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As I looked around while Dante checked out the wickiup. The horses moved up to the seep to drink. Then we heard the nicker of another horse.
“So who were you talking to?” Dante asked me. “And what is this place?”
“There's only one person who knows about this place,” I told Dante, “Right John?”
“Well I did help you make it,” John said walking out of the shadows, scaring Dante out of his skin.
“OH MY GOD!” Dante yelled as he jumped and spun to8 face John.
“Dante meet my friend,” I said calmly shaking his hand “John Dougi. John’s a Jicarilla Apache.”
“John this is …”
“Dante your inferno,” John finished my sentence with a smile. “Please to formally meet you Dante.”
“Billy I am glad for you my friend,” John told me smiling till he saw the look on my face.
“Thanks,” I replied. “Let’s grab your bedroll and gear and then head for the house.”
“Oh and the horse of mine you are riding,” I told him.
“What and leave my rabbit?” John asked pointing at the cottontail.
“Okay. Grab your rabbit to,” I told him.
“Oh, and that pony of your’s is lame, so I can walk down.”
“How about you ride my pinto,” Dante said smiling at me. “I’ll ride behind Billy.”
“Sounds good,” I said kissing Dante on the cheek.
“Oh John. It’s just a loose shoe," I said looking at it. "But she’ll need to be looked at.”
So we mounted up and headed back for the house. Dante held on tightly to my waist. And was playing with...well you know.
“Stop it,” I whispered back over my shoulder. “We’ll play later. I promise.”
“Promise?” Dante asked with a kiss on my cheek.
“Yes. I promise,” I told him as we rode up to the patio. The guys were walking out to the hot tub.
“What happened?” Jimmy asked. “I thought you guys were Sleeping under the stars.”
“Well we ran into a old friend,” I told them. “By the way John. Why didn’t you stop at the house?”
John started dressing his rabbit out. Jimmy and Jason started turning green before they looked away. Peter laughed as he comforted Jason.
“Actually I did,” John said getting Dante undivided attention. “But you had a guest already.”
Jimmy perked up at that. While Dante’s eyes got big as saucers at what that would mean.
“Dante was here cooking you supper,” John said stirring up the coals.
“So I figured I would leave you two alone,” John said laying out his rabbit on the grill. “I figured you would want some privacy.”
“It sounded like you two had fun,” he said with a smile.
“So you’ve been up there since the 23rd?” I asked John while I looked at Dante.
“Yep,” John told us. “You have any of that asparagus for grilling left?”
Jimmy, Jason, and Andrew laughed at the look on Dante’s face. While Peter went inside to get John the asparagus.
“Let me introduce everyone,” I said to change the subject. “Guys this is John Dougi.”
“John this is…”
“Andrew Collins and Jimmy Cassidy his fiance,” John said cutting me off again. Honestly I had to smile. “And this is Andrew’s son Jason, and his fiance Peter Roberts.”
“Oh. And congratulations all the way around.” John smiled.
“So John,” Dante said obviously nervous. “You saw me! ...Cooking for Billy.”
John just looked at Dante and smiled. Jimmy got excited at that.
“Well tell us more,” Jimmy said. “Since we weren’t here.”
Dante’s head snapped around. Giving the Jimmy the evil eye at his request.
“I’m sorry Jimmy,” John answered with heart felt regret. “But that would be like me telling everyone about the night Andrew carried you in over his shoulder.”
Getting Jason and Peter’s attention. Jimmy just shook his head.
“I agree,” Andrew said as he turned red. Jason and Peter looked at Jimmy and Andrew.
“Sounds good to me,” Jimmy added turning red as well.
Before long John’s rabbit was done. Along with the Asparagus. We all sat down to talk. As the sun went down and the moon rose. We talked, laughed, we made a toast.
“What is it like living on the reservation?” Dante asked John. Suddenly regretting it. But John just smiled.
“It could be alot better with some help,” John told us. “We need to keep more kids from becoming like me.”
“Like you?” Peter asked him.
“I’m the friend of another Bill,” John told them. “I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.
“Don’t you mean former?” Dante asked him.
“No. I’ve been sober for 2192 days now,” John explained. “You see Dante. Once a drunk or addict. Always a drunk or addict.”
“That’s 6 years and two leap days,” I told them."John nearly did to a family. What that drunk did to Ann.”
“How did you…?” Dante started. “Never mind.” John smiled at him.
“It’s okay Dante,” John smiled at him. “God saved me. And that family that day.”
“I plead guilty to driving under the influence. I gave up my dealers.”
“They gave him two years in prison,” I told them. “He hasn’t driven a big rig, had a drink, or a hit of speed since.”
“I haven’t driven anything since,” John corrected me.
“How did you get down here from the reservation then?” Andrew asked him.
He smiled at me. While spearing a stalk of Asparagus.
“May I John?” I asked him as he ate.
