'Hunting the Bounty Hunter'

By Phineas Redux


Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, Deputies and lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, are forced to hunt down a crazed bounty hunter before he inflicts even more terror on the community than he already has.

Note:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis.

Copyright:— copyright ©2024 Phineas Redux. All characters are wholly fictitious representations, and the overall local geography may be questionable, too.


The notorization from Phoenix was short, sharp, and to the point, as Sheriff Charles Donaldson read it in his Office in Red Flume, Territory of Arizona, on a cold morning in late June 187-.

"This is to notify those who so need that this certificate gives Anderson Flammarte Rivenhoek the authority to seek bounty on Wanted Criminals throughout the Territory of Arizona, signed, Kent Albright, Marshall, Phoenix, August 1868—Waal-waal!"

Donaldson scratched the edge of his hair on his left temple while he continued to study the document, looking from it to its owner standing before him.

"So, ye be Flammarte Rivenhoek?"

"I be." The man nodding agreement. "So?"

In height he stood around five feet eight, lithe of body, sharp featured with a thin beard and moustache, eyes like black pits on a dark night, and an expression that could easily curdle fresh milk at a hundred yards; indeed, the Milk of Human Kindness being, clearly, a substance entirely unknown to his nature.

"An' which unfortunate d'ye presently have outside, strapped over yer pack-hoss?"

"One Josiah Scroggins, wanted up north fer assaultin', sexually, several minors an' three women. Also robbed two stores over t'Pendragon an' Muddie's Creek." Rivenhoek shrugging casually as he ticked off this appalling list. "Got the Poster h'yar in my pocket, got the corpse, fresh kill't, out on my hoss, as ye sez. Fifteen hunner dollars, thanks, Sheriff!"

Donaldson rose wearily from his chair behind the desk.

"Let's take a look, OK?"

Outside, the sight of a corpse slung casually over a pack horse had gathered a small group of those kind of citizens who gained their thrills in the more diverse crannies of Life.

"OK, folks, git! Nuthin' h'yar ter interest ye; move along, thar, a'fore I locks yer all up fer causin' a dam' public nuisance!"

Free of spectators, Donaldson stepped round the horse's flank to raise the lowered motionless head of the item under consideration. Taking a studied examination of the features, even under these somewhat trying circumstances, he compared them to the picture he had memorized from the Wanted Poster in his Office.

"Yeah, Scroggins, right 'nuff!"

Back in the Office he reseated himself, studying the Poster in question.

"See's ye shot Scroggins in the back? Three times. Why so?"

"Does it matter?" Scroggins clearly uninterested. "He's dead, as mutton, tharby allowin' me ter claim said Reward."

"Hmmph!" Donaldson not impressed. "Most folks get shot in the back, their shooter gets took fer murder!"

"Scroggins was a bag o'sh-t, verified by everyone who ever had contac' with the reptile; better off in his present condition. What about my money?"

Donaldson looked from the Poster to the Bounty Hunter and back again, then scribbled on a printed form which he slid across his desk for the visitor to claim at his leisure.

"Thar! Take thet t'the Arizonny National Bank, on Motherwell Street, an' they'll give ye yer thirty pieces, OK?"

"An' the remains?"

"Leave 'em h'yar, on thet hoss, I'll take care o'them."

"OK, many thanks, hopes fine t'do business with ye agin in the nar future, mighty fine, Sheriff. Bye!"

With which contented farewell the man left the Office, quietly closing the door behind him.




Henrietta Knappe's tone reflecting all and every part of her distaste in the matter.

"Yep, Rivenhoek in person, not an impersonator." Donaldson admitting to the identification of his recent unwanted visitor.

"He's got a repy'tation fer bein' a cold-blooded killer, who don't care none how he brings his victims in, exceptin' they be very dead indeed, usual shot in the back! Thet right, Charlie?"

"In this case, yeah, right up t'the finishin' line, sure!"

"Jeez!" Henrietta appalled by the type of individual a Law-abiding Officer had to interact with during the natural course of their daily duties. "If'n it'd bin me, I'd have spat in the rat's face. If'n it'd bin Sal—"

"If'n it'd bin Sal, who knows what might not have happened, sure!" Donaldson admitting to the unknown. "Which, however, it weren't, so's we kin relax, fer the time bein', at least."

"What's Sal up to, anyway? Missin' this last mornin' or so?"

"Up ter Wayland's Crossing, over thet late rustlin' business, jes' don't seem wantin' ter go away, I'm afraid. Paperwork an' legal fol-de-rols, y'know."


"Anyways, had the corpse took ter Doc Thompson's morgue, whar it'll now be lyin' in state till I kin git a certificate t'send it up ter Phoenix, whar, I got'ta say, they're welcome t'same anytime."

