Authors: J.r. Roberts
“You came too soon,” Amy said. “We're still getting her cleaned up.”
She backed away to let him enter.
“She's in the other room.”
“I want to cover the windows, so nobody will see the lights.”
“I think I have some old blankets,” she said. “You can tear them apart to use as shades. Wait here.”
She went into the other room, opening the door to enter. Clint caught a glimpse of a naked Mary, washing herself with a bucket of water. It was just a quick glimpse, but he saw a full, round breast and a dark pubic bush before Amy closed the door.
Amy came back out, carrying some blankets.
“I hope this will be enough,” she said. “If not, I can come back with more tomorrow.”
“I'll cover the front windows,” Clint said. “We won't have to cover the back if we keep the door closed.”
“When I'm done with this, I'm going to see to my horse,” Clint said. He felt bad that Eclipse had not been unsaddled and properly brushed and fed.
“By the time you finish all that, she'll be ready to be seen,” Amy said.
Clint nodded. As she went back into the room, he began tearing the blankets.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
When the sheriff walked into the saloon and saw Harley Trace at the bar, he couldn't believe his eyes.
“Jesus,” he said.
Trace was leaning on the bar, clearly drunk. He was begging the bartender for another drink.
“Come on, Ernie,” he said. “One more.”
“You've had your drinks, Harley,” Ernie said. “Your money's gone.”
The sheriff approached and clapped his hand on Harley's left shoulder.
“Ow!” The drunk turned and his eyes widened when he saw the lawman. “Sheriff. Buy me a drinkâ”
“Are you crazy?” Sheriff Crabtree said. He dragged Harley outside, then let him go. The man staggered.
“What the hell are you doing in the saloon? I told you to watch Adams.”
“B-ButÂ .Â .Â . he gave me some money.”
“He did, huh? And where is he?”
“He'sâhe's at Doc's.”
“Let's go and see, Harley,” Crabtree said. “You better hope he is there.”
“How about one more drink before he goâ”
“Come on!” Crabtree grabbed Harley and pushed him ahead of him.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
“Hello, Sheriff,” Doc Mathis said.
“Doc. Can we come in?”
“Sure.” Mathis backed away from the door to let Crabtree and Harley enter.
“Doc, is Clint Adams here?”
“And the Connelly girl?”
“She was here, too.”
“Where are they now?”
Doc shrugged. “Adams said you wanted him and the girl gone, so they left.”
“I don't know, Sheriff. All I know is that they're not here.”
“Mind if I have a look?”
“Give Harley a seat, Doc.”
“Here.” The doc pulled a chair over for Harley to sit in.
“How about a drink, Doc?” Harley asked.
“Sorry, Harley,” Mathis said. “You've had enough.”
The sheriff looked in the other rooms. The beds were made, as if they hadn't been used in some time. Nobody was around. He came back out.
“This is no good, Doc,” he said. “Locksley's not gonna like it.”
“I thought he wanted them gone.”
“He wanted them kept track of, until they did leave,” Crabtree said.
“I wanna drink!” Harley whined.
“You're in a lot of trouble, Harley,” Crabtree said.
“I ain't a deputy, Sheriff,” Harley said. “Ya shouldn'ta made me watch.”
“Let's go,” Crabtree said. He pulled Harley out of the chair and pushed him to the door. “This ain't over, Doc.”
“It's over for me,” Mathis said. “I treated the girl and she's gone.”
“We'll see, Doc,” Crabtree said. “We'll see.”
Clint finished rubbing Eclipse down with a cloth he made from a blanket. He didn't have any feed for the animal, but he walked down to the brook and found some fresh grass.
“Best I can do for now, big boy,” he said. He left Eclipse behind the house and went back inside, with his saddlebags and rifle. Amy and Mary were still in the other room.
He walked to the stove, wondering if he'd be able to use it to make some coffee. He was about to go out and get some wood when the door opened and Amy stepped out.
