Word Count 4,276
32. Never Shoot A Woman No Matter What…
Usual Disclaimers Apply – No Beta – Flying Solo
Response to Lancer-Righters’
Code of the West – Week 2 Challenge
Scott sat holding his head in his hands as he moving it slowly side to side, moaning softly in what sounded like plum misery. “What…hit…me?” He gasped between coughing up bile into a silver washbasin that was resting on top of a blanket. He gingerly reached to the back of his head with his fingertips, probing for the source of the pain that shot stars across his eyes and he heard a dull ringing in his ears. “What…happened? Where…am…I?” He placed his index fingers on his outer ears and gently rubbed them to clear the ringing…it wasn’t working.
He looked down through eyes that were trying hard to focus and saw that his clothes were covered in dry, cracked and caked mud, could be some blood and did he smell stale beer too? Or were all his senses so messed up he couldn’t quite tell what he smelled. “Whose blood is that? Mine?” he pondered.
The contents of his stomach were flipping and he fought valiantly to keep them right where they were. In what seemed like a dense fog that shrouded shorelines he had visited in Boston, San Francisco and Old London town he heard a voice talking. “Good God”, he thought, “was this what hell was like? Was he dead?”
There it was it again…more buzzing sounds, maybe a soft, tinkling, “like little bells jiggling on fairies”, he said aloud and was surprised how bottomless and far away his own voice sounded to him…like he was talking in slow motion.
“Scott? Come on brother. Look this way, Boston,” said a dark figure that seemed to have a hazy glow framing around it. “Good Lord!” the figure was peering at him through a haze of vertical lines. The form was slouch, hands on knees, where “God! NO! TOO MUCH RED!” a vivid red shirt, dazzlingly polished buttons ran down the legs of skin-tight leather pants and “there’s those damn bells again,” he thought focusing on the dark figure’s booted feet.
“Scott? Brother? Boston? Why in the world did he have three different names? What was going on? What was with those wavy vertical lines he was seeing anyway?”
“Scott Lancer!” boomed a cavernous baritone voice with a distinct drawl. “Pay attention will ya! For Christ-sake ya pissant, look at me, boy. Ya’re in a heap of trouble!”
“Trouble? Where had he heard that before? OH! Yeah! His brother, Johnny, was always the one in trouble, not him. He was the good brother with morals and sensibilities, not the boisterous, scalawag, that would be Johnny. What the heck could he have done that would have gotten him into trouble? Trouble? The voice said, trouble, right?”
The jingling continued…”Johnny?”
“Yeah, Scott, I’m right here. Brother, ya been out cold for quite awhile, had me worried. Guess I clunked ya too hard on that hard noggin of yours. How ya feelin’, Boston?
“You? You? YOU DID THIS TO ME!!” he shouted then grabbed his head from the booming rockets that shot off inside his brain from his own raised voice. Much softer he slowly lifted his eyes to look at his brother, and then it dawned on him where he was as he eyes focused. “Wait a minute…why am I on the inside and you’re on the outside? This doesn’t seem quite right to me.”
“’Cos you’re the one in custody, Scott,” drawled that unfathomable baritone voice again.
“Custody? For what?” asked Scott focusing his attention on the lanky lawman, sipping at a cup of what smelled like burnt coffee, that made his stomach roll from the aroma. “VAL!” Grabbing head again, pinching his eyes shut, “Val?”
“Johnny, ya want ta do the honors, seein’ as how he’s your brother and ya bashed his head in.”
“Dios! Not on purpose, Val, let’s not forget that important little detail, amigo,” drawled Johnny. “It wasn’t my fault at all.” He was holding a cup of coffee and held it closer towards Scott, “Want some, Scott?”
Scott gagged at the thought and clutched at his stomach, “NO! No! I do not want any of that swill. Johnny, what is going on?
Johnny held the cup out for a second longer, “Ya sure?” Getting a feeble but none the less a glare from Scott, he said, “Suit yourself, brother,” taking a sip of the steaming coffee. Then smirked as he hooked a boot over the rung of a chair and dragged it close but not to close to the cell’s bar. He didn’t want Scott to try and grab hold of him and wring his neck if he had the opportunity to reach him.
