Jesse stroked the neck of the mare who showed the most distress and attempted to calm her as Davis brought around the last two mounts. She spoke a few soft words again before reaching into her pocket and pulling out a vile of clear oil. Dipping her finger in the oil, she pressed it against the nose of the mare, shhhshing her.
“It’s alright girl.” Her voice was calm and eventually the eyes of the mare drooped and her steps calmed. Jesse looked up at the older gentleman who was busy unsaddling the horses. “It’s Davis, right?”
“Aye.” He did not stop to look up at her as he deftly unbuckled the saddles and removed the reigns.
“What can you tell me about him?” Jesse asked, looking back over her shoulder towards the saloon.
“Hmm, Colin?” Davis’ gruff voice came from the other side of the stable. “He’s a self-imposed ass with a complex, that’s for sure. Aggressive but good in a fight. Hot headed, arrogant, impatient…” He sighed while he paused to think a moment. “Basically, he’s just young. This is the first real outing the kid has ever had, I think.”
“I’ve met many like him.” Jesse nodded. “But no, I was talking about the Commissioner. What can you tell me about him?”
“Oh, well. Not much, to be fair.” He came around the side of the horses to better see Jesse while stroking his silver and grey mustache. “He’s a complex man. I’ve known him a long time, but about a year ago, something changed in him. Used to be cruel and unyielding, now he’s more careful and…” His brow furrowed “reserved, I’d say.”
“Have you traveled with him often?”
“Nah, just on the missions where strange things are bound to happen.” His chuckle was deep and surprised Jesse.
“You’re a believer then?” She cocked a brow at him.
“You don’t get to be my age and not be one.” He hitched his pants up before grabbing the second saddle and hoisting it up over the railing. “Plus, you see enough weird stuff and you just go…” He lifted his hands up to his shoulders and slightly cocked his head.
“Yea, I know what you mean.” Jesse moved towards the door when Davis’s voice called to her.
“Can I ask you somethin’?”
Jesse turned and gestured for him to go ahead.
“How long you been carryin’ that gun?” His was far from accusatory, and more curious with a shade of concern.
“Sometimes too long and others… Well, feels like only a day.” Her hand rested on the ivory handle unconsciously as she looked at him. A sharp pain erupted just above her left breast and she quickly turned away from him. “You boys should get some rest. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us.” Before he could respond, Jesse was through the doors and up the back staircase to her room.
It was a humble room, having lived most of her life either on the run or in the back of a wagon, she didn’t have much to call her own. Just an old worn picture of a bunch of degenerates, a pack full of everything she would ever need, and a beautifully drawn portrait of herself. Her fingers lightly brushed the picture when a drop of blood splattered against the wooden top of the desk. She pulled back the lapel of her coat and saw blood slowly spreading across the dark threads of her undershirt. She removed her coat and hung it against the wall next to the door along with her holsters and belt.
Sitting at the desk, she stared at the old picture towards the back where he stood with his arm around her shoulders, a joyous smile on both their faces.
“I can’t do it…” She closed her eyes.
Give me the gun, Jess. His memory floated back to her. Let me carry this burden.
Even now, all these years later, she could still feel the cold ebony handle slip from her grasp the same way it did when he took the gun from her. She could feel his warm forehead press against hers as he whispered, I’ve always loved you, and I’ll do what is necessary.
“I know…” She whispered out lout to the empty room. “I love you too. Always and forever.” A single hot tear slipped down her cheek as the memory of his breath against her lips and the smell of his skin touched her mind. “I’m so sorry I’ve done this to you, Arthur.”
She pressed a finger to the blood on her shirt and pressed it against her tongue. A series of pictures flashed through her head of carnage, twisted bodies, a town on fire, and gun shots ringing in the distance. She knew the town well, as it was the location of her first scam nearly thirty years ago.
“I’ll see you soon, my love.” She whispered to the darkening room, whether she was speaking to Arthur or if she was speaking to the gun he carried, she didn’t know.
The morning came with few of the riders actually getting much sleep. The Commissioner was anxious to get going, but was far from the first one to wake. Jesse sat at the bar, all seven horses out front saddled and ready for the journey ahead. She nodded to him as he sat a few stools away and in silence they waited for the others to stumble down.
“Where are we headed this morning?” He finally broke, unable to contain his curiosity.
