Part 34 - The Stick Up, then Down

But in the end, no horse cavities were found that day. So they picked their steeds and loaded their bags onto each. “Well,” said Edna when their preparations were completed, “where do we go from here?” She looked to the man not called Shelley, “You wouldn’t happen to know where a giant airship, about - oh - this wide,” she pointed out the width of the clearing, “would be, would you?”


“Y’all came lookin’ for the zeppelin?” he asked and began trotting - with purpose and without pants - toward Shelley Green’s Civic House and Firearm Dispensary. He whistled as he bent over the top, digging for something inside. “Y’all shoulda mentioned that!” he called at them, through the gaps in his workmanship.


“You know where my zeppelin is?” Highmond practically cried, in both meanings of the word.


“Oh sure! Shelley Green had the hunk of junk trotted up to Edo a few days ago! Just before charterin’ me to set up this here township.”


Several pieces of this news seemed significant to Edna, but none of them were the one word Highmond hung on. “Edo?” he asked, faltering a little.


“That’s the place--Ahaha! Here they are!” replied their host. He unbent himself then and turned around to face his customers, leveling Iona’s traded-in pistols at them.


“I don’t suppose that’s you offerin’ me a refund.” Iona deadpanned.


“Now, I’m mighty sorry about this, but I’m under specific orders to take anyone who asks about that there zeppelin straight to Edo. So I’m gonna need y’all to get in one of them trunks.”


“Or,” Edna said as calmly as offering an alternative take-out choice, “you could just let us go there on our own, which - I think--” she looked around at her companions, garnering confirmatory nods, “--we were going to do anyway. Yeah.”


The sodakeep / clothier / beacon for Highmond’s rage / apparent family man / cane arsonist / shoddy builder / generous salesman / stick-up man looked nervous, his guns and gaze darting between the three out-of-towners. He seemed to think about it for a moment before saying, “Yeah, but you would say that, and I ain’t fallin’ for it. You’re gonna get in one of them boxes. I’m’onna shoot some holes in it so’s y’all can breathe - I ain’t no monster--”


“--Can we maybe discuss the order of operations there--” Iona interrupted, but he continued on louder.


“Then I’m’onna throw your box on the Tokaido train--”

It was Highmond’s turn to interrupt next. “I’m sorry, did you say the ‘Tokaido’train’?” he asked, emphasizing the words separately, like they were a star-crossed pair, never intended to meet.


“Stop interruptin’! I’m’a put you on the Tokaido train, then I’m’a pull up a chair and watch your box the whole way through, with a gun in one hand and a sarsparilla in the other! That’s right! I ain’t out of sarsparilla! I lied! I only got enough for me!”


At this point, Edna, who had made a valiant attempt so far at patience, lost it. This man stood in front of her with his guns, and his lies, and his yelling, and his strange sense of loyalty to someone called Shelley Green, and she decided she, too, had several things. She had a headache, for one. She had a craving for sarsparilla, as well. She had no certainty that Shelley Green was real, at all. And she had, or rather had had enough.


She wanted to convey this possession of enough-ness with a hand signal or two, but her hands were busy reaching for the sky. It had been some time since the pair had made any progress toward that great blue above, but still she felt it was a bad idea for them to lose any distance toward their objective just now.


She settled then for rolling her eyes - or at least, trying. In the heat - of the moment, of the sun, of the giant bonfire burning twenty feet away - her muscles forgot a little how to roll the eyes, turning it instead to a jerky series of looks in different directions. (If you’re curious, and if Iona had been watching, these looks would have said to her, “Chunk! I, banana!”)


The middle look - the up one - landed right on the sign above their would-be hostagier’s head. In that splinter of a second - just before the sign began to fall - Edna realized how clever she would have been to have done this on purpose. Alas, clever or not, the effect remained.


The sign for Shelley Green’s Civic House and Weapons Dispensary fell forward, banging down onto the head of the man whose name was probably something other than Shelley Green. He yelped and collapsed, and the horses whinnied and reared. Edna’s horse - whom she had thought of naming Earl Grey - broke free of her loose grip, running off. It managed one solid kick to the head of their had-been stick-up man as it passed by.


He lay moaning in pain and surprise and a bit of his own pee, dazed for the moment. Iona shouted, already on her horse, “Get gittin’ ‘fore we get got!” She helped Edna onto her horse, then threw the man’s pants down atop his bobbing head.


From his horse Highmond called to the liar (and all the other things), “That will cost extra!” Then he looked at Edna for approval.


She laughed and said, “Good! It didn’t make much sense! But it was a fine callback.”


Iona could see the other man coming to, slowly trying to wrestle his pants from his head. “Hey, you two! That thing I said before!”


“Right!” Highmond cried, in a triumphant laugh, “Follow me!” and he cracked the reins and shot off upon his steed.

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