Another chapter for you to consume. Enjoy!
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As you can tell, things weren’t looking up for our one-eyed bar-working sober antagonist anymore.
Ed screamed, pitchy and grating, as the whiskey hit his eyes. Jack’s fist made contact with someone’s jaw, that man disappeared, and Jack swung again aiming for a different jaw. He moved off his stool as he swung. His momentum carried him into the closely stacked hanger’s-on and as his fist made contact with the second jaw four of them, including Jack himself, fell into a heap on the floor.
There was much confusion in the next few minutes. Glasses were broken, a few teeth were lost, the air was full of cursing, and the whole lot of them turned into a swirling mass of punching, kicking, gouging fools. At some point, Jack was quite certain he heard Dan yelling over the chaos trying to get everyone settled down. Not too surprisingly, that didn’t work.
Jack was giving as good as he got, which he was happy with because there were several more of them than there were of him. He had sort of evened the odds by blinding Ed and sucker punching the first guy, but even then no one would have called it a fair fight. The odds were stacked against el borracho, a tale he was all too familiar with, but he was holding his own. It was somewhat impressive.
After the first two punches, and then after successfully regaining his feet, he didn’t try to pick out his opponents anymore. He just ducked and weaved and staggered when he got hit, and jabbed and punched and cursed at anyone who came within striking distance. He had originally planned on trying to make it to the door so he wouldn’t be causing too much damage inside the Gunnison Inn, but as their little fight spread out, partially due to the overly packed conditions and partially due to the nature of the patrons, it seemed that everyone inside got involved. It was madness, it was chaos, and it’s amazing how well I’m doing.
He cringed each time after hearing the first couple explosions as bottles and glasses were dropped, thrown, shattered. He cringed again the first time he heard the snapping of wood as one of the chairs on the floor was broken apart. Then all those sounds sort of moved to the back of his mind as he found more pressing issues to focus on: ducking and weaving, flailing and kicking, hitting and getting hit. But, we’ve already covered that.
The next sound that did manage to grab his attention was the sharp report of a revolver. All combatants stopped mid punch or mid kick or mid stealing a bottle of whiskey from behind the bar while everyone else was otherwise distracted and turned towards the door. Sheriff Brown stood just inside, pistol raised to the ceiling, smoke drifted up from the barrel, the only remaining evidence of the recent gunfire, and he did not look pleased. “I reckon that’s just about enough of that.”
A few people started to move, either to continue on with the fight or try and sneak out behind the sheriff and leave the fight behind them, but his cold stare froze them all in their places. He looked each man up and down, cataloging who was there and who were the likely instigators. Some men were able to hold his gaze, others shifted and fidgeted and their eyes nervously flicked between the sheriff and the open door, and freedom, behind him.
Jack took the brief respite to survey the damage in the bar. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been but he was still saddened by what he saw. The first thought to pop in his head was, well, if I still have a job I’m going to be super busy tomorrow morning. That was quickly followed by the more serious, I can’t believe it came to this. Why couldn’t they just leave me alone? Why couldn’t I think of a better way out of this mess?
When Cole’s eyes found him, Jack was able to hold the sheriff’s gaze. He was annoyed with himself and annoyed with Ed and his cronies, but he had done the best he could with the hand he had been dealt. Maybe if he had been given more time he could have thought of a better way to handle himself and a better way to handle Ed and his miscreants, but he hadn’t had more time. He knew that Cole would understand so there was no reason to not meet his new friend’s look. And then the sheriff’s gaze had moved on.
Jack swiveled his head a bit trying to find Dan and spotted him still behind the bar, protecting the whiskey, holding a club of some sort he was about to use on one of the patrons who had tried to sneak back there and grab a bottle. Jack was happy to see his boss didn’t look too much worse for the wear. I wonder what I look like.
As the adrenaline began to leave his system, he could start to feel the scratches on his arms, the pulsating pain radiating up from his bruised and bloodied knuckles, the charlie horse in his left thigh and a few tender spots on his face that he knew would turn into bruises. He’d felt those same pains before. Sometimes life wasn’t easy as a drunk.
“Alright,” the sheriff continued after he’d taken note of all present, “Dan come on over here and let’s see if we can get this all sorted out. No, it’s alright, come on over, he won’t be doing anything anymore,” Cole added when he saw that Dan was reluctant to leave his bar while the man he’d been about to bludgeon was still back there in easy reach of the booze. Reluctantly, Dan pushed past the man and then shoved his way to the door to stand next to Sheriff Brown. He kept the club in his hand though just in case he needed it again.
“Did you see how it started?” The question was asked as Dan stepped in beside Cole. It was loud enough that everyone in the bar heard it, because Cole wanted everyone in the bar to hear it, and as the murmurs and whispers started to raise up Cole finally let his hand level out, bringing the barrel of the gun from being pointed at the ceiling to being pointed into the mass of people. The place went quiet again.
Ed, the only person in the room too stupid or arrogant to not be afraid of the sheriff at that moment, spoke up from his position by the counter, “You can’t rely on Dan’s word. We all know he is your friend so he can’t be trusted to be impartial.”
