Part 3 Chapter 3 – Good Ideas Gone Bad
Bret's idea, setting off enough dynamite to make the Titus Pass gang think there were dozens of lawmen after them, worked. Sort of. At least enough to get most everybody running for their lives. Until the Mavericks were spotted by an unseen lookout and the tables were turned, with the brothers running for their lives. Which is how they ended up stuck in the abandoned shack they found and took desperate refuge in.
Bullets flew at them from all directions; the gunfire was so loud they could barely hear each other talk.
"Tell me again how we got into this mess," Bart pleaded.
"Darned if I know," his brother answered. "I'm more concerned with how we're gonna get out. You got any ideas?"
A short laugh followed as Bart ducked further down under the window frame. "Let me think about that."
"Don't think too long," Bret answered. "Somebody out there's liable to get lucky and hit one of us."
They returned fire whenever possible. The next time Bart shot there was a yelp from the outlaw and he rose and fell in one motion. "Got one," Bart remarked.
"How about a few more?" his brother begged.
"Your mouth to God's ears," came the reply. As promised, Bart hit another one.
Minutes passed and no more shots were fired. Then they heard a voice, unfortunately familiar, from behind a grove of pine trees. "Hey, tin horns, might as well come out and git it over with. You ain't comin' outta this alive."
Bret and Bart exchanged looks but said nothing in reply. A few more minutes passed and Drier yelled again, "You dead already or just too chicken to talk?"
They remained still and one of the outlaws finally crept out to see if they were alive or not. As soon as he was in the open Bret fired and disposed of another man. The brothers sat and waited for the next move. Finally Drier asked, "Whatta ya want from us?"
Gunfire resumed from the outlaws. "Guess he didn't like that answer," Bart drawled. "Hey, I brought some jerky with me. Want some?"
"Sure," Bret answered, and Bart threw a piece over to his brother. "How long do ya think they'll keep this up?"
"Well, I figure we'll either kill 'em all or they'll get bored." Another round of gunfire followed and towards the end of the onslaught Bart yelled, "Yeouch!"
"Are you hit?"
"Nope," came the quick reply. "Got a splinter."
The back-and-forth exchange continued for an hour or two. Another of the outlaws ventured too far out into the clear and caught a bullet from someone in the shack. Just as daylight started to fade a rider approached from the road to town and found Drier. A few minutes later the rest of the gang hurriedly located their horses and mounted, headed back to their compound.
Whooping and hollering followed, and what appeared to be a posse came roaring down the same road the lone rider had arrived on. Bart turned to Bret and called across the room, "Looks like the marshal changed his mind."
The noise for the next few minutes was deafening. There were several minor explosions and a considerable volley of bullets before it began to settle down. In less than thirty minutes whatever the battle had turned into was over. Still Bret and Bart sat and waited. As far as they knew Luke Drier was still out there somewhere, and even on his own he was nothing to mess with. Bart yelled out, "Drier! You still there?" and got no answer.
"Maybe he rode off with the rest of 'em and we didn't see him?"
"Possible. Let's give it a few minutes."
Ever cautious, they sat another few minutes and heard nothing. At last Bart's patience was worn out and he told his brother, "I'm goin' out to see if he's there."
"Careful, Brother Bart."
Bart snuck out of the shack. There was no gunfire, no voice, no sound other than his own footsteps and breathing. When he reached the spot in the pines that Drier's voice had come from there was no sign of the man himself, but his horse was still there. That could only mean one thing – Drier was still lurking out there, and he turned and sprinted back to the shack just as he heard a single gunshot. Bart moved quickly around the side of the shack and saw Drier at Bret's window aiming and cocking his gun. The gambler didn't hesitate, he shot and Drier's weapon fell helplessly at his feet.
"Ha!" the outlaw laughed. "Too late!" Bart ran as Drier pulled another gun from his waistband and tried to take aim. Maverick fired again, and this time Drier fell.
"Bret!" There was no answer. "Bret!" Bart reached the front door and burst through it to find his brother lying on the floor. "Bret!"
It was Bart's turn to look for the wound and he soon found it, a deep red gash across the side of Bret's scalp. A small moan issued forth from the man on the ground as his brother exhaled shakily. "Bret, talk to me."
"Dead?" was the only word uttered.
"You or Drier? He is, you're not."
Bart set his brother's head down gently. "Stay there. I'll be right back." He hurried to the body laying outside the window. Bart soon located the outlaw's funds and counted out the money that he and Bret had been robbed of; there was only an additional three hundred dollars and Bart assumed ownership of it as 'interest.'
Right back inside he went, taking his handkerchief to wipe the blood from Bret's head and make sure the wound wasn't any worse than originally thought. "You still with me?" he asked his brother.
"Sure," the answer came back, but Bret hadn't opened his eyes.
"Money's back where it belongs. Open your eyes, Pappy, now's no time for a nap."
"What'd you call me?" The eyelids opened, finally, and Bart waited for the black eyes to focus on him.
"I called you Pappy."
"Because you practically are. Sorry about the head wound."
Bret reached up to feel the handkerchief now wrapped around his head. "At least you found out where Drier was."
"Yeah, I did. Let's see if we can get you up." Bart got in front of his brother and pulled the taller man to his feet. Bret swayed slightly just as Marshal Grady rode up with eight or ten men.
"Drier around here somewhere?" Grady asked.
Bart pointed to the body at the foot of the window. "He won't be goin' anywhere again."
The marshal nodded his head. "Good riddance to bad rubbish. Looks like you two are due that reward. We got the whole gang, cept for what I see layin' dead down here. You get yer money back?"
Bart nodded. "Why'd you change your mind?"
"I'll tell ya when you come to collect the reward. Looks like you better get your brother back to Doc Snyder."
"That's where we're headed now. We'll be up to your office soon as we're done."
Grady nodded; while he and the brothers were talking two of his deputies had slung Drier's body over his horse, then the marshal led the posse and what remained of the outlaws back towards town. The gamblers looked at each other and Bart helped Bret mount, then they slowly headed the same way.
"Steak dinner?" Bret asked.
The oldest brother sighed. "Why not?"