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Corrigan walked towards the tree where Montgomery was tied. He removed the gag from his mouth.
."What do you think you are doing?" He demanded.
"Shut up, old man." Corrigan ordered. "I told you I was going to get my bride and teach them both a lesson. You might not like my methods, so it is best if you stay here."
"We had a deal. You said no one would be killed."
"Oh no one will. That deal still holds. I am after all an honorable man." He smiled. "I will show Victoria what is in store for her if she tries to defy me."
"What are you going to do to her?"
"Silly question, Montgomery. Do you really need me to draw you a picture? Let me just say, that before the day has ended, she will be mine." The older man paled when he realized what Corrigan meant.
"Please don't hurt her." He pleaded.
"She will not be permanently hurt." Corrigan laughed as replaced the gag in Montgomery's mouth and walked away. Montgomery struggled against the ropes that held him. "Mount up." Corrigan ordered.
The men took the long away to the next hill and the stand of trees to avoid being seen by the women. The kid watched their progress. He was aware of the thrashing behind him. The kid was unsure of what to do concerning the man they left behind. He wanted to untie the man, but remembered Corrigan's threat.
"I'm sorry." He told Montgomery and watched the men gain the protection of the trees. With in minutes he saw the mirror flash that was his signal. He left the camp sight and the man still struggling against his bonds.
Corrigan gave his men final orders. "Everyone knows what they are to do. Just remember, you can do what ever you want to that black haired bitch, but no one touches Victoria. She is mine. Do not forget that no one is to be killed. I do not want murder charges laid on me. Besides that would upset Montgomery." He said sarcastically. The men laughed They reached the trees and got into position. Corrigan took out a mirror and sent the signal. He watched the kid ride towards the lake.
Cassie and Victoria watched the horses. Midnight kept a close eye on them and the dog. He would allow them to watch as long as they came no closer. The scent of the woman and the feel of her saddle on him was still in his mind. He remembered her.
Cassie cleared her throat, took a deep breath and said, "Daddy used to bring us out here when the herd came down. My brother," she stopped and cleared her throat again. "My brother and I used to love watching Midnight."
"I would love to hear about your brother, but only if you want to tell me." Victoria said and placed a hand on Cassie's arm.
The dog beside them started to growl, her hackles raised. Cassie looked around for the source of the dog's unease. She shaded her eyes against the bright morning sunlight. She saw the dust trail coming towards them.
"Someone is coming." She said and pointed to the dust trail. "Another fool who has no regard for his horse."
The noise of the rider, startled the herd and they ran off, close behind their leader, as he headed for a higher area. The dust cloud left behind blocked their view of the rider. They waited for the dust to settle.
"What is he yelling?" Victoria strained to hear.
"Help. He is yelling help. Come on lets go see what's wrong." Cassie nudged her horse as she headed for the rider with Victoria close behind. The met up with him at the edge of the lake.
"Help me." He said as he reined his horse to a stop.
"What's wrong?" Victoria asked.
"My brother is hurt." He answered. Cassie's eyes narrowed at his slight accent.
"Where are you from?" Cassie asked.
"What? Look my brother is hurt. If you will not help, I need to find some one who will."
"Hold on. We will help you. I just asked where you are from. It is up and he fell in.you don't come from this area. You can tell us while we ride."
"I am from Connecticut. Hartford. We were going through those woods over there and the ground opened up and he fell in. I don't know how badly he is injured."
"The ground just doesn't open up." Cassie said in disbelief.
"It looks like some sort of pit."
"This land is part of the Double J Ranch. There are no pits."
"Cassie the dog was caught in a trap." Victoria reminded her.
"You are a long ways from home. What brings you here?"
"Not here. Saratoga. We heard there are mineral baths there. My brother is sickly and we thought the baths would help."
"If he is hurt badly, we will waste a lot of time if we both go, Victoria head back to the house and tell Ma to call the Doc. He can meet us at this pit. Where exactly is it?"
The kid looked around. "I am not completely sure, but I left markers to find my way back."
"Well we might as well wait until we know for sure where this pit is. Then you can go for help. Do you remember the way back?"
"Sure." Victoria answered.
"All right. Lead the way. We will be right behind you.
Cassie felt her unease grow, the closer they got to the hill. She could not put a finger on why she felt uneasy. It was just a vague feeling that something was not quite right.
"Hold up." She told him. They stopped. Cassie got down off her horse and reached into her saddle bags. She removed leather pouch. She knelt down and tied the pouch around the dog's neck. She took the dog's head in her hands and looked into the deep brown eyes. "Go home girl." She whispered. The dog licked her face and took off in the opposite direction. She remounted and they continued.
"What was that all about?" Victoria asked.
"Remember that pouch I told you about?" Victoria nodded. "That was it. No time like the present to try it out. I have been training the dog to run home if I needed help." She loosened the strap on her rifle.
