debt to society

POSTED: Fri Sep 06, 2013 3:14 pm

Morty leveled him with a knowing green stare when he walked into the medical office, but he quickly raised a hand to keep her from remarking on his scent or the disarray of his hair. “Is she awake?” was all that he asked, and the grey she-wolf reluctantly nodded.

“And she ain’t happy,” Morty remarked. She cocked her hip out and set her hand on it. “Woke up and started flinging stuff at me until I let her know I wasn’t going to actually hurt her.” She huffed, tossed her head. “But yeah, she clammed up right after. Refuses to talk to anyone.”

Wayne nodded. He walked past the stocky female to the door, hesitated, and opened it up. The thin sheets of the patient bed were drawn up so he could only see the head of the loner, faced away from him. There was a twitch of a floppy ear that showed his entrance was noted, but she was silent, seemingly staring at the blank wall.

When he shut the door behind him, she asked, “Is Sonny all right? And Ears?”

Her voice was low, with a southern States accent like his. She was trying to sound careless, but she didn’t succeed, and he managed a small smile she would not see. “Both mules are stabled,” he answered. “Sonny is a bit scratched up, but no serious injuries.” He grunted. “Can’t say the same for me,” he said, and half-regretted the recent activities that exacerbated his soreness.

The female snorted. “Serves you right,” she said.

Dark brown eyes narrowed. “For defending my herd, horse thief?”

She straightened, turned to look at him. Her brow was furrowed, her lips drawn down into a scowl. “You got plenty of horses, you weren’t gonna miss that ’un.” She snorted again. “I needed a horse to trade off right quick, ’n’ a trained one would fetch the best price.”

“Why’d you need to trade off a horse?”

“Ain’t none of your business, cowboy,” she spat.

She set her teeth together and growled when he came nearer to her, but he merely sat on the edge of the bed. He was sore, but he knew that she’d hit her head pretty hard and was probably covered in bruises, too—and Morty was good at holding down kicking and screaming patients, he knew.

“Are you okay?” Wayne asked.

Her ears twitched back, suspiciously. “Yeah. That barbarian held my eyes open and said they were all right or somethin’, so I’m not gonna live my whole life droolin’ into a bucket or nothin’ like that, don’t you worry.” Her tone grew bitter, and her snout wrinkled.

The Labrador mongrel sighed. She seemed to be overdoing the defiant bit, and so he surmised that she was more hurt and vulnerable than she let on. He didn’t bother to point this out, knowing that that would only strengthen her position as his enemy. Instead, he spoke lowly, right to the point.

“You are my personal prisoner right now, horse thief.” He did not blink even as she stared at him, aghast. “My Sole gave me the permission to keep you until I see fit. I ain’t lettin’ a horse thief wander around this close to my herd, all right?” He added a growl to his gruff words, and she pulled her dark ears back again, glowering at him though she averted her brown eyes. “But we ain’t feedin’ a mouth that don’t do no work, so you’re gonna help me with the horses in exchange for your life, food, shelter, and whatever your mules need. Maybe someday you’ll be able to get out of here.”

Her expression slackened slightly at this, and she looked up at him. Silence fell between them, but then the bed creaked as she shifted her position. She frowned, and rubbed her wrist across her nose, and grabbed a fistful of the sheets. Then she shook her head, resigned.

“Thought us country folk were supposed to stick together,” she whispered.

Wayne’s mouth twitched. “Some stickin’ together you did.”

Her long black tail slapped the bed. “I’ve got—” she started to snap, but stopped, and growled. “Fine. I’ll do work for you. I need the food ’n’ a place to say. Only fair. But I ain’t nobody’s prisoner. Don’t you dare call me that in public, all right? Maybe I’m in your debt, or you’re tryin’ to recuperate me, but I’m free to leave whenever I’ve paid it all off, okay?”

He didn’t see where this changed anything, but he nodded regardless. “You’re free to leave this room,” he added. “But if you try to escape, I’ll ride after you and take you back. You ain’t allowed to leave the territory without an escort, and you ain’t allowed in the Courthouse without one, either.” He didn’t need anyone murdered in their sleep, or hostages taken. “I will hurt you if you hurt any of us.”

She stared at him, hard. He didn’t blink. She looked away again, and abruptly flopped down on the bed, jerking sheets out from under his weight with a few angry tugs and covering herself up.

“Fine,” the lump under the sheets said.

“Fine,” he agreed, quietly, and stood up with another creak. He started to head to the door, but stopped. “What’s your name, miss?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder.

A doggish head popped out of the covers for a moment. “Now he’s a gentleman,” she remarked, rolling her eyes. “I’m Chevelle, Chevelle Dallas. What about you, bucky?”

“Wayne McCoy.”

“Of course,” she said, and disappeared in her lump again.



“No throwing things at Morty, all right? She ain’t really gonna amputate you.”

“She had a saw in her drawer, all right?”

“She ain’t gonna do nothin’.”

“I’ll throw whatever I want if she comes near me with it.”

Wayne smiled, and left.

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