by Jhonny Shah
The wagon was ready to roll early in the morning. I awoke still feeling somewhat pished from Red's mysterious green whiskey from the wild night before. Red was nowhere to found but I was fortunate to find that he left me a cup of coffee in the pot. Our new saw must have felt some pity for me, as she had already harnessed the horses to the loaded wagon, which was my job. The town was well out-of-sight from the highway, by the time my vision quit spinning.
The Bossman would glance at me, occasionally chuckling, his long black hair blowing in the desert breeze. He was a short, plump and jolly man but we all knew that that the moment his mood changed, we had to take him serious. Dead serious.
Later in the morning, we came upon a crossroads, Bossman had his serious face on and the wagon came to a halt. He was gazing silently towards the sandy hills that seem to rise to the north. After a long silence, he finally spoke, "Do you see him?"
"I'm sorry, sir?" I replied scanning the north, looking for an answer to his question. Assuming that he was looking for our companion, Red.
He chuckled again, "Do you see any riders, Chavo?"
Shielding my eyes from the sun, I saw a rider approaching from the northeast, moving just fast enough, so as not to stir up the trail dust. To make the movement even harder to detect, the rider was approaching at just enough of an angle, to use the harsh desert sun to shield them from sight.
Red was a sneaky scout and this resembled a game that the granger liked to play with the Bossman, on his way back to the caravan. Red said his game made the Bossman's eyes work better.
"That's not Red." said Sam, her demeanor stoic as ever, squinting to the northeast.
Bossman slid a boomstick in his lap, being the quick dicker that he was and had it covered with a towel, all in one motion. He cursed under his breath. Sam took a non-threatening stance at the back of the wagon but in spite of her casual appearance, I knew all too well about her reputation for pulling a blade out of the back and splashing some necks, should the need arise.
Bossman told me to turn around and as soon as I did, he shoved an iron in my pants and covered it with my untucked shirt. He whispered, "That shooter is full of lead. Ya got six shots, Chavo. Let me do the spewing and if ya gotta pull it, keep your finger off the trigger till ya have them in your sites. Do you understand?"
"yes 'sir" I said, as he waved to the lone horseman.
Before I could see the whites of the rider's eyes, I could clearly see her feminine features. She looked every bit as tough as Red, if not more so. She rode a mean black stallion and was clad in trail leathers, with a big iron holstered to her hip.
"It's a woman!" I whispered mesmerized, without even looking at Bossman.
"It's a Lady of the Lanes, mind your tongue, they can be every bit as bad as Red on a bad day and then some." he still looked a little concerned and that was understandable given Red's recent disappearance. Red liked to consider himself a ladies man of sorts and sometimes that only brought us all trouble.
It was all starting to make sense, as soon as I thought about it. I had wondered why Bossman had us load all of those fancy women's clothing and shoes into the wagon, the night before. When I asked him about it, Bossman just laughed and said that he had been offered a really good deal on it and he was sure he could find something to do with it. I remember hearing of these rovers losing most of their men in battle with the fiendish Drekar Tribe, so the cargo would cater to their survivors, being mostly females.
The Lady circled the wagon on horseback. She rode high on the horse, looking down at the Bossman in disgust. The rider stopped at the back of the wagon and dismounted addressing Sam, "I'm Lois of the Lanes and I'll be needin' to inspect your wagon, Ma'am."
Sam took a few silent steps away from the back of the wagon and let Lois examine the cargo. I copped a glance at Bossman, who was trying not to look annoyed by the whole ordeal. Apparently, Sam was caught a little of guard by this, as well but Bossman gave her a reassuring nod.
After a minute, the outrider Lois seemed to approve of the cargo and mounted her black horse. She turned again to Sam, "Looks right, I can escort you to market. If we run across any trouble on the way, just follow the lane yer on and let me deal with it."
She glared at Bossman and her tone hardened, "When ya get to town, don't dick around. Ya need to take your wagon straight to market, ya hear?"
"Yes, Ma'am", said Bossman with a polite smile but I could tell he was seething a little.
"Thank you, Lois. By the way, I trust you didn't have to rough our scout up too much." said Sam, with a smile, which was odd because Sam rarely smiled.
Lois grinned mischievously, "and supposes I did?"
"Well, I'm just afraid he'd like it too much if you did." Sam replied.
Lois laughed as she reared her horse ahead to scout and we started rolling north, into the strange amazon controlled territory, known The Lanes. The whole way, Bossman and Sam would make ridiculous wagers and jokes, about what kind of state Red would be in when they arrived.
Knowing Red as well as I did, I could only assume they were probably half-joking, hehe. Red did have this amazing ability to get himself in and sometimes even out of, some seriously troubling situations.