the truth of it

gunnison day 3 028

We’d spent two days on the mountain already:  two wide open days, learning the trails, enjoying the adventure, testing our limits and taking it easy.  And then, on the third day, we found a new run, away from the main thoroughfare, that was perfect.  It had sections that forced us to practice our turning and improve our skills, and sections where we could relax.  Plus we were the only snowboarders on it so we could ride in huge arcs back and forth across the steepest sections without worrying about getting in anyone’s way.

We daydreamed about owning one of the cabins that dotted the backside of the resort.

We marveled that the beauty of the Rockies.

We wished our trip would never end.

The blue skies and clean air were a treat.  And while Crested Butte will always rank behind Mammoth as our favorite place to visit and go boarding, there was something magical about being in the Colorado Rockies.  Whenever I look at this picture (which is in rotation as one that I use for my desktop background both at home and at work), I feel that magic stirring within me and a longing for adventure grows anew.

When it calls, I must answer.


Since he is using one of my pictures, this is a quick little truthful write up for this week’s Once More with Feeling picture prompt.  Be on the the lookout for my next post which will use the same picture and be flash fiction.


Chapter 21

Howdy!  Old West days are here again… oh, how I wish they could stay, or at least show up more often.  Hmm, maybe if I can ever get around to finishing this book I can see about posting these more than once a week.  I’ve got some work to do.  In the meantime, enjoy this new chapter and if you need to catch up, you can find the previous 20 chapters here.


The rest of his morning passed without incident.  When his shift was up he roused Dan and went to see Sheriff Brown.  It’s better if it comes from me.  He was worried he might miss Emmalou if he didn’t head straight to Mrs. Sorensen’s but he had a feeling she wouldn’t show up for awhile if she showed up at all.  Besides, this is going to be a short conversation.  He either won’t care and I can go about my business, or he will care and he’ll escort me to the edge of town.

He found Cole at his desk, leaned back in his chair, boots propped up on the desk, and his hat pulled down over his eyes.  “Afternoon,” he said without moving.  He didn’t have to, who knew who it was, as we’ve covered before.

“Afternoon Sheriff, something I wanted to discuss with you if you’ve got a minute.”

“Not doing anything right now so you are in luck, take a seat, what can I do for you?”  The sheriff took his feet off the desk, repositioned his hat, sat up straight in his chair, and motioned to the chair across the desk from him.  “It’s not like I was sleeping anyway.”

Brig smiled, “You aren’t going to make me feel guilty about waking you. I know you weren’t sleeping.  I’m not sure you ever sleep.”

“I reckon you may be right about that.”  He had a mischievous grin.  “What’s on your mind?”

“Well, I wanted you to get the truth from me before you heard it from someone else and there isn’t really a good way to sugar coat this anyway so I’ll just come out with it.  I’m Brig Coyle.”

Cole leaned forward in his seat, elbows down on the desk, palms pressed together, eyebrows bunched together, “The Brig Coyle?”


“I thought you were dead?”

“Obviously, those rumors aren’t true.”

“And the rest of the rumors about you?”

“Some are true, others aren’t.”

“I reckon so,” he leaned back into his chair and studied the man seated across from him.  Brig Coyle, the one-eyed gunslinger, the greatest pistolero since Wild Bill, murderer and scourge of the earth in my town, how do I feel about that?  Or, is he just el borracho, another rehabilitating drunk?  He hasn’t shown any hint that he is the man the stories speak of.  Perhaps the booze changed him?  Perhaps whatever led him to the booze in the first place changed him?

“Well, thank you for telling me.  You haven’t done anything to make me want to run you out of town yet, and I hope that doesn’t change.  He kicked his boots back up on the desk and lowered his hat over his eyes again.  “Now, you got anything else for me or can I get back to my nap?”

“Well, I’m going to be meeting with Emmalou Marsch this afternoon.  She recognized me and called me out this morning.”

The sheriff tilted his hat back and lifted an eyebrow, suddenly very interested.

