AN: This next chapter is a little fast paced, but I hope not too fast.
I woke early the next morning. Cooper said they'd be leaving 'fore nine, and my pap's watch said it was 'round eight. That'd given me about one hour to get ready. I gathered up my things and ate breakfast at the hotel. On the way out, I bought some extra food for the trip. Left in my pocket was seven dollars and thirty cents. Which was a good amount of money.
When I got to the fancy stables, Glory was all cleaned up. She was such a pretty horse; a paint horse. Her main color was white, then she had these sections were there's so much chestnut color. Her mane is a silky black. I'm glad I chose to steal her. That sheriff didn't deserve her.
As I was walking with Glory beside me, Cooper ran up to me. His clean shaven face was distressed.
"What did you do, Charlie?" He was looking over his shoulder and whispering to me.
"I don't know what-"
"There are men looking for you. A sheriff and a Deputy Forrest. They say that you helped a murderer escape, and you stole that horse!"
"My brother ain't a murderer. And this horse used to belong to my uncle." I'm still appalled they had the gall to call my brother a murderer.
Cooper sighed and pressed his forefinger and thumb to his head, "Look. I believe you're a nice girl. They're putting a one hundred fifty dollar bounty on you. But because I think yer nice an' all, I'm gunna help ya. The people that're leavin' today are just about to leave. What yer gunna do is go ahead on the trail. They won't be takin' any turns for a while, so then just wait fer them to catch up with you. They'll probably have my head for this, so I'll meet you in San Francisco. Did yer brother give you somewhere to meet?"
"Yeah, it was Bart's Bakery. The man named Bart knows him."
"Good. Get going. I'll stall them. Point them in the wrong direction." He helped me mount Glory, not that I needed it.
"Thank you, Cooper."
He nodded, "Now, get!" He slapped Glory on her rear, and she ran off. Before I was out of earshot, I heard him whisper, "Godspeed."
It was difficult getting past Forrest. He was searching through the saloon and the hotel. Once, I thought he actually saw me, so I just began galloping. Forrest must've heard the hoof beats, but I ain't entirely sure.
I passed a family getting ready for the road. I assumed it they're the folks Cooper mentioned. There was a boy, a mother, and a father. That boy was maybe thirteen years old. Glory and I whirred by them. We didn't stop for an hour. We got up to the third crossroad and stopped.
I had fallen asleep with Glory beside me. We were waitin for that family to get up there, and I got bored. I read Jasper's letter a few more times; it was nearly memorized after that. But I couldn't help it. My body needed a rest.
Resting was a bad idea.
"Come on." I woke to a hushed man's voice.
"I thought we didn't do this to women." It was another man.
"That's a girl?"
"Yeah, of course she is, Kotori."
"Quiet, Tocho. You'll make her wake up."
While I was feigning sleep, I managed to slip my hand into Glory's saddlebag and retrieve a knife. One of the men was close to me, so I grabbed him and put the knife to his throat. The man reversed the hold easily, so I was then in the dirt.
"You alright, Tocho?" Kotori asked.
"Yea, I'm fine. Miss, I'm going to let you go now. Promise not to try anything?"
I remained silent.
"We should tie her up and leave her 'ere."
"No. We aren't doin' that. I'm letting go now." Tocho slowly relaxed his grip on me, and once I was sure I could, I ran out from under him.
From their names, I expected them to be Indians. They were two whites, like me. Tocho was obviously the younger one, and they looked to be related. Brothers, I thought was the most likely answer.
"We aren't going to hurt ya, miss." Tocho dropped the knife, "We'll just be leaving now."
"There's no way you're leavin' with my things." I said.
"You are a girl, ain't ya?" Kotori looked at me from atop his horse. Both Kotori and Tocho were real tall, but Kotori was the shorter of the two. Maybe six feet tall. It was clear they hadn't shaved in a few weeks, or even bathed for that matter.
"What'd ya want?" I spat at him.
"Normally I'd say all yer valuables," Kotori saw Tocho lookin' all stern at him, "but Tocho is against robbin' ladies."
"I ain't no lady." To this day, I haven't the faintest idea why I said that.
"Hear that, Tocho? She ain't no lady."
"Kotori, we aren't stealing her things. That's final." He turned back to me, "Sorry about the trouble, miss."
Two gunshots sounded in the close distance. They were signal shots.
"Shit," Kotori looked for the shooter, "They've found us."
"Dammit." Tocho said in response.
"We'll take the girl as hostage."
"Hostage?" I backed away. I didn't have a weapon (other than my fists) to fight with. They saddled guns.
"Well, how'd we get outa this one, then?"
"I don't know. Let's get out of here, for starters." Tocho ran back to his horse. He had such a beautiful horse. His coat was a roan gloss that shimmered in the dry air. That horse was very prominent, and such a glorious horse.
I saw three men riding toward us. There was no way they'd get away in time. I was frantic. I went back up to Glory, to get away, but Kotori grabbed me and hoisted me onto his horse.
"Get yer hands off me!" I thrashed about, but he was stronger.
"Kotori, what the hell are you doing!" Tocho was trotting about.
He replied, "We can get away with a hostage." His gun was put to my throat. The barrel was hot, or maybe I was just sweating.
As the trio gained on our position, I recognized the man in the middle. It was Forrest.
"They won't let you get away with me." I told them.
"Quiet." Kotori hissed.
Forrest and the other two slowed their approach. I suppose it was the sheriff from Great Salt Lake City who was riding with them.
"This girl's our hostage. Let us go, an' she won't be killed." Kotori's grip tightened on my shoulder. I could tell he didn't really want to shoot.
"The girl's wanted too. So I 'spose we'll take all three ya in."
I could feel the rise of panic in Komori. His heart beat fast and he inhaled deeply. I could almost hear him think, How? How do we get away?. I was thinkin' that too. Then I saw it. Tocho winked at his brother. Did they have somethin' planned?
"How much fer the girl?" Kotori sneered.
"Well, she's got a hundred and fifty dollar bounty on her head alive. That enough to let one of yer feet off the hook."
"So, if we giver 'er up, you'll let my feet go?"
"If yer implyin'-" Forrest was cut short by Tocho's gun. He fired three shots; one to each of the men's horse. 'Course they only scraped the horses, but it got 'em real scared. That gave us enough time to escape. But Kotori wouldn't let go of me.
"I need my horse!" I struggled to keep my voice loud over the wind.
"No way we goin' back there!" He looked back at the riled horses.
"Jesus, girl! Do you want to die?"
"You were bluffing! About leaving me out there, giving me up! You were bluffing!"
"Of course we're bluffin', we're con men!"
I kept silent the rest of the way. Even if I managed to get off his Palomino, Forrest would catch me. I had no choice but to stay with the two frauds. I was stuck.