She could hear the wheels bouncing on the trail and the quick clops of the horses as they came closer. The splash of it cutting through the creek echoed off the narrow canyon walls. Her eyes grew wide in anticipation and she could almost smell the sweat in the air.
The wagon came rolling around the corner and she heard the shout of “Whoa!” as the wet wheels slid on the dirt. She stepped to the right as the wagons narrowly missed her and came to a stop.
“Damn fool woman!” cried the driver of the first wagon. “Why are you out in the road?”
Just over his shoulder, she could see the frightened faces of the China girls as they peered out at her. The gunman to his left brought up his shotgun but it was already too late for him. The crack of her pistol reverberated off the canyon walls and his head rocked back. The shotgun fell from his nerveless fingers. Before the driver could even shout, another shot rang out and he slipped off the bench to collapse in the road dust.
Voices rang out from the wagon in the rear but she was already in motion. She swooped down to grab the shotgun and rolled into a slide under the wagon. Her pistol cracked again and the leg of a man running toward her exploded before he flopped to the ground. Her next shot tore through his hat and buried itself in his head.
“Should be two more…” she muttered.
A man’s voice shouted out, “Who’s out there? What you want?”
She rolled to the other side of the wagon and brought up the shotgun. Two men still sat on the bench of the second wagon. The hammer slapped home on the shotgun and they both ducked from the pellet spray. She ran toward them and brought up her pistol. Two more shots were fired and the canyon was wracked with noise. The first one missed but the second found its mark. He toppled from the bench as the second driver brought up his gun. She was close enough now that she couldn’t miss with the shotgun and it barked in her hands. The driver’s face pulped under the blast and his body slumped to the side.
The shotgun dropped from her hands. She rifled through the pockets of the dead men until she found the ring of keys. It only took a moment before both cages were unlocked. She waved the women out of the wagons and waited until they had all freed themselves. Each of them stood timidly under the gaze of this giant woman in the black and white of the missionaries.
The sister’s mouth felt rusty as the Mandarin words slipped past her lips, “Come with me and be free of these shackles.”