Chapter Nine—“The Only Good Half-Injun…”

           Allie came into the Rangers’ HQ the next day.  “Hello, Allie,” Sergeant Pine said as she entered the building.  “When did you get back in?”
           “Yesterday afternoon.  Thought I’d better check in with the boss,” she replied.
           “How did things go over in Ryderwood?”
           Allie gave Pine a sardonic smile.  “Well, I’m here and the Rader boys aren’t.  Does that tell you anything?”
           “Did you leave them hanging from a tree or six feet underground?”
           “Actually, I left them with the local law over there.  But I think they’ll be swinging from the rafters before too long.  Is McConnell in?”
           It always irritated Pine a little bit when Allie didn’t call her boss “Captain McConnell.”  She was the only Ranger who could do that and get away with it.  But Allie could get away with anything she wanted to, and she knew it.  McConnell understood that it was the “free spirit” in her that helped make Allie as successful as she was.  And he wasn’t about to try to bottle that up.   So he didn’t especially care what she did.  Or what she called him.  And he knew if tried to do anything about it, she’d just laugh at him.
           Allie did have a lot of respect for her fellow Rangers—and her superior—and treated them so, but she insisted on working alone.  When she had first joined the force, McConnell had given her some simple assignments, and always accompanied by other Rangers.  But she proved her capabilities rapidly and was soon handling tasks on her own.
           “Don’t put me on a job with another Ranger,” she had told McConnell after she’d been working for about 18 months.  “I don’t want to have to watch out for his hide, too.”
           And, yes, Allie got what she wanted.  It could have created some jealousy among the other Rangers.  But it didn’t.  They were all in love with her.  Scared to death of her, but in love with her.        
           “Yes, Captain McConnell is in his office,” Pine replied, and Allie smiled.  The sergeant stood up.  “I’ll tell him you’re here.”  A wasted gesture, and he knew it.
           “Don’t bother,” Allie said.  “He’ll be happy to see me, he always is.”  And she headed down the hallway, something else that grated on Pine.  And, again, Allie was the only Ranger who could do that.  McConnell wanted Pine to tell him when somebody was there to see him, even a Ranger.  Protocol.
           “Stuff protocol,” Allie had said to Pine one time.  “Three banks could be robbed by the time you and McConnell got through bowing and scraping to each other.”
           The Captain’s door was partly open and Allie started to knock, but before she did, McConnell called out, “Come on in, Allie.”
           She did and sat down in the chair in front of his desk.  He was concluding some paperwork and Allie waited quietly, if not necessarily patiently, for him to finish.
           When he was done, he looked at her and asked the same basic questions Pine had—when did she get in, how did things go in Ryderwood, etc.  She had wired him that the job was completed, but now she gave him a full report.
           “I’ll write it up for you in a few days,” she concluded.  She wouldn’t, they both knew she wouldn’t, and McConnell would end up doing it based on what she had just told him.  But, in this case, that was all well and good because he wanted her to leave almost immediately to get on B11 Tallent’s trail.
           “Good work again, Allie,” McConnell said about her recent assignment.
           “Do I get a bonus?” she responded, with a tease on her lips.
           The Captain knew that Allie didn’t care a thing about money.  “Yeah, you get to go after B11 Tallent.”
           “Good,” the Lady Ranger replied.  “It’s about time.”  Then she remembered something.   “Oh, I almost forgot,” she said, and reached into her back pocket.  “I bought a new horse.  The best I’ve ever seen.  An Appaloosa colt, only about a year and a half old, but he’s already smarter than most of the men you’ve hired.”  She tossed him the bill of sale.
           McConnell gave her a bit of an annoyed look at her last comment, then his eyes bugged out and he almost came out of his chair when he saw the price of the horse.  “$700?!?  Allie…this is…I can’t…you can’t…” he sputtered, so completely nonplussed that he couldn’t formulate a coherent sentence. 
           Allie just shrugged.  “You want your people to have the best, don’t you?”
           “Yes, but I don’t want your horse to necessarily be gold-plated!”
           Allie smiled.  “I’ve got him outside,” she said.  “I’ll show him to you.  You’ll agree that he’s worth every penny.  And he already knows he’s mine, so don’t get any ideas.”
           A very, very good horse could sell for $700—very good—but McConnell didn’t have that much money budgeted for animals.  He sighed.  One of these days she’s going to go over the line…  But today probably wasn’t the day.  For all her “independence” within the Ranger force, Allie knew how far she could push things, and McConnell knew that, if she paid $700 for the horse, it was almost surely worth it.  In fact, probably twice that much, but she could wrangle the stripes off a zebra, much less haggle successfully with a man.  She then said, “I named him W. T.”
           That got her a real sour look from her boss, and she laughed, a laugh that always caused her boss to smile, though he usually tried to hide it.  Allie Summer could be so flippant, so irreverent.  But he couldn’t do without her.  “I guess I’m supposed to be honored by that,” he replied.
           “Actually, I call him ‘Ranger’.  I think that’s an appropriate name.  Don’t you?”
           Allie was twisting McConnell in knots, as she was wont to do.  “Yes, that’s a good name,” he said, offhanded, and sighed again.  He put aside the bill of sale.  “I do want to see that horse, but at the moment, I need to talk about your new mission.”
           Allie shrugged.  “Go get B11 Tallent.  That can’t be too hard.”
           “It’s a little more complicated than that,” McConnell said, “though not necessarily because of him.”
