#BlogBattle 34 “Cave”
Drake slammed his spurs into the sides of the old nag and whipped her neck with the reins.
“Hyah, you damn slow–”
The old horse slowed her pace even more and whipped her head about trying to snap her teeth on his shin. She was too old not to protest, he knew, but he was desperate.
They’d only gone some mile or two out of the settlement, and a band of outlaws was hot on his trail. Drake didn’t have a choice but to take the old lady for a ride when his own trusty steed had been shot out from under him.
“C’mon little lady. You know I don’t mean nothin’ by it. You’re in just as much danger as me now, so git!”
He tapped her with the sides of his boots this time instead of the spurs. The gray mare snorted in reply but did begin to gallop again.
“There’s a good girl,” Drake said while taking a look over his shoulder to see if the dust was flying from his unsavory pursuers.
The air looked clear except where his own escape had stirred up the dry river bed. He was hoping to lose them in the canyons up ahead. There were supposed to be caves scattered about the sharp, climbing walls. If he could get into one, he thought he could lose them.
He was less than a quarter-mile from the twin plateaus with the old, dried up river running between but resisted the urge to spur the horse on. She was doing the best she could, but it didn’t stop him from pulling his revolver from the holster. He’d not been able to detach his rifle from his saddle when Lisandro had been shot, so the twin revolvers were his last defense.
One more peek over his shoulder revealed the tell-tale dust floating on the breeze.
“No, no, no. We’re almost there. C’mon you old biddy, move!”
This time he spurred her, but this time she didn’t protest. She picked up the speed a notch, and Drake thought they may just make it, but before he could have a moment of triumph the poor old horse’s foot caught in a snake hole and twisted. The next thing Drake knew he was sailing through the air and the nag’s obvious cry of pain and shock filled his ears.
He landed in a poky bush with a loud grunt. The brittle branches cracked under his weight and several pressed into his skin where they touched, some leaving gashes behind. He scrambled out of it with as much haste as possible given the fact he thought he may have broken a rib in that tumble. Every breath stabbed him.
His revolver had stayed firm in his grip.
“At least there’s that,” Drake said while he panted and pressed his free hand onto his injured side. “Sorry, Bessie, or whatever your name is.”
Drake looked back up at the dust trail coming his way. They’d be here in a few minutes he was sure. He looked back at the canyon, not far now. A cave was what he needed, a bit of cover.
He also knew he needed to shoot the poor old horse, but it would draw too much attention. It hurt him almost as much to leave that duty undone before he hastily limped toward the towering cliffs and into the relative safety of the old river path.
He glanced back once more before turning the bend and could see the riders now. There were six of them. Six to one was not good odds.
“Lordy, I could use some help here. I ain’t much of a prayin’ man, you know, but I’m beggin’ for a way of escape. I swear to you, if I live I’ll find me one o’ ’em preachers and I’ll hear him speak.”
He gave one vigorous nod.
“Oh, an’ amen.”
With that last word Drake slid the gun back in the holster, and while he continued to hold his ribs with one hand, he used the other to help scurry up the rather steep embankment to a thin shelf running around the edge of the canyon. It was at that level that he could see the beginnings of crevices–one of which was hopefully a cave.
When he was about to think he luck had run out, Drake stumbled up on a crevice that didn’t look like much, but in that same instant her heard the wild calls of his outlaw pursuers. This was his last chance at escape. He slipped in between the close walls of the space and pressed back as far as he could. It seemed to squeeze more the further in he got, but then his hand met with thin air and he stumbled into a wide open cave.
There was light coming in from the crevice he’d entered through, but there was also a strange hold up above and exactly below the hole was what looked like an ancient fire pit.
“Well, I’ll be . . . .”
The moment of awe was short-lived as the whoops and hollers of outlaw Silas Combs’ men drifted into his sanctuary. He sidled back against the wall near the door and pressed his shoulders there with his face turned toward the opening. He inched his revolver out of the holster, attempting to be as silent as death and waited.
Minutes passed. The outlaws seemed to know he was nearby but they must not have known about this cave because not one came in. The minutes passed by into many more. Drake had no idea how much time passed, but the room was losing light at an ever quickening pace.
At a far-off distance Combs’ voice could be heard echoing off the canyon walls.
“We’ll find you Drake! Make no mistake. You’re a dead man, ’cause dead men tell no tales. Ain’t that right?”
His gang whooped and hollered in response, but then silence filled the air.