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?”


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.”

Chapter 29

Howdy y’all.  How’s your week been goin’?  Ready for another rustle with Brig?  Have no clue what I’m flapping my jaw about?  This would be a good place to start.


They made a big show out of it and drew a big crowd.  Both Brig and Cole saw the two unnamed gunmen standing at the edge of the gathered throng.  They didn’t look pleased.  Brig smiled at them as he was being led down the dusty street, forcefully, in chains.  He didn’t mean to provoke them but he couldn’t help it.  Cole didn’t acknowledge them one way or another.

To get the plan kicked off they decided they needed to make it as real as possible, so with Dan’s permission and even a bit of his help, they set about breaking a few pieces of furniture while calling out obscenities and curses and generally making a ruckus.  As the first people began to peer through the windows they saw Dan restraining Brig as Sheriff Brown picked himself off the floor and then proceeded to slap some irons on Brig, with what seemed to be some well placed punches to the one-eyed gunslingers kidneys and stomach.  Brig played his part and took the punches, which weren’t nearly as painful as he made them seem, and cried out in pain before deciding to go peacefully from then.

The calls of “The Sheriff and Brig Coyle are going at it” and “Cole and Brig are having a shoot out” and “Brig is gonna kill the Sheriff” and finally “Sheriff Brown has bested Brig Coyle and is arresting him” came streaming through the open windows.  By the time Cole had gotten the handcuffs on Brig and marched him through the door to the Gunnison Inn a large crowd had already gathered.  That crowd grew as the two men marched down the street to the jail.

Questions flew out of the crowd, “What happened?”  “What did Brig do?”  “Why are you arresting him?”  “It doesn’t look like Brig killed the Sheriff.  You said Brig was going to kill him.  He isn’t even wearing a holster.  What was he going to do, drown the Sheriff in whiskey?”  “Okay, I’m sorry, I heard the two of them were fighting and assumed Brig would kill him.”  “You assumed?  You assumed?  You’re a jack-ass.”  The questions, and other side commentary, followed them all the way to the jail but neither Brig nor Cole answered or responded to any of them.

Once they were safely inside, with the door shut behind them, Cole removed the irons and Brig made his way into the same cell he had frequented when he first came to town.  “It is somewhat amusing how things always seem cyclical.  When I first came to this town I found myself in this cell and now I find myself back here again.”

“Slightly different circumstances, though,” Cole replied, chuckling.  “Can I get you a beer?”

Brig grinned.  “No I think it’s probably best I don’t.  Now, el borracho, he would have wanted one for sure.”

Outside, the sound of the gathered mass wasn’t dissipating.  The words were distorted by the thick wood doors and barred and shuttered windows but the over-all tone was obvious: “we deserve to know what’s going on.”

“You can’t ignore them forever Sheriff.  It’s probably best if you address them sooner rather than later before they’ve worked themselves up into a frenzy.”

“I reckon so.”  Cole locked Brig’s cell and hid the keys just in case things didn’t go as planned.  He didn’t want any overzealous citizens coming in behind him and trying to get their own brand of justice on the gunslinger.  Brig’s identity and reputation wouldn’t be doing him any favors in the coming days and some of the townspeople, who were for the most part fond of their Sheriff, might take exception to Brig’s role in the tale Cole was about to tell.

Brig took a seat on his wooden cot, leaned his back up against the wall, stretched out his legs, and wove his fingers together behind the back of his head.  The game is on now.  We’ll have to play it out until the end, whatever that may be.  I wonder where these tracks are headed…

Cole exited his jailhouse, closing the door behind him and addressed the crowd outside.  They spilled beyond the wooden walkway and into the street beyond.  Men, women, children, they’d all come to see what Brig had done that had landed him in jail.  The two unnamed gunmen were there as well sulking at the back, trying to act inconspicuous but sticking out like a sore thumb all the same.

Sheriff Brown held up his hands to get the crowd to quiet down and eventually they did.  “I’ve taken Brig Coyle into custody for disturbing the peace and for striking an officer of the law,” he started.  It seemed like everyone in the crowd tried to speak at once so held his hands up again until the mob quieted down again.  “He’ll be in custody for a few days while this mess gets sorted out but neither offense is major enough to warrant shipping off to a federal facility.  Most likely, he’ll serve his time here.”