           Some of the conversation between the captain and Allie was recounted in the prologue of this story, so that won’t be rehashed here.  The matter of the Indian raids do need some detailing, however.
           “If you get a chance, and are close enough, I want you to stop in Arkmore and visit with Sheriff Dan Harmon.  He’s got some problems that aren’t pretty, and as soon as you finish with Tallent, I want you to help him and the other lawmen in Big Horn County.”
           “Ok.  What’s up?”
           McConnell glanced at Allie, then looked away, thoughtful.  “There have been some white ranchers killed recently and Dan thinks it’s liable to continue.”
           “Sounds like a local issue to me.  Why does he need us?”
           The Ranger boss now did look directly at his best Ranger.  “Because all the evidence points to Cheyenne Indians being the culprits.”
           Allie’s blood ran cold and she frowned.  “Tell me about it.”
           So McConnell explained to her what Harmon had told him.  “The Bureau agent there swears that it couldn’t possibly be anybody from the reservation.  The army agrees with him, so they aren’t going to do anything—yet.  Dan Harmon, and the other local lawmen, can’t leave their towns for the extended periods of time necessary to search for the killers, so I told him I’d send somebody over to help.  You.”
           Allie said nothing, and that disturbed McConnell somewhat.
           “Allie, we don’t know, for sure, that Cheyenne Indians are guilty.  It’s just that all the sign points to natives being involved.  And they are the closest.”  He paused a moment, then asked a very delicate question.  “Do you have family on the Big Horn Reservation?”     
           The Lady Ranger slowly nodded her head, and her thoughts turned to…Swift Current.  He’s explosive…but surely he wouldn’t…nobody there would…  “Actually, I’m related to quite a few people there, though my closest relations are four cousins.”  Bear Claw, who was Swift Current’s father and Allie’s uncle, had a daughter, too, and Allie had two other cousins by an aunt.  They aren’t relevant to this story, however, so we will bypass them.
           “How long has it been since you’ve been to the reservation?” McConnell asked her.
           “I was there a few weeks ago.  It’s a hog pen, Captain.  The government yanked us off our traditional lands, stuck us on an out-of-the-way piece of desert, and won’t give us enough food or grain to keep half a rat alive.  It’s disgusting.”
           McConnell studied Allie very closely; the “us” of her statements wasn’t lost on him.  After a few moments, he asked, “Allie, are you one of them, or you one of us?”
           Allie didn’t hesitate in her response.  “I’m both, Captain.  I’ll do my job for you the best I can, you know that.  But I’ll protect my people with my life, too.”
           “What if the two come into conflict?”
           Allie did pause this time.  “Let me…go over there and see what’s happening, Captain.  I can’t abide the murder of innocent people, regardless of who commits it.”  Another pause.  “Though I might understand it.”
           McConnell nodded. “Allie, I’m sending you because if—if—Cheyenne are involved, you’re the only Ranger I’ve got that could catch them.  You are Cheyenne—at least half of you—so you know how to think like they do.  Act like they do.  Move like them.  You can talk to them and get information that no white man could possibly get, and if they lied to you, you’d know it.”  He fiddled with a pencil on his desk, then said, “But B11 Tallent comes first.  He was last seen in Bringer.  Regarding the Indian attacks, Dan’s not sure if there will even be any more, and hopefully, there won’t be.  But if there are, the killers will need to be stopped, and as soon as possible.”
           “Why don’t you send somebody else after Tallent and let me concentrate on this thing?”
           “A couple of reasons.  Number one, I don’t have anybody else available at the moment.  And two, Tallent needs to be stopped pronto, too.  I just got word that he killed another marshal.  Both of these assignments are top priority, but I think you’d better go after Tallent first, because all indications are he might be headed for the Dakota Territory and that’s out of our jurisdiction.”
           Allie just grunted at that.
           “Allie, stay in Montana.  That’s an order.”
           “Yes, sir,” she replied, but she was smiling, and McConnell knew what that smile meant.  Allie would go wherever she wanted, even if that meant chasing B11 Tallent to the moon.  Tallent would stand a better chance of living for awhile if she caught him before he crossed the border.  As we saw, it didn’t work out that way.  Still smiling, she barbed, “They really ought to put up territory boundary signs so I’ll know when I’m leaving Montana.”
           “I thought there are signs.”
           “There were, but I take them down when I see one.  I’m sure the outlaws move them around, so I don’t trust them.”  
           McConnell knew that Allie was twisting his gizzard again, so he just said, “Get out of here.  Get Tallent, then get over to the reservation and solve that before anybody else gets killed.”
           Allie nodded and stood up.  “You want to see my new horse?”
           McConnell just waved her away.  “Later,” he sighed, and Allie laughed at his resignation.
           When she entered the front office, she joked to Pine, “Hey, Sergeant, do you want to come see my new $700 horse?  He looks just like you.”
           Pine was actually a pretty nice-looking young man, late-20s, dark, thick hair, strong brown eyes.  But, like most people, he could never fully tell when Allie was kidding.
           “$700?” he said.  “Where did you find him?  Fort Knox?”
           “Nah, some rancher up near Ryderwood.  He asked 1,500 for him, I said I’d give him 10, and we settled on 700.  Great horse.”
           “What breed?”
           “Appaloosa.  Black and white, of course.  You sure you don’t want to see him?”
           “Some other time.  I’m busy at the moment.”
           “Ok, suit yourself.  He wouldn’t like you, anyway.  Nobody does.”  And she laughed as she walked out of the building.
           Pine smiled, shook his head, and went back to work.

