Prologue, Part One: Terror Meets Its Match

          They terrorized the entire territory. But they especially terrorized the town of Trident.
          Trident was a small ranching community of maybe 500 souls in an out-of-the-way valley in the southwestern part of the territory. Visible in the distance were three peaks shaped like a trident; hence, the name of the town. The nearest railroad line was almost 100 miles away and would never get closer, so everyone expected Trident to become a ghost town in the not-too-distant-future. But the hardy folks of the valley were tenacious and wouldn’t give up. And they were hanging in there very well, thank you.
          Except when “they” showed up, which they did every four months or so. “They” were the Buckner gang, so named for their boss Bradford Buckner. The gang consisted of five members. Buckner was a prematurely grey-haired, hard-faced man, 40ish, quiet and unassuming, but the unquestioned leader of his men. The rest of the band consisted of “Caveman” Little Bull—“Caveman” because he looked like one—“Weasel” Taylor—“Weasel” because he looked like one—Pedro “Abe” Gonzalez—he fancied he looked like Abraham Lincoln, which was a hoot because he was a bushy-mustached, pepper-pot Mexican with gold teeth and wore a sombrero—and The Infant, the youngest member of the group, called “infant” because of his baby face. But that was the only resemblance he had to a child.
          They all were ruthless men and they all had their special talents. Buckner himself was a criminal genius, but also quick with a gun. Caveman was part Indian; hence, his last name “Little Bull.” Usually, he needed nothing but his hands. He was big, brawny, as strong as an ox and as dumb as one. But he followed Buckner religiously and had squeezed the life out of an untold number of humans. And animals. For longer range killing, he was an expert with a bow, and delighted to see both ends of his arrow protruding from his victim’s body. Weasel’s favorite tool was a razor-sharp knife he kept in a leather sheath up his left wrist. With a quick flick of his wrist, the knife was in his hand and soon after sliced across some unfortunate’s throat. Abe had a bullwhip and a lariat. His chosen pastime was larruping animals, especially chickens, pigs, cats, or dogs—he hated them—and dragging them behind Pronto, his horse, until nothing remained but a bloody mess. Or, if the animal was small enough, he would twirl it over his head faster and faster and launch it against the side of a building, or through a window, as hard as he could. When he finished with animals, he'd go after lawmen--he hated them worse--and pull them behind Pronto till they died in agony. He chortled with glee as he did it—“Abe, he kill another rebel!” It was great fun. To Abe.
          But The Infant was the worst. Barely 20 years old, he probably already had more notches on his gun than the other gang members combined. Infant was, in short, criminally insane. He had shaggy blond hair, but mismatched eyes—one blue and one brown—and they rarely seemed to focus. They also were partly crossed so nobody was ever sure which way he was looking. He loved to drink, gamble, and carouse with any woman he could get his hands on. But his most fearsome feature was his lightning-quick gun. He had out-drawn more than 15 men, and prided himself in the fact that none of them had ever even cleared leather and gotten a shot off. Even Buckner himself—and the rest of the gang—were a little afraid of him because they never knew what he might do. Buckner could control him—but barely, and usually only by giving him what he wanted. Weasel thought they needed to get rid of him.
          “Boss, that brat’s dangerous. He’s crazy and liable to shoot all of us one day. How about lettin’ me slit his throat one night while he’s asleep?”
          Buckner had given Weasel a slight grin. “You want to try it?”
          No, Weasel didn’t want to try it because Infant had this—terrifying—feature of sleeping with his eyes open. And with a smile on his face. And his hand on his gun butt.
          The law couldn’t catch them. After the gang had hit a town, robbing the bank, often killing some citizens, posses would be formed to chase them. Usually some members of the posse didn’t return home, and Buckner and his men always escaped scot free. The territorial Rangers had made many attempts to nail the gang; the result was that several Rangers disappeared without a trace. Buckner had a hideout somewhere in the mountains, but even the best trackers couldn’t find it. Weasel could cover the gang’s tracks…like a weasel in the forest. Nobody had ever come close to finding that hideout or bringing them in. Every town within a 500 mile radius was afraid of the Buckner gang and nearly all of them had suffered at their hands. Something had to be done but suggestions were few and far between—at least successful ones.
          “How about callin’ the army in?” one sheriff proposed.
          The army laughed at the idea. “Handle your own outlaws, we’ve got enough to take care of without solving your problems, too.”
          “I got an idea,” another lawman said. “Let’s put a gold shipment on a stagecoach, and let it be known it’s going to be there. Buckner’ll hear about it and he’s sure to go after it. We’ll set an ambush for the gang and be finished with ‘em once and for all.”
          So the plan was put into effect. Buckner’s gang never went near the stagecoach, but hit a bank instead—in the very town of the lawman who had suggested the gold shipment. And they killed his two deputies in the process. Caveman strangled one of them to death and Abe dragged the other one into oblivion. Weasel amused himself by carving his initials into the forehead of the bank president, while Infant tossed a baby high up into the air and shot it six times before it hit the ground. Then raped his mother in front of her husband and other children. Even Buckner was a little queasy at that one. But the boss tolerated—and in some ways welcomed—what Infant did, because it enhanced the ruthless reputation of the gang and their reign of terror. Because of that reputation, they effectively were successful at every raid before it even began. “The Buckner gang is coming!” created a despondency in a town’s populace that forestalled any attempt at opposition. Give them what they wanted and hope they left without too much damage. It usually didn’t work.
          And Trident was their favorite town largely because there was a whore there that Infant thought he was in love with. And there was a bank that usually had some money in it. And some lawmen and cats that Abe could drag around, and some other animals (and humans) Caveman could squeeze to death or pin to walls with his arrows. Weasel amused himself in whatever way he could; he was a bit of a pyromaniac and always liked leaving a burning building or two behind when they left. And Buckner, who wasn’t as sadistic as his gang members, watched it all with a careful eye and decided when it was time to leave. Not that he was above a little drinking and whoring himself. And killing, if it became necessary.
          So, terror filled Trident again when a teen-aged boy came riding into town, yelling in his best Paul Revere imitation, “The Buckner gang is coming! The Buckner gang is coming!”
          Every cat in the settlement made a beeline for the top of the highest tree it could find. The lawmen—and everybody else—wanted to follow…

