Chapter Two—They’re Everywhere

          Allie Summer was in Denver. She was on an assignment that wasn’t exactly her favorite, but it needed to be done.
          “You’re the only person I’ve got available at the moment, Allie,” McConnell told her. “It will be easy and then you can come back and go on vacation. You deserve it.”
          “I want to wait until April to take some leave, Captain. I’m going to hide out in the mountains and it’s too cold up there now. April will be nice.” She smiled inwardly. Do some trout fishing, like Rob Conners suggested not long ago…
          “Well, that’s your choice, but I need you to take Levin to Denver. I’m sure I’ll have something else for you when you get back.”
          Sometimes Ranger work could be boring, and hauling prisoners from one location to another was one of those times. At least for Allie. Clyde Levin was a notorious outlaw in Colorado, but he’d been captured up near the Canadian border. Allie’s mission was to shepherd him to Denver. Fortunately, the railroad ran all the way. Allie kept him handcuffed to the arm of his seat the whole time—his right wrist cuffed to the seat on his left so that his arm was stretched across his body.
          “But I’ve got to eat,” Levin complained, “and I can hardly do it like this.”
          “The people you killed needed to eat, too, Levin, but you weren’t terribly concerned whether they did or not. And I don’t really care if you do or not. You eat like that or starve. Makes me no difference one way or another. Yeah, actually, it does make a difference to me. I hope you starve.”
          Answering the call of nature didn’t provide much more comfort for Levin. Allie uncuffed him with her razor at his throat—“don’t cough,” she told him—and then walked five feet behind him with a rifle pointed at his back. When they got to the first privy stop, Allie said, “You’ve got two minutes. After that, I start shooting, and those boards on that privy don’t look like they’ll stop a bullet.”
          “Two minutes? I need longer than that!”
          Allie looked at her pocketwatch. “One minute and fifty-five seconds.”
          Levin always finished his business in time.
          So…Denver. Allie looked out the window as the train clackety-clacked into the outskirts of the city. She had never been to Denver before, never been to a city near the size of this one. She wasn’t impressed as she saw the buildings slide by. Deliver this creep to the local law and get back home. I wonder what time the next train leaves…
          The Denver sheriff had been alerted, of course, that Levin would be arriving on this train and he was, indeed, on the platform waiting, with two of his deputies beside him. Allie had cuffed both of Levin’s hands and he stumbled de-boarding the train and almost fell on his face. The lady Ranger had given him a little shove…
          “Oops,” she said, with a smile on her face. “Be more careful. We wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself before you got hanged. You need to enjoy all the pleasures of dangling from a rope.”
          Levin called her something unprintable and Allie just smiled again. “I’ve heard that one before, slimeball.”
          The sheriff was looking a little strangely in the direction of Levin and Allie, who were now advancing towards him. He was a tall man, mid-30s, dark hair and eyes, firm chin and jaw. He didn’t approach but Allie came up to him and asked, “You the local law who’s supposed to take this thug off my hands?”
          “Yes,” the sheriff said, hesitantly. He was looking at Allie queerly; she was used to that, too. Not just the strange looks she got because she was a Ranger, but because of her own striking appearance. Allie was half-Cheyenne, half-Scandinavian. She was taller than most women of the day, about 5’7, and she weighed 120 pounds. Her skin coloring was about half-way between Indian and Scandinavian. She had gotten all of her father’s features, including jet black hair, except one—she had those ice blue eyes which came from somewhere in her Scandinavian ancestry; her mother’s eyes had been blue, but not as startling as Allie’s. As has already been recounted in this story, Allie’s eyes were almost hypnotic; they seemed to almost glow in the dark. And they could indeed freeze the gates of hell.
          From almost her first memories, Allie had wanted to be a Ranger. She learned to shoot, throw a knife, use a bow and arrow—she was an expert in almost every weapon known at the time. Her father had taught her everything an Indian could teach about surviving in the forest, and she had the quickness and reflexes of a rattlesnake. She had joined the Rangers at the age of 17 after a mob had killed her parents, Winter Wolf and Sandra. She quickly became Captain W. T. McConnell’s best Ranger, and he had learned never to ask questions as to how she got things done. As noted, the current assignment bored her, but she was always willing to do anything the Rangers wanted her to do.
