Edita was standing watch in the small hours while Doc Tarascotti and Bennoli slept when she heard a gun cock in the darkness beyond the firelight.
“Keep your hands where I can see them,” it was a hard woman’s voice, “I’m coming in so we can talk.” The speaker came out of the night, rifle at the ready and a six shooter on her thigh. The long, silver-blonde braids marked her as one of the surviving Frost sisters, a daughter of Old Man Winter who died beside Barleyman in the range war of half a generation before. “Give me the cup and I’ll be on my way,” she said. “No harm, no foul except I get the reward from Donna Kevira and her sisters, not you.”
“Problem with that,” Doc was awake but the old man wasn’t stupid enough to spook someone with a cocked gun by moving unexpectedly, “Federigo Rex has already half paid us to swap the cup to get his daughter back from the three ladies. Take the cup, you screw us and him. How long do you think you’d last with Rex mad at you?”
“Fair point,” Frost conceded, “But I still have to make money on this trip.” She smiled coolly. “I suppose one reward’s as good as another. So, you still have the ring that Giovanni fella gave you, Noniello?” When Edita didn’t reply at once she went on, “You do remember him don’t you? The one who threw you over for that little Eastern heiress his momma found for him?”
“And if I do?” Edita didn’t move a muscle, not even to change expression.
“His momma’s put it round that you stole that ring and offered a reward. You give me the ring, I hand it in for the reward and you don’t have to deal with the bounty hunters.”
“Sounds fair,” allowed Edita.
“You toss it over,” the other woman made a brief gesture at her feet, “Then I’ll be on my way and let you nice people get back to your sleep.”
“Edita, you sure you want to do that?” That was Bennoli, dishevelled from sleep, his dark blue cavalry jacket half open.
“Better than letting Momma Illesconi have me hunted down.” Edita pulled a chain with a ring on it over her head from under her shirt and threw it to the other woman.
Frost scooped it up one hand, keeping her eyes and rifle on the three of them as she did so. “Pleasure doing business with you all. Now,” she warned, “Don’t you go ruining things by trying to follow me. Honey,” she said to Edita, “Stop breakin’ your heart over him, you can do better than that Giovanni and his momma.” She backed into the night, and was gone.
“That was interesting,” said Doc, resettling himself for the rest of the night. “See you in the morning.”
“I’m awake now,” rumbled Bennoli, climbing out of his bedroll, “Mind if I sit with you for a bit?”