“What do we got here?”
The voice comes from very far away. I want to ignore it and go back to sleep, but it seems important somehow that I don’t. Besides, someone is kicking me in the ribs and I ought to tell them why they should stop.
I moan and try to roll away. In my defense, it is a very defiant moan. But it seems to make no difference.
“Get up, damn you!” Hands grab the front of my coat and drag me to my feet. Someone slaps my face good and hard. I open my eyes.
“Looks like the Injun decided to join us,” a leathery face says. He’s in so close I can’t really focus on his face, but for some reason I can see the deep tobacco stains that run down from the corners of his mouth to his chin. It’s like the tobacco juice has carved ruts in his flesh. Definitely not what you want to see when you first wake up.
“Good,” someone else says. “I want him awake for his hangin’.”
Even half-dazed I know what it is that happens next. I feel the rope tightening on my neck. I’m going to die here, and it’s all Boyce’s fault. Though I never cottoned much to the preachers and their white man’s god, right now I sincerely hope there is a hell and that Boyce enjoys his stay there.
“Hold on there, boys,” a deep voice says. It’s one of those voices that sounds like it’s used to people listening. Natural authority. “Our Indian friend is going back to Pueblo and facing justice, just like anyone else.”
A chorus of complaints greets these words. Cries of “But we know what he done,” and “The savage don’t deserve to live” ring out. Damn it all. I just knew those passengers were going to be sure I killed the marshal.
“It don’t matter what he done,” the deep voice replies. “We have laws and we have judges and this is what they’re for. Take that rope off his neck.”
More grumbling and complaining. The rope goes away. I blink hard, trying to get my vision to work right. For some reason nothing looks like it should.
Tobacco-juice face slaps me in the side of the head and I go down. It feels strangely good. I could just lie here all night. If they’d let me.
But they don’t.
“Get him on his horse,” deep voice says. “Let’s get on back to town.”
Hands grab me and drag me over to a horse. Even through my daze I realize it’s Coyote. Good old Coyote. I knew he wouldn’t desert me. If only people were more like horses.
They throw me across the saddle and a new fear hits me. No way I’m going into town strapped face down across the saddle like a corpse. If they’re going to kill me, I want my last ride to be upright.
So I fight and thrash around until I can swing one leg over the saddle and sit up. Better.
I’m facing the wrong way.
Before I can readjust my position though, more ropes are coming out of nowhere and tying my hands to the saddlehorn, tying my feet together under Coyote’s belly.
I don’t think I’m going to enjoy this.