Morgan pulled the derringer out of the dresser drawer and handed it to Brisco. He looked at the gun. Broke it open, removed a round and clicked it close. He sniffed the barrel. "Is this your derringer Morgan?"
"You just saw me get it out of my dresser. Of course its mine."
He held the gun up in the palm of his hand. "Morgan are you absolutely sure this is your gun?"
"For the last time yes."
Brisco tucked the gun in his pocket and withdrew a pair of handcuffs. "Morgan Delaney youre under arrest for the murder of Duncan McGuire." He grabbed her wrists and placed the handcuffs on her, securely locking her hands in front to her.
"Brisco have you lost your mind? I did not kill Duncan."
"Morgan youre gun has been fired and theres a round missing." He reached over and removed her gun belt. "Any other weapons I should know about?"
"No." Morgan said as she sighed. "Exactly what are you planning on doing with me Brisco, we are on a boat you know?"
"Yeah a boat the was used as a prisoner transport during the war. There are still a couple of cells below in the storage area. Ill hold you there until I can turn you over the authorities in New Orleans."
"Great." She growled as he led her from the room by her arm. As they entered the hallway they met Gabrielle and Henry.
"Whats going on?" Henry asked as he blocked their path.
"Its okay Henry. Let us pass." Morgan said calmly.
As they moved by them Morgans eyes met Gabrielles. The reporter looked down at Morgans manacled hands. "Morgan " She said catching the gunfighter on the forearm.
"Its okay Gabrielle."
"No its not "
"Gabrielle please dont make this any harder than it has to be."
"Morgan he has no right to do this and you know it."
"Please " The gunfighter pleaded, but she could tell that it wasnt going to do any good if the reporter had any say in it.
"Mr. County, I can prove that Morgan didnt kill McGuire."
"How?" Brisco asked, he just wanted to get this mess cleaned up as soon as possible.
"Gabrielle " Morgan growled. "Dont. Its not worth it. Ill get out of this some other way."
"Oh shut up." Gabrielle directed this comment to Morgan. "Mr. County. Morgan was with me last night."
"I know that Miss Stafford, but McGuire was killed late last night, after dinner."
"That doesnt change the fact that Morgan spent the night with me in my room."
"Oh God." Morgan groaned as she rolled her eyes.
"All night?" Brisco asked, glancing to Henry who just leaned against the wall and shrugged.
"All night." Gabrielle confirmed.
Morgan just dropped her head and shook it back and forth. Gabrielle could hear a slight growl come deep from with in her lover.
"Why didnt you tell me Morgan?" Brisco said as he unlocked the cuffs.
Morgan rubbed her wrists. She answered him while looking directly at Gabrielle. "Because discretion is the better part of valor. I didnt think it was any of your business, where I spent the night."
"But its an air tight alibi." Brisco reminded her.
"Yeah until people want more details."
"Briscos not going to ask for details." Henry piped up. "Are you?"
"Who me? No not a one. If Miss Stafford says you were with her last night then thats good enough for me and I dont care if you were playing checkers all night."
"Well then thats what well call it." Morgan growled as she stared at Gabrielle. "Checkers."
Gabrielle grinned and blushed.
Brisco tucked the cuffs away. "Well we still have one problem. Someone killed McGuire with your gun. How do you explain that?"
"I cant. My gun was with me all night in Gabrielles room and it was there this morning when I got up."
"Im going to hold on to it for the time being until we find some answers." He said as he patted the pocket that held the gun.
"Fine, Brisco fine. You do whatever you feel you need to do. Right now, however I have a poker game to play." Morgan offered her arm to Gabrielle and they started up the hallway with Brisco and Henry trailing close behind.
"Gabrielle I really wish you hadnt done that." Morgan said under her breath as the walked back to the parlor.
"Just knowing me is dangerous enough. To let people know youre involved with me only makes it more dangerous for you."
"A risk I am more than willing to take." Gabrielle stopped and pulled Morgan into an alcove. Brisco and Henry continued passed them. "Face it Delaney. Youre stuck with me. You seduced me, Im yours." Gabrielle pulled the gunfighters head down and they shared yet another soul searing kiss.
Licking her lips as they parted and slowly opening her eyes, Morgan smiled. "You win. God Gabrielle you win."
"Good. Now lets go play some poker." She looped her arm through Morgans and they continued on their way.
Morgan was the last player to arrive. As they entered the room she looked carefully at all the tables. Because of the first two "untimely" withdrawals from the game there were two tables that seated only four players. Two out before it even began, Morgan thought as she made her way across the room and took her seat.
She waved Gabrielle over and pulled a chair up behind her own. She turned to the four men seated at the table. She didnt know any of these men so she merely addressed them as a group. "Gentlemen this is Miss Stafford. Shes a reporter who will be covering this game. Ive invited her to join me. Any objections?
The first man rose and extended his hand to Gabrielle. "William Adams, Miss Stafford. Please sit and enjoy the show. I know no one else here will mind. Right boys?" The other men nodded their approval and smiled at the beautiful young reporter.
