To Walker, at first, the sound of voices seemed far away and the words were all jumbled up. He felt sick to his stomach and his head throbbed with incredible pain.
An inner voice warned him not to move a muscle or make a sound. As he regained full consciousness he started remembering what had happened, and in realizing this he knew the voices he was hearing were his captors. Walker decided to pretend he was still unconscious and see if he could learn anything that might tell him what was going on.
It was while faking his unconsciousness he heard a voice he recognized, it was the same voice he had heard just before the lights went out.
“Once we find out what that Indian knows we get rid of him and then finish what we started. After that, we take care of fancy pants Blackjack, or whatever he calls himself. Like I said before, why should we take all the chances and do the work while he gets half the take? Just the gold we took off that old fool with the patch over his eye paid mister high and mighty pert-near ten thousand dollars. Look how many of us there is ta have ta split the other half …yah, the more I think about it the more I think It’s time ta deal him out!”
Walker could tell this gent was working the men, standing around, into a lather and he also knew his time was running out, but what could he do? He had tested his bonds as best as he could without revealing the fact he had regained consciousness and found then unyielding no matter what he tried.
How long he could play possum was anybody’s guess, but he knew it couldn’t last long.
“Don’t fer get I come up here fer a different reason than the rest of you fellers. When I ran inta ole Scar Face and he told me what ya all were up ta I figured I’d throw in with ya and get some of that easy gold, but remember, I’m up here figurin’ ta even the score fer my brother Jake a gettin’ kilt and that Sourdough feller’s the one who’s doin’ the payin’!
Jake was my older brother, if only by a few minutes, we always covered each other’s back, even if it meant takin’ the blame fer the other ones’ crimes …We looked so identical no one could tell us apart”
The sound of a horse outside and then the sound of shuffling feet and guns being drawn from holsters caused the conversation to end prematurely.
In a moment the cause for the commotion came busting through the door.
“Scar Face,” One of the outlaws exclaimed, “Whata ya doin’ here? Ya weren’t sa’pose ta come out here till tamarree.”
“O’ shut up ya fool, an’ the rest of ya holster them irons, a fer I start thinkin’ about throwin’ some lead in yer direction myself,” he bellowed with an obvious southern accent.
“I come out a day early ta warn ya about a U.S. marshal bein’ in town. After I seen em as I was a leavein’ the Grub Tent, I checked around town and found out he was the genuine thing an’ no one ta fool with. They called him Dusty Sourdough, but I got a feelin’ that ain’t his real name, the fact is I know I saw em somewhere afore. I just can’t remember where . . .”
He pondered his own words for a moment and then added, “but I’ll remember … ya can count on that!”
It was at that moment Scar Face spotted Walker lying in the corner tied and gagged, after Jake’s’ brother explained how he had caught him snooping around, he went over and violently jerked Walker to his feet. This caught the big Indian by surprise and his eyes came open with a startled look.
“I thought ya all said this Indian was knocked out! He’s probably been a lyin’ here a listen ta ya fools spillin’ all our plans.”
The man, whom the others seemed to cower from, still had Walker by the front of his shirt with one hand, and with the other one, he suddenly struck Walker a wicked blow to the face, catching him by surprise. Any other man would have been knocked unconscious, but Walker wasn’t just any other man.
“Well now, I guess we got us here a tuff Indian!” Scar Face said, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
“We’ll see how tuff ya are when I get through with ya. Back in the war, I had me some Yankees thought they were tuff, but when I got through with um they were babblin’ like babies a-tellin’ me all they know’d.”
The cruel look in Scar Faces’ eyes sent a chill down Walkers’ back. He knew this poor excuse for a human being was sadistic and took great pleasure in causing pain. Knowing that, he also knew more of that was on the way, so he prepared himself for the next blow.
When it came the pain was so intense the big Indian almost passed out, his knees started to buckle, but to the astonishment of the outlaw the Indian was still standing, albeit not to steady, he was swaying on his feet, his face bloodied, but the defiance was still in his eyes.
“I don’t have time fer this!” Scar Face spat out. ‘I’ll tend ta ya later after we take care of some business, so ifin you’re smart you’ll know what’s good fer ya and behave yerself.”
He gave Walker a vicious shove causing the Indian to crash back onto the cot.
After that, the men talked in low voices so Walker couldn’t hear their plans, but he was already sure it involved robbery and mayhem of the hard-working people around Hope.
Before leaving Scar Face told one of the gang to guard Walker and if the Indian got away he’d pay for his negligence with his hide.
The outlaws split into four groups, each heading in a different direction. Their plan was to hit four mining camps spread so far apart that it would be impossible to round up enough men to effectively come after any of them. By the time the fools in town were organized they’d be long gone and with any luck, their trail would be cold and impossible to follow … At least that was the plan.
They had picked, supposedly, the four richest mines according to Blackjack and they took it for granted he should know. After all, the miners favored the saloon where Blackjack dealt poker and the flow of nonstop liquor helped to loosen their lips. Even though Blackjack didn’t own the place it didn’t take him long to practically take over. That after cutting Sam, the owner, in on his plans and offering him a generous piece of the action, which he never intended to pay.
Blackjack, being one of the dealers the miners liked, had enabled him to get the inside information on who was doing what at the different mines in the area. It always amazed him how a few drinks and a friendly game of poker could loosen up the tightest lipped sourdough to reveal secrets he would normally not even share with his own mother.
At first, Sam thought Blackjacks’ scheme was a pipe dream and was doomed to failure, but as more and more of Blackjacks’ men drifted into town and the more pertinent information Blackjack eked out of the unsuspecting miners, the saloonkeeper was beginning to believe it might just be a quick way to get rich. Unfortunately, neither he nor Blackjack knew of the treachery being planned by a few of the cutthroats to take more than their share of the stolen gold. The ringleader of this conspiracy was devious to a fault and had no conscious when it came to taking a life, if anyone stood in his way he was a goner. Little did anyone know how catastrophic and out of control things were about to become when the two outlaw groups collided.
To Be Continued …