“I’m going to try and convince her I’m not the man from the stories anymore, if I ever was completely, and I’m just trying to start a peaceful life here.  If I can’t convince her to give me a chance to prove myself, I promised her I would move on before the trouble my name attracts comes calling.”

“You’ll probably have a better chance of getting her to listen to you if you aren’t wearing that sidearm.”

“It’s coming off the second I get back to Mrs. Sorensen’s.  Do you have any news on the Ed front?”

“I sent a rider out there last night as promised.  I haven’t heard back yet.  I should hear something by this evening and I’ll swing by Mrs. Sorensen’s and fill you in on my rounds later.”

Brig got up to leave and then stopped himself.  He rested his hand on the butt of the revolver at his hip and briefly considered what to do before making up his mind.  “You better hang on to this for me for the time being.  I don’t think I’ll need it right now.  I’ve made it a few years now without carrying a gun.  One more afternoon won’t see the end of me.  I’ll swing back by tomorrow on my way to work and pick it up.”

He unstrapped the tie-downs and unbuckled the belt, coiled it neatly, and handed it across the desk to the sheriff.  There was a moment as it traded hands where the sheriff sensed that Brig wasn’t going to in fact let go and then he was holding them alone.

Brig turned and was to the door when the sheriff chimed in again, “You better be careful with Emmalou, she’s a firecracker.”

The one-eyed gunslinger paused in the doorway, without turning back he said, “Thanks for the warning sheriff.  She did make quite the impression.”  Then the door was swinging shut and he had disappeared into the afternoon sun.

Sheriff Brown stared at the shut door.  Then he shut his eyes, re-positioned his hat pulling it down low to cover his eyes, leaned back into his seat into his resting position, and said “I reckon so.”

Chapter 20

Another Thursday is upon us pardners… and you know what that means, right?!  We step away from our modern lives and venture into the old west for another chapter out of my work in progress.

You can see all the previous chapters here.


The first weak rays of morning light forced their way through the east facing windows.  Brig donned his hat, and took a step towards Emmalou, his arms stretched in front of him, slightly splayed apart and his palms up in a universal gesture of peace and truce.  “Mam, this is no place for a lady to be, especially so early in the morning.  I don’t want anyone getting the wrong sort of impression about you.”

Emmalou blushed.  She hadn’t considered that her presence in a bar might start defamatory rumors.  She had been so intent upon her mission to see Mr. Coyle leave the town she had banished all other normal considerations.  Is he really concerned about my image, or is this some trick to make me think he has changed his ways?  How can I trust him?  How can I learn the truth of what is actually going on here?  How can I ever move on from the image of him I have seared in my mind?

There is so much sadness behind his eyes.  That has to be real, doesn’t it?  He can’t fake that, could he?

“I would be happy to try and dispel any concerns you have over my staying but perhaps we can find a more suitable time and place?  My shift ends a little after lunch.  We can meet at Mrs. Sorensen’s, enjoy some of her fine sun tea and chat out on her porch.  I’ll listen to your concerns and provide my answers as I can, and if I can’t either convince you that I have changed or that I deserve a chance to call Gunnison my home, then I will leave and never return.  Is that acceptable?”

She was momentarily lost, her mind was reeling, and she couldn’t get a thought to stay long enough to transfer it into words.  Her inquisition hadn’t gone at all like she had thought it would.  She nodded her head in consent, found the handle and was out into the morning light, not fleeing, but walking briskly towards her home.  At that moment she wasn’t sure if she would meet Brig that afternoon or what she was going to do but she was grateful to be out of the bar and headed home where she could clear her mind and think through the morning’s events uninterrupted, unencumbered, and without distraction.

Brig watched her go until the swinging door cut her off from view and then he immediately turned towards Dan.  The movement caught Reilly by surprise.  The big man recoiled a step until he noticed that Brig had kept his arms out in the “I mean you no harm” position.   He steadied himself and surveyed his employee with new eyes.

“I’m still the man you hired.  I’m a no-good drunk just trying to turn my life around.  I’m el borracho ever so much more than I am Brig Coyle.  Though who I was will always be a part of who I am, I promise I am not that man anymore.”

