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Friday, July 10, 2015

Train Ride- The First Western I Ever Wrote

I almost didn't include this one.

Not because I don't like it, or because I was scared to share or anything stupid like that. I just plain forgot about it.

But then I was reminded of it and it turns out I was missing a story to get me through the summer, so I thought I'd toss it into the mix.

It's the longest one yet, but, as the title says, it's the first western I ever wrote. And, so, I thought it needed to be included. For better or for worse, here it is:

At four-thirty Friday morning the train pulled into the Denton station. It was a short stop; just long enough to take on water, passengers, and a very important shipment. Most of the train’s passengers were still asleep; other than the guards, train employees, and those of the Denton Mining Company, only five people saw the gold being loaded.

Marshal Luke Gordon and his prisoner, Jude Henson, were traveling from Denton to Connellsville, where Jude was to stand trial for bank robbery and murder. The lawman knew, with the gold shipment and prisoner on board, there was bound to be trouble.

Sydney McDowell saw the loading as she boarded the train. She hoped- but doubted- it would be a peaceful trip.

Fancy Younger hurried up the train steps as quickly as she could, barely glancing at the twelve armed guards. She had decided it was time to leave town; it was so much better than being run out.

Trent Dailey was in no hurry. In fact, he stopped to watch the loading before boarding himself.

Then the train pulled out of the station at four- forty-five, exactly on schedule.
Sydney McDowell took a deep breath before approaching the lawman. He was slouched in his seat with his hat in his eyes. His prisoner was staring out the window. Neither man noticed her approach. She coughed delicately.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” she asked, indicating the seat across from them.

The lawman sat up, pushed his hat back, and smiled at her. “It is now.”

Sydney batted her eye lashes as she sat down. “Thank you.” She acted as though she were just seeing the shackles Jude Henson wore for the first time. “Oh,” she breathed, her eyes widening, “is it quite safe to sit here?”

“It’s safe,” Marshal Gordon assured her. “He’s shackled.”

“Are you sure he can’t come loose?”

“I’m sure, Miss…?”

“McDowell, Sydney McDowell. And you are…?”

“U. S. Marshal Luke Gordon.”

Sydney’s eyes widened and she gasped. “A marshal? I shall feel quite safe knowing you’re on board. I fear we may be robbed. Why, with all that gold on board someone’s sure to try, don’t you think?”

“More than likely but the robbers will only be after the gold so you should be safe.”

“I hope so,” Sydney said. “How far are you going, Marshal Gordon?”

“To Connellsville, Henson here has to stand trial.”

“Henson? You don’t mean he’s Jude Henson?”

“Why, yes, he is.”

Sydney’s eyes grew wider. “Why, he’s a member of the Hall Younger gang.”

“That’s right but you needn’t worry, I haven’t lost a prisoner yet.”

“That’s good because between him and the gold there’s bound to be some excitement. You can look out for me if there’s any trouble.”

“No offense, ma’am, but if there’s trouble, I’ll be looking out for my prisoner.”

Sydney batted her eyelashes. “Then I’ll just have to stay close to your prisoner, won’t I?”
Fancy Younger wished the man next to her would stop talking. From the moment he sat down she hadn’t had a bit of quiet and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t block him out.

“Please, Mr…”

“Baxter’s the name, ma’am, Horatio T. Baxter.”

“Mr. Baxter, if you don’t mind, I need to think…”

“Oh, you go right ahead and think, ma’am, go right ahead. Don’t let my talking bother you. It really doesn’t matter if anyone’s listening, I can talk to myself just as well as to someone else. Why, one time…”

Fancy groaned. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take of this.

“Excuse me, sir,” a man said, interrupting Mr. Baxter’s monologue midsentence, “do you mind if I sit next to my sister?”

Fancy’s head shot up. She didn’t have a brother and she knew what kind of man claimed to be a girl’s brother. Her protest died on her lips, however, at the sight of him.

He was a tall cowboy, with sandy blonde hair and bright hazel eyes. He wasn’t rough looking nor was he a dandy. He seemed to fall somewhere in between the two kinds of men; a nice medium.

