Adam knocked on his sister’s door. “Virginia? Why are you still in bed?”

A groan from inside, something that might have been “long night.”

“Virginia! It’s past six and we need to get you fed and warmed up before the test!”

“It’s not ’til the 27th,” Virginia mumbled. “Go away.”

“Today’s the 27th, you lazy good-for-nothing! Get up or you’ll have to wait a whole year to take the test!”

“Yeah, sounds good. Wake me then.”

Adam shook his head. Another wild, late night no doubt–might even have something to do with the shotgun blasts Elmer Culloden mentioned at the pump earlier. But he wasn’t about to let Virginia throw away her chance to be a Prosperity Ranger…and to be out of his hair. He squared himself, put his weight on his good leg and battered the door open with his shoulder.

Virginia had pried up a plank from the wooden floor and set it against the door, one of her favorite tricks. It splintered and the door loudly crashed down upon it, raising a cloud of dust and sand (the girl never had been able to keep her room clean). Despite the racket, the pile of blankets and skins on the rough frame bed barely stirred.

Adam hobbled into the room. “Virginia! I don’t care what you were out doing last night, but if you don’t get up now, there’s gonna be hell to pay.”

“Put it on my tab,” his sister mumbled.

Adam sighed. As much as trying to oversleep didn’t become Virginia MacNeil, daughter of Marshals Vincent and Patricia MacNeil and soon-to-be Prosperity Ranger, it surely became Virginia, the little sister he had to live with day in and day out. And with his bad leg, there was no dragging her out of bed.

The alarm clock then. It was a luxury, it was dangerous, but there was no choice. Adam had been holding it back for a time when his sister’s unbecoming sleep patterns and the work that needed to be done clashed in the most desperate way.

He limped outside and returned bearing a heavy Remington 1858 black powder revolver.

At the first shot, Virginia started violently under the covers. At the second, she poked her head out, wild-eyed, from beneath them. “What the hell, Adam?”

Her brother cocked and fired once more. “What’s that, Virginia?” he cried. “I can’t hear you over the ringing in my ears.”

The last shot had appeared to be aimed directly at her; Virginia rolled out of bed snarled in a heap of covers. “Have you gone crazy? You could’ve killed me!”

Adam, noting with some amusement that his sister had been sleeping in her work clothes again, dropped the hammer on an empty chamber. “Just a blank powder charge, Virginia,” he laughed. “But even then, shouldn’t a Prosperity Ranger be ready for an attempted bushwhacking in bed?”

His sister swatted black powder fumes out of her face. “Not funny.”

“Says you. Now put out those embers before your bed catches afire and come to breakfast.”

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