The following day, Sadie got up a little bit before the sun came up. John was still waiting on most of his livestock, it took quite a while for people to drive cattle across the country, but he did have chickens…and he sure as shit had a rooster! At least, he would as long as the damn thing stopped crowing after the morning call since Sadie had taken the precaution of not keeping any of her guns near the bed.
She had heard John and Jack moving about. Uncle, to the surprise of no one, was still snoring away in his bed, and Abigail hadn't quite started making breakfast. Sadie had taken the time to write some letters. She had some shipping brochures, timetables indicating when she could catch the ship that would take her out of the country for good. She'd half thought of just saying her goodbyes and going, but Charles had told her that he was leaving today, and she did want to stay at least long enough to say her goodbyes to him before she made her way. She would, of course, say her goodbyes to John, Abigail, Jack and yes, even Uncle, but she was still turning over in her mind what exactly to tell them. They knew she planned to leave the country, but after that, she hadn't given them any details. She didn't want to burden them with the details that she intended to paint the bullseye for everything squarely on her own forehead and that once she left, it would be the last time they would see her. Arthur had done his part for them, and now that she had her payback, it was time for her to do her part.
The schedules had some very nice options. She didn't really know too much where she wanted to go, frankly anywhere that wasn't here was a good option, and once she had crossed the border out of the United States and beyond the law's reach, it really didn't matter to her. Anywhere was as good as anywhere else. She had considered Mexico, but the time she spent there with Landon Ricketts had reminded her entirely too much of New Austin, a place she'd be happy if she never saw again. She thought perhaps somewhere a little further out would be good.
There was now a ship that actually went to Guarma! Since the revolution, a rather nice way of saying when Arthur, Dutch, Bill, Javier and Micah had created merry hell, it had gotten a lot nicer and the people there were as free as anyone could be. However, she couldn't quite shake the image of some of the stories Arthur had told her and decided to give that a pass too. So, she was thinking primarily of South America. Most of the places there sounded like they'd make a good home, wherever she went she'd need to start from scratch, but with her share of the loot, that wasn't going to be too much of an issue.
She'd ended up making the choice by virtue of the boat that left first. There was one that left from Saint Denis in a few days, giving her time to pack up her belongings and have them taken by stage to the city ready to be loaded onto the ship. Four days…that was how long it would be. Four days, and she could leave this all behind for good. She wrote the letter to the harbour to book her voyage, and now that only left one loose end to tie up.
She did feel a little badly asking Levin to move once again, but since he liked Saint Denis, she doubted he'd mind too much going there to get the last of her story. He had already agreed that once she met him and finished his notes for his book, he would give her time to leave the country so that by the time the book hit the shelves, she would be long since gone.
She heard a knock on the door, and looked around to see John standing in the doorway.
"Sadie, it's time." He told her. She jerked his head in the direction of the letters. "Anything important?"
"Just bookin' my trip." She told him. "You can tell Jack he'll have his room back in a couple of days."
"He'll be glad to hear that." John chuckled. "You remember how Uncle snores."
She just smiled, before sealing the envelopes. She got up and followed John out of the house.
When they got there, Charles was finishing loading up the stage. Given the baggage he was carrying, he had also opted to use a slightly more modern method of travel than a horse. He had a hell of a lot more bags than when he arrived, and if any of the coachmen looked inside them, they'd be pretty shocked to say the least. When they split up the loot, they left the cash with John, so that Sadie and Charles would take their share in the gold. It weighed more, but once they got to their destination, they could trade it for local currency.
He went to his horse, whispering in its ears. He lowered his head, and tapped his hooves. Charles couldn't take the horse with him, and so he was leaving him behind. He handed the reins to Jack.
"You take care of him now." Charles told the young man. John had taught Jack to ride a pony, but he was starting to get bigger, and pretty soon he'd need a larger horse. Charles had always had a good eye for horses, picking good, strong steeds, so Jack would be getting a fine animal. "He's a proud beast. You treat him right, he'll always do right by you."
"I will, sir." Jack assured him. Charles ruffled his hair, before looking to Uncle. He shook his hand.
"You earn your keep." He told him, earning a bad-tempered snort from Uncle. It was a running joke. Uncle was bone-idle, and could spend a whole day without moving an inch, but they did know he had his uses. The farm was a testament to that. They literally couldn't have built the place without him. He went to Abigail next, hugging her.
