Knuckle Ridge, Chapter 2

  • Posted on September 4, 2020 at 2:22 pm

by Purple Les

The Tequila Kid and Andromeda Purdy talked late into the night. Eventually, the soft light of dawn began to creep through the bedroom window.

The Kid lay naked on her back on the rumpled bedclothes. Lying on her side facing The Kid and also nude, Andromeda peered at the gold ring her lover wore around the neck on a thin gold chain, reading the inscription on the inside of the ring aloud. “‘My Love Always’.”

Andromeda fell silent. The Kid had told her the whole story of her time in Oak Creek, what had happened to Buttercup and all that went with it. The murders carried out by Ramses Kingsley. Her near-death at the hands of the same man. The dying little girl named Arabella, who she’d rescued from the desert wasteland. How The Kid and Arabella had first made love. How the child had been reunited with her Aunt Clementine and cousins Mimi and Susie, who welcomed Arabella into their home… and their bed. The lustful pleasures that The Kid had shared with the entire family.

The story had been frequently interrupted by questions from Andromeda… and by tears, hugs and several bouts of lovemaking.

“I hope you didn’t break this little Arabella’s heart too badly, Kid.” Andromeda said as she fondled the ring between her fingers, observing its gleam in the light of morning.

“I hope not,” The Kid said softly. “Reckon I broke my own heart when I said goodbye to her. Fact is, she left an achin’ inside me that don’t seem to heal.”

Nestling against her lover, Ann cuddled The Kid till they drifted off. The two of them dozed for a few hours in the crisp morning air, soon to be burned off by the relentless sun.

The Kid woke first. As Ann slumbered on, her mind turned to the stagecoach robbery, trying to work out how the job had been done — marshaling the facts of the case, seeking a pattern to it all that made sense.

Just like that, the missing piece fell into place, and The Kid had her answer.

Now anxious to get moving, she leaned over and kissed Ann awake. “Mornin’,” The Kid said softly as she watched Ann hesitantly open her eyes.

Ann rubbed sleep from her sparkling eyes as she yawned out, “Morning, Kid.”

“You rest up, Ann. I gotta get myself cleaned up some and meet Gus Masters for breakfast.” The Kid sat up, stretching her long wiry limbs out in all directions.

“No, don’t,” Ann protested sleepily. “I want you all to myself today.”

The Kid shook her head, “I want that, too. But fact is, I gotta get on this murder. Roy’s dead, and maybe Bob is too, by now. I can’t let that stand. No dirty dog is gonna kill good men that way and get away with it… ‘specially in the town where my sweetheart lives.”

“I’m your sweetheart?” Ann asked in a teasing voice, already knowing the answer.

The Kid rumpled Ann’s hair, then got out of bed.

“I love the sight of you naked,” Ann sighed as she gazed at her nineteen-year-old lover’s lithe body, now on full display. The lean muscular frame. The small pert breasts with taut pink nipples. The firm belly and the sparse patch of rust-red pubes. The narrow hips and the long, muscular legs.

“Oh, no, You’re the one who looks the best with nothin’ on,” The Kid said as she pulled the covers off, baring the body of her lover — almost ten years her senior and amazingly beautiful.

“Please, Kid… I’m positively burning for you. Can’t you make me come just once? A quick one to take the edge off, that’s all I need. Pretty please?” Andromeda cupped the underside of her breasts with both hands and presented them to The Kid, who licked her lips as she watched Ann’s nipples harden.

Dang it, Ann. I promise I’ll be back in a little while… then we’ll have us all kinds of time to talk about that Sappho gal, the one on the Isle of Lesbo that you keep tellin’ me about.” The Kid was doing her best to be strong and get moving, but too late — she got caught up in the sight of Andromeda spreading her legs wide apart to reveal her juicy treasure.

The Kid sighed heavily, but there was amusement in her eyes. “I thought for sure that I made you come enough times last night.” With a wry smile, she threw up her hands. “Okay, a real fast one.”

As The Kid reached for her, Ann suddenly thought of Roy, the murdered man, and the magic of the moment vanished. She’d known Roy for years. He was rough as a cob, but a reliable fellow whose word was bond. And he’s got a wife and children, Ann remembered. My God, what must they be going through? 

Ann suddenly pulled the sheet back up over herself. “No… you’re right, Kid. I’m being selfish. You have a crime to solve and you best get to it.”

Grinning, The Kid shook her head. “You are the livin’ end, Andromeda Henrietta Purdy. Don’t you have me like a spider on a string, pullin’ me any which way you want, whenever you want.”

Ann gave her lover a stern look. “Go now, Kid, before I pull the string back the other way again.”

The Kid gathered up some of her things, then threw a pillow at Ann as she padded from the bedroom.

Ann called after her, “Hurry, my avenging angel. Come back to me soon!”

She lay back down in the bed, her mind a jumble of thoughts — about the stagecoach holdup, but also about all the women and young girls The Kid had been with in Oak Creek. She began to toy with her clit, remembering The Kid’s story about the first time she’d made love to ten-year-old Arabella.

But her thoughts returned to the shooting of Bob and Roy… and making a face, she withdrew that straying hand from between her thighs. Ann got up and put a robe on, coming down the stairs to find The Kid strapping on her gun belt. She wrapped both arms around the younger woman without a word, and they kissed.

As The Kid started out the door, Ann blurted, “Please stay safe.”

“Don’t you worry none about me,” The Kid answered with a smile as she left.

***

Freshly washed and wearing a clean shirt, The Kid went looking for Sheriff Gus Masters. She found him standing in front of the Highland House, a modest adobe building that boasted Honest Home Cookin on the sign out front.

“Mornin’,” Sheriff Masters nodded his head in greeting.

“Mornin’, Gus.” The Kid replied as they stepped inside.

The morning rush was over, and they sat at a table out of the way of those who were still eating.

“Bob still around?” The Kid asked.

“He made it through the night. Doc says Bob lost a lot of blood, but the way you patched his chest up was enough to keep him going. He ain’t out of the woods yet, though.”

Gus put something on the table, saying, “Look at this. It’s what Jed pulled outta Bob’s chest.”

The Kid picked up the battered .32 slug, looking at it closely before putting it in her vest pocket, as Gus added, “Jed found the same caliber bullet in Roy’s head.”

“What’ll ye have?” said Eiljah, the grizzled old white-haired waiter, dressed in dark pants, stained white shirt and a black vest. He set down two empty cups and saucers, then filled the cups with steaming black coffee.

Remembering that she hadn’t been to the bank yet and only had small change in her pocket, The Kid said, “Uh, I reckon coffee is fine.”

