Baby's black balloon makes her fly. I almost fell into that hole in your life.
And you're not thinking about tomorrow,
'Cause you were the same as me,
But on your knees.

~ Goo Goo Dolls, Black Balloon


"I never mixed with outlaws. Never knew outlaws until they found me. In one moment, my life changed because of a rag-tag gang of men called the James-Younger gang, and their leader who would forever be known to history as Jesse James"
~From the diary of Virginia Craig

She squinted at the bruise under her eye.

Easy to hide. But not easy to forget.

She thought as her fingers tenderly touched the swelling spot.Ginny knew that a little powder could hide the bruise, but it was her pride that was hurt more than the eye.

I'm not cut out for this job. I'm only sixteen! Not old enough to even be courted let alone manage a saloon! All that and at the same time be used as a punching bag by my own father! But of course, if MAMA hadn't taken it into her head that she had to GIVE UP!!

Ginny's brain screamed, the insides of her skull pounding angrily. She didn't think that life could be so hard. Since her mother had taken ill with what the doctor had called pneumonia, Ginny hadn't had an easy life since. Her father had thrown himself into the saloon heart and soul when Mattie Craig had taken ill with the fatal disease, but when she died, Mark Craig fell into the pit of alcohol and hadn't climbed out since.

Ginny patted the powder on her face till she was sure that everything was hidden then sat back and sighed. It wasn't only alcohol that her father had gotten himself into. It was the anger that he couldn't control. Anger with Mattie, her death, his debts, it all built up into those large fists of his and took themselves out on Ginny. She knew why, but it still didn't stop her resentment. It was now because of HIM that it was SHE manning the saloon, not him. It was SHE who was forced to listen to the drunken minds of the men who sauntered in and demanded drinks, all the while poisoning their minds as they drank. And as they drank they spoke to her in honey-sweet tones as she rolled her eyes and brushed them off. There were few who were actually civil. VERY few. It was actually very rare to have someone call her "Ma'am" nowadays.

She groaned at the sound of her father's bellowing from the saloon below, then stood slowly, walking to the door. She stopped and looked around her room. It was the only real thing she could call hers now. She stepped out, locking the door firmly and placing the keys in her pocket. As she walked down the stairs the cheery chords of the piano wafted into her ears. When she entered the establishment, the piano player turned around and gave her a winning smile. Jake was a steadfast person, one she could surely count on. At eighteen, the only thing he had to his name was the clothes on his back and his talent. Her mother had given him the job, convinced that he would be the perfect edition to the saloon. But Ginny knew the real reason why. She knew her mother had hired him for his talent, but it was also because she knew he had nothing at all. She didn't want him to end up like others. Others had gone crazy. Others had killed themselves. Others, had become outlaws. Her mother didn't want that.

"Heya Ginny! Listen I'm comin' back this evenin'. You gonna be here?" Ginny looked up and smiled at the girl sitting in front of her. Prissy's brightly painted face stuck out in the bar like a sore thumb, but she didn't care. Ginny frankly didn't mind her friend's profession either. She was used to it. She knew that Prissy was what the men called, a "paid lady". Ginny didn't sugar-coat her friend's profession. She knew she was a prostitute, there was no way to sugar-coat that. If she had been the Ginny she was before her mother's illness, never in a million years would she have made friends with Prissy. Her mother would have slapped her across the face if she had been alive. The fact was there was no way for Ginny to avoid prostitutes. After things began to get run down in the saloon, they seemed to come by the barrel-full. But the truth of the matter was, Prissy was the only friend Ginny had.

"Of course I'll be here Pris. I ain't got nowhere else to go." Ginny said with a smile. Prissy smiled and gave a loud laugh. "Yer such a tease Gin. Well listen, have ya heard about whats been goin' on?" Prissy asked, leaning closer to the bar. Ginny shook her head and frowned. "Well, the word 'round town is that Jesse James is headin' in this direction." She said excitedly. Ginny shrugged. "So? Whats Jesse James got to do with me? He's no concern of mine." Ginny said, turning away. Prissy squealed and grabbed Ginny's dress. "He might come here! Him and his gang! Wouldn't that be excitin'? Real outlaws! Here! In your saloon! Yer so lucky!" Prissy said enviously. Ginny tossed her blonde curls in disdain. "What does it matter Pris? If you have yer way you'll be gettin' the better part of them anyway." Ginny said meaningfully.

