She just wanted some snacks from the 7-Eleven. A time travel adventure.
My name is Kimberly Parker. I was a registered nurse in the pediatric ward of a local Austin hospital before all this happened. My typical uniform consisted of a pair of pink scrub pants and a top decorated with teddy bears, brightly colored balloons, cute zoo animals, etc. You get the idea. At 5’3” I’m not an intimidating figure even without the uniform. With it on I look positively ridiculous.
I had just come off my late night shift and was on my way home. I’d missed dinner because we had an emergency on the floor so I was feeling pretty hungry. I pulled into the local 7-Eleven to load up on snacks and just as I was coming out this black dude grabbed my purse and took off running.
“Come back here you,” I yelled. Shit! Why does everything have to happen to me? I dropped my bag of goodies and took off after him. Despite my short legs I was gaining on the bastard. I think he was kind of surprised I wasn’t going to let him get away with this without a fight. He jumped on top of a short retaining wall and I was able to grab his ankle. He lost his balance, flipped over the wall and completely vanished. What the fuck! That’s impossible!
I climbed up on the wall and jumped down the other side to look for him. I was immediately enveloped in total darkness. Dizzy. Disoriented. Falling. Before I had a chance to completely panic I landed on solid ground. I saw the cocksucker racing off, got up to follow him and stumbled over something. Hallelujah! It turned out to be my purse. The jerk must have dropped it when he fell.
I examined the contents. Everything was still in there including my pepper spray and my Glock 27. It fits pretty well in my small hand. A heck of lot of good it did me tonight but I knew if I ran into that thief again, I was going to use it to open up a second asshole for that guy to shit through.
I looked around to see where I was. I wasn’t anywhere; at least anywhere that I knew about. I looked up and could see a hole just above me. Through I could see a street lamp and the 7-Eleven sign. I started yelling to attract someone’s attention but that didn’t work. Just when I thought to fire a round through the hole, it winked out and all I saw was the night sky. The entire world I knew had disappeared. Now I was beginning to panic. I pulled out my cell phone and hit the panic button. No signal.
I sat around for a while waiting for the hole to open up again but nothing doing. Well, this wasn’t getting me anywhere but I had to know where I was in the first place to get anywhere else. I hope that made sense. I was starting to feel like Alice might have when she fell down the rabbit hole and landed in Wonderland but she wasn’t the slightest bit scared. I was petrified. I stuck my pistol in my waistband and my pepper spray in the pocket of my top. I felt better prepared in case of more trouble.
I decided to walk in the same direction I saw Mr. Shithead run in the hope he might know where the heck he was going but I lost his trail after about a hundred feet. So I wound up just wandering around looking for a house or a road or a sign but the only things I found were trees and brush. I was about to sit down to rest and wait for daylight when I heard the clip clop of horse hooves and I ran in the direction of the noise. I saw the figure of a man on horseback and he was riding my way.
“Yoohoo!” I called. “Kind sir?” The horse shied a bit and I heard the click of a gun hammer being cocked. I quickly raised my hands.
“I assure you I’m harmless,” I said trying to hide my fright.
“Shut up,” he ordered. I shut up. He kept me covered while he dismounted and then walked up to me. I avoided his eyes while he visually inspected me. Finally satisfied, the man holstered his weapon. He reached out with both hands and squeezed my boobs.
“Ouch!” I’m no prude and I wouldn’t have minded a gentle grope. But this guy was rough. I was going to be bruised there for sure. He certainly was no gentleman. Chivalry was an alien concept to him. I punched him in the snot locker with a palm heel fist. I heard the snap of cartilage and I knew I broke it. He stumbled back holding his injured beak.
“Bitch!” he screamed. “I’m gonna kill you for that!” He reached for his gun but I had mine already pulled. The round I fired struck him between the eyes and entered his brain case. There was no exit wound so the round must have done a good job rattling around in his skull destroying brain tissue. The man was dead before he slumped to the ground.
It was the first shot I ever fired in anger...or out of fear rather. Of course, I’d never killed a human being before either. I didn’t feel bad about it though. Maybe it was because I was in shock. That didn’t stop me from thinking. I knew I had to report this incident to the authorities. But who and where were the authorities? I still didn’t know where I was. Was I still in Texas? I didn’t have a chance to ask the man lying in the dirt in front of me.
