Looking down at Terrill’s dead body, Buffy felt nothing for a moment or two; no elation, no triumph, nothing. Then, slowly she started to realise that it was over, everything that had controlled her life for the last five or more years was gone. There was nothing to stop her going back to Laura-Lee and living out their lives together on the ranch; no more fighting, no more being the chosen one, she would be normal; or at least as normal as she could be.
“Ow!” Buffy cried as she bent to pick up one of her discarded revolvers, “That hurt.”
Looking down at herself she found her own blood staining her shirt. Pulling her clothing away from her skin she looked inside her shirt; pushing her breast aside she saw the long red gash along one of her ribs. Making a pad out of her bandana, she placed it over the wound, it wasn’t too bad and the pad should help stop the bleeding before she could get home and let Granny and Laura-Lee fuss over her.
Walking out into the daylight, Buffy turned her feet towards the saloon, she thought it was probably best to tell Barkeep, Ten Spot and Rose what had happened before Terrill’s body started to smell. After tying her horse to the hitching rail, she climbed the two steps up onto the boardwalk and slowly pushed her way through the swing doors into the Lost Lady.
“…the bullets were flying,” Ten Spot's voice was the first thing to register on Buffy’s ears as she walked over to the bar, “and people were running every which way. Me and Miss Rose were ducking for cover because one didn’t know where the shots were coming from…”
Buffy looked over to where Ten Spot was standing in front of three tough looking men as he told his story. Suddenly Buffy found herself the centre of attention as Ten Spot, Rose and Barkeep all turned to look at her with worried eyes. Ten Spot looked at Rose and Rose looked at Buffy, eventually Barkeep broke the rather pregnant silence that had filled the old saloon.
“Mrs Wilson!” Barkeep cried with false jollity, “Good morning…”
“Hello Mrs Wilson…” Ten Spot stammered as Buffy wondered why her friends had suddenly taken to calling her ‘Mrs Wilson’. “we were just telling these fellas a little story about an outlaw that passed thought this way a while back…I don’t suppose you’d know anything about her…”
Buffy looked at Ten Spot as if he’d been touched by the sun once too often, she was just about to say something when Barkeep spoke up again and probably saved her life.
“These two fellas down here is Texas Rangers,” Barkeep laughed with his mouth but pleaded with Buffy to keep her mouth shut with his eyes, “been on her trail along with this other fella…what you say your name was again?”
“Fletcher,” Fletcher looked right up into Buffy’s eyes.
Damn-it-all, Buffy sighed just when she thought she was free and clear her past had caught up with her once again.
“Anyway,” Barkeep continued not realising that the deception was now pointless, “they’ve been chasing this outlaw and it just so happens that old Ten Spot knows all about it!”
“It was in Mexico a little while back,” Ten Spot began to stumble over his words, “this outlaw went up against these five pistoleros, she got three of ‘em before they gunned her down, isn’t that right Miss Rose?”
“That’s right,” replied Rosie, the best actor in the room, as her voice gave nothing away, “her name was…erm…Buffy Summers.”
“Well if that’s what happened then Buffy Summers must be dead,” announced one of the Texas Rangers as his partner finished writing up Ten Spot’s statement.
Buffy watched as Fletcher got up and moved slowly towards the bar.
“Oh, she is dead,” Rose confirmed before looking directly at Buffy and adding, “dead alright.”
“Will you sign this statement,” the Ranger with the note book held out his pencil to Ten Spot.
“Sign?” Ten Spot replied hesitantly, “I sure will…” Taking the Ranger’s pencil he scrawled his name at the bottom of the witness statement.
“That’s it,” said the Ranger as he closed his book and stood up, “Nice meeting you Mrs Wilson,” he tipped his hat to Buffy as he and his partner slowly walked out of the saloon.
Fletcher stepped away from the bar and followed the Rangers out into the street not giving Buffy a second glance as he passed her by. Standing on the board walk, Fletcher watched as the two Rangers mounted up and rode off.
“I don’t believe that story about Buffy Summers,” Fletcher announced once everyone had joined him outside.
“You don’t?” Ten Spot asked as Buffy came out of the bar to stand with them.
“No sir, I don’t,” Fletcher continued as he stepped down into the street, “I don’t believe no five pistolaros could do in Buffy Summers…”
“Maybe it was six,” Rose suggested, “could have even been ten.”
“I think she’s still alive,” Fletcher looked right at Buffy as he spoke.
“Alive?” Ten Spot coughed, “No sir!”
Buffy stepped down off the boardwalk and walked along the street a little before turning back to face Fletcher.
“I think I’ll go down to Mexico and try to find her,” Fletcher announced after a short pause.
