Castle Roland

The Runner

by Arthur


Chapter 8

Published: 17 Mar 16

The Runner

Copyright © 2016 by Arthur
All Rights Reserved

Carlito and Greg worked diligently on the huge skin. Carlito had the enviable job of attaching the giant skin to the wooden frame that lay on the ground. While he worked on that, Greg set about making two scrapers from the bottom half of a garden spade and a few pieces of wooden slat for the handle.

For Carlito it was a new adventure. The skin had to be evenly tied to the frame to stop it from shrinking and also to keep it well stretched for fleshing.

The salting of the previous day had firmed up the old flesh, fat and sinew that had been on the skin and would make it a little easier to scrape it clean. It would however still take a long time and hard backbreaking work to make the skin useable.

Carlito sighed as he worked on sewing the skin onto the frame with thin twine. This new world was far harder than he ever thought it was going to be. The realisation that, in reality he was totally unprepared for it, only made it harder to deal with.

The two boys worked through the day without rest or stopping for food. By the end of the day, and feeling totally worn out by their efforts; they had succeeded in finishing only half the fleshing. Their fingers felt numb from the hard scraping and their backs ached like never before.

Carlito began to spread more salt on the skin to keep it good overnight; tomorrow; if they were lucky, they might have it finished and then look at the mixture needed for proper tanning. Greg left Carlito to his job and returned to the cabin to ready a very late meal; every bone in his body cried out for rest but there were still things to do.

When Carlito rejoined Greg for dinner; the first thing they had to do was bath; the heavy smell of bear, fat and blood covered them from head to foot.

Over their dinner, the boys talked about what and how to finish the work on the skin; they had now become so involved with it that any thought of leaving it to rot was out of the question. It was during this talk that Greg mentioned they should recover all the claws and the four large canine teeth; he didn't know why only that it seemed a good idea.

Sleep came easily that night; even without a certain amount of amorous play. The next morning dawned hot and clear. After a heavy breakfast; Carlito went back to his scraping while Greg worked on recovering the large claws and teeth; it was a bloodier business than he thought it would be but the result was quite staggering.

Greg joined Carlito at the scraping once he had the claws and teeth out and placed in a plastic dish of water to clean them later. Today the boys did stop for lunch and then it was back to scarping.

It was almost dusk before they finally could look at the skin and decide it was clean of everything; it was now time to put it somewhere under cover to dry slowly in the shade until they had all the tanning requirements. If they had read the book right then the skin was now safe from rotting as long as they kept it dry and a fine layer of salt covered the fleshy side.

The cabin suited the boys and; even the small amount of damage done by the bear attack was easily fixed and the door secured. They planned on staying there for some time to come; there was now really no need to drive all over the country as yet.

Over the next two months; the boys made a nice home for themselves in the cabin; there was plenty of wild game and their skills as butchers improved with practice. The ingredience for the tanning of the bear skin had been a success but the process had been mixed with laughter, sweat and hard work.

The final result may not have won any awards but it was now dry, supple and useable. From the teeth and claws; Greg had drilled each one and made two necklaces out of them; the boys felt a certain pride at their accomplishments up to this point as they placed the necklaces around their necks for the first time.

It was early one morning when Greg found Carlito sitting alone on the stoop watching the sun rise. Greg picked up a certain sense of melancholy as he saw his boy friend alone in the early light. Greg sat down beside Carlito and waited until his boy friend wanted to speak to him.

Carlito looked out at the new dawn; the peace of the night was suddenly broken by the sounds of waking birds that heralded a new day; it was a peaceful time and yet, Carlito felt it was time to move on. He did not know why he felt like that; this place had been almost like a home to them both but now; there was a sudden urge to move north east; to where? Carlito had no idea only that it seemed to be urgent and it was as though he was being pulled by invisible strings.

Finally Carlito turned to look at the patiently waiting Greg; with a sigh he explained what he had been thinking of; without a word; Greg stood and then said.

"I'll start to pack things up; we can get underway first thing tomorrow. It will give us today to check over everything."

"You don't mind leaving here; I mean it is a good place but...well it's just something seems to be pulling me away from here, but I have to think of your feelings as well." Carlito replied.

"Carlito; you know that where you go I am really happy to go with you. If it's time to go then we will go; as long as I'm with you I don't really care where it is. Now come on, time to go pack ready for tomorrow; the sooner it's done the sooner we can take a little time for ourselves in our last day here."

Greg's smile hid little of what he was thinking about to fill in the rest of the day. Carlito smiled and went with Greg to pack what they would take with them; the huge bear skin was the very first thing they packed into the trailer.