“Why did he attack you?”  Someone shouted out from the middle of the pack.  Cole tried to pinpoint the source but there were too many people in the sea of faces.

“I’m not entirely certain of that yet, he may have been drinking and taken exception to something I said.”

“Will there be a trial?”

Cole didn’t even bother trying to pinpoint the source of the second question; he recognized the voice, Emmalou Marsch.  I should fill her in on the details of our little plan too, she deserves the truth.  I’ll swing by her place later when I stop in to talk to Mrs. Sorensen.  ”No need for a trial, Brig has already confessed and is happy to serve his time, I’ll just need to figure out how much damage was done over at the Gunnison Inn to see what the appropriate sentence is.”

Once the details were starting to unfold most of the crowd lost interest and started to wander back to the tasks they had been about before the shouting started at the bar.  It was just another boring bar fight, nothing exciting, and nothing that deserved their further attention.  If anything else came to light they’d find out about it through the normal rumor mill.  As the bulk of the crowd dispersed so did the two gunmen.


Cole answered a few more questions from the remaining people before the rest of the crowd broke apart and went their separate ways.  Muttered comments floated back to Cole as the last of them walked away, “Well that was boring.”  “I know, there could have least been a shooting or a trial to look forward to.”  “Right, and no one even got shot.”  “Are you still harping on that subject?  I told you I was sorry.”  “Well, you said that…”  “I know what I said, now shut up!”

Sheriff Brown wanted to laugh but kept the stern, no nonsense expression on his face until he had the street to himself, then he went back into his jail to let Brig know how it had gone.  So far so good.

After filling in Brig briefly on the contents of what he had divulged to the townspeople he exited the jail again, this time locking the door to the jailhouse, and then went to find Mrs. Sorensen and Miss Marsch.  He expected Mrs. Sorensen to get a kick out of the whole thing, crazy old battle axe that she is, and he also expected Miss Marsch to slap him first and then hug him.  She’ll slap me for not being able to think of a better plan and then she’ll hug me for keeping Brig safe all the same.  She’s crazy too.

Chapter 28

I reckon you want some more dramedy western action, right?  (We can’t kid ourselves and continue to call it an out and out comedy anymore.)
I reckon if you need to know what I’m talking about you could start here.


Sheriff Brown stopped by the Gunnison Inn just before Brig’s shift was about to end.  The morning rush had come and gone and the post lunch lull had settled in so Dan, Cole and Brig had the place to themselves.  Normally Dan would have gone to take another nap before Brig left for the day but had found himself so wound up by the morning’s events that he hadn’t even attempted sleep.

“Two men came by my office this morning,” the Sheriff started as he pulled up a stool.  Brig had never paid much attention to Cole’s gun before but the one eyed man noticed that Cole made sure it fell in such a manner as it would be easy to draw when he took his seat.


“They wanted to let me know that they were in town tracking down Brig Coyle, the gunslinger.  Wasn’t that nice of them?  I thought so.”

Brig set about his tasks of cleaning up the bar before the afternoon and evening traffic.  He liked to keep the place clean for the next crew, plus he still felt like he owed Dan something extra to pay for the damages caused during the fight with Ed Sans and his cronies and it gave him something to do to pass the time.  The last few hours of his shift would put him to sleep if he didn’t do something to occupy his mind and his muscles.

Well, that was on a normal day anyway.  He had plenty enough to keep his mind occupied and keep himself awake and was doing the chores mostly out of habit as the Sheriff kept on talking.

“They seemed to think that it was in my best interest to let them deal with Brig Coyle on their own, and they assured me that it would be a fair fight so there was no reason for the law to get involved.  When I mentioned that you didn’t even carry a gun anymore they seemed a bit surprised and then started conferring in whispers so low I couldn’t make out what they were saying.

“It was really annoying.

