Unwelcome Wagon Part 11

The horse was settling down. Carnes’ gifts of the apples and a few soothing touches to the animal’s ears and jawline had their desired effect. His interest piqued upon overhearing the captain’s order to unload the crate for inspection. He couldn’t be certain of course, but given all the bullets flying hither and yon a moment hence, logic would dictate that an object of the crate’s size, located at the epicenter of the conflict, would catch one or two. That’d be a poor outcome if whatever was inside proved as fragile as it was valuable. “Hopefully, not a Ming,” he whispered to his horse.

“You got no right,” the man spat back, pointing an accusatory finger. “You wanna kill me, you go ahead, because there’s more like me. We won’t stop ‘til we get her back home from the likes of you.”

”Her...”

Jared’s stroke along the horse’s jawline completed without pause. For the moment he chose the appearance of obliviousness, having been ushered out of sight by the captain, whose own response was all the more curious under these circumstances.

"Ain't no one on my ship that don't wanna to be on it."

Could simply be a poor choice of words; the man seemed prone to such lapses in judgment. But those he did utter pointed toward knowledge aforethought. Granted, the accusations and bravado of a two-bit street tough could only be given so much credence. Yet still, the captain’s response seemed a bit suspect in and of itself.

The exchange offered Carnes a glimpse of two possible scenarios. The first involved simple face value; a boat’s crew beset by an outlaw band who intended to take “her” prior to delivery. The second painted things in a starkly different light. The ragtag assemblage who’d come to face Lunar Veil’s crew weren’t outlaws or kidnappers. In their eyes, they were a rescue party.

In either scenario, the captain knew what...who...he was hired to transport. At this point, the nature of “her” carried ominous undertones. The pronoun might be applied to anything, from a work of art to rare antiquity to a prized goat. However, adding in the claim that men were willing to die, actually had died, narrowed the field significantly. The mysterious “her” for whom lives would be sacrificed could be a religious artifact...or a living female. ”Or both,” Carnes reasoned as he scratched the big animal.

The talkative one voiced similar curiosity as he detached himself from the woman...Anikah. The wagon’s leaf springs soon complained their lack of maintenance as the three men clambered up. They’d have their answer in a minute. He’d have his options.

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