My name is Kimberly Parker. I was a registered nurse in the pediatric ward of a local Austin hospital before all this happened. My typical uniform consisted of a pair of pink scrub pants and a top decorated with teddy bears, brightly colored balloons, cute zoo animals, etc. You get the idea. At 5'3" I'm not an intimidating figure even without the uniform. With it on I look positively ridiculous.
I had just come off my late night shift and was on my way home. I'd missed dinner because we had an emergency on the floor so I was feeling pretty hungry. I pulled into the local 7-Eleven to load up on snacks and just as I was coming out this black dude grabbed my purse and took off running.
"Come back here you," I yelled. Shit! Why does everything have to happen to me? I dropped my bag of goodies and took off after him. Despite my short legs I was gaining on the bastard. I think he was kind of surprised I wasn't going to let him get away with this without a fight. He jumped on top of a short retaining wall and I was able to grab his ankle. He lost his balance, flipped over the wall and completely vanished. What the fuck! That's impossible!
I climbed up on the wall and jumped down the other side to look for him. I was immediately enveloped in total darkness. Dizzy. Disoriented. Falling. Before I had a chance to completely panic I landed on solid ground. I saw the cocksucker racing off, got up to follow him and stumbled over something. Hallelujah! It turned out to be my purse. The jerk must have dropped it when he fell.
I examined the contents. Everything was still in there including my pepper spray and my Glock 27. It fits pretty well in my small hand. A heck of lot of good it did me tonight but I knew if I ran into that thief again, I was going to use it to open up a second asshole for that guy to shit through.
I looked around to see where I was. I wasn't anywhere; at least anywhere that I knew about. I looked up and could see a hole just above me. Through I could see a street lamp and the 7-Eleven sign. I started yelling to attract someone's attention but that didn't work. Just when I thought to fire a round through the hole, it winked out and all I saw was the night sky. The entire world I knew had disappeared. Now I was beginning to panic. I pulled out my cell phone and hit the panic button. No signal.
I sat around for a while waiting for the hole to open up again but nothing doing. Well, this wasn't getting me anywhere but I had to know where I was in the first place to get anywhere else. I hope that made sense. I was starting to feel like Alice might have when she fell down the rabbit hole and landed in Wonderland but she wasn't the slightest bit scared. I was petrified. I stuck my pistol in my waistband and my pepper spray in the pocket of my top. I felt better prepared in case of more trouble.
I decided to walk in the same direction I saw Mr. Shithead run in the hope he might know where the heck he was going but I lost his trail after about a hundred feet. So I wound up just wandering around looking for a house or a road or a sign but the only things I found were trees and brush. I was about to sit down to rest and wait for daylight when I heard the clip clop of horse hooves and I ran in the direction of the noise. I saw the figure of a man on horseback and he was riding my way.
"Yoohoo!" I called. "Kind sir?" The horse shied a bit and I heard the click of a gun hammer being cocked. I quickly raised my hands.
"I assure you I'm harmless," I said trying to hide my fright.
"Shut up," he ordered. I shut up. He kept me covered while he dismounted and then walked up to me. I avoided his eyes while he visually inspected me. Finally satisfied, the man holstered his weapon. He reached out with both hands and squeezed my boobs.
"Ouch!" I'm no prude and I wouldn't have minded a gentle grope. But this guy was rough. I was going to be bruised there for sure. He certainly was no gentleman. Chivalry was an alien concept to him. I punched him in the snot locker with a palm heel fist. I heard the snap of cartilage and I knew I broke it. He stumbled back holding his injured beak.
"Bitch!" he screamed. "I'm gonna kill you for that!" He reached for his gun but I had mine already pulled. The round I fired struck him between the eyes and entered his brain case. There was no exit wound so the round must have done a good job rattling around in his skull destroying brain tissue. The man was dead before he slumped to the ground.
