Gwendolyn

by Jason Alan

First chapter of a future novel. Full disclosure, I know almost nothing about the Old West, I’m just doing this for the fun of it. Also because page after page just kept pouring out of me. Let me know what you think so far.

***

There were no doors at the front of the saloon, as it never closed, but the few patrons there that afternoon heard the clicks of her custom made, high heeled boots on the old wooden floor as she entered. That was the only sound. The boots and hat were black, dusty from the road, but it was the immaculate red dress with a slit up one side to her upper thigh that at first drew the silence of the men. Her hourglass figure, stunning legs and long, fiery red hair damn near made the clock stop.

One long mirror about two feet high spanned almost the length of the back of the dark oak bar and stopped just before it curved off to one side. They were as filthy as could be, but still useful enough. Everything in the saloon, including its inhabitants and proprietor, was dusty and weathered, but the bar itself was shinier than the day it had been built. The barkeep, in fact, had been wiping it down before she walked in and stopped him cold. Another oval mirror to the right, hung too high and a rectangular one on the front wall to the left, hung crooked, both framed in wrought iron. Several paintings scattered seemingly at random here and there on the walls that only a mother could love.

There was a small stage to the left that was occasionally used whenever the few people in town that could play an instrument got together, but not recently. Liquor, beer and the local drunk doing his impersonation of singing until somebody threatened to remove his teeth was evidently enough entertainment for the locals most of the time. Thirteen tables, three of them occupied by four men, at least three of them armed. One sitting by the stage at the front, two by the entrance and one in the back where the bar ended. She couldn’t see him very well, so he was the only one she was worried about.

None of them looked to be sheriffs or deputies. That could end up being good or bad, depending on the situation. The way the two men sitting together looked at her like dogs in heat, it might be a bad thing. For them.

The barkeep had a shotgun that was so covered with dirt, it may have never even been used. She saw that as a bonus. A man who didn’t even bother to clean his weapon was not a man that was quick to use it. If she were two inches shorter, she wouldn’t have seen it but would have assumed it to be there. She had surveyed all this and more in the ten steps that it took to get to a stool.

“Whiskey, double,” she said, taking a gold coin from her bra and putting it on the bar. “The good stuff. And don’t stop until my tab is paid.”

After a few drawn out seconds of being transfixed by her ample cleavage, the barkeep snapped out of it. “Yes’m, comin’ right up.”

She managed a little smile on one side of her full lips and rolled her magnificent eyes. Little green circles of steel encased in glass accented by long black lashes.
Men, she thought.

The two that had been sitting together at a table near the entrance were already ambling toward her. Their whispers stopped as they got close, but she could hear the giggle of little boys wearing the garb of men. The welcoming committee in this town didn’t waste any time, she mused as she spied them in the mirror.

They were average height, both scruffy, dirty and unattractive. The one on her left had a protruding belly that had processed more meat than a dozen slaughterhouses. The other was to her right, skinny but stout. They both were strong, and in more ways than one. They were close enough for her to smell their stench. It was not the scent of anyone she cared to associate with, and she assumed correctly that her opinion didn’t matter to them half a bit.
“Now, fellas,” the bartender warned feebly as he delivered her drink.

“Shut up, boss,” the fat one said, not removing his prying eyes from her.

“What’s yer name, sweetheart?” he asked, putting his unwashed hand on her exposed thigh. “More importantly, how much?”

She sighed and drank the whiskey in one swallow, admiring the glass a bit as she put it down. At least it was clean. “Your comment I can let pass, fat man, but I suggest you take your hand off me before you lose it.”

“Ooh, lookie here,” he said with a smile full of rotten teeth, his body moving closer to her, his smile widening, “we got a feisty one today.”

He squeezed her thigh and both men laughed, but their amusement ended abruptly. In one swift move, she had both their weapons. Before her barstool hit the floor, she was behind the big man with his own revolver cocked and pressed firmly against his left temple. The butt of the other gun she had just acquired was on his right shoulder, pointed at his partner.

“Put your hands up and walk five paces back. Put your gun on the bar and get the hell away from it. Slowly.” She cocked the other gun to punctuate her request.

“Alright now, ma’am, just don’t do anything stupid now.”

“Spare me the lesson, professor, just do as I say.”

He did as he was told and when he stopped, she swung her right arm toward the other man sitting by the stage. He had drawn his firearm, but didn’t seem scared like the skinny man looked. She couldn’t see very much of the fat man’s face, but the way he was shaking, she didn’t need to. There would be no surprise if he had pissed himself. Not that she would have been able to smell any difference.

“I’m gonna need you to put your weapon down on the table and back away,” she said.
He returned her request with stone-faced silence.

“Do you really want to die today?” she asked.

The man at the table smiled. “What are you gonna do, kill us all?”

She smiled in return and managed a quick laugh. “Well, the barkeep ain’t drawn on me. Yet. And the fella in the corner over there,” she motioned to the left with her head, her hair swaying softly against her breasts, “hasn’t either, far as I can tell, so I say their chances are pretty good.”

“As for the one hiding behind the bar,” she continued, “he might just mess around and get his head blown off. That would be a shame, really. He’s so young. I’d be shocked if he had two hairs on his nuts.”