          “Hey, Molly, come over here and sit my lap, why don’cha. You know I love you almost as much as I love myself.” And Infant cackled a laugh at his own non-humor.
          He was sitting at a table in Shorty’s Saloon, sharing a bottle of whiskey with Bradford Buckner. Well, “sharing” might not be the right word. Infant took ten drinks to every one Buckner did, but the alcohol never seemed to affect him. He’d empty a shot glass, then throw it across the room, pull his gun, and blow the glass to bits before it hit the floor. Shorty was going to run out of shot glasses before long, but Infant probably wouldn’t care. He’d just drink out of the bottle. The only reason he used the shot glasses in the first place was for the revolver practice.
          Molly—the aim of his affections—was about ten years older than the kid, and still had some attractive features, but now too many nights of hard living on the second floor of Shorty’s were beginning to show in the lines in her face and some flab she couldn’t get rid of. But that didn’t bother The Infant. She was his red-haired, green-eyed honey and he rolled with her as many times as he could during the Buckner gang’s visits to Trident. Molly was scared to death of Infant, but that included being too scared to ever tell him “no.” So upon his request to sit in his lap, she threw a furtive glance as Shorty, who nodded, and Molly did as Infant desired. She would have done it regardless of Shorty’s nod, but he wasn’t about to deny Buckner’s men anything, either. The sooner they finished their ruckus, the sooner they’d leave town. And hopefully, there wouldn’t be too many dead bodies around.
          Buckner himself was playing solitaire; the saloon was empty except for Infant and him. It was just after three o’clock in the afternoon, so there wouldn’t have been many patrons at that time anyway. The gang leader didn’t know where the rest of his men were, except that he had heard one loud “Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip!” which meant Abe had an animal, in this instance a cat, by the neck and was bouncing it along behind his horse. Buckner heard a little girl squealing and crying, apparently following Abe and the cat, but he’d heard that plenty of times before. Let Abe have his fun. There were plenty of cats around and the little brat could get another one. How he gets a rope around a cat I'll never figure out...
          So Buckner’s gang was there. In town. Terrorizing…
          A dog didn’t like the way Caveman smelled and took a nip at the big man. It was the last thing the dog ever did. The poor creature ended up floating in the nearest water trough…
          Weasel was looking for buildings he didn’t like and thought needed remodeling. He was sucking on a match and idly cleaning his fingernails with his knife. He thought the haberdashery shop was ugly and, situated as it was between a laundry and a clothing store…I’m sure the local lumber company could use the business. He chuckled at his own thought…
          The Buckner gang had hardly gotten started…