The start was made in the early morning; as before, they decided to stay on secondary roads or off road tracks to preserve their safety. There arose one problem with their planned route north east; they had not planned for the damage the winter had caused and; with no one to clear the damage away; the boys began to find one problem after the other.

On that first day they barely covered ten miles before they called it a day. Three times there had been large trees across the road they were on and each time it took a few hours to clear them away and make space to get through.

The camp that night was a little more solemn than usual; the frustrations of the day seemed to sit heavy on their shoulders; it was time to rethink their plans.

The boys decided to return to the larger roads and highways; the problems of winter had been and would make it too tough to travel with ease. The next morning found them turning onto a four lane highway. They selected this one because it was going in the direction they thought they wanted to go.

There were now, not only the old wrecks of vehicles to consider as they drove; but the many newly forming pot holes scoured out by the snow, rain and wind. Their speed was a little better but Carlito still did not wish to push it much above fifty miles an hour; it was still a strain on his arms driving the beast.

The boys had been on the road for the best part of six days when the first sign of trouble arose. They had turned off onto a two lane roadway and had gone for more than twenty miles when they came to a sudden halt. Across the road was the biggest tree Carlito or Greg had ever seen. There was little doubt in either boy's mind that they would not be able to move it and the single small 12" blade chainsaw in the trailer was going to be useless.

On one side of the road was a steep bank; they could not go down there or they would lose the trailer or possibly the Humvee as well. On the other side was what looked like a river bed but the huge tree had fallen into it and they would not get by there either; they felt trapped.

The last alternative was to turn around and find another way; the only problem with that was Carlito had very little idea on how to back the trailer in the narrow confines of the roadway without perhaps falling off either side.

Carlito looked around; all seemed quiet and so he suggested they make a camp for the rest of the day and night and once again rethought their situation.

Late in the afternoon; the boys had a small fire going; there were only the sounds of the birds in the woods and the small crackling of the fire to keep them company; it was a peaceful scene and they had relaxed back against each other to try to relieve the tension and frustration of the lost day.

The night was alive with critters; for Carlito it was still a marvel as he settled down each night; he was still used to the smog laden air and noisy sounds of Los Angeles; even after all this time the sound of crickets in the night was a pleasure to listen to as he lay against Greg by the fire.

When morning broke; it was time to make a decision; somehow Carlito had to turn the vehicle and trailer; it was going to be an operation of inches. There was a wider part of the road about a mile back but Carlito did not think he could back the trailer so far without problems or losing it altogether; he had to try to turn it here.

As they ate breakfast; the two boys talked it over; finally Greg suggested they disconnect the trailer; turn the Humvee first and then use the Humvee to turn the trailer by dragging it around on the spot; once done they could hitch up and be on their way.

Carlito looked at the Humvee and then the width of the two lane road; it was a good idea and he may just be able to do it with Greg's help and watchful eyes.

With the signals agreed on; Carlito unhitched the trailer and drove the Humvee forward to get enough space to attempt a turn; he was now very close to the massive tree. Greg took a position at the front of the Humvee and began to guide Carlito as the other boy backed the Humvee towards the steep edge; turning the wheel at the same time.

Had it been someone with far more experience in the heavy vehicle; they may have made the turn in three attempts; it took Carlito seven but he did get it turned around. The next problem was now to ease past the trailer and set the Humvee in a position to be able to turn the front of the trailer back around to face them.

As Carlito edged past the trailer; he could hear the sound of small stones and rocks slipping over the side of the roadway; it didn't do much for his confidence to know he was so close to the edge.

With the Humvee finally turned around; the next part was hopefully easier. Taking the long tow rope from the back of the trailer; Carlito tied it tightly to the front draw bar of the trailer; he then ran it back to the tow ball on the Humvee and got ready to pull it around with Greg keeping a close watch.

As usual things did not go according to plan. As Carlito began to drive forward; the trailer just ran backwards but, with the rope along one side it also turned it at an angle and; had Greg not called out in time they would have been watching the trailer roll down the bank.

It was another ten minutes before they came up with a solution; Greg jammed a large boulder under the outside wheel to stop it from moving; they could not use the brakes on the trailer as it would mean neither wheel would turn.

Carlito got back into the Humvee to try again; they had now been at it for two hours but he hoped this would do the trick. Slowly Carlito drove forward; much to his delight the trailer turned on the spot and it took only a few seconds more before it was turned around and ready to be re-hitched to the Humvee; it had been a torrid morning so far.

Once the trailer was hitched back onto the Humvee; both boys decided to stop for an early lunch before finding another way north. They had been almost finished with their light lunch when they both heard the ominous sound of high revving motor bike engines coming their way.

