This Sentence Chain was written by members of the HC-FanFic group. Contributing authors were:
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Buck Cannon urged his horse on, riding between high
shoulders of sand-coloured rock. Then, without warning, it happened. The
rattling, rolling rock shattered the stillness, spooking his horse into a
Buck struggled to keep his seat, fighting desperately to control the terrified animal as rock exploded all around them.
As the largest of the rocks passed and only the small stones and dust danced around them, a shout was heard from the top of the ridge.
"Manolito, what're you doin' up there? Tryin' tu get me killed," demanded Buck, squinting upward into the bright rays of the sun while shaking his fist at the horseman he could barely make out on the skyline.
"No, Amigo, just trying to save your hide once more!" Mano dismounted to gently lead his horse down the slope. Not knowing what had caused the sudden rockfall, he didn't want to risk starting another.
"You didn't start that rockfall?" Buck asked, as the young Mexican reached the bottom of the slope and walked toward him.
Manolito shook his head. "No, I saw it happen but..." He shrugged, dismissing the rockfall for the moment. "I have been riding hard to catch you, amigo. To try and save your life."
Buck squinted at his friend, "Wuddya' mean, Mano?"
"Do you recognise the name, Red Kurt?"
Buck barely suppressed a gasp....He remembered Red Kurt all right, and the man's threat to kill him.
"He's out of jail and after you." Mano told him.
A sudden sharp tug sent Buck's hat flying through the air just as the man heard the echoing blast of a rifle fired from above. "Get down," he yelled, kicking his feet free of the stirrups then diving sideways off his horse.
Mano had already thrown himself behind a boulder and his horse had moved away from the sound. There was silence again...."Are you all right, amigo?" he hissed. A grunt of assent came from the rocks to the left.
"I be okay, Mano." A moments pause, then Buck spoke again. "Reckon that must be Red Kurt up there."
"He must have followed me," Mano said with a nod of agreement, "and now he has us pinned down."
"Sure does," Buck said grimly, eyes scanning the top of the ridge, looking for any sign of Red Kurt, "and I reckon I'd feel a whole lot better if'n you told me Big John and the boys were right behind you. Any chance they are?"
"Only Blue. He's up---"
The sun glistened off a gun barrel on the rimrock, and Buck ducked just before fragments splintered from the rock by his head and the sharp crack from the rifle cut off Manolito's words. As the blast from the rifle echoed through the canyon and faded out of hearing, a deep gravely voice called from above and sent chills running down Buck's spine. . . "Hey, Cannon! I got that purdy boy nephew of yours. Yuh got to the count of five to throw out your gun or he's comin' down to join yuh . . . and he ain't gunna look so good when he hits bottom, neither."
"If you touch one hair on that kid's head I'll never stop until I kill you!" shouted Buck, to which Mano added "Nor I senor, he is family to me also. Remember, to threaten a member of as powerful a family as the Montoya's is to know a long and painful death." Each man was eyeing the other and trying to gauge the possibility of one making it to the top of the ridge unseen. It was not promising.
"Times up, Cannon," called a voice from above as a spattering of rocks clattered down from the ridge. Buck looked up to see the unmistakable form of his nephew standing on the edge. There was no time to attempt a rescue, and shooting the man behind Blue was out of the question. Reluctantly, he tossed his gun out.
"You too, Montoya," Red Kurt ordered harshly. "Then the both of you get out here where I can see you."
Buck spared a quick, apologetic glance in Mano's direction as the young Mexican threw his gun down in the dirt and slowly stood up.
Suddenly, a strange grating noise echoed round the rocks. Buck and Mano looked up in horror to see that the ridge where Red Kurt and Blue were standing was crumbling, the two men struggling to keep their footing as the ground gave way beneath them.
Buck wasn't sure what happened next. One second the two men up above were teetering together; then the larger man, having somehow thrown himself backward to the safety of solid ground, disappeared from sight while the smaller form hurtled downward in a shower of dust and rocks.
"Get your gun, amigo!" cried Manolito, diving for his own weapon.
His friend's words barely penetrated the fog of fear that clouded Buck's mind as he watched Blue's rapid descent. Unable to move until he knew his nephew's fate, Buck stood looking on while Manolito collected their guns and again dove for cover amongst the cluster of boulders they had crouched behind earlier. Just as the dust cleared from the canyon wall and Buck could see that his nephew was dangling from a bush part way up the steep incline, he felt a strong hand grasp his arm and pull him behind the protective stone barrier.
A bullet ricocheted off the large stone and sent a splinter of rock pelting against Buck's cheek. "I gotta help Blue," he yelled, attempting to free himself from Manolito's firm grip.
"You won't help him by getting yourself killed!" Manolito ground out, trying to drag Buck behind the cover of the rocks.
"I gotta try, Mano. Cover me!" And Buck broke free, running towards the canyon wall and Blue's dangling form.
Manolito peered upwards, gun at the ready, watching for any sign of Red Kurt's figure on the skyline, and hoping he could get the first shot in if the man did appear.
