Son of Bob
Robert M. de la Torre
The content of this book is fiction, all names were created by the imagination of Robert M de la Torre. Any similarities or true likenesses to real people are coincidental.
This story is in part of a three volume set.
Books by Robert M. de la Torre
"Bullion" Bob: Mojave
"Bullion" Bob: Dry Sage
"Bullion" Bob: Son of Bob
Art cover design by Jeffery Johnson
Copyrights belongs to the author. All rights reserved.
"Bullion" Bob: Son of Bob
The dust flew from between the two boys, who fought hard, one against the other, that they save honor for being the sons of their fathers. His nose bleeding badly, Junior picked himself up from the dirt road and looked at himself, seeing that the clothes his mother made for him were torn and soaked with mud.
"You young fellers better pick yourselves up and quit, you here me!" Bob yelled from the mayor's office window, looking out to see his son in a fight. They both turned to see him standing there, with his fist clenched and ready to come outside to break up the fight. Just then Junior took one on the chin, from the other boy who took advantage of him obeying his father. Sqawlered in the dirt, the two went at it again, as Junior piled on top of the storekeepers son, who had wanted so bad to beat him.
A loud report was heard from the Colt Bob had kept by his side for so many years, firing it up in the air, to break up the stubborn boys, who were fighting senselessly. "Next one will be your backside if you don't break it up!" Bob yelled again. He stood over the two boys, who were still struggling to hurt each other. "You mind telling me what this is all about?" he asked them with concern. "He called you a yella cripple pa," Junior bolted out saying. "Jake is what he said true?" Bob asked the boy politely. Jake took another swing, seeing he had the advantage and nearly fell to the dirt he was standing on. It was Junior who took the beating mostly, Jake had been a few inches taller and weighed more than he did. "You think Junior is a fair fight for you son?" Bob asked him directly. "He needs to be whipped for bringing that Injun with him into town mayor," Jake argued. "That Injun is my best friend's son Jake, how would you like me to whip you with my good arm?" Bob asked him in anger.
Jona stood on the edge of the store's porch, looking on and trying his best to stay out of trouble, while Bob took charge of the two who were fighting. "You think you're better than Jona?" he asked Jake while pointing to him. "Well, he's an Injun, they don't talk like we do," Jake confessed looking away. "Jona, come on over here son," Bob ordered the boy. Jona stood tall and never let on that he was scared of Jake, who was ready to jump on him at an instant. Knowing that Jona was bigger and more skilled than he was, it didn't matter much to him that he would take a beating from him. He knew the other boys in school would look up to him, just for squaring off with him.
Jona with his headband keeping his hair back, stood over Jake and looked down on him, keeping his silence, knowing things would be better that way. "Jake do you know you owe an apology here?" Bob asked him waiting for a reply. "I ain't saying I'm sorry to no Injun," he swore while raising his hand over his head, as if to hit Jona. Bob spat on the ground and watched the fire in Jona's eyes developing into rage, as he held up his arm to keep Jake from hitting him. The two boys studied each other, while Jona kept a steady eye on him, trying to make him realize that he was much more bigger than he was. Jake cocked back to hit him and that's when all hell broke loose, and the nose on Jake's face to go along with it. .
William Lords saw what was going on from inside his store and came out to break up the fight between the two boys, seeing that Bob wasn't going to do anything about it, just watching to see who the victor would be. "He side shanked my boy!" William shouted in anger. "Just leave them be William, you don't need to poke your nose in their business," Bob announced to him. "That Injun started it, I saw with my own eyes," he screamed as he pointed to Jona. "You saw nothing William, your boy is the one who was going to hit him first, now go on about your business before I aim to hit you," Bob told him as he raised his hand over his head.
William took his hand off of his six gun and lowered his head, then walked over to his son who was laying in the street with his nose all broken up and helped him to his feet. "I'll see he hangs for this Bob," he screamed as he drug his boy back into the store. "You'll see nothing, now go on git," Bob ordered. "As long as I'm the mayor there will be no more hangins," he added. Bob knew that Jona would be the center of attention and told the boys to go back to the ranch and wait for him to get there. "Sorry bout the trouble Bob," Jona confessed as he mounted his horse. "Don't be sorry bout nothing boy, just get on back to the ranch like I told you," Bob instructed as he slapped Jona's horse on the flanks.
They tore through the streets of Dry Sage, hurt and swearing they would get even with the boy who started all the trouble and made it difficult for them to take care of their business in town. The dust rose from the hooves of their horses as they both hollered out, "We'll be back!"
Bob swung back in the chair of his office, and lit a cigar, he figured the fight between the boys was normal for a youngster growing up. At fifteen, Jona was a fine young man, who never started trouble with anyone, except for the fact that his best friend was a half breed. Bob knew that later on there would be more trouble if Jona came back into the town of Dry Sage, and wanted to make things better by keeping him away for awhile, but he knew that the youngster wasn't going to be fit to be tied and would come back again, he hoped that it would be later than sooner. Bob also knew that William wasn't going to let things settle without getting revenge on Jona, so he left his office to go and have a talk with him.
The crowd of a few people had gathered around the store, to hear what William had to say about the fight. He stood away back from the crowd to hear what they had to say. Bob could feel the tension in the air, when he listened to a couple of men wanting to hang his best friends son for the beating he gave to Jake. When Bob had enough of an ear full of what they had to say, he stepped in and told them all that if anyone took revenge on his friend, they would be the one's to hang from the tallest tree in Dry Sage. "You going to let an Injun get away with that Bob?" they asked him. "If I see him around here I'll shoot him!" One man said as he spat on the dirt. "You so much as put one finger on your trigger Harold, and I'll see to it that you hang first," Bob told him. "Your yella, you Injun lover," they scoffed and shouted. They gathered around Bob, who by then was ready to draw his Colt from his side and break up the crowd that was ready to lynch him. "Anyone so much as touches him will hang," the deputy said as he came running out to see what was going on. "He's an Injun lover," they shouted. Jerry the deputy shot twice in the air from his six gun and told everybody to go home. "Get on home now, or else I'll arrest the first one I see to come again," the deputy ordered.