Both boys did not hesitate; grabbing the remains of their picnic lunch and whatever else they had beside them; they threw it all inside the Humvee and dived inside reaching for their weapons at the same time. Carlito did not have time to put on his armour but the heavy armour of the Humvee would protect them from most guns or other weapons.

With the doors locked and all the windows up tight; Carlito started to drive forward; with luck they might even break through those coming and get completely away without having to try to fight them off.

Neither boy had seen who it was as yet, but the sound of the bikes just did not inspire confidence on those riding them. Had it been a single bike or even two then they may have waited to see what happened; with the loud rumbling they could hear; it meant there were far more than one person involved.

Carlito was doing thirty miles an hour when he came to the bend in the road; as he drove around the bend he saw the mass of riders ahead of him. Even in the few seconds he had before running into them; he could see they were a very rough looking lot. There were many races and different types of bikes; some were the heavy Harley's others were Japanese and few he did not recognise; there were about twenty riders and all were armed in one form or another.

At the sight of the single Humvee coming towards them; the front three riders slewed their bikes to a halt across the road and took out shotguns; the other riders seemed amused at the situation as the Humvee came at them without slowing down.

Carlito almost ducked from instinct as the first three blasts of the shotguns peppered his bullet proof glass windshield. Greg had lowered his window half way as had Carlito. Greg had the barrel of the riot gun poking out the window ready for use and Carlito had one of the MP5's on his lap and the other on the seat beside him.

As the shot peppered the windshield without effect; Carlito picked up the MP5 from his lap and rested it on the top of the partially open side window. Gripping the steering wheel as tight as he could; he drove at the three bikes blocking the roadway.

Carlito almost felt like laughing as he saw the terrified look on the faces of the three as they realised the Humvee was not going to stop and, that it was armoured; they had picked a target that was better protected than they thought it would be.

The two outside riders dived for the side of the road as Carlito hit the middle of the three bikes; it threw the bike high into the air and it landed further back along the road in a crumpled mess; as he passed where the rider on his side had dived, Carlito let fire with a long burst from his MP5; on the other side he heard the loud blast of the riot gun and; from the very corner of his eye saw a body lifted high into the air and fly backwards over the edge of the bank.

The third rider was not so lucky; he had been standing in front of one of the bikes to the side; as Carlito hit the three bikes; the two outside ones flew off the road; the third rider was knocked down and Carlito felt the soft bump as the heavy Humvee drove over him.

Carlito drove for his life; as they went down the centre of the other riders; both he and Greg fired indiscriminately at the men; they had no way of knowing if they hit any but it served to get them all out of the way so he could make his escape. Once clear of the large gang, Carlito pushed harder on the accelerator while changing weapons; he did not have time to reload the first one.

As he drove for their lives, Carlito could hear Greg reloading the riot gun; they had got away without a scratch but now the real dangerous part started; Carlito knew he could not outrun motor bikes in the heavy Humvee; their only chance was the heavy armour or to find a place they could defend and hold.

The self proclaimed gang leader looked at the mess around him; his face showed his anger as he surveyed the wreckage. After a little time he managed to get his gang back on their feet; looking around he tried to calculate the damage.

Of the twenty three men he had lost three killed and two wounded badly enough where they would be useless in the coming fight. The bikes did not fare much better; there were the three that were trashed on the road and another two further along that had been badly shot up.

One had been sprayed with 9mm into the engine block and the other had a shredded fuel tank from a shotgun blast at close range. Two more had been dropped by their riders only to slide down the steep bank and into the small river below.

The gang leader called for everyone to mount up; with the loss of the bikes, some would have to double up but that was not going to stop him from getting the prize they had set their hearts on; he was sure there had only been two people in the Humvee; they would not live to see the night out if he had any say in it.

As he drove; Carlito wished he had taken more notice of the land around him; for now he was driving blind and had no certain destination in mind. Fortunately for him; Greg had been the one to watch the countryside as they drove along.

After a short time; Greg told Carlito to turn onto a rough dirt track. After going for a short distance through some pine trees and scrub; they came out into an open field; at the far end was a high butte that stood all alone at the very edge of the field.

Carlito did not hesitate as he aimed for the tall butte; it was an unusual feature to see in that particular area where it was mostly trees or small open farm land. Carlito drove as fast as he dared over the broken ground. Once close he could see they would have good cover from a few mounds of fallen rocks.

