The Second Escape ("The Escape")
A Missing Scene
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
"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,
"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
"How far to your place?"
"I know the way," Sarah interjected softly before Scott
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
"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
Scott tucked the Colt into the sling. "Let’s go," he
said, and opened the door.