The Fastest Gun in The Eastbyshawalphamale©
Two ladies meet a cowboy in a white hat and get themselves re-branded!
The broad shouldered young man wearing a fringed deerskin shirt and white stetson was leaning casually against the deck rail of the Queen Charlotte, watching the Indiana shoreline steadily passing to the beat of the riverboat's sternwheel. A spur fitted riding boot rested casually on the lowest of the rail bars, the wearer's slumped attitude suggesting no more than a casual interest in the summer greenery and sunspeckled ripples. It would have seemed an entirely peaceful scene, save for the butt of the Colt Navy revolver protruding from a well worn leather holster at the man's right hip. That, and the way his head and eyes seemed never to be entirely at rest. Somehow he seemed both relaxed and yet never quite relaxed enough to be taken unawares.
If any bystanders had reached the same conclusion, they would have been correct. And indeed there were bystanders, two of them, both female, and both looking intently at the Westerner from the corner of a deck house a few paces away. Yet each of the women would have been surprised to learn that he was well aware of their presence. As indeed they were surprised, and then in equal measure disconcerted and discomforted when he suddenly turned towards them and doffed his hat in a respectful bow.
The one that responded first was somewhere into the middle years of her third decade, her features strong yet well proportioned, with tresses of ginger hair underneath a saucy blue hat and a body which would have needed a powerful stallion to carry it swiftly, and, the cowboy instantly thought, a strong man to do it full justice. Junoesque was the word which came to mind. And he was well aware that no one aboard the Queen Charlotte would have looked at his cowpuncher clothes and believed that such a word could exist in his vocabulary. Not that he needed to consult any dictionary in forming a instant opinion of what he'd like to do with the red head's lush bosom and generous hips.
Then the second woman spoke up: "I'm sorry if we seemed rude, but we had an idea we'd seen your face in a newspaper sketch. With a hat and shirt like the one you're wearing now."
The cowboy turned towards the speaker and bowed again. She was perhaps three or four years younger, hatless, slimmer, her long blonde hair piled on top of her head and secured at the peak with a tortoise shell, falling away into two pony tails secured behind her graceful neck by black ribbons and then flowing out free and loose past her shoulders.
"Ma'am, it does seems my moniker has been mentioned some in your Eastern papers. That is if the name you had in mind is Jake Jefferson Jackson, 'cause that's what'd be printed on my calling cards, if'n I had any".
Both of the women gasped as he proudly introduced himself. In fact the copper nob was so surprised she twitched as if jabbed with a pin.
"The gunfighter! I knew I was right. Oh, I've read so much about you, Mr Jackson. In Mr Buntline's stories. Why you're mentioned in the same breath as Buffalo Bill and Wyatt Earp."
Jake smiled, revealing an excellent set of white teeth in his handsome face. He spoke slowly, as if savoring every word.
"Well, now, a man couldn't want for better company than to be named with than those two gen'l'men. But to right truthful, old Ned sometimes draws it on too strong by a chain and a quarter. I could say more but I'm kind of shy about shouting the odds in front of strangers."
"Strangers? Oh, I'm so sorry Mr Jackson," the older woman answered. "I'm Clara Butler and this is my friend, Georgina Tasker."
The cowboy showed the unabashed grace of a true caballero as he kissed each presented hand in turn. And equal lack of embarrassment in eyeing the hands he didn't raise to his lips.
"Well, ladies, you've plumb disappointed me enough to make a rattlesnake cry salt tears. Here I was thinking I'd fallen down a gold mine and it turns out you're both wearing golden rings already. I guess Mr Butler and Mr Tasker are going to be showing up hot footed real soon, and all ready to whip my hide for trying to cut out the best looking pair of high steppers ever seen on the deck of this mobile tea kettle."
Clara blushed as she answered: "Oh no, Edward and Eric have gone ahead to Pittsburgh to look at a business there they may be buying as partners. We would have gone with them but there was a last minute problem in boarding our children, so we've had to follow on the next boat."
Jake made a great play of being astonished: "You gals have family! Why if that ain't the biggest surprise I've had since Ready Money Mary O'Cready hit me over the head with her bed warmer, and me never even suspecting she ever had the need of that kind of implement at her place."
