Jim and Buck were working on their second cup of coffee when Jim glanced out the open door and noticed Jasper running down the street toward the office. He burst in through the door!
"Sheriff Buck, Jim, please come quick! Bert sent me to tell you there's going to be trouble over at the saloon!" Buck followed Jim who was hot on the boy's trail as he headed back in the direction of the saloon. As soon as Jim saw the number of horses with Mexican rigs at the hitching rail he reached out and halted the boy. "How many of them are there, Jasper?" He asked.
"About six, sir. They came in asking about Angelina and Bert sent me to find you!"
"Buck, find us some scatter guns and come in the back! I'll try to stall them until you get set. Boy, here's you a dollar for fetchin' me, now you better get on home, you did real good!" Jim slowed down as he reached the saloon and unpinned and pocketed his Ranger badge and as calmly as he could, he swung wide the bat wing doors and entered the saloon.
Jim knew he would be at a big disadvantage as he entered the dark building but he could think of no other way of finding out just how big of a problem there was without it. While he had definite misgivings about the unknown factors in this situation there was no doubt in his mind or heart that he would literally face the devil for Angelina!
The bar was empty except for Bert who was behind the bar and six formidable looking men dressed in the style of the Mexican vaquero who were standing at the bar. The one notable exception Jim saw from the vaquero style of dress were the ammunition belts crossing most of their chests.
Jim knew that underestimating any one of these men could be instantly fatal, but he also knew that while the bandaleros added vastly to their firepower they also could slow down their draws and their presence might indicate that they were soldiers instead of pistoleros.
All heads in the bar turned toward the door as Jim entered and walked to the end of the bar. Bert asked somewhat tensely if he would like a drink. "Sure, Bert, and I'll stand a round for these gentlemen, too!
The largest and perhaps the most dangerous looking man in the group turned and seemed to be evaluating Jim. He was not only taller than the rest of the men but he also had a massively wide chest and shoulders, beefy arms, and he had the fair complexion of many of the people of pure or almost pure Spanish blood.
"Gracias, Senor. Perhaps you could help me. I am Carlos Alvarez and I am here to escort Senorita Angelina Cortez back to her family in Monterey. No one in town seems to know where to find her. I wonder if you could help me locate her?"
Jim glanced at Bert out of the corner of his eye and saw him shake his head slowly from side to side. "Senor Alvarez, I am the Deputy Sheriff of Laredo and I am sure that I can help clear up this misunderstanding. If you gentlemen would enjoy that drink I bought for you I will return in a short while."
Jim exited out of the back of the saloon and found Buck, he was standing in the next rooms with scatter guns at the ready. "What do you have planned, Jim?" Buck asked.
"Where's Angel?" Jim asked as Jasper entered the room. "She's back here in Bert's house." Jasper said. Jim burst into the next room and immediately saw Angel with a six-gun in her hand.
She had the gun pointed safely in the air but she was prepared to use it! "Senor Alvarez is not going to take me, Jim! He now works for General Diaz who burned our home and took over our lands!" Angel had obviously heard enough of the conversation to know what had been said in the bar.
"Let's find the Padre quick, Angel." Jim said, then he turned towards Buck. "I've got an idea that just might stop Alvarez cold!" They exited out the back door and headed across the yard.
"Here's Bert's horse in the yard, we'll just steal him for a while." Jim grabbed the gentle bay gelding's lead rope and looped it around the horse's neck and back to the halter where he tied it as an improvised set of reins. He easily lifted Angel onto the horse's broad back and leaped up behind her.
As soon as Jim was secure up behind her Angel reined the horse out of the yard and loped up the road toward the church. They saw the Padre striding hurriedly in their direction and Angel reined the horse to a stop beside him.
Jim lightly slid down over the horse's rump and assisted Angel off. He ached to linger at this pleasurable task as his hands grasped her slender body, but the thought of Bert and the Sheriff in danger brought his mind back to the business at hand!
"I heard about the people at the saloon and thought there might be trouble." The Padre said.
"Padre, those people are enemies of Angel's family. They've come to kidnap or harm her for some scheme of theirs. As a Ranger I can officially take up the fight but as these people probably know the Texas government wouldn't be very upset at one Mexican citizen kidnapping another Mexican citizen. Now, if the lady in question happened to be the bride of a Texas land owner and Ranger, I am sure the governor himself would get riled up if she needed help. So, if you'll get this wedding started I'll shut up!"
"Kneel my son and daughter!" The Priest showed he was as quick a thinker as either of them. He proceeded to give them the fastest wedding any of them had ever seen or heard of as they knelt in the dusty streets of Laredo. They both said their, "I do's", loudly and firmly, then they stood and embraced and kissed passionately as the Priest blessed them.
"I've got to get back to the party, Darling." Jim spoke as he jumped back up on Bert's horse. "You stay with the Padre where you're safe and I'll go see to it you don't go down in history as the fastest wife and widow woman in the state of Texas!"
Jim rode the horse back to Bert's back yard and reentered the back door. He whispered to Buck to follow his lead as he stuffed the handful of heavy shotgun shells Buck handed him into his pants pocket and grasped the shotgun he was given.
Jim walked back into the saloon, as the entire crew looked his way again. They saw the shotgun he carried, but they knew they still had Jim badly outnumbered. "Senor Alvarez, I think I may have misled you but maybe I can make amends. I introduced myself to you earlier as a Deputy Sheriff and while it is true that I am sworn in as a Deputy, I am also an officer of the State Government of Texas!"
He pulled his Ranger badge from his pocket and put it back on his vest, without averting his gaze from the Mexicans. "The lady we were discussing earlier is now my wife and Mrs. Horn says she has no intentions of going anywhere with you!"
Alvarez was enraged at seeing that he'd been tricked! He shouted, "I'll kill you for this, Ranger!"
Before he could act Buck roared from behind him. "Not in my town you won't!" Alvarez and Company whirled around and saw the Sheriff standing in the doorway with his ten gauge, sawed off, double barreled shotgun trained on them. Bert had taken the break the intruders momentary consternation had given him to reach under the bar and he had his shotgun aimed at them as well.
The Sheriff told them, "I think you men will agree with me if you ante into this game you're drawing against a pat hand! Now, I'd like for you to take off your gun belts real slow and drop them to the floor. I'll also ask you to remember the last time I honed the triggers on this old piece I slicked them up too much and they might go off if any of you so much as breathe hard! Shuck 'em, I said!"
Being bracketed by three shotguns, Alvarez and his men had no choice but to obey! They sullenly began to unbuckle their holsters and lay them on the floor. When they had finished this, Buck frisked their boots for other weapons.
"What sort of trumped up charge are you going to try to use against us?" Alvarez asked of Buck.
"Disturbing the peace should hold you for a few days." Buck told him. "Then we could use attempted kidnapping and threatening a state officer to hold you for another year or so. That's if the concerned citizens of this fair city don't decide to haul you out of jail and give you a necktie party. It just so happens Jim and his new bride are very highly thought of people around here!"
Jim told him, "I don't think you can do it but if you could tell me of some legitimate business you have with Angelina we might be able to work this out." Alvarez made no effort to defend his actions. "We are going to have to turn you loose eventually so I want you to know exactly where I stand. I will stop anyone who tries to harm Angelina or her family. Their fight is now my fight."
Alvarez was nearly in a rage, but that he had heard of Jim's abilities with a gun was evident by his next question. "Can you fight like a man without your guns or your explosives? I have heard that you are a very brave man when you are sneaking around in the dark!"