AN: New chapter with a new character
Newly identified Lynn O'Brian smiled, somewhat more normally now, and showed off perfect white teeth. "Why yes, I am. Now to get straight to the point, where's the gold?" She asked.
"We don't have any gold." Anna said.
Lynn smiled once again and sank into a char at the nearest table. "Ladies, I'm not one to make judgments, and you three remind me of some dear students I once taught, so I don't want to start off with us lying to each other."
"Really ma'am, we don't know what you mean." Grace confirmed.
"That man who showed up here two nights ago, Kenny right? Well from what I've gathered here, he's dead just like his friend." Here she paused and smiled that terrible smile again. "Well not just like his friend, that part was my fault, but it really was his own fault, if they had just given up the gold, I'd have been on my way. But you know how it is; I can't be going soft now."
Again Cassie understood. "You think we have the gold they wouldn't give you."
"Dear, I'm sure of it. Now if we could just get this little transaction over with I'll be on my way." Lynn had a way of keeping everything sounding pleasant.
"Look, Miss O'Brian, we really aren't lying to you, when Kenny showed up he was delusional, he muttered something about gold, but we couldn't understand him." Grace explained.
Lynn's smile slid off her face. "Listen here girls! I know there is gold around here and I aim to have it! Now you can either help me, or I can make sure you stay out of my way." She raised one of the pistols in her hands and rested her chin on the barrel.
Anna's mind was working over time, "Ok, ok, girls, she knows. I'll be straight with you ma'am, we really don't have the gold, but we do know where it is." Interested Lynn turned to her
The other two gaped at her behind the woman's head, but with a slight lowering of her chin and widening of her eyes, she assured them she had a plan.
"So go get it." Lynn deadpanned drumming her fingers on the table.
"Well Ma'am we would, only, it's not so simple, see when the sheriff came by here to ask about the dead men, we had to lie and say we barely knew them because if we didn't they would suspect we knew about the gold." Anna was lying through her teeth as fast as she could.
"I don't see why this impedes you from getting it now." Lynn said impatient.
"Well I was getting to that, you see the sheriff and his deputies said they'd be back sometime today to ask us some more questions, and they still don't know what exactly happened to that man you killed. So we've been trying to keep all of this low key so the heat dies down fast and we can go get the gold. The way we figure, it'll be pretty safe in about a week; they'll pass it off as the one killed his partner and then hung himself over the guilt."
Lynn looked from Anna's confidant face to Cassie and Grace who tried to mirror her expression.
"Ladies, I believe we have come to a sort of an accord. You say you can get the gold by next week. I say if I have it by then I won't burn down your saloon, and you three won't be inside when I do." She got up and strolled along the bar, her hand lingering at the base of an oil lamp on the end.
She gazed at each in turn, and all three looked back, seemingly unfazed by the threat.
Lynn walked up to Anna. "You Missy, since you've done all the talking, I'm holding you responsible. She grabbed Anna's chin. "I hope you keep your word, it would be a shame to ruin such pretty faces."
She turned and walked toward the door, upon reaching it she turned. "oh and don't think about telling anyone our deal, I have friends, who listen and watch, and if I get a hint of an idea that someone knows, I'll come back in the dead of night, and burn this place to the ground." She let the threat sink in and then left.
Anna let out her breath and sank into a chair. "I thought she would never leave." She muttered resting her head in her hands.
Cassie and Grace also sat down, visibly shaken.
"How did you come up with a story like that so fast?" Grace asked.
Anna looked up and halfheartedly smiled. "Well I always wanted to be an actress."
"Thank god!" Cassie responded. "We were nearly done there." She crossed her arms and rested her forehead in them on the table.
"Well we still have a problem. She's expecting gold next week, and we can't tell the sheriff, you heard her." Anna said.
"I think she's full of it. We know everyone in this town. We'd know if someone was working for her." Grace shook her head.
"We can't risk it." Cassie popped back up. "What if she's not lying?"
All three girls were silent for a minute before the clock above the bar tolled nine times, and they all jumped.
"We need a plan." Grace said.
"Something she won't see coming." Anna reasoned.
"Well she thinks you're in charge." Cassandra said to Anna.
"That's just because I talked a lot." Anna answered.
"Right, but we can use that, she'll be focusing on you, giving us time to….to do whatever we end up doing."
Anna's eyes widened. "So I'm the distraction?" She asked annoyed.
The other two shrugged. "Sorry, but we don't have a lot of options here!"
Anna rolled her eyes, but nodded. "Ok fine."
They spent the rest of the night planning their attack, and agreed that one should stay awake at all times. So after drawing lots (Grace lost) the other two headed up to sleep. "Wake me at two." Anna said, "I'll get Cassie at six, and then we should all be up."
Grace nodded and set about cleaning the shotgun, which they now kept loaded.
The next morning the Sheriff and deputies did come around, asking how the night went. The girls shared a look, but as agreed none said anything about their visitor.
"Quiet night?" Zach asked grabbing a chair next to Cassie and kissing her cheek.
"Uh, yeah." She mumbled distracted.
Grace hurried out to the barn to get eggs for breakfast and Anna and Cassie began slicing potatoes and brewing coffee for all.
All three girls had their minds elsewhere, and once Anna went to grab the coffee pot from its spot over the fire, only to have her hand grabbed by Josh. "Careful!" He warned. "That's hot; you'll burn your hand on it." He grabbed a rag and covered the handle with it before placing it on the table.
"Oh, right. Thanks." Anna smiled at him, trying to appear normal.
Grace returned and began frying the eggs in a large pan, and soon they had breakfast for six.
The chatter was lively coming from the men, who joked and laughed at each other, but the girls just smiled and made occasional comments, never initiating conversation. On the rare occasion their eyes did meet, they would share a look and then look away quickly before anyone caught on.