“I see that,” Dan replied.  “I see you clearly, but it will be hard to ignore the stories that go with your name.  It will be doubly hard for the people in this town to ignore those stories when they haven’t had the interaction with you that Cole and I have.  She is right.  The town is going to want you to leave.”

The tension relieved, Brig dropped his arms to his side.  “I know.   They always do.

“It’s not the first time I’ve tried to start over.  It’s not the first town I stumbled into drunk, tried to sober up only to be recognized and fall willingly back into the bottle as they chased me out of town.  I’ve been down these tracks before.  But, I don’t want to drown my memories in booze this time.

“I want to set el borracho aside for good.  Maybe part of problem was trying to be Jack Smith, or Kit Williams, or Morgan Young or any of the other aliases I’ve used over the years.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been trying to be someone I’m not.  Okay, I’m Brig Coyle.  I’m not the Brig Coyle everyone thinks they know, but from now on I’m not going to hide behind some other name.  I’m not going to hide in a bottle either.

Well, I’m a drunk, so that really isn’t something I can guarantee.  I’ll do my best not to hide in a bottle ever again, that’s the truth.”

Dan said nothing.  Like Emmalou his mind was a torrent of thought, running through every story he had heard about Brig Coyle and weighing those against what he knew of the man that had been working for him the past few weeks.  It was hard to see the recovering alcoholic living up to the legends of the gunman.  It would have been easier to believe that el borracho wasn’t Brig Coyle.

The door swung open and the day’s first business sauntered in.  He stopped in his tracks because Dan and Brig were blocking his path to the bar, “You open this morning?”

“Of course,” Brig replied and left Dan’s side to move to his place behind the counter.  The man followed him and took a seat in one of the stools.  Dan remained rooted to his spot.  “What can I get you?”  As he asked, Brig was already reaching for a glass and a bottle of Kentucky bourbon.  The patron was a regular who always ordered the same thing, two shots of bourbon to clear out the dirt and dust from the mine as he made his way home.

“The usual.”

The two shots were poured and placed in front of the man.  Brig placed the stopper back in the bottle and returned it to it’s proper place.  “Dan, you need something too?”

“No,” Dan said finally breaking out of his revelry.  “I’m going to go catch some sleep.  You are all set here.  Wake me if the lunch crowd gets to be more than you can handle.  Otherwise don’t wake me until you are headed out for the afternoon.”  With that the big man made his way to his chambers.

With that, Brig knew that at least for the time being he still had a job and had the trust and friendship of Dan Reilly.  He worried that he would be able to sway the sheriff into staying in his corner but he didn’t worry that much.  Sheriff Brown is a cagey fellow and he already knew that I was more than I seemed.  Pinning my real name on me shouldn’t change his opinion of me that much.  Swaying Emmalou to trust me, well, that may be nigh on impossible.

A second patron pushed open the door and made his way up to the counter, another regular, and Brig gave the newcomer an inviting smile.  “What can I get ya?”

Chapter 19

And here’s another chapter in my western.  How’s everyone liking it so far?

If you need a refresher on what happened last time, you can see all the previous chapters here.


His accuser faced him, her glare unwavering, her finger aimed at him like a gun was also unwavering, her words had been her bullets and they had hit their target.  The hate in her eyes was so intense he could not look into them any longer and he dropped his gaze.

The great Brig Coyle stared down by a woman.  The man she knew no longer exists.

He toyed with the idea of denying that he was Brig but he knew that wouldn’t work.  From Dan’s reaction behind him he knew Reilly had recognized him too once his real name had been used.  He considered disappearing into a bottle again and returning to el borracho completely but he didn’t truly want that either.  He was happy with his sobriety, happy with the little life he had started to carve out for himself in that small Colorado town and he didn’t want to throw that away.

So, though it wasn’t something he would have done in most of his former personas, and perhaps that was the point, he opted for the truth.  Shocking, I know.  A truthful, one-eyed, murderous, bar-tending, gunslinger.  Who has ever heard of such a thing?