“Please,” he answered after swallowing. Then picking up a rabbit leg.
“John still has a lot of truckers as friends,” I told them. “So he gets rides almost anywhere he needs to go.”
“I also work with the union on the reservation,” John told them. “They help provide jobs on the reservation.”
Then we went in to provide John with a room. But Dante got a towel, wash cloth, and a bar of soap out for him. He handed it to John. Who just looked at it.
“John,” I said getting his attention. “Thank you.”
“For what?” John asked. “And Dante what are these for?”
“To take a badly needed shower with,” I told him.
“What! I don’t smell…”
"Not too pleasant,” I finished for him. “ And thank you for letting me find Dante.”
“You have my thanks as well for that,” Dante added. “Now give me your cloths to get washed. Now!”
John jumped at that. And I had to laugh. The look on John’s face was priceless.
John stared at us for a moment. Then stripped down for the shower.
He dropped his cloths into a laundry basket. Then Dante handed John a pair of my sweatpants.
But then we were interrupted. We heard yells from the patio. Then.
“JOHN!” yelled Charlie and Daniel. Followed by Angel. Bob was bringing up the rear.
”Angel. This is our friend John Dougi,” Daniel told Angel and taking a deep breath. “John this is Angel.”
“Your boyfriend,” John finished for him. Daniel’s eyes got big. “I’ve been here for a while.”
Bob and Charlie laughed. At Daniel and Angel’s reaction.
“And Charlie. Alice is cute,” John added. “Heck they’re both cute.”
“Now I’m told I need a shower,” John told them.
“Please,” they all said. John laughed then entered the bathroom.
“So what are you guys doing here?” I asked Bob and the boys.
“Dante said it would be okay if we spent the night,” Bob told me. “That way we could all go together tomorrow.”
“We could go if you want,” Bob added. The boys looks spoke volumes.
“Bob if Dante said you can stay,” I replied. “Then you guys are welcome.”
“Sorry,” Dante said putting his head on my shoulder. “They called this morning to talk about the mustang adoption tomorrow. So I suggested they come out here and spend the night.”
“It’s okay. We just need to remember to tell each other things like that,” I said kissing him. “Especially if things had worked out.”
“What if what had worked out?” Angel asked suspecting something.
“None of your business!” Dante told him messing his hair up.
“Now do we need to feed you guys?” I asked them.
“No. Dad took us to a great place called Mama Fernandez’s,” Charlie told us.
“Have you heard of it you guys?” Daniel asked us. Dante and I looked at each other and started to laugh.
“It was Billy who showed me Mama’s place,” Bob told his sons.
“Come on Daniel, Angel,” Dante said to the boys. “I’ll put you in the room across from where you were last time.”
“Oh! They left something,” I called out to Dante.
“I already put it in their room,” Dante said turning to smile back at me. Bob and I chuckled.
“Bob, Charlie. Do you want to share or different rooms?” I asked them.
Bob looked at Charlie. Who just rolled his eyes. Bob smiled getting the message.
“We’ll take different rooms Billy. If you please,” Bob said grabbing his eldest and hugged his eldest.
“Dad!” Charlie objected.
“It’s fine,” Bob said to Charlie. “I understand.”
“Thanks dad,” Charlie said a little embarrassed. So I put them in separate rooms.
The boys asked if they could use the hot tub. So we told them to get their trunks on. They ducked into their rooms to change. Daniel and Angel were a little slower. I wonder why?
Dante, Bob and I walked out to the patio. The others were sitting around drinking a nice wine Peter had picked up.
“Was Saturday like this?” Bob asked as we sat down. Dante in my lap.
“A little bit,” Dante answered him. “But they were more curious about Jimmy and Andrew. And Billy and me.”
“Oh do tell,” Bob said looking at Dante and Jimmy.
“Just things like when did Dante fall in love with me,” I told him with a frown.
“Oh,” Bob said realizing he wasn’t sure he wanted to know more.
“Was the baby oil a good thing?” he asked changing the subject.
“It was,” Dante told him. “It took care of their dry skin.” Dante and I smiled. While the others chuckled at Bob.
The boys had just come out of the house. Daniel had heard his father’s question and our answer. He motioned Angel to come back.
“Dad I want to thank you for trusting us,” Daniel said. “And giving us the baby oil.” Then Daniel hugged his dad.
“You’re welcome,” Bob said as he hugged his son.
“I too owe you a thank you Mr. Driscoll,” Angel said offering his hand.
“You’re welcome Angel,” Bob said. But he pulled Angel into a hug. Which surprised Angel who came away teary eyed.
“Are you two coming in?” Charlie asked from the hot tub.
“Yeah,” Daniel told him. Then he and Angel shared a kiss. Then they hopped into the hot tub.
“Daniel’s come a long way from being scared to tell us anything,” Bob said. “Thank you Dante, Billy.”