As Buck Cannon raced for the towering rock wall, he heard the whine of a bullet brush past his ear then spatter in the dirt behind him. He ignored both it and the answering report of what his mind told him was Manolito's revolver. Blue was all that mattered at the moment. The bush growing out of a crevice in the rock wall could give way at any time, and the boy would again be hurtling toward the canyon floor.
"Hang on, boy," Buck yelled, throwing himself behind a boulder beneath his nephew's dangling form just as another bullet zinged past.
"I can't hold on much longer, Uncle Buck," Blue's strained, scared voice drifted down the rocks. "The bush is gonna give way ... "
"We'll get you down, boy ... " Buck called reassuringly, casting a desperate eye around the canyon for anything that might break Blue's fall when the inevitable happened. There was nothing, the only way to save Blue was to get to the top of the canyon and get a rope down to him. And that meant they had
to get past Red Kurt!
"Get your gun ready, Mano!" Buck yelled back to where the Mexican still crouched behind the rocks. "I'm gonna try and get you a good shot!"
Seeing the answering wave of his Mexican friend's gun, Buck
ran toward the slope that Manolito had come down a short while before. He
dodged out into the open for a few seconds then dove for the cover of a
large boulder, his black hat tugged from his head by a bullet whizzing
overhead. He heard the bark of a second revolver and waited for the yelp
that would mean Manolito had hit his mark. There was none.
"Cover me. I'm going up," Buck called then started up the steep hillside. As he climbed, he glanced toward the rock wall where his young nephew was still dangling precariously. “Hang on, Blue Boy. I'll have you down soon's I can. You just pray your horse ain't run off. I'm gunna need your rope.”
Manolito didn't dare spare a glance at Buck as his friend scrambled rapidly up the slope, all his attention was fixed on the canyon rim, waiting for Red Kurt to make his move.
He nearly missed it when it came, Red Kurt had moved around and the sunlight was behind him, shining directly into Manolito's squinting eyes and almost dazzling him. Almost, but not quite, and his bullet found his mark just as the other man's rifle barked once more.
"Got him!" He cried in jubilation, standing up and looking over to where Buck was still climbing the slope. But climbing slowly, Mano saw in concern, one arm dangling uselessly at his side. Buck had been hit!
Scrambling up the slope as quickly as he could, Manolito
soon caught up with Buck.
"Amigo, slow down," he said, wincing at the sight
of the blood already soaking the left sleeve of his friend's shirt. "You
need to take care of that wound."
"No," Buck grunted, not even glancing around. "I have to get to Blue."
"Then at least let me help you." Mano grasped Buck's good arm and helped his friend up the last few feet, until they stood safely on the canyon's rim.
Mano spotted Blue's horse at once, and heaved a sigh of relief as he saw that the rope was still in place on the animal's saddle. It was as he ran over to get it, that he realised that something was missing from the scene - there was no sign of Red Kurt's body!
There was no time to worry about Red with Blue in such a
precarious position. Knowing this, Manolito quickly retrieved the rope
and headed back to the rim.
"Blue . . . can you hear me?" Mano called as he joined Buck, who was leaning forward and looking over the edge.
"I hear yuh," came back a hoarse reply from below.
"Hang on, amigo. I'm coming down."
Manolito didn't wait for Blue to answer. He draped the loop of the lasso over a large boulder near the edge of the canyon rim then grasped the rope and started down after his young friend.
As Mano disappeared over the edge Buck dropped down on to
his belly and, wary of the crumbling rockface, inched his way painfully to the
canyon's rim. He was beginning to feel light-headed from blood loss and his
senses swam alarmingly as he peered downwards.
Below him, Mano had reached Blue, and took the boy's weight for a while allowing him some time for his strained arms to recover. As soon as he felt able Blue began the climb upwards, Mano anchoring the rope against the rock and holding it steady.
"Blue Boy ...” Buck gasped in relief, extending his good arm down to his nephew as the boy drew close to the canyon edge, and helping him scramble upwards. "That was quite a scare you give me there."
Climbing up to join the two Cannons, Mano looked in alarm at his friend's color and the perspiration on his forehead. "Blue, we must get the horses. Buck has to get to a doctor and soon."
"No!” answered Buck, "We have to know where Kurt
is before we can risk leaving. He'll just pick us off, one by
one." Buck was trying to stand but could not without his arm to
support him. Mano took off his belt and started to make a tourniquet
above the bleeding site, then stopped. The blood could not explain his friend's
pallor, Buck had been hit worse than this many
"Blue," Mano said
urgently to the youth, who was kneeling next to Buck, watching his uncle
anxiously, "Help me get him away from the edge, and then get some water
and something to bind up this wound."
Dragging Buck back from the unstable rim of the canyon, Blue left him with Mano and ran over to his horse to collect his water canteen and a clean bandanna from his saddlebag.
A few sips of water seemed to help Buck, and Mano and Blue were pleased to see that a little colour had returned to his face as Mano finished his bandaging.
"How are you feeling, amigo?" Mano asked anxiously. "Can you move your arm at all?"
Buck nodded, lifting the injured limb experimentally. "Hurts like hell . . ." he exclaimed, "but I think it'll be all right."
