After sleep left them with dust in their eyes and a hunger for the leftover coyote meat, the three men set off for the last leg of the trip up and over the rocky hills and to the town beyond. Bennet had had enough of horses and dust and sleeping under the stars, he missed a mattress and a roof and a fire without the wind to his back. He wanted back inside, at the very least, an adobe house.
In no time at all they reached the base of the rocky hills.
"It ain't gonna be easy gettin' them horses over the hills," Bennet said, looking back at the horses they'd taken from the dead Sioux. "Them bastards look a sight stubbourn if'n you ask me."
"I find it hard to argue with that," Lester tugged on the horses' reins. "As they are already deciding they don't want to traverse this particular path."
"We'll make them," Bennet said. "Whether they like it or not."
"It is best," Kuruk said, "with stubbourn horses to treat them with kindness. Then they will do what you wish. Otherwise, they will be nothing but a hindrance."
"Kindess?" Bennet turned to the Apache. "How?"
Kuruk leaned over and took the reins from Lester and tugged on them lightly, shaking them front side to side. He began whispering to them and then clicked with his tongue, pulling out an apple from his saddlebag.
"He had apples all this time?" Bennet asked.
"Must have been saving them for the horses, knowin' we'd have some trouble." Lester said.
"I'd have killed a man for a goddamn apple I was so hungry."
"It's best you didn't, though, it would appear."
Slowly and with hesitation the horses began to follow them riders up the steep and rocky slopes and over the hills. Small sections of rock broke off beneath them and hit the ground, but they continued on at a good pace. Bennet looked behind him to check on the horses and his eyes strayed to the horizon. Just there, barely able to be made out, was a figure, a small black rider heading forward in the heat-wave haze.
"Seems someone's comin' up," Bennet said. "Best we get off these hills soon as possible."
"Can you make them out?" Lester said.
"No, not at this distance," Bennet pushed his horse forward. "But I would not hesitate to say that it would be my pursuer finally caught up with me."
They pushed the horses hard over the hills, their shoes cracking and snapping on the hard rocks, one horse throwing a shoe and blood trailed after it for its poor, soft foot. It whinnied and cried and pulled back on the reins but Kuruk coaxed it down over the rocks and finally onto the soft sand, though hot, was better than the rocks.
"Now, I think we should run," Lester said. "Because, from what you tell me, I don't want to meet this pursuer of yours."
Bennet nodded and they kicked the horses as fast as they would go, speeding towards the horizon and town and safety.
Behind them, the man made and ascended the rocky hills, bearing down on them like a bullet. He had been riding all night and his horse was slowing, but he kept kicking it to go faster.
"Tick tock," he said aloud. "Tick tock."
Finally, the three riders made it to the town and after quick words exchanged with the gate men, they were let inside and the gates closed.
"Round up your guns!" Lester cried. "A man comes here with blackness and murder in his heart!"
"And a mighty good ability to kill folks." Bennet said.
The guards, solemn, nodded and headed for their weapons and manned the small walls that surrounded the town. Some men, too, came with their weapons while others hid in their homes with the women and children.
"There," Bennet said, pointing not too far off. "Here he comes."
The man came up to the town and slowed and stopped when he saw its gates closed.
"I would like to enter," he said, his words withering in the silent air, nothing to echo from. "Open your gates."
"I'm afraid that ain't likely to happen," a guard said. "For it seems that you got killin' in mind."
"I do," the mn said. "But only for one man. An American. Travelling with two others I think."
The guard looked from Bennet to the man.
"I reckon he might be here," the guard said. "What you be wantin' him for."
"Crimes against these here United States."
"Crimes?" the guard asked. "What crimes?"
"Money forgery and conspiring with anti-state Mexican gangs."
Bennet cringed. The man was good. He knew everything.
"Well," the guard said. "Even if that be true, this man is still entitled to a fair trial, ain't he?"
"My employer don't see it that way."
The guard wiped his nose on his sleeves and then the sweat from his brow. "Then you'll have to come and get him."
"And that I will."
The sun was high and hot and the world stood still. No one moved.