Prissy smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "Probably. But still. How exciting! They've robbed so many banks and they've never been caught. Oh how wonderful! An' from the looks of the outlaw posters I'd say that they're all mighty handsome!" Prissy said meaningfully. Ginny rolled her eyes. "Pris, you know that them posters never are right! They probably just exaggerated as usual." Prissy put her hands on her hips. "Have you even seen the posters?" She asked demandingly. "Yes I've seen 'em. They're all over town Pris. No way I cain't see 'em." Ginny replied. Suddenly Prissy turned her head to an impatient young man standing in the doorway. "I gotta go Gin. If they come in before I get back, please make 'em wait!" Prissy whispered before rushing off. Ginny watched her as she exited the establishment with a sigh. "If I have my way I'll make sure they leave as soon as you walk in the door." She muttered under her breath.

Suddenly a loud ouburst brought Ginny out of her daydreaming. She looked over in the general direction of the sound and groaned. It was her father and his friends. One of the men was standing up and he began to point in Ginny's direction. "So Mark, you love gin so much that you name yer girl after it? That true?" The man asked, his voice slurred and his motions wobbly. Mark Craig turned to look at his daughter standing alone at the bar and nodded, laughing. "That's true! Ain't she a beauty? Jest like gin!" The whole saloon burst out laughing. Ginny's face turned red as she began to wipe up the bar fiercely. "I was named Virginia after my grandmother, not a stupid fool drink." She muttered under her breath, her face getting redder and redder, much to the appreciation of the rest of the bar.

That evening, Prissy returned before there were any sign of the anticipated outlaws. She sighed and sat down at the bar. "Get me a drink Ginny. I need it bad." She said wearily. Ginny nodded and handed her whiskey to her. Prissy gulped it down and set the tumbler down weakly. "Any sign of 'em?" She asked hopefully. Ginny shook her head as she refilled the girl's glass. "You know Pris, there's a good chance that they won't even come. I mean, you just thought on a whim they might come. They might pass us over." Ginny pointed out slowly. Prissy shook her head violently. "They jest robbed the bank in the town ten miles away from us this afternoon. They're gonna need a place to stay an' a place to drink. Yer so lucky that this saloon is a hotel too." Prissy groaned. "Seems I'm lucky in a lotta things I don't wanna be lucky IN." Ginny muttered.

"I kin name 'em all off. The Jameses an' Youngers anyway. I don't much care 'bout the others. Of the Jameses there's Frank an' James. Both very handsome. Frank's more polished than Jesse. Jesse's more of the rough lookin' type. Really handsome. Then there's the Youngers. They're the James' cousins ya know. There's Cole and then Bob, and the youngest Jim. But he's only a baby." She giggled. "If he's only a baby why's he ridin' with these outlaws?" Ginny asked sarcastically. "Because he's a Younger I guess. He's cute though. Although he's too young fer me." Prissy said nonchalantly. Ginny threw her hands in the air. "Prissy, yer only eighteen! He's probably only a year or so younger than you!" She pointed out. Prissy played with a golden curl. "Yeah, but he's still too young fer me. I'd like Cole or Jesse more." She said hopefully. As Prissy spoke, Ginny began to rub spilled whiskey off the counter with an unexplained vigor, her jaw set angrily.

She shook her head as she did so and her head snapped to attention when Prissy gasped out loud. "It's them! It's them!" She whispered excitedly, slipping off her stool and smoothing her dress. Ginny eyed her friend then looked at the gang standing in the doorway. Her blue eyes ran across them, then turned back to her work. She knew what they'd be coming for. " 'Scuse me Miss? Can I bother ya for a little bit of whiskey?" Ginny frowned at the sound of the pleasant voice and the utter politeness that it implied. She turned around and found herself looking at Jesse James. When her heart flew into her mouth, she slapped herself inwardly.