"You two take care of each other." Charles said to them as he moved next to John, first shaking his hand, then hugging him tightly. "If you ever find yourself north of the border, ask after me. I'll make sure you're looked after."
"If we ever do end up there, I most certainly will." John assured him. "Presuming we don't all starve to death while I figure out this farmin' thing."
"You've got chickens and soon you'll have cows." Charles reminded him. "You won't go hungry with that."
He moved next towards Sadie, who just stood, looking at him for a bit. She just smiled a little.
"So, do I bow or what?" She joked, in reference to his new station. John and Abigail looked a little confused. Charles hadn't told them why he was leaving, they figured it was just that he felt it was time to go back home. Charles just smiled.
"I think this is good enough." He told her, pulling her in, hugging her tightly. "I'm sorry I never said this the last time. Goodbye Mrs Adler."
Sadie looked to him as he parted from her. She didn't say anything in response, instead just nodding and patting him on the shoulder. There was a little bit of a lump in her throat, and she felt a tear rolling down her face, which she swept away.
Charles got into the stagecoach, closing the door behind him. With a crack of the whip, the coach rolled away. They all waved as it disappeared into the distance.
"I'm sure gonna miss him." Abigail sighed.
"You and me both." John responded. "Come on, Jack, let's get that new horse of yours used to you."
"How about you darlin'?" Abigail asked, looking to Sadie. She just wiped away another tear.
"I just…I need to go into town and run a little errand." She told her.
"Well, since you're going anyway, mind picking up some bread?" Abigail asked her. "I tried baking, but…it didn't quite work out."
"No problem." Sadie replied, getting on her horse and riding out.
The following day, it was Sadie's turn to say her goodbyes. She had mailed her letter to the harbour to book her passage, and she had put in a letter to Levin. She'd ridden past the saloon, knowing he liked to drink where he could watch people go by so that he could see her and know she had given him further instructions.
The stage was loading up her bags, once again, a surprising number and weight, but once she got to South America, she could trade in the gold for some good, local cash.
She was packing up the last of her belongings from her room, making sure she didn't leave anything behind. She wasn't overly sentimental, hell, she'd probably be abandoning most of her possessions and buying new once she got there, but she didn't want to risk leaving anything that might tie her to the farm. John stood in the doorway and just cleared his throat, catching her attention.
"It is dusty today." She joked.
"Very funny." He replied. "So, you got everything?"
"Looks like it." She answered. John just shook his head.
"Not quite." He told her. He reached behind the door, bringing out a large, wooden case. She watched as he put it on the bed, opening it up. Sadie held a hand over her mouth as she saw what was inside.
"Arthur's." He replied. There they were, all of Arthur's old guns, packed away, oiled and cleaned, ready for use.
"I…I…I can't…" She stammered.
"He'd want someone to get some use out of 'em." John told her. "And since I'm givin' this farming thing a go, and I feel like Abigail reckons they're just a temptation, I reckon you'd get more use out of 'em than I will."
"John, that's…those are…" She said, running her hands over them. Arthur had treated his guns very well in his time. They were all heavily customised and very ornate. "Those would probably be worth…"
"I wouldn't feel right sellin' 'em." John interrupted her. "And if you're gonna set up that business, or set up with that handsome revolutionary, I reckon they'd serve you real well."
Sadie picked up the Lichtfield Repeater, the one she'd given Arthur on the day they took Hanging Dog Ranch. It was engraved very ornately, inlaid with gold, and positively gleaming. She checked down the sights, cocking the mechanism. She just nodded, before putting it down. She went to John, hugging him tightly.
"I'll take real good care of 'em." She promised him. "Thank you, John."
John helped Sadie out with the last of her bags and the case, handing them to the coachmen who loaded them up. Sadie went to Jack, hugging him.
"You take real good care of your folks now, you hear." She told him. "And I expect to hear about you writin' those books. Don't you go takin' after your dad."
"Hey!" John chuckled. She just smiled at him and shook her head.
"I don't know…writin' stories…you think…?"
