AFTER ECHOES FROM A GUN
By Geonn Cannon
Chapter Nine -
The rain had hit them a few miles outside of Paradise and they'd had no choice but to ride deeper into the storm. The light from the train depot burned like a lighthouse through the steel-blue sheets of rain. Katie held tight to Valerie, her eyes squeezed tight and her fingers digging into her friend's stomach in a death grip. When they finally reached the building, they leapt from the horse and ran into the depot.
The light was nearly unbearable and the warmth from the fire made their skin tingle. Valerie pulled off her hat and flicked it towards the open door. She ran a hand through her hair, the tail of which hung to the center of her back like a drowned rat. She looked out at the storm and saw only a sheet of blue occasionally interrupted by a sky-wide streak of lightning. "Damn," she muttered. She shed her slicker and helped Katie off with hers.
Katie hugged herself, having gotten the worst of the rain. "Think anyone's here?"
"They wouldn't have left the lanterns burning if they left," Valerie said. She crossed the wide-open room, passing a sea of vacant benches, and put her hands on the counter. She leaned forward to peer into the back. "Hello? Is anyone still here?"
A door at the far end of the building and a white mop of hair poked out. "Hellfire!" the man screeched. He stepped out and hitched up a pair of ratty pants, slipping his arms back through the suspenders. His white hair was combed forward into his face and his mouth was obscured by a fluffy white beard. He waddled up to the front and squinted over the counter at his customers. "What're ya two ladies doon oot, naht like thayis? Surely cain't be nothin' thayit 'mport'nt."
"She's meeting her husband in New York," Katie said.
The man's smile split his beard and he wagged a finger at her. "Oh, lucky feller. Lucky feller indeed, have a woman like you brave nature isself jest to get ta him." He picked up a magnifying glass and hunched over a schedule book. "Two tickets ta New Yawk..."
"No, just one," Katie said. "I was just... escorting her here."
"Oh, well. Oh, well," the ticket agent said. He scribbled out the two and laboriously replaced it with a one.
As Valerie and the little man went over the price, Katie wandered across the room to a map of Oklahoma Territory. It had dark lines crossing where the Land Run had started and pushpins denoting all the newest towns. She found Paradise and smiled the way someone does after finding a relative's name in the newspaper. She touched the town with her thumbnail and was about to turn away when she noticed something.
"Hold on, Katie, I'm about to..."
"Valerie, come over here!"
Valerie sighed and excused herself to the little man. She walked over to Katie and sighed, "What is it?"
"The town. Our town, Valerie, look."
Valerie sighed. "I know, Katie, I've seen maps before." She glanced up at the faded yellow paper and realized what Katie had seen. "That can't be right." She looked over her shoulder. "Is this map to scale?"
"Mm-hmm," the old man nodded. He was still hunched over the counter, gnarled fingers guiding the pencil to spell Valerie's name in the ledger.
"But if that's so..." She traced the new line of the Rock Island Railroad. "If that's so, then the new rail line will cut more than five miles away from Paradise."
Katie said, "The railroad was supposed to bring business to the town. I mean, the jobs alone..."
Valerie punched the wall and knocked some pins loose. The little old man yelped at her and she turned to look at Katie. "This is it! This is what Scott was up to!"
"What do you mean?"
"I haven't got it all figured out yet... but I'll work it out on the road."
"On the road?" Katie said.
The old man said, "What about your ticket?"
Valerie was already squirming back into her slicker. "Keep it. I ain't going to New York... I've gotta get back to Paradise."
Sheriff Jones bent down and shook the water from his slicker. His boots were caked in mud from the long walk from the mayor's office and he did his best to stomp them clean on the front stoop. He pulled off his slicker and hung it by the door, ignoring the puddle that was already forming around it as he headed to his desk. The room was utterly silent and he was grateful. Hopefully Dearborn was asleep and he wouldn't have to deal with the man.
He tossed his keys onto the desk and searched for Albie, his deputy. "Albert!" he called. "He give you any trouble?"
When he got no answer, he paused and scanned the small office. "Albie?" he said. He glanced into Dearborn's cell and saw him on the cot, covered with a blanket. For a change, he seemed to be sleeping quietly. Jones reached down and touched the butt of his gun. It'd be so easy, really. And it's nothing Dearborn wouldn't do himself...