Gabrielle accepted the mans hand and nodded her head slightly his direction. "Thank you Mr. Adams." She said with a sweet smile that lit up the whole room. She took her seat and removed a pad from her back pocket and a pencil from her vest and began taking notes.
Morgan sat down ad adjusted in her seat. Something wasnt right. She looked down at her lap. Damn she berated herself as she waved for Isaac to come over. Her assistant was at her side in a flash. He leaned over as she whispered in his ear, he nodded and took something from her and left the table.
"Must be nice having a staff of servants on board to do all youre runnin fer ya." Said a second much older grizzled looking man.
"Isaac is not my servant. He is my friend. I didnt catch your name, Mr " Morgan replied dryly, not really caring about his name, but she figured Gabrielle would want to know and she knew the reporter was taking notes.
"Dixon, Frank Dixon." He said as he let loose with a wad of spit into a near by spittoon.
Oh that was attractive. Morgan thought as she extended her hand to the man, which was ignored. She settled back in her chair and smiled. "Have I done something to offend you Mr. Dixon?"
"It aint right." He said as he aimed for the spittoon again.
"And that would be what?" She inquired with a grin, wondering if he was upset about the fact that she was a woman or that she had money.
"A woman playin poker. Just aint right." He spit again. "Besides what I hear of ya, ya dont need to play this here mans game. You already got moe money than the good Lord hisself."
Morgan shook with silent laughter. A rare combination this one. He hated her because of the fact that she was a woman and that she had money. Usually it was one or the other. "Im sorry Mr. Dixon. If you dont want to play with me Im sure you could withdrawal."
"Hell no woman! I gots twenty thousand dollars invested in this here game."
"So do I Mr. Dixon. So I guess well just have to tolerate each other until one of us is out."
"I guess we will." He spit again.
Morgan watched with some humor as the other men at the table tried to hide their embarrassment at the older mans attitude. She was grateful that not everyone shared his opinions. She glanced over to Gabrielle who just rolled her eyes and hid her grin behind her notebook.
After that display, the other two men took great pains to introduce themselves politely. Joseph Black was a young man who couldnt help but stammer all over himself as he watched Gabrielle and introduced himself to Morgan. The only one of the group that seem to be paying attention to the task at hand was Edward James, a man about Morgans age. He introduced himself with a polite nod of his head.
Morgan looked up with relief in her eyes when Isaac returned with her gun belt. To the dismay of her tablemates she stood and fastened to belt around her waist and tied it off. She shifted it for comfort as she sat back down. She turned to Gabrielle and grinned. "Much better." The reporter just nodded her head.
Very soon a waiter came around and took drink orders. Morgan declined as the other men ordered, Adams, a beer. Dixon, whiskey. Black, a beer and finally coffee for James. Morgan could see who her competition was going to be at this table for this round.
With the arrival of the first fresh deck of cards the game began. Adams drew the high card for first deal. Gabrielle watched Morgan, as she became intent on the task at hand. The reporter watched as the gunslinger looked at every card that left the deck with only her eyes. Gabrielle was amazed at the amount of concentration Morgan was putting into each and every movement she made. This was a total opposite of the woman she had been with last night. She found it hard to believe that this was the woman who openly wept after they had made love. The woman at the table was cold and calculating in every move she made.
After two hours of play, a fifteen-minute break was called. Morgan stood up and smiled at Gabrielle. "Coffee?" She asked as she stretched a bit.
The reporter slipped her notebook back into her pocket. "Sure."
The moved to the bar and Morgan poured two cups of coffee. She passed one to the reporter and slowly brought the other to her lips.
"So all in all how goes it?" Gabrielle asked as she leaned against the bar.
"Well James could be trouble before its all over. Dixon will be out soon. Black may hold his own for awhile. Adams isnt too bad, but he wont make it past the third round. Im up about two thousand at the moment, but were really just getting started.
"So I guess the next question is are you having fun?"
"Nope. I never have fun when I play Gabrielle. Poker is like war. Im here to survive and take home the spoils."
"Interesting analogy. Well then what do you do for fun?"
"Come on Gabrielle you know what I do for fun. You were there." A sly grin played on her lips as she cocked her head slightly to watch the reporters reaction. "I play checkers."
"And quite well I might add." The reporter grinned back.
"Thank you. So would you like a rematch?"
"Are you implying that I lost? Personally I think it was a draw."
"Well then maybe I want a rematch." She leered at the reporter and waggled her eyebrows.
"Im sure we could arrange that." Gabrielle sipped her coffee.
"Glad to hear it."
Play resumed. Dixons pure luck was starting to have an effect on Morgan. Gabrielle watched as the gunslinger became more and more involved in the tactics at the table. She watched absolutely every move that James Dixon made, and then the shift began. After winning the first four hands of the second stage Dixon began losing, badly. To add insult to injury he was loosing to Morgan. By the time the afternoon break was called for lunch, Dixon was nearly broke.
Morgan pushed back from the table as Henry came over to collect her chips. She pulled the big man down and whispered in his ear. "Tell Brisco Dixons cheating."
