Let’s see what our favorite gunslinger is up to this week, shall we? Yes. Yes, we shall.
If you need to catch up on the first 30 chapters this would be a good place to start.
Cole left shortly after they had agreed, for the most part, on the new plan to head over to Mrs. Sorensen’s. He once again locked the jailhouse door from the outside so no one could enter while he was away. Brig returned to his half seated and half lying position on his wooden cot in the interim.
Brig was not happy about the plan, figuring it would most likely be the death of him, but until they could think of something better it did at least provide the opportunity for a favorable outcome. It is very risky though. Very, very risky… Plus, even if it works out the way we hope it will that doesn’t mean more men won’t come gunning for me in the future. It is still just a temporary solution.
Maybe I should just strap on a gun again and try my luck? If I’m going to be shot at it is nice to know that I can test my hand and if I’m still standing at the end then at least I won’t have to worry about the same people coming after me more than once.
If I am still as good as I used to be maybe it will scare people enough to leave me alone.
Brig sighed, shook his head, and then looked into the rafters above his cell. The light from the oil lamps flickered and danced across the ceiling. Being good only ever seemed to bring more people knocking on my door. If my prowess didn’t scare them away before why would it now?
It wouldn’t. They’d come rolling in on the rails, from all over, wanting to test their speed against Brig Coyle, the gunslinger. The older ones who have out lived the adrenaline rush of it will show up out of sheer curiosity more than anything else. Those that have been in the game for a short while will want to test me to get their fix, get that hit of adrenaline they’ve become addicted to. The younger ones will want to make their name off of out drawing me to live the glamorous life they think will be waiting for them when they do.
That’s how it all happened before. Perhaps one day I’ll hear draw and see a gun clearing a holster out of the corner of my eye, and I’ll turn, draw, and fire in one smooth motion because that’s what I’ve been honed to do over the years and sighted down the length of my barrel I’ll see a child bleeding, dying, dead in the street. Just like before…
How could I have known the kid would draw on me? I couldn’t. I would have never suspected it.
Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, the drunk, the murderer of men, women and children, the bar tender, the cow puncher, the wanderer, the drifter, the scourge of the Earth, wept as he sat alone in Sheriff Brown’s jailhouse. He cried quietly, gut wrenching sobs and anguished cries didn’t play a part, and though tears did trickle down his face they weren’t streaming en masse. He didn’t cry for all the people he had killed over the years. He didn’t even cry for the kid.
If he had to do it all over again he would have done the same. The gun was real enough. The kid’s intent was real enough and as we’ve already covered Brig Coyle is not the type to sacrifice his life willingly. He’s a fighter and fights for his life as each of us has the right to do though few seldom have to do so as he has.
Brig wept because of the loneliness he had known since he had first been dubbed “the gunslinger.” He wept because of the choices for his life that had been taken from him through the actions of others and the choices in his life that he had taken away from himself the first time he strapped a gun to his hip.
Sorry, there is nothing funny about any of this.
Perhaps that’s why he had crawled into a bottle afterwards. Only Brig knows the truth of that.
Though, I will let you in on a little secret, one that Brig himself had mostly forgotten. When he was younger and first ventured forth from his parent’s house to make his way in the world, Brig Coyle had wanted to be a conductor. He loved trains still but only in the deepest depths of his mind and heart did he remember that. The gunplay throughout his life had scarred and tarnished everything closer to the surface.
It was in pursuit of a career riding the rails that had set him upon his current path. He needed experience to work his way up through the ranks and one day achieve his dream and so he had taken a job working on the coal cart shoveling the black chunks into the burning furnace. The staff had been short on guards one night, and as the coal cart was in close proximity to the engine (obviously) he strapped on a gun to take on that responsibility as well.
That night young Brig gunned down a known man, someone who had “the gunslinger” following their name, during the course of preventing a band of outlaws from getting the train to stop so they could rob it. At first the shooting changed nothing, but it didn’t take long for another gunslinger to show up and test out the kid who had gunned down “so and so, the gunslinger” from the botched train job. After that things seemed to spiral out of control.
The train company fired Brig shortly thereafter because they didn’t want the added attention they’d get for employing people who had reputations like the one Brig was rapidly receiving. The young man bounced from job to job until he found himself riding shotgun for the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach running from St. Louis to San Francisco. He enjoyed getting to see the country and the job was good because it literally kept him on the move, but he could never outrun his name and people found him wherever the coach stopped.
In those early days he still held onto his dream of becoming a conductor, but as the miles piled up and the direction he had always seen his life going kept slipping further and further from his grasp he slowly set his dream aside. His life wasn’t all turmoil and strife of course. Just like any young man would be, he was fascinated by his own celebrity and used it to his advantage from time to time. He felt the adrenaline rush when he knew a fight was coming and the even greater sense of relief and joy and life when he was still standing after a fight. He never sought them out but he never backed down from one either.
He may not always have drawn second.
Over the years he lost sense of who he was. He wasn’t the boy he had been. He wasn’t the man he had thought he would be. He wasn’t the man that everyone thought he was. There was part of that man in him, but it wasn’t who he was. He no longer felt the adrenaline. He no longer felt fear or joy or much of anything else. He no longer cared what people thought of him and that was a very dangerous thing for a man with his skills.
He left the stagecoach job but kept on traveling. He learned how to play cards and made a fair living doing that for a time while bouncing from table to table and town to town. It never took long for someone to recognize him. After that it always took a bit longer for someone to show up and call him out. Afterwards, he’d pack up his meager possessions and move along. That routine went on for several years until he found himself in Cheyenne.
After gunning down the child Brig hadn’t left Cheyenne. He hadn’t even left the bar it had happened in. Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, had unbuckled his gun belt and placed it on the table, gone to the counter and order a bottle of whiskey. He downed the bottle.
In the moment he wasn’t necessarily trying to drown in the liquor, but if it had happened he wouldn’t have been surprised and he wouldn’t have been upset. As it was, he survived somehow and spent the next several weeks spending every dime he had on whiskey. He sold his guns. He sold his horse. He sold most of his clothes. Once his money was gone, Brig Coyle, the gunslinger no more, begged for the coins to buy a drink and so it was that el borracho was born.
People came looking for him but when they found el borracho instead they usually let him be. Some would spit on him in disgust and some would kick him for the fun of it. Some didn’t even believe that el borracho and Brig Coyle were one and the same. Who could blame them for that?
He was eventually thrown out of town for his drunkenness and related disorderly charges and he started jumping trains and traveling again. Awhile later he first heard the rumor of his death at the hands of someone trying to make a name for themselves. He laughed when he heard toasted the death of Brig Coyle with a shot of whiskey. That shot, toasted to his death, had tasted sweeter than any drink he’d had in weeks so he quickly had another, and another.
So it was that Brig had found himself in Gunnison and through some miracle had also found himself truly sober for the first time since Cheyenne. El borracho had been set aside and he had stepped forward as Brig Coyle once again. He wondered if he was destined to return to the life he had known as Brig previously. He wondered if he was just fooling himself to think that he could be someone different, someone who didn’t live by the gun, and someone who could stop traveling, have a family, and live again. And somewhere deep, so very deep, in his mind he wondered if he could ever find himself in the engine of a grand freighter chugging its way through the plains.
I’d pull the whistle and watch the birds scatter to the horizon.