I still ain't real comfortable in my new job. For one thing: "Secret Service" sounds like the name of a kid's game. It's awful hard for me to take it real serious-like. Oh, sure, I understand that I could git killed playing this game, but it still makes me want to giggle a little bit.
In case you might wonder how a 19 year old woman could be a federal government secret agent in this modern age of 1905, you have to know how I got here. My name is Kitty Anderson. Any jokes about my name will probably git you a bullet between your eyes. I am 5' tall in my bare feet, not that you are likely ever to see me that way, and I weigh 105 pounds. My hair is blond and my eyes are blue. I have been told on good authority that I am beautiful, with boobs that would stop a runaway train. I don't know about that, but I think that it makes a funny story. It also happens that I am a crack shot with any weapon you would care to name, from a bow and arrow to one of them new-fangled machine guns.
My Pa was a Federal Marshal in Texas up until three years ago. He was the one who taught me all I know about shooting and most everything else. Oh, yes, I went to school, all the way through Rocky Creek Normal School, and I am a licensed school teacher for all grades. In fact, that is the cover I usually use.
We were living happily in Singer Flats and Pa was working out of the Federal Judge's court in Austin. The only thing that I hated about his job was that he would be gone for a couple of weeks or more, sometimes, and he said that he couldn't tell me what he had been doing. That was hard to bear with my woman's curiosity, but I lived with it. I was teaching school in Singer Flats, 1st through 4th grades, all in one room. Another teacher was handling the higher grades, but he didn't have many pupils, since most boys had to quit to work full time, and the girls were in the process of gitting married.
Anyway, one day, Pa was walking through our front gate when three men came riding on horses up behind him and, without warning, shot him dead. I was glad that Ma was already dead by then, so she didn't have to see it, but I sure did. I was standing on the veranda waiting for him to get to the house, so I saw the whole thing.
I really don't know why, but without hesitation, I ran to him and pulled his gun from his shoulder holster. It was one of those Schofield pattern S&W .44-40s converted to double action (I'll come back to the gun later). It must have been without conscious thought that I pulled the revolver. Using both hands because of the extended range, I aimed at one of the murderers and fired. I hit him in the right kidney area, and he flopped over off his horse. I regret to say that the other two riders had turned the corner by then, so I could not get a shot at either of them. However, with my eidetic memory, I would never forget their faces!
By this time, the noise of the gunshots had drawn several of the neighbors, so I was busy dealing with them and had no real time to mourn, though my crying in frustration was a good substitute for outward appearances. My frustration stemmed from my inability to kill the other two murderers.
Oh, I was certainly broken up by the death of my father, but that wasn't in my conscious thoughts, yet. In fact, it was several hours before my loss was able to push aside my anger at the murderers, though none of my neighbors recognized the difference. Several men carried Pa's body inside for me and placed him on his bed. Several women, all in the immediate neighborhood, showed up to help me by finishing cooking the supper I had started and, afterwards, helping me git hold of the undertaker and make arrangements for a funeral.
The deputy marshal who had shown up shortly after the killing took care of the dead murderer and took a statement from me about what I knew of the event. I was able to give him a detailed description of the two who escaped, and he wrote out several forms for me to sign. One thing I remember was that he marveled at my ability to shoot the one that I did. I didn't tell him of all the training that Pa had given me; I just let the matter drop as a lucky shot.
The whole town was sympathetic and very understanding when I quit my job as a school teacher. I knew that they all wondered why I was still unmarried at such an advanced age, and especially why since I had all that money. Ma's family had been rich from railroad speculation, so there was no reason for Pa or me to work, except that was what honest folks did. Thus, I had plenty of money to support me for the rest of my life if I chose never to teach school another day.
I was unmarried because I had never found a boy or man who could measure up to my standards. I hoped to find a mate one day, but I was in no hurry.
A week after Pa's funeral, I was pretty much in control of my grief—I knew that I would never "get over" it, but it was no longer always in my mind. I knew that the law would never catch the men who murdered my Pa, so I resolved to do it myself. I knew what the men looked like, so I was well started in my quest.
