Emily didn't think her little runaway would be noticed by someone and only when she and Arthur dismounted the horse she understood how worried and angry people at camp were. Mary-Beth came running and screamed "where were you?". Right after Miss Grimshaw showed up telling her how disappointed she was by her behavior.
In a few words: Miss Grimshaw thought her disappearance had something to do with the O'Driscoll thing and ran to tell Dutch and Hosea about it. Both of them weren't pleased to know what she had done.
"Well, thank you very much. Really, thank you for your trust and for worrying about me" she murmured to the group of people who had gathered around her for the reproach. Then, moving Tilly aside, she walked away, with her head still full of all the recent events and especially the fact that she had just killed a man.
She spent the rest of the evening lying down and crying. No-one bothered to go ask her something, but instead they went to Arthur to ask him what had happened. He told the story at least five times that evening, to five different groups of people and so everybody knew about their little terrible adventure. Hosea thought about go and talk to her, but he knew that his apologies were worth nothing. Besides he couldn't understand the others's behavior: she had just made a mistake, it wasn't such a big deal.
"A mistake that might have cost us our lives, Hosea. And hers first of all" Arthur told him.
"But it didn't. History isn't made of possibilities, but of facts."
Arthur grunted and walked away, but he knew Hosea was right when he said everybody was being too tough with that girl.
The day after, Emily opened her eyes, still puffy because of the crying of the night before. It was still early in the morning and almost nobody was awake yet, so she sneaked among the tents and reached the kitchen where she took some canned peaches. Then, she reached the edge of the cliff and seated on the rock, her rock, to watch the sun rising in the sky.
Turning her head she exchanged a quick look with Dutch before she fixed her eyes on the landscape again.
"Quite a fuss you caused yesterday. I think I've never seen Miss Grimshaw in such a…"
"I don't care about how Miss Grimshaw was because of me" she replied coldly.
Dutch signed and walked closer until he stopped right by her side, but still she didn't look at him.
"Well, you should."
"I have apologized."
"I'm not talking about apologies. When Miss Grimshaw acts that way is because she is worried about one of her girls, and yesterday she was worried about you."
"She didn't seem worried, she seemed angry."
"Exactly. You'll soon understand Susan has her own way to show feelings."
Emily didn't know what to think: if what Dutch was saying was true, then those people really cared about her and they were really worried, and most of all Miss Grimshaw. So she forced herself to get over it, trying not to think anymore about Kieran, the slap, the run and the reproaches.
She finished her peaches and walked to the kitchen. There, Abigail was sipping her coffee with Mrs. Adler and at Emily's 'good morning' the former answered kindly while the latter moved her eyes away and pursed her lips in dislike. Was she still angry at her because of that story?
"Mr. Pearson you still have that oil for me, don't you?" she asked as he reached the cook.
He gave her what she had asked for and then she took an empty jar and the mortar. She brought all the tools and ingredients to the round table, took the lavender she had picked up the day before and put herself to work.
The process was easy: she had to crush the lavender flowers with the mortar, let them dry in the sun for a couple of days, put them in the jar with the oil and make it cook in the boiling water for one hour.
She had just began when Hosea came closer with a cup of coffee. He sat down in front of her and looked at her as she was working, taking a sip of the dark liquid every now and then.
"I've seen you do it often too" she stated as she crushed the flowers in the mortar.
"What do you prepare?"
"Mostly medical stuff. Like yarrow and ginseng, together they're great for health."
"That's why you knew where to find the lavender, you have a great knowledge of plants."
"I have a discreet knowledge of plants" he chuckled.
"You are too modest."
For all the time they talked, Hosea didn't mention once Kieran nor her disappearance and Emily was glad of that. All she wanted was to forget that story and she wished she wouldn't make other mistakes of that kind in the future. She was feeling rather pacific, finally getting over everything that had happened, when something slipped inside her mind, something she hadn't thought about until that moment and that made her panic.
Hosea felt the change in her state of mind and immediately asked a concerned "what's wrong?"
"I-I haven't told you what happened with Arthur" she murmured with a new strange trembling voice.
Hosea knew what she was talking about and immediately calmed down, took a deep breath and got ready for one of his speeches.
"He told me. Well, in truth, he told everyone."
Her breathe was becoming irregular and that pushed Hosea to stand up and reach her side of the table.
"What's wrong?" he asked again keeling down in front of her, but he didn't need to ask, he knew what she was thinking about.
"I-I forgot. How could I forget?" she whispered with her eyes lost in the nothingness.
