The night air was warm in southern Kansas. A summer breeze swept through the valley and carried the smell of rain. A storm was brewing and making its way across the country side. Its rumbling thunder could be heard from miles off, it was powerful and it was moving fast. John was taking that into account as he looked over the campsite down by the river. From their high vantage point, and with the help of the moon that had yet to be hidden by the incoming storm, they could easily see there were four men around the fire. That matched the descriptions on the hand bills the sheriff had given them a few days before. The men were horse rustlers.
"Kemosabe, them stolen horses," Tonto said pointing across the river those men were camped next to. There was a clearing with a small herd of branded horses grazing.
"Yes Tonto, it seems they have already sold some," John replied.
"Maybe them still have money, we get it and give it back to Miss Jane," Tonto said. John nodded.
"We can hope…can you get those horses moving?" John asked.
"You have plan Kemosabe?" Tonto asked.
"Yes, wait for my signal and then get those ponies moving back to the K bar K," John said. Tonto nodded and ran to Scout. He got on the painted stallion and they quietly made their way across the river. John made his way down to the camp, hiding in the shadows of the trees.
The Ranger snuck down to the men's horses.
"Easy fellas," John whispered as he came up behind the horses. He went to each animal, unnoticed by their riders, and removed all of their cinches. He then gave Tonto their night bird whistle across the river. It went mistaken as an owl call by the men in camp but only a moment passed and the Ranger could hear the small heard on the move.
"Hey, the horses are running!" One cried out and the others jumped to their feet and ran for the horses. They got to their own mounts and tried to get on. The first three fell to the ground and that was when John came from the shadows. He found himself in a fist fight against the three. It took a few minutes and he took a few hooks to the jaw but he knocked them all out. It wasn't until he was tying them up with their own ropes did he realize he was missing one.
John looked to the fourth horse but it was gone. The fourth must have been slower to his horse and saw his comrades fall. He had to of fastened his cinch and taken off after the horses. The ranger pulled the three men together and froze when he heard gun shots in the direction Tonto had driven the horses.
"Tonto!" John ran for where he had left Silver tied. Once he got there he freed the horse and hopped upon his back with ease. He raced to the other side of the river and began to track his friend in the fading moonlight. The storm was getting closer.
The Ranger found Tonto sitting atop Scout on the river bank about two miles downstream. He was holding his stomach but turned to face John.
"Tonto, what happened?" John asked.
"Him scatter herd and keep going," Tonto said.
"We're going to need more help round up those ponies. We'll go get the ones tied up at their camp and go to the sheriffs. Then head to the K bar K to get some more hands to help us in the morning. We need to get out of here before that storms come in," John said and Tonto nodded.
John nudged Silver forward and Tonto followed his lead. Tonto had to ride on a neck rein as he clutched his stomach. He had taken a bullet through the back and it had completely passed through his body. It hadn't felt like a severe wound at first. Tonto was sure he'd just been grazed, but the more they rode the worst it got. They got into a lope and Tonto was losing focus. He grabbed his pommel and trusted Scout to follow Silver.
John felt Silver extend beneath him and find a pace. It was a long strided, rhythmic lope that Silver could hold for miles. It was also a lope that Scout could keep up with. The stamina of those mustangs had always astounded John.
Another quarter mile down the road John noticed Silver turn back his ears and tip his nose back. He usually did that when Scout or another horse crowded him from behind. The next thing he knew Scout was up next to them and made a dive for John's leg.
"Scout!' John shouted and pushed the horses head away and looked up to Tonto. Only Tonto wasn't there.
"Tonto?" John called out. He sat deep in his seat and gave Silver a squeeze with his spurs, and when Silver came to a stop he did a roll back right back into a lope. Visibility was getting worse as the storm continued to move in. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped.
Lightening flashed across the sky and John could see Tonto clearly on the ground. He reined up on Silver and dismounted before the stallion could come to a stop. John ran to Tonto and rolled him onto his back. Tonto grimaced and grabbed his side.
"Tonto, why didn't you say something?" John asked and tried to get a good look at the wound.
"It not...feel…so bad…at first," Tonto managed. A bolt of lightning struck a little close for comfort and the air rumbled around them. John flinched and Silver jolted. He wanted to look that wound over but he really didn't have time. They needed shelter and John didn't know the area very well.
John pulled Tonto up and got him to his feet. Tonto tried to hold himself up but his legs couldn't do it. John got a good hold of him and looked to Silver.