"Good," Mano gave a satisfied nod, and got to his feet, looking down into the canyon where his horse and Buck's stood waiting. "Now I need to go down there and get the horses. You stay here, get a little strength back.”
Watching as Mano disappeared down into the canyon, Buck reached awkwardly for his gun, and held it out to Blue, "Best take this," he told his nephew as the boy raised his brows in surprise. "Reckon you'd be a better shot than me right now. Jest wish I knew where Kurt is," he added, as Blue took the weapon. "He's one mean critter and we're a coupla sittin' ducks."
"Mano said he'd just got out of jail, and that he had some kinda grudge against you."
"Yup," Buck shifted position a little, stifling a groan as the movement sent a shock of pain through his injured arm. "I was the one who put him in there."
Shocked, Blue turned to look more closely at his uncle. "What do you mean?"
“Waall, Blue it was like this. I was over in Tubac, a mindin' my own business and there was this commotion over to the livery stable. Saw a big redheaded fella a ridin' off like a cat with a firecracker tied to his tail. I was just gon' in the saloon, none o' my business an' all...but the sheriff came up to me and the other men on the walk and ordered us to form a posse. No matter our own business, we was goin' after Red Kurt...”
“And?” Blue asked eagerly, as his uncle stopped speaking. “What happened?”
But Buck wasn’t listening, his eyes squinting into the distance.
“What is it?” Blue turned to follow his uncle’s gaze, fingers tightening around the pistol in his hand.
“I seed a flash o’ light over b’hind that there rock . . .” Awkwardly Buck indicated where he meant. “Could be trouble, Blue boy.”
Apprehensively, Blue crouched down, reaching for Buck’s arm. “We gotta get under cover,” he said tersely, mouth suddenly dry as he realised anew what an open target they were.
Helping Buck to his feet, Blue's eyes darted around, seeking
desperately for cover. He was too late - a sharp crack rang out and a bullet
struck the dust just inches from his boots.
"Git down!" Buck yelled, flinging himself face down in the dirt and pulling his nephew with him.
As the two men lay prone on the ground a maniacal laugh rang out and, glancing up, Buck saw Red Kurt rise from his hiding position behind the rock, and advance towards them. He was limping, seemingly hurt, but the gun was steady in his hand and he was obviously intent on using it on the Cannons.
"What's he doin'?" Buck said, as beside him Blue
raised his gun, "he's makin' a target of hisself!"
Blue didn't reply. Mouth dry with apprehension he aimed carefully at Kurt. The man was walking towards them, gun raised but finger loose on the trigger. He swallowed hard, knowing he must shoot now, before Kurt's trigger finger tightened.
It seemed to Blue that for the next few moments time slowed down. He squeezed the trigger, felt the kickback as the weapon discharged and watched in fascinated horror as the bullet found its mark.
Kurt dropped to his knees, gun falling to the ground as his hands clutched at his chest. Then slowly, silently he fell face down in the dirt and lay still.
"Good shootin' Blue Boy," Buck said, patting his nephew on the back with his good arm. "You saved our lives."
"Yeh," Blue grunted in acknowledgement, getting to his feet and staring sadly at the fallen man. It always hurt to take a life, even when you knew you had no choice.
Awkwardly pushing himself up from the ground Buck shook his head, "Man had hisself a real nice family," he said quietly, walking over to check the body. "Saw them in court the day of the trial. Fine lookin' wife and a purty little daughter. Makes you wonder what turns a fella to crime, when seems he got so much in life already . . . "
"What did he do?" Blue asked, joining his uncle at Kurt's side, "you never told me. When you went after him in the posse . . . what had he done?"
"He shot the sheriff's deputy," Buck said softly,
bending to gently close the dead man's eyes. "He held up the bank and the
deputy kinda got in the way when Kurt hightailed it with the loot."
"But then why come after you? How could he blame you for that?"
"Blamed me cuz I led the posse to him," Buck told him. "He managed tu shake 'em off, but I was the one who found the trail again. Without me, he'd a got clean away."
"Buck, Blue . . . Are you all right?" Uncle and nephew turned to see Manolito hurrying anxiously toward them, leading the two horses.
"We be fine, amigo," Buck assured his friend, "Though I'm sure lookin' forward to gettin' outta here."
"Blue, would you help your uncle get on his horse," Manolito ordered, asking no questions as he saw how exhausted the older man looked. "I will take Kurt's body."
Ten minutes later the small convoy moved out, heading back towards the High Chaparral. Manolito and Blue rode protectively close to Buck, making sure that the injured man was all right.
"Why do you reckon Kurt just walked out in front of us like that?" Blue asked, as they left the canyon behind them, "He coulda picked us of from where he was, up in the rocks."
"He was dying already," Manolito said quietly, drawing surprised looks from the others, "When I loaded him on to my horse I found that he had been shot in the stomach, my bullet of course. He was bleeding to death. It is incredible that he managed to walk at all."
"So I guess he decided that was best to let Blue get a clean shot and finish him off, than die a slow painful death."
Manolito nodded in agreement, and the three riders fell silent as they made their way across the desert, each lost in thoughts of what had happened . . . and thankful that they were alive to tell the tale.
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