I started to get practical. I was tired of walking and the dead “gentleman” had no further use for his horse. I had gone horseback riding as a little girl but that was a long time ago. Still, I knew the basics. I didn’t have any cash; only credit and debit cards. I figured if my cell phone didn’t work here my plastic wouldn’t either. I searched the man’s body and found a money belt and a Bowie knife. There was another little gun in his boot so now I had three guns. I was collecting quite an arsenal. There was no identification and nothing else of interest or value. I dragged the body behind some bushes and mounted the horse.
“Giddyup,” I said and the horse started moving in a leisurely pace. Why not? I wasn’t in any hurry. The horse was still pointed in the same general direction that he was moving when I first saw him. I figured he knew where he was going even if I didn’t. I just hoped he wasn’t taking me into more danger. I wondered when the man I killed would be missed. Speaking of that, I wondered when I would be missed. I lived alone but my boyfriend came over regularly. The hospital would call when I didn’t show for my next shift. My parents and my brothers would be frantic. My ex-husband wouldn’t. Fortunately, I wasn’t leaving any children or pets behind.
I guess the shock began to wear off because I started to cry. I should have been sitting in front of the TV at this moment and munching on my snacks. Or crawling under my covers and getting a well deserved rest. Instead I was in the middle of nowhere playing cowboys and robbers. Or was that cowboys and Indians? I was sure if there were Indians around they’d be hostile. I lived next door to an Indian but he was from Mumbai. He was nice. I cried some more. I was hungry. I was thirsty. It was past my bedtime. My boobs were sore. I decided I hated horseback riding.
I must have dozed off a bit because the next thing I knew I was in the middle of a town. It looked like I was on a film location set for a Wild West movie. The horse was drinking from a water trough. I began to have an uneasy feeling I wasn’t in my own time zone anymore. More likely it was the Twilight Zone. I dismounted and looked around. It was still dark out and the streets were deserted. I did see an open door and some lights. It turned out to be a saloon. The bartender gave me a surprised look when he saw me walk in. I couldn’t blame him. I must have looked a sight. There wasn’t anyone else that I could see.
“We’re closed,” he said.
“Do you have any snacks for sale?”
“The hotel restaurant won’t be open for three or four more hours.”
“I’ll take a Bloody Mary.”
“You don’t know what a Bloody Mary is?” What kind of bartender doesn’t know what a Bloody Mary is?
“Ma’am, we serve whiskey and we serve beer.”
“Give me a whiskey.”
“We don’t serve women.”
“What?” This was outrageous. I pointed to a woman walking down the stairs. “What is she, chopped liver?”
“She is the proprietress of this establishment,” he replied in a loud voice. Then in a low urgent voice he said, “Get out for your own safety, Ma’am.” Well, I must have been low on blood sugar but it was now obvious he was trying to warn me off. But I can be an obstinate bitch even so.
“What seems to be the problem, Bill,” the woman asked. She was older than me and a tad shorter.
“Nothing, Ma’am,” Bill replied. “I was just telling the lady we’re closed.”
“He also said you don’t serve women.”
“Serve the lady what she wants.”
“That’ll be two bits,” Bill said after pouring me a shot.
“It’s on the house.”
“Thank you kindly,” I said and lifted my glass to the proprietress before taking a sip. It was nasty stuff but I smiled pleasantly while she looked me over.
“I had no idea the circus was coming to town.”
“It’s the greatest show on Earth. You’re all invited.” I took another sip.
“My name is Mrs. Turner.”
“I’m Miss Parker.” I took back my maiden name after I divorced my husband. The cheating bastard!
“I keep the good stuff upstairs. Will you join me?”
“I’d be happy to.” I put my glass down on the bar and smiled at Bill. He looked sad and I wondered what I was getting myself into. Well, forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes. I joined Mrs. Turner and she led me into her office. There was a man in there sitting on a loveseat. He was well-dressed but looked like muscle. I had no doubt he was armed. He didn’t stand when we entered and Mrs. Turner didn’t introduce us. He also didn’t speak but I could tell he was interested in my boobs. My rack is my best asset, I guess. I take a D cup and it’s all natural without any sag. Well, without too much sag. I’m rather proud of the puppies. That’s what men tend to look at first when they meet me.
