Once again, Nelly’s hip hit the side of a chair, as the train rolled along its bumpy tracks. It seemed, not even the layers of petticoats she wore were going to spare her from a nasty bruise. “This is the last time I am doing this for you, Gabe.” She hissed over her shoulder, after apologizing to the person in the seat. Gabe, her older brother of seven years, had his large hand folded over her upper arm, pushing her in front of him through the narrow passage between the rows of seats, as though she couldn’t be trusted to walk on her own. His dominance over her had risen to new levels since Cain had been killed. He always wanted someone with her, like he knew of her plan to leave his little crew. He couldn’t, though, there was no way. She never spoke to any of them other than for the tasks at had. Cain had been the only one.
It wasn’t like she would jump off the train, the train was going too fast! It was ridiculous to think she needed to be taken to the ladies room. It was one straight line there and back. If she was inclined to run from him, there weren’t many places she could hide on this bumpy contraption. The trip between Hobsons bay and Flinders street was not that far, but she couldn’t wait as long as that. Now Nelly wished she had made time to visit the ladies room somewhere before she left. It would have spared her her current situation.
Gabe’s grip hurt, even though Nelly was used to this sort of treatment from him. Even before Cains death. Neither before or after, had Nelly ever given her brother a reason to doubt her. She had always done her part, whether she liked it or not.
She was also being truthful this time. She wasn’t going to do this any longer. Before Cain came along, Nelly felt resigned to her situation in life, not really knowing any other way. Her young heart couldn’t handle another break like she had experienced. Loving, Cain, made her existence mean something more. Now that he was gone, another life, the one they had planned together, was all she wanted. If only to honor him. Perhaps Gabe could see her desire to leave in her eyes. Pfft, how could he? He never looked at her eye to eye.
The train car jolted again, causing Gabe to lose his balance, and loosen his grip. Nelly’s arm slipped easily from his hold, and suddenly, without Gabe steadying her, she continued to the ground landing on her knees. She heard him curse and looking back at him, she caught him holding his hip. Nelly smiled, he deserved to get roughed up every now and then, just for treating people the way he did.
“Are you alight ma’am?” Someone asked. Nelly schooled her features, it was time to play the game. Who was she kidding, when it came to anyone outside their little ensemble of misfits, Nelly always had to be someone else. Sighing, her thoughts went to Cain again. He was the only person she never had to play games with. He was the only person who truly knew her. With his memory in the front of her mind, she looked up to the person who was making it their business to see to her needs. She felt sorry for them, a moment of regret settled in her before she turned on the Wyatt charm, deceiving someone who was being kind never felt any good. But, her regret was quickly vanquished by the sound of her own gasp. “Did you hit your head?” The stranger asked with concern, leaning in closer. Nelly, instead of smiling sweetly frowned with confusion. The only thing that happened to her head was that it was reeling with the sight of the man who knelt in front of her. Cain?
Nelly starred at the man for a moment. Her heart was about to pound out of her chest, the person in front of her looked like, Cain! But Cain was dead. She knew this, she was there when he was buried, remembered the hours she cried in her sleep morning her love. Mentally shaking her head, to get a grip on herself, she regretted doing so, immediately. Because, for that moment when she looked into the strangers deep brown eyes, she thought that the last three months of feeling alone, of nursing her heartache, of missing the only person who took the time to know her, had been a farce. For that moment, her love was not dead.
But this wasn’t, Cain.“N-no, I didn’t hit my head, but thank you for asking.” She managed to say. She knew very well that meekness was what men went for the best, not that she was much more than a meek young woman just then, being taken off guard the way she had been. She missed Cain so much she was imagining him in other people now. Over the years Nelly had learned the art of setting aside her meekness, because surviving as Gabe’s sister required her to be strong.
Blinking , Nelly took the strangers offered hand, and allowed herself to take a short reprieve as he helped her to her feet to shake off Cains memory. Once gaining her balance, Nelly couldn’t help herself, she had to look at the stranger again. She quickly appraised her Cain look alike, and finally concurred, he was most definitely not Cain, she felt foolish for thinking so. In the shadows between the seats his hair looked darker, but in actual fact it was a light brown. Also, he was taller. Her eyes followed his when he glanced over her shoulder, and it was then that she remembered her brother.
