Between the rivers, p.1
Between the Rivers, p.1Natalie Jayne
BETWEEN THE RIVERS
By Natalie Jayne
Two Square Books Publishing
All characters, locations and events presented in this novel are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real events or people, whether living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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BETWEEN THE RIVERS
Copyright 2014, 2017 by Natalie Jayne
All rights reserved.
Published by Two Square Books Publishing
Print books by Natalie Jayne are available at twosquarebooks.com
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Vultures For Prospects
Ring Around The Mountain
“I am asking you a question.”
Well that sheriff sure enough was, only Gideon had no idea how to answer. It had been an eventful few months in which a jail cell constantly topped the list of possibilities. At the moment, it was edging around the trail ahead to jump him with a vengeance. His best option was likely to light a shuck, get clear out of the territory and then some. Thing was, bullet holes tended to slow a man down— and Gideon had already acquired three. If he ran, in his condition, Sheriff Gandy could collect the body at his convenience.
That’s really where this whole mess had started: with a body and with a vengeance.
GIDEON sat listening to a bunch of grown men argue over who would haul him to jail, possibly his first step to an overlong visit to whatever stood as a prison in this fine territory of Utah. New Mexico? Kansas? Whichever side of the line he currently straddled, the up side was that no one had suggested a rope, a definite possibility when a man is found standing beside a hundred head of mixed stuff wearing a brand that was not his own. If it could be ridden or eaten it had been stolen. There had even been a few madly flapping chickens. . . well, up until yesterday anyway.
“You ain’t bossin’ this outfit Rivers!”
“No, I am!” the young sheriff interjected his five foot nine into the growing ruckus. He leaned in, inches from the angry face of a gray-haired rancher twice his age. “And I’ll give the orders, Herrick, not you. I’ll need everyone I can get when we catch up to those rustlers. One man is plenty to handle a skinny kid. You have a problem with that?”
Rancher and sheriff held in a stiff tableau, horns locked. Gideon wondered who would blink first. The rancher was bigger but, if he figured to square with that lawman, he was going to have it to do. Gideon had given said sheriff his own measure of trouble and all it earned him was tighter knots in the ropes holding him. Awkwardly, he shifted his weight away from a rather bothersome rock digging into his backside.
The one called Herrick gave a heave of his shoulders and a burst of a sigh.
“So long as that thief ends up hung,” the rancher relented, “I guess it don’t matter who drags him to a noose.”
So much for no one suggestin’ a rope.
Gideon couldn't have prevented the thought even if he tried; dark humor had become a close companion. He did wish he could have done something to make the tetchy rancher press his point though; a roaring good fight would have provided a useful distraction. Unfortunately, with the details of authority and prisoner custody put firmly to rest, the sheriff’s posse looked instead to settling themselves for the night. Huge pine trees, filled with the tiny rustlings of creatures who inhabited the dark, surrounded them. A campfire whispered and popped and the sounds of men gradually grew quiet.
Should a fellow wish to escape, waiting until the guard changed once or twice would be his best bet. Then again, they probably expected that. Maybe the thing to do was jump the first guard and get on with it. The risk was higher, but the odds might actually be slightly in Gideon’s favor, since anyone with half an ounce of sense knew only a fool would try it. Unless the person in question had the right motivation and nothing much to lose.
That’s got ya a-comin’ an’ a-goin’, ain’t it?
Yep. Only I’d prefer the goin’.
Dark humor wasn’t the only habit Gideon had acquired. After countless miles of only cactus for company and vultures for prospects, he had become quite comfortable talking to himself. What he had yet to grow accustomed to was the notion of listening to himself and, just at the moment, he kind of wished he had.
The first guard sized up only slightly bigger than Gideon. He was lean, black-haired and sun-browned with barely the need to shave— and boots so new they hardly showed a lick of wear. The important thing, the thing a prisoner would do well to keep squarely in mind, was that the guard was not the one tied up. At least not yet.
Sure ya don’t wanna wait ‘til mornin’?
Come sunrise, there ain’t gonna be but one fellah ‘round to drag ya to jail.
Reckon he’s gonna be mighty lonely then.
Ya do know there’s a dozen armed men just itchin’ for an excuse to help ya to a grave?
It might have seemed crazy, even to himself, but there were reasons Gideon would not, could not, wait. In the darkness he fished out a small blade. To call it a knife would have been a grand overstatement; this was nothing more than a slip of metal sharpened for an inch or so on one side. Under his blanket, Gideon set the blade to the ropes around his wrists—
—and noticed the young guard sat with his back to the firelight.
Now people had a natural tendency to lean into a fire and cradle its warmth. It was something in the human species. Fire just drew them like a moth. This guard knew better than to stare at a flame, no matter how comforting the light, as it did nothing good for one’s night vision.
“Hand me that canteen will ya?” Gideon bluffed, mentally cursing lawmen in general and this one in particular, even if he were only a temporary deputy.
“That all you wanted?” said the guard and, though Gideon couldn’t make out the angular features very clearly, the tone smugly added, ‘If you say yes, you are the biggest liar ever known to mankind’.
Gideon secreted his knife, took a long swallow from the canteen, and scrunched back down to the sound of what might have been a snigger. Several thoughts came to him regarding what might be done to that upstart of a tin-star and he amused himself with the possibilities until the guard eventually changed.
Impatiently, Gideon waited. This new man needed time to become bored; a sloppy guard gave a prisoner a fighting chance. Gideon knew about fighting. He knew a little about running too, but mostly he knew about fighting.
Din’t do neither so good this time, did ya?
I telled ya, we’re a-gettin’ shut-a here.
Keep up this a-travelin’ by dark business, an’ you’re gonna plumb forget whatall daylight looks like.
Ain’t me as asked for nothin’ nor started it.
Gideon really had not seen much daylight lately, a state of affairs that did not seem likely to change anytime soon. If he waited until morning to make his play, with all the world as his witness, he would probably end up right back as a prisoner— only with twice as many ropes and much tighter knots.
That in mind, Gideon inched himself up.
The click of a hammer suggested this might not be an entirely healthy option. Where Gideon was certain he could escape, he wasn’t so sure about his ability to outrun a bullet. Like it or not, he was going to have to sit tight.
There are times when a man makes a choice full knowing it will be one of those critical, life altering decisions. Gideon Fletcher had not known. If he had, he would have gladly taken his chances with the bullet.
Between the Rivers by Natalie Jayne / Actions & Adventure / History & Fiction / Western have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on15 votes