“Anyway, to break up their little tete-a-tete I asked for their names.  Would you believe they had the audacity to glare at me in my own jail house?  I can see by your lack of response that you can believe it.  Well, they didn’t answer, and instead started asking me questions about where they could find you.  I didn’t answer them, obviously, but you know as well as I do that it is only a matter of time before they track you down.

“I did find it interesting, that through the course of my brief conversation with them, I discovered that they had already met the one-eyed bartender at the Gunnison Inn.  I wonder how funny they’ll find that bit of information when they figure out that they’ve already met the man they are hunting.”

“I’m pretty sure they won’t take too kindly to that,” Brig replied.   “I’d say that may just upset them enough to be a little less patient about finding their chance to drawn down on me.”

“I reckon so.”

“Did you find out why they are looking for me: glory or revenge?”

“They didn’t say.”

Brig was not surprised.  The men who had come looking for him over the years had hardly ever said why they were getting into his face.  It was only after families had come to collect their dead that he discovered why they had come looking for him in the first place.  Glory and revenge, those two dominated all other reasons and really just boiled down to pride and youthful ignorance.

How many lives have been lost over the years because of pride and ignorance?  The ones I’ve taken are just a drop in the bucket but…  I regret the need to have taken them.  When it comes down to it though, if it is my life or the life of someone else I will choose to save myself every time.

 Would I choose to save Emmalou’s life instead of my own if it came to it?  Would I make that sacrifice?  I’ve never met anyone I would have done that for before, but for her…  I just might.

“I would have come over to say hello sooner,” Sheriff Brown continued, “but they knew that I knew you and so they waited nearby to see if I’d come running out to warn you.  So, I waited until they grew tired of waiting for me and moved on to The Hammer before coming down to talk to you.  They’ll find all the answers they are looking for in that bar.”

“And now that you are here, you want to know what I’m planning, right?”

“Fight or flight?”

“Neither really appeals to me.”

“I didn’t think they would.”

“Emmalou told me to stay.”  Brig wasn’t sure why he passed on that information, but she had said it in front of Dan so it wasn’t exactly a secret to begin with.

Sheriff Brown raised his eyebrows, “She did, did she?”  With his lips pursed, he leaned back on his stool sizing up Brig, sizing up the situation and pondering how to proceed.  “I would have put money on her telling you to be on the next train out of town.  I guess I should be glad I didn’t take that bet with anyone.”

“I don’t really fancy putting a gun in your hand and finding out if you are still as good as you used to be,” Sheriff Brown said after a minute had passed.  “Then again I don’t like the idea of men coming to my town intent upon shedding the blood of others.  Despite the blood on your hands you are clean in the eyes of the law, and no matter who you were before you are a good man now.

“I don’t much care for people threatening anyone in my town.  I care for it less when it is good people being threatened.  It irks me beyond telling that I can’t do anything about it until they do something wrong.  It seems wrong that the good people are left with the hard choices in these situations but that’s the way of it.”

“You’ve got a plan or you wouldn’t be here, Cole.”  Dan finally inserted himself into the conversation.

Sheriff Brown smiled.  “It’s not a great plan but it’s a start.”

“And?”  Brig asked.

“Once your shift is up I’m going to arrest you on some pretense or other, a false claim that you will be cleared of in time of course, but I’ll be forced to hold you for a few days until we can get your name cleared.”

“They won’t go away.”

“No, but it will give us a couple days to figure out our next move, while keeping you in a place where they can’t get a gun in your hand or shoot you in the back and while also not giving them any need to harass your friends.”

Brig smirked.  “Well, when you put it that way, it’s not altogether a bad plan at all.  Though I’ll need you to explain the situation to Mrs. Sorensen so she doesn’t kick me out while I’m in your custody.  Can you do that?”

“I reckon so.”

Chapter 27

You want more, right?  More of this?  Okay, but only because I know you can handle it.


Brig hadn’t completely lost his head though.  He wanted to say “Good morning Miss Marsch, how are you?”  But, he knew that if he did so she would undoubtedly respond with “Mr. Coyle” as part of her answer.  He didn’t know what to say so he stood there, frozen half way between the table he had just served drinks to and the counter, and kept smiling at Emmalou.  He tried to think of something to say but he couldn’t get his mouth to form any fitting words.  She held his smile in her gaze as long as she could before she blushed and looked away.

