Last Train to Bannock [Clayburn 02]

Last Train to Bannock [Clayburn 02] by Marvin H. Albert

Book: Last Train to Bannock [Clayburn 02] by Marvin H. Albert Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marvin H. Albert
fashion, testing each step before putting full weight on it so as not to disturb any loose stones or snap a twig underfoot. They threaded their way in a crouch, keeping within the darkest shadows, crossing what had once been a deep river but was now a cracked and pitted expanse of hard-baked clay. Their boots making no sound at all, they went under a stone arch and through a narrow dry gulch bottomed with rocks.
        Reaching the base of a low slope, Blue again paused, and made a downward motion with his hand against Clayburn's chest. Then Blue started up the slope on his hands and knees. Clayburn crawled after him. When Blue halted just below the top, Clayburn moved up beside him, and raised his head only enough to see over the rim.
        Beyond the slope the ground leveled till it reached the looming side of a great mesa. Between the mesa and the slope was a scattering of boulders-and Adler's wagon camp.
        Clayburn gave his full attention to the dark shapes of the big wagons. They were formed into a rough square, with all the mules corralled inside the square. There were too many mules for the square to contain them if the wagons touched end to end. So large spaces showed between each wagon-spaces across which ropes would be strung from one wagon to the next so the mules couldn't get out.
        There was no campfire, nothing to see by but the starlight. And there was no sign of the three guards Adler had left behind. Clayburn stayed where he was, his eyes scanning the night-shrouded wagons in search of them. He was fairly certain that Adler was too smart to let his guards stay near the wagons, with all those boulders around the outside of the camp. But it would have been foolish to ignore the possibility.
        He felt time pressing hard on him, urging him to hurry. They had to get done with it and be gone before Adler and his raiders returned to cut off their retreat. But to hurry at the expense of caution would be equally suicidal. Clayburn held himself in, forcing himself to take the time necessary. He had to know where at least one of the guards was before moving closer.
        Finally, he transferred his attention from the wagons to the boulders closest to the camp area. Nothing moved anywhere. Clayburn remained where he was, waiting, watching. The coldness of the air and ground began making itself felt through his pants and coat. Time passed. His nerves were stretching taut. Still he lay motionless against the top of the slope, studying the boulders with pinpointed concentration.
        Then he saw something move in the deep shadow of a boulder off to the right of the wagon camp. Not a man; not anything that could be identified. Just a movement.
        Blue saw it at the same time. He touched Clayburn's elbow. Clayburn focused all his attention on the boulder. No one showed himself. The movement was not repeated.
        But he knew he'd seen it. And that it meant one of the guards was there. That was all he knew. There was no way of guessing if the man was sitting or standing, or the direction in which he was looking.
        Clayburn sucked in a slow, deep breath and went up over the rim of the slope on his belly. Any one of the three guards might be at that moment looking toward the slope. There was no help for that. All Clayburn could do was make himself as much a part of the ground as possible, and make no sound to attract attention his way. Raising all his weight on just his elbows and toes, his head down and the rest of him barely off the ground, Clayburn snaked toward the nearest boulder.
        He reached it without anything happening, and once in its protective shadow let his breath out slowly and lowered himself full-out on the ground for a second's rest. Blue came up beside him in the same fashion, his presence neither heard nor seen, merely felt.
        There were other boulders now between him and the one under which he'd seen the movement. But any one of them might hide

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