The Rescuers

By: Jim Griffin

Keeneyanke@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Alex Cahill Walker had just headed returned from town, picking up supplies. She had unloaded the buckboard, and had unhitched Max, turning the horse out with her son Bobby's pet paint, Sunny.

 

As she headed back toward the house, she noticed a woman, mounted on a magnificent golden palomino, headed toward the yard. The rider was compact, with brown eyes and brunette hair, under a cream-colored Stetson. She was wearing a checked blouse, and jeans.

 

The woman turned into the Cahill Ranch, dismounting.

 

"Alex Walker?" she questioned, knowing she would receive a positive response.

 

"Yes, I'm Alex Cahill Walker."

 

"Alex, I'm Marcy Griffin. I'm so pleased to finally meet you. How soon will you be ready to leave?"

 

"Marcy, I think we should leave first thing in the morning.  My son Bobby will be home from school shortly, then he'll be going to stay with his best friend's family. You look peaked. Please, turn out your horse, and come in the house. I'll make you a nice cup of tea."

 

Soon, her gelding Jack settled in the corral, Marcy Griffin was seated in the Walker kitchen, along with Alex Cahill Walker--wife of her husband's Texas Ranger Lt. Jim Griffin, riding partner Cordell Walker--enjoying a relaxing cup of tea. (end of Chapter 1)

 

A week before her arrival at the Cahill Ranch, an infuriated Marcy Griffin was at Texas Ranger Headquarters in Austin. She was in the office of Capt. Bill McGuire, as was the Captain's aide, Lt. Bob Hemmings.

 

"So, Captain McGuire, you mean you WON'T help my husband?"

 

"Mrs. Griffin...Marcy...please, listen to reason. The Rangers want to help your husband, in the worst way. However, we CAN'T. Our hands are tied."

 

"Cordell Walker tried to help. What about him?"

 

"Marcy, Cordell Walker disobeyed orders, and took it upon himself to try and help Jim. He's on his own. We have had no contact with him."

 

"Mrs. Griffin, the Captain's right...", Bob Hemmings interjected.

 

Jim's wife whirled on the hapless Lieutenant. "You mean to tell me that the Rangers are just going to abandon two men who have given their all for the State of Texas, leaving their families for months at a time, nearly being killed who knows how many times? And now, you're just forgetting them, two of your best men? And those are your words, Bob Hemmings, and yours, William

McGuire, not mine!!!!"

 

Capt. McGuire tried again. "Marcy, you don't know how much this hurts me, and all the Rangers, knowing we can't help Jim. Like I said, though, this is out of the Rangers' hands. We're not even sure where your husband is. Now, please, your children need you. Why not head back to your ranch, until you hear more."

 

"My children need their Dad, too. Not that the Rangers seem to care about that. Well, Captain, Lieutenant, if you and the great Texas Rangers won't help Jim, and Cordell, I know someone who will!!!"

 

Marcy Griffin turned on her heels, slamming the door to the Captain's office as she left. (end of Chapter 2)

 

After Marcy Griffin stormed out of Texas Ranger Headquarters, the first stop she made was the nearest Western Union office. She knew the Rangers would never let her send the message she wanted over their telegraph line.

 

By the time she returned home to Copperas Cove, the answer to her wire was already waiting. The next day, she arranged for the three Griffin children to stay with their neighbors, the Borrazzos. Shortly thereafter, she was on a train bound for San Antonio, her horse in a cattle car attached. With the directions she had received, she easily found the Cahill ranch, outside of Bandera.

 

While Alex and Marcy were sipping their tea, Alex's son, and Cordell Walker's stepson, Bobby, arrived home from school.

 

"Bobby, this is Mrs. Griffin. She's Cord's partner's wife. Marcy, my son, Bobby."

 

"Pleased to meet you, Bobby.  I've heard a lot about you."

 

"I'm pleased to meet you too, Mrs. Griffin. Are you going to find my Dad?"

 

"Bobby, that's not polite...!" his mother interjected.

 

"It's all right, Alex. I'm sure Bobby's as worried about his Dad as my children are about theirs. Yes, Bobby, your Mom and I are going to try and find your Dad and his partner."

 

"Bobby, Mrs. Griffin and I are leaving first thing in the morning. Now, I need you to get your things together. As soon as supper is done, you can ride over to the Jacksons'." Bobby would be staying with his best friend, Tommy Jackson, and his parents. "Make sure Sunny is ready to go."

 

After a rather subdued meal, Bobby took his leave. Alex and Marcy were seated on the front porch.

 

"Marcy, I still find it hard to believe what your wire said. To think, the Texas Rangers say their hands are tied. I never would have believed it."

 

"I wouldn't have either, Alex, if I hadn't gone to Austin myself. And to think, Jim was on assignment for them. Now, he's in trouble, and they won't help. To make it worse, now your husband's gone to try and help Jim, and he's disappeared. I'm sorry Walker got in the middle of this. I know he's Jim's partner, and I appreciate what he's done, but I just can't help but think he'd be all right, if he hadn't gone to help Jim." Marcy started crying, softly.

 

Alex put her arms around Marcy, hugging her gently.

"Marcy, Jim and Walker are partners. You know what that means to men like them. Walker would go through Hell and back for Jim, and Jim would do the same for him. Neither you, nor I, nor the Texas Rangers themselves could have stopped Walker, once he heard Jim was in trouble. Now, we need to get an early start in the morning. I want to stop in town on our way. Why don't we go in the house, and you can clean up after your long journey? Then, we'll get a good night's rest. We have many miles ahead of us." (end of Chapter 3)

 

Early the next morning, Alex and Marcy headed for Bandera. Marcy was mounted on her palomino, Jack, while Alex was in a carriage, pulled by Max. The one regret, besides not having children of their own, that Walker and Alex had in their marriage was her lack of riding ability. Alex just didn't care to ride, despite the fact she had been a rancher's, then a Texas Ranger's, wife.

 

Alex led Marcy to one of the local restaurants, "Mary's Place". It was run by Sheriff Jimmy Trivette's wife, Mary C. Trivette.

 

Entering the restaurant, Alex was greeted warmly by the sheriff and his wife. They were seated at a table, eating a leisurely breakfast, along with the owner of the town's largest saloon, C. D. Parker, and his wife, Ginger.

 

"Mary, Jimmy, CD, Ginger: I'd like you to meet Cord's partner's wife. This is Marcy Griffin."

 

The two men rose from the table, tipping their hats. "Pleased to meet you, Ma'am", they both greeted her. Mary and Ginger hugged her, warmly.

 

"I'm pleased to meet all of you, also", Marcy replied.

 

"You two must be starved!" Mary exclaimed. "Sit right down, and I'll get you some breakfast."

 

As they ate, Jimmy looked squarely at Marcy. "What's this fool notion I hear you have about finding your husband, and Walker?"

 

"It's true, Sheriff."

 

"Please, it's Jimmy."

 

"OK, Jimmy. The Rangers can't, or won't help, and Alex and I are NOT going to just stand by while our husbands rot. We're on our way south, right now."

 

C.D. burst in. "That's the gol-dangest, most foolish notion I've ever heard! The Rangers can't get Jim and Cordell back, yet two little ladies are going to try. That's a man's job."

 

Alex retorted, "Well, if you think so, C.D., why don't you and Jimmy join us? We could use the help."

 

C.D. spluttered in reply, "Doggone it, Honey. You know I've got a saloon to run."

 

Eyes on Trivette, Alex asked, "What about you, Jimmy?"

 

"Alex, you know it's an election year. I've got to be here, for the people of Bandera County."

 

"So, in other words, just like the Texas Rangers, none of the men around here will help, either!" Alex retorted.

 

Mary, the sheriff's wife and restaurant owner, burst in, at this point, "Maybe the men won't, but I sure will, Alex." She removed her apron, throwing it on the table.

 

Ginger Parker joined in, "I'll help, too. If you ladies are goin' lookin' for your husbands, you'll most likely have to check in some places where ladies shouldn't be. Well, I've been in those kinds of places, and I'll show you around in them. C.D., you'll have to run the saloon by yourself for a while."

 

"Ginger...you...."

 

C.D., just SHUT UP!!" the red-haired, former dance hall girl retorted.

 

"Mary, I forbid you to go",  Trivette told his wife.

 

"You FORBID me?" she asked, incredulously. "Just TRY and stop me, Jimmy Trivette! Ginger, get your horse and carriage. I'll be ready to go in fifteen minutes."

 

"Mary, Ginger, I really appreciate your help", Marcy broke in, "but this is my fight, for my husband. I can't ask you to place yourselves in danger."

 

"We lawmen's wives have to stick together", Mary replied. "And Alex, Walker, and I are good friends. Now, we'll hear no more about this."

 

In fifteen minutes, the four women were ready to pull out of Bandera. Trivette and C.D. made one last try to stop them. "Ladies, please, what will happen if you come across some bad hombres, somewhere?"

 

In answer, Marcy Griffin pulled a Colt .45 from the holster on her hip, and fired once. The slug hit a knothole on a post, fifty feet away. "You think I didn't learn something about shooting, married to a Texas Ranger, Sheriff?"

 

Trivette stood there, dumbfounded, as Alex Cahill Walker silently pulled a big Winchester 44.40 from under the carriage seat. "You KNOW what I can do with this, Trivette."

 

The sheriff glanced at the carriage holding Mary, his wife, and Ginger, C.D.’s wife. Mary was holding a long Bowie knife, and Ginger held a small, but deadly, Derringer in her left hand. "We can handle these, too, boys", Ginger snapped, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Ladies, let's go!!"

 

Leaving C. D. and Sheriff Trivette dumbfounded in their wake, the four women left Bandera, the horses at a brisk trot. (end of Chapter 4)

 

Texas Ranger Lt. Jim Griffin was in Capt. Bill McGuire's office at Ranger Headquarters in Austin. The Captain's aide, Lt. Bob Hemmings, was also present.

 

"Jim, sit down, please" Capt. McGuire invited. "How you feelin', after that last assignment?" Jim and his partner Cordell Walker had recently returned from an extremely difficult mission near Wichita Falls.

 

"Fine, Cap, fine. Ready to ride, whenever you've got orders."

 

Reluctantly, Capt. McGuire shuffled through a file on his desk, giving forth a long sigh. He glanced at Lt. Hemmings, as if seeking corroboration of what he was about to do. The lieutenant nodded in silent agreement.

 

"Jim, I've received a report, from down in Zapata County." Capt McGuire hesitated. "Son, I don't want to send you on this assignment. You have to promise me you'll be careful, and keep your emotions in check."

 

Jim leaned forward in his chair. "What is it, Cap; why're you so worried?"

 

"Jim, I wish I could send any other of my men, except you", Captain McGuire continued. "No one else is available, though. Denton Mabry has turned up in Zapata. His three brothers are with him."

 

Jim tensed in his chair, eyes narrowing. "When, Cap?"

 

"Just got the report today, Jim", Bob Hemmings responded for Captain McGuire, handing Jim the file.

 

"Bob, Cap, I'll be ridin', NOW!!!"

 

“Hold on there, Ranger. Walker'll be ready to join you, in a week, soon as he finishes testifyin' at that trial up in Denton. You'll wait for him."

 

"Cap, we've been tryin' to track down Mabry for three years, now. He's finally shown up, and in a town right on the Mexican border. Cap, we can't wait, or he'll disappear, again. You know I've got a personal stake in this case."

 

Looking steadily at Jim, Capt. McGuire replied, softly, "I know you do, Son." Jim had befriended a town sheriff in Rock Springs, Bob Eldridge. They had worked on a case together. While Jim was out of town, Denton Mabry had come into Rock Springs with his brothers, tearing up the town, killing three innocent people, including a dance hall girl, Toni. They had killed Bob Eldridge, dragging him through town with a horse, then gut-shooting him.

 

Jim had come back to Rock Springs just as the Mabry’s rode out. They had shot Jim, who managed to ride into town, despite his wounds. He found the sheriff in the middle of Main Street, where the Mabry’s had left him. Bob Eldridge had died in Jim's arms. The Mabry’s had made good their escape into Indian Territory.

 

The Captain continued, "But, Jim, that's precisely why you need to wait for Walker. Don't forget, Dent Mabry's family has plenty of political power. His grandfather's a U.S. Congressman, and his Daddy's a Texas State Senator. I don't want you down there after the Mabry’s alone."

