Chapter 10: Enter, the Spencer Brothers
The desert night was calm and silent, with only the faintest trace of a cool breeze to be felt. Faint wisps of smoke rose from the glowing embers of a spent fire while the three exhausted men slept.
Though Clay Big Thunder had been the one on watch, being as exhausted as he was, he had momentarily nodded off. He stirred in his sleep, opened his eyes and remembered where he was.
How long had he been out?
He lay there motionless and silent, his senses alert. There was the faint sound of Hank and Edgar’s breathing, the occasional crackling of the smoldering embers . . . but the half-breed sensed something more, something close.
He sat up with a start.
There, only a few feet beyond his boot heels, sat the dark, silent form of the coyote!
“What are you here to tell me old man?” he whispered. “Is there somebody out there?”
The coyote’s eyes glowed eerily as the animal stood up on all four. The creature slowly backed away and its head darted left, right and then back at Clay. It barked out a warning and then instantly turned and darted away!
The coyote’s bark awakened Edgar like a shot! He sat up and brought to bear the old Merwin, all in one motion!
“We got company.” Clay whispered as he reached for the Winchester that lay at his side. The outlaw glanced over at Hank.
He had awakened as well and with one look at the two brothers, he realized that something was up. Duggan’s hand went for the rifle on the blanket beside him. The three men waited, their senses heightened and alert.
Out of the stillness of the desert night, a voice called out.
“Hello the camp!” A man said. “Hold yer fire, we’re commin’ in!”
There was nowhere to hide as the dark shapes of four mounted men slowly converged upon the little campsite, each one from a different direction! The Coyote Bandits realized that they were surrounded! Each man had to turn and point his weapon in a different direction to cover the approaching horsemen.
The four intruders drew up and sat silently in the darkness, their weapons at the ready. Nobody moved as seven men pointed seven guns at each other in the stillness of the night.
Duggan’s whole body trembled with fear.
These must be the bounty hunters Clay was talkin’ about. His knees suddenly felt weak as he realized that one wrong move on anyone’s part would cause bullets to fly and men to die. This is it he thought, this is where I get killed a hundred years before I’m born!
“Somebody put some fuel on that fire!” barked one of the riders.
The Big Thunder brothers looked at each other in surprise. They too had initially thought that somehow, Ransom and his men had caught up with them, but now there was no mistaking the voice.
“Do it yourself, Daniel Spencer.” Edgar scowled.
The eldest of the Spencer brothers, Daniel was a gruff, middle aged man with a weather worn face and a thick mustache. He leaned forward in the saddle and squinted in Edgar’s direction.
“Is that you Ed?”
“Yea, it’s me alright.” Edgar replied as he held his gun steady on David, the ‘slow minded’ Spencer who in turn, held his gun on him!
“Well I’ll be damned! How’d you get away?”
“Old Indian medicine.” replied Clayton. He kept his eyes and his gun trained on Luke Spencer, the youngest and meanest of the bunch.
Hank Duggan’s heart pounded in his chest and sweat dripped down his face. He stood pointing the Henry at the dark form of Joseph Spencer and at the same time, staring down the bore of Joe’s Colt.
Daniel Spencer holstered his gun and climbed down out of the saddle. Nobody else moved as he walked slowly over and put some fuel on the fire.
“I like to see who I’m talkin’ to.” he said as the flames grew and lit up the circle of men and horses.
“You turned on us you son of a bitch!” Edgar scowled.
There was silence as Daniel knelt by the fire and checked to see if there was any coffee in the pot.
“You left us for dead or for Ransom!” Clay added.
Daniel stood, shook his head and laughed.
“I guess we did.” he replied. “What’re you boys gonna do about it?”
There was a long silence. Nobody said a word or made a move. Daniel looked at Edgar and then over at Clay for a response and when none was forthcoming, he shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s what I thought.” he said.
Luke Spencer was getting fidgety.
“I say we kill ’em! Let’s just shoot ‘em down here an’ now!”
Luke just loved to kill things.
It didn’t matter if it had two legs or four, or wings for that matter, he’d kill it and take great pleasure in doing so. He’d never been quite right in the head and Daniel for one, about had his fill of his brothers sick infatuation.
“You just keep your damned mouth shut!” he ordered.
“The way I see it, they ought to be dead already!” The kid retorted. He cocked his gun and held it at arms length, sighting it on Clayton.
“I told you to shut yer mouth!” Daniel yelled.
The sound of Daniel’s shout spooked the kid’s skittery horse. It whinnied and reared up, knocking him off balance and causing his gun to go off harmlessly in the air! The loud boom split the desert silence!
In the same instant, everybody moved at once!
Clay dove, rolling to the ground. He came up and fired on Luke just as he had recovered and was bringing his gun to bear! The bullet went through Luke’s left forearm but he managed to squeeze off a shot in return!
That bullet missed its target as Clay hit the ground.
Edgar’s gun boomed and he leapt forward as David Spencer fell backwards from his mount, a bullet hole in his chest.
Hank Duggan saw the flash of the gun in Joe Spencer’s hand. He heard the shot and then felt the bullet as it penetrated his left shoulder! At that instant, he was knocked off his feet! His finger twitched on the trigger and he heard his own rifle go off. The next thing he knew, he was flat on his back on the ground!
Daniel had seen Luke’s horse rear up and he saw Edgar shoot and dive. He spun around and reached for his gun as Edgar rolled and came up. Daniel drew, fired and missed the half-breed, who dove for cover behind a clump of cacti!
Looking hurriedly around, Daniel made a run for his horse.
He leaped up into the saddle just as Edgar rose up and fired. Daniel heard the bullet as it whizzed close by his head and he returned fire just as Edgar dropped back under cover behind the cactus! Reining the horse around, Daniel saw his two brothers making their getaway at a full gallop.
“We’ll settle this later!” he yelled.
He emptied his gun, shooting wildly first at Edgar and then Clayton, then he dug in his spurs and charged off like a bat out of hell, leaving only a cloud of dust behind!
Four men lay on the dry, desert ground as Daniel, Joe and Luke disappeared into the night. The dust settled softly as the sound of the pounding hooves faded into the distance and the desert returned again to its former stillness.
Somewhere out in the darkness, the coyote looked on.