NaNoWriMo Update Nine

That’s 1632 words this update. Running total is 15258.

They all sank into chairs, Brodie leaning forward with a hard look on his face. “Where’s the money, Clem?”

Clayton shared a surprised and confused look with Morgan and Thomas. Had something gone sideways? They were supposed to get paid, but from the sounds of things it might not go that way. Rather than get too worked up he sat back and let Brodie do the talking.

“Come on now,” Clementine tsked at him, a knowing smile on her lips. “You know how this goes, Brodie. You don’t get paid until the job’s done.”

“What’re you talking about?” he demanded, anger just kept in check. “The job’s done, Clem. We were supposed to bring that damn box here. Well it’s here, right outside that door. This is the part where you pay up.”

“I think you’re confused, friend,” she told him. All the while she maintained a look that said she knew something they didn’t. “Bringing it here was step one of a two step operation. Job was you bring the box here, then I take you – and it – to where you get paid.”

“Bullshit,” he snapped. “Don’t go changing things on me. We had a deal.”

“We still do. You and I just seem to remember the specifics a little different. Think on how much you’re getting paid at the end of this, sunshine. You really want to pass on that because you’ve got to go just a little further?”

Brodie leaned back in his chair and gave her a dirty look. “How much further are we talkin’?”

“Few days out from here.”

“Which direction?”


“West-ish,” Brodie repeated, putting a distasteful spin on the word. “You know what’s out west of here, Clem?”

“You mean aside from the money you’re so hot to get your hands on?”

“Don’t get cute.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she waved away his concern. “So it’s the Badlands. So what?”

Brodie gawped at her.

“So what?” Morgan asked into the silence. “That’s goyle territory, that’s what. You can’t blow that off like it’s nothing.”

“Yeah,” Thomas threw in. “I didn’t sign on to this to get killed out there by one of those monsters.”

“Neither did I,” Clayton was less enthusiastic in his objection than the others. “But I did sign on to get paid. I need that money. If I have to follow her out to the Badlands to get it… well, I will.”

“Heh, listen to the new guy,” Brodie chuckled. “He’s got more balls than the both of you put together.” He crossed his arms and heaved a grumpy sigh. “Alright Clem, I’ll follow your crazy ass out into the Badlands. But you promise me we get paid once we drop the box out there.”

“If you don’t I’ll be mighty pissed off myself,” she told him. “My own pay is waiting for you to show up out there with the box. I get it same time as you do.” She stuck her arm across the table, revealing a bracelet from which hung an odd assortment of ornaments. Brodie shook it firmly to seal the deal. “Now then,” she smiled around the table. “Why don’t you boys introduce yourself? Me, I’m Clementine Baxter. Scout, scoundrel, and Spirit Talker.”

“You already know me,” Brodie deflected. “That’s Morgan, Thomas, and Clayton. Slim is outside.”

“That’s a strong lack of last names,” Clem noted.

“You oughta know our line of work isn’t one where you go advertising,” Brodie told her. “Your sheriff might be fine with his town playing host to a troublemaker like you, but we ain’t nearly as pretty.”

Clem pushed away from the table and stood, stretching just enough to emphasize her figure. “You always were a charmer, Broderick,” she said with a sly look. “What do you say we go have a look at that box, eh?”

Slim was still standing in the rain, his back against the saloon’s outside wall. To most it would just look like he was having a smoke and minding his own business. Truth was he was keeping a close eye on the jailhouse across the way. The sheriff was still there, shotgun across his lap. He only occasionally looked at the saloon, and didn’t seem to take any particular interest in the covered lockbox when he did, but something was still off. For one thing three deputies had shown up since Slim and gang had ridden into town. And they weren’t nearly as subtle as their boss when it came to their wandering eyes.

“Slim?” Brodie asked as the group left the saloon.

Slim removed the cigar from his mouth and puffed a cloud of sweet smelling smoke into the wet air. In a deliberately calm voice he said, “We got problems, boss.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Thomas muttered.

“What kind of problems?” Brodie asked, though his quick glance across the street said he already had some idea.

