Jesse McCree's M1917 revolver felt heavier than usual in its holster, slapping against his hip as he strolled into Lubbock, Texas. It wasn't exactly his first choice for a town to spend a night in, but it was just big enough that nobody would look twice, but not big enough that the police would think to look there first. He gave those federal cops credit – they didn't like to give up when they thought they had a man's trail. McCree had been on the run longer than he had thought plausible, drifting from town to town for over three months and – occasionally when he needed the cash to get a little farther – robbing folk who deserved it. The road from Arizona had been long and hard, but Texas was proving to be full of promise so far.
Rolling into Lubbock, he kept his hat low. Wanted posters had already been distributed in the town for his face, or at least the best sketch artist's interpretation of it. Bars almost never asked questions, and usually they'd have hotels either nearby or integrated into them. Either way, he had been on the road too long. Time to put up his feet and relax a spell. The local dive was typical, for 1890 maybe. It was the perfect place to slip away and disappear from the world for a while.
The bartender didn't even glance twice at McCree as he asked for a bottle of whiskey, sliding down a bottle of Gilbey's and a shot glass. Thank God for the end of Prohibition. McCree popped open the bottle, pouring himself a shot in celebration of alcohol's renewed legality.
“Hey, barkeep,” McCree asked, barely taking his eyes off his drink. “You know of any decent places for a fella to spend a night or two?”
“Continental will get ya set up right,” he answered. “This old place has got a few rooms if you don't mind the smell of beer.”
He had seen the Continental on his way in. Looked alright. Just a touch obvious for him, though. “What's the price for a room here?”
“Three dollars a night. Continental'll run you four a night.”
Shit, $3 a night was steep. Well, wasn't much his money anyway. He could spare six bucks. Another dollar for the whiskey, that'd set him back seven dollars total. Crying shame that kind of cash didn't get you this far these days. He remembered when he was 14, seven dollars could get you pretty far. Hell, that was about the time he had pulled his first robbery, helping someone way more experienced – and dangerous – than him knock over a local branch bank. He had been in charge of keeping the horses ready for a quick escape, and for that one, everything went smoothly. If only the same could be said about every job.
The double doors creaked open, but McCree wasn't inclined to look up to see who it was. Either the law had caught up to him, which was unlikely, or it was some local face, who didn't need to see McCree's. Sounded like two people, judging from the uneven cadence that could only mean two pairs of boots walking on the old hardwood floor. Bartender must have found something far more interesting to do, his steps fading away just as quickly as the two newcomers arrived. So, either he had been caught by the feds, or these people were bad news. On instinct, his right hand glided down to his revolver, where cold steel and wood greeted him.
“Jesse McCree,” a woman said, exaggerating every part of his name. Now why did she have to go and announce his damn name to the entire bar? Probably a good thing there were only a handful of drunks here today. He sighed, but didn't answer. No need to confirm that's who he was, not right now, not to some lady who went around messing with criminals.
“Ze lady is talking to you, Herr McCree,” a man said, planting a massive hand on his left shoulder.
“That ain't me,” he replied, pouring another shot of whiskey. “I reckon you got me confused for someone else.”
The woman laughed, taking a seat on the barstool next to him and leaning on her elbow, smirking as she stared him down. “I don't often get folk wrong. You ain't good at hiding, McCree, so you can't play dumb now.”
McCree smirked, throwing back another shot. The burn was good today. “I ain't hiding, cause I ain't gotta hide. You got the wrong guy, Miss…?”
“Ashe,” she said, extending her other hand out to him. “Elizabeth Caledonia Ashe.”
“I know you,” McCree said. “You're that rich girl what went and started robbing banks, right?”
“The one and only,” she replied, nodding and tipping her wide-brimmed black hat. Unusually, she wore a vest with a distinctly male cut, matched with suit pants and a white dress shirt, the sleeves rolled up to about her elbows. Rose tattoos covered her arms, and her stark hazel eyes, flanked by locks of white hair, told him he had encountered a dangerous woman.
“Hmm,” McCree said, hesitantly shaking her gloved hand. “Well, I still reckon you ain't found the right fella.”
Ashe smiled, shaking her head. “Bob, why don't you show McCree here that we don't take too kindly to dishonest folk?”
“Bob”, apparently the oversized man who was casting a shadow over him, whipped McCree around, bringing him face-to-face with him. His stark blue eyes pierced his very soul, and ironically, his “friendly mutton chops” were anything but. Bob grabbed McCree's poncho, ripping him off the barstool and to the floor before he could even comprehend what was going on. His hat went flying, and the shot glass he had in his hand also went down, shattering as it hit the floor.
“Don't worry, John, we'll pay for the glass!” Ashe called out, hopping off the barstool to crouch down to McCree. “Now, Bob here can do a lot more than just throw people on the floor. We know who you are, McCree. I could tell the Texas Rangers where you're at, I know they're hot to find you.”
“You wouldn't dare,” he sputtered. “Where's my hat?”
“Or, and I kinda like this option better, you come with me to Spain.”
McCree blinked, trying to wonder where and how in the hell Spain came into all this. “What the hell's in Spain?”
“For one, a way to get away from the government for good. Two, the rest of my crew.”
McCree sighed, rubbing the back of his head and wincing. “Call me a skeptic, but I ain't see much worth in going to Spain for just that. Where's my hat?”
“You're missin' the point, McCree. I'm offering you a chance to get away from running. I've got a good crew, good people who look after each other. Lot of opportunity over there, you know.”
“Opportunity to get shot. Not interested.”
