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Sagas of the Wild West
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Caleb Barnes

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Rating: PG-14
Content: N/A

Mature Content: Probably

With: Speed, could be a few characters and NCPs
Location: Starts In town
When: June 14 1876
Time of Day: Mid-morning.




(Continued from "Ride To The Rafter A")

"Thank you Ada, believe I'll be alright." He touched his head, toward the back where he'd been hit, there was a lump, but no bandage, so there was no open wound, his hat just might not fit as well as he liked it for a few days, but such is life, not to mention a really great dream.


Caleb Barnes. What was wrong with him? To buffalo the Town Marshal, steal his horse, which by rights was a hanging offense, that was asking for trouble the man didn't want, and, Speed was more than willing to give Barnes all the trouble he wanted. Barnes was young, full of himself, a troublemaker, and wannabe gunman. That was the worst part, thinking he was a bad man and a killer, even though he'd actually killed no one. Whatever his reasons, Barnes had now made an enemy. One who intended to see him behind bars, or worse.


Since he had been laid on his bed dressed, except for his boots, all he needed to do was sit up, pull on his boots, stand, raise his suspenders and then don his vest, lastly, only because it was across the room, set his hat on his head. All of that accomplished, he jogged down part of the stairs, stopped and walked down the rest of the way as it made his head throb.


"And Mister Vaughn?" He asked.


"At the clerks office with paperwork. Seems to be doing just fine, a quick study after all." Ada replied.


"I've business to attend to, so I'll be back sometime later." Looking at the clock on the wall, it was afternoon. "Well maybe tomorrow, depending on how things go today." She nodded as he turned and went out the door to first see to his horse and then to see to Caleb Barnes. He stepped into the street, dodging the afternoon traffic of horses, wagons and other pedestrians.


"You never came out to the ranch." He spun, looking up at Alice sitting her sorrel mare.


"Got waylaid and my horse stole." he said. I had stopped after we saw Pike to get that shoe re-nailed and that's the last I remember, but I saw who did it, and I intend to find him and arrest him."


She looked down at him, "Well then Marshal, you do what you must. The invitation stands when you can make it out there. I've a few things I need to pick up here in town. I'll be there." She turned the horse and left at a canter. Speed cursed this would be a day Caleb Barnes would rue!


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As he stood at the doors of the livery watching her ride off he wondered why Caleb had chosen him to buffalo, knowing, jurisdiction or not, Speed would be out after him. Perhaps his thought was that unlike another man in town, Speed wouldn't be apt to shoot him on sight. If that was the case, the boy was smarter than he looked. For most days there were horses tied to hitch rails up and down Main Street.


Or, it was a simple case of opportunity. That too was a possibility. Either way, Speed meant to find and bring in Caleb Barnes, alive if possible, dead otherwise. It was the way of it.


At that Moment Gunther Schmidt came out of the livery. "Soorry Marshal, I vas not in da livery when you got hit, but I call for the Doc to see to you, Den I vent looken' for your horse, ve needed to re-shoe him, so his trail vas an easy vone to pick up. Da shoe come off, I think he thew the rider. But no real harm, maybe a light sprain. He come back no problem on da lead rope. But you might let him rest a day or two. I loan you a horse."


"Thanks Gunther. Did you see Caleb Barnes hanging around here?" Speed asked.


"Nope, I don't see Barnes hanging around." Was the response. "I got dis Dapple grey stud, I'll put yer gear on him for ya, and you don't worry. No charge. You get that fella!"


"That would be my intent, Gunther, it surely would." Speed said earnestly.



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  • 2 weeks later...

He had no illusions of picking up the trail his own horse had left, a full day gone by, anything that was there would be erased by other traffic along the trail.But he followed the directions that Gunther gave him to the spot where his own horse had been recovered, and it was a bit further out than he thought. The fact that Caleb Barnes had gone south was something of a surprise, and the fact he had been willing to buffalo the Marshal meant he had done something he needed to get away from, and fast.


The spot was covered in fresh tacks, but beside the trail was was a spout where the sagebrush was crushed, as if a weight had landed then rolled. He stepped down to look at it, some of the brush was recovering, but it was clear that indeed Barnes had been thrown from the horse. The animal most have run as best it could, back toward town.