With the butte behind them and a long drop off to the left; they would only have to defend two sides and anyone coming at them would be left out in the open. Carlito drove as close to the butte as he could safely get; by pushing the front of the Humvee almost into the rocks at the foot of the butte; he formed a small protective wall along with the trailer; they would be very difficult to get out of there.

With the Humvee parked; Carlito went to the trailer and began to take out all of his weapons and ammunition; he did not have another set of body armour so gave his to Greg; he was prepared to take his chances but he did not want Greg hurt.

Carlito and Greg had just about finished their preparations when they heard the rumble of bikes coming towards their hide out; the bikes were not going slow and were obviously intent on causing mayhem to the two boys.

Carlito and Greg now held fully loaded M14's; both also had an MP5 over their shoulder for quick access and they wore a 9mm pistol on their hip. The front seat of the Humvee also now had two riot guns ready to be grabbed if things got too close.

The two boys watched as the first of the riders came into the clear area of the field; the first two looked to be carrying rifles but the rest seemed to have shotguns or pistols. As the bikes got within the range the boys were happy with; they both fired off a few rounds at the two leading men.

There did not seem to be any obvious hits but the two riders did immediately slew their bikes around as they jumped clear and then took cover behind the prone bikes; the answering shots of the rifles were a little too close for Carlito's comfort as he ducked his head; the loud clang of the bullets hitting the armoured sides of the Humvee was a good warning for both of them.

Carlito had positioned himself near the front of the Humvee while Greg took a place in between the trailer and the rear of the Humvee where he could fire from good cover either over or under the tow bar; he was also well protected by the body armour and the large, wide tyres of the vehicle.

Carlito glanced around the front of the Humvee just in time to see the gang diving for cover; not that there was much but their bikes were all now laying on the ground and most of the gang was down behind them.

The gang was well outside the range of the shotguns and pistols but the two rifles were another matter; the two boys would have to be careful if they were not going to get hit from one of them.

Another bullet ricocheted off the front of the Humvee as Carlito hurriedly pulled his head back; the loud crack of Greg's M14 sounded in the air as the boy fired back.

Carlito and Greg had agreed to keep the riders distracted by taking turns firing from their respective sides at different times; they may not hit much but it would keep the gang's heads down and they would never be sure which side to fire at.

It was still a long time until dark; it would be then they would be in the most danger; it had been decided that; if they could not get clear during the day they would lock themselves into the Humvee for the night; with the heavy armour they would be almost impregnable to the lightly armed gang members.

Sporadic fire continued for a few more minutes. As Carlito watched he saw what he thought might be an advantage. One of the riflemen was behind a large Harley; the most prominent item on the bike was the large swollen looking fuel tank; that was going to be Carlito's target.

It took Carlito five shots before he got his desired result; with three holes now in the fuel tank; he lowered his aim and fired at the metal on the hot motor; he was hoping for a spark.

Carlito was not disappointed; with his third shot there was a bright spark and then a huge and thunderous explosion. The rider behind the bike was now turned into a running flaming torch. The second rider accidently stood up as the hot wind from the raging fire ball exploded close to him; Greg got him with his second and third shots. The two most dangerous were now out of the fight.

The boys could hear the loud angry shouts from the rest of the gang; if they got near the two boys there was going to be mayhem. The fighting died down as the gang members were now limited to their close range weapons; the boys had a distinct advantage with their rifles.

Runs-Slow and Peter had been on the road for more than two weeks. The fallen trees and large pot holes did not slow them in the least as they could easily leave the road and go overland with their horse drawn trailer.

They had made it onto a two lane road and were quietly moving along when Runs-Slow put up his hand to stop peter on the trailer. As usual, Runs-Slow had been running ahead of the trailer and keeping watch all around.

As they had come around a long bend; Runs-Slow saw what appeared to be a number of wrecked motor bikes on the road and off to the side; he immediately signalled for Peter to stop while he went to investigate.

After a few minutes, Runs-Slow returned and told Peter what he had found and what they should do about it. The wrecks were new and had been there only a short time; there was also the matter of three dead bodies left lying where they fell and signs of blood loss from others.

As the two boys stood and thought about what they should do; Peter saw a huge fire ball and black smoke rise in the air not far away. It was only moments later that they also heard the sounds of distant shots being fired; someone was in trouble but; did they want to get involved.

The two boys held a quick conversation; in all honesty they could not leave someone in trouble if they were able to help. Runs-Slow told Peter that he thought the dead men looked to be part of a gang; if that were so then they had to try to help those being assaulted by them.

Runs-Slow went to the trailer and changed into less clothes; he now wore only his breech cloth and moccasins along with his knife belt; he checked that his Eagle Feather was in place and silently sent a prayer for protection in the coming fight.

