San Francisco, California
It was only mid afternoon and the saloon was filling quickly to capacity. The sign out front advertising the arrival of a new showgirl was certainly the culprit. Brisco sipped his beer as he scanned the faces of the newest arrivals. Finding no one interesting, or familiar, he turned his attention back to the week old copy of the Chronicle Ellie had stashed away for him. It wasn't all too surprising she had made the front page. Nor was it too surprising the headline screamed Jessie was aided in her escape by thirty to forty armed bandits. The subsequent article described the mayhem that ensured, and the path of wanton destruction the gunmen left in their wake.
Brisco pushed the newspaper away from him and downed the last of his drink.
"Want another?" Ellie asked, removing the empty glass from the bar. Brisco shook his head. "Your room's ready if you want to head on up." Brisco nodded and pushed himself away from the counter. "You need anything, let me know, huh?" she called after Brisco, her voice barely audible above the increasing din of the saloon. Brisco waved an arm in reply.
The short climb to the top of the stairs was more demanding on his exhausted body, the weeks' events taking toll. He was tired, physically and emotionally. All he wanted was a hot bath and a good night's rest.
What he had done for her in Tucson would earn him his own place at the gallows if anyone found out. He knew it then, but he chose to do it anyway. One shot was all it took. Not that she truly needed it. Jessie would have been quite capable in getting off that rooftop alive if left to her own devices, but it made him feel better.
Brisco closed the door to his room behind him, securing the lock before giving the room a once over. Just the way he had left it.
Brisco tore off his jacket and kicked off his boots before collapsing onto the bed. He decided he could do without the bath. What his mind needed most was respite
The afternoon sun had finally disappeared behind the mountains, leaving the dirty streets encased in darkness, the only light source emanating from the half dozen saloons open and filled with rowdy patrons. There was no need to light up the streets of Ojo de Agua at night. Most of a man's time was spent at the saloon, gambling his newly ill-gotten gains away and maybe spending the night with one of the many working girls who sashayed between the tables before hitting the trail in the morning.
The air was still thick and heavy with moisture, the sweet smell of a threatening rainstorm filling her nostrils as she exited the saloon. It was too loud, there were too many people, and Juno wouldn't play the tables even if she wanted to. On top of that, Juno had a hawk-eye watch on her since leaving Tucson, smothering her even more. It took a rather engrossing game of poker to get her out of there, even if it was for just a brief minute to have a quick smoke. No telling how enraged Juno would get if he looked up and actually noticed she was gone.
She stuck a neatly rolled cigarette between her lips and struck a match against the handle of her pistol. She could feel the faint heat from the match head's flame as she lit her cigarette. After extinguishing the flame, she tossed the match aside, unaware of the figure next to her until he spoke.
"Got a match?" The voice startled her, but she held her place, the familiar scent of Marshal Steele mixing with the tangy air.
"Nope." she muttered, elaborately stuffing the tiny box of matches into a trouser pocket. "If you've come to take me in, you're dumber than I thought."
"Nah." Steele began, moving so he was standing shoulder to shoulder with her. "I'm not here to take you in. It'd be an automatic death sentence for me. There's no way I'd make it to the border. Give me a little credit."
"You were dumb enough to come down here."
"Maybe." Steele crossed his arms tightly over his chest and took a deep breath, allowing the air to escape slowly from his lungs before continuing. "I thought you'd be a tad bit nicer considering I know who fired that shot that disabled the sharpshooter on the rooftop across from the jail house." Jessie's eyebrows raised in feigned interest.
"Oh, you do, do you? Well, you know more than I do." Steele turned his face toward her and met her gaze.
"I think you know." Jessie's eyebrows dropped and she studied the marshal carefully. "And I think you know that single act could secure a spot hanging right next to you." Steele said thoughtfully, his gaze focused back out at the empty street I front of them.
"You'd have to prove that. " she said quietly. Steele grinned, but didn't turn to meet her gaze.
"You know that's not true. "
"You were right." Steele muttered after a few moments. "When you said my job was to enforce the law. Not break it." he explained when he caught her confused stare. "And letting you sit through an unfair trial…" The marshal paused as he searched for the words to say next. "Well, no matter how I feel about you, County…everyone deserves a fair trial. Even those who are guilty." The two feel silent once more. Steele was the first to break the calm, heaving a deep sigh and beginning to rock back and forth on his heels. "Besides, it's rather fun chasing you down. Just remember," His gaze met hers once more, "you can't be in the company of a murderous gang of thieves forever. And the moment you're alone…you're mine. Just so you know." Steele tipped his hat and stepped off the wooden sidewalk to the street below. "Miss County."
"You know," Jessie called out as Steele began to walk away, "if you hadn't killed my husband, your brother would still be alive. Just so you know." she hissed.
The marshal stood stoic in the middle of the empty street, gazing thoughtfully at the outlaw in front of him, his stare unnerving her slightly. "There's probably something you should know, Jessie County. I was aiming at you." A tiny smile spread across his lips as he spoke. "Sutton noticed and purposely got in the way. To save you." The smile grew as Jessie's smug look faded. "There must be something about you, County. Men risking anything and everything for you. Sutton, Dawkins, your brother…hell, even me." Steele chuckled and turned back around. "See ya around, County, and don't do anything stupid like getting yourself killed before I get a chance to bring you back in."