Always The Lady

by ReaperWriter

“Everyone set?” Travis Morton asked. His brother Pete nodded as he checked the positions on the hired guns they had set around the town. The two brothers, bounty hunters, had come for Vin Tanner, and they were prepared to take down anyone in their way.

“Let’s do this,” Pete said.

+ + + + + + +

The eight of them had barely cleared the jail when the first shot hit the ground at Chris’s feet. From alleys in both directions came gun fire. “Shit!” Chris said. Ezra threw Lili back into the alley next to the jail, covering her with his body until she was clear of the street.

“Stay here, Lili,” Ezra said, before returning to the fire fight. JD and Buck had taken cover behind a horse trough, Nathan was using an a-frame sign near a store front. Ezra, Vin, Josiah, and Chris were stuck in the middle of the street. Lili tried to gauge her chances of making it to her hotel to get her guns, but saw there was no way. Damn!

Josiah covered Ezra’s back as the gambler shot a man who had come out of an alley aiming for Vin and Chris. Vin was using his mare’s leg to get the two men on the roof, while Chris was dispatching a man foolish enough to venture in his direction. Buck, JD, and Nathan kept up cover fire.

Lili was surveying the fight, scared for Ezra, but oddly, as always, feeling no fear herself. Wasn’t the first time she had been in danger in this job, or even before. Suddenly, she noticed the man about seven feet from her, the one Ezra had shot. He had managed to raise himself up with his gun trained on Vin Tanner. Searching desperately, Lili saw a hunk of brick about the size of her fist on the ground, grabbing it, she took aim and tried to warn the tracker.

“Tanner, get down!!” she yelled. She ducked out of the alley and threw the rock like a ball. It connected with the guy’s skull just as he pulled the trigger, causing the shot to go wide and imbed itself in a wall. Lili didn’t have time to duck back into the alley before a guy got a bead on her. The shot caught her shoulder, and Lili hissed as she hit the wall behind her. The familiar burning feeling cut through the region and shot fire down her arm.

Chris had finished off another bad guy down on his end of the street when he heard Lili shout. He heard the shot whistle past him and Vin and saw wood splinter from the wall past them. He heard another shot, going in the opposite direction, and a soft thud. Shit! “Everyone okay?” he yelled.

“If someone could see their way to tossing me a gun,” he heard Lili yell.

Ezra heard Lili’s warning and the thud, looked over to see her out of cover of the alley. He also saw a distinctive red stain growing from her shoulder. “Aw hell!” he said. Just then, another man broke cover, but rather than firing, he looked like he wanted to surrender. “Drop your gun!!” Ezra yelled. The man did, and then dropped to the ground. “Now kick it that way,” Ezra hollered, gesturing towards the store Lili was against. The gun skittered that direction, and Ezra was surprised to see her reach out and grab it.

“Thanks, Ezra!” she yelled, then broke cover again, firing past him and Josiah towards an alley on the other side. Two men howled in pain as the bullets found their marks. Suddenly, the street went quiet. The peacekeepers looked around. Seven men lay wounded or dead on the street, evidenced by the blood under them. The one who had surrendered to Ezra was little more than a kid, probably younger than JD. Lili stood, leaning on the railing of the board walk.

“How many were there?” Ezra growled at the boy.

“Eight of us hired on under Pete and Travis,” the boy replied. “They took off when they saw how good ya’ll were.”

“Everyone all right?” Nathan asked, slipping out from cover. Just then, the gun slipped out of Lili’s good hand. The crash drew the attention of the healer. “Damn! Josiah!”

The preacher saw Lili sway a little, before she slipped to the ground. “Hell,” the preacher said, holstering his gun and striding over to the lady. “Hold on Miss Lili, we’ll get you up to the clinic.” He hoisted her carefully up and headed for the stairs to Nathan’s place.