          From a hill about a half mile out of town, two eyes watched the goings on in Trident. But not for long…

          Trident’s law received a report—and an urgent request. “Sheriff, do somethin’! Them sidewindin’ Buckner men are gonna destroy the whole town. That Mescan’s workin’ on his third cat, Weasel’s already startin’ to strike matches like he’s fixin’ to burn somethin’ down, and that big, ugly freak’s been walkin’ around town, snarlin’ and spittin’ at ever’body like a mountain lion. Now he’s standin’ in front of the bank, eye-ballin’ it real good. Poor ol’ Molly over at Shorty’s keepin’ that Infant occupied, but you know he’s gonna get bored soon and start shootin’ at folks. Buckner’s got somethin’ in mind, you know he does, and it won’t be long till he does it. You and Tom cain’t just sit here. You got a town to protect.”
          Sheriff Lawson Culpepper sighed. He was 45 years old, a good man, and a good lawman. He kept a pretty tight lid on Trident, but he was out of his league with the Buckner gang and he knew it. When Henly Farris burst into his office demanding that he “do somethin’,” Culpepper had been contemplating that very thing, i.e., what to do. He and his deputy, Tom Almond, glanced at each other. They’d been having a powwow, basically wasting time, hoping the gang would just leave on their own, a hope they knew wouldn’t be realized. Culpepper had only been sheriff for seven months; he’d missed the last “visit” by the outlaws because he’d been in the mountains chasing a stagecoach robber. The previous sheriff had fallen victim to Abe’s noose—after The Infant had put bullets in both his knees. Surprisingly, they’d left the bank alone, but with Caveman staring at it now—at least according to Farris—that didn’t bode well for the town’s funds. The sheriff knew he and his deputy were going to have to take a stand. But, the sheriff thought, how do you stop a bunch of hoodlums like the Buckner gang?
          “What was that shooting we’ve been hearing, Henly? The Infant killed anybody yet?”
          “No, he’s been havin’ target practice with Shorty’s shot glasses. Not plugged anybody yet—that I know of.” Farris was a little exasperated. “Why are you and Tom just sittin’ here?”
          Culpepper looked up a Ferris, who was a farmer. “Do you have any ideas how to stop them?”
          “No, but ain’t it your job to at least try? That’s what you become sheriff for, weren’t it?”
          Not to throw my life away to the Buckner gang, it wasn’t…But Culpepper knew Farris was right. The sheriff and his deputy had a job to do—protect the citizens and property of the town of Trident. Maybe I can talk to Buckner, get him to back off a little…He stood up. “Come on, Tom. Let’s go down to the saloon, see if we can head off the worst of it.” He unlocked the gun case behind him, pulled out a shotgun and tossed it to his deputy, then took another one and checked it for load. “And hope we don’t need these.”
          “Why don’t you just shoot all of ‘em and be done with it?” Farris mumbled.
          “You want to try to outdraw Infant?” Culpepper asked him.
          Farris didn’t answer. It was pretty clear that the idea didn’t appeal to him much.
          “We’ll take care of it, Farris. You just go crawl back into your hidey-hole. In fact, clear the town as much as you can. Come on, Tom.”
          And Sheriff Lawson Culpepper and Deputy Tom Almond walked out of their office, heading for the saloon…wondering how much longer they had to live.

