NaNoWriMo Update Twelve

This update is 1808 words, which means I’m still catching up on that deficit a bit. Running total is 20240. Also, this one got a bit more sentimental than I thought it would. But hey, I managed to keep it from becoming an all out romance story! At least, I think I did. Guess we’ll see how the rest of it goes.

Lonesome wasn’t using his glass either, but that’s because he wasn’t there. Katherine hadn’t explicitly told him to come see her when he was done collecting supplies with Walsh, but she’d thought he would wander in to have a talk without prompting. With darkness descending it was looking more and more like that wasn’t going to happen.

“Damnit, Cooper.” The glasses clinked together as she took them both in one hand, picked up the bottle in the other, and pushed to her feet. If Lonesome wouldn’t come to her, she’d go find him. While that sounded like a good plan it turned out to be a bit more difficult than she’d reckoned. Her first guess, the jail, was a bust. Hawkins and Walsh were out back of it though, the Haversham & Black man trying his best to teach the deputy to shoot with his off hand. She leaned against the corner of the building and watched for a spell.

“It’s all practice,” Hawkins was saying. He cut quite a figure against the backdrop of the dying sunlight, in his pinstripe vest and bowler. He’d put on a pair of tight black leather gloves for shooting practice, which added another touch of dapper to the overall image. “Stand like this,” he told Walsh, and adopted a stance that put Katherine in mind of gentlemen dueling with flintlock pistols at dawn. One hand held at the small of his back, spine straight, left arm out to the side as he aimed downrange. Walsh attempted to mimic the posture, but it just didn’t have the same impact.

“I don’t even shoot like this with my good hand,” Walsh complained.

“It’s just to get you used to holding the gun in your off hand. You have to get your muscles trained. When you shoot right handed you hardly think about it, don’t you? That’s what we want to get to. Once you’re used to it you can go back to standing how you normally would.”

They both fired off a few rounds at the empty bottles Hawkins had set up against a dirt mound. Some struck home, shattering the glass, while others went wild into the dirt. It was easy to guess which bullets were fired by whom.

Katherine left the support of the jail’s wall and made sure they could hear her coming. She knew better than to surprise anyone with a gun in hand. “Well done,” she told the both of them with an encouraging, if lopsided, smile. “You’ll get that down in no time, Walsh.”

“No need to lie to me, ma’am,” the deputy told her dourly. “I know when I’m no good.”

“Fair enough,” she allowed. “Just keep practicing. You’ll get it eventually.”

Hawkins dropped his revolver neatly into its holster and asked, “What’s the news, Arbiter?” She saw him look at the glasses and bottle of whiskey, but he didn’t say anything about it.

“Just checking in on things,” she lied.

“Well, everything’s going fine right here,” he assured her. “I think having me around to promise that reward got us some more volunteers, but we won’t know for sure how many until tomorrow. If you wanted to check in with Lonesome about the supplies, I think he went down to the river,” he added.

“Oh, I helped with that,” Walsh started, only to have Hawkins cut him off.

“You’ve still got some practicing to do. Lonesome’s off thataway, somewhere,” Hawkins gestured with one gloved hand.

“But it won’t-” Walsh started. Katherine saw Hawkins give him a downright mean look, and the deputy raised both eyebrows. “Won’t… be light out for too much longer, so maybe I should just get to it?”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Katherine agreed, telling herself it must be the alcohol to blame for her cheeks feeling warm like they were. “I’ll see you boys tomorrow.”

Once she was out of earshot, Walsh scratched his head. “I don’t think I know what all that was about, Walter.”

“Did you see what she was carrying, Aaron?”

“Looked like a bottle of whiskey and some glasses,” Walsh recalled.

“That’s right,” Hawkins nodded. “Two glasses. Now, I haven’t known Arbiter Bishop for much longer than you have, but if I’ve noticed anything about her it’s how she gets on with Lonesome. And you recall she didn’t offer to do any drinking with us. Which leaves who?”

“Oh,” Walsh caught on. “I got it now.”

Katherine found Lonesome right where Hawkins said he’d be, sitting cross legged by the side of the river with his hands folded in his lap. She dropped down beside him, one leg folded underneath her and one knee raised so she could rest an arm on it. She set the glasses and the bottle between them.

“Katherine,” Lonesome greeted her. It had almost become too dark to see, but she could just make out that he had his eyes closed.