They took off in all directions, one who looked back and mumbled some words of threat to Bob and the deputy, then in a few minutes they stood by themselves in the street. "Almost got yourself lynched Bob," the deputy chuckled as he spat on the ground. "Thanks to you I still have my hide," Bob returned with a smile. "Those boys are a handful Bob, see to it that they stay away for awhile," the deputy begged him. "I'll do what's proper deputy, don't you worry now, those boys are too big to spank," he laughed as he mounted his horse. "Just do one thing for me Bob," the deputy made him promise. "Just make sure you take care of yourself," he added.
Bob mounted his horse and made his way back to the ranch, hoping the two boys would be there when he arrived. He felt trouble melting inside his gut and wanted to stop a war that was just beginning to get out of hand. Bob knew that he could defend the two boys out at the ranch better than if they were in town, where the people who hated his best friend's son would want to hang him, just for being what he was, a half breed.
The year was 1906 and the army had just been through Dry Sage, bringing with them food supplies and Springfield rifles. The earth had trembled with great force and the news of San Francisco was heard throughout California. The Army, in search of the Hecowis, a renegade tribe, who were feared by the settlers moving out west, was on the trail to find them and bring them to justice for killing innocent people.
Bob thought for a moment to have Jona catch up with their ranks and using him for a laison for the Mojaves. It was a good time for him to leave Dry Sage. With a day's ride, Jona would be able to catch up with the Army and act as trail guide for them. Bob thought that Jona would have a better chance at survival with the Army than to swing from a rope that he probably would not be able to stop from happening. Or the worst yet a town lynching that would be a slower death for him. The only thing Bob would have to do was to break the news to Jona, who would most likely reject the idea, and want to stay at home, where he was born and fight the townspeople that hated him. Bob looked at Jona from a distance and remembered the days when he was younger, grown and almost a full man, he often wondered how one could get in so much trouble, just being a half breed and born to a trapper. Although he was not a son by blood, Bob took him in as if her were his own, being Jona looked up to him, even without an arm, he always thought of Bob as a powerful and respected man.
There were the two boys, working with the horses, making sure they were fresh and ready to ride. He would take with him three of their finest and trade for keep while riding with the Army in search of the Hecowis. It was Jona's job to make sure that the Mojaves stayed clear of their path, being most of the soldiers had never seen an Indian and most likely confuse the two tribes. It wasn't too often, but on occasion one would be at risk to shoot and kill the wrong Indian and start a war, although just the sight of the Army in the desert on patrol, would make them believe that they were looking to fight.
Junior looked at his older friend, and had seen how much of a man he was by shaking hands instead of a traditional hug to say good bye. He looked up to Jona, but not as much as his own father, who would not let him go with Jona to catch up and join the Army, who were by now near the place where Trappy had found his father back in the year of the bad winter. His eyes watered up as he saw his friend mount the best horse they bred, and wanted badly to join him. Sage looked on down the trail that led back to town, and wished the townspeople would forgive him, so that he could stay at home where he belonged. She gave to him a blanket that she made and knew that he would need something to keep him warm in the cold desert nights, that lied ahead of him. She saw his long hair dancing in the wind as he rode over the hills staying clear of the town that hated him. She held on to Trappy and tried to smile, knowing that she might not ever have a chance to see him again. As he rode out of sight, the only thing they had left of him was the memories of his boyhood and the hope that he make it alive.
Jona rode East from the town of Dry Sage, with him his only friend Star, a coyote pup that he raised by himself. He had found the pup one day while fishing in the river, on the banks, he saw him straying along its edges, looking for food and water. Abandoned, he was on his own until Jona found him and took him in, making him his own friend. The coyote was his protector and let no man near him, less he wanted trouble by the fierce canine, who could sense danger when it was near. Star ran along side the four horses, that galloped quickly across the plain, crossing over the mountain where his father hunted for many years. Jona could see the desert in front of him, standing out over the horizon, with the heat waves dancing in the air. Looking out for the column of soldiers that he hoped would take him in and give him a job as a scout, and let him guide them where the feared Hecowis hunted and made their homes. Jona stood high on the top of a hill, hiding behind the rocks as he could see the day was ending.
Silent he watched the ears on his friend stand high, nose pointing outward, the coyote's eyes fixed on the rabbit that was not aware of them sitting there. He stood waiting to see what the rabbit would do, then the hair in its back stood up as he shot out from his seat to make chase after it. Jona has seen him hunt before and always relished in his skills for catching rabbits. Star darted fast and caught up to the unaware victim of his feast. Never sharing any of his meals, the coyote famished from the heat of the day, sat devouring its meal, looking here and their to make sure nothing would disturb him. Jona was glad that Star had eaten and took from his pouch the dry meat that his mother had given to him for the journey to the desert.
The stars stood out like a thousand candles, twinkling in the dark sky, as they laid down to rest. The horses tied and resting, they watched the one star shoot across the sky, then another and another, until they were fast asleep, Star standing guard, waiting for trouble to come along, as he stayed close to his wayward master. The silence of the desert was all around them. No fire to keep them warm. Morning would bring a new day for travel, and find the soldiers that they were looking for.
The cloud of dust could be seen for miles, it was the column that Jona was looking for. Standing out over the desert floor, it hung in the air behind them, leaving a trace that they had been there all along. He wondered if the Hecowi's could see the trail of dust also, and knew that he was too late to warn them, that they were in danger of attack by them. Dark Sand would wage war on the soldiers, just for crossing their land, without his permission, they were trespassing and would have to die. Like the settlers that were unaware of the Hecowi's presence, they would have to be taken by surprise to know that they existed. Jona knew that he had to ride hard across the desert, to warn them.
Their hooves pounding out the dirt that they rode hard against, moved them faster across the desert floor, seeing that they still had chance with them, to halt the soldiers from war, they swiftly caught up to the column and were met by two scouts, with their rifles ready to shoot, less Jona could convince them that they were friend and not foe. One scout was willing to kill Star, seeing that he was a coyote, and Jona had to beg him to put his rifle down, showing him that he was not a threat to them. They studied the fine horses that Jona had brought to trade for keep with them and took each one and introduced him to the major.
