The Book of Rules
Not mine; however I have absolutely no guilt over picking up the pieces, since Fox has seen fit to abandon them!
This is a Johnny muse, about brother bonding. Some cussing; sexual innuendo.
02-The Book of Rules - Johnny
I can’t fuckin’ believe it!! Here we are, me and my brother, Scott; sittin’ in the overstuffed chairs of some fancy, rollin’ parlor car, headin’ down the main line at sixty miles an hour. ‘Dead-headin’,’ he calls it. Straight through shot, from the sidin’ in Green River, on to the main line and right on to Sacramento; in time, he says for a ‘late supper’. ‘Coarse supper ain’t what Scott’s got on his mind right now; more like dessert.
Takes a little time to get your legs workin’ right ridin’ the rails. I get up outta my chair and head for the place where I saw Scott find the bourbon, and lift the lid. It’s kind of a well, a hole cut into the wood, with a six-holed divider above the bottom board. Bottles fit right snug in those holes, as neat as cartridges into the cylinder of a Colt. A practical thing, considerin’ all the shakin’ and rattlin’ going on. Every eight feet, that ka-tunk where the rails meet, and you can feel the give.
Scott’s sittin’ in a chair with his feet up, glass of bourbon in his hand, and the usual book propped up against his knees. Somethin’ about the Trojan War and a guy named Achilles.
Pretty sneaky that way Scott got this pal of his, Clay Porter, to fix this up. Scott’s got lots of contacts from his days at Harvard; that an’ being ole Harlan Garrett’s grandson. He says Porter is an engineer; not one them guys that drives the train, but a trouble-shooter and a Vice President for the SP, and this is the car he uses when he’s inspectin’ track.
Scott says that track inspectin’ is kinda like ridin’ fence. Right. Last time Scott and me got stuck with that chore, we spent a mis’rable week eatin’ hard tack and jerky, fightin’ the fuckin’ wind and rain and workin’ on a crop of saddle sores.
I’m still checkin’ out the supply of booze. The top of the liquor cabinet’s got a diamond dust mirror in it, and I can see Scott sittin’ behind me. Nice touch. Maybe this Clay Porter knows a thing or two about watchin’ his back. Makes him a smart man in my book.
Without lookin’ up from his book, Scott raises his hand a points a single finger in the direction of the cabinet above my head. I unhook the latch and give things a look. Mirrors on the inside of this door, too. Another rack, and some more bottles. Sweet Jesus! I take the jug outta the rack: Oro negro del Oso (Black Bear Gold)! Sippin’ tequila!
Scott’s reflection still in the mirror, and -- without lookin’ at me -- he raises that single finger, his pointin’ finger, in the air. One. Hell, one what? Bottle, drink, swallow, swig? Murdoch’s been on my ass about the drinkin’; which big brother keeps remindin’ me. I look around for a glass, and decide on the same kind of tumbler Scott’s got in his other hand. I see the grin.
I settle in the seat across from him, and put my feet up on the same footstool he’s usin’. He gives me a nudge with his foot, using that damned pointin’ finger to remind me I’m wearin’ spurs. I sigh. “So, big brother, how long now?” I take a look out the window, lookin’ off into the horizon. From up ahead, the steam whistle cuts through the air; two long cries. I like the sound. Lonesome but somehow comfortin’.
Scott looks up from his book. “About fifteen minutes,” he says.
He’s smilin’ again, and I can tell he’s checkin’ me out. First thing he done when we got on the train was show me the facilities. Got a water closet in this car; all fancy with brass fixtures, and somethin’ they call a gravity shower. Stand in the damn thing, pull a chain, and hot water pours over you like summer rain. Good thing.
The crapper is another matter. Sit down to take a shit and you can feel the wind kiss your butt. In daylight, you can see the ties passin’ beneath ya, which is exactly where the shit falls. Gotta remember that, I ever get a hankerin’ to take a walk along the tracks.
“You look good, brother,” he grins.
