a lot of blood.
Those outlaws had a good start on me, but I didn’t want to rush Hawk. I grabbed the reins and we started out walking. He didn’t seem out of sorts, and after fifteen minutes or so I decided to mount him. First off, I figured he might want some water, but everything was snow. My thoughts were in a flurry, get Hawk some water, or mount and take off after Dreg and the others. I was afraid they would be heading back to do something to Molly.
I finally succumbed to the idea that Hawk needed something to drink. If I rushed him, neither of us might make it back to Durango. I quickly built a little fire and put some snow in the pan that I carry. It really didn’t take that long and he drank it down so I melted some more. After he finished that I stowed the pan, checked his head once more then mounted starting out at a slow trot.
Clouds were starting to roll in and it was warming up some. Snow – I needed to get back before it hit. Worried? I reckon I was. I tried to not think of all the scenarios that could be taking place. I knew that most of the things we worry about never come to pass, but the threat, no the promise was that they wanted to hurt me.
I rode up to the eatery, but couldn’t see much because the windows were all boarded up. Dismounting up the street I decided to go through the alley. Opening the back door as quietly as possible I could see the room lit up normally. Perhaps I had overthought and was worried for nothing. This time of evening there would be customers. I started to walk right in, but something in my gut stopped me.
Looking around I noticed that neither Marta or her mother was in the kitchen. If there were customers they were mighty quiet. I peeked around the corner from the kitchen and saw Marta’s mother and Lucas laying on the floor, motionless.
Marta and Molly were both in chairs with Dreg and another guy beside them. I looked around and saw a third man, standing in the back right corner behind some customers.
“Good folk of Durango,” came Dreg’s voice. “Tonight you’ll be the witnesses of vengeance to be taken against Miles Forrest.”
A customer, on the left side of the room, stood up. “Now see here….” A shot rang from the man in the corner and the man grabbed his shoulder. A companion at his table pulled him back to his chair.
“Any more of you want to question our authority on this matter?”
“Men, leave the women alone,” came a voice.
The man standing by Marta left and swung his rifle across the face of man who had spoken.
“Now, watch as I make the first cut.” He took his knife and placed it just below Molly’s ear.
I had to move now! Then the door burst open. It was Trenton. The man in the corner fired, but it was the break I needed. I fired at Dreg and Molly tipped her chair over.
The man in the corner turned my way and I snapped a shot at him. I didn’t have time to think of the customers, I just hoped they all hit the floor when the commotion started. My attention went back to the third man. He raised his rifle and put it to the side of Marta’s head. I didn’t have time for a shot came from Dreg. Then there was another somewhere, and then a couple of more.
Getting Dreg in my sights I fired and hit him again. The other man was down, and I glanced at the corner and that man was down with a couple of men standing over him. I walked to Dreg. He looked at me and gave his laugh, but not with the loudness as before.
“Forrest, I’ve done killed myself.” He smiled and rolled over and I could see his knife deep in his stomach. “Another life Forrest, and I could’ve liked you.”
“Who paid you?”
He was still smiling, but there was no answer, for he was dead.