Episode 4 - My Name Is Dirt
by Camille LaGuire
"I...I'm sorry?" I said.
She made a little face and then just walked right past me, around the end of the curtain to get to the stage.
"Casey, are you mad at me?"
"No," she said, and she kept going without looking back.
The thing is, Casey doesn't lie. Not unless she's making a joke, which she doesn't do much, and this time she sure wasn't.
It's easy to forget that underneath the big hat, and the pair of sixguns and the big boots and spurs and sometimes bandaleros and chaps and the tough talk and all, there's a girl. I forget sometimes that she's even younger than I am, because she doesn't seem so, and she's a lot more shy than she lets on. She's a little gal in a big man's world, and she somehow manages to be tough when she isn't big or strong.
And I'm supposed to be the one watching her back. And not just from bullets.
I had let her down. I felt like a rat. I was mad at myself, and I was mad at Clarice -- especially when I thought that she must have seen Casey coming up, and she pushed it anyway. She was stomping on Casey's territory on purpose.
I followed Casey toward the stage, but she had actually gone to the end of the curtain where an extra fold gave her bit more privacy. When she saw me she turned away.
"So," I said. "I guess you found Rufus, then."
"No," she said, and she snapped it so hard I knew I wasn't the only one who let her down. "Sheriff's still looking. He's got some deputies, so he didn't need--"
She cut herself off, but I knew what the sheriff didn't need. A girl. This day just wasn't turning out for Casey.
"I suppose you don't want to hear the opera now anyway," I said, trying to sound philosophical.
She turned half toward me, looking hard at my boots.
"Yes, I do."
"Well, they ain't gonna sing."
"Shit!" said Casey, and she kicked at the curtain. It just fluffed around and caught on her spur. She hopped there, cursing even worse, trying to get it unhooked. I started to help, but she shoved me away.
"Why not? Because they got shot at?"
"It ain't a bad reason," I said. I explained how Clarice wouldn't sing because she thought Madame Olenka was trying to kill her, while Casey tried to get her spur loose. She couldn't because she had managed to kick up so high she couldn't raise her foot any to get unhooked. I finally scooped her up, and she kicked loose, and I put her back down again.
"Maybe the other one will sing," she said, still not looking at me. She punched the curtain aside and headed backstage again.. "Or if she's really trying to kill the other one, maybe we can hog-tie her and then Little Red Lips will sing."
* * *
Madame Olenka turned and looked at us wide-eyed when Casey kicked open the door to the other little dressing room. She kept her cool pretty good, but I couldn't tell if she was just cool by nature, or if it was because she knew full well Rufus hadn't been aiming at her.
Casey crossed her arms and leaned back in a corner, glaring defensively at Madame Olenska. I was supposed to do the talking, so I turned to the lady and scratched my head.
She was a beautiful woman too. Older and a good bit heftier, but all woman, if you know what I mean. But she wasn't interested in me, which was a good thing.
"Ma'am," I said. "Do you know what's going on here?"
"It is sabotage!" said the lady. She gestured with her powderpuff, and the room not being very big, I wound up with a splat of powder on my chest. "Do you know what that is?"
"Yeah," said Casey, as I dusted myself off and sneezed. The lady didn't listen to Casey, but kept talking.
"In Europe, if you want to stop a factory, you drop a sabot--a wooden shoe--in the machine. And it stops. She is dropping a shoe on me."
"She says you're trying to kill her."
"Ha! She would like you to believe that. She would love for Henri to believe that." She turned to Casey. "Men are such fools. No one is trying to kill anyone. She hired that man herself."
I glanced at Casey, who straightened up in interest. Madame Olenka powdered her chin and kept talking.
"Of course, Henri attempts to cultivate her. One day I will stop singing. But she refuses to learn. She wishes to be the prima donna, to shine above all. And to have Henri, but Henri is not interested in someone so trivial. So she attacks me, and pretends to suffer. She hires this man to shoot at her."
"That's a dangerous thing to do, don't you think?"
"She has the insanity of youth. She doesn't think, except to scheme for what she wants."
Olenka turned and looked very closely at me. She looked down at my guns, and then at my chest.
"You are not a sheriff."
"Not a lawman."
She looked at Casey, and Casey just looked back at her, arms crossed, eyes narrow.
"You..," she said and paused a long time. "You do things for hire, yes? For reward?"
"Yeah," I said carefully, glancing at Casey.
"I would like to hire you for something perhaps not legal, but only for the good."
Stay Tuned For Episode 5 - "French Literature"
Available after 8am EST, on Thur
If you're enjoying this Mick and Casey Mystery, check out their other stories, such as the first novel in the series: Have Gun, Will Play.
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