William Tompkins closed his eyes, his fists clenched tightly. He could feel his nails digging into his palms, as the itch continued to increase. It would drive him mad, he was sure of it. His fingers itched to pull one of the colts that hung from his side and fire. Fire at the low-down, lying, drunken, lay about - Teaspoon Hunter, a villain known from one coast to the other.
Teaspoon Hunter and his gang, the Pony boys, had been terrorizing Rock Creek for weeks now. In spite of all his efforts, Hunter had been extorting money right and left. But worst yet, he had begun harassing the sweet, virginal Rachel Dunne.
The very thought of Hunter touching the innocent Dunne woman made his skin crawl. But Tompkins had been doing his best to thwart Hunter. He had been donning a disguise, every night. Wearing a cape and mask, he set out to undo all the wrongs Hunter had done during the day. He released all the horses which had been stolen and found the cache of jewels Hunter had seized. He returned all the finery to their rightful owners and even rescued a fair maiden from the clutches of the Pony boys on his way home. Yet Hunter continued to stain the fair town of Rock Creek with his very presence. But it would end tonight. He, William Tompkins, also know as the Raider, would make sure of it.
“No,” Rachel cried. “Please.” She slapped at Hunter’s face, in vain, as the greasy, grey-haired man tied her wrists together with a length of rope.
Hunter then pushed her roughly to the ground and tied her to the railroad tracks. He cackled, gleefully. The Dunne woman was going to get what she deserved. That sweet, young woman had rejected him at every turn and he hated her for that, even more than he hated her for refusing to sell her land.
“Hunter,” the one know as Cody smirked.
“Leave him be,” Jimmy retorted, lounging against a tree, watching his idol in action.
“But this is important,” Noah interjected.
“What could be more important than this?” Kid asked, watching Teaspoon with the same glazed expression as Jimmy.
“The train ain’t coming for three days,” Lou said, rolling her eyes.
“Does it really matter?” Buck replied. “She’ll be dead by then. Or Hunter will have what he wants.” Rachel would be dead or she would sign the papers, either way, the nuisance would be gone.
Hunter finished tying Rachel to the tracks and smiled malevolently. “The offer still stands,” he said with a leer. “Stay with me and be my woman. That way we can all get what we want.” He would have her and she would have her precious land.
“Never,” Rachel declared. “I would never soil myself with the likes of you.”
**Then sign the blasted papers** Ike signed.
“What did he say?” Hunter asked. Why he surrounded himself with such incompetents, he had no idea. Coloreds, half-breeds, mutes, cowards, fools and even a hermaphrodite. He needed to get himself a better gang.
Buck quickly translated.
“Never,” Rachel repeated when she heard Buck’s words. Never would she sell her family’s land. She lay her head on the tracks, preparing herself for the inevitable.
“Hunter,” a voice rumbled from the night.
“It’s him,” Jimmy squeaked. “It’s the Raider.” The young man quickly hightailed it out of there.
Tompkins, in his resplendent, black Raider’s costume, stood stock still, staring at the quickly diminishing group. Hunter’s lackeys were running off one by one, except for that scrawny one, everyone called Lou. Tompkins reached into his boot and flung his knife, point down, at the boy’s feet.
Lou looked at him wide-eyed, and for a moment, Tompkins felt a surge of desire from the boy’s eyes before he too ran off.
“You had better leave too,” Tompkins thundered. “Leave my town.”
“I ain’t going nowhere,” Hunter replied, a smile coming to his face.
“Then you’ll be dead.” The words were spoken as a fact, not a threat.
“I ain’t scared,” Hunter answered, his voice cracking as he caught sight of the belt around the Raider’s waist. That was his brother’s belt. His brother, a man cut down in his prime by some do-gooder, always wore that beaded belt.
Teaspoon Hunter began backing away, unwilling to die by the same hands which must have killed his brother. “I’ll be back,” he said, his voice very small.
“And I’ll be waiting,” the Raider promised. He waited until everyone was gone and then he knelt by Miss Dunne and untied the poor thing. He gently smoothed back her hair. “You’re safe now.”
Rachel got to her feet, her body trembling from the Raider’s touch. “Thank you.” She longed to kiss him, but she knew she was unworthy of such a man. “I have to go now.”
Tompkins smiled, realizing why the sweet creature was running from him. He watched as she took a few steps from him and then the pulled the whip from his side. He cracked his whip, sending the lash right around the woman’s tiny waist and reeled her in.
“I don’t deserve this,” Rachel said, her breath coming quickly now, as she found herself in the Raider’s arms. He could have any woman that he wanted.
“Maybe I do,” the Raider whispered as he bent his head towards her.
“TOMPKINS,” Rachel shouted, shaking the storekeeper from his reverie. “I said do you have any more flour?”
Tompkins shook his head. “Yeah, I’ll get you some.”