But that’s not the reason why you’re here. You did not travel by coach and then by train and then by caravan, and again by coach, enduring the cloying heat, a highway robbery and the clinging smell of horse dung, dust and old leather to run away from your problems. You came here to solve it. And the answer to all your problems goes by the name of Buck Weston.
You take out a small mirror from your reticule and try to compose yourself. You feel tired and dusty and your petticoats are dirty from the sweat of your legs. You think this is no way for a lady to be seen, but then again, you’re no lady. You are, however, a widow, and for your late husband’s sake, you try to keep a modicum of decency. You fix your bonnet, tuck a curl behind your ear and pat your nose before putting the small mirror back. You will make your late husband proud of how you look if not with how you act.
Finally, the coach stops. You've been wanting to look out ever since the driver announced arrival at Redemption proper but you held yourself back. Though you have never seen Redemption, you have an image ingrained in your head painted by your parish priest and confessor that was hardly encouraging. Now that you’re here, you almost expect to see flaming towers and people cavorting in the dirt. You’re not entirely certain lightning won’t strike you down once you step foot on Redemption. You almost wish lightning would.
With a deep breath, you open the door.
You’re disappointed. Because you had expected so much, seeing the low cut gowns the women wore and the leathered up men was anticlimactic. The only details that reminded you that Redemption was not like any other city were the holsters the men wore, proudly brandishing weapons that would have been illegal anywhere else but in this city of sin. You wonder if the ladies had guns under their petticoats.
You step down and pay the driver, adding a generous tip. The fare itself was a hefty sum, but you expect to live to the hilt while you're here. After all, why not? Soon you will be free and everything that had haunted you these past years will seem inconsequential and trivial. The driver brings down your luggage and deposits you in front of the Red Lady Saloon.
Before you enter, you wonder how much it will cost you to kill a man.
His name is Buck Weston and he is reputed to be the best gun slinger in the country. According to your sources, he will pretty much do anything for the right price, including selling his own mother. What they didn’t tell you was that he was a handsome devil and that he could be such – such –
“I don’t see what that has to do with anything, Mr. Weston,” you bite out, adding to his list of faults his lack of gentlemanly manners as you have conducted your thus far five minute conversation standing up while he calmly ate his meal unperturbed by the slight.
Buck took his time replying. “Well, see here, little lady –“
You are not little!
“- I don’t know what you heard about me, but I don’t just kill people for money. That just ain’t me. Now, if you tell me the entire story, maybe, just maybe I’ll be persuaded to fight for your cause.” Buck took a napkin and wiped his lips. “What you have so far is a sketch of a man, who has no name, who you insist is in Redemption who I should kill by tonight. It’s not much information to go on. Simply put, I’m just not interested enough to take the time out of my very busy schedule to do what you want, even if you are pretty.”
You wonder how long this conversation could go with you not strangling the man.
You take a deep breath and calm yourself. “Mr. Weston, if it’s just a matter of money –“
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Ms. Rogers, it’s not about the money. Pardon me?’
“It’s Mrs. Rogers,” you say, as if the oaf cared about manners.
“Mrs. Rogers,” says Buck, pushing his plate away as he leaned back against his chair, “It won’t do my reputation any good now, if they found out I would point and shoot whenever a beautiful lady asks me too, now would you? I’d like to think I have more discriminating tastes.”
You don’t know at which you would be shocked more, the sexual innuendo or that he truly believes he had a moral reputation to protect. Before you could say something – anything as a cutting retort to that - Buck stands up, throwing loose change on the table, picking up his Stetson.
“Now, if you have nothing else to tell me, I’d best be going. Got somewheres to go,” he said.
“Wait!” You say, because you cannot fail now, when you’re so close. “This man, this man killed my husband.” Several of them, at least you think he did, but you don’t say that.
Buck stops, and then he slowly turns and gives you the most dashing, devil-may-care smile you have ever seen. It must be the heat, but you could have sworn that the room moved.
“Now, that, is interesting,” Buck walks back toward you and you had to force yourself to keep meeting his eyes, “Here’s what, little lady, I’ll sleep on it tonight. I’ll tell you what I think tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” You croak as he leaned forward to pick up the sketch he had earlier tossed aside and for one brief moment was too indecently close that you can smell his cologne. “Can’t you think about it this afternoon?”
“Don’t rush me, Mrs. Rogers. I like taking my time.”
And with that, he leaves.
And the full impact of what just happened, hit you and you want to cry.