The boys decided they would drive as close to the fight as they could with safety; once there they would both take to their feet and work their way closer. Peter had become quite good at moving like Runs-Slow; to most he would have been soundless although Runs-Slow always said he breathed too loudly.

They tracked the gang along the road a little more before Runs-Slow saw where they had turned off onto a narrow dirt track; it was time to take it slow and very quiet.

The occasional shot was still heard but now far closer; there were also the occasional blasts of shotguns and loud yells of anger. When Runs-Slow thought they were close enough; he signalled Peter to tie the horses to a tree and follow him on foot.

The two boys stepped carefully as they worked their way towards the sounds of the shots and yelling. Using only hand signals that Peter had learnt from Runs-Slow; they worked as close as they could without being seen. Ahead of them they could see the large Humvee and trailer parked close into the strange butte and tumbled rocks.

From the Humvee they could see the occasional shots towards the hiding gang members; the answering fire was sporadic at best and seemed to have little effect on the two people hiding behind the vehicle.

Runs-Slow gave Peter the hand signals for them to creep up closer; on a signal from Runs-Slow they would both open fire with their Winchesters; with luck the gang members would try to escape being caught; not only out in the open but in a cross fire.

The heavy smell of fuel and burning flesh filled the field; Peter could feel his stomach wanting to recoil at the stench that was filling the air.

Runs-Slow used the larks call to let Peter know it was time to take part. With both boys being used to weapons and their ability at straight shooting; the first five shots scored four solid hits; there was sudden confusion in the ranks of the gang as they were now hit from behind.

The battle became torrid as the gang tried to fight on two fronts against a well hidden enemy while they were out in the open with little or no cover; the end was a foregone conclusion.

When the gang was whittled down to only four men; they decided to give it up; of the original twenty three there were now only three without wounds and their leader was dead; they all threw their weapons out in the open and stood up with empty hands.

The shock on their faces was easily seen when they saw they had been beaten by only four young teens and one was very obviously a Native American dressed as though he had just stepped out of the 1800's right down to a feather in his long black hair.

The men looked nervously at the approaching teens; this had been the last thing they had expected when first chasing down the Humvee; it was meant to be an easy pick and now they were looking at an uncertain future.

Carlito and Greg were not sure how to make the first move with the two new faces that had stepped in to help them; that they were both about the same age helped a little.

Finally it was Greg that spoke first but without moving his eyes from the four grown men standing with their hands up. The wounded man groaned as the fresh blood dripped from the arm wound; he did not know if he should lower his bad arm; if he did would the teens shoot first and ask later. It was the sort of thing they would have done to them had the situation been reversed.

Greg decided it better to introduce each other first and thank the two new teens for their help.

"Hi, I'm Greg and this is Carlito; thanks for the help; they would have had us if you hadn't come along when you did."

Runs-Slow stayed quiet; he had other things on his mind just then; most of which was devising a way to make the four men pay; Peter answered for both of them.

"Hey, no problem. My name's Peter and this is my boyfriend Runs-Slow. Glad we could help; where were you headed?"

"We don't know really, just going where we thought it may be safe or to find a place of our own. It looks like the world is fucked now; we will have to start all over again."

"Well, what are we going to do with these four? Can't leave them around here; they might get ideas and come back at us again." Peter replied.

"I don't really know. I've never thought about something like this. We have both had a pretty quiet time and this is the first time we really came under a threat."

Greg and Carlito were surprised when they heard Runs-Slow speak for the first time; there was a glint in his eye as he looked around the field.

"We have to tie them up; do you have some extra rope?"

"I have a lot of cable ties; the larger ones may do." Replied Carlito.

"Ok, get them and tie their hands behind their back; we don't want them getting ideas. Peter, can you watch them while i get a few things from the trailer and bring it back here?"

Peter nodded and; along with Greg kept a close eye on the four silent men while Runs-Slow took off at a fast trot to get their trailer and Carlito walked back to his, to search for the cable ties.

A half hour later and the four men were lying on their stomachs; their hands fastened tightly behind them. Runs Slow was looking inside their trailer while Carlito and Greg looked at what was left of their transport; it did not look good for them.

Runs-Slow returned with a deep bowl, a bottle of water and one of the deer skins he had prepared a long time ago; he set his items on the ground as Carlito and Greg returned with very sad looks on their young faces; Peter was the first to ask them what was wrong.

"The Humvee is trashed." Replied Carlito. "The radiator took a full shotgun blast and is leaking like a sieve. The engine has two bullet holes in the main engine block and there's oil dripping everywhere. Both left hand tires are holed and flat and I only have one spare. It's pretty well fucked for use; looks like we have to walk from here on."

