“This is all your fault, Noah!”

“Jimmy, I’m sorry. I tried to-”

“Sure you did. You were just lookin’ for an excuse to go off and help the army. Now Rosemary’s dead because of you!”

“Jimmy, come on. Noah had no idea that she would ride right into the fight.”

“Stay out of this, Kid. He should have stopped her.”

Noah couldn’t believe what was going on. A few hours ago, Rosemary Burke had ridden by on her way to find Pierson and his gang. Noah HAD tried to stop her, but she was insistent. Instead, he went with her, hoping to protect her from the fighting. However, she had other ideas. As soon as it was evident that the army’s surprise attack was no surprise to the gang, Rosemary took it upon herself to make sure that Pierson died. Before Noah could do anything, she had ridden off, only to get shot. With Cody’s help, Noah was able to get her back on her horse. They had thought that her wound was superficial until she fell off of her horse halfway back to town. She died in Noah’s arms, and now Jimmy was blaming him for her death.

Maybe he’s right. I should have tried harder to keep her from going. “Jimmy, I’m sorry,” Noah tried again.

“I don’t want to hear it.” With that, Jimmy walked away from the wagon holding Rosemary’s lifeless body. The rest of the riders, including Kid and Lou, along with Rachel and Teaspoon were speechless as they watched him walk away.

“He’s just upset, Noah. He just needs to blame someone right now, but deep down, he knows it wasn’t your fault,” Rachel tried to console Noah.

“Maybe it is my fault. I mean, I barely even tried to stop her from going,” Noah replied.

“Noah, you said yourself there was probably no way, short of tying her down, to stop her,” Lou reasoned.

“Yeah, well maybe I should have done that. At least she’d still be alive!” Noah turned and walked away from the group, in the opposite direction of Jimmy.

“Teaspoon,” Cody spoke up. “What are we gonna do?”

“I don’t think there’s anything we CAN do, son. Their gonna have to work this out themselves,” he replied.

“I think I found us another man, George.”

“Good, we could use all the help we can get. Where is he?”

“I saw him head for the saloon. Seems Pierson killed a woman and her friends are blamin’ this black man for it.” Lyle Brown had been watching the scene between Noah and Jimmy. He was hoping to overhear any tidbits the army might have about Pierson’s gang, but this argument was all he heard.

“Well, Lyle, looks like you and me are goin’ to the saloon!” George Carson replied.

“Noah, you look like hell. You sure you don’t want whiskey?” the barkeeper asked.

“No, sarsaparilla will be fine,” Noah replied.

“Alrighty, that’ll be two bits” Noah handed him the coins.

“Hey, barkeep, how ‘bout a couple of whiskeys here,” George Carson called.

“Yes, sir,” the barkeeper replied as he went about preparing their drinks. After he gave George and Lyle their drinks and got their money from them, they put their plan into action.

“Hey, George, did’ya hear about the lady that got killed by the Southern Raiders?” Lyle asked.

“Yup, don’t know why she was out there with the army, though.” George said with his back to Noah.

“They killed her husband. She insisted on going out there. I couldn’t stop her,” Noah said before he realized he was thinking out loud.

“Shame you couldn’t stop her. I suppose the army’s gonna go after Pierson.” George could help smiling when he heard Noah speak up. If he played his cards right, he and Lyle would have one more man to ride out with them tonight.

“I doubt it. They’re too lazy to go after them,” Noah’s bitterness was not lost by the two other men. “Besides, the Raiders were practically dumped in their lap and look how that turned out.”

“Yer probably right. There’s probably quite a few people that feel the same way.

Pierson’s done a lot of damage up around here. I wouldn’t be surprised if a group of men went looking for him on their own,” Lyle knew they had Noah.

Noah looked at the two men that had barely touched their whiskeys. “I don’t suppose you would happen to know where this group is, do you?”

“What’s your name, boy?” George asked.

“Noah. Noah Dixon.”

“Barkeep! How ‘bout a whiskey for my friend Mr. Dixon here.” The barkeeper came over and eyed Noah. When Noah didn’t refuse, the barkeeper put a glass of whiskey in front of him.

“Two bits,” he told Noah.

