Category: Gen, AU, Western
Characters: Dean, Sam, Crowley
Summary: The year is 1882, the place is Yuma prison. Fergus MacLeod is awaiting trial and less than impressed with his new cellmate, the notorious outlaw Dean Winchester. Can they resolve their differences and form an escape plan, or is there a bigger agenda in play? What follows is deception, double dealing and deadly peril as the stakes increase along with the six shooters.
Fergus MacLeod was restless. He’d felt like this for days and could find no way to make it abate. Nights were the worst; too much time to think, too much whisky to drink and not nearly enough in the cell to distract him. His thoughts inevitably turned inwards and swiftly spiraled out of control. He didn’t like it but then, he didn't much care for any part of his current situation. His fate was currently resting in the hands of his cellmate and MacLeod hated being bound to him in this manner.
He tried to concentrate on the book he was reading but he'd been on the same page for the better part of an hour, so he gave up on it. He looked across at Winchester with a sneer. He was sound asleep on his bunk, had been since lockup at eight and he wouldn’t stir until the morning bell forced him awake. He’d never been a particularly verbose companion but since getting transferred to the labor gang he’d become downright mute. He didn’t even talk in his sleep any more.
He'd been on the gang for two weeks, tormented daily by Walt and Roy and that should have lit a fire under his arse, but he’d so far advanced only a partial solution to the busting out problem. He’d finally accepted the hospital was the only realistic escape route, but his method of getting there was tenuous at best in MacLeod’s expert opinion. And it was taking forever to implement. In the meantime the atmosphere in the cell was strained. MacLeod found his bunk mate surly, intransigent and possessed of less brains than a mule. It was driving him insane.
The nocturnal conversations with Campbell had also ceased, since Winchester was invariably asleep when he came to the cell. Each passing day of inaction took MacLeod closer to trial and he didn’t have time to wait on a man who was always too tired to think. So he’d carried on developing his original idea as the almost inevitable backup plan.
MacLeod was nothing if not a man of his word. He’d approached Campbell the morning after Winchester handed him the idea and outlined the proposition. Campbell’s initial reaction was one of surprise, swiftly followed by a half-arsed cover up and MacLeod smelled dissent in the ranks. He filed it in his mental dossier of things to ponder when he had less pressing concerns.
His second attempt, a day later was marginally more successful. Campbell was at least amenable to his idea but seemed out of sorts; brooding and resentful. He acknowledged the plan had potential but point plank refused to see his buddy get hurt. Not for the first time, MacLeod wondered about the nature of their relationship outside the prison. Campbell seemed to genuinely care about Winchester, was fiercely protective of him and that kind of bond was alien to MacLeod. He’d ridden with men who were ferociously loyal, prepared to do anything for him but their devotion was a mix of fear, avarice and envy rather than any real liking for him. Fergus MacLeod didn’t see the point of friends but Campbell’s fidelity closed the door on another notion he’d entertained: leaving Winchester to rot in Yuma while he rode into the sunset with his Moose.
Campbell had been unaware of the tunnel in the hospital but agreed to check it out. Two days later he came by the cell and this time it was MacLeod who held the whispered meeting. Campbell had not only investigated the tunnel, he'd also located the keys and was in the process of getting copies made. He needed money to buy a boat, which was less complicated than stealing one and MacLeod took what he needed from the stash in his hidey hole and pushed it through the bars. Five days after that Campbell was ready to move. All they needed was access to the hospital, which meant somebody coming up with an idea better than MacLeod’s original, and that’s when things went sideways. Winchester humiliated Roy in front of his work gang and was hauled in front of Zachariah. He subsequently spent two days in the hole.
MacLeod hoped the experience might spur him into action, since he had nothing to do except sit in the dark and think, and finally the great oaf came up with plan that was worth a shit. It meant procuring a poisonous desert plant called Bird of Paradise and then ingesting its seeds.
It was risky and MacLeod didn’t like it. The quantity and dosage had to be exactly right and none of them were experts in that field. The best he could hope for was vomiting and the shits; at worst a very painful death. And then they had to get hold of the bloody stuff. Somebody had to ride into the desert, locate the Bird of Paradise bush and prepare the seeds safely. Campbell said he knew a man and alarm bells immediately began ringing in MacLeod's head.
Winchester farted in his sleep and MacLeod glared at him with renewed irritation. He picked up his whisky bottle and warmed it in his hands before taking a generous gulp. He needed to speak with Campbell again. He was expecting the guard to drop by any minute now.
A metallic tapping woke him some time later and he opened his eyes blearily. Campbell was at the door and he got to his feet, noting how the candle had burned down half an inch since he put his book away. Campbell spoke in a low, anxious voice.
“We need to put this plan into action. Roy's figuring out ways to put Dean back in the hole and we can't get to him there.”
His concern was contagious and MacLeod’s stomach lurched. "Where the hell are those bloody seeds? They’re the reason we’re still sitting here with our thumbs up our arses.”
He could sense Campbell's unease before he even opened his mouth.
"We've got a problem there. My source found the bushes but none of them had any seeds. He thinks it’s the wrong time of year."
“Goddamit!” MacLeod banged his fist into the door jam and Campbell shushed him impatiently.
