The pair half-trotted, half-cantered out of sight of the town. Brady understood at once that Rosa knew the lay of the land, so he let her lead him deeper into the chaparral covered desert into Mexico.
The sand, dirt and small rocks made for an easy trail to follow and Rosa knew this as she reined up so Brady was side-to-side with her. “There’s a canyon ahead. It leads up into the mountains. I know where there’s cave that we can use to hide.”
After entering the canyon’s mouth, Brady dismounted and using his slicker, smoothed over the hoof-prints of their horses, hoping to make it harder to see which direction they’d gone. He knew that if they had a half-decent tracker, he’d figure it out within a minute or less, but the delaying tactic made Brady feel better none-the-less.
It was a steep and narrow ledge of a trail as she turned from the sandy loam of the canyon’s dried up creek bed. The clatter of the horse’s hooves echoed through the towering sandstone cathedral’s and disappeared into nothingness.
The trail broke wider as the two rode higher where the echo of hooves died-off. Now it was hard, flat stone leading through the small gorges and slots carved into the mountain by centuries of rainfall.
With the height came the ability to see into the distance and for the first time Brady pulled-up to look back on where they had come. In between rises in the red and yellow earth he could see glimpses of dust as it streamed low across the horizon.
They were following at a quick pace, but far enough behind that they’d have to stop for the night because of the setting sun. Back on the trail, Brady hurried his horse forward to catch up with Rosa.
She had paused, having gotten down from her horse to give it a taste of water. Brady moved ahead of her as she double checked the cinch on her rig and lifted herself aboard.
The landscape was open and flat, laying at a slight downward angle, made of hard multilayered weathered sandstone and emptying into an uncharted abyss. On other side was a wall of some height.
“Right ahead of us, around that boulder,” she pointed.
Brady guided his horse towards the wall and proceeded around the angle of rock, that Rosa had indicated. That’s when he heard Rosa’s horse scream in deathly fear.
Looking back, he watched in horror as her horse first slipped downward on the rocky slope, then pitched itself onto it’s side, slamming Rosa hard to the ground. The horse continued to struggle and slide towards the gap as Rosa lay unconscious, her left foot still gathered in its stirrup.
Brady leaped from his horse and scrambled towards the downed horse and rider. By the time he touched the reins of the panicked horse, he knew it was too late to save both of them.
He sliced through the fender holding the stirrup and turned his head so as not to watch as the screaming horse slipped over the edge of the precipice and into the unknown darkness of the cavern below it. Refocusing, Brady looked Rosa over, noting she had several broken bones from where the animal, in it’s fright, had rolled over her en route to its death.
Gently, he lifted her battered and limp form from the rocky ledge and carried it around the boulder that she had pointed out. A few yards from there, he found the opening to the cave she’d described and he placed her inside the mouth.
For the next two-hours, Brady spent his time moving his horse into the nature-made shelter, building a small fire and caring for Rosa’s injuries. He was thankful when she fluttered her eyes and seconds later looked up at him.
“Lay still and rest. You’re badly hurt,” he calmly told her.