“Drop your irons, boys!” the woman said with a confident flash of her teeth. “Calamity Djinn’s got the drop on you!”

The pair of revolvers in the bandit’s hands were quite convincing; the Valley Union men tossed their coach guns to the floorboards.

One of them couldn’t resist tossing a remark out as well. “Who?” he said.

Calamity walked up to him, reaching a little above the man’s belt. “Calamity Djinn, scourage of the valley!” she said. “You’ll have quite the tale to tell of your narrow escape, providing you behave and keep your mitts where I can see ’em!”

“The scourge of what valley?” the guard said. “I’ve never heard of you.”

“Does it matter which valley?” Calamity snapped.

“It certainly does matter which valley,” the Union man said. “If it’s Sagescrub Valley, well, that’s got…seven homesteaders? That sound right to you, Bill?”

“Yeah, John, I think that’s right. Seven or eight, depending on whether Jinny Witchazel had her baby yet.”

“It’s a populous valley!” Calamity said. “Point is, I’m feared, and the thunder of my twin .45s is enough to bring most men to their knees!”

“Well of course it would bring them to their knees,” John said. “They’d be shot. That hurts a lot. It’d bring me to my knees.”

“Maybe even lay me out flat,” Bill agreed. “But that ain’t got nothing to do with being feared. Sissy Hammertoes could shoot me in the gut and I’d be kneed, and I don’t fear her at all.”

“Sweet, sweet little thing,” said John. “Really, if I went in for stonefolk I’d court her in a second.”

“I meant the sound of my guns!” Calamity shouted.

“It’d better be powerful loud for that,” Bill said.

“Powerful loud. Like a cannon in the war.”

“Even then, I never saw a man run from a cannonball.”

“By the time you hear the sound it’s too late to run anyhow, it takes a minute to catch up to you.”

The half-folk grimaced. “Do you want me to bring you to your knees right now?” Calamity said. “Put a little lead in your bellies and see how you feel then?”

“Well, you could do that. Murder us in cold blood, I mean,” John said. “But I’m not sure you want to do that.”

“Oh, I think I do,” said Calamity. “Unless you bit your tongue and start getting real quiet and real fearful.”

“Well, you got a pair of Chesterfield revolvers there, the pocket models,” said Bill. “Three shots each. There’s ten guards on the train. Now I’m no accountant but that just don’t add up.”

“Especially since it might take more than one .45 to put a man down good,” John added. “Especially if it’s Rags or MacGrothnak, on account of being stonefolk and leader respectively.”

“Respectively,” Bill said.

“I’m not alone,” Calamity sighed. “My gang’s doing its work.”

“Well, a gunshot’d be heard. Even if you’ve got a gang of ten, our boys might not be pushovers if they hear you coming,” said Bill.


“Okay, okay!” said Bill. “No need to shout.”

“Yeah, you got us fair and square,” John agreed. “They don’t pay us enough to be heroes.”

“Good,” said Calamity.

“One thing though,” Bill said. “Just a quick question. Why the ‘djinn?'”

“I’m half djinn,” Calamity said proudly.

“Which half?” Bill said.

“Top half, definitely,” said John. “That’s why she’s all air up there.”

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