She almost had him, and she would rot in hell before she let him get away again.
The looks Scarlett got when she came back empty-handed last time had stung. Of course, they had blamed her womanhood, like no man had ever let a bounty get away. Hypocritical bastards.
In three years as a Bow Street Runner, Scarlett had brought in more bounties than anyone else. More than one of them had been killed in the field trying to catch up with her. Did they recognise that? Of course not. They resented her. Being the boss's daughter didn't help, they assumed that she got special treatment even when she did not. But being a woman compounded things, and any tiny mistake was always held against her. So, Scarlett always tried to make sure that mistakes did not happen, or if they did, that she corrected them quickly. And the prey she was hunting right now was just that; a mistake that needed correction.
The house was about a twenty-minute ride from the city centre, a small estate on the northern outskirts. It wasn't huge but it was large enough to sustain enough of a sheep farm that this prick didn't have to work himself. A two-storey farmhouse loomed at the end of a muddy driveway, with a smaller building adjacent where the slaves would have been housed, back when it was legal. Given that they had only started finding this deviant's victims within the last year, she couldn't help but wonder whether he had been as cruel to his slaves. They weren't here anymore, fleeing as soon as they had their freedom. And that said a lot.
Two women dead in as many weeks. She'd almost caught him red handed last time, but the bugger had slipped out the back while she was waylaid by the brothel owner. It was the latest of a string of young female victims, each found beaten and strangled. It wasn’t exactly high profile due to the nature of the victim’s work, but the brutality of it had caused Scarlett to take a personal interest. As terrifying as Hogg’s crimes were, her father hadn’t seemed too concerned about her going after him. Men like that were weak, poorly socialised, and above all cowardly. She’d gone after him alone on purpose, reasoning that he would not see her as a threat until it was too late.
Unfortunately, things had not gone to plan. Scarlett gritted her teeth at the memory of allowing the madam to waylay her for so long, a silly argument about jurisdiction and whether she had any right to come in and kick down doors. They argued, and all the while Hogg was in the back room throttling one of the madam’s girls. She barely seemed to care when she found out too, which only made it worse. One of the patrolmen had joked that he’d have just given the madam ‘five across the eyes,’ and while Scarlett had done so, it was only after another girl was dead. Scum, the lot of them.
She saw movement behind the curtains of the house, and so she made her way over to the barn at the side of the property, to make sure there was no one else there waiting to back the sick bastard up.
The door creaked loudly, and Scarlett tripped on the raised doorjamb when she stepped through. Stealth was not her strong suit. But she was tall, and could carry herself in a scuffle. Most of the time though, it was more efficient to resolve things at a distance, so she made sure to have her Colt at the ready in these situations. The English guns were pretty, but the percussion caps on the Colt revolvers got the shot off a bit faster, and that split second could really matter. They also didn't send sparks flying back into your face and hair. Scarlett was proud that she'd been able to convince her father that all of the Horse Patrol should have a Colt Paterson. The boys sure thanked her for that one, even if her father had winced at both the expense and the blow to his nationalistic pride that importing such weapons from across the Atlantic had caused.
Inside the barn the only light was the dim afternoon glow that flowed in through the windows, casting deep shadows and illuminating motes of dust in the air. Luckily, it was empty save for a few sacks of grain, a few hay bales, and a very dusty shelf with nothing on it but three seemingly antique cans of beef. A damp mustiness indicated that mould had probably taken the grain for itself, and it felt as if the air was sticking to the back of Scarlett’s throat, causing her to breathe through her nose. There were three sets of bunks, but all were bare of mattresses and linens, confirming her suspicions that the slaves were long gone. Probably left this maniac to his devices the moment the abolition law passed. She made her way back outside and checked behind the house. Sheep stood about munching grass, a few of them raising their heads and looking at her with dull eyes. She stood for a moment, carefully surveying the terrain which stretched out into a hillside. There was nothing to see except livestock, grass, and the occasional tree, for miles. The house then.
“What's a lady doing visiting at this hour hmm?”
She rounded back on the voice, and cocked the hammer of her Colt, pointing it at the man and startling him.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” he cried, heading back through the rear door into the house, “no need for that, lass.”
“I'm Scarlett Pembridge of the Bow Street Runners. I have a warrant for the arrest of Brian Hogg. It’s over, put your hands up.”
“I haven't done anything wrong!” he shouted, stepping sideways and back into the house.” If she were a bit closer, she might have been able to take a shot at him, but he was a little too far away and if she missed him she would have a very scared and probably armed man hiding in that house.
She yelled, “I am coming in, and if you've done nothing wrong then you will come quietly.”
Scarlett went in the rear door where he had passed through, and as she did so a rifle came clubbing down over her arms, forcing her forearms down and sending her pistol to the floor. She dove forward in a roll, and scrambled to get at her gun. When she couldn't reach it, she instead grappled with the man, grasping the barrel of the rifle and pushing it upward. It went off, the closeness of the black powder explosion making her head hurt and her ears ring.
Still grasping the hot rifle barrel, she punched at his face once, twice, three times. He rocked back and she wrenched the rifle from him and threw it aside. The man got up and started swinging fists at her, which she deftly slipped, bobbing her head to the side, and down. This was what she was good at, but her father made sure she knew every fight was a risk. She was solidly built and knew how to use her size, but a man her height was almost always stronger. What you had to do was deliver as much violence as possible in as little time as possible, end things before they started. Fighting like a girl, he called it. It was funny, but true, as most men had a way about their fighting that allowed their opponent fair chances. The world wasn't fair and neither was Scarlett. She drove an elbow forward into his sternum, pushed him over, and hopped backward to the door where her gun was. She picked it up and trained it on him as he pulled himself to his feet.
He didn't move, but she could see something in his eyes. A wildness. She opened her mouth to speak but then he twitched, so instead she pulled the trigger and put a lead ball into his chest.
You didn't become the top bounty hunter in the Runners by taking chances.