A man afoot would leave tracks so he began a sweep of the immediate area for them. The ground was soft in places,, hard packed in others, so he needed to look carefully, and as he figured, boot tracks off to the south-west. There were some farms and small ranches out that way, one could be see in the distance, so Speed mounted up and started for the place at a trot, watching the ground as best he could to try and keep the tracks in view. He reined in the horse, and walked picking up the tracks again.


The place belonged to Hank Norman, a small farm and widower, but it would be a place a man could get a horse. There was no doubt that that was where Caleb Barnes was headed, and what his intention was. Speed touched a spur to the dapple gray who responded by plunging forward at a gallop. If Barnes wasn't there, and there was no reason to think he would be, at least he might get some directions from Hank, if Barnes had not killed him.


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Guyer came up to the place at a trot, expecting Norman to come out, rifle i hand, and he was not disappointed. The man stood flatfooted in the doorway,  Winchester 'Yellow Boy" held level at his waist, hammer back. It would take the slightest move to raise it to where he could fire and hit a man on horseback.


"Marshal Guyer? What the Sam Hell?" He asked. "You chasin' a man? He stole my horse, the sonofabitch! You catch him, see he's hung right proper!"


"Which way'd he go, Hank, and how long ago?" Speed asked.


"Headed back east. Been maybe half an hour, not much more." NOrman replied. "Hard to work this place without a horse I'll tell ya, but he didn;' get the good 'un, just the one saddled an' she old. Good fer ridin' ta town, maybe light pullin', not much more."


"I'll find him, Hank, and he'll pay, not to worry. Buffaloed me back in town took my horse but didn't get far. Got thrown!"


"She'll tire out in maybe a mile at the gallop. Won't be much fer runnin' after that. So you best get before he's lost in the trees and rocks out that way." Hank Norman advised.


"Thanks Hank, I'll get her back for you." He wheeled the Dapple Gray and touched spur to her flank, the horse responding quickly. Not all out but, as a fast pace for a ways, then slowing to a walk as he searched for sign. It was easy to pick up, the horse was running and tearing up the ground, so Guyer pushed on seeing the stand of trees up ahead where chances were he could lose his quarry, or simply find it more difficult to locate the trail. He picked up the pace again.



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Speed followed Hank's directions, heading back east made no real sense, but then he wasn't running from the law, he was the law. That would be two stolen horses to Caleb Barnes' credit, not a good thing to have as it was a hanging offense, and should there be a third, and he be caught by whoever he stole it from, well, they would decorate the nearest tree with him.


Speed followed what trail there was on the hard packed ground until he entered the grassland where the hoof's had torn up the earth, the trail still leading him east but into the trees which he was expecting. It was clear the animal had tired and was slowed to a walk. Not the escape Barnes had hoped for, but he still had a lead on Guyer, and with ground now covered in dead fall limbs, branches and leaves, the trail had all but disappeared, it had become slow going.


The hope of a quick capture was fading faster than the daylight as he followed the vague, often disappearing trail. Speed wanted to pick up his pace but the constant changes in direction to locate anything of a trail was slow and agonizing, except that now Barnes was heading northeast, as if he was circling back to Kalispell. That made no sense to him, but then again, he wasn't Barnes, and had no idea what he was thinking, so he pushed on.

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Caleb Barnes needed a horse, one that could run and carry him out of the country, away from the reach of Marshal Guyer. That had been a mistake, one he could not take back. This nag he took from that farmer could hold up. The fact was he was afraid the animal would die on him and set him afoot, easy pickings for the Marshal, whom he knew was behind him somewhere.


The trees had afforded him a means of staying  out of sight to the man following him, and that was good to a point, but he just could not make the break for it that he needed. His plan was to head south-west to throw any posse off his trail, then steal a horse and circle back to town and roust Grimes, then head  for open country and get far away from anyone following, but things weren't working out the way he planned. Of course, plans seldom work out the way they were laid out.


He topped out on a small rise as the sun began to set, below, a house, a light in the window, and, a horse tied at the corral, saddled, ready and waiting!


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  • 2 weeks later...