Mrs. Turner turned her back to me to pour the drinks and my spider senses told me my drink was probably being spiked. I should have listened to the bartender. The woman handed me my drink and I promptly spilled it on myself.
“How clumsy of me! I’m so sorry.” The woman looked annoyed.
“I’ll get you another,” she said.
“Please don’t bother. I just realized how the drink downstairs must have affected me. You see, I haven’t eaten since yesterday. Perhaps I should call it a night. I’ll check into the hotel, sleep until noon and then eat like a pig. I’ll drop in for that drink tomorrow night. How does that sound?” I turned around but Big, Strong and Ugly was already blocking the door. I looked back at Mrs. Turner.
“I happen to know there’s no circus within two hundred miles of here,” she said. Mrs. Turner took a sip from her own glass. “I could use a fresh face with your obvious talents. (She was referring to my boobs, I bet.) Also, you’re a stranger in these parts and I doubt anyone will miss you.” I tried to look puzzled.
“Am I being offered a job here?”
“Yes you are, in a way,” Mrs. Turner replied with a smile. “My associate here will train you in your new duties.” I put on my biggest fake smile.
“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place, Mrs. Turner? I sure could use the money. I think it’ll be a great pleasure working for you.” I held out my right hand as if I wanted to shake on the deal. I palmed my pepper spray in my left hand and caught her full in the face. She shrieked and covered her eyes. I turned and was able to spray Gruesome the same way as he rushed at me. He took a blind swing at me but I had already ducked down and stuck out the Bowie knife in the hope I stabbed something vital. I did. He grunted in pain and collapsed beside me. He was bleeding badly. From the site of the wound I surmised I punctured the femoral artery. He would bleed to death in less than four minutes.
“Kill her,” Mrs. Turner rasped. She was having trouble breathing as well as being blinded.
“He can’t help you, honey,” I whispered in her ear. “He can’t even help himself now.” She was visibly startled to hear my voice...and it was so calm, too. I was ready to make my escape but where would I go? I’d be tracked down in no time. I needed money; a lot of it. There was a substantial looking safe behind her desk.
“I need the combination to that safe,” I said.
“Go to hell!”
“Fine, but you’re going to be completely blind for the rest of your life if I don’t give you the antidote within the next ten minutes.” She thought about it for a full minute before she gasped out the combination. I tried the combination and it worked.
“Oh my,” I said. “Your saloon does very well. Thanks a lot.”
“The effects will begin to dissipate in about 30 minutes. You’ll be very uncomfortable for the next several hours but you should be all right after that.” It looked like her associate had stopped breathing.
“You won’t live to spend a single penny of my money. I’ll have you hunted down and I’ll take great pleasure in killing you myself.” I sighed deeply. I knew she was right. I had to dispose of all the witnesses. That included the bartender. That thought made me sad. Oh well. A couple of more killings would be on my conscience.
I walked behind Mrs. Turner and covered her mouth with my hand. The woman gasped in fear. I think she realized she wasn’t long for this world. I sliced open her carotid artery and allowed her to bleed to death. Killing was becoming easier for me. I was just glad I didn’t have to use my gun. That would’ve alerted everyone.
I decided my next move would be to somehow lure the bartender up here without making him suspicious. There was a knock on the door and I pulled my pistol. It looked like Bill was going to save me some time.
“Come in.” I didn’t sound anything like Mrs. Turner but it was good enough for him to open the door. He was holding a bag I assumed held the night’s receipts. He saw the gun pointed at him, dropped the bag and raised his hands. I motioned for him to sit down and he obeyed.
“Your boss and I had a little disagreement over a career move she wanted me to make.” Bill nodded his head.
“Am I next?”
“You are a witness. Sorry.” He nodded and got that sad look on his face again. I knew I couldn’t kill him.
“Put your arms down, Bill. I’m not going to kill you yet. May I call you Bill?”
“If you want.”
“I’m going to ask you some questions that might sound silly to you, but I’d appreciate you answering them.”
