The sound of gunshots coming from the saloon got Tom’s attention as he walked down the boardwalk, but (random) gunshots happened all the time there so he only hurried and didn’t run to the saloon. There he found Cooper Holtz with an arm pulled tight around Molly Froome’s waist and his hog’s leg pointed shakily at Roman Green.
“Y’keep your paws offa her, y’hear?” Cooper slurred. “Nobody don’t touch Molly but me and – and me.”
Roman’s hands were up and his eyes were wide.
“You were supposed to be gone three days.”
“Yeah, well I ain’t. You keep your paws off her.”
Tom shook his head. Molly wasn’t the prettiest fancy girl they had at the Jumping Antelope saloon, but Cooper liked Molly only slightly less than he liked fighting and whenever he was in town, he was in trouble.
“I said – you hear me?” Cooper yelled and Tom pulled his gun and cracked him over the head with the butt of it just to be done with it. Cooper folded to the floor like laundry that slipped off the line and Tom left him where he fell.
“You all right?” He asked Molly. She nodded and he holstered his gun. It was then that he saw West sitting at his usual table, right near the door, with his back to the wall and a mug of beer in front of him. Tom walked over.
“Thanks for the help.”
“This is my favorite table. Figured it was best to keep it safe.”
“You woulda hardly had to leave the table to stop Cooper.” Tom said.
“Well then, I guess I must like to hear you complain.”
Tom grumbled and took a seat. He tossed his hat on the table and signaled Molly to bring him a beer.
West lifted an eyebrow.
“Don’t recall issuing the invite,” he said. As always, Tom ignored his jibes.
“I heard you took the job with the preacher. So, you’re sticking around a while?”
West gave him a sour look.
“At least ‘til I finish my beer.”
Molly delivered Tom’s beer and he took a long swallow.
“Sheriff High and Mighty came back, gave his oration to my Pa.”
“Worth waiting for then, was it?” West asked.
“It actually was, in the middle of all the spew. He said there was a preacher killed in Deer Park night before last. He thinks the killer might be headed this way. Fella name of – “
“Maldad?” West asked, with his beer mug stopped halfway to his mouth.
“Yeah. You heard of him? You ever run across him? The wanted poster Campbell showed us didn’t have any description.”
West swallowed hard and set the mug down without drinking.
“There’s no description ‘cause there’s no survivors. You don’t run across Maldad. You run the other way.” He stood up and tossed some coins onto the table. “I gotta see to my horse.”
West left the saloon and on the floor near the bar, Cooper Holtz shook his head and dragged himself back to consciousness.
(HE GOES TO HIS HORSE for dialogue) (DOES CAMPBELL FOLLOW HIM? HE’S GOT TO ANNOY WEST)
West headed for the livery. His horse was in its stall, head down, eyes half closed, and back foot tipped forward, but its head lifted in interest when West appeared.
“I know, sugar. Y’darn mule.” West pulled the pouch out and satisfied the horse. “So, I got us a job. There’s a preacher in town, needs help fixing up his house and he pays fair wages and don’t seem to care how much blood I might got on me.” He pulled his hat off and fingered the telegram tucked into the band. “I was thinking of visiting the folks again, it’s been near six months. And Sweet Lucy needs to sew this dang button back on for me. I can’t do it. I can’t hardly thread a needle without pricking my own thumb. Reckon they could stand to see me again. For a few days anyway. Guess that’s gonna have to wait.“
The horse whickered and rubbed its head against West’s shoulder and snuffled his pockets for more sugar.
“I know, I know. They’re always saying they don’t see me enough but – I don’t know. I think they do. I think they seen me enough to last a lifetime. But –“ he sighed and pulled his hat back on. “Lucy’s sick and needs a doctor so I need a plain job, at least for a little while. When that’s done, we might could take a trip back there.”
He scrubbed the horse’s neck and looked out the open back door of the livery.
“It’s cooled off some, but I hope the rain don’t last much longer. Don’t fancy working in the damp and the heat. I can tolerate one or the other, but both are too much for even me to bear. All right, I’m headed to my room, but I’ll check back on you later. Don’t go tellin’ the other horses any wild stories while I’m gone.”
Rain started to fall again as West took himself to his room. He opened the two windows, pulled off his hat and coat and boots and laid himself out on the bed with a sigh.
He reached over and pulled the telegram from his hat band to read again.
‘Lucy sick. Doctor hopeful. Come soon.