“Oof!” was Doc’s cry as he doubled over to clutch his stomach shortly after Miss Bonnie sucker punched him in the gut.
“You dirty spy!” the redhead said.
“Spy?” Doc inquired as he righted himself. “Oh no, madam. You have me all wrong. As a citizen of this fine country, I simply had a business matter to discuss with the marshal. I had no idea I would end up walking into a display of your torrid affair.”
“Doc,” Slade said. “How did you escape?”
“Outfoxed you, dear boy,” Doc said. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all can’t be Harvard men.”
Doc found himself on the business end of Miss Bonnie’s finger as it wagged an inch away from his face.
“You better keep your stinking trap shut about this you damn dirty zombie or so help me…”
Doc turned an imaginary key in his mouth and mimed throwing it over his shoulder.
“I assure you, my good woman, my lips are sealed vis a vis your transgressions,” Doc said. “It had not occurred to me that the two of you were canoodling in secret but as the bible says, ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ I, of course, cannot.”
Slade tried a less violent approach.
“Doc,” Slade said. “We’re about to take the battle to Blythe. Sarah’s already a wreck. Now is not the time to…”
“Not another word of it, please,” Doc said. “You have nothing to fear from me. Marshal, I too have long been a patron of practitioners of the world’s oldest profession so it does not surprise me that you have taken a shine to the vivaciously alluring Miss Lassiter as opposed to the chaste and pure Widow Farquhar. Two women to choose from. Would that we could could all have such problems, eh old boy?”
Doc nudged Slade with his elbow in jest but the move did not go over well.
“I’ve had about enough of you,” Miss Bonnie sneered.
“Oh Miss Lassiter, you misunderstand me again,” Doc said. “I’m simply saying in my own experience, I prefer the company of prostitutes because they are, despite their lowly status in society, some of the most honest women around. Every romantic relationship will inevitably cost a man dearly in some manner. At least ladies of the evening have the common courtesy to demand cash on the barrel head as it were.”
Slade noticed that Miss Bonnie was fuming. “Doc, you may want to quit before she slugs you again.”
“Quite right,” Doc said.
The trio awkwardly looked at one another.
“Isn’t this cozy?” Doc asked. “The three of us warming ourselves by a fire. And rather ironic, when you think about it, that the two of you require my assistance in containing the effects of your immoral doings while as it so happens I too require your aid in a most delicate bit of business, Marshal.”
“What?” Slade asked.
The good doctor handed over the documents he’d drawn up and the Reverend’s quill pen, dripping in ink.
“Your signature, if you please.”
Slade took the papers and looked them over. “What is all this?”
“Oh, you’ll find everything in good order,” Doc said.
Upon reviewing the second paper, Slade’s reaction was the same as the Reverend’s. “This is a lie.”
“Is it?” Doc asked. “Or is it a little white lie? Little white lies make the world go round, good sir. People don’t need to hear the absolute truth. They just need to hear what they wish the truth to be. Little white lies such as, ‘Yes Grandmother, I find your cooking to be superb’ even though it is rubbish or ‘No, Miss Farquhar, I do not recall seeing your betrothed inhaling the face of a known prostitute…”
“I quit that,” Miss Bonnie said.
“Did you?” Doc asked. “Well, buck up and get back to it my dear, for as they say, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ No one likes a quitter.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Miss Bonnie said as she took the papers away from Slade and looked them over.
“Is this for real?” she asked Doc.
“Indubitably,” Doc replied.
Miss Bonnie handed the papers back to Slade. “You should sign it then.”
“Indeed,” Doc asked. “All I require is for a public official in good standing to sign as a witness.”
“I’m not the marshal anymore,” Slade said.
“Yes,” Doc said. “But if you’ll notice, I took the liberty of dating these documents two days ago, back before you tendered your resignation. Although, for all we know, you may very well still be the marshal. I doubt very much given the current zombie crisis your resignation will be processed through the proper channels anytime soon, if at all.”
“Back dating a document?” Slade asked. “Doesn’t seem very honest…”
Slade instantly recalled what Doc had walked in on him doing and took the pen. Doc turned around to offer his back as a makeshift writing desk and Slade signed both papers.
“Yes,” Doc said. “You scratch my back and I shall scratch yours. Oh, that does feel good…”
The marshall forked over the papers and pen.
“Thank you, my good man,” Doc said. “You have my gratitude and if I may, I should very much like to aid you in escorting Miss Lassiter and company to the livery. From there, Annabelle and I shall make our departure.”
“Do you really love her, Doc?” Miss Bonnie asked.
“Indeed,” Doc said. “So rare is it in this world that two people with a consummate understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses join together that when such a match is found it must be nurtured, as one would a tiny sapling until it becomes a majestic sequoia.”
Miss Bonnie was baffled. “So…yes?”
“Yes,” Doc said as he folded the papers and placed them in his coat pocket. “Oh, and Miss Lassiter, one more thing. Some time ago, I saw you make quite a trick shot with a derringer in order to break up a squabble amongst roughhousing ruffians in your establishment.”
“What about it?” the redhead asked.
“I wonder if I may be so bold as to ask for it,” Doc said.
“I don’t know,” Miss Bonnie replied. “It has some sentimental value for me. Besides, I don’t remember where I…”
Doc interrupted. “It’s for Annabelle to use to shoot me in the head should I become a full zombie.”
“Now I remember.” Miss Bonnie hiked up her skirt, fished the piece out of her garter belt, and handed it over.
“Isn’t this grand?” Doc said as he accepted the minuscule weapon. “Friends helping each other?”
“It sure is,” Miss Bonnie said. “I hope Annabelle uses it in good health.”
“Oh, Miss Lassiter!” Doc said as he chuckled. “You are a card!”
Slade and Miss Bonnie watched Doc walk back into the church.
“He’s still an asshole, right?” Slade asked.
“The biggest ever,” Miss Bonnie replied.