The magic of the moment broken, Brig finally found his voice, “How are you this morning?”  He quickly followed with a second question, “What are you doing out and about so early?”

“I’m not really sure…” her voice faltered a bit as she answered.  “I found myself awake early and decided to go for a walk.  My walk brought me here.”  She looked at him again as she finished speaking.  Her beautiful blue eyes shown brilliantly even in the gloom of the bar.

“Do you often find yourself walking into bars so early in the morning?”  Brig jested and took a few steps closer to her partially to be nearer to her and partially so they wouldn’t have to talk as loud to hear one another, thereby decreasing the chance that others might also hear them talking should his name slip out.

She shook her head from left to right, a small tug at her lip revealing the dimple hidden on her left cheek, but had no retort.  She also took a step further into the bar, and closer to Brig.

“Miss Marsch, so wonderful to see you,” Dan’s booming voice came from just over Brig’s shoulder.  The one eyed man turned and found Dan standing right beside him.

How did he sneak up on me like that?

“What brings you to my humble establishment?”

“Well, as I was just telling…”

“Fine fine,” Dan cut her off, “come on up to the counter and pull up a stool.”  The proprietor took Emmalou by her hand and walked her to the front of the bar.  “Can I get you something to drink?  I do have some hidden gems if you’re in the mood, or soda pops if you just want something to wet your whistle, or perhaps a cup of coffee will fit the bill?”

You crazy fool, Brig thought, why are you taking her closer to the gunslingers.  Brig was getting angry, could feel the heat rising within him, and felt an old familiar itch in the forefinger of his right hand and that cooled him off immediately.  Absentmindedly he used the fingers from his left hand to rub away the itch on his trigger finger as he followed Dan and Emmalou up to the counter.

“Coffee.  Coffee sounds lovely, thank you, though I shouldn’t be staying long.”  Emmalou pulled up the stool to the left of the one Dan had been occupying earlier.

“Right away,” Brig responded as he made his way around the counter.  He deposited the coins from the drinks he had just served into the strong box, grabbed a clean mug, poured in some of the strong black brew, and handed it across the counter to Miss Marsch.  “Here you are.  Careful, it’s still piping hot.”

While Emmalou cautiously sipped at her coffee Dan began to regale his audience, Emmalou, Brig, and the man seated to Dan’s right, with a fine tale of his youth the subject of which doesn’t really matter here because none of his audience were paying attention.  The man to Dan’s right was lost in his own thoughts and getting ready to head to work anyway.  Emmalou was wondering how she had ended up drinking coffee in a bar locking gazes with the notorious gunslinger.  Brig, finally understood Dan’s brilliance in getting Emmalou seated, part of their conversation while also being quieted with the cup of coffee in her hand, and therefore less likely to seem out of place and also less likely to mention Brig’s name.  I’ll have to remember to thank him later if this works.

Just then, the two gunslingers stood from their stools and without another word made their way out of the bar.  When the door shut behind them Dan lapsed into silence and Brig gave an audible sigh of relief.  Only as they made their exit did Emmalou notice the two men and she didn’t understand their import until Brig let out his sigh.  Her eyes went wide and her mouth opened into a little “oh” without actually saying anything.

The man next to Dan took his leave then as well.

“Those men…”  Emmalou started.

“They were looking for me,” Brig stated.

“Do you know them?”  There was a slight tremor in her voice.

This is exactly the kind of trouble she was worried about.  “I don’t know their names but I know them all the same from the way they carry themselves, the way they carry their guns.”  She’s going to ask me to leave, and even if I hadn’t promised I would, if I want to avoid bloodshed I should go.

“What are they going to do?”  The tremor was still in her voice.

Wait, is she concerned about her town or about me?  It took Brig a moment to answer Emmalou.  “They’ll be back here before the day is out.  It won’t take them long to ask around town and figure out that ‘Brig Coyle’ is working here.  I believe that may put you in a bit of a spot Dan, I’m sorry about that.”