 

"Cap, you think Walker can keep me from them? Not likely. And I'm not worried about Dent's connections. He's a cold-blooded killer, and his brothers are no better. Cap, Bob, I'm not letting them slip through my fingers again. Now, I'm on my way."

 

"Jim, I'll pull your badge, if that's what it takes..."

 

"Then, Cap, I'll have to go to Zapata as a private citizen. Your choice, Cap."

 

Reluctantly, Cap McGuire gave in.  He knew he would feel the same way, do the same thing, if he were Jim.

"OK, Jim...but, please, look up Scott Maxwell down there. He's a retired US Marshall, and a good man."

 

"Will do, Cap, and thanks."

 

With solemn handshakes, Jim took his leave of Captain McGuire and Lt. Hemmings. Looking out the window, watching Jim lope southward on his Paint gelding Yankee, Captain McGuire turned to Bob Hemmings, ordering, "Wire Denton...see if you can get Cordell Walker here, FAST!!!" (End of Chapter 5)

 

Jim, pushing Yankee hard, made record time on the run to Zapata. As Captain McGuire had requested, he stopped at a small cottage on the edge of town, intending to confer with the retired US Marshall, Scott Maxwell.

 

Jim tied his gelding to the hitching post out front, rubbing Yankee's muzzle, gently. "You'll be in the livery by tonight, fella; I'll make sure you get a good curryin' and feed." Yank nuzzled Jim's shoulder, affectionately.

 

Something, perhaps the slightly ajar door, warned Jim not all was right at Maxwell’s house. Slipping his Colt out of its holster, Jim edged up to the door, standing to one side, shoving it open with his left foot.

 

Hearing a groan, Jim, gun still drawn, stepped cautiously into the living room. Scott Maxwell was there, lying on the floor, shirt soaked with blood. A Bowie knife, his own, protruded from his stomach.

 

Holstering his gun, Jim quickly knelt beside the dying lawman. "Maxwell, I'm a Texas Ranger, Jim Griffin. Capt. McGuire wanted me to look you up."

 

The Marshall looked up at Jim, brown eyes dulled with pain, barely comprehending. "Bill McGuire...he's a good man, good man."

 

"Maxwell, what happened. Who did this to you?"

 

"Dent...Dent Mabry and his brothers. Said they'd get me, one day. Guess they did."

 

"Not yet. Don't give up, Maxwell. I'll get you to the doc's." Even as he spoke, Jim knew he was too late. Marshall Scott Maxwell had settled back, his eyes closed in the finality of death.

 

Grimly, Jim left the house, mounted Yankee, and headed to the center of Zapata. (end of Chapter 6, Part 1)

 

As Jim slowly rode down the dusty main street of Zapata, he deliberately removed his Ranger badge from its hidden pocket, pinning it to his shirt. Several lathered horses were tied in front of the Viva Zapata Saloon, dozing in the late afternoon sun. Jim ground hitched Yankee next to them.

 

"Stay here, Pal", he instructed the Paint, with a soft touch to the bronc's nose. The trained gelding would stay unmoving, obediently, awaiting Jim's call.

 

Checking his Colts, making sure they slid easily in the oiled holsters, Jim slammed through the batwings into the Viva Zapata. He hesitated for a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim light. Four men at the bar turned to face the tall Ranger, eyes narrowed.

 

"Denton Mabry...it's been three LONG years", Jim shouted at the hazel-eyed, auburn-haired, late 20-ish gunman staring at the Ranger. The three men alongside Mabry, his brothers Curly, Mort, and Pete, bore strong family resemblance to Dent.

 

"$#%%%%%!" Ranger Jim Griffin; never forgot you.  Still sorry we didn't kill you, back in Rock Springs. And you're right...it has been a long three years. Now, if you still wanna live, why don't you just back out of here, right now, and head back to Austin, or wherever you came from?"

 

"It'll take more than you sidewinders to kill me, Mabry. I'm placing you and your brothers under arrest, for the killing of Bob Eldridge, the others in Rock Springs, and Scott Maxwell."

 

"Fat chance, Ranger. 'Sides, we didn't kill Maxwell."

With the speed of a striking rattler, Denton Mabry went for his pistol.

 

Jim had been watching Mabry's brothers, knowing they would draw first, thinking the Ranger distracted as Dent goaded him. That was a fatal assumption. As Dent's gun cleared leather, Jim's Colts had already leaped into his hands. Both fired as one, bullets tearing into Pete's and Curly's chests, slamming them against the bar.

 

Jim dove and rolled, as slugs from Dent and Mort searched him out, looking to penetrate his vitals. Jim came up firing, and Mort Mabry screamed in agony, doubling to the sawdust floor, thrashing, Jim's bullet in his stomach.

 

A slug from Dent Mabry's gun burned Jim's neck, as the last brother tried to down him. Jim's right-hand Colt clicked on an empty chamber, as Mabry fired again, this shot tearing the pistol out of Jim's left hand.

 

"Got ya now, Ranger!" Mabry grinned evilly, ready to send a slug through Jim's heart.

 

Desperately, Jim lunged  from the floor, straight at Dent Mabry. His fist grasped Mabry's gun hand, forcing his arm upward. The two men struggled for the gun. One shot rang out, the bullet ripping into the ceiling.

 

Desperately, the Ranger and the murderer fought for control of the weapon. Twisting, getting behind Dent Mabry's back, Jim was able to force Mabry's pistol downward, jamming it into Dent's belly, the muzzle at a downward angle as it dug into the killer's middle, just above the belt buckle.

 

"This is for Bob Eldridge, and for Scott Maxwell!"

Jim snarled into Mabry's right ear. Pressing on Mabry's finger, he forced the outlaw to pull the trigger of his own pistol. The .45 slug, at point-blank range, tore downward through Dent Mabry's belly. As Mabry stiffened from the shock and pain of the slug, Jim pulled the trigger again, and a second slug ripped into Mabry. Two bullets in his gut, Mabry's body went limp in Jim's arms. The Ranger dropped him to the floor.

 

The bartender hadn't moved, frozen to the floor in fear. His eyes widened as Jim straightened up. As the tall Ranger started to turn, something smashed into the back of his skull, and Jim collapsed, senseless, to the floor....

 

Jim jerked awake, momentarily unaware of his surroundings. Dazedly, he heard a voice calling him, as he slowly swung his feet to the floor, sitting on the edge of his bunk, staring at the bars that had kept him prisoner for several weeks now. He had again been reliving the gunfight with the Mabry’s in his dreams.

 

The Zapata sheriff, Terry Joseph, grinned evilly through the cell bars at Jim. Next to him was an older version of the Mabry brothers. This was Jedadiah Mabry, their father.

 

"Dreamin' again, eh, Ranger?" Joseph mocked his prisoner. "Well, dream away. Circuit judge'll be in town in a few days. You'll be swingin' from a rope, then. Oh, by the way, you've got a new neighbor...take a look."

 

Jim, slowly focusing through bleary eyes, glanced into the next cell. He gasped, leaping up, standing at the bars, unbelieving. For, in the next cell, beaten to a pulp, was his partner, Texas Ranger Lt. Cordell Walker. (end of Chapter 6, Part 2)

 

"WALKER ----WALKER!!!" You OK, Pard?" Jim screamed into the next cell. Cordell Walker, semi-conscious, was lying on the bunk where he had been tossed, moaning.

 

Jedadiah Mabry hissed through the bars at Jim, "Griffin, he can't help you, either. You should've known better than to try and come here and arrest my boys. Well, in another week, you'll be in Hell, where you belong."

 

Glaring though the bars, Jim snarled, "Not until I see you there first, Mabry. That goes for you, too, Sheriff."

 

"Terry, let's go; we'll leave the two Rangers here to their reunion." With that, Mabry and Joseph left the cells.

 

"Walker...it's Jim. Wake up, Pard."

 

Groaning, hanging his head, Cordell Walker managed to bring himself to a seat on the edge of his bunk.

 

"Jim...how you doin'?"

 

"Just great, Walker. What in heck are you doin' here?"

 

"Trying to find you, Pard."

 

"Well, Walker, you've found me. Wish you hadn't, though."

 

"Thanks a LOT, Jim. That's gratitude for you. I ride clear from the Red to the Border to try and save your rear, and this is the thanks I get."

 

"Whoa, Walker. sorry. That's not what I meant, at all. I appreciate what you're tryin' to do. But, Pard, now they've got us both. And you can bet the Rangers aren't gonna help us. Would've been better if you'd just stayed out of this one."

 

"And, Jim, what would you have done, if it'd been me locked up, instead of you?"

 

Smiling ruefully, Jim had to admit, "Exact same thing you did, Pard."

 

"Ok, then that ends that discussion. Let's concentrate on gettin' out of this mess. What happened, anyway, Jim?"

 

"Long story, Walker."

 

"Well, we're not goin' anywhere. Plenty of time, so why not tell it?" (end of Chapter 7, Part 1)

 

Sitting on his bunk, Jim replied, "OK, Walker, here goes...You know about the history of the Mabry's and me, don't you?"

 

"Sure do, Jim. It's the one case that still had a burr under your saddle."

 

"Anyway, Walker, Cap McGuire wanted me to wait for you to finish testifyin'. I couldn't do that, with the Mabry's so close to Mexico. Promised the Cap I'd look up Scott Maxwell down here."

 

"Scott Maxwell, the retired Marshall? He was a good man."

 

"Never found out, Walker. When I found him, he had a knife stickin' out of his gut. Did tell me the Mabry's got their revenge on him. I found all four of them in the saloon down the street. Tried to arrest 'em, but they wouldn't arrest. Last thing I remembered, I had downed Dent Mabry. Then, I woke up in this cell, with a lump on the back of my head, and a pounding headache. Next thing I know, the local sheriff's here, along with Jed Mabry--the State Senato--and I'm bein' charged with murderin' the Mabry's, PLUS Scott Maxwell. Cap warned me Mabry had pull. Didn't know how much pull."

 

"Jim, how come Mabry didn't just have you killed?"

 

"Walker, he, and his father, the Congressman, Justin Mabry, want to make an example of me. He told me, flat out: "Ranger, I'd like to see you dead, right now, with a bullet in your back. However, I've got a plan. The Rangers have too much power in Texas. I'm going to have you tried, convicted, and hung. That way, it'll show the Texas Rangers up for what they are, a bloodthirsty lot of cutthroats, hiding behind a badge, terrorizing innocent citizens."

 

I told him, "Yeah, Mabry, just ask the people of Rock Springs, and Bob Eldridge's wife and kids, just how 'INNOCENT' your boys were. You might have me swing, Mabry, but you'll never hurt the Rangers."

 

"No, Ranger, it's you who are the guilty party. And, after you sweat in this jail for a few weeks, we'll prove that. I don't think I'll have any problem finding twelve men in Zapata who will vote to convict you."

 

"That's what Mabry told me, Walker. And, I'm sure he won't. He owns this county, lock, stock and barrel. And, you know, he can't let you get away, either."

 

"That's what I can't figure, Jim. He's got you. Why's he want to keep me prisoner? His men could've killed me, easy. They had the drop on me."

 

"They had the drop on YOU, Walker?" Man, we both must be gettin' old, or somethin."

 

"Not that, Jim. I just wasn't thinkin', came charging right into town here, looking for you."

 

"Thanks, Pard. No matter what happens, I'm glad to know you stuck with me through this. Never thought the Cap wouldn't back me."

 

"Jim, tell me, what happened, there." (end of Chapter 7, Part 2)

 

“Walker, just thought of something! You see any sign of Yankee when you came into town?"

 

"Can't say as I did, Jim, why?"

 

"I'd left him out front of the saloon. Don't know what's happened to him. Sheriff claims last he saw of Yank he was high tailin' it out of town. Says Yank tried to trample him and his deputy, as they were cartin' me out of the saloon, and he shot him. I just hope Yank didn't die out there alone, with the coyotes pickin' his bones." 

 

Walker, looking over, could see Jim's face was a mask of despair. He didn't have the heart to tell his partner that Amigo was safe, for the time being, at the local livery stable, while Yankee might well be dead. "Don't worry, Jim. I'll bet he's got his eye out for you right now, just waiting for you to show up.  You two'll be back together, somehow."

 

"Wish I could be as sure as you, Walker. At least Amigo's safe, right?"

 

Walker shook his head, knowing it was useless to try and conceal anything from Jim when it came to their horses. "Yep, Jim. Got him in the local livery, before those hombres grabbed me. Now, tell me what happened with Capt. McGuire." (end of Chapter 8, Part 1)

 

Lying back on the bunk in his cell, with a great sigh, Jim proceeded with his story.

