by: Rebecca Taylor

Emelia Gale looked out the window of her dress shop on Fifth Avenue in Galesburg. Fear ran through her as two men with masks were outside. It was mid-July and it was the warmest summer that had swept through town in years. They were headed her way, but there was nowhere to run. All she could do was wait and hope for the best. She didn’t panic; it wasn’t her way. She knew that the sheriff would be patrolling the streets; he hadn’t been by in a while. He would have to be coming by soon. Just then, the masked men came crashing through the door pulling it off its hinges.

            “Give me all your money and jewellery,” said one man.

            Emelia took off her ring and necklace and handed them to the man with the money she’d taken out of the cash box.

            “Is this all? Only a measly fifty cents. You must have more on you, Green Eyes, the sign on the door says Gale, and this town has the name Galesburg, there must be some connection of some sort,” thundered the man.

            “My grandfather founded the town fifty years ago in 1799,” replied Emelia.

            “Jack,” said the man to his masked comrade, “find the lady’s purse, she must have more than this.”

            “What do you want, if it was money you were after you wouldn’t have come to a small town like Galesburg. It only has a population of a hundred and twenty,” said Emelia confidently.

            The man laughed and took her by the arm pulling her up.

            “Stop it, you’re hurting me,” said Emelia.

            “Got it,” said Jack interrupting Emelia and his boss, “two dollars in her purse and an emerald pin.”

            “Bring it along and bring the girl. She’s coming with us. She might not have much but I’ll bet the founder’s granddaughter is worth a lot to this town.”

            “Ah, Boss, do we have to bring her? You know we can make a faster getaway if we leave her behind and head for the big city,” replied Jack.

            “We’ll have a posse after us so fast if we leave her here, and besides, she’s worth more than two fifty and three pieces of jewellery.”

            “The town will never pay; we have a sense of justice here. We don’t do what thugs want just because they’re holding a gun and ordering people about,” retorted Emelia.

            “What do you plan on doing, Boss? It seems to me that this girl and this town are a pile of trouble, and I don’t want any part of it,” said Jack.

            “Girl! Who are you calling girl? I’m twenty-four years old,” exclaimed Emelia.

            The boss laughed. His years of experience as a stage, train, bank, and town robber told him that Miss Emeila Gale was a spirited woman and he could have a bit of fun with her, and get a good size stake at the same time as well.

            At that moment, another masked man came through the door. He seemed to be very agitated.

            “Come on, Boss, I’ve got the horses. I hid them out back.”

            “Okay, Zack, did you bring around an extra one for Miss Gale?”

            “Yes, Boss, just like you asked. We are taking her aren’t we? We weren’t sure when I left you on the outskirts of town,” replied Zack.

            “Wait, I told you this town won’t pay you ransom for me. Why are you doing this?” snapped Emelia.

            “This town is absolutely useless to me unless I get something out of it and today that something is you,” replied the leader pulling Emelia out the door.

            She lashed out at him, kicking, and trying to get away. She had determination on her side, but her strength was against her. Her weight was at least a third of his, and he did things like this for a living. She was only a dressmaker by trade. All Emelia could think about was the sheriff. Where was he? Had they done something to him, because he usually came around every fifteen minutes.

            “Calm down, Green Eyes, you are going to hurt yourself,” said the leader.

            “Why don’t you go turn yourself in and after a little jail time become honourable people in a society, instead of harassing people,” retorted Emelia.

            “You may be beautiful and spirited but you aren’t very smart. They’d kill us, you don’t have any idea of all the things we’ve done,” said Jack. “A beautiful, green eyed, brown haired, tall beauty is all you are.”

            Emelia didn’t say anything. She was too busy thinking of a way to escape, but there was nothing she could do, it was an uneven score of three to one. The outlaws put her on a horse and they rode out of town, nobody was around to see the granddaughter of the town’s treasured founder be taken prisoner. They took her to a cave where they tied her up and left her struggling with the bonds of the rope. Every time she rubbed her wrists against the rock, it made the pain worse, but she was stubborn and wouldn’t give up.

            “You don’t know how to admit defeat do you, ma’am?” asked Zack.

            “No, I don’t. I have to strive on my hope,” she replied and went back to work.

            Meanwhile, the leader of the gang had gone into town with the ransom note and left his two partners in crime with Emelia. One thing led to another and Jack went fishing while Zack dozed off. Emelia was able to get her bonds undone with the fire in the lantern and crept outside ready to make a getaway. She quietly led the horses away from the cave and mounted one of them. She headed back the way she had come. She would have been able to get away, but the leader of the gang was on his way back to the cave. He caught Emelia and forced her off the horse. She ran from him, tearing her dress as she went through the rocky passageway. Just as the leader was about to catch her, her father the sheriff, (who had been tied up) and the posse appeared.

            “Emelia,” cried out her father dismounting. She rushed to him. He tripped the masked outlaw leader who fell flat on his face. Gun in one hand, Mr. Gale took the black mask off the leader.

            “Tom Huckler!” exclaimed Mr. Gale looking at the young man with the rust coloured hair.”

            “Avery Gale,” answered the astonished outlaw.”

            “You two know each other?” asked Emelia questioning her father.

            “Yes, this is your mother’s youngest brother,” replied Mr. Gale.

            “I don’t understand, why are you an outlaw, how could my mother’s brother be a robber and kidnapper?”

            “I don’t know myself, Green Eyes, Linna wasn’t the type to admit having an evil relative, but it happened and she only allowed me to meet your father once when she was trying to reform me.”

            “It didn’t work,” answered Emelia bitterly.

            “No, it didn’t. I’m just a bad seed from a batch of good,” replied Huckler sadly.

            “Why my dress shop anyways, there are other businesses in town which could have given you a much bigger take,” asked Emelia looking at her outlaw uncle.

            “I don’t know; we planned on coming to Galesburg because I wanted to see the place that had held my sister’s interest. She cared about me and I didn’t take the time to stop all my outlaw ways. There gets to be a point in everyone’s life when all they want is a normal life, I know that I blew my chance. As for the dress shop, you were my connection to Linna, her daughter.”

            “Kidnapping me wasn’t exactly a point in your favour to getting to know me?” retorted Emelia.

            “No, it wasn’t but sometimes you get in so deep that you don’t see an out, I couldn’t very well walk in and say, ‘Hi, Emelia, I’m your uncle Tom Huckler, I work as an outlaw,’ you would have had your father on me so fast…”

            “How did you let your life get so messed up? Mom tried to help you and she could usually make anyone see her way.”

            “I don’t know, Emelia, I’m sorry for what I did especially to you, I never should have brought you out here, I don’t know what I was thinking, somehow I thought that maybe with you away from the town we could both get something out of it but like most things in my life I didn’t do it in the right way.”

            “Crime doesn’t pay, Tom,” answered Avery Gale.

            “I guess this is the end of my rein as the man behind the mask. I can’t hide what I did under a mask any longer. No matter what they do to me at least it will be over.”

            “If you want to change completely depending on how things go, maybe one day you’ll get a chance but you have to want it, work for it, and not look back to the life you’ve been living.”

            “I want it; I just don’t know how to get especially now that Linna is gone.”

            “We’ll see what happens at the trial, maybe they can rehabilitate you, but it is all out of our hands now, it is up to the judge and jury.

            “I know,” answered Tom and he, Jack and Zack were taken to jail. A trial was held and they were sent to prison for a life of hard labour with the possibility of parole after twenty years. No one knew what would become of Tom Huckler; the man behind the mask and his two sidekicks but Emelia and Avery Gale held onto the hope that someday Linna Huckler Gale’s hopes for her brother would become reality.