“And then?” Buffy looked straight into Fletcher’s eyes and saw only acceptance, no more anger, no more hate, no desire for vengeance.
“She’s got the first move,” Fletcher said as he walked towards where Buffy stood, “I owe her that. I think I’ll try to tell her that the war’s over,” Fletcher looked down at Buffy and the blood that had stained her boots, “What do you say Mrs Wilson?”
“Totally,” Buffy sighed with relief, “I guess we all died a little in that damn war.”
Turning away from Fletcher, Buffy went over to her horse and heaved herself into the saddle before cantering off down the street and towards the Crooked River Ranch. When she got home perhaps she could hang up her guns forever.0=0=0=0The Epilogue.Springfield County Hospital, Springfield, Texas, 1937.
Standing in the hospital corridor, Sheriff Phil Travis fiddled nervously with the brim of his hat. He’d received the message just as he was about to drive out to the Adams' ranch, old man Adams was complaining that the Indians were coming off their Reservation and stealing his cattle again. Travis knew that was just so much crap, Adams’ cows had probably just wandered off, he could wait; the call from the hospital sounded much more…well, not important, maybe more interesting.
The message said that Mrs Wilson, Springfield county’s oldest resident, was in hospital and needed to talk to him urgently
. The Sheriff glanced at the door that led to Mrs Wilson’s private room and wondered why she wanted to talk to him, she’d never had much time for the law she’d always dealt with things herself. He’d known Mrs Wilson all his life, he’d been born in Springfield before the turn of the century and Mrs Wilson had always just sort of been there; coming in from her Crooked River Ranch (one of the biggest in the county) to go shopping or to attend a town meeting.
Sometimes she came in for the county fair or to visit the local school. He remembered sitting bored to distraction one time when he was about ten. Having to listen to Mrs Wilson going on about how important education was. Of course she’d been right, but at ten he’d not realised just how right she was. Okay, he’d done well for himself since coming back from the Great War, but he always had this nagging feeling that he could have done better if he’d taken Mrs Wilson’s advice.
The door opened dragging Travis back from his ten year old self to the present, Charlene Cooper stood smiling at him. Charlene was in her early twenties and had been a nurse here at the hospital for a couple of years. Travis was desperately in lust with her but he was a married man so he’d do nothing, except maybe check out her legs and butt as she walked away from him.
“Mrs Wilson’s awake now, Sheriff,” Charlene smiled and Travis wondered if she knew just how much he wanted to… “Sheriff?”
“Sorry, yes?” Sheriff Travis shook his head to get his mind back on the job.
“Mrs Wilson can see you now,” Charlene’s smile got wider as she held the door open for him as he walked into the room.0=0=0=0
“Hi Sheriff,” Mrs Wilson smiled up at him from her bed and watched Travis cast a longing look over his shoulder as Charlene closed the door and walked away, “still lusting after Charlene I see,” Mrs Wilson’s chuckle turned into a wet cough, it took a moment or two for her to control it and speak again, “Just remember you’re a married man Sheriff…”
“You wanted to speak to me?” Travis turned all his attention onto the old lady in the bed, “The note said urgent.”
Watching as the old woman nodded, Travis had to admit that for a woman who must be near a hundred years old she still looked pretty good for her age. Her eyes were still good, she could hear like a bat and she’d only given up riding a horse a couple of years ago. Her hair was a sort of silver colour and the flesh under her smooth skin still looked firm; it hadn’t taken on that sagging look that old people sometimes got. But most of all her eyes were still bright and seemed to be looking right through him as if uncovering his deepest, darkest secrets. He remembered that as a very small boy he’d been a little scared of those green eyes.
“Sit down Sheriff,” Mrs Wilson gestured to a chair, “I’m old and I’m dying and I need to put some things in order.”
“You don’t look as if you’re dying to me,” Travis observed with a smile; truth was Mrs Wilson looked to be in rude health.
“No-no,” Buffy shook her head, “I can feel it,” she paused before adding, “who’d have thought that good health, old age and the ability to know when you’re about to die was all part of the slayer package…”
“The what?” Travis frowned.
“Whatever,” Mrs Wilson sighed, “there’s a few things I want to confess to and arrange before I go.”
“Wouldn’t Reverend James be better to…” Travis began but stopped when Mrs Wilson shook his head.
“Reverend James?” Mrs Wilson muttered dismissively, “Calls himself a Reverend, not a patch on old Reverend Peabody…” Mrs Wilson smiled to herself, “Now there was a man, never had much time for religion myself but Peabody…” she smiled remembering something, “…y’know he never said one thing about Laura-Lee and me…and when the busy bodies used to flap there lips about us he always used to say, ‘judge not least ye be judged’, or something like that,” Mrs Wilson signed, “Guess I’m gonna find out if he was right, pretty darn soon now.”
