Chapter Two | Saddle Tramp

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Juri choked on the liquor almost as soon as it passed his lips. Cash eyed the man with loose disdain, reminiscent of how she might eye a sandbuffalo chip before scraping it off her boot.

"B-Boss," Juri took a steadying breath of air from behind his curled fist. "Boss would like to negotiate a contract with your..." he paused and looked around the lean furnishings of Cash's home, "...operation, to become the sole distributor of Dead Ridge Moonshine."

Cash leaned back on her heels and narrowed her eyes as Juri tried to take another sip, this one even less successful than the first. Cash turned away from the table and dug around in the top drawer of her dresser, drawing out a fresh cigar. Juri tapped his fingers as he watched her clip the end and rotate the stogie over the flickering flame of her lighter before snapping the metal cap shut with a click.

"Sole proprietor, huh?" Cash's mouth moved awkwardly around the end of the cigar as she gripped it between her teeth. "Boss have that kinda money already?"

"Two cycles," Juri repeated through a clenched jaw.

Cash shrugged. "Which as been half of your life, I suppose." She took a puff of the cigar as Juri's face reddened again. When he did not contradict her, she squeezed the cigar between her thumb and forefinger to withdraw it. "You have a contract for me to look over or what?

Juri delicately withdrew a thin opaque sheet of flexiglass and slid it toward her it over to her. The plate flickered to life as she held it, displaying a single sentence.

"Come see me. - Boss"

"Not so much as a 'please', or 'by your leave'," Cash muttered as she pushed the note back toward Juri.

"Boss likes to do business face to face," Juri said patronizingly, calling back to her earlier quip.

"I'm intimately aware," Cash replied cooly.

The innuendo flushed Juri's cheeks once again as he finally swallowed a finger of moonshine without incident, his Adam's apple bobbing tightly.

"I suppose you'll be escorting me to Lead Belly, then?" Cash let the smoke out of her mouth in a tight curl that circled slowly upward.

"Only if that is your desire." Juri twirled one hand elaborately. "Boss gave me explicit instructions not to pressure you."

Cash rubbed her fingers across her forehead with a deep sigh. "Fine. Let's get moving then." She snuffed the end of her cigar in the ashtray on the table and stowed it safely away in an interior pocket of her duster.

Juri jumped up with a smile, the heels of his boots clicking against the worn wood of Cash's hutch as he swept out the door. Cash rolled her eyes and threw a few essentials into a leather knapsack. Her fingers trembled as she lifted the red bandana from around her neck, its macrofibers tightening around her nose and mouth. Filter in place, she hit the button that lowered the haze to save power in her absence and strode over to her HOS.

The bike's chrome accents were spotless and sparkling, contrasting the matte black of the rest of its features. It displayed a unique cleanliness among Cash's belongings, which indicated its value plainly. She strapped her shotgun to the side of the HOS and tied the knapsack to its place beside the leather saddle, straddling the seat in one swift swing of her leg.

With a grunt, she squeezed with her knees and slipped her spurs into the twin ignitions on either side of the boke. The HOS roared to life and lifted slowly off the ground until it was hovering less than a foot off the hard-packed dirt. Cash felt the familiar heat rush upward from its engine, the air below her wavering like a mirage. She snapped her riding goggles over her eyes and tightened the strap on her stetson below her chin. Then with a quick not at Juri's carriage, she pulled the levers on both handlebars, urging the HOS forward and sending a spray of small rocks in her wake.

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