A girl with fiery red hair, a Southern twang in her voice, and far too much cash to throw around. It wasn’t the easiest trail to follow, but Danni was certainly recognizable – and she didn’t bother to change her name, either. Slowly but surely, I hunted after her as she fled west.
When I finally found her, she was just on the east side of the Rocky mountains, making her way through the mining towns. Always with her big .45 cannon ready, of course – that detail stuck out even more strongly than anything else. No matter what the big, strong man in front of you might say, he remembers staring down the barrel of that gun.
Unfortunately, word travels fast. Even before I arrived at Boulder City, in the Colorado Territory, I was catching rumors that a Priest was in the area, hunting this bank robber.
Always weird to hear a rumor about yourself. Like a goose walking over your grave.
So when I arrived, I didn’t waste time staking out the girl’s next targets. There weren’t many places in Boulder City to stay, and I picked the biggest hotel to start.
She was at the second-largest hotel, and was waiting for me in the lobby.
I didn’t have much warning. I stepped into the lobby, caught the flash of bright red-orange, and threw myself behind a couch as the vase behind me exploded. I landed, rolled, and came up with my revolver in hand as another round shredded through the back of the couch.
“You know, I always thought that Priests were so scary!” I heard the girl call out, her clear tone sounding almost… delighted? “But you’re not so bad at all!”
I gritted my teeth to hold back a response and rolled again – but this time, I came out into the open, my gun leveled across the room. And this time, it was Danni who had to duck back behind the wood of the concierge desk as I sent copper-jacketed lead flying her way.
“Give up!” I yelled to her, between shots. I knew that the girl was ready to pop up as soon as I gave her the opportunity, so I maintained regular covering fire as I crept closer. “You don’t have to go down like this!”
Sixth shot. I was out. I ducked down on the other side of the concierge desk, but didn’t pop open the empty gun yet. I waited, guessing at what the girl would do next. Sure enough, she jumped up a moment later, and I saw the tip of her barrel protrude out over the edge as she searched for my hiding spot.
I lashed up, striking out with the barrel of my own empty gun. I was aiming blind, but I knew where she was standing – and my gun’s hot barrel smacked against her fingers, sending her own revolver skittering away across the floor.
Before the girl could do anything more than gasp, I was leaping up over the wooden barricade. For a moment, I saw her eyes go wide as I bore down on her. A second later, she was down on the ground beneath me.
Even as I threw myself down on her, I was amazed at how light the girl felt in my grip. She was slim, a tiny little handful in my big arms as I pinned her and brought her down onto the ground on the other side of the desk. I don’t know if it was her small size, but something made me twist slightly as we fell, making sure that my weight didn’t crush her as we hit the floor.
For a second, as we landed, the two of us were staring into each other’s eyes. The girl’s big green irises were only a couple inches from mine. Her eyes were wide, but her lips were pursed slightly, gently parted, as if she was about to kiss me.
Once again, I felt that strange little surge of emotion in the back of my mind, trying to tell me something that I didn’t understand.
And then we landed on the ground – and the girl brought her knee up between my legs. With a crunch, my sight went red with sharp, piercing pain.
By the time I pried my eyes open again, desperately pulling myself back up, the girl had leapt off of me. She was racing across the floor on her hands and knees, reaching her hand out. I threw myself forward and grabbed onto her leg, trying to hold her back.
My fingers tightened around Danni’s ankle. The girl tried to kick free, but couldn’t escape.
I pulled her back, towards where I could grab onto her – and she twisted around onto her back, bringing her hands back to aim her revolver down into my face.
I mentioned that no man, no matter how big and tough he claims to be, easily forgets the terror of staring straight into his death. That’s true, even for me. I stared into that yawning, gaping black barrel, knowing that the rest of my life was measured in fractions of a second.
“Sorry, Priest,” Danni said as she held the gun, her voice no longer filled with mirth. “But it’s you or me – and I’m not ready to give up on life just yet.”
My eyes were on the barrel, but for just an instant, they darted up to her eyes. There was a strange emotion in there. Was it a look of regret?
I didn’t have any more time left.
Danni pulled the trigger.