“She can be a might clumsy at times.” Gabe said to the stranger who still held onto her hand.
“It was a big jolt.” The man said to her brother, narrowing his eyes a fraction. He looked back down to Nelly with a smile, and asked. “Could I assist you to your destination?” The carriage jolted again and Nelly found herself falling right into the stranger. He quickly wrapped one arm around her, engulfing her in his strength, and his other took hold of the hand rail near his head. Nope, this was most definitely not her, Cain. Looking up to the face of the stranger, she noted the strong set of his jaw, similar to her Cains, but not his. And, his smell, he smelled...different. Also, Cain didn’t feel the same as this man did when under her touch.
Feeling a little embarrassed she had landed so intimately onto this man, Nelly looked down at her hand which was splayed across his shirt beneath his waist coat to hide her very real blush. It was then that she caught a glimpse of something she recognised. A striped cloth, she knew that piece of cloth, tucked into a pocket sewn on the inside of this mans waist coat. This man was a trooper, a policeman wearing the tell-tail sign of what he was. Con artists and bush rangers alike knew that piece of cloth. She swallowed hard. Nelly looked behind her to her brother, trying to think of how to warn him that there was a trooper on this train. A trooper dressed in plain clothes was normally after one type of person, but it was too late.
“Why, yes, I have some things I need to attend, escorting my sister will free me up some.” Gabe said, putting on airs he didn’t posses. Nelly swallowed again, this wasn’t the first time Gabe had handed her off to a strange man. How dare he, she thought. Gabe couldn’t even be bothered finishing a task he himself insisted on doing. She wanted to pull away from the stranger, who happened to be a trooper, but there was no way to do it without alerting him to her knowledge of who he truly was. They hadn’t done anything wrong, not yet. After she visited the powder room, she would warn her brother.
“The name is James, and I will be happy to see you to the...”
“The powder room.” Nelly finished. James nodded. Nelly swallowed once again. She didn’t need escorting anywhere, not by Gabe, and certainly not by a trooper!
Glancing at her brother one last time, in a futile attempt to somehow warn him, was to no avail. As usual, Gabe was too busy at being please with himself, and didn’t bother to return her glance. All she wanted to do was visit the powder room, and now, her brother was handing his only sister over to the law and he didn’t even know it! Gabe may be mean, but she knew he wouldn’t let her go with this James person if he knew. Well, if this is how it was to be, then she had no choice but to go with the trooper. She hadn’t done anything wrong, not this time, not anytime, not really. It didn’t stop her from feeling wary, though. So, raising her chin, Nelly squeezed past James to continue through the train. She was quickly getting upset, and simply wanted away from the situation, her brother be damned.
She could feel James following wordlessly on her heal, at least he didn’t see fit to hold onto her as her brother had. In her determination, with the freedom to anchor herself when the train went array, they made it to the ladies room door in no time. She turned to James before opening it. The passageway was small, lit only by the light coming through the windows opposite, and he stopped beside her, too close for her own comfort. Between bumping into James in the other carriage until then, his demeanor had turned from pleasant, to stern. Did he know she knew his secret? She didn’t want to contemplate the change in him, and she wasn’t about to stand around to find out if there was ill intent behind his current glare. She knew what kind of person her brother was, and the kind of people she had encountered because of him, police or not, had her trusting no one. So, opening the door quickly, she began to slip inside saying “thank you” on her way in.
“I am sorry to have to do this to you, Nelly.” Nelly sucked in a sharp breath, and looked up at this James person. How did he know her name? “That’s right, I know who you are, and you are not helping your brother this time.” And with that, she was gently pushed inside the cabin, too shocked, it rendered her helpless to realise what he was doing. Also, not wanting to confirm what this man was suggesting.
Before she knew it, and could think of how to respond, the door was closed and she was standing in the small washroom, alone.
Once her senses had returned she stepped to the door and tried to open it. It moved a little, but something was barring it from the outside.
“Mr James, please, I cannot open the door.”
“Well that is a good sign.” Nelly couldn’t believe what was happening.