Chris looked after them as Nathan quickly checked the men still moving. The two Lili had shot at had survived, one hit in the shoulder, another in the leg. Both of the men Chris had hit were dead, as were those Vin had hit. Nathan checked the man Ezra had shot. The wound would have killed him eventually, had Lili not cracked his skull with the hunk of brick. “Girl’s got an arm on her,” he said. “Buck, help me get these two up to the clinic.”

The ladies man nodded, and grabbed the man Lili had hit in the shoulder. He hauled him to his feet and began to propel him up the stairs. JD went over to the young man who had surrendered. “Gotta take you to the jail,” he said softly. The young man simply nodded and got up, allowing JD to steer him towards the jail. Ezra himself headed up the stairs, in a hurry to get to Lili.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah had carried her into the clinic, but she had refused to lie down. “I really do tire of this part of my job,” she said, good hand pulling at the buttons on her blouse. “Could you help me, Mr. Sanchez? These are designed to be undone with two hands.”

The preacher looked shocked at her request, but helped her get the blouse off. “Tire of it?” he asked, tossing the ruined garment on the floor.

“Really, Mr. Sanchez, I hunt bounty. This will make the sixth time I have been wounded as a result of gunplay,” Lili replied. She glanced at the garment and noticed blood on both sides. “Did the bullet pass?”

Josiah looked over her shoulder, noticing an exit wound next to an older scar. “Cut clean through,” he said. Grabbing a handful of clean linen wading, he pressed down on both wounds to stem the flow of blood. Lili hissed as fire shot down her arm. “Sorry, Miss Lili,” he said.

“Salright,” she managed. “Better than bleeding to death.”

The door swung open, and Ezra burst in. “Christ and his saints,” he said, when he saw Josiah applying pressure to her wounds to stop the bleeding. “Lili, why in God’s name did you break cover?”

“Mind not blaspheming so much, Ezra, there is a preacher present,” Lili quipped, grimacing as more tentacles of fire licked her arm.

“Dammit, Lili, you could have been killed,” Ezra said.

“And Dammit Ezra, so could you, or Vin, or Mr. Sanchez here. Vin assuredly if I hadn’t hit that son of a bitch with that brick, and he may have gotten a shot off at you,” Lili replied, breathing harder for the effort. “Being shot is not new to me, so please calm down and be useful enough to get some more linen for Mr. Sanchez.”

Ezra noticed then how pale she was. He grabbed fresh cloths and relieved Josiah of one of the wounds. “God, Lili, when I saw you hit,” he said quietly. He pressed his hand to the entrance wound, noticing the flow of blood was slowing.

Buck came in, followed by Nathan. The lady’s man bodily threw the man he was helping into the corner, and growled, “Stay put.” He suffered a glance to Lili. “You all right?”

“I will be, soon as Nathan cauterizes this wound,” she replied. He nodded and headed back down the stairs.

“It went clean through, Nathan,” Josiah said. “The bleeding has slowed way down.”

The healer nodded. “You doing all right, Miss Lili?” he asked.

“I’m a bit woozy from blood loss, Mr. Jackson, but I assure you, it’s nothing I haven’t experienced before,” she replied. “Wound should be cauterized though.”

Nathan nodded again, and set about heating up a knife. Ezra just looked at Lili. “Before?” he said, quietly.

“Ezra, I hunt bounty. Of course I’ve been shot before. This very shoulder in fact,” she added. “It comes with the territory.” She grimaced again, hard, as another wave of pain shot down her shoulder.

“Knife’s hot,” Nathan said. “I’m sorry, Lili, this is going to hurt.”

“It’s all right, Mr. Jackson,” Lili replied. “I shall attempt not to faint.”

Ezra blanched a deep pale. How was she handling this so well?

+ + + + + + +

JD looked at the kid in his cell. He found his emotions alternating between fury and pity. Not only had they ambushed him and his friends, but Lili had been shot and was in Nathan’s clinic right now. Who knew if she would be all right? He also felt sorry for the kid in the cell. If it hadn’t been for his friends taking him on, greenhorn kid that he was, he might have been in that cell right now. But for the grace of God...

