Q and A for everything

It’s all starting to slip away from me.  Slip and slide?  Slide down?  Down and out?  Out and about?  Just about enough of that silliness.

I’m not sure whether or not there is a theme this week.  I’ll let you all be the judge of that.

Late to the party?  Unsure of what’s going on and what the proper etiquette for the occasion is?  You can find all of your answers here.  (Except, of course, for the answers you will find below… and even more so of course for 42… which is the answer to everything, but you already knew that, right?  42.  See, it always works.)

On to the silliness:

Over the long and/or short years of my jestering, and movie watching, life, I’ve incorporated movie dialogue into my day-to-day lingo.  Sometimes I’ve found instances where those quotes fit nicely into situations I’ve found myself in.  Maybe these will come in handy for you at some point too.

Q: (This one’s pretty obvious.)  What should you say when some one owes you a “thank you?”
A: “I said you could thank me later. It’s later, Bert.”
– Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock) – The Blind Side

Q: What should you say after someone has burped or farted in your vicinity?
A: “You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you.”
– Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) – When Harry Met Sally

Q: (This one is also obvious.)  What should you say when someone calls you a cynic?
A: “I’m not a cynic, I’m a realist!”
– Sara (Eva Mendes) – Hitch

Q: What should you say when you want to sound philosophical?
A: “I’ve lived for a very long time, Ray. And the one thing I’ve learned: Fate doesn’t decide everything. People get to choose.”
– Mary Embrey (Charlize Theron) – Hancock

Q: What should you say after someone has saved your life?
A: “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful… but what are you doing hanging around?”
– Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) – Dogma

Q: (I have no idea what it means and didn’t bother to look it up.)  What should you say when you want to sound smart?
A: “He’s so impetuous.”
– Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek) – Wild Wild West

Q: What should say… well, I think this is another one you can just use your imagination for and come up with your own scenario.  (It’s a real gem.)
A: “Uh-huh, and that’d be the tall one or the short one?”
– Julie Mott (Tea Leoni) – Bad Boys

Q: What should you say when you want to get under someone’s skin?
A: “You seem nervous. Do I make you nervous, Isaac?”
– Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) – Cloud Atlas

Q: What should you answer when someone asks what you like to read?
A: “I usually read history books. They’re long and cheap and usually about men killing each other.”
– Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) – The Terminal

Q: (Um, duh!)  What should you say when you are asked about any of the gentlemen in your life?
A: “Men are shameless.”
– Skylar (Minnie Driver) – Good Will Hunting

………

So, there might be a theme, but just a broad one, and nothing really specific about the quotes.  Did you catch that?  Broad?  Is that even an term that is used anymore?  I have no idea.  They don’t teach us those sorts of things in Jester School.  Anyway, here there be women, lasses, ladies, girls, gals, broads and monsters.  Thanks for playing along.
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Chapter 33

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.”

Interesting…

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?”

Chapter 32

31 chapters have come and gone and you can find all of that silliness right here.  I wonder what happens this week?  Only one way to find out…

……….

Cole returned to the jail after evening had started to settle upon the Gunnison Valley.  The sun had fallen most of the way behind the mountainous peaks in the west and where its glow did filter through in splotches and swathes across the earth the light shimmered and danced playfully until one by one the lighted areas dimmed and then disappeared altogether.  Sheriff Brown took his time strolling back from Mrs. Sorensen’s to enjoy the view.  Brig, alone in his cell, hadn’t moved from his seated spot on the wooden cot.

Don’t feel too sorry for him though.  Throughout the many careers and phases of his life he had seen the spirited lights of a mountain sunset several times before.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to, that may be something you should look into.

Mrs. Sorensen had cooked a hearty beef stew with large chunks of carrots, celery and potatoes and while helping her do the dishes Cole spooned out a portion to bring back to the jail for Brig.  With the door securely locked again and after a quick trip around the place to get the oil lamps lit in the waning light Cole presented the dinner offering to Brig.

