See Part 1 Here.
The next morning he said goodbye to Mary and after stashing a napkin-wrapped bundle of biscuits with butter and ham in his saddle bag, he left for town. It was a good day, starting off cool with the sky a clear blue. Birds sang as he passed, and a coyote hurried across the road ahead of him. He mentally reviewed the contents of his saddle-bags. Mrs. Estrada had been generous, and he had beans and flour and bacon enough for the nine days he planned to be gone. He had some cornmeal as well to make cornbread if there was time. His canteens were full, and he had feed for Butters too. This was just supposed to be a quick trip. He hoped it would go according to plan and that Mr. Woolsey and Mr. Brokaw were experienced outdoorsmen. If they were tenderfeet, it was going to be a long trip.
Markum was on the hotel porch in one of the rocking chairs, when Zeke arrived. He tied Butters to a rail and went up the steps. “Mr. Markum. Mornin’.”
“Good morning, Zeke. Woolsey and Brokaw were just finishing breakfast. They’ll be out shortly.”
Zeke nodded and took the chair next to Markum. “They have supplies for nine days?”
“I believe so. I saw them in the general store yesterday, buying supplies. I put in a good word with them at the livery, to get good horses.” The man eyed Zeke. “You have everything you need?”
“I do. It’s out and back, so I didn’t bring a lot.”
Markum nodded. “The men who ambushed you are being sent down to Globe for trial.”
“Good.” Zeke was relieved. “I wondered how that was going to be handled.”
“The sheriff found some wanted posters. He telegraphed the sheriff down there. Turns out they are wanted for several claim-jumping and assault charges. Colton told me you have some reward money coming.”
Zeke rubbed his face and nodded. It wasn’t that the money wasn’t welcome. Between the three gunmen and however much these brush-poppers were going to bring in, he had several years-worth of income in the bank. Nothing to scoff at. But the stares and the speculation were more than he wanted to deal with. Even as he thought that, men passing by were looking at him. He couldn’t wait to get out on the trail. “Appreciate the news.” He turned to look at the front doors of the hotel. They were open to the morning air. Where were those men?
“They’ll be out soon.”
Zeke looked at him with eyebrows raised.
Markum laughed. “I can see you looking for them.”
Zeke nodded. “Just want to get going before the day gets hot.”
So they waited, talking about the assay business, mining in general, and some of the town gossip. It was an hour and a half before Woolsey and Brokaw came out the front doors. “Ready?” Woolsey said.
He was more jovial than he had a right to be as far as Zeke was concerned. They at least had their saddlebags in hand. “Ready.” He stood up and shook Markum’s hand. “Appreciate you coming out, Mr. Markum.”
“Glad to be here, Mr. Stanford.” He tipped his hat to the mining company men. “Safe trip, gentlemen.”
“We plan on it,” Brokaw said.
“I’ll walk with you to the livery,” Zeke told them. He left the porch and untied Butters as Markum shook their hands. Finally, they left the porch and headed to the livery. Zeke, leading Butters, walked with them. “You have to do this often? Travel out to some mine or other, I mean.”
“Often enough,” Woolsey replied. “All over the west. Where ever the company sends us to look.”
Zeke thought that sounded uncomfortable at best. He was mining now, but when he was married and settled down, he wanted to sleep at home in his own bed.
“How about you, son. You been mining long?”
Zeke shrugged. “A little over a year, now. Left my Pa’s ranch and came west.”
Brokaw nodded. “Sowing a little wild oats?”
Zeke didn’t like the way the man sneered. “Just looking for a strike. Then for a good place to ranch.”
The conversation ended when they reached the livery. The man had the horses ready to go. Zeke was glad. He was ready to get on the trail. Once they had their saddlebags in place and were mounted, Zeke got on Butters and led the men out of town and across the chaparral. It was good to get back out on the trail.