Kid Meets Aunt Martha at the Blue Magnolia Bordello
Kid and Heyes had been separated for a few weeks having taken on separate jobs; when someone had recognized Kid and the relentless hunt began. His running had been hard and fast. Going on for days without a hint of a break. Exhaustion was his constant companion offering really bad advice that led Kid straight into some serious mistakes. He was so worn that he was in dire need of rest real soon. Because if he didn’t…. well he just wasn’t going to go into that line of thinking. Heyes would a frowned on it if he were there and he wouldn’t have let either of them think on it.
Something fine on the wind caught his attention and made is empty stomach twist in hunger. Now it also voiced it’s opinion and demanded that Kid pay attention since it had kept silent until now. Arguing with himself he knew it was a risk, but he also knew he needed to take it. So he headed in the direction of where the smell was the strongest coming to a ridge he held up some and let his eyes adjust to the night. He was able to make out some black boxed shadows down below set with a few flickering lights winking like beacons.
“Gonna have to do it,” he sighed wearily as he swiped a gloved hand through his hair leaning a little forward in his saddle while resting on the horn. He returned his hat to his head, sat up and tugged the reins to the right nudging his heels into the horse’s flanks.
Moments later Kid tied his horse to a tree just behind what he figured would be the saloon, and worked his way up through the alley. He paused checked both directions cautiously stepping out. It was late, but the doors thankfully weren’t closed yet, so he took the chance.
Behind the dark wooded bar a bald headed little man looked up when he heard the door creak open. “Sorry, mister. We’re closed,” he said not missing a beat toweling a bar glass while he eyed Kid cautiously over the rim of his round spectacles.
Kid looked as haggard as he felt, and pleaded. “Please, I just need a little drink, some food and a couple of minutes to rest.”
“Sorry. I said…”
But the barkeep was cut off, interrupted by a womanly voice, “ K…”she coughed, “Thaddeus is that you, sweetie pie?” One of the older saloon girls had looked up from her cards upon hearing his young desperate voice melting her heart at seeing him so beaten.
His dejected eyes glanced at the voice that called him recognizing it, “Betsy McCaferty?” He met the woman long ago in another time and place, when he and Heyes had split up over some stupid argument and she had convinced him that it wasn’t worth the trouble to be stewin’ over it and that he really belonged with Heyes. The two even though they were family there was a bond that linked them so deep that they were never meant to be separated like that. She even lightheartedly suggested that when the two them were done sowing their oats; that when they got married that the house would have to be built big enough to house their two families. And that the women that they married would have to be comfortable with each other as well and understand and embrace this extraordinary connection.
Just as he acknowledged the older woman she leapt from her seat quickly reaching around him with a supporting arm leading him to her seat. “Frank a whiskey.” She barked briskly.
Frank turned around reached for the good stuff hidden under the bar and snatched a ‘clean’ glass, then wobbled over to her. He filled the glass set it on the rounded table sliding it across to Kid. Following that up in a gesture of a welcoming greeting set the full bottle down in front of Kid topping it off with a curt nod of approval. Kid reached for the drink, in response saluted, the ladies set around him, then lifted his glass higher to Frank, “Much obliged,” he thanked them.
Betsy removed Kid’s hat and ran her middle-aged fingers through his hair, she never could resist doing that to the curls that framed his sweet face, thinking back to the last time she had done it. Lifting his chin gently her emeralds crinkled at the corners darkening with concerned. Her gaze swept over his face settling onto his dull and stressed topaz eyes. “Where’s your horse, honey?”
“Out back Betsy,” was his reply weak but audible enough.
With that little bit of knowledge she charged into action like a cattle drive boss heading out onto the range. Facing the girls the orders issued forth. “Lillith, get changed. Go out back and get the horse over to Reiter’s. Tell Tom to take the tack hide it. He knows where. Then I want you to tend to the horse. It’ll be needing some oats, water and a good rub down. Don’t forget to toss a blanket over it to. It’ll get cold real quick. Jesse go with her give her a hand. Penny, Abigail go into the kitchen and whip up something. Mable draw a good an’ hot bath, Candy give me a hand getting Thaddeus upstairs into a room.”
It seemed to Kid, that by the way all of them moved this was something they had all done before. Taking the bottle and glass he let her help him up the L- shaped carpeted staircase to the second floor down the corridor.