           Allie might have been having some fun with Pine, but once she got outside, her mind was in overdrive.  Nobody on the reservation would do that…nobody.  Swift Current is a hothead, but he’s not a murderer…there HAS to be another answer…Of course, Allie had to admit to herself that she didn’t know every Cheyenne on the Big Horn, but they wouldn’t have agreed to move there if they were going to start killing whites again…She was trying to convince herself, and not having much luck.  And if her reasoning didn’t convince herself, it wouldn’t convince anybody else, either.
           With a sigh, she mounted Ranger and headed to her house to get the things she’d need for her trip.  Arkmore was 150 miles away, and Bringer, where B11 had last been seen, was another 150 miles northeast of there.  Normally, her route wouldn’t have taken her through Arkmore.  But she wanted to talk to Dan Harmon.
           Then I’ll get B11.  Then I’ll find out who’s really killing those white settlers…
           But, all the while, the last words of her cousin were going through her mind:  If I flee the reservation, Allie Summer, are you going to search for me?  Catch me?  Throw me in your white man’s prison?  Me?  Your own family?...”
           And Allie wondered, Could I live with myself if I did?...
           Could I live with myself if I didn’t?...

           A few days later, Allie rode into Arkmore.  She’d never been there before, but she’d seen plenty of cowtowns like it, so it was all familiar to her.  It was mid-afternoon and she decided to stay for the night.  Ranger, her horse, didn’t appear in the least bit winded or tired, but he didn’t object, either, when she got him a stall at the local livery with a rubdown and a nice, full bag of oats to munch on.
             Allie wanted to talk to Dan Harmon that afternoon, but she hadn’t had a decent meal for a couple of days, so she decided to find a restaurant first, eat, and then locate the sheriff’s office.  She’d seen a reasonably clean looking café on her way into town, so after she took care of Ranger and rented a room in the Arkmore Hotel, she walked the two blocks to the Bear Den Restaurant, hoping they served something other than bear meat, something she despised.  But, when she entered, smells of chicken and steak reached her nose, so she figured she could find something palatable.  There were several patrons scattered around the various tables, and they all glanced at Allie—then some of them took a second glance—as she weaved her way to the back of the room where she had spotted an empty table.  She sat with her back to the wall, facing the front of the restaurant so she could see everybody.   
            But then Allie made a mistake.
           She had no way of knowing it was a mistake, but it was one.
           What she did was take off her hat, shake out her hair, and set the hat on a chair next to her.
           It wasn’t plainly obvious, especially because of her eyes, that Allie was part-Indian.  But she always wore an Indian headband around her forehead, and her straight, raven-black, silky hair was another evidence of her ancestry.  Thus, when she removed her hat, she got some extra glances and not all of them were friendly.  None of them were, actually. 
           Allie, because she was female, did frequently wear a dress, in accordance with the style and customs of the time.  But not when she was working.  She’d either wear jeans, like a man, or a riding skirt, the latter which would give her away.  If she was in jeans, it wasn’t always easy to detect that she was female—as we saw in the prologue when she was in Shepler.  She’d wear her clothes loose and comfortable, and her hat was always low on her forehead with her hair piled up inside it.
           On this occasion, however, in Arkmore, she was dressed in her favorite, Kelly green riding skirt.  She had a gun on her hip, which was very unusual for a woman, and she had a throwing knife up her right sleeve and a derringer up the left one.  She also carried knives on her left hip and inside her left boot and another derringer shoved inside the other boot.  A bracelet around her left wrist was actually a garrote, and the headband around her forehead could also serve that purpose.  Hanging under her shirt between her shoulder blades from a pouch around her neck was a razor-sharp razor.  She had a Winchester ‘73 rifle, of course, on Ranger, as well as a bow and some arrows.  A small tomahawk was inside one of her saddlebags.  “You’re a walking armory,” McConnell had told her once, and Allie just shrugged and replied, “Well, I know how to use all these things, so I might as well have them with me.”  The Captain wasn’t objecting, of course; he let his Rangers carry whatever weapons they felt comfortable with.
           Of course, not much of her hardware was visible to the naked eye or known simply by her appearance.  When she entered the Bear Den Restaurant, her sex was immediately identifiable—because of the riding skirt—and the gun and knife on her hips got some peculiar looks.  Her hat was, as always, pulled low so her eyes weren’t visible, but even so, it was obvious to any normal male that she was a very attractive female.  And the eyes of more than one such male followed Allie to her seat in the back of the room.
           Those male eyes saw her remove her hat.  And eyes that initially might have been filled with appreciation—or lust—were now filling up with anger.  Her straight, silky raven hair fell to just below her shoulders, but it was the Indian headband with the small, oval turquoise stone in the middle that definitely gave her away.
           To make a mild understatement, Indians, of any gender, were not terribly popular in Big Horn County.