Georgina and Clara broke out into a fit of giggles, very unlady like but very attractive giggles. Jake laughed too as he replaced the hat over his neatly trimmed blonde hair. Underneath it was the developing thought that these Eastern females had a style and easy confidence about them which was like nothing he'd seen before in women -- not married ones, anyway. Maybe some of those stretchers he'd heard about Eastern goings on hadn't been so stretched out after all. Well, he'd soon enough find out in the big city.
"Why, the pair of you are just such natural belles of the ball I figured you were hardly old enough to be excused Sunday School, let alone figuring on taking your own tackers to one. Ain't that something? Well, I guess I'll watch the skies tonight and have myself a wish on a falling star the gals they find for me in New York are something like as admirable as you ladies -- though I won't be denying I'll be adding a postscript that they're not married."
Georgina stared at him curiously: "What girls, Mr Jackson?"
"Why, Mrs Tasker, every time you talk about Mr Jackson I'm figuring to turn around fast and see who's looking behind me. I'd take it kindly if you'd call me Jake. As for them gals, there's a gentleman in New York, name of Samuel W. Loftus, who's sent me letters saying he's a mind to do a stage show there, the same kind of a show that Ned Buntline persuaded Buffalo Bill his'self to do, 'til they parted brass rags."
"'Scouts of the Prairie'," Clara said. "I've heard of that. Why, it was a huge success. It packed the theatres everywhere it went."
"Well, Mrs Butler, I guess we've been hearing the same story, so that's why I'm here, a simple ranch hand aiming to stash a few dollars away in his poke while he can."
The red head smiled: "Jake, please call me Clara. And can I ask how it came about that a simple cowpuncher ended up in so many gunfights? Some of the people who write about you say you fell into some pretty bad company."
The cowboy gave her smile for smile. Only this time his handsome face was somehow not nearly so friendly. Neither were his eyes.
"Clara, what they write about me I can't hardly help. But along the trail there's been some hombres who've called me a few names to my face." Jake patted the butt of his Colt. "Can't quite recall how many at the moment, but I guess I could always get old betsy out and count the notches again, if'n you was curious."
Clara blanched, her face stricken: "Oh Lord, Jake, Mr Jackson, forgive me. Insulting you in any way was the furthest thing from my mind. Please let me apologize."
Jake took off his hat and bowed again before answering.
"Miss Clara, I wouldn't be dreaming of asking a lady of your quality for any such thing. I guess I'm as nervous as a shepherd at a rodeo myself in being honored by the presence of two such beautiful women and I misspoke. I beg your pardon."
"Oh, granted, Jake, completely granted. I made a fool of myself."
While mea culpas were being exchanged Georgina's vivid blue eyes had become fastened on the Navy Colt. Indeed, aimed at it as if they were weapons themselves, with an obvious glint of excitement lurking in their depths.
"Mr . . . Jake, is that really the pistol you used to kill all those men with?"
"It surely is, Georgina. I'd like to show it to you but folks might start getting nervous if'n I was to clear leather out here in the open. Why the fellow up there at the big wheel might take on such a turn we'd end up ploughing a stretch of river bank with those big blades back there. Tell you what, ladies, I'm travelling in a private cabin on the Texas deck, cabin number one, all paid for by Mr Samuel W. Loftus of New York, and plumb comfortable it is too. Step inside for a pow wow to pass away the time, why don'tcha? I'll show you my six shooter and tell you all about those gals in New York."
Jake wasn't sure of what reaction his bold suggestion might get, but Clara did as he thought she might, blushing, putting a hand to her mouth to stifle a startled laugh, then looking sideways at her friend. Georgina was less visibility surprised, though her lips twitched and Jake could have sworn the gleam in her eyes grew even more intense.
"Why, Mr Jackson," she breathed slowly. "I could almost think you were trying to pen us up inside your corral."
Jake grinned, put on his hat again at a rakish angle, and leaned forward to whisper gently into her delicate pearl decorated ear.
"Well, Georgina, you know what happens to wild mares in a corral, I guess. They surely get to buck a lot. But when Jake Jefferson Jackson is breaking them in they damn near buck themselves right out of their hides. And I never yet met a lady who didn't think it was the best thing that ever happened to her."
Georgina had heard what he said. Clara had a very good notion of what he'd said because her friend looked as shocked as if a skunk had suddenly run up inside her skirts. Both of the respectable married ladies quivered as though the Queen Annette had run aground at full speed and shaken the decking underneath their feet. Especially Clara, despite all the ballast she had stowed away in her expansive curves. As for their eyes, well, Jake had never seen any pop out so much since a string of mules in Laramie had gotten themselves a smell of a circus camel.