 

"Walker, thought sure, once I found myself in here, I'd be dead by the next morning. Sure got fooled, though. The sheriff let me send a wire to Austin. I'm sure he's in Mabry's hip pocket. Anyway, I got a wire back, sayin' Capt. McGuire and Bob Hemmings would be down here as fast as hosses could fly. They were, too. Caught a late train to Laredo, and rode up from there. Thought sure I'd be gettin' out of here, when they walked through that door."

 

"Jim, they told me a little. What really happened?"

 

"Cap and Bob came into my cell. 'Cap, Bob, am I glad to see you', I told 'em. 'Now, how soon will I get out of here?'"

 

"Walker, Capt. McGuire looked straight at me and said, "Jim, it's not that easy..."

 

"I exploded. 'What d'ya mean, Cap, it's not that easy? The Mabry’s killed Scott Marshall. He told me, as he was dyin'. I tried to arrest them, and they went for their guns. I wanted 'em alive, to stand trial, but it was them or me, Cap. And at four to one odds, I'm dang lucky it wasn't me!!!  Now, Cap, get me out of here. I'm ready to ride.”

 

"Then he tells me, 'Jim, you've been charged with 5 counts of first degree murder.’

 

"Cap, that's bull, and you know it.”

 

"Jim, listen to us for a minute', Bob Hemmings told me that!" Jim spat the words out, in anger.

 

"Cap McGuire went on, 'Jim, they've got witnesses, several of 'em. They all claim YOU killed Scott Maxwell...saw you go into his house with him, then he was found dead. Claim you went into the Viva Zapata, guns drawn, and shot the Mabry’s down in cold blood.'

 

"'Cap, Bob, that's garbage, and you know it. You know I'd never kill a man like that, no matter what I thought of him.'

 

"'Jim, all I can tell you is what the witnesses are sayin'. Don't forget, there's political considerations here, too.'

 

"'Cap, you're gonna let me hang, for political considerations?'

 

"'Didn't say that at all, Jim. We're working every angle on this case. But, Jim, with all these witnesses, our hands are tied. We can't even provide you with a lawyer. That'd look like we were helping you, showing favoritism. Bob and I--and I'm sure Cordell Walker--will be at your trial, to testify for you. But, Jim, right now, they have a good case against you."

 

"OK, Jim; you don't have to tell me the rest. I know what happened, then. You told the Cap and Bob Hemmings to get out, didn't want their help."

 

"Close, Walker .. actually, I told them they were both lily-livered cowards, more scared of losing funds for the Rangers than caring about their men. THEN I told 'em to get out."

 

"Jim, you know that's not true."

 

"Walker, I wish to high heaven I did, but I'm the one facin' the noose here. And, I'm scared for what it'll do to Marcy and my kids. Have you heard anything about them at all?"

 

"Just a little, Jim. Captain McGuire says they're holding up, well, so far."

 

"Well, that's good news anyway, Walker. Now, Pard, tell me how you got yourself into this mess." (end of Chapter 8, Part 2)

 

Now it was Walker's turn to tell his story.

 

"Jim, Capt. McGuire wired me in Denton, the day you left Austin. He wanted me to come back to Headquarters, pronto. Unfortunately, I couldn't convince the judge to let me testify early. Without my testimony, you know what that would've meant."

 

Bitterly, Jim remarked, "Yeah: Don Haskell and his partners would have gotten off from those murder charges."

 

"Yep, Jim...so I had to stay. You understand, don't you?"

 

"Yeah, Walker, I do. This is my mess, anyway. I'm sorry you had to get in the middle."

 

"Jim, don't let me hear that again. We're gonna get both of us outta this, somehow."

 

"Anyway, when I did get back to Austin, I knew you'd come down here. Didn't know what'd happened, though, and that you'd been arrested."

 

"You mean no one told you, Walker?"

 

"Not till I got back to Austin. Old Jake Marlow, the Captain's clerk, told me basically what had been said before I arrived. Jake always was a man to ride the river with. He still hates bein' in the office, but he just can't ride the trails anymore."

 

"Anyway, Bob Hemmings told the Cap, 'Bill, you've got to let Walker know. I hate to think what he'll do, though.'

 

"According to Jake, the Cap told Bob, 'Wish I didn't have to tell him. We're not wirin' him, though, to tell him Jim's been arrested. If we do that, he'll head straight for Zapata. I want him here, first.'

 

"So, when I showed up, Captain McGuire broke the news to me, and I blew up. 'Cap, you mean Jim's been rottin' in jail down on the Border for three weeks, and you couldn't even tell me, after all Jim and I've been through together?'

 

"'Walker, that's precisely why I DIDN'T wire you. I knew you'd be on your way South. Walker, this case is out of your hands, my hands, out of the Rangers' hands. You're not to go to Zapata. This is a matter for the courts.'

 

"Captain, Bob, with all due respect, I'm heading for Zapata, NOW!!!"  Jim never murdered anyone, and you know it. Those Mabry’s were the scum of the earth, and Texas is better off without 'em!'

 

"Ranger Walker, I'm ORDERING you not to be within 200 miles of Zapata.'

 

"Captain, I'm refusing that order. You can take that &&^^^^&&  order and you can ^^&*(((0 where you like, you @%^&&&&>!'

 

"WALKER...WALKER!!”

 

"##$$$$$ you, Captain. You too, Bob.”

 

"And I walked out the door, headed for here."

 

"Well, Pard, I guess we can BOTH kiss our Ranger careers goodbye. Tell me, though, how'd you get caught and dumped in here?"

 

"Just careless, Jim. I was so mad, I rode straight into town. I went to the livery, left Amigo, and by the time I got him unsaddled, the hostler had sent for the sheriff. I wasn't wearin' my badge, but evidently word was out to have any strangers in town checked out. Jed Mabry was with the sheriff, and a bunch of toughs. He recognized me...."

 

David Joseph, the sheriff's brother, and one of his deputies, poked his nose through the door, then.

"Enough out of you two. Supper's on its way. He had two trays in his hands. (end of Chapter 9)

 

The next morning, Jedadiah Mabry accompanied Sheriff Terry Joseph into the cell room, behind the sheriff's office. Mabry went straight to Walker's cell.

 

"Ranger Walker, you've presented me with a problem. Now, your partner there is going to hang. There's no question about that."

 

"Don't be too sure of that, Mabry", Walker snarled.

 

"Very well, Walker, if that's what you believe. Anyway, I'm here to make you an offer."

 

"Go to #$$$, Mabry."

 

"Walker, listen to him; maybe this skunk's got a deal for you." Jim spoke from the next cell.

 

"Very wise, Ranger." Turning back to Walker, Mabry continued, "Walker, you have a choice: If you will admit that your partner's a guilty man, that you were convinced of his guilt after you met with him, and you'll testify against him in court, then you can walk out of here a free man."

 

"Mabry, you polecat, what makes you think I'd turn on my partner? You can go to H^^^>"

 

"Walker, do it!" Jim urged. "I'm done for, anyway. At least one of us'll get out of here."

 

"Very wise again Ranger. Well, Walker...?"

 

"Mabry, you $$^&&**, I won't turn on my partner, or the Rangers. Jim wouldn't want me too--despite what he says--and I couldn't live with myself if I did. He's innocent, and your boys were all cold-blooded killers, and you know it. So, Mabry, get out of my sight. You make me sick."

 

"Very well, then, Walker.  Obviously, you're accepting the other offer."

 

"And what offer is that, Mabry?"

 

"You'll be shot, trying to help you partner escape custody. However, your partner will still be around to hang. I need that trial for him."

 

Turning to the sheriff, Mabry ordered. "Do it, now."

 

Terry Joseph entered the cell, Colt in his hand.

 

"All right, Walker. Where d'ya want to get it? In your back, or in your belly?"

 

"Sheriff--and I hate to call you that--if you're gonna kill me, you're gonna do it lookin' at me."

 

Shrugging his shoulders, Joseph replied,  "Suits me fine, Walker. You'll die slower with a slug in your belly, anyway, and I'll enjoy letting your partner there watch you suffer." The sheriff thumbed back the hammer of his Colt.

 

Jim had been watching, hopelessly, from his cell. However, Walker had one chance, and Jim took it. The sheriff had stepped close to the bars separating Jim's cell from Walker's. In desperation, while Mabry was watching Walker and the Sheriff, Jim ripped off his shirt, taking an end in each hand, forming a loop, and reached into Walker's cell, settling the shirt around Terry Joseph's neck. 

 

"Drop that pistol, NOW!!!!" Jim yelled, as Joseph's scream was cut off in a gurgling cry, Jim yanking the shirt backwards, slamming the sheriff against the bars, choking off his air. 

 

Terry Joseph's gun roared, once. Cordell Walker grabbed his middle, and doubling over, collapsed on the bunk in his cell, face up. Mabry was screaming, a Derringer in his hand. "Griffin, let go of that shirt, or I'll drop you where you stand."

 

"Do it, then, Mabry...but you won't have your trial."

Jim tightened his grip on the shirt around the sheriff's neck. As Joseph sagged against the bars, his gun arm drooping, Jim dropped one hand from his shirt, transferring both ends to his left hand. He reached out with his right, twisting the sheriff's arm. As the muzzle of Joseph's Colt pressed into the lawman's ribs, Jim pulled the trigger. The sheriff jerked and sagged as the point-blank slug tore through him, then fell to the floor as Jim released the shirt. Jim tried to grab the pistol, but Joseph's hand and fingers tightened around the gun in a death grip, refusing to release the gun.

 

Eyes blazing, his fierce look piercing through Jedadiah Mabry like a hot knife through butter, Jim challenged the State Senator. "Mabry, if I'm gonna hang, I might as well hang for seven or eight as five. And Mabry, before I go, you'll be one of 'em, I promise."

 

Jedadiah Mabry backed away, total fear in his eyes, as Jim glared at him. David Joseph and two other deputies had come running into the sheriff's office.

 

"Joseph, that Ranger just killed your brother. Now, listen to me. We still need him alive for that trial. Get in that cell, and beat him half to death. Don't kill him though, whatever you do....Oh, and leave his partner there in the cell."

 

Turning back to Jim, Mabry sneered, "You won this round, Ranger. But, your partner's lyin' there, gut-shot. And you can be sure I won't be sending for the doctor. You just postponed the inevitable, my friend."

 

As Mabry turned to go, David Joseph, along with the other two deputies, entered Jim's cell. As the two pinned Jim's arms, jamming him back against the bars, David Joseph swam in, sending lefts and rights repeatedly to Jim's belly, battering the Ranger's body back against the bars. Finally, as Jim sagged, Joseph launched a mighty uppercut, directly under Jim's chin.

Jim's head was smashed back into the bars, and he fell forward, landing face down on the hard dirt floor of his cell. (end of Chapter 10)

 

Jim slowly was awakened, by something cold and wet splashing over his head. He lay, unmoving, for how long he didn't know, his head pounding, body a mass of aches, the sour taste of blood in his mouth. As if from a great distance, he could hear a voice calling his name, but Jim couldn't respond. He was still face down on the floor of his cell.

 

Finally, groaning, with a great effort, Jim managed to roll onto his back, stopping short as he came up against the bars that separated his cell from Walker's. Through half-shut, swollen eyes, head spinning, he looked up at the swirling face of his partner.

 

Another splash of cold water doused the blonde Ranger's face. "Jim, get up. C’mon, Pard."

 

Jim started to roll over on his face once again, then, shocked, he struggled to his knees. Crawling over to the cell bunk, he managed to drag himself onto it, sitting there, back leaning against the adobe wall. With unbelieving eyes, he stared into the next cell. Standing there, a tin cup in his hand, a pail of water on the floor next to him, was his partner.

 

"Walker...thought you were dead. I saw you go down when I grabbed Joseph's neck."

 

"Takes more 'n one slug in the gut to kill me, pal." Walker was smiling.

 

"C'mon, Walker. truth...no one can survive bein' gut-shot at that range."

 

"Well, Jim... here's the slug." Walker tossed a flattened piece of metal at Jim's feet. Jim picked it up, looking at it, quizzically. "And here's my belt buckle..." Jim looked, and could see a deep dent in the silver metal, the engraved pistol on the buckle distorted out of shape. "Jim, I got lucky... Guess the Good Lord doesn't want me, yet."

