They knew the lay of the land better heading south than they would going north. In fact there were several narrow canyons and ravines that they could use to evade the coming riders.
“Not only can we delay them, we can fight them from there if push comes to shove,” Brady offered.
Morning broke faster than either man liked, but they had no control over mother nature. Instead they urged their horses to move faster now that there was light to see by.
Once inside the maze of canyons and ravines, they slowed their pace and sought higher ground. Soon they could ride no more and found it necessary to guide their mounts along the narrow trails to the top of a small butte.
Eventually they made it to the top. John quickly scouted around the flattened surface and found that the way up was also the only way down, unless one climbed or fell. In the mean time, Brady yanked Billy off the back of the horse and pulled off his gag.
“You ain’t gonna live through this, you know,” Billy warned.
“Maybe we won’t, but then neither will you,” Brady reminded the young man.
“Helluva place to make a last stand,” John commented.
Brady smiled, “Get some sleep. I’ll wake you in a couple of hours.”
As John slept, Brady built a small fire and boiled some water for coffee. He figured that they ought to have some comforts before the big gun battle began.
“Can I have some of that?” Billy asked.
“You gonna behave if I let you?” Brady countered.
“You have my word,” Billy answered.
Brady set about untying the young man and taking away his boots. Billy laid on his belly for a few minutes waiting for the pins-and-needles to subside before rolling over and sitting up.
Revolver in hand and cocked, Brady pour a small amount of coffee in a tin and handed it to Billy. “Not that I don’t trust you or anything.”
Billy took a sip of the hot liquid, “Thanks, mister.”
So far there was no sign of a posse, so Brady let John sleep an extra hour. After waking him, John stood guard as Brady reapplied rope bindings to Billy’s wrists and ankles.
Soon nightfall came and Brady was finally able to get some much-needed shut-eye. John sat watching Billy and quietly listening for out-of-place sounds as the sun finally sank beyond the horizon.
Brady and John traded off night watch six more times throughout the dark hours of the day. They maintained the same routine though out the daylight hours, too.
For nearly two-days they waited for the posse to come riding their way, but nothing. As noon approached that second day, Brady told John, “I’m going to go have a look around.”
Brady saddled his horse and guided the beast down the narrow trail, till he could safely mount and ride. Once outside the slots, he rode back in the direction of Bixby.
“Nothing,” he said to the horse. “I think we’ve gotten clear of the scrape.”
He reined his horse around and headed back to the butte. Once back, he suggested that they cut the kid free, give him a horse and they go their separate ways; John to the west, Brady to the east, Billy to Bixby.
As they discussed this possible plan, John asked, “How come you never asked about the gold or tied to take it.”
Smiling Brady answered, “First, it ain’t my business and second, I know what sort of trouble gold can bring a man.”
“What sort of trouble do you think Billy can get in if he had a few coins of his own?” John wondered.
“Depends on what sort of man he wants to be,” Brady offered. “Greedy like his old man or willing to invest in something and work for what he wants. Only time will tell.”
By mid-afternoon, with the camp struck and supplies divided, John left first, leaving behind a mule as he was now riding a horse. Billy and Brady sat silently watching as John disappeared over the horizon.
As nighttime fell, Brady sat beside Billy, “You’re gonna get paid for your troubles.” He opened his hand and showed the young man ten gold coins left to him by John.
“Does that mean you ain’t gonna kill me or leave me to rot up here?” Billy said with surprise.
“Nope. Gonna let you go and with a horse, too.”
“Promise me one thing though, Bill.”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“Don’t be like your father – greedy and a bully.”
Brady stood up and pulled from his pocket a Barlow. He opened the large blade and sliced through the ropes holding Billy’s ankles and wrists.
“Your boots are over there,” he said as he handed the coins to Billy.
As Billy stood and pocketed the coins, Brady stepped over to his horse and with the mule in tow, headed down the trail to the point where he could ride and headed for the canyon entrance. He was some distance away when he heard the pounding of hoofs rapidly coming his way.
He instantly recognized the rider; Billy.
“If you don’t mind mister, I’d like to tag along with you. There ain’t nothin’ left for me back in Bixby.”
“You’re welcome to come along. I could use the company,” Brady replied.
The pair nosed their horses east and slowly weaved their way through the rough scrub until darkness over took them and they had to stop for the night. A new day and a fresh start would come soon.