May 13, 1892
San Francisco, California
The morning sun streaming through the thin curtains pulled Brisco County Jr. from a deep sleep. It was the deepest sleep he'd had since he could recall, and he was more than a little reluctant to give it up so easily. He stretched before pulling the stiff cotton sheets over his head, hoping to catch a few more winks before getting out of bed and greeting the day.
But the pounding on the door to his rented room told him someone else had something other than letting him catch up on some well deserved rest on their mind.
"Brisco!" he recognized the voice behind the knocking and cursed silently as he stumbled out of the comfort a warm bed to unlock the door. Ellie was waiting on the other side, looking fresh and alarmingly awake for what Brisco considered an ungodly hour. A difficult feat considering the Horseshoe Club manager had probably been up the entire night. "Brisco, did I wake you?" she asked.
"What time is it?" Brisco asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. His head was beginning to pound, reminding him of the large quantity of whiskey he had consumed during a rather satisfying game of poker the night before.
"Early." she answered, her tone devoid of the lighthearted sarcasm he would have expected. "But I thought you'd want to see this." Brisco glanced down at her outstretched hand, taking the folded newspaper from her grasp.
"What?" he asked as he unfolded the paper, his stomach clenching at the sight of the bold headline and the true to life sketch underneath.
May 10, 1892
She straightened the hat on her head as she deliberately made her way down the stairs. It was still early and the only soul moving inside the hotel was the sweaty hotel manager who always seemed to have a reason to knock on her door at all hours of the day. He barely glanced up at her as she descended the staircase, muttering a weak "good morning, Mrs. Dawkins" as she passed him. She nodded her hello, wondering briefly why the front doors were closed, even with the suppressing late spring heat already stifling inside the hotel.
She pulled the door open, her eyes downcast. She failed to see the nearly dozen men approach as she verified the door was shut securely behind her, but the familiar sound of weapons being armed made her pause.
"Jessamyn County! You turn around slowly, with your hands in the air, this can all have a happy ending for you." Jessie paused, weighing her options slowly in her mind. "There's ten of us right here, five more scattered throughout the town. There's no way out, County. Best you can do is give yourself up." Jessie bit her lips and heaved a deep sigh.
"Damn." she muttered.
May 11, 1892
Her arms had gone numb hours ago. Her body ached from standing for so long. The chains wrapped around her wrists rubbed the skin raw with every movement and bump the train made. Her eyes washed over the small train car for what seemed like the thousandth time. Both windows on each side of the railcar were lined with thick wrought iron bars. Her arms were chained above her head, attached to a six inch thick piece of wood that ran the length of the car, giving her the freedom to walk around. Well, pace back and forth at least. That is, if she enjoyed the feeling of the rusted chain link digging into her wrists when the chain snagged on some rut or bump in the wood, which she learned from experience happened a lot more than she preferred. Besides, it took quite a bit of concentration just to keep her balance. If she was calculating correctly, they were less than an hour from Tucson. That is, if Tucson was where the train was headed.
The air inside the railcar was stale and heavy, the windows not nearly big enough to circulate fresh air throughout the car. Sweat rolled down her skin, causing her clothing to cling uncomfortably to her. Her mouth was dry and her stomach reminded her it had been quite a while since she had last eaten.
Behind her, the sound of metal sliding against metal pulled her thoughts away from her current discomfort. Someone had just entered the car. The smell of whiskey and cigar smoke was familiar. It was the marshal who had arrested her. She could hear him pull the Smith and Wesson from its leather. He slowly pulled the hammer back and carefully send it home repeatedly, arming and disarming the weapon in hopes of unnerving her, she supposed.
She shifted her weight from her right to her left foot and sighed impatiently. "I hope you brought me some water." she began snidely "It's awfully hot in here." She listened to his footsteps as he leisurely made his way to her right, stopping when he was just barely visible in her peripheral. He checked the chamber of the revolver before twirling it on his forefinger and replacing it back into the leather.
"We'll see what we can do about getting you water, once we're in Tucson and you're safely locked up." the marshal sneered, leaning close. She could smell the stale cigar smoke on his breath.
"Remind me to complain about the service on this trip." she shot back, twisting her lips into a sarcastic grin. She wasn't prepared for the sharp punch to the side. She gasped as the wind was knocked from her, her knees buckled, the only thing keeping her upright was the fact her wrists were still chained above her head. She quickly grabbed hold of her senses and wrapped her fingers around the chain to keep the metal from digging deep into her wrists and steadied herself, concentrating on getting her breathing back on track.
"You are a sarcastic little cuss, aren't you?" The marshal stepped into her line of sight, a sick grin upon his face. "We're gonna change that real soon."
"I'm sure." She forced the grin back on her face, ignoring the throbbing pain in her side.
"You do realize what's going to happen, don't you, County?" Jessie's superior expression didn't change. "They're gonna take you to trial, they're gonna find you guilty, and then, they're gonna hang you. And wipe that smug little grin off your goddamn face."
"I'm sure." Jessie repeated, her expression unchanged. The marshal chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief before sending another blow, this time directly to Jessie's stomach. Her fingers unraveled from the chain as she pitched forward, causing the chain to dig into her flesh, awakening her arms with new daggers of pain. She forced herself to stand up straight, the pain in her arms lessening once her weight was no longer supported by her wrists. "Always a gentleman, eh, Marshal Steele?" The sick grin was still spread across his face, the gold incisor glinting in the sunlight.
"You think you deserve to be treated any different from a male prisoner, County?" Steele asked, his brow furrowed, the lines between his eyes much deeper than normal. "If I had my way, I would have killed you back in Reno. It'd save a lot of time and money." Jessie remained silent, her eyes fixed solely on Steele dark gaze. "What? Nothing to say? Don't tell me you're all out of sarcastic things to say already?" Jessie waited a few moments before spitting in Steele's face, ready for the next assault, this time, a back hand across her left cheek. "You killed my brother, County, and I'm going to enjoy watching you hang."
"You killed my husband." she hissed, fixating on his gaze yet again, her eyes sapphire slits. "I was aiming at you, anyway."
"Your husband." he chuckled lightly. "'Doc' Sutton was a wanted criminal. He killed two deputies. A quick death by a bullet in the back was much too good for him." He taunted her, willing her to do anything that would warrant another hit. Jessie knew it. She bit her bottom lip and stayed silent. "What, you don't agree? Naw, I suppose you wouldn't. But watching you hang will make me feel a whole lot better." He let his gaze slide over her, his face twisted in amusement before continuing. "And you were aiming at me, hmm?" An acerbic grin taunted her further. "Hard to shoot with a bullet in the gut, huh? You know, that always surprised me. I've never seen anyone survive being gut shot."
"Just lucky, I guess." she said quietly, trying to reinforce her tone with light sarcasm, choosing to leave out the fact she would have certainly died if her brother hadn't found her near Hachita and nursed her back to health.
Steele broke her gaze and turned toward the window, watching the scenery pass by for a few moments, a content look on his face. "We'll be in Tucson soon. Funny," he continued, his eyes never wavering. "You're so concerned with 'Doc' Sutton, but you found yourself another husband so soon after I killed him." Steele let his eyes wash over her once more before heading to the back of the car, pausing before pulling the door open to exit. "So, you think your daddy will come and show his support for his wayward little girl?"