“Betsey, I…” he stammered.
“No need to sweetie I know. Don’t you worry about a thing,” she comforted him.
Only a half smile managed to work it’s way onto his lips. “I can’t stay long,” he said cryptically.
“Nonsense. You’ll stay as long as you need to. Trust me darlin’ you’ll be fine with us. You just let me handle everything, and all will be fine.” she insisted.
“I appreciate that, but you don’t know.” he tried.
“I do and more than you think. I’ve gotten pretty good a being a safe heaven. And the sheriff don’t care none either. He doesn’t like to be bothered. He likes things to be quiet, the less work he has to do the better. Besides, just lookin’ at you makes my heart crumble, and I know how your cousin would be if anything happened to you. I couldn’t bear to see him devastated either.” She fed him a warm motherly smile. “Just trust in me, ok?”
“All right,” he agreed reluctantly very reluctantly.
After a nice hot bath, and some food, he felt some of the burden lift off of his shoulders. But he couldn’t afford to relax. He had to stay vigilant his survival relied on it.
A knock sounded at the door, it was light, and by the way it sounded it was feminine. But his hand still rested cautiously on the grip of his pistol.
“Mr. Jones, Miss Betsy asked me to come bring you some things.” The light voice spoke.
Kid walked over to the door turned the knob, cracked it, looking behind her then to the sides.
“Oh it’s ok. Isn’t nobody here ceptin’ us dance girls and Miss B. Can I come in?” she reassured him.
He held the door wide for her and she pushed in. Her arms laden with a large bundle. She turned and her cute little nymph-like face brightened. “Miss B wanted me to give you these and said you were to give me all the clothes you had on. So as we could get them washed. And I’m to wait right here until I get every stitch.” She insisted adding a slight nod to emphasize that she meant business offering him her load.
A soft chuckle left him the first bit of humor he felt in days. “ Every stitch huh? And you’re supposed to stay here until I give ‘em to ya?” he teased; a slight gleam returned to flicker in his eyes. He took the clothes from her dropping them on the bed.
“That’s right,” she asserted all tough like. “ It ain’t like I don’t know what a man looks like if that’s what you’re afraid of.” She planted her hands on her hips. “ I can turn my back, if you need me to, for your privacy, but I ain’t leaving.” She twirled around demonstrating her point.
“No, I don’t think you would even if I insisted. That loyal to Betsy huh?”
“Yup.” Her corn silk ponytail bobbed once to emphasized the word and added, “She takes care of all of us. We’re like one big family.”
“So Betsy does this stuff all the time?” he looked up curiously thrusting his leg into the trousers while trying to balance on the other foot.
“Yesum,” she responded proudly.
“I take it then she’s got a system.” He managed to get the other leg in too, finishing by fastening them.
“Yes she does. Nearly everyone in town is in on it. Everyone has a job to do and we do it pretty well, I might add.”
“Many come here getin’ the same treatment?” He slipped one arm into the shirt then the other.
“Most do. And they usually reward Miss B and we all share in that.”
“What’s your name?” His tired fingers worked the buttons through the holes. He never remembered that being such a hard task.
“A might young aren’t ya?” His hands slipped the tails of the shirt into the trousers tucking them in.
“Not as young as you may think, I look younger than what I am Mr. Jones.” She explained peeping over her shoulder.
He had pulled up the suspenders looping them over his shoulders. Kid picked up the pile of clothes he folded as he switched each article.
“Miss Candy, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” he smiled as she turned around, entertained by the mischief that danced within her slate gray eyes.
“Likewise, Sir. I’m sure.” Their hands touched briefly under the clothes. He felt her warmth and sincerity and it felt good.
Having them secure in her arms she twisted heading toward the door.
“You leavin’?” A bit surprised after her covert flirtations.
“You need your rest. But I’m sure that after that anyone of us will be willing to keep you company for spell. Then she added coyly, “Even if…it’s just for company and nothin’ else.”
His hands were on his hips and he bent his head and shook it. “ Alright Miss Candy.”
Downstairs in the small kitchen the girls were gathered around the table reporting to Miss Betsy that all the tasks had been completed and that they would be ready act when the time came. Betsy nodded as each girl spoke and was pleased that all had been tended to, all properly.
