Disclaimer : See Part 1
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's Note : None of the characters from one novel cross over to the other, so this novel is entirely standalone, but it exists in the same continuity as my earlier novel "After Echoes from a Gun" (available now for Kindle from Amazon as "Gunfire Echoes"; check out my other novels for sale there or on Smashwords for a wide variety of other ebook formats). There is also at least one connection to Squire's Isle hidden in here as an Easter egg.
Copyright © 2013 Geonn Cannon
Macy unfastened Sarah's cuffs just long enough to wrap the chain around a steel support bar running along the edge of the car. She moved to the door, gun in hand, and dropped into a crouch in case anyone was waiting for her to stick her head out. She peered toward the locomotive, then spun on the ball of her foot to face the way they had come in. There was another gunshot, and Macy moved out into the hall.
A man in a black suit stepped out of one berth, and his hands shot into the air when he saw Macy's gun. She tapped the badge on her chest with her free hand and the man shuffled forward. "You the porter?"
"Yes'm." His voice was trembling. "Benjamin."
"Did you see what happened, Ben?"
He pushed his dark hair out of his face and said, "Someone came ridin' up on the train. The sheriff pulled out his gun and told the man to stop, but the man fired at him."
Macy didn't bother to correct Benjamin about who Kirby was. "All right. Get up to the front of the train and tell the engineer we'll be leaving a little early."
"But the other passengers..."
"No one else from Roman is getting on this train. Just get rolling."
Benjamin reluctantly moved past her toward the locomotive. Macy said, "And stay out of berth number one-oh-three. Prisoner transport."
She moved forward and hoped Benjamin would do what he said. She moved back down the train until she reached the end of the car. The door was open, and a spray of blood on the metal grating. She stepped outside as the whistle blew, and she saw Kirby on the train station platform. He was clutching his side, his hand soaked red with blood, but he was still firing at someone Macy couldn't see.
"Kirby!" she shouted. She pressed her back against the train car and craned her neck to see who he was shooting at.
He didn't bother to look back. "Got two of 'em, Sheriff. They was trying to board with guns. I told 'em that wasn't allowed, one of the bastards shot me. I forced 'em back, though."
A bullet pinged off the side of the train, and Macy and Kirby both ducked.
"Get back in here," she said.
"Need a doctor, sheriff. 'Sides, someone has to hold these bastards off while you get away. Otherwise they'll just jump aboard. Go, I can take care of 'em."
Macy hesitated, but Kirby was right. She saw two men on the side of the platform as the train started to move. Kirby fired at them, and the men dropped down out of sight. Macy reluctantly turned and went back into the train. She shut the door and the train started to pick up speed. She could still hear the gunfight on the platform, and she moved to the window to make sure Kirby came out on top.
As the train took the curve to head out of town, she caught a glimpse of the main street of Roman. Henry and two other men were riding full-speed toward the train station. She breathed a sigh of relief; Kirby was about to get reinforcements.
She pushed away from the window and moved back to where she left Sarah. Benjamin was coming back toward her, white as a ghost. His hands shook as he rested them on the back of a seat. "Th-the engineer was upset, but I figured... What happened?"
"Someone was trying to take my prisoner."
Benjamin looked past her. "Well... where's the sheriff?"
"She's right in front of you," Macy said.
Sarah looked up as the door slammed open. Macy stormed inside and glared down at her, a pale-faced porter hovering in the doorway. Macy grabbed Sarah and forced her to stand up. "Tell me what the hell they're doing."
"I told you, they're--"
"I know. What I want to know is why your own gang is trying to kill you."
Sarah closed her eyes. "'Cause I got caught. Because I'm a failure." She looked at the man in the doorway, and Macy caught the glance.
"Get outta here, Benjamin." She released Sarah with one hand and pushed the door shut. Sarah took the opportunity to rearrange her arms so they weren't quite so uncomfortably twisted. She rolled her shoulders, and Macy motioned for her to sit on the bench.
"I let you take back a chunk of our loot after the payroll robbery. I went to kill you, but I couldn't manage that. Came up with a new plan, become your friend and use that to our advantage. Another disappointment. Deacon finally decided he'd had enough of it. That's why they didn't try to break me out. They were happy with me rottin' away in your jail."
"Why are they coming after you now?"
"I'm out in the open, not locked in some little room. Long as I'm on the train, they know where I am. It's their last chance for twenty-some years to get their shot at me." She licked her lips and looked out the window. "I guess Deacon figures long as I'm alive, there'll be people in the gang who are loyal to the Lucas name. He's makin' 'em take me out so he can take over as leader without worrying about me coming back."
Macy said, "You were going to prison for twenty years. He could have just left well enough alone."
Sarah shook her head. "You don't know Deacon."
Macy straightened and paced in the small space of their berth. "So that at the train station... we stopped those two. Are we done? Did we get past 'em?"
"No," Sarah said. She laughed sadly and shook her head. "No, not by a long shot. That was just the first blow. My dad used to do something called a Gauntlet. He used it to get away from people chasin' him, but I think Deacon's adjusted it for this. A couple of people at the train station, a couple of people at the next stop, and so on and so on. Eventually one of them will get lucky, or we'll get sloppy, or both... one way or another, they're getting on this train and they're gonna deal with me."
"And me," Macy said. "I don't think they'll just kill you and wave goodbye to me when they hop off the train."
"Doesn't have to be that way. Put me off on the next stop. Walk me out onto the platform and then get back on the train."
Macy scoffed. "You must think I'm a goddamn moron."
"You think I'll make a run for it? They'll kill me the second they have a clean shot. You can trust me on that." Her eyes welled up with tears at the thought of the people she'd lived and bled with were coming after her. She looked away from Macy, her jaw trembling as she tried to hold back the tears.
"So there's no loyalty amongst thieves?" Macy said.
"Oh, there is," Sarah said. She looked at Macy again. "And this is what happens when you break it. I went against the people I'd known my entire life. I sided with you. I fell in love with you, and I turned my back on everyone and everything I cared about."
Macy pressed her lips together, eyes wide with anger. "I told you not to say those words, damn you."
"But I do. Either I'm gonna die, or I'm never going to see you again once we hit Kansas. So I have to say it now. I love--"
Macy slugged her. Sarah sagged against the wall of the car, dazed by the blow and the pain radiating from her jaw.
"Say it again. I'll break your jaw." Macy pushed herself up and flung the door open. She stepped out into the hallway and out of Sarah's line of sight.
Sarah rested her head against the wall and closed her eyes. "I love you, Anna."
Two men lay facedown on the train station platform, their hands cuffed behind their backs. Doc Merritt had taken Kirby inside to tend to his wounds. Henry had sent out the two volunteer deputies to make sure no one else was lying in wait with guns, but he doubted it. He stood beside the platform and looked down at the guns the two new prisoners had been using. If there were any others running around, they would have come out of the woodwork as soon as their buddies were taken down.
He heard footsteps on the platform and looked up to see Doc Merritt coming out of the building. Blood was smeared on the front of his apron and he wiped his forehead with a handkerchief as he walked to where Henry was waiting. Since Henry was on the ground, he was staring straight at Merritt's knees.
"Hey, Doc. How's your patient doing?"
"Oh, he's fine. He just needed a little stitching up."
Henry put the guns down on the platform and looked at the prisoners. From this vantage, he could only see the soles of their shoes. "What the hell was he doing here? He should've been on the train with Sheriff Macy."