           Allie didn’t pay any attention to the looks that she received; she rarely did.  She did glance around the room and notice the hostility, but that didn’t bother her.  It did surprise her a little bit, though, because usually men looked at her with appreciation—or lust—and such was what she was accustomed to seeing.  Her quick mind added two and two pretty rapidly—they can tell I’m Indian…they don’t like Indians at the moment…hence, they don’t like me…  And then Allie’s mind thought of a typical Allie response:  Well, boo hoo, go home and tell your mommies that there’s a naughty redskin running loose in town…  And with that, and the approach of the waitress, Allie dismissed the other customers completely from her mind.
           They hadn’t dismissed her, though.      
           Allie asked the waitress if she could have breakfast—bacon and eggs, with toast and coffee—and was told that she could have anything she wanted as long as she paid for it.
           “Well, that’s what I want,” Allie replied, “as long as the eggs aren’t buzzard eggs, and the meat doesn’t come from a coyote.”
           “No, that’s what they serve down at LuAnne’s,” the waitress said, and sauntered off.  Allie surmised that “LuAnne’s” was the local culinary competition. 
           The Lady Ranger glanced around the room again, and still saw some eyes scrutinizing her suspiciously—and downright unfriendly.  There were especially four men at a table about 15 feet away who were whispering together in low tones and throwing eye darts in Allie’s direction.  They were rough-looking men, a couple of them heavy set with thick black beards, and the other two thinner and smaller, but, all the same, wearing nasty expressions on their faces.  Allie hoped they wouldn’t cause any trouble, but she’d seen their type before.  Most western men would never accost a woman, but “most” is not “all,” and the Lady Ranger never took chances.
           But Allie also had this problem of a sassy tongue that she often couldn’t control.  Or didn’t, might be a better word.  When the waitress came and poured her a cup of coffee, Allie said, “Tell LuAnne I know where she can find some buzzards and coyotes.”
           The waitress, a young, slender brunette with plain features, just blinked at Allie and said, “Oh?  Where?”
           Allie smiled.  She had spoken loud enough for the four men to hear her—that was intentional, of course—and they had gotten the point, whether the waitress did or not.  “Well, she’d better hurry,” Allie said, not directly answering the question.  “Some buzzards and coyotes I’ve seen are pretty good at slithering under rocks and hiding.”
           The waitress was puzzled to say the least, but somebody called her right then, and she said, “Whatever.  Your eggs will be out in a minute.”
           Allie took a sip of her coffee, grimaced, and dumped as much cream as she could into it.  And then two heaps of sugar.  She stirred it all up.  She didn’t bother looking at the four men, but from the corner of her eye, she could tell they were still scrutinizing her.
           And, not surprisingly to Allie, one of the bearded men finally broke the silence.  “Do all savages kill their coffee with cream and sugar, honey?” 
           Allie didn’t say anything, she tasted her coffee again.
           When it became obvious that she wasn’t going to answer, the other bearded man said, “I don’t think she heard you, Luke.”    
           “Oh, she heard, all right,” Luke replied.  And then, to Allie, “Didn’t you, honey?  You heard me good and plain, right?”
           This time Allie did look at him.  “Were you talking to me?  I heard you say ‘savages’ so I figured you were addressing the other men at your table.  Oh, and it’s bees that make honey.  You wouldn’t know that, of course.  I learned it in the third grade.”
           Allie received some snarls in return for those remarks.  “She’s got a right smart tongue on her, don’t she, Luke,” one of the smaller men commented.
           “Look at the eyes on her, fellers.  She ain’t all, Injun, not with eyes like them.”
           “Yeah, she’s got funny eyes, all right,” Luke replied.  Then, speaking to Allie again, he said, “Where did you get them eyes, Injun?  Or are you not an Injun?  Maybe you just like to dress like one.”
           Allie yawned, her bored yawn.  “I got my eyes the same place you got yours, provided you had a father and mother.  And I’m half-Cheyenne, not that it’s any of your business.”  The waitress brought Allie’s food to her.
           “Oh, you’re a breed, huh,” Luke said.  “That’s even worse.  Only thing worser than a full-blooded Injun is a half-breed.  That means some Injun got to messin’ with a white and fouled their blood.”
           Allie was hungry and the eggs were good, but she never could resist tweaking a half-wit.  “Yeah, it’s terrible when pure Indian blood gets bastardized by the white stuff.” 
           “That ain’t what I said!”
           Allie looked at him.  “Yes, it is.  You said that the only thing worse than a full-blood American was when that blood got fouled by something else.  I don’t necessarily agree with that, but that’s what you said.”  She ate some more of her bacon and eggs.
           There were about 10 other people still in the restaurant and they were all listening to the conversation between Luke and Allie.  The Ranger sensed that she might have a little sympathy in the crowd, probably because she was a woman and Luke and his crew were bullies.  Still, she didn’t expect any help from the hoi polloi, not that she wanted any, or felt that she needed it.
           Luke certainly was getting more and more riled.  “Injuns ain’t Americans!  They ain’t nuthin’ but savage animals.  Skulk aroun’ in the dark, ain’t man enough to face you—“
           Allie interrupted him.  “Where are your ancestors from?”
           Luke looked a little baffled.  “Huh?”
           “Your people.  Where did they come from?”
           “Well, they came from Germany ‘bout 150 years ago—“

