Part of the Magnificent Little Britches series
Vin and JD stood in the entryway of the busy diner, looking around for a familiar face. Vin felt tired, not at all bright-eyed and full of energy, like he usually did in the morning. He could tell by looking at JD that the younger boy felt the same way. It had been a long night and neither boy had gotten much sleep.
They spotted Buck waving to them from across the room, so they wove their way between the tables to join him.
"Howdy, boys," Buck called out cheerfully. "Have a seat."
JD climbed up into a chair, but Vin didn't sit down. Instead, he shuffled his feet nervously, and squinted an eye as he looked at Buck. "Mr. Buck?"
"Um . . . last night me and JD heard noises."
"Yeah," JD piped in, "scary noises!"
"And they was comin' from your room!"
"My room?" Buck grinned, having a fairly good idea what noises the boys were referring to, until it occurred to him that last night, he'd turned in early and slept alone. "Well," he nodded to Chris as he joined them, "what did these noises sound like?"
"Like this," JD demonstrated, "bang bang bang . . . bangbangbangbangbangbang . . . bang bang bang . . ."
"No, they weren't like that," Vin scoffed. "They weren't bangin' noises. They was more like tap . . . tap . . .taptaptaptaptap . . .tap tap tap . . .." he clarified. "And then there was the laughin'."
"Yeah," JD agreed, and both boys shuddered.
"Huh?" Buck was truly confused - he hadn't heard a thing.
"It was a girl's voice, she was gigglin' and makin' funny noises." JD's nose scrunched up with disgust.
"Buck." Chris glared at him. "What have I told you?"
"It wasn't me, Chris!"
"What wasn't you?" Nathan asked as he joined them at the table.
"Apparently, the boys heard some strange noises last night."
"Oh," Nathan nodded, "*them* noises."
Buck leaned forward. "You know what noises they're talkin' about?"
"'Course I do. The whole town heard 'em."
Chris raised an eyebrow. "You think you could enlighten us, Nathan? I've got to be heading out here, soon."
"I know that, Chris, and don't you go worryin' none. I got all my supplies ready, and I brewed up an extra big batch of my herbal remedy."
"What was the noises, Mr. Nathan?" The two boys implored, turning their worried little faces toward the healer.
"Well, now, all that tappin' ya heard -- that was, uh . . . Miss LaraMee, just down the hall," Nathan said, and took a long swallow from the cup of coffee that had been set before him.
"Oh." Both boys slumped down in their chairs, and Vin began nervously chewing his fingernails.
"She's busy typin' up the next episode. I hear she's gonna be a little late with it, but she's workin' real hard to get it done as soon as she can."
"The gigglin' and laugin' ya'll heard -- well, that was . . . well," he glanced over at Chris, then patted his arm consolingly, "she's workin' on Inmate 78."
Vin gulped and turned fearful eyes toward Chris. "C-Chris? Maybe you shouldn't leave town. Maybe you should stay home with us?"
Chris tried to smile with reassurance. "Ah, come on, Vin. I'm a deadly gunslinger. What can she do to me?"
"That's right, Chris, you just keep on tellin' yourself that." Nathan stood up and tossed his napkin on the table. "I'll see you boys later. I gotta go double check my supplies."
"It's not like she can really hurt me . . .."
Buck, Vin and JD just stared at him.
"Not that much, anyway." He was pretty sure she wouldn't kill him, but sometimes that could be . . . well, he wouldn't think about that.
JD sniffled. Nobody else said a word.
"Uh . . . I guess I better go pack."
Vin listened to the jingle of Chris' spurs as he walked away, and prayed it wouldn't be the last time he heard the comforting sound.
Outside, Chris shot a glare up at Miss LaraMee's window. He was Chris Larabee, the fastest draw in the territory. He feared no one. He certainly wasn't afraid of a girl, he told himself. With a slight nod of satisfaction, he turned and walked away, trying to ignore the cold tingle of dread creeping up his spine.
Next: Inmate 78