VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of www.fictionstories.ca Informational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


The Taking Of The Cache







Part of: DEAD MAN'S CACHE
From: Brand Blotters

It was understood that in the absence of the sheriff Richard Bellamy
should have charge of the posse, and after the disappearance of Flatray he
took command.

With the passing years Bellamy had become a larger figure in the
community. The Monte Cristo mine had made him independently wealthy, even
though he had deeded one-third of it to Melissy Lee. Arizona had forgiven
him his experiment at importing sheep and he was being spoken of as a
territorial delegate to Congress, a place the mine owner by no means
wanted. For his interests were now bound up in the Southwest. His home was
there. Already a little toddler's soft fat fist was clinging to the skirt
of Ferne.

At first Bellamy, as well as Farnum, McKinstra, young Yarnell and the rest
of the posse looked expectantly for the return of the sheriff. It was hard
to believe that one so virile, so competent, so much a dominant factor of
every situation he confronted, could have fallen a victim to the men he
hunted. But as the days passed with no news of him the conviction grew
that he had been waylaid and shot. The hunt went on, but the rule now was
that no move should be made singly. Not even for an hour did the couples
separate.

One evening a woman drifted into camp just as they were getting ready to
roll into their blankets. McKinstra was on sentry duty, but she got by him
unobserved and startled Farnum into drawing his gun.

Yet all she said was: "Buenos tardes, senor."

The woman was a wrinkled Mexican with a close-shut, bitter mouth and
bright, snappy eyes.

Farnum stared at her in surprise. "Who in Arizona are you?"

It was decidedly disturbing to think what might have happened if
MacQueen's outfit had dropped in on them, instead of one lone old woman.

"Rosario Chaves."

"Glad to meet you, ma'am. Won't you sit down?"

The others had by this time gathered around.

Rosario spoke in Spanish, and Bob Farnum answered in the same language.
"You want to find the way into Dead Man's Cache, senor?"

"Do we? I reckon yes!"

"Let me be your guide."

"You know the way in?"

"I live there."

"Connected with MacQueen's outfit, maybe?"

"I cook for him. My son was one of his men."

"Was?"

"Yes. He was killed--shot by Lieutenant O'Connor, the same man who was a
prisoner at the Cache until yesterday morning."

"Killed lately, ma'am?"

"Two years ago. We swore revenge. MacQueen did not keep his oath, the oath
we all swore together."

Bellamy began to understand the situation. She wanted to get back at
MacQueen, unless she were trying to lead them into a trap.

"Let's get this straight. MacQueen turned O'Connor loose, did he?" Bellamy
questioned.

"No. He escaped. This man--what you call him?--the sheriff, helped him and
Senor West to break away."

The mine owner's eye met Farnum's. They were being told much news.

"So they all escaped, did they?"

"Si, senor, but MacQueen took West and the sheriff next morning. They
could not find their way out of the valley."

"But O'Connor escaped. Is that it?"

Her eyes flashed hatred. "He escaped because the sheriff helped him. His
life was forfeit to me. So then was the sheriff's. MacQueen he admit it.
But when the girl promise to marry him he speak different."

"What girl?"

"Senorita Lee."

"Not Melissy Lee."

"Si, senor."

"My God! Melissy Lee a prisoner of that infernal villain. How did she come
there?"

The Mexican woman was surprised at the sudden change that had come over
the men. They had grown tense and alert. Interest had flamed into a
passionate eagerness.

Rosario Chaves told the story from beginning to end, so far as she knew
it; and every sentence of it wrung the big heart of these men. The pathos
of it hit them hard. Their little comrade, the girl they had been fond of
for years--the bravest, truest lass in Arizona--had fallen a victim to
this intolerable fate! They could have wept with the agony of it if they
had known how.

"Are you sure they were married? Maybe the thing slipped up," Alan
suggested, the hope father to the thought.

But this hope was denied him; for the woman had brought with her a copy of
the Mesa Sentinel, with an account of the marriage and the reason for
it. This had been issued on the morning after the event, and MacQueen had
brought it back with him to the Cache.

Bellamy arranged with the Mexican woman a plan of attack upon the valley.
Camp was struck at once, and she guided them through tortuous ravines and
gulches deeper into the Roaring Fork country. She left them in a grove of
aspens, just above the lip of the valley, on the side least frequented by
the outlaws.

They were to lie low until they should receive from her a signal that most
of the gang had left to take West to the place appointed for the exchange.
They were then to wait through the day until dusk, slip quietly down, and
capture the ranch before the return of the party with the gold. In case
anything should occur to delay the attack on the ranch, another signal was
to be given by Rosario.