“Well Scott, this all started two days ago,” drawled Johnny as he settled down to tell the saga. He crossed one leg over the over so he could spin the rowel on his spur while he jostling his other leg up and down making his spurs cha-ling in unison. The cup of coffee he held in his other hand and he was purposely taking long sips from it. “You remember what happened two days ago, don’t ya?”
“Johnny is this going to take awhile?” asked Scott in obvious pain; more so by his brother’s antics which was compounding his head throbbing. “My head is already thumping, can’t you just get it said, brother and be done with it? Instead of smirking at me, enjoying my agony?”
“Sure Scott, coffee might help though,” he grinned at his brother who was shooting daggers at him.
“Johnny, when I get out of this cage, I’ll give you some coffee! Along with a through thumping! Scott realized he had no bargaining chips and softened his tone, “Sorry, please begin your tale,” he cajoled his brother. “So it’s over sooner rather than later.”
“Oh, now there’s a different tune!” Johnny chortled as he stretched his legs out, crossing one boot over the other. Behind him Val sat at his desk, harrumphing at the antics of his young friend, who should have known better to torment his older brother. “That’ll come back ta bite Johnny in his ass, one day.”
Two days earlier the Lancers had been in Spanish Wells, picking up supplies at the hardware store, where Scott had the dubious chore of loading the supply wagon, while Johnny and Murdoch looked on. Clearly Scott was not having a good day, after losing his month’s wages and taking on Johnny’s chores for the month as well the night before in a poker game. Scott was still calculating in his head the odds on how Johnny got a royal flush. His face was red from his toils of lifting and carrying heavy barrels of fencing nails to the wagon and he had lost count.
“There that’s it,” grumbled Scott
Johnny smirked as he chewed beef jerky, “Nope, two more.”
“Two more?” questioned Scott disbelief imprinted across his flush face.
“That’s right…didn’t they teach you how to count at that…what was that school? Harvard?”
Scott would have gladly wiped that smug look of satisfaction from Johnny’s face had Murdoch not been present. But he quickly filed it under his growing list of “later, brother.”
Without warning all hell broke loose as a trio of would-be robbers banishing pistols and rifles raced into town, at first the townspeople were cooperative as there were too many kids playing “kick the can” in the street. But the kids fled in fright at the thundering hooves of the horses pulled to a stop in front of the Widow Hargis’ storefront. In the ensuing gun battle – Johnny shot and killed one robber, while one jumped his horse over the Lancer’s supply wagon escaping capture. Scott meanwhile managed to wrestle the third masked robber after a short tussle to the ground and was stranding him as a crowd of spectators formed.
Only problem was that the robber turned out to be a woman! A conniving, wild hellion who in a short period of time managed to cause poor Scott grief and aggravation, the likes he had never before known, after he was deputized to keep on eye on his prisoner. He was made acting deputy until the posse returned with the other robber. Johnny and Murdoch along with a few other townsmen were enlisted to help the sheriff pursue the other would be robber.
Scott first had to wrestle his prisoner to the jail, where he made the startling revelation. She promptly attempted to bite his finger, kicked his shin with her pointy-toed boots and almost blew his head off in a brawl over her rifle. He next struggled with locking the cell door after shoving her in to the cell while she tried to grab hold of his hair or scratch his eyes out, yelling, “I’m gonna kill ya…I’m gonna cut out your liver…I’m gonna stomp on your liver.”
But having her secure inside the cell proved was not enough as she continued with numerous attempts to escape, faking illness by eating cake soap making her foam at the mouth resulting in a trip to the doctor’s office, where poor Scott was berated for his lack of seeking medical attention sooner. Only for the vixen to try another escape attempt by climbing out the doctor’s window while Scott gathered firewood. She employed sweet talking once back inside her cell, that didn’t gain her any ground with Scott either. All he wanted was to be rid of her; the sooner the posse returned with or without the other robber was fine by him.
A foiled attempt at “hanging” herself to make it appear that Scott was molesting her on her cot when he was in fact attempting to loosen her belt from her neck. This performance was solely for the benefit of the Widow Hargis and Justice of the Peace who it appears she saw strolling nearby. But the end result was that the Justice of the Peace remanded Zee over to the care of the Widow Hargis with Scott acting as watchdog…until the sheriff returned.
