Chapter 34

It’s that time again.  I wonder what Brig is up to this week…?

(And don’t forget all previous chapters can be found here.)


Since I know you are worried about it, yes Brig and Cole got breakfast.  Cole had previously arranged to start having their meals delivered to them for safety purposes.  He wasn’t going to shirk all of his responsibilities about the town but if he didn’t have to worry about fetching food for himself and for his prisoner three times a day that was one less worry on his mind.

Miss Marsch and Mrs. Sorensen had volunteered to deliver meals to the jail for the next few days, though in reality Mrs. Sorensen wouldn’t actually be doing the delivering.  She’d enlist the help of a neighborhood boy to carry the food down to the jail when it was ready or ask one of her tenants to run the errand for her on the days when Miss Marsch wasn’t handling the duty.

It was a simple, classic and hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and coffee and it was delicious.  Mouth wateringly good, actually.  The biscuits were golden brown, flakey, and warm still having only been pulled from the oven moments before they’d been packed up to be delivered to the jail.  The bacon was thick cut and crunchy without being burned.  The eggs were fluffy and topped with a handful of cheeses.

It was a much better breakfast than a normal prisoner would have gotten at the jail but Brig wasn’t a normal prisoner.  It was also much better than Cole had requested when he’d broached the idea with Emmalou and Mrs. Sorensen.  He put down the extra effort Emmalou put forth to whatever was budding between her and Brig.  He certainly wouldn’t expect the same kind of meals from Mrs. Sorensen.

We’ll be lucky if her contributions show up lukewarm.

After polishing off their meals, Cole left the jail to walk about town and get a feel for the comings and goings.  He left Brig the pack of cards before he left so his prisoner could entertain himself with some solitaire if he wanted.  Sheriff Brown didn’t think he’d be gone for very long but didn’t want to unduly punish his friend anymore than he already was.

I’ve already got him locked up for crimes he didn’t commit and have slandered him by saying he started drinking again.  I don’t need to bore him to death on top of all of that if I can help it.  I’ll need to remember to ask around for a chess board.  Hopefully, though, he won’t have to “rot” in their much longer.

Cole was just about finished with the first leg of the circuit he was going to walk through the busiest sections of town when he spotted Edward Sans walking towards him.  The Sheriff stopped in a bit of shade and made Ed come all the way to him.  He saw no need to have whatever conversation was about to ensue out in the exposed heat of the day.

Ed only has two of his cronies shadowing him at the moment, that’s good, though it does make me wonder where the rest of them are.  I don’t really want to worry about his hangers-on as well as the two gun men.  With any luck they’ve left town but I …

“Sheriff, I’ve got some troubling news I think you ought to hear,” Ed interrupted Cole’s thoughts.

“What’s that?”

“Brig Coyle is in town.”


“And I thought you ought to hear that.”

“I know he’s in town, Ed, I’ve got him locked up in my jail.”

The cow puncher was a bit taken aback at that and didn’t quite know how to respond.  One of Ed’s cronies found his voice first, “What was he arrested for?”  All three men seemed somewhat surprised that Sheriff Brown would have been able to get Brig Coyle into a cell.

“Disturbing the peace, and some other minor charges; he’ll be locked up for a few days.”

The sheriff shifted his weight forward preparing to step away from the group but was halted by Ed’s hand placed firmly on his shoulder.  He looked down at the hand impeding his progress and then looked into Ed’s face.  The sheriff’s expression was not pleasant.  He didn’t like being touched in general and being touched by someone of Ed’s caliber was near intolerable.  “You’ll be wanting to remove your hand from my shoulder,” Cole practically growled.

Ed’s hand withdrew immediately and hovered an inch away before his whole arm fell back to his side.  His body weight shifted slightly away from Cole as he prepared to take a step away before his machismo kicked in and forced his body to stand firm.  He would not be frightened by the sheriff.  Well, he wouldn’t be frightened anymore than he already had been.  His two cronies, however, didn’t have the same level of machismo and they both took a step backwards.

Ed’s mind worked feverishly.  He saw the gunslinger being in town as a chance to have some real fun.  He didn’t want to challenge the famed shootist or anything as foolish as that but imagined all sorts of entertainment on display having the man unleashed about town.  He noticed Cole still glaring at him and realized he needed to say something.  “Do you mind if I stop by the jail later on and have a chat with your famous patron?”

