Well, here's the last chapter. I hope you enjoy it! Thank you for all of your reviews! I LOVE to hear from you all!

Chapter 7 – What Happened in Stockton

Victoria looked at Rachel's agitated manner. She was trying to write an essay, but had got no further than the title.

"Rachel," Victoria said, approaching her youngest daughter. "What's the matter?"

Rachel's head snapped up out of her reverie. "Sorry, Mother. What did you say?"

Victoria smiled, "How is your essay going?" she asked.

"Oh, fine," Rachel said. She looked down at her writing tablet and her eyes opened wide with surprise. "Um, well – at least, it will be going fine in a minute!"

Victoria laughed, "I see. Rachel, I think perhaps you could do with a ride."

"A ride?" Rachel asked. "But my studies…"

"But your studies can wait. You're getting nothing done sitting there, so I think you ought to go and blow away the cobwebs. Audra's going into town for me – you could ride with her."

Rachel jumped up eagerly from her chair. "Are you sure?"

"Very sure," Victoria said, kissing Rachel tenderly on the head. "But when you get back you can 'finish' your essay."

Rachel smiled and ran to change into a riding skirt whilst Victoria went to find Audra to tell her to wait for her little sister.

It wasn't long till Rachel came running down the stairs.

"Rachel, please walk like a lady," Victoria said.

"Sorry Mother," Rachel said, kissing Victoria goodbye. "See you when we get back."

Victoria smiled as Rachel hurried out of the house. It was amazing what permission to go for a ride could do!

Audra and Rachel rode together into town. Audra was surprised how calm Rachel seemed seeing as she had appeared so upset that morning about being caught again. Well, she supposed Heath's talk had done Rachel good.

When they finally arrived in Stockton, they tied their horses up at one of the posts, and made their way to the bank.

"Mother wanted me to sort something out in the bank for her – do you want to just wait out here whilst I do it?" Audra asked.

"Sure, Audra," Rachel said, and leaned her back against the wall of the building whilst Audra stepped into the bank. She stared at the floor whilst her mind flew back to last night, and what she had heard from the shadows. The snorting of a horse…she started, and looked up. She could hear a horse snorting right now, and saw in front of her a stallion pawing the ground impatiently. She stared at it – she knew that stallion – she had seen it somewhere not so long back! Someone brushed passed her as he entered the bank, and her heart stopped in fright as she saw the nervy expression of the fellow. It was the young lad, the third member of the gang that had captured Audra and herself just over a week ago. She had been right – they were still in the valley! Rachel trembled with trepidation as she realized that Audra was in the bank! They would recognize Audra – she was in danger. Rachel looked around her wildly as if expecting to see help standing right in front of her, but she saw no one. So she did the only thing that she could think of. She drew a gun from her riding skirt which she had secreted there for fear of running into danger, and fired in the air.

The gunshot brought everyone's attention to the fourteen year old that stood their looking petrified. Meanwhile, three men darted from the bank, their faces masked, and quickly mounting their horses, galloped away.

Sheriff Madden suddenly appeared. "Rachel Barkley!" he exclaimed in surprise. "What are you doing firing a…"

"Those men!" Rachel cried pointing at the departing figures. "They're the ones who captured Audra and me. They were going to rob the bank!"

Fred Madden quickly mounted the nearest horse and galloped after the men.

Audra came running out of the bank. "Rachel!" she exclaimed. "You're alright?"

"It was those men, didn't you see?"

"I thought it was, but before I could be sure I heard a gunshot, and they rushed away. What happened?"

"Oh, that was me," Rachel said, producing the gun from behind her back.

"If Nick knew you had his gun…"

"He'd be glad," Rachel retorted. "It just saved the bank from being robbed, I'm sure of it."

Audra smiled. "Let's go see Jarrod," she said, squeezing Rachel's arm. The two sisters walked over to Jarrod's office, and met Jarrod just coming out.

"Hello, little sisters!" he said. "I thought I heard a gunshot. Are you both alright?"

"Yes, we're fine," Rachel said, "but you know, although you didn't believe me, we just saw those three men again."

"Three men? What three men?" Jarrod asked, his brow creasing with a frown.

"The men that held Audra and me for ransom!" Rachel exclaimed.

"You saw them?"

"Entering the bank," Audra said.

"Sheriff Madden has just ridden off after them," Rachel explained.

"Well, why didn't you say so?" Jarrod asked. "Which direction did they ride off in?"

Before Audra or Rachel could answer, Sheriff Madden appeared with a couple of his deputies, leading the three outlaws. Joe was holding onto his arm which was bleeding, showing that there had been a struggle.

"You need any help, Fred?" Jarrod asked as Sheriff Madden dismounted his horse.

"No," Sheriff Madden replied. "I think we've got these under control, thank you Jarrod."

"Alright then," Jarrod said, turning to his two sisters. "I think we ought to go home, don't you?"

Rachel nodded her head eagerly, "Yes, Jarrod," she said. "I think so, too."

Jarrod smiled, "Alright, then. Come on."

They each grabbed their horses, and then rode away for the ranch.

"I can't believe they had the nerve to come back here and attempt to rob the bank!" Nick exclaimed angrily that evening.

"Nicholas," Victoria said. "You've had nothing to say all day apart from talking about those three men."

"Well, I'm rather looking forward to the trial!" Nick exclaimed.

"I'm sure you are," Heath said, grinning. "I must admit, I am, too."

"Yes, well there's no doubt that their guilty," Jarrod said.

"And you didn't believe me!" Rachel cried indignantly. "I knew I was right!"

"Well, now we know you were right, too," Audra said, smiling.

"But to think you needed proof!" Rachel declared, pretending to be offended.

"We're very sorry," Nick said, laughing at Rachel's feigned indignation.

"Rachel," Victoria said, "I do believe it's past your bedtime."

Rachel reluctantly stood up and kissed everyone goodnight. She stopped at the bottom of the staircase and turned around, walking back to where the family sat. "Can't I say up just a little bit longer?" she pleaded.

"No, you can't," Nick said, stepping towards her. He turned her around toward the staircase, and swatted her backside.

"Nick!" she exclaimed, jumping with surprise. "What on earth did you do that for?"

"If you wanted to stay up," Nick said, eyeing her with eyebrows raised, "I wouldn't mind discussing with you something about borrowing my gun…"

Rachel grinned mischievously, knowing that she had got off lightly. "Alright, I'm going to bed!" she said, running upstairs.

Nick laughed. That was one way to get his baby sister off to bed without any further complaints!

The End

There we go - that's another Rachel Barkley story! I hope you liked it. I've just started working on another one which I'll hopefully start putting on here soon. Please review to let me know what you thought of my story! Thank you so much for reading 'Ransomed', and all my other Rachel Barkley stories! :-)