Jim and Buck were working on their second cup of coffee when Jim glanced out the open door and noticed Jasper running down the street toward the office. He burst in through the door! "Sheriff Buck, Jim, please come quick!
Bert sent me to tell you there's going to be trouble over at the saloon!" Buck followed Jim who was hot on the boy's trail as he headed back in the direction of the saloon.
As soon as Jim saw the number of horses with Mexican rigs at the hitching rail he reached out and halted the boy.
"How many of them are there, Jasper?" He asked. "About six, sir. They came in asking about Angelina and Bert sent me to find you!" "Buck, find us some scatter guns and come in the back! I'll try to stall them until you get set. Boy, here's you a dollar for fetchin' me, now you better get on home, you did real good!" Jim slowed down as he reached the saloon and unpinned and pocketed his Ranger badge and as calmly as he could, he swung wide the bat wing doors and entered the saloon.
Jim knew he would be at a big disadvantage as he entered the dark building but he could think of no other way of finding out just how big of a problem there was without it. While he had definite misgivings about the unknown factors in this situation there was no doubt in his mind or heart that he would literally face the devil for Angelina! The bar was empty except for Bert who was behind the bar and six formidable looking men dressed in the style of the Mexican vaquero who were standing at the bar.
The one notable exception Jim saw from the vaquero style of dress were the ammunition belts crossing most of their chests.
Jim knew that underestimating any one of these men could be instantly fatal, but he also knew that while the bandaleros added vastly to their firepower they also could slow down their draws and their presence might indicate that they were soldiers instead of pistoleros.
All heads in the bar turned toward the door as Jim entered and walked to the end of the bar. Bert asked somewhat tensely if he would like a drink. "Sure, Bert, and I'll stand a round for these gentlemen, too! The largest and perhaps the most dangerous looking man in the group turned and seemed to be evaluating Jim.
He was not only taller than the rest of the men but he also had a massively wide chest and shoulders, beefy arms, and he had the fair complexion of many of the people of pure or almost pure Spanish blood.
"Gracias, Senor. Perhaps you could help me. I am Carlos Alvarez and I am here to escort Senorita Angelina Cortez back to her family in Monterey.
No one in town seems to know where to find her. I wonder if you could help me locate her?" Jim glanced at Bert out of the corner of his eye and saw him shake his head slowly from side to side. "Senor Alvarez, I am the Deputy Sheriff of Laredo and I am sure that I can help clear up this misunderstanding. If you gentlemen would enjoy that drink I bought for you I will return in a short while." Jim exited out of the back of the saloon and found Buck, he was standing in the next rooms with scatter guns at the ready.
"What do you have planned, Jim?" Buck asked. "Where's Angel?" Jim asked as Jasper entered the room. "She's back here in Bert's house." Jasper said. Jim burst into the next room and immediately saw Angel with a six-gun in her hand.
She had the gun pointed safely in the air but she was prepared to use it! "Senor Alvarez is not going to take me, Jim! He now works for General Diaz who burned our home and took over our lands!" Angel had obviously heard enough of the conversation to know what had been said in the bar.
"Let's find the Padre quick, Angel." Jim said, then he turned towards Buck. "I've got an idea that just might stop Alvarez cold!" They exited out the back door and headed across the yard. "Here's Bert's horse in the yard, we'll just steal him for a while." Jim grabbed the gentle bay gelding's lead rope and looped it around the horse's neck and back to the halter where he tied it as an improvised set of reins. He easily lifted Angel onto the horse's broad back and leaped up behind her.
As soon as Jim was secure up behind her Angel reined the horse out of the yard and loped up the road toward the church. They saw the Padre striding hurriedly in their direction and Angel reined the horse to a stop beside him.
Jim lightly slid down over the horse's rump and assisted Angel off.
He ached to linger at this pleasurable task as his hands grasped her slender body, but the thought of Bert and the Sheriff in danger brought his mind back to the business at hand!
"I heard about the people at the saloon and thought there might be trouble." The Padre said. "Padre, those people are enemies of Angel's family. They've come to kidnap or harm her for some scheme of theirs.