“I don’t understand why you feel the need to keep me prisoner in here.” She asked as calmly as her voice would allow. Her chest heaved with growing panic. Looking around, she knew there was no way out. What was she supposed to do? This James person was a trooper! And he was deliberately locking her in here as though she was already guilty. Well, she was, sort of, but nothing from this trip. Gabe continually assured her there was no way she could ever be found guilty of being a simple deterrent. Her brother was cruel, yes. But she liked to imagine, in his way of showing he cared for her, she could never be linked to the thieving, he was the bush ranger, not her.
“Make yourself comfortable, Miss Nelly, this is a far better place to be than any prison cell.” She doubted this very much. “Or better than being hanged.” Stepping away from the door and biting the nail on her thumb, Nelly had to think fast. In her estimation, she was already in a prison, and she most definitely didn’t care to be hanged.
“My, Mr James, I have no idea what you are referring to. I am simply catching this train to visit family in, Melbourne.”
“Now we both know that isn’t true, because you have no family in, Melbourne. All the family you have is right here, aboard this train.” The panic she felt at the fringes of her being, settled into her limbs.
“I fear you may have me mistaken for someone else sir.” Fragility and uncertainty laced her words. Nelly hoped the door between them was absorbing both. This man had thrown her off guard from the moment she looked up to him. She didn’t know how to gain her composure at this point.
“No Nelly, and I am not letting you or brother cause any trouble.”
“And how is it that you have determined that I am the one who starts the trouble?” Immediately biting the inside of her cheek at her fumble, Nelly could have kicked herself as well. Where were her senses?
“So, you are admitting to being the Nelly I thought you were then?” Mr James said, laughing. Raising an ire in Nelly that wasn’t present before.
“I want to see my brother, please fetch my brother.” Nelly demanded, standing as close as she could to the door to speak through the small crack. She couldn’t see out, and felt better speaking through it. That was until she heard Jame’s voice, and his words made her step back again.
“Now you listen to me, Nelly. I know how this works. You distract Mr thatcher and his friends, using all your womanly wiles,” he said the last part as though it disgusted him, and his tone made Nelly remember just how disgusted she felt every time her brother made her do exactly what Mr James was suggesting. She was glad in that moment, that he couldn’t see her face. “While your brother unloads the baggage carriage and anything else Mr thatcher has brought with him of value.” He knew, well, sort of knew. But he knew enough about the way her brothers men and her worked to make her feel very nervous. I meant he had watching them, knew of them. It was only a matter of time, Cain always used to tell her this, that their days in this present career were numbered. She knew it at their last job, the law was getting serious about them. Which, would please Gabe to no end. He didn’t only seek riches that weren’t his, but fame too. Which is why her and Cain were getting out.
“Please, just let me see my brother.” She asked once more, not masking the desperation in her plea.
“Miss Nelly, trust me, let this go down the way I’ve planned, and you will walk off this train a free woman.” Was that mercy in his voice? If it was, then it was confirmed, this man had surely been watching them, following them, which made her situation a very calculated one on his behalf.
“You’re asking me to trust you, when you have locked me away in the first few minutes of our meeting?”
“Yes, trust me, Miss Nelly.”
“I trust no man.” She spat out.
“That’s a shame Miss Nelly, that’s real shame.” And all too quickly, without being able to see anything on the other side of the door, Nelly knew she was not only alone in the ladies room.
The train jolted again, and Nelly placed her hand on the wall, her head spinning with what just happened. Making her way over to the other side of the small space she pushed the curtain aside and leaned against the window.
At least in this part of the country everything wasn’t just brown, the kind of brown that stained the settlements and farms Gabe had always used as refuge. There was nothing to see for miles and miles passed it. How could anyone think this place fit for living? Since she was young a girl, her brother had dragged her all over the bush, and that brown got into everything, it didn’t just stain the land here, but every inch of clothing, it had stained her soul. She wanted was to be rid of it all.
Nelly didn’t know what to feel. She turned and looked at the door opposite her. Should she call out for her brother, or anyone? She probably should, but, surely someone will need to use this room shortly. James locked her away to keep her out of trouble. Why would he do that? She didn’t like being where she was, but Nelly wasn’t sure if calling for Gabe was the right thing to do. There was an element of trust in her decision to stand away from the door, and not bang on it in hopes that someone will hear. She didn’t like the idea of somehow owing this trooper, and every moment that passed in which she didn’t call for help, made her more uneasy.