          They never made it to Shorty’s. Sheriff and deputy were walking too close together and Abe rode up behind them, launched his lariat, and got two necks as his reward. The Mexican bandito laughed, spurred his horse, and took off down the street. The weight was a little much for Pronto, but he could do it. And as far as Abe was concerned, it would just drag out the pleasure that much longer—no pun intended.
          The two lawmen had dropped their shotguns and were trying to release themselves from the rope. But their heads kept butting together, breathing was getting extremely difficult, and their flailings were desperate—and hopeless. Pronto was picking up speed. Abe was chortling, “Abe! He kill two more rebels! Two more! People of U.S.A. will be proud of me!” Maybe some of them would…
          Weasel was standing on the sidewalk in front of the haberdashery as Abe rode by. They both smiled and waved. Caveman was still beside the bank. He looked at Abe and grunted. Buckner just cast a glance out the window as Abe did his “Yip! Yip! Yip!” on the way by. “He’s got both your lawmen, Shorty. Never seen him do two at a time before. That’s a pretty neat trick.”
          Shorty—whose size and the amount of hair on his head matched his name—replied, “Mr. Buckner, can’t you…can’t you stop him? I mean, Sheriff Culpepper… Tom…they’re good men. Don’t let that Mescan kill them.”
          Buckner didn’t even look at the saloon owner. “A man only lives once, Shorty, so he’s got to enjoy himself. That’s all Abe is doing.”
          Shorty didn’t have the guts to reply that the sheriff and deputy probably weren’t enjoying themselves.
          The Infant was almost certainly having a good time. He was in a room on the second floor with his honey…

          Abe directed his horse around a corner and down a side street, about to make a circle and turn around. Things were going gray very rapidly for Sheriff Lawson Culpepper. He felt the ground bouncing beneath him, and he could hear the grunts and groans of his deputy beside him, but now he couldn’t breathe, and in a few seconds the gray would turn to black…and then disappear completely…

          But then, suddenly, there was no more bouncing as the horse stopped. Culpepper heard a thump as of something heavy hitting the ground, and he quickly removed the rope from around his and Tom’s necks. He was gasping for breath, hurting severely, perhaps with a broken bone or two. But he was alive, as was Tom Almond, who was lying on his back, barely conscious and not moving, but breathing. Culpepper couldn’t get up yet but he looked around.
          And he saw Pedro “Abe” Gonzalez lying in the street, a rope around his neck, his head at an ungainly angle.
          No more lassoed lawmen for Abe.

          Pronto the horse, now riderless, trotted back to Main Street. He saw Weasel and halted. Weasel was a little puzzled and called out to his partner. “Hey, Caveman, do you know what happened to Abe? There’s his horse, but he’s not on it and the two lawmen he was haulin’ are missing, too. Where’d he go?”
          “Dunno. Round that corner was the last I saw,” Caveman replied, pointing at the side street, and then he and Weasel walked towards Pronto to investigate. They were inspecting the rope that had towed Culpepper and Almond, when they heard a hissing sound and a thunk. Caveman looked at Weasel with shock registering on his face. Weasel stared incredulous. Sticking out of Caveman—front and back—was an arrow. Right through the heart. The big man looked down at the arrow protruding from his body, glanced at Weasel again with surprise still on his face…and then fell to the dusty street.
          No more protruding arrows for Caveman.