          Yet for all her fierceness and arrogance, she had the heart…of a woman. Sometimes.
          The Denver sheriff shifted his gaze to the man with Allie. “Is this Clyde Levin?” Allie was a little surprised the sheriff didn’t know the outlaw.
          “Yes, it is. Captain McConnell sent me to bring him to you. Oh, and he sends his regards. Says he met you in Cheyenne once.”
          “That’s true,” the sheriff replied. “I’m Bart Donaldson, and these are two of my deputies, Roger Keeper and Erase Trainer. McConnell’s a good man.”
          Allie was looking strangely Trainer. “Erase? Did your parents give you that name?” He grinned a near toothless grin. Ugly as sin
          “No, I did,” Donaldson interjected. “He has this…tendency…to erase any problems that he thinks need erasing.”
          Allie smiled. “I like that approach.”
          “Always works,” Erase said, still grinning, and Allie laughed.
          “Yeah, it does. Saves the taxpayers some money as well. A bullet is a lot cheaper than a trial.”
          “Puts a lot of crooked lawyers out of business, too.” Allie laughed again.
          “’Crooked lawyers’ is redundant, Erase.” He chuckled.
          Donaldson gave them both an annoyed look and then went back to his examination of Allie. “I don’t mean to pry, or be nosey. But I’ll admit I’m curious. You’re…a woman…”
          Allie was amused. “How many deputies do you need to figure that out?”
          “Are there…many women…in the Rangers up there?”
          “Nope. I’m the only one.”
          Levin spoke up. “And I’d appreciate it if you’d get me away from her as soon as possible. She’s a holy terror. You ought to see the weapons she carries.”
          Donaldson raised an eyebrow at Allie. “I see the rifle, revolver, and knife. What am I missing?”
          “She’s got a razor behind her neck, a derringer in her boot, two of ‘em, maybe, and don’t let her take that bracelet off her wrist or she’ll slice your head off with it. It’s a garrote. She’s got a bow and arrows somewhere, but I haven’t figured out where she hides them. Oh, if you give her half a chance, she’ll throw you through that window behind you.”
          Donaldson looked at Allie strangely. She smiled and shrugged. “There are a lot of dangerous critters out there.”
          “And one more thing,” Levin said. “She’ll freeze you to death with those eyes of hers.”
          Donaldson and his deputies were studying Allie again with an over-exaggeration of interest. “Yes,” the sheriff replied. “I noticed her eyes right off.” They reminded the sheriff of a line from a poem by Poe: “and his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming….” She has a demon’s eyes, if I’ve ever seen any… Yet Donaldson had to tear his own eyes away from her. She’s an absolutely stunningly beautiful woman…must be one of McConnell’s secretaries, though this is a strange job to give a secretary…well, it's not an overly difficult assignment and she might have been all he had at the moment…
         “My mother was Scandinavian, my father was Cheyenne,” Allie explained briefly. “And I’d like to get home as soon as possible. Can you tell me when the next train leaves?”
          The Denver lawman shook off his stupor. “Not until tomorrow, I’m afraid.” It was late afternoon now. “But you’ll be the guest of the city. We’ll put you up at the Hobbit Hotel, you can have dinner, and then be on your way tomorrow, if you’d like. But I’d be happy to show you some of the city, if you’ll stay a few days. I’m sure W. T. wouldn’t mind.”
          Allie didn’t know if Donaldson was asking for a date or not, but she wasn’t inclined to accept. “Thank you, sheriff, but I’d just as soon head home. I get nervous around too many people.”
          “And they get nervous around her,” Levin, the outlaw, muttered.
          Donaldson ignored that and said to Allie, “As you wish.” Then he spoke to his deputies about Levin. “Lock him up, boys. I’ll see that…the lady here…gets to the hotel and checked in.” He looked at Allie again. “I didn’t get your name.”
          “Summer.” The sheriff nodded, apparently assuming that was Allie’s first name.
          “Let’s go, punk,” Erase Trainer said to Levin, giving him a shove, “or I’ll do what that Ranger shoulda done…”
          Donaldson spoke to Allie as they left the train station. “You’ll have to ride a horse, I’m afraid. I didn’t bring a wagon.”
          “Ride a horse?” Allie replied. “Gee, I’ve never done that before.” And Donaldson laughed.
