Bright spark

"You know," I said as we ran, "life would be a whole lot easier if someone were stood out here with the horses already warmed up and ready to go."

"You mean, like if we had some kind of get-away wrangler?"  Ben sounded interested in the idea.  "Could work, you know.  I mean, we'd have to find a reason why they're stood around with a bunch of horses, but if there's only the three of us, then one man and three horses don't seem too odd."

"Shut up and run," hissed Suzie.  "And which one of us four is being left out of this little scenario of yours?"

"Why Suzie," I said, my face splitting into a grin, "you're a lady and ride side-saddle, so you'd never be able to make a good get-away in time."

"Unless she were the driver," said Ben, "and wasn't constantly being distracted by low-lives and other men she'd like to bed."

I ducked, expecting her to swing for him, so I missed seeing how she tripped him and left him face down in the mud, just in front of our horses.

"Come on Ben," shouted Jimmy as he clambered up.  "Missing the horse?  That's a rookie mistake!"

"Yeah," I said, holding out my hand and hauling him to his feet.  "That was a rookie mistake, Ben."  I meant bad-mouthing Suzie, and he and she both knew it.

"Shut up and ride," he growled, and we complied, hieing off into the night and hearing the fading cries of anger and surprise behind us as Jenkins and his men discovered how prepared we'd managed to be.

We rode out, then round, splitting up here and there and coming back together again over hard ground, along stream beds, and on one occasion on shale.  We rode for the best part of an hour, then dismounted by a stream and watered the horses, who were breathing heavily and sweating.

"Reckon that'll keep them from us?" said Jimmy.

"If they try and follow us at all," said Ben.  "We have to assume that Jenkins doesn't need his map, or at least, he only needs it when he gets close.  So he's likely to go straight there and wait for us when he finds out that we're not there ahead of him."

"But we will be there ahead of him," said Suzie, sounding genuinely puzzled.  "You sorted their horses out right?  What are they going to do, run?"

"Could be worth seeing," said Ben, patting his pockets, looking for a cigar.  "But Jenkins won't be trusting to just hiding the map, he'll have little traps and friendly-type greetings around that mine, and it'd be nice if we could watch him find them all for us, while he's checking to see if we got there first."  I nodded agreement.  "And then there's the matter of the delivery," said Ben.  He slipped his hat off, and removed the paper and pouch from it.  "Why was a nun bringing this to Jenkins, do you think?"

"What is it?" Suzie tried to take it from Ben, but he was quicker than her, and her fingers snatched shut on the night air.

"Why don't I take a little look and tell y'all?" he said.

The paper unfolded to be the same size as the map of the platinum mine and had some random scratching on it, lines here and there that sometimes met and sometimes didn't, and didn't look like any letters I'd ever seen.  The pouch contained a pinch of gold dust.

"Hebrew letters," said Suzie sounding certain.  "I knew a man once who spoke Hebrew; he said it was the language of the angels."

"It's not Hebrew," I said, "I've seen Hebrew and they still look like letters; this is just a bunch of scribbles.  Oh, and the language of angels is Enochian."

"Japanese, then?" said Suzie now sounding less certain.  "And what would a man who hangs around with Ben here know about angels?"

"I don't think so," I said.  "Still too many random squiggles, see?"

"I like to think I'm an angel," said Ben, his pocket patting getting more frantic as he failed to find any cigars.  "A little bit tarnished perha–" Suzie's snort silenced him.

"Could I see that paper, Ben? And the map?"  Jimmy held his hand out, his face creased into a frown.  Ben passed them both over without even looking my way, and though part of me was pleased he was accepting Jimmy, another part of me, with a louder voice, felt snubbed.

"I need some light too," he said, and I struck a match.  He looked at me.  "Bit safer?" he suggested.

"Not without giving our position away in the night," I said.  "You just be careful."

He placed the new paper underneath the map and pulled both pages tight together, stretching them slightly, and then carefully held them over the match flame.  Where the light made it through the papers we saw how the new page modified the map, showing dead-ends and deadfalls where previously we thought we'd had a simple choice of paths.

"He's a clever boy," said Suzie.  "You married yet, Jimmy?"

The End

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