Raps at the door rivaled the wind’s burden against bound shutters.

“Pinkerton, Mr. Westgate. Open up.” The Pinkerton detective scanned the dying ranch. Nothing stirred; he realized he held his breath, galvanizing himself for what would come. Westgate—eh, the man could rot. The woman, however, was innocent; but she’d be standing by the man she’d married.

The cranky drawl of rusted hinges split the heat, and the detective wiped his brow, his gaze sweeping the lanky cowpoke glowering through the cracked door. Homemade door, the Pinkerton corrected, lopsided, sagging with foundation shifts, scraping resistance into the floor at the rancher’s spurs. Westgate wore his spurs indoors: showed what kind of woman he’d married, eased the Pinkerton’s guilt—but not the finger that itched on the Union-issued Colt Navy.

Westgate cocked a brow. Years hadn’t changed him. He was still an arrogant sonuvabitch and held his set jaw like a murderer. A particularly cool snarl spoke: “Hell, Carson, been a while. Guess they don’t pay you to leave jobs unfinished.”

Detective Carson heard the click behind the door and could picture that LeMat, how it glinted in the sun when aimed at a pretty girl’s throat. Carson’s wife had never let him wear his spurs indoors. “Hang ’em up at the door,” she’d said, so sultry, so huskily. He’d always hung them up, but no one asked him to, anymore.

Westgate moved to slam the door, lodging it upon Carson’s swifter boot. A string of oaths left both men, but Carson wedged himself inside, Navy drawn, facing Westgate’s LeMat. A woman shrieked, frozen in the corner, and the two men circled each other like feral cats.

“Your move, Detective,” Westgate hissed. “You’ve waited a long time for this.”

“Yes, I have,” Carson whispered. “My God, yes, I have.” Faster than a blink, Carson drew his bead from Westgate and pulled the trigger, the detective’s bullet shattering the air with a deafening pop and an accompanying whir. A heartbeat later, the woman slumped to the floor, a circle of red on the wall behind her, a hole clear through her throat.

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