“I got it,” George said, digging into his coat pocket and handing the coins to the barkeeper. “Noah, we’d appreciate it if you would come help us find Pierson and his men and give them what they deserve. If you’d like, we can take you out to our camp after we’re done here. We’re plannin’ on ridin’ out tonight.”

“I think I might just take you up on that offer, Mr. . . . ”

“Carson. George Carson. And this here’s Lyle Brown. Don’t you worry. We’ll find them. Here’s to our success.” With that, all three whiskey glasses were emptied.

The first thing Noah noticed when George and Lyle took him to their camp was the light-colored pony with a black marking on its head, like a cap.

“Nice animal you have there,” he said.

“Yep. That’s Carl’s Indian paint. The Indian that sold him the horse told him it wasn’t worth anything. Seems it didn’t do its job of bringin’ them buffalo,” Lyle snickered.

“Boys,” George called out. “I want you all to meet Noah Dixon. He’s gonna be joinin’ us. Noah, all these men have somethin’ in common. The Southern Raiders have ruined their lives. They’ve had family and friends murdered and homes and businesses ransacked and burned to the ground. We’ve decided to put it upon ourselves to see justice done, since the army doesn’t seem to want to overexert their sources. Boys, we’ll be leavin’ at sunset. Carl, you find out anything?”

Carl came up to where George and Noah were standing. “Seems they headed west. They ain’t movin’ that fast either. Couple of’em took some shots. It’s slowin’ them down.”

“Well, I guess the army can be useful,” George told him. “Why don’t you take Noah here and show him the ropes.”

“Sure thing.”

The sun shown brightly the next morning, waking the occupants of the bunkhouse before Rachel had a chance to come over and wake them herself. She was pleasantly surprised to find them all up and dressed when she came over to start breakfast.

“Did Noah come back last night?” she asked.

“Yeah, but he didn’t stay. Got his gear and horse and left again. Probably just needs some time away from here,” Buck replied. He had tried to talk to Noah when he came in the night before, but got no response. However, Buck thought he knew how Noah was feeling and figured he would work out his problems in his own way.

Rachel sighed. She hadn’t thought the coming war would affect their family so hard and so quickly. Jimmy and Noah were mad at each other over Rosemary and Jesse had run off with his brother. Not to mention the fact that Cody had joined the army against Teaspoon’s wishes and would be leaving with them in the near future. Luckily, the army felt that Cody was needed to see the express to the finish since much of the mail they were carrying was for the army now. Unfortunately, the Pony Express was going to be ending very soon with the telegraph lines going up so quickly.

“Don’t worry, Rachel,” Cody came up and laid a hand on her shoulder. “If he isn’t back by supper, we’ll go lookin’ for him.”

“Thank you, Cody. Now, you boys better go get started on your chores while I get breakfast started.” Buck and Cody headed out, but Jimmy stayed back for a minute.

“Rachel, I’m sorry about Noah. I know it wasn’t his fault Rosemary got killed. I guess I shouldn’t have taken it out on him,” Jimmy told her.

“Jimmy, I’m sure Noah realizes that. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel bad about it though. But, he might feel better if you told him that.”

“First chance I get, Rachel. Thanks.” Jimmy headed out to the barn.

Well, Rachel thought. There’s one rip that’s healin’.

Later that day, the three boys were visiting Teaspoon in his office when Captain Erbach came in.

“Teaspoon, I need to talk to you,” the captain said.

“This better be important, Tommy,” Teaspoon replied. “You ain’t exactly my favorite person right now.”

Erbach tried to ignore the last comment as he continued. “You ever heard of George Carson?”

“Nope, he some kind of big army official?”

“No. Far from it. You could say he is the northern equivalent of the Southern Raiders,” Erbach told him.

“Don’t see what that has to do with us,” Teaspoon replied.

“Seems he and his men have been trailing Pierson also. Only problem is, they don’t mind hurtin’ anyone that gets in their way, north or south,” he explained.

“I still don’t see what that has to do with us, Tommy. I haven’t had any trouble like that around here, and seems he’ll be doin’ you all a favor if he gets Pierson.” Teaspoon knew that this Carson fellow and his men were no better than Pierson, but he was still upset with Erbach about the incident the day before.