He's jest Jesse James. He ain't gonna hurt you. He jest wants whiskey thats all. But God, he's imposing.

She thought as she gave a weak smile. He smiled back, his dark brown eyes twinkling. "Here you go Mister James." Jesse smiled at her recognition. "Lets jest keep that between you an' me." He said with a smile. She leaned closer and whispered, "Frankly Mister James, I don't think that's possible." She said, eyeing Prissy. Jesse turned in her direction and saw with whom the young girl was flirting with. She was flirting shamelessly with Cole Younger. Jesse frowned and turned back, eyeing Ginny's intense gaze. "Friend of yours?" He asked. Her blue eyes flitted to his face momentarily and glimpsed the concern in them before she looked away. "Yeah. But don't worry 'bout it. After all, she's jest doin' her job." She said, turning away. Jesse eyed her back, then stood up joining the rest of the gang with their gambling.

Ginny observed the gang out of the corner of her eye for the rest of the evening. It was just her luck that her father was gone, at another saloon with friends. She was alone. In a way that was good, and in another way bad. If the gang should get it into their heads to start a brawl, things would get out of hand fast. But they seemed to be peaceable enough. It hadn't taken long before Cole slung Prissy over his shoulder and rushed into the next room as she laughed. Ginny rolled her eyes and averted them from the two. Jesse sat intently off to the side while the rest of the gang gambled, prostitutes hanging on a few of their arms.

After a while Jesse approached the bar again. "Can I have another please?" He asked, his fingers tapping noiselessly on the bar. Ginny smiled and nodded. As Jesse took the whiskey and Ginny walked away, she saw a member of the gang approach Jesse. In a glance, she knew he was one of the outlaws, but she couldn't remember which one. She thought hard to recall the names on the Wanted Posters.

Jesse, Frank, Cole, Bob, what's his name?

She thought. But then she remembered Prissy's words.

There's Cole and then Bob, and the youngest Jim. But he's only a baby.

Ginny nodded to herself. He eyed Jesse, who furrowed his forehead as he saw the whiskey glass in the boy's hands. "Drinkin' whiskey Jim? You're too young to be drinkin' whiskey." Jesse warned, taking another swig of his own drink. Jim raised his hand in defense. "Hey. Not too young to kill a man, NOT too young to drink whiskey. 'Scuse me? Can I have a whiskey?" Ginny turned around to face the outlaws. She knew it was Jim who had spoken, for she saw the somewhat surprised look in Jesse's eyes as he looked in her direction.

Another bartender standing on the other end of the bar eyed her. She shook her head at his concern and uncorked the whiskey bottle. Ginny's eyes twinkled at Jesse's surprise as she poured the whiskey. Jim smiled and took it. Ginny walked away, but she kept her eyes on him. Jim held the whiskey in his hand for a moment, swishing it around, his eyes glued to it. Then he took a deep breath and gulped it down his throat. Ginny had to turn and hide her face as Jim's face turned bright red, then pale as he pretended to enjoy it. He smiled wanly at Jesse, who smiled back. "You want another?" Ginny asked, fully knowing what his answer would be. Jim eyed her, the vivacity in his green eyes dampened because of his attempt to keep down the nausea that would come all too soon. But that didn't stop his bravado. He leaned up casually against the bar and waved his hand. "I don't think so. I think that'll be all for now." Ginny suppressed as smile and nodded, turning away.

She caught bits and pieces of the conversation that Jim had with Jesse. Eventually she heard him say, "Me? Why I was just about to go turn on that Younger charm." She smiled and shook her head.

Looks like that outlaw business went to his head. She thought.

