Disclaimer: Victorious is not owned by me, but if ever I should travel back to the Old West, you can be sure I'll create it before dying of cholera.
The Kid breathed a sigh of relief as she entered the stables, Pal O' Mine whickering at the sight of her, tail flicking. Sikowitz was nowhere to be seen, fortunately, but Pal O' Mine had fresh hay and cool water, which frankly was better than what most flophouses provided.
"Hang back, Deputy." Tori commanded Robbie, the slim boy looking suspiciously at a rather large black horse in the neighbouring stall. She slipped into the compartment, running a hand along the palomino's hindquarters, the horse snorting softly. She glanced back to where Robbie was, the deputy scowling at the interested stallion nibbling his shirt sleeve. Good. He couldn't hear her. "Are you okay? Was your hay good?" The horse stared at her, nose soft velvet under Tori's hand. "I'll see if'n I can get you some sugar. You'd like that, huh?" The horse continued to stare. "Oh Pal, I swear you understand me better'n anyone." Tori pressed her forehead to the palomino's cheek, letting out a low breath. "We're gonna be here for a while, I reckon. See, I kinda met someone, Pal. Y'all saw her yesterday. Well... I won't go into the whole thing, but she kinda stuck me with bein' Sheriff." The equine snorted. "I know, I know, law 'n order ain't really our thing, but I figure if it keeps us fed, can't be that bad, right?" The Kid stroked the horse's thick, muscled neck, sighing. The palomino was her only constant companion through her travels. Sure, she'd had the occasional sidekick who got kidnapped a lot, even tied to train tracks sometimes, but they'd all left. Or gotten killed. Pal O' Mine had been with her since she'd left home; she'd ridden out of town pressed against the horse's broad back, fingers twisted in the pale mane. Throughout everything, Pal had never judged her, never thrown stones or even the occasional bullet at her, never once told her she was wrong. All the horse wanted from her was love, and the occasional piece of fresh produce, and that was more than Tori could say for anyone else she'd ever known. That horse was kin, even more than Trina was.
"You know, Pal, I think our luck might just be chang-" The Kid stiffened against the horse, nostrils flaring. Underneath the sweet smell of hay and the rather more pungent smell of horse manure, was a familiar odour. Smoke. Pal shifted uneasily against her, pushing her back. Kid Victorious ran from the stall, looking for the telltale fingers of smoke stealing their way underneath a door. Sure enough, a few wisps rose from the back of the building. Tori pressed her fingers against the closed door, wood hot under her touch. She took a deep breath, stepping back. A swift kick, and the door flew open, a thick pillar of smoke rushing out. Bright flames licked the store of hay inside, crackling and roaring. The fire was spreading fast, fuelled by the dry hay. A glass lantern hanging inside the storeroom cracked, glass showering the floor.
Tori recoiled back, face flushed with the heat, smoke starting to clog her lungs. But the smoke wasn't just coming from the storeroom. A few tendrils rose from the right corner of the building, matched by a heavier cloud billowing from the tackroom that lay to the left. This was no ordinary fire. This was arson!
By now the horses were rearing in their stalls, eyes rolling in their heads, whites showing. Robbie was looking at her with panic, glancing about for an escape route despite the large open doors behind him. "Get as many horses out as you can, Deputy!" Ordered The Kid, rushing to Pal's stall and unlatching the gate.
"But I'm allergic to horses!"
Tori paused, stabbing a finger in the boy's narrow chest. "Robbie, so help me God, if you don't help these horses, you won't have to worry about the damn fire, 'cause I'll kill you myself. Got it?"
Robbie's adam's apple bobbed nervously as he swallowed. "Got it." He fumbled with the catch to the black stallion's stall, glancing back over his shoulder at the hot tongues of flame that now licked the doorframe of the storeroom.
Kid Victorious whispered a quick word of comfort to the plunging palomino, slipping a halter over the anxious horse's head. She had to save Pal, above all else. The horse was kin. She yanked on the lead rope, bullying the panicking horse out of the stall. She led the terrified beast into the yard, a crowd of townspeople gathering. Tori picked one out, thrusting the rope into the gawker's hands. "Take care of this here horse for me, or I'll have you hanged or somethin'." The wide-eyed onlooker nodded, drawing the rope close to them.
Tori's feet pounded the ground as she raced back into the stables, Robbie passing her with the wild-eyed black stallion. Tori's fingers fumbled on the catches to the other stalls, her numb tongue clicking at the horses inside. She could hear the fire licking at the wooden boards of the stable, the smell of smoke thick in the air, a grey haze. Memories flickered in her head, fast and fleeting. The fire that had burned her home to the ground. The fire that had killed her mother. The fire that had scorched her fingers and left faint red scars across them, marks that ached now. The fire that had destroyed her life, made her into an outlaw. She was reduced to that helpless child, fear gripping her heart, freezing her feet, even as the few horses left in the stables screamed around her, blind in their panic. A heavy beam crashed to the ground, the structure groaning. The heat was burning the Kid's cheeks, the gun at her hip growing hot, the thick smoke making it almost impossible to breathe.
"Tori!" Robbie's voice cried out hoarsely. "Tori!" Louder now. He pushed roughly at her shoulder, suddenly in front of her. "We gotta get out of here! There's nothing else we can do, okay?"
