Dave exited the room so Rose could change into her disguise. Once she donned her disguise, she opened the door and let him in as they discussed what story they would fabricate so as not to draw suspicion of any kind.
Rose hummed, “I can dress the part, play the part, but I definitely can’t speak the part. Perhaps, I can be a mute cousin of yours.”
Dave grinned, “That works. You whip ‘em at poker, and I’ll ask the questions.”
Rose spit into her hand and held it out for a shake. “Sounds good.”
Dave’s brows rose. “Colour me impressed. You didn’t do this while you were in England, did you?”
Rose opened the door, zipped her lips, and shrugged her shoulders in protest. Her muteness had commenced.
As they walked side by side toward the Omineca Saloon, Dave occasionally gave her some pointers on how to walk more like a man. A swinging lantern, hanging from a hook in front of the door, cast spectral shadows upon the timber wall of the saloon.
This town can catch fire so quickly. We’d have another Barkerville situation on our hands.
A pair of broad shouldered men, their beards unkempt and oily, ambled into the saloon. As Rose and Dave followed the pair in, Rose marked the half naked busty women, prancing about, lounging from lap to lap, and leaving the marks of their kisses on most available cheeks and necks.
This is not going to be a pleasant show.
Dave glanced at Rose, an awkwardness colouring the way his eyes shifted in the dim light. It was clear that he hadn’t ever or didn’t make a habit of frequenting these kinds of rogue establishments. After a moment of intimating his weakness and insecurity, he steeled his emotions and donned a shrewd mask.
Rose made a concerted effort to not allow her creeping jealousy to infuse her performance with mediocrity. However, the room was full of feminine parts to ogle. And here she was in men’s clothing pretending to be a man. There was no competition. And speaking of busty…
“My, my handsome!” the prostitute purred as she placed her hand on Dave’s cheek. “You’re so delicious. How would you like a private dance later?” Without allowing him to answer, she kissed him full on the lips.
Fuming and rolling her eyes, Rose was unable to fail in being a convincing man because the prostitute’s friend was running her hands over Rose’s arms. The prostitute caressing Rose said, “This one’s a little scrawny, don’t ya think? That’s no matter, I still think you’re cute!” She grabbed Rose’s face between her hands and squished her cheeks together. “And his skin is so soft…” she giggled.
Rose implored Dave with a panicked dart of the eyes, desperate for escape.
Dave quickly swiped the rouge from his lips. He chuckled nervously. “My cousin is mute.”
Rose’s prostitute giggled again. “Ooo, a challenge! You may not be able to speak, but I’ll have you moaning and groaning when I…”
Dave reached for Rose’s shoulder and extricated the ladies off of them. “Ladies, thank you. You’re very generous, but we’re just here to play poker.”
Rose’s attache pouted and said, “Well, if you change your minds, we’ll be around.” She winked.
Rose muttered under her breath, “That was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life.”
Dave added, “They’re like a pair of crows, trying to steal the shiniest objects and bring them back to their nest. Here, let’s get a beer, and see what kind of information we can get out of this gentle…man.”
The gentleman Dave had motioned toward turned his gaze from the rim of his cup and glared at them, promising swift punishment if they dared stepped closer.
Dave stuttered, “Hey, we were just…uh…planning to sit here, but…” he licked his lips as the man continued his glare. “We see this table is full. Thanks, we’ll find somewhere else to sit.” He hurried Rose out of that particular corner and headed toward the pair that had entered in before them. “Is it all right if we join you?”
The older of the two gestured toward two open seats. “Help yourself. I see you’ve gotten Neville’s message loud and clear.”
Dave chuckled nervously as they took the referred seats, “Yeah, is he always that way?”
The man waved his hand in an off-handed manner. “Agh, most nights…he’s like that with everyone. Did I hear you say your…friend is mute?”
Rose nodded and Dave replied, “He’s my cousin.”
The man put out his hand for a shake, “The name’s Ed.”
Dave shook his hand. “My name’s Dave and my cousin’s name is…”
The one thing we didn’t talk about!
After glancing at her quickly, Dave finished with, “…Rowan.”
Ed nodded and asked, “You here to play poker? It was pretty apparent you weren’t here for the girls.”
The girl who had initially draped herself over Dave waltzed by and sat on Ed’s lap. While Ed was burying his face into her ample cleavage, she bored her eyes into Dave’s and wore a smug smile. Dave cleared his throat and looked toward the poker table.
Ed removed his head from its place of embrace, smiled big, and said, “If you boys ain’t enjoying it, don’t mind if I do. Anna…” he gestured to his empty beer mug.
She turned her back to him, and he slapped her bottom as she walked away, her eyes dancing with mischief as she looked at...