Would you believe me if I said that I’d finished? This isn’t the last chapter so don’t freak out, but the story is done… 53 chapters in total. A beginning and an end. How do you think it all turns out?
(All prior chapters can be found here.)
The next few days passed without incident.
That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And that always seems to be followed with something important and story changing or that could altogether be described as an incident. Well, that’s not the case this time. After those first few days passing without incident, a few days after that also passed without incident.
Meals were delivered, conversations were had, Cole made sure Brig and Emmalou had plenty of opportunity to talk in private during which time Brig always found at least one chance to flatter or compliment Miss Marsch. She blushed each time but after a few days she was able to hold his gaze afterwards.
Edward Sans foot recovered sufficiently for him to return to the jailhouse, retrieve his revolver and then make his way back out to the Blunt spread. As he holstered his weapon, which was unloaded, he didn’t apologize to Brig but he did look him up and down once and then slightly, ever so slightly, incline his head in the direction of the gunslinger. It was a sign of respect and, begrudging or not, it meant that Ed didn’t plan on trying to make trouble for Brig anymore.
For his part, the one-eyed gunslinger didn’t actually believe that a single wound would get Ed off his case forever. Once the cow puncher got to feeling better and had a few drinks in his system again, Brig was certain Ed would talk himself back into a frenzy and come back to town looking for more trouble. Brig knew this with a certainty because he understood the type of man that Edward Sans was. He understood because he had once been very similar: head strong and determined to take no gruff from anyone.
The only difference of course was that Brig wasn’t a coward and had always faced his challenges straight up (more or less), while Ed was more likely to scheme and connive and coerce his revenge and retribution. Even though the man was a coward that actually made him more dangerous than the gunslinger and Brig would always keep a wary eye out for the man in the future. However, in this story, he has made his last appearance.
Of the two gun men who had come to fight and kill Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, there had been no sign. Which was a relief to Brig, Cole and Emmalou while also a cause for concern. Without the gunmen about town they didn’t have to worry about them devising a way to set up a fight but that also left open the questions of if and when they would return, what they were planning, and so forth. The unknown of it all was quite disconcerting.
Though, there had been no “incident” in those days it should be at least noted that Brig grew stir crazy and was ready to be released from his cell. The term of his made up sentences rapidly approached and Cole, though leery, was also ready to spring the man and with no new reasons, real or feigned, to hold him they decided it was time for Brig to go free.
It was late afternoon when Brig stepped out of the jailhouse onto the boardwalk. Cole stood to his left and Emmalou stood to his right and the three of them, as one looked first one way the length of the street and then turned and looked the other way. Everything seemed as it should be so Cole and Brig shook hands and then the gunslinger and Miss Marsch made their way down the street towards Mrs. Sorensen’s where Brig had a real bed waiting for him and the possibility of eating a meal at a table again.
Emmalou wasn’t going to stay for dinner but she walked Brig all the way to Mrs. Sorensen’s anyway. Nothing passed between them on the short walk. Brig was enthralled by breathing the free air again and seeing the sights and smelling the smells of the city he had missed during his residence at the jailhouse. Emmalou was too engrossed in her worries and about what the coming days would hold to be able to initiate or sustain any conversation.
Once they had reached their destination, they stood looking at each for a moment at the base of the wooden stairs the led up to the expansive front porch. Then Emmalou smiled at Brig and turned to walk away. He reached out and halted her progress by placing his hand on her shoulder. It was the first time he had touched her in such a way and he immediately removed his hand. The action had the desired affect though and she stopped and turned enough to face him again.
“I just wanted to thank you again, Miss Marsch, for the meals, and the conversations, and… and the friendship you’ve shown me. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”
She smiled at him again, small but mischievous and her brilliant eyes sparkled in the light of the setting sun. She radiated with youth and vitality. Every aspect of her was beautiful and complex and seemingly more beautiful because of the complexities. Brig’s hand fell to his side. He was helpless to do anything but admire the gorgeous woman in front of him, captured completely by her smile.
She turned and took two steps before stopping again, this time without Brig’s intervention.
“And, please, call me Emmalou.”
Then she walked away without stopping, without further comment and without looking back. Brig turned to the west, towards the sight of the sun sliding behind the horizon, and he bathed in the world around him. He had never felt as exultant as he did in that moment. He had never felt so “right.” He was invincible again, the whole world made sense, all past fears and anguish were vanquished from his mind, and the future could only hold good things.
He stayed there, unmoving, lost in the moment until he heard the calls from inside Mrs. Sorensen’s that dinner was ready and then he bounded up the stairs two at a time and made his way to the kitchen to see if there were any chores he could do to make himself of service again.
There were plenty.