“My treat,” Gus said, grinning at The Kid. He knew she couldn’t have picked up her pay yet, and was probably broke as usual. “Whatever you like.” He turned to the waiter, “I’ll have ham and two eggs over easy, Eli. How ‘bout you, Kid?”

In fact, The Kid had eaten nothing since a small breakfast early the day before, and felt absolutely ravenous now. Looking up at Elijah, she said, “I’ll have me a steak, rare, with a few scrambled eggs on top.”

The waiter was about to turn and shuffle off when The Kid added, “Oh, and some of them fried-up potatoes on the side. You know, with the onions in ‘em. And baked beans with bacon.”

Gus and the waiter stared at The Kid. Finally Eli said, “Reckon that’ll hold ye, then?”

“You can just leave the coffee pot here on the table for us. Oh, and a pan of biscuits with gravy,” The Kid said, and the waiter walked off muttering to himself.

Later, Gus Masters sat cleaning his teeth with a toothpick as he watched The Kid gnaw on her steak bone. She’d gulped down the rest of her food already. Setting the bone down in one of her empty dishes and pouring herself more coffee, she put her feet up on a vacant chair at the table and took a sip.

“Well… I give it a lot of thought, Gus.”

Sheriff Masters knew it was well worth the price of feeding The Kid to hear what she had to say about the crime. She’d never learned to read or write, but her powers of observation were considerable.

“The big question here,” The Kid continued, “is just how many men it was that robbed the coach. ‘Cause we’re gettin’ some differences of opinion here.”

Gus nodded. “I’m mighty anxious to hear what the passengers have got to say on that point.”

“Well, the servant girl told me she saw two riders, but from the tracks I saw, there weren’t but one horse. Thing is, though, there had to be two outlaws, the way it was done,” The Kid said.

Gus Masters gave The Kid a quizzical look, “Well, it’s got to be one or the other, Kid. I reckon it’s maybe time for us to start talkin’ with them out-of-towners, wouldn’t you say?”

The Kid finished her coffee and said, “I reckon so,” setting her empty cup down.

Making their way over to the Ridge Hotel, they found Lady Jane Wyeth-Boton and Count Cousiourac in the hotel’s plush dining room, finishing their breakfast. The woman narrowed her eyes as Gus and The Kid approached, clearly annoyed at the prospect of encountering The Kid again.

Count Cousiourac rose from his seat, and Gus removed his hat. The Kid stood looking at them all, thumbs hooked in her belt. She decided to make the introductions.

“Folks, this here is Sheriff Gus Masters,” The Kid said. Turning to the sheriff, she added, “Gus, this here is Lady Jane Wide-Bottom and Count Cocksucker.”

Lady Jane gave The Kid a look that would freeze the sun. “That’s Lady Jane Wyeth-Boton, and Count Cousiourac,” she hissed.

“Ain’t that what I said?” The Kid put in innocently with the soft angelic smile of a child as she looked into Lady Jane’s angry green eyes. Sheriff Masters was irked by The Kid’s foolishness, but managed to keep his expression neutral.

The Count didn’t seem to notice that anything was out of sorts. He shook hands with the sheriff and murmured, “Please join us, sir. You take coffee, yes?”

Gus pulled up a chair and sat down. “No, but thank you,” he answered.

“Sheriff, I believe you want to ask us questions regarding the terrible events of yesterday.” Looking The Kid up and down, Lady Jane sniffed in disdain. “Does this,” she hesitated for a moment, then finished with, “this person need to be here for that?”

Gazing evenly at Lady Jane, Gus said, “The Tequila Kid’s a special agent for the Texas Rangers. I’ve asked for her assistance on this case.”

Picking up a chair from a neighboring table, The Kid set it near Lady Jane Wyeth-Boton, facing in the wrong direction. The Kid then straddled the seat, leaning forward against the backrest.

“It was most terrible, how the bandits killed that man,” Count Cousiourac said in his thick French accent.

“So were there two outlaws?” Gus asked.

The Count nodded. “Two men, yes.”

“I thought there was just one,” Lady Jane put in.

“Hm. Well, we’re still tryin’ to work that out,” said the sheriff.

The Kid looked back and forth thinking to herself, The Count looks like a dandy, but he seems man enough. Clean-shaven with that black curly hair, he looks like the type to fetch both men or women to him. I guess Lady Ice Queen wears her fancy duds everywhere she goes, even at breakfast. She sure looks nice in ‘em, though. I like the way that dress shows off her cleavage, and she’s got pretty blonde hair and a good figure. She looks young, but judging by her hands, I reckon she’s thirty-five or so. Hard to know what she’d be like in bed, though. I bet her snatch is either wide as a canyon, or tight as a miser with a penny. Hell, I’d take a tumble with her if she weren’t such a cold-ass bitch.

“What did you see, exactly?” Gus asked the Count.

“Ah, Sheriff Masters,” the Count began, “It all happened so quickly. The coach came to a stop. I heard a man order the stage men to throw the box down. There were gunshots, and then the stagecoach took off at great speed.”

Count Cousiourac took a silver cigarette case out of his coat and, flicking it open, offered it to the sheriff, who shook his head. The Count took one out, closed the case, tapped the cigarette against it and lit it with a match that was on the table.

After taking a long draw, he smiled and shook his head, “To be honest, Sheriff Masters, I saw not much of anything. I thought someone said there were two bandits. I do not know for certain.”

Gus nodded, then looked over and said, “And you, Lady Wyeth-Boton?”

Lady Wyeth-Boton looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, “I must say that I agree with the Count. I can’t say if there were one or two men, I really didn’t see anything either. It all happened so quickly.”

“Any idea how many shots you heard?” The Kid asked.

“Two, I think,” the Count said.

“Yes, two, I believe,” Lady Wyeth-Boton agreed.

Gus thought for a moment, then gave Lady Jane and the Count a slightly awkward smile. “So… pardon me for askin’, but what brings a couple of well-to-do folks such as yourselves to our little town?”

“Perhaps I can answer that, Sheriff Masters,” came a voice from the middle of the dining room, just a few feet from their table.

They saw a short, silver-haired woman in her sixties, who wore an ornate dress done in an older fashion. She looked down her aquiline nose at them as the sheriff, the Count and The Kid all stood.

“Howdy there, Mrs Ruggles,” The Kid said, tipping the brim of her hat.

“Good morning, all,” Mrs Ruggles said, then offered her hand to Count Cousiourac, who bent to lightly press his lips against the woman’s fingers for a moment. She seemed pleased.

“And you must be Lady Jane Wyeth-Boton,” Mrs Ruggles gushed. Lady Jane gave a brief nod in reply, but did not speak.

“Take you a seat, ma’am,” The Kid said, offering her chair to Mrs Ruggles. As the woman seated herself, Masters and the Count sat down as well.