"That's a pretty unusual dog you have there son," he remarked with a smile. "Star, he's my friend," Jona returned. "You must not go any further, and turn your soldiers to the North," He told them as he explained the Hecowi's. "I give you horses, to ride with the Army," he asked him. "How old are you boy?" the major asked him as he looked at his face, seeing no hair. "Sixteen sir," he returned. "You ever kill a man son," the major inquired. "No sir, but I will if I have to," Jona explained. "Well I trust you saying the Hecowis know who we are by now, if you want to ride with us, then maybe today you will have to kill," he told him as he looked through his glasses. "The Hecowi's are many sir, you will not live long if you war with them," Jona pleaded. "How many are they son," the major asked him with much concern. "As many as the sand," he returned as he looked away. "I will show you the trail to the North sir, if you let me," he pleaded. "Ok son, give me your word and I'll let you show us the way," he ordered. "You ride point, if I can avoid a war, then so be it," the major said to Jona.
Jona led the soldiers away from the Hecowi land, riding over the hills to the North, where at least he knew he could convince the Mojaves that the Army would not war with them, and maybe they could help them fight the Hecowi's, who were terrorizing the settlers as they moved toward West. He wanted to speak with Desert Wind, who was old and wise, he trusted that his word would keep them alive and was a friend of his father, who once traded the fur with him, and avoid a war. Jona knew that the Army would not last long in battle with the Hecowi's and hoped their would be peace.
The arrow plunged deep in the back of the soldier who rode last in the column, falling off of his horse and lying in pain, the soldiers rallied to seek shelter from attack. The major who saw his scout in pain, knelt beside him and spoke to him, seeing that he was suffering badly and wouldn't let him be scalped by any Indian. "Son do you forgive me for what I am about to do?" he asked him quietly. The soldier gasped for air and listened to him again. "Close your eyes son," the major ordered. The soldier closed his eyes, knowing it would be the last time he saw the light of day, then the major took his pistol and shot him in the head. "Keep yourselves down, and watch the hills," he ordered. They formed in a circle and kept down, looking in all directions to see who had killed one of their own. Jona knew that was the strategy of the Hecowi, and realized that it was just a warning.
"Sir, we must travel fast to the Mojaves," he told him. "You lead the way son, I don't want another man killed, you hear me boy," he ordered as they mounted up to ride. The column stormed the desert, giving chase to the renegade who had killed the scout, seeing that he was just a decoy, they let him go and moved toward the North. "Sir, I will show you where to make camp, while I go and talk with Desert Wind." Jona left the major and the rest of the soldiers, to ride off to find Desert Wind, and tell him that the Hecowi's were coming to wage war on his people.
They had seen him coming, two braves who were out hunting. Jona was met by them and taken to their new place, an encampment in the hills, not too far from where his father used to live in the mountains. Their tribe shrinking from the fever that had struck and wiped out most of their people. Though Desert Wind had lost many braves due to the sickness that they thought was a punishment to them by the great Spirit, they could still war with the Hecowi's and come out the victors, especially with the help of the Army and Jona leading them. Like the Mojave, Jona knew the desert well, from trapping with his father who had taught him to read the trails of the desert. With the Army's rifles, the Mojave's would stand a better chance at war with them.
Desert Wind stood in front of Jona, and listened to him say that the renegade tribe was coming soon. He did not trust the major or the Army and wanted Jona to promise that no brave in his tribe would fall to their rifles. He told him that it was the Hecowi's they were after for killing the innocent settlers who were coming from the East and they wanted justice but were no match for their numbers. "I remember your father well," he mentioned. "How is your mother?" he asked him. "They are well Desert Wind," he returned. "You must tell me more about them later," he suggested as he made his motion to help the Army. "I will go to tell the major that you will fight with him," Jona said as he made his sign in peace.
Desert Wind made council, to warn his tribe of the Hecowi's and they were not to be trusted anymore. Knowing that his braves were ready to fight, Desert Wind moved his tribe to the mountains, where they would be able to fight a war without losing many people. The Hecowi's were not used to the high mountains and the odds would be more even in the Mojave's favor to fight a battle there.
"Major, Desert Wind is ready now, he has promised to help us," Jona told him as he pointed toward the high mountains, where the Mojave had moved to. "The Hecowi will follow us there, they do not know that Desert Wind will help us," he added with assurance. "My men are ready Jona, lead us the way and make sure your rifle is ready," the major ordered as he lifted his arm to motion the column.
They traveled fast to the mountain, the Hecowi's not too far behind them, thinking that the Mojave would have killed all the soldiers by now, for being on their land. It was peace that the Mojaves wanted, not war and were very unpleased at the Hecowi's for murdering the white settlers, who had given them a bad name.
They sat in wait for them, behind the rocks and trees. The sound of their horses hooves could be heard as they came closer up the mountain. Jona stayed from being seen, as he waited for the first to come. Never having had to kill a man, he thought that it was his time and he was ready. One brave came to tell what he had seen, and he reported that the Hecowi's were looking for them in all direction. They wore the paint of war, and looked fierce and ready to kill. A soldier had been the first to shoot at first sight of one brave who had snuck up on him, and the sound of rifles broke the air. They had kept their horses tied and crept up the side of the mountain searching for those who lied in wait for them. Jona held on tight to his rifle, knowing that he had been seen by a brave who was not too much older that he was. It was Star who smelled him, and with teeth grinding was ready to protect his master, with all that he had in him. The eyes white with hatred, peered out from the paint that gave him a look of fear, and with them a loud cry rang out, as he charged up the side of the mountain, running after Jona, who had been anticipating his arrival. With his hand raised over his head, he screamed his battle cry then took aim and within a second the brave fell short of him. Hitting only his arm, the brave ran toward him in fury, as he swung his axe to bludgeon Jona.
He had dropped his rifle in fear, with his hand on his knife that his father gave to him. The brave overpowered Jona and had laid on top of him with his weight too heavy for him to move out from under it. He could smell the breath heavy on his face, as the axe came down upon his head, splitting his skull, he laid unconscious as Star began to devour him.
The sky was held above him, by clouds as big as the sky itself, he woke to see that he had driven his father's knife, deep inside his stomach. Star had ripped his throat completely and he laid there soaked in the crimson blood that hid is face. Jona stood slowly to his feet, to see another coming toward him, his war cry stunning him as he went to grab his rifle.
