Adventure and Fame

It was a three-day ride to the mine and there was only one town between Greenwood city and there. We stopped only briefly in the town to sleep, rest the horses, and restock on provisions. We didn't much want to spoil the head start we'd managed to win off of Jenkins.

In our short stay in the town, Ben finally spotted something we'd been watching for.

"We're famous!" he grinned, pointing to a poster on the saloon wall. Beneath bold inky letters emblazoned with a not-insignificant reward, sketches bearing Ben's and my resemblance stared back at us. I took a surreptitious look around, then peeled the posters down and stuffed them into my pocket.

"Don't take it badly if I don't ask for your autograph," remarked Suzie dryly.

Ben opened his mouth to retort but I told him very bluntly to shut up before leading our little group to the corner table.

"Isn't this bad, though?" Jimmy asked, sounding concerned.

I shrugged. "It's not as though we weren't wanted before," I said. "They've just decided to showcase our fine-looking faces across the region again."

I slipped the crinkled posters out of my pocket and smoothed them out on the tabletop.

"Looks like your pa's been spreading the word," I said to Jimmy. The poster's description of our heinous deeds listed his kidnapping as foremost among them.

"I don't think they managed to capture my eyes," mused Ben, examining the sketch of his face.

"Well, there's a relief," said Suzie. "At least we can spare innocent people everywhere of that."

Ben scowled. "You know, despite the fact that you spent so much time as a supposed nun, you're about as sweet as a bottle of horse piss. Have I ever told you that?"

"Yes. Twice, I believe."

Then Suzie got up to get us drinks.

We had to keep a low profile (and given the well-behaved nature of the companions I traveled with, this was a much more difficult task than one would think), but nobody noticed us in the night we spent at the saloon and the next day we were riding through the heat and dust and cactus again. Due to his cleverness earlier, Jimmy had won himself the privilege of using the map, something Ben didn't take too kindly to and the two of them spent lots of time squabbling over which way to go. I didn't have the energy or inclination to argue, and seeing as we were still in the middle of a barren desert, I hardly thought it mattered. This often left me bringing up the rear of the party with Suzie.

Dressed in leather boots, vest, and a fine-looking hat she'd purchased in town, she scarcely resembled the nun we'd come across at the Santa Anna nunnery. Meaning, of course, she looked much more like Shanghai Suzie.

"That was some pretty slick talking back there in Greenwood," I said to her finally as the endless brown land and endless blue sky threatened to bore me out of my mind. "I never did thank you for it."

Suzie waited a moment. "Well, are you going to?"

"No," I said, but Suzie smiled smugly. She knew what I meant.

"Why are you still helping us, though?" I asked. "I mean, yeah there's gold, but Jenkins could've given you that too. There was nothing to stop you double-crossing us same as Nate did."

"And side with that mongrel?" said Suzie disdainfully. "I have a score to settle with Jenkins myself, you know."

"Is that so?"

I waited, but Suzie seemed to have suddenly become plagued with lockjaw and made no attempt to divulge her secrets.

I shrugged and stared ahead of me to watch Ben and Jimmy trading arguments and insults as they disputed our current location. I smiled.

After a minute, Suzie finally spoke again.

"Truth be told, though, I'm not doing this because of Jenkins or the gold. Spending a couple years hiding out in a nunnery sure makes one miss a good adventure, even an adventure with buffoons such as yourselves. Let's face it, Red, you're not doing it for the gold either. Even if you make off with a handsome retirement fund, are you really going to hang up your hat and your gun and call it quits?"

I didn't answer that, but again, Suzie knew exactly what that meant.

"We're here!" Jimmy called back to us.

"No we're not," protested Ben irritably, "look at the map —"

"Confound the map and use your eyes, Ben," said Jimmy pointing. "We're here."

We had crested a rocky rise and below us, chiseled sharply out of the surrounding landscape, lay a dry, abandoned mine site, shimmering liquidly with heat haze. The problem was, there was already somebody there.

The End

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