“Of course, my boy,” Horatio T. Baxter answered the cowboy. “You may sit where ever you like. You paid for your ticket. Do you need help finding her?” he added when the cowboy didn’t move on.

“No, sir,” the man replied, “you’re sitting next to her. What I was trying to ask is, may I have your seat?”

“Oh, of course,” Horatio T. Baxter laughed as he rose from his seat. “Of course you may. I’ll just find someone else to sit next to. Nice meeting you, ma’am.” And with a tip of his hat to Fancy he went in search of another victim. The cowboy took the seat next to Fancy.

“Sorry, if I seemed forward, ma’am,” he said. “It just seemed as though you could use rescuing.”

Fancy eyed him warily. She had fallen prey to the easy charm of many a man before and she had no intention of making that mistake again. “I’ll withhold my thanks until you tell me what you want.”

The cowboy laughed. “Can’t say as I blame you for mistrusting me, ma’am, but I honestly have no hidden motive for sitting next to you. I just wanted to help you. You looked about ready to lose your sanity and from the way that fella’s tongue wagged I can’t say as I blame you. ”

“He was getting on my nerves,” Fancy admitted. “I was seriously considering knocking him out.” She and the cowboy laughed.

“I’m Trent Dailey, by the way.”

“Fancy Younger.”

“You going far?”

“Is that any of your business?”

Trent laughed. “No, Miss Younger, it isn’t. I assume it is Miss Younger and not Mrs.”

“It’s ‘miss’,” Fancy said. “Not that that is any of your business either.”

“I’m sorry if you think I’m being nosy. Just so you know I’m not asking any questions I wouldn’t answer myself.”

“All right,” Fancy said. “Where are you headed?”

“Connellsville. A fella promised me a job there.”

“Doing what?”

“That’s not one of the questions I asked you,” Trent said shortly.

Fancy took that as his way of saying it was none of her business. “Are you married?”

“No, I almost was but then the lady changed her mind.”

“I’m sorry.”

Trent shrugged. “It was years ago. Now, do I get to know where you’re going?”

Fancy smiled. “Sure, I’m going to Connellsville to stay with my aunt Louisa.” It wasn’t true but she was used to lying. In truth, she had no clue what she was going to do. Her only plan was to get away from Denton just as fast as the train would take her.
The girl in the seat across from Luke Gordon was flirting and that was just fine with him; she was a lot better company than his prisoner, who had fallen asleep. She kept batting her long eyelashes at him, her long eyelashes that framed her beautiful blue eyes. A fellow could get lost in those eyes.

“Is it true Hall Younger is in the territory?” she asked in her soft, sweet voice.

“That’s what they say,” Luke answered, “but, to tell you the truth, I think it’s nothing more than a rumor.”

“They just ran his daughter out of Kingsley. She was the school teacher there until they found out who she was.”

Luke sat up straighter. “His daughter? Really? I hadn’t heard that. Do you know where she went?”

“She’s on this train,” Sydney said. “She got on at Denton. Why are you so interested?”

“A lawman is always interested in the relatives of wanted criminals.”

“Oh,” Sydney said. “In that case, I’ll see who I can dig up.”

“You’re already interesting enough for me,” Luke said, sliding out of his seat and moving to sit next to her. He slipped his arm around her waist.

She batted her eyelashes. “Aren’t you being a little forward, Marshal?”

“You started it,” he murmured. She smiled at him, batting her eyelashes again. She groped blindly in her reticule. Her fingers brushed against the cold steel of her gun and she was just about to close her fingers around it when there was a thump in the back of the car.

The marshal was on his feet in an instant, gun in hand.

“Sorry,” a young man apologized to the now silent and watching passengers. “I dropped my bag.”

Everyone was quick to return to what they had been doing before but the lawman was now alert and fingering his gun. Sydney knew she had missed her chance.

“Marshal, isn’t your deputy Aaron Kirby?” she asked. She might have missed her chance to move but she could at least gain some more information. She wanted to know if he’d ever heard of her.

“That’s right. Do you know him?”

“Know him?” Sydney laughed. “Why, Marshal, we go way back. My parents practically raised him.”

