The two men entered into the Saloon and stepped to either side of the door allowing the walls to cover their backs. The younger of the two was holding a Winchester rifle in the crook of his arm. With a nod from the older one, he pointed the barrel at the floor and fired off a round. Every motion stopped as all eyes focused on the men standing at the door way.
“Sorry for the interruption, gentlemen, but I needed everyone’s attention. I’m looking for someone that I heard has been seen around here.”
“There ain’t no law around here, Marshal, so it don’t matter who yer a lookin fer.”
Nathan nodded “So I’ve heard, Zeb Sweeny, don’t change the fact that I got paper on you and those three fella’s you’re playing cards with but I ain’t here for you or them. I’m here for your boss. Tell me where Diamond Dale is and I’ll let you slide this time.”
Several men around the saloon stood and loosened their six shooters from their holster. Nathan saw them and just smiled. “Boys, I don’t think you want to do that. I’m not here as a U. S. Marshal today, but that won’t stop me iffen y’all get involved in my fight.”
“Iffen you ain’t here as a law-dog then what business do you have here, Marshal; I’m sorry what was yer name Marshal?”
“Let’s just drop the Marshal for now. As you can see I’m not displaying a badge and I know that No Name doesn’t recognize any law but its own. As for my name, I’m Nathan Ryder but you probably know me as The Preacher.”
Several men suddenly realized they had someplace else to be in No Name and there was a small stampede out the batting doors.
Zeb Sweeny looked at the three men sitting with him and they all stood and began to spread out. “There’s gonna be trouble here tonight, boys.”
The rifle came off of Timothy’s elbow into a firing position. “Don’t have to be anyone die tonight. We just want Dale like The Preacher said.”
“Well, Deputy, Diamond Dale ain’t here and we are, so that seems to be a problem fer you and The Preacher now don’t it?”
Nathan saw where this was headed and while he did want to wrap up the Cavanagh Gang loose ends, he didn’t want to be responsible for getting Tim or himself killed.
“Zeb, there ain’t no need for this to happen; I’m here for Dale. He wanted a showdown but it seems like he keeps running away from me instead of facing me. Well, I’m here now in a lawless town so let’s give him what he wants, a shot at my reputation.”
“There’s only one problem with that Preacher, Dale ain’t here and he ain’t likely to show up since he’ll hear yer here. But to be honest, I wouldn’t mind taking a crack at yer reputation myself.”
Nathan sighed; today was not going to go his way. He slowly slipped the hammer thong off of his Peacemaker. “Zeb, you don’t stand a chance. If you get lucky and take my reputation then when Dale hears, he’ll just kill ya and take it fer himself. Either I’ll kill ya or he will, but either way ends with you in boot hill.”
“That’s enough talk,” The outlaw on the far left screamed as he clawed for his revolver. Nathan’s hand moved and his right hand Colt leaped into his hand. There was a boom to his right and Timothy’s Winchester spit lead at the outlaw. Zeb Sweeny threw himself to the right.
Nathan and Timothy spread out and sought cover as bullets started flying from outlaws all over the saloon. Nathan threw himself behind the bar and fired toward the members of the Cavanagh Gang he had seen spread out earlier. It appeared that Zeb Sweeny was slowly making his way from cover to cover toward the open window in the back of the saloon. Nathan fired at the outlaw called Johnson and saw him take a bullet in the chest as he rose to fire at Tim.
Timothy had moved left and turned a table over on its side as he ducked behind it. He saw an outlaw come out of the upstairs rooms and sight in on Nathan. He swung the rifle up and sent a projectile at the hoot owl trying to bushwhack his boss. The outlaw took the slug to the chest and fell over the rail landing on the bar just above Nathan.
Nathan looked at the body of the bushwhacker and nodded to Timothy, then went back to firing at the outlaws, intent on killing the two lawmen. After what seemed like hours, but was just minutes, the shooting slowed then stopped.
Nathan and Timothy stood and realized they were done fighting these outlaws. There were dead or injured men all around the saloon. They began to walk through the saloon with Nathan taking note of the members of the Cavanagh Gang that were dead. He pointed out a couple of them that were just injured to Timothy who tied them up and started sitting them by the door for transport back to Redemption and justice.
Walking through saloon, Nathan realized Zeb Sweeny had escaped through a window. Their best bet at catching up to Diamond Dale had slipped through their hands again. He knew once Timothy realized Sweeny wasn’t amongst the captured outlaws he wasn’t going to be happy. If they were lucky they might be able to pick up his trail outside the saloon and track him to Dale. If not, Timothy was going to be extremely upset. He seemed to be obsessed with catching Lucy’s killer.