"Hey, if Mary-Beth can do it, I reckon you should be able to just fine." Sadie replied. "But…uh…maybe not the same KIND of books, because thinkin' of the kid that I once sat on my knee writin' about that stuff? I don't know if my brain could take that."
They all laughed at that. Sadie went to Uncle, hugging him.
"You old creep." She said affectionately. "You better see to it this one learns to be a real good farmer."
"With me at the helm, what could go wrong?" Uncle asked her.
"Yeah…best I don't answer that." Sadie replied. She went finally to Abigail. She looked into her eyes, taking Abigail's hands.
"You were always so kind to me. I don't think…no…I know…I'd not be around today if it weren't for you." Sadie told her. She embraced her warmly.
"You find a good life, you hear?" Abigail told her. Sadie didn't bother answering that. She didn't know what kind of life she was going to find. She climbed onto the coach, closing the door behind her, and settled in as it started to roll away.
A couple of days later, Levin made his way to a tea room in Saint Denis. He'd gotten Sadie's letter, informing him that she wanted to meet up with him before she left. This was what he was waiting for all along, the final piece of the story.
He was about to sit down and wait when one of the waiters went to him, coughing to get his attention.
"Sir, the lady in the corner has requested your company." The waiter told him. Levin looked over to the table he was indicating, seeing a woman dressed in the latest Saint Denis finery. A long, ankle-length, pale blue skirt, and delicate leather boots, with a white blouse. She was wearing a hat that looked like an Algernon Wasp creation if ever he saw one. It was the same colour as the skirt, and had numerous plumes of various colours cascading from it. The hat was tipped down over the lady's face.
"Are you sure?" Levin asked him. The waiter nodded.
"She was most insistent." He answered. Levin just nodded, before heading over to the table. He removed his hat as he got to the table.
"I understand you asked for the pleasure of my company?" He asked her.
"Well, you ain't that bad a person to spend some time with." A familiar voice said. She tipped the hat upward, revealing her face.
"Mrs Adler!" He exclaimed. He had never seen Sadie dressed anything like this. "You look…well…you look WELL!"
"The stomach's still a little tender, but…I just try not to laugh too hard." She replied.
"Your outfit is…"
"I just figured it's probably for the best that I try to blend in a little." Sadie told him. She handed him a stack of papers. "Here's what I promised, now if you want to start readin' 'em now, that'd be fine, because my ship leaves tomorrow so that don't leave long if you want to ask any questions."
"Pardon my asking, but…you've never worried too much about blending in before." He stated. "Why would it be an issue now?"
"Let's just say that pretty soon it'll be a good thing I'll be on that ship." She told him, tapping the papers. Levin picked the pages up and started reading.
In Blackwater one morning, Agent Ross strolled into the Bureau of Investigation building, strutting like a King among his subjects. His self-important swagger and puffed out chest were the mark of a man for whom everything had fallen into place.
His career had been made eight years ago when he broke the Van Der Linde Gang. The Pinkerton Detective Agency had been a fine employer for him, a great learning ground and a good stepping stone to greater prestige and glory. He hadn't cared that he didn't get one red cent from the bounties of the Van Der Linde Gang. They had scattered to the winds, run off and disappeared like rats into the wilderness. The only one confirmed as dead was Arthur Morgan, and while the five thousand dollars on his head would have given him an enviable life, he had traded it in for something much more valuable.
The others in the office continued working, checking mail, leads, and generally trying to avoid his gaze as he came in. Although he loved the fame and prestige his new position had given him, he was not willing to stop there. He had made some rather bold promises to the press when he was being lauded as the man to civilise the country. He had broken the most famous outlaw gang, but he had promised more than that. He had promised that before his time was done, he would bring every last outlaw either to prison, or the gallows.
It was a big promise, but one he enthusiastically intended to keep. He got to his office, a large, gross affair that had been decked out with all sorts of wood panelling, carvings and picture frames containing the various headlines he had been in all around.
He wore a conservative, though expensive suit, which he wore with the jacket open, and the waistcoat closed. His tie was perfectly straight, and a bowler hat looked like it was wedged permanently onto his head. He had a gold watch, whose decorative chain stretched across his belly, and his face was clean-shaven, other than a styled, but not overly flamboyant moustache.
