Sean blew one last smoke into the air before he dropped his cigarette to the ground and put it out with his boot. Just as he was prepared to lift his rifle off his shoulder, he heard a sharp whistle from behind, followed by his name being called.
“I know, I know, ‘pay attention an’ keep your eyes open!’” the Irishman hollered, knowing that Arthur constantly reminded him of his duties every time he got to leave town while the rest of them were stuck on guard duty. To his disbelief, Arthur approached him on foot. He couldn’t help but tease him about that.
“Where’s your horse, English? You lose it while trackin’ down another ‘legendary animal’ you were gonna show off to the rest of us as part of your trophy collection?”
Arthur ignored his remark and jerked a thumb behind him. “You better get back to camp. It’s your wife.”
Sean broke out with a wily grin. He still got a kick out of hearing that about the one formerly known as Karen Jones, nowadays legally referred to as Karen MacGuire.
“She misses her husband that much? I knew it! She couldn’t get enough action last night!”
Arthur scoffed. “Hardly! She’s hittin’ the booze big time and it’s not even noon! You gotta talk her down off it before she gets real sick.”
Sean held his free hand up in surrender. “Alright, alright, I’m goin’.” In spite of the news, he ambled along the dirt road that led back to camp. Unable to resist, he spun around and walked backward so that he could see Arthur when he asked, “This mean you’re gonna be pullin’ guard duty? The great and mighty King Arthur himself? Lowering himself to GUARD DUTY of all things?!”
“Shut up and get going,” Arthur retorted, to which Sean laughed before he turned and walked off.
It took not even a few minutes to reach the vast clearing that was the gang’s current hideout. Even before he walked past the first couple of horses, he heard the one and only Miss Molly O’Shea threatening someone.
“I’ve had enough of you talking behind my back as if I can’t hear any of it! You’re the worst of them all, you—”
“Karen, you killed her!” Mary-Beth exclaimed.
“No, she’s still breathing,” Tilly replied, though there was no fear or worry in the sound of her voice.
Miss Grimshaw huffed in annoyance. “For God’s sake!”
Sean set his weapon down behind one of the tents and approached the clearing next to Pearson’s table. On the ground, flat on her back with blood trickling out of her cracked lip, and unconscious, was Molly. The younger girls were standing over Molly’s comatose form while the matriarch wasted no time in spotting Sean. She snatched him by the arm and yanked him away from the others.
“I suggest the first thing you do before anything else is take care of your wife,” Miss Grimshaw instructed firmly as they relocated to the wood chopping stump. “I’d do it myself, but with how much she’s been drinking, I might accidentally KILL HER in the process. I need her around to continue the workload with everyone else.”
“Easy, easy, me arm’s gonna break!” Sean wailed. Miss Grimshaw gave him the stink eye before releasing her iron grip over him.
She wagged her finger at him and said, “I don’t care if she’s hung over, but I expect her to make up for lost time first thing in the morning. Understood?”
Sean winced at her tone. The entire state of Lemoyne could hear her, but he wasn’t going to risk getting more indentations of her fingernails in his skin or risk the loss of his hearing. Instead, he tipped his hat at her before going off in search of his drunk and angry love.
The all too familiar sound of vomiting clued him in on where he should go next: the shoreline. As he walked down the sandy slope, he saw Karen sitting hunched over on a fallen log with a bottle in her hand. Her favorite low-cut white blouse was rather revealing and while he enjoyed seeing his favorite pair of twins, he knew a few folks at camp might object to them accidentally making their bold appearances at any moment.
“The loveliest lady I’ve ever laid eyes on!” Sean greeted light-heartedly. “Morgan had to come over and pull me off of guard duty to tell me all about the excitement you’ve been stirrin’ up!”
Karen started to get up but her legs abruptly turned into dough. Sean raced over and helped stabilize her, but decided to distance themselves from the strong, putrid stench of vomit. As he guided them over to the small hill leading back up to the grassy mainland, Karen stumbled into him and nearly knocked them both to the ground.
“Sean… MacGuire,” she began in a slurred voice. She lifted her hand that had the beer bottle and she shoved it against his chest. “I got that last name too now, ya know?”
Sean chuckled as he removed the bottle from her grip and sat them both down on the sand. After which he propped her bottle against the incline behind him. “That you do, love,” he said as he took her hand and laced their fingers together where their ring fingers touched. “What got you to drink so early, huh? Pearson’s stew couldn’t have been that bad now!”
“Shiiit,” Karen garbled as she leaned her head against his shoulder. Gone was the forgetful drunk and was speedily replaced with the pissed off drunk. “It tastes like shit… Like… Like this traveling all over the goddamn place… it’s SHIT.”
Sean squeezed her hand with his. “We gotta move when Dutch tells us to. He’s keepin’ us safe and ahead of those bastards tryin’ to take us out like dogs. ‘Sides, it’s fun movin’ around and seein’ new places!”
Karen yanked her hand free and swatted at the air in front of her. “Shut up! Them followin’ us? Why can’t we just shoot ‘em all? The fuck is the problem?!”
She lurched forward but Sean was able to sit her back up. This didn’t stop her drunken tirade, though.
“And that stupid… Irish… HAG… thinks she’s above all of us? Accusin’ me of talking trash… like I’d waste my breath… over anything involving HER?”
“From the looks of things, you knocked her out into the new century,” Sean stated humorously. “You know how she is, though. She looks down on us but she won’t do nothin.’ Doesn’t matter if she’s Dutch’s girl. She can’t touch you, and if she does, you’ll just break her stuck-up nose!”
Karen pressed her lips together and pouted. Sean thought she looked oddly cute, because he expected her to go off on another drunk rant about how he was wrong with what he said. Or hit him. He predicted a slap at the very least. Instead, she closed her eyes and let out a long sigh.
“Just wish we could… just STAY HERE,” she confessed, and she’d stressed the last two words.
Neither of them knew what it was like to have a permanent home. Whether it was childhood or adulthood, both Sean and Karen were used to moving about from place to place in order to survive. Ever since the gang arrived in Clemens Point, just about everyone expressed how much they liked this location. It boosted morale and spirits. Yet with the looming threat of the authorities on the horizon, it put everyone on edge they hadn’t experienced since the Blackwater incident.
“Can’t argue with ya on that,” Sean admitted. “Not wantin’ to get hogtied and tortured by bounty hunters again.”
Karen sneered. “Then DON’T. Just fucking… stay here, dammit.”
And with that, she plopped her head onto his lap and closed her eyes. She curled herself against him and Sean couldn’t help but lay a hand up her upper arm. She was warm to the touch and a rosy tint glowed from her cheeks. Karen was a prized fighter when it came to drinking, but from what she revealed, these pent-up thoughts were just waiting to come out. Molly just happened to be the one to open the flood gates.
Sean used his one hand to grab another cigarette from his jacket. With his wife passed out and smoke in hand, sitting on the sand looking out at the peaceful waters wasn’t such a bad thing to do right about now.