          Weasel, almost in a panic, took a moment to look around, but didn’t see anyone. Then he made a beeline for the saloon, shouting at the top of his voice, “Bradford! Bradford! Some Injun shot Caveman!”
          He had only been a few doors down from the saloon and he burst into the place, breathing hard. Buckner was holding a card in his right hand, about to play it, but stared at Weasel when he came in. “What did you say?”
          “Caveman,” Weasel wheezed. “We was…standin’ by…Abe’s horse. And…all of a sudden…this arrow…out of nowhere. Right through Cavemen, front and back.” Weasel was in agony. “I mean, he’s dead boss. And Abe’s horse. Abe’s missin’, too.”
          It didn’t take Buckner long to digest the information and draw some conclusions. He cursed. “Abe was pulling both of those lawmen. Too much weight. They must have gotten loose somehow…” He stopped and shook his head.
          Weasel voiced Buckner’s next thoughts. “But they’d be torn up, bein’ dragged behind Abe. And they wouldn’t use an arrow. Would they?”
          “No. No, they wouldn’t.” Buckner’s mind was racing. “Weasel, we better find out who did this. Go find Abe. I’ll get The Infant and we’ll start searching this side of town. I don’t have to tell you what to do if you find the person who killed Caveman.”
          Weasel smiled and fingered his knife. “I’ll get him, boss. And I’ll make him pay. And I’ll make him pay double if he killed Abe, too.”
          “You do that.” Buckner rose from his chair and headed towards the stairs to get Infant, not especially wanting to bother him at the moment. But circumstances dictated that the gang—what was left of it—act quickly and decisively. Shorty stood dumbfounded, listening and watching—and hoping.
          Weasel left the saloon in search of Abe Gonzalez.

          He found him, lying in the street where he had fallen. Weasel saw the rope around Abe’s neck, the lopsided way the Mexican’s head was positioned, and knew immediately that a second gang member had punched his ticket to eternity. Weasel flicked his eyes around, searching for the two lawmen and didn’t see them. “Musta been like Bradford thought,” he muttered to himself. “They got away somehow and done this.” He looked back down at his dead partner. “But a rope…the arrow…” Abe and Caveman’s favorite weapons…Weasel was a little spooked and grasped his knife. He wasn’t a terribly courageous man anyway, and now a ghost seemed to have taken the lives of two of his friends. He glanced around again, worried, and then ran for the nearest building, an empty shop with broken windows. He went inside and stood beside one of the windows, looking outside, searching the buildings across the street for any sign of…anybody. The good people of Trident had gone into hiding and there was no one in sight. No one.
          And Weasel never heard the…ghost…who came up behind him and slit his throat from ear to ear….
          No more necks for Weasel's knife.

          Buckner knocked on the door. “Infant! Get out here. We got a problem.”
          He heard some noise from inside the room, but didn’t bother trying to interpret it. In a few seconds, the door opened and a rather peeved The Infant, shirtless but with his pants on, stood looking at his boss.
          “What’s up, Bradford? I’m kinda busy.” The Infant’s mismatched eyes were rolling, and in opposite directions. Buckner could never figure out how he did that.
          “Caveman’s dead. Shot with an arrow. And Abe’s missing. I sent Weasel to look for him, but it appears somebody in this town is trying to do us in, and we’ve got to put a stop to it. Now. So get dressed. I’ll go up the street east; you go west and find Weasel and Abe. And find who killed Caveman.”
          “All right, all right,” Infant replied, still annoyed. But then a strange expression came over his face. “Caveman’s dead?”
          “Yeah. Weasel said it must have been an Indian because he was shot with an arrow.”
          “An Indian? What in the world?...Well, we’ll find him and scalp him.” And Infant chuckled. “I’ll be along in a minute.”
          “Ok, but don’t be long. I’ve got a bad feeling about this and we need to take care of it before somebody in town besides that Indian decides our medicine has gone bad.” Buckner turned and headed down the stairs.
          Infant didn’t think it was that big of a deal; he had never particularly liked Caveman anyway, so wasn’t sad to hear that he was dead. He closed the door and went back into the room. He smiled at Molly. “Now, where were we, honey?”