"See you later, gals. And I've got a bottle of sipping whisky in the cabin I'd surely like your opinion on. Stirs the corpuscles up and loosens corsets too, so they say. 'Bye."
The last thing Jake saw before he turned away was a back view of the two women facing out over the deck rail, heads close together and two pairs of shoulders heaving with emotion. What emotion Jake couldn't have exactly sworn to, not on a bible leastways, but if it had been a pair of Comanche squaws he was studying instead of white women he would have said for certain the pair of them were nigh on choking with laughter. Of course squaws usually needed to be liquored up to laugh that much. But given half a chance he could soon fill that want -- as well as any others which might come along.
Jake went the steps to the Texas deck two at a time, grinning and happy. Sure, he'd already figured out that he was probably going to be on the losing side in this encounter but at least he'd played his cards hard and fast. Better yet, he'd enjoyed the game. Even better, he was halfway convinced that if either of the Eastern wives had been on her own she'd have let herself be sweet talked into dancing the mattress polka underneath him.
Why all these Easterners, male and female, they all seemed to think the West was some kind of a romantic place, a Camelot just a crossing away over the Missouri, with cowboys as knights on horseback. Except those of them that had actually ridden the trail along the North Platte long enough to find that the real West was a far flung collection of half assed towns full of dirty shacks and mostly dirt poor people. Oh sure, one day it might become a fine place to live, but right now the West had one appalling shortage -- women. While in the East there were cities with millions of sassy spankers like Georgina and Clara high stepping around in them, all seemingly ready to go weak at the knees at the sight of a stetson, levis and six shooter.
A thought which brought to mind a shortage which did exist in the Eastern States, a shortage of ill intentioned ranchers looking out with cocked firearms for Jake Jefferson Jackson on account of their wandering livestock which had somehow ended up with his brand on them. There was also a power of husbands clear through to the Rockies just as eager to plug him for the same reason, 'cept he hadn't slapped a hot iron on the wives he'd rustled, just a hot cock between their legs. Nope, it'd take a team of oxen to drag Mrs Jackson's son Jake west of Saint Louis again. New York and a tasty young widow with a fat portfolio of railroad stock would settle this wandering cowhand down just fine.
Inside his cabin Jake sang poured some water in a basin, washed his hands and face, removed his boots and carefully opened a small box marked 'Dr. Power's French Preventatives.' Out of the box he took two of the rubber sheaths packed inside it and carefully examined them. Freshly bought at a barber's shop in Saint Louis, he expected them to be in good condition but the new fangled rubbers aged quickly. Just another problem with living way out in the West, now made worse by the newly introduced Comstock laws which made it a federal offence to send contraceptives through the post. Maybe the US government figured the Comstock nonsense was the quickest way to populate pioneer territories.
Jake piled up the pillows on the cabin's double bed and spread a horse blanket on top of the coverlet. Not only did the blanket protect the fancy coverlet, it gave off a stallion smell which had often proved remarkable results in certain ladies he had come to know in the past -- in the fullest sense of the word. But when he stretched out and relaxed on top of the blanket his attention was almost fully taken up by the ribbon bound bundle of papers in his hand. It was the script for the stage show which Sam Loftus had sent him and Jake was set on having it engraved word perfect on his mind by the time he reached New York. Yet before he settled down to reading he got up again, set out three glasses on the table and a bottle of Maker's Mark whiskey. He poured a measure into one of the glasses, then shrugged and filled the other two glasses as a libation to the gods of luck and love and lust. And if they were not on his side today then he'd end up drinking all three shots himself.
Taking one glass back to the bunk Jake lay down again and began speaking the lines as he read through them. He'd turned over three pages when the .36 seemed to flow from the holster into his hand with hardly a flicker of movement. He looked up to see Georgina and Clara almost jammed together in their rush to get through the cabin door and get it closed behind them. A man might have thought the pair were seeking shelter from a sudden storm -- until he saw the apprehension on their faces, as if the shelter was underneath a solitary tree with lightning flashing through the sky.
Jake's smile showed more teeth than a he-wolf baying underneath a full moon and he lifted up the gun until the muzzle pointed at the cabin roof.