“Shit.” The kid rose up after a few seconds and deftly pointed a shotgun at her over the bar. “Don’t make me shoot, lady.”

Before he finished the sentence, another lightning fast move from her brought the gun in her right pointed to the man seated, the one in her left to the kid and the fat man screaming in pain. She had kicked the heel from her left boot, revealing a three and a half inch blade, sharp as a barbor’s razor. It was buried in the back of his foot.

“Goddamnit, Pete,” the barkeep said, looking at the kid.

“Sorry daddy,” Pete said, not looking away from her, “but if you ain’t gonna pick up your piece, I will.”

Fat man’s scream came to a stop and he started panting heavily. He called her a whore under his breath, thinking it was quiet enough that she wouldn’t hear it. She did, and asked his name. No answer. She was not looking at him, but the two firearms pointed at her.

Her foot twitched and fresh pain shot into his foot and up his leg, a bolt of lightning all the way to his head. He yelled again, topping it off with a half recognizable version of his name.

“Alright, Wesley, if that’s what you said,” she responded, “now we’re getting somewhere. As you are fully aware, but maybe these gentleman ain’t, there is a knife in your foot. Feels like it’s right behind the Achilles. Do you want to let these fellas know it’s probably a good idea to put their guns down? If this goes south, three of us is gon’ get shot and you’ll be spending the rest of your days walking with a limp.”

Wesley breathed in heavily between gritted teeth. “Come on, guys, this hurts like hell. You seen how quick she is, help me out here.”

Pete looked at the bartender, who nodded and gave him a what-are-you-stupid look.
She continued. “Wesley, is it necessary for me to explain to your fellow patrons of this establishment how important an Achilles tendon is?”

Tears were cutting strips of grime from Wesley’s face. “Put the goddamn guns down!” He screamed.

“Fine,” the boy agreed, after a quick angry gaze at his father, reluctantly setting the shotgun on the bar and stepping back.

Those deep green eyes set in her soft, fair features focused more closely on the man sitting at the table, who had not yet relieved himself of his pistol. He was still pointing it at her, and still smiling.

Another man came to the entrance, unarmed, clean and well dressed. The finely tailored suit most likely cost more than most residents of the town made in six months. She told him to mind his business in a voice as stoic as it was harmonious. He took two seconds to evaluate the situation and ran off.

“Go over there with the barkeep, Pete,” she said, and he did. She then pointed both guns at the man seated. Strategically. One at his head, one at the heart. And he knew it. “Nobody has to die here today. I can pull my blade out of your buddy’s foot here and I’m sure the doc can fix ‘im up right and he will walk again and everybody can live to disrespect the ladies another day.”

He remained silent for a moment, continuing to smile.

“So, little lady, what makes you think you can just waltz into our quiet little town and start waving guns around and threatening these poor boys, and what makes you think that fat piece of shit is my friend?”

“Hey!” Wesley shouted, obviously injured by his statement. She twitched her foot slightly and he screamed again.

“I make it a point to not shoot first but in your case-” she cut her sentence off when she saw him move.

He aimed at her chest but she had already ducked and returned fire. His first bullet went high into Pete’s shoulder and his second sunk into the ground while his free hand grasped his bleeding throat. He dropped. She pulled her modified heel out of Wesley’s foot and stuck it into the old wooden floor, giving her enough leverage to use her other boot to kick him square in the back. He tripped on the toppled over barstool and hit the ground flailing and weeping.

Pete was holding his shoulder and screaming like a newborn, his father the bartender right at his side. The kid’s holler might as well have been a church bell, considering all the people she could see outside that had begun to gather around. There wasn’t much time before the law would show up, and killing lawmen was always a messy affair.
There’s no time for this shit, she thought.

Her guns went to the skinny man, his hands still up, and the bartender. “That gold I gave you should be enough to pay for three more drinks. I know you have a child to attend to but he’ll keep. The bullet went clean through. He’ll live. Make me another double and give these wounded little cry babies something too. Maybe it’ll help with the pain and shut ’em up. Not like it matters now. And no sudden movements.”

“Yes’m”, he got up slowly and replied respectfully, handing Pete his handkerchief. “Hold this to the wound, son.”

“Take off your belt and toss it to me,” she told the skinny man, “and when I leave, ya’ll can go get the doctor so he can fix these would be bad boy outlaws up nice.”

The bartender poured three glasses as the man removed his gun belt and threw it to her. She put one gun on the bar and put the heel back on her boot, concealing the blood-soaked blade. Her second and last glass of whiskey slid down her svelte throat as she buckled the belt on her waist. She holstered the revolver on the bar and held the other one out, gliding back and forth, on nobody and everybody at once, as she backed toward the door.

“You got some damn fine whiskey. It’s too bad I won’t be coming back to enjoy any more of it. When you boys talk to the sheriff,” she stressed to them as she glanced both ways out front, “you tell him who shot who and more important, who shot first. And if he feels froggy enough to jump after me, tell him Jesse James wouldn’t take too kindly to anybody messing with his sister.”

And like a ghost, she was gone.