The bullet pierced his body and he swung around backward, falling to the ground, not much older that he, the Hecowi brave was dead, and Jona looked for more to come after him. Shots rang out from the soldiers, as bodies laid around scattered around the mountian, and Desert Wind's braves shot arrows into the bodies of the Hecowi's as they drove further up the mountain. Two hours had passed and the sweat beaded down Jona's face, exhausted from battle he could see that the Hecowi's were driven back down from the mountain, into the heat of the desert and they knew they were defeated.
The major gave chase, as the Hecowi's ran from the battle, not wanting to war anymore and losing many braves, they ran into the desert with the Army on their tails. Jona collapsed to the ground, and knowing he was injured badly. He saw the many braves laying all around, and went to help those who were still alive.
He drank from the skin, that held cool water, and noticed his friend Star was injured also. He lapped up the water that quenched his thirst, licking at the gaping wound, that kept him from running with his master. Until he could limp no more, he laid down in the dirt and started to die. The one's that were able, went to aid their wounded, the Hecowi that were dying and maimed begged them for a final death. They slit the throats to those who begged them, crying in pain, they spewed the blood that was shed in vain. Cries echoed through the mountain from the remains of the one's that were left there. The tribe was cut in half and they went back to the encampment to talk about their victory. It was Jona who Desert Wind chose to live with them, although he was only a half breed. He took him in and called him son, then gave him fine horses to breed.
It was Blue Sky he gave to him to be his bride and have many children by. She was younger than he was and took good care of him. They made their home in the mountains, where his father used to live, making the old stone shack bigger for is family to be, they thrived there, and lived in peace; away from the town that hated him. He remembered the things he father taught to him, in order to survive.
It had been a year since Jona left Dry Sage, he knew that he would have to return there soon, to see his family once again. Not sure if they remembered him, he packed his horse and wife and they headed back there, hoping they would have forgotten the things that were bad.
Blue Sky was a handsome girl, and was good at many things. He wondered if they would except her and take her in as one of the family. It didn't bother him much to think about it, he would leave there and come back to the mountain. He knew his mother would teach her how to cook and sew, and his father would love her as if she were his own. Blue Sky never talked much, she often used her native tongue, it was Jona who tried to teach her the white man's way, but she kept her traditions sacred. He hoped that Junior would recognize him, and he had many stories to tell, he had hoped that the towns people let up on him, for making an Indian his friend. Most of all he was thankful that he was still alive.
Star kept up with them, limping now and then, the coyote who he knew from a pup, was now full grown and had become his brother. He smelled the air so they could see, that an animal was close to them. He tracked the rabbit for their dinner, and led them to water when they were thirsty. The coyote saved him from a death by the Hecowi axe, and he was favored by him gratefully. Blue Sky rode along side of Jona, and the trails were familiar to him. Knowing that they would be in Dry Sage soon, he checked his rifle and felt his knife by his side. He took the path along the hills, avoiding the town that hated them, the smell of the sage bush left his nose, as the pines filled the air. White clouds filled with rain, hovered above them. The sky had turned to darkness, with rain coming upon them.
The clump of trees that was not too far ahead of them, stood out like a good omen. They would stay under there, with the branches keeping them dry. Jona looked at the sky above them and saw the lightning coming in all direction, it was Blue Sky who said that the storm would be strong, and they huddled by the trunks together, avoiding the wind that came crashing in all directions. The horses tied, they watched for the sky to change in their favor, and they waited. All the while Jona thought of the major and if his Army would catch up to the renegade Hecowi's, he was thankful to him that he was able to help them, and learn the way's of the soldier. He figured that they had caught up to them and killed them all, or leaving the wounded, to never hurt another settler again. He was glad that he had the chance to live the Army life and then he thought to himself that there was a better way to live. Then he shifted to think about the brave he had to kill, and the ones he killed there after. He thought that being a man was part of killing and killing was part of being a man. Then he hoped he would not have to live no more, if killing meant staying alive.
It rained for a solid hour before it let up and the sun shone again. Getting ready to leave the trees and ride to the ranch was the only thing on their minds. Tired from the saddle, they wanted to find the place where Jona once called home, and stay for awhile before they decided what to do with their lives.
Star lurched forward with his ears perked up high, the faint sound of horses hooves could be heard approaching, just moments before they mounted theirs. Star yelled with is head held high as he moved from side to side, anticipating the riders who they wondered what or who it was that strayed close to where they were resting. Blue Sky sensed danger and held on to Jona's arm, staying close by his side, she shivered with fear. Star was barking loudly and stayed hunched down with the hair on his back standing straight out, growling out his warning to the strangers. They waited in silence for what would happen next.
"What do we have here?" one of the strangers asked. Looking down from his horse, he could see a familiar face that he thought he recognized. "Do I know you fella?" he asked Jona. Jona studied the rain soaked man, and thought for a moment that it was Jake, the one who had picked a fight with him over a year ago. "No, we don't know you," he returned as he started to mount his horse, with Blue Sky following. Star was growling wildly, and had sensed trouble. "Say fella, aren't you that Injun that side hucked me?" he asked him as he studied his face. "We don't want no trouble, so get on going you hear," Jona said to him, as he held on to his rifle. "I wouldn't do that if I were you mister," the other man said to him, seeing that he was ready to shoot. The other man who Jona didn't recognize had drawn his gun and was about to shoot Jona, then Star lunged forward and leaped in to the air, going for the throat, as the man was shocked at his attack. Jake could see that he was about to die, then aimed his gun at Jona. Jona had already squeezed his trigger, and let a bullet fly straight into the chest of Jake, knocking him clean off of his horse. "I'll kill you if I have to," Jona pleaded with him, as he laid in the dirt squirming in pain. Star had already chewed a hole in the other man's throat, gnarling at his body, that was soaked in blood. He laid there with his face looking up to the sky, frozen, not moving except when Star had taken pieces of flesh off of his body. Jake saw what had happened to his friend and tried to pick himself up to get on his horse, then fell back to the ground in pain.