"Has he lit out? Or stayin' aroun' lookin' fer other rats in local holes?" Henrietta herself looking less than enthused at the possible continuing presence of the unwelcome semi-Lawmaker.

"Cain't say fer sure; feels he'll head on out soon's he kin, though."

"Let's hope so!"


When Sally Nichols, sharpshooter and Deputy, returned from her foray into wild parts, Wayland's Crossing being 25 miles out into the northern desert in the middle of nowhere; it's only good point being it's hosting the only Spring of fresh water within a radius of twenty miles of its environs, she had things to say about the late visitor.

"Bounty Hunters?" She as dismissive of the breed as her lover, sitting beside her in the Office that same afternoon. "Thought we could pick sich off fer target practice on sight these days, Charlie?"

"An enjoyable dream but, sadly, untrue." Donaldson sighing in mutual disgust. "Much as it appeals, I admits."

"Is it true he shoots his victims in the back, without warnin'?" Sally furrowing her brows over this example of immorality.

"Seems t'be a fac' thet's gotten some about aroun' him, yeah?" Donaldson admitting what could not very well be denied in the face of much evidence to the contrary. "One way o'doin' it, I suppose."

"Hears, down among the grassroots," Sally continuing her in-depth study of the man. "thet he ain't averse t'shootin' whom he pleases, merely on spec, an' walkin' away unconsarnedly when said person turns out t'be innocent o'any law-breakin'?"

"Heerd the same rumor, too, sure." Donaldson nodding, looking the while like an Old Testament Prophet faced with an unrepentant infidel. "Sure do wish I could ketch him doin' so! Sad fer the party involved, certin, but I'd have Rivenhoek hangin' from the nearest sycamore, or whatever, fast's yer like, sure!"

Sally and Henrietta both nodded in their turn, this suggestion from their leader pleasing them in equal measure judging by their evil grins. Half an hour later they were both out on their regular patrol of the streets.

"What about doin' t'him what he's done t'a mite o'others, baby?" Sally continuing their discussion of that unnatural breed, the bounty hunter at large in the wild. "Jes' take him as a bar at long range summers', an' take him down at yer convenience? Good practice!"

"Easy, yeah," Henrietta sighing regretfully. "But not legal, as Charlie's delicately put it. Wouldn't be at all happy if we did, sadly."

"Yeah, jes' so," Sally equally depressed by their situation. "Could pick a pes'nal fight, o'course. Sumthin' out'ta the blue; get his dander up, push him t'make his play, take him out thetaway?"

"Sal, you have a cold calc'latin' mind thet scares me some!"

"Only tryin' my best, darlin'; fer the good o'the many, y'know."



The following week, Sheriff Donaldson being off up to Peascod on official business, the women had their own first contact with the bounty hunter. The Office door opening that morning to reveal the man in person, taking his hat off at sight of the two female Deputies and nodding with a polite smile, or what he fondly imagined was same.

"Leddies! Flammarte Rivenhoek, at yer service. Jes' popped in ter shuck a load off'n my pack-hoss, an' claim the rely-vant reward associated with same. Wan'na take a look out in the street? Got the varmint's Poster h'yar, if necessary."

Henrietta holding out her hand, without otherwise acknowledging the greeting, he handed over the somewhat torn and crumpled paper. She taking a good look at it, while Sally leant over her shoulder doing likewise.

"Gim'me a mo'." Henrietta then searching one-handed through the packed content of one of the desk's drawers until she finally uncovered her own copy of the appropriate Poster.

"Waal, les'see! Lamont Cranston, age thirty-one, height five six, weight hunner an' eighty, visible scars, semi-circular glass scar on right cheek, left-hand pinkie missin'. Offences, theft of goods on seven occasions, woundin' householders on three occasions by gunfire, rustlin' out'ta Texas, suspected of bank robbery up t'Underwood. Wanted Dead or Alive; reward sixteen hunner dollars."

"Thet be him, right enuff." Rivenhoek nodding with what passed with him for a happy expression. "Got him, or what's left o'him, over my hoss outside. Wan'na look?"

Both Deputies did indeed, so a couple of minutes later the trio stood round the pack-horse considering its dead weight cargo. A quick examination showed the features of the deceased matched the Poster description, as Henrietta had to admit.

"Yeah, thet be him, right enuff. So, three slugs in the back; sort'a a coward's way o'dealin' with things, sure! Anyone witness ter the n'cessity o'doin' same? Otherwise a charge o'cold murder'd be on the cairds some sure!"

"Five witnesses, all saw him draw on me first." Rivenhoek not put out in the least. "He turnin' ter run fer his life as I replied he jes' nat'ral took his dose o'lead in the back as he ran. All duly noted by said witnesses. Got thar names h'yar if needed!"

