Coyote Trail

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Chapter 19: The Five on the Three on the Four

It was mid-morning when Ransom and his men came galloping onto the scene. Dan Blackwolf’s uncanny eyes immediately went to work scanning the area, sensing where to look and what to look for, while Ransom and Pinder rode up to the house. They found Digger, Miguel and his brother Juan mounted up and ready to ride.

It was Digger who spoke.

“We been waitin’ on you!”

“What’s happened here?” Ransom asked.

“The Spencers came through here yesterday.” the old timer replied urgently. “They made off with Ellie Masters, the owner of the place! We’re fixin’ to ride with you after ’em!”

Ransom sat there and looked over the three men skeptically.

“You men are lookin’ to be heroes, eh?”

He’d seen it many times before in his pursuits. The angry husband, the brother, the father, the friend, all filled with spit an’ fire, wanting to join the chase. Driven mainly by their emotions and not their brains, most times they just got in the way and wound up getting themselves killed!

“We’re just lookin’ to save Ellie from those animals that took her.” Digger replied. “We’re family an’ I say we’re comin’ along!”

Ransom shook his head, then stood up in his stirrups and looked around.

“Where’s Red Morgan?” he asked.

Digger looked over at Miguel and Miguel looked back at Digger, each with a puzzled expression on their face.

“We ain’t seen Red Morgan.” replied the old 49er. “We heard about him bein’ in town but we ain’t seen him since the first time he came through here!”

“I sent him back here to watch-dog this place.” Ransom explained. “If he ain’t in town an’ he ain’t here, then somethin’s happened to him!”

“Well maybe he took off after ’em.” Digger replied. “Or else they got a’hold of him too!”

Just then a shout from Dan Blackwolf drew their attention to the cluster of rocks atop the nearby knoll. The tracker stood there, waving them over. In an instant, the riders reigned around and were galloping towards the spot!

Ransom and Pinder got there first and hopped down from their mounts. They hurried up among the rocks to where the Indian stood, then stopped suddenly and found themselves looking down at the body of Ted Morgan! The others came running up and the men formed a circle around Morgan’s lifeless form.

Morgan’s body lay in a dried pool of blood; his hands were tied and bound behind him. His legs and feet were tied as well and a neckerchief gagged his mouth. Somebody had slit his throat from ear to ear!

“I’d say it was the work of Luke Spencer.” Pinder said. “Looks like Red had been neutralized, there was no need to kill him. That Luke Spencer just enjoys killin’!”

“The poor bastard was defenseless.” observed Ransom, shaking his head.

“You see there?” Said Digger, pointing to Morgan’s body. “The men we’re dealin’ with are nothin’ but cold-blooded murderers! What do you think they’ll do to that poor woman when they get the chance? We’re wastin’ time!”

Ransom shook his head in disgust. The Spencers had so far managed to elude him, staying one step ahead of him all the way. Now they had taken out one of his men and had taken a woman hostage too.

And then, he remembered something else.

“At least one of the Coyote Bandits made his way back to this ranch!” he said. “I’m talkin’ about the one named Duggan. Now, if you people have seen him or his half-breed friends, I want to know about it!”

Digger and Miguel looked at each other but neither spoke. Ransom waited a few moments for a response but there was silence.

He was getting impatient.

“He’s been here, hasn’t he?” he demanded.

“You got it all wrong mister!” the old timer shot back. “Hank Duggan ain’t one of the Coyote Bandits. He wanted to get away from ‘em! He showed up here one day with a gunshot wound and Ellie doctored him. It turned out that they both took a shine to each other. Then the Spencers showed up an’ nearly busted his head open! I’m surprised they didn’t kill him!”

Ransom looked inquisitively over at Howard.

“Story sounds about right to me.” Pinder confirmed. “If he’s a Coyote, he’s a downright reluctant one.”

“Where is he now?” Ransom asked.

Digger hesitated momentarily.

“At dawn, he took off out’a here after ’em.”

Looking down at Ted Morgan’s body, Ransom shook his head again and pointed to Miguel’s brother, Juan.

“You.” he ordered. “Bury this man!”

Ransom was hot. Not only due to the heat of the early summer sun, but because he was getting frustrated in the pursuit. He’d had his fill of criss-crossing the country after a bunch that apparently, had no idea of where the hell they were going! They would run and then double-back and then do it all over again and somehow, they always managed to elude him. Now the trail was getting hot and he was determined that this time, they wouldn’t get away!

He turned and started off towards the horses.

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