It was the first shot I ever fired in anger ... or out of fear rather. Of course, I'd never killed a human being before either. I didn't feel bad about it though. Maybe it was because I was in shock. That didn't stop me from thinking. I knew I had to report this incident to the authorities. But who and where were the authorities? I still didn't know where I was. Was I still in Texas? I didn't have a chance to ask the man lying in the dirt in front of me.
I started to get practical. I was tired of walking and the dead "gentleman" had no further use for his horse. I had gone horseback riding as a little girl but that was a long time ago. Still, I knew the basics. I didn't have any cash; only credit and debit cards. I figured if my cell phone didn't work here my plastic wouldn't either. I searched the man's body and found a money belt and a Bowie knife. There was another little gun in his boot so now I had three guns. I was collecting quite an arsenal. There was no identification and nothing else of interest or value. I dragged the body behind some bushes and mounted the horse.
"Giddyup," I said and the horse started moving in a leisurely pace. Why not? I wasn't in any hurry. The horse was still pointed in the same general direction that he was moving when I first saw him. I figured he knew where he was going even if I didn't. I just hoped he wasn't taking me into more danger. I wondered when the man I killed would be missed. Speaking of that, I wondered when I would be missed. I lived alone but my boyfriend came over regularly. The hospital would call when I didn't show for my next shift. My parents and my brothers would be frantic. My ex-husband wouldn't. Fortunately, I wasn't leaving any children or pets behind.
I guess the shock began to wear off because I started to cry. I should have been sitting in front of the TV at this moment and munching on my snacks. Or crawling under my covers and getting a well deserved rest. Instead I was in the middle of nowhere playing cowboys and robbers. Or was that cowboys and Indians? I was sure if there were Indians around they'd be hostile. I lived next door to an Indian but he was from Mumbai. He was nice. I cried some more. I was hungry. I was thirsty. It was past my bedtime. My boobs were sore. I decided I hated horseback riding.
I must have dozed off a bit because the next thing I knew I was in the middle of a town. It looked like I was on a film location set for a Wild West movie. The horse was drinking from a water trough. I began to have an uneasy feeling I wasn't in my own time zone anymore. More likely it was the Twilight Zone. I dismounted and looked around. It was still dark out and the streets were deserted. I did see an open door and some lights. It turned out to be a saloon. The bartender gave me a surprised look when he saw me walk in. I couldn't blame him. I must have looked a sight. There wasn't anyone else that I could see.
"We're closed," he said.
"Do you have any snacks for sale?"
"The hotel restaurant won't be open for three or four more hours."
"I'll take a Bloody Mary."
"You don't know what a Bloody Mary is?" What kind of bartender doesn't know what a Bloody Mary is?
"Ma'am, we serve whiskey and we serve beer."
"Give me a whiskey."
"We don't serve women."
"What?" This was outrageous. I pointed to a woman walking down the stairs. "What is she, chopped liver?"
"She is the proprietress of this establishment," he replied in a loud voice. Then in a low urgent voice he said, "Get out for your own safety, Ma'am." Well, I must have been low on blood sugar but it was now obvious he was trying to warn me off. But I can be an obstinate bitch even so.
"What seems to be the problem, Bill," the woman asked. She was older than me and a tad shorter.
"Nothing, Ma'am," Bill replied. "I was just telling the lady we're closed."
"He also said you don't serve women."
"Serve the lady what she wants."
"That'll be two bits," Bill said after pouring me a shot.
"It's on the house."
"Thank you kindly," I said and lifted my glass to the proprietress before taking a sip. It was nasty stuff but I smiled pleasantly while she looked me over.
"I had no idea the circus was coming to town."
"It's the greatest show on Earth. You're all invited." I took another sip.
"My name is Mrs. Turner."
"I'm Miss Parker." I took back my maiden name after I divorced my husband. The cheating bastard!
"I keep the good stuff upstairs. Will you join me?"