          “The Hobbit’s not far. It’s not a bad hotel, but Denver should have better ones by now. The city was founded almost 30 years ago. Mining town. Named after the Kansas territorial governor, James Denver.”
          Allie couldn’t have cared less about any of that. She was looking at all the hustle and bustle around her as they rode down the dusty street. Ladies in flowing pink dresses, carrying matching parasols, men with black canes in starched black suits with coattails, strutting down the sidewalk like they were important or had someplace important to go or something important to do, hawkers hawking their junk from wagonstalls on the street corners, some kid shouting at the top of his lungs, trying to sell the afternoon newspaper, three old codgers sitting in rocking chairs in front of a saloon, taking turns spitting tobacco at a spittoon six feet in front of them…and the place stank to high heaven. Tons of horse stuff all over the streets will do that to any town…As if on cue, she saw two horses hitched to a rail to her right unload their lunch, adding to the barnyard ambiance Denver was already engulfed in.
          But it was the buildings that mostly caught Allie’s attention. They turned onto a stone-paved street that was lined with two-storied, posh brick structures with doctors’, lawyers’, and land agents’ names all over them. She counted at least 10 mining companies within a two block radius. There was a huge theater—the “Rose”—advertising some play with a handbill featuring a woman wearing less than Allie would feel comfortable going to bed in. The whole place smelled of money—well, what smell was left over from the horse stuff, that is. She and Donaldson hadn’t ridden half a mile till Allie hated the place. There’s more crooks in these buildings than in the entire Montana territory…
          Donaldson explained, “The hotel is down Third Street—the next block.” He had to lift his voice to be heard. He gave her a whimsical smile. “It’s a lot less noisy and there’s a decent steakhouse right across the street, with a nice bar.”
          “The steakhouse sounds good,” Allie said. “I’m not much on bars. Every time I go into one of them, some guy thinks I work upstairs. Or wants me to.”
          Donaldson laughed. “Well, an hombre always thinks he can get lucky after he’s got a few shots of whiskey inside him.”
          Just then, a man with a star on his shirt—another deputy, Allie assumed, a city the size of Denver would need quite a large policing force—rode up. He gave Allie a once-over, but then looked at, and spoke to, the sheriff. “Sheriff, there’s a couple of men holed up in the Mangus Mining Company building. Apparently, they thought there was money there and they’d rob the place. Well, we’ve got the building surrounded, but they’ve got three hostages and say they’re going to start sending out dead bodies in a few minutes if we don’t let ‘em ride out of here.”
          Donaldson’s face turned hard. “Hostages, huh.”
          “Yeah. Three of them. Two clerks and the president of the company.”
          “Archibald Cooper,” Donaldson told Allie. “They can have him, for all I care.”
          “Where is this place?” Allie said.
          “About a mile up the road, back the way we came,” Donaldson said. “I’ll have to leave you to find the hotel by yourself. It’s just up the way a few blocks on the right. Tell them I’ll come in and settle the bill later. Or if they demand payment up front, I’ll pay you back.”
          “That hotel can wait,” Allie responded. “I’m coming with you.”
          Donaldson hesitated. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” Then he added hastily, “Not that you’re incompetent, but you are way out of your jurisdiction and I’m afraid…well, I don’t want you to get hurt.”
          Allie shrugged. “I’ll watch out for stray bullets. Another gun never hurts. Come on, we’re wasting time.”
          The sheriff acquiesced because they did, indeed, need to hurry. “All right, but I want you to know that under no circumstances are you to get involved. You can watch, but stay out of it. Is that clear?”
          “I understand,” Allie said with a smile. Well, he seems fairly competent. Maybe he won’t need any help…
          Donaldson nodded, figuring that matter was settled. “Let’s go, Hoot. I need to get there before they start tossing bodies into the street.”
          Allie rode along at a canter behind the sheriff and his deputy. In a couple of minutes they came to a section of the street that had been cordoned off for more than a block. There were gawkers, of course, but Donaldson’s men kept them back.
          “Sheriff,” one of the deputies said, “they’re getting antsy in there. Say that if you don’t talk to them within five minutes, somebody is going to die.”
          “Ok,” Donaldson responded. “I’m here now.” He said to Allie, “Why don’t you stay back here where it’s safe, Summer.”
          “I will if you will.”
