The door to the tack room shook in its frame. “Teaspoon!” A pause. “Teaspoon, you in there?”
Springing bolt upright in bed, Teaspoon Hunter took a swipe at his face using an old habit to shake off the cobwebs of sleep. “Wah? Yeah? What’s wrong? The Mexican Army?”
The door bounced again. “Teaspoon, it’s Lou… we have to talk.”
“Oh Lord,” he mumbled under his breath, “now what?” Throwing off his blanket he swung his legs off the side of his bed. “Come in!”
*** *** Determined to make Teaspoon see the merit of her plan Louise pushed the door open and stepped inside. It took her a moment to adjust her eyes to the dimly lit interior and then with a surprised gasp she turned away toward a dark corner.
Squinting up at her Teaspoon shoved his hands through his hair. “What’s wrong?”
Lifting her eyes to an old cobweb in the corner of the room she struggled to maintain her disguise as she spit out an answer. “I’ve got an idea on what to do about Mr. Tompkins.”
“That’s good ‘n all, but what’s wrong with you?”
Lou turned her head slightly before blanching and turning back to the dusty corner of the room. “You ain’t dressed yet.”
Teaspoon looked down at his long underwear and shrugged. “Good enough. What about Tompkins?”
“We need supplies.” Lou forced the words past the lump in her throat.
“That, son, is statin’ the obvious.” Pushing himself up from the bunk he reached for the pants he’d thrown over a chair the night before. “You got some kind of ‘miracle’ hid away somewhere? Cause with a man like William Tompkins, that’s what you’re gonna need.”
As soon as she heard the coarse whisper of sound that told her at least one leg was in his pants she let out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. “Well, I was outside with Cody and Jimmy… we need supplies.”
“Yes…” Teaspoon’s tone was part expectant and part irritated. She didn’t blame him; after all, she’d been a part of the problem.
“I left them makin’ a list of what we need.”
Teaspoon turned as he buttoned the waist of his pants and reached down for his suspenders. “That should be interestin’.” He waited for a moment then cleared his throat… loudly. “I got my britches on.”
Lou let out a pent up breath and turned around to look at him. “Mr. Tompkins thinks he’s got us in a corner.”
Lifting his head and an eyebrow at the same time took a bit of concentration, but he managed as he straightened up. “Call me ‘Mister Obvious’ but I think he’s got us locked in that corner, unless you boys somehow-” “I think there’s a method we haven’t tried yet.” She knew it was rude to cut him off, but she really couldn’t take another mention of the fight. It was bad enough she couldn’t stop thinking about how stupid they’d been and that hurt look on Buck’s face.
Taking a steadying breath she continued. “I say we appeal to his nature.”
Folding his arms over his chest, Teaspoon gave her a dubious look. “I don’t think Bill Tompkins has much kindness to appeal to.”
She couldn’t help the smile that curved up the corners of her mouth. “I’m not talkin’ about kindness, Teaspoon. I’m talkin’ about greed.”
His eyes widening in surprise, Teaspoon leaned in. “I’m listening.”
Nearly bouncing with energy Louise managed to keep her thoughts together. “Mr. Tompkins’ store is the only one in town that carries the supplies we need for the station.”
“But who is it that delivers ‘his’ supplies?”
“Well,” Teaspoon rubbed his fingers over the stubble on his chin, “that would be-” he stopped as his face lit up with understanding. “That would be Russell, Majors, and Waddell.”
Lou nodded. “That’s right. And what do you think they would say if they knew that Mr. Tompkins wasn’t selling us our supplies?”
“They’d be pretty put out, but by the time we got them word-”
“How good are you at lying?”
The question was a visible shock to Teaspoon. “Now, you hear me, young man… I’m a good person… I don’t just go around lying to folk and-”
Lou waved her hands to distract him. “I’m not… what I mean is… have you ever had to play a joke on somebody? You know, play a role to confuse them?”
“Oh! Sure!” His eyes were distant for a moment as he searched through his memory, “There was that time in Albuquerque when-”
“Great!” Lou gave him a big smile. “I’m gonna write you a letter from Mr. Majors and then-”
Teaspoon caught right onto the scheme. “What Bill Tompkins doesn’t know…”
“Will get Emma’s credit back.” Lou tried to keep herself from skipping out of Teaspoon’s room. She’d made an impression on the station master that morning, but it wouldn’t do to make ‘that’ kind of impression on top of it.
As Teaspoon reached for his hat he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror. “I can play it up for Tompkins… have him eatin’ out of my hands, I will…” He turned to look at the open doorway and gave a thoughtful nod. “Smart boy, that Lou,” his smile was one of pure satisfaction, “takes a smart man to know how to get right at the heart of a problem.”