Chapter 36

What do you do all week while waiting for the next installment of Brig awesomeness?  I procrastinate on writing more of it… that’s what I do.  Here’s what I’ve already done though, so that’s at least something.

…..

Not as scheduled, Ed came back the following morning.

He’d spent the night carousing with his cronies, drinking liquid courage, and talking himself into a frenzy.  At first, he’d just been happy to be walking away from the jail.  Ed was certain that under other circumstances he would have either been killed by the man claiming to be Brig or jailed by the Sheriff or vice versa – it was all a bit muddled up in his head.  Then, as the booze had begun to ease away his fears, he’d gotten very angry.

“How dare they make a fool out of me like that.  They have no right!  There’s no way that drunkard is the legendary gun man.”

His cronies, those who had been around town more than he had in the preceding days passed on the information that the man had been posing as Brig Coyle while working in the Gunnison Inn for several days, but rather than see that as evidence that the man may in fact be the gunslinger of repute, Ed saw that as further evidence of some grand scheme to get a laugh at his expense.

Quite the elaborate charade just to get a laugh, don’t you think?  Perhaps Ed was a bit paranoid.  The amount of alcohol he continued to dump into his system as the night progressed just fueled that line of thinking until, as the sun was gracing the eastern sky in a soft glow heralding the coming morning, he talked himself, and his cronies, into marching down the street to confront the sheriff.

The four men who followed him weren’t entirely sure what they were going to do once they got to the jailhouse, but they trusted that Ed had a plan.  In truth, Ed had no idea what he was going to do or say once he was standing in front of Cole but he figured he’d come up with something on the spot.

The truth, for starters, he decided as he stepped onto the wooden walkway in front of the jailhouse door.  Then maybe I’ll take off my gun and whoop the sheriff in a good old fashioned throw down.  After I’ve beaten Cole, I’ll let myself into el borracho’s cell and beat him down too.  The spirits made him feel invincible and convinced him he’d be able to overcome any challenge.

Most of you would be lying if you said that drinking hadn’t given you that same over inflated confidence at some point in your life.  Ten feet tall, ready for anything, bring it on world… you know what I’m talking about.

Ed Sans strode forward, in his head he strode and in reality he half stumbled, across the wooden walkway and, smiling, he knocked on door.  “Sheriff Brown, I’ll be having words with you.”

Ed quickly looked around him and his confidence grew even stronger, surrounded as he was by his faithful companions, who he knew would back his play whatever happened.  They wouldn’t, of course, but he certainly thought they would.

Seconds passed but to Ed and his cadre of backers it seemed like minutes.  Impatient, Ed knocked again, louder and felt a dull pain the knuckles of his right hand.  He looked and saw that his hand was red from the contact but the pain quickly subsided and so he determined he was alright and yelled out again, “Sheriff, I’ll be having words with you.”

“You already said that,” one of his cronies reminded him.

“Shut up.  I know I did.  I repeated myself for emphasis.”  Ed scowled at his group, not entirely sure which one had spoken, he made sure he let his disapproving gaze linger on each of them before turning back to the door.  His smile did not return.  He was tired of waiting.  The cool pre-dawn air was starting to sober him up and his confidence was turning into frustration.

What is taking so long?  Why hasn’t he answered the door?  He already made me look like a fool once and now he is doing it again: making me stand here like a jackass pounding on his door.  Well, I’ll show him I’m not someone to trifle with.  I’m not going to be his fool!

Ed drew his revolver from its holster on his right hip and aimed it at the floorboards where the walkway ran up against the door.

I know what you are thinking, and yes, he is that big of a fool.  His cronies were thinking that too and they all took a step backwards.  If I’d been standing there, I would have done the same too.

“Cole, I’m beginning to lose my patience.  Come on out now.  I won’t ask again.”  Ed cocked the hammer back on his weapon.  He closed his eyes to try and visualize where each of the locks on the door were located so he could shoot them out to get the door to swing open freely but having his eyes closed made him a little wobbly on his feet and he immediately opened them again.  The opened even wider, in terror, as he heard a gun cock behind him.  He, and his four cronies, turned in unison to face Cole standing on the street a few feet off to their left, gun cocked and aimed at Ed.

“I’m not sure what it is your after, Ed, but I’d like to suggest you ease back that hammer and holster your weapon.”

Ed didn’t move.  He knew the odds were against him but his anger was overpowering all other thoughts and he didn’t want to back down.  Along with the coursing anger was a large amount of alcohol induced confusion.  He didn’t understand what exactly was going on, how the sheriff wasn’t in the jailhouse, and needed to buy himself some time to figure out what to do next.  Holstering my gun is the same as giving up, being made a fool of again, and I’m not willing to do that.  So, instead, Ed stared at the sheriff with a look he believed to be intimidating but actually came across as that of drunken confusion and terror.

“Ed, I’m not fooling around here, put your gun away.”

The Sheriff shouldn’t have used any word that sounded like “fool.”  Ed cringed at it, found a new resolve and determination, and he twisted to face the sheriff.   As he swung around he fired his gun.  Unfortunately, in his haste and due to his drunken state he forgot to actually raise his arm and aim at Cole.  The bullet tore through his right boot.  Pain coursed through his foot, radiating up his leg, through his gut and torso and down his gun arm until his fingers went numb and he dropped his gun.

As the iron hit the wooden planks, Ed’s four cronies took to their heels, not even bothering to see if their ring leader needed help before they showed their yellow bellies.

Cole sighed, holstered his revolver, walked over to the dropped gun, opened the canister, dropped the five remaining slugs into the palm of his right hand, spun the chamber shut, stuck the gun in his belt and pocketed the bullets.  Then saying “Come on Ed,” he wrapped his left arm around the shoulders of the injured man and helped him hop down the street and over a few blocks to where the town doctor lived.

The pain had finished the job of sobering up Ed, and though the pain also made him want nothing more than to drink a whole lot more he went along peacefully.  The anger subsided as the pain left room for nothing else.  As they walked, and hopped, up the path to the front door Ed said, “I sure am sorry I came knocking on your door like that Cole.  I guess I let the booze get the better of me.”

Sheriff Brown said nothing in response.  Doctor Lawrence Shaw, a genial grey haired old timer, was halfway out his door as the sheriff and Ed walked onto his porch.  He’d heard the single shot and had come out to see if his services were needed.  He ushered the two men back inside and got Ed situated on his examination table.

Cole watched the doctor remove Ed’s boot as gently as could be down, and then cut away the sock underneath to expose a gash on the outside of the cow puncher’s foot where the bullet had created a small crease.  It was bleeding and Cole had no doubt it was a painful wound, but it wasn’t life threatening, no bones had been broken or major arteries severed, and it would just require some stitches and a few days rest before Ed would be up and moving again.

The sheriff had seen as much as he needed to.  By rights he could have arrested Ed on a few different charges for his outburst that morning but he decided the wound was punishment enough.  However, before exiting the exam room Cole bent down so his face was inches away from Ed’s and said, “I’m keeping your gun for now.  When you are back on your feet you can come and collect it, but then I think it’d probably best if you left town for a few days, again.”

At that moment Doctor Shaw prodded the wound to clean out any pieces of boot or sock that may have traveled through the crease with the slug and Ed’s face contorted in anguish.  Cole didn’t wait around for a response.

As he exited the Doctor’s home the sun peaked over the eastern horizon and flooded the Gunnison Valley in warm light.  Cole smiled as he took in the natural beauty of the day and whistled a happy little tune as he made his way over to Miss Marsch’s.  I think it’s going to be quite a nice day today.

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