“Mam, the murderer you knew is no more.”  She opened her mouth to dispute and he held up his hand, his right hand, his gun hand, and she remained quiet.  “I’m not going to deny the man I was before.  I’ve killed men and…  I did things I regret now.  I was a murderer, yes, but that was a long time ago.  The man you see before you today is…

“I just want to lead a quiet, peaceful, life in this town.”

“You think you deserve that?  Do you really think you deserve a peaceful life after all the suffering you caused?  Why should you get that when so many others no longer have that option?”  Her pointed finger curled up into a fist to match the one her other hand was making, and her outstretched arm dropped to her side.  She stood straight as a board, indignant, and righteous, and still full of fury.  She was a force to be reckoned with.

A few strands of her hair had slipped loose from the bun and fell, with the slightest of curves and coils, in a tendril down the side of her face.  Her chin was slightly raised and tilted to one side, and still she stared him down.

My God, Brig thought again, she is stunning.  He couldn’t help it.  If you had been there, you would have been thinking the same thing.

“If you want peace, Brig Coyle, why did I see you walking the streets this morning with a gun on your hip?”

Double crap.  El borracho and Jack Smith didn’t carry a gun.  The first day I put one on and I’m recognized, in the pre-dawn darkness, with my hat pulled low, from behind a window or wherever she was to have seen me when I didn’t see her.  I guess my drunken personas were not as strong as I had thought they were.  I guess my essence as Brig is stronger than I thought it was.  I guess I must have done something to this lovely lady that has so etched me into her conscience that it just took seeing me with a gun for her to see through my alter egos.

Where to start?  Should I explain that I don’t wish to carry a gun anymore that I’m just borrowing the revolver to protect myself?  Would she even believe that?  Will anyone believe that once they know who I truly am?

 Should I apologize for my sins, ask what wrong I have caused her and work to right it or them?  It’s more likely “them.”  I have a lot of sins to atone for.  Probably more than my worst critics would guess.

Brig heard Dan slide off his stool (finally), and approach him from behind.  His gunslinger instincts screamed at him to turn and see what the big man was doing.  He could have grabbed his club from behind the bar and be walking up on him to knock him down.   He could have grabbed the revolver from behind the bar too.

He stood resolute.  He had come to think of Dan, and Sheriff Brown, as friends and he wanted, he needed, to prove to them as much as he needed to prove to himself that he was a changed man.  He would trust Dan to not be walking up on his blind side with mal-intent.  He would trust that Dan was a friend.  That was very difficult for him.

To help himself ignore what was going on behind him, Brig raised his eyes to meet the woman’s intense gaze again.  She didn’t flinch.  That in itself should have been proof that he was no longer the infamous gunman he had been.  Then again, perhaps she was never afraid of me.  Perhaps her anger would have let her stare me down even in the hay day of my ruthlessness.

Her eyes were magnificent.  He could see through the hate and get lost in the myriad of swirling blues dancing in the lamp light.  He felt like a fool.  She had shown up and thrown out his name, a seemingly small and simple act that held the potential, like a small stone on train tracks, to completely derail him from his current route.  He should have been furious.  He should have been thinking about how he was going to do damage control on the situation.  He should have been many things, but he couldn’t stop thinking about how lovely she was.

Why am I feeling like this?  Why am I acting like this?  She obviously hates me.  I should be figuring out how to extricate myself from her and this situation so she doesn’t start to track my movements and harass me as I go about town.  I don’t want her to be around if, when, Ed comes crashing back into my path.  I don’t want her caught up in that mess.  I don’t need any more innocents suffering on my behalf.  I don’t even…

 “What’s your name?”

That caught her off guard.  She had been certain of many things when she had seen Brig Coyle stalking through the early morning streets of her beloved town.  She had been certain he was up to no good, certain that she needed to confront him and help drive him out of town before he could bring the kind of anguish to Gunnison that she had witnessed in Cheyenne as a child.  She had been certain that he would deny who he was but she had recognized him without a doubt.  Those memories were seared forever in her mind’s eye.

