Hiram drove the team to the barn and quickly took care of them, then tacked up his own horse. He went into the house and spoke to his wife. He told her he was going over to Harold Robsons place and that he was going to talk to him and then they were going to go to Ezra Jacobson at the Silver Stein. He had come up with the thought that they would join the Sheriff of Diamond Springs in ridding their town of the outlaws once and for all. His wife wasnt too keen on Hiram going, but she was thrilled even less with the prospect of the gang continuing to live in Mountain Grove. She said, Go do what you need to do Hiram, just be careful.
Hiram kissed her and said, I will, I promise. and went out, mounted up and headed to Hal Robsons place.
Hal Robson was just driving his team up to the barn after cutting the wheat in one of his fields. He was surprised to find his friend Hiram riding up to the barn this late in the day. It would be dark in a while and if he stayed long he might not be able to ride home before the sun set. He greeted him. Hello Hiram what brings you here so late in the day?
Hiram said, The Sheriff of Diamond Springs stopped me at the edge of my property where the trail to Mountain Grove is and told me he was after the Falcon Raiders. Apparently they robbed the train and took two people hostage that live in Diamond Springs. The Sheriff means to get them back safely and bring the gang to justice and rid them from us forever.
Hal looked at Hiram. Do you really think so?
Hiram nodded. Yes, I do Ill take care of your team and tack up your horse. You go talk to the missus and well leave as soon as youre finished. We should take at least one lantern in case it gets too dark and we need to see.
Hal nodded. Good idea. Take one with you.
Hiram nodded. All right.
Hal went to the house to tell his wife. She wasnt thrilled with the idea, but since Hirams wife already gave permission, she sighed and told Hal to go ahead, but to be careful. She wanted her husband to return again.
Hal kissed her thoroughly and said, Dont worry, Ill return in one piece.
She smiled and said, Youd better.
Hal chuckled and gave her another kiss and then left.
Hal saw Hiram had taken care of the team and had tacked up his horse. He smiled. Thank you Hiram, ready to go?
Hiram nodded. Yes, we want to talk to Ezra and since the Sheriff and his posse took the long trail around it will give us time to get together and plan. I think we should help the Sheriff and join his posse. We need help to rid ourselves of those outlaws once and for all and its my opinion we should play a part in that.
Hal nodded. I agree now if Ezra will agree then we can help to plan a strategy.
Hiram nodded. Wed better be on our way.
Hal nodded and mounted up. With lanterns attached to their saddles for later if needed they both headed into town to the Silver Stein.
Ezra Jacobson was wiping the surface of the bar of the saloon once more. The gang hadnt shown up all day and he was nervous. It wasnt like them to be absent all day unless they were up to no good. He hoped they werent preying on the locals again. That was nerve wracking and made everyone edgy. When the door to the saloon swung open it startled him. He was expecting to see the outlaws and was relieved when he saw Hal Robson and Hiram O Donnell, two of his friends step in.
Hiram and Hal were relieved to find Ezra alone. Even though the Sheriff of Diamond Springs had said the gang had robbed the train, it wasnt outside the realm of possibility for some or all of them to be here, even though he believed with hostages they would go to the houses they had taken over to live in.
Hello Ezra. Hiram said.
Ezra smiled. Hello Hiram, Hal what brings you here?
Its good youre alone. Hiram said. The gang has robbed the train. A young man, callin himself Sheriff Brooks from Diamond Springs stopped me as he and his posse were ridin along the trail near my corn field. He told me the gang robbed the train and took a couple of his people hostage and they were goin to get em back and get rid of the outlaws once and for all. Hal and me were talkin we want to join the Sheriff and his posse and help rid our town of those leeches.
Ezras hazel eyes widened. Youre sure about that?
Hiram nodded. Yes, Im sure.
Hal said, Were thinking if we can help and theyre successful in rootin out the gang we can go back to livin a normal life again.
Ezra nodded. Im with you on that what do you propose we do?
Hiram said, I believe we need to get our horses and whatever weapons we have and meet them on the road where the trail ends and offer them our assistance.
Ezra bit his lip. Wont that be dangerous? What if they think were some of the bandits?
Hiram said, Theyve already met me and Im sure the Sheriff will talk to me. He seems to be a smart young man.
Ezra nodded. All right anythin to rid our town of their influence and terrorzin.
Hal nodded and Hiram said, All right. Well wait for you to mount up. Well meet you out front.
Ezra nodded, took off his apron and locked up the saloon as the other two stepped outside. Ezra went out back, tacked up his horse and led him to the front where he mounted up and the three men headed for the spot where the trail Jalen and his posse would be on entered the town.
