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Desert Bandits
by Cindy Davis

Category: Young Adult
Description: 1866--in the Arizona Territory--three friends' quest to earn a reward becomes a dangerous adventure? The old abandoned Bleeker cabin provides hours of fun for Jesse Johnson and friends Matt and LT. Horses approach. From the safety of the loft, they watch bandits bury a trunk under the floor while boasting of riches from the payroll inside. The boys "rescue" the trunk, intent on turning it in to the sheriff--until they overhear him say something that proves he's in cahoots with the bandits.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2010 Spring, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010


1 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [176 KB]
Words: 39823
Reading time: 113-159 min.

Did you ever think how things would be different if you did, or didn't do, one particular thing? I made a decision that made me and my friends Matt Beebe and Little Turtle--LT for short--think maybe we should have stayed home in bed that day. I should say that my name is Jesse Johnson. It was 1866 in Cattle Creek, Arizona Territory. The War was over. Abe Lincoln had been assassinated and I had just turned twelve. None of that is important here except it affected the decisions I had to make.

The first Saturday in October, me, Matt and LT spent the day checking out the old abandoned Bleeker cabin at the Four Corners looking for stuff we could use in one of our hideouts. The cabin had been empty for several years, ever since some landowners decided they wanted the Bleeker land too. Through a series of events they didn't get the land, so now the place stood vacant, but full of junk. Piles of it.

The ground floor was one room except for a tiny cooking area--which was where LT went--with a two-burner stove.

Suddenly Matt's shaggy brown hair appeared above a pile of junk on the right side of the room. He jiggled something dark and heavy looking in the air and asked for about the millionth time, "What about this, Jess?"

I said what I'd been saying all along. "Put it in the pile."

The pile on the front porch grew with every second. Most of the stuff was broken and useless, but Matt couldn't face wasting anything. I figured to sort through it tomorrow when we brought the buckboard to carry it all to the lake fort. The building shook when Matt heaved his treasure onto the pile. He ran inside calling, "Jesse!" the same time LT announced, "Someone is coming."

He ran to a broken window at the front of the place and poked his head outside. "I cannot see anything."

See anything or not, someone was definitely coming. We scrambled up the wobbly ladder to the one-room loft, skipping missing rungs and diving across piles of junk--even more stuff than downstairs. One of these days Matt would have a junk collecting party up here.

I rubbed the heel of my hand in a circle on the tiny, filthy window. From here I saw two men, one on horseback, one pulling a wagon.

Matt shouldered up next to me, just about knocking me over. "Wow," he said. "Look at the size 'a the man driving the wagon!" Then he laughed. "Look at the puny guy on the horse! Looks like a midget from the traveling circus. I bet someone has to boost him up on his horse."

"Why do they stop here?" LT asked.

"They can't be stopping here," Matt said. "This place has been abandoned forever."

"You should look again, they are stopping," LT announced as the pair reined the horses around the back of the cabin. "And they are coming in."

"Get down!" I hissed.

We dove across the loft and belly-flopped on the bumpy floor. I lost my hat somewhere in the mess. We peeked over the edge, eyes bugging out at what we saw below.

A giant stood in the doorway blocking out the sun. His shadow stretched all the way across to the other wall. "Frank, c'mere. I found a place fer it," he said, scratching at his shaggy black beard.

We jerked our heads back when the one called Frank stepped into sight. What a runt next to his partner. He barely came past the guy's waist. Below the hems of worn, dirty Levis, Frank's silver spurs glittered in what sun got around him. And they clinked as his boots--with a hole in one toe--moved across the floor.

He hadn't taken four steps when his left boot broke through the rotten floor. He roared a couple of things I better not repeat. Then he said, "Monk, come help me so's we can get outta here." He bent and, with both hands, took hold of one knee and yanked his foot out. Then he found a solid spot to stand. Not an easy thing to do. The guys and I had been here so many times we had a route picked out--a hard right just inside the door, then snake along the far wall to the ladder, and keep going around the back of the room.

The one called Monk clomped around tapping the toe of a dirty black boot till he found a loose board. He dropped to his knees, shaking the whole cabin. I took hold of the loft railing, thinking the place would cave at any second. He yanked off a bunch of wiggly boards and tossed them behind him. "We can put it under here."

"Not big enough," Frank growled, sounding like a rabid fox my father had to shoot last winter.

"Look Frank, I can dig here." Monk yanked off more boards and dropped into the hole under the floor. He jabbed a heel in the dirt showing Frank how soft the ground was.

"Just do it."

"Okay, okay. Gimme the spade."

Frank tossed a short handled shovel to Monk. "I'll go untie the ropes. Hurry up with that hole. If the Dawsons show up we'll have trouble like there's no tomorrow."

When he mentioned the Dawsons, a shiver started in my feet and went all the way to my head. I'd heard of the Dawson gang. They'd been robbing and stealing all over the Arizona Territory, maybe all over the country.

Monk dug a hole about three feet long and just as deep, grunting like our big hog at feeding time. I looked at my friends and made eyes about the size of the hole. When Matt white-knuckled his hat I knew he was thinking the same thing--must be a right big treasure they were planning to bury--and we'd be mighty dead if we were found hiding up in that loft.

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