Magic Dust (of the Infamous)

Febuary 13th, 1882

Andrew Gomery's eyes widened to the size of saucers when the young woman scribbled her name down on the visitor record sheet, not bothering to be careful with the superfluously flowing, ink and making deep scratches in the yellow paper. Her deliberate movements implied anger, but it soared over Andrew's half-empty head. "Well hell - you're Joanna Charleston!"

"That's what it says." She pushed her dark hair back from her face, and she regarded him with impatiently raised brows, nearly staring down her nose at the young man before her. This woman seemed like the Joanna Charleston type: independent, prompt and sickeningly aware of the power they held over men. Andrew only stared back with a delighted grin. "I'm here to see the boys. The Kid's Regulators."

"You're in luck, missus, until today visitation rights was off." Andrew replied, leaning over so that his palm supported his heavily resting chin and his grin stretched across his face in blind admiration. He wiggled pale eyebrows at her. "But you can see 'em. Ya know, I was there for every one of your six performances of 'As Ya Like It'."

"No, I didn't know that." Miss Charleston's response was flavored with polite disinterest, and she kept looking over his shoulder to the cell block. She drummed her fingers on the counter, the click of her nails repeating over and over in a decided pattern. "May I see them now?"

Andrew's face fell a bit, and he pulled himself up again with a grunt in the back of his throat. "I was stationed there to keep the folks without tickets away," he said, and sounded very disappointed that the actress aparently did not remember him. "Stood at the doors all night in the cold, watchin' you on stage – you looked like a newborn babe out there next to all them old timers."

She took the time to frown at that, and straightened. Her reply was even. "Talent has nothing to do with age. Now may I see the boys, or not?"

"Course, miss, course," Andrew tipped his hat at her. "Don't know why a famous gal like you'd wanna associate with the likes a them. You here on God's work?"

"Yes," The word was quick to leave her lips, coming out breathless, and she gave him a swift smile that did not reflect in her eyes. "We're all sinners in the eyes of the Lord. I would be a hypocrite if I didn't do his work."


"May I please go in now?" She pressed, hurriedly. "I have other engagements…"

"Oh, right, right, course miss." Andrew reached over to the wall and took down the long rifle from it's pegs, setting it on his shoulder and sauntering around the front booth. "This way."

"Thank you."

"Now I'm warnin ya, miss, that these boys are the lowest of the low. Crude, rude and aint gonna appreciate some respectable woman like yourself." Andrew guided her by the elbow through the narrow hallway until they reached the end of it, where a thick oak door cut the cell block off from the check in station.

It was latched down with four or five heavy iron locks, only the a bit rusted, and sunlight outlined the frame. Andrew threw the locks in an effortless fashion, and threw Miss Charleston one last look. "I'll be out here. You give me a holler if any a them boys do anythin' ya don't like. Just a holler."

"Thank you." Was all Miss Charleston said before he lugged the heavy door open and she slipped in. The block was a small one, and Jo took in the consideration that it was the execution block and generally didn't have roomy compartments. It had only six cells, both wide and tall with thick, inescapable bars chipping black paint and large rusty locks. It was depressing, and cold.

It was also silent save for the rhythmic breathing of a few sleeping captives, and those that were not asleep did not even seem to see her. In the cell closest to her right there was a young man she had come to see, the notorious Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh, sleeping with his back to the bars and his arm folded behind his head. He had been given no blankets, but he still had his worn overcoat with the reattatched sleeves to suffice him.

"Dave," she whispered, coming to a low crouch at the bottom of the cell and removing her wide brimmed blue hat so she could come closer to the bars. The young man did not move, did not even stir. Jo had known Dave long enough to know he was no heavy sleeper, and she slipped a hand between the iron to touch his shoulder. "Dave, it's me, Jo. Wake up."

Dave made no sound, but he did draw in a deep breath that disrupted his usual pattern of breathing. He spitefully let her know that he was awake. Dave was ignoring her. Jo closed her eyes and exhaled hard through her nose, slowly pulling her hand back into her blue cotton lap and letting her knees slide onto the ground. The pressing quiet kept her edgy, and she awkwardly pushed a dark coil of hair from her face, clearing her throat in the silence.