Peter looked around the open field; there was no animal life and nothing that would be of help to the two new friends; they could not really leave the large trailer as the new boys would have nothing left unless they stayed here and tried to live with what little was around them.

Runs-Slow looked around; he then said.

"If we had two more horses we could make your trailer the same as ours; Peter has everything he needs to fix yours but we have no horses and I haven't seen any for a few days. I'm going to take these men away from here; why don't you all think about a way to keep your trailer while I'm gone?"

Carlito and Greg looked at Runs-Slow for a moment; he was right; they had to find another way to keep their trailer; Peter stood to one side with a thoughtful look on his face as he scanned the field where the fight had been.

Runs-Slow had sat down and was cutting the deer skin into long one inch strips and placing them in the large bowl which was now filled with water. Peter looked over at the two crestfallen teens; he had an idea but would need help if the two new teens wanted to move from here with their trailer intact.

"Can either of you ride a motor bike?" Peter asked the two.

"I've ridden a trail bike. Why?" Said Carlito.

"We have a field full of bikes. If we looked them over; there must be at least two good ones we can use. With a few days work and a bit of smarts we might be able to set your trailer up to be pulled by two of them. If we look for those big ones; the Harley's, they should have enough power to tow. If it works we could all go together; four of us would better than just two if trouble came our way again. What do you think?"

"I've never ridden anything that big; but then one bike is much like the other when it comes to riding; it's going to be the weight that could be a problem; if it falls over we might not get it back up alone."

"I think it would be OK Carlito; if my idea works they won't fall over, they won't be able too. Want to give it a try?"

"Hell yeah, better than walking and leaving everything behind for someone else. What have you got in mind?'

Peter began to explain his idea to the two new friends. As he talked; Runs-Slow got to his feet and looked at the four men on the ground; the sodden strips of deer skin were now in a bundle and held in his left hand; in his right was his favourite 30.30 rifle.

"You get up; start walking in front of me towards those trees down the other end."

The four men struggled to their feet and began to walk away towards the far off trees; they were not sure what was going to happen but they did not like the look on the Indian's face; there was something dangerous about the young teen and the way he looked at them; it was as though he had nothing but contempt for them as he forced them forward.

As the four men stumbled away with Runs-Slow not far behind and very alert; Peter continued with his idea for the other two teens. As the time passed, Carlito and Greg really warmed up to his idea; it would take some work but it might just be their salvation from their present situation.

Runs-Slow pushed the four men forward; as they entered the trees, he told them to turn left and follow the edge of the butte. Runs-Slow was looking for something in particular; he had an idea so that the other teens would never be worried about these men again.

Runs-Slow kept the men walking until he found the sort of place he had been searching for. It was on the far side of the butte and was a thin needle of rock separate from the main butte.

Telling the men to sit down he then instructed them to remove their boots. One of the men asked for his hands to be released; Runs-Slow gave him a look and a smile then shook his head, no. They would have to work it out themselves. Two of the men succeeded in pushing their footwear off but the other two had boots tightly laced and could not get them off.

Runs-Slow took out his knife and quickly slit the laces then stood back while the boots were pushed off with the other foot. Once the men were bootless; Runs-Slow then told the men to stand with their backs against the towering needle. He placed each one a distant apart until they were standing at four separate points.

With a warning about him having little compunction about shooting all four of them; Runs-Slow then proceeded to tie each one by the elbows to the next man beside him. Next Runs-Slow did the same to their legs; the wet deer skin stretched tight as he pulled their legs and elbows together. The men were now secure on four sides of the needle and would not be able to move.

Once the men were fully secure; Runs-Slow set about tying one of the thin soaked strips around their forehead and then another around their throat. When he was finished; Runs-Slow decided it was time to rejoin his friends; for these four men the sun would do the rest; if they survived through until the next day then they would be lucky; the wet deer skin would see to that as it dried.

Runs-Slow returned to the field just in time to see the three boys attempting to stand up one of the many motor cycles that were lying on the grass. Just as Runs-Slow got close, the boys managed to lift the bike and began to roll it back where another one was standing close to the Humvee.

It was getting late and; once the second bike was standing beside the first; the four boys called it a day for now. There was one more thing that had to be done before nightfall; they could not camp so close to the dead. Runs-slow unhitched one of the horses and; taking along rope he went with the other three to gather the dead and take them well away from their camp site; the night animals would see to their destruction.

The four teens set up their camp with the combination from both trailers; as Peter and Greg cooked; Runs-Slow sat quietly and watched the others; for the next part he had little experience and so told Peter he would stand guard further out while the teens worked on their project for the next few days.