"About the O'Driscoll?"
Finally their eyes met. Arthur had told him about their encounter, about the aggression, about Emily shooting the man. It was her first killing, Hosea was aware of that, and she was pretty shocked, so shocked that her mind had erased that memory for a couple of hours.
"I killed him" she whispered.
"Yes, you did."
There was no point in telling her not to worry, it wouldn't have had any effect.
"You killed him, and you did it for a good reason."
She frowned at his words, but they also had the desired effect to calm her down.
"What would have happened if you hadn't shot him?" he asked.
She dipped in her thoughts for a second.
"P-probably he would have hurt me."
"He would have killed you, and Arthur right after. You saved his life."
"Saved his life" she echoed in another whisper.
It wasn't true of course, Arthur would have found a way to get out of that situation. Hosea had seen him fight against four men, so two O'Driscoll were nothing to him, but he needed to make Emily believe that what she had done was necessary to let her accept it, and he had succeeded.
He smiled and stood up returning to his chair. She didn't know he was a perfect liar and had believed him right away, which made him feel a little ashamed, but that was a lie for a good cause. She nodded a couple of times, lost in her thoughts, and then gave him a tiny smile.
"Thank you, Hosea" she murmured.
"I just tell the truth" he replied.
"I think I'll go to Charles for the riding lesson" she said standing up.
"Oh, Charles is in town with Javier and Bill."
"Really? Well, I guess our lesson is delayed then. I'll go find something else to do."
Emily found a corner in the kitchen to leave her lavender flowers to sundry and started wandering around camp to find something to do. Hosea's words had calmed her. She wasn't proud nor happy of what she had done, but thinking about it, she had done it in order to defend herself and Arthur's life. Besides, that man was a criminal, part of the gang that had killed Sadie's husband, he probably deserved to die.
What about Kieran then? She asked herself. Does he deserve to be tied there in that way? Emily shook her head. It seemed that the more she wanted to send those thoughts away, the more those thoughts came back to her. She had to distract herself.
She headed to her tent hoping that there she would have found a distraction. Maybe the girls could help her. Only when she got there she found a Mary-Beth, a Tilly and a Karen with long faces, and the air over them was heavy with boredom.
"What could we do?" asked Emily sitting next to them and assuming their same expression.
"We might find a job, if we had the chance to go to Valentine" said Karen.
The said chance soon arrived, when Arthur woke up and decided to bother poor Uncle, busy with his thinking. The four girls listened quietly to their conversation, with a giggling every now and then, and after the two men were done arguing, Karen made them sign to follow her and she asked Arthur if they could go with him and Uncle.
"Can Miss Grimshaw spare you?"
The girls complained about his question and after an exchange of looks Arthur decided to bring them in that rather useless expedition, and in any case they had found something… well at least he could call it a day. They quickly got on the wagon and took the road to Valentine.
"Ladies, sing us a song."
Uncle's request was soon accepted and the three girls started a little tune with a lyric full of double meaning to which Emily could only clap her hands following the rhythm. They had almost reached the train trails when a carriage pulled by two horses had an accident. Uncle used the lumbago excuse and the responsibility to bring the horse that had got loose back to the owner fell on Arthur.
From their following conversation, Emily understood it wasn't in their style to help people in need, at least it wasn't Arthur's style, who affirmed he had robbed the man if it wasn't for the presence of four fine girls like them, and it was in that moment that Emily wondered what kind o of man Arthur was.
She knew so little about him and in that little time they had spent together he hadn't appeared to her as generous as Charles, nor as kind as Hosea. Maybe he was hiding those parts of his personality, or maybe he just wasn't like Emily had imagined him.
They leaded the wagon across that town that they knew so well now and stopped it right in front of the stable.
"Uncle, what are we doing?" asked Arthur jumping down the wagon.
"Well, we're gonna do what any self-respecting maniac does: put the women to work."
"I didn't know you were such a gentleman, Uncle" laughed Emily following the three girls down the wagon and on the muddy street.
"We'll start at the saloon, ladies" said Karen with a nod to Tilly and Mary-Beth.
"Oh no, not the saloon, please" whined Emily. She didn't want to put a foot inside that awful place, the memory of what had happened still fresh in her mind.
"Don't you worry, everything like that happens again, I'll deal with the son of a bitch" said Tilly.
Emily smiled gratefully to her, but she didn't want to go to the saloon anyway.
