Chapter 2

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Waking with a start, sweat beading thickly, Beth gazed out of the window. Her chest heaved with each struggled breath, and finally she sat up, introducing her tired eyes to bright light. She squinted, legs swinging over the side of her claimed cot, and she exhaled shakily.

Elbows rested against her knees, gaze infatuated with the wooden boards beneath bare feet, and she gave herself a minute of internal self-reflection. With fallen shoulders, she stood, preparing herself for the day.

Buttoning up her black and red waistcoat, she pocketed her golden pocket watch and then swiped her hat from the bedside table. Standing before a large, full body mirror, brown eyes scanned the outfit. She placed on the hat, thumb and forefinger trailing the brim with feather light strength.

"You've got this, mate. You bloody got this." A soft murmur, an attempt to hype herself up or make herself less cynical of the world for the day.

Feeling no effect, her lips pressed into a firm line. Throwing on her trusty duster, she exited the room and made her way outside.

"Top o' the mornin'." Pete, one of the Irish O'Driscolls, greeted her, dropping whatever he was previously doing to engage in conversation.


She un-hitched her horse, moving the reigns over its ears before she found her footing and climbed on.

"Colm's been lookin' fer ya." He spoke, making her freeze.

"He has?"

"Yep." A pause. "I'm just fuckin' with ya, lass." He chuckled, recoiling as an empty can hit his head.

Overreacting, Pete placed a hand to where it hit, frowning, brows furrowed. His mouth opened, as if to speak, but he was cut off by the kicking up of semi-hardened mud.

She rode to the nearest town, maintaining a constant speed. When her horse began to strain, she eased up, taking in the scenery. At the occasional passing rider, she tipped her hat, deciding that unless she was recognised, which was a slim chance on its own, she would fit into society as intended... minus the way she rode, carried a weapon, or dressed.

Arriving in the town of Valentine, she slowed into a trot, winding between pedestrians and out of the way of stagecoaches. She made her way to the gunsmith and dismounted, entering the establishment.

"Good morning, sir." A greeting with a nod, "I'm looking for a new gun. A repeater, more specifically."

The man behind the counter eyed the woman from head to toe. "You're a woman, correct?"

"That I am." She placed her hands on the glass display case that separated them. "What of it? That hinder our business transactions?"

"No, of course not. Just... odd, is all. It for a man?"

"God, no." She scoffed, quickly adding, "For me."

"For you?" He paused before opening up the catalogue, "Here are the repeaters I stock, ma'am."

Beth looked down to the book, surveying the catalogue's neat layout and stylish prints. She admired the artwork of each weapon, turning the page to look over the remaining options... or, option, she should say. Eyes darted between the Lancaster and Litchfield, her experience with both deciding to utterly disappear from memory.

"Can I have a look at the Lancaster?"

The man turned and scowered the racks, taking off a repeater to set neatly down on the counter.

"Mighty fine weapon if I do say so myself."

She looked over the gun, at the barrel and stock, before reaching down and picking it up. She inspected it thoroughly for any chinks missing or faults, also taking in the weight.

It was a little heavier than the Carbine, but she liked that. Her experience with the gun whispered to her that the better damage and fire rate was worth the stronger kick back.

Placing it down, she nodded thoughtfully, "How much again?"

"A hundred and twenty one." He replied, eyeing her suspiciously.

She reached into her pocket and took out her small wad of money. Counting the bills, purposely slowly, there was a pause. The man noticed this, suspected his suspicions to be true.

"Look, if you can't aff-"

The money was placed down to interrupt him, stare a stalemate between intense and playful.

"I'd like the barrel engraved. Victorian."

He picked up the money, counted it, brows furrowing, "You gave me too mu-"

"Keep the extra. I can afford it."

That only made him pick up the gun and switch out the barrel, offering it to her. She took it, tipping her hat as a silent 'thank you' before exiting to her horse.

Mounting up, she placed her new weapon on her saddle and turned her horse, trotting up the muddy mess that made up Valentine's main road. She halted in front of the saloon and hitched her horse, muttered "You be a good boy and Buck off anyone that isn't me" and then walked up the wooden steps.

The clinking of her spurrs grew louder as she approached the doors, and with an inhale, she opened the doors, applying, perhaps, too much force. The music stopped, and a majority of the patrons looked her way.

Offering a nod to all, she entered and made straight for the bar, avoiding the awkward situation like prey would a predator. She leaned against the bar, hand rubbing across her forehead to relieve herself of the sweat.

"Can I have a whiskey, please."

The bartender spared her a confused glance before retrieving a shot glass and pouring some brown liquid into it. He placed it down before her and moved to the other end of the bar to provide service to the others.

She picked it up in glad hands, raised it to her lips, but was stopped by a voice to her side.

"Don't I know you?"

Beth lowered the shot glass and then looked to the man. She examined his features, and it clicked: was that one of the Thomson gang?

"No, I'm afraid it's a case of mistaken identity." She replied, going to raise the shot glass once more, only to have it pushed down back to the bar top, her forearm grabbed in a vice-like grip.

"No, I definitely know you. You know James! And you know- KNEW- Jordan, too, didn't you, you murdering bitch?"

Well, that escalated very quickly.

"Let go of my arm. I don't know you." She insisted through gritted teeth, not wanting a fight. If there was one of them around, that usually meant there were many others.

"He wants your head on a Goddamn-!"

"I believe she asked you to let 'er go."

All eyes shot to the mystery man's voice.


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