“Monty,” Walker said in a flat, even tone. “Make sure the horses ‘re ready. We’re gonna be ridin’ out in ten minutes.”
“On it, mate,” Monty said quickly, making no flip remark. Things were serious, and his time with the Illuminati taught him never to joke during a serious situation. The Aussie finished his check and moved quickly, with purpose to the stable. Walker looked over to the third of the trio, Marianne Wollcott. The former blade sister had been more quiet than she usually was, going over the last details carefully, almost automatically. “You ready, Annie?”
“Of course, sir,” she replied without hesitation. There was no emotion in her voice, just as Monty, no flip remarks, nor anything else. Which is what worried Walker.
“Annie,” he said with an outstretched hand, gently clasping her shoulder. Normally, a Sister would have cut a man down for touching her. But Marianne knew this man, knew his demeanor. And knew that it could change just as a prairie wind would. She looked up directly into his eyes. “If there’s somethin’ wrong, you tell me. We ain’t headin’ out without clear heads, understand darlin’?”
Marianne nodded. And then she took a deep breath. “I’m a tad worried, sir.”
“Our contact mentioned this organization had assistance…” she began, her voice never wavering.
“We know that,” Walker nodded with assurance. “The Sisterhood. We been through it a dozen times. Always knew that the Sisters ‘r the Illuminati’d come gunnin’ fer us at some point.” Walker took out his Colt .45 and checked it one last time before holstering it again. “An’ we know that one o’ ‘em’s been gunnin’ fer you. They sent word on the wire, put a bounty on yer head. The time’s come. Either ya can keep runnin’, ‘r stand an’ fight.” Marianne nodded firmly to Walker’s statement as she took another deep breath. “An’ I will tell you right now, we been t’gether long ‘nough,” he continued in a low voice with just a touch of anger. “You an’ Monty’re like family ta me. An’ I’ll be damned if anyone’s gonna try an’ gun fer my family.” Walker gave her a reassuring slap on the shoulder and they walked to the stables together.
Quietly, Marianne reached into a pocket of her duster, feeling the lockette in her hand. And her eyes narrowed as she remembered.