Nathan spun as he heard the sound of someone moving behind the bar, his Peacemakers in his hands, instantly. He re-holstered as he saw the bartender with his hands in the air. “Whoa Preacher, I don’t want any trouble with you or yer deputy.”
“Sorry barkeep. Didn’t mean to startle ya. Sorry about the mess and loss of business for ya too.”
Nathan holstered his left hand Colt, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a couple of Double Eagles. “This should cover your damages.”
He tossed the Double Eagles on the bar and reached back into his pocket, pulling out another one. “This one is for giving Zeb Sweeny or Diamond Dale a message if you see either of them. Let them know The Preacher said ‘I’ll be back. I won’t stop till I catch them both.’ Tell them they can save themselves some trouble by just riding into Redemption and surrendering to me or my deputy.”
“I’ll do it, Preacher, but you know that by announcing where you’re living makes you a target don’t ya?”
“I reckon it does. But I pity anyone who comes thinkin’ they can take my reputation. I may not want this reputation, but I ain’t gonna roll over and give it away either.”
Nathan holstered his other Colt and turned and walked out of the bar after flipping the last coin to the barkeeper. Once outside, he saw Timothy tying the reigns of their prisoners together and on a lead rope tied to his mustang. “Nathan, Sweeny ain’t here.”
“I know Tim, he slipped out the back window.”
“How we gonna track him with this bunch along?”
Nathan started to answer when he felt a faint tugging in his stomach. He suddenly felt like he was needed back in Redemption. “Timothy, I know you don’t want to hear this, but we don’t. We need to head back to Redemption. Something is wrong there.”
“You got one of those weird feelings again?”
“Not like last time, but there is something saying get home. I can’t chance it Tim, I was too late to help Lucy because I didn’t do everything I could last time. Can’t take the chance this time. I’m not gonna be too late again.”
Nathan swung up into Quick Fire’s saddle. Timothy followed suit and the two lawmen and their prisoners turned toward the New Mexico Territory and Redemption. They rode out of town and quickly picked up speed pushing their mounts into a steady ground eating stride trying to beat Nathan’s feeling home.
Grace Ryder was spending time doing a little shopping in Redemption. She had been in town to see Doctor Soneman for Little Cindy’s check up. He had given the infant a clean bill of health and her mother too. The girl was growing so quickly that Grace had decided to go by the general store and pick up some new material to make some dresses for her daughter. She didn’t want to give her father-in-law something else to find fault with her about.
It seemed to Grace that ever since David Ryder had arrived in Redemption he was looking for some reason to not like her. She didn’t understand why, she loved Nathan and had been taking care of him and their new daughter as best she could.
However, David complained about the amount of time she spent looking after Cindy, or the time she spent with Peggy Jane Cotton teaching her to read and write. As far as David was concerned, she was wasting her time. She should be spending her time visiting the sick or helping widows or doing something as a pastor’s wife. When she wasn’t doing that, she should be taking better care of his mother’s house. To Grace, it seemed like nothing she did was the right thing for him.
On the other hand, her mother-in-law, Rebecca, was a joy to be around. She seemed thrilled Nathan had found a wife. She spent time playing with Cindy. She listened to the tales of Nathan’s trip west and how his reputation had happened. She loved Grace’s accent and commented on it and Grace’s beautiful red hair and emerald green eyes. She offered to help out with the house and even offered to give Cookie a break in the kitchen, not that he would admit to being happy cooking for everyone, but Grace noticed he always turned down any offer of help.
As Grace exited the general store and put Cindy into the small covered bassinet Nathan had added to the wagon, she saw several wagons, following a private coach, pull into town. She wondered who had arrived in such a spectacular way. The coach stopped in front of the hotel and a group of women started pouring out of the three covered wagons.
Grace wouldn’t have called the women ladies because none of them were dressed in what she would call decent attire. A large white man climbed down off of the coach and opened the door. Grace gathered her bonnet closer to her face as she saw who emerged from the coach. The sight of the woman in burgundy sent fear racing through Graces being. Of all the people she had thought might come out of that coach, this woman from her past was the most unlikely.
The woman was short but wide. She looked like she might have even put on weight since the last time Grace had seen her. She must have weighed close to four hundred pounds. Her blonde hair was done up in a stack on her head. Though big, she still had the look of a handsome woman. She gathered the other woman like a mother hen gathers her chicks and sent them into the hotel to procure rooms.
Grace, not wanting to be seen, snapped her reigns, sending Tiny into a quick trot out of town. Grace bit down on her lower lip trying to control the fear that was threatening to overwhelm her. Her past had once again caught up to her, this time in the form of Big Bertha O’Malley, former Madame of the New York City Gentleman’s Club.