Another week, another chapter in the story of Brig Coyle, the gunslinger. The previous 32 chapters can be found here should you need a refresher.
The two gun men showed up at the jail house the next morning. Well, it wasn’t really morning, but it felt like morning to the Sheriff and Brig after playing cards for half the night. I guess, if you want to get technical, it was before noon so you could say it was still morning, but the sun had been up for several hours and none of the men involved in the situation would have considered it “morning.” For Brig, who had grown accustomed to waking before the sun rose each day to head to work, it was rapidly approaching mid-day and he was a little embarrassed to have slept so much of the day away.
Sheriff Brown was also a little embarrassed to be roused for his rest by the pounding on the door. He had slept through their boots thumping down on the wooden walk way as they approached. It was a good thing he had remembered to lock the door the night before but he still didn’t like being cut unawares.
“Who’s there?” He called out, rubbing the sleep from his eyes with the palms of his hand. When there was no immediate answer he called out again, “Who’s there?” The lack of an immediate response helped him wake up faster and he was alert and on his feet as he finished asking the question the second time.
“We just want to talk.”
In his cell, Brig had also risen and when Cole glanced his way he shrugged his shoulders implying it was Cole’s play.
Cole glanced over at the locked door. His right hand rested on the butt of his Colt and he absent mindedly flicked off the hammer strap and wiggled the revolver to loosen the holsters grip on it. Then he stepped up to the door, thought better of that, and stepped off to one side where the thicker wood in the walls would be more likely to stop a bullet than the door.
“Who is ‘we?’”
Cole heard two men talking in hushed tones on the other side of the door. From his cell, Brig strained his ears but didn’t hear any of it. Not surprising considering Cole, standing only a few feet away, didn’t pick up more than a word or two of their conversation. Those words, “the” and “right,” told him very little about what they were discussing.
“Are names aren’t really important, there is no way you can know if we’ve given you are true names or not anyway, and even if we did you won’t have heard of us. But, you know who we are.”
I reckon so.
“Okay, you want to talk, that’s fine. Remove your gun belts, hold them out in front of you, and walk forward until they are pressed against the door. When I hear the butts of your guns thump against the wood I’ll open the door and let you in. How does that sound?”
There was another round of quiet discussion from the other side of the door. Once again Cole didn’t hear anything of value. Neither did Brig, who was still standing in his cell, hands curled around two of the bars, good eye peering intently at the door.
“Okay, we’re taking off our guns.”
The brief sounds of metal on metal as the belts were unbuckled and then leather creaking were followed shortly by heavy booted steps on the wooden planks and the solid percussion sound of the gun butts coming into contact with the wooden door: a truly unmistakable sound.
Hopefully, truly unmistakable.
Sheriff Brown drew his revolver with his right hand and reached across with his left to start undoing the various locks on the door. He didn’t move from his position though, if they kick open the door after I disengage the last lock and try to rush me I’m not going to be caught standing in their path. As he released the last lock, a sliding chain mechanism, he hesitated to see if they were going to do anything and then opened the door slowly.
He could see their gun belts pressed against the door after less than an inch and that released a bit of tension from the situation. He eased the door open a little faster and allowed the two men to enter, with their gun belts still held out in front of them. Once they were in, without turning his back on the men, he shut the door and engaged the locks again.
“You can put your guns on my desk. You’ll get them back when we are done talking.”
The two men complied but they only had eyes for Brig. A mixture of fear, anger, and disbelief, their emotions were very easy to read. Brig smiled at them, his one eye dancing with laughter, and their expressions turned into matching scowls. They must be new to this business or they would be better at hiding their emotions.
With their backs to Cole he missed their expressions but he saw Brig’s smile and that helped him relax even more. They placed their gun belts and his desk and took a step away without having to be asked. Sheriff Brown circled around to the other side, dragged the gun belts closer to him, slipped his gun back in its holster and sat down. ”So, what do you want to talk about?”
The slightly taller of the two tore his gaze from Brig and with a set jaw and matter-of-fact tone said, “We’re here to pay Brig Coyle’s fines for him. You tell us what he owes, we’ll cover it and then you will let him go.”
To say that Brig and Cole were surprised would be an understatement. Not only had they not planned for this scenario they hadn’t even discussed it as a possibility. They are going to pay so they can risk their lives and fight him? That’s absurd. Though, thought Cole with the mind of a peace keeping Sheriff, it makes me wonder where they got the money they are so willing to part with. Then again, thought Cole with the mind of an elected official Sheriff, I could probably milk some extra cash out of them and use it for some much needed repairs.
Brig’s smile didn’t budge.