"What happened exactly?" asked Arthur, but Emily ignored him. She hadn't told anybody about that pig she had met and how Charles and Javier had protected her, and she didn't want to tell it now.
"Uncle, do you mind if I stay with you?" she asked.
"Not at all, my dear. We'll just go to the general store for now. I have to get something there."
"Okay ladies. Just pretend we're in Paris" said Karen walking away with Tilly and Mary-Beth right after her. The latter turned around for a second and waved to Emily who made the same gesture to her.
Arthur and Uncle headed to the store exchanging puns and provocations and Emily followed them, listening quietly and laughing to herself. Once inside the store the owner recognized Emily and asked her about the book. She replied with a few words but she didn't want to start a debate with a man who wouldn't have understood the social impact a book like that had had.
Uncle took something to drink and eat while they waited for the girls. Arthur took something too, but when he aimed for the counter to pay Emily stood in his way.
"I'll pay for you" she said taking the purchases from his hands and leaving them in front of the owner together with a chocolate bar she had taken for herself.
"I still owe you for the clothes" she added when he frowned at her.
"I had forgot. You could have said nothing and get away with it" he chuckled.
"It wouldn't be right" she simply said.
Arthur shook his head and followed her outside. Uncle needed some more time to decide what to buy.
"So, what do we do?" she asked.
"I have no idea. Where did you get that money?"
"I worked" she replied biting her chocolate.
Arthur raised his eyebrows asking her to explain herself. Emily chuckled and with a nod of her head told him to follow her. She showed him the back of the apothecary and told him about what she and Javier had found out, all the setup with Bill, and the money they had gained.
"My Lord, you're becoming a real outlaw, aren't you?" he laughed in the end as they walked back to the main road.
"All I've been doing is stealing to some criminals and shooting another one, the same things policemen do everyday" she replied as Hosea's words about the necessity of her actions came back to her mind.
"So, that's how you see yourself? As a policemen?" asked Arthur ironically.
Emily laughed and turned to look at him, but something else caught her attention.
"Good morning, sheriff" she said stretching out an arm to greet the man under the porch.
"Oh, morning to you, Miss. How you doing?"
"Very well, thank you. We're looking for work."
The sheriff frowned, moving his eyes from her to Arthur. He was obviously considering her words.
"I may have something for your friend, if he's interested in bounties."
Emily and Arthur exchanged a look.
"Yeah, why not? So I can play the policeman too" he added in a murmur and Emily laughed again at his words. The two of them followed the sheriff inside.
"George, show the man the poster" he ordered to the deputy getting behind his desk and sitting down.
The deputy moved his cold eyes from Arthur to Emily and his forehead relaxed all at once.
"Oh, Miss. Good to see you again. Not some other bar fight I hope."
"No, don't worry. Just looking for some work with my friend."
"This is your friend?" he asked and looking at Arthur he raised an eyebrow.
The difference between the two was abysmal: she was tiny, clean, with a kind expression and sweet eyes. He was big, dirty, tough and mean. Their 'friendship' was pretty suspicious.
Emily couldn't see Arthur's face because she was right behind him, but she was sure he had glanced at the deputy in a terrible way, because the man immediately looked away and walked towards the wall pointing at a poster.
"That's the man. Benedict Allbright" he said.
"He's being poisoning folks with his miracle cure from here to Annesburg."
"A doctor?" asked Emily walking past Arthur to look at the paper.
"It makes no sense. Doctors are good, they are supposed to help people."
The deputy chuckled at all that innocence.
"Things are not always as they should be" he replied.
"Where can I find him?" asked Arthur taking the poster from the wall.
"North of here, straight by the gorge. That's where they saw him last time" the sheriff informed him.
"You think you can bring him in? The pay is good, but we need him alive, though. I have to make sure the women he widowed get compensated before he swings."
Emily looked at the poster and then exchanged a look with Arthur. He didn't seem convinced.
"It's fifty dollars to bring a murderer to justice. It's a double reward from my point of view" she said with an encouraging smile.
Arthur snorted and shook his head: she truly had some strange ideas.
"Well, I'll see what I can do" he said heading to the door.
"Thank you, sheriff, for giving my friend this chance" said Emily.
"I guess we'll see again soon" she added to the deputy.
"Miss" he replied with a nod of his head.
"See? We have found something! We have found a job!" she exclaimed jumping up and down as soon as they returned to the street.
"We? I have found the job."
She stopped her jumping and looked at him right in the eye.
"Hey, if it wasn't for me…"
"Uncle gave me the idea to take a bounty, that's the only reason why I followed you inside the sheriff's."