“Are you a deputy?” the kid asked. JD judged he had a good four years on the kid, his twenty one to the boy’s seventeen.

“I’m the sheriff,” JD replied. The kid looked awestruck. “You wanna tell me how ya got involved in this?”

“I met Mort at a saloon in Texas,” the boy said. “He said he needed a partner, and I was just glad to have someone to ride with. I didn’t know he took a job as a hired gun. When Pete and Travis hired us, I didn’t think it was right, ambushing a guy like they were planning on doing to him. But Mort said if I tried to leave, he’d kill me himself. I didn’t shoot my gun, mister, honest.”

“Who were these men, Travis and Pete, after?” JD asked. He could never be sure which of the Seven had incurred the wrath of those who came after them.

“Some ex-bounty hunter name of Tanner,” the boy replied. “Pete and Travis fancy themselves some kind of new breed in bounty hunters. They have no qualms about hiring two bit gunfighters to do their shooting for them, not caring how many innocent people or their own men get hurt.”

“You never did tell me your name,” JD said.

“Tim, Tim Blanton,” the boy replied. “The guy that the lady hit with the brick, is he dead?” JD nodded his head. “At least I’m free of Mort now.”

“Try to get some rest, all right, Tim?” JD said. The boy in the cell sighed and laid down on the cot. Yup, but for the grace of God.

+ + + + + + +

Mary headed down the street towards Chris, carefully lifting her skirts and side stepping a drying pool of blood. She had to force herself to walk slowly, instead of breaking into a run. Chris was standing, which was a good sign, but she knew that man would say he was fine, even on his death bed. She could see Vin and Buck, working to maneuver one of the shooters up the clinic stairs. That made the safe and sound count three. She mentally added Nathan to the list, since he obviously had patients on the way. That left JD, Ezra, and Josiah unaccounted for. Reaching Chris’s side, Mary waited for him to notice her.

Chris had been watching as Vin and Buck hauled the other shooter up the stairs of the livery to the clinic above. He realized someone had drifted to his side, and turned to see the face of Mary Travis, her eyes dark with worry. “Mary.”

“What happened, Chris?” she asked, checking him for injuries. No blood.

“I don’t know, Mary. We stepped out of the jail, and they opened fire,” he replied.

“Anyone hurt?” she asked, holding her breathe. Though she was most concerned with Chris, she consider all seven men good friends.

“None of the boys,” he said. “One of the gunmen surrendered. JD’s watching him at the jail. Two more injured, up in the clinic. The other five are dead.”

Mary didn’t say anything for a minute. Then, she found the voice for the question she didn’t want to ask. “Bystanders?”

“Not exactly,” came the reply. Mary looked at him. What the hell did that mean, not exactly?

“Chris?” she said, the question in her eyes.

Sighing, Larabee looked at Mary. “Let’s go in your office.”

+ + + + + + +

Ezra watched as Nathan pressed the red hot knife to the exit wound on Lili’s back. The sizzle and smell of burning flesh were almost too much for the southerner, but he wouldn’t leave her. Not again.

Josiah felt Lili flinch a little as he held her arm while Nathan cauterized her exit wound. However, the bounty huntress didn’t cry out or faint. He had seen this kind of pain take out bigger, stronger men.

Nathan made sure the back wound was closed, and cleaned it quickly before putting a bandage over it. “Okay, Ezra, just keep pressure a little while longer while I heat the knife up a bit.” Nathan stuck the knife back on the stove. “You all right, Lili?”

“As well as can be expected,” Lili replied. “Perhaps you should wrap up our friend in the corner, before he bleeds to death on the floor. It would leave a nasty stain.”

“Lili,” Ezra said. “I’m so sorry.”

“Why?” she asked, gritting her teeth as the pain shot down her arm.

“If we hadn’t left you unarmed...” Ezra said.

“Then I would have been a target that much sooner,” Lili replied. She watched as Nathan used a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the arm wound of the man on the floor, just as Buck and Vin hauled the other guy in. Nathan grabbed another strip of linen to wrap around the wound in the guy’s thigh. “I’m not a little girl Ezra. I’m an old maid, by all accounts, and I’ve been on my own for a while now.”