“What year is it?”
“The year is 1883.” I was afraid of that. I had been thrown back in time.
“What is the name of this lovely town?”
“What state are we in?”
“And where is Poker Bluffs in relation to Austin?”
“Austin is a hundred or so miles west of here.” Well, I wasn’t too far away from my hometown. But was it really my hometown? I mean I wouldn’t even be born there for another century. I had to make some decisions and take some risks.
“What if I don’t kill you?”
“I would be most grateful.”
“How would you show your gratitude?”
“I suppose I’d have to report these deaths to the Sheriff. Of course, I’d say I didn’t know who did the killings.” I nodded. Bill had the right idea.
“I’d pack my bag and move on.”
“Could you run this place by yourself?”
“Certainly, but it’s not going to happen. This saloon is a money maker and I can imagine people with more money than me wanting to take over the place. They’d want their own people. Besides, I have this dream of maybe opening a saloon of my own.”
“Did the late Mrs. Turner have any heirs?”
“None that I know of. I don’t think there was ever even a Mr. Turner in her life.”
“I have a plan, but first we’re going have to clean up this mess. Can I depend on you?” He nodded his head. I put away my gun and we shook on it. Well, I had to start trusting someone.
The Sheriff wasn’t the ambitious sort. He spent his whole time arresting drunks and running for reelection. He’d never solved a crime or arrested an outlaw in his entire career. When faced with a murder investigation he was completely lost. He accepted Bill’s explanations readily.
I was introduced as Mrs. Turner’s cousin from Austin. I was newly arrived and my late lamented cousin’s intention was to train me in the business and be her successor when she retired. Mrs. Turner’s clothes fit me pretty well even though I did without a corset. Also, I stuck with my nursing shoes. Since the hems touched the floor no one would notice. I wore black. I looked like I’d been crying. It was easy to do that. All I had to do was put a drop of pepper spray under each eye. Damn! That stung!
The sheriff asked me if I had any proof I was Mrs. Turner’s cousin. I told him I didn’t but that dear cousin Alberta (that was her given name) had given me the combination to the safe and that must prove I was family. I demonstrated opening the safe. He was impressed! The Sheriff poked around in the safe but we had already removed what I think he was looking for. It wasn’t money.
In Mrs. Turner’s meticulous hand we found out whose hands were being greased and how much grease was being used. That included the Sheriff. Also included were some embarrassing revelations about some other elected officials. Armed with that information and some more of Mrs. Turner’s grease, Bill was able to smooth the way to my takeover of the saloon. When it came time to sign the legal papers to transfer ownership I noticed Bill had had inserted a five percent ownership stake in the saloon for himself. He wasn’t trying to hide it. I crossed it out. Bill noticed that right away.
“I think that’s the least I’ve earned considering the work I’ve already done for you.” He looked hurt and a bit disappointed.
“Yeah, but five percent?”
“Would three percent be asking too much?”
“I was thinking more in the lines of 35 percent.” He looked aghast.
“Are you joking?”
“Of course I’m joking!” I wrote in a new percentage and initialed the correction. I signed the papers and handed them to the lawyer who was standing by.
“I’m the majority owner with 51 percent,” I said. “What I say goes. Your share is 49 percent. Agreed?” Bill smiled. It was the first time I saw his smile since I met the man.
“You should smile more, Bill. You’ve got a nice smile.” He did smile more and even blushed. It was so cute.
Well, I rechristened the establishment the “Long Branch Saloon” and started calling myself Miss Kitty. On a side note I named my horse Trigger. That was the extent of my contribution. Bill was the brains behind the outfit. I essentially apprenticed myself under him. He started making changes right away. For instance, he hired another bartender so he’d have more time to manage. He also banned the professional gamblers who he knew were card cheats. Bill suspected Mrs. Turner allowed the cheaters to set up shop in her saloon because she was receiving a kickback. His banning them effectively blackballed from the other area saloons. He bought a better brand of booze and charged the same. He said we were making plenty of profit just the same. He also brought in Mexican beer. Bill said it was more expensive but worth it. I don’t drink beer so I took his word for it.
