Chapter 1 – Connors Saga is set to be released in May 2019 –
Finding the entrance to the hidden valley known as Redemption Valley had been pure luck. Seeing the bull elk suddenly vanish as it moved silently through the evergreen and aspen trees led me to the game trail that finally gave up the entrance to this veiled valley. Spending the last full day searching below timberline on Boreas Pass, Colorado had been frustrating since time was of the essence. The man I was seeking and who I believed lived within the confines of Redemption Valley would not want any visitors from the outside. The man known as “Ghost” to the Ute Indians of these mountains was a capable and dangerous man or foe that ever walked the Rocky Mountain Frontier. There was no doubt he would not be happy to see me and any reunion could prove deadly.
Palming my Colt 44 I made sure it was loaded with a full complement of six. Sliding the pistol quietly back into the holster I left the leather thong off the hammer that kept it from falling out while riding. I was riding into unknown territory and more than likely danger and I needed my weapons to be ready. For the first quarter of a mile I was riding through a natural sluice in the shape of “V” and was the most perfect ambush site I had ever seen. Even on this chilly early autumn day the sweat beaded on my forehead. Thinking to myself, “Eric Robert you are getting too old for this shit!”
My newly acquired mare Gypsy was a tad nervy trailing through such a narrow gap as if she understood the possibility of jeopardy within the hidden valley. Gypsy was a Gidran Arabian and a rare breed first bred in Hungary in the early 1800s. The Gidran’s are known for their speed, stamina, agility, and courage. Gypsy like most Gidran’s has a smaller head and a straight profile with well-shaped crest and small ears. My Gypsy girl is 16 hands tall and is a very muscular and powerful horse. To the best of my knowledge all the Gidran’s were chestnut in color and Gypsy was no exception. She did however have two rear white socks that were the only breakup of her being a total chestnut color. Since I had bought her 3 months ago at a horse auction in Denver, we have bonded and had gotten used to each other. Gypsy intelligence was exceptional, and it helped that her eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell was better than any other horse I have ever owned. When Gypsy was a tad nervy, it made me nervy as well.
Moving almost silently Gypsy and I made the end of the natural sluice which brought us into a wider valley surrounded by mountains in a bowl shape. The mountains towered on all sides to the point of stretching above timberline. Each mountain due to its lofty height had a topping of snow that never melted even during the summer months. Bringing Gypsy to a halt I surveyed all before me.
If this was Redemption Valley and home of Matt Lee, the man the Ute Indians called “Ghost” and his wife Walk With Ghost I could see why they chose to live here—it was simple really—the splendor took your breath away. In this hidden valley they could be free of all the Indian hatred of the white man and those that wanted to see Matt Lee hang for killing several members of the Colorado 3rd Calvary that had assaulted Walk With Ghost last year in Grand Lake, Colorado.
The golden leaves of autumn of the aspen trees were in full swing here in this obscure valley foretold of the cold and snow that was not far off of the winter months. Looking at the game trail below Gypsy’s feet it showed only deer, elk, and a few rabbits that had used it in recent times. There were no footprint of man or horse which meant if Matt Lee and Walk With Ghost were within the valley they had not used this trail to leave since the last rain. After taking a long swig of cool water from my canteen I gave Gypsy her head and the reins and we moved forward cautiously into the Ghost lair.
Following the game trail and the flight of a red-tailed hawk as it flow over head Gypsy and I saw no movement of any kind other than the slight wind that was causing the aspen leaves to quake. The only sound was that of the woods—nothing out of the ordinary.
The center of Redemption Valley had a small stream that flowed west to east as it meandered lazily across the valley floor supplying fresh water to all that lived here with in these walls. Scanning the tree lines hoping to see any telltale sign of Matt Lee and his wife lived here amongst the wilderness and seeing none Gypsy and I moved forward as silently as possible.
First, this might not be Redemption Valley at all. Second, if in fact this was Redemption Valley Matt Lee and Walk With Ghost may have changed their mind and decided to hide from the law and those that wanted the man named Ghost dead elsewhere. Third, my real mission was being delayed by searching for Matt Lee the famous mountain man. This could all end up being a wasted folly on my part—and time was not of my side.
Following the stream further into the valley I finally cut a trail that headed to the south. Stopping Gypsy I stepped out of the saddle and with bent knees I studied the game trail as it meandered in between the evergreens and aspens to the south. There had been recent activity on this trail of not only elk and deer, but that of a shod horse heading south. A big and powerful horse in fact, much like the one I last saw Matt Lee riding on Kenosha Pass over a year ago. Looking down the trail I knew it was a big risk in heading that way.
Once again the sweat beaded on my forehead in anticipation of what lay ahead. Palming my Colt once again just to see if the dampness of this autumn day had not made it stick to my leather holster. The pistol slid easily into my hand which I hoped was not a false feeling of security. The mountain man known as Ghost was as a deadly foe that has ever rode the timberline.
After placing my Colt back into the holster on my right side I then pulled my Winchester rifle from the scabbard hanging on Gypsy and jacked a shell into the firing chamber. The sound of levering a shell startled me in the silence of the woods as it echoed off the high walls of the valley. Dumb—real dumb Eric Robert!
Standing still trying to gather in all that was surrounding me hoping the sound of my rifle was not my undoing. There was no movement, and I felt the loneliness of the woods. Knowing full well that Matt Lee had the skill set that would not let his presence be known until he was upon me. He had not survived all these years by being sloppy in his woodcraft when so many wanted his hair. Matt Lee had survived an all-out war against the Ute Indians, US Calvary pursuit, bounty hunters, and myself in the years past.
Sliding the Winchester silently back into the scabbard, then squared my butt in the saddle and gave Gypsy some rein and moved out.
After, a quarter of a mile next to the stream I saw something I did not expect to see. A simple wooden cross marking a freshly dug grave. My heart dropped as I dismounted Gypsy to get closer to read the inscription on the marker. The words that had been recently carved read, “Walk With Ghost—Ute Indian princess, and my wife. Not a day went by that I didn’t love her.”
My heart sank for I had known Walk With Ghost for only a short while and she was one hell of a woman that is for sure. She even in her later years was a beautiful woman with the grace of a queen. She always stood by her man Ghost when push came to shove and their love for one another was unmatched by any other couple I had ever known. Matt Lee always claimed his wife was the only thing that kept him sane after what happened those many years ago on Marble Mountain at the La Caverna Del Oro. The legend of “Ghost” began over 40 years ago when Matt Lee had been the sole survivor of a Ute Indian massacre of his friends. The death of his wife could have sent him back over the edge of sanity. I was not so sure now was a good time to be pursuing the man, and the legend named Ghost.
Standing up and still looking at the grave marker I felt the cold steel of a pistol barrel as it touched the back of my head. Closing my eyes waiting for the outcome I heard a voice I had not heard in over a year. It was obvious that Matt Lee had ghosted up on me. Speaking in a calm and clear voice Matt Lee said, “Marshal Eric Robert what brings you to my valley?”
Kurt James © 2019
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