I won’t give the title yet. But I’ve been working on this for the last year. And sure, it’s only nine chapters, but those nine chapters are 170 pages long of a book that will likely be over 400. The editing process will likely be long, yay, but there will be a lot more fleshed out as I go along. Especially in this first chapter. I enjoy it, but I know that, though it’s what I want it to be, there are aspects that need to fit better with what I’ve been writing. So enjoy and feel free to leave comments on what you thought worked and what didn’t. If you liked it, if you hated it, go hog wild. And I’ll see what I can do to make it even better. Thanks for reading.
SHE STOOD PARALYZED, a hand wrapped tightly around her throat and her face pressed firmly against the cold, grainy surface of a building wall. A hungry chuckle and foul breath caressed her neck and ears. She closed her eyes and felt her skirt sliding up her thighs. A small sound tried to escape her throat as she gritted her teeth.
“Now stop yer whimperin. You and I both know how much yer gonna enjoy this.”
She pursed her lips together and tried to stifle her sobs and braced herself for the inevitable violation of her body. What she didn’t expect was a splash of wetness across her right cheek and a gurgling gasp. She found herself spun around and saw a woman in a long trenchcoat holding a blade in her right hand covered in blood. And at her feet was the shuddering form of her tormentor holding his throat gasping his last breaths. She lifted her eyes to her rescuer but, before she could utter a word, heard the man’s two companions coming down the alley.
“Hey, Gil. How long you gonna take ta- Oh, shit!”
In a flash, the blade dropped from the woman’s hand only to be instantly replaced by a vicious looking pistol. Two shots rang out and the first man’s eye and chest exploded. A split second later the woman was twisting behind her and had another pistol in her left hand. Two more shots rang out before the second companion could draw his arm. Both shots pierced his heart before the first man had even hit the ground.
“Wh…uh…” she stuttered as the woman reached out and grabbed her shoulder.
“No time to dawdle. Git up those stairs and find somewhere to hole up,” the woman said pressing her forward. “Don’ come out til the shootin’s done stopped.”
She rushed up the alleyway stairs to the waiting door and only once there glanced back to see the woman heading towards the alley entrance, her coat whipping in the wind like the fury of hell. A volley of shots rang out and she darted inside, hesitating no longer.
ONE, TWO, THREE… Aidele counted, downing the third and taking cover behind a barrel as two more thugs jumped out of a doorway and opened fire. They sought cover themselves as she darted behind a trough shooting at them at the same time. The shots exploded on the barrels they were taking cover behind and the two returned a volley. She paused as they cut loose and then jumped up as soon as they had stopped to find her mark on their shoulders, gut, and necks. They dropped and she hurried across the dusty street hearing the shouting of more thugs fast approaching.
Including the three in the alley, those three before, and these idiots, that makes eleven. Only fourteen more remaining. No worries, Aidele. She rushed inside an open doorway and up a flight of stairs. Crouching low she quietly went down to the end of a small hallway where an open window looked down on an alley between the buildings. Two gunslingers walked by slowly below and she crawled out the window onto a slender crossbeam to fire twice, one per man. Both head shots. Both fell. Screaming and shouting came from beyond the alley from towards a series of adjoining buildings. She quickly balanced across the crossbeam to the next building as three more men arrived.
Twelve and thirteen. Twelve to go. Inside the building, she ducked down and placed her back against the wall and cautiously peered out the window ledge to see the three men standing over their fallen comrades.
“Aw balls, Lou! What we gonna do?” one of the three shook his head mournfully.
“Ah tells ya what we should do, fuck this! High tail it outta town! Make fer the hills!”
“You stow that talk, Merus! Jus’ one gal with a burr up her ass! There’s more’n enough o’ us left ta put her down!”
The one called Merus walked in a tight circle around the two dead men.
“Yeah? Well if’n you ain’t noticed there’s fewer o’ us left ta fight with!”
“Don’ matter. We gonna-”
Aidele popped up and unloaded on the three men. Lou went down first, his head erupting in a shower of blood and brains. Merus and the other started firing up at her. Three shots penetrated the one man’s upper shoulder and chest and he fell onto his back growling in pain.
“Elson!” Merus shouted and backed up against the wall of the building Aidele was in and fired blindly up at her. Elson gurgled loudly and went still.
“She’s up in the ole whore house!” Merus shouted and received angry yells in response.
Aidele dropped down into a crouch, cursing her luck, and made to reload. She heard the doors burst open downstairs and a lot of shouting came up towards her.
Fifteen fer sure. Missed that damned Merus feller! Ah’ll get back ta dat one… She cocked her pistol and rushed towards the stairs where a man was coming up. He saw her and pointed his gun but she made short work of him. She heard a thud and a hiss and turned to see an explosive had been lobbed in through a window at her and came to rest only a few feet away from her position.
