The word "elixir" conjures to mind tales of the traveling medicine shows sensationalized in westerns. Snake Oil, genuine Indian remedies, and the like promised to cure every ailment and contained toxic ingredients like opium, cocaine, and ethyl alcohol. Shills were planted in the crowds ready to give "unbiased" testimony and display "miraculous" feats of strength and speed in order to help the salesman generate more sales.
I'd like to return to a character I haven't seen in awhile. We last saw Patience after she learned the Lassiers kidnapped her sister. She just hired Jeb Grayson against her better judgment to help get Charity back.
I offer the following in response: Flatwater at Sundown
They arrived at Flatwater Bend just before sundown. With the dark of night looming in the unfamiliar town, Patience questioned her sanity. What did she know about chasing outlaws and brigands? She hesitated before dismounting her wagon at the livery, investigating the impatient grimace on her companion’s face. What did she know of Mr. Jebediah Grayson?
“C’mon, Girl,” he bellowed, gripping her elbow roughly. “Flatwater ain’t much by way of accommodations, and Miss Louisa’s Boardin’ House won’t be open after dusk.”
She yanked her arm back from his grasp. “I can walk, Mr. Grayson. You will remember I am spoken for, and you will not take such liberties with my person again.”
“Liberties? Oh that’s rich.” His snorting laugh was condescending. “Does Nate Pritchard know he spoke for you?”
Anger burned her cheeks as she prayed for an inspired retort. She felt unarmed against the cad since she stole his horse. “That is none of your business, Mr. Grayson.”
“Thought as much.”
She matched his stride, fighting the urge to scratch the smugness from his face. Flatwater Bend wasn’t a large town; most of its businesses straddled a small stretch of dirt that served as a road. Patience missed the cobblestones of her native Boston, its elegant architecture and early morning fog heavy with the clean scent of seawater. The fog in this frontier was less heavenly, and reeked of manure and musk.
Outside Miss Louisa’s Room and Board, a crowd of about twenty people gathered around a flash-dressed wagon advertising Dr. Addison’s Genuine Elixir in gilt letters. “You there, gentle lady, come here and listen. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!” an older man gestured at her from his makeshift stage. “This is the bona fide article. It’ll cure all your complaints.”
Patience scowled. Her father always said if anything was too good to be true, then generally it was. “Swills and shills,” she heard her companion mutter. “I can get better whiskey from the cathouse.”
“Cretin! Have you no morals, Sir?” she reprimanded.
“Oh git down off your high horse already, Girl. I’m here to help you git your sister back, ain’t I?” He steered her towards the worn front door of the boarding house.
“I suppose that five hundred dollars you want has nothing to do with it.” Patience rapped twice at the door and smoothed the front panel of her skirt.
“God’s teeth, Girl, it’s a boardin' house, not a social call.” He opened the door without invitation and pushed her inside.
She wheeled to strike him but he ducked.
A woman of many curves addressed them in the warmth of the lobby. “Seeking one bed, or two?”
“Just the one, Ma’am.” He added before Patience could protest, “For the girl. I’ll be taking up my room at the saloon.”
“She’ll be in fine hands, Mr. Grayson, don’t you fret.”
“Thank you kindly Miss Louisa.”
His shadow disappeared from the doorway as he abandoned her to the boarding house. Patience was alone.