NO CLEAN BREAK
by Phoebe Roberts
“DEADEYE” DAMON BARRETT, an outlaw, early thirties
FLORA “SALLY FLOWERS” JOHANSSON, another outlaw, late twenties
California territory, 1830s
(A man dressed as a cowboy, DEADEYE DAMON BARRETT, sits outside a canvas tent, holding a rag compress to a wound in his shoulder. A young woman in frontier garb, FLORA “SALLY FLOWERS” JOHANSSON, comes out of the tent to check on him.)
SALLY: You sure you’re all right there?
DEADEYE: Nothing but a scratch, love. I dug bigger’n that out of my shoulders before.
SALLY: Let’s have a look.
(She lifts the compress to look at the wound.)
SALLY: The bleeding’s slowed. You should be all right, thank God.
DEADEYE: Takes more than a peashooter like that to slow down Damon Barrett. Still, wouldn’t have thought folks at a trading post would have that much fight in them. No matter, was worth the furs we nabbed.
SALLY: I suppose.
DEADEYE: Sure were. Beaver and bear and rabbit. We’ll get a good price for them.
(SALLY doesn’t respond.)
DEADEYE: And how are you, missy?
SALLY: I ain’t hurt.
DEADEYE: Not that. You been awful quiet since we got back to camp.
DEADEYE: I know things went bad in there.
SALLY: It was just… that inside man of yours. Esteban having to shoot him.
DEADEYE: Yeah. Wasn’t expecting him to turn on us like that.
SALLY: Seeing that was awful hard.
DEADEYE: Folk’s gotten killed on our jobs before.
SALLY: I know, hon… just not with their family right there looking at them.
DEADEYE: Yep. That was rough and no mistake.
SALLY: Did you see his wife there?
DEADEYE: I did.
SALLY: You see how big she was? She’s going to have a baby soon.
DEADEYE: Most like.
SALLY: I never knew they was having a baby.
DEADEYE: Nor I. He didn’t say nothing to me about it. But ain’t no surprise to me, Sally. Men often get into rough work when they’re going to have more mouths to feed.
SALLY: And there was that little girl.
DEADEYE: We didn’t hurt none of them.
SALLY: She was right there when her papa got cut down.
DEADEYE: It’s a crying shame. That man done them real wrong not seeing them safely away. Best put it out of your mind, hon.
SALLY: My God, Damon, we got their daddy killed.
DEADEYE: I could do nothing for him, Sal. He knew what he was getting into.
SALLY: I know he did.
DEADEYE: Was his choice to do the job with us.
SALLY: I never even knew his name. Did you?
SALLY: What was it?
DEADEYE: It was Marlon, love. He was Marlon Dunn.
DEADEYE: Look here, the man was a damn fool. Way we planned it, nobody had to get hurt. We made a real sweet deal with him. Should have known better than to try and sell our gang out.
SALLY: Sure should have. But… did Esteban have to kill him, though? Right there with his gravid wife and daughter looking on?
DEADEYE: Flora, you was there. The man went yellow on us. He was going to give up the whole scheme. Esteban had to take care of him or he would have done for us all.
SALLY: He would have done for us because he didn’t want no trouble going on in front of his family.
DEADEYE: He knew we was coming. He didn’t have to bring them there. Sure it’s a terrible thing to put a man down before his baby girl’s eyes, but he didn’t leave us no choice.
SALLY: Can’t you do something, though?
DEADEYE: Weren’t me that pulled the trigger on him.
SALLY: That’s right, love. If you thought it was right, it would have been. You’re the boss, Damon. If you don’t like it, you could say something.
DEADEYE: Can’t unshoot a bullet, hon.
SALLY: Esteban worships you. He listens to what you tell him.
DEADEYE: What you want me to say, Flora? That he’s gotta be a kinder, gentler outlaw?
SALLY: I don’t know. He’s just so fast hauling off with that gun.
DEADEYE: Times like that, staying your hand’s a good way to get a body killed. Back there, Esteban took care of business. It’s a hard thing.
SALLY: He’s a hard boy.
DEADEYE: Have to be, to run with a life like ours.
SALLY: I don’t think that’s so.
DEADEYE: Course it is, Flora. We got to do what we got to do.
SALLY: You ain’t like that, Damon. You don’t just fire a bullet to solve all your troubles. You’re clever and brave and not just some murdering bandit. Everybody knows you for that.
DEADEYE: That’s for sure. Ain’t no man this side of the territory hasn’t heard of Damon Barrett. Or his best gal Sally Flowers neither.
SALLY: Remember the first time we saw us in the papers?
DEADEYE: That were a thrill, to be sure.
SALLY: Remember how you talked that rancher into hiding his herd in the ravine to protect them from rustlers?
DEADEYE: I do.
SALLY: And what about the time you disguised yourself as a preacher to find where that rich widow hid her good silver?
SALLY: That’s why you’re the biggest bandit in the west, love. Ain’t no gunshots did that. That’s why I came out here with you.
DEADEYE: And you stuck it out with me all this time. Was better than I could have believed.
SALLY: I’d follow you to hell gates, Damon. Course I’d follow you here.
DEADEYE: And we got a lot out here. Freedom, adventure. Being together. I know times like these it ain’t always pretty, but you been happy, right?
SALLY: Of course I been. But… you ever think you’ll have enough of it?
DEADEYE: Enough of what, the outlaw life?
SALLY: With the killing and such.
DEADEYE: With all we done, we ain’t getting out of this clean. Most folks around would hang us soon as look at us. They won’t stand to settle with some townie gent what used to stick up stages. Nor some prairie marm neither.
SALLY: So… this is all we got? Forever?
DEADEYE: We made our beds, Sal. This is the life we chose.
DEADEYE: It ain’t always like it was today. Tomorrow we’ll move on from here, and things will be like they always are. You’ll forget about this in time.
DEADEYE: Best get to packing, love. We’re moving out in the morning.
(DAMON stands and goes into the tent. SALLY sits alone, looking off into the distance.)