He moved his hand from the weapon. It was exactly what Dearborn would do. He wouldn't let himself become that. He went to the back door and peered at the small outhouse that stood against the back of the opposite building. "Albie! You takin' a piss break?" No reply.
Dearborn's cell was dark, the lantern blown out either by the occupant or by the storm gusts coming in through the barred window. A pool of rainwater had gathered on the floor and was trickling slowly towards the bed. Dearborn would wake up to wet feet and Jones chuckled at the thought. "Hope you're wearing socks," he told the lump on the bed. "Nothing like going through the day with wet socks."
He unfastened his gun belt and began to mentally prepare a speech about responsibility that he'd recite when Albie returned. 'The prisoner may be asleep, but that's no reason to abandon your post, son.' He was about to sit when something started nagging at him. It was only a tiny suspicion, but... Dearborn snored. He never slept peacefully; he snored like a thoroughbred, snorted, huffed and kicked at his blankets.
Drawn by his suspicion, he put his gun belt on the desk and walked back to the cell. He leaned on the bars and stared at the lump under the thin wool blanket. "Dearborn!" he snapped. No response. He slapped his hand against the bars and shook the door so the lock clanged and echoed like the chains of Marley come back to haunt them.
The body on the bed remained motionless.
He felt his heart kick up. Hopeful their prayers had been answered, he grabbed the key ring and let himself into the cell. He jabbed the key into the blanket and kept up the pressure until he was sure no one could sleep through it. Infection, he thought. The bullet wound had taken its effect, or maybe Dearborn had overdosed on the pain medication. All that mattered was he was *gone.* He rolled the body over and whipped the sheet away. The dead man stared back up at him.
Albert, the missing deputy, was already pale blue. His eyes were wide with shock and his head was tilted at an odd angle. It almost seemed as if he were saying, "What the hell happened, sheriff?"
A gun barrel slid into Jones' ear and Dearborn, his voice low and seductive, said, "Albert was a piss-poor deputy. And you, William Jones? You are just a piss-poor sheriff." He looked towards the window and said, "Now. We just gonna wait... until the time is right..." Lightning flashed and the cell illuminated briefly. Frozen with terror, Jones looked down and clearly saw the fear in Albie's wide, dead eyes.
"Did you know that your young deputy was homosexual?" Dearborn asked. "It seems the boy was kinked. He had some kind of fantasy about being with a prisoner." He scoffed and muttered, "Thousand-two, thousand-three..." He continued, "I think it was a power trip. Thousand-five, thousand-six... Sounds like the storm is about eight miles away, Sheriff Jones."
At the moment Dearborn would've said 'thousand-eight,' thunder began to roll through the town. The loudest boom of the thunder was enough to cover the gunshot.
Ada was startled from a deep sleep and heard the dying rumble of the thunder that had awoken her. She rolled onto her side and tried to slip back into sleep before her body truly woke up. It took her a moment to realize that she was alone in bed, the mattress under her hand heartbreakingly cold and barren. She fumbled for her glasses on the nightstand and held them up to her eyes.
Rose stood at the window with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She was framed by the violet night sky, her silhouette dancing with the rhythm of lighting. Rain was still falling in sheets, silver waves against a velvet background. Lightning flashed now and then, making the world silver and clean for a brief moment.
"Rose," Ada whispered.
She turned from the window. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to wake you." It was only then Ada heard Rose's crying over the rain. She dabbed her cheeks and turned back to the window. "Please go back to sleep."
Ada slipped out from under the covers and walked naked across the room. She pressed against Rose from behind and pressed her face into the sea of her hair. She kissed the curve of Rose's neck and felt Rose sag against her, molding against Ada's solid warmth. Ada touched Rose's stomach and pulled her back into an embrace. "God. I'm really here."
Rose smiled and covered Ada's hands with her own.
They watched the rain silently for a long time. Rose brushed her fingertips over Ada's forearm and finally said, "You gotta tell me something about you."
"I don't care. Anything." She turned in Ada's arms and pressed her lips against her collarbone. "I just want you to tell me something because I want... I need to tell *you* something. But I don't think I can go first."
"Okay," Ada whispered. She hesitated and chewed her bottom lip as she considered what to reveal. Finally, she said, "My husband never loved me."
Rose blinked. "That's... bigger... than I expected."