 

"Mebbe He never will, Walker...either one of us, for that matter. Uunnnnhhhh!" Jim moaned with pain.

 

"Anyway, Pard, all I got was a big bruise, and the wind knocked out of me. Passed out for a few minutes. Time I came to, Mabry and the deputies were gone."

 

"What about the sheriff?"

 

"Jim, don't you remember? You got him."

 

Jim shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs.

 

"Yeah, I remember, now, Walker. Hey, how come they didn't finish you off?"

 

"Don't know, Jim. They thought I was dyin', at first, gut-shot. I didn't come too until after they were through with you.  What happened to you, anyway?"

 

"Mabry had them beat me up. Still wants his trial, and my hangin'".

 

"Well, anyway, Jim, when Dave Joseph, the sheriff's brother came back, they found me awake. Said he was gonna kill me on the spot, but went and got Mabry first. Mabry told him to hold off a while. They gave me this water, and I haven't seen anyone since. I've been tossin' water on your head for half-an-hour now. Thought you were done for."

 

"Almost wish I were, Pard. Then Mabry wouldn't have that trial he wants so bad. Would've been better all around, mebbe."

 

"Yeah, but Jim, this way, we've still got a chance to get outta here, somehow."

 

"Don't see how, Walker. Rangers have abandoned me, even the Cap. Do they even know you're here?"

 

"They know I headed this way.  I don't think they know where I am, though."

 

"OUCH!!" Jim had attempted to move, reaching up a hand to rub the lump on his jaw. "Walker, please tell me I don't look as bad as I feel."

 

"OK, Jim, I won't...you look far worse than you feel, I'm sure."

 

"Thanks a lot, Pard. That means I must be almost as ugly as you are. Uugghh." Jim tried to smile, but it hurt too much.

 

Walker came over to the bars, grinning evilly at Jim now. "Jim, you're a Yankee, right?"

 

"You know it, Walker. How may barroom scrapes we been in because of that? Fifteen, twenty mebbe?"

 

"At least that many, Pard. Anyhow, you know Southerners and Indians call the Yankee cavalry "blue bellies", right?"

 

"Know that too, Walker. What's your point?"

 

"Pard, until today, I never knew that term was meant literally. Take a look at yourself." Walker was laughing.

 

Jim glanced down, groaned, then--in spite of himself--had to laugh...as best he could, through his swollen lips, and the pain from his battered ribs. His entire middle was one mass of black and blue bruises.

 

He retorted, "Well, Walker, no one'll ever be able to call me yellow-bellied, anyway. Struggling to his feet, Jim stumbled over to Walker's cell. "Hey, Walker, pass me my shirt back, anyway, will ya?"

 

Walker passed the shirt, the one that had saved his life, at least temporarily, back to his partner. Struggling with pain, Jim managed to get the shirt back on, struggling to button it.

 

"Walker, gotta rest...a while, anyway." Jim fell back on his bunk.

 

"Take it easy, Pard. You took quite a poundin', looks like. I'll be thinking, in the meantime." Jim was already back unconscious.

 

Walker also fell asleep. Both Rangers were awakened by the jangling of keys. Jed Mabry and David Joseph, now wearing his late brother's sheriff's badge, were entering the cell room.

 

Mabry was sneering, grinning insolently at the two prisoners. "I've got good news for you two...at least it is for me. I was able to convince the circuit judge to change his route. He'll be here a few days early. Griffin, your trial will be Thursday. I'm sure it'll be quick. Oh, and I know the Rangers say they can't help you on this one, but, just in case, I won't be letting them know the trail dates been moved up."

 

He turned to Walker. "And as for you, my stubborn friend, you were lucky, today. But, I've decided it was a break for me, also. Now, I'm going to let you stay alive, at least until your partner's trial and hanging. I want you to hear him scream, and beg for his life. Then, as soon as he's hung, you'll be killed, trying to escape. And this time, there won't be any mistakes."

 

"Mabry, you may hang me, but don't count on me beggin'", Jim snorted.

 

"We shall see, my friend, we shall see."

 

Turning to Walker, Mabry stated, flatly, "It will be a great pleasure, seeing both of you dead. Having one renegade Ranger to put on trial was good. Having a second to execute will be perfect."

 

"Mabry, go to $$$%%", Walker growled. (end of Chapter 11)

 

Alex Cahill Walker, Ginger Parker, and Mary Trivette left their carriages and horses at a livery stable in San Antonio, close to the railroad station. Marcy Griffin would take her palomino gelding, Jack, on their journey southward. She had bribed a trainman to add a stock car to the southbound train they would be taking to Laredo. In Laredo, the women would rent

another team and carriage, for the arduous forty-eight-mile trip from Laredo to Zapata. There was no other means of transportation to the sorry Border settlement where Jim was being held prisoner, charged with murder. As far as the four women knew, Jim's partner, and Alex's husband Cordell, was somewhere in that God-forsaken wilderness, trying to rescue his partner.

 

The tired, worried, but determined women settled into a coach, as far away from other travelers as possible. As the Texas Southern train chugged southward, they tried to rest, but time and again found themselves trying to figure their best course of action.

 

"Alex, you said Cordell was headed to find Jim, right?" Mary Trivette inquired.

 

"Yes, Mary, that's what his wire said. He left Austin, didn't even stop at home on his way by."

 

"Well, then, Honey, I'll bet he took this same train when he did."

 

Alex sat bolt upright. "Mary, I'm sure you're right! Cord doesn't like the train very much. He'd rather ride horseback.  But, with Jim's life in danger, and time short, I'm sure he took the train."

 

Marcy Griffin broke in. "Then, Alex, we have a place to start looking for Cordell, anyway."

 

"Yes, but Marcy, we have to try to reach Jim, first. He's the one in prison, facing the death sentence."

 

"Yes, but Alex, we may be able to find Walker before we get to Zapata. If we can, you know he'll help us, and it'll be a lot easier to rescue Jim.  We have to spend the night in Laredo, anyway. We'll do some checking."

 

Ginger Parker spoke up. "Ladies, if we're going to look for Walker, as I said back in Bandera, we're going to have to visit some places that are, how shall I put this, unsavory. Now, I've been in those places, as you know."

 

"We know, Ginger, and you know none of us think any the less of you for it." That was Alex.

 

Continuing, Ginger Parker went on, "Now, I can teach you, quickly, the basics of how to act in such places. But, ladies, you'll have to buy new clothes. You can't go into the dance halls dressed like that."

 

Looking at their conservative, rancher's and sheriff's wives' clothing, the other three had to agree.

 

"Now, when we get to Laredo, are you three willing to get painted up, and buy some, shall we say, entertainers' clothes?"

 

Without hesitation, Marcy replied, "If I can save Jim, I'll buy any outfit...or, nothing at all, I'll wear, if that's what it takes."

 

"Same goes for me, Ginger", Alex added.

 

Laughing, Mary Trivette added, "And, besides, when this is all over, maybe we can use these new outfits to have some fun with our men."

 

That broke the tension, somewhat, as the four women giggled at the thought of three lawmen's wives as dancehall floozies.

 

"That's the spirit, ladies! We'll get your men back, safe and sound. There no man in Texas, no army in Texas, who can stand up to four determined women!!" Ginger declared, forcefully. 

 

The four women clasped hands, vowing to find and save Jim and Walker. As the train rolled across the Texas plains, they prayed for the success of their mission.(end of Chapter 12)

 

When the train to Laredo was about three-quarters of the way to its destination, two cowhands approached the quartet.

 

"Howdy, ladies, I'm Bret Tompkins, and this is my partner, Hap Morgan. We couldn't help but notice you're travelling alone. Now, that could be dangerous, if you're headed for Laredo. We'd like to accompany you, if we might."

 

"They certainly are good-looking", all four women thought to themselves. However, Marcy spoke for the group when she replied. "Thank you. That is certainly a very kind offer from you gentlemen. However, we are meeting Alex's husband in Laredo. Oh, forgive my manners. I'm Marcy Griffin, and these are my friends, Alex Walker, Mary Trivette, and Ginger Parker. After we meet Alex's husband, we'll be travelling onward, to meet mine." Marcy discreetly left out their destination.

 

"That's fine, ladies, but there are four of you, and you're only meeting one man."

 

Smiling sweetly at the two cowhands, Alex replied, "Yes, but my husband's a Texas Ranger, and so is Marcy's."

 

Flushed, the two cowhands backed away, politely. "Well, ladies, you won't be needing our assistance, that's for sure", Bret spluttered.

 

After many hours, the train finally pulled into the Laredo station. Ginger rounded up a friendly porter, who advised them where to stay for the evening, and the closest livery barn, where Jack could be left, and a team and carriage rented.

 

Alex and Marcy headed for the station master's office. They found the man, a gray haired, elderly individual.

 

"Mister, do you recall any red-bearded, auburn-haired man coming through here on the Austin train, in the past few days?" Alex inquired.

 

"Can't say, ladies, We get lots of gents through here."

 

"Yes, but this one would have had a big Paint gelding on the train with him. He might have identified himself as a Texas Ranger."

 

"Oh, THAT one...Came through here about two weeks ago. Yes, I recall him. Nice-lookin' guy, but I wouldn't want to tangle with him."

 

"Sir, this is important. Did he tell where he was headed, or where he might be?"

 

"Didn't say where he was headed. I did send him over to the Chihuahua Hotel."

 

"Thank you, very much, sir."

 

"Hope you find him, ladies."

 

Hurrying back to Ginger and Mary, Alex and Marcy told what they had found. The Chihuahua Hotel obviously had some arrangement with the railroad, for the same establishment had been recommended to Ginger by the porter.

 

Hurrying now, the four women arranged transportation to the hotel. Checking in, they found the desk clerk did indeed remember Cordell Walker. "He spent quite a bit of time in the saloon, ladies...two nights, I believe."

 

Boldly gazing at the young clerk, who blushed under her look, Ginger stated, "Well, we know how to handle ourselves in a saloon. C'mon, girls." (end of Chapter 13)

 

The four women had obtained two adjoining rooms at the Chihuahua Hotel. After they settled in, Ginger asked, "OK, ladies, you ready to do some detective work?"

 

"Anything to rescue Jim, and find Walker", Marcy responded.

 

"Fine, then. Now, I know Mary can pull this off, and I'm sure you and Alex can, also. Time to change into your working outfits."

 

Ginger went to work quickly and efficiently, as the other three changed into their new outfits, which they had bought at a haberdashery next to the hotel. C.D.'s wife powdered and rouged Alex, Marcy, and Mary, shadowing their eyes, brushing their hair.

 

"Marcy, you've gotta drop that bustline a little lower, if you want the gentlemen to pay you attention", Ginger ordered, pulling the front of the gown lower.

 

Finally, all three, made up, Ginger stepped back, looking at them critically, but satisfied. "Well, girls, couldn't do much with your hair, but you'll pass, all right. Now, I'll get myself ready."

 

The room burst into a chorus of female laughter, as Marcy, Alex, and Mary inspected their new selves in the mirror. Alex was in a bright scarlet gown, which hugged and emphasized every one of here womanly curves. Marcy was in bright sapphire blue, and Mary was in an emerald green number, which highlighted her smooth ebony skin. All of them were now painted ladies, and all of the gowns were very low-cut and revealing. Ginger changed quickly into her shiny black dress, and ordered, "OK...time to get to work." (end of Chapter 14)

 

Somewhat self-consciously, except for Ginger, the quartet descended to the hotel saloon, the "Hair of the Dog."

 

As they ordered supper, a tall, dark, handsome gambler, emboldened by Ginger's frank look, approached. "Ladies, good evening. My name is Bartholomew Pendergast. And, may I say, while this is the Chihuahua Hotel, you are certainly anything but dogs." 

 

Ginger replied, "And what might we do for you, Sir?"

 

"I'm having a friendly game of poker here, shortly. I would be honored to have you entertain my friends. Would you join us?"

 

Ginger stood up, shaking her body, ever so slightly, her bosom almost in the gambler's nose.

 

"Sir, we'll be happy to join you. Just remember though: for this evening, anyway, our entertainment is strictly drinks and company. We have to be on our way early. The four of us are headed for new positions, in Zapata."

 

"It's a deal, ladies.  And please, it's Bart."

 

"Sure, Bart", Ginger was in her element, here. "And this is Alex, Mary, and Marcy. Now, let's join your friends."

 

Strolling over to the poker table Pendergast had reserved, the four ladies ended up spending the evening being plied with drinks, Ginger on Pendergast's lap, the other three on the laps of three ranchers.

