The two doors popped open further up the hall. The ones on either side of Slade opened a crack and a face peeped out. Slade bolted into the room and across to Ellen’s bedroom door. In the dim light Slade could see a man lying across Ellen’s body. He leapt across to the bed and yanked the man off Ellen dropping him to the floor..
There was a pool of blood soaking across the blanket over Ellen. Her hand gripped the shotgun as she continued screaming. She was pulling herself up toward the top of the bed and trying to get out from under the covers. Slade stepped over the dead man and picked Ellen up, pulling her out from under the blankets and into his arms. He took her into the sitting room where he met the night clerk and a couple patrons coming through the shattered door. He put Ellen on the sofa and gently took the gun from her hand ignoring the blood on her nightdress and spreading across his own shirt.
“You had better go wake your manager,” he said to the clerk. “This is more than you want to handle. And wake a maid. I’m going to need her.”
Ellen had stopped screaming but she continued to cry. Slade sat down beside her and wiped the hair back from her wet face.
“Shh, Shh, Shh. Ellie. Everything is all right now.” He stroked her back and pressed the wild hair into a bit of order. “I’m here and I won’t go away. Shh, shh, shh. He’s gone. He won’t hurt you again.”
The hotel manager rushed through the door. He stopped suddenly and looked at the splintered door and then hurried to the sofa.
“What is happening?” He demanded. “What happened?”
“What happened!?” Slade repeated. “You have a dead man on the floor by Mrs. Aguilar’s bed. That’s what happened! Someone broke into her room and tried to kill her!”
The hotel manager rushed to the bedroom door and seized a lamp to hold high. There was blood on the bed and a dead man on the floor with more blood soaking the little rug and flowing across the tile. A long wicked-looking knife lay on the covers of the bed.
“Jenkins!” he called to the clerk. “You’ll going to have to go get the sheriff; there’s a body in here.”
Ellen had calmed down and now lay limply back against the sofa. Tears seeped slowly from her eyes and the front of her gown had been stained by the torrent of blood. Slade checked her carefully. None of the blood was hers. He continued to wipe her hair back but when he stood to get a wet cloth she held his shirt and would not let him leave her side. He motioned the maid who had finally appeared in a dress hastily thrown on.
“Get a wet cloth from the basin and let me wipe her face.” He demanded. The maid hurried to comply.
When Slade had the cloth he sent the maid to the other bedroom to build a fire and make up the bed.
“We need to get her moved and into a clean nightdress.” He stayed beside her while people came and went through the suite.
Suddenly there was a large, loud man strutting into the room. “Deputy Sam Mackey,” he said by way of self-introduction. “What is going on here? What’s this I hear about a shooting?”
Slade motioned him toward the bedroom which was now lit by several lamps. Within in seconds his harsh voice came back from the bedroom. “My God! Who shot this man!”
The deputy came back into the room and stood in front of Ellen. “What do you mean shooting patrons in their beds?” He demanded of Ellen. “Woman, you have no business in this room!” He accused her.
“What!” Slade jumped between Ellen and the deputy. “She was attacked, not the man! Are you a fool?”
“Now see here,” the deputy blustered. “This woman has shot Senor Aguilar. She can’t go around shooting citizens!”
“Man, you are truly blind! Can’t you see ‘this woman’ is in her night clothes? She was in bed and that man broke in on her!”
“Broke in? That’s Senor Jose Aguilar! I don’t know who this woman is but she had no business in here.”
Slade threw down the cloth he had been wiping Ellen’s face with; he grabbed the deputy by the arm and propelled him toward the door.