The hard packed dirt gave way to a shallow depression. Its steep bank led down a meager excuse for a creek. Jonas urged his mount forward. Both man and rider were thirsty. Both covered in many miles worth of dust.
Behind him, a thickly accented voice, spoke.
“It’s water, yes?”
Jonas nodded. The discovery had come at the perfect time. The day had been hot and Jonas was concerned that they might be getting lost. This was all new territory, after all. They were following a new route from Mexico, through Texas, up into the Montana territories. This creek was on the map at least. He was sure they were still in Mexico. They hadn’t crossed the Rio yet, but he thought that they should have by now. Scouting for the Thompson River Company was just a job and it wasn’t he position to question the boss. He read the maps, knew the dangers and was good at his job.
The rider finally pulled astride Jonas and his horse. A big man, Alexei Volkov, made even the largest of horses seem small. How the Russian ended up in West Texas, Jonas never knew, nor wanted to. Ever since bailing the affable Slav out of jail after a half remembered, mostly painful, night of drinking, the two had been fast friends.
“It’s good to be Scout, now we rest while the others catch up to us. Yes?”
“Yep, it’s good.” Jonas replied, sliding off his horse.
Jonas tied off Roscoe on a fallen tree that had been deposited there from one of the frequent flash floods that had plagued the area a season back.
Jonas scanned the area, looking for a bit of shade, wary of rattlers wanting to share that precious commodity. Alexei, finished tying off Peanut, the only horse Jonas knew who loved to eat peanuts, found the closet bit of shade and flopped down, regardless of rattlesnakes, scorpions, or any other creature that could seriously injure you.
The small cloud of dust brought a slight grin to Jonas. Damn dust.
“The herd and the rest of the crew should be here in a couple of hours.” Jonas said, scanning the horizon.
“I reckon it’s about 3:00 and Mr. Thompson will want to start setting up camp by 5:00.”
Alexei grunted in agreement. His large hat already pulled low over his brow.
Jonas walked to the edge of the creek, removed his hat, and crouched down to splash water across his face and neck. Running his fingers through his wet hair, Jonas paused. A strange clicking noise was coming from the far side of the gulch.
Jonas slowly unfastened the straps on his twin Colt 45’s; still staying low. The sound repeated again, closer to the edge of the ravine. He pivoted slightly, following the noise along the ledge.
“Alexei.” Jonas whispered.
The big man was already beside his horse, drawing his enormous buffalo rifle.
With the sun behind them, both men backed towards the wall of the ravine, keeping constant vigilance on the far side, their shadows stretching far in front of them.
“Dear God” Alexei, exhaled.
On the ridge in front of them,...