Another Thursday is upon us pardners… and you know what that means, right?! We step away from our modern lives and venture into the old west for another chapter out of my work in progress.
You can see all the previous chapters here.
The first weak rays of morning light forced their way through the east facing windows. Brig donned his hat, and took a step towards Emmalou, his arms stretched in front of him, slightly splayed apart and his palms up in a universal gesture of peace and truce. “Mam, this is no place for a lady to be, especially so early in the morning. I don’t want anyone getting the wrong sort of impression about you.”
Emmalou blushed. She hadn’t considered that her presence in a bar might start defamatory rumors. She had been so intent upon her mission to see Mr. Coyle leave the town she had banished all other normal considerations. Is he really concerned about my image, or is this some trick to make me think he has changed his ways? How can I trust him? How can I learn the truth of what is actually going on here? How can I ever move on from the image of him I have seared in my mind?
There is so much sadness behind his eyes. That has to be real, doesn’t it? He can’t fake that, could he?
“I would be happy to try and dispel any concerns you have over my staying but perhaps we can find a more suitable time and place? My shift ends a little after lunch. We can meet at Mrs. Sorensen’s, enjoy some of her fine sun tea and chat out on her porch. I’ll listen to your concerns and provide my answers as I can, and if I can’t either convince you that I have changed or that I deserve a chance to call Gunnison my home, then I will leave and never return. Is that acceptable?”
She was momentarily lost, her mind was reeling, and she couldn’t get a thought to stay long enough to transfer it into words. Her inquisition hadn’t gone at all like she had thought it would. She nodded her head in consent, found the handle and was out into the morning light, not fleeing, but walking briskly towards her home. At that moment she wasn’t sure if she would meet Brig that afternoon or what she was going to do but she was grateful to be out of the bar and headed home where she could clear her mind and think through the morning’s events uninterrupted, unencumbered, and without distraction.
Brig watched her go until the swinging door cut her off from view and then he immediately turned towards Dan. The movement caught Reilly by surprise. The big man recoiled a step until he noticed that Brig had kept his arms out in the “I mean you no harm” position. He steadied himself and surveyed his employee with new eyes.
“I’m still the man you hired. I’m a no-good drunk just trying to turn my life around. I’m el borracho ever so much more than I am Brig Coyle. Though who I was will always be a part of who I am, I promise I am not that man anymore.”
“I see that,” Dan replied. “I see you clearly, but it will be hard to ignore the stories that go with your name. It will be doubly hard for the people in this town to ignore those stories when they haven’t had the interaction with you that Cole and I have. She is right. The town is going to want you to leave.”
The tension relieved, Brig dropped his arms to his side. “I know. They always do.
“It’s not the first time I’ve tried to start over. It’s not the first town I stumbled into drunk, tried to sober up only to be recognized and fall willingly back into the bottle as they chased me out of town. I’ve been down these tracks before. But, I don’t want to drown my memories in booze this time.
“I want to set el borracho aside for good. Maybe part of problem was trying to be Jack Smith, or Kit Williams, or Morgan Young or any of the other aliases I’ve used over the years. Maybe I shouldn’t have been trying to be someone I’m not. Okay, I’m Brig Coyle. I’m not the Brig Coyle everyone thinks they know, but from now on I’m not going to hide behind some other name. I’m not going to hide in a bottle either.
Well, I’m a drunk, so that really isn’t something I can guarantee. I’ll do my best not to hide in a bottle ever again, that’s the truth.”
Dan said nothing. Like Emmalou his mind was a torrent of thought, running through every story he had heard about Brig Coyle and weighing those against what he knew of the man that had been working for him the past few weeks. It was hard to see the recovering alcoholic living up to the legends of the gunman. It would have been easier to believe that el borracho wasn’t Brig Coyle.
The door swung open and the day’s first business sauntered in. He stopped in his tracks because Dan and Brig were blocking his path to the bar, “You open this morning?”
“Of course,” Brig replied and left Dan’s side to move to his place behind the counter. The man followed him and took a seat in one of the stools. Dan remained rooted to his spot. “What can I get you?” As he asked, Brig was already reaching for a glass and a bottle of Kentucky bourbon. The patron was a regular who always ordered the same thing, two shots of bourbon to clear out the dirt and dust from the mine as he made his way home.
The two shots were poured and placed in front of the man. Brig placed the stopper back in the bottle and returned it to it’s proper place. “Dan, you need something too?”
“No,” Dan said finally breaking out of his revelry. “I’m going to go catch some sleep. You are all set here. Wake me if the lunch crowd gets to be more than you can handle. Otherwise don’t wake me until you are headed out for the afternoon.” With that the big man made his way to his chambers.
With that, Brig knew that at least for the time being he still had a job and had the trust and friendship of Dan Reilly. He worried that he would be able to sway the sheriff into staying in his corner but he didn’t worry that much. Sheriff Brown is a cagey fellow and he already knew that I was more than I seemed. Pinning my real name on me shouldn’t change his opinion of me that much. Swaying Emmalou to trust me, well, that may be nigh on impossible.
A second patron pushed open the door and made his way up to the counter, another regular, and Brig gave the newcomer an inviting smile. “What can I get ya?”