“Lonesome,” she completed the ritual. The sounds of the plains at night filled the silence that followed. It had been a long time since they’d sat under the stars, just the two of them.

“I think I’ll have some of that, if you don’t mind,” he said at last.

“Brought it to share,” she told him. He opened his eyes at last and poured himself a drink, then filled the other glass for Katherine. “Been talkin’?” she asked as he sipped his.

When his lips were free he shrugged slightly and said, “Only a bit. Mostly just enjoying the solitude.”

“I thought you Spirit Talkers were never alone.”

“We could be, if we wanted. All it would take is asking them to go away for a bit. I wager they’d listen. But that’s different. Different being around just them than being around people, I mean.” He set the glass in his lap and gazed down into it.

“Don’t make me pry it out of you, Lonesome,” Katherine prompted.

He shifted his weight and took another drink. “There’s still a lot you don’t know about me, isn’t there Kat?”

“I reckon so. Believe it or not, Lonesome, you’re not the most talkative type. And I know better than to dig. Most of the time, anyway. But this I’ve got to know.”

“I rode with the third cavalry back when the territories were trying to push the goyles out of the Badlands,” he told her. “They liked to put Spirit Talkers out as scouts when they could. There weren’t many of us, but we could track things no one else could. We could mask the passing of an entire company if we needed to, and for some reason the goyles weren’t as keen to kill us as they were any other human. The scouts got to know each other pretty well, and not just on account of how there were so few of us. That war was… there was no way we could win, Kat. The goyles knew the Badlands like we never could. But the powers that were just kept raising companies and throwing them out there to die. Time after time the only ones to come back were the scouts, and most of the time it was just the ones that knew First Words. It got to us, leading men out there to die. We knew they would, and when it happened there was nothing we could do to stop it.”

Lonesome set his glass aside and rubbed his face with both hands. “I think… I think we just started giving up. Some just blew their own brains out. Some deserted. Some rode out into the Badlands and never came back. I was one of the few that actually stuck it out to the end, and I’m not even sure why I did it.”

“I don’t mean to judge, Lonesome,” Katherine said into the dim light of the stars, “But you’re on awfully friendly terms with the goyles for having watched them kill so many people.”

“Could you blame them? We marched into their home and tried to kill them first, Kat. I’m just trying to keep any more people from getting killed,” he almost snapped, but managed to keep his tone just this side of civil. “That’s how I’m dealing with it. Clem… hell, I don’t know what she’s up to. Last I heard she died out in the Badlands on some damn fool rescue mission. Some decided to go out that way, you know. With the people they led into the jaws of death rather than living through it again.”

“Any idea why she’s tied to the robbery?”

“Back when I knew her there was no way she’d be involved in something like this. Not for any amount of money. But these days, after what she went through and whatever she’s done in between? I don’t know, Kat. I just dont know.”

“Fair enough,” Katherine accepted his answer. “I’ve just got one more question. You and her… were you ever…?”

“I thought you knew better than to dig.” He sounded more bitter than she’d ever heard him before, and it twisted something in her gut just a little.

“Sorry, I should’ve known better than to ask.” She pushed to her feet and dusted off her pants. From the looks of it he needed some time alone, and she was more than willing to let him have it. But she hadn’t so much as taken a single step when he spoke again.

“Hey, Kat?”


“You leavin’ already? I don’t want to finish that bottle alone.” There was a strain in his voice, just beneath the surface.

“No, Lonesome,” she said softly. “I was just stretchin’ my legs.”

They sat looking up at the stars, hardly talking until the last of the whiskey was gone. When it was time to head back Lonesome helped Katherine to her feet. He held her hand just a second longer than was necessary once she was on her feet, but pulled it back soon enough that she could attribute it to the alcohol. “We never were, you know,” he said as they started their walk back to the saloon and their rooms.


“Clem and I. We were never… you know.”

“Oh. You didn’t have to say anything about it. I never should’ve asked.”

Lonesome shrugged. “I just wanted you to know. If we run into her out there you don’t have to worry about me chasing old flames. Comes down to it, you know where I stand.”

“And where would that be?” she asked. It was a leading question and she knew it, but there was a pleasant haze just now that made it so she didn’t really care.

“The same place I always stand when you’re around,” Lonesome followed the lead like he hadn’t seen it. “Right by you. And maybe a touch behind, depending on if we’re getting shot at.”


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