“So, what brings ya’ to Raton Pass, Ranger?”
“I’m lookin’ for a man named Stoudenmire, Dallas Stoudenmire. I heard he was hangin’ out in these parts. You know ‘im?”
“Oh yeah, he’s been around all right. Been causin’ trouble and folks tend to stay away from him and his boys. His boys are some purty mean fellas, cowboys with a reputation, one-armed Frankie Carson, cross-eyed Jack and another goes by the name the Mad Redhead. I learnt might quick to stay outta their way. I cross the street now when I see ‘im comin’. Why are you lookin’ for ‘im?”
“He’s wanted by the Texas Ranger’s for killin’ a man down El Paso way. I’m gonna’ bring him there or bury him here.
The Ranger threw back the rest of his whiskey.
“Thanks for the drink. I’m goin’ to turn loose my horse now.”
He walked out of the saloon and untied his horse and led him to the livery stable to put him up for the night.
His saddle pulled like lead as he removed it from his horse, putting it up along side the stall. He pulled off his saddle bag and extracted his rifle, an 1895 Winchester lever-action from its sheath. It carried five rounds in the box and one in the chamber. He gave the blacksmith fifty cents and walked out into the late afternoon sun toward the Raton Pass Hotel carrying his saddle bags and rifle over his shoulder. Before he got there, he was intercepted by Mac McConnell.
“Ranger, that Stoudenmire feller just ankled over to the saloon about an hour ago and he weren’t alone.”
He turned and glanced at The Red Light Dance Hall. “How many were with him?”
“There’s two others, Ben Holt and one-armed Frankie Carson.”
He nodded toward a small man standing outside the door leading to the dance hall. “Who’s that?”
“Oh, him?” He’s a shriveled-up lawyer, a wet-pants half-wit that loiters at the Red Light Dance Hall to warn Stoudenmire if someone suspicious comes along.”
The Ranger squinted into the glare of the sun, deepening the wrinkles along the sides of his eyes
“You gonna go after ‘em by yourself, Ranger?”
“I am, that’s what I’m here for, unless you plan on coming with me.”
“No sir, not me. You Rangers must all be plum crazy.”
“I reckon we are. Now you best stay outta the way so you don’t catch a stray.”
“You be careful now, Ranger, ‘cause there’s three others that ride with that snake, a cowboy knowd as cross-eyed Jack and Tommy O’Malley, the Mad Redhead and Fritz ‘Pecos” McCloud. They are a mean lot and aren’t afraid to mix it up none and they are usually watching Stoudenmire’s back. You better watch yours, Ranger.”
The Ranger nodded and walked toward the dance hall. He moved with a deliberate assurance, with an easy natural grace that spoke of authority.
He saw cross-eyed Jack, the Mad Redhead and Pecos McCloud, approaching the dance hall and ordered them to drop their weapons. At the same time, Stoudenmire and his other two companions, Ben Holt and one-armed Frankie Wilson stepped out of the Red Light Dance Hall. Holt and Wilson were holding .45’s in their hands.
He gravitated to the center of the street where cross-eyed Jack, Pecos McCloud and the Mad Redhead had stopped walking. He kept a watch on them out of the corner of his eye.
The Ranger turned and demanded that Studenmire drop his gun.
“You ain’t taking me in, Ranger,” Stoudenmire replied as he drew his Colt Peacemaker from its holster,
The Ranger slapped leather and in an instant his revolver was in his right hand. He cocked it and fired point-blank at Studenmire. The force of the bullet spun him around. He thumbed back his hammer and fired again. The second round also tore into Studenmire’s torso, hurling the big man against Frankie Wilson.
“Oh, my God!” Stoudenmire gasped as he dropped to his knees, grasping his chest. One slug struck his heart and he fell forward on the spit and beer-stained floor. His lips quivered and his eyes turned all white and then he died.
One-armed Frankie Wilson also sagged to the floor, struck in the belly by the bullet as it passed through Studenmire.
The Ranger turned and watched as Ben Holt disappeared behind the saloon door. He holstered his revolver, turned and walked away.