Ada smiled sadly. "I never loved him, either. But we both knew what we were in for when we said 'I do.' He was a little effeminate."
"He was queer?"
Ada nodded. "We knew. I guess... I don't know, there were signals that we sent to each other and... he was an unmarried man in his thirties. I was just a girl, and... it was just easier than answering all the 'why' questions. For both of us."
"He met someone. Decided they'd travel, maybe go to Europe or someplace. And I was out in the open. Alone. But I kept telling people I was married or widowed or... anything to keep them from asking why I had never settled down." She closed her eyes and looked down. Brushing a hand under her glasses, she meekly asked, "Is that, uh... enough? I mean, I don't wanna..."
Rose kissed Ada's lips and curled her fingers in the short hair at the back of her neck. When the kiss broke, Rose whispered, "I was raped."
Ada blinked behind her glasses. Three little words and she felt sick, angry and distraught all at once. The idea of anyone putting Rose down, tearing at her... she bit her bottom lip and closed her eyes tightly. "I'm so sorry."
"My husband and I were married out of love... at first. We grew apart and then together and... it was a cycle. One day we were out on a supply run. We were between towns, about ten miles from civilization in any direction. I was in the back of the wagon, but I heard them call for my husband to stop. He told me to stay hidden while he talked to them, so I climbed down behind some of our crates, kept my head down and prayed for it to be over. I prayed a sheriff or a marshal would wander along and save us. I prayed right up until they shot my husband."
Ada's hands tightened on Rose's back. She wanted to hear more, but was desperate not to know the rest. She closed her eyes, swore to herself that she'd listen to the rest.
"At first, they didn't know I was there. They just hopped in the back and started going through the groceries and supplies we had stacked there. When one of them found me, I started crying. Wailing, screaming, begging them not to hurt me. They led me out of the wagon to their leader and I knelt in the dirt before him and he... asked what I'd do... to spare my life."
Ada whispered a prayer, but knew it was hopeless. The damage was done and there was no way to undo it.
"He liked to hurt. At one point he made me face the wall and... w-whipped me."
Ada remembered the scars on Rose's back and cringed. "Rose," she breathed.
"It took most of a night, but he got his fill of me." She clung to Ada's shoulders, tears burning hot trails down Ada's chest. "He let me go. Sent me walking in the middle of nowhere. Guess he figured Indians or coyotes would get to me. Instead, I found a man named Jeremiah Stone. Have you ever known anyone who you... adored, but were scared to death of?"
"Yeah," Ada nodded. "My father."
Rose sniffled and stepped back. She looked down at Ada's naked body and ran her hands over Ada's chest. She touched her nipples, the spate of freckles that hugged the curves of her breasts. "I didn't want you to know this. Any of this. I didn't want you to see the darkness I have."
"It's okay," Ada whispered. She kissed Rose's lips and slid a hand around her waist. "I ain't running. I finally got you in my arms, I ain't running."
Rose bowed her head and pressed her face into the sweet hollow of Ada's neck, below her chin. She flattened her hands in the small of Ada's back and said, "I told Jeremiah what had happened to me. By then, just... t-the fury in me was so... righteous. I wanted vengeance. So he taught me how to fire a gun. Taught me how to hold a gun, for Christ's sake. He created Black Jack. Made me part of his gang."
"Gang?" Ada said.
"We robbed banks. Nine in just the first year. I was always assigned to watch the back door, stay with the horses. Jeremiah told me that no one would see a woman playing dress up; their minds would turn me into whatever monster they wanted. It was true. The newspaper reports said it was a gang of three, four, five men. The witnesses couldn't even get the number right, so it wasn't a surprise they didn't notice a woman. That gang is where I learned how to walk like a man, be manly in the way I sat on my horse.
"Everything was going fine until one night we ended up in the bar with another gang. I was in my Black Jack outfit, to keep from drawing attention, and Jeremiah started trading war stories with the other gang's leader. The other guy... told about the... man he'd killed. And how he'd spent time with the guy's wife. All night, he said." She wiped at her face again and inhaled sharply.
"Jeremiah laughed about it. But I was frozen. I stared at the man and realized I didn't even recognize him. I'd blocked his face from my mind entirely. So I waited until he went to the outhouse and I followed him. He was scared when he saw Black Jack, but... he smiled when I pulled down my mask and he saw who I really was. Guess he figured he wasn't in no danger. He turned around and had his... pants undone. I shot him once down there, then twice in the chest."
