Lou pulled Lightning to a stop after handing off the pouch to Davy. "Ride safe!" she called as he took off. She smiled thinking how good it was to be home.
"Good ride?" Teaspoon asked.
Lou shrugged. "Couple of fellas tried to stop me out by Coleman's place. Between him takin' a shot at them and me out runnin' them, they turned tail."
Teaspoon nodded, "Broke up the day did it?"
Lou smiled, "Yes, sir." She untied her bedroll and laid it on the porch of the bunkhouse.
"When you get done takin' care of Lightning, I want to a word with you," Teaspoon said this voice turning serious.
The color drained from Lou's face as she reached for Lightning's reins. "Something wrong, Teaspoon?"
Teaspoon shrugged. "No." Turning he headed back inside of the bunk house.
Lou worried the whole time she tended to Lightning. And worry did one thing to her any more, it made her angry. Then she began wondering which of the boys had given away her secret. As she finished brushing Lightning down she started became nervous. She knew the station master would fire her, the rules of the company were clear and most folks would say it was no job for a girl.
Stepping out of the barn she headed toward the bunk house. Before she'd taken two steps she heard Teaspoon say her name. Turning she spotted him sitting on the bench just outside the barn. Pointing next to him he said, "Take a seat."
"I'd rather stand," she replied, her voice cracking. She hated that.
"Sit," Teaspoon said, his tone brooking no argument.
Sighing Lou sat down as far from him as she could.
Once she was sitting, he picked up a piece of wood he'd been whittling on. After a moment he began to speak as he worked on the wood. "I got a message from a friend of mine; he's a Texas Ranger still. Don't think he'll ever give it up…willingly that is. Seems the Rangers have had him investigating a gun runner named Boggs."
Lou felt her throat tighten and her stomach fill with butterflies.
"Tom told me that Boggs was shot last month by a bunch of boys." Teaspoon watched the small rider's reactions to his words as he spoke. "He said they caused quite a ruckus setting a tent where the powder was stored a blaze. Barely, got out of there alive himself."
He noticed Lou had started to fidget. She didn't say anything when he paused but continued to look almost terrified.
"He said there were a couple of young'uns in the house, that Boggs had taken the children from an orphanage in St Jo. Tom said Boggs had told him his oldest had run off from the orphanage. He said the Rangers have been looking for the girl and the younger two to take them home to Texas. He said she's got kin there that want her and the others to come home. But they lost track of her after she St Jo."
"There a reason you're tellin' me this, Teaspoon?" Lou asked, her mind in a whirl. Kin? Her mother had told her everyone was dead.
Teaspoon motioned for her to settle down. "I'm gettin' there. I met the girl once. She was just a bit of a thing but just like her ma, full of spit and vinegar. I believe she was five or six about then, but she could already sit a horse like that was just what the good Lord meant for her to do." Teaspoon stopped whittling and looked at Lou. "Mary Louise McCloud was an amazing woman. Damn good shot and right fine rider herself. Her ma and mine were good friends. Her brothers raised her after their folks were killed by the Comanche. Those boys were good friends of mine."
"How long have you known?" Lou asked with tremble to her voice.
"Not too long. You've done your ma proud. Been sending money to the orphanage for your brother and sister?"
Lou nodded. "Savin' some for a grub stake, too."
"I'd have hired you to help Em…"
"I make more riding for the Express."
"It's dangerous work…"
"I'm faster than the fellas and shoot better than a couple of 'em." He watched her stand and draw herself up. "I'll pack and be gone shortly."
Teaspoon stood and frowned down at her. "You think I'm goin' to fire you?"
"Company won't hire a girl," Lou replied.
Teaspoon crossed his arms over his chest. "Thought, Mary Louise's girl would have more back bone in her."
"I haven't missed a run," Lou replied. "Fought side by side with the others and helped Sam out along with you and the others. I ain't ever complained."
Teaspoon put his hand on her shoulder. "Your ma could out ride both of her brothers any day of the week, and they made sure she was a fine shot. I'd be a fool to let you get fired…knowin' your ma she'd haunt me for it." When she smiled he continued, "'Sides me and that bunch were like family and family sticks together." Teaspoon cleared the emotion that had entered his voice with a cough. "Now, get around back and get cleaned up or Emma won't let you sit down at the table."
Lou wiped away the tears that had been filling her eyes, smearing the dirt on her face and nodded. She quickly hugged Teaspoon but when he hugged her back she stiffened. He let go and looked down at Lou something wasn't right.
"Thanks, Teaspoon," she said shyly.
"No thanks necessary, darlin'."