Wyatt flung the door open, cocking the hammer on his revolver at the same time, expectant of a hail of gun fire. Instead, he found the woman brandishing a knife. She was thin with blonde hair just as light as her fair skin. Her blue eyes were filled with tears and blood dripped from her fingertips. He was almost glad the bullet barely grazed her. She warned him to stay back but he just smirked, holstering his weapon. "Come on, ma'am. Let's not make this difficult. I don't need you hurtin' yourself with that," he explained and extended his hand. "You runnin' with these fools?" He kept his hand out for her and rotated his hip back, his gun holstered on the same side and his free hand resting over it.
The girl stood without his help, off balance for a few seconds before finding her center and looking straight at him. "I don't run with anyone," she informed him, coldness in her voice. "Not anymore, at least." Her tone softened there, hurt and sad. Wyatt was relieved to hear that she wasn’t in league with the Whitton twins. That would make the job of getting them to the nearest jail a bit easier. He watched her carefully as her eyes fell to the rope in the same hand that was resting over his gun. "You don't need that. I’m not trying to kill you," she stated and looked up at him again. "What are you doing here, anyways? This isn't exactly your business." She took a step to her left, blocking whatever was behind her from his view. His eyes narrowed slightly, but he didn’t act on his suspicion. Not yet.
“I’m here because of them,” he replied, gesturing with his head toward the two men writhing in pain on the ground from being shot in the leg by him. There were two others near them lying dead. She gave him a worried look. “Them other two is just collateral.” Wyatt relaxed his hand from his gun, deciding that if the woman was going to attack him, she would have done it already. She didn’t say anything; she just stared at him with the knife still raised. He exhaled slowly and removed his hat. “Name’s Wyatt Callahan. And you?” Her knife lowered slowly, and in it he saw the reflection of the twins scrambling to their feet. “Now, you boys best stay put unless you like the feeling of a boot up your asses!” he shouted at them, then turned back to look at the girl again. “Sorry. Your name?”
Callahan? She flipped through every memory in her head, trying to come up with why the name sounded familiar, but had little luck, and the pain in her hand didn’t help. She relaxed her grip on the knife with great hesitance and rested it on the seat cushion for no reason other than the fact that his hand finally moved away from the gun. If he was going after the twins, he was a good man in her book and would remain as such until she had a reason to believe otherwise. And she would trust him until that time, too. "My name's Charlotte. Charlotte Masen." The girl took a breath, the new oxygen sending blood pumping to the wound to remind her of the pain she was in. "And I believe you tried to shoot me, Mr. Callahan." She almost smiled despite the painful lack of humor in the situation and cradled her hurt hand once more.
“Well, it's a pleasure, Ms. Masen. And I do apologize, but it wouldn't be the first time I've come across a lady ridin' with a gang," he replied. Did she look like she would be caught riding around with a set of such filthy, terrible men as these? His hand placed his hat back on top of his head as she sat the knife down behind her. Charlotte glanced out the torn open door. Her eyes came to a body lying in a heap in the dirt and she had to force herself to tear them away. Crying wouldn't help her, especially in front of him. But the tears in her eyes begged to differ. She fought them until one tear skidded down her cheek and disappeared onto the palm of her bloody hand. She pulled a torn piece of fabric from bottom of her dress.
"Where are you taking them?” she asked as she stood up straight and went to work wrapping it tightly around the wound as her mother once taught her when she was a little girl. “Are you a law man, Mr. Callahan? Or are you a bandit, too?" Charlotte asked.