"You mean you have never tried it? Do you really think there will be trouble?"
"Does not hurt to be prepared."
They continued to follow the kid. They reached the ridge and began the climb to the trees.
"Where are your markers?" Cassie asked.
He made a show of looking around. "This way. I came through here." He said. Cassie and Victoria looked at each other. "There, there is my marker." He pointed to a scrap of cloth tied to a branch. "The pit is just beyond those trees." They entered the circle of trees to a clearing. The sounds of rifles being cocked reached them. Cassie reached for her rifle.
"That would not be a good idea." Corrigan said as he walked out from behind a large tree. "Get lost." He told the kid. The kid turned his horse and left the area. The sounds of the horses hooves quickly faded.
"Corrigan." Cassie said angrily.
"So glad to see you remember me. Get down, both of you." He ordered. Cassie hesitated until she saw the gun pointed at Victoria. "I said get down. You may be a tough bitch, but I doubt if you are bullet proof," He cocked his gun. Cassie got off her horse. "Very good. Now step away from you horse so you do not get any ideas of reaching for your rifle." Cassie moved a few steps from her horse. "That is a good girl." Corrigan said sarcastically. "We will be tying you up to keep you from interfering. You don't have any objections do you?" She silently glared at him. One man wrapped a rope around her wrist while another threw another over a limb on the tree. They threaded the rope through her bound wrists and pulled. Her arms were pulled above her head. The continued to pull until her feet barely touched the ground and tied the rope around the trunk of the tree. Corrigan laughed and turned his attention to Victoria.
"I told you to get down. It is time for you to learn to obey me." He said and signaled his men to pull Victoria out of the saddle. They stepped back when Corrigan grabbed the front of Victoria's shirt and hit her hard across the face. She touched the area and felt a trickle of blood from her cut lip.
"Where is my father?" She demanded. "Did you kill him?"
"He is very much alive. Just a little tied up right now and can not join our little party."
"Leave Cassie alone. Your problem is with me, not her."
"You shut up. We have a score to settle. It is time your bitches know who is the boss." He hit Victoria again. Cassie kicked out at the men around her.
"Leave her alone, you bastard." Cassie shouted and took Corrigan's attention from Victoria. Her horse stood where she had left her. Cassie whistled and shouted GIZMO." The mare took off out of the clearing.
"That was not very smart." Corrigan said as he walked to where Cassie was tied and punched her in the stomach. The men laughed as she gasped and drew her knees up to relieve some of the pain from the blow. She took shallow breaths, while she carried all her weight on her arms. Stars of pain clouded her vision. When the pain ebbed, she straightened her legs and was able to touch the ground. She saw the next blow and was able to tense up. The third blow caught her on the chin and her head snapped back.
Victoria struggled against the hands that held her. Corrigan stepped back to give him men room to punish Cassie, while he watched. "That's it. Take your time. Make it nice and slow so that she will feel every hit." He turned his back on Cassie and walked toward Victoria. She broke free from the men and clawed Corrigan's face, drawing blood from several long scratches. She continued to claw and punch Corrigan until strong hands grabbed her again. Corrigan laughed and hit Victoria again. The blow took her to her knees. Corrigan grabbed the front of her shirt and lifted her to her feet.
"Quite the little scrapper aren't you? I am going to have a lot of fun breaking you." He took out his knife and sliced her shirt. Another slice and her undergarments fell open. He leered at her naked chest. He reached out and roughly grabbed her breasts. "Oh yeah I am really going to enjoy breaking you." Victoria tried to pull away from the hands that groped her, the hands that bruised the tender flesh, but the hands that held her were too strong. She kicked out and caught Corrigan in the groin. He howled and pain. "You are going to pay for that bitch." He sliced her jeans. "Get her ready for me." He turned his back on her and walked to Cassie. Victoria struggled against that hands that tore her clothes from her. Corrigan looked at Cassie. "Well Miss Jones you are not looking to good." He laughed until Cassie spit in his face. He snarled and wiped the spittle from his face. "Seems like she needs a little more instruction. Teach her good, but she must be conscious for the main event. Then you can cut her down and enjoy her." He handed his knife to one of the men who cut both sides of Cassie's jeans. She tried to kick out as her jeans were ripped from her body. Cassie felt her strength failing..
The men laughed as they continued to hit Cassie. The blows alternated between her face and stomach. One eye was swollen shut Blood ran from her nose and mouth. A large bruise was forming on the side of her head. Breathing became harder with each blow. Corrigan turned his attention back to Victoria. She stood naked before him and tried to cover her body from his sight as he leered at her
"Very nice." He said as he walked back towards her. He rubbed himself as he walked. He reached out and grabbed her breast again. "Very, very nice. Now you are going to learn not to defy me again." He backhanded her and she fell to the ground. He pounced.
The last sound Cassie heard before she lost her hold on consciousness was Victoria's scream.
To be continued...
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