“You see, Sheriff Masters,” Mrs Ruggles began, beaming like a child showing off a new Christmas present, “Lady Wyeth-Boton is a world renowned spiritualist and medium from Great Britain. I found she was visiting our country, and simply had to invite her here.”

“I see,” Gus said, though his expression indicated otherwise.

Mrs Ruggles continued, “Learning that Count Cousiourac was traveling with her was the icing on the cake. Naturally, I extended my invitation to include him. I will personally vouch for them both, Sheriff Masters.” She turned to the two visitors. “Lady Wyeth-Boton, I insist that you and the Count stay with me while you are here.”

“Why, thank you,” Lady Jane said, clearly pleased.

“It will be our honor to lodge with you, Mrs Ruggles,” the Count said with a slight bow.

Gus Masters said, “Well, I reckon I’ll ride out there if I have any more questions.”

“I got a couple more questions right now,” The Kid said.

Mrs Ruggles glared at The Kid. “Must you, Tequila? Can’t it wait?”

“It’ll just take a minute, Mrs Ruggles.”

“Very well, my child, go ahead,” the woman replied, but not without a heavy sigh.

“‘Preciate it, ma’am.” The Kid turned back to Lady Jane and the Count. “So, if I understand this right, you two never saw no robbers then? No one made you get out of the coach? They didn’t take your money or jewels or nothin’?”

Count Cousiourac looked at Lady Wyeth-Boton. Lady Jane spoke up, “Why, yes, I had forgotten. It must have been the shock of it all. They did take all our money, and yes, my jewels. How silly of me. I’ve no idea how we’ll pay our expenses till I can wire our bank in New York.”

“Yes, of course,” Count Cousiourac added, “Now I recall most clearly. One man opened the coach door and robbed us at gunpoint. I think that is why we believed there were two of them.”

“You see his face?”

The Count shook his head. “Just his eyes. He wore a, what is it called — a bandana, yes, over his nose and mouth. Anything else…” He shrugged. “I cannot recall more.”

“Did you hear them two shots before or after you got robbed?” The Kid asked.

“I can’t recall for certain,” Lady Jane replied. The Count just shook his head.

“You needn’t worry about your lack of funds,” Mrs Ruggles said. “I will take care of your bills until your wire arrives from New York.”

“You are too kind,” murmured Lady Jane.

“Mrs Ruggles,” The Kid said, “These folks have a heap of luggage and a servant girl. I’d be right happy to bring all that out to your place if you like.”

“Why, thank you, Tequila,” Mrs Ruggles replied, genuinely pleased. “That will make things much easier.” She turned to her guests. “Count, Lady Wyeth-Boton — after your things are packed, you will ride out with me to my home. The Tequila Kid will bring your baggage and servant with her later.”

With that, Mrs Ruggles stood and made her way to the lobby desk to pay the hotel bill. Lady Jane rose and swept away from the table, pointedly ignoring Sheriff Masters and The Kid. That left the Count, who, as he made to leave, paused to give a slight bow first.

The Kid turned to the Sheriff, “I smell bullshit here, Gus. The stories these folks are tellin’ don’t make no kinda sense.”

As Mrs Ruggles rejoined them, The Kid quickly said, “Ma’am, there’s been a little change of plans. The Count and her Ladyship want to take care of some business here in town. So I’ll bring ‘em both out to you later with the luggage and servant girl.”

“That’s splendid, Tequila. That will give me time to prepare a proper luncheon. Please try to have them at my house by one o’clock. Thank you again, dear girl,” Mrs Ruggles said, patting The Kid’s hand as she left. Moments later, her buggy was heard to depart.

Before long, the Count and Lady Jane came down the stairs. She asked Gus, “Where is Mrs Ruggles?”

Sheriff Masters said, “Mrs Ruggles offers her apologies to you both. Somethin’ urgent came up, and she had to leave. No need to worry, though — The Tequila Kid here will take you and your baggage out to the Ruggles residence.”

“That’s right, folks,” The Kid added. “Soon as I get me a wagon from the livery stable, I’ll have your things loaded up and ready to go. ‘Scuse me now.” She made to leave, then paused to ask The Count, “You carry a gun, mister?”

“Yes,” the Count answered. “I was told I would need one for protection.”

“Could I see it?” the sheriff put in, “If you got it on you, that is.”

Reaching under his coat, the Count withdrew the gun from a shoulder holster and handed it to Sheriff Masters. Gus studied the weapon, a .32 caliber Smith and Wesson single-action short barrel five-shot revolver. He sniffed at the barrel, then handed it back to the Count. The Kid and the sheriff exchanged a brief look.

“Strange,” the Count mused. “I never even thought of it while we were robbed.”

“Just as well,” Gus said, “They wouldn’t of given you a chance to reach for it.”

“I bought one the same for Lady Wyeth-Boton,” the Count replied. “I have shown her to use it, but she keeps it packed away. So what good does it do, this gun?” He shook his head.

Leaving the hotel, The Kid waited nearby for the sheriff to appear. When Gus joined her, he said, “Let’s go see Molly Hardy. I’ll talk to the servant girl later.”

As The Kid and Masters headed for the boarding house, they spied Molly, emerging from the post office, carrying her valise. “Good morning, Sheriff Masters, Miss Kid,” she said.

Sheriff Masters and The Kid both tipped the brims of their hats and said, “Mornin’, Miss Hardy.”

“How is the stagecoach driver?” Molly asked.

“He’s hangin’ on,” Gus Masters told her, then said, “Actually, ma’am, we were lookin’ to have a word with you. Won’t keep you long, we just need to ask a few questions.”

“I’d be happy to help in any way I can,” Molly replied.

The sheriff nodded. “Why don’t we go to my office? It’s just over there.”

Masters’ office was a small one, with just two cells in the back. There was a desk that was really more of a table with a drawer, stacked with paperwork, a wooden swivel chair placed behind it. A small wood-burning stove squatted in one corner, a coffee pot sitting on top. Off to the side stood a few chairs, and another, smaller table with a checkerboard on it. There was a cot against a corner, and a rack of rifles and shotguns over the desk. The room was lit by a few oil lamps fixed to the brick walls and another one on the desk. A map of Texas hung to the left of the cot, and a few wanted posters were tacked to a corkboard on the opposite wall. Along the wall also stood a heavy safe. On top, a doily was spread out with coffee mugs resting upside down on it.

Gus offered a chair at the table to Molly Hardy, who sat down and folded her hands. The Kid and the sheriff seated themselves as well.

“Would you care for some coffee, Miss Hardy?” Gus asked. “It is Miss, right?”

“Yes, Sheriff Masters, it is Miss… and no, thank you to the coffee.”

“Can I ask what brings you to Knuckle Ridge?”

