Mary The Outlaw: Chapter Thirty-Three

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I lowered my hat and strode up to the bar knowing that if Max were there, he wouldn’t know it was me. People often could not see what was right under their noses. My face flamed as my eyes darted around the boisterous room in search of him. I cleared my throat as I took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer. I sat there in the shadow of death drinking the malty, cool drink with my eyes staring straight ahead. The sound of women’s forced laughter and men’s jeering grated my eardrums. Max’s unmistakable, musky cologne lingered in the air. He had been there moments before I arrived. I inhaled deeply and glanced over my shoulder, but he was not there. My stomach fluttered as the familiar sense of danger fuelled my inspiration. My last few moments were going to be interesting indeed.

My gaze wandered over to the winding staircase. The building was a mansion knock off and I smirked at the tacky decor everywhere. I downed my drink and then made my way to the rear of the building. I exhaled in relief as dark solitude surrounded me. I stepped toward the garbage container and crouched down. The honky tonk music and loud laughter sounded far away. I would be able to hear footsteps when they approached. I held my loaded pistol and waited. My eyes adjusted to the overcast night. A few feet away, a couple of rats fought over a juicy piece of rotting chicken thigh. Their squeaks sets me on edge. A raven watched them from her perch on the roof of the opposite building. Or, perhaps she watched me. I wondered if she sensed my impending doom.

Waiting was not my strong point in regular matters, but as the minutes blended together into an hour without any sign of Max, the anticipation gnawed at my nerves like one of the dirty rodents. I gritted my teeth, longing to scream out in frustration. I held it back, but I was unsure how much longer I’d be able to crouch there waiting. While I sat out there with the rats and the raven, he was probably using one of his prisoners. I put my gun back in its holster and stepped back out onto the lively, lit up street. I collided shoulders with a grotesquely perfumed woman. It was similar to the scent I doused myself in years ago when I worked for Max. I covered my mouth as I gagged. Scents often evoked the most intense memories.

I stopped at the end of the street and my resolve bled out of me as I stood there. Tears blurred my vision and I tried in vain to stop from crying. The frightened nineteen-year-old girl nearly returned, but I reminded myself that unlike her, I had acquired an excellent aim and courage that had assisted in my survival. I wiped my tears away with my coat sleeve.

“I can do this. I will do this.”

Fantasy was so different from reality. I imagined over and over how the scenario in Dodge City would play out. Instead of a monumental show down, I was trapped in a maze of sorts and crying like a little girl.

“He can’t vanish into thin air,” I told myself. “I’ll find him.”

I faced the town and made my way back down the street. I was surrounded once again by the crowds. Their words mingled together to form unintelligible sentences until I overheard someone utter the devil’s name. I froze and searched over the sea of faces. My eyes rested upon two men standing a few feet away. One of them mentioned Max’s name again. I inched closer to the pair, straining to hear above the various mutterings and shouts. One of the men noticed me and narrowed his eyes. I cleared my throat; my lingering fear evaporated as my desire to kill took over.

“I heard you say Max,” I said.

Both of them stopped talking to stare at me. They appeared to be around Max’s age, handsome in a weathered way, but neither seemed to share his cunning eyes.

“Yes, we were. What’s it to you, little lady?” asked one.

“Just curious. Are you friends of his?”

The other man scoffed. “We’re enemies. Now run along and go play your little cowgirl games.”

I smiled wide and tilted my head. “Funny fellas, are ya? Let me ask ya somethin’.”

Neither of them could hide their curiosity as they both stepped closer to me.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“That asshole is probably at Long Branch Saloon winning a game of poker. He’s got all the luck despite all of the people he’s killed.”

“I was already at Long Branch and didn’t see him there.”

They stared at me appearing as stupid as I felt. It should have crossed my mind that there would be more than one saloon in such an infamous city.

“Does he own one of the other saloons?” I asked.

“A saloon? No. He’s the owner of the brothel.”

“Of course he is.”

“A sweet girl like you doesn’t belong here searching for a man like him.”

I kicked a loose stone across the road.

“I should be on my way. Thank you, gentlemen.”

I turned on my heel and left them behind. They disappeared into the rowdy crowd and went on their drunken way. A large section of the crowd hovered in the middle of the street a little ways down. Two gun fighters faced one another in the middle of the ruckus. Beyond the town, the horizon came to life with the sun’s first rays. Dawn’s fight for power over the night had already begun and I had not yet caught one glimpse of Max. It should have been him and I in that gun fight.

