“They got our hosses,” said Cheyenne.
“What? Our horses? Great Scott, how far is it to Senator Brown’s ranch?”
“About twenty-five miles, by road. I know a short cut.”
Bartley jumped up and pulled on his boots. From the far hills came the faint yelp of a coyote, shrill and derisive.
“The joke is on us,” said Bartley.
“This here ain’t no joke,” stated Cheyenne.
HIGH HEELS AND MOCCASINS
Bartley suggested that, perhaps, the horses had strayed.
Cheyenne shook his head. “My hosses ain’t leavin’ good feed, or leavin’ me. They know this here country.”
“Perhaps Dobe left for home and the rest followed him,” said Bartley.
“Nope. Our hosses was roped and led south.”
Bartley stared at Cheyenne, whose usually placid countenance expressed indecision and worry. Cheyenne seemed positive about the missing horses. Then Bartley saw an expression in Cheyenne’s eyes that indicated more sternness of spirit than he had given Cheyenne credit for.
“Roped and led south,” reiterated Cheyenne.
“How do you know it?”
“I been scoutin’ around. The bunch that rode by last night was leadin’ hosses. I could tell by the way the hosses was travelin’. They was goin’ steady. If they’d been drivin’ our hosses ahead, they would ‘a’ gone faster, tryin’ to keep ’em from turnin’ back. I don’t see nothin’ around camp to show who’s been here.”
“I’ll make a fire,” said Bartley.
“You got the right idea. We can eat. Then I aim to look around.”
Cheyenne was over in the bushes rolling his bed when Bartley called to him, and he found Bartley pointing at a pair of dice on a flat rock beside the fire.
Cheyenne stooped and picked up the dice. “Was you rattlin’ the bones to see if you could beat yourself?”
“I found them here. Are they yours?”
“Nope. And they weren’t here last evenin’.”
Cheyenne turned and strode out to the road while Bartley made breakfast. Cheyenne was gone a long time, examining the tracks of horses. When he returned he squatted down and ate.
Presently he rose. “First off, I thought they might ‘a’ been some stray Apaches or Cholas. But they don’t pack dice. And the bunch that rode by last night was ridin’ shod bosses.”
Bartley turned slowly toward his companion. “Panhandle?” he queried.
“And these here dice? Looks like it. It’s like him to leave them dice for us to play with while he trails south with our stack. I reckon it was that Dobe hoss he was after. But he must ‘a’ knowed who was campin’ around here. You see, when Wishful kind of hinted to Panhandle to leave town, Panhandle figured that meant to stay out of Antelope quite a spell. First off he steals some hosses. Next thing, he’ll sell ’em or trade ’em, down south of here. He’ll travel nights, mostly.”