           “Is Germany America?”
           “Well, o’ course it ain’t—“
           “So your ancestors weren’t American.”
           “That don’t mean nuthin’—“

           “My ancestors were born here.  They’ve been here thousands of years.  Who’s the real American here?”
           Luke had no idea how to deal with that question, so he resorted to brute force again.  “Injuns ain’t Americans, they ain’t nuthin’ but savages—“
           “You said that, but you haven’t convinced me yet.  And since we are having this semi-civilized conversation, let me ask you something else.  Is it nice to take something that doesn’t belong to you?  That’s stealing, isn’t it?”
           Luke was clueless.  “What’re you talkin’ about?”
           “I just asked you a question.  Was it too hard to understand?  Taking something that doesn’t belong to you is stealing, isn’t it?  Christians don’t steal, do they?”
           Luke narrowed his eyes at Allie.  He sensed a trap but he wasn’t bright enough to see it.  “Well, ‘course not.  Good Christian folk don’t steal.  It ain’t the right thang to do.”
           “So if you owned some land and I came and put a gun to your head and took it from you, that would be stealing, wouldn’t it?”  Allie then paused and gave Luke a pretty nasty look.  “And what would you call it if I killed you if you wouldn’t give it to me?”
           There was some uncomfortable shuffling around the room.  Luke got the point now.  “We didn’t steal your land—“
           “What would you call it then?”
           “It ain’t stealin’ to take somethin’ from a savage!”
           Allie started mopping her plate with her toast.  “Then, Luke, don’t go complaining to the sheriff if somebody swipes all your money.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about them taking my brains.”
           Luke stood up, his fists balled.  “I oughta slap yore teeth down yore throat.”
         The waitress was moving among tables, holding a couple of plates.  “Not in here, Luke.  You take your fat self and go to The Three Kings if you want to start something like that.”
           The big man growled, but he was looking at Allie.  She looked up at him and met his eyes.  They stared at each other for several seconds, then a rather puzzled expression came over Luke’s face.  He didn’t see an ounce of fear—or respect—in Allie’s eyes.  And those eyes…ice…he shuddered a bit, then turned to his tablemates.
           “C’mon, boys, let’s get outta here.  The Injun smell in here stinks.”  And he walked out, his friends trailing him. 
           Allie watched them go, then, ignoring everybody else in the room, finished her meal.  “Need anything else?” the waitress asked her, laying the check on the table.  “More coffee?”
           “No, thank you.  It was a good meal.”  Allie stood up.  “You ought to try to keep your restaurant cleaner, though.”
           The waitress gave her a wry smile.  “Yeah.  But their money is as good as anybody else’s.”
           “Well, just don’t tell LuAnne they come in here,” Allie answered.  The waitress chuckled.
           On her way out of the restaurant, an older man with a droopy grey mustache and a ruddy face stopped her.  “I want ye to know,” he said, “that Luke an’ his boys don’t speak fer the rest of us.  But we don’t cotton to what them Indians on the reservation been doin’ lately, either.  Before the killin’ started, and since, they’s been some cattle missin’ here and there an’ some of us is gettin’ almighty suspicious about who might be doin’ it.  We ain’t had no white rustlers around here in ages.”
           Allie looked at the man thoughtfully.  McConnell hadn’t told her anything about disappearing cattle.  “Friend, I don’t approve  of what’s going on here, either.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons I’m here.  But I don’t cotton to what white people have been doing to red people, either.”  She gave him a half-grin.  “I’m half-white and half-Indian, so I’m caught in the middle.”
