John and Brady looked at one another as the voice stated, “Him. Not him.”
Brady stepped forward, “Not you – him.”
Surprised, Brady stepped back and John entered the store. Soon he came to the door way, “Come on in. Everything’s okay.”
Still on edge, Brady came to the door way and stood. There he saw an elderly Black woman holding the double-barrel shotgun that had caused him to nearly piss his pants.
“Close the door! You born in a barn or something?” she shouted.
“Sorry ‘bout earlier,” she said, “But I don’t trust White men around these parts.”
“Understood,” Brady replied.
John turned, smiling and said, “Cat done got your tongue, now don’t it?”
Brady, smiled back and nodded.
“Betsy’s my name, Betsy Green, proprietor. Now what can I help you gents with?”
“Looking to buy some flour and coffee beans,” John answered.
“That I can do,” she said. “Got another one of them there coins?”
“Yes, ma’am,” John answered.
“Good. That’s what it’ll cost ya.”
John laid another coin on the counter and Betsy picked it up, slipping it into a pocket folded into her skirt. She quickly got to work gathering up the requested supplies.
“How you come to be owner of this place?” John asked.
“Left to me in a will. Never really wanted it but I got it and decided to make the best of it.”
After a lengthy pause, “Now I can burn it down – and maybe this whole forsaken town with it – and head for Los Angeles – that’s in California.”
“I know,” John said. “Been headed that way myself for a long piece of time.”
Sensing his travel arrangements were about to take a wild turn, Brady quietly loaded the supplies in John’s war-bag and then checked the cinch on his own horse’s saddle. John watched as Brady climbed on the back of the horse.
“Naw,” he said, “You take that bag with you. You’re gonna need them.”
Brady looked over a the bag, then lifted it off the mule and hung it over his saddle bag. He pushed his horse forward and offered his hand to John, “Take care and be careful of that shotgun.”
The two laughed as they gripped and shook. Brady was more than ready to shut Bixby behind him as he exited the single street town to the east.
An hour later and on a high hillside, Brady looked back, “Still no smoke,” he said to his horse, “That’s a good sign.”