But she immediately changed her opinion when she heard him deny that he was actually going to do that. She was further convinced that the boy was not stuck up when she heard him complain to Jesse about being considered a baby, just the baby brother who was too little to do anything. Ginny looked down intently at the bar, pretending she wasn't hearing the conversation when she really was. But as she turned around to offer Jesse more whiskey, Jim suddenly turned pale and whispered, "Tell ya what. I don't drink good neither. I'm gonna, go throw up." He said as he rushed out the saloon doors. Jesse nodded and turned to him as he began to run. "Hurry!" He called.

He turned back around to face Ginny. "He alright?" Ginny asked as she poured another whiskey into the outlaw's cup. Jesse waved his hand. "Yeah. He's fine. Jest a little tired." He said, taking hold of the drink. "That's not it at all if you don't mind my saying so Mister James. Unless my eyes deceive me, he's never drunk whiskey before." She said with a twinkle in her eye. Jesse eyed her and smiled. "Well ain't you intuitive for a bartender?" He said. "I don't intend to be a bartender my entire life you know. I intend to get outta here one way or another. Just as soon as my old man dies." She muttered. Jesse raised his eyebrows. "How's that?" He asked. Ginny shrugged and leaned up against the bar. "Basically I'm runnin' this place. I'm not jest bartender you know. I'm everything. My Pa's just a little too drunk so he cain't handle it. So if he was dead, I could get rid of this place and start over." She explained.

"You want me to do you that favor? I could." Jesse asked. Ginny laughed until she saw the seriousness in Jesse's eyes. She sobered. "No. I don't want you too. I might hate him, but he's still my Pa." Ginny said slowly. Jesse nodded as he looked at her. "Yer mighty smart. Alot smarter than most kids yer age." He said. Ginny shrugged as she began to boil a pot of coffee. Jesse eyed her. "Who's that for? Never heard of a saloon serving coffee." He said with a smile. "Usually they don't. I'm doin' you a favor. You don't want one of your outlaws stuck with a huge headache do you?" She asked as she walked out from behind the bar. She stopped a moment as she saw Prissy standing in the back doorway kissing Cole gently, then she shook her head, walking out the door.

Jim was there, his head in his hands, sitting on the front step. "Jim Younger?" She called out. Jim's head shot up, his hand flying to his belt towards his pistol before he saw her. Then he dropped his hands. "Sorry 'bout that." He muttered, his eyes turning away from her. "I thought you might want somethin' other than whiskey." She said quietly setting the coffee cup on the step. Jim looked at the coffee cup, then looked up at her expectantly. "Well?" He said. "Well what?" Ginny asked. "Aincha gonna say how cute it is that I cain't even drink like the rest of the gang? That I hafta go and throw up my insides out here instead of keepin' it down? Go ahead. I've gotten that enough." He muttered.

Ginny smiled and sat down on the step, moving her skirts out of the way. "No I ain't gonna say that. Why would I? It ain't funny. You shoulda seen me the first time I drank whiskey." She chuckled. Jim turned to look at her. "You drank whiskey?" He asked. She smiled. "Sure did. My Pa wanted me to and," Ginny's voice drifted off as she recalled the incident. Instinctively, her fingers covered the long, thin, scar on her arm, despite the fact that her sleeve covered it already. "Well I threw up practically all night! It was awful! I was in the same position as you." She said, brightening. For the first time, Jim smiled. "That's awful. I've only thrown up once so far." He said. "You might do more, but of course you did only have one drink." She said thoughtfully. Suddenly Jim laughed. "Look at us. Not even introduced an' already you're bringin' me coffee and we're talkin' about when we threw up our whiskey." He laughed loudly and Ginny joined in.

As Ginny laughed, she clutched her stomach and with a gasp, she stopped as abruptly as she began. Jim stopped, eyeing her with concern. "What?" He asked her. Ginny shook her head, her hands flying to her sides.

I've gotta git to the doctor tomorrow. I cain't take this anymore.

She thought, knowing that under her dress was a bandage wrapped around her waist from the knife wound she had received a week ago.

