This. Is. The. End…
(Need a reminder on how we got here? Prior chapters can be found here.)
Brig and Emmalou stuck around for the funeral. They both wept as their friend was laid to rest. They held hands through the whole service and they both spoke a few words. Emmalou talked about the man who had befriended her when she had first come to town and had helped her regain confidence in herself and her neighbors, to not jump at every shadow. Brig talked about how Sheriff Cole Brown had seen something in him worth saving and had gone through the effort to sober him up when some many others before him wouldn’t have put forth the effort, they wouldn’t have cared what became of el borracho. He apologized for bringing trouble to Gunnison. He would carry the shame and pain of that for the rest of his life.
Mrs. Sorensen wore all black, a long veil covered her face, and while she didn’t cry openly it was obvious from her red eyes and strained features that she had been. She didn’t say anything at the service, whether that was because she had nothing to say or couldn’t say what she wanted to could only be guessed at. Brig thought it was probably a little of both. After Brig finished talking, she stepped forward and placed a single rose across the top of Cole’s unadorned coffin. Then she turned and walked away. There was supper to think about and a house to tidy up. Life goes on, even when it doesn’t for some.
Dan ended up closing the Gunnison Inn a few weeks later. He’d had enough of the late nights, the drunkenness, and the shenanigans of his regulars. The big man had finally come to the conclusion that even the peaceful town of Gunnison had plenty of bad elements in it. He no longer wanted to be part of that. He no longer wanted to provide the fuel that was so often the spark on the underlying fire within the troublemakers, the drogues, the ruffians. He took up the vacant position of Sheriff, by popular vote of the people, and ended up a fine lawman. Fair and even tempered, the people were happy to have them wearing the star.
They’d offered the job to Brig but the job didn’t interest him at all. He already had enough of a target on his back, he didn’t need to put one, star shaped or not, on his front as well. Besides, he couldn’t stay in Gunnison after Cole’s death. If he hadn’t already made up his mind to move on that would have made it up for him. The pain of having lost another friend because of who he was would have been too great for him to stick around. He’d been beaten, stabbed, and shot in the course of his life, and none of those could compare to the pain of guilt he carried around with him at all times. No, he had to leave.
Emmalou packed up a few of her possessions, only taking what she needed for the road, and the two of them left the day after the funeral. They had talked about heading west to try and find a place where the name “Brig Coyle” may not have been yet uttered, where he could use his name and be anonymous at the same time. However, since the big railroads were all back east, they figured he had the best shot of getting a job for one of them, a job that wouldn’t include the need for a gun, if they went that direction. They boarded the train with tickets made out to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, a gift from the local train depot’s man in charge: a new name to go with their new adventure together.
They rode side by side, hand in hand, looking out the window as the lush valley farmland turned into the rocky mountain terrain. The sun shone down and illuminated every growing thing small and large. The greens were brilliant in their contrast to the stark mountains behind them. The crags and peaks stood out in breath taking relief. The day was beautiful, just as the hope they had for the future was beautiful.
Brig and Emmalou were both nervous about the journey they were taking. They were afraid of what would happen in the days, weeks and years to come. Would someone figure out who Mr. Johnson really was? Would they find work? Would they grow apart or closer together? As scary as the unknown was, it was also exciting. They both felt the pull of the possibilities tugging at their heart strings. What wonders would they see? Where would they end up? Would they start a family?
The train carried them down the tracks, the whistle blew away their worries, and they charged towards the horizon, towards their future, towards the countless adventures that could be waiting at each depot and town they passed. Emmalou squeezed Brig’s hand as they continued to gaze out the window and see the world blur by. Brig squeezed her hand right back.
I reckon it was so.
I hope you have enjoyed this journey as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’d love to hear from you: Did you like it? What could have made it better for you? What would you like to see me write about next?
We came a long way from the silly tongue-in-cheek characters this started with, didn’t we? That wasn’t my intent. I had wanted to keep the whole story as a comedy. However, as is always the case, I just wrote and the words took me where they wanted to go.