“I’ve come to meet my brother. As it turns out, I fear that I have missed him. So I will be taking the Saturday morning train to Austin. From there, I will head to Denver to meet him.”

“You look like you’re fixin’ to leave now. You always tote your luggage along?” The Kid asked amiably.

“No, of course not. I have very few items of clothing with me, so I was heading for the laundry,” Molly replied with a pleasant smile.

“What can you tell us about yesterday’s robbery, Miss Hardy?” Masters queried, intrigued by the way the two women looked at each other.

“Not very much, I’m afraid. I was trying to play a word game with the little girl to pass some time, but Lady Wyeth-Boton soon put a stop to that. It wasn’t long after that the coach came to a sudden stop. We heard voices.”

Molly pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and dabbed at her eyes, which had suddenly gone moist. “I heard them tell the stagemen, ‘Hand down the box’. I saw one of the stage men on the ground after that for a moment, when he moved past a window. Then I — I heard two shots. Suddenly a masked man opened the stage door, He held a gun, and demanded our money and jewels.

“Thankfully, most of the money I possessed was hidden away on my person. They only got a few dollars from me. The way the man was talking, I fear if they hadn’t been in such a hurry, they would have…” Molly shuddered, then went on, “…they would have searched us most thoroughly, if you get my meaning.”

“I’m afraid I do, Miss Hardy,” Gus said. “You’re sure there was two men, then?”

“Yes, very sure,” Molly answered. “Then another shot was fired, and the stage sped off. It was clear that we were riding out of control, and were sure to be badly hurt or killed.” Raising her pale face, Molly said, “The rest you know, Sheriff Masters. Miss Kid here saved our lives and brought us into town.”

The sheriff gave a thoughtful nod. “Well, I guess that’s about it then, Miss Hardy. You got any questions, Kid?”

“No, I reckon not. What’s your brother’s name, Miss Hardy?”

Pausing a moment, Molly replied, “Jess. Jess Hardy. He’s about your height, Miss Kid, and resembles me.”

“Well, then, I reckon I’d recall a handsome man like that,” The Kid said watching a light pink come to Molly’s cheeks at the compliment. “You seen anyone like that around, Gus?”

“No, I don’t believe so, Kid.” Gus stood up. “Thanks for your help, Miss Hardy. If I can be of any assistance to you while you’re in town, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”

Molly Hardy rose. “If you’d be so kind as to keep me informed about how the stageman is doing, it would be of some comfort.”

“Yes, of course,” Gus said.

“You don’t carry a gun… do you, Miss Hardy?” The Kid asked.

Molly looked startled, then said, “No. I — I wouldn’t even know how to use one.”

The Kid stood. “It was good of you to look after Bob on the ride to town yesterday, Miss Hardy.”

“Not at all. Any Christian would do the same.”

As Gus opened and held the door, Molly smiled briefly at The Kid and said, “Good morning.”

They watched her walk away, then The Kid sighed. “Reckon I better get a wagon and head those folks out to Mrs Ruggles’ place. I’ll have a talk with the girl, ‘less you want to speak with her yourself, Gus.”

Masters shook his head. “You might get more out of a child than me, Kid. We’ll talk when you get back.”

Exchanging handshakes, Gus and The Kid parted ways. The sheriff returned to his office, and The Kid made a stop at the post office and then the telegraph office before making her way to the livery stable.

***

The ride out to Mrs Ruggles’ place was uneventful. Gracie rode in back with the luggage, while the adults sat on the wagon bench with The Kid. A few times, the Count and Lady Jane spoke in French to each other. The Kid, who spoke the language fluently, having learned it from Big Bertha during her time at the trading post, was amused by the comments they made about her. Naturally, The Kid didn’t let on that she understood. She also noticed that while Lady Wyeth-Boton spoke proper French, the Count’s French was off somehow. It was somewhat like how Cajuns spoke it, but not quite. For that matter, the way he spoke English was unlike any Frenchman that The Kid had ever known. More to this fella than meets the eye, she thought.

Being only two miles from town, The Kid had the wagon, her passengers and cargo at Mrs Ruggles’ large estate by a quarter of one.

Mrs Ruggles greeted her guests with genuine enthusiasm. She escorted the Count and Lady indoors, after giving her servants instructions to unload and take in the baggage. Before she left, the widow paused to tell The Kid, “Tequila, If Madge finds out that you were here and I didn’t send you straight to the kitchen to tell her hello, she’ll leave lumps in the mashed potatoes just to spite me. So you take this child inside and go pay her a visit. She’ll fix you both something special.”

“Thanks, ma’am,” The Kid replied. “But I reckon I still got too much trail dust on me to go walkin’ on your fine rugs. I’ll just mosey round to the back door, if it’s all the same.”

“Suit yourself,” Mrs Ruggles replied. “I’m much obliged to you for fetching my guests here, Tequila.” With a nod, she turned and mounted the steps to her front door, following two of her servants who were struggling with Count Cousiourac’s trunk. “Careful with that!” she snapped.

“Follow me, Gracie,” The Kid said, then led them around to the rear of the mansion to a large oaken door, Rapping on it a couple of times, she entered, leading the little girl into an enormous kitchen.

As they entered, a large black woman with a long steel carving knife in her grasp looked up from a cutting board, a frown of concentration on her face that turned into a wide grin when she spied The Kid.

“Kid!” she cried. Putting her knife down, she hurried over. “My, but it’s good to clap eyes on you again!” Seizing The Kid’s hand between both of hers, she gave it a mighty squeeze. “How long you been in town?”

“I just blew in yesterday,” The Kid replied. “Madge, this is my friend Gracie. She’s here with Mrs Ruggles’ guest, Lady Wyeth-Boton.” She turned to the child. “Gracie, this is Madge Johnson, the best cook I know anywheres.”

“Oh, pshaw,” Madge snorted, waving a dismissive hand, but clearly pleased. “Take you a seat, an’ I’ll fix you both lunch. Sit, sit!”

“No lunch for me, thanks kindly,” The Kid said, as she and Gracie seated themselves at a large walnut table. “I had me a big ol’ breakfast at the Highland House. Didn’t know then that I’d be comin’ here.”

Madge scowled. “Reckon I’ll forgive you this time for eatin’ that slop they serve, but you best come by again real soon, Kid, an’ let me feed you right.”

“I’ll for sure take you up on that, Madge,” The Kid replied. “I wouldn’t say no to somethin’ cold to drink, if you got it.”

Gracie watched as the stout colored woman fixed lunch for her, chatting with The Kid all the while. Mindful of her status as a mere servant, the child was too timid to speak at first. But Madge’s jolly nature soon won her over, and before long, she felt at ease enough to join in the conversation.

Soon, Madge set a plate in front of the child, and The Kid stared as Gracie proceeded to wolf down the contents.