Ada stroked Rose's hair and mouthed, "Good girl" where Rose couldn't see her.
"His gang came after me, a'course. We shot our way out of the town and I got the blood of four men on my hands. When we were safe, Jeremiah slapped me down off my horse, took my money and my guns and told me to run. I'd... never seen him so furious. But I'd blown our chances at that town, so... he wanted me gone.
"With the man who'd... done that... to me dead, I finally looked at myself. Saw what I'd become. I was a thief, a murderer, a criminal. Instead of facing it, I faced a bottle and... spent a good year piss drunk in one corner or another. And I guess, in a brief moment of sobriety, I got lucky. I saw an honest-to-God sign."
"For the Land Run?" Ada whispered.
Rose nodded. "'Build your new future in Oklahoma Territory.' Like the past didn't matter no more. I sobered up. I swore to never fire another gun and I sold everything I still had to my name. I used the savings I had from my jobs with Jeremiah and went to Purcell. A new life. A new... everything."
"But you're a bartender," Ada said with a small, ironic smile.
Rose grinned. "I had experience being a wife, a thief and a drunk. Who better than a drunk to pour for other drunks? 'Sides, I figured it was the ultimate temptation. Surround myself with the devil's candy and see if I bit. I'm still dry."
"That's why you never drink?"
Rose nodded. "And... John Ball... hell, the bastard. He might as well have been Jeremiah. I saw a chance to make up for one last sin. If I'd known where it would lead, I'd... I can't lie to you, Ada. I'd have probably done the exact same thing." She looked up at Ada and said, "We gonna get out of this?"
"Yeah," Ada said. She brushed Rose's hair out of her face. "At the very least... we can run. To Canada, to... anywhere."
"Running," Rose whispered. "I'm sick of running. But... if I have to... at least it'll be with you."
Ada hooked her finger under Rose's chin and drew her into another slow kiss. "Let's go back to bed," she whispered against Rose's lips. Rose nodded and allowed herself to be led back across the room.
"Rose! Ada!" Valerie burst into the house and paused on the threshold as she scanned for her friends. Her slicker was dripping wet from their all-night trek through the storm. She saw the remnants of dinner on the table as she rounded the couch and headed for the only closed door in the house. She started inside and froze when she saw the bed.
Ada was spooned against Rose's back, both women obviously nude underneath the covers. Rose and Ada's left hands had slipped free of the sheet and their hands were clasped together in a loose caress. Ada woke at the sound of the door opening and sat up. Her eyes widened when she realized they'd been caught. She clung the blanket to her chest and opened her mouth in shock.
Valerie held her hands up in apology. "We'll... just wait outside. Take your time, ladies. Take your time."
She covered her mouth and turned on her heel. Behind her, she could hear Ada curse and hiss, "Rose... wake up."
Katie was in the front yard feeding the horse oats in exchange for his strenuous night. She turned at the sound of Valerie's boots on the porch and blinked in surprise when the other woman started laughing. "What?" Katie asked. She gave the horse a final pat and joined Valerie on the porch. "What? What's so funny? Valerie?"
Valerie put a hand on Katie's shoulder and said, "Nothing, Katie. Don't worry about it. Just, ah... when Rose and Ada get out here? Tell 'em how... refreshed they look." She leaned against the post to support herself as she started laughing again. Katie just looked into the house and wondered what the hell was going on.
Despite the secluded location, Valerie was still a fugitive. They couldn't risk a random passer-by to spot her and report back to the sheriff. Valerie and Katie moved the horse to the back of the house and set him up with a feed bag. Ada and Rose joined them there a handful of minutes later, Rose's usually loose, curly hair pulled back in a ponytail. They were both wearing long johns and Ada had covered her's with a long men's shirt. Katie smiled brightly and said, "Rose! Ada! You two sure look refreshed."
Ada blushed bright red and Valerie erupted in another fit.
"What?!" Katie hissed over her shoulder.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but what are you two doin' back here?" Rose said. To Valerie, she said, "Shouldn't you be on a train to New York right now?"
Valerie sobered and stepped up onto the porch. "Yeah, well, we found something mighty interesting at the train station."
"There was a map of the territory," Katie said. "It showed all the railroads through the state and it had drawn in prospective new branches."