          Bradford Buckner was, to say the least, concerned, and he would have been more so if he had known that both Abe and Weasel were also dead. He stood still for a few moments outside the door of the saloon, rubbing his chin and jaw. For once in his life, he didn’t know what to do. Who do I look for? Where do I look? Maybe Weasel has found Abe…The whole setting was eerie and made Buckner uneasy. It was a bright day, full of sunshine, but the wind had started to kick up and moaned between the eaves of the buildings around him. And there was…nobody. He looked up and down the street. It was like the town of Trident had dried up and all the people had left; and the emptiness was palpable. Not a man or a woman. Not a dog or a cat. And, except for his men’s horses hitched in front of the saloon—nary a horse in sight. Buckner actually shivered, then shook off the melancholy. With half a smile, he said to himself, Well, if there’s nobody here, I’ll go find Abe and Weasel and we’ll rob the bank…
          But somehow he knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.
          He started walking, slowly, and instead of going east, as he had told Infant he would, he headed west, knowing that was the way Abe had been riding, and that Caveman and Weasel had been in that section of town, too. He passed a furniture store, a printer’s shop, a Mexican restaurant—he saw no one in any of them. Then he came to a stop at the corner of an empty building at a T-junction. Dust was blowing now and Buckner squinted his eyes against it and the lowering sun to the west. His eyes searched…across the street…a laundry…bookstore…grocery store…hardware…not a living, moving being anywhere. The base of the “T” in the junction was to his right. He scanned, slowly, the down the street.
          Empty. Trident had become a ghost town.
          Buckner crossed the T-junction and kept walking. He saw the haberdashery and the bank, and came to the side street that Abe had taken. His eyes narrowed when he saw a body lying in the dust about 100 yards away. He walked in that direction and, in a couple of minutes, was sure the body was that of Abe Gonzalez. Buckner’s jaw tightened. Hands on his hips—one hand very near his gun—he studied both sides of the street again…and then jumped back in horror as a body fell in front of him from a door to his right. Buckner’s skin crawled as Weasel’s two sightless eyes stared up at him, almost accusingly. The blood from Weasel’s slit throat had coagulated and was almost dry. The gang leader stared at the dead body…three of them…what…?
          But Bradford Buckner didn’t get where he was by lingering on the things he could not control. He immediately drew his gun and got into a shooting crouch, swinging his gun around, ready…for what?
          Very carefully, Buckner slipped into the building from which Weasel’s body had come. There were loose boards, glass, dust, and trash scattered everywhere; obviously the building hadn’t been used for a long time and he couldn’t even tell what it had been used for when it was occupied. He heard a sound to his left and quickly shifted his gun in that direction, but only saw a rat scurrying across the floor. Well, at least there’s something alive in this town...
          But then, he thought he saw something else. The back of the room was dark and in shadows, but…there was an outline…a form…human?...medium height… Buckner narrowed his eyes, trying to decipher the image. The peculiar thing about it was that near what was apparently the top…the head?...there were two… bright?...shiny?...they look almost like…ice…
          It was close to the last thought Bradford Buckner ever had. He heard a soft pop!, the sound of a derringer, and he grunted and his head snapped back as something firm struck him in the forehead. He knew he had been shot, and he was going to shoot back, but his fingers wouldn’t work; he couldn’t pull the trigger. He looked down, not understanding, and saw the gun fall from his hand. Then he looked back up and vaguely, as he was dying, saw…that form…a ghost…coming towards him. And Buckner’s last conscious thought, as he looked at that form was….
          And he was cold…very cold…
          He crumpled to the floor.
          No more...anything...for Bradford Buckner.

          The Infant was in no real hurry to obey his boss’s orders, so he enjoyed his honey a little longer before finally deciding to head down the stairs and go “Injun huntin’.”
          “I ain’t killed me a redskin in a long time,” he told Molly as he was getting dressed. “I don’t know whether I ought to just shoot him dead with the first shot, or play with him awhile.” He looked at her, at least she thought he was looking at her; with his eyes, it was hard to tell. “You know,” he continued, “put three or four bullets in him first, places that won’t kill him. Then one right between the eyes.” He pointed his forefinger at Molly, thumb up, in the classic shooting mode and “fired.” Then laughed.
          Molly shuddered. This callous disregard for human life was something she simply did not understand. “Well, I’m sure you’ll make the right decision,” she said, weakly.
          “Yeah, I’m sure I will, too.” He grinned at her—or in her direction. “I’ll be back soon, honey. Killin’ people works up my appetite. And I don’t mean for food.” And he laughed again as he left the room. Molly closed her eyes and pulled the bed sheet up under her chin. Please, God, please don’t let him come back…please…
          But she had prayed that before and had never received the answer she wanted.