Clutching at the locket hanging around her neck, she closed her eyes, picturing the man who gave it to her. Cain. He promised he would take her away from here. He said that after he did one more job for Gabe, they would have enough money to leave this place on the very next ship. But when Gabe rode in that awful night with Cain slung over the front of his horse, she knew things weren’t going to change. But Cain had forever changed her, which may be the reason why she stood still.
Now, as fate would have it, she was locked in a cabin. Why wasn’t she banging on the door, calling out for her brother? She could only surmise it was because she didn’t desire to face Gabe, to start trouble with the law this way. She scoffed at the irony of her thoughts. Was it because she had finally come to a point where she didn’t care what happened? Mr James had locked her in here and told her to trust him. Well, she didn’t trust him, not for a pound of gold. Something about the way he looked at her right before he pushed her into the cabin, made her want to trust him, though. She was tired. Tired of being used for her brothers deeds. She knew nothing else but wheeling and dealing. Nothing ever felt right about that.
What Mr James might have wrong though, was that in her not doing what Gabe wanted her to do resulted in him hurting her. So for now, she was not just confined inside the washroom, but she was safe. She wasn’t there on her own volition. Mr James had done her a favor for now, which in turn, kept her from calling her brother. Gabe had their game finely tuned, and he used her, without her, nothing worked the same, She knew this without him ever having to tell her. Which is why having Cain by her side made leaving seem possible.
Gasping, Nelly looked to the door. Without her, nothing worked. Did Mr James know this too? If she didn’t meet Gabe where she was supposed to, he will know that something went wrong. Smiling for a reason she wasn’t quite sure of. She relaxed. Mr James may have locked her away in here thinking to keep her out of trouble, and just catch her brother in an act of breaking the law, but in actual fact, her brother won’t do anything without her. So yet again, the Wyatt siblings were dodging the noose. Her smile faded, and she turned to look out at the land as it whizzed past her. She didn’t know if she should be happy or sad. But one thing she did know. This was her life, and either way, there was no way out for her. Not right then anyway, literally.
The remainder of the short train ride passed too slowly, with nary a sign from either Mr James or Nelly’s brother, or anyone else for that matter. By the time the train was rolling into Flinders Street, Nelly was more than upset, she was angry beyond words. Upset because she had been locked in the tiny space. Angry because her brother had obviously not missed her enough to come looking for her. There was also a weired fine line between her anger and her curiosity, which was what kept her from taking further action. Curious to what was going on outside her little confine. Curious to why a stranger wanted to keep her away from trouble.
At the Flinders street station, Nelly had hoped to walk away and disappear into the crowds with enough gold lining her pocket. Finally making it possible for her to get away from her brother. The prospect of not having that gold made her angry as well. Yes it was stealing, but she was going to be stealing from her brother, and not having money meant she had to bide her time with her brother for longer than she had hoped.
Standing up to peer out of the small window, Nelly watched all the people disembark off the train one by one. She watched eagerly for her brother, wondering if he had gone through with his plan without her, and was now holding onto a load of money. Without her distracting Thatcher, and finding out what Gabe wanted to know, she doubted he was. She hadn't heard a ruckus on the train, which was a good sign that whatever Gabe had done in her absence, it hadn’t been anything to make a scene. But, it didn’t mean they didn’t find a way around the situation. She wouldn’t know until someone let her out! The train wasn't that long, and it appeared that every passenger was off now. This was the end of the line, so she wouldn't start panicking, yet. Perhaps her brother will catch a glimpse of her through the window, perhaps she should wave down a conductor.
Catching site of her captor outside of the train, did make her begin to panic a little. Where was her brother, and why was she still being kept in there? Clearly, she had missed her chance to cause any “trouble”. When James disappeared from her view, she stepped over to the door. This was ridiculous she thought, and was about to unleash her anger by banging on the door, when it swung open.
Nelly didn't wait for MR James to say anything to her, she immediately began to push her way past the person who locked her up. She didn't get far though, before the man who was a stranger a mere short train ride ago, grabbed hold of her arm, the same way her brother always had.
