Chapter 1

Adam Cartwright sighed dismally as he sipped his beer, "I can't believe our luck. The day we're set to set to leave a sandstorm hits. Looks like we're stuck here. Pa expects us back at the Ponderosa tomorrow and by the looks of it we'll still be here a couple days from now." His brother, Hoss, took a giant swig of his own beer, and laughed, "Well, I don't know, Adam. Considerin' we made the deal to sell the cattle we came here to do, it's not like we'll have any more work for a while. Why don't you just try to think of it as some sorta vacation?" "If this was a vacation, I know that I'd spend it someplace a lot quieter than here," Adam glanced at the adjacent table where an attractive brunette girl was playing cards with a few other men. Another man stood behind her, and had the look of being her servant, suddenly the girl let out a loud shout, "I did it! I did it! I did it! It's an All-Club Straight!"
The butler smiled, "That's wonderful, Miss Stephanie."
Stephanie grinned broadly, "I really like this game."
Adam had been watching this game go on quickly and it appeared to him that either this girl had the most amazing luck imaginable or she was a brilliant cheater because she did nothing but win.
At another hand lost the men threw down their cards in anger, "That's it. I've had enough."
"Me too. I'm cutting my losses."
Stephanie looked hurt as the men all got up to go, "But wait! Where are you going? Don't leave yet! I was just starting to have some fun here."
One of the men laughed bitterly, "Shooting myself would be more fun than this," and the men were gone.
Stephanie looked around, the bar wasn't very crowded. Just a few men at the counter and the two men at the table across from her. She smiled at Hoss and Adam, "Uh... hey there, would you two like to play?"
Hoss, who had not been paying any attention to the happenings of the card game, shrugged agreeably and turned to Adam, who wasn't in the mood to be cheated out of his money. Adam responded before Hoss could, "Uh... not unless you're playing 'Old Maid'... we don't know any other games."
Suddenly one of the men from the bar counter got off his stool. He was a tall man, with a dark brown beard and the brim of his grey hat covered most of his eyes, "I'll play," he said, "Deal me in."
Stephanie smiled at him broadly, "Well, alright then! Let's get this show on the road before my luck changes!"
"One condition, though," he then pulled a gun out and pointed it at Stephanie, "High stakes game. The bet is for your life."
With a quick glance at one another, Adam and Hoss stood up preparing to draw their pistols when they notices three men behind them, one tall, muscular and bald, one shorter with wild brown hair, the other with short black hair, all armed.
"Sit down!" The wild-haired man said, "And give us those guns, NOW!"
Adam sighed as he handed over his six-shooter, he turned to Hoss, "Yeah, some vacation."

Half-an-hour later the town's sheriff and his deputies stood not far from the bar. The sheriff, a man of about fifty, completely bald and with a curly dark mustache, stared unmercilessly at the bar, "There are three things I can't tolerate in this world, people who put ice in alcohol, the pattern on a silhouette scorpion, and slime who don't appreciate tranquility. A robbery in my jurisdiction? Not on MY watch, damn it!"
Suddenly a nice highclass coach pulled up, driven by two white horses. The driver hopped down off his seat and opened the door of the coach, allowing a tall, middle-aged man with grey hair and a thin mustache, wearing fine, expensive clothing to step out. This man looked extremely worried and approached the sheriff, "Well, what's the situation here, Stan?"
Stan, the Sheriff, turned towards his deputy, "Alright Dick, will you inform Earl about what's going on?"
Dick nodded, "Yes, sir, well, according to the testimony from the witnesses, the group consists of four criminals and four hostages. I had a chance to talk to the folks who escaped and they told me one of the hostages is a real pretty girl who likes cards, Mr. Bostalk."
Earl Bostalk ran his fingers through his hair, scared and angry, "Well, what are these low-lifes looking for?"
Dick looked down on his piece of paper where he had the information written down, "Well, they want 100,000 dollars in nonconsecutive bills and a wagon outside the bar for a quick escape."
Bostalk turned to Stan, "Did they go and commit this crime knowing that she's my daughter?"
A small smile appeared on Stan's face, "I bet they did. I don't think it's any big secret that you're the wealthiest man in town, and only you could come up with 100,000 dollars that quick."
Angry, Bostalk slammed his fist down against a railing, "I'm not gonna let them get away! If word of this gets around hooligans will come swarming in from everywhere, my daughter will become their play thing and when they're finished they'll discard her in the desert!"
"I suppose you wouldn't know that from personal experience, would you 'Grim-Reaper' Bostalk," Stan said, almost grinning.
"Shut up, Stan!" Bostalk snapped, "You're supposed to be the sheriff in this town, and it's your job to help my daughter, damn it! I don't care how many have to die, you need to do what it takes to get her back in one piece!"
Stan's grin faded and he pulled out his pistol, pointing it at Bostalk, "Don't order me around, Bostalk. This is not the old days," he then turned to his deputy again, "Dick, how's it coming along?"
"We got through about two hours ago, sir. We'll be ready by the deadline the criminals gave us, no problem."
Stan turned back to the wealthy man, "Hey, Bostalk. I think it'd be a good idea for you to keep praying for your daughter's safety. Oh yeah, and by the way, while you're at it, don't forget the money."