I objected to the saloon girls working there being prostitutes but he insisted that that was the way things were. We wouldn’t attract enough paying customers without the girls and the girls couldn’t earn what they needed to without prostituting themselves. It was a cost of doing business but it added to the profits too. I supposed I didn’t have a choice in the matter but I wasn’t going to put up with any forced recruitment like Mrs. Turner tried to do with me.
Bill agreed and said he always disapproved of a lot of Mrs. Turner’s methods but there was nothing he could do about it then. We talked to the girls and explained the new way of doing business. A couple of girls told me they had been coerced into the trade but there was no going back as far as they were concerned. Their families had disowned them and they’d never attract a decent man given how they earned their living.
That still didn’t stop me from worrying about their health. Given my training in the health field I knew venereal disease and unwanted pregnancy was a constant danger. There was little to be done in this era but I tried to help. I told the girls if they wanted to work at the Long Branch Saloon they had to follow some health rules. That included having the customer wash his genitals first and then visually inspecting them for rashes or sores. Any evidence of disease would get him ejected and banned. It was the best that I could do under the circumstances. The girls had their own methods to avoid getting pregnant.
Bill started asking to see my Glock 27. He’d only seen the business end of it. He initially thought it was a derringer but I had definitely piqued his curiosity. I ignored his requests and I knew I had to put it away for safekeeping. Automatics hadn’t been invented yet and it would raise too many other questions which I wasn’t prepared to answer.
The two men I’d killed had Colt .45 1873 Single Action Army revolvers with seven inch barrels. I found a gunsmith in town who was willing to trade both ‘73s and a little cash for a new “Shopkeeper” with a three and a half inch barrel. The Colt .45 is too big for a small woman but I was forced to learn on it by my daddy who was a gun buff so I was used to handling one; with both hands though. A leather smith constructed a shoulder holster I designed which I kept hidden by a light cloak I took to wearing. Mrs. Turner carried a derringer in her handbag so when I “inherited” that, I did the same.
A scattergun was kept under the bar for security and I persuaded Bill to get another one for office security and have the barrels and stock shortened. We didn’t have a need for distance in a small office. Bill didn’t know anyone he trusted enough to handle security upstairs. I had killed the previous one. His name was Luke. We rigged up a bell pull that would alert anyone in the office if there was trouble downstairs. Also, a special door knock would signal trouble. I taught him the “shave and a haircut, two bits” knock. Depending on the code, the one on the inside of the office would know approximately what to expect and how to prepare. We also rigged up a spy hole so that the saloon floor could be observed from the office.
One late Saturday night I was upstairs counting up the receipts when I heard the bell. I peeked through the spy hole and saw Bill, Sam, my new bartender and Mike, the swamper lying facedown on the floor. A masked man was covering them with a gun while two others were climbing the stairs where I was. It was closing time and all the drunks had been cleared out. I unlocked the door and brought out the shotgun. I trained the gun on the door and let them have it with both barrels when they burst in. In the excitement I aimed kind of high and the blast decapitated both of them. I jumped over the bodies but slipped on some gore and landed on my butt. That probably saved my life. Two rounds lodged into the wall behind me. I brought out my “Shopkeeper” and drilled two rounds through the chest of the other clown that shot at me.
“Are you guys all right,” I shouted. “Is there anyone else I should be worrying about?” The three fellows were still on the floor and I was frantic for them but I didn’t want to expose myself if there were more bad guys.
“We-we’re all right, I think,” I heard Bill stammer. “Are you all right?”
“The bad guys up here are dead.” I finally saw my men moving. I raced down the stairs and threw myself into Bill’s arms. I almost knocked him down.
“You had me so worried,” I cried.
“I had you worried? I was worried about you.” The other two men were grinning at us. Bill noticed and got kind of embarrassed. He tried to ease me away but I stuck to him like a leech. I didn’t care if he was embarrassed.
The two bodies upstairs couldn’t be identified right away. Their faces had been too badly mangled. The third body was one of the professional gamblers Bill had banned. After a little investigation the other two turned out to be the other gamblers Bill had ousted. They had run into some bad luck and were going to finance their move to friendlier surroundings by robbing us. Their luck ran out permanently though. Tough shit!