“I know you haven’t had any problems with him. He’s gone now. We didn’t even know he was here until he left last night. Otherwise, we would have taken him and his men into custody. The only reason I’m tellin’ you all this is because one of my men thought he saw one of your riders leave with them, the black fellow.”

“Noah? He wouldn’t do anything like that,” Teaspoon said.

“Uh, Teaspoon,” Buck cut in. “Noah got his gear last night and left. I figured he just needed some time away. He wouldn’t tell me where he was going, either.”

“Buck, Noah wouldn’t go join a band of outlaws like that,” Cody interjected.

“He might if he didn’t know they were outlaws. They probably didn’t have to work too hard to talk him into goin’ with them after what happened yesterday,” Teaspoon said as he sat down in his chair. “What are you going to do about it, Tommy?”

“There’s nothin’ I can do, Teaspoon. The army’s sendin’ out a detachment to find them. I don’t know what will happen to your rider when they find Carson.”

“Erbach, why can’t you ever bring some good news?”

“When are we leavin’?” Lou asked. She and Kid had joined Teaspoon, Rachel, and the boys in the bunkhouse where Teaspoon explained what Captain Erbach had told him.

“Kid,” Teaspoon looked over at Lou’s husband.

“Don’t look at me, Teaspoon. I rather like married life. I’d like to stay that way!” Kid wasn’t too eager at the prospect of Lou going chasing after Noah, but he knew that she wouldn’t change her mind.

“Fine,” Teaspoon conceded. “Tommy said they think Carson headed west. They must be travelin’ at night under the cover of darkness. Rachel, Lou’s replacement, he comin’ back today?”

“Should be back any time now. There’s also that Johnson boy that just moved to town. He used to ride before his home station was closed. I bet he’d be willing to help out around here for a few days.” Rachel knew exactly what Teaspoon was thinking about.

Sometimes it amazed her that their station was still going, considering the amount of time the riders and Teaspoon took to go chasing after one thing or another. “I’ll go find him after we’re done here.”

“Good. Now, they’ve probably got about a days ride up on us. Hopefully we’ll be able to catch up with them before they catch up to Pierson. Let’s get our gear together and get saddled up!” Teaspoon watched as his boys, and girl, got up to get ready.

“You all bring him back safely, and I’ll bake you up a sweet potato pie,” Rachel said with a smile.

“Looks like they’ve been here, George,” Lyle said. “But I can’t tell where they went from here.” Carson’s men, including Noah, had been riding all night. They had followed Pierson’s tracks to a small town, but Lyle couldn’t decipher which way the Southern Raiders had left town.

“Well, lets make camp here for a while. Carl, why don’t you take Noah with you into town and see what you can find out.” George got off his horse and began making camp.

“Sure thing. Come on, Noah.” Carl and Noah continued on into town.

“You think we’ll find out anything here?” Noah asked Carl.

“Somebody’s got to know something. We just have to find’em.” Carl replied.

Noah and Carl spent most of the morning wandering around town trying to get any information they could about Pierson’s movements. They were led to a farmer a few miles from town. The boy that told them about this farmer said that he had seen some strange men at his place the day before. Noah figured that if this farmer had been friendly with Pierson, he probably wouldn’t tell them anything, but this was the only lead he and Carl had gotten all morning. Doesn’t hurt to try. Pierson might have forced him to help them, he thought.

“This must be it,” Carl said as they rode up to small but nice looking farmhouse.

“Can I help you, gentlemen?” a middle-aged woman came out of the house.

“Yes, ma’am,” Carl replied. “We’re lookin’ for some friends of ours that might have pasted by here yesterday. We were wonderin’ if you or your husband had seen anybody around here like that.”

“Well, can’t say I have, but Matthew might have seen someone while he was out in the fields yesterday. If you’d like to wait a minute, I’ll get him for you.”

“We’d appreciate that, ma’am.” Carl and Noah dismounted as the woman went to retrieve her husband from the barn. A few minutes later she returned.

“He’ll be out in a minute. We’ve been havin’ some trouble with one of our pregnant cows. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a pie in the oven.” Carl and Noah thanked her, and she returned to the house.

“How can help you, gentlemen,” a man Noah took as ‘Matthew’ said as he came out of the barn.

“Well, sir. We’re tryin’ to find some friends of ours that may have come by here yesterday. Name’s Pierson.” Carl watched him for any signs of recognition.

