The Last Mountain Man -9

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: March 31, 2007

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Submitted: March 31, 2007



Chapter IX

He reached the cave sometime about mid-morning. Hanging the deer carcass on a protruding rock, he went about the final skinning. He had to think this out. If it wasn’t for the woman and girls he would just let the law handle the Militia, but he knew they had picked a well hidden spot to hold up and it may be days before they were found. If he got the picture right the previous night, those girls didn’t have days, maybe hours at the most.

This would return light on his disappearance, probably even start another man hunt for him, but he wasn’t too worried about that. He had evaded the search once and now he knew the mountain, had no doubts he could do so again.

He glanced at the grave of someone who had been killed in the cave long before he found it. Out of respect, he’d buried the bones just outside the cave. "What would you do, old timer?" He looked up at the noon sun. Might as well get some rest before he headed back.

Stretching out on a deer skin pallet, he started cleaning the mag. rifle then the pistol. The last was the .357. Though he had brought the weapon with him in case he’d come across a bear or puma, he’d never fired it. Once he’d realized these creatures were just as afraid of him as he was them, he wrapped the weapon in some cheese cloth he’d found in the cave and put it away.

Five shells went into the magazine of the revolver, a sixth into the chamber. He expected to kill his first man before the day was out and it bothered him he could so callously prepare for it. Had he turned to the ways of the wild? Was he now another product of the mountains. He shrugged, if he had, so be it. This was now his home and they had intruded it.

The magazine clipped shut. Laying back, he rest the revolver on his chest. Closing his eyes, he pictured the woman in the outcropping of saplings. Not a bad looking one he thought. How would one of those western authors put it? One to ride the river with?

He smiled at his thoughts. "You old fool," he told himself, "That gal wouldn’t give you the time of day." Memories of his wife slipped back into his mind. Man, she’d be fit to be tied if she knew what he was thinking. His smile broadened as he drifted into sleep.

"I’m going with you!"

Joe looked at the woman. "You can’t. You need to stay here and rest up."

Shawna’s jaw gripped as if the argument was over. Joe Nichols, if you don’t take me with you, I’ll just go home and get my car and follow you." She paused, "please, I have to go. Those girls were left in my care."

It was Joe’s turn to hesitate. He supposed it would be alright for her to go with him, besides, he thought as his eyes scanned her frame, she wasn’t hard to look at.

"Alright," he finally agreed, "I don’t guess it will hurt anything."

Excited, Shawna threw her arms around the young ranger kissing him full on the lips. "Thanks Joe, you won’t regret this."

The ranger shook his head as she slid into the newly appointed Jeep, " girl, I’m already regretting it."

The two talked small talk as they headed back for the station. He told her of his origin and she hers. Shawna had come to the mountains in search of her father. When her mother was killed in a car wreck, her father had disappeared. They had found his truck here and she came out to claim it, fell in love with the country, went back home, then her and her son moved out here.

Joe nodded and asked her about the son.

"He’s joined the service, Navy in fact. He’ll be through boot camp in a couple of weeks.

" You’re not old enough to have a son that age, are you?"

Shawna nodded, "I’ll soon be thirty five. I started early with my son. I met a boy I couldn’t live without. He got me pregnant and then showed me I could live without him."

"You’ve never remarried?"

"Sure, but I’m one of those bum magnets I guess, for he, too, walked out on us."

The ranger did some rapid mathematics in his head. He was thirty three. She wasn’t too old for him.

Finally, the station came to sight. Making sure this time the jeep was in the small garage, Joe escorted the girl up the long winding stairway. Unlocking the door, they stepped inside the station. "For me, this will be home, sweet home for the next three months."

Shawna looked around the small, but neat apartment/ station. "Not bad, if you’re a loner. What do you do with your nights?"

Joe stretched his arm toward the expanse of the large window. " I watch the stars, the mountains. I am an aspiring artist and I take a bunch of my art from this place."

Shawna crossed to the window. The night was fast falling across the range. She looked toward the mountain called "Old Baldy". "It is beautiful isn’t it? What’s that, mist?"

Joe followed her line of sight. He saw the whift of distant smoke against the dark trees of the mountain. "That’s smoke. His senses sharpened. That was all they needed. A forest fire along with the man hunt.