The first signal was to be the hanging of washing upon the line. If this
should be removed before nightfall, Bellamy was to wait until he should
hear from her again.

Bellamy believed that the Chaves woman was playing square with him, but he
preferred to take no chances. As soon as she had left to return to the
settlement of the outlaws he moved camp again to a point almost half a
mile from the place where she had last seen them. If the whole thing were
a "plant," and a night attack had been planned, he wanted to be where he
and his men could ambush the ambushers, if necessary.

But the night passed without any alarm. As the morning wore away the
scheduled washing appeared on the line. Farnum crept down to the valley
lip and trained his glasses on the ranch house. Occasionally he could
discern somebody moving about, though there were not enough signs of
activity to show the presence of many people. All day the wash hung
drying on the line. Dusk came, the blankets still signaling that all was
well.

Bellamy led his men forward under cover, following the wooded ridge above
the Cache so long as there was light enough by which they might be
observed from the valley. With the growing darkness he began the descent
into the bowl just behind the corral. A light shone in the larger cabin;
and Bellamy knew that, unless Rosario were playing him false, the men
would be at supper there. He left his men lying down behind the corral,
while he crept forward to the window from which the light was coming.

In the room were two men and the Mexican woman. The men, with elbows far
apart, and knives and forks very busy, were giving strict attention to the
business in hand. Rosario waited upon them, but with ear and eye guiltily
alert to catch the least sound. The mine owner could even overhear
fragments of the talk.

"Ought to get back by midnight, don't you reckon? Pass the cow and the
sugar, Buck. Keep a-coming with that coffee, Rosario. I ain't a mite
afraid but what MacQueen will pull it off all right, you bet."

"Sure, he will. Give that molasses a shove, Tom----"

Bellamy drew his revolver and slipped around to the front door. He came in
so quietly that neither of the men heard him. Both had their backs to the
door.

"Figure it up, and it makes a right good week's work. I reckon I'll go
down to Chihuahua and break the bank at Miguel's," one of them was
saying.

"Better go to Yuma and break stones for a spell, Buck," suggested a voice
from the doorway.

Both men slewed their heads around as if they had been worked by the same
lever. Their mouths opened, and their eyes bulged. A shining revolver
covered them competently.

"Now, don't you, Buck--nor you either, Tom!" This advice because of a
tentative movement each had made with his right hand. "I'm awful careless
about spilling lead, when I get excited. Better reach for the roof; then
you won't have any temptations to suicide."

The hard eyes of the outlaws swept swiftly over the cattleman. Had he
shown any sign of indecision, they would have taken a chance and shot it
out. But he was so easily master of himself that the impulse to "draw"
died stillborn.

Bellamy gave a sharp, shrill whistle. Footsteps came pounding across the
open, and three armed men showed at the door.

"Darn my skin if the old son of a gun hasn't hogged all the glory!" Bob
Farnum complained joyfully. "Won't you introduce us to your friends,
Bellamy?"

"This gentleman with the biscuit in his hand is Buck; the one so partial
to porterhouse steak is Tom," returned Bellamy gravely.

"Glad to death to meet you, gents. Your hands seem so busy drilling for
the ceiling, we won't shake right now. If it would be any kindness to you,
I'll unload all this hardware, though. My! You tote enough with you to
start a store, boys."

"How did you find your way in?" growled Buck.

"Jest drifted in on our automobiles and airships," Bob told him airily, as
he unbuckled the revolver belt and handed it to one of his friends.

The outlaws were bound, after which Rosario cooked the posse a dinner.
This was eaten voraciously by all, for camp life had sharpened the
appetite for a woman's cooking.

One of the men kept watch to notify them when MacQueen and his gang should
enter the valley, while the others played "pitch" to pass the time. In
spite of this, the hours dragged. It was a good deal like waiting for a
battle to begin. Bellamy and Farnum had no nerves, but the others became
nervous and anxious.

"I reckon something is keeping them," suggested Alan, after looking at his
watch for the fifth time in half an hour. "Don't you reckon we better go
up the trail a bit to meet them?"

"I reckon we better wait here, Alan. Bid three," returned Farnum evenly.

As he spoke, their scout came running in.

"They're here, boys!"

"Good enough! How many of them?"

"Four of 'em, looked like. They were winding down the trail, and I
couldn't make out how many."

