Western Fiction posted December 28, 2009 Chapters:  ...31 32 -33- 34... 


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Cindy is kidnapped.

A chapter in the book THE TOUGH BREED

Loose Ends - Part One

by c_lucas


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.


Background
The Peralta Land Scam created hostilities between early settlers and new arrivals to the West. This is a fictionalized account of one incident. The story begins in 1895..?

Some of my readers will be shocked at the violence portrayed in this chapter. Women of the Real West were mistreated. Early Hollywood and early Western writers tried to gloss over this fact. Most of you know, I do my research before I post something. I apologized to my fans who will not like the action, but this was not uncommon in the Real West.

Clay Slade’s anger boiled as he watched the K-Bar riders leave. He glanced contemptuously at the three remaining Barkers standing over Jake Junior’s body. Those spineless weaklings couldn’t fight their way out of bed. “Go help with the burying.” He growled at the men.

No one moved.

Slade looked at the ten cowhands. “You still have your jobs. Move!”

Mark Larkin stared at Slade, “What are you going to do?”

“The sheriff gave me twenty-four hours to leave the territory. I’m leaving. You can be in charge. I’m sure they will use Coffin Joe as their representative. … I think, now, the turncoat is going by the name of Coffee. Anyway, you can be foreman for all I care.” Slade turned and walked toward the bunkhouse. Ten minutes later, he rode away without saying “goodbye.”


The moment he was out of sight, he urged his horse to a gallop. He thought about Leland and Cindy. The humiliations he’d suffered burned deep in his gut. They’re gonna pay. 

He wanted to get to Hogan Hell Hole and make a show of leaving the territory.  Three miles from his destination, his horse’s defective shoe cracked completely and the horse reared.

Slade kept his seat and brought the horse under control. He figured he was several hours ahead of Rebel. After securing his horse to a mesquite tree, he checked the rear left hoof.  Cursing, he retrieved the tool from his saddlebag and removed the damaged shoe. The search for a spare shoe proved futile. He put the tool and the damaged shoe in his left saddlebag. In his anger, he failed to secure the flap.


Thirty minutes later, he rode his lamed horse into the Livery. Luke stopped what he was doing and walked toward him.

“Can I help you?”

“My horse threw a shoe.”

“Let me have a look.”

“It’s the left rear.”

**
Luke raised the left rear hoof and stopped. He realized the shoe had been damaged a long time and had made an impression into the hoof. Rebel's description of the shooter's horse having a damaged shoe flashed through his mind.

Luke released the horse’s leg and  took a deep breath to control his nervousness. “How long have you been riding him without a shoe?”

“Not very far.”

“The hoof is damaged. I will have to wait a few days before I can replace the shoe. However, I can loan you a horse until then.”

Slade walked past Luke and examined the damaged hoof. He muttered a curse and turned toward Luke.  “Where are your spare horses?”

“Out back. Choose one and I’ll help you change your saddle.”

Slade took a rope and started for the back corral.

Luke untied Slade’s saddlebags. In his haste, he dropped it and the loose flap opened. Part of the damaged shoe fell out. The young liveryman recognized it and quickly found the other piece in the bag and hid the pieces under some straw. After tightening the flap, he finished unsaddling the horse and waited for Slade.

The livery horse was saddled a few minutes later and Slade was on his way.

**
Slade tied the livery horse to the rail behind the Scarlet Slipper. He began to make his plans over his first beer. The loaner would not give him the speed and durability he would need. Mentally, he dismissed the horses he'd seen tied behind the saloon.

An hour later, Larkin and some of the Circle C riders rode in and stopped at the Scarlet Slipper.

Slade turned when he heard the batwing doors open. “What the Hell are you doing here?”

“We buried Junior. The old man and the twins are huddled in his office. I gave myself and some of the boys the day off. I promised the others a day off when we get back tomorrow. … What are you doing here? I thought you were leaving the territory.”

“My horse threw a shoe and I’m stuck with a loaner that’ll never survive hard riding.”

Larkin picked up one of the freshly poured beers. “I’ll trade you for your horse. I’ve always admired him.”

“It’s a deal. He’ll be ready in three days. You can take the livery’s bucket of bones back and pick up your new horse.”

Larkin clicked mugs with Slade, sealing the deal. He brought his horse around back and switched horses.


Slade followed the northern trail to the crossroads with the eastern old stagecoach road. It had been several years since the road had been used for its original purpose. There were old tracks of a few individual travelers.  The old road made for easy riding and he used it until he reached a rocky area. He left the stagecoach trail and started riding for the original K-Bar Ranch.

Anger for Leland and Cindy continued to build. Thinking about Riley and Rebel helping her make him wash the laundry added new fuel to his flame. The only happiness was thinking about how he had bamboozled Rebel.


***
Cindy rode back to the ranch beside Leland. “Are you still angry with me?”

“A man can’t stay angry with his wife when she saves his life.”

“I didn’t want Junior to rob me of the pleasure of shooting you.”

“Why would you want to shoot me?”

“If you keep up your pig-headed ways, I’ll have my reasons.”

“I have been a little pig-headed lately, but I have several things on my mind.”

“Things like how you got your face messed up?”

Leland looked at her. “I guess that’s what started our latest fight.”

“I’m still worrying my pretty little head about it.” She glared at him.