Rose nodded. "Well, stands to reason. It *is* a train station..."
"No," Valerie sighed. "The thing that grabbed our attention was where the new branches were. Or, more accurately, weren't. There's no railroad coming through Paradise."
Rose glanced at Ada. "That's impossible. They've been planning that branch since before the Land Run. If it don't come through..."
"The town will dry up and die," Ada said quietly. "People will go where there're jobs. Wilbur will have to leave, 'cause no one will be able to afford drinks at the prices he'll have to charge. Paradise Rose will shut..." She looked at Rose with panic in her eyes.
Rose reached out and touched Ada's arm. She breathed, "Okay." To Valerie, she said, "What are we gonna do?"
"Short of hijacking some train company and dragging them down here," Valerie said. "Not a helluva lot of options."
"But how could this happen? We all saw the newspaper with their proposed route. It's why Paradise was founded here, for Christ's sake. Why would they change?"
Rose sat in Ada's rocking chair and said, "We charge thirty cents a drink."
Everyone turned to look at her.
She shrugged and said, "Thirty cents a drink. Know why? 'Cause it costs us for the liquor, sure. But there's other reason. The reason we mark the prices up a little bit is because of profit, sure. But also supply and demand. Everyone wants a drink... if we didn't charge extra for it, the bar would be filled to the rafters."
Valerie said, "What does this have to do with anything?"
"The railroads charge a fee," Katie said, glancing at Rose. Rose nodded, so she continued. "Every town in the territory wants the railroad to come through. So they charge a fee. If you can't pay the fee, the railroad passes you by."
Ada said, "Seems a bit unfair."
"It is," Rose agreed. "But it isn't. The railroads can't cut across the entire territory, passing each and every town that wants them. So they charge a fee."
"And the only reason the railroad would change its route..."
"Is because Paradise didn't pay the fee."
Valerie hissed, "God damn Malcolm Scott."
"He got greedy," Rose said. "Refused to pay. Figured that since the paper had printed the route, Rock Island wouldn't change their routes just because he hadn't paid. The railroad called his bluff and now we're a town on the verge of disappearing."
They sat in silence for a while to consider the implications of that. Ada took a seat next to Rose and clutched her hand. Rose suddenly slapped her right hand against the wooden arm of the chair and winced as the shockwave reached her shoulder. She shot to her feet and growled, "John Ball!"
Valerie frowned. "What? John Ball is dead. What's he got to..."
"As soon as you said the railroad was changing routes, I knew I'd heard it somewhere before. It didn't sink in, but I could vaguely remember hearing it. God damn it, John Ball mentioned it that night in the stable! The night I overheard him and the sheriff, the night this whole damned mess started. He said the railroad was going to leave and Paradise would turn into a ghost town."
Ada said, "Okay, let's try and make sense of this. The railroad announces it's coming through Paradise. Mayor Scott refuses to pay the fee and the railroad moves. So then, Mayor Scott and Sheriff Jones call in John Ball and Noah Dearborn... why?"
"To fleece the town," Rose said. "Rob us all, split the take."
"It probably won't be much, but maybe enough to give Scott the edge in another town. Give him a chance to start over and screw all us little people."
Katie shrugged. "So what're we gonna do?"
Rose sat back down, taking Ada's hand in her own. She stroked Ada's knuckles and softly said, "Against Scott, Jones, Dearborn and a railroad company? Nothing, Katie. There ain't a damn thing we can do."
The other three women stared at her in shock. Valerie stepped onto the porch. "'Nothing we can do'? I can't believe those words just came out of Rose Skinner's mouth. 'Nothing we can do.'"
Rose sighed and shook her head. "Val, if there was a way to fight the railroad, trust me, I'd..."
"You ain't even trying. I don't know who you are, but it ain't the Rose Skinner I know. It definitely ain't Black Jack. Where's the woman who once took twenty-three dollars off me in a single night? What happened to the woman who poured cold beer in the lap of a drunk who got too grabby?"
Rose sighed. "Valerie, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but... that's different. What do you want me to do? Go down to the train depot dressed up like Black Jack and look threatening until they agree to change the route back?" She reached up and touched her shoulder, lifting the arm as high as it would go. "I can barely get my arm all the way up. Even if I go with my weak hand, I'm nowhere near as good as I was as Black Jack."