There was a dark circle under Brig’s good eye, which was also blood shot, but Cole passed the bowl through the bars of the cell without a word on that subject.  The sheriff hadn’t lived the life of a saint either but he couldn’t even begin to fathom the demons that must trail along behind his new friend.  If anything, the telltale signs of strong emotions made it that much more apparent that Brig Coyle wasn’t the monster most of the stories made him out to be.

Brig grabbed the bowl and mumbled a “thanks,” his voice raspy and raw, as he started to shovel the food into his mouth and Cole returned to his chair and leaned back to raise his boots onto the desk in front of him.  When Brig finished off the stew and placed the bowl and spoon on the floor outside his cell Cole spoke up, “Want to hear a funny story?”

Brig wasn’t sure that he did, especially since there wasn’t any humor in the sheriff’s voice but responded with his approval for Cole to proceed anyway, “I guess…”

“I saw Ed Sans riding back into town on my way over to Mrs. Sorensen’s.”

Brig couldn’t help himself, he laughed.  Then when he had almost got the laughing under control he lost it and laughed some more, bowled forward, hands on his knees, struggling for air.  Cole hadn’t expected Brig to actually think it was funny and was too surprised by Brig’s reactions to think of anything else to say.  He just sat at his desk and watched his prison guest compose himself.

Finally, Brig calmed down enough to get out a few words.  His cheeks were flushed and the sentences were broken as he struggled to get air back into his system.  “So, just to sum up my current situation, I’ve got two gun men in town looking to draw me into a fight or otherwise see the end of me and now that no-good cow puncher Ed is also back in town?  It will only be a matter of time before he gets his crew together and they come looking for me too.  He may not have the same end in mind as the other two, but his isn’t far off either I bet.”

“Don’t forget,” Sheriff Brown interjected, “you’ve also been charged with assaulting an officer of the law and disturbing the town’s peace and you’ve been locked up on those charges.”

“How could I forget,” the jailed man replied as he gripped the bars of his cell in his two clenched fists.  “I’ve had the quite the bad day.”

“I’m sure you’ve seen worse.”  There was a smile in Cole’s eyes that mirrored the one on his lips.

“You aren’t wrong.”  Brig released his grip on the cell bars and stepped back to sit heavily on his wooden cot.  The boards creaked under the strain.  Brig had a momentary vision of the boards snapping and his but falling through to land unkindly on the floor and he chuckled to himself.  Biting his bottom lip he pushed those thoughts away and concentrated on what needed to be done.  His gaze pierced the floor.  He racked his brain but couldn’t see any good solutions.  Without looking up he asked, “You don’t happen to have another plan, do you?”

“Another one?  No.  But, I don’t think you should abandon our previous plan quite yet.”

That got Brig’s attention.  His head swiveled up and his good eye leveled on the sheriff.  He didn’t bother asking because he could tell that Cole was serious.  Brig rolled his eye and shook his head.  With two guns the plan was a long shot.  With two guns and untold others who may or may not be good with guns there is just no way it will work.

Then again, how much worse could my odds really be?  If they were already bad, what difference does it make if we nudge them a little further against my favor?  In poker terms it’s like holding 2 – 7 off suit instead of holding 2 – 8 off suit.  Neither are good hands.  Can’t fold now though, I have to play them…  Still, I don’t like it.

“When are we going to do this?”

Sheriff Brown pondered the question for a minute and then replied, “Let’s wait a couple days and see what happens.  Maybe Ed will doing something stupid and wind up in jail or buried in Boot Hill and take himself out of the equation.  Maybe the gun hands will grow tired of waiting and move on.  Other than being cramped in that sell it isn’t hurting anyone to have us wait for a bit.”

“Fair enough.  I would like to reiterate that I’m not at all happy about this plan of yours.”

“Duly noted and maybe we’ll come up with something better while we wait on the others to see if they blink first.  Or maybe Miss Marsch will come up with something.  She’s pretty trig.”

“You should see what you can find out about the two gun men over the next couple of days too.  Maybe if they’re forced to stick around and wait us out you’ll have time to dig up some useful dirt on them.”

“You got it.”