Dan waved him off.  They may be mad when they come back but there was no money in killing him, they’d leave him be as long as they were still on the trail of the man they did want.

“What are you going to do, Brig?”  The question was little more than a whisper.

Brig?  Brig!  She didn’t call me Mr. Coyle.  What does it mean?  He tilted his head, a look of confusion on his face, “You called me Brig.”

She brushed him off, “What are you going to do?”

Brig would have frowned if he hadn’t been so elated that she used his first name.  He was finding it impossible at the moment to think clearly and be upset about the situation.  Then his thoughts moved away from his selfish grasping for a bit of happiness and on to the people in this town he had grown fond of during his short stay.  He needed to protect them.  The frown finally came.

“I don’t know.  If I stay, they’ll track me down and there will be bloodshed.  I don’t know how much help Sheriff Brown can be in this matter.  They haven’t done anything wrong so there is no call to lock them up but make no mistake it is a fight they want and once they identify me they’ll keep picking at me and picking at me until there will be no alternative but a fight.

“If I go they’ll leave town faster but they may hurt the two of you and anyone else they think they can get information out of to stay on my trail.  You could try to throw them off, claim ignorance of who I truly was but that couldn’t just put you in more danger.  I don’t have many friends in this world, and I’m not okay with the few I have coming to harm to protect me.”

Dan and Emmalou let Brig talk.  Dan had never heard so much out of the man before and was shocked into silence.  Emmalou had heard Brig talk himself in circles before and knew if she let him be he’d come around again and figure out what to do.

“I could confront them, go out and find them right now, tell them who I am and see what they want from me.  I’m unarmed and I don’t think they’ll draw on me as I am but that won’t stop them from sticking around town and seeing what sort of situations they can create to get a gun in my hand.  I’ve seen their kind at work before.

“They are either here because they want to test themselves against ‘the best’ or to get vengeance for some past wrong I caused them or their kin.  They won’t just go away when I refuse to fight them, they’ve come too far and convinced themselves this has to be done.

“I could confront them and then leave town.  That would draw them away from you, away from Gunnison, but if I didn’t make sure they knew exactly where I was headed that could bring them back to your doors to find out what you know about my plans.  That would serve nothing.  If they do stick so close to my trail that they end up on the same train as me that could just bring harm to other innocents.

“We could try to come up with a plan to get them in trouble with Sheriff Brown and have them either locked up or sent away but that seems almost as underhanded as what they might come up with to get a gun in my hand.  Trickery and subterfuge are not things I’m interested in and never have been.

“So where does that leave us?  Should I stay and see how this all unfolds here or should I take to the rails again and try to start over as someone other than Brig Coyle?  Neither is a good option…”

Emmalou took one last sip of her coffee, set the mug on the counter in front of her and stood.  Dan, as was the polite thing to do also stood.  Brig was standing to begin with so he did nothing.  “For what it’s worth,” she said, “I hope you stay.”  Then she turned and made her way out of the bar without another word.

“What does that mean?”  Brig asked, his face contorted in confusion.

Dan laughed heartily and slapped Brig on the back, “I haven’t the foggiest.  Women have always been a mystery to me.”

Dan’s laughter did little to dispel Brig’s tension and dark thoughts.  He still had a decision to make and it was likely he wasn’t going to be happy with the outcome no matter what he chose to do.  His thoughts had to wait though because another group of people entered that needed their early morning drinks before heading out to the mines.  Brig Coyle, the bartender, went back to work.

Chapter 26

Have you been following the story of Jack, er, um, Brig?  You know… Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?

You can find everything you need to know to get caught up right here.


“Why are you looking for Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?” Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, asked.

“Have you seen him?”  The question was posed by the man seated closest to Dan and the door to the Gunnison Inn.

“I thought he was dead,” Brig replied.  The regular, onto his second drink, looked up in surprise and then quickly went back to his drink.  Dan immediately engaged the man in conversation to keep him occupied and thankfully the two newcomers didn’t notice.

“Have you seen him?”  This time the question was posed by the second man.