Word got around that Miss Kitty at the Long Branch was no one to fuck with. Of course, being a saloon owner I was shunned by polite society. I didn’t mind. I was mostly an agnostic so I didn’t attend the local church services either. That doesn’t mean I shunned them if I could be of help.
Women gossip and saloon girls are no different from other women. They made up things too claiming I was a physician once. Before you know it, I had people stopping me on the street asking me about their aches and pains. The one available physician wasn’t in town much more than two days every two weeks because he had a wide territory to cover. Even though I denied I was a physician I started administering first aid for minor injuries and even some major injuries. I can’t claim to have saved any lives but I probably did in the long run. That’s because I stressed hygiene and infection prevention.
I finally met the local physician. He came into the Long Branch and introduced himself. Dr. Stone wasn’t put out at all by my treating patients. In fact, he was grateful for the break it gave him. He was open to my suggestion that his patients would fare better if they were taught better hygiene and wound care. He said that a lot of the stuff I talked about like sterile dressings was unaffordable for a country physician.
“I’ll buy the stuff you need.” He looked long and hard at me as if he wasn’t certain I was serious.
“I’ll give you a list,” he replied. I knew he was testing me. Needless to say, he was pleasantly surprised when the stuff he asked for was waiting for him when he next arrived in town. There was a lot more than he asked for but I did exclude some remedies I knew to be bogus.
With Dr. Stone praising me like I was the second coming, the rest of the community started noticing me and ignoring my unsavory profession. Not that I really cared. Bill was happy. He said the investment was good for business.
One day I was walking back to the saloon from an errand. I saw some black folks walking toward me; two men and a woman. They stopped and stepped aside to let me pass. I hesitated as I passed the younger man. Somehow I knew him...or at least recognized him. I think he recognized me too because he started to run. I pulled my Shopkeeper.
“Freeze motherfucker!” I yelled. He froze. The woman screamed and the older man raised his hands.
“You two back off. This is between him and me. Down on the ground! Put your hands behind your head!” He obeyed. He was the purse snatcher at the 7-Eleven. I was attracting a crowd but I didn’t care. The woman sprawled across his body and begged me not to kill him.
“Please, Ma’am,” the older man said. “I don’ know what he did to you but please don’ shoot him. He don’ deserve that, do he?”
“That’s a matter of opinion. He stole from me.”
“Did you steal from this lady, boy? Cuz, if you did you is in a heap of a lot of trouble.”
“She’s wrong. I didn’t steal from nobody.”
“Could there be a mistake, Ma’am?”
“Anything’s possible.” I didn’t think so though.
“My name’s Joe,” said the older man. “You be Miss Kitty from the Long Branch Saloon, ain’tcha? I heard good things about you.”
“Miss Kitty? Long Branch Saloon? You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me,” said the kid on the ground.
“Now I’m certain,” I said. Joe pulled the girl off and kicked the boy in the ribs. I was beginning to like Joe.
“You don’t talk to a lady that way,” said Joe. “He say his name is Jamal. What kind of a dang fool name is that, I ask you. We found him hidin’ behind our chicken coop ravin’ ‘bout civil rights an’ other crazy things. We figger he got into some bad likker.”
“That’ll do it,” I allowed.
“I dunno what he stole but he didn’t have nothin’ wit’ him when we found him.”
“He dropped it when he was running away from me. I got it back, but he caused an awful lot of trouble because of what he did.”
“Well, is there any way he can make up for the trouble he caused? Without goin’ to jail, I mean? You see, he got my daughter Sarah here in the family way. He say he will marry her when he finds a job but there ain’t no jobs around.”
I didn’t feel like killing Jamal anymore lying there helpless. Unless he pissed me off again. But I just couldn’t let him get away with what he did. I decided to make his life more miserable than it probably already was.
“I’ve got a job for him,” I said.
“He can be the assistant swamper at the Long Branch.”
“What’s that,” Jamal asked.
“Your job will be to clean the jakes out back and keep ‘em clean.”
“The jakes? You mean the outhouse? No fu-, uh no way am I gonna be a janitor.” I cocked the hammer of my pistol.
“I’ll do it. I’ll do it.”
