It was the last straw. The last time she would be pushed. She was tough, she was a fighter but there came a time when even fighters packed up, cut their losses and rode the hell out.
So that was the plan. But first. One last drink. For old times.
She grabbed her hat and pulled it down low over her head. Took a breath, put her game face on.
The second she opened the door the noise of the saloon was over whelming. While her room had felt safe, the bar, well that was a different story. Here she wasn't seen as an equal, here she was something to entertain, to serve, to be at the whim of the men who drank there.
But she wasn't theirs, wasn't a toy, wasn't cheap entertainment. She was highly skilled, highly regarded back home. Her skills with a rope and horse were borderline legendary, but this town, these people, they didn't value ability. They wanted cheap drink and a cheap thrill.
So she scanned the room, found a safe corner. Near the door, no obstructions, clear exit. No one between her and escape.
A drink. If you could call it that. The prices here were cheap but the liquor cheaper. But for the sake of appearance, she had to have one.
It burned her throat. Another. More burning. It might be cheap, probably mixed with God knows what, but it burned.
She loved the burn.
Another. Wise? Maybe not, she needed to keep her senses keen, but she needed the warmth. The wind was picking up, a storm brewing and it was a long over night ride to the safety of the next town.
Another. More burn. She dug in her pockets for matches. Lit them. Let them burn down to her fingers. Each time getting closer, holding for longer. The combination of alcohol and burn making her smile, making the men watching her nervous.
One last drink. One more. Then she would ride.
It was on the table, she reached, held the glass, span it in her hands. The liquor sliding up the sides. One last match. Her fingers, her throat, waiting for the burn.
The spark. Bright in the gloom. She watched the flame move towards her fingers.
And then it all moved quickly. Too quickly for the men at the bar, the ones at the stage, the ones upstairs, in the rooms, waiting for the girls who had no choice. But they did. They knew. She had told them.
Wordlessly she stood, the drink thrown, the match dropped.
The flames spread too quickly, but she was already out the door, mounting the horse, leading the Saloon girls out of the town that had wronged them.
The flames rose rapidly, licking at the stars like the forked tongue of Satan himself dragging the souls of the men inside straight to the hell where they belonged.
And the girls rode.