“Alright girl’s let’s call it a night since it’s well past and there’s no telling when those “men” will come back looking. We need to be fresh and ready on our toes. One thing I want ya’ll to know is that this man is special and a personal friend of mine and well I think you can guess that I want this to go without any hitches, understand?” Betsy informed them with indisputable apprehension.
“Yes Mam! You’ve been so good to us that anyone who’s special to you will get special treatment from us,” Abigail said eagerly clarifying her loyalty.
“ We’ll take good care of him and make sure that when he leaves, he leaves because he wants to not ‘cause someone’s draggin’ him outta here,” Mable added in an effort to reassure Betsey.
“And if Mr. Jones is needin’ some extra attention I won’t mind lendin’ a hand to that,” Penny winked suggesting some naughtiness.
Lillith and Mable grinned shaking their heads in unison.
“Don’t nobody get no mind of keepin’ Mr. Jones warm. If anyone’s gonna be doin’ that it’ll be me,” Candy declared defensively protecting what she felt was her territory.
“I don’t want any fighting. Is that understood!” Betsy commanded in her gentle yet authoritative voice.
“ We understand Miss Betsy.” They agreed apologetically ashamed that they had gotten carried away.
“Now since Candy already has tended to Mr. Jones it’s only fitting for her to be continuing to do so. He’s used to her and I’ll bet feels comfortable trusting her,” Betsy reasoned.
She looked around, taking notice that no one hesitated or showed contempt. All were in quick and full agreement.
“Off to bed now, with the lot of ya.” Betsey directed as a lazy smile softened her kind face.
They all scurried out of there.
She took the neatly folded clothes off of her bed wrapped them in some linen and placed them in the box that she had pulled out from under the hole in the floor boards. When things were safe she’d have them washed, but for now this would have to do. She closed the lid and set it in and pushed it back out of sight. Then she carefully replaced the boards making sure the fit was right. Replaced the rug and heaved the small side table over the top. She returned the lamp another items to the tabletop and visually swept the room to see if everything was in its proper place.
She changed into her dressing gown and slumped into the seat of her vanity. She removed the pins that held her ruby locks atop of her head letting them cascade down over her shoulders brushing them. She stared into the mirror through into the reflection of the painting that hung over her bed.
Magnolias. The painting was filled with beautiful blossoms that in reality had such a sweet and wonderful fragrance. But these Magnolia’s were special there were none in the world except for what was in the painting and the twin that hung in the saloon just above the mirror behind the bar. These unique Magnolia’s were blue; a blue that she had seen in the eyes of a young man full of happiness and as bright as a clear sunlight day. The day that Heyes came into town and Kid and Heyes got back together.
Betsy flung back the covers blew out the lamp on the table and climbed in. Now they were the same ones she had seen when she had first met him gloomy like a menacing storm on the horizon.
This was going to be the toughest jobs that they would do. She liked Kid a lot. She cared for him way back when and determined then that she would do whatever it took to protect him. And if anything happened to him she would be overcome. But not as devastated than his cousin would be. She couldn’t bear seeing what it would do to him if she failed.
The floorboards creaked alerting him to a presence just outside his door. Two possibilities, either it was one of the girls or it was someone he didn’t want sneaking in which offered him two options. Out of instinct he chose the only sensible one. He reached up quietly sliding his gun from his holster, resting it on his chest. His eyes fixed on the unhurried turning knob. The door opened, followed by a pale wispy fabric that caught up the reflection of the moonlight bestowing upon the cloth magical qualities.
The tension of his grasp relaxed a bit, yet he remained vigilant. It could have been one of the girls. Candy had suggested that one of them might come in. As the figure tiptoed further into the room he recognized the petite sprite that floated in. He allowed his finger to slip away from the trigger onto the side where it rested when he wasn’t going to shoot. He closed his eyes to pretend to be asleep. The lower end of the bed dipped when she climbed on making the whole thing rock.
Delightedly he had hoped she would be the one to keep him company tonight since he wasn’t up to getting used to someone new anyhow. He’d let her stay, it would feel good to have someone next to him, but that would be it. She was too young no matter what she said and he was too much of a gentleman to indulge in his needs. And even if he wasn’t and she was older, he was simply just plum tuckered out for anything else.