Brig donned a look of confusion, “That’d be hard to do if he is dead.”

Neither man was pleased with that response as evidenced by their dark glowers and the second man spoke up again, “Are you avoiding the question?”

Yes.  “No, it just seemed a bit odd that you were asking if I had seen a dead man.  Have I seen Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?  Have you seen Wild Bill Hickock?  I mean, he’s only been dead a couple years, maybe I should be on the lookout for him too?”

The two men did not appreciate his sass or his tone and their countenances darkened further.  I wouldn’t have thought that possible.

“Listen here, son,” the first one spoke, “there’s no call to get flippant with us.  Sure, we’ve all heard the rumors that he was dead but we’ve also heard rumors he was spotted on the Shavano train before the Gunnison station but not at any of the stops afterwards.”

“Why are you looking for him?” Brig asked again.

“Have you seen him?” The two men replied in unison.

This could go on forever.  Well, probably not forever, eventually they’ll get fed up with me and show me how good they are with those tie-downed pistols.

“Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?”


“I haven’t seen him recently, no.”

“Have you heard if he is in town?”

“Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?”


“I’d heard a rumor that he was spotted a few days ago.  I’m not sure if there was any substance to those rumors though, and I’m fairly certain he hasn’t been seen since.”

“Why didn’t you tell us that immediately!”  They glared at him for a moment and then the two men dropped their voices and began to confer in such soft whispers that Brig couldn’t pick up a single word despite his close proximity.

“So, what can I get you gents to drink?”

They looked up, glared, said nothing to him in response and then resumed their quiet conversation.

“If you aren’t going to order something I’m going to have to ask you to leave.  You’re taking up spots for paying customers.”

They looked up, scowled, looked around the empty bar, glared at Brig again and then went back to ignoring him.

At that moment the door to the Gunnison Inn swung open and some more regulars came in.  This could get interesting, Brig thought as he moved away from the two gunslingers, greeted the newcomers with his normal smile and said, “Good morning, what can I get you?”

The men pulled up the chairs at a table near the door, their usual table, and mumbled their own greetings.  Luckily, most of the novelty of having a famous gunslinger for a bartender had worn off quickly for the majority of the regulars.  Plus, it was still really early in the day and they were only partially awake.  Brig got them their drinks and took them to the table with only a small spattering of audible words passing from their lips.  Once they were squared away, Brig returned to his place behind the counter, placed the coins he’d received from the regulars in the strong box and then tried to appear nonchalant as he edged his way as close to the gunslingers as he dared.  He was hoping to pick up the thread of their conversation but they kept their voices low enough he wasn’t able to catch any part of it.

The door opened and shut again, more regulars coming in for their pre work send off, and Brig came out from behind the counter again to get their order since they took the seats at another table by the door.  He returned to the bar briefly to pour their requests and then took them back to their table.  The gunslingers continued their whispering and Dan continued to chat up the man seated next to him at the counter.  Well, I can’t imagine the two men staying much longer and for now things seem to be going as smoothly as could be expected.

The door opened again and in walked Emmalou Marsch.  Every head in the place turned to catch a glimpse of her as the first rays of the morning’s sun streamed through the open door, illuminating Emmalou in all her beauty, before the door swung shut and she was left standing in the dingy light thrown by the flickering oil lamps.  The men at the bar went back to their conversation.  The men at the tables near the door went back to their drinks.  Dan picked up his dialogue right where he’d left off.  Brig’s mind was working a mile a minute, a veritable switchyard with hundreds of thoughts piling in at once and each one clamoring for attention as they thundered down their tracks.

My god, she is stunning.  What is she doing here?  I hope she doesn’t say my name out loud.  That could really complicate this situation.  Is she here to tell me she won’t be able to sit with me in the afternoons anymore?  Is she here to tell me that she’s decided I can stay as long as I want?  Is she here to walk me to the train station and see me safely out of her town?  Considering the two men seated at the counter right now I couldn’t really blame her for that.  Is something else wrong?  Does she need my help?  She’s here, she’s here, she’s here.

Consequences be damned, Brig couldn’t help but smile at Miss Marsch.  She smiled in reply.