Taking his gun, they helped him get on his horse, then told him to ride away or he would die like his friend. Jake, bleeding badly straddled his horse, as it led him back to town, if he didn't bleed to death by the time he got there. Blue Sky was worried what would happen next, then told Jona to hurry to the ranch and tell his story to his father. They rode hard through the hills, with little time to think of any plan that might help them.
Jake's horse came trotting into the town of Dry Sage, empty, with no one riding him. "That's Jake's horse," said the storekeeper with a worried look on his face. "What do you suppose happened Harold?" the deputy asked. "I don't know but you get a posse right fast and go look for him," Harold suggested as he gathered a few men. "The rain will make it easy to spot his tracks, just follow me," he told them as he mounted up to search for Jake. "He probably got jumped by them Injuns," the storekeeper said out loud. "Whatever happened, we'll find out for sure," he yelled as he rode out of town, following the tracks Jake's horse left. Their horses galloped out of town, hurrying to find out what has happened to him, as the townspeople gathered around to make up stories that they figured were true. "If they killed my son, I'll hang whoever did it myself," the storekeeper hollered.
Jona saw the ranch appear from the hills, looking down into the valley where he saw his father's horses and cattle grazing. "There Blue Sky, that's my pa's ranch," he told her as he pointed to it. "It is just like you said Jona, very beautiful," she mentioned with a sigh. "I can see Junior in the pasture, over there!" he shouted. With the horses tired and thirsty, they rode up to the ranch, Junior came running to greet them, and was surprised to see his brother again. "Jona, it's been too long my brother, how are you?" Junior asked him with wonder. "It's a long story Junior, this is my wife Blue Sky," he announced. "Well I must say you picked a fine woman to marry Jona," he told him as he smiled at her. "Come, come inside, I will take your horses," he ordered.
"Jona, my son, come and let me look at you," Sage yelled with glee. "You've grown to be a fine man son, who is this pretty woman with you?" she asked him, as she studied Blue Sky. "This is my wife mother, Blue Sky," he announced to her. "Come sit down, you must be very hungry, the two of you," she instructed. "You can tell me how you have been at the table," she stated. "Where's paw mother?" he asked her as he looked around the room. "He's in town son, taking care of business," she said to him. Jona thought fast that the news of Jake would get back soon, and he felt that he had to tell his mother what had happened at Cottonwood Gulch.
"They don't know it was you Jona, we must not say a word until your father comes home," she told him with a worried look on her face. Blue Sky agreed with Jona's mother and held tight on his arm, hoping the whole mess would just go away.
Bob and Trappy heard the news of the storekeeper's son missing. Bob knew that the young man, who was always looking for trouble, probably met up with the wrong breed who didn't take a liking to his sharp tongue and shot him out somewhere in the hills where he always liked to ride. Bob had seen him out there on occasion shooting with his friend Timothy Hardwood, a boy of the same age as Jake. He had always wanted to be a gun slinger, but his pa would never allow him carry a side arm or even use a gun. He did it out of secrecy and knew all along that if his pa ever caught wind of it, he'd tan his hide for sure.
Bob thought of Trappy's son Jona, who was on the brink of swinging from a rope on the account of him, but still hoped that the young man was not harmed or injured, especially by the hand of an Indian. He figured that if any of the desert's tribes would have any thing to do with it, it would have been by the hand of the Hecowi's, who he hoped that the Army had taken care of, bringing them to justice for the murders of countless settlers out on the plains. Bob wondered how Jona caught up with them, and if he was alright out there with the likes of seasoned soldiers, who made their living from killing, especially Indians. Bob knew that it was the only way he would be able to survive, and never wanted to see the day when a friend of his would swing from a rope, especially on the account of some fool kid.
Bob figured that the only way a Hecowi would come close to the town of Dry Sage was to steal horses, then he dismissed the idea of it being one of them at all. It reminded him of the day when he was shanghaied by the two drifters who jumped his claim, leaving him for dead, then knew it had to be the same type of men who most likely shanghaied Jake. Bob and Trappy waited for the posse to come back to town with any news about the missing boys, then swung back in his chair and lit a cigar, holding the handle of his Colt, that was cold in his hand.
"And did you see Desert Wind?" she asked him with wonder. Sage looked her son over and saw how much he had grown in just a little over a years time, then made him and his wife some stew for supper. They sat at the table while Jona explained the war with the Hecowi's and how he had to kill for the first time. She sat with wonder, listening to his stories and wondered how he survived and was glad that she was able to see him again. She saw how beautiful Blue Sky was and it reminded her when Desert Wind had given her to Trappy. "Desert Wind is older now ma, he's very wise," he explained. "Did he?" she paused. "He asked about you and pa, and if you were doing good," he added. "What did you tell him?" she asked patiently. "I said you were well," he told her. "He was glad to see me," he added again. "Jona, I want you and your wife to stay here, with us," she begged him. "We can all live on the ranch together," she explained with a smile. "Ma, they will be looking for the ones that killed Jake and his friend," he mentioned as he pointed out the window. "Yes, but they will not know who did it," she argued. Jona felt a sense of relief, hearing what his mother had said to him, he was sure that they would find out who had killed Jake, and it was just a matter of time.
The posse had come to the edge of town and with them, they brought Jake and his mangled friend's body, draped over the horses that they had brought with them. Limp and hanging over the saddle, they tossed with the movement of their horses, while some of the towns people stopped to gaze at them. "That's Jonathan Hardwood, who could have done such a thing?" they wondered. "His throat was cut by those savages, that's who done it," one man shouted. "Jake took one in the chest, looks like a rifle wound," they noticed. "Got be Hecowi Bob, I've seen this before," the man announced. "We don't know that for sure mister, just you go on and tend to your business," Bob told him as he pushed him away. "We'll find them, whoever did this, they'll hang for sure," they shouted from the street. "You go on and never mind, this is the law's problem, you people will get justice I swear," Bob promised as he held the head of Jonathan up to identify him. "Looks like some kind of animal Bob," Trappy confessed as he looked at Jonathan's wounds. "That ain't no Indian work, that's for sure Trappy," Bob confessed. "Looks like Jake took one by a .303, look at this," Trappy discovered as he pulled back his vest. "Something ain't right here Trappy," he told him. "Better let the undertaker do his job now," he added. Bob started to wonder what it all was adding up to, then thoughts of his son came to his mind. "Trappy, tell no one we are leaving, leave a note on my desk saying we went out on business," he ordered. "We going out to the ranch Bob?" Trappy asked him. "We ain't got too much time Trappy, if I think my notion is right," Bob mentioned as he started to mount up on his horse. "If your figurin the way I am Bob, we better get to the ranch quick," Trappy told him as he mounted up. Their horses galloped away from the town of Dry Sage, leaving the townspeople to themselves, knowing that they had a murder on their hands, they wanted justice for whoever had done the killing.