"He said that the shooters were trying to board. He had to lay down the cover fire so they wouldn't get on. Train got out of the station just fine. Sheriff Anna's more than capable of handling one prisoner by herself. Hell, she probably could have handled these two without Kirby's help. He just made it a little less stressful."
"Yeah," Henry said. He looked down the tracks. "The Lucas gang has lost a lot of people since Daniel Lucas got killed, but they still got more than two guys. If they really wanted Sarah Lucas back, it would've been a full assault. Why'd they only send these two?"
Doc shrugged. "Two guys they were willing to lose? Maybe it was just a show of force. Their way of letting us know they won't just let us take their leader to prison."
"Kind of a pointless show of force, isn't it?" Henry muttered. He stroked his beard with his right hand, then dropped it to his left hand. He rubbed the stumps of his fingers through his glove as he walked back to where Doc was still crouching. "I don't know, Doc. This is the same group that sent, what, three or four guys to break two of their men out of jail. Clark Wilson and that young Joshua fella. But they only sent these two jokers to get their leader back?"
"You're not buying it."
"There oughta be at least two more people involved here. And I'm pretty sure Louie and Andy aren't gonna find anyone lurking in the woods, so I gotta ask myself... where's the rest of the gang? They just turn tail and run?"
"Might have decided they lost too much blood in this town. Decided to move on."
"They had a month to move on. Popping up now, and popping up this small, doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Unless this ain't the plan." He looked over his shoulder back at the town. "You hear anything 'fore we called you?"
"Nary a peep," Doc said.
Henry exhaled slowly and then said, "I don't think they just sent two guys after their boss. I think this was just a warning."
"Where are the others, then?"
Henry walked to the tracks and stepped onto one of the wooden spurs. He aimed the pinky of his left hand down the track, squinting so that the tip covered the point where the tracks curved out of sight. "I think they're down the tracks. Where's the next stop? You happen to know?"
Henry nodded. "Yeah. Kingfisher. Figure they'll get there an hour from now. Figure someone will be waiting for 'em there."
"What are you gonna do?"
Henry pulled out his gun and checked the ammo. "You're gonna get on the telegraph and call ahead to Kingfisher and... Enid? And Medford. Get the train schedule and figure out the other stops. Warn 'em all. I think the Lucas gang sent their boys ahead so they can be waiting for Sheriff Macy. She'll think she got away from 'em here, and she might let her guard down."
"Not the Sheriff Anna I know," Doc said, "but I understand your concern. I'll get on it. Where will you be?"
Henry started walking toward his horse. "I'm gonna haul ass and see if a horse can beat a locomotive."
"If you win, they'll write songs about you, boy."
"Always wanted a song written about me," Henry said. He smiled over his shoulder at Doc as he whistled for his horse.
Macy stood at the window, her back to the room where Sarah was chained, and watched the landscape roll past. She wanted a cigarette, but a quick pat of her pockets revealed she'd forgotten to bring any. She cursed under her breath and rubbed her face with both hands. Her skin felt hot, and her clothes brushed against it uncomfortably. She wanted to wash herself. Sarah's voice was caught in her head like a shout in an echo chamber, and she couldn't stop hearing those damn words she'd started to say.
She pushed away from the window and stormed back into the room. Sarah lifted her head quickly, bracing for another assault, but Macy stayed out of arm's reach. "I don't know what you're trying to get, what you think carrying on like this will achieve. But you're done, hear me? I don't care if I have to shoot up every train station between here and Leavenworth, you're done. So you can drop the act."
Sarah looked toward the window and shook her head sadly. "Fine."
Macy crossed her arms over her chest. "How many people should I be expecting?"
Sarah was quiet for a moment. Macy was about to ask again when she realized that Sarah was counting in her head. Finally, she said, "Depends. A couple people might have left after I got arrested, but Deacon had a lot of people loyal to him before that happened. I'd figure about ten, not counting the two you got back in Roman."
"Ten? You sure?"
"As sure as I can be," Sarah said.
Macy stepped from the room and looked down to the end of the car. Benjamin the porter was still hovering, his hands trembling as he stared at her. He came forward when she motioned for him, eager for something to do. "Yes, ma'am?"
"How many stops are between here and Leavenworth?"
Benjamin looked toward the ceiling and squinted, his lips moving as he counted in his head. He finally said, "I'd need to see a schedule in front of me, but fourteen? Fifteen?"
"All right. We may not have to worry about people waiting for us at every single stop. Did you talk to the engineer about our problem?"
"Yes'm. He said that he wasn't going to break the schedule just 'cause there was some outlaws shooting at the train. He said trains are steel and bullets can't do nothing to 'em."
Unless they shoot through the windows and hit a passenger, Macy thought, but she didn't speak it out loud. "Tell him to keep his eyes peeled for anyone trying to block the tracks or intercept the train. If he sees anything, blow the whistle three times in quick succession to let me know. Also, come find me when we're getting close to Kingfisher. I want to scope things out before we're at the station."
Benjamin nodded so quickly Macy was afraid it might come unattached. He turned, but Macy grabbed his arm before he could run away.
"Got any cigarettes on board?"
He pulled a pack from his coat pocket, offering a book of matches as well. "I'll get another pack from the dining car."
"Thank you kindly," she said.
She waited until he'd run off before she tapped out a cigarette and used one of the matches to light it. She closed her eyes as she breathed in, then leaned against the wall as she exhaled a breath of faded gray smoke. She held the cigarette between two fingers, watching the paper turn back and flake away as the flame burned down. She glanced into the room and saw Sarah's legs, the knees together and her feet apart. Macy took another drag and then stepped into the room.
Sarah looked up as she entered, and Macy turned the cigarette around. "Here," she said. Sarah leaned forward and closed her lips around the cigarette. Macy held the cigarette while she took a drag, focusing on the way Sarah's lips pursed slightly and then relaxed as she leaned back. The smoke poured from her mouth in a wave, curling up past her nose and eyes. Macy took the cigarette back and placed it in her own mouth.
"Thanks," Sarah said.
"It's still appreciated."
Macy sat on the bottom bed, hunching her shoulder so she wouldn't bump her head on the top bunk. She took off her hat and dropped it next to her on the mattress, looking at the window as she smoked. She could see Sarah in the corner of her eye, just a blurred shape in the form of a woman. She was proving something to herself by sitting there; she was trying to convince her brain that Sarah was just another prisoner. Just another transport. It didn't matter that they'd seen each other naked, that they'd held each other in the throes of passion...
She closed her eyes and rubbed the heel of her hand against her forehead.
"Can I speak?"
Macy looked up and forced herself to meet Sarah's eyes. It was almost a physical pain to make eye contact with her, to see that familiar gaze locked on hers. She'd been Sarah's lover for under a week, and her jailer for nearly five times that long. But even after all this time, all she could see was the woman who'd shared her bed. The memories should have faded. Sarah Lamb should have been a footnote in her feelings. But she couldn't stop her chest from tightening from just a look.
"Sure," she finally said. "It's a long ride."
"I heard the porter say there's fourteen or fifteen stops. There's no way Deacon will spread his men that thin. There's not gonna be anyone at most of the stops."
Macy took another drag of her cigarette.
"They're gonna try to hit the train while it's moving."
"That's suicide," Macy said.
Sarah shrugged. "All it'll take is one lucky bullet. You got people working on this train who don't know anything about what's going on. And once we pick up some passengers in the other towns, this train will be full of innocent people. How are you gonna protect all of them and watch me at the same time?"
