You know the drill: it’s Thursday so here is the next chapter in my silly comedy western, and all the prior chapters are here.
Mrs. Sorensen woke him in time for lunch, as promised, and he ate and made it to the afternoon shift at the Gunnison Inn on time. That shift passed without incident and the next morning he fell back into the routine he had started before the incident with Ed. The next couple days passed smoothly, quietly, peacefully, and Jack was once again pleased with the progress his new, sober, life was making in the small town he’d been, literally, thrown into.
That peace was shattered though one early afternoon as he was leaving his shift at the bar. It had been another easy morning and he’d allowed himself to finally start forgetting about Ed. Maybe he has found some other toy to play with?
He hadn’t. He had just been biding his time. Which actually meant: after hearing about the shenanigans in the Inn, his employer, Richard Blunt, had kept him on the ranch doing one task after another for a few days as punishment for his involvement in the brawl. Blunt knew the type of man Ed was and knew the story Ed fed him about what happened was probably only part of the whole tale. He also knew the only way to keep men like Ed out of trouble was to keep them occupied with work. Eventually, though, that work ran out and he was forced to give him some more time off to spend his earnings as he saw fit. He had advised Ed to find someplace other than Gunnison to frequent on his down time, but Gunnison was the only real town within easy riding distance so he knew his man would probably end up there again. There was nothing he could do about that.
“Where you going?” The words were spit out, more of an exclamation than a question.
They fell upon Jack’s ears the moment he stepped through the door of the Gunnison Inn and out onto the wooden walkway in front. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the brilliant afternoon light, but the voice was unmistakable, even tweaked up an octave due to the rage in the man’s voice. Ed.
Jack turned towards the sound of the voice and found Ed, with four of his cronies backing his play, leaning against the railing just outside the Inn. He had been drinking, it was obvious from the dribble stains down the front of his shirt, the slightly glazed look from his eyes, and a few other tell-tale signs only a drunk would even know to look for: the way he was standing, the slight slouch in his shoulders and the look of pure confidence on his face.
Ed’s right hand rested on the butt of his revolver, and he looked none too pleased.
”I believe, we’ve got some unfinished business, you and I. You didn’t think I’d let you sucker punch me and get away with it, did you? You might be a drunk but you’re not stupid, are you?”
And, triple crap.
Ed kept on talking, and Jack let him. Maybe I’ll think of a way out of this situation while he’s talking himself into what he wants to do.
“Nobody, sucker punches me and doesn’t get what’s coming to them.” Behind him, Ed’s cronies nodded in agreement and two chimed in with “that’s the truth” and “that’s right.” Ed, emboldened by his perceived position of superiority, and the liquor, kept pushing. “Are you chicken as well? Are you scared to fight me when I’m ready for you? Or do you only throw down when you know you are catching someone off guard? Coward. Chicken liver. Worthless, no good drunk. Come on and fight me, if you dare.”
It was risky, given Ed’s current state, but Jack figured it was his best chance under the circumstances. Just because he wasn’t armed didn’t mean they wouldn’t make it look like he had been if he stuck around and took the bait for the “fair” fist fight. The way Ed was keeping his hand on his revolver made Jack fairly certain he was just going to shoot him, so he turned his back on Ed and his cronies and started to walk away.
“Hey! Coward! I’m talking to you.” The words came thick, fast, and loud. “Don’t turn your back on me.”
Good, keep it up, draw a crowd. Already, a few faces had pressed against the window of the bar to see what the shouting was about. Across the street a shop worker opened his door and peered out, taking in the whole scene.
A shot rang out and Jack froze. It hadn’t been aimed at him because he hadn’t heard the whine of the bullet pass him and no dirt was kicked up in his vicinity. He fought every urge in his body to turn around and see where the gun was pointed but he ignored those urges and took another step forward.
“Why won’t you fight me, you coward!”
Another shot rang out, this time Jack did hear the whine of the bullet as it sailed harmlessly over his head, and luckily harmless over the rest of the town in that direction. It would come down somewhere but nowhere near where anyone might get hit. Jack didn’t stop walking for the second bullet, even though he wanted to, he could hear the cronies talking to Ed, trying to get him to calm down. They could see the witnesses gathering and nothing would save Ed if he shot an unarmed man in the back with that many people watching. As untouchable as Ed felt at that moment, his cronies at least knew that he wasn’t.
No third bullet followed the second one, and Jack breathed a little easier. Well, that was until Ed screamed out at his retreating figure, “Your due is coming. One day I’ll get you.”
I need a … Jack thought. He was going to originally finish that thought with “drink,” but that wasn’t quite right anymore. No, I don’t need a drink. For once, that was a true statement. I need a gun. That was also a true statement.