See Part 1 Here.
The next day started early. The men seemed eager, for a change, to get started. It was a hike up to the mine. Once there, he stopped and looked around. With any luck at all, this would be the last time he would climb up here. The view was of rolling hills, studded with alligator juniper and shrub oak. As the mining men examined the entrance, Zeke watched a javalina and her juvenile offspring trot, single file, across the prairie.
“You mind if we go in?”
“Go ahead,” Zeke said. “See what you’re payin’ for.”
He sat down and enjoyed the view as they went in. The sweat from the climb cooled his back as he wiped his face with his bandana. It seemed strange to be showing people his mine. He’d kept it secret for so long.
A noise behind him made him turn. Were the men done already?
He was face to face with a gun barrel. When he raised his eyes, it was the man from the alley, the night of the dance.
“Ha! The look on your face. Thought you were done with me, didn’t ya?”
Three more men crept down the hillside on each side of the mine entrance. Zeke could hardly form a coherent thought. Weren’t they supposed to be in jail in Globe?
The man waved his gun. “Get over there, out of sight of the entrance.” Zeke slowly got up and moved to the spot indicated. The other three men took position next to the entrance, out of sight of the two who would come out. Zeke eyed his rifle, lying on the ground where he’d been sitting. The man holding him at gunpoint picked it up and tossed it down the slope. “Just take it easy, there, son. No sense getting shot.”
Zeke agreed with him there. What was this guy’s name? “Delbert. You don’t have to do this.”
Delbert laughed. “Shut up. On your knees.” He moved behind Zeke. “You just keep quiet now. No callin’ out to your friends.”
Zeke felt helpless. He wasn’t friends with the mining men but he didn’t want to see them shot. “How’d you escape?”
“None of your business. Shut up.”
They waited, the sun beating down. Zeke could feel a trickle of sweat run down his spine. Could he warn the mining men somehow?
Delbert jabbed him with the gun barrel. “No ideas. I’ll shoot you first.”
Zeke guessed his thoughts were obvious. All he could think about now was Mary. Would she ever know what happened? Eventually. The coordinates were on the claim. Mr. Markum would send people out if he didn’t return, wouldn’t he?
He looked up. He could hear Woolsey and Brokaw talking as they came out. They were feet outside the entrance when they noticed Zeke on his knees, Delbert behind him.
“Howdy boys.” Delbert pointed at them as they stopped.
His partners moved behind the two mining men. Guns pointed at their backs.
“That’ll be far enough.” Delbert jabbed Zeke. “Stand up and get over there with them.”
Once Zeke was there Delbert said, “Now drop those gunbelts and kick them over here.”
Zeke watched the mining men slowly unbuckle the belts. Didn’t they have any tricks? He sighed as the belts hit the dirt and they kicked them over. Apparently not.
“Tie ‘em up.”
Zeke could feel his hands pulled back and tied behind him. The rope was biting into his wrists. “Let’s get them back to camp.”
The walk back was difficult. It was hard to keep his balance with his hands behind him. Once at camp, Delbert’s men tied the three of them to a tree and proceeded to explore the camp. One went for wood and soon they had a fire going and had Zeke’s food out and being cooked.
As night fell, Zeke worked the rope on his wrists. He was hungry but worse, he was thirsty. And angry. Not only was he tied up in his own camp, but they hadn’t even cared for the horses. He could hear Butters whinnying in complaint.
“Shut that horse up!”
“He’s thirsty and hungry.” Zeke felt he had to call out. He didn’t want his horse shot.
“Shut up, boy.”
“Feed the horses, Dan.”
“Why do I have to do it?”
“You want a ride out of here, don’t ya?”
There was mumbling Zeke couldn’t hear but the man was getting up to do what he was told.
“We could use some water,” Zeke called out.
Delbert laughed. “I’ll bet you could, boy.” The others with him laughed as well.
Zeke sighed and settled back.
“Nice try, son,” Woolsey said.
“You two have any ideas?”
“Nope,” Brokaw said. “Never been in this situation before.”
Great, Zeke thought. He continued to work at the ropes. His hands were slick. Blood, more’n likely, but he continued. Maybe they’d get slippery enough to get out of the ropes.
Eventually, Delbert’s men lay quiet around the dying fire. Zeke watched and worked. It seemed the ropes were getting looser. Twice he’d jerked awake, having fallen asleep as he worried the ropes.
The night sky wheeled around, and Zeke finally broke a hand loose. The moon had risen, and he could see blood dripping from his fingertips. He put a hand on Woolsey’s shoulder. “Stay quiet.” He untied Woolsey, then did the same with Brokaw. They wriggled out of the rope wrapping them around the tree. Zeke’s leg was asleep, and he could hardly stand on it as the prickles made his leg feel like ants were crawling all over it.
The three crept up on the sleeping men. Zeke went for Delbert, a rock in hand. Woolsey had a rock as well and Brokaw had a broken tree limb. Just as Zeke reached Delbert, the man rolled over in his sleep, muttering something. Terrified, Zeke smashed the man’s head. Woolsey and Brokaw did the same.
Zeke sank to his knees and did a sudden turn. The bile was a bitter as his anguish.