Since Jamal now had a job, I didn’t think there was any reason to delay the nuptials between him and Sarah. I even paid for the wedding. Sarah seemed like a sweet girl. I hoped she could straighten Jamal out. There wasn’t going to be a honeymoon. The other thing I paid for was a photograph of the wedded couple and a separate photograph of Jamal. I told Jamal if he ever skipped out on me, I was going to have his picture plastered all over the country offering a substantial reward for his safe return. When I got him back I’d snip off his nuts before torturing him to death. I think the young man got the point. Bill never did ask me about Jamal. He did respect my privacy and I appreciated it.
I put Mike in charge of Jamal and told him not to let Jamal slack off for a minute. Mike liked the idea of being in charge of someone. He didn’t let me down. Jamal’s wages were paid directly to his father in law. I was finally getting some revenge. To my surprise, Jamal got along surprisingly well with the other guys and I even caught them on occasion talking and sharing a beer, but what could I do when one of the goof-offs with them was Bill?
I found out from Joe that one of the things Jamal was trying to do was teaching the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) to the black children who were all pretty much illiterate; just like their parents. The trouble was that there were few books and other equipment to work with. I figured Jamal put Joe up to putting the touch on me but I didn’t mind. I bought a whole bunch of stuff for the children and even gave Jamal time off in the morning to teach. They met in a shack which they called the Long Branch School. I thought Jamal was a good man underneath his bluster but there was no way I was going to go soft on him.
Bill didn’t trust banks. One of the banks he dealt with had gone under. This was before the time of deposit insurance so he lost his savings. Banks were necessary for some transactions just the same and I was there to purchase a bank draft for some equipment we were ordering.
I was waiting in line when three masked men walked in and ordered us all against the wall. Ironically, the Sheriff was there too. All the men were relieved of their weapons. Being a woman, they didn’t think I was armed. I tried to slip my money pouch behind me but one of the hombres spotted it and ordered me to hand it over. That pissed me off to no end! I was standing slightly behind the Sheriff. I drew my Shopkeeper and waited for my chance. As soon as the three hombres were all together I let ‘em have it. Three shots and three bad guys down. I walked outside, saw another masked man waiting with the horses and shot him down too. I walked back inside and picked up my money pouch.
“Can I get some service here,” I yelled.
I don’t know why I did it, but I told everyone that the Sheriff was the real hero. He had slipped me his hideout gun and stood in front of me to act as cover. The Sheriff didn’t disabuse anyone of that notion. Needless to say, he didn’t need to do much campaigning to get reelected. He was so grateful he stopped soliciting us for bribes. That made it worthwhile after all.
One morning I was sitting with the guys in the saloon. It was early and there were no customers. The saloon girls didn’t start coming in until the afternoon. A short fellow walked up to us and tipped his hat.
“You are the woman known as Miss Kitty?”
“My name is Mr. Gray. I have something to discuss with you in private.”
“Can you give me a clue as to the topic, Mr. Gray?”
“It concerns an unfortunate incident outside the convenience store known as the 7-Eleven.” Bill must have become alarmed at my reaction because he almost made a grab for Mr. Gray.
“It’s all right, Bill. I have to talk to Mr. Gray alone. You guys go take a break.”
“This concerns me too,” said Jamal. “I wanna stay.”
“That is acceptable,” said Mr. Gray. Bill and the others moved away out of earshot but they certainly didn’t leave. I think they were getting ready to shoot Mr. Gray at the slightest sign of a threat.
“Please sit down, Mr. Gray. May I offer you some refreshment?”
“No thank you. I cannot partake of Earth-based refreshments.”
“Then I take it you’re from another planet?”
“That is correct.” Well, this was going to be interesting.
“So, what happened? How did we get here?”
“We were studying your present Earth culture as well as your past when our instrumentation mal-functioned and cause an anomaly; a time portal opened up. By the time we had it repaired you two had gone through the portal. We tried to recover you both but our instrumentation gave us many false readings. It took time to locate you. I am here to offer our abject apology and to take you back to your own time.”
“What about me?” Jamal asked.
“That would be most inadvisable. The security video at the convenience store identified you as Miss Parker’s assailant. The authorities assume you slew this woman, hid the body and are on the run. You have already been featured on the television program “America’s Most Wanted”.”