Ezra looked at her. “You aren’t an old maid, Lili Grace.”

Lili laughed, then grimaced as it caused more pain in her arm. “I’m 25, Ezra. I hit old maid five years ago.”

Nathan picked up the reheated knife. “Ready, Lili?” She nodded, clenching her good hand. Ezra pulled the linen away from the wound, allowing Nathan to maneuver the knife to the wound. He tried not to flinch as she hissed in pain.

+ + + + + + +

Mary turned around quickly as Chris closed the door behind him. “What is it, Chris?”

“The rider that came in last night was a bounty hunter, tracking Vin,” Chris said.

“My God, why is Vin still here?!” Mary asked. “If this man is after him, why did he not just leave town?”

“Hold on Mary,” Chris said. “Not he, she.”


“Her name is Lilian Grace MacKenna, and she and Ezra knew each other a long time ago,” Chris said. “She agreed, at Ezra’s behest, to meet unarmed with us, and hear Vin’s story. Once she had, she agreed he was innocent, and that she would walk away. We were all leaving the jail when someone opened fire.”

“And then what?” Mary asked, wondering if she should write this down.

“Ezra got Lili to cover, and rejoined the fight.” Chris said. Lili? Mary thought “He, Vin, Josiah, and I were pinned down in the street.” Chris continued. “Vin picked off the two on the roof, I got two, and Ezra had hit one early on. We thought he was down, but Lili saw him starting to get up. He had a bead on Vin and I.”

Mary realized she was holding her breathe, and quickly exhaled.

“Lili grabbed a hunk of brick and threw it, hard. It cracked the man’s skull, and saved Vin and I, but it forced Lili to break cover,” Chris said. “She took a bullet in the shoulder, and we don’t know how serious it is. She did manage to pick up a spare gun and wound two other men.”

Mary was impressed. Most women she knew cowed away from fire arms. To be able to hit anything while wounded was a very impressive feat. Still, she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the way Chris referred to this newcomer. She hated to admit it, but she was just a tad jealous. “I’m glad you weren’t hurt,” Mary said, looking up Chris.

Chris returned Mary’s gaze, not completely comfortable, but not at all unhappy with the concern he saw there. He allowed himself to revel in it for just a moment, than returned to business as usual. “I should go check with JD and see if he got any answers from the prisoner,” Chris said.

“Chris,” Mary said. Larabee stopped at the door, and turned. “Be careful, okay?” Chris nodded and left the newspaper office. Mary decided to head over to the clinic and see if she could help.

+ + + + + + +

Lili had managed to get through both cauterizations with very little response to the pain. However, once she stood up, she promptly swayed and passed out. “Whoa,” Josiah said. Ezra caught her before she hit the floor. He looked at Nathan and quirked an eyebrow.

“She’s gonna be okay, barring infection. She’s just weak from loss of blood and pain,” Nathan said. “Put her over on the extra cot, I need to fish lead out of these two.” With that, he hauled the arm wound up and shoved him onto the table.

Ezra picked up Lili, who was unresponsive, and tried to avoid touching her wounds. He noticed the old scars next to the new wound. She had been hit in this shoulder before. He could also make out two crease marks on her right arm, where she had been grazed. Damn, damn, damn. Ezra blamed himself somewhat. If he hadn’t left New Orleans...

Josiah seemed to sense Ezra’s disquiet. “This isn’t your fault, Brother Standish. She broke cover by her own choice,” he said.

Ezra looked up. “I asked her to come unarmed, Josiah,” Ezra said. “She could have at least fought back if I hadn’t asked that of her.”

“I don’t know if you noticed, Ezra, but she did a pretty damn good job, anyway,” Josiah responded. “She saved Vin and Chris from the guy you shot, and she managed to hit those two,” he added, motioning with his head, “while wounded.”