Jalen and Brett headed the posse now. They had sandwiched Cole between them to keep an eye on him as they rode along. Gabe also rode close and the rest followed. All kept their weapons at the ready now as they could see they were coming closer to the town. As they came to the place where the trail ended and connected up with a road three riders stepped out into the head of the trail.
Jalen using his hand signal stopped the posse, and each man drew his weapon, training them on the unexpected riders. The Sheriff thought he recognized one of the three men as the farmer he had spoken to briefly earlier, but decided to be cautious.
Jalen called, You there! This is Sheriff Jalen Brooks and were here on official business move out of the way!
Hiram ODonnell hadnt expected this, but he held his ground and kept his weapon lowered as did the others. Sheriff Brooks this is Hiram ODonnell we met on the trail by my farm. I have with me Harold Robson; we call him Hal and this He indicated the other man, Is Ezra Jacobson, the saloon keeper of the Silver Stein, where the gang usually hangs out. He said, We talked and we want to help you. We want to help rid our town of these evil men so we can get back to normal and lead a peaceful life.
Jalen studied the man who was speaking and the two men who were with him. He glanced back at his armed posse and then said, Its all right Brett, have the men lower their arms.
Brett gave the signal and everyone lowered their weapons and Jalen beckoned them all closer. He rode up to the men who had offered their help.
What do you have in mind? He asked.
Hiram said, We can lead you to where the outlaws stay, perhaps if we approach them first they wont be as suspicious as if it were a stranger.
Jalen considered this offer. It was dangerous. He asked, Have any of you approached them before for anythin?
Ezra spoke up. Ive been there before to ask about arrangements they want or supplies to order for the Saloon, the kind of whiskey they want or beer, things like that. They wouldnt be suspicious of me doing that.
The other two men nodded. True. Hal said.
Jalen nodded. Perhaps you can get an idea of whats going on in there have you ever been inside? Jalen asked.
Ezra nodded. Yes, a couple of times.
Jalen smiled. Can you tell me the layout of the inside of the house?
Ezra smiled. Yes, I can do that.
Brett listened as Jalen spoke with the three men and he gave Cole a small grin and said softly, This will help a lot. It will give us a better chance of releasin Dan and Dawn.
Cole nodded seriously, his hazel eyes still tinge with worry.
Brett said confidently, dont worry Cole, Jalen knows what hes doin.
Gabe, overhearing the boys conversation said, I hope so, hes not let us down yet.
Cole and Brett gave the older man a smile. Im sure everythings goin to be all right.
Gabe nodded and Cole did as well.
The Sheriff listened carefully as Ezra described the layout of the house and the grounds surrounding it. Jalen thought a couple of more guns wouldnt hurt and so they planned out their strategy, then he turned to the rest of the posse. Gentlemen, this is Hiram ODonnell, hes the farmer we met along the way. His friend Hal Robson will be joining us as well as Ezra Jacobson, the saloon keeper. Ezra says the gang pretty much uses his establishment as their meetin place and so hes very familiar with the gang. Hes goin to approach the house first; Hes going to tell them hes come to talk about orderin supplies for them at the saloon. Hes done this before so it wont be suspicious. Then we will all spread out around the house and find places we can hide and not be seen so easily, with its being almost dusk it will be harder for them to see us, but also a bit harder to see them if they douse any lamps they have lit. We need to make sure Ezra is out of the line of fire and harms way before we announce our presence and open fire. Takin them by surprise will be to our advantage. We will have three men break into the door into the kitchen on the side of the house and theres a bedroom off there where its likely Dan and Dawn will be held. Well try to draw fire to the front of the house and so give the three men I choose a chance to get Dan and Dawn out of the house and to safety.
He looked over his men and then said, Jack, Blake and Jim you will go in and get Dawn and Dan.
The three men assented. Sure thing Sheriff. Jack said.
Jalen said, The rest of you will spread out and open fire at my command and return fire. Stay low. Dont expose yourselves unnecessarily. I dont want anyone killed here tonight. The Sheriff admonished his men sternly. He turned to Cole. You stay with me Cole and he turned to Gabe. You Gabe, stay close to Brett. The rest of you pair off and once were all hidden, in place and ready to take these outlaws well send Ezra to the door to start things off.
Ezra said, Ill do my best Sheriff Brooks.
Jalen put a hand on the mans shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly. I know you will Ezra and well all be behind you. We wont let anythin happen to you as long as its in our power to do so.