The main thing I didn't know was why they had killed Pa. I figured that it had to be somehow related to a case he was working on, so I went to Austin to talk to his boss, Judge Alfred McAllister. Judge McAllister didn't want to give me any specifics, at first, but I wouldn't back off, so he finally came through with the information I needed.
Pa was supposed to testify against some lawyer accused of trying to make trouble with Mexico. Pa's testimony was the only hard evidence they had against the lawyer, so he was likely to get off, now that Pa was dead. There was the obvious motive for murdering Pa, but I didn't know what I could do with the information. I thanked Judge McAllister and went home.
I stewed over the results of that conversation for three weeks, time enough for the lawyer to be acquitted. Dammit, I had to do something, because the law certainly couldn't. Obviously, the two remaining murderers were just trigger men for the lawyer, so the lawyer was my main target. Nevertheless, I was not going to let the two thugs get off scot-free.
I had two choices, I could look for fresh evidence against the lawyer so that he would have to face other charges, or I could simply murder him. I really wanted him to spend time in jail, since a jail in Texas was certainly worse than Hell. As for the others, I figured that they were just scum that I could sweep aside whenever I found them.
With this in mind, I figured that I needed to know everything I could about the lawyer, a certain James Hollcroft, Esq. I figured that a crook was a crook, and I could most easily entrap him if I could become a client and have him try to steal from me. Conveniently, Hollcroft had an office in the town of Ruby Ridge, only a few miles from my home in Singer Flats.
I fabricated a story about a fictitious cousin whom I was sure was trying to steal my inheritance. The story was vague enough that it would require a lot of work to detect the flaws in my story, and I was sure that Hollcroft was never going to that much trouble. I paid him a $50 retainer fee and left for home.
On my way home, I stopped off at a gun shop and bought one of those new Savage 9 mm automatic pistols with two extra magazines and a box of ammunition. I also bought a holster and rig that I could wear as a shoulder holster under some sort of light jacket. Women could carry guns, but it would never do to let the gun be seen in public.
When I got home, I changed out of my dress into men's trousers and a loose shirt that I hoped would hide my boobs. I already had a suitable hat and a pair of boots, so I thought that I could easily disguise myself as a man. There was still a couple of hours of daylight left, so I saddled up and rode out into the country to practice with my new pistol.
I was delighted with the new gun. There was not as much recoil with it as with the .44-40 revolver, and I could hold it in one hand for shooting if I needed to. I thought that it was the perfect gun for a woman of my size. I shot off nearly the whole box of ammunition with my practice that evening. Well, I needed to buy some more bullets the next time I went to Ruby Ridge if I could not get any more in Singer Flats.
On my way home, I was accosted by a road agent who demanded my money. As it happened, I had only a few eagles with me, so I resorted to an old trick. The road agent had taken my revolver that I wore on my hip, but apparently had not noticed the Savage in my shoulder holster; thus he had not disarmed me as completely as he thought that he had. I took the coins from my pocket and reached out to hand them to the road agent.
As he reached for the coins, I dropped them to the ground. The road agent could not resist looking down to see where the coins had gone. I took this opportunity to draw my Savage and thumb back the hammer. I fired two shots into the road agent's chest, and he fell dead to the ground. I popped the magazine and reloaded before I released the hammer to half-cock and holstered it. I recovered my coins and revolver and looted a few dollars from the road agent. My goodness! I had paid for my next box of ammunition right there.
Four days later, I received a letter from Lawyer Hollcroft asking me to stop by his office, as he had some things to discuss with me about my case. I decided to try to kill two birds with one stone on this trip to Ruby Ridge. I packed a carpet bag with a few clothes, including my disguise as a man. When I got to Ruby Ridge, the first things I did were to take a hotel room where I left my carpet bag and to stable my horse and buckboard in the hotel's stable.
The visit to Hollcroft was very interesting. He said that he had uncovered some information about my fictitious cousin and needed expense money before he could go any further. He wanted $200, which was a great deal of money, but I acquiesced only after he gave me a detailed receipt for the money. We talked for a while about how this could be an expensive case, but I insisted that I wanted to follow up on whatever he could uncover. I left with that receipt in my reticule.