“Remind me to talk to Jean tomorrow,” I told Dante.
“Talk to me about what Billy Hickok?” Jean asked as she came out the kitchen doors.
“Jean!” several of us chorused in greetings.
“What brings you here Jean?” I asked her with a smile and a suspicion.
“I decided to spend the night with my man,” she told me. ”Is that okay?’
“Well I’m glad I gave Bob the room I did,” I told her with a smile.
“Billy Hickok! Such thoughts,” she replied with a grin from Bob’s lap.
“Well why don’t you two go before the boys spot you,” Dante said wearing that evil grin of his.
“Bob and Jean looked at each other. Then they kissed and stood up. Jean leaned over and kissed Dante on the cheek.
“Behave boys,”Jean called out to her sons and Angel. Bob promptly scooped Jean up in his arms. The boys turned at their mom’s words.
“Go Mr. Driscoll!” Angel cheered.
“Dad! Dad! Dad!” Charlie and Daniel chanted til they were out of site.
“Great idea there Dante,” Jimmy told his friend.
I just gave him a kiss.
Later I called Mama Fernandez and told her to expect a crew for breakfast. All she said was wonderful.
“Let’s go play,” I whispered into Dante’s ear.
“Oohh!” Dante cooed into mine before kissing me. As we stood up.
“Same rules as last time?” Daniel asked catching us.
“Just take care of your dry skin,” Dante told Daniel. Who promptly kissed Angel.
They too got out. Charlie just smiled as they dried off.
“Billy, Dante,” John said getting our attention. “It feels good here. Like before…”
“Good night John,” I said, not as mad as earlier.
“Pleasure to have met you,” Dante told him. As Daniel and Angel head in.
“Billy I think your life has changed,” Andrew said as we started for our bedroom. And I thought Andrew was right. I just smiled in answer. Then Dante picked me up to my surprise.
“Dante!” Jimmy yelped.
“I’m in a hurry,” Dante puffed as he headed in.
“Go Dante!” Charlie cheered.
“Go Dante!” cheered everyone else.
The next morning I woke Dante with a long kiss. Then we cleaned up and got dressed. Then we threw away our torn up shirts.
Andrew, Jimmy, Jason and Peter weren’t going with us. They were going to met Tonya. After Jason got money from his investments.
The rest of us headed for Mama Fernandez’s. Donna and Antonia met us there. John had joined us too. He wanted to get a couple more horses.
Mama was waiting for us at the door. Then Dante asked her to come to our wedding. She said yes. As long as we had the rehearsal dinner and reception at her new restaurant.
Then we were off to the fairgrounds. Jessie and Shaun meet us in the parking lot. As we walked in I spotted the the wrangler I wanted to talk to.
“Hey Barb!” I called out. She was a senior BLM wrangler. She was leading a beautiful Palomino quarter horse. And Angel’s eyes lit up.
“Hey Hickok,” she said walking up. “I see you brought your own herd.”
“I heard about last time,” I said with a frown.
“So I hope to keep that from happening again,” I told her. Dante, John and Angel knew what I was talking about.
“What happened last time?” Jessie asked concerned.
“We had to destroy the one’s not adopted,” Barb told him.”How about some introductions?”
“Well Barb you know Bob Driscoll. This is his wife Jean and their sons. Charlie and Daniel.” Jean and Barb shook hands.
"This is Daniel’s friend..”
“Boyfriend,” Daniel corrected me with pride.
“Boyfriend Angel Montoya. His mother Donna and sister Antonia.”
“This is a new Marshal Jessie Holmes and his boyfriend Shaun Mays.”
“And last but not least. My fiance Dante Green or as I call him. Dante, my inferno.”
“Not funny,” Dante whispered in my ear before kissing my cheek. It took Barb a minute to digest what I had told her.
“Hickok! Congratulations!” Barb yelled grabbing me for a hug.
“When’s the wedding?” she asked. Grabbing and kissing a surprised Dante.
“Next spring,” Dante told her. “On my birthday.”
“Well what a birthday present that will be,” Barb replied. All I and Bob could do was grin. Dante just turned red.
“Now how many horses are you all needing?” Barb asked.
“I was thinking fourteen for sure,” I said looking at at Barb but her look. “ But I may take a few more.”
“If it’s okay with you Billy. I”ll take two more,” Dante said realizing why I loved him.
“Whatever you want,” I told him with a kiss.
“How about we get an even twenty,” Dante said with a smile.
“Don’t forget the burros for the Boy Scouts over at Kirtland,” Bob said reminding me.
“Wow,” Barb said as we were walking around. “That’s fantastic.”
“I’ve a group of mares we picked up from several herds,” she told us. “There are 22 in this herds if you include two foals.”
The boys climbed up on the rails for a better look. Their eyes lit up. Each looking at a different horse. Angel’s eyes were on a young palomino.
