He had traveled many miles since the shooting,
and he was certain Taggart contued to relentlessly
track him across the plains. It was late afternoon
and his main concern were the jagged, black clouds
that were forming in the southwest. It was spring
and and in the mid-west the threat of a violent
storm was a certainty. Hank Avery was hoping to
find shelter from the approaching storm when he
spotted the cave nestled in the boulders. He
dismounted, unsaddled his black mare and carried
the saddle along with the rest of his meager
belongings and laid thim inside the cave. He released
the mare knowing it would return to him after the
storm had passed. He glanced to the north hoping
that Taggert had given up his pursuit, but that was
unlikly since he had see dust clouds in the distance
earlier in the day.
The black ominous clouds moved toward him
with a continuous rumble of thunder as lightning
knifed across the darkening skies.
The wind intensified, and in the distance, a black
funnel dropped out of the clouds and moved slowly
toward the ground. Hank crawled into the cave and
sat with his back against the rocky side. Outside
rain mixed with hail began to fall in torrents, and
with the continuous flashes of lightning, Hank
discovered he wasn't alone. There was a large
figure sitting in the rear of the cave. A few feet
in front of where the figure sat was a pile of orange
embers. Hank pulled his pistol out of it's holster and
stared into the darkness with bated breath.
"Hello, back there," he said, "I didn't know the
cave was occupied."
When he recieved no reply, he thought the figure
might be dead. He was suddenly distracted by a roar
that sounded like a train as small pebbles, grass
and water were sucked into the cave. A minute
later, the roar subsided, the wind abated, but the
heavy rain, thunder and lightning continued.
Hank looked toward the rear of the cave. "Are
you alive, friend?"
"I am not your friend," a man said in a voice
that sounded like wheels grinding in gravel. "I was
Hank swallowed hard as water trickled into the
cave. He wondered if the man was going to chase
him out into the storm.
"I'll be leaving as soon as the rain stops."
"Going to rain all night," the man said. "And
since you're here, I might as well get the fire going
Hand heard the popping and cracking of bones
as the figure began to stir which was followed by
rustling sounds. The man laid some dried wood
on the embers and soon flames illuminated the
cave. The man who stood over the fire was an
aged Indian with which hair that flowed down his
back, and he had a deeply lined face, and was
bent forward at the waist.
Hank holstered his pistol and moved further
back into the cave as smoke drifted toward the
opening. The old man wrapped a blanket around
him self and set back down.
"Why are you so far from your people, old timer?"
"Came here to die'"
Hank nodded and stared at the fire."Quite a storm
out there tonight."
"I was born on a night like this, and my parant's
named me Whirling Winds," the old man reflected.
"With the coming of the spring storms, I knew it was
time for the spirits ti take me, so I gathered my
few belongings, mounted my pony and came here.
We camped here many moons ago, so I remembered
the cave." He paused to catch his breath. "What
brings you to this place?"
Hank took his stetson off and laid in on the
ground and ran his hand over his beard and through
his black, shoulder length hair. "Name is Hank Avery
and I was born and raised in the Dakota territory.
I took a job as a cowpuncher when I was a
teenager, and been doing it for some fifteen years.
When I get to town, I like to find a card game. I
got into this poker game, and everything seemed
to be going my way. One of the players, Joe
Taggert became enraged and accused me of
cheating. He pulled his pistol, and I dived behind
the bar. When he came after me, I killed him." He
paused to look at the cave entrance where the
heavy rain had been reduced to light showers.
"His older brother, Will, the town bully, a fast
gun. vowed to kill me, so I hightailed it out
of town, and I think he's been trailing me ever
"Is this Taggert alone?"
"I think so."
Whirling Winds coughed and spit on the cave's
floor. "Can't keep running. Sooner or later you
will have to face him."
The old Indian picked up his bow and quiver
of arrows and held them at eye level, then he
laid they back down and picked up his tomahwk
and raised it above his head. "I was a brave
warrior in my youth." He laid the tomahawk
beise his bow and quiver and cocked his head
to one side as if he was trying to remember
something. "Then the white man came and
waged war aginst us and destroyed the buffalo
herds. I rode in many battles, and took many
scalps which I displayed on a pole outside my
teepee. Then the white man forced us onto
reservations where we became fat and soft."
Hank gnashed his teeth and stared at the
fire as he recalled the day he had returned
from fished to find the cabin consumed in
flames, and his parant's had been murdered
by a small band of marauding Indians. He had
hated Indians ever since. He had never spoken
to one before, but he knew the frail old man
wouldn't harm him.
"There was a lot of bloodshed in those days."
"Yes, there was, and most of it was senseless."
Whirling Winds leaned his head against the
rocky wall and pulled the blanket tighter
around him. "Now that I'm an old man, I'm
always cold." He closed his eyes. "I'm going to
get some sleep."
In no time the old Indian was snoring loudly.
Hank stood up and went to the cave opening and
peered out. Far to the south, stars were shining,
and the rain had been reduced to a light shower.
To the northwest, the storm continued to spend
it's wrath. He ducked back inside the cave and
sat down several feet from Whirling Winds so he
be bothered by the snowing. He streached out
and closed his eyes.
It was light when he awakened . He leaped to
his feet. The old Indian was still snoring loudly.
He left the cave, glanced around him and whistled.
A few seconds later he heard a whinny and the
mare trotted out from behind the boulders and
stopped beside him.
"It don't look like you had a very bad night,"
he said, petting the horse on it's neck. He went
to the cave and retrieved his saddle and
belongings.. He quickly saddled the horse,
kowing he had better be on his way.
"When I saw your horse I knew you were
around here somewhere."
Hank laid his hand on the butt of his pistol and
whirled around to find himself face to face with a
tall, muscular, black bearded man who had a
winchester rifle trained on him. His clothes
were wet and his hair clung to his forhead.
Taggart stepped out from behind the cover of
"Your brother was coming after me," Hank
said as he raised his hands. "I only meant to
wound him, and I wasn't cheating."
"The hell, you say," Taggart sneered. "I'm
going to kill you and enjoy doing it." He walked
up to Hank, slapped the mare on the flank and
watched as it trotted away. "Get down on your
Hank dropped to his knees on the muddy
ground and bend his head forward as he waited
for the inevitable. Chuckling, Taggart stepped
behind him. Hank knew he shouldn't have spent
so much time in the cave. Even with the
approaching storm, he should have kept his
horse heading south.
There was a thud, a gurgling sound which
was followed by a splash. Taggart lay face down in
the mud with an arrow in his back. Hank leaped
to his feet to see Whirling Winds, bow and quiver
in hand, struggling to crawl back into the cave.
By the time Hank reached the old Indian, he
was lying just inside the cave. His bow lay across
his chest as Hank bent over him.
"I don't remember that it tood so much
strength to pull the bow string," the old man
"Thanks for saving my life."
"He was going to shoot you in the back like
a coward." He sighed heavily. "The spirits will
take me soon."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"No, but thanks for keeping an old Indian
company in his final hours." He gasped for
breath, then closed his eyes as the bow slipped
off his chest.
Hank remained beside the old Indian's still
body for a few minutes, then he left the cave.
He gathered some roc ks and sealed the opening
so the varmints wouldn't feast on his reains. Then
he drug Taggert's body behind the boulders,
whistled for his mare, and when it trotted up
to him, he mounted and continued on his way