“Terry. Mate.” Rough shaking. Rough strine. “Get up, you sad sook!”
“Ungh….” No way in hell was he going to acknowledge them.
“Rise and shine, princess…noooo, don’t roll over.” That voice was definitely American. A hand grabbed his shoulder and pulled him away from his escape. “C’mon, get up! There’s a posse forming.”
Terry’s eyes flew open and it took a few moments of adjusting to the dim light of the room for him to realize that two men were standing over his bed.
“Fuck me, what the hell are you doing in here?” He tried to make his voice boom, but it came out in a hoarse rasp. With another grunt, he tossed a pillow in their general direction. “Get off with your practical jokes, mates. I’m not playing another hand. I just got to bed, for fuck’s sake. And I’m keeping my winnings.” He moved to bury himself under the pillow, but it was yanked away from him.
“What time is it?” He rolled to look at the digital clock on the bedside table, which said just past three a.m. Christ! The realization snapped him to full attention. He sat up, loaded for bear, as the Yanks were often fond of saying.
“Are you blokes off your rockers? What could be so fucking important for a couple of drongos…”
“The horses broke out of the corral and are probably halfway across the Point by now,” said the American, who was now proving to be Cort. The gunfighter turned preacher reached over, snapped on the bedside lamp, and grinned down at him. “We got ourselves a roundup and you’re in it. Surprise!”
“What do you mean, the horses broke out? We just got ‘em in there!” Terry tried wiping his face to clear the remaining sleep away. If it had been any of the other Brothers, he’d have grabbed them by the scruff and kicked them out. But Cort went nowhere, woke no man, without good reason.
“He means the brumbies have escaped and are galloping like mad across the prairie and we’ve got to catch them before the veterinarian gets here,” East Driscoll, his fellow Aussie, explained in the same tone one would use with a child. Terry glared at his brother as he would a wet-behind-the-ears subordinate.
East just laughed. “You look like a drunk cockatoo, mate!”
“The whole herd?” Terry asked, incredulously. He swung his legs out of bed and yawned, then stood and stalked to his dresser to find something to wear, throwing those items he didn’t want onto the bed or the nearby easy chair.
“The whole herd,” Cort repeated. “We got Maximus with Argento, the Captain’s getting Scarto ready, and Hando’s going on his ATV. So are John, Egan, and Ben. You can do either one, although, if we lose a few in the brush, it might be to your advantage to be on horseback. Make sure you’re dressed for a hard ride.”
“How did this happen?”
“Fence came open,” was Cort’s short answer.
“It was secure,” East insisted with annoyance at Terry’s look. “Practically rebuilt the entire gate myself last month. But there it was, standing open.”
“They must have kicked something loose,” Cort offered, but East shook his head in refusal.
“They’ve never done this. Wonder what frightened them?” Terry wondered. He tried to think back over the previous night…skies had been clear, no clouds on the horizon…but at the Point, that didn’t mean much…
“Horses take off when the wind blows the grass the wrong way,” Cort said. “Don’t worry. Won’t take long to get ‘em back.”
“Did you get a hold of any of our mates in Tucson?”
“Got a hold of Wyatt and he’s passing on the word in case any of them show up in Old Tucson. Worst case scenario is some of them end up in the Pass.” The Pass was the stretch of land between the Point and Old Tucson, the latter a town that held every outlaw and lawman known to make a name in the Old West. It had opened up when Cort arrived many years ago, and the Boyz had become firm friends and business partners with the residents. It was as good as any connection they had to the Outside.
“Horseback,” Terry decided and gave the two men a significant look. “Now, ladies, if you’ll excuse me, I’m not a bloody peep show. Get out!”