Published in Lesbian Cowboys: Erotic Adventures
Copyright © Teresa Wymore. All Rights Reserved.
Lesbian erotica | Western | 2009
Proster led me to his house outside of town and told me I could sleep on the porch. He went into the house and returned with two blankets and said I could use a log in the yard for a pillow. I thanked him, and he went inside. As I got the log, I heard a woman’s angry voice inside, followed by a baby crying. Even before this, I knew from his distraction that Proster was a man of convictions that were being tested.
As I drifted near to sleep, the door suddenly swung open, and I sat straight up, prairie dog still. I expected to see Proster, but it was his wife, Caroline, who stood at the railing staring off into the moonlight.
The night was bright enough to see her color, and when she turned her face to me, I saw she was a dark angel. She had abandoned the labor of a woman’s grooming, so her hair hung in a crooked black line. She had a thin mouth that bent with surmise, and her doe eyes were like something charred but still volatile. She wasn’t surprised to see me there, so I believed the shouting had been about me.
“Ma’am,” I said quietly, rising to my feet.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, Mr. Cortland.” She didn’t seem sorry. “My husband told me you needed a place to stay, and I’ve got no hostility to a soul in need.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.”
She had been speaking to me as she stared out into the night, and now she turned to me squarely. “But let me assure you, if you were sent here by Mr. Bert Lloyd to keep an eye on my husband, I shall see that you’re run out of this town, even if I have to do it myself.”
As she spoke, her voice tight with fear but firm with resolve, I knew she would do it. I took a step toward her, unable to look away. “Mr. Lloyd is the union boss?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Everyone knows that, even a stranger in town. But no one seems to know you.”
I told her my story of danger in Alaska, but she remained more suspicious than the men who had heard it.
“I’m sorry to say, Mr. Cortland,” she said after a moment’s thought, “but I think you’re a damned liar.”
Her profanity was unexpected, as was her tone. “I assure you, Ma’am, I’m not here for the union. Your husband’s been a chum to me.”
“He’s a fool, Sir, as anyone can see. He doesn’t have the stomach for dirty tricks, but the union put a pipe in his hand and told him to show an Irishman what it means to break a strike by breaking his bones. Now, he’s in bed crying like a baby.” She gazed away. “And I’m here confiding my misery to a stranger.”
She had enough grit to bring a man to his knees and loins luscious enough to make it worth his while. “Who else should you confide in but someone you ain’t likely to see again?” My gaze roamed around her face, and settled on her chest. Her dress, though worn, concealed ample beauties big as pumpkins. I glanced up, aware that she caught me examining her considerables.
She moved closer, so close I could feel the warm waves of her breathing. I was tall for a woman but without the mass of the average cowboy, so I wore layers of clothing and a thick belt and vest. Still, her nearness brought me down to her size in a way no man ever had. Her eyes grew sly as she glanced about my face. I recognized that probing. She had the look of the uncanny that sometimes took hold of the more observant types who noticed my hairless lip and narrow chin.
With an easy gesture, I turned away, stepping to the railing and peering up at the moon. I rubbed my cheek, trying to impress its coarseness on her, but managing only to smear more dirt around. “I don’t plan on being here long. You heard maybe I got gold stashed away, but that ain’t so.”
Her face went slack, her curiosity killed, so I couldn’t help but intrude even more. “You seem a might much for a man like Proster Dun, pardon my say-so.”
Her indifference turned to scorn. “You’re not the first to notice, Mr. Cortland.” She paused as if she was thinking about what she would confess before she continued. “You likely admire the saloon girls. They wear their ruffled skirts too short, but their fine petticoats are colorful and their soft kid boots have tassels, and they’re all new, while you notice this cloth across my bosom is threadbare. Vulgar girls wear sequins and fringe, silk and lace, and stockings with garters – all gifts from hard luck cases like you. I’m a respectable wife, Mr. Cortland. I tend to the animals and manage the crops and make the house and have Mr. Dun’s babies. And he wants more. More babies. I swear by the Good Lord’s wounds, I can’t handle even the two I have — the one that suckles me six times a day and the other, a grown man too frightened to beat a man who deserves it.”
“And what’s given you over to such a sorrowful mood, Ma’am?”
“The job Mr. Dun was to perform tonight would have brought us a month’s wage. Now he has no work and no money and this shabby house will belong to the bank come month-end.”
“But he did as he was told. At least the blood tells me so.”
She laughed. “The blood you saw, Mr. Cortland, is my husband’s own, a cut from a saw used to stop him. The man he was after got away, but not before the man’s chums chased my husband back to the saloon.”