          Donaldson gave her a perturbed look. He didn’t have time to argue with an obstreperous woman. Well, if she wants to get her head shot off, that’s her business…”All right, then, come on.”
          The deputy on the ground looked Allie up and down, then waved her on through.
          The Mangus Mining Company structure was in the middle of the block, undistinguished in appearance, with dirty double windows and a peeling sign hanging over the door. This was not the high-born area of town Allie had ridden through earlier. “Don’t let appearances fool you,” Donaldson said. “Archibald Cooper is one shrewd operator and Mangus is one of the richest mining companies in Denver.”
          “Why don’t you like him?” Allie asked
          “Because he’s the south end of a north bound Appaloosa.” Allie smiled.
          Donaldson’s men—and Allie counted seven—had set up a barricade across the street, mostly of hay bales, but with a couple of sacks of corn feed thrown on top. Donaldson and Allie came in low and knelt behind the barricade. As always, Allie got some looks, and as always, she ignored them.
          “What’s the situation?” Donaldson asked.
          One of his men, whose name was Barrett, replied, “They’ve just been waiting for you, sheriff. Three of them.”
          “I thought there was just two.”
          “No, there are three.”
          Donaldson’s face was thoughtful and grave. “Three hostages?”
          “Any idea who the outlaws are?”
          “Nope. They won’t identify themselves.”
          Right then, a voice was heard from inside the Mangus building. “Sheriff? You out there?”
          “Yeah, I’m here,” Donaldson responded. “You men throw your guns out and come out with your hands up and nobody will get hurt.”
          He heard laughter at that. “You come get us. Tell you what. You for all three hostages.”
          Donaldson’s face grew perplexed. “Who are you?”
          “You don’t recognize my voice?”
          “No, I don’t.”
          “It’s your ol’ pal, Two o’ Clubs Grigsby.”
          The sheriff grimaced and blew out his breath.
          “Who’s he?” Allie asked.
          “An ‘ol’ pal,’ like he said. I killed his brother a few years ago and sent Two of Clubs to prison. I’d heard he’d escaped and was half expecting him, but I didn’t think he’d pull a stunt like this.”
          Allie nodded. “Where’d he get the name ‘Two of Clubs’?”
          “He killed a man over a card game one time when he thought the fellow was cheating with a two of clubs.”
          Allie almost smiled at that. The two of clubs is the weakest card in the deck. “Well, I don’t think he’s got a very good hand right now, either.”
          Donaldson looked at her. “It seems to me that he’s holding all the cards. I know Grigsby. He’s a killer and he won’t hesitate to shoot those people in there.”
          “Sounds like he wants you, not them.”
          The sheriff gave Allie a bit of an annoyed look. “That doesn’t especially make me feel any better. Or solve the problem.”
          “Sure it does,” Allie replied. “You make the trade for the hostages. Then you go in there, get blown away, and then when the three thugs come out, we’ll blow them away. Three bad guys to one good. Pretty good trade, I’d say.”
          Donaldson just stared at Allie. He wasn’t sure if she was kidding or not. “That’s easy for you to say. What would you do if you were in my position? I don’t really think you’d want to die, either.”
          Allie, of course, had been joking, but she knew exactly what she’d do. And she also knew exactly what she was going to do. But first, she wanted to see what Donaldson would do. After all, it was his problem, not hers.
          “Keep your shirt on, Sheriff, I was only joking. I wouldn’t trade 100 outlaws for the life of one good lawman.”
          Donaldson turned his gaze back to the mining building. “Well, I’m glad to hear that. But I don’t especially think this is a good time for jokes.”
          Allie looked at him. “Sheriff Donaldson, if you can’t laugh at death, you’ve got no business being a law officer.”
          Donaldson looked back at Allie. Who is she? She might be crazyHer eyes…He almost shivered—and was almost hypnotized--staring into Allie’s ice blue eyes. Then he shook it off, and returned his attention across the street. “Maybe you’re right but pardon me if I don’t feel like laughing at the moment.”
          Grigsby called out again from across the street. “Sheriff, you got two minutes to show yourself and head across the street. You know I mean what I say.”
          “Does he?” Allie asked Donaldson.
          “Yeah. I’m afraid he does.”
          “What are you going to do?”
          He looked at Allie again. “Die laughing?”
