by Divoran Lites
Chapter Fifty Two
No one in the cave seemed aware that Aldon and Oates were standing in the opening until Oates, holding a rifle on them, ordered, “Put your hands up!” Then in one fluid move, the three of them, Lia, Ellie, and Lastus sprang to their feet reaching for Heaven.
“Oh, we’re so glad to see you.” Ellie looked straight into Aldon’s eyes as if no one else was there. His heart leapt. He stepped up to her, pulled her hands down, wrapped them around his own waist and held her long enough to breathe deeply with relief. She was safe. He’d get her out of here as soon as possible and then he’d leave her alone.
“Ha, ha, I know you must be glad to see us,” said Oates. You girls pack up anything you want to take and we’ll be on our way. Where do you suppose that other lout might be by now? Where’s your brother, Knothead?” Even though Sheriff Oates had taken command, Lastus would not look at him or acknowledge his presence.
“Get going.” Sheriff Oates handcuffed the young man’s wrists in front of him. “You’re afoot, young fella,” he said. “We’ll come back for your brother later.”
Ellie and Lia waited until Aldon brought the horses to the cave so they could leave. The women mounted and a caravan with Aldon in the lead rode to the shelf road. Once there, Aldon took out his harmonica. He was playing, “Whispering Hope,” when he rounded a curve and came face to face with the older Slater brother on a horse, coming up the other way. In a split second, Aldon recognized the horse the brother was on as one that was stolen from Blue Spruce Ranch. Before he could speak or move the man flung himself off and rolled down the mountain side. Aldon could hear the sounds of his fall through the heavy brush and the thumping of his body against the boulders. It all happened so fast that no one had a chance to move.
When Aldon heard the man splash into the creek and curse, he knew he’d live until someone could come back for him. The horse, which Aldon had named Galaxy, stood immobilized with fear, his ears laid back and his eyes showing more white eyeball than pupil.
“That’s my boy, Galaxy!” Aldon spoke to the horse in a gentle tone. “Hold on, you’ll be all right now. We’ll get you down off this road.”
“Will you help me, please?” He turned to speak to Ellie.
“Can you get down? I’ll help you to go around me. I need you to push on Galaxy’s chest. I’ll tend to her tail end.”
Ellie did as he asked, sliding off Summer and onto the path where she crept past Aldon by holding onto any part of him or his horse that she could reach. First, his strong arm steadied her, and then, when he couldn’t hold on any longer, she grabbed parts of Chief’s tack to help her keep her footing. The horse was as patient with her as a wise old father might have been.
“Tell her she ain’t at a tea-party,” yelled Sheriff Oates. Aldon ignored him and dismounted, glad to stretch his muscles.
“Be careful,” Lia called. Aldon winced at the intrusion of the woman’s voice but ignored her.
“Cup your hands around his chest.” Aldon said as he moved to Galaxy’s rear. “Slow and gentle, easy boy,” he said pushing back slightly to help guide the horse. For a second he remembered training this horse to back up correctly and was glad. “We have to back him down. There’s no room to turn. He’s a good horse, and he’ll do as we ask.” Galaxy shifted as if he were getting the message, and Aldon backed up, step by step.
“Just a bit more, don’t stop pushing. He trusts you, and he’s going to keep moving.” He was proud of Ellie and wished he could tell her so.
After a few more steps, Ellie lifted a hand to wave. “We’re here,” she said.
“Thank you, Lord.” Aldon had been watching Ellie so closely he had almost forgotten the goal. “Good work, Ellie.” He was so proud of her and glad to be on speaking terms with her that if he’d had a tail he would have wagged it.
“If you want to bring Chief to me,” Aldon said, “I’ll take care of these two and you can get back on Summer.”