I helped Jessie picked out a good pair. We got him a sorrel and dark bay. They were younger than I would have liked but. Dante helped Shaun. Who was eyeing pretty pair of paints. Barb guessed they were twins.
We had several roans. Both red and blue. Some chestnuts and there were two palominos it turned out. The one Angel was really looking out. Turned out to be a colt.
“Hey Barb!” came a voice over Barb's radio. “Do you have Hickok with you? Over.” Barb just handed me her radio.
“This is Marshal Hickok. Over,” I transmitted back.
“Billy there’s a deputy from San Miguel County looking for you. Over,” said the man on the radio.
“We’re loading up now at the west corral. So send him on. Over,” I replied.
“On his way. Over and out,” he finished.
Bob had stepped away to answer a call. He hung up and walked back.
“That was Ethan,” he told me. “He got a call from the Sheriff of San Miguel county.”
“What is it?” Dante asked him. Gripping my arm a little tighter.
“They need our help with a search and rescue,” Bob told us. By then everyone had gathered around. As the deputy approached.
“So deputy. What’s going on?” I asked the deputy when he was close enough.
“Well we have two Eagle Scouts who took out eight Cub Scouts on a hike and overnight,” Deputy Montoya told us. “They’re over due. And the Sheriff’s posse couldn’t find them.”
“There have also been several bear attacks in that area.”
“And one of the Cub Scouts is one of Sheriff Montoya’s grandsons.”
“Who is it primo (cousin)?” Angel asked the deputy. Who did not answer him.”Primo! Who Is It?!”
“Martin answer your cousin!” Donna said rather sternly. But he still didn’t say a word.
But Donna wasn’t satisfied. And she was getting mad, fast.
“Well so much for your promise to my father Primo,” Angel shot back before Donna could speak. “Billy I would like to volunteer to to go help.”
“Us too!” the twins chorused. Moving up to Angel’s side.
“And me,” Dante told me. As I looked at John.
“I’m in,” John added.
“The more the merrier,” I said. “Bob.”
“Yeah I know,” Bob said glaring at the deputy. “I’m in of course.”
“Marshal Hickok I would like to volunteer,” Jessie spoke up. “But I guess you’ll have to say no to me.” I smiled at him.
“In time Jessie. I need an experienced rider,” I told him patting him on the shoulder. “If Marshal McCall needs help. You help him.”
“Yes sir,” he said. “I’ll see you when you get back.” Then he and Shaun left.
“Deputy you can follow me to my ranch. Where we’ll outfit out,” I told the deputy.
“Dante call Tommy and Sebastian,” I told him as we walked to the vehicles. “Ask them to come out to the ranch and take care of the place.”
“I’m calling now,” Dante said. While I walked over to talk to the stock hauler Cary Nelson. Cary said he would haul our stock and get his son to co-drive. Then he pulled out for the ranch.
“Are you bringing Angel?” the deputy asked before we left. Bob took notice and walked over.
“I’m not asking what the deal is here with your cousin,” I told him. “But I’ll tell you this.”
“I’ve gotten to know a fine youngman. But you disrespect that youngman in front of me again. We Will Have A Problem!”
The deputy tried staring me down. Bob joined me in staring back with with a smile.
“Just remember,” Bob said. “If you hurt Angel. We Will Handle It.”
“So just so you know. He’s my son’s boyfriend and he means the world to my son and me.”
It wasn’t long before we were on our way. Jean and Donna said they would drive us so we could get some rest. When we got to the ranch. Tommy and Sebastian were waiting for us.
Tommy and Sebastian had unloaded the burros and the mustangs. Then they started bringing out horses and loading them. The rest of us grabbed saddles and bridles. Saddlebags were loaded with food and first aid. The ladies rolled our bedrolls. We put most of it in my horse trailer.
I asked Donna if she could handle my truck with a trailer. The look I got from her caused me to apologize immediately. Then I remembered the deputy told us about a bear problem in the area we would be searching.
So I took Bob and Dante into the house. I opened my gun safe. We took out three AR-15 chambered in .458 SOCOM. I also gave Dante a pistol.
Dante was concerned. So I had to remind him. There were no Grizzlies in New Mexico. But Dante had to remind me there were more Black Bear attacks than Grizzly every year.
“What about us?” Andrew asked standing on the front porch.
“Well you guys have the run of the house,” I told him. The other came out carrying food for us.
“Jason, and Peter. You two have a house to buy furniture for,” I told them.
“Where will we store it till we can move in?” Jason asked me.
“Tonya should have the house empty Monday. It’s yours,” I told them.
“Jimmy will you get my books?” Dante asked Jimmy.
“No problem,” Jimmy told Dante with a hug. “You guys find those kids as quick as you can.”
“It was just on the news. There was another Bear attack.”
“Billy will find them,” Dante told him.