Back in the Office the natural subject raised its head.

"So, reward!" Rivenhoek knowing what was due him and making certain he got same. "Sheriff Donaldson give me a slip over t'the Bank las' week; expec's you'll do sim'lar?"

Henrietta, however, wasn't allowing for this easy get-out on her shift.

"Hold hard, Mister." She shaking her head glumly. "Figure I'll hold off on thet a while. Need'ta get in touch with Head Office up ter Phoenix, see what they has ter say about the deceased's status. Thing's change mighty quick these days, could be a increase in his reward, could be a decrease thetway. Need'ta find out which. Also, whether the Dead or Alive part actil has any consequence over which is the final deal consarnin' the late victim. All sort'a paperwork t'be done a'fore I kin write out a reward slip in these h'yar circumstances. Tell ye what, mister, ye take a room in Glaston's Boardin' House, over t'Thompson Road, an' I'll git back ter ye in, oh, some over a week, OK?"

A long pause followed, while the bounty hunter digested this news.

"Thet warn't the way I would prefer things ter pan out, leddies. Reward's sure mine, no argy'ments; don't see why I shouldn't git same right off, right now! Want it same, actil, thank ye kindly—sixteen hunner! Take a slip t'the Bank, easy, but right now, thanks!"

Henrietta slowly stood behind her desk, Sally at the same time standing to the side, both hands on the butts of her Smith and Wesson thirty-eights.

"Buster, I've done said my say, an' said say stands! Take a hike! We'll meet agin next week, when my investigations is through, till then ye kin live as a pauper fer all I cares. Git!"

Rivenhoek glanced from one to the other, possibly calculating firing patterns and chances of surviving undamaged. Finding, finally, the chances were too low by far for his comfort he shrugged unconcernedly, an expression of pure evil flickering over his features for a brief instant.

"Another time, leddies, another time!"

With which speech he left the Office, leaving the door ajar for Sally to cautiously close after looking out to see he had actually departed the vicinity.

"Waal, thet were some nerve-wrackin'!"

"Piece o'garbage through'n through!" Henrietta not backward in coming forward with her opinion. "Better keep our eyes peeled fer the rest o'the week when out on patrol. No sayin' what warped idee may be infectin' the b-st-rd's mind."

"With ye thar, baby, with ye thar!"


July came in with a hot embrace, Rivenhoek was given the reward relevant to Lamont Cranston via Sheriff Donaldson, Henrietta and Sally keeping politicly in the background, after which all was Bristol fashion and quiet for a number of weeks—then—

The door to the Office flung wide with a crash letting a young man, barely past his late youth, rush in like a gale at sea.

"Murder! Murder! He's dead! Urrth-Urrth!"

"Take yer breath, youngster!" Donaldson placing a hand on the boy's shoulder while he gasped deeply. "Thar, thet's better. Now, what's up?"

The young man took a further deep breath, got control of himself and looked round at the three people in the Office as at strangers.

"I-I-I've jes' rode down from Firbank. Liam Davis, dry goods storeowner's bin shot t'death—three bullets in his back while's walkin' out with his sweetheart over t'the banks o'the Light Green River, a coupl'a miles north of the town."

Everyone listening bucked-up quickly at this, Henrietta first to ask the pointed question.

"Does ye know who did same? Someone local, ye knows, or a stranger? What's yer name, by n'by?"

"James Crowther, ma'am." The youth still breathing with difficulty. "Didn't see the incident mysel', but his sweetheart, Molly Grahame, was thar right by his side. Brought him back in their buggy t'Doc Halford in Firbank, but nuthin' could be done."

"What'd she say about the incident?" Donaldson gazing sharply at the youth.

"They wus sittin' by the bank o'the river, idle talkin' about nuthin in particular; then shots rang out an' Liam slumped over. Then, she sez, a tall man came out'ta nowhar, stood by her side, bent t'roll Liam over, then said, in a gritty cold voice, "Looks mighty like, sure enuff, but nah—Oh, well, better luck next time" after which, Molly sez she don't know how, he jes' disappeared agin whiles she was screamin' over her sweetheart."

"Sheriff Goldbein, up t'Firbank, had any luck findin' the murderer?" Sally looking daggers at no-one in particular.

"Not so far's I left t'come h'yar, no."

"Did she give any clar description of the shooter?" Donaldson coming down to the important details.

James, more or less over his lack of breath by now, shook his head.

"Not much, said he was tall, thin, scraggy beard round the edge of his jaw, had a cold demeanor that froze her blood, an' spoke of killin' Liam as if it jes' didn't matter a fig t'him."

Henrietta had been considering the situation and now came up with a suggestion.