"There ain't no law 'round these parts. And I ain't no bandit," he explained, “I spend the lot of my time bounty huntin’.” He followed her eyes to the corpse on the ground, blood pooling around it, "I take it he was a relative of yours, ma'am?" She silently stuffed the end of the material under the other layers of the makeshift bandage in response to his question before she lifted her eyes again. The look of sadness was gone, replaced with a harder mask. Wyatt was walking away, bending over one man and expertly tying him up. She hesitated at the door as he moved onto the next, and then stepped out of the cab to walk around to her brother. She dropped to her knees in front of him, uncaring of the blood pooling around him and the staining it would bring to her dress. Her hand absently reached forward to stroke his face, careful to avoid the mess the bullet made. He was so cold, but a layer of sweat remained over his skin from his fight to survive. A fight he lost. Charlotte brushed his hair back from his face everywhere but at the wound, which she covered with the brown strands, and her lower lip quivered. Tears spilled from her eyes and she felt herself starting to cry all over again, only to push the feeling back down. She wouldn't. Not now.
"A bounty hunter?" she asked over her shoulder, voice tight from tears. She reached down and kissed Jesse once on the forehead, stood and walked back over to the man, looking at the blood soaked cloth of her hand. "Does that mean you won't help me? That you're just here for them? Or will you get him back to town?" Charlotte looked quickly over her shoulder at her brother, then back to Wyatt. Her eyes, at first hard but now large and pleading, met his. "You won't ever have to talk to me again. I just can't leave him here. I don't even know where I am anymore. We came all the way from Blackwater..." she trailed off, fiddling absently with the cloth on her hands. "Please?"
After he tied up the second twin, he kept a close eye on her as she made her way over to the body, straightening up her dead brother’s hair and mourning over her loss. He could tell she was on the verge of losing it. He had seen grown men break down at the sight of less horrible things than death, but still she kept her composure.
He reached into his pocket for a cigarette and a book of matches. He struck the match against the heel of his boot and brought it to the cigarette hanging from his lips, blowing a bit of smoke away as he lit it. He sighed when she returned, almost begging him not to abandon her out in the wilderness. He removed his hat and scratched his head, and then quickly put it back on, "Blackwater," he repeated in a hushed voice. By the looks of the two marshals he had encountered on the trail of the Whitton twins, he had guessed that was where they were from. He took a drag from his cigarette, and then removed it from his lips. He turned away from her for a moment in thought. "Damn," he muttered. He knew he wouldn't be welcomed back there, especially not after assaulting the marshals. One last deep breath and he spoke again, "Fine. Blackwater's nearly twenty miles east of here. We can move them in the coach.”
Out of nowhere, the girl threw her arms around him. "Thank you," she whispered, her arms tight as he blinked in surprise.
“Yeah, well, uh…it’s no trouble.” She released him.
"I'm sorry." Charlotte wiped under her eyes, removing the tears that made their way to her cheeks again. He tipped his hat in response, moving to lug the bodies and injured twins into the stagecoach. Her brother was first. "Be careful when you move him, please," she requested. "You don't know what they did...what they wanted to do to me." Her lips pressed into a solemn line as he slipped into the cab and set down her brother. It wasn’t fair what happened to him; what would have happened to her, too, had he not shown up. He saw some bad things in his life, some things caused by him, and they often happened to good people. He unfolded and draped a blanket over her brother’s body, when something caught his eye. It was under the seat below where the knife. Wyatt grabbed the knife and slipped it in his belt, then pulled out the object next to it. A chest. He looked it over for a long second. Why was she hiding it earlier? He shook it and something skidded around.
“Hm,” he grunted softly and slipped out from the cab.
“I’m sorry for getting in your way, Mr. Ca-” Wyatt dropped the chest in her lap.
“I reckon those boys were after whatever you got in that there box.” Charlotte just stared down at it.
He stepped down and loaded in the two dead men, then pushed the tied twins into the back of the cab, tying them down to the inside so they couldn't make a break for it through the broken door. He took the second of the two blankets that were folded on a seat of the cab and stuck it through jagged pieces of wood on each side of the top of where the door once was, creating a cover in case anyone passed them. When he returned, Charlotte was gripping the chest tightly in her arms. He climbed up and took the reins, and then looked up at the ridge where he had left his horse. He put two fingers into his mouth and whistled loudly, and soon enough his own horse was following the path of the stage coach, up and out of Riverweed Basin.