Luke fidgeted in his seat. “Is that so?” he asked nervously. Sydney smiled; she was getting just the reaction she wanted.

“That’s right. When I heard your name I thought it was familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. Then I remembered Aaron talking about you. Hasn’t he ever mentioned me before?”

“No… I mean… I don’t think so. What did he tell you about me?”

“He told me all about how you saved his life.”

“I did? I mean… well… it was nothing.”

Sydney smiled. “He said you were modest but I didn’t think you’d be this modest though.”

Luke laughed nervously. “Like I said, it was nothing.”

“Will you excuse me?” Sydney asked suddenly as she rose from her seat.

“Of course,” Luke said and Sydney noted a hint of relief in his voice.
Sydney helped herself to some water from the cooler in the back of the car. She didn’t so much as glance at the man in the seat right in front of it.

“I saw you with him,” Trent said quietly without looking at her. “You let him put his arm around you. Wasn’t that overdoing it just a little?”

“There wasn’t much I could do,” Sydney told him, keeping her eyes on the water cooler.

“I didn’t see you objecting.”

“I was trying to distract him while I got my gun,” Sydney explained.

“What did you want to use a gun for? All I want is his name.”

“He’s Marshal Luke Gordon.”

It was all Trent could do to not look at her. “That’s impossible.”

“I’m not lying,”

“This changes everything. Are you sure that’s what he said, Syd?”

“I’m sure,” Sydney said, “and that’s not all…”
“Who was that girl you were talking to?” Fancy asked when Trent sat back down next to her.

“What girl?” Trent asked easily.

“The girl at the water cooler.”

“Oh, her? I wasn’t talking to her at all. Why, I’ve never even seen her before.”

“Then why did you move to that seat right before she went to get a drink?” Fancy asked pointedly.

“It was purely a coincidence. You see, I was going to get a drink myself when I felt a dizzy spell coming on-”

“A dizzy spell?” Skepticism dripped from her voice.

“Yes, I get them from time to time. So, anyway, I felt this spell coming on so I sat down until it passed. Then the girl walked up to get a drink and I had to wait until she was done to get one myself. It’s as simple as that.”

Fancy didn’t look convinced. “I still say you were talking to her.”

“Does that make you jealous?”

Fancy snorted. “And why would I be jealous?”

“I don’t know,” Trent said. “You seem very interested and I am rather good-looking.”

Fancy snorted again. “You’re rather humble as well.”

“I know,” Trent said causing Fancy laughed. “I love your laugh,” he told her. “It’s so sweet.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you think… I mean…well, I was wondering if maybe you’d let me come calling on you sometime.”

Fancy’s smile faded. “I don’t think you had better. Aunt Louisa wouldn’t like it.”

“And what would her niece like?”

“I’ll probably be teaching school and schoolteachers aren’t supposed to have gentleman callers.”

“Miss Younger, if you don’t want me to call on you I wish you would just say so.”

“It’s not that,” Fancy said. “It’s just that I’m trouble, Mr. Dailey and I bring trouble to those around me.”

“Maybe I like trouble.”

“Mr. Dailey, do you know who I am?"

Trent’s heart began to race. “No,” he said though, in truth, he did.

“Fancy Younger, Hall Younger’s daughter.

Trent was speechless. He had been fishing for a confession but now that he’d gotten one he wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Of course,” Fancy continued, “I haven’t seen him since I was twelve but that never makes a difference to people. The moment they find out who my pa is they run me out of town.”

“You could change your name,” Trent suggested.

“That would make it harder for them to find out who I was but not stop them completely. Folks can be mighty persistent.”

“And you’re sure you haven’t seen him since you were twelve?”

“As sure as I’m sitting here. The last time I saw him I was lying on the steps of the Longville Bank with a bullet wound in my arm. I had been the lookout and I got myself shot. Pa decided I’d just slow them down too much and since I didn’t know I couldn’t tell them where the hideout was.”

“You mean he just left you?” Trent wasn’t sure if she was telling the truth. He wanted to believe her but he had met many convincing liars in his time.

“That’s right.”

“What happened?