Junior had sat down to listen as Jona explained what happened out at Cottonwood Gulch. He believed his brother's story and was waiting for his father to return, like he knew he would do. Junior loaded his rifle and prepared for trouble to come their way. He knew it wouldn't be long before they realized that it was Jona who had done the killing, they all knew how Jake and him hated each other in the first place. Now that his brother had finally returned home and trouble had followed him, it was going to be tough to explain what really happened, especially when it was a half breed that was involved. Junior was ready to protect his brother from the rope, and would fight with him to save himself from a lynching. The townspeople had more than they could handle thinking that it was the Hecowi that did the killing, but they would be in rage to find out that Jona was the one who really did it. Junior made his brother stay with them, and think things out until his father arrived back at the ranch, he knew that whatever he was going to do would be the best thing for them and kept his rifle ready for anything that might go wrong.
They saw the ranch house with the lights on, evening had set in and Bob was ready to settle in and listen to Jona tell his side of the story, knowing all along that he had been back in Dry Sage county, like he had figured. Bob had seen what a coyote could do to its prey when it was hungry and saw the marks on Jonathan's throat, thinking that the only thing that could have done the killing was either a dog, or a coyote, which brought him to think of Star.
They tied the horses outside, and stepped up on the porch, then Sage and Lilah stood there waiting for them to come inside. Bob saw Jona sitting in the rocker sipping coffee and wondered who the pretty young girl was that was sitting next to him. "We have a problem here Bob," Lilah told him with Sage following. "I know honey, been in town and saw what happened," Bob explained as he found a chair to sit in. Bob kissed Lilah who was waiting for him to question Jona, but instead he went to get his rifle ready. He saw Junior's rifle sitting in the corner of the room and asked him if he was ready to go into town and help his brother. "I'll fight with him pa," Junior told him. "I'm hoping there won't be a fight son, I hope they listen to Jona's story," he mentioned as he propped is rifle in the corner next to his. "They'll kill him Bob, don't take him with you," Sage cried as she held on to her son. "They kill him here too Sage, we have to do what is right," Bob told her. "We're all going into town in the morning, you boys get some sleep until we can figure out what to do next," she suggested. "I don't want you coming with us Sage you women stay here at the ranch, this problem isn't yours," he told her as he waived his only arm. "He's my son too Bob," Sage snapped at him. "I got myself into this mess, I'll go into town with Junior," Jona yelled. "No Jona, they'll kill you for sure," Blue Sky cried out. "They won't lynch him with his mother there Bob, don't you think?" Lilah suggested. "Those people don't care Lilah, they want justice, Dry Sage justice," Bob argued. "I go with Jona!" Blue Sky said as she held his arm. "And do you think Star is going to stay here, he's got you in this mess enough boy," Trappy scolded as he pointed to the coyote. "He saved me from a bullet pa," Jona told him. "We get some sleep, all of us, then we go into town in the morning, maybe things will have simmered down by then," Bob suggested to everyone, as he looked at Trappy's son. "No son of mine will swing from a rope I can promise you that," Trappy said as he tugged on his beard. "Bob, tell me everything will be alright," Lilah pleaded. "Get some sleep darlin, whatever is going to happen, will happen," Bob comforted her.
The morning was calm and hot, the air around them was like a still oven, heating the place as the sun came up over the hills. All but Lilah slept good, she had been awake most of the night worrying about Jona, who could possibly face the rope that day, if things didn't turn out right. She looked over at her shotgun and made sure it was loaded, both barrels. Blue Sky held on tight to Jona while he slept, thinking of the time when Desert Wind had given her to him to have as a bride. She thought of how good it would be to raise a family out at the ranch, and hoped that the day would bring good fortune to them. Trappy snapped the suspenders on his trousers and stepped into his boots, thinking that they would have to kill him before they hanged his son. He loaded his six gun and made sure that he had plenty of bullets in his belt, then gazed out at the sun coming up over the hills.
Lilah had made coffee and some biscuits for everyone, before they stepped out onto the porch, while Bob got the wagon ready to hitch up. Star had been waiting with them, he sensed that something was wrong, he sat with his ears standing up, ready. "Lilah, you keep your eyes on us, if you see anything that ain't right you let whoever it is drawing on us, have it," Bob told her as he pointed to the shotgun. "Son, can Blue Sky use a gun?" he asked Jona. Blue Sky nodded her head, then took the gun from Bob and stuffed it in her apron, making sure it was out of sight. "Trappy you see to it that anyone on the rooftops are in your sight, if you see the first sign of trouble, you know what to do," he instructed to him. "Junior, you stay on my left side, your going to be my missing arm, do you hear me boy?" Bob asked him as he held his good arm up. "I hear you Pa, I'll cover on your bad side," he said to him. "Let this day be good," he finished as they mounted their horses, while the women got up on the wagon.
Bob led the way to the town of Dry Sage, he was sure that he was doing the right thing by taking Jona into town. The towns people he thought, would most likely want to hear his story, straight from his mouth, and with his new bride with him, they would think that he was in the right, especially not hiding out in the hills like most drifters would do. They were not in a hurry to enter the town and the wagon's wheels dug deep in the dirt, as it rolled along the bumpy trail. Star kept up with them, following closely behind, he had chewed through the ropes that Jona tied him with and caught up with them as they rode.
The sun was hot and bright and in their face, as it rose from the east. Bob knew that if there was going to be trouble he would want to have the sun at his back, that way he could see who he was going to have to kill. They came to town from the other side, from where they were used to coming. In the street, was a young boy who pumped water into a pale, filling the water trough for the horses. The handle creaked with each pump, then the boy had seen them coming into town. Dropping the bucket, he ran into the store to tell his father that he had seen them coming.