"Ye knows Liam yersel', by sight, James?"

"Yeah, sure."

"OK, want's yer t'take a long slow look through a bundle o'Wanted Posters. Want's yer t'see if any looks mighty like Liam, t'your eye, or not. Might take an hour or so, but could give us a clue, OK?"

"Yeah, sure, glad t'help, if'n I can."

"What's yer plan?" Donaldson gazing at his Deputies intently.

"We get a line on which bandit Rivenhoek was after, 'cause of course it was him, decide whar we might best find same bandito in residence, then go thar, hopin', not t'find the offender in person but Rivenhoek hisself!"

"Ah!" Donaldson seeing light. "An' then?"

"Then we sees what turns out, whichever way may be."

"Yeah-yeah, sure. It's a likely enuff plan, sure."


The terrain around the environs of Firbank, within several miles in every direction, was much of a muchness relative to the general topography of this part of Arizona; that is, dry scrub desert with uneven hillocks, small hills, and a few ranges of medium rolling mountains. The area was infested with the ruins and derelicts of scores of old silver and copper mines and the small hamlets associated with same; all now long abandoned and left to the tender caresses of Mother Nature. Of actual living communities Firbank was the largest, about twice the size of Red Flume, with Gardner, twenty miles to the west, next in line. Henrietta and Sally had been riding along towards one of these abandoned ghost towns for the last two hours, sun overhead as hot as it might be this close to midday.

"Jeez!" Sally letting rip with her latest complaint. "Better find a pond or river or cool spring soon's not! My water-bottle's half empty an' we're miles from anywhar. We is, ain't we?"

Henrietta, who had been listening to the curses and oaths of her partner for the last two hours, replied shortly, having had just about enough for one day.

"Anytime now, darlin'. Thar's supposed t'be a pool, under a sandstone cliff, some five miles along o'our route thisaway. Jes' keep steady an' we'll git thar soon, OK?"

"Quicker the better, doll!" Sally determined to have her complaint out whatever to the contrary. "How far's this Grant's Hole now?"

"From the map Charlie had it's only another ten mile further along this trail." Henrietta consulting her memory. "Bin abandoned this thirty yar past, mind ye."

Sally shrugged at this, not an easy action in her position, sitting uncomfortably on her mount.

"Sounds a likely place fer a bandit wanted fer murder t'hang out quiet an' unknown, I suppose. Frank Simmons, wanted fer two murders, reward of two thousand six hunner dollars, the usual tenets holdin' sway. Jes' the sort'a guy Rivenhoek'd be focused on, fer sure."

"An', accordin' t'James Crowther, looks mighty like Liam Davis, the latest victim o'Rivenhoek's murderous natur'."

"Yeah, seems like."

Another hour passed by until Henrietta made another suggestion.

"Wonder dam' Rivenhoek ain't retired by now!"

"What makes ye say thet, darlin'?"

"He's took Red Flume fer close t'three thousand dollars, an's now after another two thou six hunner from this Simmons. Must a'ready be a rich man, from his previous triumphs in his line." Henrietta making a noise like an arthritic groundhog. "Anybody else, they'd have called it a day by now an' gone ter fishin' in a long happy retirement."

Sally had the requisite answer to this.

"If'n he did thet he'd have ter give up on his murderous natur'; his deep-seated desire an' likin' fer killin' folks, In the most cowardly fashion, sure; but killin' all the same. Gets a hold on some people, they jes' cain't break free of, y'know. Known one or two like thet, in my hot youth."

Henrietta, who had always for years past steered clear of digging into her lover's past life, hunched her shoulders and looked instead ahead along the trail.

"Hey, look! Think thet's Grant's Hole up ahead!"

A smattering of wood-framed huts sitting higgledy-piggledy in no particular order or layout, from a distance the settlement looked almost as if still active and occupied. It wasn't till the two riders were within a hundred yards that it became obvious the huts were weather-worn, dirty, half tumbled down and generally going to rack and ruin under the ossifying effect of the sun, local dust-storms, and more extended dry desert winds.

"What's our plan?" Sally sitting her horse some seventy yards out from the first of the huts. "See any sign o'life? Hosses, or lit fires, or what-all?"

"Nah, t'all those questions."

"Oh, great!"

Riding slowly and quietly along what seemed the only street, or more like a wandering lane between several of the abandoned huts, they came to a stop outside one that seemed in slightly better repair than the majority. Cautiously dismounting they approached the only door, itself unpainted, dry as firewood, and showing empty space between the vertical boards making it up. Drawing their pistols they stood to each side of this semi-barrier, Henrietta taking charge and making the first play in the drama.

