A coyote cry echoed from a-ways West, far from the sleepy town.
Jakob Jawchaw stood silent and dusty, his black arm holding the creaking weathered door open. He looked expectantly at his partner, the notorious Miss Mina, impatience crossing his stern, solid features.
Miss Mina missed the look, or chose to. Deadly as her reputation warned, she never sought disagreement. Disagreement came to her, she would say.
The dusty desert air swirled tumbleweeds down the wooden sidewalks, the soiled kerchief knotted at Jawchaw’s throat, and Mina’s lace hem round her ankles. It tugged at her matching parasol, but she tightened her gloved grip on its bamboo handle.
The outfit came straight from New York City -or, so the merchant claimed- and made Mina itch and fidget something terrible. She wasn’t accustomed to looking so uppity and womanlike. True, she still had her trusty six-shooter strapped to her hip -but, she’d had to strap it under her skirt. There was no quick draw where finery was concerned.
Fighting the urge to hoist the cumbersome ruffles to her knees to step more lightly, Mina closed her parasol and stepped past her partner into the store.
The noise of the open, dirt-blown land snapped off as Jawchaw snapped the door shut. Specks of sand and store dust floated sparsely in the tepid, still, inside quiet of Midtown General Store. The manager barely glanced up from his well-worn newspaper: the Times from last month, mailed to Midtown just last week.
Jawchaw and Mina looked around, making a point to glance over the town notices tacked to the wall. They were pleased to see their faces missing from among the sketches of wanted outlaws. They could conduct their business like regular folk, ‘stead of jumping at every noise and itching to pull a gun on every shadow.
Jawchaw moseyed over to the counter. Mina walked the way she’d seen the ladies do; though she stumbled a fair bit more, on account of being out of practice wearing heeled boots. She took so long reaching the front that Jawchaw was already peeling bills from his pocket to pay for their supplies.
The air inside moved slightly; the rush of desert was heard. Someone had opened the door. Attempting a calm reaction, the two outlaws looked to see who had done it.
It was Cowpoke Crandall and her son, Eric. Mina turned quickly back around, hoping their disguises were worth wearing. Crandall would never be drawn on a wanted poster; she was infamous for sticking her snub nose into every person’s business -crook or not. She’d raise a warning for sure.
Jawchaw saw the danger at once. He collected their vittles and slunk quietly behind a display of tools to clean house. Mina tripped on those darn heels, but made it to a stand of ladies’ hats and scarves.
Crandall either hadn’t seen them, or hadn’t thought to bother with them. She waddled to the counter, her homespun dress swaying as she moved.
Jawchaw and Mina saw their chance, and took it. They snuck to the door, keeping low behind bins and shelves and suchlike. Mina pushed her way out into freedom, glancing back for just a moment as they left.
She couldn’t be certain, but her sharpshooter eyes told her that Eric had seen them leave. In fact, Mina couldn’t shake the premonition that he’d had his eyes on her for quite some time.
Continued from Forty-One.
Keep reading to Forty-Two (Again).