“Name doesn’t sound familiar. Wish I could help you.” Matthew replied.

“Sir,” Noah questioned. “Someone in town said they saw some men out here yesterday with you. Is it possible that they didn’t tell you who they were.”

“There were some horse traders that wanted to go through my land. I let’em. I think his name was Garrison, or somethin’ like that.”

Carl was slowly approaching the farmer. He looked as if he didn’t believe the story.

“Garrison, huh? You think we’re gonna believe that? Where you from anyway?” He had gotten so close he was beginning to intimidate the farmer.

“W-we came out here from North Carolina about ten years ago. Look, mister, I’m not exactly sure if the name was Garrison. Your friends horse traders?” Matthew had backed up a few steps.

Noah didn’t like where this questioning was going. “Are you sure they were horse traders?” he stepped in.

“They had about a dozen horses with’em. Don’t see why else they would have had so many horses with’em,” Matthew replied and relaxed a bit.

“They could’a stolen them, for all you know.” Carl looked like he was about to pounce on the poor farmer.

“Carl, he doesn’t know anything. Probably wasn’t even Pierson. Let’s just go back into town and see if we can find out anything there.” Noah headed back to his horse, hoping Carl would follow him. Luckily, he did, but not before giving the farmer a death glare. “Thank you for the information, sir,” Noah called as they rode away.

After they had ridden for a few minutes in silence, Noah spoke. “You didn’t have to go threatenin’ him. He didn’t know anything.”

“For all we know, he could be protectin’ Pierson and his gang. You heard what he said. He came from the south,” Carl replied.

“That don’t mean anything. One of my best friends is from Virginia,” Noah said thinking of Kid. “Besides what were you gonna do. Beat it out of him?”

“Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Noah couldn’t believe what he had just heard. Something’s not right here, he thought.

The two men rode the rest of the way back to town in silence.

When the two men got back to town, Carl went back to the camp while Noah decided to see if he could find the doctor. If Pierson’s got wounded men, he might have seen them. The doctor had been out on a house call that morning, but when Noah went to his office the second time, he was there.

“What can I do for you, young man?” The doctor was an older gentleman who looked like he enjoyed his job very much.

“Afternoon, Doctor,” Noah smiled and shook the doctors outstretched hand. “I’m lookin’ for some men that might have come to you yesterday with some gunshot wounds.”

“Oh,” the doctor sighed. “Well, I can’t tell you much. They came in, said they’d had a hunting accident. Of course, I didn’t believe them. I’ve seen enough gunshot wounds to tell the difference. Besides, they didn’t look like peaceful hunter. Didn’t look peaceful! I didn’t push them for information, though. I’ve got quite a few patients that really need me now. I didn’t want to leave the town without a doctor.”

“I understand. Who knows what they might have done to you,” Noah said. Most men would not have pushed for fear of their own lives. He admired this doctor for thinking about his patients needs before his own life. “Did you happen to see which direction they rode out of town?”

“They looked like they were headin’ northwest, but I could be wrong. I had to go deliver a baby. They were gone when I got back into town,” he told Noah. “I’m sorry I can’t help you more. They looked like they should probably be in jail.”

“They should. They’ve killed innocent people. The army’s been tryin’ to track them down, but they haven’t had any luck. Thank you for the information, though. It’s the most I’ve found today.” With that, Noah headed out the door.

“Good luck!” the doctor called as Noah rode away.

“Damn! It’s no use, Lyle. I gotta give her the night to rest up.”

“Well, it’s not like we know which way to go anyway.”

“We would if George hadn’t sent our little black friend with me.”

“I know, Carl. He just doesn’t quite understand how we do things yet. If we haven’t found out anything by the time everybody gets back, I’ll go with you to that farmer’s place, and we’ll get him to talk.” Lyle wasn’t too surprised to hear that Noah had stopped Carl from beating the farmer until he talked. It wasn’t important at the moment anyway. They would be able to leave until the next morning, now. Carl’s horse had picked up a stone on the way back to the camp. Of course, he didn’t notice it until he got back, and there was no way the horse would be able to ride with the rest of the group without some rest. Hell, Lyle thought. The men need some rest, too.

