Chapter 31

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ONE YEAR LATER

Sweat trickled down John's brow then down the side of his face, plopping onto the dusty ground just below him. He loved his job but he hated days like today when all he did was lay on the ground, watching and waiting. As slowly as he could, he reached up wiping the remaining sweat from his face. How long had they been here waiting for Kirby Mahoney? At one time Kirby had worked for Bart Hurst as a ranch hand. Once Hurst was dead, he turned to a life of crime. He started out small, robbing stage coaches, then trains and worked his way up to banks.

After his first couple of robberies, he started a gang, the Mahoney gang. The gang had gained notoriety over the last six months or so. It seemed they were doing their best to become as famous as Jesse and Frank James and he was going to do his best to make sure that didn't happen. Mahoney and his crew had become increasingly violent with each successful robbery. The last job they pulled an innocent woman and her daughter had been caught in the crossfire and killed before they could get to safety.

John glanced up at the clear blue sky, it was about three o'clock in the afternoon; that meant he'd been here for almost nine hours. From everything they had been able to find out, this is where Kirby came between jobs, and he always came alone. John looked down at the small rough built log cabin nestled in the shallow valley.

He was hot, tired, and thirsty. A dry breeze finally began to blow offering some measure of relief. He'd give it a few more hours, then they were going to call it a day. John looked over at his partner, Jinx Barrett. "I say we wait a couple more hours, then call it a day and come back tomorrow."

"Sounds good to me but let's try to find some shade tomorrow. I think this sun has baked my insides today." Jinx whispered.

They had been partners since John had started with the US Marshals. At first he thought Jinx was a nickname but he later learned that Jinx's ma had a wicked sense of humor and actually named him that. The two of them got along well and had become friends instantly, it only seemed natural for them to become partners, and John trusted the other man with his life.

Another hour passed and it was still quiet except for the sparse grass around them swaying in the breeze. John looked up this time seeing dark angry clouds coming together. Dammit, he hated being out in the rain. Maybe they wouldn't have to stay much longer. His thoughts must have been heard because before long a lone rider made his way to the cabin. The rider led his horse around to the back of the cabin and into a small three sided shed for the night.

"Stay here." John whispered as he began to make his way down to the house. Careful to not make a sound, John eased around the side of the lean to only to discover that Kirby was no longer inside. Damn! He hadn't realized there was a back door to the cabin that opened to the lean to. Deciding it would be better to go through the front door, he made his way around the cabin. Then an idea came to him. He went back into the lean to and grabbed the horses bridle and backed him out into the open. John pointed the animal in the direction of Jinx then went back around and waited by the front door. It didn't take long for Kirby to come running out of the cabin whistling for the beast to come back. John came up behind him, took the butt of his pistol, and knocked him in the back of the head. Kirby grunted and crumpled to the ground.

"I can't believe he fell for that! What self-respecting outlaw runs out of a hideout without checking the area first?" Jinx asked with a chuckle.

"Everybody knows Kirby's not the brightest. To be honest with you, I don't know how he hasn't been caught already." John tied Kirby's hands behind his back and to the ladder back chair the man was sitting in. The man groaned and rolled his head slightly as he tried to open his eyes. John grabbed the other chair, spun it around backwards, and straddled it, then propped his forearms on the back of the chair.

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