Henry just nodded and continued his collection of Morgans winnings into a large oak case. Morgan leaned over and again whispered to the big man. "Unfortunately, hes not even a good cheat." With that she smiled and got up from her seat and turned to Gabrielle who wasnt where Morgan expected her to be. She looked around the room to find the reporter speaking with Charlie. The steward had a wide grin on his face as Gabrielle slipped something into his hand. He nodded and turned on his heels, leaving the reporter.
"That boys gonna be able to retire before this trip is over." Morgan said to herself as she made her way over to the little blonde. " So want some lunch?" She asked as she approached.
Gabrielle turned and smiled. She said nothing, just extended her hand. Morgan cocked her head a little and grinned. She took the offered hand and they left the lounge.
It didnt take Morgan long to figure out where they where headed. She tried to hold back the smile as Gabrielle pushed the door too Morgans room open. Inside there was a nice lunch for two and right in the center of the table, a checkerboard.
"Rematch?" The reporter inquired.
"Absolutely." The gunslinger said as she pushed the door shut with her foot.
Gabrielle wasted no time in unbuttoning Morgans shirt and undoing the gun belt. She heard it drop to the floor as she kissed the gunslinger hard and fast. Pulling the shirt from the taller womans trousers and pushing it off her shoulders. Morgan began by pushing Gabrielles vest off and unbuttoning the tops of her pants. Somewhere in the back of Morgan Delaneys mind she began to wonder if there would ever be a time when they would take their time undressing each other or if they were always going to be in such a hurry. She decided now wasnt the time.
Stripped to the waist, Morgan stopped Gabrielles hands from divesting her of anymore of her clothing. She however held firmly to the young woman and continued to remove her clothes as she backed her into the bed. As she pushed the reporters pants and undergarments down from her hips she guided Gabrielle gently into sitting position on the bed.
Gabrielle watched with shear delight and raw passion as Morgan knelt before her and removed her boots and pulled her clothing free of her body. Morgans hands now began a slow climb up said body. Massaging every inch of flesh they came in contact with. The gunslinger looked into the eyes of her young lover with a silent question and was answered with a slight nod of the reporters head.
Gabrielle leaned back on the palms of her hands as Morgan gripped her calves and pulled her forward so that her hips barely rested on the edge of the bed. Soft lips found the inside of the reporters thighs. Morgan kissed and nipped at the smooth, warm flesh as low whimpers began to rise from Gabrielles throat.
"Yes Morgan please dont tease me." She begged as her hips thrust forward slightly, trying to lure her lover in.
"Patience Gabrielle, patience." Morgan teased as she ran her tongue firmly up the inside of a quivering thigh.
"Ohhh God!" The reporter gasped as she fell back on the bed, clutching at the covers. She heard a soft laugh come from the floor. "You are so cruel to me " She gasped as Morgans mouth continued to tease her.
Morgan let her hands travel up Gabrielles body. Coming to rest on her breasts, which shook slightly with the pure frustration of the moment. Morgan heard a soft gasp as her thumbs brushed against already hardened nipples.
"Morgan please please dont tease me like this." The reporter begged as she lifted her head and green eyes locked with blue as Morgan gave her a wicked little smile and kissed her on that ever so small space between the top of her thigh and her soft patch of curls. All she could do was growl and watch as Morgan proceeded to brush her lips and face gently across the damp curls. To the other small space where she gave another soft kiss and then followed up by bringing that part of the flesh into her mouth for a firm, but gentle suck and a lick before releasing it. "Youre trying to kill me " The reporter gasped as she once again fell back into the bed.
"No Im not." Morgan said as she gently parted the folds of her lover and blew a warm breath across the heated flesh."
"Yes you are!" Gabrielle yelled are her hips thrust forward, finally causing the contact her whole body demanded.
With that Morgan was lost in her own desire. Desire which involved, only to make Gabrielle happy. She dipped into the warm center and drank deeply of the offering she found there.
"Ohhh God Morgan " Gabrielle moaned as the gunfighter explored greater the depths and passions of her young lover.
Gabrielles body was on fire at every touch. Morgan Delaney had won. She consumed her, mind, heart, body and soul. They were merging together again. The puzzle was once again complete. The halves were now whole. The union of the soul was complete.
As the swell of desire crashed into her body she sat upright tangling her hands in long dark a hair, holding her lover in place as she rode the waves one after another, murmuring into Morgans ear, "I love you. I love you." The phrase repeated until very last ounce of strength left her body and she finally fell back onto the bed, a trembling, tearful mass.
Morgan gently moved onto the bed and pulled Gabrielle into her arms and held her as her body quaked and her breathing returned to normal. "Shh Ive got you go ahead. Its all right Gabrielle Ive got you." She stroked the young womans back and held her as close as they could get without being inside each other.
After a few minutes Morgan looked down at the tear stained face resting on her shoulder. "You okay?"
Gabrielle simply nodded words would fail her right now. She didnt even want to try. Morgan accepted the nod and held her even closer.