Tori's lower lip shook, a tear leaving a clean trail through the smoke and dust smearing her cheek.
"Snap out of it!" Robbie shook her shoulders, wincing as a beam collapsed near them, sending up a shower of sparks.
The Kid's distant gaze locked onto the slim boy, a streak of charcoal blackening his cheek. "R-right. We gotta go." She nodded, swiping a hand across her face. "There's nothin'... nothin' we can do." Her fingers stuttered over the battered star pinned to her chest, curling around it for a moment.
She followed the Deputy out into the yard, a few townsfolk attempting to calm the horses that had escaped. Even here, the heat was almost unbearable, the air clogging. A few more minutes inside that stable...
Tori shuddered. Maybe Robbie wasn't such a useless Deputy after all. A few cobwebs of memory still clung in her mind, The Kid shaking her head to free them. She was the Sheriff. She had to be strong, she had to show no fear. She had to find out who did this. "Robbie, I want you to ask these folk if they saw anything. I got a hunch I wanta follow."
Robbie coughed weakly, nodding, as the Kid pushed past him, to the wide-eyed farmer that held Pal O' Mine. "Thanks for your help. Y'all get one free crime for that." She swung herself up onto the sweating horse, a task made difficult by the lack of a saddle. No matter. She'd ridden bareback before. She nudged the palomino's sides, the crowd parting before her. Arson. It was a crime she'd heard all about this morning. A crime commonly committed by a villain who had more than enough reasons to want to kill her.
Kid Victorious kicked the horse into a canter, racing for the outskirts of town. The sun was still high in the sky, and the town lay flat. Anyone leaving town should still be visible for miles, and Pal was a faster horse than most, even wound up from the fire as she was. The main streets of the town were mercifully empty, most of them clustered at the stables, a solemn bell tolling throughout the town. Tori doubted there was much that could be done to save the stables now. The wood in that building was drier than buffalo dung in the desert, and just as flammable. She wondered for a moment if Sikowitz had been sleeping somewhere inside the building. She hoped for his sake he wasn't. He was that soaked in alcohol he'd have gone up in an instant. The Kid shuddered at the thought.
Kid Victorious pulled the shivering horse to a halt, sweat foaming the palomino's golden sides. There, almost a speck on the horizon, were two riders, a cloud of dust raised behind them. They followed the road up a softly rolling hill, a tall and terrible house on the peak of it, stark even against the sparse land. Exactly where Robbie had said it would be. The West mansion, and no doubt that was two of her lackeys racing back to tell her about their success in taking care of that pesky Sheriff.
The Kid's fingers twisted in Pal's mane, her teeth gritted tight. She wanted nothing more than to follow them, to gun them down where they stood and watch their blood run red into the dust. But there was an aching pain in her arm, where a long pink weal crossed her wrist, and her lungs still burned from their recent scorching. Pal was certainly in no shape to go after them either, muscles twitching under her golden hide.
Tori clicked her tongue, urging the tired horse into a walk, turning back into town. Jade would get what was coming to her, and all her little lackeys too. The Scissorer wasn't the only one with a reputation around here, and The Kid meant to make sure hers wasn't forgotten. There'd be time enough for revenge, although the badge pinned to her vest meant she'd have to call it 'justice' instead. Maybe Robbie had turned up something useful in his questioning, and no doubt he'd have injuries that needed seeing to as well. He'd proved himself loyal, at least. It would've been easy for him to just let The Kid burn, he wouldn't have had to do a thing. And Tori got the feeling he was well accustomed to standing by and doing nothing. She'd repay him for saving her life, even if she'd never acknowledge that he did. A Vega always repaid her debts, with the exception of Trina, who repaid none of them.
She jumped down from Pal outside the saloon, allowing the exhausted equine to drink from a water trough there. The ominous bell still tolled loudly throughout the town. Tori suspected it came from the church, thought she wasn't quite sure where it was located. She hadn't much use for church anymore, and she hadn't the time for confession. Her list was too long and too bloody to be forgiven, and she aimed to add Jade's name onto the very bottom of it.
"How's your first day of bein' Sheriff goin'?" Andre leaned against the doorframe outside the saloon, wiping his hands on his apron.
"'Bout as well as I thought it would." The Kid attempted a smile, a harsh cough breaking it.
Andre grimaced. "You ain't soundin' too good there, Sheriff. You want to come in for a drink? On the house. Might be as we can see to that burn, too. Cat's got mighty gentle hands."
Tori hitched her thirsty horse to a nearby rail, trudging wearily onto the boardwalk that lay outside the saloon. "Oh, I know exactly what Cat's hands can do, if'n you follow my drift." She forced another grin, clapping Andre on the shoulder. "Say, do y'all reckon you could send someone to scoop up my Deputy? I figure I owe him a drink after all this."
"Well I wouldn't be sendin' 'em far. Your Deputy's already inside, drowning his troubles in a tall glass of milk."
The Kid gave a dry chuckle, pushing open the swinging doors to the saloon. "I shoulda guessed it."
A/N: And so concludes The Scissorer: Part Two!
Will Tori ever get to interrogate the fire, and find out why it was working for Jade?
Will she get her burn soothed, or will Cat's hands heal an altogether different part?
Will Trina still get to perform, despite the town already suffering enough tragedy for one day?
Find out in the thrilling next installment; Poker? I Barely Know Her.