The Reflexive Engine IX

[Chapter List]

Thanks for the Horse

Stepping down from the stagecoach, Beau paused to consider the broken tripod as the rising sun glinted on its golden hide, casting strange patterns of reflected light on the thatched roofs of the village.

The driver peered down at Beau from his perch. “Are you sure, sir?”

He waved the man away. “Yes, yes. I'm more than capable of getting in and out of trouble by myself. Scurry back to civilisation.”

Adjusting his tricorne, Beau ducked into the local inn. Empty, as he'd expected. Just a burly innkeeper and a lot of empty seats.

“Good morning!” Beau announced cheerfully.

The innkeeper regarded his good spirits with unconcealed suspicion.

“I'm looking for the Franke brothers. I understand they've been a bit of a nuisance in these parts lately.” He set his hat down on the bar. “Perhaps I can help in that regard. They've just now become a nuisance to me too.”

The innkeeper shrugged. “Too late, friend. We all pitched in - those of us left and able - and paid someone to get rid of them for us.”

“I see. And anything they might have had with them?”

“She took it.”

“And which way did she go?”

Beau's perfect smile moved the man only to shrug again.

“My good man,” Beau said, “she, whoever she is, is much better able to look after herself than you are.” With a flick of his wrists, he held a pistol in each hand.

The innkeeper raised an eyebrow. “East. She took the east road.”

“Excellent,” Beau said, tossing his hat carelessly onto his head. “Oh, and thanks for the horse.”

As Beau turned to leave, the man said, through clenched teeth, “You'd be better off steering clear of her altogether.”

“Oh?” Beau said. “And why is that?”

“In all my years as a professional soldier, I never saw anyone as good with a sword as she is.”

Beau examined the barrel of one pistol. “Your concern for my welfare is touching, but fire beats steel every time. Cheerio.”

Beau strolled jauntily out into the street. A minute later, the innkeeper sighed as a horse galloped into the distance.

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