A Fortune for the Outlaw's Daughter(3)

By: Lauri Robinson



 She followed him outside. The air was cool and it had started to rain. Mist really, since it was more as though the water just hung in the air rather than falling to the ground.

 “Has it worked?” she asked, curious.

 “Sure enough has.”

 The moisture-filled air was darker, and she wondered how he’d found the next door he opened. Luck, maybe?

 They did that several times, entered buildings, weaved around boxes and crates—at least she assumed that was what was on both sides of them, snagging her dress sleeves at times—and exited only to take a few steps before entering another one. Warehouses along the seashore were like that. Long lines of buildings storing the cargo shipped in and out of the bay. She’d explored them during the day in the town she’d first arrived in, but the men she’d encountered along the seashore made her not want to visit the docks again.

 Mad Dog’s men.

 “Was that Ridge’s horse you stole?” she asked.

 “Don’t know,” he answered. “I’d just stepped out the back door when I saw you knock down Bubba.”

 “Bubba?” This building had a sharp, almost sickeningly sweet scent filling it, like molasses, and she glanced around, but might as well have had a burlap bag over her head. She couldn’t make out anything in the darkness.

 “Don’t rightly know if that was his name or not,” Lucky said, “but he was one of Ridge’s men. I saw the other two going after you, so I ran around front and jumped on the first horse I came to.”

 They were still whispering, and it was making her voice burn. At least that had to be why her throat felt so thick. “Why?”

 “Why what?”

 “Why’d you steal the horse?”

 “To rescue you.” He stopped suddenly and she bumped into his back before stilling her steps. “You do know what Alan Ridge does with the girls his men snatch off the streets, don’t you?”

 “I’ve heard.” She refrained from admitting all she knew about the alias Mad Dog had taken on. It seemed the outlaw was now the leader of his own gang and had henchmen in every town lining the coast.

 Lucky—she still thought that was a silly name—opened another door and scanned the area like he’d done at each one before.

 “Don’t worry,” he whispered. “Ridge won’t catch us. Not tonight.”

 Stepping into the wet night air once again, Maddie squinted, hoping to see something this time. Nothing but blackness, yet she could hear water sloshing. “You sound funny,” she said when he opened another door.

 “That’s because I was born and raised down by New Orleans. A bayou boy. That’s what my granny always called me.”

 “What are you doing here?”

 “Shh,” he said. “Listen.”

 She did, until her ears stung from the thundering of her own blood.

 “Must’ve been a rat,” he said, moving forward.

 Maddie quivered. Rats came in all shapes and sizes, and she knew firsthand how some walked on two legs, pretending to be human.

 “Don’t worry, darling, rats don’t like us any more than we like them. It’s not much farther, either.”

 “Maddie, the name’s Maddie.”

 “Yes, ma’am,” he said, as cocky as every other statement he’d made.

 After the last building, he led her along a series of docks. Thick fog had settled in, and so had her nerves. An escape route hadn’t presented itself. Lucky may have rescued her from that alley, but that was not to say he wasn’t as bad as Mad Dog. He could be taking her to a place no better than Mad Dog did the girls he captured. Long ago she’d figured out what happened to those girls before they were sold. She hadn’t let that happen back in Colorado, and wasn’t going to let it happen here, either. Not with Mad Dog or a man who called himself Lucky.

 He stopped and started unlooping a thick rope from one of the posts lining the dock. “Climb down.”

 She peered over the edge. A rowboat bounced in the water. “Into that?”

 “Yes.”

 “Why?”

 “So I can row you out to my uncle’s ship. The Mary Jane. It’s sailing for Seattle posthaste.”

 Her heart skipped several beats. “Seattle?”

 “Yep.”

 That could be far enough away, but traveling cost money—something she didn’t have. The small chunk of gold sewn in the waistband of her petticoat was her seed gold. Smitty had given it to her when she’d left Colorado, along with all the cash he’d had. He’d said he wouldn’t need it where he was going, and Maddie had promised to make him proud. To become a woman he could smile down upon while he was busy filling the world with sunshine even on cloudy days. A smile tugged at her lips, remembering how Smitty had insisted if she ever needed him, all she had to do was look up. He’d brighten the sky for her.

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