The result was instantaneous.  Cole couldn’t help the smile as it spread and he wouldn’t have stopped it if he could help it.  Ed Sans, you are a fool.   “No, I don’t have a problem with that.”

Sheriff Brown took a step forward and the three men parted to let him pass.  As he finished making his rounds about the town he decided that letting Ed come by for a visit may not have been the wisest decision.  Once he sees who Brig Coyle is he’ll know I played him for a fool and then he’ll be out for vengeance against me every bit as much as he is against the man he knows as Jack Smith.  I doubt those other gun men left town and having them to deal with along with a stupid Ed Sans would have been bad enough.  The gun men and a stupid and angry Ed could end up being a disaster.  Then again, the whole situation is pretty much already a disaster.

 Besides, the look on Ed’s face is going to be priceless. 

The sheriff chuckled just thinking about it.

As he entered his jailhouse again and engaged the locks another thought occurred to him.  I wonder if he was going to try to hire Brig to cause trouble for “Jack?”  The thought was too much.  He doubled over, his hands on his knees, and laughed.  When he looked up to see the look of confusion on Brig’s face the laugh became so boisterous it forced tears to streak from the corners of his eyes.

When he finally calmed down enough to tell Brig the story of his encounter with Ed Sans and the ranch hand’s request the look of sheer mirth on Brig’s face sent Cole teetering towards the edge of laughter oblivion again.  The sheriff managed to control himself until Brig’s broad grin broke so the caged man could say, “I sure hope I don’t have to duel it out with myself in the street.  That could be awkward… and confusing.  I don’t see how that could possibly work out well for me whatever the outcome.”

Their eyes met, Brig tried to stay straight faced, failed, and the two men burst out laughing.

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?”



“Hand-rolled cigarettes?”


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 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 24

I think we should be back on the right chapter this week.  I’m not sure what happened last week.  If you need to catch up, you can find the previous 23 chapters here.

You know you want to find out what happens next…


The next two days returned to some semblance of normal for Brig.  He rose early, worked, visited Cole at the jail, ate supper at Mrs. Sorensen’s, retired early each night, and avoided contact with anyone else as best he could.  Steering clear of trouble proved fairly easy because as his name was passed around town the good folks of Gunnison wanted even less to do with him than they had before.  He went from being ignored as just another drunk under the sheriff’s wings to being purposefully avoided.

People went out of their way to walk on the opposite of roads as him when passing on the street.  People in the shops he passed would clutch their belongings to their chests hoping he wouldn’t enter and on the one occasion he had entered, on an errand to pick up some nails to do some repair work on the Gunnison Inn all the other people there on business cleared out.  The owner looked like he wanted to clear out too and trembled so much while the money changed hands that several of the coins eluded him and went spinning and bouncing along the counter.

Initially Brig had worried that his name might cause a decrease in the clientele that frequented the bar but those concerns had turned out to be unfounded.  If anything, business had picked up a bit.  The normal morning patrons continued to come in to get their pre or post work drinks and there was a small but noticeable uptick in new faces.  The regulars didn’t care who served them their drinks they were just happy to be out of the mines in that moment.  The new faces popped in just to be able to say they were served a drink by Brig Coyle.  It was something they’d be able to tell their grandkids about.

“Listen up, once, after walking uphill through four feet of snow to get there, fighting off all manner of creatures intent upon feasting on bones, I stumbled upon a bar where I was served a drink by none other than the one-eyed gunslinger Brig Coyle.  I went on to stumble home, uphill, through five feet of snow after that, taming the west in the process.”

Anyway, moving on, Brig found Emmalou waiting for him on the porch on the third afternoon.  He was so pleased to see her that he didn’t even try to hide the smile that promptly spread across his face.  “Good afternoon, Miss Marsch.”

“And to you, Mr. Coyle.”

She was not smiling, but Brig didn’t let that get to him.  “If you will excuse me I will get cleaned up and join you promptly.”  She said nothing but inclined her head in approval and Brig quickly went about the process of making himself more presentable and then returned to the porch.  She had taken the same rocker she had sat in previously, and Brig pulled up the bench just as he had before as well.

“I’m happy to report that, I haven’t heard anything bad about you in the last three days, Mr. Coyle,” she said when he had settled into his seat.