 

Despite their revulsion at the part they were playing, Alex, Marcy, and Mary played their roles to the hilt. Laredo was full of gossip about the trial coming up in two days in Zapata, a trial at which a Texas Ranger was sure to be convicted and hung. In addition, rumors were abounding about another Ranger, who had been in Laredo two weeks previous, then had disappeared. He had last been seen in the border hamlet of El Cenizo, just south of Laredo.

 

Finally, over much protesting, the ladies took their leave of the game.

 

"Aw, darling', you can't leave us, now!" one of the ranchers protested.

 

Ginger cut him short. "Our arrangement with Mr. Pendergast was for drinks and company only. Now, if you care to join us in Zapata, perhaps we can do more."

 

"Zapata...no thank you, honey...too far for me.

'Sides, that trials gonna he goin' on there.

Rangers'll probably bust in to save their man, and all hell will break loose. What you gals headed down there for, anyway?"

 

Marcy replied, shocked at her own boldness, "Because of the trial. With all those men in Zapata, our business should be very profitable."

 

Bart Pendergast laughed at that. "Darling, you may be right, at that. Perhaps I'll see you in Zapata. Now, ladies, good evening."

 

Returning to their rooms, undressing, scrubbing their faces, Mary remarked, "I feel so dirty, so cheap."

 

"Yes, Mary, but we did obtain some valuable information", Alex reminded her friend. "Now, we know we have to stop in El Cenizo in the morning, to see if anyone remembers Cord there."

 

Facing an early start, the four women retired, sleep coming slowly, reluctantly, but finally coming. (end of Chapter 15)

 


The Rescuers, Part II

Chapter 16 onward

By Jim Griffin

Keeneyanke@yahoo.com

 

 

To Marcy and Alex's bitter disappointment, no one in El Cenizo recalled, or wanted to recall, having seen Cordell Walker, nor any other Texas Ranger. The women were now getting into the territory that the Mabry family controlled.

 

To make matters worse, the livery stable in Laredo was late with their team and carriage. With the delay, darkness overcame the women before they could reach Zapata, and they were forced to spend the night in the sorry little border village of San Ygnacio.

 

Despite its saintly name, San Ygnacio was hardly a holy place. The only hotel was a run down, unpainted affair. The foursome was squeezed into one tiny bedroom.

 

"Well, might as well make the best of it, anyway, ladies", Ginger remarked. "Don't think it'd be a good idea to try our working outfits here tonight, though."

 

"Absolutely NOT!!!!" Alex remarked. "I had enough of that last night, thank you very much."

 

"Well, then, let's get some dinner, and head back up to this room."

 

"Just let me check on Jack and the team, first" Marcy requested. She was not pleased with the livery stable. However, she did find the horses comfortable.

 

Alex, Marcy, Ginger and Mary sat down to a tasteless meal in the ragged hotel dining room. While they were finishing their meal, three unkempt cowboys approached. 

 

"Ladies, my pards and I wanna dance with you."

 

"Thank goodness we're not in our saloon outfits tonight!" Alex thought to herself.

 

"Gentlemen, I'm sorry, but we've been travelling all day, and we're tired. We just plan on going to our room, to get a good night's sleep." Marcy stated, kindly.

 

"Your room, that's a GREAT idea, Honey!!" the lout shouted out. Yanking Marcy by the arm, he shouted, "C'mon, Honey, lets have some fun!"

 

"Mister, let go of me!!!" With a resounding crack, March slapped him soundly, across the cheek.

 

Angered, drunk, the cowpoke grabbed Jim's wife, while his friends advanced toward the women's table. "So, you wanna play rough, Honey? I can handle a wildcat!"

 

"Hold it right there, Mister!" Mary shouted. The cowboy started to reply, then stopped, speechless, staring at the Derringer that had appeared in Mary's hand.

 

He stepped away from Marcy, walking menacingly toward Mary. "Little girls shouldn't play with toy pistols" he sneered, sarcastically.

 

"I'm not playing, Mister!" Mary snapped back. "Try it and see."

 

"I'll do just that!" The hombre took two steps toward the sheriff's wife.

 

Lowering the pistol, knowing exactly where she was aiming, Mary fired. With a scream of agony that was almost inhuman, the cowpoke crumpled to the restaurant floor, howling in pain, the bullet from Mary's gun in his groin.

 

His two companions started toward the women.  Ginger had a parasol, which she carried to ward off the rays of the hot Texas sun. Quickly, taking the closed umbrella, she jabbed it at one of the oncoming men. He fell, unmoving, dead before he hit the floor, as Ginger sent the sharp point of the parasol into his left eye, penetrating his brain.

 

Unnoticed by the women, Bart Pendergast had just entered the restaurant. The third cowpoke stopped, dead in his tracks, as he saw his companions on the floor.

 

Pendergast hurried over to the table. Alex, Marcy, Mary, and Ginger, tough Texas women that they were, still were stunned by the turn of events.

 

Pendergast had pulled his shoulder gun. Covering the last cowboy remaining on his feet, he ordered, "Mister, get your friends out of here, now! The man Mary had shot was still bent double on the floor, whimpering. "Ladies, are you all right?"

 

"We will be, Bart. Thank you."

 

"There's no law in this town, ladies. Fierce black eyes sweeping the occupants of the room, the gambler growled, "Now, these ladies were attacked, without provocation. You all saw it. UNDERSTAND?"

 

Heads in the restaurant silently nodded assent.

 

"Ladies, let's get you to your room." 

 

"Gladly, Bart!" Alex answered.

 

On the way upstairs, Bart Pendergast chuckled, "Guess you ladies don't need my help, or any man's. Just to be safe, though, I will spend the night outside your room."

 

"That would be appreciated, Bart",  Marcy replied.

 

As they strode down the hall, Bart Pendergast laughed aloud. "Mary, that was some shooting."

 

Mary laughed in reply. "Bart...something you should know: My husband is sheriff of Bandera County, and he taught me, if an hombre came after me, to shoot him where he lives. I did just that."

 

Marcy, Alex, and Ginger joined in a loud chorus of laughter, releasing some of the tension. Then, Bart Pendergast stared at Mary, black eyes searching her face.

 

"Your HUSBAND?!!! I never would have guessed you were married, back in Laredo."

 

Marcy burst in quickly, "Mr. Pendergast, we greatly appreciate what you've done for us. However, there is a reason we must be in Zapata tomorrow. We can't tell you what it is, but, please, if you are any kind of a gentleman, do not tell anyone you've met us, or talk to anyone about us."

 

Alex added, "Mr. Pendergast, we know it isn't fair to ask you this, after you've helped us. However, it is a matter of life and death. If you would like to know what this is about, we'll meet you in Zapata, tomorrow evening or the next morning. But, please, don't give us away."

 

Smiling, Bart Pendergast replied, "How could I not go along with four beautiful women with your spunk? Your secret is safe with me. May I ask one favor of you, though?"

 

"What is it, Bart?"  Marcy asked.

 

"Let me follow you, at a discreet distance, tomorrow. You're on the Border, and this road can be dangerous."

 

"That would be appreciated, Bart. However, we must get an early start. We have to be in Zapata before noon."

 

"Agreed, ladies."

 

The women retired to their chamber, Bart Pendergast settling himself, wrapped in a blanket, outside their door. (end of Chapter 16)

 

That Thursday broke sunny and hot in the Texas border town of Zapata. Jim had spent most of the night pacing his cell, knowing that morning he would be placed on trial for the murders of retired U. S. Marshall Scott Maxwell, the four Mabry brother, and Sheriff Terry Joseph of Zapata. Jim knew, beyond a doubt, he would be convicted, Zapata being totally under the control of Texas State Senator Jedadiah Mabry, father of the four vicious gunslingers Jim had tried to arrest.

 

It was those four--Dent, Pete, Curly and Mort Mabry--who had killed Marshall Maxwell, and Jim's friend, Sheriff Bob Eldridge, and three other innocent people over three years previous back in Rock Springs. The four brothers, at that time, had shot and wounded Jim, making good their escape into Indian Territory.  They had come back to Texas, and died under Jim's guns after they resisted arrest, trying to finish the job they had started three years earlier.

 

Jim's Texas Ranger partner, Cordell Walker—captured as he tried to rescue his long-time compadre—was lying on the bunk, in the next cell. "Jim, please, lie down, try to get some sleep. You need to be as alert as possible, your mind sharp, for this trial."

 

"Heck, Walker- it doesn't matter what I say, or do. I've already been convicted, and you know it. Mabry's got the jury hand-picked, bought and paid for. Judge is in his pocket, too, I'm sure. Look how easy Mabry got the trial date moved up. Unless we can get out of here, somehow, I'm gonna hang."

 

"Jim, don't give up, yet."

 

"Walker, I don't want to give up, believe me. What hurts, awful bad, is knowin' what this will do to Marcy, and my kids.  I know I'm innocent, and you know it. But, think what'll happen after I'm gone. My family'll be known as the wife and kids of a murderer.  A murderer who hid behind a Ranger badge. Walker, just the thought of that is enough to kill me."

 

"Jim, STOP IT!!" Walker growled. "Pard, even if you don't get out of here, and I don't, no one'll believe that you were a cold-blooded killer. No one who knows you, knows the Rangers, anyway. Now, enough of that kind of talk."

 

Jim shook his head, ruefully. "Walker, thanks. I wish I could believe you, Pard. But, let's face it: Even Captain McGuire and the Rangers have left me twistin' in the breeze on this one. Now, if the Rangers, Capt. McGuire, ANYONE from the Rangers, had backed me, then I wouldn't feel so bad. But, Walker, let's face it: You're the only one who came to help, and it doesn't

look too good for your gettin' out of here, either.

 

People will look, and think, "Griffin must have been a killer.  Even the Rangers wouldn't help him. Good thing that buzzard got hung before he did more killin'". And, Pard, that's what hurts the most. Not dyin', not even hangin'...It's knowing the Rangers forgot me, and for what? Political reasons, to save their money in the Legislature." Jim sat on his bunk, with a sigh of disgust.

 

"Jim, I know it looks bad. But, don't forget, no matter what, your family and friends will always know the truth. And that's what really matters, Pard. Now, try and get a little shut-eye, anyway."

 

"OK, Walker. And, one thing I do know: I've had the most loyal friend and partner a man could have, in you, Cordell." Walker was surprised, for Jim never had called him Cordell. "And that's more than most men could ask for in a lifetime. Thanks, mi amigo."

 

Jim finally lay on his bunk, staring at the ceiling of his cell, until sleep finally came.

 

It seemed like he had been asleep for only moments when the keys jangled in the cell doors. Sheriff Terry Joseph, along with several heavily armed deputies, was there, accompanied by Jedadiah Mabry, and a gray-haired, distinguished looking gentleman.

 

"Ranger Griffin, time for your trial, in just two hours", Mabry sneered. "I'd like you to meet Justin Mabry, my father, grandfather of the boys whose lives were so tragically cut short by a vicious killer, hiding behind the law."

 

"Mabry, I've got nothing to say to you. And, Justin Mabry, all I have to say to you is your grandsons were the vicious killers, not me. They killed a sheriff and three innocent people in Rock Springs, and they killed Scott Maxwell."

 

Justin Mabry, slowly, carefully, replied, "Ranger, my grandsons wouldn't hurt anyone. Now please, face up to what you've done like a man, and stop trying to ruin the reputations of four fine lads, who are not even here to defend themselves."

 

"Mabry...Ah, what's the use?" Jim turned away, in disgust.

 

"Cordell Walker", Justin Mabry turned to Jim's partner. "I always had the utmost respect for you, both as a man and a law officer. Why did you throw that away, to try and save this cold-blooded killer?"

 

"Congressman Mabry, I always had the utmost respect for you also, Sir", Walker replied. "So, you should know, if you look into your heart, that Jim is innocent. Your grandsons were killers, and more. Pure and simple, Congressman. Now, sir, if you can't see that, and stop this travesty of justice, and prevent sending an innocent man, a Ranger who was defending

the citizens of Texas, to the gallows, then, Sir, you are not the man I always thought you were."

 

"Walker, I'm sorry you are so blind. We have nothing further to discuss." Congressman Justin Mabry walked out of the sheriff's office.

 

"Griffin, I want you to look good for your trial."

Jed Mabry spoke again. "Now, here's some new clothes. Oh, and be sure to wear your badge, Ranger."

 

"Mabry, you sidewinder...you can be sure of that."