She hadn’t expected him to be handsome.  The eye patch, the stubble upon his chin, the ugly man she knew him to be on the inside should have all worked against him but somehow it didn’t.  He had a certain charisma.  He had a presence in the room she couldn’t deny, power and intrigue.  She was uncomfortable with the slight attraction she felt when she got her first good look of him when she entered the bar.  She hoped the lamp light was just being kind, softening his features, and that daylight would prove him to be the ugly man she wanted him to be.

She also hadn’t expected to see sorrow behind his eye.  He was an evil man, and evil men had no sorrow or regrets for their actions.  She thought perhaps she was reading that wrong too, didn’t trust her own eyes, and didn’t let it assuage any part of the anger that had fueled her to act.

Dan reached Brig’s side, put his hand on the gunslinger’s shoulder and asked, “Is it true?  Are you the Brig Coyle?”  Everyone in the room knew it was true.  Reilly just needed to hear it for himself.

Brig ignored the question and asked again, “What’s your name?”

Still, the woman did not answer.  How dare he?  I’m not important.  I’m just the voice of all the children he has left fatherless over the years, all the women he has widowed, all the peaceful people whose lives he has shattered.  My name is not important.

“I think you should leave Mr. Coyle.  I think you should leave Gunnison this morning.  I don’t care if you have changed your ways.  I don’t care if you’ve turned into a saint.  People that have pasts such as yours seem to have trouble follow them and I don’t want that kind of trouble here.  I won’t be alone in that.  Many and more will be calling for you to leave as soon as who you are is passed around town.  You should leave now, this morning, this very instant.”

Dan Reilly, lost in his own thoughts and considerations, asked again, “Is it true?”

Brig asked again, “What’s your name?”

She stomped her foot in defiance.  “My name is not important.”  Her tendril of loose hair bounced with her movement, and her lips quivered slightly, partially from anger and partially from frustration.  A normal person would not have noticed the tremble but Brig Coyle’s watchful eye, the eye of a gunslinger, missed nothing.  “Please leave, please… ”

Dan was forgotten, only Brig and the woman existed.  “What’s your name?”

Her eyes were defiant, but her resolve was weakening.  They flared even more brilliant as another wave of fury pulsed through them but she said nothing.

“What’s your name?”

She stomped her foot again, still could not find any words, and the fury and tension and frustration began to fade away as her eyes welled up with tears.  He didn’t need to ask again.  He had won the mental battle.  Barely, but he had won.

“Emmalou.  Emmalou Marsch.”  A tear trickled unchecked down her cheek, clung to her chin for an instant and then plummeted to the clean floor below.  He had defused her anger but not her purpose.  “Please, Mr. Coyle, leave my town.  Go today before trouble finds you here and those of us who call Gunnison home suffer as a result.”

Brig removed his hat, pressed it against his chest and smiled at Emmalou.  Years later she would admit to him that at the time she thought she would never be able to forgive him for that smile.   She had thought him a callous and smug miscreant and his smile had unnerved her further.  It had taken the last bit of power she had that morning and in that moment she truly hated him for that.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Emmalou Marsch.  I’ve grown fond of this little town of yours and I wish to stay.”  She moved to speak again, but no words came and Brig took the opportunity to finish what he wanted to say.  “I don’t wish any trouble upon this town, and you have my word I will do, and have done, my utmost to avoid it while I’m here.  But I’ve begun to come to terms, as much as any man ever can, with my demons and I want to start over.  If it’s not this town it will be another one just like it where they will be just as reluctant to let me stay long enough to prove my good intentions.

“I’ve already started to make friends here, and honestly the passion you showed in wanting to keep men like I was out of Gunnison just makes me want to live here more.  I want to help keep this place peaceful.  I want to help keep people like the man I was out of here.  I can understand your desire to see me leave but at some point I will need to stop running and drive in stakes.  Why not here?  Yes, I was Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, the murderer of men, women, and children.  I am still Brig Coyle, but if you let me I will be the defender of men, women, and children of this town.  I will prove that I am now a good man.

“Won’t you give me that chance?”