Sure you won’t eat somethin’, Kid?” Madge asked. “I got some mighty fine ham here — just came outen the smokehouse yesterday.”

“Thanks but no, Madge. I will have more of that there lemonade, though.”

Madge put another fat drumstick on Gracie’s plate, saying, “You eat this up, child, put some meat on your bones. You looks half starved!”

“Thank you so much, ma’am. This is truly delicious,” Gracie said, then shoveled a forkful of fried okra into her mouth.

“My, my — don’t this little thing talk pretty!” Madge said, grinning hugely. “I could listen to her all day long.”

“She’s all the way over from England,” The Kid informed the cook. “The other side of the world.”

“Well, I do declare!” a very impressed Madge replied.

After a thick wedge of apple pie, Gracie accepted The Kid’s invitation to join her on a walk outdoors. They came to a pond, set within a grove of live oak trees.

“What a huge place,” Gracie said admiringly as they sat down on the grass under a weeping willow by the pond. The mansion was barely visible.

“Care to go for a swim, Gracie?” The Kid asked.

“Oh… no, thank you, Miss Kid. My lady would have a fit if she were to find out. Besides, I have no bathing costume with me.”

“Shucks, that won’t stop us none,” The Kid said with a grin. “We’d just swim in the altogether.”

Gracie blushed, saying, “How shocking!” and meaning it.

The Kid guffawed. “Why, Gracie, lots of the young folks in town come out here to swim naked. Mrs Ruggles don’t mind none. I hear tell she watches through a telescope in her room.”

“My lady said that you were a scandalous woman,” Gracie murmured, her cheeks slightly flushed. “I’m starting to think that she was right.” The thought of swimming in the nude with her new friend gave Gracie some very pleasant thoughts, and she wondered if The Kid was serious or joking.

“Yeah? What’s she sayin‘ about me?” The Kid asked. “I won’t be mad or tell on you, cross my heart.”

“Ooooh… I shouldn’t, honestly.”

“Aw, go on.”

Gracie pondered for a moment, then said, “She thinks it’s absolutely obscene, the way you dress like a man. She says those denim trousers you wear leave nothing to the imagination.”

“Well, no one’s makin’ her look,” The Kid said. Taking her hat off, she lay with both hands under her head, chuckling to herself.

Gracie went on, “My lady thinks that…” She paused, suddenly biting her lower lip.

The Kid looked over, “Come on, tell me.” she urged Gracie.

Nervously moistening her lips, the girl finally spoke. “She thinks that you are the type that would enjoy tipping the velvet with another woman.” After a pause, Gracie shyly added, “You are very pretty. I… I would tip the velvet with you anytime, Kid.”

Before The Kid could ask what she meant by that, Gracie hastily changed the subject, “Those marks on your chin… are you some sort of aboriginal?”

The Kid said, “I lived with the Indians for a spell, if that’s what you mean. These tattoos were what they call a rite of passage. I got some on my arms too.”

“May I see them?” Gracie asked.

The Kid sat up and took her green corduroy vest off, then she unbuttoned her shirt. The Kid wore nothing underneath except the ring on its chain. She pushed the shirt off her shoulders and down her arms to her elbows.

“See, Gracie? I got a tattoo ring round each of my upper arms.”

Gracie barely saw the tattoos, enthralled as she was by The Kid’s breasts. The girl was certain that she could see the young woman’s nipples harden in the cool afternoon air.

The Kid pulled her shirt back in place but didn’t button it up. Her eyes never leaving Gracie’s, she laid back down, saying, “Now what’s this here ‘tippin’ the velvet’, you’re speakin’ of? Never heard tell of it myself.”

Out of breath, her face flushed a bright pink, the girl blurted, “I’ll show you!” Quickly kneeling next to where the surprised young woman lay, Gracie bent to claim The Kid’s mouth in a kiss.

The Kid was quick to recover, though. When Gracie’s tongue darted between her parted lips, The Kid sucked it into her mouth — then brought her own tongue into play, matching the young servant girl’s passion. Gracie climbed on top of The Kid as their kiss deepened.

Placing both hands on Gracie’s upper back, The Kid allowed one of them to slide down the girl’s body until it was cupping her bottom through the dress she wore. Gracie sighed blissfully into their kiss, then began to rub herself against The Kid’s body, grinding progressively faster as their tongues flickered in and out of each other’s mouths.

Suddenly Gracie gasped and sat upright, straddling The Kid, her breath coming in quick, hard gasps as she came. She nearly swooned, but managed not to. Once the girl had recovered, she reached down with a sly grin and unfastened The Kid’s shirt, reaching inside to fondle her small firm breasts, lightly pinching the stiff nipples.

The Kid was sorely tempted to put her duty aside just long enough to strip naked and take this young girl right there by the side of the pond, but managed to restrain herself. She’s sure a pretty thing, yes indeed… but this just ain’t the time or place. 

Finally, she spoke. “What else can you tell me about that holdup yesterday, Gracie?”

The girl’s face went deathly pale. Slowly rising to her feet, she turned and looked away. With a sigh, The Kid stood up, buttoned her shirt and tucked it in, then put her vest and hat back on.

They walked slowly back towards the house, The Kid resting a hand on Gracie’s shoulder as they walked. Gracie wrapped a thin arm around The Kid’s waist.

“I’m sorry,” Gracie finally said in a small voice. “I can’t talk about it. Please don’t make me.”

“I won’t,” was all The Kid said in reply. They were silent for the rest of the way back. As they came to the house they instinctively moved apart from each other.

The Kid brought Gracie back to the kitchen, then found the Count, Lady Jane and Mrs Ruggles in the drawing room having brandy. Giving a quick curtsy, Gracie hastened out of the room and up the stairs.

Watching as she disappeared, The Kid told herself. There’s more to this than her just gettin’ shook up by the holdup yesterday. Somethin’ else has that girl terrified.

The Kid was about to take her leave when Mrs Ruggles said, “Oh, Tequila… we will be having a seance here Thursday night. I insist that you and Miss Purdy attend.”

“All right, ma’am. Thank you. Good evenin’, folks,” The Kid said, then departed.

***

Back in town, Sheriff Masters caught up with The Kid as she brought the wagon and horses back to the livery stable.

“Kid, come with me quick over to Doc Johnson’s. He says Bob is come to, and he’ll give us a couple minutes to talk with him.”

Alice Johnson greeted them at the door, then took them back to Jed Johnson’s examining room, where he sat with Bob.

Taking his hat off, Gus said, “Hello, Bob, it’s Gus Masters. The Kid’s here with me. Can you tell us anything about what happened out there?”