“Oh Lord,” Jamal muttered. “Well, how bad can it be? If Miss Kitty shows up alive and healthy, they’ll know I didn’t kill her.”
“That is true,” Mr. Gray replied. “However, there is a high probability you will still be incarcerated for quite a number of your Earth years, perhaps ten to twenty. Miss Perkins reappearance may be explained by a case of amnesia caused by a blow to the head and then the recovery of her memory.”
“Couldn’t you...no, I guess not.” Jamal sighed and shook his head.
“You’re doing okay here, Bubba,” I said. “Besides, you have a wife...and a baby on the way. By the way, I’m letting you off the hook. You’re no longer assistant swamper. I’ll ask Bill to fund your teaching position at the Long Branch School so you can go at it full time.” I was already making plans for my grand reappearance into the 21st century.
“You’re doing okay here too, ya know.”
“I was never meant to be here. No one will miss me once I’ve gone.” I signaled Bill to come over.
“Is everything all right?”
“Everything’s fine. Mr. Gray has offered me a ride home and I’ve decided to take him up on it. The Long Branch Saloon is now all yours.”
“Well,” Bill replied. “You slipped into Poker Bluffs mysteriously and you’re slipping out just as mysteriously. You shall be missed.”
“Thank you, kind sir.”
“Austin is not that far away. Perhaps we can exchange visits soon.”
“It ain’t goin’ to be that kinda goin’ away, Bill,” said Jamal. “Once she leaves that’s it. She ain’t comin’ back no more and you can’t visit her.”
“If that’s the case, Miss Kitty, then I bid you a fond farewell.”
“Why don’t you tell her what you told me?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You do too know what I’m talkin’ about.”
“It’s a moot point now, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know what that word means, but if you don’t tell her I will.”
“I told you that in confidence.”
“You did not. You didn’t swear me to no secrecy.”
“What are you two talking about?”
“Bill loves you.”
“He wants to marry you.”
“Damn you, Jamal.”
“If he wasn’t such a coward he would’ve proposed to you long ago.”
“Is that true, Bill?”
“Yes! By god, it’s true. I think I’ve loved you from the moment you walked into the saloon wearing that silly costume. I came to the office that night with the sole intent of killing Luke and Mrs. Turner because I knew what they intended for you. I was relieved to find those two already dead and you safe even as you told me I had to die also. There! I’ve said it. I love you and I will always love you even if I never see you again for the rest of my days. I’m very sorry to see you go.”
“Who says I’m going anywhere? I can stay if I damn well please.” I turned to Mr. Gray.
“We would prefer to take you out of this situation.”
“And why is that?”
“You have displayed remarkably violent tendencies since your arrival. We fear you may kill someone not meant to die at that time and then the future might well be changed. That hasn’t happened yet but it could happen the very next time.”
“I promise not to kill anyone else.”
“If you hold to that promise we will allow you to stay,” said Mr. Gray. “If you do not we will have to resort to an involuntary relocation for you.”
“I promise. I promise.” I jumped out of my chair and ran into Bill’s arms.
“I’m so glad I didn’t kill you.”
“I’m glad too, my dearest.”
“So ask me.”
“Ask you what?”
“Ask me to marry you.”
“Will you marry me and be my wife?”
“I’ve got witnesses to your proposal. Do you realize that?”
“I most certainly do.”
“Well, the answer is yes, I’ll marry you. When?”
“Today, if you want. I’ll find someone to marry us right away.” I kissed Bill right on the lips. His face turned a bright red but he returned my kiss. It was so cute. Jamal sat there wearing a shit-eatin’ grin. We got married that very same day.
Well, in order to keep my promise to Mr. Gray, I realized I had to retire from the Long Branch Saloon. Bill is managing the saloon but he is looking to sell out and get something smaller so he can spend more time with me and the children. Jamal is doing well as a teacher. Jamal’s wife Sarah cooks and keeps house for me. Joe helps out too. If you’re reading this, it is some time in 2010 or later and I am long dead. With the exception of my family, I don’t believe I’ve missed much by staying behind in the 19th century...except for maybe some of the goodies from the 7-Eleven.