"I'd be happy to." I put my glass down on the bar and smiled at Bill. He looked sad and I wondered what I was getting myself into. Well, forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes. I joined Mrs. Turner and she led me into her office. There was a man in there sitting on a loveseat. He was well-dressed but looked like muscle. I had no doubt he was armed. He didn't stand when we entered and Mrs. Turner didn't introduce us. He also didn't speak but I could tell he was interested in my boobs. My rack is my best asset, I guess. I take a D cup and it's all natural without any sag. Well, without too much sag. I'm rather proud of the puppies. That's what men tend to look at first when they meet me.
Mrs. Turner turned her back to me to pour the drinks and my spider senses told me my drink was probably being spiked. I should have listened to the bartender. The woman handed me my drink and I promptly spilled it on myself.
"How clumsy of me! I'm so sorry." The woman looked annoyed.
"I'll get you another," she said.
"Please don't bother. I just realized how the drink downstairs must have affected me. You see, I haven't eaten since yesterday. Perhaps I should call it a night. I'll check into the hotel, sleep until noon and then eat like a pig. I'll drop in for that drink tomorrow night. How does that sound?" I turned around but Big, Strong and Ugly was already blocking the door. I looked back at Mrs. Turner.
"I happen to know there's no circus within two hundred miles of here," she said. Mrs. Turner took a sip from her own glass. "I could use a fresh face with your obvious talents. (She was referring to my boobs, I bet.) Also, you're a stranger in these parts and I doubt anyone will miss you." I tried to look puzzled.
"Am I being offered a job here?"
"Yes you are, in a way," Mrs. Turner replied with a smile. "My associate here will train you in your new duties." I put on my biggest fake smile.
"Well, why didn't you say so in the first place, Mrs. Turner? I sure could use the money. I think it'll be a great pleasure working for you." I held out my right hand as if I wanted to shake on the deal. I palmed my pepper spray in my left hand and caught her full in the face. She shrieked and covered her eyes. I turned and was able to spray Gruesome the same way as he rushed at me. He took a blind swing at me but I had already ducked down and stuck out the Bowie knife in the hope I stabbed something vital. I did. He grunted in pain and collapsed beside me. He was bleeding badly. From the site of the wound I surmised I punctured the femoral artery. He would bleed to death in less than four minutes.
"Kill her," Mrs. Turner rasped. She was having trouble breathing as well as being blinded.
"He can't help you, honey," I whispered in her ear. "He can't even help himself now." She was visibly startled to hear my voice ... and it was so calm, too. I was ready to make my escape but where would I go? I'd be tracked down in no time. I needed money; a lot of it. There was a substantial looking safe behind her desk.
"I need the combination to that safe," I said.
"Go to hell!"
"Fine, but you're going to be completely blind for the rest of your life if I don't give you the antidote within the next ten minutes." She thought about it for a full minute before she gasped out the combination. I tried the combination and it worked.
"Oh my," I said. "Your saloon does very well. Thanks a lot."
"The effects will begin to dissipate in about 30 minutes. You'll be very uncomfortable for the next several hours but you should be all right after that." It looked like her associate had stopped breathing.
"You won't live to spend a single penny of my money. I'll have you hunted down and I'll take great pleasure in killing you myself." I sighed deeply. I knew she was right. I had to dispose of all the witnesses. That included the bartender. That thought made me sad. Oh well. A couple of more killings would be on my conscience.
I walked behind Mrs. Turner and covered her mouth with my hand. The woman gasped in fear. I think she realized she wasn't long for this world. I sliced open her carotid artery and allowed her to bleed to death. Killing was becoming easier for me. I was just glad I didn't have to use my gun. That would've alerted everyone.
I decided my next move would be to somehow lure the bartender up here without making him suspicious. There was a knock on the door and I pulled my pistol. It looked like Bill was going to save me some time.