As a Ranger I can officially take up the fight but as these people probably know the Texas government wouldn't be very upset at one Mexican citizen kidnapping another Mexican citizen. Now, if the lady in question happened to be the bride of a Texas land owner and Ranger, I am sure the governor himself would get riled up if she needed help. So, if you'll get this wedding started I'll shut up!" "Kneel my son and daughter!" The Priest showed he was as quick a thinker as either of them. He proceeded to give them the fastest wedding any of them had ever seen or heard of as they knelt in the dusty streets of Laredo.
They both said their, "I do's", loudly and firmly, then they stood and embraced and kissed passionately as the Priest blessed them. "I've got to get back to the party, Darling." Jim spoke as he jumped back up on Bert's horse.
"You stay with the Padre where you're safe and I'll go see to it you don't go down in history as the fastest wife and widow woman in the state of Texas!" Jim rode the horse back to Bert's back yard and reentered the back door. He whispered to Buck to follow his lead as he stuffed the handful of heavy shotgun shells Buck handed him into his pants pocket and grasped the shotgun he was given.
Jim walked back into the saloon, as the entire crew looked his way again. They saw the shotgun he carried, but they knew they still had Jim badly outnumbered. "Senor Alvarez, I think I may have misled you but maybe I can make amends. I introduced myself to you earlier as a Deputy Sheriff and while it is true that I am sworn in as a Deputy, I am also an officer of the State Government of Texas!" He pulled his Ranger badge from his pocket and put it back on his vest, without averting his gaze from the Mexicans.
"The lady we were discussing earlier is now my wife and Mrs. Horn says she has no intentions of going anywhere with you!" Alvarez was enraged at seeing that he'd been tricked! He shouted, "I'll kill you for this, Ranger!" Before he could act Buck roared from behind him. "Not in my town you won't!" Alvarez and Company whirled around and saw the Sheriff standing in the doorway with his ten gauge, sawed off, double barreled shotgun trained on them.
Bert had taken the break the intruders momentary consternation had given him to reach under the bar and he had his shotgun aimed at them as well. The Sheriff told them, "I think you men will agree with me if you ante into this game you're drawing against a pat hand! Now, I'd like for you to take off your gun belts real slow and drop them to the floor. I'll also ask you to remember the last time I honed the triggers on this old piece I slicked them up too much and they might go off if any of you so much as breathe hard!
Shuck 'em, I said!" Being bracketed by three shotguns, Alvarez and his men had no choice but to obey! They sullenly began to unbuckle their holsters and lay them on the floor. When they had finished this, Buck frisked their boots for other weapons. "What sort of trumped up charge are you going to try to use against us?" Alvarez asked of Buck. "Disturbing the peace should hold you for a few days." Buck told him. "Then we could use attempted kidnapping and threatening a state officer to hold you for another year or so.
That's if the concerned citizens of this fair city don't decide to haul you out of jail and give you a necktie party. It just so happens Jim and his new bride are very highly thought of people around here!" Jim told him, "I don't think you can do it but if you could tell me of some legitimate business you have with Angelina we might be able to work this out." Alvarez made no effort to defend his actions.
"We are going to have to turn you loose eventually so I want you to know exactly where I stand. I will stop anyone who tries to harm Angelina or her family. Their fight is now my fight." Alvarez was nearly in a rage, but that he had heard of Jim's abilities with a gun was evident by his next question. "Can you fight like a man without your guns or your explosives?
I have heard that you are a very brave man when you are sneaking around in the dark!" "If you are referring to my recent disagreement with the Circle B crew, I don't know how you got your information but Brown was a back shooter who had seven armed men with him. I gave them two chances to surrender to me." Alvarez's eyes widened in respect when he heard this.
Jim went on, "If you are challenging me to a fight, I've always heard that only a fool plays another man's game, but I'm going to let you pick the weapons.
But only if you will give me your word of honor to leave Angel and her family alone if I beat you!" Alvarez asked with a shocked look on his face, "You, a Tejano, would trust me to keep my word, Senor?" Jim explained his simple logic to Alvarez. "I can only win by trusting you, as the situation stands now I will have to kill you. If I trust you and you lie I will still have to kill you, but if you keep your word then I can let you live!" Carlos thought that one over for a moment!
"I see the logic in that and I will give you my word of honor before God! I have heard you are a gifted artist with your Colts so naturally I will choose to fight you with my hands. Since we are being so honest with each other, I must tell you that up to this day I have killed five men with my bare hands!" Jim knew this last brag was not just Alvarez's macho showing but was also an attempt to intimidate him. He didn't want to reveal the existence of his hideout gun so he went behind the bar to take off his brace of guns and holsters and slip the short barreled one from his boot.