“Lawman over there’s been eyeballin’ us since we rode in. He’s been gathering up friends since you went inside. My guess is he’s fixin to come this way and say hello.”

Brodie turned to their new addition. “Clem, you got any idea why he’d be riled all of a sudden?”

“Can’t say as I do,” she told him. “You want me to go have a talk with him? Might be able to keep him from doing anything rash.”

“Might be worth a shot,” Brodie agreed. “You do that. Just be careful. Everybody else grab the horses and let’s just mosey on out of here. Keep it casual like.”

As soon as they started moving the sheriff was up and out of his rocking chair. The deputies gathered around him, a conspicuous amount of weapons on hand. The locals, attuned to trouble, started clearing out of the area. “Hey Wade,” Clementine greeted the sheriff from a safe distance. “What’s going on? Something up?”

“You know what’s up, Clem,” he answered, shotgun cradled in the crook of his arm. “Those men over there are criminals. Stay out of this and I’ll forget you were in there talking with them.”

“Nope,” Clem sighed, “Not nearly as pretty.”

“Hey,” Wade said more loudly, shotgun raised. “You all stay put!”

The command didn’t have the desired effect. Brodie’s men, in the process of trying to leave in a low key sort of way, stopped and reached for their guns. Wade’s deputies responded in kind, and a quiet standoff began. Quiet, except for Clementine. She had backed up out of the street, her melodious voice carrying through the rain as she spoke to the spirits.

“Clementine!” Wade called out. His shotgun swung towards her, but the barrel stayed pointed at the ground. “Damnit girl, I’m warning you!”

“What’re you gonna do, Wade?” she asked, breaking out of First Words. “Shoot me?”

“Don’t tempt me. I’m not gonna let them walk.”

“How bad do you want them, Wade?” Clem was backing up now, headed towards Brodie and his people as she talked. “Looks like a pretty even fight to me. Five of you, five of them. Is it worth your people getting gunned down?”

“I’m hoping they’ll see reason and come in peaceably. Anybody dies here, some of them will be going down with us. And honestly, Clem, the reward from Haversham & Black is too big to just let ‘em go. Turn some spirits on ‘em and I’ll cut you in instead of arresting you. How about it?”

“Sorry Wade, it’s a little late for that. You know what I can do. I don’t want you or your boys getting hurt. I like this little shithole of a town, so I’d rather not leave it with blood in the streets. Just let us get out of here.” As she spoke Brodie swung up onto his horse, revolver still in hand. One by one the others followed. “Besides,” she added, pulling up into the saddle of her her own horse. “What makes you think anything would happen even if you decided to pull the trigger?”

Wade looked down at his shotgun. With a disgusted look he lowered the weapon. “They’ll come after you, Clem. H&B, the Arbiters, or somebody else. They’ll come. I just might be with ‘em.”

“I’ll look for you,” she promised. “Gentlemen, I think that’s our cue to get the hell out of here.”

They stopped their headlong galloping a safe distance out of town. It was still raining, but it was a light and almost pleasant downpour. Brodie started laughing like he’d heard the funniest thing ever. Morgan asked what was so funny. “That whole show back there,” he replied. “It was something, Clem. It was really something.”

“Good to know you’re impressed, seeing as how it was all a bluff.”

Brodie’s good mood evaporated quickly. “That was a bluff? You mean they… they could’ve shot us?”

“Well, shot at us,” she qualified. “I’ve never known Wade to be a great shot. But yeah.”

“Hold on now,” Thomas started in suspiciously. “I thought you said you were a Spirit Talker.”

“So I did, and so I am.”

“Then what was all that talking funny about?” Brodie wanted to know.

“Just cause I can talk to the spirits doesn’t mean they always listen. Or that there are any around to hear. I was trying to call up a fog so we could make a break for it. Didn’t quite work out like I planned.” She tried to play it off as something that just happened from time to time, and the others seemed to buy it. But not Clayton. He could see she was worried by her failure, at least a little. And when she caught his eye he could tell she knew he’d seen it, but all he did was look away and listen to the rain.


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