The street grew so quiet that the tower clock’s ticking could be heard. I crossed my arms and scanned all of the people present. I chose not to wait around and see which of the fighters survived the duel. I had already wasted too much time.

I made my way down the street nearly ready to cry out from frustration when masculine laughter sounded from one of the buildings’ windows. Panic shot through me and I froze. It sounded exactly like Max when he laughed. I craned my head, lifting my eyes to behold a purple curtain billowing from the window of the building across the street. A feminine cry followed his mocking laughter.

I strode up to the front door of the brothel and pushed myself through. Perfume and cigarette smoke assaulted my nostrils as I stepped inside. There was no one in the parlour, but laughter, moaning, and hollering sounded from upstairs. I made my way to the staircase. At the base of the stairs was a girl far too young to even be considered a prostitute. A sloppy man wreaking of sweat and moonshine froze at the sight of me. He let the girl go. She tripped over her own two feet as she made an attempt to retreat.

“I am warning you once,” I said. “Get out of here before I shoot you.”

He narrowed his eyes and started to open his mouth.

“Too late.”

I fired and the girl screamed.

“Go home. Now,” I ordered her.

She stood there staring at me. “Ma’am! Ya gotta get outta here yerself.”

“I’ll handle it. Get out of here before another one tries to eat you alive. Don’t go anywhere near this place, y’hear?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Once she fled the building, I kicked the dead man down the stairs. I stepped down the hall expecting a door to open at any moment, but nothing happened. I reached the window at the end of the hallway. I stared out of it as a dreamlike mood filled my mind.

“Where in God’s name are you?” I whispered.

The second door to my left opened. I spun around and aimed my pistol at it. The soft creaking as it slowly opened made my stomach churn. The door ceased to move and silence followed. I creeped toward the open room. When no one sprung out at me, I held my breath and jumped inside. It was empty.

I groaned as my gaze found the open window. I went to it and peered down at the street. Across the road stood a masculine form in the shadows. Max. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I knew that he was staring at me.

I dropped to the floor just missing the bullet he would have lodged into my skull. It shattered the mirror on the wall behind me. I crawled out of the room and ran down the stairs in pursuit of Max.

Mary The Outlaw: Chapter Thirty-Two

 

I rode past the Kansas sign and attempted to fight off the emotional waves smashing into me. The numbness that wrapped around me like a comforting blanket vanished and I was left to bear all of my emotions in full force. My thoughts wandered through the past and present. Over a year ago, the one whom I thought was my angel stopped me from crossing over to the state. I breathed in a lungful of the early evening air. I was on my way to Dodge City after I chased Gabriel down the long, winding rabbit trail of love and marriage. Every inch of me itched to get to the sinful city and finish my mission. It was the only thing standing in between me and my destiny, my death.

The colours of the sunsets and sunrises of each passing day seemed more vibrant than before. The scents of the woods, grasslands, and bodies of water were more intense, stirring up various conflicting feelings. Some of them caused my eternally sensitive stomach to churn. Perhaps knowing that one was soon to die sharpened one’s senses. I needed to stop and empty the contents of my stomach at the side of the road a few times. Despite all of the things that happened to me since I rode away from my hometown at nineteen years old, I would soon have my moment with the wickedest man in the world. Every monster I encountered on my journey was only a lesser version of Max. Defeating and escaping from them strengthened me and prepared me for facing him at the end of my journey. Maybe I was young and had my entire life ahead of me, but I felt as though I had lived an entire lifetime already. Some people weren’t meant to live on into old age. I would grant myself the same mercy that I gave to George.

One bright morning, I perceived that Dodge City was not far off. I stopped at a creek when the sun became too intense for me to bear. I stripped my clothes off, jumped waist-deep into the cool water, and floated on my back for a while. I sighed as the small indulgence relaxed my tense muscles as well as my mind. I supposed that even evil people could embrace some of life’s simple treasures. I had been through a lot and even though I deserved death, I needed to do things that would calm myself down or I would never be able to hunt down Max effectively.