“While the town was in an uproar about the bank being robbed I managed to stumble, unnoticed, to the doctor’s office.”

“With a bullet wound?” Trent asked skeptically. “You were only twelve.”

“I didn’t say it was easy.”

“And why the doctor’s office? Shouldn’t you have been trying to get out of town?”

“I suppose,” Fancy said, “but I wasn’t thinking straight. All I could think about was getting the bullet out of me so I went to the one person I knew could do that.”

“And what happened?”

“The doctor took one look at me and said ‘how does a pretty little thing like you get shot?’ And, like I told you, I wasn’t thinking straight, so I told him.”

“What did he do?”

“He looked kind of shocked. Then he removed the bullet, bandaged it, and took me to the sheriff’s. He asked me a lot of questions but, like I said before, I didn’t know much. Pa never told me any of his plans and I was usually blindfolded going to and from the hideout so I didn’t know where it was. The doctor and the sheriff agreed that since I had been forced against my will to help in the holdup, and since I was so young, there was no need for them to lock me up. So the doctor took me home and he and his wife adopted me.”

“Even though you were Hall Younger’s daughter?”

“I think he and the sheriff thought if I was lying I’d eventually try to contact Pa and they figured this way they could keep an eye on me. So I lived with Dr. Harmon and his wife until they died in a buggy crash three years ago. Since then I’ve just been drifting, trying to find somewhere that will accept me in spite of my past.” Fancy stood up suddenly. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this,” she said, her voice choked up. She tried to slip past Trent, into the aisle. Trent grabbed her wrist.

“Miss Younger, please, if you’re telling the truth, I want to help you.”

“‘If I’m telling the truth’? Then you don’t believe me.”

Trent chose his words carefully. “Let’s just say I’ll believe you unless I’m given reason not to.”
Sydney had a message for the young redhead sitting with her partner. “Excuse me,” she said, careful not to look at Trent. “The man sitting in the first seat wants to talk with you.”

Fancy’s heart began to race. Who would want to talk to her? And why? “Did he say who he was and why he wanted to talk to me?”

Sydney shrugged. “His name’s Luke Gordon,” she said, purposefully leaving off the marshal part. If she knew the man she’d know he was a marshal and if she didn’t know him she probably wouldn't want to talk to a marshal. “He didn’t say what he wanted.” That was true and Sydney was just dying to find the answer.

“I don’t know a Luke Gordon,” Fancy said.

“Well, he wants to talk to you.”

Fancy looked to Trent for help. “What do you think I should do?”

Trent shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt to hear what the man has to say.”

“All right.” Fancy rose from her seat. “I’ll be right back.”

“You’d better go with her,” Sydney said quietly. “This could be interesting.”

Trent nodded and followed Fancy down the aisle. He slipped unnoticed into the seat behind her.

“What are you doing here?” Fancy demanded sharply. Trent’s heart jumped, thinking she was talking to him, but then the marshal responded.

“Is that anyway to greet your father, Fancy, honey?”

“You stopped being my father the day you dragged me along on that holdup. I wanted nothing to do with you then and I want nothing to do with you now.”

“That’s just too bad, Fancy, honey, because I’m look for new gang members. The lawmen keep shooting up my men.”

“I’m not interested,” Fancy stated firmly, “and, furthermore, if you don’t leave me alone I’ll find a real lawman and turn you in.”

Hall Younger laughed. “You can’t prove anything. It’s been thirteen years and you were just a little girl last time we saw each other.”

“I’ll find a way to prove who you are.”

Hall Younger shook his head. “I don’t think so, Fancy, honey, not if you value your life.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Call it what you want,” her father said. “If you so much as breathe a word of this to anyone you won’t be able to get far enough away from me. I’ll track you down and kill you.”

“I won’t say a word,” Fancy said, her voice shaking, “if you promise to just leave me alone.”

“I make the deals, Fancy, honey, not you.”

“Don’t call me that!” She stood and started to step into the aisle. Hall Younger grabbed her wrist. When Trent had grabbed her like that early that morning it had warmed her, made her feel safe. Now, being grabbed the same way by her father, it didn’t feel good at all. His grip was like iron, encasing her wrist until she felt as if it would snap. Her pulse was beating rapidly and her heart racing.