“Back towards moonstone.” She stated, not looking up from her drink.
Silence stretched between them once more and the others began to slowly trickle down, each in various states of unrest. Davis took a stool right next to Jesse and struck up a conversation with her while the others took seats around the saloon as far from her as they could.
Eustace served a humble, but hot breakfast to everyone except Jesse, who chose whiskey for her breakfast. Colin continued to cough roughly, while Mickey and Richard started a card game to pass the time. Randal approached the bar, the agreement in hand and cleared his throat while nodding towards Jesse who was laughing quietly at something Davis had said.
The Commissioner nodded and took the paper work and a steel pen from him before tapping the bar to get her attention.
“I need you to sign, formalities an all.” He pressed the paper towards Jesse who just shook her head.
“Verbal agreements are binding, Commissioner, and I already agreed to help.” She set her drink down on the bar and looked past him out the front windows. “We should get moving.” As she stood, the others slowly followed suit. As Colin approached her, she removed a small vial from her pouch and handed it to him. “This should help with the cough.”
“Go fuck yourself, whore.” He snapped at her, his voice raspy and painful.
A tough hand landed heavily on his shoulder and spun him on his heels. Davis leveled a glare at him and pointed at Jesse.
“A bit of respect would serve you well, young man.” Davis took the vial from Jesse who turned and marched out the door. He took a heavy sniff from the vile and nodded. “Dandelion and Yarrow, take was is given, son. Things like this rarely ever come free.” He shoved the vial into Colin’s hand and followed Jesse out of the Saloon.
Colin held the vial in his hand while the others shouldered past him, when Pete walked up next to him.
“You should take it, it’s good stuff.” He patted Colin’s shoulder and exited leaving him alone in the bar with Eustace who just stared at him. “What are you looking at?” He snapped. Eustace just shrugged and continued to clean his glass. Colin looked back down at the vial before leaving it on the table before he left.
Jesse stepped out onto the dusty lane while the others checked their horses and their tack. She took in the town for the last time, a sad smile on her face. The Commissioner approached her, but kept his distance.
“You can ride with Davis, his mount is the strongest.” He pointed back towards the black mustang who was currently being fed sugar cubes.
Jesse just smiled at him and began to whistle. It started high and clear before morphing into a long somewhat discordant and haunting melody that echoed throughout the town. All the riders turned to face the sound as the wind began to kick up the dust, heavily obscuring the road before them. It seemed like a storm was heading their way, but the skies were clear. Of in the distance, a shape formed within the dust, amorphous at first, before a hoof, a leg, a mane, ears, body and tail all appeared walking slowly towards them.
It was a horse unlike any of them had ever seen. His mane moved like water trickling down a stream while the hair on his body shifted like sand in the wind. His color was jet black in color, as were his eyes as he approached Jesse, his head lowering to her touch. She pressed her head against his and the pair shared a moment of reunion.
“Hey boy.” She breathed. “I missed you.” He nuzzled her gently and huffed. The moment seemed to stretch on forever before the Commissioner cleared his throat, pulling her back from their connection. She did not look back at him, and instead addressed her Shadow Mire. “You ready for our last ride, boy?” She placed a gentle hand on the side of his face as he gazed longingly at her, seeming to know what she was saying. She quickly mounted him and reared him back, creating a picturesque scene with a barely visible town behind her swaddled in the dust from the wind, ghost like people dotted heavily through the clouds and a wide smile showing her white teeth. She kicked him forward and began to ride, laughing out as she did. The others scrambled to mount their horses and follow.
His hooves barely seemed to touch the ground as he ran. The dust encapsulated the pair as they rode, seemingly as one, and the other riders had to squint just to see them. She leaned down against his neck and felt his warmth surround her. Peace filled her heart for the first time in years as the beating of his hooves matched the beating of her heart.
The town faded back into the distance as the rode, slowly dissolving before disappearing all together. The riders had no idea what was instore for them, but the Commissioner was determined to see this through to the end.
This horse was the initial inspiration that triggered this story. The idea was that the horse itself was made of the earth around him and he could move as swift as the wind, or as quietly as a small stream. I love horses for many reasons, but this one… This one is special. I think the rest of this story will continue, but in private. I hope to finish it and have it formally published one day, and I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed it this far, and I hope to hold this book in my hands some day soon. Thank you for coming this far, and wish me luck!