“Okay,” she said, “she's all cleaned up, and wearing one of my dresses.”
Mary came out, and Clint was stunned. The dress was blue, made her eyes even bluer. Her hair was clean and brushed, hanging down past her shoulders. Her age had been hard to determine when she was grimy, but now she looked about twenty-five.
“Wow,” he said. “What a difference. You're beautiful.”
“Being clean works wonders for a girl's looks,” Amy said.
“That and a dress,” Mary said. “Thank you so much, AmyÂ .Â .Â . for everything.”
“Don't mention it,” Amy said. “I better get going. I have to get the buggy back to the stable and take care of the horse. Then I need to get some sleep so I can open early tomorrow.”
“I appreciate everything, Amy,” Clint said.
“Walk me to the buggy, Clint,” Amy suggested.
“Okay.” To Mary he said, “I'll be right back.”
He and Amy left the house and walked to the buggy.
“She's real fragile right now, Clint,” Amy said. “You better take it easy with her.”
“I have been.”
“I think you can get a fire going in that stove and make some coffee.”
“I can do that, but I don't want any smoke coming from the chimney. I'll figure something out.”
He helped Amy up into her seat, and she picked up her reins.
“I'll be at the cafÃ© if you need me,” she said.
“I won't want to wake you,” he said. “I'm sure we'll be okay.”
“I'll stop by tomorrow,” she said, and shook the reins at her horse. As she rode away, Clint went back to the house.
Mary was peering into the stove.
“Coffee sound good, but what about the smoke coming from the chimney?”
“We can risk it tonight,” he said, “but not during the day. I'll go and get some wood.”
“Good,” she said. “Maybe the stove will also warm it up in here.”
It wasn't that cold, so maybe she was feeling it for a different reason.
He went out and came back with an armful of kindling.
When he got the fire going, he went out again for water, and put the pot on the stove to boil.
There were two chairs, so they pulled them over by the stove and sat down.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“I have a headache, otherwise I'm okay,” she said.
“We'll find out from Doc when you can ride, and get you out of here,” Clint said.
“Then I'll be back where I started,” she said, “on a horse with no money, and no place to go.”
“Not quite,” he said. “We'll get you a good horse and a good saddle, and we'll figure out a place for you to go.”
“Why are you being so helpful?”
“Well, I'm the one who put you in danger again by bringing you back to this town.”
“Yeah, but you also saved my life by not leaving me out there.”
“I just want to help you get away from here,” Clint said, “then you can be on your own.”
“You think they'll let me leave again?”
“Why not? All they want is for you to go away.”
“Actually,” she said, “I think Angela wanted me dead. It was Eric who chased me out of town.”
“I'll just try to keep them both away from you.”
“This is my own fault,” she said. “I should have left town on my own a long time ago. I was just soÂ .Â .Â . caught up inÂ .Â .Â . everything.”
“A powerful, rich man who's interested in you, I guess that's pretty hard to walk away from.”
“Not if you have self-respect,” she said. “I guess I didn't have any.”
“You can get some,” Clint said. “Leave here, get yourself set up in a new town, with a new life.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“It can be,” Clint said. “But it all starts with getting you away from here.”
“Well, I'm all for that.” Mary looked around at the windows, which were covered with bits of blankets. “Are there any blankets left?”
“There's one I didn't cut up,” he said. “I thought you might need it.”
He crossed the room, got the blanket, and brought it back to her. He wrapped her in it, and she held it closed with her hands.
“Thank you.” They stayed that way for a few seconds, looking into each other's eyes.
“Coffee smells ready,” he said, standing up. “I'll get it.”
He poured the coffee into two cups he got from his saddlebags and handed her one.
“Ooh, that feels good on my hands,” she said, cradling the mug.
He sat back down in his chair next to her, holding his own mug.
“What are you going to do now?” she asked.
“Get some sleep,” he said.