I bet I've received more wounds than all the Jameses an' Youngers put together.

She thought angrily. "I'm alright." She reassured him. "You sure?" He asked, his eyes betraying his concern. When she nodded, he smiled and put out his hand. "Jim Younger." She took his hand and shook it, a small smile on her face. "Virginia Craig. Ginny." She said tentatively. Jim smiled and squeezed her hand before letting it go. "Nice to meet you. Thanks for the coffee by the way." He said. As he spoke, his face became violently pale and he held up a finger in her direction. She smiled and nodded, looking away as he vomitted once more.

When he sat up, his face was pale and sweaty. Ginny shook her head and tossed him a towl as she stood up. "Here. Wipe your face off. You look like you just ran a race." She said as she walked inside the saloon. She stepped behind the counter and eyed Jesse, who was deep in a flirtatious conversation with one of the women. She shook her head and as she took an empty glass lying on the counter, a large hand wrapped around her fingers, preventing her from taking it. She frowned and looked up into the face of who she knew to be Cole Younger. "Can I have a little more?" He asked, flashing her a winning smile. Ginny eyed Prissy, who was sitting a little ways away, watching Cole with dazzled eyes. Ginny shrugged, taking the cup and filling it. He grinned and tipped his hat.

Finally Jesse turned to her and placed some money on the bar. "We're gonna need a place to stay. If you don't mind putting up a few outlaws that is." He said, flashing her a radiant smile Ginny knew was his way of pleading. His way of getting on his knees and begging without actually doing it. He thought he could just make her melt with that smile and make her say yes did he? He had another thing coming. But Ginny stopped herself as she started to answer, changing her mind at the last minute. "Fine. But don't think it was because of that smile of yours. For all I care you can wipe that smile off your face and ask me straight forward Jesse James." Ginny said, placing an empty glass in some water. Jesse smiled and shook his head, holding out money in his hands. "May I please have some rooms?" Ginny smiled and waved her hand. "Go get your gang and I'll see about it." She said, pocketing the money.

In little time the entire gang was in front of her and as she stepped out into the adjoining hotel, she stopped, a distant sound making its way to her ears. She turned around to face Jesse quickly, her face grim. "What's the name of that guy who's trackin' ya?" She asked quickly. Confusion registered on Jesse's face for a moment but he answered her. "Pinkerton." Ginny's blue eyes flashed towards the door and began to push Jesse in through the door. "What the hell are you doin' girl?" Cole asked as she shoved him and the others into the doorway and into a large closet. "You stay there! You stay until I come for you!" She said quickly before she slammed the door on the rest of the gang and locked it. There were cries of outrage before she heard Jesse's voice firmly invoking them to be quiet. Ginny quickly re-entered the bar and her eyes searched for a place to hide the keys. Finally she stuck them in the liquor cabinet near the bottom of the counter. Jake looked at her curiously as he continued to play the cheery tune on the piano.
Ginny shook her head and cleared her throat. "Listen up! If any of ya's blabs to my Pa that Jesse James and his gang was here tonight, I'll get them to blow all of your heads off!" She yelled, her voice trembling somewhat as the shouts from outside came closer and closer. The men and women in the bar eyed her with a frightened expression and turned back to what they were doing. Prissy looked at her with wild eyes as Ginny's father stumbled into the bar, a few other men following him. "Gin, you won't believe who I met tonight. My old friend, the one who's been throwin' people out of their homes and listen to this, he's lookin' fer Jesse James now! Ain't that somethin' for Pinkerton? He thought he'd come here. He'll give us fifty dollars if we hand him over. He, uh, hasn't come by any chance has he?" Ginny's father eyed her with his wild, drunken eyes, eyes that bored into her, daring her to lie to him. "He ain't been in here tonight. The rest of the saloon can swear to that." She said quickly. Her father whirled around and looked at them. They stared solemnly back at him. "Jesse James been here tonight?" He asked. The group eyed him and collectively shook their heads and murmured in the negative.

