The red-tail hawk coasted on an updraft of arid wind. Clark harnessed the bird, using her sharp yellow eyes to search for the 6:15 train running late out of Jerome. The hawk screamed defiance, but then her hunting instinct took over. Prey was prey, after all.
She spotted the long black beast approaching the cut crossing Stolen Horse Gulch and banked, preparing to dive and snatch the snake in her claws.
Clark crashed back into his body. His legs were numb, his hands sweating a storm inside his leather gloves. Catching his nerves, Pally snorted and shifted beneath him. Clark ran a soothing hand along the horses’ neck. The big pinto gelding always had been too clever for his own good.
“Well?” Foss prodded, his face wrinkled in disgust. The rancid oil he used to wax his mustache gleamed in the slanted afternoon sunlight.
Clark put his heels to Pally, acutely aware of how Foss watched him, like a cur he wanted to kick, but didn’t dare in case the dog was rabid. This might be the crime that made him part of the McLaren Gang, but Clark would never be one of them, no matter what he did. Foss, Slim, even McLaren himself— they would never believe that he was only half a skinwalker. And wasn’t that always the way of it. Clark never caught himself a break, just the scraggedy tail ends of ‘em. Couldn’t get into any school. Tried his hand at farming, but even his dirt crops had been poor— fields rocky and thoroughly studded with caliche, a bastard clay that was too coarse to be useful and too tough for anything but weeds. He’d considered looking for his mother’s people, but Daddy swore up and down that they were all gone. Everyone said Mama was a Navaho or else maybe Yavapai but Daddy claimed her “O’Odham from Snaketown,” which made no sense any way you spread it, seeing as there was no such place and no such people—not that he’d ever heard tell of, anyway. He wondered what she’d think of him now, joining a band of toughs to take this train. Granted, if McLaren hadn’t managed to board in Jerome, there’d be no heist at all.
The sound of squealing breaks snapped Clark’s attention: McLaren had held up his end of the bargain.
“Think of the devil,” Clark muttered to Pally as they swept alongside the train. McLaren was spooky like that. Man gave Clark the cold shivers, truth be told.
Beside him Foss and Slim began to holler, firing into the air. Clark shook his head at the waste of bullets. Didn’t those fools reckon they’d need ’em more in a moment? The guards weren’t going to go down without a fight. Reaching the express car, Clark dismounted, drew his piece, and approached. Foss jumped down to cover Clark as he wrenched open the cargo door.
And thus concludes today’s installment of THE HEIST. Tune in Wednesday for the next episode!