 

"Good, 'cause you'll be wearing it when we hang you."

 

One of the deputies brought Jim and Walker breakfast. Both Rangers just picked at the meal, finally giving up.

 

"Griffin, time to go." Heavily shackled, wrists and ankles, Jim was led from the cell.

 

"Good luck, Pard." Jim wasn't even allowed close enough to Walker cell to shake his partner's hand.

 

"Thanks, Walker. See you in about an hour. I'm sure this trial won't last very long."

 

As Jim was led out, surrounded by deputies, Walker fell back on his bunk, with a sigh of despair. As much as he hated to admit it, Jim was right. The trial would be quick, the conclusion foregone. (end of Chapter 17)

 

Circuit Court Judge Arthur Brennan was presiding over the trial of Texas Ranger Jim Griffin. The Viva Zapata Saloon, site of the gunfight which had led to the death of the four Mabry brothers, under Jim's guns as they resisted arrest, was serving as the courthouse.

 

As predicted, the trial was over, and quickly. The prosecuting attorney, Sidney Montcalm, made a stirring summation, pointing out the spots where the four Mabry’s had died, pointing out the still visible bullet scars, the stains still visible on the bar and floor where, "...four innocent boys, full of the promise of life, were brutally slain, right in this room. Now, their father and grandfather have to be in this very spot. Imagine their pain and grief, as they look upon the very boards where their sons' and grandsons' life-blood drained out, as Texas Ranger  James Griffin's bullets cut them down."

 

The only attorney Jim had been able to find to take his case was fresh out of law school, and took the case, by his own admission, for the experience. Judd Howe knew a losing cause when he saw one. He tried a perfunctory cross-examination of the eight witnesses the prosecution presented, eight men who swore they were in the Viva Zapata, eight men who swore Texas Ranger Jim Griffin had burst into the saloon, guns blazing, cutting down four boys whose weapons never left their holsters. The fact that only four men—one of whom was the bartender--had been in the Viva Zapata didn't matter.

 

In less than an hour, the case was presented to the jury, twelve citizens of Zapata, twelve men indebted to or under control of Jedadiah Mabry.

 

The verdict came back in less than five minutes.

 

"Will the defendant please rise?" Judge Brennan ordered.

 

"Gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?"

 

"We have, Your Honor."

 

"How do you find the defendant?"

 

"We find the defendant, Texas Ranger James Griffin, guilty of six counts of first degree murder, in the killings of Marshall Scott Maxwell, Peter,  Denton, Morton, and Charles Mabry, and Sheriff Terry Joseph."

 

If the spectators expected any emotional reaction from Jim, they were mistaken. He stood there, expressionless, knowing the conclusion was foregone, before he ever entered the courtroom.

 

"Will the defendant approach the bench?"

 

"James Griffin, you have been tried and convicted by a jury of your peers, of six counts of murder in the first degree. Therefore, it is the sentence of this court that you will be hung by your neck until dead.

 

"This sentence will be carried out at noon tomorrow. May God have mercy on your soul. Do you have anything to say?"

 

"Just that I'm innocent, Your Honor. You know it, and every man and woman in this room knows it. And, someday, Your Honor, justice will prevail."

 

"Sheriff, return this man to his cell."

 

Cordell Walker had his face pressed to the bars of his cell door, as Jim was returned.

 

"Jim, how'd it go?"

 

"Just as we expected, Walker. I've got till noon, tomorrow."

 

"$%^^^"  Walker slammed a hard fist into the wall. "Never thought it'd come to this, that the Rangers would forget their men."

 

"Don't matter anymore anyway, Pard. Do me one favor, though."

 

"Anything, Jim."

 

"While they're hangin' me tomorrow, see if you can bust out of here."

 

"Jim, if I bust out, it'll be before they hang you, and we're BOTH bustin' out."

 

"Thanks for the thought, Pard, anyway."

 

Both men settled back into thoughtful, pensive silence. (end of Chapter 18)

 

Jim was awakened the next morning, by the sound of hammering outside his cell window. Sheriff David Joseph entered the cell room, grinning wickedly. "Griffin, hope you're listening. That's the gallows we're buildin', especially for you."

 

"Do me a favor, Sheriff. Just go somewhere, will ya?  I don't need to see your ugly face my last day."

 

"Easy, Jim." Walker had spoken from the next cell.

 

"Is that any way to talk to the man who came to take your order for your last meal?" Joseph taunted.

 

"Anything else you want, Griffin? Cigarettes, a bottle of whiskey, perhaps?"

 

"No, Sheriff, just a padre, if there's one in this town."

 

"Sure is, Ranger. Jed Mabry said to be sure you had anything you want, today. Don't want it said we mistreated our prisoners." With a sneer, Joseph turned and left.

 

"Jim, how you holdin' up?"

 

"I'm OK, Walker. Just wish I could see Marcy and the kids, one more time. Wrote 'em a letter, last night, sayin' goodbye, tellin' 'em how much I love them, how much I'll miss them. Hope they get it."

 

"Jim, even Mabry couldn't be that much of a skunk."

 

"Dunno about that, Walker."

 

"Jim, how about giving the letter to the padre?"

 

"Walker, thanks. That's a great idea. I've got one for the Cap and Bob Hemmings, too. I'll give that one to the padre, also."

 

"Jim, if you don't want to, don't tell me. But, I'd like to know what you wrote the Captain."

 

"Sure, Pard. Told him how much I loved being a Ranger. Told him how much it meant to me, and my family. Also told him how sorry I was to bring disgrace to the Rangers."

 

"Jim, you didn't disgrace the Rangers."

 

"Know I didn't, Walker, but some people will think that. Don't want the Rangers dragged into my mess. I also told Cap I understood his decision. Then, I told him goodbye. Asked him to say goodbye to all my compadres for me."

 

"Jim, I don't know what to say."

 

"Nothing to say, Walker. We've both done out best. I just wish now for one thing. I wish I knew what happened to Yankee, where he is. I just hope he's OK, and running free out there, somewhere."

 

"Jim, I'm sure he is. That hoss'll make out all right. Too bad he's not a stud. Just think of the herd of mustangs he could sire."

 

Jim smiled gently at that thought. A quiet knock came at the door, and a brown-robed padre entered. One of the deputies let him in Jim's cell.

 

"My son, I'm Father Junipero Cisco. I wish we could meet under happier circumstances."

 

"Thank you for coming, Father."

 

"My son, can I do anything to help you at this time, anything you would like done?"

 

"Yes, Father. Will you be sure these letters get to my family, and to Ranger Headquarters in Austin?"

 

"Certainly. I will be happy to do so."

 

"Father, did you bring the Eucharist?"

 

"Yes, I did. Are you indeed Catholic?"

 

"Yes, Father, I am. Would you hear my Confession?"

 

"Yes, my son. But, your neighbor will hear, and the sacrament is supposed to be between God and yourself."

 

"Father, Cordell is my partner. I'm sure he won't eavesdrop, but, even if he overhears, I have nothing to hide from him."

 

"Very well, my son."

 

Jim made his Confession, and received Holy Communion. Father Cisco had only one question. "My son, I must ask: You are not confessing to violating the 5th Commandment?"

 

"Thou Shalt Not Kill?' No, Father I have not violated that Commandment."

 

"Very well, my son. I, too, believe you are innocent. May you find peace with the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven."

 

The cell door was opened, admitting Sheriff David Joseph and his deputies. "Time to go, Griffin."

 

"Father, will you come with me?"

 

"Certainly, my son."

 

"Thank you, Father."

 

Cordell Walker was against his cell bars, arms outstretched to Jim.

 

"Walker, thanks for everything. It's been a heckuva ride, hasn't it?"

 

"Sure has, Jim. I'm gonna miss you. We made some team, didn't we?"

 

"Sure did, Pard. Hey, do me a favor, will you?"

 

"What's that, Jim?"

 

"Don't go gettin' all choked up on me. That'll be my job, once I hit the end of that rope."

 

"JIM....!!!"

 

"Sorry, Walker, couldn't resist. You take care, Pal."

 

"You too, Jim." Walker's voice was barely a whisper, as he and Jim shook hands, fingertips touching until the last moment as Jim was led away.

 

The entire town of Zapata was in the village square. Prominent in the front, right at the gallows, were Jed and Justin Mabry.

 

Jim was lead slowly up the stairs. If the Mabry’s, or the blood-seeking spectators were hoping for an emotional outburst, Jim disappointed them. He stood straight and tall as the noose was placed around his neck, his Texas Ranger silver star on silver circle shining brightly in the noonday sun.

 

"Any last words, Ranger?" David Joseph asked.

 

"Just that I'm innocent, Sheriff. Now, get this over with."

 

Sheriff David Joseph's hand reached for the lever that would open the trap door, sending Jim to the end of the rope, and a hanging death. (end of Chapter 19)

 

Marcy, Alex, Mary, and Ginger spent an almost sleepless night in San Ygnacio. Although the first three were lawmen's wives, Ginger the wife of a saloonkeeper, and all had seen their share of violent and sudden death, they were shaken by the incident in the saloon. Except for Alex, during the Bandera Valley war, when she had killed a man to save the life of her future husband, Texas Ranger Cordell Walker, none of the women had been involved with shooting a man before. Even the bullet Alex had fired, years ago in Bandera, had been at a distance, from a rifle. In addition, they would, on the morrow, be entering Zapata, attempting to save the life of Marcy's husband, Texas Ranger Jim Griffin, and, hopefully, locate Alex's beloved Cordell.

 

Hearing the women's quiet conversation, Bartholomew Pendergast, gambler and self-appointed protector of the foursome, knocked on their door, gently.

 

"Yes?" Alex answered, opening the door, slightly.

 

"Forgive me, ladies. However as you are all still awake, I thought perhaps I would head downstairs and take some refreshment. I can still see the stairs to your room."

 

"That would be fine, Bart. Thank you." Alex gently closed the door.

 

Bart spent a good deal of the evening, playing poker, and drinking thoughtfully. It was very early in the morning, when a rider came pounding up the road from Zapata, tying his mount in front of the saloon, rushing through the doors.

 

"Whiskey, Barkeep, and hurry!"

 

After receiving his bottle and glass, and tossing down two quick drinks, the rider was standing at the bar, filling his glass for the third time. Curiously, the bartender asked the rider, "Where you headed in such an all-fired hurry, Friend?"

 

"Nowhere in particular. It's where I'm comin' from that's important."

 

Bart Pendergast’s ears became alert, his curiosity piqued. "Just came from Zapata. You know about that Texas Ranger they we're holdin' for murder down there?"

 

"Reckon so, Friend: whole state of Texas has heard about it. Why?"

 

"Because, Mister, they moved up the trial date. Court was held yesterday. They're hangin' that Ranger at noon today. And--once the Rangers find out—reckon Zapata will be about the unsafest place in Texas. No sir, I'm clearin' out of that town, for certain."

 

"Heard the Rangers won't help their man, this time."

 

"You can believe it if you want, Mister. Me, I think the Rangers'll tear Zapata to pieces."

 

Bart Pendergast put two and two together, and came up with four. To avoid arousing suspicion, he quickly, but believably, lost the next four hands of his game. Rising, stretching, he announced to the other players.

"Gentlemen, I'm about tapped out." Yawning, he continued "And, I'm about all done in. Time for some sleep. Good night."

 

As the other players mumbled their goodnights, Bart hurried up the stairs. Quickly reaching the women's door, he knocked, lowly but urgently.

 

Mary answered his knock, eyes still drowsy from her restless slumber. Bart pushed his way in the room, quickly closing the door behind him.

 

"Mr. Pendergast!!!" Ginger shouted. "You cannot barge into a lady's room like this!!"

 

"No time for that, now, ladies. Listen to me, closely and carefully, please. Turning to Mary, he stated, flatly, "You said your husband's a sheriff, right?"

 

"That's right, sheriff of Bandera County."

 

To Alex: "And you said you were concerned with a matter of life and death?"

 

Not even giving her time to respond, he turned to Marcy. "And you said you had to be in Zapata today?"

 

"That's correct, Mr. Pendergast."

 

"Ladies, unless I miss my guess, one of you is married to the Texas Ranger who's being tried for murder. Am I right?"

 

Eyes wide, Marcy replied, "I am. My husband is Lt. Jim Griffin of the Texas Rangers."

 

"And you're on your way to Zapata, all of you, to try and bust him out of there."