After that the two men let the sounds of the evening filtering in through the shuttered windows and locked door fill the silence.  It had been a long day, the first of many most likely, and they each got lost in their own thoughts on the matter.  The heat of the day disappeared with the sun and it turned into a pleasant night.  It wasn’t much of a consolation but it was something.

I wonder what I would have done in this situation before Cheyenne.  Brig smirked.  It wouldn’t have gotten this far.  Ed either would have been too scared of me to start trouble or would have tested me, to his peril, with the aid some liquid courage.  The two gun men wouldn’t have gotten out of the bar especially since they didn’t know me on sight.  I would have had some fun with them. 

 But, I’m not that man anymore.  I don’t want to be anyway.  I guess who I am really is yet to be determined.  Why won’t they all just leave me alone?  He sighed, he frowned, he let go.  No use worrying about what’s coming down tomorrow’s tracks.

“Hey, do you have a chess board or something?”

Brig’s question startled Sheriff Brown out of his revelry.  His feet came off the desk, and he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees.  It took him a moment to answer because had to concentrate to let his mind grasp Brig’s question.  Since he hadn’t been expecting his guest to say anything he hadn’t been ready to hear anything that might be said.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s happened to us all.

“I don’t have a chess board,” he responded once he had remembered the question, “but I do have a deck of cards.”

“What are we going to use for chips?”

“Matchsticks?”

“Nope.”

“Hand-rolled cigarettes?”

“Nope.”

Sheriff Brown thought for a moment and then, with a grin, said, “Bottle caps?”

“Why not.”

Cole produced a small pile of bottle caps he had been collecting, pulled the cards out of a drawer in his desk, and moved his chair next to Brig’s cell.  They played long into the night, well past the time the sounds from outside had become nothing more than the lonely breeze flowing through the empty streets and the oil lamps had started to flicker as their reservoirs went dry.  As they played they added a few more “chips” to their stacks by tossing back a few beers Cole still had stashed away in his desk.

He had a bottle of whiskey stashed in his desk too but he left it where it was for obvious reasons.

Chapter 31

Let’s see what our favorite gunslinger is up to this week, shall we?  Yes.  Yes, we shall.

If you need to catch up on the first 30 chapters this would be a good place to start.

……….

Cole left shortly after they had agreed, for the most part, on the new plan to head over to Mrs. Sorensen’s.  He once again locked the jailhouse door from the outside so no one could enter while he was away.  Brig returned to his half seated and half lying position on his wooden cot in the interim.

Brig was not happy about the plan, figuring it would most likely be the death of him, but until they could think of something better it did at least provide the opportunity for a favorable outcome.  It is very risky though.  Very, very risky…  Plus, even if it works out the way we hope it will that doesn’t mean more men won’t come gunning for me in the future.  It is still just a temporary solution.

 Maybe I should just strap on a gun again and try my luck?  If I’m going to be shot at it is nice to know that I can test my hand and if I’m still standing at the end then at least I won’t have to worry about the same people coming after me more than once. 

 If I am still as good as I used to be maybe it will scare people enough to leave me alone.

 Brig sighed, shook his head, and then looked into the rafters above his cell.  The light from the oil lamps flickered and danced across the ceiling.  Being good only ever seemed to bring more people knocking on my door.  If my prowess didn’t scare them away before why would it now?

 It wouldn’t.  They’d come rolling in on the rails, from all over, wanting to test their speed against Brig Coyle, the gunslinger.  The older ones who have out lived the adrenaline rush of it will show up out of sheer curiosity more than anything else.  Those that have been in the game for a short while will want to test me to get their fix, get that hit of adrenaline they’ve become addicted to.  The younger ones will want to make their name off of out drawing me to live the glamorous life they think will be waiting for them when they do.

 That’s how it all happened before.  Perhaps one day I’ll hear draw and see a gun clearing a holster out of the corner of my eye, and I’ll turn, draw, and fire in one smooth motion because that’s what I’ve been honed to do over the years and sighted down the length of my barrel I’ll see a child bleeding, dying, dead in the street.  Just like before…

 How could I have known the kid would draw on me?  I couldn’t.  I would have never suspected it.

Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, the drunk, the murderer of men, women and children, the bar tender, the cow puncher, the wanderer, the drifter, the scourge of the Earth, wept as he sat alone in Sheriff Brown’s jailhouse.  He cried quietly, gut wrenching sobs and anguished cries didn’t play a part, and though tears did trickle down his face they weren’t streaming en masse.  He didn’t cry for all the people he had killed over the years.  He didn’t even cry for the kid.

If he had to do it all over again he would have done the same.  The gun was real enough.  The kid’s intent was real enough and as we’ve already covered Brig Coyle is not the type to sacrifice his life willingly.  He’s a fighter and fights for his life as each of us has the right to do though few seldom have to do so as he has.

Brig wept because of the loneliness he had known since he had first been dubbed “the gunslinger.”  He wept because of the choices for his life that had been taken from him through the actions of others and the choices in his life that he had taken away from himself the first time he strapped a gun to his hip.

Sorry, there is nothing funny about any of this.

Perhaps that’s why he had crawled into a bottle afterwards.  Only Brig knows the truth of that.

Though, I will let you in on a little secret, one that Brig himself had mostly forgotten.  When he was younger and first ventured forth from his parent’s house to make his way in the world, Brig Coyle had wanted to be a conductor.  He loved trains still but only in the deepest depths of his mind and heart did he remember that.  The gunplay throughout his life had scarred and tarnished everything closer to the surface.

It was in pursuit of a career riding the rails that had set him upon his current path.  He needed experience to work his way up through the ranks and one day achieve his dream and so he had taken a job working on the coal cart shoveling the black chunks into the burning furnace.  The staff had been short on guards one night, and as the coal cart was in close proximity to the engine (obviously) he strapped on a gun to take on that responsibility as well.

That night young Brig gunned down a known man, someone who had “the gunslinger” following their name, during the course of preventing a band of outlaws from getting the train to stop so they could rob it.  At first the shooting changed nothing, but it didn’t take long for another gunslinger to show up and test out the kid who had gunned down “so and so, the gunslinger” from the botched train job.   After that things seemed to spiral out of control.

The train company fired Brig shortly thereafter because they didn’t want the added attention they’d get for employing people who had reputations like the one Brig was rapidly receiving.  The young man bounced from job to job until he found himself riding shotgun for the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach running from St. Louis to San Francisco.  He enjoyed getting to see the country and the job was good because it literally kept him on the move, but he could never outrun his name and people found him wherever the coach stopped.

In those early days he still held onto his dream of becoming a conductor, but as the miles piled up and the direction he had always seen his life going kept slipping further and further from his grasp he slowly set his dream aside.  His life wasn’t all turmoil and strife of course.  Just like any young man would be, he was fascinated by his own celebrity and used it to his advantage from time to time.  He felt the adrenaline rush when he knew a fight was coming and the even greater sense of relief and joy and life when he was still standing after a fight.  He never sought them out but he never backed down from one either.

He may not always have drawn second.

Over the years he lost sense of who he was.  He wasn’t the boy he had been.  He wasn’t the man he had thought he would be.  He wasn’t the man that everyone thought he was.  There was part of that man in him, but it wasn’t who he was.  He no longer felt the adrenaline.  He no longer felt fear or joy or much of anything else.  He no longer cared what people thought of him and that was a very dangerous thing for a man with his skills.

He left the stagecoach job but kept on traveling.  He learned how to play cards and made a fair living doing that for a time while bouncing from table to table and town to town.  It never took long for someone to recognize him.  After that it always took a bit longer for someone to show up and call him out.  Afterwards, he’d pack up his meager possessions and move along.  That routine went on for several years until he found himself in Cheyenne.

After gunning down the child Brig hadn’t left Cheyenne.  He hadn’t even left the bar it had happened in.  Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, had unbuckled his gun belt and placed it on the table, gone to the counter and order a bottle of whiskey.  He downed the bottle.

