This tale begins with a pair of boots. Custom-made, exhaustively-polished, patent leather boots, to be exact.

The saloon floorboards creaked as the aforesaid footwear set down. Dust plumed out from beneath the soles, turning circles in the air before settling. The legs that occupied the boots were clad in gray slacks; above that, a golden buckle bearing the initials "E.S." added a touch of conceit to a swanky red vest and suit-coat. The head attached to this ensemble had none of its stylish bearing, however – a pug nose, thick eyebrows, and buck teeth completed the man.

"Blix," said Buck-tooth, "we must interrogate this rabble as quickly as possible, before this filthy establishment diminishes the value of my new suit. Ahem - The boots!"

Blix the Butler immediately pulled a rag from his pocket, knelt down, and began polishing. Hunched as he was and dressed all in black, the old man gave the impression of a well-bred vulture. He straightened, bowed, and returned the rag to his pocket.

"Better," said the buck-toothed man, wringing his hands together. "Now, for the rabble..."

Around the saloon, fingers crept toward their gun holsters. A trio of grizzly, unshaven men stopped their poker game and glared over at the newcomer. A tattooed hulk by the bar turned around with a growl. A vagrant on the floor licked the blade of his knife, while a giggling drunkard pounded discordant notes on the piano. The barkeep merely looked bored as he polished a glass.

"Rabble, eh?" repeated a one-armed lout at nearby table. "Now that ain't no way to talk. No way to talk at all." He elbowed his buddy, who was hammering back shots of fizzy purple liquid. "Is it?"

The second lout coughed, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "Maybe rich boy 'ere just needs a taste of our hospitality," he slurred. Snorting, he spat a blob of mucus next to the leather boots. "There y'go," he sniggered, "the first drink's on me."

The patrons erupted into riotous laughter, and in a split second Blix pulled two firearms from his suit. Guns came out all around the saloon, and the butler's employer raised a hand to stop him.

"Down, Blix. The last thing we need is for these flea-bitten scum to start a shoot-out." The Butler re-holstered the weapons, and Buck-tooth condescendingly tossed the one-armed vagabond and his buddy a handful of silver coins. "Get lost," he said. "I'm sure there's a house of ill repute in this two-bit town that accepts cash and greasy old men."

The two drifters flashed him gap-toothed smiles and a thumbs-up, then staggered out of the saloon, leaving the washboard doors swinging behind them. The rich man strolled out into the center of the room, butler in tow.

"I've come to this impoverished rat-hole because I'm looking for somebody," he announced. "Have any of you ever heard of an outlaw called 'Tex'?"

Gasps broke out all around the saloon, and the tattooed muscle-man by the bar whimpered like a little girl. The barkeep stopped polishing long enough to crook a finger toward the far corner, where a lone figure was sitting in silence.

"Over there," he said.

The newcomer and his servant struck out across the room, weaving their way around shabby furniture and the occasional inebriated customer. As they approached, the duo saw that their quarry was reclining in a chair, boots propped up on the nearest table. The outlaw was dressed in brown trousers, a threadbare longcoat, and a tan cowboy hat. The brim of the hat hung down over Tex's face, hiding everything except a crooked smile.

"Tex?" asked the rich man.

"In the flesh, Bucky," answered a female voice.

Butler and employer both backed up a step; they had been expecting a man. Still grinning, Tex raised her chin, and strands of blonde hair spilled over shoulders. The face beneath the hat was delicate and fair, but her skin was streaked with grime, and the intensity of her green eyes hinted at either madness or great talent – or perhaps both.

"You're Tex?!"

"Cynthia Aurora Vortex," she replied with a tip of the hat, "at your service."

"But...but you can't be a gun-for-hire!" exclaimed the rich boy. "You're a woman!"

Tex casually reached into her coat and produced a green-handled revolver. "One well-placed shot with this," she said, "and I could make you a woman too."

Blix's eyes widened. "Mein Herr," he whispered, "that gun! Don't you recognize it? It's the famous Emerald Ire, the deadliest six-shooter in all Texas!"

"I can see that, you blithering idiot," returned his employer. "Keep quiet."