I nodded at the news, just as the sound of breaking glass startled me. Several hoots of joy sounded outside as flames danced inside the window.
Caroline screamed and dashed into the house. I followed. At the cradle, she scooped up her daughter and made back for the door. I glanced about, thinking to save any valuables, but there weren’t any. I hooked a burning rug on my toe and flung it out the window, but that wasn’t going to stop the fire. Nothing was going to stop the rising inferno. As I started to leave, I realized Proster hadn’t come from the bedroom, so I hopped over a tendril of flame and threw open the door.
Despite the smoke building like a bank of storm clouds, he was still sleeping. I rustled him from bed, and in his groggy state, he tried to hit me, but I managed to get him to the main room. The shock of fire stole the sleep from his eyes, and he shouted that we had to douse the flames. I just shook my head and shoved him through the door.
Proster stood most forlorn as he watched his life settle into ashes beneath the flames. His wife calmed the baby and then walked to the barn. Proster set to cursing God and man. I let him stir me up, and we went to talk to the union boss, because the men who burned his house were the chums of the Irish scab he was to beat.
That’s how I finally found Jackjaw, who was going by an alias and working for the anarchists. Over two bad years, he had killed three men and a woman and made off with one-thousand dollars, but his luck run out the day he met me.
I played along with Proster and let him ingratiate me on Mr. Bert Lloyd, who was a bullish man with scars on his cheek. He looked to have been just as pleased to do the beating as to order it done. He took to me right away, guessing from my reputation that I was a man to be reckoned with. He said he had wired to St. Louis and Kansas City about me when I first come to town and the Agency told him the man known as Decker Cortland was wanted for pistol whipping a man near to death.
He offered me employ and a dollar up front. The marshal was there drinking, and he gave me back my Colt 45. Mr. Lloyd wanted me for work that very night. I figured I could get more information on the union and maybe bring Jackjaw in by myself, which meant an extra fifty dollars.
Jackjaw was a ruffian who wore a red handkerchief and black vest. He smelled of vomit and always had a hand in his trousers, adjusting his male particulars. He carried a pistol in his pocket, the barrel sticking out through a hole. Mr. Lloyd sent him to lead me and Proster to the Irishmen’s hang-out, which was the back room of the wire service building.
Jackjaw had two other men stand to the sides of the door and me and Proster out front. Then he tossed a smoke bomb through the window, flushing out the scabs. The unionists shot at the yowling Irish, but I backed away, keeping my shots high, acting like the smoke bothered me. When I saw Jackjaw’s fearsome eyes get a bead on me, I dove behind a barrel.
Bullets splintered the wooden slats and green water soaked my trousers. I scrambled around the side of a building, seeing from the corner of my eye that Proster was laid out on the street. I wondered if Mr. Lloyd knew all along that I was a detective.
I had talked my way out of situations before, but my ambition was quarrelsome that evening, stoked by lust and disgust and sheer bad temper. All I wanted was to kill Jackjaw dead and, if it was pleasing to the Almighty, get a taste of sweet Caroline and maybe another helping of Miss Jinny before I left Rawlins.
Darkness is a chum to a man alone. I kept low and scurried around the back of the building. Keeping my pistol level, I shot at anything that moved, and that turned out to be a mongrel and one of Jackjaw’s men, who fell with a gurgle. I took his gun and slipped it in my waistband as bullets hummed by my head.
A man was shooting with authority, but I couldn’t find him, so I raced along the back of the building, past piles of trash and a coon, until I reached the far end. I came around the end so quickly, I collided with one of the fellows. I pulled my trigger and only I got up from the ground. Another man stood trembling in front of me, but he had no gun. He was one of the Irish, and he stood shivering in his stocking feet. I nodded at him and passed by.
Before I turned the corner back into the street, I took a breath and considered how many men I might find. My work as a detective meant every day would as likely be my last. Jackjaw wasn’t worse than most, and he wasn’t better, but the world would be better with him gone, even if I was gone, too.
I dashed out into the street shooting both pistols. Jackjaw was there looking the other way. He took one of my bullets in the thigh and another in his arm. He fell cursing. I kicked his pistol away but didn’t finish him, though I was sorely tempted. Two remaining Irish were cowering by the door as the last of the ruffians made to kill them. He turned on me when I came at him like I was storming Hades, and I fired three bullets into this chest. One of his bullets caught my shoulder and spun me around, but I staggered away.
I tossed the borrowed pistol in a barrel and holstered my Colt. I didn’t have a cinch for my shoulder, so I just held it as tight as I could. There was only one place I thought to go, and I don’t recall making it there before I passed out.