Coyote Trail

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Chapter 21: Family Problems

Daniel Spencer bathed himself in the cool water of the San Juan. He felt the tension in his muscles relax as he soaked and wrung out his clothing. All his problems seemed suspended in time as he washed off the dirt and stink of the trail. Still, before long, he emerged from the water. He put his damp clothing right back on, there was no time to wait for it to dry. The clothes felt cool against his skin.

Finally, feeling much better, he made his way back to the cabin.

He stepped through the back door and at first sight, couldn’t believe his eyes! The woman was gone and his brother out cold on the floor! Cursing, he prodded his brothers still form with his boot.

“Wake up dammit!” he shouted.

Joseph groaned and began to stir.

“I told you to watch the woman, you idiot!” he raged, “Instead, you let her get away!”

Joe slowly raised himself up from the floor, shakin’ his head as his senses returned. “She won’t get very far.” he said.

Crunching bits of broken glass under his boots, Daniel stepped out the front door and started cursing again! There was the kid, down on all four and shaking his groggy head!

“God-damned idiots!” Daniel raged. “The both of you!”

As Luke got to his wobbly feet, anger overrode the pain in his head and crotch.

“I’ve had just about enough of you!” he retaliated. “I’m goin’ after that bitch and when I’m done with ’er, there won’t be much left!”

Like a mad man, he half ran, half stumbled off to get his horse!

Daniel yelled after him, “Come back here you damned fool!” but the kid paid him no heed.

“You know what he’ll do to her if he gets his hands on her.” Joseph warned. He stepped from the cabin door hesitantly, like a guilty child. “That is unless she gets him first . . . she took my gun!”

“How could you be so stupid?” Daniel raged.

“I just wanted to play with ’er a little.” Joe replied in self-defense.

Suddenly there was the sound of pounding hooves and Luke came charging up through the trees to where his two brothers stood! He reared up his horse in defiance.

“Luke!” Daniel yelled, “Forget about her, let her go!”

“To hell with you!” Luke shouted. “From now on, I’ll do just what I like and don’t you try to stop me! I’m warnin’ you!”

With a wicked jerk, he whipped the horse’s head around and dug in his spurs! The horse sprang to a gallop and Luke disappeared off through the trees! The two outlaws could only stand and look on as the kid disappeared from view.

Daniel knew that the situation with his little brother was finally out of control. How many more murders would take place before it all came to an end?

In a way, he felt the responsibility was his own.

Many a time, he could have stopped the killing but there was only one way to do that and he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger on his own brother. Now the kid was chasing down another victim and again, Daniel was feeling responsible.

“What do we do now?” Joe asked, “Go after him?”

The outlaw turned to his brother, when his eyes came to rest on an old, worn-out wagon wheel that leaned forlornly against the side of the cabin.

Suddenly, there was an alternative!

“I got another idea.” He said. “We both know that Luke ain’t ever gonna change his murderin’ ways!”

Joe was shaking bits of glass from his hair.

“I reckon not.” He answered.

“Well then, we’ve got a decision to make right here an’ now!”

By the look on his brother’s face, Joe could tell that he was dead serious.

“What decision would that be?” he asked uneasily.

“I say we bust him over the head, hog-tie the sonofabitch an’ leave him for Matt Ransom and his boys!”

The suggestion didn’t exactly come as a surprise to Joe. He knew it would all build up into something like this eventually. Still . . .

“I don’t know, Daniel.” He replied in hesitation.

“Dammit, we got no other choice!” Daniel argued in frustration; “How many more people are gonna die before it’s over? You an’ me, we could find someplace where there’s nobody to dog us. We could use different names, quit runnin’ and make some new kind of life for ourselves! How are we ever gonna be able to do that as long as we’re lumbered with that murderin’ devil?”

Daniel’s voice took on a more pleading tone.

“Lord knows I thought about pullin’ the trigger on him many’s a time! I reckon I just couldn’t ever bring myself to do it. But this way, all we have to do is turn him over to the law and let the law deal with him!”

Again, Joseph knew his brother was right. There was no denying that the kid was totally out of control. One day soon, it would come to a showdown between his two brothers and if Daniel hesitated to use a gun . . . Luke wouldn’t.

“I reckon you’re right.” he admitted. “But if we do as you say, we’ll be givin’ Ransom time to catch up with us.”

“I’m ready an’ willin’ to take that chance!” Daniel replied. “Are you with me on this or not?”

Joseph looked off in the direction Luke had gone.

“Well, if we’re gonna do it, I guess we’d better get a move on.” he said, “We’re wastin’ time.”

The two of them turned and hurried off to collect their mounts.

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