Thus more trickery and deception ensued as the cunning Zee escaped from the Widow’s care, despite being placed in a locked, upstairs bedroom. Her disruptive outbursts of foot stomping over Scott’s hard, uncomfortable countertop bed, to her dripping hot candle wax on to his forehead through a hole in the floor to her horribly off-key warbling meant to annoy Scott, while he tried to do his duty bound job as the deputy. This obligation turned out to be more than he originally bargained for as the posse had earlier returned with the news that the sheriff had been shot he reflected as he tried to ignore the woman’s attempts to best him.
“I don’t care where he got shot,” dismissed Scott, “I want to know who’s watching the jailhouse?”
Murdoch’s direct order to Scott was, “You are…take us at least 3-4 days to find another lawman.”
“No…No…Please,” Scott pleaded to his father, which fell on deaf ears.
Johnny smirked as he realized the third robber was a woman, “Hey, what’s the matter with you brother, can’t you handle one girl?”
The prisoner smugly smiled knowing that she has made Scott’s life a living hell and knowing that this would continue until she finally made good on her escape attempts…or Scott gave in and simply released here, whatever came first.
This is what came after a night of losing cards badly to Johnny, he was stuck guarding the worst pretext for a woman, bar none that he had the displeasure of crossing paths with by the wicked card hand fate had dealt him. Now she had locked the Widow Hargis in the room meant to restrain her and had escaped in the dead of the night with a stolen horse that was far superior to the crow bait she ridden into town on.
Scott sighed noisily as he quickly saddled his horse, Sheridan, to pick-up her trail. He rode off armed with a shotgun that he had grabbed from the Sheriff’s rack of guns, scratching out a quick note to anyone as to what direction he was headed…towards Green River and his home, the Lancer Ranch.
Johnny tipped back in his chair with his boot against the horizontal bar on Scott’s cell, listening carefully to poor Scott’s tale of anguish. Johnny tried not to laugh but heard Val choking back guffaws at the events that placed Scott behind bars in Green River. Johnny couldn’t help himself, he coughed a few times then burst out laughing as he pictured Scott stretched out on the Widow Hargis’ countertop while Zee dribbled wax onto his head.
“Glad, you think this is so hilarious, brother! Where’s Murdoch? Is he coming to bail me out since you don’t seem interested?”
“Not that Scott, Val here is waiting ta see if formal charges are ta be made or not against ya. Ya know, brother if I could, I’d get ya outta there.”
“Well, what’s the holdup?”
Val walked over with the coffee pot and refilled Johnny’s extended cup, “Scott, ya just sit tight in there.”
This statement caused Johnny to laugh noisily, shaking his body until his foot slipped from the bar and his chair struck the floor with the front legs hitting the wooden floor boards with a loud “BANG!”
Val gave out a loud harrumph before joining Johnny, laughing out loud at poor Scott’s misery.
“Sorry, Johnny, did I miss something amusing that set you two jackals off,” grumbled Scott as he looked on dejectedly at his brother and Val.
Johnny wiped at the tears in his eyes, still chuckling, “Ya go on with your story, Scott. What happened next?”
Throughout the night, Scott pursued the devious female; of course it would be a moonless night. Scott was not sure if he had gone past Zee in the cover of darkness and ended up back-tracking almost as much as roaming forward.
Early the next morning he was still on the hunt for Zee. Trying to read tracks was not his strong point. He was close enough to Lancer to ride home to get Johnny’s aid with tracking. But unfortunately Scott discovered that he would need to leave word with Jelly to send Johnny out on the trail to help him locate the escaped prisoner with the reading and following the wily urchin’s tracks.
Jelly slapped the suspenders on his pants against his chest as he rocked back and forth on his boot heels, “You want me to ride along with you? Help you?
“Nope, Jelly, can’t you just ride out to where Johnny is in the south pasture and tell him to find me? I’m heading towards Green River.”
“I never get to go anywhere,” he grumbled to Scott’s fading backside as he and Sheridan rode off towards Green River. Jelly mounted his own steed and rode off in the opposite direction all the while fussing to the winds. Jelly found Johnny supervising a round-up of cattle that would soon be branded with the Lancer Circle L on their rumps as they prepared for the fall round-up.
