Leadville by James D. Best Read Free Book Online

Book: Leadville by James D. Best Read Free Book Online
Authors: James D. Best
Tags: Fiction, Literary, Westerns
    “Then we may be here awhile,” I mused.
    “Yep. Good place too. Can’t come at us from behind, an’ these boulders’ll stop any bullets they throw at us from the front.”
    I looked up and down the still valley. I saw no life, and the only sound I heard was a distant crow making an ugly squawk like something had jerked its leg. Otherwise, it was dead quiet, and our camp felt as lonely as a graveyard in an abandoned town. “I bet they’re long gone.”
    “Probably, but ya can’t be too careful.”
    “Of course you can … but I guess that means no fires.”
    “No fires.” Sharp swung his arm around. “See them ridges? Easy to spot even a small fire from up there.”
    “Then they’ve probably already seen us.”
    “Not necessarily. Indians have a low opinion of whites. They know we like fires when it’s cold. They might take a peek over that ridge at nightfall but otherwise ignore this valley.”
    “Sounds careless.”
    “Not from their point of view. They surely got a bead on that other posse, so occasionally, they’ll just check to see if there’s another group of pursuers. A second party’s not their first concern.”
    “Thinking like an Indian?”
    “Thinkin’ like someone pursued.” Sharp unbridled one of the packhorses and gave him a swat on the rear to move him out of his way. “That other posse messed the trail, but they’ll also keep that Ute band busy. ’Bout time those boys lent us a hand.”
    Our riding partners meandered back and, without a word, Red mounted and walked his horse away from us along the cliff line. McAllen looked over our handiwork and offered no suggestions. He hefted his saddle and laid it up against a boulder. Then he did something I copied. With both hands, he started pulling out the long grass and throwing it where he intended to put his bedroll. I guessed they decided Red would track the Utes all the way to their lair. If we were going to be here awhile, might as well get comfortable.
    It took us half an hour to pull enough grass for our crude mattresses. The sun had slid behind a mountain peak, turning the rock formations red and gold with a scattering of green splotches from the low-lying junipers.
    McAllen seemed to mull something over and then said, “Gather up some dry wood for a fire in the morning.”
    Sharp looked puzzled. “A fire can be seen from above.”
    “Only from the north if we build it close to the cliff.” McAllen examined the mountains to the north of us. “Hell, if they went that way, they’ve eluded us already.”
    Sharp and I trudged off to search for loose wood that wouldn’t require the noise of a hatchet. “Has he lost hope?” I asked, noticing that the air had grown so cold I could see my breath.
    “He’s a realist. Our chances are slim.”
    “Listen. We’re late. He’s bettin’ his daughter’s life that they went south. If he’s wrong, we’ll never find her. Let’s just get some wood.”
    I wasn’t going to argue. I was cold.
    We returned with armloads of wood and picked a spot directly under the high cliff. I arranged everything so that only a match would be needed in the morning, and Sharp brought over the sacks that contained our food supply. About thirty feet away, McAllen sat cleaning his rifle against one of the boulders that fortified our new home.
    “How ’bout fish for dinner?” Sharp asked as he went over to our pile of gunnysacks.
    “I see a waterfall, but I don’t see a stream,” I said.
    “Sardines … canned.”
    “Sounds better than cold beans. I’m not sure I’d enjoy them out of a can after that gourmet meal last night.”
    “Exactly. Pales by comparison.”
    With that, Sharp pulled out three cans of sardines and some hardtack biscuits. Now I understood why Sharp had been eager to eat at Greta’s again. Then he tossed me three apples that I barely managed to juggle. “Dessert,” he said.
    When we had finished eating, McAllen said, “We need to post a

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