“Well, I thought here. You can sleep in that room, and I'll sleep in here.”
“There's a cot in that room,” she said. “What are you gonna sleep on?”
“I have my bedroll.”
“On the floor?”
“Sure, why not?”
“It's so hard.”
“Don't worry,” he said. “I've slept on hard ground before.”
She looked around.
“You don't even have a blanket.”
“I've got my bedroll, like I said,” Clint answered. “It'll do. More coffee?”
He poured more for her, and for himself, sat back down, and handed it to her.
“You better turn in after this,” he said. “More rest will do you good. Doc said he'll stop by tomorrow. Maybe he'll give us the go-ahead for you to ride out.”
“I hope so,” she said. “By being here, I'm not only risking my life, but yours, Doc's, and Amy's. I couldn't stand it if anything happened to any of you.”
“You let me worry about that part,” Clint said. “Staying alive is a specialty of mine.”
The next morning Amy arrived early with breakfast.
“This is above and beyond the call of duty,” Clint said, taking the tray from her at the door.
“I have to get back,” she said. “I'll pick it up later. How's Mary?”
“She's good,” he said. “Still asleep, but the smell of bacon might wake her. Thank you for this.”
“Just doing my part.”
“Believe me,” Clint said, “you're doing more than your part.”
She smiled, got in her buggy, and headed back to town. As Clint carried the tray in, Mary came from the other room, wrapped in a blanket.
“Who was that?” she asked.
“Amy, bringing breakfast,” he said, putting the tray down on the table.
“Ooh, do I smell bacon?”
They sat and she ate greedily.
“Your appetite looks good.”
“I'm feeling a lot better,” she said. “I bet I can travel.”
“We'll let Doc decide that,” he said, “but in any case, I'll go and look for a horse for you today.”
“I'm really a good rider,” she said. “If it wasn't for that cut cinch, I never would have fallen off my horse.”
“I believe you,” he said. “I'll get you something good.”
“I'll trust you,” she said, eating her last piece of bacon. “I have to go and get dressed.”
“Did Amy bring you some other clothes?”
“I'm afraid not,” she said. “She only brought me that one dress.” She stood up. “I'm naked under this blanket.”
“Yes.” She opened her arms. “See?”
She had a lovely body, which he'd only caught a glimpse of the day before. Now he saw two wonderfully round breasts, a dark pubic bush, full hips and thighs. All of which had been, until now, hidden beneath clothes and blankets.
Her nipples grew immediately hard and she closed the blanket, saying, “Still cold.” She turned and ran into the other room, closing the door.
He wondered if he'd just been given an invitation. If he'd had nothing else to do, he might have accepted, but he decided to leave and head back to town. He took the tray with the plates and silverware with him, to save Amy the trouble.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Angela Locksley woke up the next morning feeling she had solved several problems at one time. Wes Tolbert would kill Clint Adams, getting him out of the way. Then he would take care of Mary Connelly. And finally, maybe she'd just have him kill her husband for her, so she wouldn't have to share her money with that parasite anymore. Once that was done, she'd get out of New Mexico, move to somewhere nice, like San Francisco.
But first things first.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Angela thought it would be a simple thing to poison Eric at breakfast one day. Not today, though, since she was hungry.
Her husband came down and joined her at the table for breakfast.
“You've outdone yourself today, dear,” he said, taking in the table filled with pancakes and bacon. “What's the occasion?”
“I woke in an extraordinarily good mood,” she told him. Of course, he wouldn't know that because they slept in separate rooms.
“Well, I can use a meal like this,” he said, seating himself.
“Why?” She sat across from him.
“I've got some hard decisions to make today.”
“About that girl?” Angela asked. “And Clint Adams?”
“Yes, about them,” he told her. “It's not easy deciding somebody's fate, you know. But you wouldn't know about that.”
More and more, her husband was proving himself an idiot. She wondered how many of the decisions they made he thought were his alone.