The opportunity to rid himself of the nag he had stolen from Hank Norman, useless plug that it was. It had gotten him to this point however, so he was far ahead of where he'd be on foot. Damn the Marshal's horse anyway!


He stepped down, sheltered by some trees, but with a clear view of the house, and the horse. He tied the nag to one of the trees and moved closer to the edge of the rise, maybe ten feet above the place, in easy reach for a man that could run. The first thing that he did was remove his spurs, nothing would give him away faster than the jingle of spurs in the evening air. That just was not going to happen. He could circle back for them if need be, but even Caleb Barnes realized how stupid that move would be. He could get spurs anywhere.


He hunkered down waiting on full dark, well, unless her heard the Marshal coming up from behind. It would be easier that way to steal the horse. He was already prepared to shoot his way out of the ranch yard if he had to, not wanting all that noise to give away where he was, but whatever it took! He may have to shoot whoever might come out for the animal.


It wouldn't be long until he went for the mount.

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The day was fading and that was not good. Tracking in the trees was difficult at best, what with rotting vegetation, dead-falls, and a blanket of old leaves on the floor of what was essentially a forest, like the areas all around the area. Thick stands of Pines, Aspens, and the like here a horse would have difficulty getting through. Caleb Barnes was ahead of him, by how far or how long, it was hard to guess, but Guyer was determined to get him no matter how long it took, how far the chase, jurisdiction or not.


That was the thing jurisdiction was not a problem, Governor Houser had given him an order allowing him to assume the role of County Sheriff, and he had left behind two of his men, Cook and McNue, to assist, Speed was wishful of them now, booting himself for not having them out here with him. But wasting time feeling sorry for not bringing help was not getting him closer to Caleb Barnes, nor finding the mans trail.


No man moves about without leaving a trail.

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Dark. It was upon the earth. Moon-rise had yet to occur and that was just another good thing in his favor. He steeled himself for what had was about to do, and what the ramifications might be, but he would be damned if he let the Marshal take him, that was just not  a part of his plan.


Carefully he began easing himself down the slope toward the ranch house. He had scanned the embankment  and was fairly certain he could reach the bottom with a sound. He heard nothing from behind, so it was obvious the Marshal was having a time of it, especially now that it was dark. He smiled. Maybe twenty, twenty-five feet between him and the horse. He could hear no movement from inside the place, that was good. He was on solid ground, crouched down to present less of a target. Not sure from who, but just to be on the safe side.


Caleb took a deep breath and started to dash for the mount, the stopped cold. In his head he could hear the crunch, crunch, crunch of his boots on the ground. Not just that but the heavy foot falls. All of that noise was bound to arouse the house. They likely had themselves a dog in there as well, that would foil his attempt right quick! So, he decided to injun up on the horse and take him as quietly as possible. Then he moved forward, tentatively at first, but there was no underfoot crunch so he walked a bit faster, eyeing the hose with every step.


He slipped the reins loose, stepped into the saddle as the door of the house opened and a form filled the doorway with a long gun! Without hesitation, Caleb drew and snapped off two shots as he put the boots to the horse, looking back, whoever it was was down!


He galloped off into the night.

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Hearing the gunfire, speed moved as quickliy and the tress and light would allow. He reached the embankment and down they went, the horse on its haunches.

as it mainly slid to the bottom, then galloped to the house where Speed swung down and ran to the man inside the door. Fightin' Joe Hooker was half way up when speed got there


"Ssonofabtch sstole my horse!" He cursed. "Nneed ta hang 'em!


"Easy Joe, Lets have a look."


"Hell Guyer, just nicked me! I'll spit on it an it'll be okay. What in tranation 'er you doing out this way?"


Speed chuckled. "Chasin' the jasper what stole your horse. Damned Caleb Barnes. Left Hank Normans horse atop the hill there. Listen, I gotta get after him. You gonna be okay?" Speed explained.


"I'll get Norman's horse down, if need be, use i to ride to town and see the sawbones. You get after him, ya hear! Nothing worse than a horse thief!" he bellowed as he got to his feet. "Gwan, git!"


Speed ran to his horse and leaped into the saddle, taking out in the direction Barnes had gone. For the moment, due east, but he could change direction at any time.


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