I attempted to block out the memories of Gabriel and I frolicking in the river together, but it was impossible. The beginning of our romantic relationship was like an extra long summer day. I could never forget those days even if I wanted to. In a world of evil, even preachers could not be trusted, yet I could not regret my life with Gabriel. He showed me that there was some small part of me that was capable of being loved. Perhaps God saw some good in me after all, for I doubted that most people had ever experienced such an exhilarating romance as Gabriel and I had.

After I dried myself off, I rode into the next town and purchased myself some black trousers, a white shirt, a belt, and a red bandanna. They were brand new and fit me well. No more hand me downs. I examined my reflection in the mirror and a small smile formed on my lips. Max would probably not recognize me upon first glance. The last time he saw me, I was half-dressed with a pound of makeup on my face. My face and body had barely aged, but my countenance and my posture were both very different from before. Surviving death multiple times gave one exceptional confidence in themselves and in their abilities.

I rode out of town to sleep in peace for the night. I did not want to risk running into any unsavoury characters the night before I met Max. I woke up the next day to my entire body trembling. The morning was far too cold for my liking. Despite the chilling air, I braved it and bathed in the nearby brook. I got dressed and brushed out my long, damp hair. The soothing ritual settled some of my nerves, but my mind soon became preoccupied with thoughts of meeting Max again. I braided my hair to one side and then lit a match. I set my feminine clothes and undergarments aflame and watched them burn. They were the final reminder of the life that I once lived with Gabriel. As my clothing turned to ashes, I at last transitioned back into Mary The Outlaw. I had missed the outlaw in me more than I dared to admit.

Trouble pawed at the ground as the burning clothes filled the air with a terrible smell. I kicked sand to put the flames out and then rode on.

I rode into Dodge City at nightfall. The city lights could be seen from miles away and appeared like stars. My heart soared in eerie, masochistic glory as my dark destiny waited for me in the foreseeable distance. The sounds from the busy street jarred me. People talked, laughed, and hollered out their drunken babbling. Dodge City was far from what I imagined. I once thought of elegance and fancy architecture when I first heard about it from the woman at the old saloon. Instead, it was only a larger version of most towns I passed through. There were countless scantily clad, perfumed women flecking the arms of established gentlemen, gunslingers, and cowboys. It was the sort of city that Max and his sort would enjoy and capitalize on.

Rage erupted out of me at the thought of so many girls and women suffering at the hand of selfish bastards who possessed more money than brains. Max had lived out his indulgent, cruel new life for long enough. Despite all of my sins and failures, ridding the world of Max would do a great deal of women a favour.

I brought Trouble to the stables and paid for his stay. I kissed his smooth muzzle and hugged his strong neck. He did not move away from me this time. He would make a fine horse for his next master. I bit my lip to keep the tears at bay. His fidgety, unsophisticated behaviour had passed after a lot of training from Gabriel and I. I was proud to be the one to watch him mature, but as always, my time with a friend needed to end.

“Good-bye, trouble maker,” I whispered.

I stepped back out onto the street with a pounding heart. A busy saloon came into view and the people around me faded away as though they had only been figments of my imagination all along. I was a dead woman walking. I had crossed the boundary into a sort of middle world between life and death. As I walked toward the building with a hand on my holster, my final destiny hovered over me.

The knives spoke

Inanimate objects cannot speak, yet she heard the knives in the kitchen drawer calling for her. She lay in her bed with balled fists, begging for her mind to cling to thoughts of the beauty that lay just beyond the door if she could only reach it.

She shot up and peered out the half open window. The draft carried with it the scent of rain falling on the earth. She clung to the invisible gift of hope and raced past the sharp-edged tools that cried out of her to make use of them.

She reached the outdoors. The exertion pumped life through her veins and she continued to run until she reached the babbling brook. She submerged her hand beneath the cool, rushing water.

That broke the spell.

The Dreams

Norwegian Dream.

She had a dream, too. Of Canada. Now, I long to be close to where she was born. In a way, it will feel like she is still alive. Young and alive in Scandinavia and playing her banjo.

Goodbye, Grandma.

Her Rain

The rain always attracted her, called out to her. Its pattering against the windows awoke her from the monotony of her homework. She left the house and came to the rain, inhaling the fresh aroma no perfume could compare to.

She walked for a while, lost in thought, for the rain was what always fuelled her imagination and dreams. In the rain, she was content. She would never be alone as long as the soft trickling of water guided her.