          Shorty was gone when Infant reached the bottom of the stairs in the saloon. The Infant shrugged, went to the bar, picked up a bottle and had a nice long drink of whiskey. Then he set the bottle down and walked outside, ready to kill anybody he thought needed killing. Which was most human beings.
          What he saw, however, was not what he expected. He looked west, to his right, and had to squint because the sun was getting low. He finally distinguished four horses slowly ambling towards him. Over each was draped a dead body. Infant stood dumbfounded, his addled brain unable to reach any rationale explanation. For he recognized his four partners—Bradford Buckner, Caveman Little Bull, Weasel Taylor, and Abe Gonzalez—as the four dead men. He watched, still not quite able to comprehend this radical change in his life, as the four horses walked past him, apparently in no hurry to get anywhere. Then he looked to his right again—west—and out of the sun came another figure. This one was human—or looked like it. It was about 100 yards away and not walking very fast, either. Because the sun was behind that walking figure, Infant couldn’t distinguish who it was. The hat was pulled low; the one thing that struck him was the peculiar way in which the approaching figure walked. Different from any man I’ve ever seen…
          But Infant didn’t dwell on that. He was becoming a little unnerved. The person just kept coming, walking slowly, never speeding up, never making any untoward move, just…walking towards Infant. “Who are you?” he shouted when the figure was within 50 yards.
          No answer.
          “Are you the one who killed my friends? If so, you’re a dead man, you know that, don’t you?”
          No answer. The figure kept walking. 40 yards…35…30…
          “All right, hold it right there,” Infant shouted, really becoming unnerved. He still couldn’t see the face of the person approaching. And the figure kept coming. 30 yards…25…
          “I told you to stop.” The Infant continued to shout. “Don’t you know who I am? I’m The Infant, and if you don’t stop right now….”
          20 yards…15…10…
          “All right, I warned you,” and Infant went for his gun.
          He never cleared leather as two shots, sounding almost like one, delivered two bullets into his heart.
          The Infant stood there for a couple of seconds, shocked, again, not comprehending what had just happened. Then his body began shutting down. His legs gave and he dropped to his knees. The figure—the person—ghost?—who had shot him had never stopped walking, and now was standing five feet from him.
          The last thing Infant saw…the last thought he had was…ice…and he dropped face first to the dust of the street.
          Molly's prayer had finally been answered.

          Many of the people of Trident had witnessed this last act of the drama and began emerging from whatever holes they had crawled into. Several of them slowly approached the remaining figure in the street, who was ejecting the two spent cartridges and re-loading the gun. Sheriff Lawson Culpepper, with numerous scratches, bruises, and a broken arm, was one who was advancing. Even he stopped several yards away, however.
          But the figure looked at him and spoke—“you need to get the trash off your street, Sheriff Culpepper”—and then turned and walked away. The sheriff had seen eyes that were the color
          Nobody on the street—and there were at least 20 people there now—said anything. The events of the day were too marvelous, too astounding, too…incredulous to believe. The Infant was lying face down in the dirt, his hand still on the butt of a gun that had never left his holster. All of Buckner’s gang were dead, no more to terrorize Trident, or anyone else. And then this final, amazing thing…
          “Did you hear what I heard?” somebody said.
          “That’s…that’s…that’s….” And the stutterer looked at Sheriff Lawson Culpepper. “Sheriff, that’s…a woman.”
          Culpepper was all smiles. “Yeah. Believe me, she’s all woman....”
          Allie Summer is back.