The Paths That Cross

By Kirsten Page

Copyright 1998

There was something distrustful in the man's eyes, but there was no other outward sign of dishonesty. Kid pushed the doubts from his mind. He focused on the other man who sat at the poker table.

Sensing the next rash of questions that would instantly pour from his mouth, the gruff gentleman rose from his chair. He was becoming quite irritated at Kid's persistent inquiries. Knowing the fight that would arise if he pushed it any further, Kid raised his hands as if to signify surrender.

The man growled slightly. "Look if I'd seen your friends I would have told you!" He sat back down. "Now either sit down for a game or leave." He placed the cigar back in his mouth and looked once more at the pathetic cards which were in his hands. Without much of a second glance, Kid made a frustrated about-face and left the strangers behind to drink their liquor and deal their cards.

"Lou, I hate to tell you this, but I think we're lost." Jimmy looked up into the sky trying to find the position of the sun through the dark storm-filled clouds.

For some strange reason, Lou couldn't be surprised. This was the conclusion she had come to several hours earlier....she just waited until Jimmy decided to fess up to that fact. "It took you this long to figure that out?"

He tried to throw back a slightly irritated look, but found it impossible once he turned and saw her wet matted hair sticking from her hat. Her clothes were soaked, and Lightning was a darker shade of black. Instead he had to try and stifle the laugh that ached to come out.

She didn't seem to notice his backward glance. "Everyone back home is sure going to worry about us." Although she generalized it, Lou had more specifically meant Kid. Whenever she was a day late, he was about ready to gather together a posse to ride out after her.

Almost as if he could read her thoughts, Jimmy responded. "Kid will be just fine." His tone remained quite absentminded. Lou just mumbled. "Yeah, I guess."

Their ride had been an endless pit of rocks and scorching heat. Teaspoon had done his best to tell them where to go and how to get there, but somehow they had so miraculously managed to get off of the trail and lose all sense of direction at the same time. Certainly not something to be proud of.

"I think we should get out of this before it really starts." Jimmy repositioned his hat and braced for the downpour that seemed to be imminent. He looked over at Lou who was obviously distracted. "Hey, look on the bright side."

The expression she cast at him wasn't very impressed with what he was going to say, even if she didn't know what that was. "Yes?"

Great, I better think of something good now! He shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. "Well, maybe we'll find something fun in one of the towns we pass through." He realized after he said it that he had crashed and burned pretty badly on that statement.

"What towns?" She mumbled. He didn't seem to hear her and took off, giving her no choice but to follow. "Yeah, just like the last time we went out on the town and I was kidnapped by one of your 'fans' that wanted to get even." She watched him ride a ways ahead and stop to wait for her. Lou groaned and spurred Lightning. "Here we go again."

"Teaspoon, have you seen Kid anywhere?" Rachel's voice was more concerned than irritated.

Lowering his feet from the desk, Teaspoon innocently and sincerely replied. "Nope, last I saw him was this morning." Deep down he figured that Kid had ridden off to find Jimmy and Lou.

Being the smart woman that she was, Rachel had pretty much figured it out for herself. She just wished Teaspoon might have admitted it. Turning and grabbing his coffee pot from the stove, she let out a slight sigh. "Uh huh." Nothing more said, she left him to his usual and customary morning nap.

Placing his hands behind his head, Teaspoon assumed his natural position.

Can't keep track of all the children, Rachel.

Noah paced through the bunkhouse. "Aw come on Cody, you're always getting your way around here! It's only fair that Ike and I get at least ONE of the good rides."

Ike nodded in agreement.

"Fine, have it your way." Cody threw down his hat on the table. The fact that he was going to be the one to stay behind meant that he'd finally have to do those chores that he'd been promising Rachel for so long now.

Turning to Noah, Ike signed. *What about Buck?*

"He can stay and help Cody. Besides, he won't be back till late and we'll be gone by then." Noah began gathering his things. Ike shrugged and followed suite, packing only what was necessary.

Cody fell back on the bed. Noah watched him. "See, now you know what it's like for the rest of us that don't get our way like you do."

Nothing but an obvious smirk crossed Cody's face as he contemplated what Noah had just said. He waited until he and Ike had left the bunkhouse with their gear before he reached into his pocket pulling out some silver coins. "Oh, it isn't too bad. Especially when Kid pays me a little extra to cover for him."

Part Two

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