GENRE: Action/Adventure Fiction Historical Western / Cowboy Young Adult
LENGTH: 5,208 words
Dev and Sweet have attracted the unwelcome attention of a posse after getting away with the mine payroll from the local stagecoach. On the run, they happen upon a skeleton in the desert -- a skeleton whose wallet contains a treasure map.
Now whoever heard of a treasure map that actually led to a treasure? But the lads figure spending a few weeks in the middle of nowhere might be just the thing to get that posse off their trail. Besides, there might truly be a treasure where X marks the spot! They pack up some supplies and high-tail it for the desert.
They don't count on the Spanish noblemen who've decided the skeleton was a long-lost ancestor -- and the treasure rightfully theirs. Noblemen willing to use not-so-noble means to get whatever Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid find.
Dev and Sweet find themselves trapped in a cave whose only exit is guarded by the Spaniards. Not even a couple of wily outlaws can take on half a dozen armed men. Can they?
"How you aiming to get us out of this one, Kid?"
The only reply was a distracted grunt. The Sweetwater Kid sat with his chin in his hands. Usually as neat as a cat, Sweet was nearly as filthy as his partner after the day they'd had. His shirt and pants were coated with the sand and dust that made up the floor of the cave. Dust had settled in the creases of his leather vest and his boots. He'd shoved his hat back on his head, and the dark curls escaped to dangle before his eyes. Sweet hadn't even bothered to shove them irritably away from his face, the way he always did. He sat and said nothing.
Devon Day sucked in a deep breath and counted to ten under it, slowly. He brushed half-heartedly at the sand and dust on his own person, knowing he'd just get covered again. Dirt liked Dev. He scraped a clod of dried mud from his boot heel. He stared at the back of the Kid's head. Still the Kid ignored him. Sweet must really be hard at thinking -- he'd been sitting in that same position for nearly half an hour. You could almost see the gears whirling around in his head. Dev just hoped those gears would come up with something before it was too late.
Dev shifted into a new position to ease the strain on his long legs. Crouching in the back of this cave was giving him the devil. Cat-small Sweet had it easier, especially curled up in that Indian pose. But those so-called Spanish "noblemen" outside had no qualms about using less-than-noble means to eliminate their competition. They were all too likely to shoot at whatever they saw moving back in the darkness. Dev wasn't going to be that target if he could help it. His knee banged hard against the small brassbound trunk that was at the center of the dispute, and he gritted his teeth and muttered a few words his mother would have boxed his ears for.
Those noblemen, now -- he'd never met anybody from Spain before, and if the rest of them were cut from the same cloth, he hoped he'd never meet any more. They'd looked at him and Sweet like the two of them had crawled out from under some log or rock, like they were the slime on top of a bad waterhole. Noblemen with their fancy silver-chased gear and blooded horses, looking like they'd just stepped out of a bath house instead of living on the trail for days.
The six of them had come from the river, bellowing their demands up at Dev and Sweet as they'd clambered back down the rocks from the cave opening. The men had been so certain any two youngsters would leap to obey them, likely because they'd never been crossed before. Or maybe because they'd eliminated anyone who did.
"You will give us the treasure," the leader had said. His voice had been emotionless, like he didn't really care one way or another. He'd spoken with an accent different from the Mexicans Dev was used to hearing, but still all too understandable. His black eyes had flashed as he tilted his fancy hat back off his face to look up at them. "You will return it to my family or you will die."
They'd believed him. It was then that the Spaniards had learned how well Devon Day could shoot his way out of trouble. The four men who'd jumped fast enough had hopped back behind the trees like rabbits, leaving their two friends stretched out on the little beach. And he and Sweet had hopped back into the cave. A cave with only one way out.
"You will come out sooner or later, my friends," the Spanish leader had promised. "But the time for negotiation is past. You will not be leaving this place."
Dev looked at his partner. Sweet sat motionless, his brown eyes focused on nothing. He never moved from that cross-legged seat on the chilly floor of the cave. His brow was furrowed, and he was chewing on his lip as he plotted. The fingers of the hand not holding his chin clenched tight against one knee.
He didn't seem to notice the fading daylight. Dev noticed it. Once the light was gone, the rocky hillside below the cave would be swarming with Spaniards. In daylight, they'd likely make good targets against the red sandstone. But what Devon Day couldn't see, Devon Day couldn't shoot.