The Kid arrived at the abandoned camp by mid-morning. He'd crossed the Green a few hours ago and now stood on the edge of the cliff. He'd seen the hoof prints headed both ways and he figured the outlaws had changed plans and instead of going down into the canyon they had turned north to go around. Dismounting from his horse, he walked to the edge of the cliff and gazed out over the maze of canyons. It was a daunting, though impressive, sight. He could understand the decision to avoid crossing it.
That's when he realized what was bothering him. Heyes had been here before; he wouldn't have forgotten the trail no matter how sick he was. Heyes would have known where they were headed and what they would see. What he might've forgotten was he had told his partner about his earlier ride with the Plummer gang through the confusing labyrinths of canyons. He knew Heyes had been this way before. He knew he would never have brought the men this far from the Green only to turn back. But why would he have brought them here at all? He stood and looked about the camp noting the broken branches where the horses had been tied and the broad face of the flat rock. He was a far better tracker than Heyes and he knew his wily partner. He and Heyes had used rocky ground to hide their tracks before, but the gang had obviously crossed their own back trail. They'd left the way they'd come in. What did it mean?
He had it!
Heyes had no intention of staying with the gang. He was using them as a decoy. If he'd never ridden with Heyes, he might've fallen for it. His partner was a master of deception. The Kid knew Heyes had set a false trail using the outlaws, but why? Whipping his eyes back to the maze, he looked out across the rocky terrain. "What the hell are you up to, Heyes?"
Curry swung up into his saddle and started down the rocky steep trail into the maze. Not expecting to be followed, he made no effort to conceal his own tracks.
When Sheriff Marley arrived with his men, he saw signs Curry had ridden alone down into the canyon. Only one set of tracks was visible. The outlaw gang had doubled back and turned north. Maybe Curry was planning on a short cut to head off his double-crossing partner. Poke had told him Heyes had been hurt real bad and wasn't recovered from it yet. He'd said he was shocked the man was even capable of a long ride. It ought to make it easier to bring him in but he had four men with him. The sheriff wished he'd raised a larger posse. Making a decision, he sent his men north after the gang, and he started down the canyon trail. Poke followed him.
Lindy and Jake saw four of the posse's men heading north along the Green River. The siblings were on the far bank and had concealed themselves in the heavy willows when they had spotted the men coming towards them down a steep trail on the other side of the river. What the hell was going on? After the riders disappeared from view to the north, Jake and his sister crossed the river and stopped at a jumbled crossroad of tracks. The gang must've split up. That's all it could be. They bickered over it for a moment or two, but Jake finally convinced Lindy their best bet lay with following the greedy lawman. He wasn't the type to lose a meal ticket.
Heyes reached the bottom of the canyon and paused briefly to remove the padding from his horse's hooves. Hiding his tracks didn't matter now. If the Kid figured out what he had done and followed him down the trail, he wanted him to be able to follow. Better he caught up with him than risk his partner riding to his death in the confusing maze of dead ends. If Curry was on his trail, he only hoped he would last long enough to lead him to safety.
Heyes well remembered his first trip through this land. Jim Plummer had laid low for several weeks after the robbery that had driven them to the Roost before deciding to risk the ride out. It hadn't been long enough. The problem with a hideout with only one entrance is that you risked a siege. The posse had been large enough to spare a few men to re-supply them on a regular basis so it had hunkered down and waited patiently for the gang of outlaws to emerge from the safety of Robber's Roost. When they did, the outlaws soon found the trail out to Green River was blocked. Plummer had panicked and had led the outlaws east with the posse in hot pursuit. Instead of following the Green north or south he had continued east driving his men to the edge of the maze in an error of judgment. Upon seeing the trap he had drawn his men into, Plummer had simply given up to await their capture. Heyes had seen the defeat in the eyes of his leader and had prowled up and down the cliff looking for an escape. He'd found it. There was a small, little used game trail appearing to carve its way down. Returning to his gang, Heyes declared he was going to try it. They had left the Roost well-rested and heavily provisioned for the ride home so food and water were not an issue. Reluctantly, the others had followed him.
It had taken the better part of a week and many wrong turns, but luck had been on their side. Just when it looked as though the men might turn on him, Heyes had led them around a bend and into an open expanse of land stretching to the base of the Manti-La Sal Mountains. This was the moment when Jim Plummer began to formulate his plan for retirement. He could see it was only a matter of time before Heyes rose to leader despite his youth and relative inexperience.
