Leta smelled the smoke of a campfire. Then voices drifted to her on the air. She reined her horse in and dismounted. She pulled her rifle from its place in her saddle and checked the revolver that hung on her hip, both were loaded and ready. She stepped lightly through the grass, leaves and twigs to get closer.
“So, how many have ya killed?” This voice sounded young.
“Oh, I dunno. I reckon I lost count.” Leta recognized the gravelly voice of Slade McKenna.
“He’s killed at least three sherrifs.” Yep, that was Kid McKenna, Slade’s brother. Leta continued to wait, her heart pounding in her chest. If it was just these three, her job would be easy.
The noise of scraping an iron pan and tin plates assaulted Leta’s ears.
“How long you been wandering around this territory on your own, Buck?”
“About three months. I been looking to join up with a gang. How’s come there aren’t more fellas with the two of you?”
Leta stepped into the firelight, rifle pointed at the middle of Slade’s back. Kid dropped his fork and tin plate, but before he could reach for his gun, Leta spoke. “Keep your hands where I can see ’em, or your brother gets a bullet to the back. Toss your rifle and revolver over yonder.” She cocked her head toward a stand of trees a couple of yards to her right.
Slade moved lightening fast, pulled his revolver, turned and shot at the same time.
Leta fired her rifle. It took a chunk out of the log Slade had been sitting on and wood splinters flew up into his face.
“Next shot won’t miss. Now you and the Kid can come peacefully or I can kill ya and make this other one help tie you to a horse for me to haul in. Makes no difference to me. Reward says, ‘Dead or Alive’.”
Slade’s eyes ran over this woman from the top of her tan bullhide cowgirl hat to the tips of her brown boots. His mouth broke into a leering grin. “Well now, you’re the purtiest bounty hunter I ever did see. You really think you can take us in all by yourself?”
“Don’t try anything funny. I know I can take you both in. I’d prefer alive, but I can do dead if need be. So, what’s it gonna be?”
“What’s your hurry? It’d be easier to travel once the sun comes up in the morning. Why don’t you bed down here by the fire and we’ll go with you in the mornin’?”
“I don’t lie with rattlesnakes. Enough of this jawin’. You toss your guns over with your brother’s and then keep your hands where I can see ’em.”
The new guy hadn’t moved since Leta made her appearance. He sat staring at her with his mouth hanging open. Leta pointed her rifle at him for just a second to get his attention. “You, take this and tie up the Kid.” She tossed him one of the ropes she had hanging over her shoulder.
“Yes, ma’am.” His hands trembled in the firelight. He moved toward the Kid, who was glaring at him.
Kid glanced at Slade, who nodded. Kid turned and put his hands behind his back for Buck to tie. Then Slade said, “Now!”
Kid turned around and hit Buck with an uppercut to the jaw as Slade moved toward Leta.
Bang! Leta’s rifle screamed in the night and Slade grabbed his right thigh. “You shot me in the leg.”
“Yeah, and if you try anything else, the next shot will be to your chest or your head.”
Kid stood waiting for Slade’s directions, while Buck sat on the ground rubbing his chin.
“I reckon we’re beat, Kid. Guess we better go with the lady.”
“Are you crazy? Surrender to a woman? We can take her.”
“She shot me in the leg!”
Leta pointed the rifle at the rope on the ground near Buck and motioned toward him. “Tie him up.”
This time Kid didn’t fight as Buck tied his hands tightly behind his back.
Leta moved closer and took the other rope from her shoulder and clamped onto Slade’s right arm, jerking it behind him, followed by his left. She tied him firmly, then she looked to Buck again. “Let’s get them on their horses.”
When Kid and Slade were on their horses and the horses were tied together, Leta whistled. Her horse came into the firelight and she tied the rope from the other horses to her horse’s saddlehorn.
She took one last look at Buck. “You count your blessings I came along before your threw your hat in the ring with these two, and go on home to your mama.” Then she mounted her horse and headed back toward Carson City.