|Western Fiction posted January 9, 2010||Chapters:||...33 34 -35-|
Answering some fans' questions.
A chapter in the book THE TOUGH BREED
Epilogue - Answering questions
The Peralt Land scandal led to violence pitting settlers against new arrivals that had fallen for the farce.
I’ve added an additional chapter because some of my fans couldn’t figure out how Cindy got Slade in the tree. Many were also concerned if Cindy continued to be angry with Leland. I hope you enjoy the final chapter of Tough Breed.
Cindy maintained her silence with Leland as they rode side-by-side. She ignored him when he offered his bedroll blanket to cover her bare legs. Slade’s shirt covered her to mid-thigh. She did not bother to see if the rest of the posse was joining them.
A couple of hours later, the group of riders reached the K-Bar. Cindy got off her horse, and walked to her father who was standing on the veranda. She hugged him and walked into the house without saying a word.
Leland dismounted and walked up the steps to his father-in-law. He shook his head. “She wouldn’t talk about her capture, except she left Clay to dance with a wild cat.”
“I’ve seen that look too many times on her mother’s face. Leave her be for now. Tell me what you know.”
Rebel and Cal joined Leland on the porch while the ranch hands took care of all the horses, except for Coffee’s, Tea’s, and Cindy’s. Tea and Coffee took care of them.
It was evident to Leland the colonel was upset. A stranger might have overlooked the cold-steeled eyes and discounted them as being an old man lost in thought. He knew the colonel’s temper was ready to explode.
When Coffee and Tea walked onto the veranda, the colonel led the way to his office without saying a word.
The silence was deafening as the colonel poured everyone a drink. He gave Leland a cold stare when the young man offered to pour them.
The colonel poured his drink last and sat at his desk. He stared at Rebel and Cal. “Gentlemen, why was my daughter’s life put in danger?”
Leland started to answer, “Sir, it was my fault….”
The colonel held up his hand and never took his eyes off Rebel and Cal. “I am waiting for your answer.”
Rebel shifted in his chair and held his glass without drinking. “I underestimated Slade. I thought he was a blow-hard coward. I never expected him to attack your daughter. I should have called him out when I had the chance.”
Leland winced inwardly as his father-in-law turned his eyes toward him.
“Why did it take so long for you to go after her?”
“She told me not to come after her,” Leland said weakly.
“These are dangerous times and you failed to take that into consideration.”
Cal cleared his throat. “Colonel, these men acted as quickly as they could. Your head-strong daughter is as much to blame as anyone.”
The colonel’s icy-steeled stare was matched by the Deputy United States Marshal’s.
Leland half expected the colonel to get out of his chair and strike Cal.
“Marshal, things have happened in the last two weeks of which you are unaware and all our lives are in danger.”
“Sheriff Pickens had filled me in. With the evidence he has gathered, we know it was Slade who shot you and your cook.”
The colonel stared at the two men. He singled out Rebel. “Slade must have been the one who shot at you.”
“I can’t prove it, but the evidence points to it.”
The door burst open and Cookie sat in the doorway in her wheelchair. “Where’s dat low life skun’?”
Leland stood and offered her his unused drink. “Cindy won’t tell us. All she has said is he wanted to dance with a wild cat.”
Cookie took the drink and downed it in one swallow. She handed the glass back to Leland. “I’se ain’t heard that sayin’ in years. Boy, you go up to her. She needs you mor’ dan ever. I kno’s wat happened to dat bastard.”
“What…” Leland was cut off.
“You ain’t got time to lollygag around here askin’ questions. Get yur ass upstairs, now!” Cookie rolled her chair backward and swatted Leland on the butt as he hurried out. She rolled into the office.
Cal looked at her. “What happened to Slade?”
Cookie nodded to the colonel. “He kno’s.”
Leland hurried up the stairs three steps at a time. He stopped in front of their bedroom door. He didn’t hear anything. After taking a deep breath, he slowly inched the door open.
A pillow crashed against the door. “Don’t you dare come in here!”
Leland paused for a second and opened the door wide. “I’m sorry I made you angry….”
“You’re sorry! I’m the fool who rode away and got into trouble!”
Leland closed the door and took a hesitant step toward the bed. “Is there anything I can do?”
Cindy stared at him. “Why aren’t you yelling at me?”
“I have no reason to. I hope I never will.”
Cindy's eyes softened. “That’s true, you have never yelled at me. … It’s not your fault. I was the one who didn’t listen to Amanda’s warning.”
“Honey, you were upset with me. I should’ve never made the comment about the ranch business not being your concern.”
Cindy looked at him. A long moment later, she smiled. “I’ll forgive you if you hold me.”
Leland moved closer to the bed.
“Git nekkid, first!” Cindy said, imitating Cookie’s dialect.
Cal looked at the colonel. “The term, “dancing with a wild cat” means making love?”
The colonel smiled. “I use to tell Kayla that making love to her was like dancing with a wild cat. I never told Cindy any stories about it.”
Cookie glared at the colonel. “Miss Kayla told me what you said, but I’se nev’r tol’ Cindy.”
Rebel finished off his drink. “I wondered where she heard it.”
All was right with Cindy’s world. She and Leland were lying face to face; her head buried under his chin. “You have any questions?”
Lightning flashed and thunder sounded. Soon, rain drops crashed against the window.
Leland pulled her tighter. “You said you hung him on a tree limb. How did you get him in the air?”
Cindy's hand slipped between them and she rested it on her favorite thing. “You gave me the idea when you told me about hanging the horse thieves upside down. Amanda was happy to help me.”
“So you left Slade, hanging in the tree without his shirt?”
“What do you mean?”
“I took his boots off and tied his ankles together. I used one rope for Amanda to pull him up and I used what was left of the other rope to tie him in place. Then I did to him what he did to me.”
“Do I want to know what he did to you?”
“He cut off my clothes, so I cut off his. I wanted a wild cat to smell his blood, so I cut off a piece of him and left it on the ground.”
“What did you cut off?”
Cindy squeezed. “Guess.”
Cindy and Leland did not come down for breakfast.
Consuela and Juanita took plates to them.
Rebel took a final sip of his coffee and nodded to the colonel. “We best be leaving.”
Cal and the colonel stood. He offered his host his hand. “All the tracks were probably washed away last night. As far as I’m concerned, the kidnapping case is closed.”
“Same for me,” Rebel said, standing and offering the colonel his hand. “I hope to be back with you in ninety days.”
Tea and Coffee walked out to the corrals. They saddled their horses and rode to the box canyon. Tea’s men were finishing up with separating the cattle to be shipped and releasing the chosen bulls and cows for breeding.
Pecos waved at the two as they dismounted. “We’re right on schedule. Thanks for your help.”
Tea smiled. “You’re welcome. A few of my boys will be coming back with some horses for our new ranch. We’d appreciate any help you can give them.”
“Not a problem on K-Bar’s part. We’ll be driving two herds to market. Slim has told us what the colonel did. Glad to have you as neighbors.”
Coffee looked over at Sure-shot. “You’re the new foreman of the Circle C when we take over, so you’ll be staying here.”
Pecos turned serious. “Is it true what Slim said about Cindy?”
Tea looked at him, dead-panned. “What was that?”
“Did she really feed Slade to a mountain lion?”
“That’s the story I heard and Slade ain’t around to dispute it.”
“I hope the lion doesn't come this way. His farts would not be appreciated. Slade stunk worse than a skunk without the lion adding his comments.”
Definitely, THE END
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