The smoke disappeared. His face turned to a puzzled look. The fire had been put out. Suddenly the ranger knew. He had found the robbers.

Grabbing the radio he called the office. His call fell on dead ears. Again, he tried to no avail.

Slamming the radio back in it’s carrier, he tossed the keys to the Jeep to Shawna. "Go back to town. Tell them I’ve spotted the hold up. Writing the area down on a scrap of paper, he placed it in her hand. "Give this to the head ranger."

"What are you going to do? Where are you going?"

He pointed to the area of smoke, "There. Maybe I can contain them until backup arrives."

Grabbing the .06, he filled his pockets with extra shells, "At least I’m going to try."

The steep stairwell held no obsticles as the two seemed to fly down them. Joe looked at the woman, "Tell them to hurry." Again, Shawna kissed the ranger’s lips. "Be careful," she whispered as she stepped away from him to the door of the garage.

Joe turned for the tree line. Going by road, the closest he could get would be the "hole" and still be four to five miles away from the robbers. Cutting through the mountains was only about two miles. Joe had a feeling he knew where the robbers were held up. The previous summer he had trekked through the ravine shouldering "Old Baldy." There was an old mine up there and he knew the way.

"Sarge" awoke as the faint odor of bacon came to him. He looked over to the fire inside the mine but saw no one. Instantly, he stood to his feet. "Those damn fools," he thought as he raced from the mine’s entrance.

The self proclaimed cook looked up to see the man rushing his way. "Hey Sarge, want some bacon?"

The leader of the group walked into the flames of the fire, kicking the ashes assunder. "You damn fools!" he yelled. "Are you wanting to give us away? Don’t you know this smoke can be seen? What if they have a watch up at the fire station?"

" Sorry Sarge, I guess we weren’t thinking."

"Damn right you weren’t." He turned to the girls. He could see a small smirk catching the older one’s mouth. "You were thinking, weren’t you?" he thought as he trod back to the mine. Going back into the shadows, he uncovered the small box. Breaking out three bottles of whiskey, he stepped back out.

Feigning to be sorry, he said as much. "It’s just I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison, do you?" he asked the cook as he tossed across a bottle to the man. Handing the other two out, he smiled. "We need a break. Hell, let’s have a party."

His eyes went back to the woman. "We got the women for one don’t we boys?"

Darkness closed in around them as the men passed the bottles around. Anxiously, Marie glanced at the small watch on her wrist. 6:30. The man had told her he would return. Would he make it in time.?

One of the men stood and crossed to the girls. Bending over Maggie, he grabbed her arm. "Come on honey, let’s me and you get to know each other."

Marie rose to the girl’s defense. The man that had accousted Lorie the night before crossed to her. He grabbed her by the hair. "Not this time bitch! I’m going to show you what these nine inches can do to a woman!" Roughly, he pushed her toward the woods.

A yell rose from the others. "Save some for me!’ one yelled, as four others went for the remaining girls.

"Yeah, right," the one who pushed Marie toward the trees yelled back.

The first arrow sliced through his jugular as it pierced his throat. A close second embedded itself in his heart. The melee that burst open gave the girls a chance to run. Lorie was the first to find the safety of the trees with Maggie close behind her. Both had enough sense to drop as soon as the darkness enfolded them.

One of the less fortunate turned to run and ran into one of the Militiamen. Grabbing her by the hair, he clubbed her to the ground. A third arrow found it’s mark before the man could follow the girl.

Marie ran toward where Lorie and Maggie had entered the woods. Suddenly Sarge stood before her. Roughly grabbing her hair, he held her in front of him as a shield as he backed toward the mine. Rifle fire filled the night as the remaining militia men filled shadows with holes searching for their aggressor.

Safely, the two reached the mine. Crossing to the bag of money, Sarge gripped it in one hand. Keeping the woman as a shield, he left the mine’s entrance and sought the safety of the sapling stand.

Afraid to let a notched arrow fly, he watched as the other found safety. Instead another militiaman got brave. The notched arrow found it’s mark. Impatience rode him as he stayed under the rifle fire. He thought about loosing the .357 on the bunch, but several had followed their leader’s tactics and three of the girls still remained hostage. Silently, he crossed to where Lorie and Maggie had entered the forest. The scent of the girls’ perfumes and body washes led him to them.

Neither knew he was close until he reached his hands forward and covered their mouths.