Ezra reached out a shaking hand, and gently brushed a stray curl out of Lili’s face. Unconsciousness didn’t completely wipe out the slight expression of pain on her face. Even though he knew she would be fine, seeing her like this broke his heart, and so did knowing that she had such low esteem to ever believe she was an old maid. “Go help Nathan, Josiah,” he said softly. “I shan’t leave Lili.” Not this time.

+ + + + + + +

Chris strode into the jail. JD was seated at the desk, his bowler in the guest chair, a pack of Ezra’s faro card in his hand. Slowly, he was flipping the cards at the hat, trying to land them in it. He looked up as his hero walked in. “Lili?” he asked.

“I don’t know yet, kid. Why were they here?” he asked. He figured JD had probably gotten this prisoner to talk.

“Two bounty hunters hired the lot of them,” JD said. “They were after Vin.”

“Damn. How’s the boy?” he said, gesturing to the cot in the cell. Tim had drifted off about twenty minutes before, and JD didn’t want to wake him. He had checked the kid’s gun himself, and found four chambers still loaded. Lili had used it for two shots, meaning Tim was telling the truth.

“Chris,” the young sheriff said. “He wasn’t shooting out there.”

“What?” Chris said.

“He told me he didn’t shoot,Chris, and I checked his gun. The only slugs missing are the ones Lili shot off when the kid kicked it to her,” JD replied. “The guy Lili beaned was named Mort. He took the kid on, then threatened to kill him if he didn’t do what he said.”

“Still, JD, he may be the only one alive to answer if Lili was hurt bad,” Chris responded, looking through the bars of the cell, trying to guess how old the sleeping kid was.

“The thing is, it could be me,” JD said quietly. Chris turned and looked at him.

“No, JD...”

“Yes it could Chris,” JD said. “I could easily have run into someone like Mort, instead of you guys, and then it would be me.”

Chris sighed. He knew the boy was right. He had initially turned JD away, trying to save him from life as a gunslinger. He hadn’t wanted the young easterner’s death on his conscience. Now, he couldn’t imagine life without the kid in it. He couldn’t imagine life without any of the band of brothers he had gained in the Seminole village. “Go grab some lunch, JD, I’ll watch him,” he said. The, the man looked at him “Don’t worry, he’ll be in one piece when you get back.” JD smiled and stood, putting on the hat and causing gaming cards raining down on his head. He quickly pulled the hat back off, picked up the cards, and shot Chris a look. The gunslinger just gave him a smile and a nod.

+ + + + + + +

Mary came up the stairs to find Vin and Buck sitting outside the clinic. She took a quick appraisal of the blood on their shirts. “You boys okay?” she asked.

“Not our blood, ma’am,” Buck said.

“I came to help Nathan,” Mary said.

“He and Josiah are working on the two guys Miss Lili shot, but Ezra might need help with Lili,” Vin said.

Mary nodded and pushed the door open. Josiah glanced up from where he stood, holding down the man Lili had hit in the shoulder. “Mrs. Travis,” he said, pausing to push the patient down.

“I came to help,” she said, noticing a man in the corner, bloody tourniquet around his leg.

“Very kind of ya, ma’am,” Nathan said. “If you could see to changin’ that man over there’s tourniquet.” He smiled as he finally caught the illusive bullet in the man’s arm. Pulling it out, he dropped it into the metal bowl on the shelf next to the table. “I’m gonna cauterize this, and then I’ll give you some laudanum.”

Mary turned away as Nathan picked up a knife and grabbed a fresh strip of linen from the stack on a bureau. Quietly, she knelt next to the man on the floor, rolled up her sleeves, and began to undo the blood soaked piece already on the man’s wound. The man hissed in pain and tried to pull away, but Mary used a free hand to restrain him. “You either let me change this, or you bleed to death, your choice,” she said. The man stopped fussing and gritted his teeth. Mary tossed the blood soaked bandage aside and rewrapped the wound with a fresh one. Just then, the man on the table squealed in pain. Serves you right. Finishing, Mary turned to see Ezra sitting on the spare cot, holding a woman in his arms. Oh God! Walking over to the gambler, Mary bent down to look at the gambler. “Ezra?”

