I had started up the stairs in front of Daphne, but looked back at her and extended my had as we climbed toward our room. She smiled demurely and put her hand in mine. I gently pulled her upward as we progressed to the second-floor landing.
Once on the landing, I slowly turned her toward me and pulled her into my arms. She put her arms around my neck and pulled me down so that our lips touched ever so lightly. As my arms entwined her body, our kiss became more urgent.
After a frenzied few seconds I abruptly broke from the kiss, reached down and picked her up into my arms. Swiftly, I ran down the hall to my room, kicked open the door and carried her across the threshold.
Late in the night, I awoke to someone banging on the door down the hall that had been occupied by Daphne during the day as her preparation room for our wedding. Later, I discovered it was the room listed under her name on the hotel register downstairs.
I slipped out of bed and retrieved my two Colts. Daphne stirred and began to say something, but I gave her a shhh sound. In the moonlight that broke through the sheer window curtains, I could see her sitting up in bed. I whispered, “Get on tha floor.”
Thank heavens she didn’t argue but agilely glided out of bed and laid flat on the floor. I nodded, put my Colts on the small wash table beside the door jamb, and gently removed the chair that I had wedged under the door knob. I set it aside, picked up one of my Colts with my right hand, and ever so deftly, turned the door knob with my left. Unfortunately, the door knob squeaked, but the noise was drowned by the furious bellow that erupted down the hall.
“We know yar in thar, Hager. Come out with your hands up or we’ll come in and get ya.”
I pulled open the door a few inches and saw three men with pistols drawn facing the door to Daphne’s room, which was the opposite side of the hall and about the third door down. I reached and filled my hand with the other Colt. Using the barrel of the Colt in my left hand, I swung the door open, and cocking both Colts simultaneously, I aim them at the trio. Then I said in a bemused voice, “Y’all looking for me?”
I know that my appearance had two results. First, the men were taken by surprise by me being behind them, and two, I must have looked a sight in a long white night shirt. In their minds, it must have been both disconcerting and amusing. However, it caused them to be just a little too slow as they turned to point their pistols in my direction. Once the abductors began to move, I pulled the triggers on both Colts. I continued to cock the hammers and pull the triggers in a volley type fire until the hammers hit on empty cylinders. The hallway was filled with smoke and it was impossible to see the intruders.
I slipped back into the room and went for my bag which was packed with loaded cylinders. Implementing a fast reload, I turned to go back to the door when I heard a moan from the hallway.
A hesitant voice from the floor asked, “Jim, are ya alright?”
“Yes’m,” I answered and then added, “Do ya have a weapon?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“Then get it, and if’n it ain’t me that comes back through tha door, blow their head off!” I commanded.
I heard shuffling as Daphne hurried to obey my order.
I gave a furtive glance into the hallway. The smoke had thankfully risen to the top of the ceiling, allowing a clear view of the hallway. In front of the door to Daphne’s room lay a jumble of bodies. Two were perfectly still. One was moaning and flapping his arm back and forth in the thralls of pain and despair.
I cocked both Colts, and holding them at the ready, I advanced on the gaggle of bodies. I almost gasped at the first corpse I approached. It was Marshal Gill.
Apparently, he had stood behind his two henchmen and had his back to me. He was the first to go down. He was lying on his right side with rivulets of blood flowing from two holes in his chest. His lifeless bulging eyes displayed the surprise he had experienced in his last moments.
Another body was directly behind the marshal’s body. He was lying flat on his back with his arms flayed over his head. His neck and head were perforated with hideous wounds. His arms still held both pistols in a death grip.
The last member of the ambuscade had ceased moaning. He was bleeding from two wounds in his abdomen. He knew he was dying because a gut shot wound in the 19th century always meant death.
I squatted down on my haunches to look clearly into his face, but I didn’t recognize him. He grasped my arm, which made me wince, and sputtered, “Tell my woman I went out like a man.”
I retorted, “Who sent ya?”
The man moaned loudly as his body was wracked with a surge of pain. “Ba, Ban, Bank,” he gasped as his soul slowly left his body.
People were starting to congregate on the second floor landing and looking down the hallway at the bloody spectacle. They began pointing at the bodies. Suddenly, one man yelled, “Go get the marshal.”
I commanded, “No need. He is one of tha dead men. Go to tha cavalry camp and have a squad dispatched to report to me in my room. Y’all let tha dead men lay where they fell.”
One of the men rapidly went down the stairs, hopefully in answer to my directive.
I know that I looked very silly in my night shirt with my bare legs and bare feet showing below the knees. I made a hasty retreat to my room, but before entering I yelled, “Daphne, it’s me. Don’t shoot.”
She literally ran out of the room and flew into my arms, which cause me to yelp.
I remarked, “We’re causing a spectacle out here,” and quickly directed her back into the room.
Once in the room, Daphne looked at me in horror and gasped, “Jim, yar shot.”