"I'll find a way," Macy said. "If I have to shove you into a luggage compartment, I'll make sure you don't slip away."
Sarah suddenly stood up, and Macy copied her move. She dropped her hand to the butt of her gun, stopping just short of pulling it as she stared into Sarah's eyes.
"I ain't gonna run. Get that through your head, all right? This whole situation will go a lot easier for you if you just accept they ain't coming to rescue me. And even if they were..." Her shoulders sagged and the fight seemed to go out of her. She sagged, but remained standing with her arms twisted due to her handcuffs wrapped around the pipe. She said, "I don't want to escape."
"Because you heard real nice things about prison?"
Sarah met Macy's eyes again. "Because I wouldn't do that to you. I've accepted that I'm gonna spend a long, long time in jail. Maybe my whole life. But I won't run because you'd get blamed for it. And I've done enough to you in the time we've known each other. I won't do anymore bad."
She sat down and stretched out on the bench, using her arm to block her face. Macy stared down at her for a long time, trying to decide if it was just a ruse. "I want to believe you. But everything I know about you was a lie. I can't trust a word you say now, Sarah. No matter how much I want to."
There was a knock on the door, and Macy turned as Benjamin stuck his head inside. "Ms. Sheriff. We're about five miles out from Kingfisher."
"Thank you," Macy said. She brushed past him and pulled the door shut. "Stand guard here. No one gets in or out. Got it?"
"I-I'll... I'll do my best."
Macy sighed and again wished she hadn't left Kirby behind. "Good. You got a gun onboard?"
"A gun?" Benjamin said, his voice breaking on the second word.
"One of these," Macy said. She pulled her gun from the holster and Benjamin recoiled from the sight.
"Sheriff. Remember?" She holstered the gun. "You have anything like that onboard?"
"We got a shotgun."
"Good. Next time I'm with the prisoner, you go get it. You're gonna be guarding her when I can't."
Benjamin whimpered. "Ma'am, I don't know. I got duties--"
"There are other porters on the train, right?" He reluctantly nodded. "They can cover for you. Now, do you have the route?"
"Oh, right." Benjamin pulled a folded piece of paper from his suit jacket and handed it over. "Where are you going?"
"I'm gonna watch for signs that there'll be trouble. I'll be back as soon as I can."
She looked at the route as she moved to the front of the train. There were thirteen stops between Roman and Leavenworth, which meant fourteen more opportunities for shooters to be waiting for her at a train station. But if Sarah was right, then she couldn't count on the rest of the gang attacking when they were stopped.
Of course, that would involve trusting something Sarah said. She had been close to breaking in the train car, right on the edge of making another stupid mistake. She had looked into Sarah's eyes and, gun to her head, she would have sworn Sarah was being honest with her. But she couldn't ignore the fact that, to this point, Sarah had never been honest. She'd never seen Sarah telling the truth, so she had to treat every word from her mouth like it was a lie.
She folded the train route to keep from wadding it up, sticking it into the back pocket of her jeans as she reached the last car before the locomotive. She pushed the door open and the wind hit her like a fist, wrapping around her and trying to shove her backward off her feet. She was glad she'd left her hat back in the car, because it would have been long gone.
She forced herself outside, and moved to the protective railing. The fields on either side of the train looked clear save for the occasional farmer or grazing livestock. Macy watched for men on horseback, signs of anyone waiting near the train station, anything that would indicate Deacon had a nasty surprise waiting for them when they arrived. She stayed outside even after she decided they would make it through Kingfisher without being assaulted. As strong as the wind was, it was dying down as the train slowed on approach to the station. It was worth the stinging eyes to delay her return to the room where Sarah Lucas was waiting to tell more lies.
Henry had named his horse Daedalus because he believed she could make him fly. All these years later, he hoped the name had inspired her to go a little faster.
He decided to not even try to catch the train at Kingfisher. The route map he'd taken from the station said the next stop would be Enid, thirty-nine miles away from Roman. The train would get there in about three hours, after their stop in Kingfisher. If he hauled ass, and really pushed his horse to her limits, he could make it in two and a half. The train had a head start on him, but he had the advantage of taking short cuts and not following the bends and turns in the track. He was confident.
"C'mon, girl," he said, mentally listing all the things he was going to provide for her if she came through for him and Macy. Only the finest oats, and the freshest apples from the market. He even promised to introduce her to Harlequin if that made her move any faster.
He ignored everything he passed, the scenery and the world around him was just a blur. He focused on the spot directly ahead of him, only aware of the periphery in case of dangers or potential shortcuts.
He clenched his left hand, feeling the single pressure point of his remaining finger. Macy hadn't given up on him. Anyone else would have turned their back on him. As much as he hated to admit it, even Isaac Macy would have sadly informed him they'd have to find a new deputy. But Anna had faith. He would be damned if he let her down now.
Kingfisher's sheriff, a man named Charles Freeman, met them at the train station with a telegram. The message was from Doc Merritt, a quick and concise message that told her Kirby had survived the shooting and warning the locals about the possibility of the Lucas gang being in the area. The end of the telegram was a postscript that told her Henry was riding pell-mell to catch up with the train so he could provide some back-up. She didn't know how she felt about that, but she was willing to take his offer of help at face value. Henry would never think she needed to be rescued, but he might feel obliged to rush into danger so she wouldn't have to face it alone.
She thanked Sheriff Freeman and declined his offer of borrowing a deputy. If the Lucas gang did show up, there would be enough confusion without her having someone she didn't know watching her back. A few passengers boarded at Kingfisher, most of the potential riders warned off by Doc's telegram and the sheriff's warning. Macy instructed the porter to make sure the passengers were seated as far away from the prisoner as possible before she boarded again.
The whistle blew, and the train slowly rolled out of Kingfisher. Benjamin had a pocket watch, and Macy checked to make sure they were on time. They were actually a little early, since she had forced a premature departure from Roman. Thinking wonders would never cease, she made her way back to her room to where Sarah was waiting. Sarah was curled up on the bench, her head resting on her arms. The position was comfortable, and accommodated the handcuffs. She looked up as Macy entered.
"Got lucky," she said. "My people telegrammed ahead and warned everyone on the route. Looks like your people won't be lying in wait for us after all."
"Then they'll hit while we're moving."
Macy sighed and shook her head.
"Look, I know you think a train is impenetrable. You think that all you have to do is sit tight and wait it out. But people hop trains all the time. All it takes is one person from the gang to get onboard, and then it'll be easy to take you out."
"Easy?" Macy said. "You couldn't manage it, and I had my eyes closed half the time I was with you."
Sarah ducked her chin and her shoulders sagged. Macy sat on the bunk and laced her fingers together, letting her hands hang between her knees.
Macy looked up. "What?"
"I don't know why it changed anything. Maybe it didn't; maybe it just gave me the excuse to stop being a carbon copy of my Daddy. When you killed Jack Wilson, I wanted to kill you in exchange. Blood for blood. I wanted to avenge Jack's death. I wanted someone to pay. I had to show you that it was a real person you killed. But you brought me into your home, and you... cried. You cried about the man you shot without even knowing his name. Only thing you knew was that he'd stolen from you, and he'd tried to kill you, and you still mourned him. I couldn't shoot you. Not after you'd shed tears for Jack the way you did."
"Big surprise," Macy said. "I'm a damned human being."