The con man turned law man looked up. “Hello, Mrs. Travis,” he said quietly, returning his gaze to Lili, whom he held to keep weight of her shoulder.

“Is Miss MacKenna...?” she asked unable to finish the sentence. She had rarely seen the gambler look so...fragile and she wondered what the woman in his arms had been to him.

“She’s unconscious, Mrs. Travis. Mr. Jackson assures me that Miss MacKenna shall affect a full recovery, barring infection. The bullet passed clean through,” Ezra said. He sighed softly, glad to see the lines of pain on Lili’s face had finally slipped away. He supposed she was truly and finally asleep. He almost laughed at the thought of comparing Lili to Mary. They were so similar. “You’ll like her, Mrs. Travis. You remind me a great deal of one another.”

Mary looked at Ezra, who unconsciously stroked Lili’s hair. “I’m sure I will,” she said. “I’m sure I will.”

+ + + + + + +

Lili woke up a few hours later, just as Nathan finished cauterizing the wound on the other gunman. Ezra had felt her stir, and was pleased when her eyes opened to look at him. “How are you feeling, Lili?” he asked

“Like I was shot,” Lili replied dryly, shifting a little to sit up. She took in the one man on the cot against the wall and the other on the table, where Josiah was holding him still while Nathan dug around for the bullet in his leg. “Ezra, can you help me over to the hotel? Nathan is going to need this cot when he is finished with the gentleman on the table, and I can rest just as well there as I can here.”

“Would that be advisable, Mr. Jackson?” Ezra asked. The last thing he was about to do was jeopardize Lili’s health.

“That’s fine, Ezra,” Nathan replied, still hunting the illusive slug of lead in the man’s leg. “I’ll come over later with some tea. Stay with her and send over if she starts developing a fever.”

Ezra helped Lili sit up and slipped off his jacket, putting it over her shoulder. He helped her to stand and supported her as they headed to the door. It opened easily as he tugged it. Buck was still sitting outside the door, shotgun across his lap. He stood when Ezra helped Lili out.

“I need to rest a minute, Ezra,” she said, sinking into Buck’s chair.

“Should you be up?” Buck asked.

“Nathan said it was all right to move her to her hotel room,” Ezra said, eyeing the stairs warily.

“I could carry ya, Lili,” Buck said. “It might make it easier for ya, instead a tryin’ to maneuver the stairs.”

“I’d be much obliged,” Lili said. “And is there a lady in town who could help me change?” She looked down at her camisole, which had absorbed a fair amount of blood.

“I’ll swing by on my way back and send Mary over,” Buck said. Mary had left after an hour to check on Billy. Buck bent down and gently lifted Lili into his arms. With Ezra following, he headed over to the saloon and went through the door to the connected hotel. Clayton looked up and gasped as Buck carried Miss MacKenna towards the stairs. She had Mr. Standish’s coat on, but her blouse had been discarded at some point.

“Is she all right?” the desk clerk asked.

“I’ll be fine, Mr. Clayton,” Lili said.

“Clayton, can you have a bucket of warm water up so Miss MacKenna can get cleaned up?” Ezra said. “And a tray from the kitchen as well.”

“Of course Mr. Standish,” Clayton said.

Buck already had Lili up the stair as Ezra took the spare key to her room from Clayton and hurried after them.

+ + + + + + +

JD stuck his head in the door of the clinic. “How’s Lili?” he asked, watching as Nathan forced the second man he had operated on to drink a spoon full of laudanum.

“She’ll live, barring any sort of infection,” Nathan said. “Bullet passed clean through. That kid you took over to the jail, he in one piece?”

“Yeah, just scared. Didn’t fire a shot out there, only slugs out of his gun are the ones Lili put into these two,” JD said.

“The boy will get a fair trial, JD,” Josiah said. He pulled a blanket over one of the unconscious prisoners. “Judge will see to that.”

