Eerie Saloon 4: Jessie Hanks, Outlaw Queen by Ellie Dauber and Chris Leeson - Now on Kindle

Jessie Hanks is on the run from Eerie after the death of Toby Hess, but, as she discovers, there's some things a boy-turned-gal can't escape from. Most of all, from herself.

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Sample from the original BigCloset version:

Chapter 1 -- "Riders in the Night"

"One... Two... Three!" Jessie Hanks yelled, as she swung the saddle back and forth, then upward. This time, it worked. The heavy saddle went over the top of the tethered horse, settling unevenly on the blanket on its back. "Finally!" she said, tugging at the blanket to straighten it. She quickly reached down and buckled the cinches around the horse's trunk fore and aft, pulling them as tightly as she could. She stood back and puffed. Hell, it had taken her four tries to get the damned thing on the horse; she hadn't had so much trouble with a saddle since she was twelve.

The horse, a brown gelding that Jessie was starting to call "Useless", snorted, as the cinches tightened. Luckily he didn't move very much because the pen was too narrow.

She looked at her slender arms and spat. Jesse Hanks had been able to saddle a horse by himself since he was ten. Now, as Jessie Hanks, a girl of about eighteen, she'd had to work hard just to lift the forty-pound saddle off the shed wall and onto the horse. Damn, and she hadn't even put the saddlebags on it yet.

Jessie decided to put the saddlebags on empty and load them afterwards, so she just tied them to the saddle. "C'mon, Useless," she said, as she picked up the oil lamp that she'd used for light. She opened the stall and used the bridal and reins to lead the horse back to Toby's cabin. She tied the reins to a post and went inside.

"Now I'm sorry you got your head bashed in," she said as she looked down at Toby Hess' body on the floor. I could have used some help with that saddle. I never thought you was good for anything more'n hard labor, you old bastard." She looked down at the body and shook her head. "With a rep like mine, they'll never believe it was self-defense. I'll hang for sure. Hell, they might just string me up and not even wait for a trial. I figure my only chance is to put as many miles as I can between me and that town."

Deciding she didn't like looking at him, she took the dusty canvas that lay against the wall and spread it over the corpse. "Anyhow, I'm sick and tire of being a damned slave at that Saloon."

"Much fun as it is talking to you, it ain't helping me get packed and get outta here. You'll smell as bad as you look, pretty soon, but that's the undertaker's problem." She looked around the cluttered, unkempt cabin. Most of what she wanted to take was already piled on the table. Now she sorted the goods into two heaps. The pistol -- and why the hell didn't the man have a holster for it, anyway? -- rifle, bullets for them both, a flint and steel fire starter kit, a small sharpening stone, can opener, hardtack, and some canned meat all went in one pile. A thick, wool blanket, a towel, Toby's other spare shirt, and a union suit went into the other.

The union suit was too big for her, but she could always roll up sleeves and legs. If she rode up into the mountains that she'd heard were there to the north, she'd probably need the extra warmth. She was already planning to wear Toby's jacket, but that was as much to make her look bigger as it was for heat.

Jessie was already wearing Toby's shirt and a spare pair of his pants. He'd ripped her dress and camisole to shreds on his ill-fated try at rape. She'd reacted by kneeing him where it would hurt the worst. He'd fallen backwards in pain and hit his head on the stone fireplace. The blow was fatal to him, though the fireplace seemed to be mostly intact.

She had tied up her long, blonde hair in a bun and tucked under the man's tan plainsman hat. She'd used the hairpin she'd been wearing to pin it tighter for the ride ahead.

She picked up the pistol and was about to tuck in under her belt when she had a second thought and stuck it in a jacket pocket. She'd found a knife, too, and she was already wearing it in a sheath clipped onto her belt.

The girl carried the items in each pile out to Useless and packed it in one of the saddlebags. She couldn't find a scabbard for the rifle, so it was tied to the left saddlebag; a small hatchet was in a scabbard attached to the right one. A second blanket, she rolled up and tied behind the saddle. She filled two canteens full of water and hung them down next to the hatchet.

She picked up the sock she'd found with money in it: two twenty dollar double eagles, a five dollar half eagle, and three dollars in folding money buried in a trunk with the clothes. This Jessie shoved into an inside jacket pocket, sock and all.

"Thanks for the loan," she said with a smile, looking at Toby's corpse. "What's that? Keep it? Why thanks! Thanks for nothing, you horny bastard." She grimaced with a twist of a smile. "'Course, maybe I owe you. If you hadn't dragged me outta town tied up like a sheep for your own lecherous purposes, I wouldn't be able to get away now."

"Then again, if you hadn't up n'died, I might not need to run. My sentence is up in..." She counted days in her head. "...hell, in a week or so, but with you dead, I might not even be alive by then."

For a moment, she thought about torching the cabin, but it'd take a little time and it might bring company, company that she didn't want. "Best to put some distance b'tween this place and me," she said aloud. "No telling who might be around. Hell, it's even money that there'll soon be folks out here from Eerie looking for me and Laura. Last thing I need is t'run into Shamus or that damned sheriff."

The thought of Laura Meehan made her pause for a moment. If Toby took her, then Laura was probably with his idiot partner, Jake Steinmetz. Toby had told her once that Jake had a cabin a few miles away from his. 'Maybe I should try'n find her,' she thought.

"Why the hell waste the time?" she answered herself. "It ain't like she's kin; we ain't hardly even friends." She remembering the way Laura had palled around with Maggie and Bridget, and mostly just sent dirty looks her way. "We only just rode together a few days before we come t'Eerie. Besides, I don't even know which way that other cabin is. Sorry, Laura, m'girl," she said with a shake of her head, but it's every man for himself. Besides, they ain't gonna be looking t'hang you."

She locked the door to the cabin behind her, leaving the oil lamp still burning inside. "Let'm think somebody's there, so they waste time trying t'get in."

Jessie had learned to ride on her father's old plow horse when she was a boy, so now she had no trouble mounting Useless, as big as he was. Once in the saddle, she looked around once. She knew she was in the mountains somewhere north of town. She looked up and found the "Drinking Cup" in the night sky and followed the handle to the North Star. She planned on riding in that general direction for the rest of the night.

"Look out, World, cause Jessie Hanks is back," She yelled into the night, louder than she'd planned. The echoes coming back out of the darkness prickled her hair. Determined to make it deep into the rough before sunup, she whipped the reins, letting go with her right hand to slap Useless' rump. The horse reared and took off at full gallop.

Again Jessie had overestimated her own strength, and the reins almost pulled out of her left hand. She clenched them hard enough to turn her knuckles white, while Useless galloped through the woods. She ducked this way and that, dodging branches and hoping she wouldn't fall -- or be knocked off his back. Useless didn't respond to Jessie's shouts of "Whoa!" any more than to any of the other words she yelled -- some of them much bluer.

All the while, the fugitive girl kept grabbing for the reins with her right hand. She finally caught it and pulled back as hard as she could. She braced herself in the stirrups, leaning back until it almost felt like she was lying down.

Useless slowed from a gallop to a trot, and Jessie sat up. She thought she'd be able to control him well enough at this speed. She sighed with relief; then she looked down at her arms. She'd had to roll the sleeves of Toby's jacket over twice, so her hands -- her damnable weak, _pretty_, little hands wouldn't get lost in them. "I'll get my old body back, so help me I will," she said through gritted teeth, "and when I do..."

{end sample}

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And here's a link to the other books in the series you may have missed:

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