“Let go of me.” She said reefing her arm out of his grasp. It came easily and she almost fell over herself. James instinct had him reaching for her, taking her again by her upper arm to steady her. Which in turn fueled her even more, she didn’t need his help. Standing up to her full hight and directing all her venom toward James she continued, jabbing at his chest with her finger from her free arm to add emphases. “You had no right to lock me in that place, and you most definitely have no right to touch me.” No games, no pretenses, just Nelly and her anger. James had the decency not to reply, but he didn't let go. Nelly glared at him with every ounce of pent up anger she derived from her time locked away.
“I am going to take you to your brother.” He said calmly. Which gave Nelly the sudden desire to kick the man.
“Oh how gracious of you.” She said giving him a mock curtsy. “Something you should have done a while ago don't you think?” She told him, turning to continue toward an opening, any opening that would get her off the train.
“I had to put you in there.”
“You don't have to do a thing for me. I am no ones responsibility.”
“Except your brothers; and he has done a splendid job of that over the years, hasn't he?” Nelly turned fully to James, his statement cutting directly to the truth of her life. How did he know so much about her? It scared her a little. Looking down to where he held her arm she said.
“In my experience, most people who say they want to look after me are all the same.” Glancing back up, Nelly knew Mr James got the meaning behind her statement. She could see it in his eyes. The depth of his understanding had her mesmerized. Not like he pitied her, rather, pitied something else…but only for a moment.
“Let me go, Mr James.” Nelly finally bit out between clenched teeth.
“I will not. But let it be known, I am reluctant to hand you back over to your brother.” Nelly scoffed, shaking her head to his all round indignities.
“Being a captive to him, or captive to a person who locked me up for no good reason! Who also knows more about me than I would like to delve into! I will take my chances with my brother, thank you.”
“Humph” the unintelligible sound coming from Mr James didn't phase her one bit. Turning on her heal, Nelly continued on her path to exiting the train. With James still holding her arm. “If it were up to me, I would make sure, both, Wyatt siblings get locked up, behind bars. Your freedom does not belong to you because of anything you have done, and don't forget it.
James didn't make any sense, his remarks only gave her more reasoning being her anger. Not giving him any kind of gesture that his words did in fact effect her, she went to continue down the steps of the train. Before she could make her final exit, though, James stopped her again, pulling lightly on her arm, then squeezed passed her so he could step off the train first. Nelly didn't care about his motives, she only cared to get away from this man, and the train. His mere presence didn’t just anger her, but upset her.
Coming off the train, it merely appeared to the average onlooker, as though James was helping Nelly off. She would be happy not to set foot on one again. The feel of solid ground under her feet, made Nelly breath out a sigh of relief. She thought to pull away, and run. It was the perfect time. But without her bag, which she hoped was somewhere with her brother, or any money, she couldn’t. Plus, she really wanted to find out what had happened in her absence.
James led her down the length of the train to the rear, where cargo was being unloaded. Glancing over in that direction, Nelly was a little surprised to find one person amongst the workers she recognised, Tony. Which meant that, perhaps, everything was going to be alright for them. Then, turning from the train Nelly caught site of her brother, standing at the bottom of the platform stairs. The look on his face when her saw her, didn't bode well for her. She had the sudden urge to tell Mr James to put her back on the train. She was sure to be safer there. Why was she wanting to get back to her brother so quickly again?
“Here she is.” James said, finally letting go of her arm. He didn't push her, and the place he held her didn't hurt they way it did after Gabe had done the same thing.
“Well, Nelly, wasn’t it a shame you were sick the whole way. I was looking forward to spending some family time with you.” Gabe said this, but kept his glare fixed on the man behind her. That was a good sign. Even though she knew he would have some words for her, she was glad that he showed some sense, and knew she wouldn't have abandoned him on purpose. She will one day, but not in the middle of a job. After all, he was her brother, and even though he was self centered, mean and arrogant, he was also, as James kindly pointed out on the train, the only family she had left.
