The sun was low in the blue before Walter roused the sheriff. “All fixed,” he said. “She’s been hit good, Sheriff, probably can’t ride for at least a week, better two. She’s none too happy about that. No heavy liftin or stressful activity, but she can walk without a cane.”
“Thanks, Walt,” Sheriff said, clapping the doctor on the shoulder. “Can I take her…home, I suppose?”
“I reckon, as long as she rides side saddle and you keep Gigi from trotting. Otherwise she’ll tear her stitches.” Walter paused and returned Sheriff’s clap on the shoulder. “You don’t need to take my opinion on such matters, Sheriff, but if I was in your boots, I would have made the same decision. You and I both know what it is to be judged for a single part of our person, no matter how ridiculous. I do not believe she killed her husband, Gio, anymore than I believe Gigi can fly.”
Sheriff nodded. “Thank you, Walter. That’s a mighty good thing to hear. We’ll be going, I want to get her settled before Jones takes over, and I need to talk to Elek, make sure he can take her on. And then I gotta…I gotta talk to Mary.”
“She sent Sam with a message today. She needs to talk with me. That’s all it said. Did I do somethin? I don’t remember doin anythin to upset her. Have you heard from her? She said she’s been ill the last few days, I urged her to come see you-”
“If I may.” Kelly had come to the door. Her side was bandaged and her shirt tied up over it. “You say she simply asked to speak with you?”
Walter chuckled. “Mary never ‘simply’ does anythin, ma’am. She usually just does. Most times, Haven runs on her orders.”
“I beg to differ!” Sheriff huffed.
“Then beg all you like, sheriff, you know it’s true.” Walter patted him on the arm as though pacifying a grumpy child.
Kelly snorted. “And she’s been ill? For how long?”
“Pardon me, but who’s the doctor here?”
“Oh undeniably you, Walter,” Kelly said, and looked Sheriff in the eye. “For how long?”
“In a row?”
“Is she eating?”
Kelly smiled. “You’re not in trouble, sheriff. And your wife isn’t suffering from a disease. But you should certainly hurry home, as I am ready to leave.”
Sheriff snatched up his hat. “Right! Yes, let’s get on.”
“Thank you, Walter,” Kelly said, shaking the doctor’s hand. “I will come see you in a week, as promised.”
“Very good.” Walter waved them off, already very much looking like he would be returning to his nap.
Sheriff and Kelly rode slowly through Haven as the sun was slowly advancing to the horizon. As it had begun to cool outside, people began to take a stroll through the streets. THe cafes and bar, and all the shops, were really starting to open. Haven had about 200 people, enough to warrant a street for shopping, services like tack shops and portraits, and Elek’s bar, the Galloping Goose. It was on the opposite end of Main Street from Mary’s shop, sprawling out with a huge covered area with tables and benches.
The town radiated out from this street in a circular pattern. Two streets intersected in the exact center of town, running North to South and East to West. The sheriff’s office was the first building to the south.
As they rode, people looked at Kelly with curiosity and perplexity. Sheriff knew he was going to have to answer a whole barrel of questions at the bar tonight. They arrived at his office, Persephone waiting for them under the horse screen.
“This is quite clever,” Kelly said, gesturing to the pulleys.
“Isn’t it? My wife designed it.”
“She seems like a very intelligent woman. Did she go to school?”
“Her father taught her in basics of mechanics and physics. Apparently it’s helpful in dressmakin.” Sheriff helped her through the office and up the stairs in the back. “Here we are.”
The rooms above were simply a bedroom, a small stove in the corner, and a washroom. There were some chests and a buero, where Sam had hung dresses and shirts. The knapsack that had hung from Persephone’s saddle was leaning against one chest.
“Are these for me?” Kelly asked quietly, carefully moving over to the hanging clothes to run her hand across the fabrics.
“Indeed. Mary runs a castoffs program, they’re all second hand but in excellent repair.” Sheriff watched her pull a small men’s shirt off a hanger and hold it up. The window above the bed shone gently through the fabric. Sheriff saw her press her lips together and work a muscle in her jaw.
“Thank you, Sheriff,” she said, her voice suddenly cracking. “I seem to be usin that phrase quite frequently today. But each…each instance is infinitely more meant. I…” she gave a shaky laugh and cleared her throat. “I can be happy here.”
The sheriff tipped his hat. “I’ll let you get settled, ma’am. My deputy, Jones, will be relievin me in an hour or two, I’ll explain what’s goin on. You can trust him as you trust me, ma’am.
“Please, it’s just Kelly.” She turned and smiled at him, draping the shirt over her arm.
“Then it’s Gio,” he replied.
“Right, well, Gio then. Thank you, Gio.”
“Look, Elek, it’s just till her trial is over,” Gio repeated. His best friend stood behind his bar, a strained look on his face. “After that, either Sheriff Jacob will take custody or she’ll be free to work where she’d like. And weren’t you just sayin it would be fittin to have another set of hands?”
Elek groaned and rubbed his eyes. “You’re right, you’re right. I just don’t want her to think I’m hirin her as a…well she’ll be a real barmaid, not another lady who sits in a bar. I’ve already got enough of those.”
Gio grinned. His friend never allowed open prositiution in his bar, but the girls often needed a home and if they took a man up to their room for a demonstration of his marksmanship, there was a mysterious fold of money behind the bar the next morning. Most of the girls had come from harsher places, and were grateful to do as they pleased.
“I’m pretty sure she’d be highly offended you even suggested it, Sass,” he said. “I was threatened for simply thinkin of carrying her to Walt’s door.”
“Well I’d let you carry me, Sheriff,” Elek said in a falsetto voice, batting his eyelashes at him. Gio laughed.
“Ye don’t know, Sass, maybe she’ll be pretty enough for ye!” The blacksmith, Owen, had sat down at the counter and caught the end of the conversation. He, along with most of the regulars, always gave Elek a hard time about his lack of feminine companionship.
“Weren’t you leaving now, Owen?” Elek grumbled. He didn’t mean it in the slightest. Owen tended to be the calming presence in the bar. Haven wasn’t known for its shootouts, but it happened occasionally. Owen was the voice of reason in such a tussle.
“Apologies, Father,” Owen muttered sarcastically. He made absolutely no move to leave, of course. Elek begrudgingly filled up a beer glass and slid it across to him.
“I don’t need a woman, you punks.” Elek remonstrated. “I love this bar and I can take care of the girls just fine. I’ve got Trenton to help with the books and Sean to help with the cooking. And I’ve got Pip.” He smiled at the huge black dog lying just outside the door. “What if a woman I took a shine to couldn’t make peace with any of that? No, Pip, the Goose, and I are all for the better without all that.”
Gio sighed. “Alright, whatever you say. Speaking of which, I ought to be goin home to Mary. I’ll bring Kelly by tomorrow, and I expect a gentleman behind this bar, ye hear?”
Elek gave him a mock bow. Gio laughed as he left the Goose, pausing to give Pip a pat on the head. The dog flopped his tail and gave him a small lick on the hand, but was clearly too warm for anything more.
“Good boy,” the sheriff said, and rode off to see his wife.