“HEY!,” John barked acting hurt.
“Sorry John,” Dante added. “I forgot you were coming.”
Before long we were on the highway. We caught up to the stock trailer.
We ate as we rolled down the highway. Dante traded places with Donna so she could eat. Then after the boys fell asleep. Donna explained about Angel's Abuelo (Grandfather), the long time Sheriff of San Miguel county Gilberto Montoya.
Dante and I listened without a word. But we knew what the other was thinking. I looked over at the sleeping boys. Though his eyes were close. Daniel had heard it all. Tears were running down his cheeks.
We arrived about midnight. Bob said he would take care of unloading the gear and the horses with the boys help. The deputy took me over to the command center.
“Sheriff Montoya,” I said rather harshly. I knew him. And had worked with the Sheriff before. And I usually called him Gil. His head snapped around puzzled.
He looked at me then his deputy. The look on our faces spoke volumes. Then he spotted Angel as he was walking over.
“What's he doing here?” Sheriff Montoya asked the deputy. I was getting mad again.
“He's with me,” I told him. And the chill in my voice got his attention. I could see he wanted to say something. So I headed him off.
“Kenny are we in the National Forest?” I asked the head Forest Ranger.
“We are,” Kenny answered catching on. “So technically it's my operation.”
“What do you need Angel?” I asked the patiently waiting youngman.
“Marshal Driscoll wants to know where to picket the horses?” Angel asked staring hole into his Abuelo. Who refused to meet his gaze.
Kenny pointed to an area and I nodded.
“Back along the ball field fence,” I told him. Remind him there's a roll of hay in my trailer.”
“Yes sir,” Angel answered as tears started to flow down his cheeks.
“Do you need anything else Angel?” I asked him. As I wanted to slug Gilberto Montoya.
“I was hoping to talk to my Abuelo,” Angel told me. But Sheriff Montoya refused to acknowledge. “I see.”
“Marshal, Abuelo," Angel said turning. Daniel wasn't too far away.
Daniel moved up to comfort Angel. The sheriff watched them walk away. Daniel was holding a crying Angel. As Donna came over to lead the boys away. Bob started for the Sheriff. But I had to put a hand up to stop him. I knew how he felt.
“Sheriff this is appreciated,” I told in the same cold tone earlier. “But I care for those two, Alot! So tread carefully.”
“Kenny where can we lay out our bedrolls?” I asked the Forest Ranger.
“The picnic shelter just over here,” he said leading us away from Sheriff Montoya. Who was already dressing down his deputy.
“I’ll have everything ready for you in the morning,” he told me.
“What the hell is going on with Gil Montoya?” he then asked me.
“I’ll have to tell you when we get back,” I said grabbing the lead lines for my two horses.
We picketed the horses in pairs for each rider. I had brought Zeb of course for his first long ride. And a mare I knew and trusted called Bluewater. An appaloosa with a blue roan front and white blanket.
Then we bedded down. The ladies all slept in the Driscoll van. As the seat fold away. We had brought a futon mattress for them. We put the boys in the picnic shelter.
Bob, Dante, Kenny, Donna and Jean joined me to talk. Kenny gave us the information on the two Eagle Scouts. Alan Bryant, and Jamie Montero were resorting a campsite with the help of the Cub Scouts this trip. The Army Guard had dropped in their supplies by helicopter it was so remote.
Kenny was reading us the names of the Cub Scouts. When he got to Miguel Montoya it caused Donna to gasp.
“We call him M&M,” Antonia said surprising some. The boys were there behind her as well.
“Can someone tell me what is up with Gilberto?” Kelly asked. “Just what is his problem?”
“He hates me because I am gay,” Angel told him with tears in his eyes. “I wish I were different.”
Daniel spun him around. Looked Angel right in the eyes. While Sheriff Montoya watched.
“Don’t you ever say that,” Daniel told him as his own tears flowed. “Don’t you ever say that ever again!”
Bob and Donna started to rise. But Jean laid a hand on. So they sat back down.
Then Daniel kissed Angel. Pulled him in to hug him and kissed him again.
“I love you with all my heart and soul,” Daniel told Angel. “I don’t care what that old man has to say about it.“
“Not one damn bit!”
“I’m sorry primo,” deputy Montoya said walking over. “He’s become an ass. And I don’t care what he has to say about you.”
“He hasn’t been the same man since your father passed. Then we lost our Abuela (Grandmother).”
Martin Montoya then hugged his younger cousin. Sheriff Montoya seeing this walked over. What he didn’t see were the parents who followed him.
“You’re fired Martin!” Sheriff Montoya roared. “I will take your badge and your gun. NOW!”
Martin calmly took off the badge and handed it to his Abuelo.
“The pistol is mine Abuelo,” Martin told him. “Now You need to go!”