"Rivenhoek! Ye in thar? If'n ye are drop yer weapons, an' come out quiet, otherwise we'll come in shootin'!"

Way off in the distance something metal was clanging against something hard in the light breeze; there were some soft cracks and snaps as dry bits and pieces of many of the other huts warped in the hot atmosphere, but otherwise the hamlet reclined in absolute silence in the middle of the desert.

"Rivenhoek!" Sally adding her little to the preliminaries.


"Aw, Hell!" Henrietta stepping in front of the door. "Won't get anywhar this way. I'm goin' in ter the right, you take the left, anythin' moves at all, shoot it pes'nal an' with extreme vehemence!"

Seconds later she kicked the door in, it falling aside in a cloud of dust, she rushing through like a hurricane, Sally close behind. For a few seconds they had to pause to let their eyes grow accustomed to the dark inside, but then it became immediately obvious they were on a wild goose chase—the single room was entirely empty.

"Oh, sh-t!" Sally, for one, deeply disappointed.

"Waal, thar we is!" Henrietta holstering her piece with a grunt.

A quick reconnaissance showed a stove, rusty, in the corner, a low bed with blankets in the opposite, a table with pots, pans, and coffee fixings on it, and a pair of boots by the side of the single chair, also a curious smell.

"Bin lived in recent." Sally bringing her stalking expertise to bear.

"Yeah, within the last few hours." Henrietta's bear-hunting years coming to the fore, as well. "Thet smell, Humanity at home an' play! Some dude ain't had a bath fer weeks, an' sorely in need o'same some speedily!"



Sally had approached the bed, examining it from a still safe distance.

"Blood on these blankets. In fac', underneath, too. Someone's bin shot while abed, probably asleep!"

The women looked at each other, each raising understanding eyebrows at the same time.

"G-d'd-m! Rivenhoek dashed in, found Simmons laid out abed in the Land o'Nod, an' took his usual advantage!"

"Sh-t! Thet man's a dam' monster!"

They stood looking around for another few minutes before Sally came to life again.

"What's the nearest town from h'yar? Live n'kickin', I allows?"

"Gardner, why?"

"He'll have took the remains thar, fer sure; he feelin' some o'a loose cannon an' disregarded hot an' hard fer his activitees over t'Firbank. Probably figure he's got a better chance o'gettin' his poster reward quick an' sharp from the Sheriff o'Gardner rather than a cord round his neck from the Firbank Sheriff?"

"Ye makes a fair point, lover, yeah!" Henrietta nodding agreement. "Let's go, might still catch up with the rat!"


The politics and business routines of Lawmaking can sometimes work against themselves; such being the case in the present circumstances. The Sheriff of Gardner had been called away to a Council meeting in Phoenix, leaving his town unguarded for a week, there being no Deputies for this small community. The letter and documents from the Sheriff of Firbank expounding the crimes of Rivenhoek therefore lay on the desk in the Gardner Office gathering dust but no attention whatever. The fact that the last act of Gardner's Sheriff before leaving for Phoenix two days previously being to innocently hand out the reward for the corpse of Simmons not helping anyone at all. All this being explained to the weary Deputies from Red Flume on their attendance in the town by the local Doctor.

"Sheriff Logan tol' me straight he didn't like the look o'the Bounty Hunter one bit, but paperwork was in order, an' the corpse was indeed Simmons, so he shelled out the two thou six hunner, an' the man left with a nasty grin, Logan tol' me!"

"Sh-t!" Henrietta not pleased in the least. "When'd he leave? Two days since? Three? Yestern? An' which trail'd he take?"

"Cain't say, never saw the varmint mysel'. Would'a had t'have bin at least three days since, mind."

An hour later, back out on the scorching desert, Sally took up the substance of deciding their next move.

"Way he's goin' about his business, shootin' half the population in search of a single individual each time, we better get him as quick as quick a'fore there ain't no-one left alive in the whole dam' Territory!"

"Fair point, sis." Henrietta nodding her agreement. "But this corner o'the woods bein' a hotbed fer hidin' bandits of all descriptions, how're we ter know which dam' way Rivenhoek's took now?"

Sally pondered this riddle in silence as they rode on a'ways, then spoke up again.

"He cain't return t'Red Flume, we knowin' by now the cut o'his jib. Neither Firbank nor Gardner; nor most towns hereabouts, I'd say. Wouldn't be surprised if'n he thought Arizonny as a whole was a busted flush fer his mode o'work! Might head fer the border?"

Henrietta caught onto her partner's line of thought in an instant.

"See whar ye're goin, lover, sure! Californny's out, not enuff banditos thar fer his tastes! Mexico the same; lots o'deadbeats thar, sure, but he'd never get more'n a buck fifty from the authorities thar fer any o'them. Nah, Texas's his best bet; figure Tucson then El Paso, what yer think, lady?"