"Quiet!" he commanded in an undertone. Once the girls knew he wasn’t one of the militiamen, he freed his hold on them. "Follow me." again the command needed no urging.

He led them away some hundred yards before he went to a knee. "Wait here." he told them. I’ll go get the others."

Joe looked across the stump he had taken refuge. The rifle fire had quieted after no more arrows had found their marks. He saw the first of them laying just beyond his reach. Two arrows were protruding the man’s body. Both were killing shots. What have they got here, a frigging indian? He wondered.

"Just wait bitch," he heard one of the others that had taken a girl for a shield. "When this is over you and me are going to get together."

Joe wished he had gotten to one of the girls. Though he was scared shitless, he still could feel their soft young bodies under his touch. A small erection came to him as he thought about it. Funny, he thought, here in the midst of battle and he was wanting to get with one of those girls.

"Hey John," he softly called out into the darkness.

"What do you want Joe?"

"How about me joining you? How about me copping a feel off that gal?"

"Come ahead, if you want. It’s your ass, not mine, but I will tell you, she’s feeling mighty firm."

"I bet she is." The militia man plotted his route. He could roll over behind Bob’s body, then run to the safety of John’s hold up. Still he held up. What if he wasn’t fast enough? He could feel the arrow piercing his body. What the hell, he thought, he had to die sometime.

The first part of this trek went well. It gave him confidence for the second part. Going to his knees, he leaped to his feet on a run. He thought he could hear the arrow whistle through the still air just before it struck him between the shoulder blades. He stumbled to a stop. Funny, he thought, how he could hear the slender shaft as it cut the air, he could even still hear it now. The second arrow sliced through his spine, forcing him to the ground. Rolling over, Joe was heard to say, "All this just for a piece of ass."

Again rifle fire began to kill pieces of bark as the remaining men filled the night sky with rounds. Joe Nichols knelt down as one such bullet clipped the tree behind him. Breathing heavy, he searched the darkened area for movement. A slight wind had brought the kicked out fire once more to life. Shadows cast about the dancing flames. He had been a quarter of a mile away when the original rifle fire had commenced. In these mountains a quarter of a mile was a long way to run in the dark.

Sudden movement to his right brought him around. Lorie swung the short branch with all her might. The homemade club rolled off his shoulder as he dived below it. His body connected with hers, pushing her to the ground. Another wildcat climbed on his back as he struggled with the first. Joe could feel small fists beating him about the face as he wrestled with a soft pliable body under him. Throwing his shoulder over, he "tossed" Maggie away from him. Then he was able to stand over Lorie. Before the two could retaliate, he identified himself.

Struggling to her feet, Lorie still wielded the club. "Show me a badge or something" she growled under her breath. Joe pulled his jacket away from his chest. In the darkness, the girls could only tell he wore dark clothing, but the distant firelight reflected off the silver badge pinned to his chest.

Gratefully returning to his knee, the ranger asked what was happening. Maggie pointed into the darkness. "There’s a man out there. He’s rescuing us."

Joe didn’t know who the rescuer was, but to do any good he had to let the man know he was a friendly. "Joe Nichols, Colorado Forest Service." He called out. " To any friendly, I’ve got two of the girls with me."

"And believe me, I’m well protected." He finished under his breath.

A distinctive human form slipped through the trees. Joe saw the man’s outline as he knelt by him. The ranger was amazed there was no sound with his coming. "Glad some help made it. I’ve taken three or four out.

The way I count there’s still six, maybe seven still out there. They have the rest of the girls."

"Have you got a plan on the other’s rescue?"

"No I don’t. Not with out the death of the other men, possibly some of the girls."

"I’ve got help coming but they won’t be here until the morning. Think we can hold them up until then.

The man nodded, "Place a shot over their heads every once in a while. That’ll keep them settled down. Their leader is gone. I figure if a force shows up, they can be talked out. If you can do that, I’m going after the one who slipped out. Right now they are just a bunch of scared men out there just looking for a chance to quit."

Joe nodded agreement. "You do what you have to, these guys aren’t going anywhere."

As quietly as he appeared the stranger slipped into the darkness. Joe looked where he had been. A sudden shiver struck the young ranger. He didn’t know the man, had never heard of him, but was damn glad he was on the good guys side.


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