She waited by the bar till Isaac returned from the cellar. Then, taking the bottle and two fancy cups, she headed back upstairs. When she came through the French-doors she saw that Rex and Madame had relocated to the railing, leaving the dining table deserted. She would bring the wine for them to drink at the balcony, overlooking the thoroughfare.
But as she came nearer, the tell-tale jangle of an unfastened belt-buckle was the first sign of something amiss. Then she recognized the rhythmic thrust of intercourse observed from behind. Madame was bent half over the railing and Rex loomed behind her with his trousers to mid-thigh. A shred of silky lingerie waved in the wind – impaled to the bannister by Westman's sharp knife.
“Oh Madame,” Misty heard Rex groan. “As I suspected – there are callouses present within you.”
Old bellows wheezing on embers couldn't make a hoarser sound than Madame's right then.
“Get off her you fuckin' monster!” Misty demanded, but her voice was wavering in the wind like Madame's tattered gown.
Rex turned to her and smirked. He bucked more fiercely against Madame. Evidently, he did not mind being watched. “Girl, surely you know capitalism when you see it? Why don't you form a fucking line and wait your turn?” He lifted what remained of Madame's slip and exposed the brutal penetration.
“Fucking rape!” Misty stomped her feet and chucked the wine glasses – but they flew past Rex and shattered on the thoroughfare below. “Rape on the balcony!”
She leaped forward to bludgeon him but Rex was too quick. He swatted the bottle from her grip and it shattered on the balcony. She twisted and tried to pluck his knife from the railing but Rex grabbed her up by the hair and yanked her back. Misty clawed to free herself from his clutch, but he wound her hair in knots around his fist and held her at arm's length. Then he jerked down till she fell on her knees.
Drawing his member slowly out of Madame, Rex looked only at Misty. “Come on, girl. You know what to do.” He pressed her face toward Madame's swollen nethers. The spilled wine reeked in Misty's skull and she begged him to stop.
Everything came at once. Rex breathed out hard. Glass broke some-way's off, and a rifle cracked loudly. Misty cringed and closed her eyes. Warm fluids spurted onto her cheeks and lips. Rex groaned and, suddenly, he weren't holding her hair no more. She wiped her face and opened her eyes. Her hand came back red. Rex staggered backward and Madame collapsed, quivering in the shards of the wine bottle. He kept on shuffling away from the railing, tugging his trousers up one-handed while shoving himself back inside. With his other hand, he kept pressure on a shoulder sundered by a gunshot. Blood seeped between his fingers.
“Madame!” Rex called as he slunk away. “Thank you for the gracious spread. The vittles were mighty fine, too. We'll do it again some time.”
The Indian materialized at Madame's chamber and dragged his boss inside. Misty had a mind to pluck Rex's knife from the railing and go after them, but her knees felt too brittle to stand upon. Madame lay curled nearby, knees pulled to her bosom, nethers bared, sopping in red wine and breathing fast as a woman in labor.
Misty didn’t have time right then to suss where the shot had come from. She knew a thing or two about the aftereffects of forced intercourse. Madame was gonna need her.
“Let's draw you a tub.” Misty whispered. “He's gone. Let's get you washed up and you can soak a spell, Madame. Madame?”
She went without a fight. Inside, Misty left her on the bed and went to fetch a washtub and some pails of hot water. As she was leaving the chamber, Madame pleaded, “Misty! I don't want anyone to know.”
Misty knew how that were. She went out of the chamber, borrowing Madame's key and locking the door behind her. It took four trips to fill the tub with steaming water. Madame slipped under and Misty sponged her back and shoulders.
“Misty,” Madame began. “Do you love Yule Sherwin?”
“Madame?” Misty was stunned. Had Madame caught wind of her and Yule’s midnight rendezvouses? Why would she bring it up right then? Was it because Rex had hurt her, so she thusly had a want inflict harm upon Misty?
“Continue sponging,” Madame scolded. “Do you, girl? Do you love Yule Sherwin?”
“I don't reckon I know.” Misty resumed washing. “I've never even held his prick in my hand, let alone —”
“Why would you ask me that?”
“I ask because you had better start loving him.” Madame took the sponge and her hand lingered upon Misty’s. “Because you are his woman now and he can do with you as he sees fit.”
“You are not well. Ought I fetch the Doc? I can’t fasten to your meaning.”
“Go now,” Madame said. “Do not linger or my heart may change and I may dispatch you back downstairs to get fucked. Misty, you belong to Mr Sherwin now. Four summers ago I bought you for six blankets and today I have traded your person to him for a single bullet.”
“You mean,” Misty breathed, “it was Yule shot the bastard Westman?”
“I opened my eyes and saw the muzzle flash through that porthole where Mr Sherwin peers out from his loft.”
