Her husband, George Dallas, was dead. Bushwacked. They came to tell her. The one Texas Ranger stepped forward and offered his hand, saying, “I am Captain Williams, ma’am. I came out last night from Fort Worth when I heard George had gone after the Bailey Boys. He went alone, because all the others are spread too thin. The gang hit the train out of Santa Fe and fled east. The only way out was Deacon’s Crossing. We believe their hideout is there, close by. Frankly, he was a very good man, but he was bit bull-headed. I had sent him orders to wait for us.”
Rose ignored all the useless detail. “It was the Baily Boys, then?”
“We are not sure, Mrs. Dallas. He was shot seven times, and his revolver is missing. I found four of these under his body,” he said, as he held out ugly, shiny, deformed bullets. She did not reach to take them. He said, softly, “They look like silver. Why was he carrying silver?”
Her eyes were bleak, but she knew she was too strong to weaken, now, and she held her chin up, her face clearing. “Yes, he carried silver plated bullets. He told me of some kind of spiritual threat in the highlands, and he told me only silver could take them. This means he was shot with his own gun.”
“It means that someone bushwhacked him, first, then used his own gun to finish him. As we thought. I am so sorry. I brought you this, too, Mrs. Rose,” he said, holding out the gold star with Texas Ranger embedded on it. On the back was the single word, “ROSE.”
“He would want you to have it. He told me if he went down, you were to pick it up.”
“I don’t think so. I am no Ranger, Captain,” she growled, again, holding the badge so tightly that the dull points embedded in her palm with distinct pain. So much so she had to consciously ease up.
“From what George told me, you would make a better Ranger than most of the men around him, present company excluded. But these men have their own important jobs. You keep the badge, Mrs. Dallas. On your decision to join up, I would put you on the books and back your play.”
Big eyed, she shook her head, her long mane of raven hair swinging. “I have never killed a man. I might not be able to do that.”
“Few want to do it, but as you know, if it is you or them, best to be them. I saw you holding the Sharps. You meant business or you would not ever touch it. But if you choose to put his badge away, I will understand.”
Vengeance is a hot burning coal in the gut. Sometimes, it drives us to do things we might not want to do. But it must be done. Welcome Rose Dallas, Texas Ranger...