          Allie smiled. “Well, I know what I’m going to do…” She took off her holster, but pulled the gun out and stuck it into the back of her pants. Then the derringer went up her left sleeve. She already had a knife in a sheath on her right wrist.
          “What are you doing, Summer?” the sheriff asked.
          Allie replied, “Contact your local mortician, Sheriff, and let him know that he’s fixing to have three bodies to fit for caskets.”
          She stood up and shouted, “Don’t shoot! Please don’t shoot! I’m not armed!” And she climbed over the haystack and into the street.
          “Summer, get back here!” Donaldson said.
          But Allie kept walking, slowly, towards the mining building, her hands up in the air. She had gotten Grigsby’s attention. “Stop right there, lady.” Allie was about halfway across the street, and halted. “Who are you?”
          “My name is Summer.” She figured Grigsby had her Donaldson call her that. “I’m…” oh, what’s that sheriff’s first name? “…Donny’s sister. Please don’t kill him.”
          “Donny?” Grigsby asked.
          “That’s my…pet name for him.”
          “I didn’t know he had a sister.”
          “I’m from back east. I just got here today. Don’t kill him. I mean…I’ll trade…me…if you’ll let the hostages go…and let Donny live…I’ll do…whatever you want….”
          Grigsby obviously could see Allie although she couldn’t see him because it was light outside and dark in the building. He was silent for several seconds….

          "Donny” was watching Allie—as was everybody else—with extreme interest. I wish I had her guts…where did McConnell find her? But I can’t let her get killed
          He called out again, “Summer, get back here. It’s me he wants, not you…”

          “Now, hold your horses a minute, Sheriff,” Grigsby hollered. “Maybe we can come to some kind of agreement here. You come on in with your sister. Me and the boys will…make her acquaintance…and I’ll let you live. I’ll have to put a bullet in each of your kneecaps so you won’t be able to walk no more, but we’ll turn the hostages loose. You let us get out of town and we’ll call it even. How does that sound?”
          Allie looked back at Donaldson. He looked at her. She nodded. She has something up her sleeve, the sheriff thought…well, besides that derringer… He didn’t know about the knife on her right wrist. Maybe she DOES have a razor and garrote…
          Allie turned back to the mining building. “Do you have to shoot him? He’s my brother. I don’t want him to get hurt.”
          “I’m sorry, ma’am, but he killed my brother. I told you I’d let him live, and Two o’ Clubs Grigsby always keeps his word.” Ha, I’ll bet you do, Allie thought. “But I’m going to have to hurt him just a little bit because of what he did to my kin. You can understand that, can’t you?”
          “I…I guess so. But please don’t kill him.”
          “I promised you I won’t.” Then, “Sheriff! Come on. Without the hardware.”
          Donaldson looked at his deputies. “If worse comes to worst,” he said softly to them as he laid down his gun, “you make sure those men don’t get out of town alive.”
          “What’s she doing, sheriff?” Deputy Barrett asked. “Who is she?”
          “Greg, I don’t know the answer to either one of those questions, except that she must have a death wish and she’ll probably get me killed, too. But she’s getting us into the building alive. At least, I think she is.” Then he shouted out, “All right, Grigsby. I’m coming. But if you hurt my sister…”
          “Aw, sheriff, we won’t hurt her, we just want to have a little fun. She’s awfully nice looking. I don’t know how an ugly jackass like you could have a sister that looks like that.” He guffawed, and Allie heard some other snickers from inside the building.
          She waited until Donaldson came up beside her and they walked slowly towards the building. “That’s it,” Grigsby said, “nice and easy. There are two rifles pointed at you with itchy fingers, so don’t move fast or try anything stupid.”
          The Ranger and the Sheriff walked into the building. It was simply laid out and furnished. There was a counter that stretched about half way across the room, and a desk a little way behind it. In the back of the room was a closed door, but there was a plaque on it that read “Archibald Cooper, President.” A clock on the wall read 4:15, a small bookshelf, a couple of dusty paintings, and that was about it.
          Except for the human flesh in the room. The three hostages were all sitting and tied to chairs in one back corner. Cooper was obvious by the clothes he wore. The other two hostages were unremarkable male clerks. One of Grigsby’s men was standing over them, pointing a revolver. Another man was holding a rifle, aimed at Allie and Donaldson, and the outlaw who was obviously Grigsby was behind the counter, also with a rifle. Aimed at the sheriff.