           The man nodded.  “It ain’t right to take folks’ land away from ‘em, I’ll grant ye that.  But it’s the way of the world and has been since God put us here.  Who did the Cheyenne steal it away from afore the white men took it from them?”
           Allie nodded in return.  It was a valid point and one that she really couldn’t answer.  Indians had been raiding and killing each other for countless generations over the best hunting grounds.  And none of them had ever considered it “stealing.”  Then she smiled at the old man.  “Reckon who’d have the land if we gave it back to its original owners?”
           The old man grunted a chuckle.  “Adam and Eve, maybe.  Anyway, if you got any pull down at that reservation, you might help prevent a war.”
           It was Allie’s turn to grunt.  “Indians hate breeds worse than whites do.”  And with that she left the restaurant.
           And walked straight into Luke and his buddies.

           Deputy Fence McComb entered the sheriff’s office.  Dan Harmon was behind the desk, cleaning a rifle.  “All quiet, Dan?” McComb asked.
           “Yeah, not a peep out of anybody.  Well, Shirley Winters was in here, saying her boy was missing again.  Playing hooky from school, I suppose.  I told her to go check the creek.  He’s probably fishing.  That was two hours ago and I haven’t seen her.”
           Fence chuckled.  “You’d think Shirley would know by now.  I hear that boy don’t show up at the schoolhouse more’n one day in five.”
           Harmon had just finished with the rifle so he stood up, replaced it in the cabinet, and stretched.  “I’m going to go grab a bite to eat, Fence.  I’ll be at the Bear Den if you need me.”
           “I’ll tell Shirley if she drops by again,” Fence replied with a grin.  Harmon rolled his eyes, put on his hat, and left the office, deciding to walk the two blocks to the restaurant…

           They were positioned in a semi-circle, all of them about 10 or 15 feet away from her.  One man was standing on the boardwalk directly to her right, another leaning with his hand propped against the hitching rail, Luke almost directly in front of her, and the fourth man about 11 o’clock to her left.  They all wore sneering smiles.  Allie had seen such smiles before and they had never been the harbinger of good will.
           “Howdy, boys,” she said, before any of the men could speak.  “Did you get lost on your way to the privy?  Sure smells like it.”
           Luke’s sneer grew a sneer.  “You might as well talk while ye can, Injun, ‘cuz I’m gonna cut that smart tongue right outta your mouth and feed it to a buzzard.”
           “Well, you certainly won’t have to go very far to do that,” Allie replied.  “There’s three of them standing right near you.”
           The man to Allie’s right spoke.  “You know what Phil Sheridan said, Injun?”
           Yes, Allie knew, but she wanted to see if this fellow did.  “What was that?”
           “He said, ‘The only good half-Injun is a dead half-Injun’.”  And he laughed, his tongue hanging down over his lower lip.
           Allie gave him a disgusted look and then said, “So it takes four big men to kill one small half-Indian woman.  That will make your mommas proud of you, I’m sure.”
           “Oh,” Luke said, “we might let you live.”  Then his sneer turned downright evil.  “If you make it worth our while to let you live.”
           It was Allie’s turn to sneer.  “There are some fates worse than death, Lukey boy.”
           He shrugged.  “Your choice.  I happen to think Bennie over there was right about what General Sheridan said…”

