The day had grown hot in the mining boomtown known as Gomorra. The town was still busy, despite the heat. This California town, on the edge of the of the Great Maze, seemed to be a magnet for drifters of all professions. Most townsfolk were miners or store owners or the like, but gunslingers, lawmen, and outlaws abounded as well.
At the LAD Saloon, two drifters sat watching the townsfolk mill about. Both were commonly dressed, like most of the drifters passing through town. One was cleaning his nails with a Bowie knife, while the other was aimlessly shuffling a deck of well-worn cards.
"Hey Bobo," asked the Bowie knife-wielding man, "Why are we watching the street? I thought Katie said to look around."
"Easy, Zeke," said Bobo, not looking up from his cards. "We are looking around. My bones says theres trouble brewin."
"I just hate this waiting, Bobo. Its not why I joined."
"Watch your lip flappin, you crawfish-brained mule," Bobo replied quickly. "Were undercover, boyo. We need not expose our true intentions now. Katie said wait, we wait. Like my voodoo gran ma used to say, when the other side calls, you gotta take a stand. And thats what Im doin, takin a stand."
Bobo leaned back and stared at his friend. He was a bit hot-headed, but if you were in a pinch, Zeke was the man to have with you.
"Youre right, though," Bobo said as he stood up. "We need to stretch our legs. Lets go for a walk. I need some stuff anyway. I hear Ikes got a new shipment of guns for sale. Might be interestin."
"Sounds like fun, Bobo," said Zeke, smiling. "Lets go see what old one-eye has for us." Zeke stood, sheathing his knife. He followed Bobo out the door, tossing the barkeep two coins for the drinks.
The town square was thinning out, people seeking shelter from the unforgiving California sun. Bobo and Zeke wandered towards one-eyed Ikes weapon shop. The shop door was open, and Ike was cleaning a Colt Dragoon, fresh from a crate in front of him.
The town was growing quiet as the people cleared out. A loud slam broke through the quiet of the town. Zeke and Bobo, almost as one, looked towards the schoolhouse.
"Somethins amiss, Zeke old chum," said Bobo. He pulled his cards from his pocket. "I think we need to go and check on Miss Singleton."
"Ayup," said Zeke as his hand dropped to his knife. "That might be a good idea, Bobo."
The cozy school house, made of logs, seemed to be locked as tight as a safe. All the windows were shut and the curtains were closed. On a day like this, it would have to be stifling inside. Those kids would have to be hot.
"Lets go in careful, Zeke," whispered Bobo. "I sense some serious bad mojo." Bobo began to shuffle his cards one handed. "Easy now, Zeke."
Zeke tried the door gently, but it was locked tight. With a nod from Bobo, Zeke threw his shoulder into the door. It buckled under the force. Zeke rolled inside, and quickly scanned the room. Bobo came in next with his cards ready.
The kids were still in their seats, seemingly in a trance. Miss Singleton was unconscious, her head on the desk. Two men, both holding children, looked up at the noise. One was a large man, well over six and a half feet tall, dressed in strange clothes and wearing a gunbelt. The other was a young man, with a crazy look in his eyes. Chains hung limply from his wrists.
"Lookie here, Moses," said the crazed man. "Company. Grandma hates company. Yes, she does."
"They are just drifters, Saul, my boy," said Moses. "Get back to work. Ill handle them."
"Handle this, freak!" growled Zeke, brandishing his knife. "Texas Rangers. Drop the kids, and move away slowly!"
"Oh. Texas Rangers, huh?" said Moses. "I owe you folks for a hanging. Looks like you are to pay the price!"
Moses drew his pistol and fired at the two Rangers. Bobo and Zeke dove for cover, as the bullets ripped up the wall behind them.
Zeke, rolling to his feet, drew his pistol and fired back. The bullets seemed to avoid the large man. Moses smiled evilly.
"Bobo!!" screamed Zeke, "Weve got a problem!!!"
Bobos answer came in the form of a blast of power. The soul blast slammed into Moses, sending him flying. The big man slid along the floor, and slammed into Miss Singletons desk, knocking it over. The huckster Ranger, drew more cards and looked towards Saul.
Saul Whateley was not stupid, just crazy. He held up a child as a human shield.
"Easy, Ranger," hissed Saul. "I dont need this one that badly. Now, put your weapons down, or little Jimmy gets it."
"Put the boy down," said Zeke as he dropped his weapons to the floor. "You cant get away. People heard the shots, theyre on the way here now. You cant escape."
"Watch me, Ranger," said Saul as he drew some cards. "Im already gone." An aura began to form around Saul and the boy, but it fizzled almost instantly.
"Old bayou trick, you wanna-be huckster," said Bobo through clenched teeth. "My mojo is stronger than yours."
"Now youre roasted," came a voice from behind the Rangers. A tall man walked through the doorway. His shirt was open and he was dressed in rebel grey. On his chest hung a Texas Rangers badge. He strode forward, staring at Saul.
"Ill not be imprisoned again! screamed Saul. "Never!!" He flung the child to the side and opened up with both pistols at the new Ranger. The bullets slammed into the chest of the man. The Ranger didnt even flinch. The Ranger drew his gun, and took steady aim. His gun glowed slightly as a bullet whizzed out of the barrel, catching Saul in the stomach. He buckled in two, and folded to the ground.
"Know this, fool," said the Ranger. "I have come back to take care of a few problems. People who have seen me recently call me Tombstone Frank. And Ive come to purify this town." Frank locked the hammer back on his gun, drawing a bead on Sauls head.
Coming to his senses, Moses tossed Frank backwards with a stiff forearm. He gathered Saul in his arms.
"Lets go, cousin," said Moses as shadows gathered around the two. In a moment they were gone.
"We have your name now, Rangers. We Whateleys dont forget a slight," echoed Moses voice.
Tombstone Frank was on his feet, Bobo and Zeke flanking him. "Nor do Rangers."
"Frank?" said Zeke. "Thanks for the assist, but youd better split. I hear the Law coming. They may not take too kindly to ya." Zeke nodded to the back door.
"Youre right, Zeke," He holstered his gun and moved quickly towards the back door. "Tell Katie Im back. Ill see you later. Weve got some scores to settle." With that, he slipped out the back and was gone.
"Unbelievable," whispered Zeke to Bobo. "He came back. He came back just like he promised Katie. This changes the game, Bobo."
"Changes it in our favor a bit, Zeke old boyo," said Bobo, smiling softly. "But we can deal with him later. Now we have to try to explain this mess to Sheriff Hunter."