Polly has a Plan
Pauline moved across the room and sat down beside Jim. An eager light shone in her soft, brown eyes.
“Listen!” she ordered in a low voice. “I’ve got a plan. There’s a chance that it will work, I think. But tell me first about your sleeping arrangements. Does Jack or the other guard sit up and watch you all the time?”
“No. The champion roper of New Mexico, Arizona, an’ Texas throws the diamond hitch on yours truly. He does an expert job, tucks me up, an’ says good-night. He knows I’m perfectly safe till mornin’, especially since both he an’ Brad sleep in the same room with me.”
“Well, I’m going to give you dad’s room.” She leaned forward and whispered to him steadily for five minutes.
The sardonic mockery had vanished from the face of the prisoner. He listened, every nerve and fiber of him at alert attention. Occasionally he asked a question. Carefully she explained the plan, going over each detail of it again and again.
Jim Clanton was efficient. In those days it was a necessary quality for a bad man if he wished to continue to function. He offered a suggestion or two which Pauline incorporated in her proposed campaign of action. At best her scheme was hazardous. It depended upon all things dovetailing properly. But he was in no place to pick and choose. All he asked was a chance and an even break of luck.
“You dandy girl!” he cried softly, and took her two hands between the palms of his fettered ones. “I’m a scalawag, Polly. But if you pull this off for me, I’ll right-about-face. That’s a promise. Somehow I’ve never acted like I wanted to. I’ve done a heap of wild an’ foolish things, an’ I’ve killed whenever it was put up to me. I don’t reckon any woman that married me would be real happy. But if you’ll take a chance 111 go away from here an’ well Make a fresh start. You’re the only girl there is for me.”
A faint smile lay in her eyes. “You used to think Lee was the only girl, didn’t you?”
“Well, I don’t now. I like Polly Roubideau better.”
Abruptly she flung at him a statement that was a question. “You didn’t kill Mr. Webb.”
“No. I never killed but one man without givin’ him an even break. That was Peg-Leg Warren, an’ he was a cold-blooded murderer.”
A troubled little frown creased her forehead. “I’ve thought for more than a year now that you—liked me that way. And I’ve had it in my mind a great deal as to what I ought to do if you spoke to me about it. I wish you had a good wife, Jim. Maybe she could save you from yourself.”
“Mebbe she could, Polly.”
The lashes of her eyelids fell. She looked down at the bands of iron around his small wrists. “I—I’ve prayed over it, Jim. But I’m not clear that I’ve found an answer.” Her low voice broke a little. “I don’t know what to say.”