"Meant it. Every time I said it. I love you."
"I love you too Gabrielle. Will you think about something for me?"
"When the trip is over. Stay with me. Dont go back to New York."
The reporter lifted up and looked into those blue eyes she had known for an eternity. "Really? You want me to stay with you?"
"More than anything. Will you think about it?" She asked as she brushed back soft golden hair from Gabrielles face.
"I dont have too. Yes Morgan Ill stay with you."
They gave themselves over to the kiss. The kiss that was so perfect there would probably never be another like it. The kiss, that sealed their destinies in this lifetime.
It was very close to time for the game to resume by the time they emerged for the cabin. Both of them wore silly grins and neither of them cared. Morgan winked at Gabrielle and gave her on last kiss before they entered the lounge. Morgan took her seat and Isaac brought her chips over.
"What were you doing during lunch?" He asked as he opened the box and allowed her to take what she needed.
"Playing checkers." She said dryly as Gabrielle snickered behind him.
"Umm yeah. Youre the boss."
"He and Brisco are dealing with that little matter you pointed out before lunch."
The other three players joined her and a fresh deck was laid on the table. No one made an attempt to touch it. Brisco entered the lounge and walked over to the table.
"Morgan can I speak to you for a minute?"
"Is somebody dead?"
"No its the other thing."
She stood up and they walked over to the bar. Brisco turned his back to the room and asked quietly. "What was Dixon doing?"
"Dealing off the bottom of the deck." She answered just as quietly as she too turned her back to the room and they watched each other in the mirror. This was not a subject that needed to be over heard by everyone else in the room.
"I figured as much." Brisco said with a sigh. "We found a couple of aces on him too."
"Why am I not surprised." She replied as she poured a cup of coffee and returned to her seat.
Brisco came back to the table. "Gentlemen. Mr. Dixon has been disqualified from the game. You are free to start playing at your leisure."
The three men looked over at Morgan who just shrugged and sipped her coffee. She wasnt going to tell them if Brisco wasnt.
They had played about a half dozen hands when the doors to the lounge burst open and Dixon hurled himself into the room. "You bitch!" He yelled as he charged the table where Morgan was seated. She was on her feet in a flash. Through out the room various things occurred. Some of the men remained seated others jumped to their feet at the intrusion. As Gabrielle got to her feet, Dixon charged Morgan and they went flying backward. Morgan crashed solidly into a support beam and found the wind knocked out of her.
Dixon backed off and grabbed a handful of her hair, pulling her to her feet. He drew back his hand, but before it had time to make contact, a chair crashed over his back. He forgot about Morgan for the time being and turned to find Gabrielle holding the remains of the chair. As he turned to her, Morgan regained her breath and tackled him around the waist sending them both sprawling over the table that they had been playing on earlier in the day.
The fight was on. Some of the men took this as an opportunity to take out hostilities that had been brewing all day and before any one really had any idea what had happened there was a knock down drag out fight going on. Brisco, Henry and Isaac came charging into the fray. They went in three different directions trying to break up more than thirty different fights.
Morgan was holding her own so none of them were concerned for her. Gabrielle on the other hand was an entirely different matter and she soon found herself being backed into a corner. Morgan caught sight of the possible problem and vaulted over the bar. She found a good sturdy broom and broke the handle off at the base.
"Gabrielle!" She called and as soon as she had the reporters attention she tossed her the handle.
"And what am I suppose to do with this?" The reporter yelled back as she caught the stick.
"Try hitting them with it!" Morgan yelled back, as she reversed over the bar letting her feet make a solid connection into the chest of a rather large man who was about to break a bottle over Briscos head. She landed neatly on her feet and smiled at Brisco. He put his hand on top of her head and pushed down. Forcing her down just in time to strike a punch at another man who was coming up behind them. She stood and looked briefly behind her. "Thanks." She said as she watched Gabrielle using the broom handle against two men at the same time. "Apparently there are some things you just dont forget." She mused aloud as she and Brisco turned and threw identical punches at two men who were approaching from the side.
All and all the fight last less than five minutes, but by the time it was over the room was a wreck. Broken tables and chairs were strewn about the room. The floor was covered in poker chips, glass, blood and bodies. It looked like a war zone. Morgan ran her hand over her own busted lip and smiled. "Well Ill be damned." She said as she looked at the blood on the back of her hand. "Its been a while." She turned and walked over the Gabrielle who was resting against the bar. She was still hanging onto the broom handle. Morgan took it from her and tossed it behind the bar and drew her into a hug.
"You okay?" She asked as she did a visual check for injuries to the reporter.
"Un-huh." She answered almost not believing it herself.
"You did good."
"If you say so." Gabrielle shook it off and looked at Morgan for the first time. "You got kinda banged up." She reached for a bar towel and held it to Morgans lip.
"Yeah well it comes with the job." Morgan said as she took the towel and continued pressing it to her lip.
Brisco announced that the game would be suspended for at least the rest of the day. He didnt even want to announce that it might be cancelled once he spoke with the organizer. Everyone surrounded him with a multitude of questions. Morgan simply put her arm around Gabrielle, began walking through the rubble of the room and retrieved her hat.
