Fell a bit further behind today, with only 1155 words. Not in too much trouble yet, especially if I can make it all up on the weekend.
“Found any work yet, Lonesome?” Katherine looked past her boots as the Spirit Talker entered the Wayward Son. She’d made the saloon her unofficial headquarters while she was in town with a room upstairs and a tab at the bar. Currently she had her own table, where she’d made the executive decision to put her feet up despite the owner’s annoyed look. She also had a bottle of whiskey and a cigar that, while not the best, was certainly decent enough smoke.
Lonesome pulled up a chair and Katherine dropped her feet to the floor. “Oh, a bit here and there. Some water dowsing for new wells. Tracked down a lost horse. And there was this pretty little thing that wanted a good luck charm. Did that one for free.”
“I’ve always did say you were a man to make the ladies swoon.” She poured some whiskey into her glass and slid it over to him.
He downed it with only the slightest hesitation as she took her own drink straight from the bottle. After wiping his mouth on his sleeve he gave her a disapproving look. “She was five, Kat.”
“Doesn’t matter if they’re five or fifty,” she grinned. “Hey, you like nicknames. Why don’t we come up with something for the belles to call you other than Lonesome. How about… Heartbreak. Yeah, Heartbreak Cooper. It’s got a ring to it.”
“How much of that have you had?”
“Not so much that I don’t know teasin’ a Spirit Talker ain’t wise, but just enough to think it’s damn funny regardless.” There was the crunch and crinkle of leather as she leaned forward across the table. “You know you love it.”
“Breakin’ hearts requires having ahold of them in the first place, doesn’t it?” He fiddled with one of the charms that hung on his coat. “I only ever did that once. Can’t accuse me of it these days. Keep to myself, or did you forget the monicker you were trying to replace?”
Another swig of whiskey and Katherine followed it with a deep chuckle. “Oh, Lonesome. Don’t you know women love the mysterious types? You keep turning a blind eye and all you have to do is ride through town, they’ll sigh for not being able to have you.” That she followed the statement with a light sigh of her own was enough to make the Spirit Talker take note of just how flushed she was.
He changed the subject. “How long you plan to be in town, Katherine?”
“Oh, a few more days.” The tip of her cigar burned a little brighter as she took another draw from it. “Then it’s on to the next town. You know how it is.”
“More than most, I’d wager. I hear you gave the sheriff quite the talking to.”
“Better believe I did. If there’s anything I can’t stomach it’s a lawman too afraid to do their damn job. He’ll know better next time, or I’ll make sure he’s out on his ass.”
“And you wonder why I call you Wild Kat.” Before she could respond, Lonesome had pushed to his feet and stepped away from the table. “Thanks for the drink, Arbiter. Do me a favor and go easy on the rest of that. Sleepy little towns like this always are until the next Lee Caswell comes through.”
“I don’t need a lecture on how to do my job, Lonesome.”
“I wouldn’t presume.”
He’d just made it to the door when she called after him, “I’ll see you around, Heartbreak!” He nodded mutely. She hadn’t asked, but he was planning on leaving first thing the next morning. Kormac’s Bluff just didn’t have enough work to make it worth his while. A part of him wanted to stay behind just a little while longer. The rest of him knew better. What he’d said before was true – following Arbiter Bishop around was just more trouble than it was worth, and in more ways than one.
Back in the Wayward Son, Katherine put her feet back up on the table and blew smoke up at the ceiling. She shouldn’t tease Lonesome like that, she knew. He’d never talked about it, but something had happened once upon a time that made him pull away from most human attachment. The closest he’d gotten to an actual friend that she knew of was… well, her. It made her feel a little guilty, but only a little. Whatever else Lonesome was he was tougher on the inside than most people were on the outside. She finished her cigar and went upstairs to her room. The whiskey came with her.
An insistent knocking woke her early the next morning. She growled something about charging the person doing it with disturbing the peace. It had the desired effect. She got dressed quickly and opened the door. “This’d better be good,” she warned.
The young man she found waiting for her was the one from the telegraph office. She couldn’t remember his name, but it hardly mattered. “Sorry Arbiter,” he apologized. “We just got an urgent message for you.”
She took the message and quickly scanned read through it. There had been a train wreck on the line just outside of Blackoak. Somebody had dynamited the tracks, shot a Haversham & Black employee, and stolen company property. If that didn’t count as something that needed an Arbiter’s attention she didn’t know what would.
Lonesome hadn’t made it too far from Kormac’s Bluff when he heard a horse coming up behind him. He was on foot after all, and not in any particular hurry. That someone else was on the road wasn’t much of a surprise either, it was the straightest surest way to the next town over. What surprised him was was who it was.
“Cooper, you sneaky son of a bitch,” Katherine admonished as she pulled her horse alongside him. “Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving town?”
“You didn’t ask,” he shrugged.
“Well, I’m sorry I teased you,” she apologized.
He stopped walking and frowned at her. “No need for that,” he waved it away. “That’s not why I left. Just wasn’t any work to be had.”
“Well then you’re in luck! If you don’t have your heart set on something down the road here, I’ve got a job I could use your help on.”
“What manner of job?”
“The payin’ kind.” She handed him the telegram and waited while he read it. When he’d finished he handed it back. “Usual rate?” he asked.
“That’s right.” From one of her coat pockets she pulled the round silver badge Arbiters gave to those whose help they enlisted. She always had at least one on hand, just in case. With a flick of her wrist she tossed it down to him. “Now get up here. I know you’re no fan of riding, but we don’t have time to walk all the way to Blackoak.”