Normally loosening a corset is quite an undertaking, depending on the orneriness of the lady’s quilted waistcoat in question it’s a maneuver that can be an all-day campaign, requiring the enlistment of many allies to bring to a conclusion. However, on this occasion I was wearing a corset with a quick-lease mechanism of my own design (patent pending) that allowed me instant relief.
“Fucking Cleveland” I remarked as I took a well-needed deep breath free of whalebone interference. Martialla nodded in agreeance as she stood looking out the door onto balcony. “He pardons everyone except my James? Set aside the absolute incontrovertible fact that James Wasson is as fine a specimen of all-American manhood as ever roped a steer on the broad prairies of the Indian Country and should be let free on that basis alone, but since when is a fair fight with six shooters murder? When did that change?” I shook my head in disgust “This country is going to Hades in a handcart I tell you what Martialla. We used to have men in this country Mar, you know that? Men.” She nodded again, striking a match and lighting one of her disgusting cigarettes as she continued to be fascinated by the nothing happening out beyond the balcony like a weak-minded child. “Don’t smoke in her.”
“You smoke in here all the time” she deigned to turn and face me as she protested.
“Not tobacco” I pointed out pouring myself some gin. She nodded again, in assent and took half a step “outside” onto the balcony, making a point to blow smoke out of the corner of her mouth away from my general direction. “Thanks” I remarked dryly. “Were you listening to me before?”
She nodded a fourth time like some kind of infernal simian creature “I got the gist of it, President Cleveland, James, etcetera.”
“So can you believe it or not?” I demanded.
She took a break from childish nodding to shrug like a witless drunk “Sure I can believe it, the widow is a wealthy woman and seven thousand dollars will buy you a lot of justice. Or injustice in this case depending on which side you’re on.”
I threw back my gin “Fucking Pinkertons.”
“Fucking Pinkertons” she agreed. “Why do you always say James Wasson instead of just James? Why do you always say his full name?”
“You’re dumb as a castrated donkey” I pointed out “I don’t want you to think I’m talking about James Easton.”
She made a face “James Easton? I would never think that you were talking about that degenerate. You wouldn’t let a man like that within twenty paces of your fancy snatch. Despite the fact that he’s got a cock that would put a bull elk to shame.”
I narrowed my eyes at her “How do you know what kind of cock he has?”
She took a long drag of her rotten cigarette “That’s just what I’ve heard the girls around town saying” she replied coolly.
“Why are we talking about your revolting love life anyway?” I asked crossly.
She smirked in her irritating low-class way “You tell me, I never know where a conversation is going to end up going with you, it’s like grabbing a snake by the tail, you never know which way she’s gonna bend.” She pinched out the end of her smoke and stuck it behind her ear like a hayseed, finally coming over to sit across the desk from me like a civilized person “So what are we going to do? You want to let it stand or do things the hard way?”
I poured myself some more gin “What do you fucking think?”
She had the audacity to nod again “That’s what I figured. You want me to try for the widow herself? Two birds?”
I shook my head “She’ll be too well protected. Grab that cook, Johnson or Jackson or whatever his name is, he brained that Ketcham girl the other week, nobody’s going to miss him.”
“You got it boss” she barked as she seized the arms of the chair that almost smashed it to pieces hoisting herself up.
“Take the Frenchman with you.”
She stopped to roll her eyes at me “I can handle Cook Johnson.”
I put fingers to forehead “You are giving me such a headache, just do it will you? They’re going to hang James tomorrow, we can’t afford any chances.”
“James Wasson or James Easton?” she asked as she slouched towards the door like wounded buffalo.
“Shut up Martialla.”