Nelly walked calmly down the few steps which led to her brother, and when she was standing safely behind him, only then did she allow herself to look up to James. From the bottom of the platform, Nelly couldn't help but notice how commanding James presence truly was. It struck her, that in any one of her short interactions with him thus far, he could have truly taken her over. The small spaces on the train didn’t lend to what he truly was. A viral man who served the law. She could surmise this simply by his stance, plus, if she wanted to be honest with herself, what he did on the train. Even though she felt it completely unnecessary to have been locked away, she had a feeling that Mr James believed he was doing her the greatest of favors. He had nothing to hide standing on top of the platform, towering, and confidant. She knew enough men of the opposite caliber to easily decipher the difference between honorable and down right bad. Nelly couldn’t believe she actually spoke to someone like him the way she had. What must he think of her? She had to look away from him, suddenly feeling inadequate in every possible way under his appraisal.
“If you wanted to spend time with my sister, all you had to do was ask.” Gabe's remark was crass, and uncalled for. Nelly turned her head even further from them both and made her way over to Hollis, the man who had been with them the longest, the only man Gabe listened to when advice was being flung around.
“You should be careful who you offer her to, Gabriel. Someone with intentions other than what I had, might just take you up on that offer.”
“I am no mans property” Nelly called out, while bending down near Hollis to retrieve her bag from off the ground. Every man around her could hear her, and didn’t need to see their faces to know it. She cared more that her bag had been remembered. Besides the normal sounds of a train station, none came from the men behind her. The only noise that broke their silence was her brothers laughter.
Nelly turned, holding her bag in front of her. She took a moment to will herself to look up to, James. She hoped there was no emotion showing, but in truth, she wanted to cry, thinking she must look like a fool. Wanting to be brought back to a brother who used her as a pawn, and laughed at it. She was a fool.
“Come now, Nelly.” Hollis said. Nelly turned to him. The middle aged man with salt and pepper hair touched the back of her arm to lead her away. Leaving behind the sound of James voice as he called out.
“Till we meet again.” Nelly hoped she never saw that mans face again.
It didn’t take long for Gabe to reach her, and when he did, Hollis fell back a few paces. Only when they were some distance away from the station did Gabe address her.
“What happened?” He asked, practically growling out the question. He pulled her arm in the direction he wanted her to go, knowing full well she had no idea where they were heading, before she could answer.
“Hmm where do I start. How about we start with you handing me off to a trooper!” She said trying to veer away from him. He pulled on her arm again bringing her back to him. Gabe was a strong man. He wore a beard most of the time because he just simply couldn't be bothered shaving. But he wasn't one of those gross smelling kind of thieves, and on occasion, Nelly had actually witnessed a charming side to him. Mostly when he wanted to bed a woman.
“How did you know?” He asked pulling her out of the way of a passing cart. Melbourne was busy! She hadn't been there in a long while, and things had surely changed in that time. She knew Gabe was taking her to some kind of accommodation, since they all seemed innocent enough to live another day, Gabe had no reason to hide them all in the bush somewhere. She could never guess where he had in mind, though, and had no choice but to let him pull and push her in the right direction.
“I saw the striped cloth tucked into the inside of his waist coat.” This made Gabe stop in his tracks, yanking Nelly this time to stop next to him. The four other men who followed circled around.
“And how in the hell did you manage a feat like that? Is that why he kept you away?” Rage shone through her brothers eyes as he raised his brows in question. She had never witnessed anything like it from him before. Did this mean he actually cared about her? “I knew your flirting would get you into trouble.” And there was the real Gabe. He didn't care, even though he was the reason she knew anything about how to flirt. She tried to shove passed him but he wouldn't have it.
“Gabriel Wyatt, you are a cruel brother.” He smiled at this. There had to be one part in him, somewhere, that cared about what happened to her, without it benefiting him. “Right before you sent me off with him, I saw it beneath his jacket, remember? He caught me when I fell. You were too happy to be rid of me to notice I was trying to catch your eye to warn you.” She said. “And How did you find out, Gabe? Why didn't you come for me when you did? Sure you must have been curious as to my safety?”
Her brother placed his hand on his hips and looked to his men. “When you didn't come back Hollis went for you.” Nelly turned to Hollis and smiled her thank you. He nodded in return. “But the trooper wouldn’t let him get to you, kept him busy. What did he tell you?” Gabe demanded more than asked.
“He didn't say anything to me. One moment I was in the ladies washroom, and the next, I couldn't get out!” Gabe eyed her with deep suspicion. But he didn't interrogate her any further. He ran his hand over his beard then grabbed her arm again.
