Lucky for me, there is a small stack of firewood just outside the door, where I – I mean, where Wes Turner had placed it before heading upstairs for a nap.
“’Bout time,” says Miranda, as I cram kindling into the wood stove. “I was startin’ to think you were going to sleep all afternoon. You feeling all right?”
“Not exactly.” I remove my hat, wipe the sweat from my brow, then put it back on my head. “Look, uh – Miranda, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m not your husband.”
Miranda’s expression darkens. “Does this mean you’re still sore about what I said? Look, I’m sorry, but your friend Lester Ames is no good. Everybody knows what kind of filth lies behind the walls of his compound.”
“This is not about— ” I try to get a word in, but it’s no good. Miranda spends the next five minutes jabbering my ear off about town gossip and corruption, until I finally have had enough. “I’ve got to get out of here,” I say. “I’ve got stuff to do.”
“Well, don’t forget to get to take Delilah to the smith to get shooed,” says Miranda.
“Delilah?” As if on cue, there’s a whinny from just outside the window. A sleek, brown mare stares back me with round, liquid eyes.
“I already saddled her up while you were sleeping,” says Miranda. “Now, you’d best hurry, before the smith closes up shop.”
Happy to get away from Wes Turner’s nagging wife, I head outside and approach Delilah, who nickers softly at the sight of me. “Well girl,” I say, patting her neck, “looks like you and I get to take a little ride. Ready?”
The trouble is, I’m not ready. Wes Turner may have ridden horses hundreds of times. But I have never ridden a horse a day in my life, unless you count carousel horses. And climbing onto Delilah’s back is nothing like mounting a carousel horse. I strain and struggle before finally hoisting my belly over Delilah’s saddle. Then I swing a leg over and grab onto the reins.
“Go!” I say. Delilah does nothing. “Go!” I say louder, tugging the reins. Delilah just tosses her head. I sigh in frustration, wishing I could just turn a key in the ignition. How the heck do you get a horse to move? Then Wes Turner’s memories kick in. I nudge the horse with my heels, shift my weight forward, and say, “Gee!”
Delilah takes off.
She’s not moving that fast, just trotting down the road as I bump around in the saddle. But she may as well be a race car. Gripping the reins, I hang on for dear life and try not to slip from the saddle as we pass occasional houses, trees, and even a ring of covered wagons.
When we’ve almost reached the town, a ringed snake slithers across our path. Delilah rears up on her hind legs and lets out a terrified whinny. I go flying, then hit the ground with a thud. For a second, I just lie there, seeing stars. No really – I keep picturing Christopher Reeve and praying that my injuries aren’t as bad as his. I give my legs a test wiggle and let out a sigh of relief. The fall only left me with a few scrapes and bruises, nothing serious. I climb to my feet and walk the remaining quarter mile to town, leading Delilah by the reins.
The sun has already set, and only the saloons are aglow with soft lantern light. I’m leading Delilah toward a nearby hitching post when a familiar voice speaks from behind me. “Well, well, well. If it ain’t Wes Turner. Come to settle your debt?”
Slowly, I turn around, and find myself staring at the grinning face of Lester Ames, town sheriff.