Ashe smirked, standing tall and looking over at Bob. He returned the look, curiously cocking an eyebrow at her. “Bob,” Ashe said. “Why don't you go out there and find a telephone to call up the feds, please?”
“Of course, Frau Ashe,” Bob said, nodding and turned to the door. “Shall I inform zem zat we have found the dangerous outlaw Jesse McCree?”
“Yes, please do.”
McCree furrowed his brow, slowly picking himself off the floor and searching for his hat. Where the hell could it have gone? Alright, whatever, time'll come to focus on that later. “Okay, hold on, just – wait a damn minute,” McCree said, taking a knee as he looked up at Ashe and Bob. “What the hell do y'all want me for anyway? What makes me so special?”
Bob paused, stayed by Ashe's hand as her grin turned devilish, kneeling down to get on his level. “You're special because I've heard what you can do with a gun, McCree. Now, you tell me, what would you rather do? Rot in prison, or join me in Spain, fighting for freedom?”
McCree stared at her outstretched hand, then her sweet smile. At least, he'd call it sweet if it wasn't planted on the face of a woman rumored to have killed over 50 lawmen. Christ, he really had no choice, did he? Either he'd go with her to Spain, or she would turn him over to the feds. “Lose-lose either way, isn't it? Hell, you got me. Guess we're all taking a trip to Spain, huh?”
Taking his hand in hers, Ashe helped McCree off the floor, smiling wider than ever. “You're in good hands, McCree. We look out for out own.”
He and Ashe shook hands, sealing the deal. McCree was less than enthusiastic about it, however – doubly more so when Bob began reaching for his pistol.
“Hold on there,” he said. “What do you think you're doing?”
“Bob's just trying to account for your ammo needs,” Ashe explained. “We got a lot of folk with a lot of different guns, gotta source our ammo from somewhere."
McCree scoffed, his hand hovering over his pistol. “Could have just asked. .45 ACP. That good enough, or do you wanna read the serial too?”
Bob shook his head, extracting a small notepad from his vest and jotting this down with a short pencil, carefully shutting the little pad and gingerly returning it as he intensely studied McCree's revolver.
“Fan of .45, huh?” Ashe said, smirking. “I ain't ever been much of a Colt girl.”
“I'm sure you'll tell me plenty about it,” McCree replied, having finally found his hat underneath Ashe's former barstool. “So, what's the plan to get us to Spain?”
Ashe turned around, gesturing for Bob and McCree to follow her out of the bar. “Leave the details to me, McCree,” she said. “All you gotta do is show up.”
McCree nodded. Guess he didn't need that room for long, then.
McCree sighed as he smoked a cigarette, standing in a harbor in Savannah. Ashe and her butler were supposed to be here by now. Where the hell were they? He was sticking out like a sore thumb out here, regarded by the passing folk as more of a curiosity. Good thing his trail had gone cold by the time he had gotten to Georgia, otherwise he'd have to stay cooped up in that damn hotel. The air smelled like the sea, but that wasn't unusual considering how close he was to the water. Savannah would've been a nice city if there weren't so many people.
On his left, McCree saw Ashe and Bob approaching. Finally, he thought, stomping out his cigarette. Time to get this show on the road. Ashe smiled as she saw him, waving slightly. Bob remained quiet as he walked over, watching the crowd with a scrutinizing eye.
“You ain't got much on ya, McCree,” Ashe noted.
“I'm a light traveler. You know how it is.”
Ashe shrugged, walking past him to head down towards the docks. “Boat's ready for us. Bob went ahead and got all the ammo you'll need over in Spain.”
“I've got some rounds of my own,” McCree said. “How much you reckon we're going to need?”
“Don't you know?” Ashe asked, turning around with a seductive smile on her face. “There's a war going on there, McCree.”
McCree scowled, narrowing his eyes at Ashe. “I didn't sign up to join no war.”
“Nobody does, McCree. We ain't going over there to fight for any government, we're fighting for freedom.”
“I dunno if you noticed, but I ain't exactly a 'red white and blue, apple pie and baseball' kind of guy.”
She turned around, cocking an eyebrow at him as Bob continued onto the boat, unimpressed with the conversation thus far. “Are you hard of hearing or something? I said we ain't fighting for any government. These folk I've got in good with, we're making damn sure there won't be a government to interfere with anyone.”
“Whatever,” McCree said, rolling his eyes. “S'long as you don't go and try making yourself emperor.”
Ashe smiled, lightly patting McCree on the cheek. “Only thing I'm gonna be empress of is myself, cowboy. Come on, let's go to Spain.”
McCree sighed, picking up his bags and following Ashe and Bob onto their transport. He was never much of a boat person, so he couldn't quite describe the thing beyond it being a boat. Hell, the thing had a rudder and floated, right? What else mattered beyond that? His room in the boat had a simple cot, and a desk that was bolted to the wall and a chair that seemed like it was two seconds away from sliding away with an uneasy roll. Mere minutes after stepping foot, they began to steam away. McCree tossed his bag underneath the cot, rolling his shoulders back. Maybe he could get some shut-eye in before they got underway.
Sliding onto the cot, McCree glanced out the port window, watching Savannah's skyline fade away, rolling with the sea as their boat began to head out of harbor. Too much light coming in. He slipped his hat over his eyes, leaning back and relaxing. At least, as much as he could on a steel cot chained to the wall. How had Ashe even gotten them this ride anyway? Time slipped past him as he dipped in and out of sleep, their paper cup of a boat rolling with every wave, every crest of the ocean. The trip to Spain was promised to take at least a week, if not longer. May as well get some good sleep in. If there was a war going on like Ashe said, he'd need it.