To catch up with our story so far, begin here.
It felt like a life time since he’d last looked up into the night-time and viewed the dazzle of stars above him. Brady lay on his bed roll, saddle for a pillow, in the cradle of some boulders and rocks as the fire burned down to embers.
For days it had been hard to clear his mind of Rosa, of Keene and the town that bore his name. He was happy to be done with it – save for Rosa. Brady slowly drifted into a restless sleep.
“Hallo, the camp,” called a voice.
The call jarred Brady from the first peaceful sleep he’d had in ages. He slipped his revolver from it’s holster and waited for the voice to call again.
“Hallo, the camp,” the voice sang out.
Sitting up Brady returned, “Come into the light and be recognized!”
Not far off came the sound of hooves trudging through the hardened sand and clicking against errant pebbles. Soon Brady could see a figure, behind it two mules and nothing else.
He tossed a couple of sticks on the embers and the camp’s fire jumped to life. The figure moved closer until Brady could see his face.
“John!” Brady nearly shouted as he scrambled to his feet.
The two men shook hands, “Good to see you, too,” John replied.
Adding even more wood to the fire, Brady set the coffee to heating and then dug around for a couple of biscuits to offer his foot-weary guest. “I was wondering how you made out,” he said as he poured some coffee into John’s tin.
“I knew there was gonna be hell to pay,” John explained, “if I stuck around after you escaped.”
He continued to tell how earlier in the same evening when Brady slipped out of the dungeon, he had already made his get away. “I lit a-shuck south, then west and finally north to avoid anyone who might be lookin’ for me.”
John also explained how Rosa came to be captive of George Keene, and it came as a surprise, “She was married to him. By the time she figgered out who and what Keene was all about it was too late, she’d been cut off from her family and had no way to let’em know she was unhappy.”
Brady sat their absorbing the information. He realized he’d made he out to be more than human, nearly angelic in his mind, and that she had escaped a bad marriage and he had butted in where he shouldn’t have been.
“Saw what happened to the town,” John added. “Alcala and his men pretty much razed it. Kinda reminded me of Charleston back in the war betwixt the states. I was only a youth then, but it’s something I never forgot. Been workin’ my way west ever-since.”
Before the pair knew it, the sun was pushing it’s way up over the eastern-edge of the distant mountains. With no sleep the two ate a quick breakfast of fried potatoes and more coffee, before striking camp and starting north.
“Still can’t figure how come she picked me to help her,” Brady stated.
John smiled and laughed slightly, “She asked every stranger that rode into Keene. She was desperate.”
“But, why not simply ride off on her own?” Brady asked, not expecting an answer and none was coming.