Shifting in his seat, Sheriff Travis remembered the rumours about Mrs Wilson and her ‘sister’ Laura-Lee; about how they weren’t really sisters and…well, he didn’t put much store by rumours. The Wilsons were ‘good people’ and that was all that mattered in his book.
“Whatever,” Mrs Wilson took a deep breath, “you ain’t come to hear about all that,” she gestured with her hand, “you might wanna get your note book out and take notes…” she smiled, “…could be I’ll be asking questions later…if’n I’m still totally here to ask ‘em of course.”
Dutifully Sheriff Travis pulled a notebook from the pocket of his shirt and got out a pencil.
“First off,” Mrs Wilson began, “my name isn’t Buffy Wilson or even Mrs Wilson, its Buffy Anne Summers. Back during the War Between the States I rode with Bloody Bill Anderson, I was a murderin’, bushwhackin’ Missouri raider; y’know? I’ve lost count of the number of men I killed back then.”
Travis looked at the old lady in the bed disbelievingly; she seemed to know he didn’t believe a word of what she’d said.
“You’ll find all the evidence, my guns and a few wanted posters I kept as keepsakes in the trunk in my bedroom closet.” She laughed, “There can’t have been too many female outlaws called ‘Buffy’ back then…always knew that name would come in handy one day…”
“But that was years ago,” Travis thought it best to humour her, “and it was war time.”
“But, you see, I never did surrendered at the end of the war,” Buffy admitted, “and I really think its time I did…”
“Well, if y’feel that strongly about it…” Travis began but was interrupted by the old woman; she seemed to need to say something more so he decided to let her talk.
“I was married, I had kids,” Buffy’s false and true memories had blurred into one over the years, “my husband and children were murdered by Captain Terrill and his Redlegs…” Buffy’s eyes seemed to be seeing that terrible day all over again, “…there were about a dozen of them and although I’d been knocked out cold, I just knew they’d all taken their turn…”
For a minute, Travis didn’t know what Mrs Wilson meant and then it suddenly struck him as to what must have happened.
“…so when Bloody Bill and his men rode by, I joined up.” Buffy paused again before adding, “Understand I’m not telling you this as an excuse for what I did, its…its sorta the reason…”
Slowly over the next hour or so, Buffy told Sheriff Travis the story of her life; how she’d escaped from Missouri and travelled to Texas. How she’d fought the Comancheros and wiped out Ten Bears’ warriors and finally how she’d fought and killed Terrill.
“You’ll find him under the old livery sable at the south end of Main Street in Santa Rio,” Santa Rio was once again a thriving mining town, “Barkeep and Ten Spot buried him there after I killed him with his own sword…”
“Mrs Wilson,” Travis found he couldn’t call her ‘Miss Summers’ not after all these years, “even if all you say is true…”
“And it totally is,” Buffy said forcefully.
“Yeah, right,” Travis glanced down at the notes he’d scrawled in his note book, “all this happened so long ago that I don’t think anyone would…” he was going to say ‘care’ but decided against it, “…what I mean…”
He stopped talking as he saw Buffy staring off into the distance a faint smile on her lips, she seemed to be remembering happier times with all those legendary people from her past.
“One last thing,” Buffy turned to look at Travis with eyes that had gone misty, “bury me next to Laura-Lee…”
Looking around the room Buffy saw them all there; her Mom, Jamie, Granny Sarah, Lone Watie, Little Moonlight, Travis, Chaco, they were all there waiting for her to come and join them. Movement to her right caused her to turn her head to see Laura-Lee sit down on her bed; she reached out her hand to Buffy.
“I think I’ll go to sleep now…” Buffy sighed as she took the girl’s hand, “…Laura-Lee,” she smiled and closed her eyes.
Standing for a minute or two still half expecting the old lady to say something more, Sheriff Travis eventually reached out his hand and felt for a pulse. Mrs Wilson was dead. He’d better call Charlene and the doctor in to confirm it but he knew a dead body when he saw one. Looking down at the note book in his hand, Travis wondered about what he should do. Of course he’d see to it that Buffy Wilson was buried next to Laura-Lee Wilson in the Wilson family plot, but the other stuff he just didn’t know, he needed to think about that.0=0=0=0
Waking up in the dark, Buffy knew with a certainty that couldn’t be denied that she’d died and she’d gone somewhere where she’d been loved. That somehow she was back in her own world and she was lying in her coffin. With a strength born of the slayer added to her panic at being buried ‘alive’, Buffy fought her way out of her coffin and towards the surface.The End.0=0=0=0