Posted: January 10, 2011 in Fiction

Samuel watched the newest stranger as he drifted into his bar. Five strangers in one day meant trouble. Anyone worth their salt could see that. The first four had seemed like trouble, yet they had done nothing but play cards and enjoy the drinks being served up. This fifth one, though… He carried himself differently. Samuel had been watching people for most of his life, and he could tell that the weary walk and the slight dip in the posture was a hustle.

The man stopped in front of Samuel, dropping a bank note on the bar. It was a bit more money than was needed to buy a drink. The stranger talked in a low voice, like a whisper through a mouthful of gravel. One whiskey sour and four men who weren’t locals. As he listened, the bartender tried to divine the man’s intent. He wore a long duster, tattered at the bottom and sun-bleached at the shoulders. The hat looked like it had been trampled by every cow in the territory, then blocked back into shape. The coat opened a little as the stranger leaned in, and the light glinted off of a lawman’s badge. Samuel nodded to the marshal, then toward the four strangers. He pulled a bucket glass from behind the counter and poured the drink.

The man’s grey eyes softened for a moment. “Much obliged,” he said. He took a sip, and Samuel watched those eyes turn hard as granite. The lawman stood there for a minute savoring his drink, then put the half-empty glass on the counter. The bar wasn’t quiet by any standard, but the bartender heard every step the marshal took as though each were a thunderclap. The walk was slow and deliberate. He could see the lawman straighten, and he caught a glimpse of an Arkansas Toothpick sliding into the lawman’s left hand.

If Samuel had chosen that moment to blink, he’d have missed what happened next in its entirety. As the marshal reached the table, the left hand came around the neck of the nearest of the quartet with the knife curled around the left side of his neck. The lawman’s coat whipped open with such speed that the tail of it snapped like a whip, and a peacemaker leapt up and pointed in the vicinity of the other three. “Let’s all just lay our hands on the table where I can see ’em. ” Silence flooded the bar. “If you boys ain’t who I’m lookin’ for, this’ll only be a moment.”

Samuel knew with the faith of a holy man that someone was about to do something foolish. Sure enough, one of the men went for a gun. The one on the marshal’s left drew his iron, but by the time he cleared the edge, the marshal had shot him in the arm and the chest. The lawman spun left, passing behind the man with the knife to his throat. As he did so, he cut right through his Adam’s apple. The remaining two drew and fired. The man furthest from the marshal hit only his friend with the opened throat, and the other buried his slugs in the far wall. The marshal came about to face the remaining two, and stabbed the knife into the collar of the closest. He took aim and shot his gun dry into the chest of the last man.

Samuel’s ears rung and the air took on a blue tinge from the smoke of the gunfire. “Someone find me a doctor!” The marshal’s voice cut through the air like his knife would. Someone near the door nodded vigorously and took off at a run. The lawman kept his hand on the handle of the knife buried in the only man still drawing breath at that table. “This don’t have to be the day you meet your maker, so long as you start talking.”

I know that I’ve been bouncing around as far as what I’m writing about, but it’s been very important that I write something every day. Eventually I hope to be doing enough to build a backlog, because I plan on going on vacation soon. Heaven knows I need one. I think I’ll also start taking requests – I can’t promise that I’ll produce right away, but I think it would be a fun exercise.

  1. Anne says:

    “Silence flooded the bar.”

    Powerful sentence that could be a scene all by itself; well done! Maybe you’ve already done so (I haven’t had a chance to check out your more recent posts), but I really want to know what happened with these guys.

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