Ezra nodded. Thank you Sheriff Brooks. I appreciate your commitment to us and our town.
Jalen smiled. Youre welcome.
Ezra, Hal and Hiram moved their horses to join the rest of the posse.
Jalen said, We need to ride as quietly as we can and perhaps when we get close enough well tether the horses and approach the rest of the way on foot. We dont want to be heard and tip our hand.
Everyone nodded their understanding.
Keep talkin to a minimum and when necessary speak softly or whisper.
The men again nodded at the order.
Jalen said, Ezra, Id like you to stay close to me right now as you know the way and will be the first to approach the outlaws.
Ezra nodded. Yes Sir. He moved his horse next to Jalen and Brett.
Jalen looking over his men nodded in satisfaction and said, All right lets move out.
The men rode quietly along the road and as Ezra saw they were getting close said to Jalen, Theres a large grove of trees up ahead on the right. It might be a good place to tether the horses and continue on foot.
Jalen nodded. All right. He watched for the place and then halted the men. All right everyone, tether your mounts. Dont forget to take your weapons and all your ammunition. He reminded as the men dismounted and tethered their horses and collected their gear.
The sheriff watched as each man readied themselves. He had holstered his own pistol and carried his rifle and his ammunition. He also carried his canteen for water and the other men seeing this did the same. Ezra, Hal and Hiram didnt have any as they lived locally, but did carry their arms and ammunition.
Jalen seeing Ezra armed said quietly, When we get near, hand me your gear and Ill carry it. It wouldnt do for you to arrive armed if you generally dont.
Ezra jumped a little at the Sheriffs voice being so close to his ear. He hadnt heard him creep up on him, but nodded. Yes Sir.
Seeing everyone ready Jalen gave the hand signal this time for them to move out and as quietly as they could the group of men walked closer to the outlaws house.
Jalen seeing some of the men smoking stopped the group and passed the word along quietly to put out any pipes or cigarettes. They didnt want the glow or the scent of tobacco to give them away.
The men put out their smokes and once this was accomplished they moved on.
Brett admired Jalens thinking of everything for their safety and to make the element of surprise work to their best advantage. He saw Sheriff Brooks in action now, not the sweet gentle man he loved, but Sheriff Brooks in charge. He admired his partners strength and intelligence.
When they got near the house the outlaws were staying Ezra halted and gave Jalen his weapons. Its just around the bend now. He said softly.
Jalen nodded and took the weapons quietly. As soon as youre clear of the house and not in the line of fire Ill announce our presence. You come to where Cole and I are to retrieve your weapons. Stay hidden once you come to us I want you to walk down the road to this spot where you cant be seen, then double back through the woods. Can you do that? This way youll stay safe.
Ezra nodded. Yes, I can do that Sheriff.
Jalen squeezed the other mans shoulder reassuringly once more and said, Good man. Youre a brave man Ezra Jacobson.
Thank you Sheriff. He said.
As the group approached the house they all took up their positions, with Jack, Blake and Jim near the back door so they could get Dawn and Dan.
Ezra walked up to the door and knocked.
Jalen watched along with the rest.
Falcon jumped a little at the knock and frowned. Now who the hell can that be? He asked out loud.
He got up and went to the door, peeking out. When he saw Ezra he said, Its only Jacobson.
The others relaxed and Falcon opened the door a bit and asked, Jacobson what the hell do you want?
Ezra said quietly, I was placin an order for the saloon and wanted to know what you and your men needed so I could order it for you.
Falcon nodded. Just order the usual stuff. We dont need anythin extra this time. He told the man.
Ezra nodded. All right thank you Sir, Ill do that.
Falcon nodded and closed the door, then watched to see that Ezra headed back toward town, waiting until he didnt see the man any longer before moving back inside the main room.
As he turned to head back all of a sudden he heard a shout from outside the house.
As Jalen saw Ezra move out of sight he stepped forward slightly and called Falcon, this is Sheriff Jalen Brooks of Diamond Springs come on out with your hands up you and your men are under arrest for train robbery and youre to release the hostages you took unharmed!
Falcon growled and turned back. Damn the law!
The other men rushed to the front of the house and tried to see out into the murky light. How many of them are there? Whiskers asked.
Falcon said, Damned if I know!
He called back We aint comin out Sheriff if you want us youre goin to have to come in and get us!
The other men manned the windows and tried to see outside.
Jalen said, Youre surrounded you dont have a chance give yourself up!
Falcon glanced at the others. He cant have that many with him hes bluffin.
Red exchanged looks with Slouch. I dont know Boss he sounds serious.