A little while later, George came riding up with Noah at his side. Noah had thought about bringing up Carl’s behavior at the farm with George, but something told him it would just mean trouble. Instead, he had told him what he had found out from the doctor. Luckily, this information satisfied George, so he didn’t want to go talk to the doctor himself.

“Looks like their headin’ northwest, boys,” George called out as he and Noah rode up to the encampment.

Lyle came up to them. “George, we got a problem. Carl’s horse picked up a stone. She’s gonna need a night’s rest. The men could use it, too.”

“Their probably not going very fast. Probably stoppin’ a bit, too,” George reasoned.

“Couldn’t Carl just trade his horse?” Noah asked.

“He’d rather die than be parted with that horse, buffalo or no,” Lyle told him. Noah smiled. Reminds me of someone I know.

“Lyle’s right. The men do need a rest. We’ll leave in the morning. EARLY!” George decided as he dismounted.

“Their still headin’ west,” Buck told Teaspoon.

“We’ve still got a few more hours of trackin’ light left,” Teaspoon told the riders.

“Let’s make good use of it.” Buck and Teaspoon remounted and the group started off again.

“Jimmy, you’ve been pretty quiet.”

“It’s nothin’, Kid. Just thinkin’.” He had had a bit of time to think about what had happened in the past few days. “I’m not still blamin’ Noah, if that’s what you’re thinkin’.”

That’s exactly what Kid had been wondering about. “No, just makin’ sure you’re okay.”

“You know, you were right about me and Rosemary. I guess I thought there was something more there. Maybe that’s why I got angry with Noah, but I was really angry at her for gettin’ herself killed. If she had feelings, she wouldn’t have gone, would she?” Jimmy asked.

“You mean, if she had cared for you more than she cared for her husband and their cause, she wouldn’t have gone. Jimmy, to tell you the truth, I don’t think she would have been able to care for anyone more than she cared about the abolitionist cause.” Kid hoped that his answer would not upset Jimmy, but he felt that it needed to be said.

“Yeah, you’re probably right. I guess, with you and Lou gettin’ married, and that whole thing about someone for everybody, I just thought maybe there was a reason me and Rosemary met up again.” Kid had voiced what Jimmy was thinking but didn’t want to believe.

“Don’t worry, Jimmy. I’m sure there’s someone out there for you.” Kid smiled and was glad to see Jimmy smile back.

“If you boys are done with your heart to heart, we need to pick up our pace,” Lou called back to them.

Kid and Jimmy grinned at each other. “Yes, dear,” Kid called back as they caught up with the group.

“Yeah, there were a couple of men askin’ around yesterday. One of them was black. Seemed like a nice fellow. Other one didn’t seem quite as nice, though.”

“Do you know when they left, or where they were headin’?” Cody asked the general store owner. Teaspoon and the riders had just ridden into town. Buck hadn’t been able to tell which tracks belonged to Carson, but he could tell that they had been there not too long ago.

“Can’t say, they were gone when I opened the store,” the owner replied.

“Well, thank you, sir.” Cody left the store to join his companions.

“Find out anything?” Lou asked. They had been asking around, but no one seemed to know anything.

“Nope. He said two men came by yesterday askin’ questions. Said one was black. Had to be Noah, but he didn’t know when they left or where they were goin’,” Cody told her.

“Why is it every time we try to get information out of people, no one seems to know anything?” Jimmy asked.

“That’s what keeps life excited, Jimmy,” Teaspoon said with a smile.

“Hey, Teaspoon!” Kid was jogging toward them. “The doctor says he may know something.”

“Well, let’s go talk to him!” They made their way to the doctor’s office. When they entered, the doctor stood up from his desk.

“This young man says your lookin’ for a friend of yours.”

“Yep, a black man. He was travelin’ with some other men.” Teaspoon hoped the doctor had some useful information for them.

“A black gentleman came by yesterday, askin’ about some men I had treated for gunshot wounds. He seemed like a nice fellow,” the doctor relaxed when he saw that the older gentleman of the group was a marshal.

“He is a good man. Unfortunately, the men he is travelin’ with aren’t. We’d like to find him before somethin’ happens to him. He doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into,” Teaspoon told the doctor.

