“Cut him off, Kens,” Deeks shouted as the car bumped haphazardly over the rough ground.
“I’m trying,” she gritted out as she fought the wheel.
Finally closing on the suspect’s van, she lowered the window to give Deeks his shot. It wouldn’t be an easy one to make, but she knew he was good, smiling as she remembered him comparing himself to a western gunslinger that morning. He took out the tire on the van with two shots, even earning a compliment from Sam. He turned to smile at her and that’s when things went sideways, the car spinning out in the deep dirt and crashing into a solid berm. Kensi quickly recovered, pushing the airbag away and looking over at her partner, who wasn’t moving, his head resting against the door post.
“Deeks? You okay?” Her concern making her voice tremble as she reached for him. “Deeks, can you hear me?”
She gently lifted his head, catching her breath as she felt his warm blood on her hand. He wasn’t responding and she panicked, yelling into the comms for an ambulance.
He twirled both of his silver Colt .45s a couple of times, before sliding them back into their holsters. He hadn’t planned on killing the man, but he had made disparaging remarks about his dog and he just couldn’t let that pass. Monty was his best friend, and he could tell the dog had been upset about the man’s comments, so he had challenged him. The man obviously had no idea who he was dealing with and apparently didn’t know his reputation, so the gunman had laughed and walked out to the street, taunting him about his long blond hair, which he found irritating. The man had drawn on him, and he’d killed him with two shots to the chest. Now all he wanted was a whiskey and a chance to talk with that sexy saloon girl he’d met the night before.
The saloon looked like a Spanish hacienda and seemed familiar, but then again he had always loved seedy saloons. Even the woman behind the bar looked familiar, but he had never been in this town before so he couldn’t possibly know her.
“Quite an impressive display, mister,” she said. “I’ve followed your exploits for some time.”
“And who might you be, little lady?” He asked, tipping back his black Stetson, the silver hatband shimmering in the dim light.
“They call me Henrietta,” she replied as she set a glass of her best whiskey in front of him. “And I believe your name is Max.”
“Sometimes,” he said as he looked around for the dark hair girl he was interested in.
“That’s rather cryptic,” she said. “But then again, I’ve used a number of different names myself as I’ve gone through life.”
“Keep ’em guessing,” he said with a crooked grin. “Not good to let people get too close or they might see who you really are.”
“It sounds as if you lead a rather lonely life, Max,” she said as she set down a china cup and saucer.
“Not sure that’s any of your business, ma’am,” he drawled, raising an eyebrow as he quickly downed his drink, his smile long gone. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m looking for a girl.”
“Kensi,” she said, nodding toward a table in the back. “Take my advice and don’t hurt her. She’s tough in some ways, but if you hurt her she has friends who will take exception to that.”
“Do you always threaten people you just met?” He asked.
“If they need to be,” she said as she walked away.
He turned to look at the girl, straightening his black leather vest and removing his hat as he walked over to her.
“Hi, Kensi. Remember me?” Feeling nervous as he spoke, wondering if she was as interested in him as he was in her. “I’m the handsome cowboy who bought you a drink last night.”
“The one with the dog, right?” She said with a soft smile.
He nodded as he watched her, taking in the soft curve of the tops of her breasts and her mis-matched eyes, so smokey and dark. She was the prettiest thing he’d ever seen and he wondered if he shouldn’t just stay awhile and get to know her.
“You gonna just stand there or are you gonna sit?” She asked with a hint of irritation. “Make up your mind.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said, suddenly off balance.
“Did you just call me ma’am?” She snapped.
“What do you want me to call you?” He asked. “I got a couple of nicknames you might like. Sugar bear. Princess, maybe? How about Fern? You look like a Fern.”
“Fern? Really? Just call me Kensi,” she said as she moved some items around on the table, which was cluttered with a variety of items one doesn’t usually find in a saloon.
“What is all this?” He asked, huffing out a soft laugh as he sat down.
“It’s my stuff,” she said. “Don’t you have things you want to keep close by?”