The Kid took Bob’s large right hand between hers, giving it a gentle squeeze. Even knowing how badly hurt the man had been, The Kid was shocked by how frail Bob was now. He’s barely hangin’ on, she realized.

Drawing closer, Doc Johnson placed the disc of his stethoscope on Bob’s chest, frowning as he listened to Bob’s heart. Turning to Gus and The Kid, he shook his head, mouth set in a grim line.

Bob’s lips began to move. Quickly kneeling next to the bed, Gus bent in to listen, his ear about an inch from the dying man’s mouth. Then Bob exhaled… but didn’t draw another breath.

Doc Johnson listened to Bob’s chest once more, then pulled the sheet up to cover the man’s head. “Damn it all,” he muttered.

Carefully laying Bob’s arm down by his side, The Kid looked up at Gus. “What was it he said?”

Gus wore a befuddled expression. “He said, ‘That woman’. Nothin’ else. ‘That woman.’ Who in hell could he have been talkin’ about?” Sighing heavily, he patted the doctor’s shoulder. “You done the best you could, Jed. Shot up like he was, I’m surprised he made it this long.” Reaching his hat, he said. “My regards to the missus. We’ll see ourselves out.”

Doc Johnson shook the sheriff’s hand, then The Kid’s. “G’night, Gus… Kid. Hope you catch the no-account sons of bitches that did this.” With a nod, he turned back to his work.

As The Kid walked with Gus over to the stage office, she remarked, “Somethin’ I noticed… Bob had a big scrape on his knuckles. I reckon he got a good punch in during the robbery, scraped it on a tooth. Looks like we oughta be lookin’ for a feller with a fat lip, or a couple teeth knocked out.”

At the stage office, after breaking the bad news to Jack and inquiring into the next of kin and funeral arrangements, Gus asked, “What was in that strongbox, Jack?”

Jack grimaced, his already red face turning redder still. “Gold certificates. A half-million dollars worth.”

“God damn,” Sheriff Masters said. “That’s a pretty serious loss.”

“That’s right. We’re responsible for every wretched penny, too. Gus, any help this office can give, you just let me know.”

“Much obliged,” Masters replied.

As they stepped outside Gus said, “I reckon we’d better start looking in the saloons again.” He shook his head. “Seems like a fool’s errand, lookin’ for a man with a messed up mouth… but be damned if I can think of anything else to try.”

The Kid shrugged. “I’ll take the north side of town, Gus. You take the south, and I’ll meet you later at the Broken Horn.”

With that, the Sheriff and the Texas Ranger set off in opposite directions, searching for a man who’d taken a hard punch in the face.

***

It was well into the night when The Kid sauntered into the Broken Horn Saloon. Gus Masters was nursing a beer at the bar, both elbows resting against the hard wooden top and a foot on the brass railing.

The Kid came and stood next to him with her back to the bar, one foot on the railing with her knee sticking out. “I gotta admit, you run a right peaceable town here, Gus. I couldn’t find nary a black eye, broke nose or for sure no busted mouths. I asked around, too. No one at the saloons, or the livery stable saw anyone like that.”

“No one at the stage office saw anyone, neither,” Gus said. “Y’think maybe Bob could have scraped his knuckles some other way?”

“Sure, he could have. As I recollect the scene of the crime, though, I feel pretty sure he got that punch in.”

Gus was gazing into the mirror behind the bar, observing the reflection of a table where five men sat playing poker.

“Y’watchin’ that card game there, Gus?” The Kid asked.

“Sure am, Kid,” Gus answered. “That man in the fancy suit? He’s a cheat.”

“He’s ‘bout to break them hayseeds. too. Sure angers me to see it happen,” The Kid said, her voice soft.

Frowning, Gus said with a sigh, “Reckon I’d best put a stop to it.”

The Kid placed a hand on the sheriff’s shoulder. “How ‘bout you let me do it, Gus? I need to let off a little steam, if you don’t mind none.”

Gus broke into a wide grin. “All right, Kid, go ahead. I’ll enjoy watchin’ you handle that slicker.”

The four farmers at the table, all young men, had been steadily losing money for over an hour to the man in the black suit. He wore a string tie, had a full beard and looked to be somewhere in his thirties. His black hat was pushed back, exposing dark, greasy hair.

The Kid watched for a moment, finally taking a step toward the table. As she drew closer, the farmers threw their cards down in disgust as the bearded man laughed. “Too bad, boys.”

As the gambler extended his left arm to rake in the pot, a flash of metal from the blade of a Bowie knife came down like lightning into the sleeve of his suit — missing the arm, but pinning the man’s coat to the table.

The man looked up, his dark eyes flashing in anger, then widening in surprise to see the face of a young woman with tattoos on her chin who was glaring at him.

“Can’t say that I care none for card cheats,” The Kid said to him, thumbs hooked in her belt. Looking up at the four young farmers, she said, “You boys get your money back from this man… he got it usin’ dishonest means. Next time, don’t gamble with strangers.”

“You calling me a cheat? Why, you dirty half breed she-whelp, I’ll kill you!” the gambler spat out.

The farm boys snatched up their money from the gambler’s winnings, then hastily stepped away — as did everyone else in the vicinity of the card table, leaving a wide berth between the gambler and The Kid. Gus now had his back to the bar, watching and ready. The saloon was dead silent.

“I am callin’ you a cheat. You was crimpin’ the corners of them cards.” The Kid said in a soft voice that everyone heard clearly.

His left arm still pinned to the table, the bearded man quickly drew his gun with the other hand. But by the time the pistol was two-thirds out of its holster, he suddenly froze. The Kid’s gun had come into her right hand faster than the blink of an eye, and now the barrel of her Colt .45 peacemaker was cocked and pointed at the gambler’s face.

“Shucks, now,” The Kid said, “Let’s keep this fair, why don’t we. You keep your gun right there where it is, almost outta the holster.” She put the hammer back down on her gun, spun it backwards on her trigger finger and holstered it in one fluid motion. “Now you got a choice, cheater. Push that gun back in its holster and leave town… or try to get it out the rest of the way and die.”

The bearded man’s forehead was now peppered with beads of sweat. Staring at the young woman, it suddenly struck him that he was face to face with The Tequila Kid.

Moving slowly, he eased his pistol back into the holster, then just as slowly laid his right hand on the table. The Kid pulled her knife free of the table and his sleeve. With the razor sharp edge of the blade, she sliced open his coat sleeve to reveal a gadget that could shoot a card into his hand. It held an ace of spades.

Casually making his way over to the table, Gus said, “You come here by stage or horseback?”

“Stage,” the gambler sullenly said.

“Next one leaves at six in the morning… you best be on it. Now get the hell out, and don’t let me find you playing cards nowhere ‘tween now and then,” Gus Masters said. As he spoke, The Kid detached the device from the gambler’s arm and put it inside her vest.