"Come in." I didn't sound anything like Mrs. Turner but it was good enough for him to open the door. He was holding a bag I assumed held the night's receipts. He saw the gun pointed at him, dropped the bag and raised his hands. I motioned for him to sit down and he obeyed.
"Your boss and I had a little disagreement over a career move she wanted me to make." Bill nodded his head.
"Am I next?"
"You are a witness. Sorry." He nodded and got that sad look on his face again. I knew I couldn't kill him.
"Put your arms down, Bill. I'm not going to kill you yet. May I call you Bill?"
"If you want."
"I'm going to ask you some questions that might sound silly to you, but I'd appreciate you answering them."
"What year is it?"
"The year is 1883." I was afraid of that. I had been thrown back in time.
"What is the name of this lovely town?"
"What state are we in?"
"And where is Poker Bluffs in relation to Austin?"
"Austin is a hundred or so miles west of here." Well, I wasn't too far away from my hometown. But was it really my hometown? I mean I wouldn't even be born there for another century. I had to make some decisions and take some risks.
"What if I don't kill you?"
"I would be most grateful."
"How would you show your gratitude?"
"I suppose I'd have to report these deaths to the Sheriff. Of course, I'd say I didn't know who did the killings." I nodded. Bill had the right idea.
"I'd pack my bag and move on."
"Could you run this place by yourself?"
"Certainly, but it's not going to happen. This saloon is a money maker and I can imagine people with more money than me wanting to take over the place. They'd want their own people. Besides, I have this dream of maybe opening a saloon of my own."
"Did the late Mrs. Turner have any heirs?"
"None that I know of. I don't think there was ever even a Mr. Turner in her life."
"I have a plan, but first we're going have to clean up this mess. Can I depend on you?" He nodded his head. I put away my gun and we shook on it. Well, I had to start trusting someone.
The Sheriff wasn't the ambitious sort. He spent his whole time arresting drunks and running for reelection. He'd never solved a crime or arrested an outlaw in his entire career. When faced with a murder investigation he was completely lost. He accepted Bill's explanations readily.
I was introduced as Mrs. Turner's cousin from Austin. I was newly arrived and my late lamented cousin's intention was to train me in the business and be her successor when she retired. Mrs. Turner's clothes fit me pretty well even though I did without a corset. Also, I stuck with my nursing shoes. Since the hems touched the floor no one would notice. I wore black. I looked like I'd been crying. It was easy to do that. All I had to do was put a drop of pepper spray under each eye. Damn! That stung!
The sheriff asked me if I had any proof I was Mrs. Turner's cousin. I told him I didn't but that dear cousin Alberta (that was her given name) had given me the combination to the safe and that must prove I was family. I demonstrated opening the safe. He was impressed! The Sheriff poked around in the safe but we had already removed what I think he was looking for. It wasn't money.
In Mrs. Turner's meticulous hand we found out whose hands were being greased and how much grease was being used. That included the Sheriff. Also included were some embarrassing revelations about some other elected officials. Armed with that information and some more of Mrs. Turner's grease, Bill was able to smooth the way to my takeover of the saloon. When it came time to sign the legal papers to transfer ownership I noticed Bill had had inserted a five percent ownership stake in the saloon for himself. He wasn't trying to hide it. I crossed it out. Bill noticed that right away.
"I think that's the least I've earned considering the work I've already done for you." He looked hurt and a bit disappointed.
"Yeah, but five percent?"
"Would three percent be asking too much?"
"I was thinking more in the lines of 35 percent." He looked aghast.
"Are you joking?"
"Of course I'm joking!" I wrote in a new percentage and initialed the correction. I signed the papers and handed them to the lawyer who was standing by.
"I'm the majority owner with 51 percent," I said. "What I say goes. Your share is 49 percent. Agreed?" Bill smiled. It was the first time I saw his smile since I met the man.
"You should smile more, Bill. You've got a nice smile." He did smile more and even blushed. It was so cute.
