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A Tale of Three Outlaws

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It was the perfect ambush. Or at least it should have been.

They'd taken care of the deputies the day before, with Rose facing down Vera Custer in a high noon duel on Main Street and Willy the Kid catching Doc Holyday off-guard as he left his medical practice, riddling the old man with so many bullets that Doc himself have been hard-pressed to count them if he'd still be around to do his own autopsy.

Elena had gone after the renegade Vulture Sam, tracking him on foot over six miles of wilderness before finally taking him out with a lucky bit of dynamite that went off as he was scrambling to throw it back at her. (The look on his face just before the dynamite went off shouldn't haunt her, should it? She was an outlaw; killing was what she did. Taking out the renegade was just evening the odds--killing someone who would have killed her given half a chance. And if she sometimes dreamed that she were something else, something better--almost as if it were a memory of another life--well, that was nothing but a dream.)

The three outlaws had met that night, gathering around the slanting table in the rundown shack they called their base, and laid out their plans for their final assault. The perfect, perfect ambush.

"Once the sheriff's dead," Willy had said, smacking his lips like he was chowing down on Sunday dinner, "there'll be no one left to stop us. We'll have free run of the town."

It should have worked.

Sharpshooter Rose had managed to find a hideout that put her safely out of the sheriff's reach. She was tucked away there, hands steady and gaze sharp as she kept the her Remington focused on the sheriff's door. Willy the Kid was backing her up from across the street, riding high on a Mustang, his favourite Winchester close at hand, ready to ride into sight as soon as the sheriff emerged.

Elena was better at defense than offense, but it didn't matter; Rose and Willy between them could take down anything and anyone. All she had to do was lure the sheriff into range.

She'd heard a few of the stories when they first rode into town, improbable tales of failed stabbings and shootings and even an unlikely poisoning, but she'd dismissed them--they'd all dismissed them--as just that: stories. There was simply no way that anyone could survive the types of situations that the sheriff was reputed to have experienced. They should have known better.

Getting Teren out of his office was easy enough. He was eager to avenge his deputies, eager to take down the outlaws and finish this. He came readily enough when she called his name from across the street, her gun held high so he'd know what she wanted.

Elena took the first shot, simply because she was there, but wasn't surprised when it missed. Offense had never been her strength. As soon as she pulled the trigger, she retreated to her chosen hiding spot, bullets from the sheriff's gun whizzing past her head as she ran. The bullets stopped quickly enough, though, when Rose and Willy began their joint attack.

Elena watched from behind a barrel as the two of them released a hail of bullets on the sheriff. Rose's first shot went clean through the sheriff's shoulder. It was his gun arm, and she thought the fight was over then, but the sheriff merely laughed and transferred his gun to his other hand. Willy shot next, aiming for the stomach. She could have sworn she saw the bullet hit, but the sheriff didn't even stumble. Instead, he pulled out his Remington--which Elena saw with a sinking heart had been modified by a scope--and took careful aim at Willy on his Mustang.

Willy rocked on his horse as the bullet went through his side, but he kept his seat, took a swig of beer, and returned fire. And so it went.

The three of them together should have been able to take the sheriff out. Teren, after all, was having to split his shots between them, while they were all focused on the same target. But somehow, no matter how many times they hit him, the sheriff wouldn't go down. In the meantime, his shots were finding their way home--even Elena had been hit a couple of times--and they were out of beer.

It was with a sense of disbelief that Elena watched first Willy and then Rose topple from their respective spots to lie bleeding on the dusty street. The sheriff turned toward her next, face grim, bleeding from a dozen wounds that would have been fatal to anyone else. Elena gave one last look at her fallen comrades, gaze lingering on Rose's blonde hair, barely visible against the pale dust, and then raised her gun with determination.

She barely felt the bullet that took her down.

It should have worked, Elena thought as she died. It had been perfect.