Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Serenity Gulch Stories: The New Kid

Beauregard regarded his gang’s newest member uneasily. He sat alone at a corner table, watching the other saloon patrons from over a warming mug of beer, his expression varying only as it shifted from disinterest to disdain. The young man was still dressed for riding, or work on the range, wearing his batwing chaps in the saloon, seemingly oblivious to the looks and snickers it generated.  He was clean shaven except for a carefully trimmed patch on his chin, and a long, dark lock of hair fell across his face, nearly obscuring his right eye. His red linen shirt had probably been considered fancy when he’d bought it, and was still one of the most colourful items worn in the Emporium that evening. Well, worn by men, anyways. 

One of the saloon girls strode over to the table and asked him something, but whether offered a stronger drink or the promise of companionship, he only shook his head.  Rose shrugged and began to return to the bar, but saw Beauregard beckon her over with a subtle raising of his chin.  She sat at his table and reached for the bottle of rye at its centre, pouring a glass for each of them while pointedly ignoring the others already sitting there.

“Doesn't seem like he’s much interested cher,” the gang leader drawled, drawing a snort from his right hand man, Cole.

Rose didn't rise to the bait. “Not in much of anything, so it pays not to take it personal.” She downed her whiskey and pushed the empty tumbler towards the table’s center. “He was talking a little bit earlier.”

“And about what, might I ask?” inquired The Daragh, the thoughtfulness of his question contrasting to the leering grin that seemed a permanent part of his countenance.

“How much better everything is in Missouri, for the most part,” replied Rose. 

Cole nodded.  “Just like Kansas City used to,” referring to their recently deceased partner.

The saloon girl shook her head.  “Not this one, he's from a ranch in East Missouri, out by Chesterfield.”

“Mopey bastard,” chortled Cole.  “The only folks say they’re from Chesterfield are ones what don’t want to say they’re city slickers from St. Louis.”

Rose smiled without showing her teeth. “That’s possible too.”

Beauregard frowned and scratched his jawline under his beard. “I might draw some exception to that remark, less’n you think Baton Rouge is sufficiently rusticated fo' y'self. Or maybe you think I’m soft too, eh?” Two seats to his right, Lafitte, sensing tension, stopped his endless card shuffling and sat back in his chair, hands dropping softly into his lap.

The significance of the other Louisianan’s posture either went unnoticed by Cole, or he wisely decided to pay it no heed.  He raised his glass to his lips saying, “Keep your shirt on, gumbo; everything is tougher in them swamps, present company included,” gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb at Lafitte. This garnered a chuckle from the sharply dressed man, who visibly relaxed but still left the cards untouched in front of him.

After a short pause, The Daragh spoke up. “Sure and does everyone in East Mo’ cut their hair that way then?”

The table erupted in laughter, but trailed off as the kid, who had obviously heard them, stood up from his table, purposefully, but without haste.  Beauregard noted for the first time that the young man wore his Colt in a cross draw rig, cavalry style.  A subtle and familiar click from beneath the table told him that Lafitte had thumbed back the hammer on at least one barrel of Heloise, his trusty sawed-off. Cole regarded the cowboy dismissively, while the grin never left The Daragh’s face as he locked eyes with the kid.

For his part Beauregard was content to see how events unfolded; a man can’t abide willful disrespect, but calling someone out over a comment on their hairstyle was the kind of prideful recklessness the Cajun’s particular brand of ongoing criminal enterprise simply did not need.

Anger was notably absent from the cowpoke’s face as he stared down The Daragh dispassionately, and his drawing hand hung motionless by his side, with nary a movement towards his holster.  When he finally spoke, he didn't even deign to raise his voice, almost whispering, “Don't think you know me,” before slowly walking out the doors of the Emporium and into the street.

The doors hadn't even stopped swinging before The Daragh slapped an open hand on the table in approval.  “Lad’s got some salt, and no one can tell The Daragh different, that's for certain.”

Cole nodded as well.  “Looks like the Missouri Kid is a steady hand at least; that's good.”

“East Missouri,” reminded Rose, prompting more laughter.

“Too long it takes to say, t-il pas?” mused Beauregard, “Reckon I will call him… the E. Mo’ Kid.”

Cole drained his whiskey and started to refill his glass.  “The Emo Kid?”  He paused to consider this, then shrugged non committally.  “Has a ring to it.”

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