The gambler got up slowly. “What’s your name, anyhow?” Gus asked.

“Kelsey. Speed Kelsey,” the gambler growled as he started for the door, his ears red with fury. After a few steps, he paused, then abruptly spun around, reaching for his gun.

But by then, The Kid was no longer in the same spot she’d been an instant ago.

When Kelsey stopped on his way to the door, The Kid had tensed, certain that the man was about to make a move. As he began to turn, she took three fast steps toward him and, before Kelsey could draw, seized the man’s right hand and shoved the gun back down into his holster, drawing her own piece with the other hand. Raising it high, she brought the barrel of the gun down hard on the gambler’s skull, just behind his left ear.

Speed Kelsey dropped to the floor, out cold, still gripping the butt of his pistol.

The only sound heard in the bar was the sheriff’s boots as Gus advanced toward the door to examine The Kid’s handiwork. Bending down, he gave an approving nod, then glanced about for Jigs, his deputy, spying him at a nearby table. In a loud voice, Masters said, “Jigs, go fetch Rick, and the two of you take this damn fool over to the jail and lock him up for the night.”

The deputy, a rangy older man, quickly downed his drink and left the bar, looking none too pleased about it. Everyone in the bar began to talk excitedly as they moved back to their chairs.

Gus wore an annoyed expression. “Hell’s bells… guess I’ll have to put him on the stage myself.” Turning to The Kid, he said, “Let me buy you a drink. That was a fine show you put on.”

Before The Kid could reply, Freddie came running into the saloon and up to the sheriff. The lad was pale and out of breath. “Sheriff Masters — there’s a dead man lyin’ out there in the alley. Looks like he’s been shot!” he gasped. In the din of the crowd, no one but Gus and The Kid heard the boy.

Putting a finger to his lips, Gus murmured, “Shhhh, not too loud. Why don’t you take us to him, Freddie?” Thankfully, they made it out of the Broken Horn without much notice.

The Kid and Sheriff Masters followed Freddie down the street and into an alley behind the haberdashery. The Kid flicked a match to life, and there lay a man with a chest wound who was indeed very dead. His mouth was open, the eyes empty.

Gus and The Kid looked at each other as the match went out. The dead man had a split lip and a missing upper front tooth. Striking another match, The Kid saw that the man’s gun was in his holster. She plucked it out, quickly identifying the weapon as a Colt 44.

“Wanna bet he’s carryin’ a .32 slug in his chest?” The Kid asked Gus.

Gus shook his head saying, “Nope, I ain’t taking that bet. Here, help me carry him over to the Doc’s so we know for sure. Looks like it happened a few hours ago.”

“Reckon you’re right, Gus. I didn’t hear no shot, how ‘bout you?”

“No, can’t say as I did… but with that unholy row comin’ from the saloons, it could’ve gone unnoticed.”

The Kid took the dead man’s legs and Gus the top half, then they carried him over to Doc Johnson’s house, Freddie tagging along.

They set the body down on the porch, then Gus knocked on the door, asking Freddie, “Did you see somethin’, son? Or anybody?”

The boy shook his head. “No, Sheriff, I was comin’ from the newspaper office, on my way home to the library. I took a shortcut through the alley and just about tripped over him.”

“Best get you home now, Freddie… long as you’re okay, that is,” The Kid said.

“Oh, there’s nothin’ wrong with me. Got a story for the paper about this fella?” Freddie asked hopefully.

“Not tonight,” Sheriff Masters said, giving the lad’s shoulder an affectionate squeeze. “You head on, now.”

‘G’night, Sheriff. G’night, Kid,” Freddie said, then set off into the night.

“If that don’t beat all,” Gus said, watching the boy vanish into the darkness. “Most younguns, they’d be scared out of their wits, findin’ a dead man the way he did. That one, he’s pumpin’ me for details for the town paper!”

“Yep, I’d say that boy’s got a real future ahead of him,” The Kid said.

A light came on inside, and Alice Johnson opened the door. She was wearing a heavy plaid robe and her hair was in braids. “Dear me!” she exclaimed in dismay at the sight of the corpse. “Another one? Well, you’d best bring him in.”

“Where’s Jed?” asked Gus as they put the man on the medical room table.

“He’s out to the Fenwick place. Liz Fenwick went into labor tonight. Two weeks early, too.” Her expression was somber as she gazed at the dead man. “Bringing a new life into the world, just as this one departed. Well, God rest his soul, whoever he is.”

“Dang,” The Kid said, “What in tarnation happened here nine months ago that’s got everyone givin’ birth now?”

“Founder’s Day celebration,” Gus answered with a wry smile. “Mrs. Johnson, can you tell Doc to take the bullet out when he gets back and save it for me? I need it for evidence.”

“No need to wait for Jed,” Alice said, “This man isn’t alive to feel it, so I’ll remove it for you right now.”

Assembling a few instruments, then washing her hands, Alice picked up a scalpel and made a neat slice in the man’s chest wound. She poked around in the incision with another instrument, then took a forceps and reached inside, soon emerging with the bullet. “There you are.” She dropped the battered slug into an enamel tray with a clink, then poured a measure of alcohol in with it.

Gazing down into the tray, The Kid plucked the slug out of the alcohol, now tinted with swirls of pink. “Yep, sure ‘nough… it’s a .32, Gus.” The Kid fished around her vest pocket and pulled out the other slug. She held them up together, looking closely, then put them both in her vest.

Sheriff Masters was going through the man’s pockets. He frowned. “Already picked clean. So we don’t even know who this man is.” He reached for his hat. “I reckon Jed is gonna take a look at this body himself before he cuts it loose, but I’ll let the undertaker know it’s here. Much obliged for your help, Mrs. Johnson.”

“You’re welcome.” Alice said, seeing them to the door. “Good night, Gus… Kid.”

As they stepped into the street, Sheriff Masters said, “Looks like there was two holdup men after all… and we just laid hands on one of ‘em.”

“Yep… and his partner gave him a bullet in the chest, ‘stead of his cut of that half million.”

Gus frowned. “I still can’t figure out why the folks on the coach can’t agree on how many men there was, though.” He gave The Kid a penetrating stare. “All right, Kid… I can see that you’ve got some ideas buzzin’ round in your head. Care to share ‘em with me?”

“Not just yet, Gus,” The Kid replied. “There’s a piece of the puzzle that don’t fit yet. Let me sleep on it. See you tomorrow.”

“G’night, then,” said the sheriff, and the two parted, The Kid making her way to Andromeda Purdy’s place.

Letting herself in, The Kid found Ann sound asleep with her head on the kitchen table. She’d clearly been working; there were papers spread about, some under her face. Touching her lover’s shoulder, The Kid whispered, “C’mon, sweetheart… let’s get you to bed.”

