Jess stood in front of the Laramie stage depot, tossing bags to the top of the stage. The driver caught then secured each.
“Jess,” Mort greeted. “Heard you’re riding shotgun with the stage all the way to Cheyenne...”
Jess tossed the last bag and turned towards Mort. “Yeah. The stage needed a guard and well Slim let me ‘cause it’s my..well...”
“Happy Birthday, Jess.”
“Thanks! Didn’t think anyone knew.”
“Mose told me before he left for Medicine Bow..”
“I swear! If I sneeze, half the territory knows from Mose.”
Mort grinned. “You got plans once you get to Cheyenne?”
“I’m surprised Mose didn’t tell you,” Jess mumbled.
“He said you planned to hit every saloon in town.”
“Well I’ve been to the saloons in Cheyenne. Some mighty pretty gals work there.”
Mort couldn’t help but chuckle. Sometimes he forgot just how young Jess was. “You just be careful.”
“Oh I will! ‘Sides I’ll only be in Cheyenne overnight. Ain’t much time to get in too much trouble. I’ll be guarding the stage on its way back to Laramie.”
“Jess!” the driver called out as he carried a strongbox.
“Be right back,” Jess promised. He moved to the back of the stage. Together they lifted the strongbox and placed it in the stage’s boot.
Jess walked back to Mort.
“Carrying a lot this run?” Mort asked.
“Enough they want a guard,” Jess replied.
“Ain’t seen that driver before.”
“Charlie? Hired on about three weeks ago. Good man.”
“Jess,” Mort grew somber, “a man came through Laramie yesterday. A bounty hunter.”
Jess’ body tensed. “Looking for anyone particular?”
Mort gave a slow nod. “Had a wanted poster with your name on it.”
Jess was on guard. “You come to arrest me? I got my papers and-”
“I know that,” Mort answered gruffly as if the question offended him. “But I thought you’d want to see this.” He handed Jess the wanted poster. “And I wanted you to know that there’s still some of these posters out there.”
“That bounty hunter-”
“It took some convincing. But he knows you ain’t wanted. He’s already left town.”
Jess heaved a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Mort.”
“No thanks, necessary. But you be careful. Keep them papers with you.”
“They’re in my bag.”
“And you remember if you get in trouble, you got friends in Laramie. You can always have the sheriff wire me. I’ll tell him that you’re in the clear.”
“I’ll remember.” Jess stuffed the wanted poster in his jacket pocket. “Ain’t seen one of these in awhile.”
Mort slapped Jess on the back. “Now you just concentrate on having a good time. Though I guess I don’t have to tell you that. Not from what I’ve heard about them Cheyenne saloon gals.”
Jess laughed. “And I’m hoping what you heard is all true. At least it was the last time I was there.”
“Well you just try to stay out of trouble,” Mort advised.
“I’ll do just that,” Jess promised.
“Jess, we better get going,” Charlie said, joining the two men. “Howdy Sheriff.”
Mort nodded, still cautiously eyeing Charlie.
“Jess, them passengers are starting to get itchy about leaving,” Charlie said.
“Well they ain’t the only ones. Me too! I want to get to Cheyenne.”
“You be sure to tell me all about it, when you get back,” Mort said with a chuckle.
“Will do,” Jess replied, as he moved towards the stage.
Jess climbed into the seat of the stage. He was followed by the driver. Jess cradled the rifle close to his chest. As the stage rode off in a cloud of dust, Jess waved his goodbye.