In the moment he wasn’t necessarily trying to drown in the liquor, but if it had happened he wouldn’t have been surprised and he wouldn’t have been upset.  As it was, he survived somehow and spent the next several weeks spending every dime he had on whiskey.  He sold his guns.  He sold his horse.  He sold most of his clothes.  Once his money was gone, Brig Coyle, the gunslinger no more, begged for the coins to buy a drink and so it was that el borracho was born.

People came looking for him but when they found el borracho instead they usually let him be.  Some would spit on him in disgust and some would kick him for the fun of it.  Some didn’t even believe that el borracho and Brig Coyle were one and the same.   Who could blame them for that?

He was eventually thrown out of town for his drunkenness and related disorderly charges and he started jumping trains and traveling again.  Awhile later he first heard the rumor of his death at the hands of someone trying to make a name for themselves.  He laughed when he heard toasted the death of Brig Coyle with a shot of whiskey.  That shot, toasted to his death, had tasted sweeter than any drink he’d had in weeks so he quickly had another, and another.

So it was that Brig had found himself in Gunnison and through some miracle had also found himself truly sober for the first time since Cheyenne.  El borracho had been set aside and he had stepped forward as Brig Coyle once again.  He wondered if he was destined to return to the life he had known as Brig previously.  He wondered if he was just fooling himself to think that he could be someone different, someone who didn’t live by the gun, and someone who could stop traveling, have a family, and live again.  And somewhere deep, so very deep, in his mind he wondered if he could ever find himself in the engine of a grand freighter chugging its way through the plains.

I’d pull the whistle and watch the birds scatter to the horizon.

Chapter 30

Here is a good place to start if you need a reminder on how we got to where we are now.  Otherwise, read on and enjoy.

………

Cole entered his jail later that day, rubbing his jaw, with a rueful smile playing across his lips.  His left cheek stung where Emmalou had slapped hip, as he had expected her to, but he hadn’t thought she’d hit him as hard as she had.

She packs quite a wallop for such a tiny little thing.

Still, it was no more than he deserved, and he knew that.

I reckon so.

And, he had gotten the hug afterwards as he had also expected.   There’s nothing quite so fine as a hug from a beautiful woman.  A hug can cure all manner of wrongs.

I’ll say it again, I reckon so.

From his relaxed position in the cell Brig could see Sheriff Brown rubbing his sore cheek and would have been concerned if not for the accompanying smile.  It couldn’t be anything too serious if he was smiling about it.  Brig’s curiosity regarding the sheriff’s success in conveying the plan to Mrs. Sorensen and Miss Marsch trumped any lingering concerns anyway and he would have plied the sheriff with a plethora of questions if Cole hadn’t started telling his tale the second he saw Brig staring at him.

“You can rest easy,” Sheriff Brown state.  “Mrs. Sorensen isn’t going to kick you out while I have you stowed away safely in that cell.  She even offered to bring some of your meals to you, though they’ll be cold by the time she gets them here because she is going to finish up her post meal chores before heading this direction.  Those chores will take longer without you there to help.  She made sure I was aware of that.

“I think she was trying to guilt me into offering to come around more often and help her out as I can.  If that was her ploy, it didn’t work because I promised nothing.”

Both Brig and Cole knew that was a lie.  Sheriff Brown would be at Mrs. Sorensen’s frequently in the coming days.  That was his nature.  He had already been spending a lot of time there and the current situation gave him even more reasons to show up.

As the sheriff spoke, he locked the jailhouse door and then moved to his chair where he sat and leaned back to throw his feet onto the desk in front of him.  Brig rose from his cot and took the few steps to stand next to the cell bars and leaned forward so his forearms stuck through the bars and his weight rested on one of the horizontal beams that held the locking mechanism for the door.

“Anyway, you’ll still have a room at her place when we get this all straightened out.”  Cole leaned further back in his chair, crossed his legs on the desk, and studied his inmate.  Brig Coyle sure didn’t look like much.  One eye covered with a patch, skinny from years of malnourishment, and dressed in clothes that wouldn’t make him stand out in a crowd.  How can he be the focus of so much anger and fear?  How has trouble followed him his whole life?  It’s a mystery. 