           The Bear Den was on the opposite side of the road from the sheriff’s office and on a corner lot.  Harmon crossed the street right after he left his office and it would only take him a few minutes to reach the café.  As he drew near, about half a block away, he saw Luke and his contingent of miscreants standing in that aforementioned semi-circle, facing the restaurant, with somebody…a woman?...just outside the Bear Den’s front door.  Knowing Luke for the bully and troublemaker that he was, Harmon figured some misadventure was afoot and started to pick up his pace.  But then he stopped and looked at the person facing Luke and his buddies. 
           And, wondering, Sheriff Dan Harmon decided to just…watch…for a few moments…

           Allie’s voice turned as cold as her eyes.  “Well, if Bennie over there thinks that Sheridan was right, then let Bennie over there come over here and see if he can do something about it.”
           Bennie didn’t move and the man standing to Luke’s left—the one leaning against the hitching rail—said, “She’s wearing a gun, Luke.  Do you think she knows how to use it?”
          Allie gave him an innocent, wide-eyed stare, and pulled the gun from her holster.  “Oh.  You mean this?” she said, fumbling with it as if she really didn’t know how to use it.  “I…just…have it…for show.  I don’t even think it’s loaded…”  The gun went off—and Luke’s hat went flying from his head.  “Oops.”  Allie grinned sheepishly, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes.  “I guess it was loaded…”
           Startled, Luke jumped back and reached up to his now hatless head.  He stared at Allie in disbelief.  “Woman…you almost…you almost killed me…”
           “Oh.  Oh,” Allie said, shoving the gun back into her holster.  “I…told you that I don’t know much about guns.  It just sort of went off….”  And she smiled again…

           Dan Harmon’s eyes narrowed and he scratched his chin when he saw Luke’s hat go flying.  Something told him that Luke and his friends had a tiger by the tail…

           Allie then pulled the knife from the sheath on her left hip.  “I have a knife, too,” she said, feigning the eagerness of a child who wanted to show off something it owned.  “It’s a really nice one, but it’s kinda sharp and I don’t want to cut myself with it so I hardly ever use it…”  She started jockeying with it, seemingly about to drop it, and mumbled, “oops…oops…aaahhh….” and before anyone could blink, the knife was stuck deep into the hitching rail, vibrating back and forth, and humming a nice tune between the thumb and the forefinger of the man who had been leaning there.  He jerked his hand off the railing and he, too, gave the Lady Ranger a stare of disbelief.

           Dan Harmon smiled.  McConnell said she was his best…

           The man by the hitching post then looked over at Luke.   “She…she almost cut my hand off, Luke.”
           By this time, Luke was getting a little suspicious that maybe Allie wasn’t as clumsy as she was letting on.  He glanced over at Bennie and motioned with his head.  “Get her.”
           Bennie grinned.  He wasn’t as big as Luke but he still had Allie outweighed by a good 50 pounds.  He came towards her and was a little surprised to see her coming towards him.
           And with another knife in her hand.
           Bennie stopped, a little uncertain.  He looked into Allie’s eyes and became a lot uncertain.  But by then, it was too late.
           Allie took another step, within striking distance now of Bennie.  Without a word, and with quick movements that nobody saw, poor Bennie’s suspenders were sliced in two.  They had been holding up his britches.  Immediately, the pants fell to his ankles.  Allie lifted a foot, placed it against Bennie’s stomach, and gave a light shove.  He stumbled backwards with a shout and fell off the boardwalk, his feet and legs flailing straight up…

           Dan Harmon had to put his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing out loud.  There were some other people watching now and the sheriff heard some chuckles.