He cleared his throat. “When Pecos and I were riding toward the box canyon, someone took a shot at us. I was lucky enough to spot the sunlight glinting off the barrel, dove at Pecos and knocked him off his horse. I scraped my face when we hit the ground.”

“Your getting shot at is something I shouldn’t worry about?” Cindy became angrier.

“There wasn’t much to worry about, Pecos and I hid in some boulders because we had handguns and he had a rifle. Ray and a couple of his boys rescued us.”

Cindy rode in silence for a couple of minutes. “Is that all of it?” She noticed Leland’s nervousness and felt he was holding back.

“Well, after Ray chased the ambusher away, we went up to the nest. After a brief search, we found the tracks of his horse….”

“And?” Cindy asked through clinched teeth.

“It was the same horse used by the man who shot your father and Cookie.”

“And you let him get away?”

“We were on rocky ground and we lost his trail.”

“That’s everything?”

“Yes.”

“You kept this from me. You had a chance to get the shooter and you didn’t tell me.”

“I should have….”

“Yes, you should. … I need to think some things over. Don’t follow me!” She spurred Amanda into a gallop.


Cindy fought back her tears as Amanda glided over the rough mountain trail. Leland can be so frustrating at times. She half expected for Leland, or even, Tea, to race after her, but no one did. Cindy rode past the ranch house toward the creek. She slowed Amanda to a trot and continued.

**
Slade stopped on the mountainside and started to prepare a camp. It was late in the afternoon and he was gathering wood for a fire when he saw the black horse trotting toward the creek.  He took his spyglass out of his saddlebags and recognized the rider as Cindy Richards. He noted the gun on her side and smiled when she stopped her horse and sat on a small boulder facing the water. No other riders were in sight.

This is your lucky day. Slade put his spyglass back in the right saddlebag and quickly saddled his horse.  He watched Cindy’s back trail which remained empty. Several minutes later, he rode toward Cindy.

**
Cindy sat by the creek, trying to control her mixed emotions. She knew Leland loved her, but she still wondered if he respected her. Several incidences over the last few days had brought about her indecisiveness. I’ve never let his stubbornness bother me before. Why is it getting to me now?

Amanda whinnied and snorted, but Cindy ignored her.

She sat lost in her thoughts until something landed over her and she was yanked backward off the boulder.  She realized someone had used a lariat on her and was dragging her away from the creek. “Leland Richards, I’m going to shoot you for sure….” She twisted around and stopped. Clay Slade was at the other end of the rope. She tried to reach for her gun.

***
Clay flipped the rope around her a few times and relieved her of her gun and holster. “You’re not going to be shooting anyone.” 
He slapped her. He admired the welt he had left and slapped her on the other side of the face.  He laughed. “That felt good.” 

Cindy spit out blood. “You bastard, you’re dead meat!” Her eyes filled with hatred and she spat in his face.

Clay balled up his fist and struck her in the stomach and rained blows all over her. She tried to fight back with her feet, but he avoided them and continued to land blows at will. It ended when he struck her jaw and she keeled over, unconscious.

“Spit on me, will you.” He worked up some saliva, spat on her and kicked her in the buttock. A few minutes later, he had her hands tied behind her. Recalling his treatment from Leland, he ripped her shirt and undergarment off.  His growing hatred and desire for revenge controlled him. 

He ignored her bare breasts and massaged his fists. Slade glared at her lying unconscious at his feet. He picked up her gun belt and torn shirt. “You’re going to get yours, but first I’m going to invite your husband to our party.”

**
Rebel and Cal had a parting drink with their host and left. The sheriff stopped when he saw Leland pacing. “Lover’s quarrel.”  He chuckled.

Cal laughed. “We’ve been there, done that.”

“With Lucinda, it wasn’t hard.”

“It was fun to make up, until she made a nuisance of herself.”

“Toward the end, she did that a lot.”

Rebel and Cal waved at Leland as they departed.

**
Leland’s nervousness increased when Cindy failed to return. He waved goodbye to Rebel and Cal and continued his pacing.

Tea came from the house and walked toward him.

“Do you know which direction she went?”

“Panhandle said she raced right through.”

“Where does she like to go when she’s upset?”

“There are several places. The direction she was heading, when Panhandle saw her, was toward the creek, but she could have ridden into town.”

“It’ll get dark soon; let’s go see if we can find her.”

“She told me not to follow her.’

“Rachel told me the same thing one time. I left her alone and she got into trouble with Pettigrew.”

Leland jumped on Sidewinder. “I’m going to the creek.”

Tea ran to saddle Thunder. He was coming out of the barn when Coffee came out of the house.

“What’s up?”

“Cindy hasn’t returned. We’re going looking for her.”

“Go ahead, I’ll get some boys and follow.” Coffee hurried toward the bunkhouse.

Tea yelled after him, “Bring some lanterns and torches.” He galloped after Leland.

Coffee and the crew left the ranch twenty minutes later. They found Leland and Tea at the creek crossing.

Tea motioned for Coffee to give him a lantern. “It looks like this is as far as she went, but she’s nowhere around.”

The sunlight was fading. Leland was a couple of hundred yards downstream.

Coffee struck a match on the seat of his jeans and lit the lantern. He and Tea started toward Leland who was holding something in his hand.

“What have you got?” Tea asked, holding the lantern higher.

“Part of her chemise. It looks like she cut one short to fit when she was wearing her jeans.”  He folded the material up and put it inside his shirt.. “Some bastard just signed his death warrant.”



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