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Foolproof

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The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Perfect plans were overrated anyway, as Effie Rhodes would say and say often.

She was a feline of thrill. Of chance. Ironic, given that she was a black cat. Effie was no “crook”; she was an outlaw, traipsing through the West from crime to exhilarating crime. She thrived in chaos. Dancing so dangerously with death that every exploit put her 9 lives on the line all at once. Any motley thug can piece together a “surefire” scheme and pray it doesn’t run off the rails – if they wanted to bore themselves on the way to the clink anyhow.

That was the excuse she gave to her cronies when her train heist went off the rails.

To her surprise, or lack thereof rather, Effie currently traced it to the persistence of one ornery stick in the mud of a lawman.

“Hold it right there, ya connivin’ varmints!”

Effie never knew such an energetic package could weigh in at five feet tall.

The scene looked far from fair. She wasn’t the intimidating type as her buxom build and shapely curves would suggest. She only needed to be as lithe and quick enough to pull off her schemes and make her getaways. She left the heavy lifting for the goons. On Effie’s side, two other bandits – a lanky coyote and his heavyset boar of a partner. Just a few easily swayed stooges from one of the many seedy bars littered through Copper Downs. On the other side, the helpless wealthy passengers had no hope but the stubby lop-eared rabbit with a badge and six-shooter.

She tipped her gambler’s hat to greet her new visitor. “Why I’m touched, Artie!” Her cat bell collar jingled as she lobbed her sack of robbed riches over her back. “You chased down a moving train just to see lil’ ol’ me?”

One of his adorable ears twitched in agitation. “That’s Sheriff Arthur to you, Effie. Drop the money and come quietly!”

The audience of train passengers collectively turned to the rogue.

“Mmm, I s’pose I’d be willin’ to part mah haul if you’d spare a kiss.”

Then to the sheriff.

“Ohhh no, I’m not fallin’ for that old trick again!”

And back again.

“Course. What was I thinking trying to get the upper hand on such a decorated lawman such as yourself?” Effie snickered.

“…You’re makin’ fun o’ me aren’t you?”

Effie was impressed. Not by the “clever” reasoning skills Arthur managed to exhibit but by the synchronized collective smack of every passenger’s palm meeting their foreheads. The coyote exchanged a glance with the boar as if they were unsure to parse him as a proper threat.

“Nuthin’ gets by you, sweetheart.” She chimed, masked in playful sarcasm. “Well, if we’re done jawin’, we really should be on our way. Maybe after me ‘n these boys split the money, we could somewhere nice for dinner?”

She knew he’d retort with some backhanded snip-

“Sorry, but the only date I have is with the stack of paperwork for when you’re behind bars!”

-but she couldn’t say she didn’t try.

“You’re not goin’ anywhere, Effie. I know you’d hightail it faster than a cow at a slaughterhouse the second you’re outta my sight.”

“Now Sheriff,” the feline grinned slyly. He hated it when she did that. “You wouldn’t just endanger innocent lives firin’ off willy nilly, would you? Be a shame for such a handsome officer to be on the lamb cuz o’ one little accident. Not for me, ‘course.”

His expression hardened. Effie paid attention. Arthur was a more than capable lawman. He’s had her dead to rights on many occasions. Off days for her mostly. Though, while he was competent in his own right, he was also predictable. The passengers as well gazed at him with mild alarm, knowing that she raised a valid point.

“Alright. Fine then.” There was something about the way he rolled up the sleeves of his shirt that made her tingle. That soft caramel color of his fur, the lean muscle underneath. She almost swooned. “I’ll just have to bring you in the old fashioned way.”

As much as she would’ve loved to continue pestering him, she had a heist to finish. Fortunately, that was what her hires were for. “Boys?”

Effie made a mental note to apologize for the eventual bruises the sheriff would be nursing. After she made her getaway that is. Watching how the spry lawman would have fought his way out of a drastically unfair matchup sounded almost entertaining enough for her to stay. Almost.

She snuck off, seeing as the wall of a boar in front of her provided significant blockage for her to make the slip. Her bag of goodies (and a sly pinching of the shares on the floor) weighed heavy in her arms but it was gonna be well worth it in the end.

The sounds of struggle went quiet behind her as the cat closed the door to the passenger cart. The hot desert wind hit like a sun-baked bull once she climbed to the roof. This was the kind of grunt work she’d have people for but fate seemed stubborn with affording her that luxury. Time had a personal vendetta to her as well. Orange desert terrain shifted to a hundred-foot drop into a ravine.

The brawl from the car below her continued, meaning she had something of a chance. Hopefully, her haul wouldn’t cause her to turn into a cat-sized splat as she jumped from cart to cart.

But then again, fortune favored anything but a black cat.

“Ya got nowhere to run, Effie!”

Her sharp hearing picked up his call from 3 carts down.