 How someone like Emmalou Marsch could have fallen for him is also a mystery.  Thinking of Emmalou made Cole rub his sore cheek again.  She hadn’t left a mark but it was a near thing.

“Miss Marsch was rather angry with me for my part in this charade.”  Brig’s good eye lit up, a spark of brilliant light behind the piercing blue eye, when Cole mentioned the woman’s name.  “She didn’t like that we put you behind bars.  She really didn’t like that I lied about you drinking even though it was your idea.  Apparently she is of the mind we could have come up with a better plan.

“Then again, she was happy that you should be safe for now and said she might stop by later to say hello.  When I mentioned it might not be a good idea for the gunmen to see her associating more with you than they already had she gave me a look that could curdle milk and I dropped the subject.  She’s a grown woman and can do as she pleases.  They usually do anyway.”

“She wasn’t wrong, though,” Brig said entering the conversation.  “We could have come up with a better plan.”

“If we’d had more time, yes, I agree,” Cole responded.  “And getting you in that cell buys us some time to come up with something better.”

“Got any ideas?”

“Not really.  You?”

“Nope.”

The two men sat (and stood, well, more of a leaned really in Brig’s case) in silence for a few minutes while they tried to reason out a favorable solution to their predicament.  Cole chewed on his lower lip.  Brig frowned.  Both were men of action, and reaction, and though neither was slow minded neither was likely to be called a genius either.

“You could always just give me a gun, clear the streets and see what happens.  I promise not to draw first.”

“I had considered that but it would be impossible to clear the streets entirely.  Small town such as this, and a big name like yours, everyone will want to see what happens once they figure out what’s going on, and they always do figure it out.  I don’t want to risk any stray bullets hurting any of my people even if they are being dang fools for spectating when they were told to clear out.”

“I was only joking,” Brig quietly replied.

They both knew it was only partially a joke.  It would have been the quickest way to resolve it.  If they win, he’d be dead and they’d go to jail (assuming he kept his promise and they drew first), and if he won then they’d be dead.  Of course, if he won, then it would only be a matter of time before others showed up to try their luck against the famous Brig Coyle and he’d find himself in the same situation that caused him to turn his back on his name and dive head first into a whiskey bottle.

Knowing they were both thinking along similar threads Brig continued with, “I don’t fancy waking up inside a bottle again.  That being said, I don’t fancy be dead either.”

“Can’t fault you on either count.”

“I could assume another alias, hop a train in the middle of the night and try to disappear again…”

Sheriff Brown shook his head.  “That would only work for awhile and then you’d find yourself in this sort of situation again.  It’s a miracle you were able to make it as Jack Smith for as long as you did.  Though, I guess you were truly going as el borracho for most of that time and nobody would have recognized Brig Coyle within that drunkard.

“Besides, I don’t ever want to feel the slap that Miss Marsch would deliver if you slipped out of town like that.  No, sir.  Considering the one I got tonight, that one might knock my head clear off.”

Brig couldn’t help but chuckle.

“You wouldn’t be laughing if she’d slapped you,” Cole retorted though his eyes held a twinkle of humor.

They day had grown short and the light from the sun filtering through the wooden boards of the structure and the few places in the windows where the frames didn’t completely line up with the shutters began to fade.  Cole rose from his seat and used a long match, taken from a drawer in his desk and sparked with a fingernail, to begin lighting the jail’s oil lamps.  While he worked the two men lapsed into silence again and when he was done he returned to his chair and his boots resumed their perch on the desk.

“I heard a story once that I’d like you to entertain as a possibility here,” Sheriff Brown broached.  Brig inclined his head in the “get on with it” motion and Cole quickly said what was on his mind.  When he had it all out he asked, “What do you think?”

Brig blew his breath out in a slow steady stream while shaking his head to the left and then the right.  “What do I think, what do I think?  It might work.  It might not.  It may be the best we can come up with.  It is plum crazy.”

“I reckon so.”