"Don’t shush me, you little toe rag. It’s the middle of winter; of course they don’t have any sodding seeds. Numb nuts back there should have known that.”
He scratched at his head in frustration. “Two weeks before I go on trial and we're back to square one. I don’t fucking believe this."
"We can still make it work." Campbell's voice was quiet, laced with reticence but MacLeod caught the inference immediately.
"I hope you’re suggesting we revert to the original plan?"
"That depends." Campbell cast an uneasy look at Winchester. "You never explained it all. Tell me what you’ll do to Dean.”
MacLeod considered for a moment then decided the specifics of his plan were too contentious to share.
“It’s best you don’t know, but you'll thank me for it later.”
“If you hurt him bad I’ll shoot you dead.” There was no threat in Campbell's tone, just stone cold fact and MacLeod chuckled softly.
“We’ll both get hurt, Moose. And we’ll both be fit enough to escape. Now shit or get off the pot.”
Campbell hesitated and MacLeod braced himself for more resistance. Finally he let out a resigned sigh.
MacLeod’s pulse quickened. “Tomorrow night.”
Campbell shook his head. “It won’t work. I’m on duty until two in the morning.”
“Tuesday then. How are you getting inside?”
“I joined their stud game and they play every night. They like having me there on account of my permanent losing streak.” Campbell snickered quietly then put his hand through the bars. “Give me Dean’s money and I mean all of it. Once this thing's rolling, there's no coming back."
MacLeod quietly moved his bunk and prised up the rock. He felt inside the hole and his hand brushed the bottle of hooch. It had been sitting there, untouched since Winchester arrived but MacLeod wasn’t going to let it go to waste. He had plans for that bottle. He located the roll of cash, peeled off three hundred for his personal use and passed the remainder to Campbell.
“You know I understand why you bought cash in, but what’s the deal with that bottle of piss?”
Campbell shrugged. “Dean thought he might need it.”
MacLeod snorted. “He hasn’t touched a drop. Not that I blame him.”
“That’s a fucking miracle right there." Campbell threw him an irate look. "You’re enough to drive anyone to drink, MacLeod. Why don’t you stop yapping and mind your own damned business.”
MacLeod waved the insults aside. “What time does your game start?”
“Usually around nine.”
“Be ready to move then. Where’s the boat?”
“It’ll be outside the prison.”
MacLeod stared at him, his patience at breaking point. “If you moor it there it’ll be seen, you bloody imbecile.”
“No it won’t. The guard tower’s on the other side of the prison.”
“And what about the perimeter patrol? Every thirty minutes some guard will stroll past and get an eyeful."
Campbell gave an enigmatic smile and MacLeod would have punched him if he could reach.
"Leave the details to me, MacLeod. Concentrate on holding up your end and go easy on Dean or you'll regret it."
His words set another alarm ringing. Not for the first time MacLeod felt like he was the hapless mark in some kind of elaborate grift.
“Who else is in on this, and don’t give me any more bullshit. I wasn't born yesterday, sonny.”
Campbell’s infuriating smile didn’t slip. “You're imagining things. Go to sleep now and that’s an order."
Then he was gone and MacLeod flopped heavily onto his bunk. Sleep wouldn’t be coming any time soon so he dug into the whisky and tried to put his whirling thoughts in order. He’d suspected for a while there was somebody else tied up in this operation and Campbell just confirmed it. He’d got things in place way too quickly for a man who got one day off a week and lived inside prison walls. And it certainly hadn't been Campbell who’d ridden into the desert in a futile search for Bird of Paradise...
The prospect of another collaborator bothered MacLeod. He wasn’t much of a gambler; he liked to thoroughly weigh the odds before committing to an enterprise and he always held the reins of power. Campbell and Winchester were known quantities to him now. He understood them and intended to play them against each other until one of them snapped. Then he’d drive a wedge into their friendship.
MacLeod had no intention of being a pawn in their game. He also had no intention of letting them help themselves to his haul of bullion. They hadn’t earned that and they didn’t deserve it. He needed them only to facilitate his escape, help avoid the prison posse and bounty hunters until they were far away, then ditch their incompetent arses.
A fourth party might just put a spanner in his carefully constructed strategy and he brooded on the problem until his eyelids drooped. The truth of the matter was that until he’d met this man, he couldn’t figure out exactly what he needed to do.
He put his bottle back in its hole and settled down to sleep. Winchester was snoring, oblivious to the change of plan and MacLeod smiled as he watched the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest. It wasn't that he necessarily took pleasure from another man’s pain, but sometimes it couldn't be helped. Besides, everything he was doing was vital to a shared cause.
Winchester would see things differently and MacLeod’s stomach fluttered as he considered the worst case scenario. Winchester was plenty dumb enough to abandon the treasure hunt and use his pistol to settle matters in a more immediate fashion. There weren’t many men MacLeod feared facing in a shootout; he was looking at one of them.
Six years ago they'd nearly killed each other and those events had not been forgotten. While both had been smart enough to keep a life threatening grudge out of a cramped prison cell, outside was a different story. It was only a matter of time before the same trouble flared and MacLeod hoped he was ready for it. He still held the same ace he’d possessed six years ago, but was in no hurry to play it again.