The sheriff frowned in response. His gun hand shifted to aim the revolver in Ed’s general direction. “Ed, shut up.” Ed started to stammer out a curse laden retort, but the sheriff just talked over the top of him and eventually Ed did shut up. “There is nothing serious enough here that we are talking serious time. I’m just asking Dan, the owner of the place and the man working the bar when the fight broke out if he has any information that can help me figure out who started this mess and needs to spend a day or two in jail and who just got sucked in once it started and can get sent home to their wives, where they will probably get punished even more than spending a few nights in one of my cells.”
At that moment, Dan chimed in, “It broke out in that corner of the bar, over by Ed and Jack and that whole group.”
Ed opened his mouth to say something else but saw Sheriff Brown frowning at him, his gun still aimed squarely at his chest, and decided to stay silent for the time being.
“Alright, Ed, Jack, the rest of you over by the bar, you all stick around. Everyone else, clear on out of here.” With that, the sheriff took a step to the side to open up a space wide enough for the rest of the patrons to filter out into the night. As the throng proceeded out, with a modicum of pushing and haranguing, rather quicker than you’d think such a large gathering of people could exit through the same door, Cole kept a watchful eye on the group he’d told to stay. At the same time, Cole was still close enough to the exit that every single patron had to pass under the sheriff’s disapproving stare. Piercing, unforgiving, it struck out at each of them and was successful in making each of them steer clear of such trouble again, at least for a little while.
When the last of the freed patrons passed through the exit, before Sheriff Brown could start in with the rest of his interrogation, Ed piped up. “Listen here, Cole, we, I mean me and the boys, didn’t do anything wrong. This fellow here just jumped us. He started the whole trouble.”
“Ed, shut up.”
“Sheriff, I’m just trying to tell you what happened.”
“Ed. Shut up.”
Thankfully, the man finally got the hint and was quiet. “Dan, did you see anything else that could help get this straightened out?” The sheriff briefly flicked his eyes in the direction of the proprietor before returning his focus on the little band of troublemakers.
“No Cole, I didn’t see anything else. After I dropped off a bottle of whiskey per Ed’s request I went to add the tally to his tab. Next thing I know there is a whole pile of them tangled up on the floor. It was packed in here tonight and their tossing about ruffled some of the feathers on the people near them and it just spread out from there and really got out of hand.”
“I reckon so. Okay, Ed, tell me what happened.”
“Like I was saying, Cole, me and the guys were having a drink and this fellow,” he pointed to Jack, “out of the blue threw his drink in my face and then, and then, and then… Well, I’m not entirely sure what happened next because I was trying to wipe the whiskey from my eyes. When I could see again, the whole place was throwing down.”
His cronies nodded in approval of the story.
“Jack, did you throw your drink into Ed’s face?” When he asked the question, Cole thought he saw the merest of smiles flicker and then disappear on el borracho’s face.
Cole raised his eyebrows in surprise. He wasn’t expecting to get the truth. “Did you have a good reason for that?”
“It’s like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. When I asked him why he had done it, he said ‘It seemed to be a good idea at the time.’”
Jack delivered the line straight faced, Cole and Dan smirked, Ed scowled and his cronies saw him scowling and quickly followed suit.
“Alright,” Sheriff Brown stated, “you’ve admitted to starting the fight, I’m going to have to lock you up for being a public nuisance.” The sheriff finally holstered his gun. “Ed, you and your boys get on back to Blunt’s. You’ve had your entertainment for today. If I see you back in town tonight I’ll lock you all up too.”
Ed was incredulous, “On what charges?”
“Oh, I’ll think of something. I always do.”
Ed and his cronies muttered curses under their breath, but they vacated the building all the same, without so much as a backward glance at any of the three people who remained within. Dan, Jack, and Cole all waited until the sound of their boots slapping on the wooden walkway faded away before turning their focus to each other.
“So,” Cole started, “what really happened?”
“Ed and his goons showed up and I didn’t notice until they were already on top of me,” jack replied. “They got the bottle and poured some glasses, passing them around, to do a toast in my honor. I didn’t want to drink,” yes, I most certainly did, “and I figured they wouldn’t let me refuse to drink. I couldn’t think of any other way out of the situation, so I threw the drink into Ed’s face, landed a sucker punch on one of his buddies and then got tangled up with the whole mess of them.
“Dan, I’m sorry about the mess. You can take the damages out of my pay and I’ll clean up the place, I promise you that.” I’m not entirely sure how I’ll be able to afford the damages, and Mrs. Sorensen’s rent, and food and incidentals, but I’ll figure it out. I always figured out how to survive when every free penny I scraped together went towards the booze, now that I’m not paying for that habit I should have lots of free pennies.
“You are a fool,” Cole said, but he had a smile on his face when he said it. “Get to work cleaning up this place now, I’ve got to go do my rounds, I’ll be back to check on your progress in a bit.” And with that the sheriff turned his back on the mess and went out into the night.
Dan and Jack surveyed the damage. Jack was feeling pretty low about it all. After the crowd had dispersed the extent of the damage had become fully visible and it was much worse than he had initially observed. Oh no, was all he could think.
Dan slapped on the back, “Come on. You heard the man, we’ve got work to do.”
“You aren’t mad?”
“About this? No, not really… I’ve seen worse.”