"You're the law. I was brought up thinking that wearing a badge meant that you didn't have feelings. Just the rules, and how things were supposed to be. I didn't know there'd be all this gray area. I didn't think it was possible for a sheriff to have feelings for a criminal. And then... I guess I found out a criminal can have feelings for a sheriff, too."
Macy stood up. "For Christ's sake."
"Can't I just say it?" Sarah said.
"No," Macy said, "Goddamn it, no. No. Because you gave up that right. When I said it to you, when I said those words for the first fucking time, it was to a lie. Everything changed when I met you. I thought I finally knew where I belonged. I thought I finally understood what everything meant. I felt comfortable in my own skin, and you came along and ripped the rug out from under me. You used me. You used my feelings to attack my town. You crippled my deputy. An' now I'm supposed to believe that through it all, you really did lo-- you really felt the same for me as I did for you? I find that bullshit hard to believe."
Sarah stood up as well, the chain of her cuffs dragging along the pipe. Macy turned and found herself staring into Sarah's face again. The train swayed slightly around them and, despite the sound of the engine, it felt quiet as a crypt in their little room. Macy's eyelids were twitching from the effort of not looking away, her lips pressed together in a thin line until Sarah leaned in and brushed her mouth over Macy's bottom lip.
Macy felt like something was squeezing her chest from the inside, constricting her lungs and heart to keep them from moving properly. She parted her lips to try and catch a breath, but Sarah stepped closer and their kiss deepened. Macy put her hands on Sarah's face, lightly brushing her jaw as their tongues met and tentatively became reacquainted.
Sarah moaned, and Macy suddenly flinched and shoved Sarah violently away. "Mother fucker," she growled, and pressed the cuff of her sleeve to her lips.
Sarah retreated and said, "Sorry. I'm sorry."
"You're not," Macy said. She turned her back on Sarah and steadied her breathing. Her cheeks were flushed, and she felt tears burning her eyes. "God, this is just what I need."
Macy spun around. "I told you to stop calling me that." She sucked air in through her mouth and released it through her nostrils, panting like a horse after a long run. Every exhale blew the loose tendrils of Sarah's hair away from her face, and they settled back on her cheeks a moment later. Macy grabbed Sarah's collar and pulled her forward, kissing her hard. Sarah yelped in surprise, expecting an attack but not one like this. She pulled at her handcuffs, resting her hands on Macy's chest as Macy pushed her down onto the bench.
"Wait, stop," Sarah said when the kiss broke. She rattled her cuffs against the pipe in a silent request to be freed before they continued, but Macy ignored her. She ran her hands down Sarah's body, caressing her through her rough, dirty clothing before tugging her shirttail from her jeans. Sarah sagged against the wall of their berth, rolled her eyes back in her head, and groaned as Macy reached down and tugged her boots off. She lifted Sarah's right foot to her lips and kissed the arch, running her tongue to the toes and taking the biggest one into her mouth. As she teased it with her teeth and tongue, Sarah undid the button of her jeans and shoved them down, lying on her back as she lifted her legs into the air to make removing the pants either. Macy dragged them up and off, letting them drop into the corner behind her. She pushed Sarah's legs apart and looked down at her naked legs, her dark pubic hair, and the moisture already present on the folds of her sex.
Macy moved like she was running out of time, her hands trembling as she stroked the bare flesh of Sarah's inner thighs. She bowed her head and pressed her lips to Sarah's hip, running her tongue over the curved flesh between her leg and stomach. Sarah lifted her other leg and braced it against the wall, putting her cuff hands on the back of Macy's head and shoving her down.
Macy slipped her hands underneath Sarah, cupping her ass and lifting her lower body. Sarah parted her lips and moaned as Macy's lips brushed over her mound. Macy extended her tongue and Sarah cried out, arching her back. Macy's tongue slipped into her, curling and twisting before Macy pulled her head back and brushed her lips over Sarah's wet folds, using the flat of her tongue to spread the moisture before making another assault.
Sarah dropped her foot onto Macy's back, her heel digging into Macy's shoulder. Macy ignored it and focused on the almost forgotten taste of Sarah Lamb, the woman she loved, hearing the sound of her lover whimper and groan and cry out in pleasure. Sarah's fingers untied Macy's bun, pulling out random strings until Macy's hair was a wild mess of hay-colored straw, sticking up in every direction between Sarah's grasping fingers.
"Oh... Anna... Anna, don't stop, please don't stop..."
Tears rolled down Macy's cheeks as she realized there had been moments when Sarah didn't lie to her. Moments like this, when they had been wrapped in each others arms. No words, just heavy breathing and soft touches. That couldn't have been a lie. This was the real Sarah. This was the one thing she could trust.
Macy used her tongue on Sarah's clit, holding her down as Sarah began to buck against her mouth. "God, yes, Anna, please... please, Anna..."
When Sarah came, Macy held her tight, using her tongue to gently stroke the sensitive flesh until Sarah collapsed against the bench. Macy placed a kiss to the dark hair between Sarah's legs, then turned her head and left a line of kisses along her thighs. Sarah shuddered through a series of aftershocks, grunting quietly with each one, her fingers still linked in Macy's hair. Macy straightened up and pushed up the tail of Sarah's shirt to kiss her stomach, then licked her lips and rested her cheek on Sarah's hip.
Her tears dripped down onto Sarah's skin, mixing with her sweat. She turned her head and licked the salty moisture away, taking the chance to remember how Sarah tasted one more time. Then she withdrew and sat on her knees, turned so Sarah couldn't see her face. She heard Sarah shift on the bench, sitting up and moving into the corner of the seat so she couldn't be seen from the door.
Neither of them spoke for a long time. Macy eventually picked up the discarded jeans and handed them to Sarah without looking at her. As Sarah pulled her jeans back on, Macy sat on the edge of the cot and covered her face with both hands. She was still trembling, but she couldn't stop running her tongue over her lips. She could still taste Sarah, like a drunkard given a sip of wine, and it was all she could do not to drop back to her knees and drink until she got her fill.
When her hands stopped trembling, she reached up and smoothed her hair, returning it to the braid. She risked looking at Sarah again, relieved to see she had put her jeans back on. Her boots were lying on the floor, and Macy dropped to one knee and picked up the right one.
Sarah said, "Don't be."
"You said stop."
"I didn't mean 'stop.' I meant... my hands..."
Macy picked up Sarah's foot and slipped the boot back onto it. She did the same with the other boot, but she kept Sarah's foot on her thigh as she cupped Sarah's calf and massaged it through the jeans. She worked the muscle for a moment and then looked up to meet Sarah's eyes.
"Consider that my goodbye to Sarah Lamb."
She pushed herself up and left the room, slamming the door behind her. She pressed her hand to her mouth, barely able to keep from screaming as the tears started to pour from her eyes. She realized a moment too late that Benjamin was with her in the tight corridor, and she turned her back on him.
"Ms. Sheriff," he said.
"Move along, Benjamin," she said, injecting some steel into her voice.
Benjamin said, "There sounded like there was some kind of tussle with the prisoner. I didn't want to--"
"Everything's fine, Benjamin. Get the fuck out of here."
"Ma'am, but... I'll go, but you told me to keep an eye out." Macy turned, wiping her eyes and blinking rapidly until Benjamin came into focus. He was pale again.
"What is it?"
"We saw 'em when we came around the last turn a few miles back. We kept waiting for them to go away, but... there's a couple men on horses ridin' alongside the train. They got guns."