Curry reached the bottom of the canyon and found the spot where Heyes had discarded the padding. He smiled when he saw the torn bits of blanket. Heyes had used the trick many times to shake a posse and it always worked well. Obviously he was getting sloppy, because the Kid could easily follow his trail.
Heyes was tiring. He had held it together pretty well with his new gang, but he couldn't much longer. He'd had a couple of spells leading the gang, but had covered them easily by declaring a rest when he felt the now familiar tension building. He would then ride ahead as their leader to 'scout' out the route. They had no idea he was hiding his unstable mental state from them. The men had found him irritable and poor company so they'd been happy to be relieved of his company from time to time.
Heyes doggedly rode on. It would only be a few more hours before the temperatures in the canyons soared making progress impossible. He would need to find some secluded, shady spot to hole up with his horse and rest until the day began to cool then he would ride on as long as the daylight allowed.
The rest of Heyes' pursuers were making good progress. The Kid was not far behind. The sheriff and Poke trailed him by a couple of hours. They'd seen Heyes' tracks at the bottom of the canyon and knew Curry was tailing his partner. Jake and Lindy were right behind the sheriff only staying far enough back to be out of sight and earshot.
The Kid was looking forward to seeing his partner and making sure he was okay. Marley and Poke were not really looking forward to confronting Curry, but they were looking forward to the bounty. Jake and Lindy were looking forward to a big payday. Heyes wasn't looking forward to much of anything and was back to trying to hang on to his horse.
Jake figured the ideal time to spring his trap was at the moment the sheriff made his arrest. That's when the man was likely to let his guard down and Jake wanted to be there. He would not underestimate this lawman's intelligence. A crooked sheriff didn't keep his job for 20 years or so by being stupid. Jake had no qualms about what he'd have to do to seize the prisoners. Marley was as much of a crook as the other outlaws. He might not be wanted, but he was a criminal just the same and Jake figured it was his right to take him out. His outlaw buddy, too.
Lindy was looking forward to seeing Heyes again. She couldn't believe she'd spent the night with Hannibal Heyes and hadn't known it! As she rode along trailing Jake, she started daydreaming about him and wondering if maybe she had made a mistake putting Jake on his trail. He sure was easy on the eyes and fun in the sack. Sure he had a big reward on him, as did Curry, but he was a money-making gold mine. The man had pulled off some of the most lucrative robberies the West had ever seen. With him by her side, she'd never have to work again. Being with Heyes was no work at all; why, she quite liked the idea. He'd seemed fond of her during the time they'd spent together and had even been tolerant of her nature when he'd found her rifling his pockets. If she could make him believe she'd followed him because she cared about him, she might set herself up for life. She knew he was injured and she thought she might be able to use it to ingratiate herself to him. Too bad she would have to double-cross her brother but a girl's gotta do, what a girl's gotta do!
Jake was making his own plans to cut out his sister. He felt no obligation to her at all. He had paid her anything he might've owed her for raising him the day he'd pulled his father off her and killed him. Of course, the old man had been beating him senseless for years so Jake had gone crazy on him, but he let Lindy think he'd been rescuing her. She had been grateful and over the years it was the bits of money she'd sent him here and there that had kept him alive. Her whoring had sure come in handy for him until he'd turned to bounty hunting. Jake had finally learned what he was good at. His pappy had taught him to shoot straight. He couldn't track worth a damn, but he'd learned to compensate for it by using his natural craftiness. Once Jake was old enough to handle a gun, it was his job to hunt and provision so his pappy had more time for his bottle and Lindy. That's when Jake had discovered he enjoyed killing. It gave him a feeling of power and control. He'd become damn good at it and now he made a good living bringing in the outlaw scum. It made him feel superior to capture these crooks and it made him feel alive to bring them in dead. He was looking forward to getting his hands on Curry and Heyes. He'd be famous!
Marley and Poke were making plans, too. They knew they needed each other and were putting their heads together on how best to catch Kid Curry. Their plan was to catch him before he caught up with his partner. They would have to be awful careful to get the drop on him. Poke was a fair shot and suggested maybe his rifle would be best. No man could go up against Curry at pistol range. Marley agreed and thought it might work to have him go in and distract the outlaw while Poke set up the shot. He knew the Kid was not a murderer and figured he wouldn't shoot him in cold blood. He planned on being real careful not to give him a reason to.