Part 11

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Twain Jones felt relief when he discovered the cabin.

He'd followed the trail of Burgess and the Indian from town and then along her chalk marked path from below.

The Alpha of his pack had wanted things cleaned up after the botched robbery attempt in Goblin's Toe and had tapped Jones to make sure that whatever the Indian may have found along the way would stay lost and forgotten.

He held no particular ill will toward the native deputy or her kind and would deal with Running-Deer as she needed to be dealt with when the time came.

Jones had to wonder if the Indian even knew Burgess was lycan.

It might prove her peril if she did not; skilled as she was supposed to be, even with a name like Running-Deer, she'd be no match for Burgess if he'd gone feral.

Jones had long ago grown cold and indifferent to the disposition of mauled remains of the women who'd suffered poor handling by Burgess in feral form; fortunately, they'd tended more toward nameless town whores that were replaced with ease and hardly missed along the way.

Much like he might, his Alpha had also preferred it that way.

With Jones having proven himself as he had by having kept the mortals around them deaf, dumb and blind to pack activities, even when someone like Burgess managed to go rogue and kick up some dust as he had - it was up to him to fix things yet again.

Not that their lycan cousins would ever really be considered part of their pack, it was just something that their overall community managed to do on a regular basis for one another even in passing.

In Jones erstwhile opinion, Burgess should have been run to ground long ago, but alas, it was now just he and the deputy against someone who had proven anything but easy to catch.

From his saddle, Jones took in the scene of the wrecked door frame and the discarded door that lay nearby. He could see what appeared to be fresh blood on both. From the damage to the door frame, the door had been kicked out, not in as he might have otherwise expected.

Discarded buckskin, ripped and torn, along with an assortment of native style weaponry that lay nearby told Jones that Running-Deer had indeed discovered the true nature of her prey and that it had not gone at all well for her.

Odds of survival had moved toward slim and none for the one Indian that would be missed by many if she were gone; attention to her absence something his pack could not afford.

Jones sensed someone in the cabin but saw no movement.

Carefully, he climbed down from his saddle to approach the open doorway, one hand carefully rested upon the butt of his holstered colt pistol as he advanced.

He found Running-Deer where she lay on her stomach just inside the door, naked, bloodied and badly bruised, but alive.

From the blood trail behind her, she appeared to have crawled there on her own after the attack.

"G'dammit!" Jones seethed as he squatted down next to the unconscious Indian.

Fortune was with the pack that Running-Deer had managed to survive at all; but found like this things could still prove just as bad for both Jones and his boss as if she'd not been found at all.

And that would defiantly not do.

Ripped skin from the bite marks to her shoulder revealed jagged edges of muscle and broken bone. He could only assume there would be considerable damage from the attack under much of the blood that otherwise covered much of her body from head to toe.

Unlike wolves, bears often crushed their prey while they fed; and if Burgess was true to his ways, he would have played with his food in other far more vicious and ugly ways even after he'd taken his pound of flesh.

The only thing that would save her now would be if she managed to survive her first change; unsure as he was as to whether the red men or their women would even prove palpable to effects of the change as they were.

Jones also realized he had little or no choice now but to clean up yet another mess before going after Burgess as the deputy would need help of some sort without alerting anyone to the underlying nature of her attack.

As he looked around the cabin, he knew there would only be one way to do both.

Wrapped in a table cloth from the cabin, Jones gathered the Indian's limp body in his arms and carried Running-Deer out into the woods far and away from the cabin.

He found a large fallen pine that he draped her over as if placed there as part of her final disgrace.

He returned after he'd gathered her buckskins and discarded weapons to set the scene and make it look as if she had been attacked, stripped and mounted hard and fast against the log.

It was quite possible that her attack would be attributed to her own people as some kind of tribal punishment of sorts, but Jones held heavy doubts that it would stand much inspection by those who'd known her.

Local whites were just as likely to get the blame which would muddy the waters even more than they already had been.

And then there was the cabin.

He opened the windows for ventilation before having set kerosene lamps on the floor with saturated wicks pulled as far out as possible.

Using the contents of one lamp to lay a trail of kerosene out to his horse, he tossed it back to shatter against the cabin wall.

Once he'd climbed into his saddle, Jones lit a match and dropped it from horseback, making sure it caught before he turned and kicked his horse to follow Burgess's escape trail.

One advantage he had now was that much like any lumbering bear Burgess had not a care in the world who might know where he'd been or where he was headed.

He no longer had to sneak around with an Indian deputy just behind him and by the clarity of his trail it showed.

Behind him, flames snaked back to lick at dry siding before the lamps inside lit and exploded, only to further engulf the structure from within.

Safe and away from the growing fire, Running-Deer lay still; each breath even and steady as blood slowly seeped from her wounds.

With her head turned as it was, one eye that had not swollen shut blankly watched the glow of the fire as it grew nearby.

It would certainly bring help eventually, but it would be the spirits themselves that would decide if she would be alive when it got there.

If any arrived at all.

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