“My legs hurt,” I complained as we continued our trek to find the ones with the pearl. The sun was beating down on us and sweat trickled down my forehead.
“Sam, I don’t care if they're about to fall off,” countered Jesse, “We will get paid 10,000 pesos if we catch these guys, some people dream of this and it is almost within our reach.”
He is the bossy one of our group. Easy for him to say, I thought. He’s the one riding the Sally, the horse we purchased a few years back.
Although he was right, 10,000 pesos is a very large sum of money. With it I could buy cattle and eventually leave this life behind for a better one.
The third in our crew is quiet. His name is Luke. Legend has it his parents abandoned him out in the wilderness, and miraculously he was able to stay alive until someone found him. People knew right then that he was not meant in their town, but rather back where he was abandoned. Everyone is still not sure about his level of sanity but he’s a good tracker, and that’s what we need, so he joined us.
Suddenly Luke stopped. In fact, he stopped so abruptly that I ran into him. I peered over his shoulder to see what he was looking at as Jesse got down from Sally.
“There,” He said as he point to a spot in the dirt road.
At first I couldn’t see a thing and I was wondering if the weeks in the wilderness were finally starting to take a toll on his mental state, but then I saw it. It was very faint but I saw it. What looked like a three dimensional pattern of a zig-zag lay on this dusty road. I along with my companions have trained for years to look for things like this, and asking us what this was was like asking a full grown adult in perfect health if he remembered how to walk. It was a pattern you would find on the bottom of a hiking boot. I looked down the road to see more bits and pieces of that very pattern. These people who possessed the pearl were trying to balance stealth and speed. Very few could do that, and the people we were tracking were not one of those few.
We followed the tracks for what seemed like days. I was getting less and less excited as we continued. Just to make things better the tracks completely vanished.
“What?!” Jesse exclaimed, “you don’t just travel for this long of a time and then change the way you cover up your tracks.”
“No, you don’t,” I said.
This was weird, I knew Jesse was one hundred percent right. There had to be a trace somewhere. I looked to Jesse, he was bossy, and sometimes even mean, but he was also our leader. He was a good leader and I trusted him.
“We will continue to follow the road,” he said after a minute or two. “If we find nothing we will backtrack to here.”
We did just that for another hour, and, not to our surprise, we didn’t find a thing.
“We’ve made a mistake,” I said, “We all know that if we continue to search they are just getting farther away.”
I knew that the others agreed with my statement, we had to go back and find them. We should’ve looked harder where the footprints stopped, and now we had to pay the price.
We circled back to the spot where the footprints stopped but at that point the sun was dipping beneath the mountains and we had only about one hour before it disappeared completely. No one, not even the best scouts in the world could follow a trail after dark.
We looked for another 15 minutes at the place where the footprints ended and still we found nothing. Finally, Luke whistled. It was our signal for ‘come look at this’. Personally I prefer the actual words, but hey, it sounds pretty cool.
I ran over to find Jesse and Luke already farther off the road. I looked at what they were looking at to see imprints in the grass. If you looked really hard, you could see that same zig-zag pattern. Of course, I thought, they did the smart thing and got off the road, while we did the dumb thing and followed the non-existent tracks for an hour.
Those tracks lead us to a mountain. It was about 15 minutes before sundown. It was easy to see that the only way they could go was up. Jesse got off Sally because obviously horses can’t scale mountains. I was already putting on my climbing gloves.
The climb up the side of the mountain was grueling. Every step took a little more out of me. Jesse’s shouts to keep on going didn’t help one bit. Nevertheless, I kept going even though my arms felt like Jello.
We got to the top about ten minutes after sundown. I felt like I could easily collapse and my stomach sounded like a tornado. I ate chicken for dinner, and didn’t have any objections when Jesse offered to take first watch. I lay down on the grass that topped the mountain and instantly, I fell asleep.
I woke up to a gunshot. Jesse was pointing his gun toward a small dark cave. Only another second passed as a shadow leaped into life and slit Jesse’s throat. I watched in horror as Luke was shot with Jesse’s rifle. I scramble up the hill on the mountain. Luke and Jesse, dead, killed by most likely the one we were trying to hunt. Another shot sounded and I felt a searing pain in my leg. I fell back down the small slope I sat up and found myself a couple feet from Jesse and Luke. I looked up just in time to see the dark figure put a gun to my forehead.