"Hello, ladies. Sit yourself down and have a drink. They're already poured."
The two woman stood with their backs to the door, staring around them at the luxurious cabin and then at Jake. Clara seemed as nervous as a young miss at her first church social dance, while Georgina's cheeks were flushed and her pert bosom betraying more hard breathing than she'd acquired merely from climbing the steps to the upper deck. Jake chuckled and took a sip from his glass.
"OK, so which one of you dared the other to come and visit a stranger in his cabin? For my money, it was Georgina."
She stared back at him, then gave an unexpected ghost of a smile: "Why me?"
"Because of my gun. Because you want to handle something that's killed a heap of men. Don't get fussed about it, there's a lot of gals like you. One of these years mebbe you'll all get together and start your own civil war with your menfolk -- or maybe just ignore them altogether. Doesn't matter to me, as long as you're here. As for Clara, she's pure female through and through. You like men, don'tcha, Clara? And men surely like you. So if this is the only chance you're ever going to get to have a gallop with another man riding you, why not pick a right handsome cowboy, right?"
Clara's cheeks were turning as red as a prairie sunset: "I think we'd better go, Georgina."
"Ah, that might be a problem." Jake lowered the barrel of the Colt and squinted down it towards them. "See here, gals, this pistol is loaded and cocked and on a hair trigger. Just one twitch and off it goes. Only I wouldn't want you to have the idea I'm threatening to shoot you. The truth is, this pistol is as harmless as a toothless snake. I'm too far East to risk shooting people. So there's nothing in the chambers but black powder for show. If I was to pull this trigger there'd only be a big bang and a power of smoke and sparks."
Georgina's breaths were coming even faster as she stared down the Colt's muzzle.
"I don't understand why you're telling us that."
"Because the wheelhouse is above this cabin. And if the Captain or one of his officers heard a shot in here, why they'd naturally come running to investigate. And guess who they'd find here. Mrs Butler and Mrs Tasker together in a male passenger's cabin. Wouldn't that just cause some gossip on board this hooker? I should just about say so. Why, there's no telling how far that kind of talk could spread. Your husbands might even get to hear some of if they should meet the boat in Pittsburgh."
"Oh dear," Clara said slowly. "Oh dear."
Georgina only nodded, as if hearing nothing but what she'd expected: "Corralled. You've got us corralled. Just like I knew you would."
Jake nodded too, affirming her statement: "Seems like that's the way of it." He put his hand down beside him on the blanket, the six shooter still in it. "OK, girls. Over on the wash stand there's a bowl, a jug of water, soap, flannel and a towel. Get them."
They both seemed surprised but did as he ordered. In the meantime Jake stood up, moved his pillows further along the blanket, then lay down again with his feet out beyond the edge of the bed. Clare stood watching with the bowl in her hands and the towel over her shoulder, Georgina carrying the jug and flannel and soap.
"Wash my feet for me, ladies. Make them clean because you'll thank me for this later."
The women exchanged glances but knelt down. Or rather, Clara put the bowl down on the table and spread out her skirts before kneeling down. Then she took the bowl and jug and other things from Georgina and put them on the cabin floor before Georgina also rearranged her dress as she got down beside her friend. Jake smiled down the length of his body at them.
"Ready when you are, ladies."
It was Clara who began on his right foot, gently rubbing the soapy flannel under his sole and then over the top of his right foot. Jake wriggled with pleasure.
"That's nice, that's sure nice. I was figuring to tell you ladies about those gals in New York, wasn't I . .? Hmm, that's right Clara, every one of those toes."
Georgina's eyes were growing wider to match the growing bulge in Jake's levis. Her elbow jabbed against Clara's arm, and Clara looked up in turn, her eyes showing the same gleam as on first seeing the Colt. Jake laid his pistol down carefully on the blanket and moved his hand away from it a few inches.
"There's no hiding it, ladies, the touch and smell and sight of you pair of beauties surely has the South rising again. And mebbe also because Mr Loftus has promised me a couple of chorus gals to come on stage with me, dressed up as saloon dancers. Only wearing a sight less, judging from some fancy daguerreotypes he's sent me. Seems like they're hardly even planning on keeping their underwear on. Looks to me like there'll be a riot in the theater before I get to do anything -- shucks, that's a good feeling. OK, Georgina, your turn."