The Second Escape ("The Escape")

A Missing Scene

By Cindy Carrier 



Scott’s hand groped for the door, found it, swung it closed. He propped himself against it, closed his eyes and breathed. Breathed through the light-headedness borne from blood loss, the relentless throb of the roughly tended shoulder wound, the strain of standing upright. Breathed through the frantic sounds of the Cassidys’ packing: scraping drawers, treading feet, the rustle of clothing and the panting of fear. And breathed through his own churning thoughts.
Dan had been the unwitting informant of their escape plan from Libby. Dan, the man who had once been like a brother to him before he knew the closeness of a real brother. The man who had sworn vengeance against him for the deaths of those comrades lost in the fouled prison break. The man who had traveled three thousand miles to exact revenge, and who had nearly succeeded. And Sarah, his wife; the woman who condemned Scott’s very existence while knowing the truth of the escape. The woman who fed her husband’s hatred with her silence. The woman who had let the secret finally tumble from her lips at the last moment, where it bloated the air with its weight. And the woman who had, by doing so, spared Scott’s life and endangered her husband’s.
Scott breathed; a mild buzz was beginning in his ears. His mind retreated from the stuffy hotel room, drifted back past months and years toward that blackest night of his life. Fragments rose up into the grayness beneath his closed eyelids – the plunge into rank air, scrabbling fast through clammy dirt. The grunts and the sweat and the whispers of those ahead of him. The faithfulness and the shots, the cries and the panic. The dark hours that turned into dark days and weeks and then months. The fervent wish that he had died with them. The hatred for the unknown traitor, the grief over the loss of friendship – a young man’s intense feelings. The resigned acceptance of failure and responsibility of so many lives, and then the healing of time and memory…
And now the very traitor was here in this room, the hunter turned hunted, the predator turned prey. But it had to stop here, it had to end here – forever…
He squinted a look at the Cassidys’ progress. They were wheeling about the room, grabbing items and shoving them into bags, snapping them shut. Fear kept them silent. He shifted. Pain grabbed at him and fingered something dark inside him. Lewis and Hardy had broken into his home under Dan’s order, taken him at gunpoint. Cassidy was responsible for the bullet that had torn though his shoulder and for the blood that flowed, for the hours on the run. Under Sarah’s spilled secret Scott was now a free man, her husband a condemned one. It would be easy enough to open the door and step through, to leave Cassidy to his fate against Jed Lewis. A simple, physical move – and one he knew he could not – and would not – perform.
Scott let go of his useless arm and scrubbed a sleeve across his sweaty face. His mind danced again, blurring his vision and smearing the colors before him – he saw blues and reds, grays and browns. Union and Confederate colors; blood…smoke, dirt and death. Something shiny winked at him – sunlight on sword blades. There were vibrations under his feet – an anticipated cavalry charge, shaking manes and snorting breaths, pawing hooves…Heat washed over him. It was growing darker – did he smell rain?
"Scott – my God…"
Hands plucked him out of his fantasy. Dan was guiding him to the chair, and for a raw and honest moment Scott cursed his own weakness – and the man touching him.
A clammy hand pressed hard against his brow, grinding the edges of his hair into his skin. "No fever, but you’re as white as a ghost, boy."
"Bullets will do that to you," Scott heard himself say as he brushed the fingers away. He tilted his head to find the back of the chair.
"How far to your place?"
"I know the way," Sarah interjected softly before Scott could answer.
Dan turned to her. "How?" he demanded and Scott also wondered the same. Had she been to the hacienda? Did his family know what had happened? And then a fresh query swooped in and made him rouse back up – how much did she tell them of that unmentioned part of his past?
Sarah looked away. "Not now, Dan," she said.
Dan muttered something in reply. Exhaustion rolled over Scott; he closed his eyes again and slid back – he’d have to tell his family about this, somehow find a way to explain it to them…His head was lifted and a glass pressed to his lips. He opened his mouth, suddenly dry. Water cooled his throat and slipped down, caught. He coughed and felt the press of blood against the front of the stitched wound. Pain welled, soaking him in cold sweat.
"Give me something to bind his arm."
Sarah approached Scott, fear torturing her face. Together she and Dan fashioned a sling for Scott’s arm and tucked the limb into the security of the dark material. The wound throbbed harshly, railing against the assault on skin and muscle, sent a runner down to his stomach – nausea flailed, tried to make him moan.
Scott pushed Dan’s awkward, hurting hands aside and struggled up. "We have to go." He lurched forward, back to that door. Time was not on their side.
"Scott." Dan stepped in front of him, his face contorted with torment. "I – I…" He swallowed hard. "Dear God – I – if I had known…they were good men, such good men and you…" He reached out as if to touch Scott but stopped, fingers curled and frozen.
Scott pointed. "Hand me that gun."
Sarah readily retrieved it from where it had been kicked under the chair. Dan took it from her, broke it open and inspected the chambers. Then he snapped it shut and looked up to Scott.
"I’d rather not leave unarmed," Scott told him quietly, though the effort of speaking made him breathless. "It’s a long ride to the ranch…a lot of it is open country."
Dan nodded and held it out. As before, the weight of the weapon seemed incredible. Scott settled his grip, his finger effortlessly sliding to the trigger. Temptation tried to rise, brought up old pain. But a wiser feeling shrouded it, allowing Scott to straighten. He lifted his gaze to Dan – the other man was staring at him, fear and anticipation flaring in his eyes.
Scott tucked the Colt into the sling. "Let’s go," he said, and opened the door.



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