He was sitting there,without looking nowhere in particular.
His silver,shiny colt was leaning by his left side.
It was a hot,sunny day of summer,or, at least, he thought it was summer. It could be summer by the terrible heat which ate your face and hurt your eyes, but, after all, every single day for him was just the same as if he was living the same 24 hours over and over again, since when he had made up his mind to run away from that mouse trap that was his born city. He remembered the day he had left with a grin of satisfaction and a bitter taste of victory. He had run for miles and miles,stolen a horse and given a last glance to the old city clock, which,in that very moment, was striking five.
Now he was there,somewhere,everywhere, covered in dust and sweat, a drink in his hand where the ice was melting slowly,remembering him that the sun,outside, was hotter than the women he used to occasionally take to dinner.
He was,ironically, what would be defined a cowboy.
And also a homeless,since he had no place to live.
He left as he arrived,disappearing without leaving a single trace of his passage in these or that ‘spit’ of a town,as he defined them.
He rode for a day or two without a break and his whole body was aching.
He looked in front of him: the girl was still standing there.
She had been watching him since the moment he arrived and he had to fight with himself more than once not to give in the temptation of show his interest in her.
He stand up,leaving his whiskey on the table and approached the jukebox,where he checked the song list, inserted a quarter and pushed the button. Then, he came back to his chair.
The girl had started dancing, winking to the costumers and showing proudly her beads decorated bra and her short skirt. Her skin was tanned and in her hair there was something which recalled him a strawberry blond waitress he met years before. She came closer and closer as he grew cold, trying to play it cool and nice.
“You look pretty nice,cowboy” she whispered in his ear.
“You too look good ” he answered, with a sour grin on the curve of his lips.
“And you also have a good taste in music..this is my favorite song,you know?”
“What a lucky coincidence.”
“Indeed” she grinned back.
He recognized trouble when he was seeing it, and he knew for sure that girl was a high danger level,served on a silver plate.
“You should be dancing for the costumers. Otherwise they’ll get pretty mad.”
“And you should be drinking your corn-juice on the rocks,babe,but you don’t look interested in it anymore. Moreover,there are plenty of dancers tonight.”
He pressed his hat on his head again,hiding his eyes in the shadow.
She sat on the table.
“What have we got here? A gun?”
“You’d better not touch it,if you mind keeping your hand exactly in the position where it is now. If you make a move, I’ll consider it as your last wish.”
“Such a big,strong man who’s picking on such a delicate girl?” she laughed at him “Please,try to be serious. Now,if you bother to listen to my request,I’d be more than happy to explain my point of view to you,Mr.. What’s your name?”
“Who asks for it?”
“Jane. And that’s enough for you to know.”
“My name’s Riley. Ask no more questions,lady.”
“Fair for me. As if I cared. See, I noticed you from the first moment you stepped inside. You seem to be someone with a little bit of a brain still not spoiled by alcohol.”
“Should that be a compliment?”
“A big one” she winked “I saw your horse over there. Strong animal. Surely it is clever.”
“The point being?”
“I need to get away from here”
“Babe,I don’t think you understand the situation. Listen I’ll explain it to you very slowly so that you can understand the point I’m trying to make without any effort: I’m a stranger to you, I have a gun. You come here and ask me to take you away. You enjoy playing with fire.”
“I’m not going to play your game,lady. Find another fool to chase. I pay my bill and leave and I’ll do it right now. And,here’s the best part, you are not coming with me.”
“Why not? I am the one who’s risking her life,not you. You are the tough one here.”
“I simply don’t have a reason to take you with me,that’s all. Be gone,now. Go back dancing or stealing other chuckleheads’ wallet..by the way,that would be mine.” said he,taking her wrist in his hand and taking his wallet from her agile fingers. “I don’t like thieves.”
She looked at him, there was fire in her eyes. It burned for a couple of seconds before she started grinning again “Looks like the horse is not the only clever beast ‘round here,uh? You’re such a weirdo,you know that,don’t you?”
“I haven’t been hearing that word for years,young lady.”
“Who are you? My daddy? Now,leave. I’ll find someone else. Someone better,maybe.”
“Do whatever you want” said he,shrugging.
He pressed his hat again on his head and checked the wallet. She hadn’t had the time to steal anything from it. He turned around and made his way to the counter. He was about to ask for the bill and,maybe, an other whiskey when a little cry behind his back made him quickly turn back to see what was happening behind him. A big man,probably bigger than he was, had grabbed Jane’s arm with his hand. The girl was struggling against him,trying to push the stranger away,but it was no use. The music had stopped and now everyone was looking at them. A sort of uncontrolled flame of anger seemed to possess ,for a moment, Riley’s belly and brains. He didn’t even dare to move, not to betray his feeling, then he heard him:
“Why don’t you wanna give me what you were gonna give to that bugger,uh,hon’? I’m sure we’d have some fun together,sweetie.”