The white stallion came up close to them.
"Alright, Tonto, help me out," The Ranger asked. Tonto leaned against Silver and grabbed the saddle horn. He tried to pick up his foot and John caught it before Tonto could drop it. With Tonto's foot in the stirrup it was easier for them to get Tonto up. That was when John got a clear view of Tonto's back and saw a second wound. Judging by the sizes he could tell Tonto had been shot in the back. John made sure Tonto was center in the saddle before hoisting himself up behind him.
John turned Silvers head in the direction he knew the closest road was. He followed it towards town and pushed Silver onward. Silver collected himself into a smooth, cadenced, working lope. John wrapped an arm around Tonto's torso, put pressure on the wound in his stomach, and held Tonto close to his chest. He rode on a double rein and was grateful Silver was well versed in neck reining. That was when the rain started. They were riding into the storm.
The wind picked up even more and the rain just poured over top of them. At the first sign of civilization, a small homestead, they were all drenched. The rain was running off of the rangers hat, dripping down Tonto's face, and soaking their clothes through. Another bolt of lightning provided enough light for John to see the farm house.
It was far too late to be knocking on doors wearing a mask on a normal night, let alone a hellish one like that. John then looked to the barn. It was far enough from the house that he wouldn't be seen going in through the rain. He urged Silver on.
Once to the barn, The ranger side passed up to the door so he wouldn't have to dismount to open it. He worked it like a gate and stopped just inside. He didn't want to risk hitting their heads on a rafter.
"Good work Silver," John said as he got down.
John pulled Tonto down from the saddle and cradled his friend as he waited for lightening to brighten up the barn. When it did flash the ranger saw a pile of hay and laid Tonto across it. He then looked about for a lantern. Once one was found and lit John ran to his saddlebags and retrieved the medical supplies.
He knelt down next to Tonto and unbuckled his gun belt and then his other belt. Tonto opened his eyes and groaned out in pain when John grazed the wound while pulling off his shirt.
"I'm sorry Tonto, but stay with me," John told him. John began to treat the wound as Tonto fought to stay conscious.
"Tonto, you remember the first time we met?" The ranger asked.
"Me…hurt plenty bad…like now," Tonto panted.
"That's right, I took care of you then and I can do it now," John told him. Tonto laid his head back and his eyes were starting to shut.
"Hey! Tonto! What ever happened to that nag I gave you?" John asked. Tonto opened his eyes and looked to John.
"Me…keep her many years….She have many pretty paint colts….Scout, him her last," Tonto told him.
"Really?" The ranger asked as he worked and listened. He was starting to calm down, listening to Tonto.
"She die….she rear up in ambush….take bullet….me have to find Scout….buy him back," Tonto added.
"I didn't know that about Scout," John said and glanced over to the open barn door. He had lost track of Scout while trying to save Tonto. John shook his head and looked back to Tonto. He would worry about finding Scout later.
Tonto lost the battle and fell unconscious. John did everything he could, he packed as much gauze into each of the wounds as he could and wrapped them tightly. He cursed the fact that he didn't know where they were. Tonto needed a doctor but John would be riding blind if he went out in search of one.
Once John did all he could he sat back and took a deep breath. It was then he realized how wet and cold he was. He felt Tonto and the Indian was freezing too.
Everything he had was soaked in the storm. He turned up the lamp and looked around the barn. There were two stalls against the back of the barn. Hanging over the doors were two bundles of fabric. Horse blankets.
The ranger ran over and grabbed both blankets. He came back and laid down one blanket. He got down on it, pulled Tonto to him, laid Tonto so he was laying back against the ranger's chest, wrapped the bottom blanket around them, then wrapped the other blanket over top of them, and tucked it around them.
John carefully rubbed Tonto's skin to try and warm him up. He kept his eyes on the barn door. At the first hint of light he was going to mount up and find that damn doctor. Silver had been eating on the hay on the floor but he picked his head up suddenly. John had learned to rely on the behavior of both Tonto and their horses when it came to awareness of his surroundings. He pulled a gun from his belt and had it on the door after getting it free of the covers.
Silver walked to the door and cried out into the storm. Scout came trotting into the barn not a moment too soon. Something hard could be heard hitting the roof. The ranger could make out that it was hailing now. John let out a sigh of relief and smiled at the pinto. John put his gun back and relaxed. The horse shook the rain from his coat and joined Silver in eating hay.