On one wall, there were a number of pictures of fugitives still at large, the most prominent being Bill Williamson, Micah Bell, Javier Escuella and Dutch Van Der Linde himself. There were a bunch of papers all around them, with pieces of string connecting up various potential leads that he had heard of. He looked forward to the day he could take each of those pictures down. He sat behind his desk, seeing the pile of mail in his in-box extended up almost a whole foot. He just grunted, before opening a drawer and pulling out a bottle of wry, pouring himself a glass. He put the bottle away and pulled out another one, this one full of fine cigars. As he leaned across his desk, activating a table lighter, his partner, Archer Fordham came in.
"Good afternoon sir." Fordham told him. "How was your trip?"
"Stuff and nonsense." He grunted. There were parts of his job he hated now. While he did love the press, the glory and all the benefits that came with it, he was becoming trapped by his own reputation. He could have retired a couple of years ago. He probably should have, but people in the Capital and the Press kept pressuring him to stay. He'd made grand promises and he'd brought in some impressive results, so they were a little reluctant to get him go out to pasture just yet. "Any news?"
"Nothing concrete." Fordham told him, putting a package on the top of his in-tray. "This came for you this morning…"
"I swear, even when he stops committing crimes that Bell seems determined to give me ulcers." He complained, grabbing the package. He tore it open, pulling out the contents. Fordham decided to leave before he got in an even worse mood. Ross checked the contents of the package on his desk. There was a letter, a map, and a little box. He started to read the letter.
'Dear Agent Ross, I hope you find this well.' It began. 'May I congratulate you on your fine reputation. However, I feel like even someone as illustrious as you could use a helping hand once in a while. A little point in the right direction from someone with their "ear" to the ground.'
He furrowed his brows, before looking to the box. He opened it, and dropped it almost straight away.
"Jesus Christ!" He exclaimed, seeing the ear flop onto his desk. He picked up the letter.
'The little gift I sent you, that belonged to Micah Bell. You want to find the rest of the son of a bitch? He's up on Mount Hagan. Now, I know you couldn't catch your own ass without a good guide, so find enclosed a little map that should be helpful. Yours Sincerely, Kid Van Der Linde.'
Back in Saint Denis, the afternoon was starting to give way to the evening. Sadie just sat patiently while Levin read the final accounts of her movements. He'd already got the story about Micah, the mountain, her injury. Now, she was just filling him in on the last parts. Her movements in those final days. He looked up to her as he finished.
"South America?" He asked her. She just nodded.
"My stuff should be nicely loaded up." She told him. "I reckon it'll take that sack of shit Ross at least a couple of days to get to the top of Mount Hagan. It'll probably take at least a few weeks for you to have this book out, so by then, I'll be long since gone."
"South America?" He asked again. Sadie just looked to him curiously.
"Yeah, what's wrong with that?" She asked him. He just looked to her for a moment.
"And that's where you WANT to go?" He asked her. She just shook her head.
"You've completely lost me Mr Levin." She stated.
"I just thought…some of the things…you didn't…" He started to say, but he couldn't quite form a cohesive thought. She just sighed and shook her head.
"I hope you write your book better than that Mr Levin." She replied, getting up from the table. "I'm gonna head to my cabin now. The ship sails early in the morning, so…I guess this is goodbye."
"It looks that way." Levin replied, sounding a little disappointed. He offered her a hand, but she turned it away, instead opting to hug him.
"Take care of yourself Mr Levin." She told him. "And I'll be buyin' that book, so you be sure and make me look good."
With that, she headed for the ship. Levin watched her go, before packing up his papers, all except for a couple of pages, and headed towards the room he had booked. In the morning, he would begin his long journey back home to Baltimore, which would give him some time to collate the notes and figure out what he wanted to put into the book and what would remain just in his confidence. He read some of the passages again. He'd been a writer his entire adult life, he felt like he was able to read people, but it seemed on this…it seemed he had read it wrong.
In her cabin, Sadie threw her hat onto the bed. She had booked herself a first-class cabin, figuring if she was only going to be making the trip once, then she would do it right. It was larger than her old homestead, with a huge four-poster bed, antique furniture, and had some refreshments set out. She grabbed a decanter and poured herself a brandy to get rid of the taste of tea. She honestly had no idea why anyone would drink tea. It made her think perhaps the citizens of Boston had the right idea.