She slithered under the blankets lifted up his arm and tucked herself under. He was amused that she didn’t try and wake him to ask him to put the gun away. Rather she just ignored it and simply got cozy. Soon after sleep called in it’s markers and claimed him.
The night grudgingly gave way to the light yet satisfied that it handed over the watch without incident. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said after the sun cleared the horizon assuming its post. Excited voices filled the corridor, Candy and Kid both shot up. He moved his arm carefully to avoid hitting her.
Tossing the covers back he leapt to the door poised for action. He could see her kneeling clutching at the bedding in anticipation. Within minutes for some reason he couldn’t figure she bounded from the bed flinging the bedcovers smoothing them out, then tucking them in.
“Girl what in blazes are you doin?” he questioned bewildered.
“My job, Mr. J.”
“Your job? Can’t that wait?”
Her answer wasn’t helpful at all. She confused him even more when she picked up his hat, boots and gun belt taking them to the door and leaned an ear it.
Her eyes flickered toward him, “Almost, get ready to move.”
Quizzically he glanced at her like she was mad.
A disembodied feminine voice, seem to land against the door, “Candy, it looks like we need to get ready for your sweet Aunt Martha I hear she’s coming real soon.”
It was Abigail.
“I’m all set, I just need to get dressed,” Candy replied.
He figured it out. It was code. They were keeping to their promise.
“Girl you need to hurry up then time’s a wastin’. Need any help?”
Candy paused; surveying the room her eyes spied the bottle and glass. “ Just a little. Looks like some drunk left the saloon stuff up here oh and his dirty socks too.”
Kid frowned the same time his eyebrows rose to his hairline.
“Not you,” she mouthed. She grasped the knob opening the door. “Time to leave Mr. J. You need to follow me and do what we tell ya.”
“Lead on.” He said letting her take the lead.
She swung the door open charging into the hall. Abigail stood off to the side as the duo made their way down the hall to the end into another parlor. Then the girl walked in gathered the remaining things heading for the saloon and the laundry.
Candy barreled through the entry closely followed by a befuddled Kid. Candy whirled around tossed him the gun belt and threw the hat and boots to two others who were primed by an open hole in the floor. They caught the gear and dropped it in, and put back the flooring. They also replaced the rug straighten it. Together heaved up a trunk settling it on top of it all.
Female hands grabbed at him pulling him over to a chair stripping him.
“Hey!” he protested.
“Not to worry Mr. J. Just let us do what we got to do.” Candy reassured as she was tossing clothes over the dressing frame.
“What size do you think?” Penny asked.
“Probably the largest ones we’ve got. He’s real tall.” Lillith answered.
“ Style?” Mable requested.
“ Old and widow like. That way a veil can help cover his face.”
“Whoa! Wait a minute.” His comprehension finally caught up to their plan. “There ain’t no way…”
“Shush, Mr. J. it’s the only way. Why Billy the Kid and the James boys were here a spell back.”
“I’m not them.” He denied.
Slight giggles from Penny. “We know you’re much better lookin’ and cleaner.”
“It’s the only way Mr. J. Miss Betsy would insist upon it.” Candy tried to reason with him peering from behind the screen.
“Look there ain’t no time. We got to hurry!” Jesse snapped.
One of the girls went to grab for his gun.
“Sorry Mam. You can’t have that.” His eyes gave that clear warning that it wasn’t something to be negotiated.
“Let him keep it we’ll work it in somehow,” Lillith, decided.
Betsy was as cool as a cucumber. She was smartly dressed in one of her more showy dresses with her hair done up just so. With simple makeup that enhanced her beauty it gave her a depth of character without being extravagant. Frank, ever quiet and unconcerned stood polishing the glasses with his towel whereas she stood at the opposite end of him nearer to the stairs allowing her arm to casually drape on the bar.
“Gentleman I can assure that I have not entertained any criminals in my establishment. We had one gentleman in here but he’s long gone.”
“Look Mam. There is no other place that varmint could a gotten off to ‘cept here. Now me and my men are gonna search this place.” The unkempt leader ordered waving his hand about.
“I really must protest!” She insisted, stomping her foot for added effect. “There is no one here for you to find.”
“Well just see for ourselves Mam if you don’t mind. And even if you do well I don’t care,” he signaled for the gang to splinter off to begin the search.