He laid them all on a shelf beneath the counter. As Jim came out from behind the bar Alvarez had just taken off his shirt. Jim had only enough time as he moved from behind the bar to be impressed by the massive chest and shoulders of his opponent before Alvarez struck like a lion! He swung a huge fist and connected with Jim's head just above his ear as he tried desperately to duck! Jim was stunned as he slammed into the wall between the piano and the corner of the wall by the door.
He shook his head to try to clear it. Although his head was ringing he knew instinctively he had to get out of the corner because Alvarez's weight advantage could get him killed if he stayed in close quarters.
Since Alvarez obviously wasn't going to fight fair, Jim sure wasn't going to either. He quickly palmed a couple of the heavy ten gauge shells out of his pocket and used the leverage of his right leg to shove himself off of the wall.
With all of his weight behind it he swung a powerful right cross that caught Alvarez square in the nose! The extra weight of the shells sent a shock of pain up his arm.
Jim backed that one up with a hard left to his opponent's jaw as he moved around him to get room to fight. Alvarez head twisted away, his nose spraying blood, as Jim threw forward his left leg for momentum and followed up with another hard right to the side of the jaw that jarred his arm all the way to his shoulder. Jim saw his opponent was reeling and he used a savate kick he had learned the hard way from a French sailor in the port of Galveston to kick Alvarez in the kidney with the toe of his boot.
Alvarez toppled like a tree and hit the hard plank floor with a resounding thump! The fight had lasted only seconds but Jim was almost winded from his extreme exertions. He slipped the shotgun shells back into his pocket as he stumbled to the nearest chair and sat down.
Bert approached the table with a wet bar towel, a full pitcher, and a large mug of beer. Jim gestured at Alvarez's men and asked them in Spanish to sit their leader at the table with him.
Alvarez was beginning to regain consciousness as they lifted him into the chair. As his eyes began to focus. Jim handed the wet towel across the table to him. "You look like you might need this more than I do." He told the still bleeding Alvarez.
"Gracias, Senor." Alvarez managed to mumble as he took the towel. He mopped blood off his face, chest, and shoulders and then winced and grabbed at his lower back where Jim had kicked him. Jim knew the man would be pissing blood for days from that kick! Jim politely asked the men. "Would one of you men bring a mug from the bar, por favor. I think Senor Alvarez could use a beer." He poured the mug full when it was set on the table.
Alvarez turned up and drained the mug then he extended it for a refill.
He got a thoughtful look on his face for a moment then he spat out a tooth that rattled and bounced as it hit the hard oak floor. "Senor Ranger, you hit like a damned mule kicks!" He turned and extended his big right hand out to Jim. "After this we must be friends; I cannot have an enemy who fights as well as you." This revelation of Alvarez's broke all of the tension in the saloon. As Jim and Alvarez's shook hands across the table his men relaxed and took chairs at nearby tables.
Alvarez threw a heavy gold piece on the table and asked Bert to serve them all drinks to seal the peace pact.
Buck laid his shotgun on the plank bar and came to sit down at the table as Jim introduced them and they exchanged names. Angelina and Father O'Rourke picked this time to peer into the saloon from the rear entrance. Jim called to her, "Angel, come on in; Carlos has called a truce and has vowed to make peace with your family!" Carlos quickly rose to his feet and stepped to the table where he had left his shirt.
He put on the shirt and then picked up his wide sombrero and held it over his heart as he addressed Angelina. "Senora Horn, I apologize for my appearance and my state of undress. I am very sorry for the bad relationship that my former employer has had with your family. I was paid by him to do what I did but I do not respect him. I respect your husband and I will find other people to work for." "Then I won't have to kill you with this, Senor Alvarez!" Angel said as she pulled a Colt six-shooter from the folds of her skirt and placed it on the table.
The whole saloon echoed with the admiring shouts of Alvarez and his men. Carlos joyfully slapped Jim on the back and said to him, "Jim, I wish to thank you for saving my life. If you had not beaten me senseless and knocked my teeth out your beautiful lady would most assuredly have killed me by now!" Alvarez and his men all laughed uproariously as if this were the funniest joke they'd ever heard!