Hope tossed the shirt that was hanging from the back of the chair that she had just vacated to Ray on the bed. “Cowboy, you certainly aren’t real bright. If I can find you here so can whoever framed you. I’ve been rounding up bad guys for the better part of ten years. I don’t know if there are many more qualified people to help you run from the law. Put on your shirt and let’s go.”
“Hold on, ma’am. Why weren’t you with Rawlins?” Ray looked her in the eye. In the years that he had known Rawlins, his daughter was never far from him. She was a silent, strong force always in sight of the older man. Though, always together, there was something more than just her hard father that kept unwanted and unasked for attention at bay. Looking back, it seemed strange that he had never heard her utter a single word until she had her pistol pressed to his temple.
“Pa had me watching out for a woman that was wanted for killing her husband and brother-in-law. I found her, too. She was whoring in the most disgusting saloon I’ve been in in years. When I got back to our place, I saw he wasn’t alone. He hadn’t said that he was expecting a late visit so I stayed out of sight. I watched a man leave through a back window. He didn’t have your build. I went in to check on Pa and found he was,” Her voice faltered slightly. Hope took a breath then continued, “I followed the tracks leaving our place and into Greely. It didn’t take long there to hear that the deputy had shot Old Rawlins and had run.”
Hope fixed him with a loaded look, “Yes, by myself. Get dressed. We need to get out of here. You may know what you are doing on the right side of the law, but you are sadly lacking when it comes to the wrong side. We don‘t have much more time. I’m sure who ever got Pa will be expecting to make their job easy.”
“Are you working for them?” Ray gripped the shirt tightly waiting for his answer.
“If you ever again question my loyalty to my father I will kill you. No, I am not. I’m a bounty hunter, and you are accused of murder to my father and mentor. I’m sure they are expecting me to either kill you myself or take you into the sheriff myself. They will not expect that I would be willing to listen to your pleas of innocence. Get dressed.”
After another second of hesitation Ray nodded and said, “Alright.”
Hope picked up her Stetson and placed it low on her brow and stood away from the bed. “We’re going to do this my way, Travers. I’m going to bind your wrists behind your back and we’re going to walk out the front of the saloon. You’re gonna be trying to fight me off yelling that I have the wrong man. I will tie you to your saddle and a lead to your mount. We’ll head like we’re going back to Greely then turn to the side after a few miles. You need to be convincing, don’t let your preconceived notions of women, or that we’re working together get in the way of that. If you aren’t convincing this won’t work. We need whoever did this to think you’re on your way to a hanging. It won’t take them long to wise up to what we are doing. Every second counts for getting as much distance between us as possible.”
Removing a length of rope from one of the deep pockets in her coat, Hope motioned for him to step up to her and turn around. Ray caught a light sent of sandalwood and rose as she drew near. “Time to go, cowboy. Make me believe you.” studying her knot, and then looking up to him. His breath caught in his throat. By the way this woman held herself it was hard to believe that she was suffering a tragic loss of a loved one. However, her cinnamon eyes couldn’t hide the torment of her pain. Ray fought the urge to reach out to her. They had an act to perform and they both would need to be ready for it.
Hope took her Colt from its holster, and then yanked the door open with a slam. “Get your sorry hide down those steps, dog,” she all but screamed.
“Let me go, damn it! Find another man to terrorize. You have the wrong one,” came his reply. He was only slightly surprised to feel the strength in her grip on his arm. He eyed the pistol in her had with a weary eye.
“You’ll keep your trap shut. You killed my father. You’re going to be swinging before you see another sunset.”
Ray gave a mighty tug on her arm, and they stumbled down the stairs together cursing each other. At the bottom of the stairs they turned towards the taproom. Though at this hour it was nearly empty there were a few cowpokes nursing their last drinks of the evening, while the harassed looking bartender that looked annoyed at the commotion coming from the two struggling patrons.
Hope’s hold bit into his arm. He knew he had to do something more than just make a bunch of noise. But he also didn’t want to hurt her. However, he did say to make it believable. One thing he was good at was getting an unruly drunk out of Billy’s without any issue. He could be just as unruly. He jerked to the right, and Hope’s grasp slipped enough for him to get a little distance between the two of them. He turned to face her with a smirk.
Before he could speak, pain exploded across his right cheek. Instantly he was cussing her even louder. Ray shook his head a bit to lessen the lights he was seeing. Her hand was a vice on his elbow. He struggled against her hold. Then without warning he stepped on her foot in another attempt at freedom. Hope never faltered and pressed the barrel of her pistol into his side. She ordered him to move again.
“Get the Hell out of my bar you two. I don’t need a lover’s spat in my place damn it,” the bartender bellowed.
“I’ll get this this piece of trash out of here, don’t worry. I said move your ass,” Hope’s fingers dug into Ray’s arm and he stumbled forward.
“You have the wrong man you crazy bitch. Let go of me,” Ray struggled with little success.
Ray yanked as hard as he could against Hope’s vice grip on his arm and swung suddenly to his right. Hope hadn’t been expecting the movement. His effort was finally rewarded. Hope had been knocked off balance, she fell to the floor. His freedom was short lived as he took is second rushed step towards the swinging door, Hope’s leg shot out and tripped him. Ray fell, his head hitting the edge of a chair on the way down. He was dazed. That was enough time for his captor to regain her composure.
“If you aren’t out of here in thirty seconds, I’ll be taking you both out myself,” said the bartender.
Ray’s head was pounding. He stopped fighting until he felt the cool night air hit his face. Stars were still distorting his vision.
“Come on, Cowboy. Mount up,” Hope spat at him.