Reblog: How Did I Get My Agent? (The Answer May Surprise You)

If being published traditionally by a publishing company interests you, this blog post may indeed interest you. It’s a wonderful example of how another hardworking writer got her literary agent. Enjoy.:)

(What an awfully clickbaity title, I know. Guilty as charged. But I think it will.) It’s easy for me to answer the question “How did you get a book deal?” I only need two words an…

Source: How Did I Get My Agent? (The Answer May Surprise You)

Indie Books I Couldn’t Put Down

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Buy it on Amazon!

 

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Buy it on Amazon!

 

Giant Rat of Sumatra By Christopher Milner

Christopher Milner’s debut book is a captivating Sherlock Holmes fan fiction. I enjoy well-written dark comedies and Milner is a master of sharp wit and literary twists. Fans of Sherlock Holmes and page-turning suspense alike should read this larger than life tale. I am excited to see the next books that this author will come out with in the near future. I rather like his version of Sherlock Holmes! Vampires will always be way cooler than Zombies.

Check out his blog here!

In The Land of Gold By Angela Christina Archer

I was captivated by Cora, the protagonist, from the first page. She’s a sweet girl with a heart full of adventure. I love the contrast between her pampered upbringing and her desire to go off and make her own life. She breaks off her engagement to wealthy Christopher Payton, much to her mother’s mortification. Cora does what few people do – she leaves everything familiar behind to stake her claim in the gold rush – left to her by her deceased father. Her innocence is endearing as she gets herself into trouble several times because of it.
Her first meeting with Flynn O’Neil, a handsome Irishman, is tense, but when they end up being on the same boat to Canada, she finally convinces him to be her guide to Dawson City where she can stake her claim.
All sorts of dangers follow their adventure including landslides, wild animals, malnutrition, and greedy men. Being from Western Canada myself, I held a special appreciation for this story. The chemistry between Cora and Flynn was spectacular and I enjoyed watching their bond grow from infatuation to something very strong. Historical romance and adventure fans should all read this book!

Check out her blog here!

Book Review: When The Black Roses Grow

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When The Black Roses Grow By Angela Christina Archer

Twenty-five men and women were accused.
Nineteen hung to their death on Gallow Hills.
One suffocated under bone-crushing stones.
All believed to possess the power of witchcraft.

In 1692 the fear of witchcraft is spreading around Salem Village. While those who are accused and sentenced face death, everyone else faces the risk of accusations placed upon them.
***

I was drawn in to Emmalyn’s world from the very first page as she grieves for her mother who was tried and hanged as a witch. 1692 Salem is a dark place where many women are accused and sentenced to death as witches, but Emmalyn does her best to stay strong and live out her life in peace. There is so much danger looming and virtually every woman in Salem worries that she might be the next accused witch.
When a mysterious vine starts to grow in her home, she fears for her life as the dark magic is evidence that she is a witch. When James, a handsome stranger comes to town, he both excites and worries Emmalyn. He hides a world of secrets behind his piercing blue eyes.
Author Angela Archer weaves a beautiful tale of loss, love, trust, and the darkness that humanity can sometimes force upon others. I enjoyed protagonist Emmalyn’s authenticity and strength through the entire book. The tension and drama builds with every passing chapter.
I was not prepared for the epic twist at the ending! You will not want to miss what happens in this beautifully written historical tale.
Historical romance and fantasy fans alike will enjoy Where The Black Roses Grow.

You can purchase When The Black Roses Grow on Amazon here!

SAPHIRA – Short Story for the Coffee Break

Follow along with Ana Calin’s dark romantic thriller that is sure to leave an impression with you. I am hooked on the story of young artist Saphira and The Marquis. Do not miss this epic tale!

Ana Calin

Saphira – *fiction based on a real person, for whom I’ve drawn up a personal profile* (Elf-Type)

BLURB:

Saphira is a young artist with a curse – she’s that kind of beautiful that sells. Which her parents – business people in distress – decide to exploit, dragging her to business banquets in order to find her a rich husband. It’s at one of these banquets that Saphira witnesses murder and draws the attention of a highly dangerous killer with mysterious reasons. This scene depicts the pivotal moment when Saphira becomes a witness and meets the killer known as the Marquis.

***

The most luxurious banquet hall in the city. Or so it wishes to stand with its chandeliers dripping crystal, golden curtains and mirrors with gilded frames – fake of course, but they can trick a lay eye. I sit at the table with palms in my lap, focused only…

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