Macy followed Benjamin through the mostly empty cars to the back of the train. It felt like a bad dream, rushing into one car only to reach the end and find another waiting for them, an endless repetition until she ended up back where she started. But they finally reached the last train, and Benjamin pointed frantically toward the window.
Macy took a moment to scan the car. Several of the passengers they'd picked up in Kingfisher were there, huddled on the far side of the train in a handful of booth-style seating. There were a handful of elderly female riders, and a young man with dark hair and a wispy mustache. He looked up as she entered, more interested in what was going on outside. The elderly people had huddled together in the farthest-back seat, their lips moving silently as they recited prayers to each other. One of them saw her badge and clutched the arm of another.
Macy grabbed Benjamin to keep his attention. "Did you tell the passengers to move to that side of the train?"
"Yes," Benjamin said. "The riders are on the east side of the train, so I figured I'd get everyone on the west side just to be safe..."
"Good thinking," Macy said. "Show me where they are."
Benjamin moved to the closest window and bent down. "Oh, hell!" He ducked down and said, "They're right on top of us!"
Macy looked past him and saw the trio of riders. They had just reached the last car, all of them masked and armed. The one in the lead spotted her, and Macy dropped down and covered Benjamin's body with her own. She turned to the other passengers and waved for them to crouch. "Get below the level of the windows," she said just as something pinged off the side of the car. One of the women screamed, and Macy pulled her gun from the holster.
"Stay put," she said to Benjamin, and she motioned for everyone else to do the same. She slipped back down the aisle, and the young mustachioed man followed her. She heard his pursuit and spun on her heel to face him. "Sir, I have everything in hand. I don't need you to endanger yourself. Return to your seat."
"I've done some shooting, ma'am. If you need an extra pair of hands, I'm ready and willing."
"That won't be necessary. Please go back to your seat." She didn't wait to see if he complied before she continued on to the front of the car. She pushed the door open and stepped out onto the platform, pressing herself against the car to use it as a shield as she leaned out into the open air rushing along the side of the train. The riders were almost on her, but they were all watching the windows to see when she would reappear.
The lead rider was holding the reins with his right hand, his left stretched across his body to aim the gun at the train. Macy aimed at his weapon and said, "This is for Henry, you son of a bitch." She pulled the trigger.
The gunman shouted and dropped his weapon, pulling on the reins so hard that his horse immediately stopped running. The other two gunmen also slowed down, turning to face their injured leader. Macy fired twice more, aiming between the two men, and they dropped to hug the necks of their mounts as they tried to wheel around and return her fire.
One of them surged forward, close enough that Macy could see the sweat dripping between his eyes and darkening the bandana that covered his nose and mouth. He brought his gun up, and Macy reached out with her free hand and grabbed the sleeve of his shirt. The man pulled back, but his horse continued forward. Macy twisted, and the man was yanked from the seat. He shouted as he fell from his horse, his feet tangling in the stirrups. Macy released his shirt, and slapped the horse's haunches. It rode away from the train, the rider struggled to keep from sliding underneath the beast.
Macy turned to the final rider, but he had fallen back. The man she'd shot was clutching his bloody right hand against his chest, the train all but forgotten. Macy leaned back in and exhaled sharply, checking to confirm she had three bullets left. There was extra ammunition in her bag, but not a lot. If she had to fight off the entire gang, things might get interesting very quickly.
She moved back into the car and checked to make sure everyone was unscathed. Benjamin stood and met her in the aisle. "I didn't hear nothing break the glass. Everyone seems to have made it through without bein' hurt."
"Good," Macy said. The adrenaline was starting to wear off, and she was aware that her hands were shaking tremendously. She hooked her thumbs in the back of her belt so the passengers would be less likely to notice. She looked out the window and saw the three men riding toward the hills in the distance, one horse running without a rider. Macy saw that the man she'd injured was riding with one of the others, and she felt a surge of pride for getting Henry's vengeance.
"Come on, Ben, walk with me." He followed her out of the car, turning to assure the passengers he'd be right back before they moved to the next car. Macy spoke to him without turning around. "How far are we from the next stop?"
"We're still about halfway between Kingfisher and Enid. We're gonna be stopped there for about twenty minutes."
Macy said, "Can you make it a full half hour? Maybe more? I need to get some more supplies and maybe some extra ammo just in case we have any more surprises waiting for us on the rest of the trip. I want to send a telegram, too, back to Roman. Make sure everything's quiet back there."
Benjamin said, "I'll talk to the engineer. We're running ahead of schedule, so it shouldn't be too big a deal."
"Good man," Macy said. "You did real good coming to get me when you did."
He exhaled sharply and shook his head. "I didn't know what to do when I saw them guns. I just froze. But I knew you had to come and deal with it."
Macy nodded. "You did it perfectly, Ben. You're a good temporary deputy."
They stopped at Macy's room, and she motioned for him to continue forward. "Go talk to the engineer, then keep your eyes on our tail to make sure no one's followin' us." He nodded and hurried off, still beaming that she'd called him a deputy. Macy turned to face the door, but she kept her hand resting on the handle without pushing the door open.
God, what was I thinking? I must be out of my goddamn mind. She rested her head against the door and tried to steady her nerves. The shootout was only just registering in her mind, and now she had to go into the room and face Sarah again. She finally pushed the door open and stepped into the room, pulling the door shut behind her. Sarah was still sitting on the bench, her hands in her lap. The way the chain wrapped around the pipe didn't give her much room to maneuver, but she'd found the optimal way to sit so she wasn't twisted like a pretzel.
"I heard shooting."
"Three of your guys rode up on the train. I think they aimed to board us."
Sarah's eyes didn't betray anything. "What did you do?"
"One of 'em got the gun shot from his hand. Fair play for what they did to Henry. He'll probably lose some fingers. I knocked the other out' his saddle, and the other one decided it was time to turn tail and regroup."
Sarah nodded slowly. "Don't suppose you got a good look at any of 'em."
"The man I pulled out of his saddle had blue eyes, real thick eyebrows. Kind of a beefy fella." She sat on the edge of her bunk and looked out the window.
"Probably Wyatt, then," Sarah said. "I'm glad you're okay."
"Sure ya are," Macy muttered.
Sarah said, "I lived with these people my whole life. They're the closest thing I've ever had to a family. So I'm not gonna stand up and cheer because they got hurt. But if it was between them or you, then I'm glad it wasn't you. That's all."
Macy looked at her. As a lie, it got her nothing. Macy nodded and said, "Yeah. So am I."
They sat in silence and Macy worked at the skin around her thumbnail for a while. When the train went around a curve, Macy gripped the upper bunk with one hand and watched as Sarah swayed far to the left with the motion of the train. When they settled, Sarah looked out the window at the passing landscape.
"This is the farthest I've ever been from home. Kind of ironic. I finally get to see the world, and it's on my way to a prison cell."
"Your own damn fault," Macy said.
Sarah said, "Didn't claim otherwise."
They lapsed back into silence. Macy stood up and opened her bag, taking out the extra ammo and loading it into her gun so she'd be prepared for the next attack. She had just slipped the last bullet into the cylinder when Sarah spoke again.
Macy didn't look at her.
"For... what happened right before you left. What you did. I'll remember it as a kindness."
