Escape From The Noose - by James Stoness

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The real southwest comes alive beneath the creative hands of one of North America's newest writers. James Stoness brings you the romance and excitement as could only have existed in the 1800's.

Young Mark Kirkham was only looking for a job the day he was mistakenly chased and shot by Rangers for a stagecoach robbery in which he had no part. After being nursed back to health by a beautiful rancher’s daughter he goes in pursuit of the real robbers who had killed the passengers of the stagecoach and caused his problems with the Texas Rangers.

After being lost in the rugged land near the Pecos River he is captured by the ringleader of those responsible for a wide ranging series of robberies. Winning the man’s trust, Mark is entrusted with taking the ringleader’s niece out of the wilds to a safer area on the man’s ranch. After several misadventures, including a visit to an ancient city of the early Indians, Mark is successful in returning the girl to the ranch, and, although he falls in love with her, she spurns him because he has suggested to her that her Uncle is less than lily-white.

Mark, and a new friend return to the hideout to try and capture the rest of the outlaws and break the chain of robberies and killings.

With two girls interested in Mark, the stage is set for a confusing triangle of romance, and justice.

From The Book:

The pursuers were falling back and he could hear them shouting with alarm. They had spread out widely to both sides preventing him from cutting away from his intended path, even if he had wanted to. He eased back a little on the horse’s pace as the gap widened. Ahead of him he could see a break in the grass and hoped for a ravine down through which he could ride, perhaps losing them in the twists and turns. In the failing light of the afternoon he had a chance.

Suddenly, he felt a terrific blow to his thigh that almost caused him to lose his balance. Even as he tried to recover he heard another bullet passing close to him. Looking back he saw one man had stopped and was aiming his rifle from the ground. Mark sawed violently on the reins almost staggering the horse with the sudden move.

For a moment the man had lost his bead on them, but he was good and it would not be many seconds before he had them again in his sights. Mark forced the horse to run a zigzag path as he approached what he assumed was the edge of a ravine. When he arrived he was not prepared for the sight. Far below was a river and the sides were shaped like a large vee. He knew now why the pursuers had spread out. They were driving him toward this trap.

They knew that there was no escape. It was too steep to climb. Panic-stricken, he looked back and saw them coming hard upon him. He looked at the depression ahead of him and desperately spurred the horse over the side. The horse screamed in fright and then set to work in a monstrous attempt to keep its balance. Mark held back on the reins as they began the long slide. The horse was good, no doubt about it. Valiantly it scrambled to control its descent. At more than one point the horse was sliding on its rump. The terrifying ride was over quickly and as they approached the flatter area near the river Mark looked back up behind him and couldn’t believe that they had actually come down that embankment which seemed to rise so steeply above him.

Then, he spurred the horse westward along the banks of the river. Soon he was out of view of any of the pursuers who would soon be at the brink of that stupendous slide. Mark slackened his hectic pace and seeing a calmer place in the river he pushed the horse into the water and swam with the stream current, heading for the other shore.

Once there, the horse pulled himself out of the river and Mark headed him down following the stream. A couple of miles later, after fording many smaller streams that entered the river at intervals he selected one of them, and turned left and began climbing up away from the river.

The pain in his side was growing stronger now that the numbness of the first shock was gone and Mark felt himself feeling weaker.

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