"Well that was delicious. Thanks a lot girls." Levi said pushing his clean plate away.
Grace smiled. "No trouble at all Sheriff. What's on the agenda today?" She asked grabbing his plate and bringing it behind the bar.
"Well we have a few things to take care of, but all in all it's a slow day."
Grace looked to Cassie and Anna who looked curiously back, what was she planning.
"Well if you have some time later, the girls and I would just love some more practice." She smiled nonchalantly.
Levi looked to the other guys. "Sure," He nodded, "we could make that work."
Grace gave him a huge smile "Thanks!" She chirped and continued doing the dishes in the sink and Anna cleared the table and Cassie began the never ending task of cleaning the Saloon for the day.
Once they were all finished eating and on their way, promising to return later for lunch and shooting lessons.
"We should tell them." Cassie said as soon as they were alone.
"We can't risk it." Anna insisted.
"Last time we kept something from them a man died!" Cassie shot back. "I'm scared ok! We have a psycho outlaw out for blood! Our blood!"
"Cas, this is different. We know exactly what is going on this time, and we have a plan." Grace reasoned.
"Besides that I hate lying to Zack." Cassie pouted.
"Do you think I like lying to Josh?" Anna asked. "Cassie, we're trying to be smart here, and hopefully this will all go away after next week."
Cassie refused to say anymore on the subject, and the rest of the morning passed rather tensely.
Zack showed up first for lunch, Cassie teased him about never missing a meal, and he good naturedly responded "Well I didn't get this big by skipping lunch." Then realizing what he said began to blush profusely, "I mean, that came out wrong."
Cassie blushed as well but Anna and Grace howled with laughter.
Josh and Levi showed up a few minutes later.
"Where have you boys been?" Grace asked when they walked in covered in dirt and dust.
"We went back to the campsite to see if we could figure out more about the gold Kenny mentioned to you," Levi said patting his arms and legs to remove the worst of the dirt.
Cassie pouted. "I just cleaned the floor."
Levi grinned sheepishly "Oh, sorry, I'll sweep it up."
"Did you find anything?" Anna asked helping Josh clear off his back.
"Thanks, and no, not really." Josh answered.
"Any sign of Lynn O'Brian?" Grace asked quietly, all chatter ceased.
Levi shook his head. "Right now were not even sure it really was her, I mean all we have to go on is the card, but it's well known, someone could have planted it."
"It was her." Cassie said.
Zack smiled down at her like she was a child. "And how do you know that Miss Cassandra?"
Cassie shook her head, "Just call it a hunch."
Zack raised an eyebrow, but left the issue alone.
After a quick lunch they set out again paired off on horses to practice their shooting.
The targets from the day before were a little smudged and weather worn, but still useable.
Today there was little banter coming from the girls, as each focused on her own practice, wanting to be ready for O'Brian when she did come back. Amazingly, once they put their minds to it, they were all pretty good shots.
Levi, Josh and Zack watched, impressed at their determination.
"What's gotten into them?" Josh asked, watching Anna unload all six shots into the center of the target.
"I couldn't say." Zack grinned as Cassie shot her initials into the stone. "Clever!" He called.
She turned around and beamed at him, but then got right back to business.
Grace had used a fair amount of lead to desecrate the center ring of her bull's eye until it was no more than a crater.
"It's almost eerie," Levi said in awe.
"Huh?" Zack turned.
"It's really strange how focused they are all of the sudden." Levi crossed his arms and studied the faces of all three girls, thinking.
"Maybe they're just a little freaked about yesterday." Josh proposed.
"Could be, but then they'd have been like this yesterday too." Zack reminded him.
Levi spoke "Well whatever it is, they don't want us to know, so it's either not so bad, or…"
"Really bad." The other two finished together.
Levi nodded grimly. "Alright just don't poke at it, if they want to talk listen, but don't ask, agreed?"
The deputies nodded in agreement and looked up to see the girls huddled up talking, just like they were.
"What's up?" Josh called over.
Anna turned and smiled "We're out of bullets."
"Us too." Levi replied. "How about we call it a day?"
The girls agreed and went to fetch the horses from their lines.
"Maybe we can get them to open up over dinner?" Zack suggested.
"Maybe if we cooked and let them relax." Levi suggested.
Josh smiled. "They'd like that. Besides we owe them for all the food we've mooched."
"Hey it's not mooching!" Levi laughed. "We paid, sort of."
Zack rolled his eyes "I don't want to hear about your nights Sheriff!" He said.
Levi shrugged, "I'm just saying, I don't think they mind our kind of payment."
"Go get on your horse!" Josh directed him. "And you, knock it off, it just encourages him." He told Zack.
The large man shrugged and went off to Cassie, again giving her a boost onto DC.
Josh shook his head and walked over to Anna and Belle.
"You guys seemed really into it today." He commented.
Her eyes widened briefly, wondering if he'd found out, but then she realized it was an innocent comment, and covered herself. "Well yesterday we were learning the mechanics of everything; I think today we knew what we were doing a little better."
He seemed to accept it, 'whew,' she thought.
"By the way, the guys and I were talking. We're making dinner tonight." He said as he boosted her onto the horse.
"Deputy Canfield." Anna started, but she was cut off by a very loud combined exclamation from Grace and Cassie, "We told you! You don't work here!"
She laughed. "Well, yeah that about covers it."
"Call it a date then." He said straight faced.
She blushed and nearly lost her balance on Belle. "Um, sure ok." He climbed up behind her and grabbed the reigns.
"Let's go." He nuzzled her shoulder with his chin and she giggled.
'A date.' She thought, and was content to revel in the happiness.
AN: Reviews are welcome