"With ye all the way." Sally agreeing without a fight. "Reckon we could head him off a'fore he reaches Tucson?"

"Nah, too far ahead! But we could take the train ter El Paso, wait fer him on Main Street thar. Forewarn the Marshal thar there's gon'na be a shootin' takin' place mighty pes'nal an' intimate!"

"Likes the sound o'thet, baby—let's go!"


"The great thing about most what're called in the medical books si-choleric deviants, baby, is they all has blinkered minds."

"How so?" Sally asking this question two days later as they stood in the Main Street of the great terminus of El Paso, Texas, special certificates in their pockets allowing them to exert their lawful authority in this foreign land.

"They kin see the Main Road clar enuff," Henrietta laying forth her, somewhat dubious, reading on the subject. "But the side roads an' lanes is total invisible to 'em. They has trouble thinkin' sideways, as it were; takin' in only the more likely aspects of someone's actions; their own, pertickler, not reachin' ter anythin' like complexity."


"Yeah," Henrietta warming to her subject. "Which's why we're now standin' h'yar, in El Paso, warm as bugs in a bed! We've thought ahead o'the rat, he existin' in his usual deep fog o'listenin' ter the devils in his head an' takin' no note o'the world aroun' him."

"Ye thinks, love?"

"Sure o'it, baby." Henrietta nodding agreement with herself. "He's figured, at least, thet Arizony's now too hot fer him, so's he nat'ral gravitates ter the next nearest likely place he'll be able t'work comf'tble an' free—h'yar!"

Sally frowned slightly.

"Fair enuff; but what if he ain't? Even if he's got as little wit as ter actil think the way ye suppose he has?"

"Then we'll jes' have'ta go home an' wait t'hear whar he next shows his face, is all."

"Yeah." Sally not much comforted by this. "Whar we're headed now, Hamilton's Bar? Ye think Marshall Samuels is right in sayin' he's heerd someone fittin' Rivenhoek's description's taken up residence at the faro table thar?"

"It's a chance." Henrietta shrugging as they strolled along the covered sidewalk, trying not to bump into too many passing pedestrians. "He's loaded down with hard cash, got'ta do sumthin' with same—faro's as good a choice as any!"

"Yeah, well!"

It was just past 1.30 in the afternoon, by the clock on the far wall as they pushed the swing doors aside, thus honoring the interior of the Public Saloon of Hamilton's Bar with their presence. Immediately it became obvious to their sharpened wits that something was both up and wrong at the same time. The faro table, in these establishments most often the heart of life and activity, sat forlorn, empty, and quiet, a group of haggard suspiciously embarrassed men hovering nearby, as having been done out of their lawful enjoyments against their wills. Henrietta caught on instantly, striding over to one man and taking him by his filthy collar.

"Whar be the rat? Speak plain, speak loud, an' speak true, or ye're dead!"

Instead of words the man, ragged, filthy, and smelly as he was, merely turned his head to indicate with swiveling bloodshot eyes a door to the rear of the room. Seconds later the women were standing in a rear yard, earth covered, taking in the dispersing cloud of dust that indicated someone having recently left in a hurry.


"Waal, thet's thet, fer the present." Henrietta just as much disappointed.


"Never give up!" Henrietta relieving herself of this platitude as they walked down the Main Street of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on the other side of the Rio Grande from El Paso the next day.

"Helpful, sure!"

"Jes' sayin', ducks."

"Whar're we headed exact?"

Henrietta looked around at the scrappy bedraggled houses and buildings that made up the community.

"Not much of a place, fer sure! Whar? The local Army Commandant's Office. Mexico, as we speaks an' breathes, bein' in some of what's usual called a political turmoil presently, the Army's the best bet fer Law an' Order. Though it'd, no doubt, be more formal an' righteously called gen'ral repression o'the masses!"

As they walked on a fusillade of shots rang out from somewhere far off in the distance over to their left hand.

"Whar'd thet come from?"

"Couldn't say, an' better not ter ask, either!"

"Ah, thet's the way o'it, eh?"


The Commander's Office, on arrival, was heavily guarded by a unit of soldiers armed with pistols, carbines, swords, and a single Gatling gun sitting menacingly before the main entrance to a whitewashed low-roofed hacienda just off the main road. A Lieutenant officiously regarding the two Americans with something very close to outright disdain.

"Ladies, what can Lieutenant Alfonso Riviera do for you both? I see you are both armed, which is of course not allowed, passing over the fact you are hardly dressed appropriately for ladies, too! Well?"