She guided the dazed woman into the bedroom, helped Anne undress and tucked her in with a kiss. “I love you, Kid,” Andromeda mumbled, then fell sound asleep.

The Kid walked back downstairs and into the kitchen, then seated herself on the sofa with a bottle of tequila and a glass. She rolled a cigarette and put it in her mouth unlit, then poured a drink, setting it on the coffee table, eyeing it while she pulled off her boots and socks and slipped out of her vest. Lighting her smoke, she sat back, thinking. She had a few definite ideas about what had really happened, and most of them troubled her.

The Kid downed her drink, then a few more as she weighed the bits of evidence she possessed about the stagecoach robbery, trying to make them add up. No matter which way she figured it, she didn’t like the results.

The Kid refilled her glass, then compared the two slugs once more. Finally putting these aside, she took up the device she’d taken off Speed Kelsey, studying how it worked. The Kid took the braids out of her hair and scratched at her scalp for a moment. Her thoughts had scattered like songbirds stalked by a hawk. She rolled and lit up another smoke, poured and drained one more drink, then tried to get up — but found herself too worn out to move.

“Aw, shit,” she muttered. Reaching for a woolen throw that Ann had knitted, The Kid dragged it over her body and stretched out, holding tightly to the sofa trying to stop it from spinning around. She laughed out loud at nothing at all, then drifted off to sleep.

On to Chapter Three!

 

26 Comments on Knuckle Ridge, Chapter 2

  1. Lakeisha says:

    Awesome chapter Purple Les!

  2. Captain Midnight says:

    Purple Les, you need to save your work, cut out the underage sex, create a new ID and market the Tequila Kid to the mainstream market. I bet Western fans would love her.

  3. sue says:

    I got turned on, I laughed, I cried. And I’m wondering who done it. Leaning toward the Count, maybe,maybe not. Love the interaction between Kid with Ann and the sheriff. Lady Wide-Bottom? And the Kid and Gracie!

    Yeah, awesome chapter.

    Kim&Sue

  4. Euphorsyne, Thalia & Aglaia says:

    So good! agree with Sue and Kim, awesome chapter!, also what kacey wrote: Lady Jane seems really suspicious…
    Really great dialog, the story moves quickly, the action scenes are superb as the one between The Kid and the lo down gambler certainly had me on the edge of my seat, and what a nice touch to have The Kid throw her Bowie knife at the gambler pinning his arm to the table…yes!
    The opening scene with Ann and The Kid talking ’bout Kid’s past, the gold ring on the chain and then Ann pleading for The Kid to make her come just one more time before she had to leave was…delicious!, as was what Ann called out: “Hurry my avenging angel. Come back to me soon.”
    Finally, Gracie’s admission that she would gladly show The Kid what “tipping the velvet” meant was an awesome use of a correct vernacular for this story’s timeline!, and also a great book BTW 🙂

    Waiting, waiting, waiting for chapter three! time flows so slowly, like watching the shadow of a cactus creeping across the desert floor at high noon….

    E,T&A

  5. Purple Les says:

    I can’t tell you readers how much I appreciate the kind words. I hadn’t a lot of confidence in the story when I sent it for approval, but JetBoy said ‘mark my words’ it will be liked. So now I have to really listen to him. : )

    Glad to see readers’ thoughts on who the killer might be. No comments on that though from me, or JetBoy.

    E,T&A,I should read that book. I did see some of it on TV. Next chapter should be 7 to 10 days. Hang in there. Love knowing what you liked best, thanks for sharing.

    • Captain Midnight says:

      No offense meant to Purple Las re my comment earlier. The Kid is a great addition to the land of Western heroes/heroines. These stories are hugely interesting even when nobody is making love to anybody. I would wager that you could write a whole series of books for the market of straight-Western readers.

  6. David says:

    I love stories with slow build up and this is one is great! It has a great plot and with the addition of the teasing of sex, keeps me reading and I look forward to the next chapter. Another great chapter Purple Les!

  7. obsessiveimaginings says:

    Another involving interesting chapter. Thanks.

  8. Purple Les says:

    obsessiveimaginings,David, thanks so much.

    Captain Midnight, no offense taken, a great compliment to think the Tequila Kid could be on netflix or a bookclub, or something.

    And please no more world wars. Especially over anyone in this story. ; )

  9. sally drewett says:

    so enjoying this story purple less

  10. Sunnybunny says:

    Already shaping up to be another home run for you, PL 😀 Waiting (im)patiently for the next entry! 😛

  11. No One says:

    The plot thickens. The Count and Lady seem pretty suspicious… though I’m not sure how they could be involved unless everyone, including Molly, lied about what happened (which is certainly a possibility). Gracie will likely be the key witness. I feel like The Kid should have pressed her a little harder for information. Not wanting to upset the young lady is commendable, but still… there is an actual murder to be solved. Ah well, I’m sure they will continue that conversation later–and hopefully continue some other things, as well.

    Another interesting chapter with good scenes. In particular, the part with the card cheat was a highlight. And now there’s another dead body… What clues will that bring? I don’t quite get why The Kid arranged to delay the Count and Lady going to Mrs. Ruggles’ mansion, though. Nothing seemed to come from that, but maybe we will see later (she did drop by the post office and telegraph office after that… related?).

    I’m looking forward to seeing what happens at the seance that Mrs. Ruggles mentioned. That should be an interesting scene. Will Lady Wyeth-Boton use the opportunity to try to throw the investigation off track with false clues from (allegedly) beyond the grave? I feel like that may come back to bite her in the (Wide-)Bottom.

  12. Erocritique says:

    Those dastardly bastards!!!

    Poor Roy and Bob, betrayed by a passenger or passengers on their stage. The only thing I don’t understand is why they perpetrator or perpetrators of the foul deed was on a runaway stage. Hmmmm. I’m not too concerned however, because “The Tequilla Kid” is on the case and justice WILL be served.

    I like how the kid is being her usual deliberate self, and taking her time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together before making her move. The compassion she showed by not traumatizing poor little Gracie with an interrogation that the little girl was terrified to cooperate with may be frustrating to some, but is totally in line with the kid’s persona. I have all the confidence in the world that the kid will solve the mystery without grilling a frightened child. As usual Tequilla helped ease the child’s discomfort in her uniquely loving way. Awwww.

    Moving forward, I think the biggest mistake the villains will make is underestimating the kid because she’s a young woman and doesn’t have an “eastern” education. They must not have read “Tears of the sun”.

    Go git em kid

    Just a few parting niggles. At the very beginning of the story it should have said “rumpled ” bedclothes not “rumbled, and also Ramses “Kingley” should read Ramses Kingsley.

    Cheers

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