"Dont you need to " Gabrielle started.
"No. Henry and Isaac will take care of everything for me. Lets just get out of here."
"No arguments here."
They strolled up on deck. Morgan leaned against the rail and took a deep breath. She looked at the rag that she had used to stop her bleeding lip. "I must be getting old." She said with a chuckled. "That hasnt happened in a while."
Gabrielle turned Morgans face to her. "Yeah its gonna be ugly for a few days." She kissed her very tenderly on the bruise.
"That made it feel much better thank you." She grinned.
"Glad to be of service. So can I ask you a question?"
"You know you can?"
"Where exactly did I agree to follow you to?"
"Well I travel quite a bit, but if that doesnt appeal to you I have several homes to choose from."
"No traveling sounds very nice. Where are we going next?"
"I hadnt really thought about it." Morgan withdrew her cigar case and took one tapping it thoughtfully against the case. "Where would you like to go?" She asked as the placed in between her lips and struck the match. She watched Gabrielle as she considered the question. She watched her a bit too long. "Owww damn." She growled as she shook her hand and let the match drop over board.
Gabrielle giggled and took her hand. She brought the burnt finger to her lips and kissed it softly and the she took it a little further and brought it into her mouth giving it very sensuous attention inside her mouth with a very soft and loving tongue. Morgan felt her knees go weak, as she watched the reporter, whose eyes never left hers. A smile played on Gabrielles lips as her mouth and tongue eased the ache of that particular burn. "All better?" Gabrielle asked as she gave the injured digit a soft kiss.
"It got my thumb too." Morgan replied with a grin.
"Oh poor baby." She said as she kissed the tip of the thumb and then lavished the same attention on it.
Morgan heard the little moan that had escaped her throat. She just hadnt realized it belonged to her until Gabrielles giggle made her realize it. She pulled her hand back and grinned. "You are an evil woman Gabrielle Stafford." She struck a second match and lit the cigar, flipping the match away carefully. "So you were about to tell me where you wanted to go."
"You mean besides back to the cabin?"
"Yes I mean besides back to the cabin." Morgan replied as she took a drag of the cigar.
"I know youre going to think this is crazy "
"Oh try me. At this point nothing could seem crazy."
"Greece. I want to go to Greece."
"Okay. Mind if I ask why?"
"We left something undone there, something important."
"We did huh?"
"All right Greece is it. Well leave whenever youre ready."
"Can we go after the tournament?"
"Of course Gabrielle, for you anything." Morgan drew the reporter into her arms and after a quick glance around to make sure they where quite alone she kissed her. Long and passionately.
Brisco stood over the body. This was not good, not good at all. Another dead player, this one apparently poisoned. "You know some days are just easier than others." He mumbled as he pulled the sheet over the body. He turned to Charlie. "You found him just like this?"
"Yes sir. Just like this. I came to clear his dishes away and when I didnt get an answer I came into his cabin to get the food Oh no." A realization came to the purser
"Miss Stafford ordered lunch taken to Miss Delaneys cabin."
Brisco left he dead mans cabin and headed for Morgans room. He arrived and knocked. Receiving no answer he put his shoulder into the door, he felt it give but it remained locked. Again he put his shoulder into the door. Henry and Isaac where coming down the hallway as Brisco put his shoulder into the door a third time.
"Brisco what are you doing?
"Have you seen Morgan?"
"Then help me get this door open. We just found Charles Clark dead in his cabin. It looks like he was poisoned."
"Whats that got to do with Morgan?"
"She had lunch in her cabin this afternoon. Just like Clark."
"They were both at the game before the fight." Isaac offered.
"Yeah I know then apparently Clark returned to his cabin and died. My guess would be the fight accelerated the poison." Brisco explained.
"Stand back." Henry said as he put his body into the door and busted it open.
The three men examined the room. Lunch was there, but untouched. The bed was made, albeit slightly rumpled. The cabin was however empty. As they turned to leave they found Morgan and Gabrielle standing in the doorway. Morgan was examining the busted in frame of her door. She picked a splinter of wood from the frame and held it up in front of her.
"Care to explain guys?" She said as she flicked the wood at them.
"Umm well " Isaac started.
"We thought you might just be in here dead. Charles Clark was found dead after ordering lunch in his room today." Brisco finished as he stepped forward. "Did either of you eat any of this food?"
"No." Morgan stepped further into the room and looked the food over. "Gabrielle who did you order this from?"
"Well Brisco. I think we need to go talk to Charlie."
The young man looked nervous as the men and Morgan stood over him. He glanced over to Gabrielle, who smiled softly at him he smiled back. "Its okay." She mouthed trying to calm him. He didnt know why, but it did.
"Miss Stafford ordered lunch taken to Miss Delaneys cabin. I put the order in at the galley and then took the tray down myself." He said as he sipped on a glass of water.
