NaNoWriMo Update Eleven

Catching up a bit tonight with a word count of 1739. Running total is 18432.


He was in his usual rocking chair out in front of the jail, shotgun near at hand. “Arbiter,” he greeted Katherine stolidly as she approached. “I imagine you’re here about the outlaws who derailed that train a while back.”

“Well,” Lonesome commented softly from behind her, “That answers that question.”

“That’s exactly why I’m here,” Katherine confirmed. “I take it you had some trouble with them?”

“You could say that. Saw all five of them ride into town a few days ago. Knew they were the ones the moment I laid eyes on ‘em. They went into the saloon for a bit, and I figured I could get the drop on them,” he explained, nodding towards a building down the street. “Got some of my boys together and we headed on over. Would’ve had them dead or in jail by the time you got here, but one of the local miscreants warned them off.”

Katherine looked over the town. It seemed fairly intact, and nobody looked overly mournful. “How much damage did they do on the way out? Anybody get killed?”

“Only thing that got hurt was my pride,” Wade admitted. “Nobody even fired a shot on account of Clem.”

Katherine raised an eyebrow. “How’d that go down?”

“Clem’s a Spirit Talker,” Wade told her with a shrug. “You know how they can be. She called up some spirits and made sure we couldn’t do anything to stop ‘em leaving. Luckily they were in such a hurry to get gone they didn’t bother doing any shooting of their own.”

“A Spirit Talker?” Lonesome asked, walking up to stand beside Katherine. Every part of him was intensely interested in this new development, like a hunting dog fixed on a rabbit. “You said her name was Clem. Would that be short for Clementine?”

“Yeah,” Wade nodded. “Clementine Baxter. You know her?”

“Back in another life,” Lonesome said, voice distant. “Thought she was dead.”

“Well, she ain’t,” Wade told him gruffly.

Katherine took over the conversation as Lonesome lapsed into silence. “You called her a miscreant. She give you much trouble before?”

“Nothing much,” Wade sighed. “She got herself into a few situations. Cheating at cards, bar fights, using the spirits to cause mischief. Only the occasional smuggling or theft, and never anything big. Not until a few days ago. You know rare the talkers are out here, Arbiter. Can you blame me for wanting her around? When she wasn’t poking beehives she was pretty useful.”

“I know,” Katherine assured him. “I don’t hold it against you. What happens in your town is your business. But it’s bigger than that now. She’s thrown in with some bad eggs, and I’m keen to get ahold of them. Any idea why she’d do that?”

“Been asking myself that since it happened, Arbiter. Everyone’s got their price… well, maybe not everyone,” he gave her a pointed look, “But most folks do. So all I can figure is somebody offered her a sack full of cash. That, or it’s personal. In my experience that’ll outweigh any amount of money or common sense.”

Katherine sighed and looked back out into the town, eyes squinted against the sun. “So which way did they go?” She had a bad feeling that she already knew the answer.

“Took off westward. If I didn’t know any better I’d say they were headed for the Badlands.”

“Yup,” she nodded to herself. “That’s what I figured. Wade, I hate to do this, but I’m going to need to deputise you and your people. If they’re hiding out in the Badlands we’ll need numbers to dig them out.”

“Won’t get much argument here,” Wade acquiesced easily. “I’ll even put the word out for volunteers. Don’t look too surprised. I know the score, and so do the people who live here. This town is out on the ragged edge. If those outlaws stir up the goyles guess who’s going to take the worst of it? We are, that’s who.”

“Glad to know I can count on you, Wade,” Katherine thanked him sincerely. “Have everybody who’s interested gather here first thing tomorrow morning. Tell them to be ready to ride hard, we’ve got some catching up to do.”

Hawkins cleared his throat from where he’d lingered at the back of the group. Katherine turned to look and he stepped forward with a purpose. “I’ll go with the sheriff, if that’s alright with you Arbiter. I’m employed by Haversham & Black,” he clarified for Wade. “The folks you talk to will have it straight from me that the reward will be split with anyone who helps us. I wager that’ll get us a few more volunteers.”

“I wager it will,” Wade agreed. Katherine must have known he didn’t have the authority to promise anything of the sort, but he could see her swallowing the objection before it passed her lips. “Go,” she said simply. “Lonesome, Walsh, you two go raid the general store for supplies. We’ve got a journey ahead of us.”

“What about you?” Walsh asked as she turned and stepped off of the jail’s porch.

“Me?” she half turned and smirked. “I’m gonna go investigate the saloon.”