          Allie took in Grigsby at a glance. Medium height, 30ish, red hair under a stained gray Stetson. She didn’t like the look in his eyes; a little crazy. She spoke first, and had a tremor in her voice. “Ok…we’re here. I’ll do what you want. You promised not to kill Donny.”
          “I’m sorry, lady,” Grigsby said, his voice hard. “But a man’s got to pay his debts. Donny boy here killed my brother and put me in prison. I’d say I owe him, big time. He’s got to die. You understand, I’m sure.” Then, to Donaldson, “Any last words, Sheriff?”
          The sheriff’s face was hard. Why did I let her lead me into this? I should have known… “You won’t get away with this, Grigsby, you know that, don’t you?”
          “Oh, yes, I will. I’ve got a fourth hostage now. We may even take her with us, she’s such a looker. Start your prayers, Donaldson, because you’ll be talking to God in a few seconds anyway. Or the devil, most likely.” He raised his rifle and pointed it at the sheriff’s chest.
          “You pull that trigger, buster, and you’ll join him in hell a split-second later.” Allie had her revolver in her hand now, aimed at Grigsby. Her voice matched her eyes…ice.
          Grigsby was caught off-guard. “Where did you get that…?” His eyes narrowed. “So the little sister thinks she’s tough. But I still hold the aces, lady. Jansen back there has a gun on the hostages. You shoot and he shoots.”
          In a flash—and nobody saw the move—the derringer was in Allie’s other hand. “Jansen has blood in his veins, too. Except if he pulls that trigger, a lot of it will be splattered against the back wall.” Allie didn’t even bother looking at Jansen, but she could see him out of the corner of her eye. He shifted a bit and didn’t appear to like the idea of where his blood might end up.
          “Woman, I don’t know who you are, but you’re awfully dumb. I only want one life—Donaldson’s. Then I’ll let the hostages go. You’re not going to accomplish anything but get him killed, you killed, and them killed, too.”
          “And you killed and Jansen killed and that other goon back there. It’s your call, Grigsby. How bad do you want to live? Is Donaldson’s life worth yours? If you’ve got a card higher than the two of clubs, I suggest you play it.” Her .36 was rock solid in her hand, aimed at Grigsby’s head, and the derringer covered the other two men. Donaldson was staring at her, completely befuddled.
          Grigsby scowled. “You aren’t that good, nobody is.”
          Allie smiled, but it wasn’t the smile that reached her eyes. “Do you want to bet your life on that? But you’ll never find out if I am or not, because my first bullet is going into what little brain you’ve got.”
          Grigsby was getting a little unnerved and even more so by looking into Allie’s eyes. He’d never seen such terrifying eyes before. Absolutely cold. “Who are you?”
          “My name is Allie Summer. I’ll put it on your tombstone as the person who killed you, if you want me to. After I spit on your grave.”
          “Oh, Lord in heaven,” Jansen muttered. “Boss, you’ve heard of—“
          “Yes, I’ve heard of Allie Summer, but didn’t know she was a woman. Where did you find her, Donaldson? Is she really your sister?”
          But the sheriff was gawking at Allie, too. “You’re Allie Summer? It never registered…I never thought…” Allie was a little surprised that she was known this far south.
          Everybody was distracted now and Allie knew she’d never have a better chance. She had learned that “fair play” was for losers, and most lawmen who “played fair” ended up six feet underground. She didn’t trust Grigsby not to start firing, so, while everybody was contemplating her name and reputation, she cut loose. Her first shot hit Grigsby right between the eyes. He grunted and his head snapped back, but by involuntary reaction, his finger pulled the trigger on his rifle. Allie heard Donaldson cry out, and knew he was hit, but she didn’t have time to check on him. Her next shot, with the derringer, took Jansen in the heart, and he lifted up onto his toes, a surprised expression on his face, and started toppling over. Because Allie had had to turn her head to look at Jansen, the third outlaw was able to react. He fired his rifle at Allie, but she was on her way down to the floor while shooting Jansen. Unfortunately, her revolver scooted out of her hand when it struck the floor, but she still had the derringer and fired the second shot. She missed because the man was also moving. He had to chamber another bullet and aim his rifle to shoot, and it took him too long—he never pulled the trigger because Allie had slid the knife into her right hand and thrown it. It hit the man dead in the heart…and he was dead on his feet. She grabbed her firearm again, just in case, but she knew all three men were dead.