He didn't know why he was saying those things, to annoy her maybe, to see what had happened if she got angry. The result was one of her funny faces: she opened her mouth of a couple of inches, outraged by his behavior, and Arthur had to turn around to hide a smile.
"You are terrible! Worst than a child!" she yelled at his back.
"Oh, now I am the child" he chuckled as he started walking away.
There was a pause and for a moment Arthur thought she had started to cry or something like that, but when he turned around he found her standing still in the middle of the road with her arms crossed on her chest.
"I'll come with you and take half of the money" she stated.
"What?" exclaimed Arthur walking back to her.
"You? A bounty hunter?" he sneered.
"He's just a doctor, how dangerous can he be? I'll help you and take half of the money."
Arthur brought a hand to his face rubbing his eyes, but unable to restrain another smile. Was it what he wanted? Did he want her to go with him?
"How you think to do that? Uh? You can barely ride a horse and you have no strength to deal with a grown up man."
"I can ride a horse, at least… in theory. For the other thing, you'll take care of the man. I'll try to help you as I can."
"I don't know! We'll find something."
Arthur didn't want to argue there, in the middle of the street, with that incredibly stubborn girl, about bounties and money. He thought that it was better if they delayed that conversation.
"Yeah, alright. For now we better go back to Uncle, he'll be wondering where we are."
They walked back to the general store where they found a dozed off Uncle, with a bottle of whiskey in his hands.
"Yeah, you're right. He was just wondering were we were" joked Emily and turning around she walked back again.
"Where are you going now?" asked Arthur in exasperation.
"To find something. I didn't come here to do what I do at camp."
They walked in front of all the stores of the town, looking at everything but never stopping. Valentine had nothing of a city, nothing interesting, no attraction, and Emily wondered if that was due to the fact that they were in 1899, or just because there was actually nothing there.
"You think we can visit some other town someday?" she asked to Arthur.
"I don't know. Where are we going?" he complained.
"Like… I'd like to see Saint Denis. I wonder how it was… how it is, now."
"It's a city, how you expect it to be? Can you tell me where are you going?"
"If you want to go, Arthur, go. I know this place, I've been here one hundred times already. I know how to move."
Arthur sighed but didn't stop following her. She might know the way but she didn't know people and how dangerous they could be. He kept her pace fearing she would have never stopped, when she did stop… in front of the gunsmith!
"What, you want to buy a gun now?" he asked half amazed, half perplexed.
"No, not really" she said, and walked inside.
"Hello, Miss. How do you do?" asked the owner.
"Hi, I wanted to know if you still have those, erm, Cattleman Revolvers you talked about" she asked.
What was she doing? Did she really want to buy a gun? Why? To protect herself of course. What had happened if she had found another O'Driscoll waiting around the corner just to hurt her or one of her friends? Obviously, she wasn't thinking about using it, but just own it to scare the shit out of people who bothered her.
"Yes, Miss, I have them."
"Can I see one?"
"The hell are you doing?" asked Arthur completely shocked.
As the man made a little bow and walked in the other room, Emily turned to look at Arthur who couldn't take his wide open eyes from her.
"What happened to the 'I don't like guns'?" he asked.
"I don't like them, but I have to defend myself somehow, don't you think? And, who said I want to use it?"
"You buy a gun just to show it? That's stupid."
"That's smart thinking. If people see one, they don't mess with you."
Arthur laughed. He owned definitely more than one, but people messed with him anyway. Or he messed with them?
The man came back with a shiny brand new revolver that delivered to Emily's insecure hands. She took the thing and gripped it, feeling its weight and consistency. It was incredible how something so small and useless when not charged could make her feel so different as she held it: it was like that weapon was giving her new strength, new courage, new certainties. She felt like she could walk down the road but not as a simple citizen, but as the owner of the road, or the entire Valentine.
Yes, the power of that thing was dangerous, and becoming aware of her own feelings she got scared and immediately put it down on the counter.
"I'm sorry. I-I can't" she murmured and ran out of the shop.
Where was all that boldness coming from? First she had imposed her will on Arthur, then the harsh reply, and finally the terrible idea to buy a gun? What was happening to her?
"Hey, are you okay?" asked Arthur coming out of the shop with a slight worried face.
"Yes, I'm sorry, you were right. I shouldn't even think about buying one of those devilish things."
She was back to her senses. It was like Arthur had just seen another girl inside that shop, someone with darker intents, and he couldn't tell if he liked that one better than the real one.
