Prompt: The aftermath of being late. Late. Late!
Word Count: 1000 words
Deadline: Friday, August 5, 2011, 9 am EST
This is part 5 and here are the others...
Part 1: The Lone School Marm
Part 2: The Lone School Marm SpeaksPart 3: The Lone School Marm and the Art of War
Part 4: Poker Face
"I left that night in pursuit of Dirty Dan and his gang," Susannah explained, "I knew the posse'd be chasin' them through the woods with dogs and such, but I was too late for that. So I hopped on Chance and started toward Two Forks. They've got a respectable Sheriff there, who I thought might have information about the Dirty Boys gang. I wanted to dig that weed out at the root."
"Well?" Jeb asked, "How'd that turn out?" Jeb and Susannah were sitting in old rocking chairs on the porch of his homestead, watching the stars as wind crossed the prairie and made dark waves in the grass.
"Sheriff Stanley was some help," she said, "He did provide me with a list of crimes they couldn't pin on Dirty Dan. I've been moving from town to town, sheriff to sheriff coming up with nothing but lists. I'd heard stories about the posse and how they couldn't find the criminals nor the missing Hailey twins," she winced slightly at this admission.
"George Shaw and the Chief are tracking them now," she continued, "But they keep missing the gang somehow...showing up moments before they hopped on a train or hours after they broke camp."
"Huh," Jeb responded, "That's damned inconvenient."
"Yes, sir," she nodded. "The gang's got help in high places and they've got the locals terrified."
"So it would seem," Jeb said.
"Anyway, I've spent my long evenings studying these lists and all these crimes had something in common: They all happened in the afternoon and women and children were the victims. Also, it seemed like the gang knew when extra money was going to be around...like they could sniff it in the wind. All the victims had recently gained access to piles of money."
"Hmm..." Jeb replied. "I wonder how they knew that?"
"Well, I can't tell you that, sir," Susannah said, "But I'm beginning to wonder if some banker isn't involved in all this, someone who knows about these kinds of things and can tip off the gang."
She let that float into the evening. It was the crucial piece of information that she wanted to bring to Jeb Riley, a man of influence and one of the few who could stand on his own against most authority and did so regularly. He had enough money and power to be heard, anyway, which is more than she could muster. She wanted to give him a chance to think.
Susannah had said her piece. At least he listened. Of course, she'd had to trick him into thinking she was a man and prove herself in a card game first. She could've called on Mother Warrior to help her again, but that tended to give people the impression that she was some kind of witch. Plus, Mother Warrior had a price when you call on her that left Susannah weak and sad afterwards.
But it was a nice night and she could use a breather. Jeb Riley had just won a bunch of money at cards and had a snoot full of brandy; she suspected it was likely that he'd agree to throw his weight around for her cause. Susannah looked up at the sky and watched the hawk circle her. She was used to him by now; he was always nearby as a constant reminder of her quest.
This evening had been a welcome respite from hunting. Her eyes were tired from searching and her mind ached from trying to put all the pieces together. And her heart burned with a mixture of righteous anger and holy terror. Tonight was a night of fellowship, really. The card table always bonds people, if they sit together long enough.
If only she didn't feel so far behind...grasping at straws and always arriving a moment too late. Dirty Dan was bound to make a mistake; he's only a man, not an actual monster. He'll trust the wrong person or tip his hand. It's the only hope she had, until tonight.
"Well, Miss Susannah," Jeb spoke.
"Yes, sir?" She asked, looking at his face, into his eyes.
"I think I can help you."
"I think you can too, sir."
"Heh," he chuckled, "You got guts, girl; let's just hope your mind is built of the same material and this ain't some wild goose chase."
"Thank you, Mr. Riley," she said.
"Call me Jeb," he replied as he stood up. "C'mon inside, sister. I reckon we've got a lot of planning to do."