"Mattie, how did you know Will is in Liberal?"
She sucked in a breath. Dare she tell him about the coded message to Doc Lundine? How much information should she give him? They seemed to be working toward a common goal now to get to Will before someone else in order to keep him from getting killed.
"Your silence tells me you still don't trust me." His tone was quiet, defeated.
"I don't know what to think about you, but I need to trust you. You might be able to understand better than I do what's going on." She took a deep breath. "Will told me if I ever needed him for an emergency to go to Boise City and send a telegram to Doc Lundine in Hays, Kansas. I had to say this in my reply, Doc Lundine, my boy is very ill and in need of attention. Please advise as soon as possible. Mrs. Gordon."
"That's unusual. Then what?"
"I was supposed to wait in Boise City until I heard from Doc Lundine."
"And did you hear from him?"
"Yes. He sent me a telegram. I have it with me, but you'll have to turn around while I get it out."
Cyrus smiled and did as she asked. She dug the message out from her hidden pouch. "Here," she said, handing it over his shoulder. He opened it and read.
"Did you ever leave this in your room?"
"No. It's always been with me."
"Hmm. The only two people who would know about Liberal would be the telegrapher, whom I have eliminated, and Doc Lundine." He handed the telegram back to her.
"Do you suppose the doctor would have a reason to keep us away from Will?"
"It doesn't seem like he would. After all, this system your son set up for you to get a hold of him was for that purpose. He would have no idea why you needed to contact Will."
Mattie read the paper again, although she had it memorized.
"There is one more person who knows about that telegram."
Mattie's head shot up. The realization hit her like a twenty-pound sack of sugar. "Will?"
"He wouldn't have any need to find the note because he would already know what it said."
Cyrus narrowed his eyes at her. "Maybe it wasn't the note they were after. Have you ever come looking for him before?"
"No. Never." Mattie shifted her legs and winced at the pain in her ankle.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes. It hurts, a lot." Mattie had more important things to think about than her ankle. "If they weren't looking for the telegram, what else could they possibly want?"
Cyrus reached into his waistcoat pocket and pulled out the familiar, folded paper. "This."
"The wanted poster? I don't understand."
"If you've never used the code before, and if your son is indeed guilty, then he would want to make sure it was you who sent the telegram." Cyrus rubbed his chin. "He'd also want to know if anyone put you up to it, if you had a partner."
The pain in Mattie's heart swelled. As each day progressed, the reality of her son leading a band of outlaws grew. How could she have been so blind to it? She did the best she could in raising him. How could he turn out to be this bad? The evidence weighed heavily against Will. She would be losing him, either to some trigger happy bounty hunter, or to a lifetime in prison. Suddenly feeling much older than her forty-six years, she closed her eyes.
"And when they discovered the poster in my waistcoat, they found out that you knew about the warrants against Will. They probably figured we were working together, and that's why they sent you this warning."
Mattie couldn't finish her breakfast. Her stomach wound into a knot.
"There's something else I've been studying on," Cyrus continued. "Hays is a big cattle town. The trains running through there are a great way to ship beef to the east. This Dr. Lundine may not even be a real doctor. He might be someone your son is using to sell the stolen herds."
She didn't feel like talking anymore. "Haven't we sat here long enough?"
"You're right. Let's hit the trail." He easily swung Mattie onto the horse and pulled himself up.
The long ride gave Mattie time to think and pray. Her life had an up-side down feel to it. The one man she thought to be good may very well be an outlaw, and the other, whom she thought a ruthless man hunter, turned out to be kind and caring. Yet, the good man is hunting her son. It didn't make sense.
Mattie closed her eyes and allowed the warm, summer breeze to blow across her face. Would her life ever be normal again?