“Not really,” he answered. “All I need is a little sunshine and the smell of gunpowder and I’m good to go. Never have stayed in one place long enough to settle down.”
“Guess not, you’re a gunslinger,” she said, her eyes rather sad.
“It’s what I do,” he laughed. “Bad guys don’t have a chance against me.”
“So you think you’re one of the good guys?” She asked.
“Yeah, I am,” he said cockily. “Me and Monty and Trigger go from town to town taking out bad guys.”
“Don’t you need a badge for that?”
“Had one once,” he admitted. “Decided to move on.”
The swinging doors slammed open and two men strode in and headed straight for him. One was a broad-chested guy wearing a flat brimmed hat worn mostly in Wyoming, and followed closely by a huge, bald headed black man with a green and black patterned scarf around his neck. They both wore badges and that had his hand moving to his gun.
“You the shooter?” The pale white guy asked, his mouth twisted as if he’d just eaten something sour.
“Who’s askin’?” Max responded coolly.
“United States Marshall, G Callen,” he breathed out, his hands resting on the large buckle of his gun belt. “This is my partner, Deputy Marshall Sam Hanna.”
“He asked you a question, kid,” Hanna said roughly.
“Who you callin’ a kid?” He asked, rising to his feet to face them.
“His name’s Max,” Kensi offered as she stood up next to him. “He hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“What do ya’ call the dead guy in the street?” Callen said with an easy smirk.
“He insulted my dog,” Max replied as Kensi wrapped an arm around his back and put a hand on his chest, her possessiveness surprising him.
“That supposed to be a joke?” Callen asked, his face hard and his eyes a little fierce.
“Not sure you’d know one if you heard it,” Max sniped. “And no, that’s the truth. I didn’t want to wait around until he insulted my horse, Trigger, too.”
“You’re a horse thief,” Hanna growled.
“Them’s fightin’ words, Marshall,” he said as he slowly picked up his hat and settled it down firmly over his unruly mop of hair, pushing Kensi away from the action he knew would be coming.
“Well, I know the man who owns a Palomino named Trigger, and it ain’t you,” Hanna replied, taking a step closer.
“Who would that be?” Max questioned defiantly.
“His name’s Roy Rogers and he’s the real deal, not some two-bit fake like you,” the Deputy Marshall spit out.
“Never heard of him,” Max said as he made his move.
Although he prided himself on his quickness, and in his own defense, there were two of them, and they did appear to be long time partners, he was not quick enough. Before he could draw, Marshall Callen pulled his gun and slammed it into the side of his head and he heard Kensi calling one of his many names as the blackness closed in around him.
“Deeks!” Her voice sounding closer now and her warm hand was holding his.
“I didn’t steal the horse,” he mumbled, reaching up to touch the side of his head.
“What the hell are you talking about, Deeks?” Sam asked, resting a big hand on his arm.
His eyes flashed open and he quickly pushed Sam’s hand away, looking warily around him. When he saw Callen he tried to get up off the floor and frantically searched for his guns.
“Deeks, stay on the gurney. Your head’s bleeding,” Kensi pleaded.
“He hit me in the head,” he shouted and pointed at Callen. “What kind of Marshall does that. Afraid to fight me fair and square?”
“He must have hit his head harder than we thought,” Callen said, sounding worried as he spoke into his cell.
“Don’t let ’em take Monty, Kensi,” he asked, his words slurring as his energy faded.
“Definitely a concussion, Hetty,” Callen said into his cell.
“Do you know where you are?” Sam asked softly.
“In Henrietta’s saloon,” he whispered. “My name’s Max Gentry. I’m a gunslinger. One of the good guys.”
He could barely get the last sentence out, and it was Sam’s hearty laugh he would remember when he woke up. Well that, and the gentle touch of Kensi’s hand on his chest before she told the Deputy Marshall to shut up, all serenaded by remnants of an old cowboy song playing in his head.
From this valley they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathway awhile
So come sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy that loved you so true