“I will not,” Sheriff Montoya told him definitely. But Bob, Dante and I moved up to Martin’s side.
“Montoya you’re through,” said one of the fathers. “I’m starting a recall as soon as our boys are back.”
Several of the parents said they agreed. And would sign the recall. Sheriff Montoya started to puff up.
“Papa! You need to go,” said another deputy as he stalked over. “Now!” Sheriff Montoya turned and stormed off.
“Marshal Hickok. I’m Javier Montoya. My father’s senior deputy,” he said introducing himself. “And Angel’s very proud Uncle.”
Angel launched himself into Javier’s arms. Quickly followed by Antonia and Daniel. All were crying. With the parents of the lost boys cheering.
Sheriff Montoya came back. So I told him go see about traffic control.
He tried to stare me down. But that didn’t last to long.
“Marshal Hickok. Can we ask you some questions about what we just saw?” asked a lady reporter from Albuquerque TV stations.
“Has any of this gone out live?” I asked her. She sensed her advantage.
“No it didn’t. Should it have?” she asked with a smile.
“No and don’t send it,” I told her. “If you would. Burn me a copy and delete it please.” She smiled at me.
“It will cost you,” she said still smiling.
“We can talk about that later,” I said looking at my watch. She frowned til. “But I’ll owe you one.”
“Now it’s been a long day,” I said looking at my watch again. “And we all need some sleep.”
“I’ll take care of you,” she assured me. “Get some sleep and find those kids fast.”
“The Bear attacked another hiker,” She informed me.
“And?” Dante asked her.
“He managed to walk in. But he was clawed up and bitten real bad,”
She told us. “He’s going through rabies shot in Santa Fe now.”
I thanked her. and we walked into the shelter. Our sleeping bags and bedrolls laid out. But Dante had put his bedroll a few feet from me. So I drug mine over next to his.
“I thought with the news crews?” Dante started. But I smiled as I put my hand on his cheek.
“I don’t care who sees right now,” I told him with a kiss. “Especially after Sheriff Montoya tonight.”
We finally went to sleep. Dante securely in my arms. An Angel securely in Daniel’s arms. Then raised voices woke us up near dawn.
I saw Kenny and Javier. They were between the parents and Sheriff Montoya.
“Listen to me please!” Sheriff Montoya told them.
“Hickok is not going to allow you to go with them,” Kenny told him.
“I know how I was acting was wrong,” Sheriff Montoya told them. “I am asking you all. To let me make it right.”
“Please folks,” Javier said. “He truly has come around. Please.”
The parents went quiet over that. So I walked over to learn more.
“What’s going on here?” I asked as I got close enough.
“Sheriff Montoya wants to join your search team,” Kenny told me. “I told him you wouldn't want him along.”
“Angel!” I called out. Angel came running up next to me.
“Marshal?” he asked looking from his Abuelo to me.
“How good a horseman is your Abuelo?" I asked him. Angel looked back at his Abuelo then back at me.
“Sheriff Montoya is an excellent horseman,” Angel told me in total honesty. With a few huffs near crying again. “He helped mi papa teach me and Antonia how to ride.”
“Well Sheriff do you have a mount? Or better a pair of mounts?” I asked the obviously repentant Sheriff.
“Angel would you check Pinion for the Marshal?” Sheriff Montoya asked. “Marshal if you will check my other Rawhide?”
I looked over to see a pair of fine quarter horses. A seal brown bay and a buckskin. Pinion the bay nuzzled Angel. The buckskin stool his ground. Yet was nervous not knowing me.
Angel did a careful inspection of Pinion. While I checked Rawhide. These animals were magnificent.
“What do you think?” Sheriff Montoya asked us with a smile.
“Pinion has a loose shoe on his left hind leg,” Angel told him. “But he is in fine shape as always.”
“I have some extras in my trailer,” he said turning to the trailer. Coming back he went to work. He was deft and quick with his work.
“Well Marshal? What about my Rawhide?” he asked while working.
“Well your Rawhide is a fine mount,” I told him. “Half quarter horse and Morgan I believe?”
“Si, yes,” said with pride by Montoya. “Pinion as well.”
“Angel would you check my work please?” Montoya asked his nicto (grandson).
Angel took a minute to check his Abuelo’s work. He straightened up nodding.
“Bueno sir,” Angel said looking at his Abuelo.
“Angel,” Sheriff Montoya said going to a knee. “There is something that isn’t bueno.”
With that. I stepped forward. As did Daniel, Dante, and Bob. From then on attitudes changed.
Donna and Antonia took their places next to Angel. All of their heads up in defiance.
“I have been an ass,” he told Angel. We all watched as he spoke. “I have been denying us both the love. We both deserve.”
“Will you forgive me nicto?” he asked as tears streamed down his face. And several others.
Angel had been holding strong till then. He burst into tears himself. Yelling Abuelo several times. His Abuelo caught him in his arms. Kissing and hugging each other. Reporters were confused. But not recording.
