As nobody claimed Part 16 and Broken Trails is right behind this story here follows Part 16.
The story is to good to die - so here's the challenge. Walt Arnside's fate lies in someone's hand.
Also, an apology, this episode is uneditted and has come straight from the top of my head.
Parts 1-10 can be read on The Culbin Trail (http://ijparnham.blogspot.com)
Part 11 can be read on Open Range (http://jacksopenrange.blogspot.com)
Part 12 at Charlie's Tokyo West blog (http://tokyowest.typepad.com/charlies_blog)
Part 13 is here on Broken Trails
Parts 14 and 15 at Davy Crocketts Almanack (http://davycrockettsalmanack.blogspot.com)
The authors involved in this are I.J.Parnham, Jack Giles, Chuck Tyrell, Jack Martin, Joseph A. West, Robert S. Napier, Richard Prosch, Peter Averillo, Paul Dellinger, Evan Lewis and James J. Griffin.
STORY WITH NO NAME - Part 16
Walt closed his eyes and lay back. There was a deep throbbing along the right side of his skull. Apache war drums that signalled his demise.
What was the point of trying to escape, anyway? His mind dwelt on the lack of a future. Even if he was free the heat of the desert would still kill him and if that didn't - even if he survived that long - then the deep chill of the desert night would finish the job.
He laughed. A patchy, croak from his parched throat that edged towards insanity.
Just thoughts that invited the vision of a naked man without food and water wandering around in ever decreasing circles until the inevitable end.
Too engrossed in his own problems Walt failed to hear the faint jingle of harness.
When he did open his eyes he found himself looking up into the face of an angel.
"I've died and gone to heaven," Walt sighed.
"You wish," the angel's voice was soft and husky. "Believe me, this is Purgatory."
Pale blue eyes that were almost white held Walt's for a moment. Fine blond hair framed a face that was almost feminine except for the fine bristles that curved over the upper lip and peppered the chin.
The eyes flicked away to glance at the corpse hanging from the cactus. The angel raised a quizzical eyebrow.
"Silas," Walt groaned. "Silas Bartlett."
The angel nodded: "Thought it might be."
He strolled over to inspect the corpse. In doing so he dislodged the mirror but Walt could not be sure if was by accident or design. Whatever, he was grateful for the relief.
Having finished his inspection the angel hunkered down close to Walt's outstretched right arm.
"Where's Roden?" the sharp question made Walt look over the angel's head to where a bunch of riders waited impatiently.
The man who had asked the question looked like the one who had put the lead into Walt's belly.
" I would have thought that was obvious," the angel spoke softly as he pointed in a south westerly direction. "Just follow those tracks, Deuce."
Deuce Harmon, Roden's segundo, stared at the direction indicated before turning his gaze to Walt's prone body.
"He's done for," Deuce stated. "Let's get going."
"You go, Deuce," the angel suggested. "This is as far as I'm going."
"The hell with you, Sawtell," Harmon shouted. "You signed on for the whole shebang."
"Deuce, you just happened to be going in the same direction as me," Sawtell did not move; he just sat there staring down at Walt. "The man who was going to pay me is dead. So no incentive to go any further."
"Leave it, Deuce," one of the other riders suggested.
"Leave it, hell," Deuce sneered.
Walt could only lie and watch and even then could not believe what he had witnessed.
It was like watching a rattlesnake uncurl and strike. That was the speed with which Sawtell moved. A fluid action that saw man and gun as one, the single shot crashing out to leave Deuce Harmon dead in the sand.
Harmon had no chance to draw his gun when his life was plucked away. Nor were any of the others prepared to exact vengeance as, to a man, they rode out into the desert to follow the tracks that would lead them into the arid wastes of the salt flats.
And Sawtell just sat there as though he had not moved.
"Well," Sawtell smiled. "I suppose I had better go."
"Not interested in the gold?" Walt blurted out, fearing that Sawtell would leave him to die.
"Fool's gold," Sawtell shrugged. "The deserts are full of myths and legends. Spanish galleons and fabulous cities. Fool's gold, friend."
"Silas had a map," Walt insisted.
"Of course, he did," Sawtell laughed. "And how many lives has the desert claimed of idiots that had maps that promise nothing?" as he spoke he drew a long bladed knife from a boot sheath. "If I were you I would give up and go home."
"I don't think that's possible, right now," Walt growled.
"This is true," Sawtell laughed, leaning forward to cut Walt's right hand free.
"Now you have an option."
Sawtell straightened and began to walk away.
"Hey, what about the rest?" Walt shouted at the retreating back.
Sawtell paused only to glance over his shoulder: "Gave you a fighting chance, friend. You have a free hand."