Ginny's father swore as he turned around again. "I'm goin' to bed Gin. You better not be lyin' to me." He hissed under his breath as he entered the hotel and clomped up the stairs to his room. Ginny and the entire room breathed a collective sigh of relief. Ginny grabbed the keys from the cabinet and looked around for Prissy to tell her that the gang was safe. She wasn't there. Ginny shook her head and rushed to the closet. When she opened it, she was greeted with the sober faces of the outlaws. She stared at them, temporarily wondering if she had done the right thing, wondering if she would be repaid for her kindness in bullets. Jesse stepped out of the closet, taking a step near her. Ginny quickly took a step backwards, her hand feeling for the door. All of a sudden, the men had changed from fun-loving men, to stern outlaws who meant business with anyone who messed with them.

Ginny's mind began to spin as she felt the weakness flow into her knees. Jesse grabbed her arms as she started to collapse, her eyes wide open and afraid. "Don't you faint. You need to show us where our rooms are." Jesse said teasingly. Ginny breathed a sigh of relief as the rest of the outlaws piled out of the closet. "Dang! I don't think I've ever seen a smaller closet! I thought I was a goner." Ginny looked at the man with a frown. She didn't recognize him. Apparently he saw her hesitation as he spoke up. "You know who I am right? Bob Younger? I'm on the reward posters too." He hinted. Ginny shook her head. "The Bob Younger on the posters doesn't look anything like you do." She said. Bob's face registered shock as he turned to look at the rest of the gang.

"C'mon. I'll take you to your room. You better jest have one, in case something happens. That way you'll all be together and you can all get out together. Fortunately for you boys, the biggest room is empty." Ginny babbled, trying to fill the silence. She walked up to the room and unlocked it. The outlaws piled into the room, but only Jesse remained behind. "Thank you for what you did back there. I must admit I thought you were wanting to get that fifty dollars yourself when you locked us in that closet." He said with a small smile. Ginny returned the smile and shrugged. "I jest did what I thought was right. I knew what would happen if he came home and found you boys here." Ginny said shyly. Jesse nodded. "I'd be pleased if I could know your name lady." He said. Ginny smiled and cast her eyes down demurely. "Virginia Craig. But I go by Ginny." Jesse's hand reached out and took her hand in his, patting it gently. "Thank you. It's an honor to meet such a brave lady." He said sincerely.

Ginny withdrew her hand and laughed. "Please Mister James. I'm anything but brave. In fact I'm everything but." She said, walking away. She winced as she bent down to retrieve a piece of broken glass in the hallway. Inwardly she groaned.

I cain't go back to the Doc. He'd ask what was the matter and I'd hafta make up something. How can you make up a story about getting cut in the stomach?

Ginny asked herself as she re-entered the bar. How could she explain that it was her father inflicting the wounds? She couldn't. He was still her father.

But the reason was absurd Ginny! You have to tell someone why he did such a horrible thing to you!

She screamed at herself inwardly.She placed her hands on her head as she recalled the incident. Her father wanted her to marry. He wanted her to marry on of the regulars to the saloon. He might have been a drunkard but he was incredibly wealthy. It was the wealth that her father cared about, the wealth that he wanted. He could have cared less whether or not she liked him. He had flown out of control when she had given her answer. The knife had been there so she could cut up the meat for dinner. It was cleaned, polished, deadly. And it was within reach. After the deed was done, her father had dropped the knife, running out of the room as she lay on the floor, gasping and bleeding. She had wrapped the wound herself. She couldn't get help this time.

The doors to the saloon swung open and she barely glanced at those who entered. But when one of them approached the counter, she took her hands off of her head and looked up. The man was tall, his black beard full and his eyes reminding her of unbending steel. "Excuse me Miss. Are you Virginia Craig?" He asked politely. Ginny nodded suspiciously, her gaze fixed on him. "Well I have reason to believe, an eyewitness actually, that told me that you are harboring the James-Younger gang. That's a felony Miss, to hide the wanted." He said seriously. Ginny's mouth dropped open and as she did, a man jumped behind the counter, grabbing her arms and twisting them around her fiercely. The man leaned closer. "Now, won't you tell us where they are? And then if you do, we'll let you go." He said reassuringly.