Nelly already knew she wasn't going to tell Gabe the truth of her interactions with, James. He wouldn't care about most of what James said. Nelly needed more time to think on what it all meant. She wanted to find out more of what happened with Gabe and the men first, and would have to question Hollis further for those details. He would tell her. The only one of the five of them to think to go for her when she was missing.
Hollis was mostly the spokes person for the other men. Even though she cooked for them and tended to wounds when required, and washed their laundry when they got a tad stinky. Well, they said thank you, and maybe a handful of other things. She had a measure of their respect. Doing her job well, got them what they wanted.
“Well, I still want that money.” Gabe finally said. Letting her know that she wasn’t getting away from her brother any time soon.
“Let’s get to the hotel and talk about it there.” Tony said. This was the first time that Nelly noticed Tony was carrying two bags, not just his one. Gabe nodded. Took her by the arm, and began to walk again.
“You know I can walk on my own, don't you?” She said, pulling her arm out and away from his reach. “I am going to follow you, you brute, there’s no need to drag me along.” Gabe's face turned a shade of red. He huffed, but Nelly just lifted her chin and looked ahead. When her brother continued to walk, she followed.
At the hotel, Gabe secured two rooms, one for her, and one for the rest of them. They all made their way up the stairs, and Hollis followed Nelly into her room behind Gabe, depositing that second bag Tony had been carrying, gingery down beside one of the single beds. He then took the bag from her and placed it on the bed stand.
“Thank you Hollis. I’m glad someone thought to bring it off the train.”
“My pleasure, Nelly.” He said, then retreated to his own room. It wouldn't be long before they all congregated in her room though, because Gabe normally stayed close to her. Nelly went ahead and laid down on the bed, she was tired, and didn’t have long to rest her tired eyes.
Once the door was shut, Gabe turned to her. “You better tell me what that trooper said to you.” He demanded, coming over to sit on the bed next to her. Why couldn’t he be satisfied with her story? Why did he have to assume James said anything to her? He did, but even if he didn’t she would have to imagine something up just to make peace with her brother.
“There is nothing to tell.”
“Don't lie to me Nelly, I know when you are.” Nelly sat up, and looked at her brother. The only family she had ever known.
“Why do we do this, Gabe? Why can’t we just get a farm, or find work or some such thing, and stop stealing? Surely that would be an easier way of life than always hiding and running.” Gabe shot her a dark look, it didn't effect her, she had been locked in a small washroom for the duration of their train ride by a trooper. She didn't care about much at this point. Gabe leaned over and grabbed the locket which hung around her neck. She thought he was going to yank it off. He knew the locket meant something to her, and she wouldn’t put it past him to do something like that just to assert himself over her. But he didn’t. He rubbed his thumb over it and let it fall back to its place above her heart.
“Because we just do. What did he tell you, Nelly?” He asked again. This time, there was an edge to his voice, she knew she had to give him something.
“Once I was inside the washroom he said he was going to lock the door, so that you wouldn't get into any trouble. He knew who you were, Gabe.” Gabe frowned for a moment, thinking, then his mouth turned from a stern frown to a smile, exaggerating the crows feet at the corners of his eyes, which seemed to light up with the idea of being “known”.
“You want to know why we do it?” Nelly nodded. “Because we can. I will not conform Nelly. For the seven years, Nelly. That’s why.” And with that he stood to his feet, and picked up the bag Sam brought in. She wasn’t about to push him with what he just said. That was more confession she had ever received from him.
Nelly didn’t know Gabe as a child, but knew he had been in prison for seven years prior to taking her on board. She didn’t realise he held such a vendetta against who she wasn’t quite sure. But it was there.
“What’s in that bag, Gabe?” She asked.
“Get cleaned up, Nelly. I am going to need you fresh and ready for tomorrow.” This announcement had Nelly laying back down. There was only one good thing about what her brother just said. She was going to be able to get some sleep, and in a bed, which was a luxury in her world. It surprised her a little that Gabe would go to the other room, leaving her alone to let her rest. He needed her. Which meant, there was going to be a short span of time he would be nice. She was going to take it. Because being Gabriel Wyatt's sister was indeed exhausting.