Macy slipped the gun back into her holster and turned to face Sarah. "This the real you?" Sarah frowned, so Macy said, "I've seen a couple versions of ya, so I just want to be sure. I saw you riding the day you stole our money. First time we met, I guess. You shot at me. You rode like you owned the whole damn world. Then I saw the sweet and innocent little housewife. Poor abused Sarah--"
"I never said I--"
"Shut your damn mouth. And now I see this weak little wallflower. So excuse me for wondering which version of you is the real thing."
Sarah shook her head. "Not this. I'm not this... person. But every time I see you, I think of how badly I hurt you. I don't know if I was just pretending my whole life, or if I changed because of what you've done to me. But I know I'm not the same person I was before I met you."
"You're still goin' to prison for what the old you did."
"I know," Sarah said. "I've come to peace with that."
Macy looked down at her boots.
Sarah stood up, her hands moving to her left hip due to the cuffs. She stood in front of Macy and said, "I think I spent too long trying to be the son my Daddy never had. I grew up putting on an act until the act became all I was. Then you came along and I had to become someone I'd never been before. I had to become myself."
Macy scoffed and looked away, but her eyes from Sarah's face. "Everything you've ever said to me was a lie. You took me out of town so my people could be caught off-guard. You gonna tell me you didn't know about that?"
"I knew," Sarah said. "And it killed me, but I made the right decision in the end. I turned against my family for you, Anna, and I'm sorry it took me a long time to make that choice. But I did. That's when I changed. That's when I stopped being Sarah Lucas and became Sarah Lamb for real. I didn't want Deacon and the others to win. I wanted you to win. I wanted to help you, even if it meant... well, even if it meant this."
Macy laughed quietly. "Yeah. I won. I sure won." She put her hand on Sarah's shoulder and gently pushed her back down on the bench. "Sit down and be quiet," she said with a rough voice. "And it's Sheriff Macy. Don't forget again or I'll put the damn bandana back in your mouth."
"Sorry," Sarah said, her voice barely loud enough to be heard.
Macy turned her back and walked out of the room. They had another hour or so before they hit Enid, and she planned to spend it at the back of the train watching for more of the Lucas gang. If nothing else, she could blame the tears in her eyes on the wind.
Once again, the sheriff was waiting when they arrived at the Enid train station. He was an older man with big ears and a pointed jaw, and his eyes widened with surprise when he saw the blonde woman wearing the gold badge of sheriff. He introduced himself as Samuel, and told her that he would offer any help she might need.
Macy led him to the back of the train and they inspected the damage left by the attempted boarding. They only found a single dent, easily ignored in the grand scheme of things. She explained the situation in more detail than the telegram could provide and then asked if he could spare any extra supplies. He offered up ammunition and, like the sheriff in Kingfisher, volunteered as many of his men as she needed to provide an extra guard.
"It's not escape I'm worried about," Macy said. "As long as she's safely squared away, she won't go anywhere."
The engineer had agreed to extend their stop in Enid, so Macy took the time to go inside the train station and send a telegram back to Roman. She typed a quick message to let people know that she was okay despite two attempts to take the train, and the prisoner was still secured. Benjamin had estimated their arrival in Leavenworth at no later than seven the following morning, and she promised more news before then.
She had sent off the telegram and was returning to the train with only a few minutes to spare. The whistle had blown twice, so she was moving quickly across the platform as Benjamin dropped down and ran toward her. "Ms. Sheriff," he said, blotches of red rising in his cheeks as he ran to her.
"Ben. I got some shells for that shotgun of yours, so we'll have two weapons."
"There's another rider," Benjamin said, pointing south. "We just spotted him."
Macy cursed and said, "All right. Come on." She carried her bag carefully, wary of the ammunition within, and ran with Benjamin back to the train. They boarded, and she said, "Anyone try to come near the prisoner?"
"No, ma'am, no one at all."
"Go tell the engineer we're leaving... early." She moved to the window and then grabbed Benjamin's jacket. "Hold up."
Benjamin said, "Ma'am, he's almost here. We can't let him get on. We picked up more passengers--"
"I know that. He ain't with them." She smiled and said, "Tell the engineer to hold off. We got another passenger on the way."
She put down her bag and left the train, running across the platform. Her face broke into a smile when she confirmed that it was indeed Henry Rucker riding up on the train station. His face was red, dripping with sweat, and his horse didn't look too much better. He dismounted and took Daedalus' reins as he walked along the edge of the platform. "Hey, Sheriff," he said, panting each syllable.
"What are you doin' here, Henry?"
He said, "You forgot your pocketwatch."
"I don't wear a pocketwatch."
Henry said, "Oh. Must have been someone else's. I'll just head on back, then."
Macy laughed and reached down to help him up onto the platform. "Engineer was just about to head on out. You just barely made us."
Henry hooked a thumb over his shoulder and said, "Had to detour around a stream. Lost a few minutes. Got any water?"
"Yeah, onboard." She turned and saw Benjamin, waving him over. "Can you find a place for Deputy Rucker's horse in the livestock car?"
Benjamin said, "Uh, he ain't got a ticket, Ms. Sheriff..."
"I'll cover 'em both," Macy said. "Promise."
Benjamin nodded, glanced at Henry's gloved hand, and hurried off to get Daedalus squared off as quickly as possible. Macy guided Henry back to the train.
"Ms. Sheriff?" Henry muttered.
"Shut it," she said. She let Henry board first and he dropped into the first available seat with a weary sigh. Macy sat next to him and looked at the bag of ammunition she'd gotten from the Enid sheriff. "Glad you're here, Henry. I could use your help keeping my head clear."
Henry wiped his forehead with a handkerchief and looked sideways at her. "You havin' problems?"
"I'm a little turned around, yeah," she admitted. She chewed her bottom lip and finally decided she had to trust him. "I gotta confess something. It doesn't go no farther than you or me, but you should know if you're gonna be on this train with me." Henry nodded and Macy looked down at her hands. "After the payroll got stolen, I met Sarah Lucas, only she told me her name was Sarah Lamb. She told me that she was from another town, lookin' for her stolen horse. We got to talkin', and we started to spend time together. And then something happened. We got close. Really close."
Henry frowned, but he didn't say anything.
"She admits she was usin' me at first, but then she said she had real feelings. Like it's better if only half of it was a lie." She felt tears burning her eyes, but she refused to cry in front of Henry. "She tried to warn me about the jailbreak, but not soon enough. It's 'cause of her that you lost your hand. Should've been me. But she had me distracted. She used me. That's why I couldn't hardly stand being in the jailhouse this past month."
"Because she pretended to be your friend?"
"'Cause she pretended she was in love with me," Macy said. "We were together, like... a man and a woman would be."
Henry's eyes widened and he slumped back against his seat. "Jesus, Anna."
"I know. If this ever got out back in Roman..."
"Yeah," Henry said.
Macy said, "I can handle watching her. But I need you to make sure I don't... lose my head."
"I'll do what I can."
Macy looked at him. "You disgusted?"
He exhaled sharply and narrowed his eyes. "It ain't nothing I ever thought about you, Anna. Be honest, I've seen you since you were a little girl, so thinking about you in bed with anyone. Up 'til now I just figured you didn't have sex."
"Up 'til now, I mostly didn't," Macy said.
He sighed. "You don't have to worry about me. Your secret is safe."
Benjamin came back onto the train a minute later, breathing heavily from the effort of getting Daedalus onboard. "Your horse is all set up, Deputy," he said. "Can I tell the engineer we're good to go?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Benjamin," Macy said. She and Henry both stood and moved down the aisle toward the berth where Sarah was imprisoned. "She's down here. Haven't had much trouble with her, but I feel a lot better knowing you're backing me up now."