Ginny wrestled in the man's grasp, her eyes narrowing. "I know who you are! You're Pinkerton! And I don't know anything about Jesse James!" She yelled. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Jake lunge for the man, but he was smacked to the ground by another man, who stepped in just in time. "I think that you are just afraid that he'll hurt you if you tell. Don't worry, we'll lock him up so that he never escapes and hurts anyone ever again." He said gently. "He ain't never hurt anyone yet Pinkerton! An' thats not it! You cain't do this to me!" She yelled angrily. Pinkerton shook his head and turned to the men. "If you aren't hiding anything then you won't be adverse to me searching your establishment." He said coldly, nodding to his men. Ginny stopped wriggling for a moment as she watched the men turn over tables and toss bottles to the floor in their search. Everything was being ruined. In a sudden burst of energy, she freed her hand from the man who held it and smacked him hard.

The instant he let go, Ginny rushed out the door and into the hotel, locking it firmly behind her. She ran up the stairs, stumbling and falling occasionally. In fact she was on the floor when she slammed open the room where the outlaws were staying. Instantly bullets rang out around her and she dropped to the floor. Strong hands grasped her arm and jerked her upwards. Ginny opened her eyes tentatively to look into the face of Cole Younger. "What the," He started angrily. Ginny took advantage of his surprise as the door downstairs began to be banged upon loudly, twisting out of his grasp and running into the room. By this time a lamp was lit and the outlaws were on their feet.

Ginny ignored the men's lack of shirts in her distress as she panted, "Pinkerton's here. You've gotta get out now!" She said, trying to regain her composure. Jesse looked at Frank who began to walk towards the door. Ginny grasped his arm. "You cain't go out that way. They've already got it blocked off." She said urgently. "Then where the hell do we go?" Cole burst out. Ginny glanced at him. "Mind your language. You'll have to go out the window." She said pointing in the window's direction. Jesse smiled at her admonishing and edged towards it, looking out. "Yeah, but where to after that?" Jesse asked, eyeing the high rooftop and the rain that suddenly began to pour down. "And we should have a plan. In case you have one already." Jim said, walking hastily to stand by Cole and Jesse.

Ginny turned to the doorway as she listened to the door downstairs slowly being broken to pieces. She surprised them all by throwing the window fully open, hiking up her skirts and straddling the window frame, her body becoming soaked with the pouring rain, her slight frame illuminated by the lightning that raged. "I'll show you. Follow me." She said, ducking out the window. The outlaws hesitated for only a moment before following them. They stood on the roof in the rain till the Jim exited. He carefully turned around so as not to lose his balance and closed the window securely. "Good idea Jim." Jesse whispered approvingly. Jim nodded his thanks and looked to Ginny. The rest of them did the same. She listened for a moment before tiptoeing across the roof. "Follow me." The outlaws followed her, not once losing their footing, although Bob nearly fell from the roof, frightening the entire gang as his leg dangled perilously over the edge of the front porch. Cole and Frank quickly knelt as carefully as possible and pulled the frightened Bob back onto the roof. Finally the group reached a trellis at the back of the house that they climbed down.

When they were all safely on the ground, Ginny rushed at full speed towards the stables, the outlaws following her, their feet sloshing through the mud. Jim suddenly stopped and whistled. The group stopped and turned. Jim rushed over to them, his face aglow. "I've got a great idea." He whispered. The group listened to his idea, excitement growing on their faces as they listened. "Think it'll work?" Cole asked. "I think it will. We've jest gotta buy us a little more time." Jesse said, eyeing Ginny. "Don't even say it. I know what you want." She said with resolve, walking back towards the saloon. Jim tipped his hat at the rest of the group. "It'll work. I know it will." He whispered as he ran through the mud to catch up with her. Cole grinned at Jesse and they rushed off to prepare the rest of the plan.