 

There was no use in pretense. "Yes, Bart, we are, plus we hope to find Alex's husband Cordell. He's Jim's partner, and was last seen in Laredo.  We're sure he was trying to rescue Jim, but something's happened to him."

 

"Well, ladies, until I saw you in action tonight, I wouldn't give you a chance. Now, you just might be the dames to pull this off. But, you've got to move, and fast."

 

"What do you mean, Bart?" Marcy's eyes were wide with fear.

 

"Because, Mrs. Griffin, your husband's trial was moved up. He's already been convicted, and they're planning on hanging him at noon today. Just got the news from a rider came in."

 

"NOOO!!"  Marcy's voice was a cry of despair.

 

"No time for that" Pendergast snapped. "I've never had any trouble with the Rangers, unlike some of these local tin stars. I'm willing to help you, but we've gotta move, NOW!!!"

 

Alex quickly broke in, "Bart, we'll be ready in fifteen minutes."

 

"Bueno, muy bueno. Now, while you ladies get ready, I'll get your horses. Which are they?"

 

Marcy, already dressing, answered, "Bart, I have the palomino gelding, name's Jack. Two chestnuts in the stall next to him are rented from the Laredo Livery. Carriage is next to the corral."

 

"Good, ladies, now HURRY!!! I'll get your horse saddled, Marcy, and the carriage hitched up, ready to go."

 

Twenty minutes later, the first light of dawn streaking the eastern horizon, the four women and the gambler dashed onto the road to Zapata.  They had over thirty hard miles to go, and time was rapidly running out for Jim.  (end of Chapter 20)

 

Marcy in the lead on her gelding Jack, the four women set a blistering pace southward. Bart Pendergast, mounted on his swift black, was alongside them. He was committed to them, and them to him, so there was no need for him to follow discreetly.

 

Unfortunately, with the rented horses and carriage, the livery animals not being used to such a grueling pace, the quintet was forced to slow their speed, conserving the horses, as the sound mounted higher in the sky. Noon was now barely an hour away, the appointed hour for Jim to mount the gallows, then plunge to his death at the end of a hang rope.

 

Marcy started to despair, as, about five miles out of Zapata, her gelding, Jack, started to whinny, plunge, and sidestep, refusing to go forward. Expert horsewoman that Marcy was--in fact, their mutual love of horses being what had led Jim and Marcy to each other, and to wed--she could not control her palomino, as Jack fought the bit, refusing to go forward.

 

"Jack, please, not now!" Marcy shouted to her mount, as the horse tossed his head, trumpeting loudly. For a moment, Marcy thought she heard an answering whinny. "Can't be", she thought. "I'm just so sick over what they're doing to Jim that I'm imagining things." Bart and Marcy's three friends in the carriage had stopped, as Marcy pleaded with her gelding to go forward. 

 

"Please, please. Must you be a jumping Jack right now?" Marcy pleaded. To the despair of their friends, Jim's love of bad puns had rubbed off on his wife over the years of their marriage. Now, they were the Texas tag-team of punsters. In response, Jack tossed his head again, screaming even more loudly.

 

This time, Marcy was sure she heard a responding whinny, much closer, coming from the right. Scanning the horizon, eyes shaded by her hand from the glaring Texas sun, Marcy struggled to see the source of the answering whinny.

 

Suddenly, a great Paint gelding, chestnut in color, topped the edge of the roadside embankment, screaming a greeting to Jack. "Yankee, it IS you!" Marcy shouted in disbelief and relief, as Jim's pet rushed up to her and Jack, nickering his joy. "Bart, everyone. This is Jim's horse, Yankee. He must have gotten away, somehow." The gelding's normally shining coat, always curried to a dazzling sheen by his human friend Jim, was dull and dust-covered, the horse's mane and tail tangled and matter with burrs.

 

Yank was gaunted, almost skinny, for his weeks on the run, hiding in the badlands around Zapata. The loyal mount had never strayed far from his companion's site of confinement.

 

"Mrs. Griffin, time's going, fast", Bart Pendergast snapped.

 

"Yankee, let's go...we're going to find Jim!" Marcy cried to her husband's Paint. Yankee whinnied in response, staying with Jack stride for stride, as the rescue party again lined out for Zapata, at a dead run. With the clock ticking inexorably toward noon, this was no time to spare the horses. (end of Chapter 21)

 

Cordell Walker was alternately pounding his fist into the mattress on his bunk, then pulling forcefully but futilely at the bars of his cell window, knowing his longtime trail companion and fellow Texas Ranger, Jim, was at that moment being unjustly sent to his death by a hangman's noose, and Walker could do nothing to save him.

 

Despite his bravery, a bead of sweat appeared across Jim's upper lip, as Sheriff David Joseph reached for the lever...the lever that would open the trapdoor under Jim's feet, sending the tall Ranger downward, to snap his neck in an ignominious murderer's death, leaving his lifeless body kicking to stillness, a few final twitches as he twisted in the wind.

 

The two politicians, Jed Mabry and his father Justin--father and grandfather of the killers Jim had been forced to shoot down, as they resisted arrest with a hail of lead--were right at the foot of the gallows, faces tense with anticipation. They had made sure news reporters were present, and a  photographer, to snap a gory picture of the disgraced Texas Ranger's lifeless body, as it hung from the gallows. THAT would discredit the Texas Rangers.

 

A few people at the edge of the crowd turned, as the sound of pounding hooves could be heard echoing form the north end of Main Street. Sheriff Joseph looked up and hesitated for one fateful instant. From his perch on the gallows, higher than the spectators, he espied a golden palomino, ridden by a compact, brunette female, her Stetson hanging on her neck by its chinstrap, heading for the platform on a dead run. Beside the palomino, saddle less and bridle less, was a screaming, rearing, hoof-slashing chestnut Paint. And, following, was a tall man on a tall black, in gambler's clothes, and a recklessly swerving carriage.

 

As Joseph hesitated, the brunette rider pulled a Colt from the holster on her right hip, and fired, once. The sheriff's hand jerked away from the gallow's lever as if that handle were suddenly white hot. He spun sideward, clutching the shattered, blood-dripping member.

 

Urging Jack onward, spurring the palomino though the suddenly scattering panicked crowd, Marcy Griffin forced her way to the gallows. Alongside her, having spotted his human friend, missing these many weeks, was Jim's pet gelding, Yankee. The chestnut Paint had his ears flattened in anger, slashing out with iron-shod hooves, large yellow teeth biting and tearing at anyone unfortunate enough to be in his path.

 

Marcy leaped from her mount, rolling onto the platform, coming upright, her Colt leveled at two shocked and thoroughly frightened deputies. "Nobody move!" she  ordered. Dead silence fell upon Zapata, as the spectators, stunned, stared up at the determined Marcy. The few who let their eyes glance sideward observed a tall man, dressed in gambler's clothes, upon a lathered black horse, his two pistols lingering malevolently over the crowd.

 

And, even more malevolently, in the carriage, now stopped, was a woman with flaming red hair, holding at the ready a double-barreled shotgun she had appropriated from the San Ygnacio livery. And—having quickly leapt from the carriage as it skidded to a stop--were two women, one blonde, standing on the

boardwalk, covering the crowd with a long Winchester 44.40 rifle. And, on the opposite sidewalk, was a tall black woman, a Derringer in one hand, and a Bowie knife prominent in the waistband of her skirt.

 

Leveling her Colt at the head of the taller deputy, with unmistakable intent, Marcy Griffin ordered, in a voice that would brook no argument. "Remove that noose from my husband, NOW!!" As the stunned crowd looked on, the deputy hurried to comply. (end of Chapter 22)

 

Jed Mabry was screaming up from the street, "Someone stop her; shoot that woman!" as the deputy—under Marcy's unswerving Colt--reached up, removing the noose from Jim's neck. A shot rang out, and Jed Mabry was stunned to silence, as Alex sent a Winchester slug into the dirt at his feet.

 

"Marcy, I don't believe it! It's you, darling. I never thought I'd see you again!" Jim collapsed into her arms, in relief and happiness.

 

"Jim, it's not over, yet", she replied, through tears of happiness. "Here, take my Colt."

 

Bart Pendergast had worked his way to the side of the gallows, covering Jed Mabry and his father, the Congressman. "Marcy, LOOK OUT!!" Pendergast shouted a warning, as Sheriff Joseph--who had been lying on the platform, rolling in pain, made a left-handed grab for his pistol. At the same time, his two deputies went for their pistols. One went down, hit by a single shot from Mary Trivette's little Derringer, slamming into his chest. The other staggered, as Ginger's snap shot from a Colt she had hidden in her blouse caught him low in the body. He crumpled to the wooden floor. Ginger still cradled the scattergun in her lap.

 

Pendergast ordered "Don't move!!" to the Mabry’s, as they tried to turn and flee. At the same time, Jim flung himself at the sheriff, knocking aside the lawman's Colt at the last moment. Joseph leaped to his feet, a heavy fist pummeling Jim's already battered ribs. With a last effort, Jim swung low, catching the sheriff in the belly.

 

As Joseph jacknifed, Jim swung again, and his left caught Joseph under the chin, straightening him up, rocking him backwards. Flailing, the sheriff hit the gallow's lever as he fell, the trap door opening under him. With a final, blood-curdling scream, Sheriff David Joseph fell through the opening, landing

head-first on the hard-packed dirt, snapping his neck. He lay shapelessly, unmoving.

 

Jim had fallen to the platform, Marcy at his side, as his body gave in under the strain of his injuries, and his brush with death. Yankee had his head leaned upward, nuzzling his friend, whickering in happiness and contentment.

 

"Jim,, are you...?"

 

"Marcy.......WALKER!! He's in the jailhouse. Mabry had three deputies there, ready to kill him." Jim struggled to rise, but fell back, pain stabbing through his side. "Marcy, get Mabry up here!! Quick!!"

 

Marcy stood up, eyes aflame. "Alex, Mary, Walker's in the jailhouse. Head over there, quickly.  It may already be too late." As she spoke this, sending Alex and Mary on their way, a wiry rider on a blue roan galloped through the crowd, leaping onto the platform.

 

"Mark French?!! What're you doin' here?"

 

"Jim, disobeyin' orders, I'm sure. Need any help here?"

 

"Yeah, Mark. Walker's here, in the jail. His wife and a friend are on their way to get him out. They may need a hand..."

 

"Who're these hombres, Jim?" Mark questioned, quickly, as Bart Pendergast pushed the Mabry’s up the gallows steps, his Colts' muzzles dug in their backs.

 

"The Mabry boys' sires, Mark. Don't know who the tall hombre is, but I'm mighty beholden to him, I reckon.  Now, go help Walker..." (end of Chapter 23)

 

Texas Ranger Cordell Walker was straining, trying to get some hint of what had happened. He had heard the hush of the crowd, knowing his partner Jim was about to be sent to his death. Then, he heard hoofbeats, a shot, the noises of a confused, frightened crowd, then more shots. Now, all was silent again, except for the boom of a shotgun. Could the Rangers have come after all?, Walker wondered, hoping against hope straining against the bars of his cell window, trying to catch some glimpse, anything that might give him a clue as to Jim's fate.

 

Soon, however, his hopes were dashed. "Walker, time to go. Your pard's finished, and now it's your turn". Walker's hands were quickly tied, his legs bound with a short rope, inhibiting his stride. "Let's go, Walker, Deputy Jess Tibbets ordered.

 

Anyone who might have considered moving--leaving the crowd at the square, to help the deputies guarding Walker at the jailhouse--was quickly discouraged by Ginger Parker's shotgun...especially after she fired one barrel just over their heads.  The other barrel still contained a deadly charge of buckshot.

 

Alex Cahill Walker, her friend, Mary Campbell Trivette at her side, hurried to the jailhouse, hoping against hope she was not too late, that she could surprise the deputies, and save her husband.

 

Arriving at the jail, she burst through the door, Winchester at the ready, just as the three deputies were leading Walker out of his cell, to his death. Without hesitating, Alex fired, and Deputy Tibbets, in the act of raising his Colt, was smashed backwards against the cell bars, a bullet through his heart. His arm caught, and his body hung, sagging, head drooped, dripping blood, lifeless.

 

On Walker's left side, Deputy Tom Sheridan screamed in agony, doubled over, then slowly sagged to his knees, and fell face downward. Mary Trivette gave a slight smile of satisfaction, as her Bowie knife caught the deputy in his belly.

 

The third deputy, Mark Hannibal, quickly threw his hands skyward.