Misty froze, unable to trust the evidence offered by her own ears. “Is this a test?”
“You had better go now, girl.” Madame turned her back and squeezed suds out of the sponge. “And remember – tell no one.”
Misty took a step, and then another, and by the time she reached the stairs she flew down them three-at-a-time.
She pushed through the crammed parlor. There was no need to revisit her chamber – ever again. She had no other garments to gather. It wasn't as if the gowns she wore were ever hers. All she owned was the whore's uniform which barely covered her erogenous parts. She was giggling and weeping. A drunk put his hand on her thigh and she slapped him hard across the face and kept right on running. Isaac called to her from behind the bar as she sped past, but she couldn't decipher his words.
She went out through the saloon-doors and that was it. She would have no more unwanted pricks. She would never again roll over and take it – no matter how generous the offer. She heard perverts whistling as she ran by but she didn't answer those kind of calls, not anymore. A great weight was lifted from her pelvis. Salty tears collected in the corners of her smile. She was tasting freedom for the first time in some time.
Galloping giddy as a newborn foal, Misty crossed the thoroughfare and rapped on Yule's door.
That same second he swung it open, yanked her inside and swept it back shut. He pulled her inside so fiercely that her instinct was to cover her head and brace for the blow – but he did not strike her. He held her by the arm and peered around the shade, scanning outside his door.
“What are you doing here?” he asked without looking at her.
For a second Misty had to wonder who this man were. He sure didn't seem much like Yule Sherwin. He was taller, mayhap – and his eyes were not warm at all. He was hawkish, keenly scouring the road. His hands were shaking and, at the same time, he was squeezing her arm too tightly. She reckoned it a complete certainty he had never before shot a man.
“Yule, it's alright.” Misty pulled close, kissing his cheeks and lips. It weren't freedom she tasted on him, but it sure were salty. She whispered, “It's alright baby.”
“Does your Madame persevere?” he asked through her kisses.
“She is formidable. She sent me to you and told me never to return.”
“What?” Yule pushed her to arm's length and held her there. “Why?”
“I'm yours now, Yule!” She tried to move in and embrace him but he was too tense to form a ring with his arms. Still, her eyelashes were joyously moist and she knew he'd join her in that place soon. Laughing, barely believing the sound of her own words, Misty explained, “I'm your just reward for takin' on civic duties! For savin' us from Westman!”
“I haven't saved anyone.”
He wasn't taking her good news as well as she'd imagined. He stared past her with such focus that she thought he might tunnel right through the wall by will alone – right into the jail next door. Yule's dog expressed its anxiety by sweating through its tongue.
Misty wouldn't have any more of it. She forced herself against him and nuzzled his collarbone. “You've done saved me. I don't ever have to go back there, Yule. Don't you hear me? I am yours and yours alone now because you are such a brave fucking man and a right fucking gentleman, to boot!”
Finally she had his full attention.
“You are mine,” he said.
“That’s right, baby.”
“And I must protect you now,” he said. “And if something horrible happens it will be me alone who is responsible.”
“Well that's an eerie fucking thing to say, Yule.”
He detached himself, leaving her alone with the nervous dog. Disappearing into the dark of his unlit shop, he whispered, “We need to leave right now.”
“Where? Why?” It didn't make sense. “Are you afraid of Rex? Baby we should get the law. Rex was rapin' Madame and about to include me too – what you done was justified. You know what? We should head over there right now and swear out charges against Rex. That's what we ought do, baby – let's go get the Sheriff.”
Yule came stomping out of the shadows, swinging a rucksack. His eyes shone in the moonlight, wide from lunacy.
“No!” he cried. “We're not going to the jail. No fucking how. No fucking way. We need to get as far from Red Junction as we can – right now.”
If he had ever cursed that way in her presence before, Misty couldn't recall it. In a way it scared her worse than anything Rex had done. “Yule,” she pleaded. “What is going on?”
“Have you ridden as a passenger on horseback before?”
“Fuck Yule.” She was crying the bitter sort of tears then. “Yeah I've ridden that way. I reckon there has never been a time in my life when I was not a passenger.”
“Is there anything you need from the bordello?” He was checking the provisions in his satchel and not looking up at her. The thought crossed Misty's mind that his cold-shouldered preoccupation was merely the regular pattern of monogamy. Had they gone stale already? She could be so stupid.
“Misty? Is there anything there without which you cannot live?”
“Never has there been a single thing there of mine.”
Then she was sobbing hard and finally attracted his attention. He set aside the rucksack and held her tight. Dude whimpered at their ankles.
“Hush child.” He stroked her hair. “Easy darling.”
“I'm scared and I don't know what for.”
“Do not fear. I am going to keep you safe. And I have enough fear for us both. Can you ride? We should head out at once.”