“Let me go,” she said, trying to keep the fear out of her voice, “or I’ll call the conductor.”

“And tell him what?” Hall asked. “That I’m a wanted outlaw? He won’t believe you, not with me wearing a badge. All I have to do is tell him who you are and he’ll be on my side.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Just for you to understand I’m serious. If you breathe a word of this I will kill you.”

“I understand,” Fancy said quietly.

“Good,” Hall said. He released her wrist. “You can go back to your seat now.”

Trent jumped up and hurried back to his seat. If Fancy hadn’t had her head down she would have seen him. But she did have her head down so she didn’t know Trent had been eavesdropping. When she returned to her seat she was pale and crying.

“What did he want?” Trent asked.

“Nothing,” Fancy said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Please, Miss, Younger, I want to help you.”

“It was nothing. Mr. Gordon’s a marshal and he heard I was Hall Younger’s daughter. He just had a few questions.”

She seemed genuinely upset and if she hadn’t known Trent was listening to their conversation then that wasn’t an act she was putting on. He decided to take a chance and assume she was telling the truth. One way or another he’d get to the bottom of this.

“I eavesdropped, Miss Younger.”

“W-what do you mean?” If possible she seemed to go paler.

“I mean when you went to talk to that man I followed you.”

“You had no right to do that,” Fancy said. “You can’t tell anyone what he said. If you really listened then you heard what he said. He’ll kill me if I tell.”

“Not if he gets arrested.”

Fancy laughed humorlessly. “Do you know how many times he’s escaped from the law before this? And it’s like he said, we can’t prove it. He’s the one with the badge.”

Trent so wanted to trust her but knew he couldn’t be entirely honest yet. He had to see if it really was all an act. “Miss Younger-”

He never finished his sentence. As soon as he started speaking the door burst open and three masked men entered the car.
Sydney had retaken her place across from the “marshal” as soon as Fancy had left. She wanted desperately to know what the man had said but hadn’t had a chance to talk with Trent. Right now he was talking with the girl. He seemed to like her and Sydney hoped, for his sake, it was just an act.

The door to the car flew open just then and three armed men entered the car. They were masked so even though she was close enough to get a good look at them Sydney didn’t think she’d be able to identify them.

“All right!” one of them said. “Nobody move!” He waved his gun in the air for emphasis. “Everyone put your hands in the air and don’t try anything. We’ve got you covered and we don’t care how many of you we have to shoot. My partners here are going to come around and collect your valuables and if they so much as think you’re holding something back they’ll shoot.” He turned to the villain incognito and his prisoner. “You there, put up your hands.”

“Make me,” Jude Henson said.

“I said, reach!”

“He can’t,” the “marshal” supplied. “He’s shackled.”

“Get the key,” the outlaw said, pointing his gun directly at the man’s heart. Sydney saw her chance. Two of the outlaws were collecting the loot and the other was occupied with the “lawman”. She had her gun out in a flash, aiming it at the outlaw.

“Drop your gun.”

“Change of plan, boys,” Hall Younger said. He pulled out his gun and pointed it at Sydney. “You should have minded your own business.”

“Oh, no,” Sydney said, pointing her gun right at Hall Younger’s heart. “This is my gold shipment and you’re not getting it. You can shoot me if you like but I’ll take you down with me. Do you hear that?” she said, glancing at the other outlaws but not moving her gun an inch. “If any of you shoots I’ll shoot your boss.”

Hall Younger’s eyes were wide with alarm. “You be careful with that thing.”

“You be careful,” she said, “or you may find yourself dead.”

“All right,” Hall said, “we’ll give you a ten percent cut.”

Sydney laughed. “There’s five of us. That’d be a twenty percent cut.”

“All right, whatever you say, just lower your gun.”

“I’m not that stupid. As soon as I drop this thing either you or one of your boys’ll plug me.”

“You’re very smart,” Hall said, “but we can’t just stand here or the train will reach the station and we’ll all be busted. You’d better come up with something quick.”