 

"Alex, Alex, it's you...!" Walker--upon being untied--fell into his wife's arms, kissing her, hugging her.  Mary Trivette was tying up Hannibal.

 

"Yes, Cord, it is me. Darling, I had to come."

 

"Jim...! Alex, how's Jim?"

 

"He's fine, darling. But, we'd better get back there. He and Marcy will need help."

 

"Marcy?! Jim's wife is here?"

 

"Yes...and Mary is, AND Ginger Parker. Now, we'll tell you all about it later. Hurry now, Cord Please." (end of Chapter 24)

 

Walker, along with Alex and Mary, hurried back to the gallows, shouldering their way through the crowd. En route, the met Mark French.

 

"Walker?"

 

"Mark! You're here? The Rangers finally sent some help?"

 

"No, Pard, I came on my own, just like you did. Reckon there's THREE of us in trouble. Looks like I missed all the fun, too." He joined Alex, Walker and Mary as they returned to the square, shouldering their way through the crowd, joining Jim, Marcy, and Bart Pendergast on the gallow's platform. Walker's eyes didn't miss the two dead deputies on the floor, or the dead sheriff on the ground under the gallows.

 

Jim had managed to struggle to his feet, wobbly, but the Colt he had appropriated from one of the downed deputies was steady, as he held it to the side of Jed Mabry's head.

 

"Jim, steady..." Walker cautioned, as he edged up to his partner. Ginger still had her shotgun at the ready, and Bart Pendergast and Mark French were covering with their pistols. Alex still had her Winchester, Mary her Derringer.

 

"Don't worry, Walker. You OK?"

 

"Fine, Jim. How about you?"

 

"Too close for comfort, Pard. Now, let's get down to business."

 

With the borrowed Colt at Jed Mabry's temple, Jim demanded, "Mabry, your gonna tell all these people, right now, that you bought and paid for that jury, and that judge."

 

Totally shaken, Mabry stuttered out, "All...all right, Ranger: You win. Your trial was fixed."

 

"And you had all the witnesses commit perjury...?"

 

"Yes."

 

"And those same witnesses--three of 'em anyway—know your boys fought me, tried to down me, and admitted killing Scott Maxwell. If they don't want to go to Huntsville, they'll come forward ."

 

Shoulders drooped, Jed Mabry replied, "Yes, Ranger. What you've said is all true." The newspaper reporters were scribbling furiously, the photographer trying desperately for a shot.

 

"Walker, please, can you take over for me?" Jim was weakening again, from his injuries.

 

Smiling, Walker replied, "Sure, Jim." As he stepped forward, Jed Mabry shot out his hand, grabbing the pistol from Jim's weakened grip. Before anyone could react, Jed Mabry turned the Colt, put the barrel in his mouth, and fired, as Walker lunged at him. The back of his skull blown off, Jed Mabry toppled over, dead by his own hand.

 

"Guess it's over", Cordell Walker remarked.(end of Chapter 25)

 

Texas Rangers Cordell Walker, Jim Griffin, and Mark French spent a few days in Zapata, tying up loose ends. Their wives and wives' friends stayed in town until the Rangers were ready to depart.

 

They, along with Bart Pendergast, were at a final dinner, before Walker and Jim and the ladies would depart. Captain McGuire had been wired at Ranger Headquarters in Austin, and Jim and Walker would be meeting with him upon their return. Mark French would remain in Zapata for a few more days, completing the mission. Bart Pendergast had been offered--and had accepted--the position of town sheriff.

 

"Bart, never thought I'd see a gambler who I'd like and trust," Walker remarked. "But, Jim and I owe you a lot. You'll be a fine sheriff, too, I'm sure."

 

"Thanks, Walker. I'll do my best. Sure would like to have these ladies for my deputies, though."

 

"Well, Bart, I can't speak for Walker, but the only person Marcy will be deputy for is me." Jim smiled lovingly at his wife.

 

"Yeah, but Jim, I still can't believe you spent the whole day--after you nearly got hung--with your HORSE!!!"

 

Jim blushed furiously, as the rest of the group roared with laughter. "Believe it, Bart" Walker answered. "Jim and that hoss'll be together, til death do them part."

 

"Sad, but true", Marcy rejoined. "I think my husband there loves Yankee more than me."

 

Jim looked at his wife, deadly serious. "I could never love Yank more than you, darling. Just as much, maybe, in fact, positively. But more, never." He smiled again as Marcy glowered, then burst into musical laughter.

 

"But Cord could never love Amigo more than me, could you, darling?"  Alex asked.

 

Walker was totally silent.

 

"Could you, Walker?  WALKER?!!"

 

"I'm thinking, Alex, I'm thinking about it..."

 

"OOHH!! Cordell Walker, you make me so mad!!"

 

Finally, late, the dinner broke up. Walker, Jim, and the ladies would ride to Laredo, recuperate for a few days, then catch the northbound train to San Antonio, where Ginger and Mary would depart for Bandera. Alex would accompany Walker to Austin, and Jim and Marcy's home in Copperas Cove was north of the capitol.

 

"Hate to see you folks go"  Bart stated, sincerely.

 

Jim spoke up. "Well, Sheriff, much as I hate to leave, I'm tired of HANGIN" AROUND here."

 

"Jim, stop, now, please."  Walker begged.

 

Marcy rejoined, "Don't worry, Walker. I know how to stop Jim's jokes. I'm getting him a nice souvenir of Zapata: A NECKTIE!!"

 

Everyone else groaned, "OH, NO!!" in unison. "Time to go", Alex groaned. (end of Chapter 26)

 

The trip to Laredo was mercifully uneventful, except for Yankee, constantly whinnying his happiness at being reunited with Jim, who had bought up every peppermint stick in the town of Zapata for his bronc. Jim had spent hours before their departure, currying the horse back to his usual glistening coat, graining him back to strength.

 

The journey was slower than normal, due to Jim's injuries. Finally, the group was settled into their hotel. With the room shade drawn, Walker took Alex in his arms tenderly. "Darling, now that we're alone, at last, I can REALLY thank you for what you did for me, and Jim." He slowly unbuttoned her blouse, while she slipped her hand inside his shirt. She gently massaged his stomach, working her hand downward.

 

As she reached his belly-button--his weak spot when it came to lovemaking--her fingertips gently worked their way around it, as Cordell Walker, totally at her mercy, groaned in ecstasy, bringing his body against hers. They settled slowly, rhythmically to the bed.

"Cord, if this is how you thank me, please, let me rescue you, more often..." In response, Walker pulled her even tighter to him, his head lying on her bosom, as they made passionate love.

 

In their room, Jim had undressed, and was lying on the bed, Marcy looking at his battered body.

 

"Oh, Jim, you poor dear. Let me kiss you where it hurts, and make it all better. Let's see, where shall I start...?"

 

"Ouch!!" Jim yelped in agony, as Marcy kissed his shoulder. "Not there...!"

 

"OK...here...?" She tried his lips, but he cringed in pain.

 

"JIM GRIFFIN!!"

 

"Marcy...I'm sorry...It hurts all over."

 

"Well, I'll try here..." She kissed his chest, with the same results.

 

"Jim, I'm going to try to make it better, ONCE MORE!" Marcy gently kissed her husband's belly, which still showed fading bruises.

 

"AAUGGHH"  Marcy, I'm sorry. It just hurts, all over."

 

"Jim, darling, I know it hurts. But, there must be SOME part of your body I can kiss you."

 

“Marcy, I think the only place that doesn't hurt is my right earlobe. Try there."

 

In frustration, Marcy tried. "Oh, Marcy, that's nice. Try my shoulder." As she kissed Jim's right shoulder, he flinched, then settled back. "Marcy, it's not hurting quite so much, now. Try some more..."

 

Silently, Marcy ran her lips down Jim's arm, his side, again across his bruised belly. Jim rolled on his side, taking his wife in her arms. "Marcy, I'm felling MUCH better now...." (end of Chapter 27)

 

Ginger Parker and Mary Trivette had returned to Bandera. Their husbands would endure much ribbing about how their wives had saved two Texas Rangers from certain death. The two ladies would receive commendations from the Rangers, and the Governor of Texas.

 

Justin Mabry, after the death of his son, and the exposure of his part in the plot to execute Texas Rangers Jim Griffin and Cordell Walker, had been forced to resign the U. S. Congress, in disgrace, and was facing a long prison term, along with several others.

 

Captain Bill McGuire and his aide, Lt. Bob Hemmings, were in the Captain's office at Ranger Headquarters in Austin. On the Captain's desk were two silver stars on silver circles. Seated across from him were two very angry Texas Rangers, Cordell Walker and Jim Griffin, who had thrown the badges on his desk.

 

"Walker, Jim...Isn't there anything I can do to change your minds?"

 

"Captain, I think I can speak for both of us when I say 'No'. Jim and I are resigning from the Rangers."

 

"Cap, I was one second from hanging, just doing my job. And, Austin wouldn't lift a finger to help me. If it hadn't been for my wife, and Walker's, I'd be in the ground right now, a convicted murderer. And Walker there would have disappeared in the Rio Grande. No, Cap, the Rangers abandoned me, and Walker. You can't talk me into staying."

 

Bob Hemmings spoke up, "Walker, Jim, the Governor's issued an official apology to both of you, and a bonus. The papers are already having a field day with this incident. Now, if you two quit, they'll really rake the Rangers--Cap McGuire here especially—over the coals. You wouldn't want that."

 

"Bob, where were the Rangers when Jim was in jail, when he was on trial, when he was almost hung? Nowhere near Zapata. I, and later Mark French, had to disobey orders, to try and save Jim." Walker, as did Jim, had a great fondness for their Captain, and a great loyalty. But, they had been greatly let down by the man, and by the organization.

 

"Walker, Jim, I can't change your minds, then?"

 

"Afraid not, Cap."

 

The old Captain's shoulders drooped, knowing he was losing his two best men. He regretted deeply not following his instincts, instead giving in to orders from above, from the politicians, from the Governor--orders that had nearly cost Jim and Walker their lives. He really couldn't blame them for their

bitterness.

 

A gentle knock came on the Captain's office door. To his sorrowful, "Come in", the door swung inward, to admit Alex Cahill Walker and Marcy Griffin.

 

"Hello, Alex, Marcy. Can I thank you once more for what you did?"

 

Alex spoke first. "Later, Captain. Are these two stubborn galoots still talking about quitting the Rangers?"

 

"See for yourself, Alex." Captain McGuire gestured to the badges on his desk.

 

"Oh no, you're not, Cordell Walker...!" Alex flamed.

 

"Nor you either, James Joseph Griffin!!" Marcy bristled. "Listen, you thick Yankee Pole. You think you're gonna hang around the house all day, under my feet, driving me crazy, moaning every time you hear of a case you should be on? No way! And, what about Yankee?" Marcy hit home, here. "You think that horse will be happy, just hanging around the barn, all day? 

Jim, I love you, and I worry all the while you're gone. But, Jim, you were meant to be a Texas Ranger, and always will be. You'd be miserable otherwise."

 

"And you, Cordell Walker..." Alex turned to her spouse. "You couldn't live six months at home, without going stir crazy. Even on your leaves, you spend all your time worrying about the crooks on the loose while you are home." Walker blushed beet red as she added, "even when we're making love, I think your mind is on the trail, not on me. Walker, you're not going to mope

around the house all day. We'd be divorced within six months. Now, accept the Captain's apology—and Bob's--and pick up those badges, BOTH of you!!"

 

Walker looked at his partner, grinning ruefully.

"What d'ya say, Pard?"

 

"Looks like we've got no choice, Walker. Alex and Marcy saved our lives, but, I have a feeling if we don't take those badges back, our lives won't be worth a plugged nickel."

 

"Guess you're right, Jim. We can't fight the Rangers, AND our wives."

 

Smiling broadly, Walker and Jim stood up, pinning their badges back on their chests, shaking hands with Capt. McGuire and Bob Hemmings, kissing their wives.

 

"Walker, Jim, welcome back!!" Captain McGuire boomed.

"Now, I have your next assignment, right here in my files. It's a rough one. You'll need to head for the Panhandle, today."

 

"Already?!" Alex and Marcy questioned in unison, incredulously.

 

"Afraid so, ladies. Well...perhaps in the morning.

I'll let you have one night with your men."

 

As Walker and Jim, wives on their arms, took their leave of Capt, McGuire and Lt. Hemmings, Alex and Marcy turned their faces back to the Captain, giving him a broad wink.

 

(THE END)