"I came to tell you I'm leaving." She began suddenly, waiting a moment for a reaction, any sign that Dave cared or even heard her. When Dave tensed his green clad shoulders and replied with another deep sigh, Jo continued on, casting her gaze down into her open purse and rummaging around. She withdrew a stiff slip of paper, with smeared blue ink and her signature.

"First class to Dallas. Noon tomorrow." Jo said, and gave the ticket one light slap against her maroon stockinged thigh before she had to force a quick smile when Dave rolled over to finally look at her. He only stared at her incredulously, his light brown eyes catching the poor jailhouse light and four days length had added to his stubble. Dave's hair was touseled from his sleeping position, and fading yellow bruises still lingered on his face. "I wrote to my mother…and I know she and my father'll be wating for me."

"You're headin' to Texas?" he asked softly, and frowned with a gaping jaw when she gave an affirmative nod. "Hell, Josephine, what in Hades for?"

"Because, it's my home, Dave!" Jo shot in her own defense, drawing back a bit with an uncomfortable scowl. "I belong there."

"And your just gonna let me hang?" Dave prompted in an urgent voice, low and even a bit rough. Jo yelped when he darted up to grip the bars, feeling very silly afterwards for granting him a glimpse of how she truly felt in all of this. He pressed his face between the two bars and practically hollowed her out with his desperate stare. "You're just leavin, just like that?"

"Dave – "

"Even Hendry William French? He aint never killed no-one!"

"Oh stop acting like you care," Jo said in a low voice, her tone cruely frosted as she stuffed her ticket back into her purse and broke her glare at him. "You're no good at it."

"Naw, you're the great actress." Dave's words dripped with mock, contempt, and he moved away from the bars and set his elbows on his kness, turning to scowl at the wall. It was silent between them for the next few minutes, then, "Go on. Leave, then. Everybody'll gather round to see the notorious Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh hung. I'm a famous man. I earned it, I earned all this. I didn't just hop around a stage pretendin' to be other people."

"You all earned yourselves a hangin'. It's the only way for this story to end." Jo sounded a bit distant as she spoke, fumbling with loose threads of her v-necked grey blouse. She wound them around her fingers and unravelled them again, and Dave wondered if she had listened to a word he said. "You can't expect to ride out into a sun set with your fortune, Dave. If that's how you wanted this to end, you shouldn't have become an outlaw."

"Did ya ever think maybe some of us was born to be outlaws?" Dave challenged, bringing Jo's gaze to linger on his still healing face, though no sorrow reflected in the eyes that surveyed him. He had expected that. An entire year with this girl had given him time to see every detail of her personality, when she put her masks on, and when she could no longer hide behind them. When he looked at her she turned away. "I's never good at anything else, Jo. But I'm good at what I do."

"You were one of the best," she said softly, and stirred uncomfortably beside the bars. Jo let her fingers brush against the cold bars once more before inhaling deeply and slowly uncoiling to her feet. "And now you're paying for it. I came to say goodbye, Dave." Jo turned away from him, letting the air from the barred but open window at the end of the block run past her and ruffle her satin-cotton skirts. The sound earned a quick glance from Dave. "That's all."

"Well goodbye, Josephine." Dave shot a look up at her. "I'll wait for you in hell. Or maybe I'll come down to Texas and bring you down with me."

"What makes you think you'll ever live to get the chance?"

"Billy'll come for us."

Jo snorted and gave a wry half smile, flicking her gaze over to the other three boys, Doc, Chavez and Hendry. They still slept soundly, certainly resting easy for dead men. Maybe the reason they slept so well and Dave did not was because they did trust in Billy to get them out of this tangle again. Perhaps it truly was their undying faith in their brother that kept the demons that tormented Dave away; doubt and fear. Jo shook her head, and looked back to Dave. "Billy Bonney's in shackles of his own."

"Ya knew us," Dave reminded her slowly, and a glimmer of something Jo could not pinpoint surfaced in his light brown eyes. He blinked slowly. "Ya spent almost a year with all of us and now you're leavin us behind. You had a million chances to turn us in and ya didn't, and now youre tryin to convince me you'll just leave us behind."

"You don't believe me?" Jo inquired with a fine dark brow arched, setting her arms across her chest. "You don't think I'll leave you here?"

"I admit, Josie," Dave stifled an obvious laugh, and he winked at her. "You're a good actress. But you aint got me fooled. And I got a week to find out if I'm right."

--- --- ---