Part 12 – Chuck Tyrell
Walt Arnside sat with his back against the bedstead and his chin on his chest. His eyes half closed, he studied the others in the room.
“Look here,” he said, keeping his voice natural and even. “There’s only four of us, and it ain’t like we don’t know one another. And if Scoot’s old grandpa is right and there’s a treasure galleon somewhere south of the border, then the booty’s not gonna be like holding up some Wells Fargo stage.
Roden watched Arnside closely. If there were anyone in the room to fear, it was Walt Arnside.
Silence filled the room for a long moment.
“Well, what are you getting at, Straight?” Silas Bartlett sounded garrulous.
Maybe he was older than I figured, Arnside thought. Age ain’t always a matter of years.
“I heard a story once,” Arnside said. “An old sailor talking about crossing the Pacific. He said they went ashore on an island called Tano’sasi to fill their water casks. They found gold coins in the coral there. The natives said a large ship struck the reef, ripped its guts out, and sank in deep water outside.”
“So what?” Zack Roden stared out the window.
“If Scoot’s treasure ship is the real thing, there will be more gold and silver there than you could ever hope to count in a lifetime.”
“I’ll say it again, Walter. So what?”
“So there’s more than enough for all of us. Why are we feuding?” Arnside looked from one face to the next. “Shouldn’t we be doing this thing together?” He swiped a hand across his unshaven jaw.
“Look. I was marshal in Yuma for a dozen years,” Arnside said. “I’ve ridden into that corner of hell they call the Yuma Desert, chasing men who thought they could escape Yuma Prison. Some did, but none ever escaped that desert.”
Lola sat with her elbows on the table. She rested her face in her hands, watching Arnside. The years hadn’t been as hard on her as they were on many western women. She still had a spark. A bit of devilment in her eyes. And those eyes held a smile for Walt Arnside.
Silas Bartlett rested on the other cot. His gunshot wound obviously pained him. His breathing was ragged and his face was white.
“You gonna make this, Scoot?” Arnside asked.
“It’s my goldam treasure,” Bartlett rasped. “I’ll goldam see it through.”
Arnside grinned. “Thought you would,” he said.
Roden leaned his chair back against the wall. “Just tell us what you’re driving at,” he said. He waved the cocked Colt Navy in his hand. “If I don’t like what I hear, you’re dead.”
“The map gives a spot in the Yuma Desert,” Arnside said. “It’s a hell of a place. Sand dunes constantly shifting. Wind always blowing. No water. Salt flats that run for miles. Even the lizards climb sticks to keep their feet off the hot sand.”
“So. What?” Roden ground the two words out from between clenched teeth.
“So. I’m the only one who knows the desert. Scoot’s the only one with enough money to outfit us good enough to get through it. You’re holding the ace card; you could kill us all and take your chances. And Lola? Well, Lola’s hanging on.”
Arnside sat up on the bed, ignoring the pain in his gut as best he could. “I say give me and Scoot time enough for our wounds to heal; time enough for Scoot to bankroll us with the right gear; time enough for you, Roden, to go up north to Las Vegas and get us some camels; and time enough for me to plan the ride.”