Pinkerton walked angrily back down the stairs of the hotel. All he had found was the girl's father sleeping soundly in his room. Nothing else. Suddenly he heard a piercing scream resound from the front of the saloon. He and his men rushed out into the pouring rain. They saw a drenched Jim Younger standing close to Ginny, his arm wrapped around her waist, the other arm holding her arm in a tight hold. Ginny's face was pale and panicked and as she saw the men, she screamed again. "Please help me! He's gonna hurt me and take me away! I don't want to go! Don't let him!" Jim looked up at them, holding her closely to him. Pinkerton's eyes widened and he took a step forward. "Don't do it Pinkerton! I'll blow her head off! You know I will!" Jim said warningly, his hand reaching for his gun. Pinkerton took a step backwards. "We'll negotiate. Let the girl go and I'll give you an hour head start." He said reasonably.

Jim seemed to think it over for a moment before drawing the pistol and putting it to Ginny's head, his grip on her growing tighter. "Three hours Pinkerton!" He yelled. Pinkerton grew pale, then red as his anger mounted. "You better say yes Pinkerton! Otherwise I'll do what I say I'll do!" Jim yelled. Pinkerton shook his head. "I can't give you three hours. But what I can give you is a warrant for your arrest." Pinkerton yelled, whistling loudly. Jim grinned, then quickly suppressed it as Pinkerton looked back at him. Ginny eyed Jim. "How did you know he'd call extra men?" She whispered. "I just did. He wouldn't come here with so little protection. After all, he needs men to keep him safe and men to get us." Jim whispered, the smile growing on his face.

"You sure Jesse and the others will be set by the time they're ready?" Ginny whispered again. Jim nodded and looked down at her. "Sure do. They'll be ready." Ginny nodded then looked down at his arm that was tight around her waist. She grinned and whispered. "You know Jim Younger, if you wanted to hold me you coulda just said so." She whispered. Jim blushed and looked away. "I would have, but you would have said no." He said jokingly. "How do you know?" Ginny whispered back. "Because no one trusts an outlaw." Jim whispered as Pinkerton looked at him, smiling deviously. Jim cocked his head as he heard the low whistle from the roof. Jim looked down at her. "It's time. The minute it starts you run for cover and stay there till it's over." Jim whispered, loosening his grip on her gradually.

All of a sudden, a figure Ginny recognized as Bob, dropped halfway down from the roof, shooting at Pinkerton and his men. Before they could react, Frank had already pulled him up by his legs. Jim whooped and let Ginny go as the shooting began. Pinkerton's men were dropping everywhere as they searched for the outlaws' hiding spot. But the outlaws, scurrying about the roof, kept their hiding place secure. It was actually a rather humorous scene, the bullets flying and hitting their targets head on, looking like they were raining down from the sky. Finally the men Pinkerton brought with him were all down. Ginny looked up from her hiding place behind the watering trough and saw Cole riding on his horse, leading the others' horses behind him. He was whooping and yelling excitedly like an Indian as the others jumped down from the roof and rushed their horses. Pinkerton stood alone on the porch, watching them in astonishment as they rode off into the night.

Ginny stood from her hiding place, her hair drenched, the rain droplets pouring down her face and watched them, curiously, her heart aching.

They didn't even say thank you. Or goodbye. She thought.

But of course they're outlaws. They aren't supposed to have manners.

Her brain contradicted. Pinkerton eyed her, his face still echoeing his astonishment, then jumped on his horse. He began to ride, not in the direction of the men, but in the direction of the town. Ginny knew that before morning, the entire town would know what had transpired that evening. Ginny dragged herself into the saloon, surveyed the mess and shook her head. She pushed her way through the splintered door and walked up the stairs to her room. Slowly she unlocked it, then locked it again after she entered it. She collapsed upon her bed. Though she was exhausted, she couldn't sleep. Her mind wouldn't let her.