"All right, boys. Steady, now, till they get down from their horses. Hal,
out with the light when I give the word."

It was a minute to shake nerves of steel. They could hear the sound of
voices, an echo of jubilant laughter, the sound of iron shoes striking
stones in the trail. Then some one shouted:

"Oh, you, Buck!"

The program might have gone through as arranged, but for an unlooked-for
factor in the proceedings. Buck let out a shout of warning to his trapped
friends. Almost at the same instant the butt of Farnum's revolver smashed
down on his head; but the damage was already done.

Bellamy and his friends swarmed out like bees. The outlaws were waiting
irresolutely--some mounted, others beside their horses. Among them were
two pack horses.

"Hands up!" ordered the mine owner sharply.

The answer was a streak of fire from a rifle. Instantly there followed a
fusillade. Flash after flash lit up the darkness. Staccato oaths, cries, a
moan of pain, the trampling of frightened horses, filled the night with
confusion.

In spite of the shout of warning, the situation had come upon the bandits
as a complete surprise. How many were against them, whether or not they
were betrayed, the certainty that the law had at last taken them at a
disadvantage--these things worked with the darkness for the posse. A man
flung himself on his pony, lay low on its back, and galloped wildly into
the night. A second wheeled and followed at his heels. Hank Irwin was
down, with a bullet from a carbine through his jaw and the back of his
head. A wild shot had brought down another. Of the outlaws only MacQueen,
standing behind his horse as he fired, remained on the field uninjured.

The cattlemen had scattered as the firing began, and had availed
themselves of such cover as was to be had. Now they concentrated their
fire on the leader of the outlaws. His horse staggered and went down,
badly torn by a rifle bullet. A moment later the special thirty-two
carbine he carried was knocked from his hands by another shot.

He crouched and ran to Irwin's horse, flung himself to the saddle,
deliberately emptied his revolver at his foes, and put spurs to the
broncho. As he vanished into the hills Bob Farnum slowly sank to the
ground.

"I've got mine, Bellamy. Blamed if he ain't plumb bust my laig!"

The mine owner covered the two wounded outlaws, while his men disarmed
them. Then he walked across to his friend, laid down his rifle, and knelt
beside him.

"Did he get you bad, old man?"

"Bad enough so I reckon I'll have a doc look at it one of these days." Bob
grinned to keep down the pain.

Once more there came the sound of hoofs beating the trail of decomposed
granite. Bellamy looked up and grasped his rifle. A single rider loomed
out of the darkness and dragged his horse to a halt, a dozen yards from
the mine owner, in such a position that he was directly behind one of the
pack horses.

"Up with your hands!" ordered Bellamy on suspicion.

Two hands went swiftly up from beside the saddle. The moonlight gleamed on
something bright in the right hand. A flash rent the night. A jagged,
red-hot pain tore through the shoulder of Hal Yarnell. He fired wildly,
the shock having spoiled his aim.

The attacker laughed exultantly, mockingly, as he swung his horse about.

"A present from Black MacQueen," he jeered.

With that, he was gone again, taking the pack animal with him. He had had
the audacity to come back after his loot--and had got some of it, too.

One of the unwounded cowpunchers gave pursuit, but half an hour later he
returned ruefully.

"I lost him somehow--darned if I know how. I seen him before me one
minute; the next he was gone. Must 'a' known some trail that led off from
the road, I reckon."

Bellamy said nothing. He intended to take up the trail in person; but
first the wounded had to be looked to, a man dispatched for a doctor, and
things made safe against another possible but improbable attack. It was to
be a busy night; for he had on hand three wounded men, as well as two
prisoners who were sound. An examination showed him that neither of the
two wounded outlaws nor Farnum nor Yarnell were fatally shot. All were
hardy outdoors men, who had lived in the balsamic air of the hills; if
complications did not ensue, they would recover beyond question.

In this extremity Rosario was a first aid to the injured. She had betrayed
the bandits without the least compunction, because they had ignored the
oath of vengeance against the slayer of her son; but she nursed them all
impartially and skillfully until the doctor arrived, late next day.

Meanwhile Bellamy and McKinstra, guided by one of the outlaws, surprised
Jeff and released Flatray, who returned with them to camp.

With the doctor had come also four members of the Lee posse. To the deputy
in charge Jack turned over his four prisoners and the gold recovered. As
soon as the doctor had examined and dressed his wound he mounted and took
the trail after MacQueen. With him rode Bellamy.





Next: Melissy Entertains

Previous: Squire Latimer Takes A Hand



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 430