"Come, let's keep walking" he suggested.
Walking was a good way to clear her mind, and so she did. She tried to understand where that crazy idea had come from, but she couldn't. She was so lost in her thoughts that she understood where she was only when she saw the well-known door of Keane's saloon.
"Do you want to drink something?" she asked to Arthur.
He raised his eyebrows and nodded, but without being absolutely sure about how to interpret her suggestion. They walked in the plain and modest room, with only three customers inside. One was seated at one of the tables, or it is better to say, he was laying on one of the tables, fallen asleep dead drunk - Arthur and Emily didn't pay much attention to him - but the two at the bar where definitely more interesting.
One was rather old, and drunk too, while the other, a little younger, with glasses and a big book opened in front of him, looked like some sort of intellectual. Emily followed Arthur to the bar, who ordered a couple of whiskeys tossing a coin on the counter, and in the meantime she listened to the mental conversation the two men were having.
"Oh, this isn't going very well" moaned the intellectual addressed by the old man as 'Plato' with a gesture of desperation.
"Are you a writer, mister?" asked Emily.
"If I can call myself so, yes, I'm a writer, and it will be the end of me" he complained.
"What are you writing about?"
"Him" he harshly replied, pointing one of his fingers to the old man who now was asleep on the bar.
"Who's this?" asked Arthur from behind Emily's back and turning around she noticed the little glass full of amber liquid just waiting for her.
"Jim 'Boy' Calloway" answered the writer.
"Who?" asked Emily and Arthur in chorus.
"The gunslinger. Fastest left-handed draw that ever drew breath."
"You ever heard about him?" asked Arthur to Emily who shook her head.
The man started telling all the great deeds of that unknown famous gunslinger and in the meantime Emily found the courage to swallow her glass of whiskey which, as expected, made her throat burn.
"Excuse me, mister, but what's your name?" she asked as she recovered the ability to speak.
Maybe she knew the man's name or the title of the book he wanted to write about Jim 'Boy' Calloway.
No, the name told her nothing. He must have been one of those poor deluded who wanted to reach fame with their writing, but that in the end history had sadly forgotten.
"Sorry, but… I don't understand. If you hate him so much, why are you waisting your time writing about him?"
"I wouldn't hate him if he didn't make it impossible for me to write this blessed book!"
Then, just like he received the illumination, he turned around on his stool to looked at the two of them.
"What?" asked Arthur.
"I am really sorry to ask, but… will you help me? I am kind of desperate, I've been working on this thing for months now and I haven't took anything out of it."
"How?" asked Emily.
How could they help him? Making up the things he had to write? Trying to take out the informations from Mr. Calloway by force?
"There's a whole list of gun fighters" said Levin taking a couple of what looked like photographs from his bag.
"Legends, every last one. Emmet Granger, Flaco Hernandez, Billy Midnight…"
Emily took the photos the man gave her, one by one, looking at the mean faces on the black and white paper, but having no idea of who those people where.
Emily's heart lost a beat.
"What? Black Belle?" she exclaimed.
"Do you know her?" asked Levin.
"Of course, she's a legend among children!"
"Children?" asked Arthur perplexed.
"Black Belle in the Forest of Berries. Never heard of it?"
But Emily stopped right away, her mouth had said too much and now the writer was looking at her suspiciously.
"Sorry, wrong person" she lied.
"Anyway, you want us to find them, and then what?" she asked to divert.
"Well, ask them about him" he said nodding towards Calloway.
"And what happens when they don't… collaborate, let's say" said Arthur taking another drink.
Emily hadn't been looking at him, but she could perfectly tell he had had more than one already.
"Well, you look like someone with… experience, sir. I don't think it will be a problem to convince them or… silence them, when necessary."
Emily raised her eyebrows. Was he saying what she thought he was saying?
"Y-you mean…" she started, but Arthur interrupted her.
"What's our profit?"
"Half of the proceeds once the book is published" said the writer without hesitation.
"Well, I'll see what I can do, then" replied Arthur heading unexpectedly to the door.
"Oh, wait" Levin called out.
"Get photos" he said handing an old photo-camera to Emily who opened her mouth in amazement.
"Whoah! This is… I can't believe it."
"And there are notes on the back of those photos, they should tell you where you can find them."
"Well, we'll let you know what we find out, Mr. Levin" said Emily and she shook hands with the man before she and Arthur walked out of the saloon.
