I often wonder that when we’re playing outlaw dress up if there’s truly any point in strapping down my ample natural gifts. When someone has a gun in your face is that person they really looking that closely at the body of the masked “man” doing the gun pointing? No one expects to be waylaid by a lady, that’s the main thing. People see what they want to see.
Still, there’s no reason to take chances, which is why Diamond Lil and Lavender Alice were yanking on the strips around my chest like they were rough men working a cut digging out a tree stump. Although the way they were making progress they must be drunk men as well, that train is going to derail. Dozens will die, hundreds more injured. The worst part was Martialla sitting right in front of me, grinning at my discomfort even though her head was half-scalped, running with blood, and she was holding a filthy rag to her busted nose.
“Just cut it for Christmas sake!” I finally barked over my shoulder.
“But last time we cut you out you said that . . .” Alice started to protest.
“I don’t care what I said, just do as I say!”
“That doesn’t make any sense” Lil grumbled under her breath but entirely for my hearing.
One of the two idiots trying to release me retrieved a shears at which point they set to arguing about how to approach the very modest task set in front of them until I grabbed the implement from them and ordered them out. I sliced through the cloth, and myself a little bit but I’ll never admit to that, and thereby was finally able to take a couple deep breaths. I wonder if there’s a part of my body that hasn’t been molded into an unnatural shape for one reason or another.
Martialla smiled through her bloody teeth at me “Still got all your nipples?”
“You’re lucky you’re as flat and hard as a washboard” I told her as I ripped off the majority of my false beard, leaving a few little scraps hanging from glue-threads like tiny doomed dynamite men climbing down into a mine.
She nodded “Yes, in my prayers I thank the good lord for my boyish figure every day.”
I took another long breath that turned into a sigh and reached for my bottle of Old Tom “I saw the Frenchman making good his escape through the hat shop, did anyone else make it out?”
Martialla paused before answering to blow a snot-blood-wad into any empty washbasin like a barnyard animal “Dusky might have slipped away, I didn’t see him there at the end. Red was still alive but he was gutshot and trying to crawl away, if they didn’t finish him right there they got him. Everyone else was deader than a doornail.”
“What about Hattie?”
“I’ve included him in the category of everyone else” she said dryly.
I scowled at her “Don’t be smarmy Martialla, it’s an ill look on you.”
She smiled “Aren’t all looks ill looks on me, seeings as I’m as ugly as I am?” she asked ,stealing my insult.
“Well” I said sitting back in my plush chair with my bottle “that didn’t pan out.”
“I’ll say” Martialla replied as she moved her dirty bloody nose-rag to her dirty bloody ragged head.
“Those were Carpathians right?” Martialla nodded “I’ve underestimated the widow Watkins again. I wonder how many more times I can do that before I get you and everyone else beside me killed. Is she just rich or is she in the know?”
Martialla raised an eyebrow like the question was unworthy of being asked “She has to be in the know, based on what we just saw.”
I thought for a moment “I’m not convinced of that just yet. Rich people don’t always know what they’re buying, other than results. Maybe not even most of the time do they know. Could be someone close to her that has the connections and she’s just along for the ride.”
“Doesn’t much matter right now” she shrugged at me.
“No” I agreed “but it will soon enough.”
Martialla straightened awkwardly, having acquired some manner of back injury in the fracas “Your sweet James Wasson is set to be hanged tomorrow, that’s not much time for us to do anything. How are we going to play this?”
I waved irritably “Just let it happen, we’ll dig him up the day after and bring him back. I’m tired of this horseplay.”
She looked to the ceiling for aid “You mean I’ll dig him up. You know how hard graverobbing is? No, why would you?! Resurrection, seriously Ela? That’s so much work! Can’t you just do your thing where you steal someone’s appearance and seduce the guards and spread your legs for whoever else and infiltrate the holding cell and get him out that way? Or a summoning, you were just working on that the other day, why don’t we summon Jack? Send him in after James. Do we have to raise the fucking dead?”
“Yes, yes we do” I said swirling the gin around.
“Why?” she demanded.
I gave her a level look “Because that’s what I want.”
“Well” she sighed glumly “as long as there’s a good reason. What about the widow?”
“All in time my good simpleton, all things in the proper time.”