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|The fifth day : Amarillo TX to Gallup NM
The team gathered for a "good old English breakfast" - cereal, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, toast and marmalade - and no one remarked on Rob's absence. Probably sleeping it off. We'll yell for him when we leave.
The last to appear were Tats, Blackjack and Teaboy. All of them looking smug and all of them looking tetched too. No one was surprised by any of that.
While collective goodbyes and thanks were being trumpeted, Buzzcut went off to wake Rob up and get him on to his bike. After a few moments he came back, looking worried.
"Anyone seen Rob this morning? His bed has been slept in but all his gear's gone and I can't see his bike outside either."
Then Tats drew breath to say, "I did hear some crunching on the gravel outside our window very early this morning - d'you think he's...?"
"Again?" Joshua snorted. "Surely he wouldn't..."
"Didn't seem to enjoy last night all that much - went to bed before anyone else..." (Blackjack)
"Rays, weren't you sharing with him last night?"
"Never got to bed. The weed got to me and I slept it off under the stars. Never thought about him when I dragged myself up there for a shower this morning - guess he must have gone..."
"Shit. I don't believe it! Not after... " NoChecks abruptly shut up and went pink.
The Old Boy said "We'll keep an eye out for him and if we find he's in trouble hereabouts we'll send him after you - by car if necessary."
And so they all set out. Heavy gloom hung over everyone - except Tats, Blackjack and Teaboy. Who were doing their best not to look pleased.
Shaman, on the other hand, looked like a black cloud of thunder.
The subdued group had been going for about 20 minutes, getting back onto Highway 40, when Shades got a puncture. The whole team stopped, commiserated, helped with the repair. NoChecks and Joshua were having a heated discussion in the rear of the party.
"I just don't believe he'd go and do it again. He knows us too well."
"He knows you too well!"
"But he wouldn't go back on everything after all that stuff with you and Shaman - besides he knows us all now. He was feeling great yesterday - rarin' to go!"
"All that crap Tats was talking - I don't believe a word of it. Something wrong somewhere."
Sudden clarity. "And I'll tell you what it is! Our room was on the same side of the house as theirs and if he'd blasted out of the place we were on the wrong side of the house and we'd never have heard him!"
"Right! let's go back!"
They left in a cloud of dust and a lot of Harley exhaust.
The quick-witted Tats grabbed hold of Blackjack.
"They're on to something - they've gone back!"
"Shit - we gotta stop them. C'mon, boy!"
Tats rode up to Leader.
"Josh seems to have an idea where Rob might be - we're goin' back to help out."
By the time Josh and NoChecks reached Tanglewood Hall and headed for the Dungeon, my arms were practically out of their sockets. The pain had practically caused me to pass out when the door burst open and NoChecks and Josh rushed in. In no time they had me cut down and ungagged me, commiserating and swearing about the Surly Three while they tried to massage my useless shoulders back to life.
They were just getting me to my feet when the door slammed open and there were Tats and Co. grinning at us. Grinning at us over a couple of pistols.
"Well, now, Blackjack," said Tats, "what a pretty party! Pity we can't stay to enjoy it. On the floor with you, face down! Boy, get those ropes and get busy. Gotta get outa here before that crazy old coot comes to see what's goin' on."
"The crazy old coot is quite capable of seeing that for himself, thank you."
And there was the Old Boy with several of his burly staff, all armed with shotguns and ready to use them.
"Throw those pistols down and kick them over here. Sharpish! James, get these miscreants tied up - John, open the front door for the Sheriff."
He gave Tats a kick in the ass.
"Think I don't know which side of my own house you'd hear 'crunching on the gravel', you fool! I'd already sent for the law before you got here and my Jeffrey has gone after your other friends with the info."
Then the "other friends" poured into the room, Shaman at the head. He came to look at me, then stalked over to Tats and Company.
"It will be to my everlasting shame that I was wrong about you three, even though I came to my senses long before you attempted this - this kidnap."
"Capital offense in Texas, I believe" chortled the Old Boy.
Teaboy started to wail once he was over the shock of "capital offense". Recriminations were soon stifled by their removal upstairs. We never saw them again.
Shaman was examining my shoulders.
"He won't be able to ride today..."
"I'll lend you James and the Hummer - he can take them both to, where was it? Gallup tonight? The bike too."
Actually it took two bikes because NoChecks wanted to ride with me. We had a lot to talk about. James was discreetly deaf.
The stretch between Oklahoma City and Amarillo had been no fun once we got off the Will Rogers Parkway. After that it was the hell of the notorious Texas Panhandle. The a/c in the Hummer spared the rest of that by and soon we were in New Mexico. We could see why it's called the land of Enchantment - in spite of most of it being a desert, the topography is fascinating and beautiful - really the first stretch of our long journey from the East that would actually have been pleasurable to ride in. Very romantic in fact. As romantic as the back seat of the Hummer.
Now the road was going ever upward towards the hills; the relentless heat was being tempered by breezes of altitude. When we arrived at the motel outside Gallup it was early evening. Shaman took me over.
It was to be rest, treatment, and more rest. And?
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