Bob came to a stop in the middle of the street, just outside the bank, he saw several men coming outside to see that they had come to town. One had a rifle and had been waiting for the chance to use it, hoping Bob would make the first move. "I wouldn't do that if I were you mister," Bob told him. "Drop your rifle, or you'll meet you maker where you stand," he told him again. Trappy noticed a man positioned on top of the bank, while the banker talked with Bob. He kept his finger on the trigger, waiting for him to make a move.
"I see you brought that Injun in town with you Bob?" the banker remarked. "We came to settle out and live in peace Zak," Bob told him as he pointed to Jona. "Everyone says he killed Jonathan and Jake, and they want to see him hang," Zak mentioned then spat on the ground. "He killed in self defense Zak and you know it," Bob said with his voice raised so everyone could hear him. "My son ain't no killer Zak, you know it," Trappy added. "Why don't you let us take him in, then he can have a fair trial," they all said. "Fair trial, like the one you all gave me?" Bob mentioned then saw Zak going for his gun. "Don't do that Zak, don't make me kill you where you stand," Bob ordered as he drew his Colt. They all had seen Bob take out his gun, and some ran into buildings, hiding from gunfire that they feared would break out. "Put your gun away Bob, they ain't going to be no killin today," Zak told him as he took his hand off of his gun. "Next man takes out his gun and I'll kill him," Bob told them. A few more towns people ran from the street, seeing Bob meant business.
Larry Cross, sat high on top of the bank, looking down on the ones that stayed to talk Bob into giving up Jona for his arrrest. Trappy had spotted him take aim, then slowly pointed his shotgun and let loose a blast that sent him tumbling to the street, his body smashing through the awning that covered the boardwalk. Someone from the hotel across the street fired at Bob but missed hitting Lilah who was still on the wagon instead. Her leg bleeding badly, Blue Sky and Sage helped her limp to the mayor's office and tend to her leg. Doc had seen Lilah going down a couple of times, trying to make her way into the office, then ran over to see if he could help her, with her leg bleeding badly. Jona and Junior both exchanged fire from their guns, breaking out the windows of the hotel.
Gunfire was echoing through the streets of Dry Sage, the boys ran for cover, anywhere that they could keep from getting hit by a stray bullet. Windows were being smashed by bullets that had missed Bob and Jona, who stayed close together, while Trappy and Junior ducked behind the water trough. For a moment there was silence, then many took turns firing into the water trough, with bullets riddling it and water pouring out into the dirt. They returned fire at anything that moved, and stayed down, seeing men running back and forth into the buildings to get a better aim at them. Sage and Blue Sky peered through the windows to see if they could shoot anyone that came close to them, while the Doc tried to stop the bleeding from Lilah's leg.
They re-loaded their guns, waiting for the next man to make his move, silence again filled the street, then it was the storekeeper who called out to Bob to let Jona come out. "Let's talk this out William, ain't no use in getting killed," Bob shouted from behind the water trough. Another shot was fired at the trough, splintering the wood that it was made of. "Send him out Bob," he yelled. "You want to die like your son?" Bob asked him. "He didn't die Bob, he was murdered," William screamed as he fired another round. Bob knew that he was going to have Jona go out and face William, who wasn't about to let up and walk away. "Trappy, you call it," Bob yelled. Trappy heard Bob and waited a moment to think of something better to do, than to send his son up against William in a gunfight. "Jona, you make the call boy," Trappy yelled back knowing that Jona wouldn't back down. William stood in the middle of the street waiting for Jona to come out and stand off with him. He was itching for revenge and he would have stayed out there waiting till they came out anyway. "Never wanted to see this day boy," William confessed. "I didn't murder your son William, it was self defense, I promise," Jona pleaded as he studied his hand to see if he would go for his gun. Jona looked into his eyes, and felt the fear of dying for the first time in his life. Never once looking to see if his father noticed. "Ten paces son," He ordered. Jona turned around then started counting his steps, hoping that William would stop the fight and go home. The townspeople stood in awe, and waited to see what was going to happen.
Jona's mind was racing when he took his first step in the opposite direction as William, he thought the whole thing was crazy, to think that it was time to die, if he didn't move fast enough on the draw and beat him to the trigger. He pictured William turning around to see him blank faced as he was about to shoot him. Jona kept his mind on his hand, and made sure that was what he was going for instead of hitting him in the body or head, he figured if he could stop anymore killing he would do just that.
Jona anticipated the tenth step and turned around to see that William barely had a chance to go for his gun, the look of surprise was on his face as he saw that Jona could have killed him in an instant. William had his hand on his gun and was trying to pull it from his holster to gun Jona down. He saw the fright in his eyes and shot his hand as he moved toward the ground to dodge any bullet that might have killed him. A shot rang out before Jona could hit the dirt and a bullet grazed his side. William stood there watching him, as he dropped his gun, waiting to see if Jona was going to pull the trigger again. "Do it boy," he yelled. "Go ahead and finish me," he yelled again. William's hand was bleeding badly and he just stood in the street, straight faced, looking at Jona to see what he was going to do. Jona felt his side, and knew he had been hit, by the feel of the wet blood that came oozing out from his side. "It's over!" Jona screamed. William was shocked, that Jona wasn't going to finish him and left his gun in the dirt, just staring at him, waiting to die. "It's over William, go home now," Jona yelled as he holstered his gun. "You took everything I had lived for Jona," he cried. "It's over William, no more killin," Jona said as he looked over at him crying.
Lilah came running over to see how badly Jona was hurt, while William walked over to the water trough and scooped up the cool water to splash on his face, still not aware that he was still alive. She helped Sage take him into the mayor's office where Doc could patch him up and take him to the hotel, where he could rest up. "That was a mighty good thing you did back there son," Trappy told him as he hugged Jona. Blue Sky helped him realize that he was a hero by kissing him and thanking him for being alive. "It's finished Jona, we will go home too," she said while kissing his cheek. "Sometimes you don't have to shoot a man to kill him," Bob mentioned as he patted his shoulder.
