Pretty quick we’re all straightened out and headed for that rocky bluff. It’s a good thing we got four horses pulling on that safe because it’s not the kind of thing that takes much to dragging. It leaves a big furrow in the ground and digs out whole clumps of grass by their roots.
For some reason this strikes Wilson as funny and he smiles real big, which is an odd thing on that man. He never smiles, like he’s afraid his mouth will crack or something.
“Lookit that,” he says, pointing at the furrow. “You could plant crops in that. Hell, we’re leaving a trail even Slow Eye could follow!”
No one else thinks this is funny, especially Slow Eye.
“What the hell’s the matter with you, Wilson?” Boyce barks. “You want the posse to find us?”
But Wilson just goes on chuckling to himself. Boyce spits angrily to the side and when his head comes up his eyes fall on me again. That little glint comes back into his eyes, like just after he shot the marshal. “Ever seen a man hang?” he says to me. And winks.
Now I know he did it on purpose.
I turn my head away and look on up into the mountains. The Rockies are something to behold, that’s for sure. There’s still snow on the big peaks, even this far into summer. Thick green forests blanket their slopes, dark where the pines and firs stand, lighter where the aspens are. There’s streams rushing down every one of those canyons, fish to eat, deer and bear and turkeys to hunt. A man could live up there and do well.
The smart thing would be to wait till the gang is preoccupied, then take off. Get shut of them before I’m too deep to get loose.
But I’m not going to do it.
I started this and I’m going to finish it. I’m stubborn that way. Or stupid. I’m not sure which sometimes.
The deeper truth is I don’t have a lot of options these days. Not after how my last job punching cows on the Bar T Ranch ended. I didn’t have a lot of options before those cattle went missing, and I got a lot fewer now.
With my share of the money in that safe, that payroll headed to the Wells Fargo office in Denver, I’ll have options again. I can take charge of my life. I can call my own shots for a while, instead of having others call it for me.
If that sounds like a poor reason to risk my life, then so be it. It’s my life after all.
Bill rides up beside me. He’s hardly more than a kid, with a little tuft of hair on his chin he’s way too proud of and a voice that cracks at bad times when he’s nervous. He’s got on this little rounded hat without much brim—I think it’s called a bowler—and wipes the sweat off his forehead.
“How long you reckon it’ll take before they get that train moving again?” he asks me.
I like Bill. He’s the only one who treats me like I’m just another person. “About an hour probably. Maybe two.” We only tore up one little section of rail and only one side at that. Every train carries tools for fixing track and they’ll make short work of this.
“Then what? About two more hours into Pueblo, you think?”
I nod. I know where he’s going with this.
“That posse is going to be after us by nightfall. We won’t get but one chance at this.”
My thoughts exactly, kid.
Within an hour we swap out and others take over the pulling. I take a couple dallies around my saddlehorn with that rope and Coyote bunches his muscles and settles in to pulling. He’s not a big horse, Coyote, but he’s tough and strong. He’s got a lot of bottom, as they say, meaning he can just go and go. Best horse I ever had.
I call him Coyote because he’s the same color as one. I don’t know what his real name is because he’s never told me, but he doesn’t seem to mind the one I’ve chosen all that much. At least he only bites me sometimes. But that might just be his idea of a joke. It’s hard to tell with horses.
About sunset we make it to the base of the of the bluff. The cliff we’re counting on looks to be better than fifty feet high. There’s a scattering of rocks at the base of the cliff too. It should be enough to crack that safe like an egg.
We splash across a broad stream that runs pretty close to the foot of the cliff. Beavers have dammed up the stream just past the cliff creating a wide, shallow pond with a thick, black, muddy bottom. I look at the cliff again and back at the beaver pond and something unpleasant occurs to me. But I just shake my head and keep it to myself. I’m just gun shy is all, after the way this day has gone. Speaking up might just get me shot. It was my idea, after all.
It’s almost dark by the time we sweat that safe up to the top of that cliff and haul it over to the edge. From up here the cliff looks a whole lot higher. When the safe hits the bottom it’s going to be going awful fast. It’s sure to pop right open. Something is finally going to go our way.
Boyce is a lot more cheerful now. He flashes us all his crooked, half-rotted teeth. “Here’s to being rich, boys.” He takes a little bow like he’s about to launch a new ship, puts his shoulder into it and heaves. At first the safe doesn’t move then, with a crunch of steel on stone it slides over the edge.
It free falls about thirty feet, hits a ledge and bounces.
You wouldn’t think something that big and that hard would bounce, but it does. It bounces way out and instead of hitting the rocks at the base of the cliff it lands smack in the middle of that beaver pond.
And sinks completely out of sight.
Things aren’t going too well for our little band of outlaws. It might be time for them to start thinking about getting day jobs.