"Hart and Boot" is the title story, sort of, of Tim Pratt's Hart & Boot collection. I only say "sort of" because the collection has an ampersand and the story has the word "and". Nit-picky, sure, but that's the way it goes. This is the first story in the collection.
I've read this story before. I know I have. Just checked Pratt's website and it was reprinted in The Best American Short Stories 2005. That's where. I liked it then.
I like it now.
"Hart and Boot" is the story of Pearl Hart, a cowgirl and criminal in the late 1800's who meets John Boot when he crawls out of a hole in the dirt near her feet. Naked. Pearl and John begin a life of crime robbing stagecoaches until they are caught. Then things get really interesting because John Boot seems to be either a ghost or a figment of Pearl's imagination turned real. One of the two. Not sure which. Maybe a third option.
Love it. It's a great opening to Hart & Boot.
Now, if that bastion of accurateness Wikipedia can be trusted, there is a historical Pearl Hart and Joe Boot. If the descriptions are accurate, it seems that Pratt took the basic storyline of these two and built something special around it and gave far different reasons for what happened than possibly could have happened.