Bob ran out into the street to warn anyone that his friend Jona was a free man and the killing was going to stop from that day. "That boy walks free, anyone got a problem with that, then come and see me," Bob told them all. Everyone had walked back out into the street and some went over to see William and comfort him. They knew he was defeated and that no more trouble was going to be in Dry Sage, they looked at Bob who stood in the street, waiting for anyone to dispute him, then business went on as usual. Bob picked up William's gun and went over to the store to give it to him. "I want to thank you for not killing Jona," he said as he handed him the gun. William stared at him for awhile, then turned around and went inside. "Promise me it's over William," he asked him as he looked into his eyes. There was silence for a moment then William told him it was over.
Bob walked across the street to his office, then sat in his chair and lit a cigar, he looked out the window and wondered how long it would be before any more trouble would hit the street. He sunk back into the chair and waited for Trappy to come and see him.
"Looks like our coyote friend faired out pretty good there Trappy," Bob said as he looked over at Star who was chomping on a bone that the butcher gave him. "Yeah, I had im tied behind the blacksmith place so he wouldn't do anymore damage," Trappy mentioned then patted Star on his back. "Never saw the likes of it Trappy, those two are inseparable," he said as he marveled at the wild dog that was Jona's best friend. "You think it's really over Bob?" Trappy asked as he looked out the window of Bob's office. "I'd say so Trappy, I think this town has seen enough killing," Bob swore then put his cigar out on the floor. "Junior went over to see his brother, to see how he's doing," he added. "I never thought I'd see the day when my son would have to kill a man," Bob told him. "He's the reason I'm standing today Bob, he covered my back real good, thought I was a goner for one moment there," Trappy told him while he scratched at his back. "The women did good Bob, we all did good today," Trappy mentioned. "Let's hope we can go back to business Trappy, we have a lot of work to do out at the ranch, don't want to hold off on it anymore than I have to," Bob confessed with pride. "I'm going to go have a look at Jona, see how Doc did with him and Lilah too," Bob said then picked himself up off of his chair. "I"ll go with you Bob, it's still pretty hot out there, if you know what I mean," Trappy suggested then adjusted his gun belt. "Star you stay here, make sure no one comes inside until this town is settled down," Bob told him then they walked outside of his office into the street.
Bob and Trappy walked across the street to the hotel, a few people had looked their way and a few of them were mumbling words under their breath. Bob could tell that it was blood they were looking for and wondered if anyone was going to draw on him and Trappy. They stayed close to each other as they continued to the hotel, looking in all directions. "It might be over with William Bob, but it ain't over with me," one drunken man said to him. Trappy had his hand on his gun, then watched the man stagger around the street, cussing and yelling out to Bob. "You know what you are Bob, your yella," he yelled. "Go on about your business mister, I don't want to have to kill you," Bob said as he watched the man stagger around. "Put your gun down and go cool off, you hear me mister," Bob told him. "You know what I'm going to do, I'm going to blow your head off you Injun lover," the man swore at him. Bob saw that he could barely stand on his feet then carefully walked up to him and took his gun out of his belt, while Trappy slung him over his shoulder to take him to jail, where he could sleep it off. "Take his gun to the hotel, I'll give it to the clerk and he can give it back to him when he sobers up Trappy," Bob instructed. Trappy took the intoxicated man to the jail, and Bob walked across the street to the hotel, where he saw Blue Sky and Sage waiting for him and Trappy.
"How's Jona?" Bob asked them. "Doc says he just needs some rest, he won't be using his arm for awhile, maybe a week or two," Blue Sky told him. "Lilah we need to stay up in here for a day or two until things cool down," Bob said to her. "It's a good idea Bob, Jona can't ride now anyway," she returned. "He wants to see you Bob," she said. "I could use a good meal ladies, I'll go up and see Jona," Bob returned.
Bob went up stairs to talk with Jona, and tell him that there was probably going to be more trouble. Bob figured the hotel was a good place to hold up and stay for awhile, it offered protection in case the towns people became edgy and wanted more Dry Sage justice. "I can still shoot Bob, don't you worry about me," Jona said proudly. "Bes thing for you is to stay down Jona, get that arm working good," Bob returned. "Trappy and myself will take care of things, you make sure the ladies are safe," Bob instructed as he patted him on the back. "Junior here will watch to see if anyone tried to sneak around the back," he pointed out. "I'll make sure Pa, Star and me will watch the back," Junior said willingly. "You did good out there Junior, make sure you get some rest, something tells me we will all need it," Bob told him as he looked out the window down below. "Junior make sure your gun is loaded tonight, we may have some visitors," Bob mentioned.
Lilah brought Bob and Trappy who had just come in from across the street some supper that they were hungry for, Blue Sky and Sage sat at the table listening to them talk about more trouble stewing and wondered when it was all going to be over. "Do you really think there will be more trouble Bob?" Lilah asked him looking out the window. "Fraid so honey, they want to see Jona hang, I can stop em from killing, but I can't stop em from hatin," Bob mentioned as he ate his stew. "We have to make a stand here and now Lilah, they aren't going to let up until they say it's over," Bob added as he soaked his bread in the broth of the stew. "We can hold em off Bob, I heard the Army is going to come through here tomorrow, heard it from the jailer," Trappy mentioned to them. "Good, if we can hold em til' the morning we stand a good chance of getting back to the ranch," Bob stated. "Whatever they are going to do, they will try it tonight, when the sun goes down," Trappy said as he scooped up his stew. "You ladies make sure you stay away from the windows tonight, stay down you hear?" Bob instructed. "Everyone left the hotel when they saw Jona and his wife coming inside, we don't have to worry about any towns people getting hurt," Lilah mentioned. "I have plenty of shells for the shotguns Bob, we can hold them off from coming inside," Sage mentioned. "Best thing for us to do now is get some rest, take turns watch, then we will see what happens," Trappy added.
They watched the sun go down over the town of Dry Sage, the streets were empty except for the tumbleweeds that floated through. One boy ran across the street to the water trough and pumped his pale with water, then ran back to the blacksmith and didn't come out after that. Silence raked through the night, and they sat in their chairs, waiting. Bob kept himself busy looking out the window to see if he co