"What about Clarks lunch?" Brisco asked as he paced back and forth in the lounge
"I dont know who ordered it. I was just told to take it to the cabin. The chef could probably tell you. Or maybe the head waiter."
"All right Charlie thanks." Morgan said to him as she patted him on the shoulder. She turned to Brisco "You want the chef or the head waiter?"
"I dont care. You do know what this means dont you?" He asked quietly as they went to a corner to talk.
"Yeah were still a half a day out of New Orleans and we cant be sure its safe to eat or drink anything on board. Tell you what. You go talk to the waiter and Ill send Henry and Isaac to talk to the chef. Gabrielle and I will see what we can do about securing things that might be safe to eat and drink. How many people are there on board?"
"Counting crew and passengers together, about seventy."
"Okay. Well meet in my cabin later. Say in two hours?"
"Two hours it is."
Morgan put the key to the cell in her pocket as she stood back and surveyed the food items that had been deemed safe to eat and then stored and locked in the cells that she was nearly a prisoner of earlier in the day.
"That should do it." She said as she turned to Gabrielle who was rubbing tired muscles. "You okay?" She said as she moved to the reporter and began massaging her shoulders.
"Ohhh yeaah " Gabrielle moaned as she relaxed into the massage. "Im much better now. Can you do that for the next two hours?" She said as her head lilted to one side.
"For you my love," Morgan said as she buried her face in the exposed neck. "I can do anything you like all night." She whispered as she nipped playfully at the neck and earlobe.
"Morgan ummm doesnt it bother you in " The reporter was having trouble forming a coherent thought as the gunfighter continued the quest of her neck. "bother you that there are three men dead?"
Morgan stopped and thought about it for a second. "No."
Gabrielle spun around and looked into Morgans eyes. "It doesnt?"
"No. Gabrielle it doesnt. Its the nature of the business. Its the law of the land. Men die."
"Somebody is murdering these men Morgan."
"Yes and I intend to find out who it is, but it doesnt bother me. I cant afford to let it bother me. If I did I wouldnt be able to find out who is doing it. I would be ineffective with what I do."
"What is it you do exactly?"
"For a price?"
"No not anymore. I gave that up. Now I do it because its the right thing to do. Face it Gabrielle, all of this really isnt my problem. Its Briscos, but I wouldnt feel right if I didnt try to help him."
"You are amazing." Gabrielle said as she leaned up and kissed Morgan softly.
"Well gee thanks." The gunfighter teased with a wink. "Come on weve got to meet Brisco."
"Well apparently Clark ordered his own lunch." Brisco said as he paced back and forth across the cabin. "And he was served from the same food that everyone else ate."
"Which means someone poisoned just his food or all of the food ordered to be taken to cabins for lunch." Morgan said as she leaned against the wall smoking one of her cigars.
Gabrielle was beginning to doubt her own sanity in all of this. Even though Morgan and Brisco stood trying to put the pieces of this puzzle together she couldnt help but notice how damn sexy Morgan really was. She took in every inch of the gunfighter as she leaned against to wall, one leg bent at the knee with her foot tucked behind the knee of the other leg. Then a thought occurred to her.
"Brisco who were the top five contenders for the last round, the last five players expected to be left." She asked as she stood and crossed the room to face Morgan as Brisco withdrew a list from his pocket.
"Lets see umm McGuire, Cantrell, Clark, Bishop and "
"Delaney." Gabrielle whispered as her eyes locked with Morgan and Brisco said it aloud. "Somebodys killing the top five. Morgan that means you could be next."
Morgans eyebrows arched as she took in what Gabrielle had just said. "Hmm well what do you know." She said as smoke exited her nose and mouth. "What about John Bishop? Anybody seen him lately?"
"I think we should go to his cabin and check on him." Brisco said as they all made for the door. "Hey Brisco whose number six on that list?"
"Some guy named G.W. Resa. Know him?" Brisco asked as they walked down the corridor.
"Never heard of him." Morgan admitted as they ended up in front of Bishops cabin.
Brisco knocked no answer. They waited for a minute longer then Morgan moved into place and kicked the door open. John Bishop was hanging by his neck, dead. Gabrielle turned and left Morgan and Brisco to the task of cutting him down. "I suggest a talk with Mr. Resa is in order." Brisco said as they laid the man out on the floor of the cabin.
"Definitely." Morgan agreed as they left the cabin. Morgan wrapped her arm around Gabrielle. "You okay?" The reporter nodded. Morgan kissed the top of her head and they followed Brisco through the corridor.
Suddenly if front of them a group of men appeared. They didnt look happy and what made matters worse was that they seemed focused on Morgan as their target. "Get her!" One of them yelled and they rushed forward. The trio turned and headed back the way they had come only to be cut off by another group.
"Oh this is bad." Brisco said, as he looked both ways. "Very, very bad."
"It isnt good." Morgan said as she stopped and took stock of the window in front of her. She removed her hat and covered her hand with it and punched out the window, breaking away the glass and hopefully giving them an escape route. "Brisco hold them off for a second will ya?"
"Oh sure Id be happy too." He replied sarcastically.