I believe he is actually enjoying this. How annoying. Cole was going to have to improvise and he wasn’t happy about it. He could either get the cash from them that actually correlate to fines for the crimes Brig was accused of or he could make a number and see how much he could get out of the two gun men and then release Brig and set their plan into motion. Or he could tell them that since Brig had admitted his crimes he had to serve out his sentence and there were no fines or fees that could be paid to get him released early.
As Cole considered his options the two men were began to grow impatient and he saw their eyes flick to their guns more than once. He needed to stall them while he thought about the best course of action.
“Why would you want to get Brig released? Are you friends of his?”
The two men looked at each other, looked at Brig, looked back at each other and then looked back to Cole. It was a rather humorous display and, though Brig’s face remained unchanged, Cole couldn’t help but smirk. The gun men’s moods did not improve.
“No, he isn’t a friend of ours but we don’t want to see him rotting away in your jail either. Why is it any of your concern if he is a friend of ours or not?”
Cole raised his eyebrows and folded his arms across his chest. “Well, I’ve got a known gun man in there, a dangerous man, and I think it would be remiss of me not to know if he had friends in town who may also be known gun men and dangerous.”
They had no response to that beyond a few blinks and a dumbfounded stare.
Cole finally understood why Brig had been smiling since the two men had walked in, amateurs. “As you’ve already stated when you wouldn’t give me names to go with your faces, there is nothing you can say that I can really believe since I ‘know who you are.’ I find myself, therefore, reluctant to think that your intentions are solely neighborly.
“As it so happens, Mr. Coyle has already admitted to the crimes and has agreed to serve out his sentencing here so I couldn’t take your money and release him even if I wanted to and to tell you the truth I wouldn’t want to take your money. It would leave a bad taste in my mouth coming from such as you. I know who you are, for sure, and that means I know your intentions too. Frankly, I don’t appreciate your thinly veiled attempt at bribing me.”
Their faces grew redder and redder with embarrassment and anger as the sheriff talked. Cole could see the tall one judging the distance to his gun and whether or not he could make it. Though Cole was fairly certain he wasn’t in any danger he didn’t feel the need to tempt fate either so he abruptly stood sending the two men stuttering back a step out of surprise.
“Our conversation has come to end. I’ll show you out.” Cole reached down and ran his left arm through the open loops of the gun belts, collecting them in the crook of his arm, and hooked the thumb of his right hand through the belt just in front of his holstered Colt.
“Now wait a minute Sheriff,” the tall one spoke up again. The shorter one saw the position of Cole’s gun hand and, less inclined to stick around, had already started for the door when his partner’s words stopped him. The tall one held out his hands in front of him, “Hold on, hold on.”
Everyone stopped and waited. All of the tension from early was back in the room. Brig’s eye was working furiously to envelop every last detail of the scene. Cole was watching for the sudden movement towards a hidden weapon. The shorter of the two gun men was watching his partner and silently praying he wouldn’t do anything foolish. The taller one was trying to come up with the magic words that would spring Brig from his cell.
“Think this through, sheriff. This is the easy way to do this and we won’t be spreading it around town that you got any money from us. Or, if you don’t want our money, we’d be happy to help you make it look like he escaped. One way or another we will be coming for him and you don’t want to get caught between us.
Fool, thought Brig.
Crap, thought the shorter one.
“Are you threatening me,” asked Cole. His right hand moved smoothly back and grasped the butt of his revolver. He didn’t pull it though because he knew he didn’t need to.
The short one threw up his arms, “We’re leaving.” He grabbed his taller partner and marched him to the door where he fumbled with the myriad of locks before finally getting them undone and swinging the door open. The short one pushed the other one out the door and started him across the street before turning back at the edge of the boardwalk. His eyes went wide when he saw Cole standing in the doorway. He hadn’t heard the Sheriff follow them to the door.
Cole considered hanging on to their guns. They had threatened him and it was within his rights to hold their weapons for a cooling off period but he hoped that he had scared them enough that if he gave them back their guns they would ride on and they would be the end of it. Well, other than Ed. So, he tossed them out to the short one with a stern glare. It was a look he had used many times to back someone down from a fight. Then he closed the door without taking his hand off his gun or taking his eyes off the man.
When the door was shut he secured it again, stepped back to his desk, and then finally let his right hand relax.
“That was entertaining,” Brig said from his cell. His smile remained unchanged.
“Not as entertaining as it would have been if the tall one had gone for the gun he had hidden under his shirt.”
Brig was impressed that Cole had seen that and didn’t bother mentioning the revolver the shorter one had tucked in his left boot. He will have seen that one too. A blind man would have seen it.
Brig let his gaze wander from Cole to the cracks of light seeping in through the shuttered windows. ”I know it’s late, but what’s for breakfast around here?”