          She quickly checked, just to make sure, though. Archibald Cooper spoke up. “Oh, thank God. That was so frightening. Please untie me, this is so uncomfortable.”
          It didn’t take Allie long to agree with the sheriff’s assessment of Cooper. “You can wait, mister, the sheriff’s been shot.” Allie went over to Donaldson, but he was slowly getting to his feet, holding his left shoulder.
          “I’m alright,” he told Allie. “I think the bullet passed clean through.”
          Allie confirmed that. “Yes, it did.” She took out her handkerchief and handed it to him. “Here. This will help staunch the blood flow till you can get to the doctor.”
          A voice called from outside. “Sheriff? Is everything ok?” It was Deputy Barrett.
          Donaldson went to the door. “Yeah, Greg, everything’s fine. It’s over. The three outlaws are dead and the hostages are safe.” He looked at Allie. “You’re amazing, woman. I’d heard you were good, but…” He shook his head. “I also thought you were a man.”
          “I didn’t think anybody down here would know me.” She smiled. “I was glad to help. I never can pass up a good hostage crisis.”
          “Will somebody please come untie me?” Archibald Cooper.
          Donaldson gave Allie an annoyed look. “I told you he was a…”
          “Yeah. Let him sit there and stew awhile.”
          By that time, several of Donaldson’s men had arrived. “Are you ok, Sheriff?” Barrett asked. “You’ve been shot…”
          “Just a flesh wound, Greg.” Then, motioning to Allie, he said, “Do you know who this is?”
          Barrett looked blank. “I think you said her name was Summer.”
          “Yeah. Allie Summer.”
          Barrett’s jaw dropped and he stared at Allie. “Great Caesar’s ghost…I thought Allie Summer was a...” Yeah, yeah, yeah
          Allie was putting her derringer back into her boot and sheathing her knife, which she had retrieved and wiped clean on the outlaw’s shirt. The .36 she shoved into her pants pocket until she got her holster. “That’s a .36,” Donaldson observed. “Not a very powerful gun.”
          Allie tugged on her shirt sleeves to get them orderly. She didn’t look at the sheriff. “A gun doesn’t have to be powerful if you shoot straight. Look what the derringer did to Jansen back there.” Then she did look at the sheriff, and gave him her non-eye-reaching smile. “And it didn’t even splatter any blood against the wall.” She added, “A .45 is for a macho man who thinks he has to show off. I could draw ten times before you lugged that heavy thing out of your holster.” That isn’t exactly what Allie believed. She had a .45 and was as accurate and almost as fast with it as with the .36. She just preferred the smaller caliber because it fit her hand better.
          Regardless, Donaldson wasn’t inclined to argue with her. “Take over, Greg,” he said to his deputy. “I guess I’d better get the doctor to look at this shoulder.”
          As it happened, a doctor had entered the building. He had been rounded up, just in case he was needed. “I’m Doctor Parker,” he said. “Sit down and I’ll take a look at that wound.”
          Allie spoke up. “If you don’t mind, Sheriff, I’d like to go get that hotel room now and something to eat. Train food would gag a rat.”
          Donaldson laughed. “You’re right about that.” Then, he looked at the Ranger. “Allie, thank you. I don’t know what I would have done in this situation, but I’d probably be dead. I’ve never seen anything handled as smoothly as you handled this.”
          Allie nodded, then smiled. “Tell Erase we solved the problem the easy way.”
          Donaldson chuckled. “Ok. Please don’t leave town till I see you. There’s a reward for these hoods, and since, technically, you’re out of your jurisdiction and in effect acting as a private citizen, that reward would be yours.”
          “I’ll throw in $100, too,” Archibald Cooper said. He had been released by one of Donaldson’s men and had walked up.
          Allie looked at the sheriff and rolled her eyes. “Generous, isn’t he. I can’t take the reward, Sheriff, you know that. Give it to your favorite charity.”
          There were too many people milling around and Allie didn’t like crowds, especially any of them who were behind her back, so she said good-bye and left. She smiled to herself as she rode to the hotel.
          Denver’s not such a bad place after all…
          But she did hope for a quiet trip home.
          Wasn’t going to happen….