Five minutes spent in argument, pleading, authoritative demanding, and cold opposition to every and all of the young Lieutenant's attempts to instill fear and terror into the women ended, the Lieutenant being finally exhausted with his efforts, with them eventually being allowed into the presence of the All High and Mighty Commander himself, in his extraordinarily plush Office.

"Whew!" Sally starting the conversation off on entirely the wrong note. "Do yersel' proud, don't ye?"

"Commander Sebastian-Carlos Aguilar at your service, ladies." He being an entirely more gentlemanly type than his subordinate. "Please, take these chairs, and what may I be honored in helping you both with? Anything! Absolutely anything, for such beautiful ladies, I assure you both!"

It was quite apparent to both women the Commander had discovered immediate ulterior motives regarding the women, especially towards Henrietta's Amazonian form; but they both sat in icy silence till he understood that the formalities must be followed.

"Something official, I take it?" He sounding a trifle less romantically inclined, adjusting his cap at the same time in order to look even more official than he already did. "You are, of course, Americans, but what you may want from us poor Mexicans I cannot imagine. From your, ah, unusual dress and firearms, I take it you are on some kind of official business?"

The ensuing explanation was lengthy, convoluted, and all-encompassing; but finally Henrietta and Sally managed to put the Commander in the picture, to his evident distress.

"The point, quite important in its way, is that he, this Flammarte Rivenhoek, has not as yet, to my understanding or knowledge, committed any crime while so far resident in my beautiful country. Which, of course, hinders my taking any official action against him, you see. No crime, no arrest, no interrogation, no lawful recompense! What can I say?"

Sally wasn't for sitting quietly under this abject attempt at stonewalling.

"You could point us in the right direction, then look the other way fer half an hour or so!"

The Commander shrugged, as being officially bound by Rules and Regulations beyond his power to oppose.

"Ladies, what can be done? Nothing, I am afraid!"

"G-d'd-m it!"



The Sheriff's Office, back in Red Flume, seemed a haven of peace, charity, and comfort after their perambulations around several States and countries in the last few days. Sheriff Charles Donaldson himself was just as short-tempered and white haired as they remembered, while the Office itself appeared to their jaded eyes even smaller and pokier than ever.

"So, no luck, eh?"

"Yeah, or rather, no!" Henrietta facing the reality of the case. "Lost him out'ta Ciudad Juárez. Hauled his anchor too fast fer us t'catch up. Gone with the dam' wind, who knows whar!"

"Suppose we could place paragraphs in the Red Flume Messenger an' the Phoenix Enquirer advertisin' this region o'Arizony as bein pertikler warm an' cosy fer any bandit, rustler, murderer, or bank robber ter hide out in fer his comfort, no fees required?" Donaldson bringing his far-famed sense of humor into play.

Henrietta and Sally, still feeling the strain of their late odyssey near and far, taking this joke with all the cold disdain it merited.

"Ah, well, anyhow!" Donaldson shuffling on his chair. "It'll only be a matter of time, mark my words. He's got a killin' instinct thet'll need constant caressing, his type bein' thet way inclined. Give him a few months an' he'll show up through thet door as happy as a double-eagle, lookin' fer his latest Reward, totin' a corpse shot three times in the back jes' as usual, thinkin' we'll have gotten bored with lookin' fer him over Liam Davis's sad departure from this Earthly settin' to one of Glorious Immortality!"

Sally was first to answer this diatribe.

"Charlie, has ye bin on the bottle agin? Sounds mighty like!"


"It's in the Messenger h'yar, in black'n'white."

Sally leaned over the desk in the Sheriff's Office to take the newspaper offered by him to his Deputy.

"Down on the bottom right, thar."

Folding the huge spread of the paper more comfortably she bowed over the print, reading industriously if slowly.

"Anderson Flammarte Rivenhoek found not guilty of murder aginst one Liam Davis vide a complete lack o'hard evidence! Got off free as a bird, with a clar character reference from the Judge! Allowed t'go about his Lawful purposes agin, without hold nor hindrance! My Sainted G-d'd-m God!"

"About covers it, yeah!"

The Office door swung wide at this opportune moment to allow of the appearance of Henrietta Knappe fresh from her morning patrol of the law-abiding streets of Red Flume.

"What's up?"

Being told exactly what she answered as peppily as her lover.

"Fer Gawd's Sake! I don't believe it! How can he be?"

"Legal technicalities, apparent." Donaldson pursing his lips in disgust. "Make him as free a human bein' as you or me."

"No it don't." Sally up with a fair rejoinder to this. "He'll never come close ter bein' Human, way beyond his capacity. An animal, a monster, more like!"

"What kin we do if'n he shows up h'yar, bold as gold dust?" Henrietta reflecting on the worst possible scenario. "Shake him by the hand? Call him our pet Bounty Hunter? Ask him out fer an evenin' meal? Or what?"