“Turn around, Younger,” Trent said. While the outlaws were distracted with the others he had pulled his gun. “Now if one of you shoots it’ll be two of you going down.”

Sydney smiled. She knew Trent would come through for her. “There you have it,” she told the outlaw. “Now are we getting that shipment or not?”

“No,” Fancy said. She grabbed Trent’s arm, forcing him to point the gun toward the floor. A shot fired but it lodged itself into the floor and no one was hurt.

In the commotion Sydney turned her attention from the outlaws and they seized their chance. Hall Younger rammed into her knocking the gun from her hand and forcing her to the ground. The train whistle blew.

The passengers on the train also seized their chance. They grabbed for their guns.

“Let’s get out of here,” one of the outlaws said.

“Not without my gold,” Hall stated.

“It’s no use,” the outlaw told him, almost out the door. “We’re coming to the station. We have to go.”

Hall Younger and his men moved toward the door, guns firing. As the door closed behind them Sydney couldn’t help smiling, in spite of the fact that a wanted outlaw had just gotten away. The gold was safe; she’d done a good day’s work.
Chad Reilly, sheriff of Connellsville, and three of the sheriff’s deputies met the train at the Connellsville station. They took Sydney, Trent, and Jude Henson- who the outlaws had left shackled in their rush to get off the train- to the sheriff’s office. Fancy went along to testify and she refused to meet Trent’s eye.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to her on the way there.

Fancy snorted. “Don’t talk to me.”

As soon as they got to the office the sheriff turned to Trent. “What’s going on?”

Trent gave a small laugh. “There was a little trouble on the train and these good people think we’re robbers.”

Sheriff Reilly laughed. “You? Train robbers? That’s good. What happened?”

“Well,” Trent began slowly, “Hall Younger was on the train-”

“Hall Younger!” the lawman exclaimed. “Are you sure? Did you catch him?”

“No, we didn’t. You see, he was purporting to be Marshal Gordon and everyone assumed that’s who he was, except for us, of course.” He used his thumb to point to himself and Sydney.

“When Hall tried to hold up the train we pretended to be other train robbers to stall them. These people think we were serious so they brought us here. Unfortunately, Hall and his gang got away.”

“And who is this man?” Sheriff Reilly asked.

“This is Jude Henson,” Sydney explained. It was her adventure too and she wasn’t going to let Trent do all the telling. “Marshal Gordon was supposed to be bringing him here for trial. When we saw Hall with the prisoner, and not Luke, we knew something had to be wrong. Hall somehow got a hold of Jude and the marshal’s badge as well.” Tears welled in the girl’s eyes. “He must have killed Luke.”

“Couldn’t have,” Sheriff Reilly said, “he sent me a wire this morning, warning me there might be trouble. That’s why my boys and I met the train.”

A smile grew across Sydney’s face. ”If he sent you a wire this morning then he must be alive!”

“That’s right,” the sheriff said.

“I’m confused,” Fancy said. “You mean you’re not going to lock these two up?”

The lawman laughed. “Lock up David and Erin? That’s a good one.”

“What does he mean, ‘David and Erin’? You said your name was Trent Dailey.”

“I lied.”

“I should have known,” Fancy said. “You lied about everything else.”

Trent knew he had to address things one at a time so he said, “I’m really Deputy Marshal David Conroy.” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his badge. “Marshal Gordon wanted Sydney- I mean Erin- and I on the train to help him in case there was trouble. We were all supposed to board separately so people wouldn’t know Syd- I mean Erin- and I were deputies.”

“But then Marshal Gordon wasn’t on the train and Hall Younger was claiming to be him,” Sydney- really Deputy Marshal Erin Kirby put in. “So we knew there had to be trouble.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t honest with you,” David told Fancy. “I needed to know you weren’t on your father’s side.”

Fancy’s eyes grew wide. “If you’re really deputies and you weren’t robbing the train then I messed up your capture. You would have arrested Pa if I hadn’t stopped you.” Tears flooded to her eyes. “It’s all my fault.”

David put a comforting arm around her shoulders. “Under the circumstances I can’t really say I blame you. I’m actually very proud. You thought you were stopping a train robbery.”