Early the next morning and after long discussions last night; the three teens set about trying to attach the two large motor bikes to the heavy trailer. Firstly Peter got out all his tools along with the portable welder and generator.

Next he went under the Humvee to inspect the tow bar. It was held on by eight bolts which went through two thick metal plates and onto the chassis of the Humvee. The bolts were a little rusted and it took the best part of the morning just to get them free and then clean.

With the tow bar off the Humvee; Peter and Greg set about measuring the plates and the bike frames to get an idea of how far apart they should be; meanwhile; Carlito lowered the jockey wheel on the trailer and released the brake so the trailer could be turned away from the vehicle.

By late that afternoon; the boys had the beginnings of their two bike tow vehicle. There was still a lot of welding to do and final plans to be finished. During their dinner; Carlito tried to explain to Greg how they would ride the two bikes once they were attached side by side with the tow bar welded between them.

On the third day their plan looked as though it was going to succeed; Peter added extra steel rods taken from other bikes to give their two more strength to carry the weight of the trailer.

On the fourth day it was all done; their creation was a little humorous at best. The trailer was now riding between the two co-joined motor bikes; it would take Carlito and Greg a little time to get used to turning at the same time. Their first efforts gave Runs-Slow and Peter a few good laughs but, eventually the other two got it right; they were all ready to move on and see what was around the next corner.

Carlito had siphoned out all the gas from the Humvee and so they had a good sixty gallons in the solid tank on the trailer; the need not to have to fit a seat made the job just a little easier than the trailer Peter had built for him and Runs Slow.

It was decided that the two bikes would have to stay in low gear; it would give them better pulling power as well as staying behind Peter and Runs-Slow's trailer and the slower horses.

The little procession looked very other worldly as they left the open field and turned back northward; they had about three hours travelling before they would have to stop for the night.

For the first days travel; the four boys had little trouble except for Carlito and Greg trying to co-ordinate their driving skills with the co-joined bikes and trailer.

When they set up camp late that afternoon; all four realised they had the perfect mobile camp between the two trailers and the accumulated knowledge of all four boys. As travelling companions; Carlito and Greg both agreed that the two new friends could not have been better; although both wondered why Runs-Slow seemed to much prefer to run alongside the trailer instead of riding on it.

On their third day of travel; and when they stopped for a midday meal; Carlito was tempted to ask Runs-Slow what had happened to the four captives; as he thought more on who the young teen was; he decided not to ask. His father had taught him that there were some things others were not meant to know; this was one of those times.

The sixth day found them rolling along a two lane road that had seen better days. On each side of the road, the trees grew tall and thick. As they came around a slow bend; first Peter and then Carlito saw something they thought would never be again.

Off to the left; in a long valley that seemed to follow an old water course was what looked much like a small ranch in operation. As yet they were still a little distance from it but the well tended fences and a small herd of cattle with a few horses roaming the fenced paddocks.

At first glance there seemed to be no buildings but the obvious newness of the place raised their awareness. A little further along the road they saw what looked to be a barrier built across the road and halting access to the ranch.

Runs-Slow suddenly raised and arm to stop the two Trailers; with a quick glance around he suddenly disappeared into the long grass at the side of the road. Peter, seeing Runs-Slow take off into cover; immediately reached for his rifle; his actions were not missed by the two boys behind him; they also raised their weapons in readiness.

The valley seemed to suddenly become very quiet; the sounds of birds stilled and even the animals in the fields seemed to stop what they were doing to look around for trouble.

As the three boys watched and waited; they suddenly heard a sound off to their right and inside the trees; it was the sound of a young voice and it did not sound friendly. The voice almost echoed as it called to the three boys on the road.

"Drop your weapons and get down; keep your hands clear of any weapons or we will shoot."

As there was no sign of Runs-slow; the three boys did as asked by the hidden voice. Peter set the brake and tied off the reins on the front of the trailer. Carlito and Greg turned off their bikes and stepped off them and to the side leaving the guns in the trailer.

The voice called once more and still the boys could not see the boy behind it.

"Step well clear of your trailers."

The boys did as they were asked and took a few steps to the edge of the road and well out of reach of any weapons. Once they were well clear, the boys saw a young teen step from the trees with a rifle in his hands; behind him was an older teen girl also armed.

"What do you want on our land?"

Peter looked at Carlito to see if he wanted to take it from there; Carlito shook his head and left it up to Peter.

"We didn't know it was your land; we've all just come from the south and west; we were looking for a safe place to live. We don't mean any harm."

