Summary: You may have already read this from Adam’s POV. You may have already read this from Joe’s POV. Here, they are combined. You get the whole story…Joe’s kidnapping, Adam’s transformation in the desert, the mine, the Indians, the rescue, the losses, and the eventual return home packed with PAM, JPM and JAM. You also get the true story of the struggle of the First Peoples in Death Valley, the Shoshoni and the Aha macave.
Feedback: All, good or bad. If bad, constructive.
Reader Alert: Violence. Nudity. Sexual innuendo. Rated: T WC 35,100
Death Valley Series:
Death Valley – Complete Story
Why was he the one who always had to go check the herd on a Saturday? Pa had left Adam in charge while he went to St. Louis, and Adam had chosen to stay at the ranch to fix a wagon wheel. Hoss had talked his way out of going with Joe, saying Adam would need him to lift the wagon and hold it for Adam to slide the wheel on.
It would take those two all day to fix that one wagon wheel, and most of that time they’d be jawing. It would take Joe all day to ride out, count cattle, collect the missing strays, and ride back. He probably wouldn’t be back in time to go to the dance in town, but you could bet a week’s pay that Adam and Hoss would be there.
Taking the shortcut through Warner’s Pass, Joe stopped to quench his already growing thirst. “I’ll just bet Adam asked that new gal,” Joe fumed aloud as he angrily pulled the top from his canteen. He’d barely brought the canteen to his lips when a deep, gravelly voice called out behind him, “Don’t move.”
Joe hadn’t heard anything else, so he figured the man was alone. Turning, he reached for his gun. He stopped cold at the sound of a gunshot. The bullet hit the canteen, causing a stream of water to fall, first soaking into the dry, sandy soil, then splashing when the dirt couldn’t drink any more.
“Throw your gun down and get off your horse,” said the owner of the gruff voice.
Joe did as he was told, hoping he’d be able to eventually get a jump on the man, but when he was standing away from Cochise, three other men came out from around a boulder. He heard the distinct sound of a wagon rattling, and it soon appeared behind them.
“What d’you think?” said one of the men to another, eyeing Joe.
“It don’t make no difference as long as he’s a live one. We have to show up with five, and now that we dumped the other one in the lake, I figure the quicker we replace him, the quicker we can be on our way.”
“What if he’s somebody?”
“It still won’t make no difference. He’s leaving everything behind, and where he’s going, no one will care.”
“You,” said the first man. “Take off your gun belt and empty your pockets.”
Joe removed his gun belt and reached into his jacket pockets, pulling out paper, a pencil, a small picture of his mother, and some coins. He walked toward a rock to place the contents, and one of the men hit his hand, scattering everything on the ground.
The man knocked Joe’s hat off his head. “Take off your belt and your jacket.” Once that was done, the man felt Joe’s waist and legs at his boots. “Ain’t nothing left,” he said to the first man who seemed to be in charge.
“What about the horse?” asked another of the men. “He’s better than some of ours.”
“We ain’t taking the horse,” said the man in charge. “We ain’t taking anything that might lead someone to him. He disappears just like the rest of ‘em.”
“What about the money?”
“Leave it. Everything stays.”
“Look, whatever you want, I can get it,” offered Joe.
“You don’t get it, do you boy? We got exactly what we need standing here; an able body.” Talking to one of the men, the man in charge said, “Bring the shackles and get ‘em on him.”
When the man bent to put shackles on Joe’s ankles, Joe suddenly raised his hands, clasping them together, and brought them down hard on the back of the man’s head. He was rewarded with a rifle butt in his side that bent him double.
When he caught his breath, he looked up, flaring his nostrils and said through gritted teeth, “I don’t know what you want with me, but if you think you’re taking me without a fight, you’re wrong.”
“I don’t care what you have to do, get those shackles on him. Just don’t break his legs, feet, hands, arms or back. He’ll be needin’ those.”
Before Joe could mount a defense, another rifle butt caught him in the stomach, and before he could catch his breath, he was wearing wrist and ankle shackles.
“My family will come looking for me,” he said, gasping for breath.
The man in charge laughed. “Let ‘em. They’ll never find the deep, dark hole you’re going to, boy.”
Joe felt himself flying through the air as the men threw him face-down into the back of the wagon. He lay still for a moment, grimacing from the pain in his chest, his stomach and his groin from whatever it was he had landed on. When he finally turned over, all he saw was four sets of hopeless eyes staring back at him.