"Or what, I'd say!" Sally making plain her choice.

Donaldson shrugged where he sat, overborne by the weight of his Office.

"We got'ta go by the Rules an' Regulations, folks! Perform our legal duties as laid out in the manuals, is all."

Then he fell to picking at an invisible spot on the uneven surface of his desk with a fingernail, eyes down focused on this most important activity.

"Or—we could let Life an' Opportunity take thar choices as they pans out, meb'be!"

"What was thet, Charlie?" Sally not quite believing her ears.

"What? Did I say sumthin'?" Donaldson affecting innocence entire. "Only a passin' thought, o'no moment. Take no note, leddies, fer sure."


Two months later Nemesis finally scratched Rivenhoek from Her to-do list. When the climax arrived it rivalled the famous ending of The Odyssey in almost perfect detail. Nemesis herself, unseen, was present in the poky Office as Henrietta and Sally sat there by themselves that morning going over their abundant paperwork; outside, equally unseen and unheard by mere mortals, the Eternal Erinyes circled overhead, wings flapping creakily in the wind, singing a song of Despair and Woe. On Main Street, its surface of bare earth kicking up swirls of dust in the light breeze, two riders ambled along towards the Office; one rider tall in the saddle, the other folded over his mount, legs and boots on one side, body and head on the other, arms hanging listlessly down, lifeless and immobile as any dead body with three forty-five bullets in its back could, and ought, to be. Rivenhoek, bold as brass, was back.

"What does this mean, lover?" Sally picking up a thin yellow form and frowning over its contents. "The Party o'the First Part ought to consign the activitees of the Party of the Second Part within the purluis of a Full General Report, as set out in Form A dash Four Three Seven Bee! What in hell's thet mean?"

Henrietta brought her years of experience in the convoluted, indeed mystical, Art of Law Enforcement to the fore.

"Means ye has ter make out a Report showin' what ye did pes'nal; then write out another showin' what the perpetrator did; then a third Report showin', t'gether, how ye both interacted t'come t'the result thet finds ye final in Court over the incident. See?"

"Nah! All hogwash t'me!"

"Aaah!" Henrietta seeing it was going to be a long morning. "Fling the dam' thing over, see what I kin do."

"Thanks, lover."

At this point the door opened on the last scene of what might well be described as a Greek Tragedy combined with a Jacobean Revenge Play's last Act all in one. Pushed wide to its greatest extent a tall man ambled in as if to a place he knew well, meeting old tried and true friends.

"Hallo, Anderson Flammarte Rivenhoek, Bounty Hunter, at your convenience, leddies. Happy t'make yer acquaintance once agin. So, I got a corpse outside, needs a reward puttin' out over his deceased hide, one—"

The pedestrians passing outside on the sidewalk reported, for decades later, the firestorm of pistol shots which broke out without warning in the Sheriff's Office sounded like the Knell of Doom combined with the entire Battle of Gettysburg together, for the length of time the ambuscade lasted. Dust flew from the door panels, though no bullets penetrated to the outside, fortunately for those passing; a window pane cracked noisily, glass tinkling onto the sidewalk in fragments, then all was silence again. A few moments later Sheriff Donaldson, returning fresh from an interview over a trifle in Mountacre Road, dashed into his domain to see what the hell had happened in his absence.

The room was filled with grey throat-catching smoke, swirling in clouds overhead and all round. The desk was overturned, as was the single chair reserved for visitors. Sally stood to the side, both barrels of her Smith and Wessons smoking in their turn, while Henrietta stood calmly near the window, Colt forty-five in hand. On the floor, riddled with bullets lay all that remained in this mortal world of Anderson Flammarte Rivenhoek, dead as mutton, and rightly so too.

"We plugged the sun'na-a-b-tch, Charlie!" Sally making plain what was all too obvious.

"So I see's."

"Takin' outright umbrage aginst us, fer ol' actions done aginst him by us, so he said a'fore immediate pullin' his piece, as ye see entire, it lyin' by his side thar, clar as snow." Henrietta attempting to make what could be made of pure coincidence, truth be told. "We hadn't, tharby, any choice but t'defend oursel's efter thet, sure!"

"Quite!" Donaldson already wondering mentally how he was going to cover this in his Report.

"Waal," Sally taking the sunlit route to Happiness, with an unconcerned shrug. "Bum's shot his last victim in the back, anyways. Oh, look'ee h'yar! Looks like most o'our bullets, Harry's an' mine, hit him in his back, too! Who'd have thought!"

"Who, indeed!" Donaldson experiencing a chill feeling, not for the first time, in considering that the Female of the Species was indeed far more deadly than the Male!

The End

Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.