"You all sit down on the road and don't move; we have people coming and then we will decide what's to be done with you. Where is the fourth one that was running in front?"

As soon as Runs-Slow was in the long grass; he went to ground and began to move through the grass like a small snake. There was enough of a breeze to disguise his movements as he worked his way towards the tree line.

It had not been anything he had seen or heard but just instinct that had told him others were hiding and watching them; he never ignored his instincts.

Runs-Slow found himself in the tree line but did not rise up to his feet; he knew better than to take those sort of chances. With only his eyes moving; Runs-Slow scoured the woods for any signs of others; his instincts told him there were men in the woods but he could not as yet place them.

Suddenly from his left he heard a cricket call; for someone else it would have meant nothing but; for a child of the badlands it sounded wrong; the pitch was to low and; when he heard an answering call from the right; he knew he was being watched by others.

They; whomever 'they' were; had not as yet seen him but they knew he was in there somewhere; it was a time to be extra cautious. Runs-Slow eased himself deeper into the trees; even though he was a desert child he was still not without the skills in wooded areas.

From somewhere in front and above him came the sound of a bird call; whomever it was, was good but for someone that was as good as Runs-Slow there was enough difference for him to detect. Runs-Slow again raised his eyes without moving his small slim body.

Carefully he checked out each and every tree within sight. When he saw it he almost missed it; it was the barest of discolouration high in a tree. Runs-Slow had been able to make out the faintest of colour change and turn it into the toe of a moccasin on a tree branch; its owner was hidden behind the trunk.

Now that Runs-Slow had marked where one of them were; he set his ears to find the other two trackers on his left and right. Runs-Slow shimmied through the pine needles without sound; his small body hugged the ground like any snake would have and he moved in a slow and sinuous way that gave off no sound.

Three times he listened to the crickets and finally he was convinced he had placed them; they had him in the centre of a circle but he was sure they had as yet not spotted him where he lay close to a tree trunk and partially buried in the detritus of the woods.

Runs-Slow was sure he could get to the two enemies on the ground but the one high in the tree could be a problem if he could not use his rifle; its blast would have alerted others. Runs-Slow lay there and let his sharp mind work out the problem; it was going to be difficult but he had to protect his boyfriend Peter as well as the two new friends they had just made; he hoped they were still safe behind him.

Runs-Slow decided to take out the one on the left first; he was a little closer than the others by the sound of the cricket calls. With the care of long practice; Runs-Slow eased his rifle onto his back; taking his hunting knife from his belt he got ready to take care of their problem.

As he was about to move; Runs-Slow suddenly felt the touch of cold steel on the back of his neck; had he not been Chiricahua he would have cursed. There had been four of them and he did not see the fourth one; he was now in a very dangerous position.

Runs-Slow did not make any attempt to turn around; he was caught flat footed even for all his skill. The voice that whispered to him almost brought tears to his eyes as the words sank in.

"Little brother, you have improved greatly but; you still breath to heavy."

Runs-Slow went rigid; there was no doubt who his captor was; with tears streaming down his face, and in a most un-warrior like way; Runs-Slow twisted around and looked up into the smiling face of his cousin Joseph Two Toes; the older boy was almost laughing as he whistled out for the other three to join him.

The three boys sitting on the side of the road were suddenly surprised when their two captors lowered their rifles and smiled at the trio. From behind the three boys came the sound of voices. Peter turned his head and almost gasped at what he saw.

Runs-slow was walking beside an older teen; in itself it was not unusual; what caught Peter's eye was the fact that he could just make out what looked like tears running down the cheeks of his boyfriend. It was a most unusual thing to see Runs-Slow do; he had always projected a sense of fearlessness and maturity; tears were the last thing Peter ever thought he would see on his face.

What Peter also saw that was unusual was the older teen with is arm over Runs-Slow's shoulders; it was a gesture of friendship and family not one of threat or danger. When the group finally made it to where the trio was sitting; Peter could see the wide smile that seemed to radiate out of Runs-Slow.

It took a few more minutes for explanations to be made and a further ten minutes for the newcomers to realise they had found safety; twenty minutes later they were being guided up the road towards what they hoped was their final salvation; a home to call their own. It had been a long and sometimes dangerous road but they now felt they were close to finally being able to stop the wandering.

Runs-slow was torn between wanting to be close to his cousin and needing at the same time to be beside his boyfriend but his boyish tears that were most un-warrior like continued to flow. He could just not believe he had not only taken his small group to safety but had found his cousin alive. The time of the Chiricahua had not yet come; there were still two of them alive so there was still hope for the people to survive even this catastrophe.


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