"You're saying she won't go with the gang even if they get onboard?"
"She's under the impression they ain't coming to save her. She thinks she screwed up one too many times and they're coming to make sure the transition from one leader to the next is as seamless as possible."
Henry scoffed. "Screwed up? She stole the town payroll, took off half my hand... what exactly has she failed at?"
"Killing me," Macy said. She pushed open the door and Sarah looked up. She eyed Henry for a moment, but didn't seem overly surprised to see him. "What's goin' on?"
"Deputy Rucker is gonna be keeping an eye on you from here on," Macy said. "Don't give him any trouble."
Sarah looked at Henry again and ducked her chin. She looked at his left hand and winced before turning away. "Sure. I understand."
Macy nodded and took the handcuff keys from her pocket. "If you need 'em. You might want to move her to the bunk when she gets tired." Henry took the keys from her and Macy looked at Sarah. "You didn't get any lunch. You want something to eat?"
"Sure, I could eat," Sarah said, again staring at Henry's gloved hand.
Henry held the hand up so she could see it better. "Like that? That's what your people did to me. Nearly took the whole thing. Might have been better if they had." He took the glove off and held the hand out so she could see the stumps of his three fingers. "Used to be left handed. Getting pretty good at using my right, though. As tight as this room is, I don't think I'll have any trouble hitting you even using my lame hand."
Macy whispered, "Enough, Hank."
Henry tugged his glove back on, pressing his lips together. "All right. I just haven't really had a chance to look her in the eye since... this all happened. Kind of been avoiding it. Didn't want to lose it like I just did." He looked at Sarah. "Sorry."
"I'm the one who owes you an apology, Deputy Rucker. I'm sorry for what I did."
Macy said, "You all right, Henry?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just needed to vent. I'll be fine."
"Okay. I'll see what kind of food they got on this train. Both of you behave." She turned and left the room, looking both ways before she remembered seeing a dining car toward the back of the train. The train felt smaller after their latest stop, and she had to step aside to let other passengers pass her several times before she reached the dining car. Benjamin was there, helping out the trio of waiters who were taking orders. Macy waved him over, and he came as soon as he had a moment.
"Sorry, Ms. Sheriff..."
"All right, enough with that. Just call me Macy. I need a couple of meals."
Benjamin nodded. "We're serving pot roast, roast beef sandwiches--"
"Just whatever you have." She followed him across the dining car and looked at the passengers. Most of them were on the east side of the train, pointing out landmarks as they waited for their meals. "Got a lot of people in Enid, I guess."
"Yeah, we usually get quite a few from there," Benjamin said.
"Anyone worth looking at?"
Benjamin turned to face her. "What do you mean?"
"You checked out the passengers, right? When they were boarding?" Even as she asked the question, she knew there was no reason for him to have kept an eye open. He was a porter, not a deputy. She cursed under her breath and turned, running back the way she had come. The aisles seemed even more crowded this time, and she shoved more than one person out of her way as she ran. She heard people calling her names behind her back, and more than one person pointing out that she had a gun. She ignored them all as she raced back to where she'd left Henry and Sarah.
The door to the room was closed, and Macy called Henry's name as she approached. She reached the room just as the door slid open. Henry stepped out and looked at her empty hands.
"I thought you were bringing lunch."
Macy gently pushed him back into the room and stood in the doorway. "I wasn't thinking. We let a whole gaggle of passengers on the train at Enid, but no one took the time to check any of 'em out. One of the Lucas gang might be on the train right now."
"Damn," Henry said. He took the gun from his holster and checked to make sure it was loaded.
Sarah stood up and said, "Let them kill me."
"Sit down," Macy and Henry both said.
Sarah said, "I'm not going to stand here and watch one or both of you get killed trying to protect me. I've done enough to both of you." She looked pointedly at Henry's hand. "If you're smart, you'll stand me in the middle of the aisle and paint a target in the middle of my chest. End this once and for all."
"You don't get off that easily." Henry flexed his ruined hand.
Macy said, "You think they'll kill you and ride off into the sunset? Henry and I are just as vulnerable as you are, but we ain't half as suicidal. So sit down, shut up, and stop trying to be a goddamn martyr."
She turned to leave the room, but someone stepped into the doorway and blocked her. She dropped her hand to the butt of her gun just as the man's fist swung up and caught her on the side of the head. Macy fell hard, every muscle in her body going limp as she crumpled to the floor. Rather than pain, a radiating numbness spread from her temple to the midpoint of her forehead. The man stepped into the room and brought his gun up, leveling the barrel at Henry's face before he cocked the hammer.
Henry ducked toward the bunk, his mangled left hand dropping to his hip out of instinct and slapping empty air. Macy rolled onto her back and saw she had no time to get her own gun up. The intruder ignored both her and Henry as he stepped into the room and aimed his gun at Sarah.
Sarah rose to her feet, facing the man with steel in her eyes, not even trying to take cover. "Get it over with, Liam."
Macy watched Liam shift his weight to his right foot and saw opportunity staring her in the face. She swung her leg up and slammed the heel of her boot into the back of his right knee. Liam immediately dropped, his shot going wide to hit the top corner of the room. As the shooter fell, Macy grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him down to the floor. She rolled on top of him, yanking the gun from his hand and tossing it onto the bed. "Henry, cuffs!" She turned and saw Henry staring at her. "Handcuffs, Henry, now!"
He finally pulled the cuffs off his belt and handed them to her. Macy cuffed Liam and got to her feet. Her temple was now throbbing, her arm sore where she'd hit the ground. She turned to Sarah. "You all right?"
Sarah nodded slowly, staring at Liam.
"Henry, keep an eye on her." She shoved Liam out into the corridor, where she saw Benjamin approaching with a shotgun.
"I heard gunfire," he panted.
"Everything's fine now," she said. "Sorry, but I'm gonna need someplace else to stow this guy until we get to... what's the next stop?"
"Medford," Benjamin said. He ran a hand through his hair and looked back down the train. "Uh. Uh, we can find someplace, I guess." He ran a finger along his upper lip and then said, "Go toward the front of the train. Got an idea." Macy hauled Liam along as she followed Benjamin toward the locomotive. She could smell the smoke that wafted through the open doors as they grew closer to the engine, and Benjamin finally stopped and threw open the door to the baggage car.
Macy took a quick look around the area. It was a dark, cramped area with suitcases stacked and secured to the floor by webs of rope. There was a spot in the corner, far from any windows, where Liam could be comfortable and still be out of the way. She guided Liam inside and took him to the nearest corner. "Sit," she said, forcing him down onto a pile of suitcases. "Ben, hold that gun on him. Shoot him if he tries anything."
"You're deputized, so it'll good and legal."
"I don't know if I can shoot a person."
"Just remember that if you don't shoot him, he'll throw you under the train. Try and figure out which you'll be able to live with and make your choice."
Benjamin swallowed hard and tightened his grip on the shotgun. Macy lifted Liam's arms and hooked the cuffs to a railing. It left his hands even with his shoulders and, she hoped, would keep him from even trying to escape. She stepped back, out of the range of his legs if he decided to start kicking, and looked at Benjamin. "You got any ammo in that gun?"
"No, ma'am," Benjamin said.
Macy nodded. "Didn't think so. There's some in the bag I brought aboard back in Enid. Give the gun to Deputy Rucker and tell him where we stowed this big fella."