She took the cut crystal glass and headed out onto the balcony, looking out over Saint Denis. She would miss her friends, but the country itself…it had taken enough from her. She'd had enough, and she was glad that soon it would be behind her.
But what next?
She turned this way and that. Had she really heard that? She just shook her head. She must have been hearing things.
She took a sip of her brandy and tried to imagine what she would do once she got to South America. She had plenty of money to start fresh pretty much anywhere she wanted. Hell, that was even if she wanted to. She could easily just buy a little home for herself and live out her days with no one to piss her off…
…so why did that sound so bad? There was a time that sounded like exactly what she wanted. So why did that thought not satisfy her now? OK, she had always been used to working, surely that had to be it. She had skills that people would always need…
…so why did that not feel like it was the answer either? Spending her life running around after bastards until finally one of them was just quick or lucky enough to bring her down? She'd always thought about the end, she had since that day on the edge of the creek near Hanging Dog Ranch. The day would come that she would ask…why go on? Was that what was on her mind now? She took another sip. She could remember John yelling at her, screaming at her for even suggesting that kind of end.
"There are people that care about you Sadie." His voice echoed in her mind. "More'n you'll ever know."
She leaned on the balcony. Why was this bothering her now? All she needed to do now was wait until morning, she could figure all this out when she was no longer in the country…
There was a breeze, and her braid fell before her. She could see the eagle feather trinket in her hair. She couldn't bring herself to remove it, even when she was in disguise.
"I never wanted to say goodbye." Charles' voice came to her. She gulped down some more brandy. Where had that come from? Why was she thinking about…?
"I owed Rains Fall a great debt." Charles' voice said again. "He returned something very precious to me."
She held her head in her hands. A long-dead memory came to her, or…was it a dream. A delusion. She couldn't be sure. It was back in Lakay, when she was teetering between life and death after the Night Folk attacked. In a misty, shimmering scene before her, she could see Rains Fall and Charles.
"These medicines are rare. They are very precious." Rains Fall said.
"I will do whatever it takes to repay." Charles promised him. "Please, I pray she has my heart."
Sadie almost dropped the glass. Was that really a memory? She had been upset when Charles had told her he never wanted to say goodbye, but was that because he didn't want to say goodbye or…
Memories flashed to her. Those times in Waipiti, teaching her to hunt as his people did. Those early days by the campfire in the many gang camps. The time he wrapped the blanket around her up on Mount Hagan. The glass slipped from her hand, crashing to the deck below.
She ran from her cabin, down to the lower deck, where a porter was looking to the glass, trying to figure out what was going on. She grabbed him.
"Get my bags." She told him.
"I'm sorry?" He asked.
"I've made a huge mistake! Get my bags!" She told him, pointing frantically to another ship. "Put them on that ship!"
"But Mrs Adler, the bags are already…"
She grabbed some cash out of her clothing, holding it in front of him.
"I will give you a hundred dollars RIGHT NOW if you get my bags on that boat!" She told him. The man just took the money, nodding frantically.
Six weeks later.
Levin was in his home, back in Baltimore. A nice little apartment with a good view of the city. Kind of a nice little hidey hole that gave him privacy, but enough access to the outside world to get some inspiration.
He had finished his book remarkably quickly. Between his notes and Sadie's, the story was very comprehensive, and he only needed to rework the parts that involved John, carefully editing him out of the story. Sadie was now long since gone, no doubt, he imagined, raising all sorts of hell down south. There were always fugitives, and there were regions with conflict so rife there was always someone looking for a good fighter. He wondered perhaps if he should start writing a series of stories about a travelling female mercenary, turning up to right wrongs and overthrow bandit leaders in her honour. His publisher didn't seem quite so enthusiastic about that idea though, and reminded him his Otis Miller stories were still a good source for his bread and butter.
The publisher was delighted by the book though. 'The Confessions of Sadie Adler, aka Kid Van Der Linde' had hit the shelves, and almost as soon as it had they were flying off again. There were stories of brawls taking place in some stores when people couldn't get their hands on a copy. The book was now the biggest selling thing in the country!
