Friday, January 13, 2012

Chapter 1

Henry Banks wasn't the type of person that made waves. Not even in Unity, Arizona in 1843. Since his arrival to the town, he settled down quietly, working himself a modest living, and caused no trouble. He wasn't the richest man in town, but by far was he the poorest. He liked everyone, saw the good in everyone, no matter how ruff the ruffian, and was well liked in return. He never talked about his past before coming to Unity, and no one ever asked. The Sheriff of Unity, Tom Reynolds, especially liked him. Henry had a fair and even Outlook, Tom would say. An eye for an eye.

This opinion eventually led to Tom deputising Henry. After months of protest, of course. Henry did not want to be in the public eye, just wanted to live a quiet life. It may have taken Tom getting Henry rip roaring drunk and singing with the ladies at Unity Saloon to get him to accept, but no matter. Henry was eventually the deputy sheriff of Unity, and was well received.

Even as deputy, Henry did his job well. He eventually made a daily venture to the Sheriff station where Tom would sit in a rocker. Henry stood next, of course, cause he didn't feel he was of the stature to sit with the Sheriff yet. Tom didn't protest, was just glad his pupil was falling into his failed role. Henry had his own opinion, which Tom consulted frequently, but he never questioned a final judgement, something he had found deputies lacking in.

Until, that is, about six months after Henry's appointment. Tom and Henry were having their daily commune when Tom spotted someone new on the way into town.

"Well, look at what we have here," Tom said.

"Hmm?" said Henry in his usual noncomittal way.

"We have ourselves a figure of folklore in our midst."  Tom pointed to one of the four riders coming in from the west.

Tom looked up at Henry. He saw Henry look at the riders casually, then do a double take.

"You see her?" Tom asked.

"Yes," Henry said after a pause. "I do."

"Her name is Annie James," Tom said, a bit incredilous. "I've heard of her."

The rider in question was unmistakable. She rode with men, but was obviously female. Annie wore the clothing of a man, but tailored to fit her figure, including a steep cut in the front to display the tops of her breasts. Her hair was tied back, blonde at the bottom, black halfway up and under her hat. But was unmistakable about her was the six gun on each hip.

As other people on the street caught sight of hér, they stopped and stared. The gang paused just before the station. They seemed to converse with the woman, then the rest headed for the saloon, while she took a slow canter to the Sheriff's station.

"Afternoon," she said from the coral, dipping her hat to the Sheriff."

"Afternoon," Tom replied with a hat dip in kind, noting Henry did the same with a shaky voice and hand.

"May I have a moment of your time?" the woman asked.

"Of course," said Tom, and felt his deputy stiffen beside him.

The woman dismounted, tethered her horse, and approached the Sheriff, stoppimg just at the top step of the station.

"I wanted to introduce myself coming into town," she began. "Because a woman like me is not usual."

"Of course you're not," Tom said. "You're Annie James."

It didn't take a genius to see her eyes fall and her shoulders slump. "Oh. You've heard of me?"

"Of course I have," Tom said, forgetting about his deputy for the moment, who was pulling his hat down low over his face. "Who hasn't? The woman that dresses like a man? The woman that wears guns like a man? And, more importantly;" he leaned forward, glaring at Annie. "The woman who can use guns just lime a man?"

Annie seemed to shrink back, then puffed herself up. "Yes, I am all that. But did you hear I don't cause trouble? Did you hear I don't draw a weapon unless in self defense?" she took a step closer and looked Tom in the eye. "And did you hear if you want me to leave right now, I will? Me and my gang. We will buy water and supplies, give your town commerce, and be out of here."

Tom looked at her for awhile, and Annie looked back. He dected no deception in her...but he had the town and what they thought to think about.

"Well," he said. "I have to say, in my town's opinion, your presence wouldn't be very wel-"

All of a sudden, Henry kicked the hell out of Tom's boot.

"Well..." Tom restarted. "What I meant to say was, if you and your gang don't cause no trouble, you're welcome here."

The surprise and relief to cross Annie's face was unmistakable. "Thank you, Sheriff. We're much obliged."

After she rode off to the saloon, Tom turned to Henry. "You better have a good explanation for this."

"I do," Henry said, finally raising his head, to reveal eyes brimming with tears. "She's my wife."


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