"Black Belle in the Forest of Berries? Really?" asked an ironic Arthur.
"Hey, it's not my fault if your 'legendary gunslingers' are no-one in the future."
"For me they are no-one even now, but I guess that's what awaits us all: become no-one."
Emily was struck by his words, but she couldn't but agree. As a matter of fact, she had never heard of the Van der Linde gang, nor the O'Driscolls, nor anybody else. And poor Black Belle had moved from being a famous gun fighter, to a children book heroine. What were those lives worth if no-one was going to remember them in the future?
While walking back to Uncle, Emily kept studying the little photo-camera. It was lighter than she expected, and smaller too, considering all the articulate device it contained. She asked Arthur if she could keep it, thinking about taking photos of people at camp.
"Will you bring me with you when you go looking for these people?" she asked taking another look at the photos.
"I don't know if I'll go" Arthur cut short.
"But… you promised…"
"Did I say the words 'I promise to go'?"
Emily huffed. She wanted to go, she wanted to meet those people, and most of all Black Belle, see why she was so famous.
"If you go, will you bring me with you?"
"I don't know."
"The writer said you have to take photos, and you just gave me the camera, so I guess I have to come with you."
"Yeah, yeah, right."
He sounded strange, like he had suddenly become of few words, but Emily couldn't understand the reason of that change and she didn't want to bother him even further, so she just focused on the photos and followed him back to where Uncle was sleeping. Arthur sat down on the bench right next to him, intentionally waking him up with a jump.
"Where have you been?" he asked.
"We met a man who gave me this" said Emily showing him the camera.
"And also these. Do you know them, Uncle?" she asked showing him the photos.
He looked at the four pictures carefully with a low "hmm" coming from his closed lips and only when he saw the picture of the man called Emmet Granger his eyes opened and sparkled of a strange light.
"I know this one!" he laughed.
"Really?" exclaimed Emily as a wave of curiosity run through her.
"Yeah, he was quite known back in the days. He also had a bounty on his head for a while. Then he received the federal pardon. Never understood why."
"How you know him?" asked Arthur.
"Have you met him?" asked Emily.
Uncle's mind went back of at least thirty years, to a younger self, and to a younger Granger, and to a fairly long hunt. He had met him, he had worked with him, he had been betrayed by him, and he had almost being killed by him.
"Yes, he came across me in a saloon, once upon a time" he lied.
"In which town?" asked Emily again.
"Nah, I don't believe you. You have no idea of who this feller is" said Arthur shaking his head and smiling skeptic.
Uncle chuckled and handed the photos back to Emily, who looked at him disappointed.
"But… I want to know…"
Emily would never know the story of how Uncle met Emmet Granger, because right at that moment Mary-Beth showed up with incredible news. She told them she had heard about a train loaded with money and valuables out there just waiting for being robbed.
Emily wasn't enthusiastic at the idea to rob some people, some good people, but she didn't had the chance to express her disapproval because Arthur asked where Karen and Tilly were.
Apparently, they were trying to steal from some men. Karen was probably at the hotel, while Tilly…
"Oh, there's Tilly over there" said Mary-Beth pointing to a figure dragged into an alley by a man.
"That does not look ideal."
Arthur immediately ran after them, ready to rescue poor Tilly from that man, but Emily's mind went to Karen.
"What if Karen is in danger too?" she asked to Mary-Beth.
"Arthur will go look for her."
Emily shook her head.
"What if it he'll arrive too late?"
"What do you mean?"
Emily couldn't understand why she was worrying so much about Karen, but she was, and she wanted to go looking for her.
"I'm going" she just said before heading to the hotel, and as she walked she thought about how useless she was going to be if Karen was truly in a difficult situation. She was little, skinny, feeble, Karen had definitely more chances by herself, but still, Emily was pushed by something, some intuition that was whispering in her ear to walk faster and reach that bloody hotel.
"Hi, is my friend here? She's blonde, curvy, sarcastic…"
"She went upstairs with a man" the man behind the counter informed her.
"Do you mind if I go?"
But she didn't wait for a reply and she was already up the third step when the man asked if she needed help.
"A friend of mine is coming to help me" she answered without thinking.
"They are in 2B" the man shouted from below.
Emily run to the end of the corridor where she found the room 2B and knocked at the door. There were voices coming from the other side, but they didn't sound delighted.
"Karen" she called.
No answer. The two voices became louder and angrier. Emily took the doorknob and turned it, but it was locked.
"Karen!" she called again.
There was a noise, like something heavy thrown on the floor.