"I need time to get Gabrielle out the window."
"Well do it quick!"
"Im not leaving without you!" Gabrielle started to argue even as Morgan lifted her into the window.
"Oh yes you are!" Morgan said as she helped the reporter out, lowering her feet first and holding her by both arms. Morgan stuck her head out the window to see exactly where Gabrielle was being dropped too. The next deck. It wasnt going to be a fun drop but then again unexpected flights out broken windows never tended to be fun. "Ill be right behind you Gabrielle."
"Morgan no!" Gabrielle tried to hang on to the strong arms that held her, but Morgan released and she fell to the next deck.
As she regained her senses she looked around quickly to make sure she was safe. Then back to the window. A pair of boots were coming out the window. Not Morgans, Briscos. The lawman dropped to the deck below right next to the reporter. She helped him to his feet and they both looked back to the window. They waited. Gunfire erupted from above them.
"NO!" Gabrielle cried as Brisco put his arm around her and started to pull her away.
"Come on Gabrielle weve got to get this boat to shore at the next town."
"No Brisco I wont leave "
"She made me promise to keep you safe now come on!" He yelled as he practically drug her away.
They made a dash for the wheelhouse. So far no one pursued them. Brisco entered the wheelhouse locking the door behind them.
The Captain turned to them. "What in the blazes is going on here? The aged Captain growled as the two leaned breathlessly against the door.
"Captain youve got to dock us at the next town." Brisco said as he gasped for air.
"What? Why? We agreed wed take care of this in New Orleans."
"Yeah well theres been a change of plans. Now prepared to dock us."
"Shoulda told me that eight hours ago. That was the last town before New Orleans." The Captain said as he eyed Brisco.
"How long to New Orleans?" Gabrielle asked.
"Five maybe six hours."
The lawman and the reporter looked to each other. "Can we hold them off for five or six hours?" She asked
"Do we have a choice?"
"Would somebody please do me the courtesy of telling me what is going on?"
Brisco started to explain as best he could.
Morgan lay in the corridor. One bullet had entered her thigh and was still there. The other had passed straight through her shoulder. Had she ducked just a little sooner they might just have shot each other and gotten it over with the way she had planned, but there always had to be the ONE guy with the itchy trigger finger. She pulled herself up by her one good arm. Which, thank God for small miracles was her right and her primary gun hand. It hurt like hell to stand on the leg, but she had very little choice. She pulled a revolver from its holster and began to make her way to the wheelhouse. She knew thats where Brisco and Gabrielle should be.
There seemed to be small bands of men moving around the boat looking for her. With the trail of blood she was leaving behind she wasnt going to be too hard to find. She stopped and pulled a pair of curtains from a small window and ripped them into strips and tied off the leg. A shot rang out and hit just to the left of her head. "Son of a bitch." She mumbled as she took a deep breath and ducked the wood chips that splintered away. She looked up the hallway and didnt see anyone. "I should have taken Gabrielles offer and stayed in bed. At least I would have died with a smile on my face." She heard a noise to her right and turned gun up, to find Henry and Isaac. "Oh am I glad to see you."
"What in the hell is going on?" Henry asked as he offered her an arm to lean on and Isaac took her other side.
"Would you believe I dont have any idea." She said as she handed her revolver to Isaac so he could offer them some protection. "Suddenly everyone seems to want me dead."
"And this is news to you?" Isaac tried to joke as they made their way to Henrys cabin. Henry laid her on the bed and began ripping her shirt free from the injured shoulder.
"Isaac, get to the wheelhouse and find Gabrielle and Brisco."
"Yes maam." He started for the door.
"Yeah " He said as he paused at the door.
"Dont let anything happen to Gabrielle."
"Right!" He said as he charged out of the room.
"Oww! Damn Henry! Could you be any rougher?" She growled as he wrapped her shoulder.
"Sure I could." He growled back. "Quit being such a big baby. Youve had worse." He reached down and ripped the leg open on her trousers and looked at the leg wound. "Now thats nasty."
"No kidding." She glared at him and answered through clenched teeth.
"Im going to have to take the bullet out." He moved to the other side of the room and took out a black bag, which Morgan recognized as the medical kit she usually carried. He returned to the bed and opened the kit taking out a bottle of whiskey he uncorked it and handed it to her.
She took a breath and took a deep drink. She gagged just a bit. Cheap whiskey really wasnt her thing. She handed the bottle back to Henry who then proceeded to dump some of the contents on the wound. She grabbed the bed covers and growled at him.
"Ready?" He asked as he squeezed a pair of long tweezers at her.
"Oh youre just loving this arent you?"
"Yeah Im having a pretty good time with this." He said as he made his first go for the bullet. "Remember the time on the ship when you removed that splinter for me? You tortured me over that for days."
"I think theres a big difference " She grimaced and sucked in a lung full of air. "Between a bullet " Another grimace. "In the leg and a splinter in your ass."
"This is the payback for telling the entire crew where it was."
