Conversations round a campfire

Ben had offered to cook and Jimmy had actually taken him up on that offer before I spoiled things by laughing so hard I ended up coughing.  Suzie, her hands tied to her ankles, had stared sullenly at the ground.

"What?"  Jimmy looked perplexed.

"If Ben cooks," I said, still gasping a little to get my breath back, "then first of all, there's unseasonal weather due down from us letting all the damned souls go ice-skating, but more importantly it means we'll all be going hungry.  Ben here can burn water and hatch eggs, sometimes in the same pan."  Ben nodded, his eyes twinkling, and Jimmy looked a little chastened.

"I kind of figured that with you both being used to nights away from civilisation--" he started, but civilisation started us both off laughing again, and even Suzie joined in this time.

"I'll cook," I said.  "At least when I put beans in a pot we don't get a beanstalk growing from it."  I went to the saddlebags, and made the unwelcome discovery that we'd not found time to refill any of them in our recent journey.

"Beans, and beef jerky," I said with a sigh.  "It's going to be a musical night then.  Ben, when we get to Greenwood City we're going to have to buy some food."

Ben looked thoughtful for a moment, and then said, "Nate's probably still doing business that way.  He's dependable."

Jimmy's head picked up, his ears twitching, and Suzie suddenly became very still, pretending she wasn't listening.  "Nate?  You know Greenwood City?" Jimmy asked.

"We know a lot of the places round these parts," said Ben.  "Greenwood's just another one of them.  Fancy name for a not-so fancy place.  Hardly a city at all really, it just got all pleased with itself when they built a hospital out there; next thing you know the good folk have raised taxes and are building civic amenities everywhere you try and halter your horse."

"Which lead to us being asked to leave last time we were there," I said, "when Ben haltered his horse in the new civic fountain and picked all the nice new civic flowers to give to some barmaid."

"Melissa," said Ben with a smile.  "She looked really surprised by those flowers."

"Probably because you threw them at her while we galloped past, pursued hotly by Sheriff Granger and those of his men that weren't too drunk to ride!"

"Have you boys been thrown out of everywhere?"  Suzie was looking up for the first time since we'd sat her, trussed like a chicken, by the campfire.

"Not everywhere," I said immediately.

"But we must be getting close," said Ben.  "Still, Greenwood City.  Nate'll be able to tell us who's been coming and going lately, he keeps his eyes on that kind of thing."

"Hah!"  Nate was a part-time store-owner and full-time smuggler, and cheated at poker.  "We've got to make sure that we get there first, Ben.  Otherwise they'll have run straight past us, back to Sister Suzie's boudoir and we won't know whether they're coming or going, or where or when to expect them."

"True enough.  You think they'll have let Granger in on this?"

"Not the fine details," I said.  "But he'll remember us, so...."

"Remember you for leaving a horse in a fountain and stealing some flowers?"  Jimmy's face said he thought there was more left unsaid.

"Well...," said Ben slowly.  "There might have been a small fire while we there.  And it's just possible that irresponsible men with pointy badges might have suspected us.  Unfairly of course."

"What burned down?" Suzie sounded like she already knew the answer.

"The hospital."


The End

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