“Who’s she?” Sheriff Reilly asked.

“This, Sheriff, is Miss Fancy Younger,” David said.

“Hall Younger’s daughter?” one of the deputies asked.

“Yes.” David felt Fancy’s muscles stiffen as she spoke. “And I don’t know where he is if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“We can’t be sure,” another deputy said.

“We’ll have to hold you for questioning,” Sheriff Reilly told her.

“No you won’t,” David said. “I can vouch for her, she’s innocent and she doesn’t need you questioning her.”

“If you say so, David,” Sheriff Reilly said.

“I say so.”

“All right, but we can keep this one, can’t we?” The lawman motioned to Jude Henson.

“That’s the plan, Sheriff,” Erin said. “We need you to hold him here until the trial.”

The sheriff smiled. “Lock him up, boys.”

“With pleasure,” one of the deputies said.

While everyone was distracted with the locking-up of the outlaw David pulled Fancy aside. “Miss Younger,” he said, “I know I lied to you but I knew who you were and I had to make sure you weren’t on your father’s side. You don’t have to worry about his threats anymore. I’ll take care of you.”

“And why would you do that?” Fancy asked with tears in her eyes. It had been a long time since someone had wanted to help her.

“Because it’s my job to protect honest citizens from outlaws like Hall Younger.”

Still moist eyed, Fancy smiled. David had called her an honest citizen; it was the best compliment she had ever been paid.
David, Erin, and Fancy returned to Denton the next morning. They went straight to the marshal’s office and moment she saw the real Luke Gordon Erin ran and threw her arms around him.

“Oh, Luke, I thought they’d killed you,” she cried.

“No, Erin,” Marshal Gordon laughed, “I’m very much alive. That outlaw just knocked me over the head. When I came to Jude Henson and my badge were gone. The train had already left so I wired Sheriff Reilly to watch out for trouble.”

“There was trouble all right,” Fancy said.

“And who are you, little lady?”

David smiled and put his arm around her shoulder. “This, Marshal, is Miss Fancy Younger.”

“Hall Younger’s daughter?”

“Yes, Marshal,” Fancy admitted, “but I’m not an outlaw like he is.”

“Then why keep his name?” Marshal Gordon asked.

David nudged her with his elbow. “See, I’m not the only one who thinks like that.”

Fancy just smiled. “I thought it wouldn’t make any difference, that people would still find out who I was, but David convinced me otherwise.”

“That’s right,” David said, “I even picked out her new name.”

“You did?” Erin asked.

“I did. Fancy here had agreed to become Mrs. David Conroy.”

Erin gasped. “When did this happen?”

Fancy’s smile grew wider. “This morning on the train. David proposed and I said yes.”

“Isn’t this a little sudden?” Marshal Gordon asked.

David winked at his bride-to-be. “I thought if I married her I’d be able to keep an eye on her. You know, in case she turns out to be an outlaw.”

“Well, I’ll be,” Marshal Gordon said with a shake of his head. “My best deputy getting hitched.”

“Excuse me?”

Marshal Gordon coughed. “Well, naturally, I meant my best deputy besides you, Erin.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, seriously, what happened yesterday? Did Hall Younger try to take the gold?”

“He tried,” David said. Taking turns, he and Erin told the whole story.

“So then he got away,” Erin finished, “but without the gold.”

“Nice work,” the marshal said. He turned to Fancy. “And, in light of all I’ve just been told about you, I give my consent for you to marry my deputy.”

Fancy blushed. “Thank you, Marshal.”

David swung Fancy up into his arms. “This calls for a celebration. Luke’s safe, the gold got to Connellsville, Erin, here, didn’t get us all killed, and I’m getting married.”

“We’re getting married,” Fancy corrected.

“And Hall Younger’s still out there,” Erin said.

“Don’t worry about him,” David said. “We’ll catch him one of these days.”

“How do you know?”

“I can feel it Fancy, honey. I can feel it.”

And there you have it! My very first western. I hope you enjoyed it!!

More about self-publishing on Monday and then another excerpt next Friday. Hope you'll be back!

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