“Nowhere that you know of, Artie~” Effie chimed cleverly, unsurprised that her back-up was unsuccessful.

The picture screamed of familiarity to her; pursuer and the pursued. He trailed behind her, making that angry face.

Well, maybe “angry” might’ve been too strong a word. Something of a mix between irate and vexed. That darling little frown that he passed as threatening gave off a little bit of crossed vibes. Perhaps even crabby.

“Dangit Effie, what’re you even runnin’ to? I got you cornered this time!”

“That so?” The gorge’s expanse was still below her feet. The conductor’s cart was a stone’s throw away.

And she was a good shot.

“Those two didn’t give you too much trouble, did they?” Effie teased. “Good help is so hard to find, I figure.”

“You’ll be joining them soon enough!”

Effie might’ve learned by now that there weren’t any other bandits that could keep up with her. Or perhaps she just liked leaving Arthur with someone to knock out and hogtie whenever she made her escape. She was generous like that.

“Stop runnin’ would ya?!” He nearly tripped, losing his prized sheriff’s hat to the wind. A shame. She rather liked that hat. It gave him that sexy air of authority that she loved chasing close behind her.

Effie’s head turned to him, shooting that sly Cheshire grin that caused no end of grief to whoever was its target.

“Why don’tcha make me?”

There was the “angry”. Those gritting buck teeth gave it away.

Effie was at the end of her road. No more train carts and the lack of ground at her feet made for a career (and life) ending hazard. Arthur huffed behind her, closing in confidently.

“You…” He began breathlessly. That strenuous look on his face looked all the more appealing to her once her mind wandered to other…scenarios for it. “You’re one hard lady to pin down, you know that?”

“Just takes a big enough pin, sheriff.” Effie punctuated with a wink. “Care to try it for yourself?”

“Won’t have to after you’re locked nice ‘n tight behind bars.” Unfortunately, the double entendre didn’t break past Arthur’s rock of a skull.

“Got a real one-track mind don’tchu Artie?”

“Only when it comes to crooks like you.”

“Aww, so I do have a special place in your mind.”

The rabbit huffed, unamused. Effie so wished he’d develop a proper sense of humor. Couldn’t be helped, she figured. He was denser than a horseshoe but there was some charm to his persistence. Either that or there was a question of how refined her tastes were.

“Miss Effie Rhodes,” he wasted no time loosening his lasso, “I hereby place you under arrest.”

He practiced that. She knew he practiced that.

The little fella was only a foot or so shorter than her but he didn’t let that stop him from looking up at her – in the eye, even. No small feat with the two distractions within his field of vision.

“My my! Ya caught me, sheriff!” She threw her hands into a dramatic swoon like a distressed maiden. One could almost assume she was close to fainting even. “What hope could there be for a cornered rogue such as myself?? Take me away officer!”

Arthur’s eyes studied her for a full minute.

“…You’re makin’ fun o’ me aren’t you?”

A cheeky grin translated her response better than any response she had. With a huff, the rabbit seized her arm. Moments of silence passed as he began to tie her restraints.

In other words, as he left himself open.

The half tied knot fell apart when she yanked him to her. Not even a single word of confusion left his mouth before she seized it.

His lips were soft and warm. Enough for her to grow addicted to had Effie not reigned herself in.

For a brief moment, Effie allowed herself to forget the sack of riches at her feet. Forget the drop of certain doom even lower. She was a feline of thrill. She lived in the moment. Even if that moment was to steal a kiss seconds before being arrested.

Arthur wasn’t in as much control of his situation. Effie’s half-opened eyes caught him somewhere between stunned and incredulous. He was livid enough that he fell for yet another one of her tricks…though his brain fought with itself over whether or not to act on it. She took pride in knowing she turned off his “duty first” mentality, if only for a minute.

They both returned to reality.

Only for Arthur to be scared witless when she hopped off the train.

In his panic, he screamed her name, aiming his head off to the side where she jumped. Effie had some daring getaways in the past but he knew with utmost confidence that she had no hope in surviving a drop of that magnitude. It was only after inching over the side of the cart did he realize.

The train was back on solid dirt. On top of that, Effie wasn’t a stain on the hills, rather she was sitting pretty on her trusty steed.

Martha, former showrunner mare stolen personally by Effie and turned into her most faithful partner in carrying out her heists. From atop the horse’s saddle, a very smug and soon to be very wealthy Effie shot him a grin.

“Always one step ahead, Artie!” Her riches secured firmly on Martha’s saddle, the feline bandit was already on her way to parts unknown. “We should do this again sometime! My treat!” She flirtily blew him one last kiss.

Most lovesick couples would make a show of figuratively catching imaginary affections when bidding each other farewell.

Arthur, on the other hand-

“RHOOOOODES!!”

-would indignantly shout her name to the heavens whenever she did such a thing.

Perhaps one day, she’d get him screaming under different circumstances.