“Shit!” she cried out and ducked into the room behind her, kicking the door shut as she landed on her back. She heard several men coming up the stairwell and an explosion in quick order. The voices screamed in pain falling back down the stairs while another screamer seemed to be flying by the room and out into the alleyway where quiet gurgling protests followed. In front of her, the wall crumbled under the stress yet somehow still stood.
Damn good thing these shelves are so sturdy. She got to her feet and went deeper into the room where she saw two women whimpering and huddling in a closet.
“Ladies. Be sure to stay put now,” and at that jumped out the rear window and onto a roof running from the brothel and towards a saloon. She made for the upper story of the saloon as a flurry of gunshots chased her, zinging off the stony surfaces around her feet.
“She’s back here and still kickin!” a man called after his cohorts.
She fired at him taking out a knee and, as he fell to the ground writhing in agony, shot into his chest. Then four more men rounded the corner and joined in on the action. Aidele jumped through the upper floor saloon window as gunfire ricocheted all across the frame. She stood up to see two men trying to play cards on a small table hunkered down as small as possible.
“Miss, I’d just as soon not be involved in this if’n you don’ mind.”
She tugged on the brim of her hat, “You gents don’ mind me. Just passin’ through.”
Aidele rushed down the outside hall and towards a room over looking the far street and shut the door behind her. She made to the window and crouched low by the sill.
How many still left? Lost count, dammit. Pretty sure Ah got seventeen of ‘em at least…eighteen?
In the open street below she saw half a dozen men taking cover and looking to be trying to surround the saloon. Then she saw him. He strolled out into the clearing just across the street as if this were just another walk in the park.
“Ms. Wilson!” he called out and came to a stop between two of his men. “Ah assume that’s you causin’ all this ruckus. Don’t gotta be this way, y’know. Why donchu come on out an’ we discuss this civilly?”
She squinted and felt the anger crossing her brow. Her lips drew taught and she lifted her weapon. She fired taking his hat off as he quickly ducked behind an overturned carriage.
“Ah’m guessin’ you ain’t in the talkin’ mood!” he caustically replied. “Well? Whatchu waitin’ fer? Git on up in there!”
His henchmen hesitantly looked at him and reluctantly rushed towards the saloon. Aidele smiled and felled a man with one shot. She didn’t get another as a volley of fire rang the window and she rushed out of the room, slinging the door open, and seeking better cover.
As she exited the room she saw several saloon patrons looking for a safe hiding spot. She ignored them and found a room next to a stairwell that was also connected on its other side to a balcony running across the building to another section of rooms beyond.
Aidele took cover by the balcony doorway and looked out to see the entrance where what looked like the rest of his men were arriving, with two splitting off and running under the balcony to presumably out back.
Don’ worry, I ain’ escaping. Hmm…Aidele’s last stand. Ain’ backin’ down now you sumabitch! The men started overturning tables and taking cover behind them. A flurry of patrons rushed out of the saloon as fast as their feet would carry them.
The boss man hurried inside and hid behind a post.
“Aidele!” he shouted. “Why ya hidin’ now!? Thought ya had unfinished business wit’ me!?”
“Maybe she just runned off? Out the back?” a thug closer to the bar said back to his boss.
“Nah. She ain’ runnin’. Eddgis and Potts in dar rear. An’ we ain’ heard shit from ‘em yet,” the boss said.
“Maybes they dead?”
She saw one man rush underneath the balcony in a low crouch and heard a door swing open.
“You boys seen ‘er?” a muffled call.
“Nope. Ain’ showed hide nor hair.”
That man returned, “They says-“
“Ah heard ‘em,” the boss said.
“We should jus’ burn ‘er out, boss,” another thug spoke from behind a table.
“Now might be that’s a good idea,” the boss started. “Ya hear that, Wilson?! Ya don’ come down here, we gonna burn the place down! Damn shame. Fond of this saloon.”
Aidele frowned and heard creaking coming from down the hallway. She quickly repositioned to beside the doorframe she came through and waited while silently drawing her blade from her boot. A gun peeked in through the door followed in short order by one of the boss’s goons. Before he could blink she sliced her blade across his throat and darted into the hall to see his backup. The blade left her hand and flung blade first into the man’s neck. His gun fired up into the ceiling and she rushed towards him grabbing his body. She held him up right and placed a hand on the shaft of the blade still sticking out of his neck. He tried to gurgle and collapse but she held him up and pushed him forward as she guided from behind.
“Shh. Don’ say notin’. I’ll lead if’n you don’ mind.”
“What’s going on up there!? Boys!?”
“Ah’m comin’ down!” she replied to the boss and positioned the man at the top of the stairs.
She pushed forward trying not to let him slip from her grasp and ran down the stairwell. Gunfire immediately erupted pelting the hapless man in the chest. Aidele let go and drew her two guns and began firing as she leapt behind the bar just at the base of the stairs. She targeted the guys nearest the bar first. They went down quickly.