Tex twirled the weapon around her finger. "So," she began, "what's the son of Rail Baron Strych doing so far from St. Louis? You didn't come this far west just to visit little old me, did you Eustace?"

His mouth fell open. "W-what? I didn't...How do you..."

"How do I know who you are? Your father owns the South-Central Pacific Railroad, you overdressed prat. Anybody with one good eyeball has seen your ugly mug in the newspapers."

"Why I never!" he gasped. "How dare you speak to me like –"

She pulled back the hammer on her weapon, and he shut up.

"Anyway," she continued, "you didn't come here to cower in fear of my caustic tongue and superior gunmanship. You came here with a job offer."

Eustace's ruffled feathers settled the instant money entered the conversation. "Exactly. I'm here with a business proposition. I have someone who needs to be, shall we say, 'taken care of', and I've heard from reputable sources that you're the gun for the job."

"I do like to think I've got a corner on the market," she returned. "So, how exactly do you want this fellow 'taken care of'? I offer three packages: scared off, maimed, and six-feet-under."

"The latter. I need this individual dead and buried in a fortnight, and I'm prepared to offer you $1,000 to make that happen."

"My rate is $3,000. $1,500 up front, and the remainder once I've completed the task. Take it or leave it."

"Ah...just a moment." Eustace pulled Blix aside and whispered in his ear. "We must pacify this trigger-happy trollop," he scowled. "Three measly thousand dollars is nothing compared to what we will make once you-know-who is out of the picture and you-know-what is in our possession." Blix nodded agreement, and the rich man turned back to the outlaw. "Very well, Miss Vortex, you have yourself a bargain."

The butler produced a wad of cash and tossed it disdainfully onto the table. Tex grinned and thumbed through the stack.

"Splendid," she said. "Would you like to see the full details of the arrangement, as drawn up in my official, legally-binding contract?"

"Your what?"

She reached into her coat once again, and this time pulled out a tri-fold piece of paper, which she handed to Eustace. He squinted down at the text.

"What in the...what is this? Even my filthy rich father's lawyers couldn't decipher this! You wrote this legalese? What kind of cold-blooded killer are you?!"

"I'm a fan of the law, when I don't have to follow it."

He tossed the contract back in her face. "Forget the fine print. You'll get your payment when you finish the job. It's as simple as that."

"Mmm, how's this for simple: you sign the damn agreement, or you find someone else to do your dirty work."

Exasperated, he motioned to Blix, who supplied him with a writing utensil. He signed his name in a flourish, then straightened. "Satisfied?"

"Thrilled beyond measure," she chuckled, tucking the contract back into her longcoat. "All right, Bucky...where am I off to?"

"100 miles west of here, to an unpleasant little dust-bowl called Retro Valley."

"Retro Valley? Never heard of it."

"No one has. But that will change before long. I need that land, you see; I'm planning to – "

"Save it, Strych," she interrupted, returning her gun to its holster. "I don't need a backstory. Just tell me the name of the man you want me to kill."

"His name is James Neutron," replied Eustace. "He's the town Sheriff."


So remember how I said I wasn't going to write any more fanfiction after finishing The Other Side of Tomorrow? Well, I lied.

Illustrations can be found here (remove spaces and substitute . for (dot]): acaciathorn . d ev iant art (dot] c om /favourites/69236185/The-Good-The-Bad-The-Wealthy


-Fact: *** asterisks are actually tumbleweeds
-Fact: There was no South-Central Pacific Railroad IRL. The name is an amalgam of two real companies - the Central Pacific railroad, which merged with the Union Pacific in 1869 to form the first transcontinental railroad - and the Southern Pacific company, which later leased Central Pacific. In this story, the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railways do not exist...only the Union Pacific does. In my little "alternate timeline", the former two are combined into one imaginary entity, the 'South-Central Pacific Railroad', owned by Eustace's father. The transcontinental railroad would thus not have been formed until sometime in the 1870s, a bit later than in real life. This may or may not be important to the story.
-Fact: Tex's gun is an 1863 Starr Single Action Revolver. With a range of up to 66ft and easy-to-use design, it was much more popular than its double-action predecessor from 1858, and would have been used extensively by Union Army soldiers. The handle was painted green at some point because I said so.