"Yes, ma'am." He turned and fled, grateful for the reprieve. Macy waited until the door closed before she turned and faced Liam again.
Liam slumped against the wall and looked over the sea of bags. He looked like a cattle rancher, with broad shoulders and a wide chest. His jaw seemed larger than the rest of his skull, forcing his chin to jut out past the tip of his nose and making Macy think of an angry bull. He smirked and turned his beady black eyes back on Macy.
"You look pretty pleased with yourself," Macy said.
"Figure there's something in here I could use to pick the lock. Just a matter of time 'fore I do what I came to do."
"And that would be killing Sarah Lucas. I thought she was the leader of your little gang."
"Was," he said. "Back when she was actually puttin' us first, yeah, we had no problem callin' her our leader. But then she lost focus. Deacon is the one who cares about us. So we just gotta take care of this little piece of business before we move on."
Macy said, "Move on?"
"Oh, yeah. Deacon's got big plans for us. Wyoming's got more cattle than people, so he figures no one will notice when one or two head go missing." He leaned forward. "All you gotta do is hand over Ms. Lucas and we'll be outta your hair. Won't even have to go all the way up to Kansas. Just hop the next train back to Roman and start a new day."
"Sarah Lucas was tried in a court of law and found guilty. It's my job to make sure she fills her sentence. No one said she oughta die for her crimes, so I'm gonna abide by that ruling." She stepped closer. "How many men are waitin' for us down the line?"
Liam leaned back and looked away from her again.
"I know you got ten people."
He scoffed quietly.
"So it's more," Macy said.
Liam looked at her like she'd read his mind. Then he said, "I'm not telling you anything."
"You left two people behind in Roman, and I fought off those three who came after us before we hit Enid. Then there's you. So that's six. How many more should I expect to deal with on this damn train ride? Six? Seven?"
"Go to hell, lady."
"That's Sheriff Lady to you, sir," she said. "I'm gonna drop you off in Medford and you can wait for trial in a nice little jail cell. Imagine how much nicer that'll be if I can tell Medford's sheriff that you were cooperative. Now I know what you're probably thinking. Deacon and the boys wouldn't look too kind on you telling their business. But I don't think they'd be too thrilled that you got taken down by a woman who was layin' at your feet while you had your gun out. Might be a little embarrassing. Only three people saw that happen, and I can convince one of 'em to keep quiet. The other, well... you know who she's gonna be spending her time with once we get her to Leavenworth.
"You're going to jail either way, Mr. Liam. Let me send you there with some of your pride still intact."
Liam glared at her as he thought about what she was saying. She sighed and checked her watch. "We got about two hours before we hit Medford. I'm going to give you time to think about how you want this to end." She turned and pushed the door open.
Macy turned and looked at him. He was looking away, hating himself for the word that had already been spoken. He chewed the inside of his cheeks for a moment, working up the courage to say more. Macy closed the door and waited.
"Like I said, Deacon's got plans up in Wyomin'. He brought some people down over the past month to help out. We're sixteen total, so you got ten more people down along the line."
"They at the stations?" Macy said. "Or waiting to try and board us between stops?"
Liam shrugged and said, "Told you what I know. Deacon sent me to Enid yesterday to wait for the train. Told me to get onboard and keep my eye on you, follow you to wherever Sarah was bein' held. Then I was supposed to finish the job. You know how well that went."
"Deacon won't be too mad at you, I guess," Macy said. "Five other guys failed to do the same thing. Anyone on board with you?"
Liam shook his head.
"Sit tight. I'll send someone to keep an eye on you." She left the car, checking to see if the door could be locked from the outside. She saw a latch and threw it, then went back to where she'd left Henry and Sarah.
Henry was standing in front of the door, head down, thumbs hooked in the pockets of his jeans. Macy blew out a breath of air as she approached, and he looked up.
"Gonna get a lot of exercise runnin' from one end of this train to the other."
Henry said, "Sorry, Anna."
He dropped his voice to a low, angry hiss. "I was about as useful in there as a goddamn cigar store Indian. I saw the gun and I just froze."
Macy put her hand on Henry's shoulder. "It was your first time back in action. It's understandable that you're a little gun shy after what happened. We're both dealing with a bunch of shit right now. Once we drop Sarah off in Leavenworth, we'll be done with the Lucas gang forever. We'll go back to Roman and get past this. For now let's just focus on keeping our prisoners in one piece. I took Liam down to the baggage car, and we'll drop him off in Medford when we stop there. According to him we have ten more surprises waiting for us down the line. I need you at the top of your game for that."
Henry nodded. "I won't let you down like that again, boss."
"I know you won't," Macy said. She looked past him at the closed door. "How's she holdin' up?"
"Shaken up. I think she was really expecting the guy to shoot her. Don't think she had much of a problem with the idea, either."
Macy nodded. "Okay. I never managed to get our lunch, so I'll let you do that. I'll talk with her."
"Yeah, okay. Thanks, boss."
She patted him on the shoulder as they switched places, Macy stepping into the room and closing the door. Sarah stood up as Macy entered.
"Why'd you stop him? This bullshit could have been over and done with."
Macy grabbed Sarah's face and kissed her. Sarah grunted in surprise and her body went stiff, her body twisted strangely because of the handcuffs holding her to the pipe. Macy broke the kiss but kept her eyes closed. Sarah rested her forehead against Macy's and sagged forward.
"I pictured him shooting you. And I couldn't..."
"Shh," Sarah whispered.
"Couldn't bear the idea. I couldn't stand the thought of seeing you dead. God damn you."
Sarah kissed her softly and Macy accepted the kiss. She heard the clink of handcuffs against the pipe, and Sarah whispered, "I want to touch you. I want to put my arms around you."
Macy reached into her pocket and realized that Henry still had the keys. She cursed under her breath and then repositioned Sarah so she was facing the wall. She dropped down, slipping under Sarah's right arm so that Sarah was embracing her. They kissed again, and Sarah pressed her hands against Macy's back to pull her close.
Sarah's tongue ran along Macy's lips, and Macy pushed Sarah down onto the bench, sweeping Sarah's feet apart with her boot. She was almost panting as she dropped her hands to the top button on Sarah's blouse.
"Don't tell me to stop," Macy growled.
"Your deputy is coming back in a second, isn't he?"
Macy's fingers hesitated on the button and then dropped away. She closed her eyes and said, "Shit. Henry."
Sarah kissed Macy again and lifted her arms. Macy ducked out of Sarah's embrace and backed away to the bunks. They stared at each other across the vast distance of the sleeping car, the Oklahoma landscape rolling endlessly past the window to Macy's right and Sarah's left. Macy looked at the sea of green and brown and wondered how close they were to the Kansas border. Medford was the last town in Oklahoma, she knew. Once Sarah crossed the border, it was likely she'd never enter the state of Oklahoma again.
"Why do you have to be his daughter?" she said quietly.
"Why did you have to be the sheriff's?" Sarah countered.
Macy moved forward, both steps requiring all of her effort. She knelt in front of Sarah and slipped her fingers under Sarah's palms. Sarah gripped her hands and squeezed, and Macy bent down to kiss her knuckles.
"I'm so sorry for everything I've done to you, Sheriff Macy."
Macy whispered, "Anna."
"Anna." She pulled her hands away from Macy and put them on top of her head, stroking her hair as Macy rested her head in Sarah's lap and put her arms around Sarah's waist.
To Be Continued...
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