           The fourth man, the one at Allie’s 11 o’clock, started to draw his gun.  Before the gun was an inch up, he was staring at a derringer.  And he was also staring into Allie’s eyes.  And he didn’t like either thing he saw.
           She started walking towards him.  “You want to try to draw that gun?” she asked him.
           He started backing up.  “N-no.  I wasn’t—“
           “Yes, you were.  Don’t go to your Maker with murder on your mind and a lie on your lips.  That’s not the most direct route through the pearly gates.”  She kept walking towards him.
           And he kept backing up.  “I really wasn’t—“
           Allie was in the street now, even with Luke.  She drew the gun from her holster and, still walking towards Man 4, she pointed it at Luke.  “Don’t even think about drawing yours, goon.   You and I will continue our chat when I send this fellow on his merry way to hell.”  She continued walking.
           Man 4 was really scared now.  It was a bright afternoon and the pupils in Allie’s eyes had contracted to a near pinpoint.  The man could see nothing but…ice….  “You aren’t going to…I mean, you can’t…we was just funnin’…”  He continued his retreat.
           And Allie was unrelenting in her advance.  “’The only good half-Indian is a dead one’, huh.  I’m sure you’re going to tell me you don’t agree with that.”
           “No, of course not.  I’ve…I’ve got some good Injun friends.  Really, I do.”
           “Dead ones?”
           “No, they’s alive—“
           “Name one.”
           The man swallowed.  He continued backtracking.  Allie continued forward.
           Luke then saw Dan Harmon.  “Sheriff!  That Injun’s about to shoot Cliff.  You cain’t let her do that.”
           Harmon had a smile on his face, but it was a wary one.  He wasn’t sure what Allie would do, either, but he wasn’t going to intervene other than to say, “Well, seems to me that I saw Cliff starting to draw.  It would be self-defense if she did shoot him.”
           Allie smiled, but it came nowhere near her eyes.  “Thanks, Sheriff.  Ridding the world of vermin is my favorite pastime.”  
           Cliff—Man 4—had backed up as far as he could go.  His calves were pressed against a water trough.  Allie walked up to him and pointed the derringer right between his eyes, not six inches away. 
           “She’s gonna shoot ‘im, Sheriff!”
           “I might give her a medal if she does,” Harmon replied.  He didn’t really think Allie would kill Cliff.   But, what am I going to do if she does?...
           Allie cocked the gun.  Cliff’s eyes rolled up into his head and his bowels loosened…
           The lady ranger pulled a face.  “Ugh.  You stink.”  She pointed the gun into the air and pulled the trigger.
           Cliff started, but because he was pinned against the water trough, he fell back…and right into the water with a resounding splash!  There were a group of people standing on the boardwalk a few feet away and they started laughing.
             Allie grunted and glanced over at Harmon.  “Don’t let any horse drink out of that trough for awhile, Sheriff, or it’ll die.”
           “You’re probably right.”
           Allie turned back to Luke.  She had the derringer in her left hand and the .36 in her right.  “I’ve still got five shots in this one,” she said to him, waggling the .36, “and one in this one”—the derringer.  “I’ll give you ten to one odds I can hit your bellybutton, both your nipples, both your eyes, and put a hole in your forehead.  How’s about it, Luke?  You a bettin’ man?”  She pointed both guns at him and started walking towards him.
            Now it was Luke’s turn to back up.  He swallowed and looked at Harmon.  “Who is this witch?” he asked the sheriff, in a strained voice.
           “Allie Summer,” Harmon replied.
           “Oh, Lord o’ creation,” Luke said, and he turned and ran, the other three men hotfooting it after him.  Allie fired the derringer and clipped the heel off Luke’s right boot.  He kept running, but with a pronounced limp.   He and his companions disappeared around a corner.
           Allie started reloading her guns.  Harmon walked up to her.  “Thanks for your help,” the Ranger said to him.
           Harmon was a little taken aback by her abruptness.  “Well, it didn’t really look like you needed any.”
           Allie looked at him and smiled.  “No, thanks for your help.  By staying out of it.  You might have mucked things up.”
           Even though he felt a bit insulted, Harmon smiled back.  “Captain McConnell told me you were good.  But I never saw the like.  You were toying with those guys.”
           He joined Allie as she walked over to retrieve the knife she had planted in the hitching post.  “Small fry,” she replied, then looked at the sheriff of Arkmore.  “And I hear you’ve got bigger problems than this.”
           He nodded.  “Yeah.”  He motioned to the Bear Den.  “I was just fixing to get something to eat.  Let me buy you dinner and I’ll tell you about it.”
           Allie was about to say that she had just eaten, but the bacon and eggs she had had were so good that she wasn’t above having some more.  “You’ve got a deal,” she said.  Then, with a wry smile, she added, “But don’t tell me any more bad news.”
           They walked to the front door of the restaurant and Harmon held it open for her.  He said, “I’m afraid, Ranger Summer, that’s the only kind I’ve got.”