“Well, I told him all I knew about the first group of men. I told him that I thought they had headed northwest. Your friend and the men he was with headed in that direction early this morning. I’d say about six hours ago. I was just gettin’ back to my office when they rode off. Poor mother thought her baby had cholera, when it was just a fever!” The doctor had been surprised to see the men still there that morning.

“I thank you, sir.” Teaspoon and the others turned and left the office. “Well, that’s good news. We’ve gained on them. I figured they would have left last night. Somethin’ must have laid them up.

“You think we’ll catch up to them before they catch up to Pierson?” Buck asked.

“Pierson can’t be going too fast if he has wounded men,” Cody pointed out.

“Yer right, Cody. We may catch up to both of them. We’ll just have to be careful,” Teaspoon said as he looked at Lou.

“What! You’d think I turned into porcelain instead of gettin’ married!”

“Seems your doctor friend was right,” George told Noah. Pierson’s gang had been riding slower that Carson thought. He had sent one of his men ahead while they let their horses rest. He had come back saying that Pierson was just over the hill. It appeared that they had stopped to rest their horses and their wounded men. “As soon as Lyle gets back, we’ll decided on a plan of attack.” Sunset was quickly approaching, and Lyle had gone back with the first man to scout out the area.

“We’re still pretty close to that town we just passed. I’m sure the sheriff would be willing to send some men out here to help us bring in Pierson,” Noah suggested. George chuckled. “You honestly think a jail cell will keep the Southern Raiders?”

“I thought that was the plan.” Noah had hoped that the sinking feeling in his stomach had been wrong. “The closest fort is at least a days ride from here.” He wasn’t sure what he was going to do now that his suspicions had been confirmed.

“I’m not givin’ the army the credit for what we’ve done. I told you before, we’re carryin’ out justice,” George said.

“Killin’ a man just because he’s an outlaw isn’t justice. Just make you an outlaw.”

“Son, it’s too late for that. Seems the army thinks we already are outlaws. You too.”

George smiled. He had hoped that Noah would prove to be an asset to his group, but he could still enjoy the conflict going on inside Noah’s head. “You might as well help us. That way you won’t be considered an outlaw for no reason.”

“I haven’t done anything yet, and I’m not going to start now by helpin’ you.” Noah just hoped that Carson and his men wouldn’t do anything too harm to him. His only chance would for them to leave him. Then he would go back to the town and hope he could get enough men to help him.

“I’ll give you a little bit of time to think about it. Carl, would you please tie up our friend here?” George called out to Carl.

“My pleasure, George.” Carl pulled Noah to a nearby tree and began tying him up. “I should give you what I was gonna give that farmer, but I don’t want to tire myself out before we get Pierson.” He walked away, leaving Noah to try to untie the very tight knots.

“I’d say they were here no more than an hour ago,” Buck said as he mounted his horse. The riders had just past a small town. The tracks showed that Carson hadn’t stopped there, so Teaspoon didn’t want to stop their either.

“Good, we should catch up to them soon.”

“We’ll be back soon,” George said to Noah. “Don’t go anywhere!” Carson and his men rode out. Noah had succeeded in not affecting his ropes at all. He had been able to hear Carson’s plan, but the information was useless since he was still tied up. He was about ready to rip his hands off the get free when he heard horses approaching him from behind.

“He really has a way of makin’ people mad at him.” Noah rolled his eyes. I’d almost rather stay tied up than be rescued by Cody, he thought. When they came around in front of him, he was surprised to see Jimmy with them. “Hey, Noah. Next time you decide to run off, tell someone where yer goin’.”

“Cody, next time you run off, don’t tell anyone.” Noah replied. Cody grinned as he got down to untie Noah. Pierson’s just over the hill. Carson and his men just left a few minutes ago to ambush them.”

“We know,” Teaspoon said. “ We were waitin’ for them to leave so we could come get you. I take it you must have a pretty good idea what kind of men Carson and his gang are.”

Noah stood up and rubbed his wrists. “It took a little while, but I figured it out. I heard their plans, but there’s too many of them for us to take on.”

“I figured that might be the case. That’s why I called on some help,” Teaspoon said. Noah finally noticed the army scout sitting on his horse with the other riders. “Soon as that doctor told us what direction you were headin’, I wired Fort Kearney. We’ve got some soldiers on the other side of Pierson’s camp.