You don’t look happy to report that, Brig found himself thinking.  She was not smiling, she wasn’t even rocking in the chair, straight backed, serious, all business.

“I have heard people saying that they’d wish you’d leave.”

“Did you tell them that I’m trying to start over, that I’m not the person they think I am?”

Emmalou frowned.  No, she hadn’t said that anytime his name had come up and the people talking had discussed their desire to see him run out of town.  She had considered it, the first time the opportunity had presented itself, but she found herself reluctant to divulge her role in his continued presence.  She knew she’d have to explain herself soon enough, after news of her visits to Mrs. Sorensen’s became as common knowledge as el borracho’s real name but she would deal with that when she had to.  It was cowardly of her, she knew it, and it ate at her whenever she thought about it.

She was angry with herself for getting into her current situation, angry for letting him stay in town, angry for agreeing to meet with him, angry for feeling slightly attracted to him still even as the initial intrigue had worn off, and angry that she was too concerned about her name in the community to be forward and outspoken about Brig’s attempt to live among them, to live a normal life.

All that angry, made her snippy with Brig, even if most of the anger wasn’t his fault, “No, it’s not my place.”  Yes it is, she thought the second the words had left her mouth.

Yes it is, Brig thought, but said nothing.

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence and then Emmalou made things even more uncomfortable by asking, “Will you tell me about that day in Cheyenne?”  She knew she didn’t need to be more specific than that, Brig would know what she was referring to.

He turned pale white and then a dark red that deepened to purple until he remembered to breath.  His color returned to the weather beaten tan of a man that has lived long years working out in the sun, eventually, but his eye showed how truly distraught he was.  His right hand, his gun hand, twitched.  It was the same twitch that had led him to put a bottle in his hand all those years ago, and thinking about it made him wish he could feel his hand with a bottle again.  I need a drink.

El borracho, looked at Emmalou defeated.  He made his right hand grab the front lip of the bench he was seated on to give it something to hold on to.  His good mood from before was a distant memory as the urge to drink filled his mind, his pores, his eye, his nostrils…  His vision swam, he could smell the whiskey, and he licked his lips as his mouth filled with the sweet taste of the brown liquid.  It was such a real hallucination that Brig momentarily believed he had somehow taken a drink.

His body shook, slightly, but enough to snap him back into reality and what he saw first helped him ease up his grip on the bench.  Emmalou was looking at him and her eyes were unmistakably full of concern.  I hadn’t believed Cole that I had made an impression on her, why would she want anything to do with me?  But, there in her eyes, I can see it.  She cares more for me than just to make sure I don’t bring pain and violence to her peaceful town.


The need to drink disappeared and the hallucination was forgotten almost as quickly as it had happened.  Maybe I can tell her? 

“Are, are you okay?”  She interrupted his thought process.

Brig realized he had been staring through her and brought his eye back into focus.  “Yes,” he managed though he shook his head from left to right without realizing it.

Maybe I can tell her.

Emmalou cocked her head slightly to one side, her features pensive as she studied the man seated across from her.  Once again, he had surprised her.  She had expected him to be outraged, it was why she had asked the question, or to at least immediately refuse.  She had not expected the very physical outburst of anguish that he had displayed instead.  She was sorry she had asked but it was too late, she couldn’t take it back.

Their eyes met, well, her eyes and his eye, and Brig began to speak.  His voice cracked from time to time and at a few points in his story he stopped talking for long spells before starting up again.  She silently took it all in.  The sun slid across the heavens.  People entered and exited the house off to their sides and passed to and fro along the street in front of the porch.  Another gentle afternoon breeze flowed out of the mountains to herald the cooler evening air that would arrive with night a few hours later.  Brig tried to hold Emmalou’s gaze while he spoke, but occasionally found he couldn’t stand her intense, beautiful blue eyes and dropped to stare through the wooden floorboards instead.

When he finished, Emmalou rose, and Brig rose too, she stepped to his side, and put her hand on his left shoulder, “Good evening, Mr. Coyle.”  She made her way down the steps and headed home.  Brig said nothing in return and did not watch her leave.  After a minute he went to his room and fell asleep.  He didn’t even wake up when Mrs. Sorensen called out that supper was being served.

When he did wake, several hours before he needed to for work, his eye sprung open and he whispered into the darkness, “She placed her hand on my shoulder.”