Falcon called, If you come any closer Sheriff well kill the hostages!
Jack, Jim and Blake had made their way toward the back door. Jack tried the door and smiled when it gave easily. He put a finger to his lips and eased the door open. There was no one he could see and slipped inside. The other two men quietly followed right behind him. He could see where the door to the bedroom where they thought Dawn and Dan were being held was and made their way toward it. The other outlaws were all in the front room, paying attention to Jalen and Jack was glad.
Dan and Dawn heard the shouts and Jalens familiar voice. Dan tried to smile at Dawn, but grimaced with the pain of his face. As the door eased open all of a sudden Dan stiffened as did Dawn. When they saw the familiar faces of Jack Hillyard, then Jim Duncan and then Blake Sheridan they were relieved.
As Jack eased into the room his blue eyes sparked with anger at the condition of Dan, but was glad to see Dawn relatively unharmed. He quickly slipped out his knife and slit the bonds off their feet and hands and put a finger to his lips as he took off Dawns gag. With the help of Blake and Jim they worked quickly together to free their friends. Jack and Jim helped Dan and Blake helped Dawn to stand and move out of the room. They slipped out and through the kitchen and were almost to the door when Chewy turned and saw them Hey! What the hell?! He turned and shot at the group, luckily not hitting any of them.
Blake hustled Dawn outside and Jim pulled Dan out as Jack returned fire killing Chewy. The others turned and began to fire and Jack ducked outside and helped the others to get Dan and Dawn to safety.
Hearing shooting inside the house Jalen gave the signal to open fire and the others began to shoot into the house to draw the attention back to the front of the house.
The outlaws broke out the windows with their rifles and tried to shoot back, aiming where they could see a flash of light from a gun or rifle when it fired.
Jack, Blake and Jim pulled Dawn and Dan into the woods to get them out of the line of fire as the guns erupted all over the place. Dan, his eyes becoming used to the murky light as he had been temporarily blinded by the light from the front room and kitchen as he had been hustled out of the dark room where he and Dawn had been kept could see vague outlines of men behind trees and other objects in the yard. He watched as a flash from a gun was matched with a return fire and swore softly as he had no weapon of his own as the outlaws had disarmed him on the train. Jack said softly, Dan youre in no condition to help just stay put. Well keep you and Dawn safe.
Dan nodded and squeezed Dawns hand. She smiled at Dan and asked softly, Are you all right?
Dan of course nodded although his head was pounding.
Dawn shook her head and smiled, knowing most men wouldnt admit to being unwell no matter what the circumstances.
Jalen kept firing and he heard one of his men swear and yelp as he was grazed by a bullet. He looked and saw Max Anderson had been hit, but it couldnt be too bad because he saw him return fire. He noticed Hal with Max and Hal was bandaging the mans wound.
Jalen took careful aim and was satisfied when he heard a howl and the man who had been in the window no longer fired back.
Red grinned as he heard a yelp, knowing he had hit one of the men outside, but before he could fully appreciate it he felt a bullet go deep in his chest and fell into blackness.
Falcon had sworn when he saw the men disappear with the hostages and Chewy gunned down. Just as he was going to return fire all hell broke loose outside and he had had to turn his attention to the guns being fired at them from that quarter.
Morris Hennings caught a graze on his forearm and let out a cry, but fired back and swore softly as he missed his target. Hiram, who was with him didnt and saw the shadow disappear from the window the shot had come from.
Whiskers, seeing a gun flash aimed and let off a shot. He grinned when he heard a yelp of pain, but his grin didnt last long as he saw a muzzle flash and a moment later had fallen to the floor a bullet through his forehead, dead.
Stony glanced over and bit his lip. They were being dropped like flies this wasnt good. He took careful aim at a muzzle flash and swore as at the last minute his target moved and the shot missed.
Smokey continued to shoot at every flash he could see but didnt hit anything.
Cole jumped up and took a shot at a movement he saw in the window and felt Jalen yank him down and seconds later heard a whizzing sound over his head. Jalen hissed angrily, little boy what the hell do you think youre doin? I said no exposin yourself! You tryin to get yourself killed?
Cole shivered a bit and then shook his head. Im sorry Jalen. He whispered.
Jalen growled, You will be. Then took a shot back and smiled when he heard a yelp inside the house.
Falcon cursed as a bullet burned his right shoulder, disabling his shooting arm. Fuck! Oww! He slapped a hand to the bleeding shoulder.
Slouch looked over. You all right boss?
Falcon said, Cant use my arm.
Slouch shook his head and continued to fire when he had an opportunity.