“Carson’s gonna surround Pierson’s camp, then ambush them,” Noah told them.

“Hmm,” Teaspoon thought for a minute. “ Probably best for us to surround them too. We should probably wait until the fighting starts. Otherwise one group may get an upper hand on us.” Teaspoon wrote a quick note and handed it to the scout who took off on his horse for the army on the other side. All right, here’s the plan. We’ll surround them and wait for the first gun shot. Hopefully by the time anyone figures out what’s happening, we’ll have them all in custody.”

“Of course it’s going to go that way,” Buck said under his breath.

“I heard that, Buck,” Teaspoon said.

As the riders spread out to find good spots, Jimmy went up to Noah. Noah knew that Jimmy was wanting to yell at him for leading them into this mess.

“You didn’t have to come, Jimmy,” he said.

“Yes, I did,” Jimmy started. “Noah, I’m sorry about blamin’ you for Rosemary. I should have thanked you for goin’ with her. I mean, you could have been killed instead of her, but you still went with her.”

“What?” Noah was surprised that Jimmy wasn’t mad at him, but he definitely was not expecting an apology. “But I didn’t stop her from goin’.”

“Hell, I probably couldn’t have stopped her. I wasn’t really angry with you. I guess I was angry at her, for gettin’ herself killed, but I couldn’t yell at her. I hope you can forgive me, Noah.” Jimmy finally looked up at him.

“If we get out of this and you can forgive me, I can forgive you.” They grinned at each other, then made their way to a group of trees.

“Damn! Why can’t they get out of that tent!” Lyle was getting anxious. They had the upper hand with a surprise attack, but they wanted to be able to see all of Pierson’s men. A group, including Pierson were inside a tent in the center of the camp. “Come on, George. We can just fill the tent with holes. Then they won’t be able to come out fightin’.”

“NO!” George’s whisper was forceful. “I want to see Pierson die. Besides, looks like their comin’ out.” Carson’s men prepared themselves.

While Pierson was not expecting the attack from Carson, when the riders and army started shooting, confusion reigned. It didn’t take long for Carson to realize that he was being attack from both sides. The confusion allowed the army to overtake both gangs without much of a fight. Most of the men didn’t realize the army was there until they had a gun pointed at them.

“That’s got to be a first,” Jimmy said.

“What?” Noah asked.

“Teaspoon’s plan worked like it was supposed to!” Noah just shook his head.

The army and the riders were gathering up the prisoners when Noah noticed that his ‘friend’ Carl wasn’t with them. “Any of them dead?” He called out.

“Nope. They still don’t know what happened!” Cody answered.

“Damn.” Noah started racing back to where Carson’s men had left their horses. The Indian paint was gone. He was about to untie his own horse when he hear a yelp. Noah ran toward it. “Carl! You might as well give yourself up. That horse of yours isn’t goin’ anywhere.” Noah didn’t think that he would give up that easily. He was right. Instead, Carl tried to make a run for it back to the other horses. “Carl, stop! Don’t make me shoot!” But he wouldn’t listen. Noah had no choice. He pulled the trigger, and Carl fell to the ground, dead.

“You okay, Noah?” Jimmy had gone after Noah but didn’t want to interfere unless it was necessary.

“Yeah, guess that horse really was no good.”

“What?” Jimmy was confused.

“Nothing. Come on, let’s go help Teaspoon.”

“Rachel, if I had known you’d make sweet potato pie when I ran away, I would have done it more often!”

“You could just ask me to make it, Noah.” Teaspoon, Lou, and the boys had gotten back to Rock Creek that afternoon, and Rachel kept her promise. She made them sweet potato pie to go along with their dinner. She was glad to see that Jimmy and Noah had put the incident over Rosemary behind them. After they had gotten back, both Jimmy and Noah went to visit Rosemary’s grave. Jimmy had wanted to be there for the funeral, but he decided that Noah had needed him more.

“Actually, I wouldn’t mind seein’ Lou try to make one,” Noah said. They all looked at her.

“If I had known you all were gonna stare at me like that all the time, I wouldn’t have gotten married,” Lou said. They all laughed. Yep, Noah thought. It’s good to be home.

The End

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