A tear trickled out of Emmalou’s other eye and slowly inched down her face.  The anger had been completely replaced by frustration and confusion.  She didn’t know what to say.  She didn’t know what to think.  Brig was sorry about that too.

Dan had released Brig’s shoulder, suddenly, when Brig said his name again.  The owner of the bar was reluctant to have his intentions misconstrued by the notorious gunman.  “Brig Coyle,” he whispered.  “Oh crap.”

Chapter 18

Ready for another installment in my western?  Here you go!

Oh, and if you need to know what’s going on, this right here might be helpful.


She was of medium height, good figure, wearing a sundress befitting the heat of the coming day and a shawl across her shoulders to ward off the morning chill.  Her hair, pulled into a bun at the back of her head, was that reddish blonde color where it wavered from one to the other depending on the light and never seemed to stop shimmering even when she stood still.  The flickering light from the oil lamps around the bar sparkled in her fierce blue eyes.  Even with the anger and revile etched across her face she was still easy to look at.

El borracho’s heart skipped a beat.  She is beautiful.

Jack Smith’s heart skipped a beat.  What is a woman, of obvious high standing in the community, doing in a bar?  And what is she doing here this early in the morning?  The sun isn’t even out yet.

Brig Coyle’s heart skipped a beat.  Which one of me does she know?  I don’t recognize her so hopefully she knows me as either Jack or el borracho or one of my other baser aliases.  Please don’t let her know me as Brig.  I don’t need that name thrown in my face right now.  I don’t need the people of this quiet town to know who I truly am.

All that inner-turmoil dialogue transpired before Dan could even turn in his seat to see who the newcomer was.  He had just managed to get a good look at the woman himself when el borracho responded.

“I’m sorry, mam, I’m not sure what you mean.  I’m just a drunk working on turning my life around thanks to the help of the good sheriff and this man here,” he pointed at Dan.  “If I did something to offend or bother you while in one of my drunken fugues I’m truly sorry and I’d be happy to repay you in any way I can.”

She briefly looked unsure of herself, her brow furrowed as she held her own internal court about the man that stood in front of her.  Her beautiful blue eyes briefly flicked over to Dan, who for his part was sitting motionless on his stool at the bar taking in the scene, before returning to Brig.  Her mind made up, she took a purposeful step further into the bar, planted her feet, and pointed at Brig.

“Sure, you may be a drunk, you may be lots of things now, but that’s not who you used to be.”

She was going to say more and Brig couldn’t allow that.  He couldn’t allow her to say his name.  He couldn’t allow her to bring that storm down upon him.  Brig took a step towards the lady and started yammering on about the follies of his recent drunken past.

Her resolve faltered when she saw him step toward her and she involuntarily took a step back.  He took another step forward and she retreated again.  He took a third step towards her and she backed into the closed door.  If she wanted to flee further she would have to turn her back on him and wrench the door open.  Brig saw her hand start up the door, trying to find the handle without taking her eyes off him.  He took another step forward thinking that would be enough to send her scurrying into the street.

Unfortunately, the steel resolve returned to her eyes.  Having her back against the wall had literally added support to her spine and her hand stopped seeking the handle and instead pointed at Brig again.  El borracho raised his voice and continued spouting off about how sorry he was that he had been addicted to booze and how sorry he was that he had caused her some trouble and how if she gave him a chance he would make it up to her and prove that he turned over a new leaf in his life, he had gotten his train on the right tracks finally.

“Brig Coyle,” she said, loud enough for Dan to her it clearly from his stool over Brig’s chatter.

My God, el borracho thought, even her voice is beautiful.

Jack Smith thought nothing because Jack Smith was no more.  Only Brig, and el borracho, remained.  And el borracho will always be a part of who I am now.

Brig Coyle stopped talking.  The damage had been done.  Behind him he could hear Dan’s glass hitting the counter top as it dropped from nerveless fingers.  He didn’t need to see the look of fear on his employer’s face to know it was there.  He had seen it on countless faces before.  That look haunted his dreams.

“Brig Coyle,” she said, “you are a murderer.”