Emily tried to force the door in some way, she even tried to push it with her shoulder, but it was too solid for her little strength.
Arthur's voice made her jump and she took a couple of steps backwards just in time when he kicked the door that ceded without problems. He rushed inside and she walked in right after him.
As soon as he crossed the threshold, Arthur threw himself on the man who had hit Karen so hard that she had fallen on the floor, but though without experience the man was quick enough to dodge his fist, hit him and push him against the wall.
Emily had no idea of how to help him and looked around her searching for something she could use as a weapon. Without thinking she took the heavy bronze statue she found on the dresser and with both hands she hit the man on the back of his head as hard as she could.
Funny how a body falls on the ground when without consciousness, it is like all the bones in it immediately disappear, and it melts like a pudding. When the man fell like that, Emily became aware of what she had done and she widened her eyes in an expression of terror.
"Oh my God" she whispered moving her eyes from the body to Arthur.
"Is he dead?" she squeaked.
"No. Come on, let's go. Karen are you okay?" asked Arthur helping the girl standing up.
"Yes, thank you, Arthur."
Emily couldn't move her eyes from the man on the ground from whose head now was coming out something dark, red and slimy. The only sight of the blood made her face turn white and with a panicked voice she yelled: "oh God, he's bleeding!"
She was pushed out of the room and when Arthur tried to take the bronze statue from her hands she realized she was holding it so tight that her knuckles had become white.
"Are you sure he isn't dead?" she asked again. The idea of having killed another man, a rather innocent one this time, made her voice shake.
"Yeah, you just knocked him out. Now we need to go before he wakes up" said Arthur pulling the statue from her hands and pushing her towards the stairs.
Emily walked, but she was insecure on her feet. Her head was still a little dizzy because of the adrenaline she had felt before. It had been like a shock, forcing her to hit that man. There was definitely something wrong with her: until some days before she would have never done something like that, but now she had, and what was scaring her most of all, was that it seemed she couldn't control it, like she couldn't control her actions.
They walked out in the street and back to Uncle and Mary-Beth, when something else happened. There was a man, shouting from the other side of the road and telling Arthur he was sure he had seen him in Blackwater. He tried to play dumb at the beginning, but the man was sure he wasn't mistaken, and so Arthur jumped on the first horse he saw and chased the rat.
Of course all this was like a far away happening for Emily, like something that was going on in the background of her mind, like she was watching a movie but without paying attention to it, because all her thoughts and all her senses were involved in trying to understand what was wrong with her.
"Are you okay?" asked Mary-Beth noticing her being miles away.
"Yes, yes" she murmured and for the first time she really didn't know what to say.
"Come on, girls. Let's go back to camp" said Uncle.
The five of them reached the wagon and then took the road back.
"Did something happen inside that hotel?" asked Mary-Beth still looking at Emily with a concerned expression.
"I… I hit the man."
"And I thank you for that" said Karen massaging her cheek.
"I might have killed him!" she exclaimed outraged.
"So what? The bastard deserved that."
"Why you went inside? Arthur was taking care of it" said Mary-Beth.
"I don't know. It felt like I had to do it. I wish I didn't" she added with a deep sigh.
The thoughts kept hunting her until they reached camp and also for the entire evening. Was she changing? She didn't feel different: the idea of robbing someone was still repulsive, the idea of killing was even worse, and she didn't believe that violence was the right way, ever. But still, she had done those things, all of them.
It was at that moment that she started to realize that theory and practice, ideal and real life, are two very different things. She could have had all the good ideas and intentions that she wanted, but when danger had come, she needed to do what she had to in order to survive.
She was still debating inside her head about good and evil, when something came to her mind, or it'd be better to say, someone came to her mind. She had completely forgot about him because he was more like a shadow in camp than a flesh and bone person, so rarely she had seen him. He was a man of church, a man of God, someone who dealt with saints and sinners everyday, so who better than him to absolve her.
Emily had never been much of a religious person: she believed in something grater than her, in a greater being, and when she was young she used to go to church on Sundays with her parents, but nothing more. No prayers before going to sleep, no repentance for her sins - not that she had needed that in the past - no strong religious beliefs. And yet, now she felt that need, the need to understand if she had taken the wrong path.
"Good evening, reverend" she said as she sat down next to the man.
As usual, he was seated in a remote part of camp with a bottle in his hands and his eyes lost.
"Evening" he simply said looking at her for a second before getting lost again.
"Can I talk with you for a moment?"