The reporter I had made the deal with. Handed me a DVD.
“What just happened?” she asked me.
“A family is healing,” I told her. “Oh! I don’t need this.” Handing the DVD back.
“But I gave my word,” I told her. “So don’t worry.”
Angel called Daniel over and introduced him to his Abuelo and Tio (Uncle). When Daniel put his hand out. Gilberto Montoya shook it then grabbed him for a hug. Much to many's surprise.
Another reporter stepped forward. He asked the Sheriff Montoya what had just happened.
“An old fool was forgiven his transgressions,” he said drying his eyes.
“And who would that fool be?” the reporter asked him.
“Me!” Sheriff Montoya replied. “I will also be retiring when my term is over.”
“Why?” asked the stunned reporter.
“I have better things to do,” Sheriff Montoya told him. “Like spend time with my grandchildren.” As he put his arm around Angel.
“Boys let us go get some breakfast,” he said leading them to the cook shelter. “Daniel tell me about you and my grandson.”
At another picnic shelter. Volunteers were cooking food for those involved. There was anything we could want. And one of the volunteers gave us thermoses of coffee.
As a precaution against the bear. There was a deputy with a shotgun standing guard. It was a happy Martin Montoya.
We saddled our horses. As the eastern sky started to glow brighter.
The reporters walked over for q and a. So I did a short what was going on. Some were not so happy with what little I told them.
“One last question. Can you introduce us to your posse?”
“Sure I can,” I told them. “But it will have to wait till we get back.”
Dante thought we forgot a saddle for John. But John was using saddle blankets. I had bought him a pair with cinches. Saddlebags thrown over the shoulders of one of the horses. A water bag tied to the mane of the other.
I gave everyone instructions on where to ride at breakfast. John and Dante lead us out. Angel and I were second. Behind us was Sheriff Montoya and Daniel. With Bob and Charlie bringing up the drag.
“Why is Daniel riding with my Abuelo?” Angel after riding a little while.
“So your grandfather can learn what a wonderful boyfriend Daniel is and has,” I told the sharp youngman.
“Oh. So you talked to Daniel about this?” Angel asked me. I smiled.
“No,” I told him. Causing him to look back. Daniel was talking to Gilberto Montoya. And Gilberto was laughing with Daniel at the story.
Near midday. John called me forward. I immediately saw what he wanted to show me. The boys had changed their planned route.
“Why are they going up that way?” John asked pointing out the terrain.
“Water is scarce up this way,” I said wondering what was going on.
“Abuelo. Who are the Eagle Scouts again?” Angel asked suddenly.
“Alan Bryant and Jamie Montero. Why?” Gilberto asked his grandson.
“Didn't the Montero family lose their ranch in the 1870’s?” Angel asked. “They lost the payment on the way to Santa Fe. Yes?”
“Si. Two of the Monteros were killed traveling between Mora and Santa Fe,” Gilberto told us.
“Do we know what happened?” I asked them.
“As I recall. They were found a week later,” Gilberto told me. “They were stalked out. There were signs of Comanche.”
“Comanche?” Dante asked puzzled. “Here?”
“Not totally unheard of back then,” I said. “It was rare by then.”
“Really?” Dante asked amazed.
“Really,” John told him. “They raided as far west as Arizona. And some say there was a raid into the Yucatan.”
“Jamie always wanted to find that gold. So he could buy the Montero ranch again,” Angel told us.
“Angel. How do you know Jamie Montero?” I asked him.
“He’s mi primo on Mi mama’s side,” Angel told us. “His mama is my Tia.”
“So they’re on a treasure hunt,” Bob said at that information with a smile.
“More like a scout,” I said. “I lay odds that Alan Bryant know’s what is up.”
We made plans to check with the county historical society and the Sheriff’s office. So I loaned Gilberto my satellite phone. He had them gather the information and to call us back.
It wasn’t long after that we found their first campsite. So we broke for lunch. There was good grass and a small seep. We let the horses that needed to drink drink first.
We sat around to eat. Angel, Daniel, and Gilberto sat near each other. And we watched the change continue.
You could also see the change in the rest of us. Bob especially seemed more at ease. Gilberto got up laughing walking over to me.
“Marshal Hickok, Billy,” he said sitting down next to me. “I owe you a thank you for what you’ve given back to me.”
“And you Bob. Daniel is a wonderful youngman. He loves our Angel so much.”
“And he has shown me what I’ve been missing out on.”
Bob couldn't say anything. But he did shake Gilberto’s hand. Charlie just had to hug the gruff old lawman.
We policed up the area because a breeze gusted up. That was when Charlie found it. It was a photocopy of a topographical map of the area. And a second route was shown that they were on now. There was an area circled. The words ‘Search Here’ written next to it.