Well, I rechristened the establishment the "Long Branch Saloon" and started calling myself Miss Kitty. On a side note I named my horse Trigger. That was the extent of my contribution. Bill was the brains behind the outfit. I essentially apprenticed myself under him. He started making changes right away. For instance, he hired another bartender so he'd have more time to manage. He also banned the professional gamblers who he knew were card cheats. Bill suspected Mrs. Turner allowed the cheaters to set up shop in her saloon because she was receiving a kickback. His banning them effectively blackballed from the other area saloons. He bought a better brand of booze and charged the same. He said we were making plenty of profit just the same. He also brought in Mexican beer. Bill said it was more expensive but worth it. I don't drink beer so I took his word for it.
I objected to the saloon girls working there being prostitutes but he insisted that that was the way things were. We wouldn't attract enough paying customers without the girls and the girls couldn't earn what they needed to without prostituting themselves. It was a cost of doing business but it added to the profits too. I supposed I didn't have a choice in the matter but I wasn't going to put up with any forced recruitment like Mrs. Turner tried to do with me.
Bill agreed and said he always disapproved of a lot of Mrs. Turner's methods but there was nothing he could do about it then. We talked to the girls and explained the new way of doing business. A couple of girls told me they had been coerced into the trade but there was no going back as far as they were concerned. Their families had disowned them and they'd never attract a decent man given how they earned their living.
That still didn't stop me from worrying about their health. Given my training in the health field I knew venereal disease and unwanted pregnancy was a constant danger. There was little to be done in this era but I tried to help. I told the girls if they wanted to work at the Long Branch Saloon they had to follow some health rules. That included having the customer wash his genitals first and then visually inspecting them for rashes or sores. Any evidence of disease would get him ejected and banned. It was the best that I could do under the circumstances. The girls had their own methods to avoid getting pregnant.
Bill started asking to see my Glock 27. He'd only seen the business end of it. He initially thought it was a derringer but I had definitely piqued his curiosity. I ignored his requests and I knew I had to put it away for safekeeping. Automatics hadn't been invented yet and it would raise too many other questions which I wasn't prepared to answer.
The two men I'd killed had Colt .45 1873 Single Action Army revolvers with seven inch barrels. I found a gunsmith in town who was willing to trade both '73s and a little cash for a new "Shopkeeper" with a three and a half inch barrel. The Colt .45 is too big for a small woman but I was forced to learn on it by my daddy who was a gun buff so I was used to handling one; with both hands though. A leather smith constructed a shoulder holster I designed which I kept hidden by a light cloak I took to wearing. Mrs. Turner carried a derringer in her handbag so when I "inherited" that, I did the same.
A scattergun was kept under the bar for security and I persuaded Bill to get another one for office security and have the barrels and stock shortened. We didn't have a need for distance in a small office. Bill didn't know anyone he trusted enough to handle security upstairs. I had killed the previous one. His name was Luke. We rigged up a bell pull that would alert anyone in the office if there was trouble downstairs. Also, a special door knock would signal trouble. I taught him the "shave and a haircut, two bits" knock. Depending on the code, the one on the inside of the office would know approximately what to expect and how to prepare. We also rigged up a spy hole so that the saloon floor could be observed from the office.
One late Saturday night I was upstairs counting up the receipts when I heard the bell. I peeked through the spy hole and saw Bill, Sam, my new bartender and Mike, the swamper lying facedown on the floor. A masked man was covering them with a gun while two others were climbing the stairs where I was. It was closing time and all the drunks had been cleared out. I unlocked the door and brought out the shotgun. I trained the gun on the door and let them have it with both barrels when they burst in. In the excitement I aimed kind of high and the blast decapitated both of them. I jumped over the bodies but slipped on some gore and landed on my butt. That probably saved my life. Two rounds lodged into the wall behind me. I brought out my "Shopkeeper" and drilled two rounds through the chest of the other clown that shot at me.