Johnny whistled sharply to Burt, giving him directions to take over. Turning to Jelly, Johnny questioned the bewhiskered older man, “Green River? Where’s Murdoch, did ya tell him?”
“Johnny, you know your pa’s gone over to Aggie’s, I mean Mrs. Conway’s to negotiate the right-of-way for the drive over her property.”
“Yeah, right. I forgot that the old man was headed there today. Well, Jelly, can ya ride over there and let him know what’s goin’ on?”
Jelly grumbled, “Why can’t I go along and help out? I never get to go anywhere?”
Johnny smirked, “Sure ya do, Jelly! I need ya ta go over ta Aggie’s and let the old man in on the latest with that wild filly. See ya!”
He wheeled Barranca around and with a soft click rode off towards Green River, leaving Jelly to stare after his fading backside, still mumbling to himself, “Go here Jelly! Do this Jelly! Need for you to fix the wagon wheel Jelly! WELL, LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING!” he shouted to the galloping backside of his friend.
Johnny rode quickly to see if he could catch up with his brother who had at least a forty-five minute head start, near as he could figure. Johnny stopped several times to check fresh tracks and discovered there was a mixture of tracks. Scott’s Sheridan was easy enough to read since they had added a small Lancer Circle L to the metal shoes of their horses; it was perfect for identification purposes. Another set of tracks had a missing shoe from the front left leg, which Johnny figured had to be the horse Zee rode off on.
Following that track, Johnny was in and out of the tree line as it did not take a direct route towards Green River; either Zee was lost or was attempting to confuse her pursuer with her double and triple back tracking, circling round and round one area at least three times. Johnny spotted Sheridan ground-tied along a ravine. He jumped to the ground and ground-tied Barranca alongside Sheridan before grabbing his rifle and creeping quietly on the fallen dried leaves. He spied Scott with a double-barrel shotgun raised, braced against his shoulder, pointed before he saw the bend over figure of Zee as she cupped water into her mouth at the stream.
Scott must have heard a noise directly behind him as he turned to look, the shotgun blast startled Johnny as the stock of his rifle came crashing down on the back of Scott’s head, knocking him out cold crumpling to the ground in a heap. Johnny also heard the earsplitting, shrill shrieks coming from Zee. He looked up to see her holding onto the seat of her britches, hopping up in down in pain, he checked Scott quickly, saw a knot forming at the back of his skull. “This ain’t too good.”
Quickly Johnny ran to the stream and soaked his bandana in the cool water, watching the hopping Zee, he snorted as he saw that her britches had been filled with rock salt and maybe some buckshot to boot. “Ya stay put Zee and I’ll tend ta ya next, my brother’s got a knot on his head thanks ta ya.”
Zee continued her dance up and down, while her hands clasped her rump, “Ohhhh, he hurt me! He tried ta kill me!”
“It will hurt even more if ya push the rock salt into ya skin, so stop ya belly-aching and stand still.”
Johnny took care of Scott as best he could before grabbing Zee to fling her face down across the saddle; he got a good look at the results of Scott’s shotgun blast. The seat of her britches was tattered, raised bumps and black dots made her rump look like a well-used pin cushion. Whistling, he told Zee that she better hold on as the ride was going to be bumpy as he needed to get Scott’s head looked at first.
She wailed, “But what about my injuries?”
Johnny laughed, “Zee, now ya won’t die from those, can’t sit for awhile, but ya won’t die.”
Johnny dragged Scott up onto Barranca, leaning him over his neck for support as he tied the reins of Sheridan and Zee’s horse together to his saddle horn and mounted behind Scott, letting him lean into his chest, while his left arm held him in place. Scott was deadly silence while Zee continually yelped as she bounced up and down while Johnny rode as quickly as possible towards Green River. It was a good thing Johnny could feel the rise and fall of Scott’s chest as he covered the short distance in record time.
Val saw the strange trio ride into his town he shook his head, noting that nothing was ever easy with those Lancer brothers. With a deep sigh as he pushed from the post outside his jail house that he had been holding up he walked towards the group.
Johnny called out, “Hey, Val, give me a hand, will ya?”