Gilberto explained that that was where the Montero’s were found. He also said there was a good spring and rock tank there.
It was then that John found a Bear track. It was following the boys. But John was sure it was today. But not when the boys passed.
“So everyone keep your eyes open and watch your horses,” I said as we saddled up.
No sooner than I said it. The horses heads came up. The Bear came out of an arroyo with a growl and snarl. It charged us.
Bob and I reacted quickly. Our rifles boomed three times each. The Bear dropped like a box of rocks. The Bear was still huffing. John walked over and finished him with his knife.
Then John was going to start butchering the Bear.
“John! What are you doing?” Charlie asked as he rolled the Bear on it’s back.
“His death should be honored,” John told him. But then I pointed out.
“John he may be sick,” I told him. “Why else would he be attacking people.”
We called it into Fish and Wildlife. They were going to send in a biologist to do a necropsy.
Then we were back on the boys trail. We made good time that afternoon. Late in the afternoon we found their second campsite.
So we stopped since the was good grass. We spread the horses out and watered them.
I found a point where we could look ahead. Dante joined me after the sun went down. John came to join us.
“They’re slowing down,” John commented. Scaring Dante.
“John please don’t walk up like that,” I told him. Dante turned to look at me.
“You knew! But how?” Dante asked me. I sweep with my binoculars one more time with a smile.
“Did you see that?” John asked. He pointed toward a far hill.
Then I saw it. Just the flicker of orange. A fire!
“Do you see it Dante?” I asked.
“Not really,” he said. “Wait. The flicker of a fire.”
“That it is,” I said looking at the map. John looking over my shoulder.
“That’s steep over there,” John pointed out. ”That will slow them down, and us.”
“They’re not as far as they should be,” I said. “They’ve camped there for at least a day.”
So we went to sleep with our goal in sight. We were up early and ate in the saddle. Just short of noon we heard the cheers of the Cub Scouts. All of them chattering about an accident
The Cub Scouts came running to meet us. Alan Bryant came climbing up the slope.
“Boy am I glad you’re here Sheriff,” he said as we pulled up.
“Thank the Marshals and his posse,” Gilberto told him. “So tell us what happened.”
Jamie Montero trying to protect one of the Cub Scouts from falling down the arroyo. He had a rock rolled out from under his foot. Taking him for a ride down the slope.
We left the horses with John and the boys. Bob, Dante, Sheriff Montoya and I followed Alan down the slope. Jamie was in rough shape.
“Jamie how are you feeling?” Sheriff Montoya asked him. While Bob and I assessed his injuries.
“There’s a lot of pain,” he said as I tried to move a big rock. “I don’t think that it's compound. But the rocks makes it hard to tell.”
His left leg was sandwiched between two big rocks. We managed to move them. The left leg was badly broken.
“Can you splint it and get me up the hill?” he asked managing his pain.
“There are a enough of us,” Dante said. “Why don’t we carry him up?”
“Dante. His leg is to badly broken to move him without a stokes could do more damage,” Bob told him. “Come on up with me.“
“We’ll get your all’s bedrolls and some food,” Bob told him.
“So I suppose you’ll be staying down here?” Dante asked me.
“Me and the Sheriff,” I said. “And I figure You and Angel will want to join us. So ask John and Charlie take care of our horses.”
When Dante came back. Angel was leading the way. And he was upset.
“Billy! A helicopter cannot land down here,” Angel roared when he got within ear shot.
“Well the rescue helicopter will bring a stokes,” I told him. “It make it easier on Jamie.”
I made the call. But I told them to hold off till morning. When asked why I explained about the terrain. And where Jamie was. The pilot agreed.
The next morning. They arrived early. With two from the helicopter. Bob, Dante, John and myself. We should be able to get Jamie up the slope. The flight doctor added stiffer splints. Then once in the stokes. He wrapped both legs together.
It took some doing but we got him up to the helicopter. They had brought us extra water. As our supply was low. We watered the horses first. Then filled our water containers.
The ride back was uneventful for us. Well the Cub Scouts found it exciting. We got back about noon on Monday. The parents waited till we got the boys off.
The news crews held off. But one reporter walked up without a microphone. She gave me some news I did not want.
“Ned Blount,” I said keeping calm. Bob’s head came around.
“That ass hat is here?” Bob roared. “I’ll take it if you want?”
“What’s going on?” Dante asked me.
“Ned Blount. He’s a network reporter,” I told him. “He’s the only one with balls enough to call me Wild Bill on national TV. “
“Bob block the cameras?” I asked him. Bob swung one of his horses around and blocked the cameras.
Then I grabbed Dante and kissed him.
“And I’ll handle Blout,” I told him. “Just follow my lead and don’t let him bait you into saying anything about us.”
“I don’t want this ass in my business,” I told Dante.
“Okay,” Dante said giving me a kiss. He was happy about it.