Two rather semi- intelligent shabby rascals climbed up the stairs. They searched every room giving them a cursory glance while shoving the doors against the walls to check if anyone was hiding behind. Seeing under the beds was easy so there really was no need to walk into the spartan rooms.
After inspecting half of the rooms Lillith and Abigail strolled out in their under things as the two letches leered after them. Being the actresses that they were the girls exaggerated their sway and a seductive smile. The rogues lost themselves into the feminine vision before them so much that they took off their hats remembering some of their manners. As the girls disappeared around the corner it took them two a few minutes to recover with the taller lean one shaking himself clear of the cobwebs. When the shorter tubby one didn’t recover so quickly, he whopped him with his hat to get him back on track.
“Mind what your’n supposed to be doing Cleft. You know we ain’t got time for playing.”
“But Zeke, they looked good enough to eat.” He got whopped again.
“Don’t you let my sister hear that. She’d skin ya then tan your hide.”
“”I know,” he whimpered fearfully.
Finally they got to the door the one that Kid was hiding behind. So they burst through thinking they had caught him red handed. But much to their embarrassment they only stumbled on the rest of the girls gathered around an older woman dressed in somber respectable clothes. The older lady appeared to be the focus of their attention.
“Hey ain’t you got no manners?” yelled Penny.
“We ain’t open for business yet. We need to have some time to ourselves ya know!” added Mable in an equally feisty attitude.
“ It ain’t often that Candy’s Aunt Martha comes to visit, and it’s getting tough on her cause she’s getting so old.” Jesse added with vigor sounding like she was about to attack them.
Aunt Martha sat there on the high back chair, fluttering her fan furiously, that announced her displeasure. In a matronly voice she said, “ Girls, settle down. Now I do not appreciate being interrupted young man. It would do you well to mind your manners.” With that Aunt Martha snapped her fan against her left hand.
Intimidated the two posse men removed their hats again in respect and apologized. “We are truly sorry Mam. But…”
All of the girls glowered at them teeth nearly bared like wolves succumbing to rabies, fist clenched either in their laps or at their sides.
“I will accept no excuses.” She slapped it against her hand again emphasizing her annoyance.
“Yes Mam. No excuses.” The two brow beaten, turned sharply on their heel quickly trying to get through the door. But finding it very difficult for the both of them to squeeze through at the same time.
The girls and Aunt Martha had to stifle their laughs at the comedic scene. First the two clowns would step back wait and try plowing through the doorway, wrestling a little and trying it again. Finally they pushed hard enough and got through and made darn sure to vamoose hastily.
Candy got up from her seat across from Aunt Martha to shut the door. She turned around to exchange satisfied smiles with the group. Now the plan was to wait for the all clear sign.
Heyes stretched out, crossed his ankles leaned back resting against his saddle, “So wanna tell me how’d you manage to loose that posse?”
“Luck and smarts I guess.” He led on.
“From what I heard it was a lot of luck and smarts. They were really on your trail, like a bloodhound.”
“Like I said, luck.” He settled up against his saddle too dropped his hat down over his eyes geared for sleep.
Heyes shot up as the realization slammed into him like a landslide. “Wait a minute. They said you were over near Weaverton.”
“So now what’s that supposed to mean?” he said halfheartedly showing little concerned.
“ The Blue Magnolia’s over there. Betsy McCaferty’s place.” Heyes declared in victory.
“And…” Kid still wasn’t buying what Heyes was trying to sell. He wasn’t going to let him goad him.
Heyes started to chuckle.
Kid flipped up his hat to stare at him. “What’s so funny?”
“What about my luck?” he was on his elbow now. Heyes got his attention and Kid was losing, as he always did.
Heyes laid back again, replaced his hat as a smug look settled in on his handsome features.
“I said Heyes, what about my luck?”
Heyes peeked out from under his hat, a
“And they would be?” Kid was getting annoyed.
From a deep sigh, “Aunt Martha.”
“We don’t have an Aunt Martha.” He settled back down too, puzzled by Heyes’s remarks. Dropped his hat on his face.
He bolted upright, “ Aunt Martha! Heyes how do you…” Kid noticed a new grin growing on Heyes’s face.
“Never mind. Good night Kid”
“Go to sleep Heyes.”