Valerie shook her head. "Okay, then, forget Black Jack. We'll find a way to fix this, just the four of us. The Eves of Paradise. We'll get Mayor Scott out of the way and then... I don't know... form a committee to run the town for a while."
Katie spoke up. "We'll pass around a bucket. A collection, like in church. If everyone in town pays just a little bit, then we should be able to raise the amount the railroad is asking for. As long as construction hasn't started... I mean, there's a chance they'll move it back, right?"
Rose couldn't stand the near desperation in Katie's eyes, so she nodded. "Yeah, Katie, there's always a chance. But... it'll be dangerous. The mayor set Noah Dearborn on this town like a plague; there's no telling what he'd do when he's got nothing to lose." She glanced at Ada, who was smiling at her. "I don't want you to get hurt."
"I'll be fine," Ada assured her. She squeezed Rose's hand and looked at Valerie. "Besides Katie's bucket idea, which I think is really a great suggestion, what else does your plan involve?"
Valerie shrugged. "Dearborn is in jail, so all we have to do is turn the town against Scott and Jones. It should be easy enough if we have proof of the railroad's new plans."
Rose nodded. "Can you get a copy of the new map?"
"Probably at the depot," Valerie said.
"Okay, you ride on out there since you're the only fugitive in the group. Get the map and bring it back here. It's the only hard evidence we have of what Mayor Scott was up to. When you've got it, we'll ride into town together and call a special town meeting."
"And Dearborn?" Katie said.
"As soon as Scott and Jones are outta the way, we'll bring in the US Marshals to deal with him. I'm sure he has some kind of warrant out on him somewhere." Rose winced and said, "Valerie, are you up to another ride?"
She smiled. "This? This is nothing. When everything settled down, I'll tell you how I got the worst case of saddle sores ever. And it has nothing to do with a horse." She winked and tipped her hat before heading back down the walk.
Katie watched as Valerie mounted Wilbur's horse. "Sorry, baby. You're gonna have to ride again." She patted him on the neck and tugged on the reins to lead him out of the yard. The other three watched her ride away until she disappeared around a bend in the road.
When they were alone, Katie turned and looked at Rose and Ada. "What's so funny about being refreshed?"
The cell reeked of death, of blood and piss and evacuated bowels. Dearborn hardly noticed it anymore. He had already spent most of the night sitting there with the dead body of the stupid deputy, a little extra stink never hurt anyone.
He dumped Jones' body into the bunk with Albie and searched the office. He found a bottle of whiskey stuffed in the back of the lowest desk drawer and helped himself to it. It was his first drink since he'd been imprisoned and it tasted sweet, clear, like ambrosia. He held the bottle up to the sky and tilted it this way and that to watch how the sun reflected off the beveled glass. He shook his head and leaned back in the sheriff's desk chair. He admired the bright blue sky through the barred window and waited for the alcoholic buzz to wash over him.
"Damn weather. Last night it's blowing like the hounds of hell, spitting ice water at me when I'm trying to sleep. Now, morning, birds are chirping, sky is blue... Doesn't make sense, does it?" He looked at his audience and sighed. "You guys are the worst conversationalists, I swear."
He let his chair drop to the floor and stretched his good arm over his head. The wound in his shoulder had crippled one arm, but the other would do him just fine. He'd done his fair share of weak-hand shooting when the need arose. He scratched his stomach and walked into the cell. He patted Sheriff Jones' pasty, slack cheek and said, "You let me know if anyone comes in, Will. I'm counting on you."
William Jones' lifeless body fell back and his head hit the wall with a hollow 'thock.' Dearborn chuckled and searched for a bathroom. "Ah, hell. You guys don't even get to piss inside, do you? Give me a hole in the ground in my cell and expect me to do my business out in front of everybody." He sighed and tugged on his belt, deciding he could hold it.
"All right, Will. Hold down the fort for me. I have a couple of errands I have to run. I'll be back when I can. Save me some coffee and I'll try and bring back some more whiskey." He paused at the door as if expecting an answer and peered over his shoulder into the cell. When he saw Jones' bloated and bloody face, he shook his head. "Oh. Right. I killed you. No wonder you're being so quiet. Well. Still, keep your eyes open."
He stepped out into the sunshine.
To be continued in Chapter Ten
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