Walsh turned to Lonesome as she strode away. “She means she’s gonna go drink, doesn’t she?”

“Leadership has its perks,” Lonesome told him. “C’mon Freckles, let’s go lawfully rob the locals.”

“So I’ve been meaning to ask,” Walsh struck up a conversation as the two perused the general store’s stock, sacks in hand as the owner glared from behind the counter. “The thing you do, that talkin’ to the spirits. How’s it work?”

“That’s way beyond the ken of towheaded young deputies like yourself,” Lonesome muttered as he gave a critical eye to the shelf in front of him.

“Well, I know I can’t do it,” Walsh shrugged, “If that’s what you meant. I’m just curious is all.”

“Hmm,” Lonesome considered for a moment. “Well, it’s like this. You know there are spirits, right?”

“Sure,” Walsh nodded. “Learned that in school. They’re all over, right? In everything?”

“Just about. There’s a language you can use so they understand you. It’s called First Words.”

“Why’s it called that?”

“Don’t know,” Lonesome shrugged. “Just is. Maybe it’s what the first people spoke. All I know is you talk to the spirits with it, they’ll listen. But not to everyone.”

“Well, why not? If they can understand it they should listen to everybody who knows those First Words, right?”

“Cause it’s not just telling them to do things,” Lonesome said irritably. “It’s more than that. I talk to them in First Words and they talk back. If you can’t hear ‘em they won’t bother with you. And before you ask – no, I don’t know why some people can hear the spirits and others can’t. Just the way it is.”

“Oh.” Walsh lapsed into a silence for a bit, giving Lonesome hope that the conversation was finished. But after a brief respite the deputy drew in a sharp breath and continued. “So you can ask ‘em to do anything? Like bring water to end a drought, and things like that?”

“No, you can’t just… well, I guess you could, but… listen, spirits can’t just make somethin’ out of nothin’. I’ve got a water spirit that lives in my waterskin, for example.”

“You’ve got one in there now?” Walsh asked, eyebrows raised as he looked curiously to the waterskin hanging from Lonesome’s belt. “It just stays there all the time? Can it get out?”

“We’ll get back to that,” the Spirit Talker sighed. “One thing at a time, Freckles. So this spirit that’s in there, it can do stuff to my water, right? If the water’s dirty it can clean it so I don’t get sick. But it can’t just make more water. If there’s some water nearby, underground maybe, it might bring that up so I can get to it. Or lead me to a watering hole further away. Nothing just comes out of nowhere, got it?”

“Ok, sure,” Walsh nodded. “So how’d you get it in there?”

“I asked real nice,” Lonesome said, completely deadpan.

“Just like that?” Walsh asked.

“Honestly, it took a little bit of persuasion. But yeah, that’s about the size of it. Figured having one in there could be handy. Saved me dying of thirst a couple of times, so I gather I was right.”

“Can it leave?”

“Of course it can,” Lonesome looked offended. “It can go anytime it wants, any of ‘em can. But spirits get attached to things. Once you convince one to live somewhere it’ll likely stay a good long while.”

“Well ain’t that something. Did you say you’ve got more than one?”

“What, you think I wear all this for fun?” Lonesome gestured to all the trinkets that hung from his hat and person.

“What, all of those?” Walsh’s eyes widened in surprise. “Why so many?”

“Never know what’ll come in handy,” Lonesome shrugged. “Got some that live in bits of wood, some that live in bits of lead, bits of feather, bits of leather. You get the idea. They’ve all got their uses, even if I haven’t found it yet.”

“I’ll be,” Walsh said softly. “You know Lonesome, I think you’ve got more friends there than anyone I know. Kinda makes that name of yours ring hollow.”

Lonesome stopped what he was doing and just looked at Walsh for a moment. “Freckles, that’s far more profound that I ever expected to hear out of you.”

Walsh grinned. “If I knew what that meant I’d thank you for the compliment. It was a compliment, wasn’t it?”

“It’s whatever you want it to be, deputy. Always is.”

Katherine had once again secured a table of her very own through virtue of her badge and a scowl. The whiskey she’d gotten had been paid for in full, despite the barman’s offer of a discount. She didn’t spend her pay on much but her vices. It just wouldn’t have felt right to come by them for free. She had her feet up on the table again, chair tilted slightly back at an angle that let her see the front door without effort. The setting sun poured in through the windows and was caught by the bottle of liquor, the contents within, and the two glasses that sat beside it. One was technically for her, though she wasn’t using it. The other was for Lonesome Cooper.


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