Screw it! Three left! He musta picked up some more men! She dropped low as the firing continued and leapt to her feet to lay siege to the men she saw briefly. Guess those two upstairs were the backup out back. What a pity. Here I come, you bastard.
She fell back down behind the bar as an eerie silence fell across the interior of the saloon. She felt a sharp pain in her right shoulder and saw that a shot had grazed her. She flexed her hand and saw she could still grip and put it out of her mind.
Deal with it later.
“Hot damn, woman, you can shoot,” the boss sighed. “Let’s finish this.”
She heard the three men walk to the center of the room. The clump of their boots stopped. And she held the nose of her pistols flat against her forehead, pushing her hat up just a bit.
“Whachu say, Wilson? Ya got spirit, ah’ll give ya that,” he let out a loud sighing grunt. “You should know, killin’ yer papi tweren’t nothin’ personal.”
“Was ta me,” she replied and placed one pistol back in its holster so that she could reach into a coat pocket. She pulled out an object with her right hand and looked at it with conviction.
“All gotta go sometime. Muswell go with our boots on,” she heard him say gruffly.
She nodded at that, “Truer words were never spoken.”
In a blur of motion, Aidele jumped to her feet bringing the small round object to bear and tossed it towards the three men. Nearly an instant later she brought up her one pistol as the three men took aim. The device split in half as it approached them and the two halves spun into each henchmen on either side of the boss and detonated in their chests. Their guts sprayed all over the boss who covered his face as Aidele fired four shots: one disarming him, one into his left shoulder, one into his belly, and one just above his heart.
The boss fell onto his back and all went quiet save for his groaning and the outside murmurings from locals gathered around waiting to know what came next.
Aidele walked towards the boss deliberately slow, kicking his weapon away from his reach. Her pistol was held out at an angle before her and at his face. The boss smiled at her and gave a slight nod. His grizzled and heavily mustached face were covered in blood and spittle.
“Well, whatchu waitin’ fer? Ya gots what ya come fer,” he coughed a slight chuckle. “The full weight of mah crew an’ ya mow through us like cattle grazin’. Color me impressed, Ms. Wilson.”
A scowl crossed Aidele’s face, ”Don’ want yer accolades. Only thing Ah want is ya lookin’ me in mah eyes as Ah do ya in.”
He looked straight into her eyes, the life already fading, “Ya can do’s with me what ya will. But they’s never gonna forgit about that-“
A shot rang out and his face shattered under the force. Aidele blew on the tip of her iron and holstered it.
“Din’t say nothin’ ‘bout talkin’ neither.”
She turned and exited the building. Onlookers stared at her, some whooping, as she walked between them and headed towards the far end of town where her steed was tied up.
IT’D BEEN QUIET for far too long. Then the cheers and hollering had begun. She wasn’t sure what that meant but the young woman decided since the gunfire had long since stopped that now was as good a time as ever to leave her hiding spot and to head back out into the alleyway.
As she walked down the stairs she could hear a crowd of people rushing down the street. Her assailants from before were still lying where they fell, and she took great care not to step on them or their drying blood as she headed out towards the alley entrance.
Several people were passing by smiling, and the young woman stopped them.
The woman in the bonnet turned to her and took her shoulders.
“You didn’t hear, Lilybell? Kern Micheals and his gang are dead! We’re free!”
The woman and her companion laughed and continued walking down the street.
“He’s dead?” Lilybell whispered and saw a familiar figure crossing the street a ways. It was the woman who’d saved her from Kern’s thugs. Lily decided to follow her as she made her way down a long street to the far side of town. Lily wasn’t the only one. A dozen others came out to wave their hats at her as she found her steed and mounted up.
Lily wanted to say something to the woman but didn’t know what. She only ended up across the street from the woman among a crowd of onlookers and saw the town mayor rushing up to the stranger.
“Miss! Miss!” he cried out and stopped before the woman who only looked down at him. “You’ve done us all a great favor! I’d be honored to offer you the badge of sheriff given that damned Kern wiped out our lawmen when he rode in. We need strong law minded individuals such as yourself taking care of business!”
The mayor smiled and the woman frowned, “Tweren’t nothin’ to do with the law, sir. Simply owed that coward a personal response.”
She began to ride away but he stepped in front of her steed, “Well…uh…oh at least tell us the name of our erstwhile hero!”
She paused for a long moment, “Aidele Wilson.”
“Three cheers for Ms. Aidele Wilson!” the mayor shouted to the crowd. “Hip hip!”
“Hooray!” the crowd joined in and then shouted twice more as Aidele shook her head and rode near Lily.
Lily looked up at her and caught her eyes, “Thank you.”
Aidele tugged on the brim of her hat, “Ma’am.”
And with that, the woman kicked her steed into motion and headed out of town. Lily watched her disappearing out into the wasteland beyond and thought, One day, I’m gonna be just like her. Nobody ever’s gonna take advantage of me again. Not ever.