Isaac, Brisco and Gabrielle made back to Henrys cabin with very few problems. The ones they did encounter were either unconscious or over board. Henry was washing his hands free of the blood from taking care of Morgan. Morgan was asleep on the bed, her wounds treated and bandaged.
Gabrielle looked to Henry silently for permission and he nodded. She went over and sat on the edge of the bed, taking Morgans hand and brushing back a few hairs from her face. "Is she going to be okay?" She asked quietly.
"Oh shell be fine. Weve seen a lot worse than this. Havent we Isaac?"
"Yeah this is nothing." Isaac agreed.
"Oh boy " The reporter muttered.
The three men left them alone, deciding they could offer better protection to the injured gunfighter by patrolling around the boat and trying to get a handle exactly on what was happening. Brisco left Morgans revolvers with Gabrielle, giving her a quick lesson in how to use if the need arose. This was after the reported admitted she had never handled a gun before.
Alone now, Gabrielle just sat and stared at Morgan as the sun began to set. It would only be a few more hours until they were safe in New Orleans. She laid her head down on the bed and let her eyes close.
The tall dark man walked next to her. They seemed to be friends, but something about him bothered her. Even in the dream state her skin crawled.
"We were starting to warm up to each other there werent we?" He asked.
"Yeah we were." She said with a light laugh.
"I didnt like it."
"Right back at ya."
"Okay." He agreed and they continued walking.
Gabrielle bolted upright from the bed. She looked over at Morgan. She hated to wake the sleeping gunfighter, but she had the answer. "Morgan come on Morgan wake up."
"Not now Gabrielle cant you see Im wounded." She mumbled as she tried to wake up.
"Very funny Delaney. Wake up I know whos responsible for all this."
Morgan opened her eyes and turned her head, arching the eyebrow she waited for the reporter to explain.
She took a deep breath and finally said, "Ares. G.W. Resa is Ares"
"As in the Greek God of War Ares?" Morgan said with a hint of disbelief.
"Umm yeah that would be the one."
"Okay Gabrielle I think we just crossed over the "how insane does this all sound" line."
"Morgan. In that past life you two sort of had a thing. It was sick, it was twisted, but it was a thing. You two just seemed to love to hate each other."
"Why dont I remember any of this?"
"Im not sure but I am sure that Ares is behind all of this."
"Un-huh." Morgan said as she sat up. "Okay Gabrielle lets assume just for a minute that youre right. How exactly does one fight the God of War?"
"Well Im not sure about that either."
"Boy youre awfully quick to invoke a God without having all the answers. Dont you think that might just piss em off just a little bit?" She said with a laugh.
The flash in the room startled them both, but Morgan found her legs and her gun and stood with it drawn on the man who had just appeared out of nowhere. He was tall, dark haired, with a dark beard and mustache. This was the man from Gabrielles dream.
"Its him." She whispered out of the corner of her mouth.
"Grrrreat!" Morgan growled as she leveled her gun on him.
"You know what pisses me off?" He said as he stared at them. "The fact that you two keep finding each other, lifetime after lifetime. What is it with you and irritating little blondes anyhow?" His last comment was directed at Morgan. "Oh by the way put the gun away Xe sorry Morgan. It wont do you any good."
"Ill be the judge of that you just stay were you are and we wont have to find out alright."
"Okay tiger. Still the same great warrior youve always been. I love the new duds by the way. Not as good as the leather, but very nice. You really should do something about your pants though. Nasty tear you got there. You know you really got on my nerves during that last little conflict I managed to get going. The south was suppose to win, but because of your meddling " He paused and just shook his head. "So I managed to get you aboard for this little shindig so I could get rid of you and who shows up? Blondie, just what I needed. You know I just hate it when you two get together. You always manage to screw things up for me."
"Well gee so sorry about that." Morgan said as she moved forward a bit. "So you want me dead. Do it."
"You know I cant do it. It has to be done by someone else, but now youve managed to ruin all the fun I was having here too. Or at least she did." He glared at Gabrielle.
"Morgan. He can only hurt you if you dont remember who he is." Gabrielle said, as it all started to fall together. "Once hes pointed out to you he has to leave you alone."
Morgan smiled. "And you remembered who he was and pointed him out."
"Right." The reporter had a wide grin on her face. "Youve lost again Ares go home."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ill go for now. But you know me Gabrielle Ill be back." He disappeared just as he had arrived, in a flash of light.
Morgan stretched it was a good stretch. Home in her own warm, soft bed with the morning sun coming in through the window. The events of six weeks ago had started to fade and Morgan had come home to Charleston. It almost all seemed to be a dream.
The only thing that made it all that more pleasant and real was the warm form of the reporter lying next to her. She smiled and rolled over pulling the woman close.
"Gabrielle " She said as she nuzzled the reporters neck.
"Wake up love" She purred as she moved closer pulling the woman closer to her, letting her hand slowly travel over the slim form of her lover.
"Make me " She said with a smile, her eyes remained closed.
"Oh I can do that." The gunfighter growled as she rolled the reporter over and gave her a long lingering kiss.
Return to The Bard's Corner