He came back to reality again, frowning at Emily like he didn't believe she actually wanted to talk to him. Usually, no-one wanted to talk to him.
"I-I… you might have heard I had an… unpleasant accident with some O'Driscolls a-and… I mean…"
She stopped, breathing heavily and not knowing where to start.
"I have killed a man, reverend" she spit out.
"And I have stolen, or at least I helped Javier stealing some money, and today… today I've used violence against another man, an innocent man."
The reverend kept looking at her with his furrowed brow and those dark eyes, but it was like he wasn't actually seeing her.
"What I want to know is: I know the things I've done are bad, but I've done them for a reason, I've done them because I had to do them, but at the same time they are inexcusable."
Again, no answer from the reverend, only that strange look. Was he judging her?
"Can you help me?"
The reverend's forehead suddenly relaxed, his eyes became sweet, his expression understanding and pitiful.
"Oh my dear Margaret, of course I will help you" he said with a soothing voice.
"Meet me at dawn near the station" he whispered right before standing up on his unstable legs and stumbling away.
Emily huffed. It seemed like no-one could help her. Everybody there kept telling her that what she had done was right, while she thought she was loosing herself somehow. Who she should have listened to? And the reverend, the only person she thought would be useful, was completely gone. Maybe he was crazy?
The next morning she woke up early. That night she had had dreams about her father, confusing things that made her think about her family and made her so sad she couldn't go back to sleep. She stood up, went to Pearson for her shouted 'good morning!', took something to eat and wandered around.
"Morning Hosea" she murmured walking in front of the man standing near the fire with a cup of coffee in his hands.
"Morning. You woke up early" he stated.
"I usually do. What woke you?"
Emily sighed looking away and her eyes met the figure of Arthur, standing from his cot and stretching his back. His face was different that morning: he had a big blue stain on his left cheek and the eye was slightly swollen.
"Dreams" she said, but she didn't specify what kind of dreams, and her mind was too preoccupied with Arthur to focus on that matter.
Hosea of course didn't need any specification, he immediately understood and he wanted to ask her about it, maybe say something comforting, but he didn't had the chance.
"Has anybody seen the reverend?" asked Miss Grimshaw's loud voice.
She was walking in their direction and even though she was still fairly distant from them, they could perfectly hear her screaming.
"Anybody? Morning Arthur, have you seen Swanson?" she asked reaching his tent.
Arthur murmured something that Emily couldn't perfectly understand from where she was, but that sounded a lot like:"no, why? You think he's in danger?"
Emily's mind went back to the night before and the weird conversation she had had with that crazy reverend.
"Hosea" she called the man's attention.
"Yesterday the reverend said something about a station."
"Yes, I have no idea what he was talking about. He called me Margaret" she added in a perplexed whisper.
Hosea smiled and shook his head and then he called Arthur who drew closer without the need to be asked twice. As he approached them, Emily focused on his face: it seemed he had received a punch, and also from his way of walking she could tell there was something wrong with him.
"What happened to you?" she asked with concern.
"A bar fight."
"A bar fight? When?"
"Yesterday evening after I went back to Valentine."
She had the instinct to reach out a hand and touch the bruise, but she killed that instinct thinking about how embarrassing it was going to be, especially with Hosea standing there, so instead she kept looking at him with those worried puppy eyes.
"It was at the Smithfield, wasn't it?" she asked and her voice took an angry inflection.
"How do you know?"
"That place is like hell."
"Swanson must be at the Flatneck Station, Arthur" Hosea informed him.
"You think I have to go have a look?"
"You should. It's Swanson, who knows what he's up to."
"What's his problem?" asked Emily.
"The one every religious man goes through: lost of faith" said Hosea.
"And the alcohol" added Arthur.
"Yes, that too."
Emily thought she didn't have to be surprised by Swanson behavior, not at that time, not in that place, not surrounded by those people. And indeed she wasn't surprised, she was scared. The thing that was scaring her was that that kind of life had leaded astray someone with strong will and beliefs like a reverend, so what would have happened to someone like her?
I really don't know what to say about this chapter. I think it's an important point in the story because she's starting to adapt to the 1899 Wild West "laws".
About Uncle: there is a theory, pretty impossible if you ask me, but I wanted to use it anyway, that says Uncle was a bounty hunter when he was young. I think it's fun to think about him as a criminals hunter, actually working and spending all day at horseback - maybe the reason for his lumbago? ahaha.
I hope you liked the chapter.
See you next week :)