I changed into my disguise, wearing my Savage automatic under a vest and my revolver tied to my thigh. The automatic was virtually invisible unless you were looking in exactly the right place, so I had a deadly concealed weapon that I could depend on.
My plan was to circulate around among the three saloons in town and try to spot either of the murderers. If I did, I would find an excuse and call him out. I figured that the thugs would surely be in Ruby Ridge simply because Hollcroft's gang would tend to be within easy beck and call.
I had never been in a saloon before, but I had heard about them from friends. Besides, everybody had a first time, so I would plead that if I ran into some sort of trouble that I could not otherwise handle. I had tasted wine, so I had some idea what alcoholic beverages should be like, but I was not prepared for my first beer. That beer was a local product, and my reaction brought a grin and even a laugh to the other patrons at the bar.
One older man was helpful enough to comment, "Son, old Jeb's beer is a caution. Ifen ya want sumpthin' a bit more tasty, try the Mexican beer. It's a whole lot better, but it is a mite more expensive."
That was all the hint I needed, and I ordered a Mexican beer. It was the nectar of the gods compared to that other swill that I had tried to drink! I thanked the man for his suggestion, and we got to talking as I sipped my beer. I learned from him a great deal about how to act in a saloon, though he surely had no idea how much he was educating me. As a gesture of thanks, I bought him his next beer, Mexican, of course, and that seemed to cement my bona fides with the patrons at the bar.
Well, I had to limit my intake of beer, since I was totally unused to it. As I began to look uncomfortable, my new friend helpfully pointed out the door leading to the jakes. Fortunately, it was a conventional one-holer with a door, so I could sit down and piss without giving myself away. However, that's when I realized that I was going to have to find a way to piss standing up. Dammit, would problems never end?
I went back into the saloon and resumed my conversation with my new friend. Shortly thereafter, he had to go home to supper, and I realized that I, too, was getting hungry. I really didn't want beef and beans for supper, so I asked about a Mexican restaurant. One was pointed out, so I headed there for supper.
After supper, I was feeling more confident about my ability to pass off my disguise, so I went to the next saloon in line. This time, I started off with a Mexican beer—I may be foolish, but I am not stupid! I spent about an hour in that saloon, but never saw either one of the men I was looking for, so I left to visit the next saloon in line.
Another Mexican beer, but a different brand. I was developing a taste for the stuff and could detect a difference among the three brands I had tasted. Now I understand why a tiny town could support more than one saloon. It was due to the different tastes among the beers offered to customers. That felt like a revelation from heaven—dammit, I was drinking too much beer! That feeling was the proof that I'd had too much to drink, and it may well have saved my life. At this moment, I saw one of the men I was looking for come into the saloon, but I was still sober enough to realize that I was in no condition for a gunfight. I hated to do it, but I had to let the bastard go for tonight.
Dammit, I felt myself stagger a little bit as I hurried as fast as I could to my hotel room. I literally fell into bed, and I honestly think that I was asleep before I hit the mattress. Anyway, I woke up the next morning still fully dressed in my disguise, including my boots. Geesh! I felt awful. I had a headache that pounded away at me as I tried to move, and I had a foul taste in my mouth that would have choked a pig. Not only that, my bladder was about to burst from internal pressure, and the chamber pot was pushed under the bed so far that I was going to have to lean over to get it. Dammit, if this was what it felt like to be a man, I wanted no part of it!
I finally managed to reach the chamber pot without killing myself, though my head was not so sure of my success at first. I think that I have never in my life pissed so much at one time. No wonder my bladder hurt so painfully, it must have been filled to double its normal capacity! However, ridding myself of that burden did take some of the pressure off of my headache, though I was sure that my bladder didn't reach quite that high.
Eventually, I had emptied my bladder and had managed to stand up. I arranged my clothes and discovered that I was fully dressed. Hell, I might as well go down to the hotel restaurant and eat breakfast. Maybe that will help me to rejoin the land of the living. For one thing, I could sure use a cup of coffee.