The shockwaves beyond the book only guaranteed its success. Once the news hit the papers, Sadie's words and confessions had blown open the mystique of the final days of the Van Der Linde Gang, and solved the mysteries of the identity of Kid Van Der Linde, and confirmed the death of Micah Bell. Agent Ross had found the corpse on the mountain some time before the book was released, and he had confirmed some of the details in the book could only have been known by someone who was there. Sadie's wanted poster was now in sheriff's offices and post offices the length and breadth of the country, but it was a moot point. She had planned it that way. Ross now had to accept that there was one Van Der Linde that was well and truly beyond his reach.
He was sitting at his desk, reading another glowing letter from his publisher with his royalties check. This book would keep him going for quite some time if this kept up. It didn't matter if it took him a while to figure out the next farcical adventure for Otis Miller to go on.
He moved onto some fan letters. He was getting plenty, but he liked to read four or five before starting to write each day. Kind of a boost to his ego to get him going. He opened one envelope, and started to read.
"Dear Mr Levin, greetings from your loving niece Caroline." It began. Levin blinked a few times. He didn't have a niece called Caroline. He had a couple of nephews and nieces, but none named…
The penny dropped. Tacitus Kilgore. When Sadie had written to Tacitus, she addressed her letters as being from his niece Caroline! He shoved everything else to the side and started reading.
"I have heard you are doing very well. I managed to get a copy of your book, and I must say I enjoyed reading it thoroughly." She continued. "Though I hope you don't think it too pushy if I make a couple of suggestions. Little…updates to the story if you will."
A couple of weeks previously, Charles was in his tribe's new camp, overseeing the day's activities. They had managed to find themselves some good land, land they could work and land that they could hunt on. Children were playing, while the older ones learned from their older siblings, people were crafting tools, clothing and blankets, and some were preparing meals from the bounty of their days' labours. Charles had secured their future, using his share of the loot to buy the land. Now, there would be no reservations being torn up whenever someone else wanted the land. No, now they had somewhere to call their own…and he had the title deed to prove it.
Even Rains' Fall was doing well. As well as could be expected anyway. He was an old man, and getting quite frail. Now he no longer had the burden of leadership on his shoulders, others could take care of him and ensure he was provided for in the time he had left. Charles wandered over to some children, who were practicing throwing tomahawks by a target. He saw a young boy being mocked, and getting quite frustrated as he missed the target for the fourth or fifth time in a row.
"Come, watch this." Charles told him. He pulled out his own tomahawk, lining up with the target. "You're snatching at it. You're jerking too much, like this."
He demonstrated without releasing the tomahawk.
"The pull in your shoulder is what's making you miss." He explained. "You want to make it a nice, smooth motion, like this."
He pulled back the tomahawk past his ear, and then smoothly brought it through, again keeping his hand on it.
"No jerking, just a nice, smooth motion." Charles explained, showing him again. "You don't need to throw quickly, that's what practice is for. You can increase your speed later. For now, just make it a nice, smooth…"
He was about to throw to demonstrate, but another tomahawk flew right past him, hitting the target. He turned around, and his jaw almost hit the ground. He stared at her as she stood before him.
"Sadie!" He gasped. "I…I…"
"You must be quite something with your speeches to your people Your Highness." She greeted him. Charles just stared at her dumbfounded.
"What are you doing here?" He asked her. "I thought you were going south."
"I was." She replied, coming closer to him. Her heart was racing now. "I um…I was thinkin' about some things…and um…"
She was at a loss. She came in closer, reaching a hand up to his face, looking into his eyes. She'd been driven by hate, by anger for so long, she had never imagined that she could feel anything else. Charles put his hand on hers, holding it to her face, before reaching to her with his other hand, reaching it around behind her head. He leaned in, and pressed his lips to hers. There were a number of cheers from the children watching, but neither Charles nor Sadie noticed at all. As they parted, Sadie just looked to him, some tears running down her face.
"You really want this?" He asked her. She just nodded in response, at which they held each other in a long, warm embrace.
Back in his apartment, Levin finished reading the letter with a smile.
"Well, it's just a suggestion, a thought for a little correction in how the story ends. But now reading it, I reckon that maybe that's something of an ending just for you to enjoy.
Yours Sincerely, your loving niece Caroline."
Levin smiled brightly as he reached for his table lighter, and set light to the letter, watching it burn. He had his story, and he was happy with how it ended. It seemed he had read it right after all.