What’s Brig going to do with that gun in his hand? (Need a reminder on how we got here? Prior chapters can be found here.) Ready to find out what happens next? Read on…
Emmalou looked at her hands, they were smaller than they should have been, and smoother too. She was on her knees, hiding under a table. The legs of the chairs surrounding the table were pressed up close to her on all sides except directly in front of her where she had an unobstructed view of the floorboards: sawdust, spilled booze, sweat, spit, and blood…
The sight of the red, pooling, liquid made her gag and she brought her right hand in front of her mouth just in case she couldn’t settle her stomach down.
Where am I? There was something very familiar about the legs of the chairs around her. She recognized them and trying to place where she knew them from helped her think about something other than the spilled blood. Her stomach settled and she placed both hands in front of her on her knees.
I know where I am. I’m back in the bar in Wyoming. I’m back on that first day I met Brig, but how is that possible? How did I get here?
That she was, that she must be, dreaming dawned on Emmalou and though she desperately did not want to relive the experience of that fateful day she knew from previous experience that she had no choice but to sit back and let it unfold. Her body would wake when it was ready and nothing she did while she was asleep would change that fact.
Emmalou sat back on her feet and gazed out into the bar. Most of her view was obscured by the table overhead and the chairs surrounding her, but she could see, and hear, plenty to know exactly what was transpiring. Knowing what would end up happening didn’t dull the edge or dampen the emotions coursing through her body, the principle of which was fear. Fear and sorrow.
The kid had come in bold as brass and wearing a gun that was for too big for him. He walked up to the bar where Brig had been drinking by himself and called out to the gunslinger’s back, “Brig Coyle, today is the day you die.” The bar had gone silent as all eyes turned to the child and the feared gun hand.
Brig hadn’t moved. He could see the kid standing behind him through the mirror on the wall and had appraised him as he had walked up behind him. He was not a threat. The kid had not taken well to being ignored though.
“I’m talking to you. Face me, you coward.” The hush in the room turned into a hiss as the kid prattled on and everyone sucked in their breath in disbelief when the “C” word was used. They waited in dreaded anticipation, certain that Brig would turn and snap the life out of the young sapling. But, still, Brig did not move.
When Brig still would not face him, the kid changed tactics and tried to draw the patrons of the bar into the confrontation. “Look everyone, the mighty Brig Coyle is too chicken to face me. Can you believe? Scared by a kid?” None of the patrons took the bait though and the room returned to silence as the kids voice faded away.
Irritated and angry that Brig wasn’t paying attention to him, wasn’t giving him a second thought, and obviously didn’t think he was a threat at all, the kid’s voice elevated until he was shouting at the gunslinger, cursing him, the words tumbled from his mouth like venom and spittle flew from his lips.
“Why won’t you face me? I’ll shoot you where you sit. I’ll throw down and drill you square in the back. It’s no less than a devil like you deserves! I’ll shoot you down and I’ll be heralded as a hero! You yellow belly! You scourge! You chickenshit bastard!”
Emmalou had been working a table nearby when the kid had come in. Normally she would have met him before he could have reached the counter but with hands full of beers to be delivered she hadn’t a chance to corral him and send him packing. When she heard him call out the famous gunslinger by name she froze, just like everyone else. She hadn’t even known the man at the counter had been Brig Coyle. Then, when the kid went for his gun, she completely forgot about the tray of beer mugs and dove under an empty table to her right.
The first shot had been fired before she’d even made it to the ground. She had turned around and scooted back so she was sitting on her feet with her hands on her knees. She trembled violently as she surveyed the carnage in front of her and she could only think that she was going to die.
The boy lay in front of her, shot threw the chest, his gun half in and half out of his holster. The man he had named as Brig Coyle stood with his back to the counter. He had seen the kid go for his gun in the mirror and had drawn while turning and standing up from his stool and fired in one quick movement. He’d been so fast the child hadn’t even had a chance to get his gun completely drawn.
His face was stoic, his eye went from the gun in his hand to the motionless body at his feet. The child looked no more than 12. Emmalou couldn’t tell what the gunslinger was thinking but from her vantage point he didn’t look troubled at all by the fact he had just taken another life or that the life had been so young.
A shout came from the back of the bar, “He was just a boy. You didn’t have to kill him!”
There was a murmur of rumblings as other patrons agreed. “He hardly looks old enough… “ “Look at the size of that gun, it’s bigger than ‘e is…” “Could have turned and knocked the gun out of his hand as fast as he is, no need to shoot the lad…” “We’ve tolerated your presence too long here.” “Men like you should be strung up on sight!” “You aren’t fit to be walking around with honest men!” “Let’s string him up!”
As the murmurs turned into a cacophony Brig tugged his gaze away from the dead child and tried to search the crowd of faces for each muttered grumble and threat but they were spewing forth too fast to track a single one day. The patrons of the bar rapidly turned into a mob.
“How could I have known he would actually draw on me? I couldn’t. What was he thinking?”
From her position under the table Emmalou could barely hear the gunslinger respond to the angry crowd, he wasn’t directly addressing them it seemed, but he didn’t let his gun drop. Her eyes were riveted on the gun. Nothing else existed in the room except her and that deadly piece of metal. The image burned in her retinas even as the sound of unrest grew louder and louder.
The world exploded as a man stepped out of the crowd and tried to grab Brig’s gun arm. The gun moved laterally, fired, and the man was in a heap on the floor. Emmalou’s mouth went slack. The room fell silent again. Then a trickle of blood ran along a crease in the floor board out from the inert body and Emmalou screamed. The mob bellowed and all hell broke loose.
Brig’s gun flashed, people fell, chairs were thrown, tables were smashed, the gunslinger produced a second gun and kept unloading it, his fists and feet flew to clear a path towards the door. The mob crashed around him but he was fast enough to make it out into the open where he disappeared into the night.
To Emmalou the fight lasted an eternity but in reality it was over in an instant. Brig fled leaving eight dead, including the child, in his wake. Under her table, hidden away, Emmalou fainted. She had screamed for so long that she had lost too much oxygen and her body couldn’t function anymore.
Later she learned that a posse had been formed and had chased after Brig but had lost his trail. Then stories of his spiral into drunkenness had started filtering through the various gossip conversations. Though widely discredited, the local paper even printed an article on the gunslinger’s death shortly thereafter as well.
Emmalou had left Cheyenne shortly after too. The carnage had been too much for her, she hadn’t been able to go back to work, and she needed a fresh start someplace else to try and put her life together. Every time she looked into the face of anyone around town she saw Brig Coyle and she recoiled in terror. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep, and she became a shut in and slowly started to fade away.
Moving was the solution to her problem, so she packed and left, and eventually worked her way back into a normal life. She ended up in Gunnison and settled down, finding peace in the quiet valley and guardian rocky peaks. But, from time to time she still dreamed of that night in Cheyenne and Brig Coyle, the gunslinger.
When she woke, he was kneeling next to her with a gun in his hand.