Something deep inside of him jumped out and,without even thinking of what he was doing or saying, he screamed, in the middle of the saloon “Hey,you! Yeah,you big guy. What’s your problem with the lady,uh?”
The man didn’t even turn his way.
“Hey,looks like your new friend is an aspirant suicide,gal.”
Jane protested as his hand squeezed her little, pale arm tighter.
“Hey,scalawag. I am talking to you. Let the damsel go.”
This time the giant stranger looked at him right in his eyes before answering “Otherwise?”
“I don’t care a continental about your pretty face. Smash it would be such a great pleasure..maybe it will be as great as the pleasure of staying with this nice chick.”
“Last chance to do what I say.”
“You’d better do what he says” muttered Jane to her abuser.
“And you’d better hobble your lip!” said him,angrily, pushing her to the ground with a thud. Jane stood on the floor,without moving.
Riley’s hand flew over his colt, automatically. Then he stopped thinking: the man could have been unarmed. He caught an empty bottle from the counter.
“Do you enjoy playing on the gallery,uh? Let’s see how good you are on bulldozing someone of your size.”
“It will be my pleasure,yellow belly.”
Riley jumped,agile as a panther, and they were almost immediately face to face. He tried to avoid every fist of the stranger as quick as he could: if the guy was stronger, he surely was faster. The first shot missed his head of an inch,while the second caught him in his stomach. He fell, still holding the empty bottle in his hand. The giant man was planning to hit him again,but he managed to roll under a wooden table and dodge the strike addressed to his head. Leveraging on his back he succeeded in getting on his feet again. With a rapid,sharp move he hit the man right in his bald head with the bottom of bottle, catching him unprepared. He roared, looked at him and then, with his head made red by the blood that was spilling out the wound,fell on the ground,unconscious.
Panting, he left the rest of the bottle to fall to the floor, collected his hat and went towards the girl who hadn’t moved of an inch.
“Jane? Are you all right?”
“You defended me” whispered her.
Her voice was very low,but firm and she had opened her blue eyes a little.
“I did. Can you walk?”
“Yes,I’m fine,thanks to you,cowboy.”
“Come,we’re leaving the place.”
“Wait a minute,wait a minute. We?”
“Yeah. You wanted to leave this place,right?”
“Yeah,you can bet that I want leave.”
“Then, come with me.”
“I thought you were a sort of lone ranger,or something along those lines.”
“I’m not saying you’re staying with me forever,but I have no intention to leave you here with this kind of high binders here..”
“That’s all right for me.”
A menacing man with a dirty and rusty beard appeared behind the counter as soon as he heard what was going on
“Hey,where do you think you’re going with my best dancer like that,uhuh? If you really want to have a ride with her, you’ll have to pay.”
“Is that a bluff, or do you mean it for real play?”
“No bluff at all. She’s mine. You came here and when you leave my saloon’s destroyed,my best client’s on the floor,bleeding,because of you..take her away,she’s trouble and I don’t want her, I don’t even care. But I want my dinero,amigo.”
He looked at Jane,puzzled. She shook her head.
“Fine. How much?”
“How about four hundred?”
“You wish. Let’s make two. And consider yourself lucky.”
“I’m not..!” he stopped,his eyes on the cowboy’s hand that was lying on the gun “You can keep your money,filthy cowboy. Now go. And never come back.”
“I won’t, that’s for sure.” said Riley, stepping out of the saloon. Jane followed him outside without a word.
“You knew about the fee right from the start,didn’t you?”
“Well,yes. Who didn’t?”
“I didn’t. How the Sam Hill did you think you could go away,uh?”
“What a silly question! In secret,that’s obvious.”
“Right. I’m way too naive,I suppose” said he wryly, with a grimace “You know how to ride,I guess.”
“Fine. I guess that our sonkey in there doesn’t need his horse for a couple of hours..and we’ll be far from here by then. Here.” said he, passing her the reins of a white horse, tied next to his.
“How do you know it’s his horse?”
“I saw him coming. His fellow will be happy to carry a lighter weight on his back, I think.”
“Yeah,sure. I thought you didn’t like thieves.”
“Sometimes I don’t like myself either..Follow me.”
“I’ll be right behind you” she said,jumping on the saddle.
-the title of this story is taken from T. Keith’s song “Bullets in the gun”;
-I’d like to write a second episode,but I can’t promise anything for reasons of time;
-I hope there are not too many grammar/vocabulary mistakes.. if there are some mistakes that need to be corrected,please tell me 🙂
– You can find all the ‘western lingo’ I used here : Legends of America
– I’ll soon post a translation of this text in Italian 🙂
.. I hope you like it 😀