Johnny quickly explained what happened as they took the pair to Doc Jenkins. Doc Jenkins examined Scott’s head. Scott faded in and out of consciousness making some ineligible statements that mainly sounded like “ee” instead of Zee. He told the waiting pair that Scott had a minor concussion and needed to be observed and kept comfortable for the next twenty-four hours or so but he couldn’t do it there as Zee would require privacy as he picked out the rock salt and buckshot from her rump that was in a sad, sorry state. Doc Jenkins estimated she took both loads as direct hits and it would take awhile to pick the pieces out. Then he would have to clean the wounds and apply witch hazel to prevent infections.
Scott was carried over to Val’s jail house and put in a cot, where Johnny and Val checked him, stirred him and kept cold clothes on the back of his skull. Initially Val was pissed at Scott and told him so when he finally stirred. But then Scott was able to tell Val and Johnny the full story of what had transpired since he had the displeasure or just bad dumb luck to capture the disorderly hellion in the first place.
Many more hours passed as he and Johnny continued to administer their care to Scott. Eventually Val crossed the street to speak with Doc Jenkins for a full report on Zee’s predicament. Val heard her moaning and groaning like a stuck pig in the recovery room. He pointed towards the room, “I want see her.”
“By all means, Sheriff, maybe you can get her to shut-up and stop her moaning. I am ready to shove a spoonful of undiluted laudanum into her yap,” he grumbled as he forcefully put his hat onto his head. “I’m going out to check my other patient then get something to eat. Just don’t take off her restraints, don’t need her scratching at her ass with those dirty fingernails of hers infecting the wounds. I want her out of here as soon as possible.”
Val cocked his head and raised his eyebrows at the sharpness in Doc Jenkins tone, his bedside manner completely lacking. Doc Jenkins stomped out his front door, slamming it shut leaving Val to his own devices as he listened to the nonstop moaning in the next room. “Sounds like a sack of cats.”
Hitching up his pants, he pushed the curtain aside. There was Zee lying prone on her belly. Doc Jenkins had indeed tied her hands to the bed’s metal frame to prevent her from rubbing at her injuries. Probably more so to keep her from any ill-conceived attempts at escaping, having heard the tale retold by Johnny when he came over for some smelling salts to try and use on Scott. Val checked the knots to make certain they were snug. He didn’t want any loose bindings, thinking twice he slapped his handcuffs on her right wrist, attaching her to the bed frame, gruffly stating, “not goin’ anywhere now are ya?”
“Ya want tell me what happened?”
“He shot me!” she wailed. “I want to press charges against that Scott Lancer for attempting to murder me! HE SHOT ME! OHHH! He hurt me! And he mashed my ribs and he shot me!”
“Let me see if I got this straight, ya attempted ta rob the Widow Hargis’ store, tried several times ta escape, bite, scratch, kick the deputized Scott Lancer who was assigned ta guard ya, almost shot him in a struggle over your weapon, threaten his life, pretend ta hang yourself, escape from the Widow Hargis after tying her up. Have I missed anything? Oh yes, fake medical injuries by eatin’ soap…until now, tried foolin’ the doctor in Spanish Wells. And professed up and down that he was molsterin’ ya while ya was holdin’ onto a Bible, have ya no shame, ya hussy? Ya want ta press charges against Scott Lancer?”
“Yes! That’s right I do.”
“Boy ain’t that a crock of shit! Ya ain’t bamboozling me ya she-devil. From where I stand, ya are the only woman deserving for the Code of the West ta be broken, hell, make that strewn from here ta kingdom come.”
“Never shoot a woman no matter what…well ya have push the “no matter what” ta the limit of any man’s endurance with any female. Too bad for ya that Scott’s borrowed shotgun has one of those hair triggers, but it sure was lucky for ya, ya was bend over and gave the boy the perfect target ta hit. And ya was lucky it was loaded with rock salt and not just buckshot. Hell, if I had been there and caught ya, I’d had done the same thing only on purpose, not any accident, nosiree bob. I need ta go shake Scott’s hand for a job well done. Pretty soon, Zee ya be “sittin’” in my calaboose so rest up.”
Val moved to leave Zee alone, but heard her called him a “miserable hog wamper.”
Grinning he raised his hand and brought it sharply down on her sheet covered rump and grinned in utter satisfaction as she hollered in pain. “More where that came from, code don’t mention a thing about whompin’ any pains in the ass.”
The End (no pun intended!)
Patti – November 15, 2009
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