Chapter 32

31 chapters have come and gone and you can find all of that silliness right here.  I wonder what happens this week?  Only one way to find out…

……….

Cole returned to the jail after evening had started to settle upon the Gunnison Valley.  The sun had fallen most of the way behind the mountainous peaks in the west and where its glow did filter through in splotches and swathes across the earth the light shimmered and danced playfully until one by one the lighted areas dimmed and then disappeared altogether.  Sheriff Brown took his time strolling back from Mrs. Sorensen’s to enjoy the view.  Brig, alone in his cell, hadn’t moved from his seated spot on the wooden cot.

Don’t feel too sorry for him though.  Throughout the many careers and phases of his life he had seen the spirited lights of a mountain sunset several times before.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to, that may be something you should look into.

Mrs. Sorensen had cooked a hearty beef stew with large chunks of carrots, celery and potatoes and while helping her do the dishes Cole spooned out a portion to bring back to the jail for Brig.  With the door securely locked again and after a quick trip around the place to get the oil lamps lit in the waning light Cole presented the dinner offering to Brig.

There was a dark circle under Brig’s good eye, which was also blood shot, but Cole passed the bowl through the bars of the cell without a word on that subject.  The sheriff hadn’t lived the life of a saint either but he couldn’t even begin to fathom the demons that must trail along behind his new friend.  If anything, the telltale signs of strong emotions made it that much more apparent that Brig Coyle wasn’t the monster most of the stories made him out to be.

Brig grabbed the bowl and mumbled a “thanks,” his voice raspy and raw, as he started to shovel the food into his mouth and Cole returned to his chair and leaned back to raise his boots onto the desk in front of him.  When Brig finished off the stew and placed the bowl and spoon on the floor outside his cell Cole spoke up, “Want to hear a funny story?”

Brig wasn’t sure that he did, especially since there wasn’t any humor in the sheriff’s voice but responded with his approval for Cole to proceed anyway, “I guess…”

“I saw Ed Sans riding back into town on my way over to Mrs. Sorensen’s.”

Brig couldn’t help himself, he laughed.  Then when he had almost got the laughing under control he lost it and laughed some more, bowled forward, hands on his knees, struggling for air.  Cole hadn’t expected Brig to actually think it was funny and was too surprised by Brig’s reactions to think of anything else to say.  He just sat at his desk and watched his prison guest compose himself.

Finally, Brig calmed down enough to get out a few words.  His cheeks were flushed and the sentences were broken as he struggled to get air back into his system.  “So, just to sum up my current situation, I’ve got two gun men in town looking to draw me into a fight or otherwise see the end of me and now that no-good cow puncher Ed is also back in town?  It will only be a matter of time before he gets his crew together and they come looking for me too.  He may not have the same end in mind as the other two, but his isn’t far off either I bet.”

“Don’t forget,” Sheriff Brown interjected, “you’ve also been charged with assaulting an officer of the law and disturbing the town’s peace and you’ve been locked up on those charges.”

“How could I forget,” the jailed man replied as he gripped the bars of his cell in his two clenched fists.  “I’ve had the quite the bad day.”

“I’m sure you’ve seen worse.”  There was a smile in Cole’s eyes that mirrored the one on his lips.

“You aren’t wrong.”  Brig released his grip on the cell bars and stepped back to sit heavily on his wooden cot.  The boards creaked under the strain.  Brig had a momentary vision of the boards snapping and his but falling through to land unkindly on the floor and he chuckled to himself.  Biting his bottom lip he pushed those thoughts away and concentrated on what needed to be done.  His gaze pierced the floor.  He racked his brain but couldn’t see any good solutions.  Without looking up he asked, “You don’t happen to have another plan, do you?”

“Another one?  No.  But, I don’t think you should abandon our previous plan quite yet.”

That got Brig’s attention.  His head swiveled up and his good eye leveled on the sheriff.  He didn’t bother asking because he could tell that Cole was serious.  Brig rolled his eye and shook his head.  With two guns the plan was a long shot.  With two guns and untold others who may or may not be good with guns there is just no way it will work.

Then again, how much worse could my odds really be?  If they were already bad, what difference does it make if we nudge them a little further against my favor?  In poker terms it’s like holding 2 – 7 off suit instead of holding 2 – 8 off suit.  Neither are good hands.  Can’t fold now though, I have to play them…  Still, I don’t like it.

“When are we going to do this?”

Sheriff Brown pondered the question for a minute and then replied, “Let’s wait a couple days and see what happens.  Maybe Ed will doing something stupid and wind up in jail or buried in Boot Hill and take himself out of the equation.  Maybe the gun hands will grow tired of waiting and move on.  Other than being cramped in that sell it isn’t hurting anyone to have us wait for a bit.”

“Fair enough.  I would like to reiterate that I’m not at all happy about this plan of yours.”

“Duly noted and maybe we’ll come up with something better while we wait on the others to see if they blink first.  Or maybe Miss Marsch will come up with something.  She’s pretty trig.”

“You should see what you can find out about the two gun men over the next couple of days too.  Maybe if they’re forced to stick around and wait us out you’ll have time to dig up some useful dirt on them.”

“You got it.”

After that the two men let the sounds of the evening filtering in through the shuttered windows and locked door fill the silence.  It had been a long day, the first of many most likely, and they each got lost in their own thoughts on the matter.  The heat of the day disappeared with the sun and it turned into a pleasant night.  It wasn’t much of a consolation but it was something.

I wonder what I would have done in this situation before Cheyenne.  Brig smirked.  It wouldn’t have gotten this far.  Ed either would have been too scared of me to start trouble or would have tested me, to his peril, with the aid some liquid courage.  The two gun men wouldn’t have gotten out of the bar especially since they didn’t know me on sight.  I would have had some fun with them. 

 But, I’m not that man anymore.  I don’t want to be anyway.  I guess who I am really is yet to be determined.  Why won’t they all just leave me alone?  He sighed, he frowned, he let go.  No use worrying about what’s coming down tomorrow’s tracks.

“Hey, do you have a chess board or something?”

Brig’s question startled Sheriff Brown out of his revelry.  His feet came off the desk, and he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees.  It took him a moment to answer because had to concentrate to let his mind grasp Brig’s question.  Since he hadn’t been expecting his guest to say anything he hadn’t been ready to hear anything that might be said.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s happened to us all.

“I don’t have a chess board,” he responded once he had remembered the question, “but I do have a deck of cards.”

“What are we going to use for chips?”

“Matchsticks?”

“Nope.”

“Hand-rolled cigarettes?”

“Nope.”

Sheriff Brown thought for a moment and then, with a grin, said, “Bottle caps?”

“Why not.”

Cole produced a small pile of bottle caps he had been collecting, pulled the cards out of a drawer in his desk, and moved his chair next to Brig’s cell.  They played long into the night, well past the time the sounds from outside had become nothing more than the lonely breeze flowing through the empty streets and the oil lamps had started to flicker as their reservoirs went dry.  As they played they added a few more “chips” to their stacks by tossing back a few beers Cole still had stashed away in his desk.

He had a bottle of whiskey stashed in his desk too but he left it where it was for obvious reasons.

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