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A mare is a mare.
It was pointed directly at the young man's belt buckle. "We'll be leaving now," she said quietly.
He froze, and Consuela watched him as Macon led Laredo away and until they turned the corner, leaving the scene behind.
"Ayres, that little lady just saved your life," he Hardy spoke to the young man. "You was fixen' to get your ears clipped. That was Macon Thorpe you was talking to."
Boyd Ayres stood there for a moment. "That was Thorpe?" he said. "Didn't seem like much to me, hiding behind a woman like that."
The older man spoke for the first time. "Don't be a fool, boy. If you'd drawed on that man we'd both be layin' here in the dust right now. Damn, you almost got me killed! Yore daddy would be mighty disappointed."
"I never seen any of his graveyards," Ayres said sullenly. "What makes him so tough?"
Hardy lit a cigar. "I know all the stories," he said, "but I only know one, for sure. Happened when he first come to this neck of the woods. He'd been diggin' around and found something. He went back east and sold it. Word was, it fetched a pretty penny. This was before your outfit come here. Bill Gamble run with a rough bunch. They figured they'd relieve Thorpe of his new-found wealth. They snuck up on his house and laid out in the brush, waitin' for him to come out. Somehow, he got wind they was there, and he never did come out. They waited three days, and finally lost their nerve. They pulled out and was ridin' back up the trail. They came around a rock and there he was, waitin' for them. All he said was, 'Looking for me, boys?
"There was three of them, and Gamble opened the ball. He went for his gun, and Macon was firing. He put six shots into them before they ever got their guns out. He buried Bill Gamble and Bruce Hollister. Skip Perkins was still alive, and Macon tied him on his horse and sent him out of there. He lived to tell the tale, and that's the only way anyone knew what happened. Everybody reckoned Gamble was pretty quick. He'd killed three men in a fight over cards over in Tucson. He never got a shot off."
The grizzled older man shook his head. "That's the trouble pickin' fights with strangers. You never know what they can do. I'm outta here. I don't need the kind of trouble Macon Thorpe would have brought, and I don't need no snot-nosed kid gettin' me killed."
He eased into the saddle and rode west of town.
Consuela liked the look of the little mare. As Hardy had said, she was as gentle as an old cow, and although she didn't have a saddle, she could sit astride just fine, even with the occasional burst of pain from her injured leg.
They were maybe five miles out of town before either spoke. "Macon, what were you going to do back there?" she asked.
"You mean with those two men?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yes, I feel the younger one intended to shoot you."
He snorted. "He was probably just bluffing. I was trying to get us out of there, Consuela. Too much chance of a stray bullet flying around and hitting some innocent person. Maybe you. I was trying to talk my way out of it."
"What if they did not wish to talk?" she asked.
He glanced at her. His eyes were a cold steel grey. "I would have killed them," he said.
They rode on for another minute. "What were you going to do?" he asked. "You unlimbered my rifle pretty quick there."
"I was going to shoot the young man," she said. "I supposed you capable of handling the other. I was going to shoot him many times." He looked over and her and her dark eyes were flashing. He laughed.
"Damned if I don't think you would have," he said. "Remind me never to get on your bad side."
"I have no bad side," she said. "I do not admire bullies."
They camped that night beside a small stream, and by mid-morning the following day, the building of the Z-bar, Macon's ranch, came into view. A small stream flowed nearby and the buildings were in the shape of an L. A large house, and a smaller one, formed the short side, and what appeared to be a bunk house, a smithy and a stable formed the extended long side.