JD nodded. “You want me to send someone over to watch over these two until we can move them to a cell?”

“I’ll take care of it, Brother Dunne,” Josiah replied, picking up the shotgun Nathan kept in the corner.

“I need to got check on Lili and take her some of my tea,” Nathan said, cleaning off his instrument. “Could you see if they can send some lunch up for Josiah?”

JD nodded. “I’ll stop by the restaurant on my way back to the jail.”
“JD,” Nathan said. “Did the boy say what they were after?”

“Vin,” JD said quietly. “They were working for some bounty hunters who were after Vin.”

“Lili,” Nathan said.

“No!” JD replied. He had seen what Lili had done on that street, and he wasn’t going to let anyone say a word against her. “Some guys named Pete and Travis. I was checking through the wires and wanted posters. Had some about renegade bounty hunters using hired guns.”

“You believe these are the same men, Brother Dunne?” Josiah asked.

“I don’t know,” JD said. “But I plan to find out.”

+ + + + + + +

Mary had just sent Billy off to play with the Potter children when Buck stuck his head in the newspaper office. “Mary,” he said.

“What can I do for you Buck?” Mary asked.

“Lili woke up, and we’ve moved her to her hotel room,” Buck said. “She needs to clean up and change her clothes, but her arm isn’t working too good. Could ya come help?”

“Of course,” Mary said. Taking off her apron, she set it down and followed Buck to the hotel. He led her up the stairs and stopped at one of the best rooms in the establishment. Buck knocked, and waited.

“Come in Mr. Wilmington,” Ezra’s voice came through the door. Buck turned the doorknob and pushed the door open.

Buck looked around. Ezra was sitting at the table, playing a hand of solitaire. Lili wasn’t in the room. “Um, Ezra,” Buck said. “Where’s Lili?”

Ezra sighed and stood, leading Buck and Mary over to the door adjoining the sitting room to the bed room. Lili was sitting on the bed, her derringer on her lap starring out the window. She had taken off Ezra’s jacket, sitting there in her skirt and the blood soaked camisole. Ezra motioned with his head back away from the door, and waited until the three of them were out of earshot. “I believe Lili does not feel right without some sort of ... ‘protection’. Had I known, I would never have asked her to take that meeting unarmed. She won’t hurt you, Mrs. Travis. But, I don’t think she’ll let herself be out of reach of that gun.” Mary nodded.

“I’m gonna head over to the jail, Ez, and check up on things,” Buck said. Tipping his hat to Mary, he left.

“Are you alright, Ezra?” Mary asked, before heading into Lili’s room. The gambler carried an expression of guilt on his normally unreadable face.

“I shall be fine, Mrs. Travis,” Ezra replied.

Mary walked into Lili’s room. “Miss MacKenna?” Lili looked up. “I’m Mary Travis. Buck asked me to come help you change.”

Lili smiled gently. Offering her hand to Mary, she replied, “Please call me Lili. Thank you so much for your assistance.”

Mary helped Lili up, noticing her slip the derringer into her skirt pocket. Lili walked slowly around to the foot of the bed, pulling out a lady’s walking skirt, a simple day blouse, and a fresh camisole from her trunk. Her corset hadn’t been marked by the blood on her upper camisole. Mary took the items and the two ladies walked back into the sitting room. Ezra stood up when they entered.

“I shall wait downstairs, so you ladies may have some privacy,” Ezra said. Quickly, he hurried out the door.

“Are you in much pain?” Mary asked as Lili sat in a chair at the table, next to a basin of warm water. She began undoing snaps on the other woman’s corset.

“Not too terribly much,” Lili said. “It’s a feeling that you eventually seem to get used to.”

“You’ve been shot before?” Mary asked.

“Yes,” Lili said. “This make time number six.”

“Good Lord,” Mary said. “Remind me to stay with something safe, like publishing, for a career.”

“There are good sides to hunting bounty,” Lili said, taking a deep breath as Mary pulled her corset off. “And perhaps, when my arm ceases to hurt, I shall remember them.”


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