I duck my head so he can’t see the smile. Not about to tell him he did a good job of pickin’ out my clothes. Brand new pair of calzoneras, black leather with silver dollar sized conchos. He packed the new shirt Teresa made me, too; kinda sky blue, with embroidery down the front. And a course, the black jacket. Sprung for a new hat, too, he did; black, flat crowned Stetson with a silver hat band. Even got storm strings. Got me turned out like a fuckin’ Mexican dandy.
I like it. “Thanks,” I murmur. This time I can’t hide the smile.
He shakes his head a little. “Can’t have my little brother looking like a vagrant saddle tramp,” he joshes. He reaches out and gives my knee a tap.
Scott’s lookin’ good, too. None of that ruffles stuff though. Whipcord lean trousers, brown; tight fittin’ across his butt, and an off-white shirt. Jacket kinda matches the pants. Goin’ hafta beat the ladies off with a stick, Mr. Scott Lancer.
The train’s slowing down now; can tell that by the time it takes to hit those separations in the steel tracks. “So, how we gettin’ to this place?” I ask.
“Clay’s going to meet us at the station with a hack,” he replies.
Why do I keep gettin’ this feelin’ my big brother’s had this trip all planned for some time now.
“Ever since the whuppin’,” he announces, kinda proud, grinnin’ like a jackass.
I don’t know how he does that. Crawlin’ in my fuckin’ head sometimes, readin’ exactly what I’m thinkin’. But he does. Pretty much on a reg’lar basis, lately. I sigh. Guess that’s what big brotherin’ is all about. Kinda like it. Sometimes.
Screechin’ now; steel against steel as the engine begins to slow down. Scott braces himself; closes his book and stuffs it next to his butt in the chair. No sense puttin’ it on the table; not unless he plans on nailin’ down. Everything in this car is nailed down to the floor.
I get up. A couple of things to get outta my saddlebags, though. Scott ain’t goin’ be happy. I let him move ahead of me toward the back door of the car, and take a quick grab. The holster feels good; the Colt even better. Got it tied down and settled by the time I catch up. Back gun and hat, too. Scott’s already on the platform. I bump into him a bit when he stops dead to put on his Stetson. Takes him forever to get it just right, but he finally does.
The man on deck at the siding gives a quick salute that turns into a wave. Even in the light from the gas lamp above him, I can see he’s a bit older than Scott. A bit broader; but no flab. Not as big as Murdock, but an inch or so taller than my brother. Good lookin’ yahoo, too. Dark hair and a mustache; not one of them pencil-thin jobs. He’s dressed good, not fancy, and he’s wearin’ a narrow brimmed grey Stetson.
I follow Scott down the stairs, stickin’ close to his back.
“Clay.” Scott extends his hand, and they shake. Turns into a quick, back-thumpin’ hug.
We’re on the boardwalk now. Scott half turns. “Johnny, I’d like you to meet Clay Porter,” he says.
I step to his side and reach out for a quick handshake. “Mr. Porter,” I greet.
“It’s Clay, Johnny.” The man’s smile is genuine, reachin’ up to his eyes; which are dark like his hair. “So this is the baby brother,” he grins, taking my hand. He’s got a good grip. Workin’ hands. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Johnny.” He gives me the quick once-over; no surprise showin’ when he sees the Colt. Don’t take much to know this man is one Hell of a poker player.
Scott turns to look at me. There it is. The look. I dip my head, just long enough to take a deep breath. He’s seen the rig, and he’s pissed. I wait, but he doesn’t say anything. One thing about Scott. He’s goin’ to chew me out, but it ain’t gonna be here. Gotta admire the man’s control. If it’d a been me, I’d chewed ass, and maybe kicked some, too.
Porter musta seen the look. He grabs Scott’s arm. “I’ve got a carriage waiting,” he says, pointin’ over his shoulder. Matched bays. Morgans, from the look of ‘em; standin’ calm in the traces but lookin’ like they’re ready to go to the races. Fine by me.
I let Scott and Porter do all the talkin’ while we’re makin’ our drive. A lot of talk about Boston; not too much about the War, but it don’t take much to figure they were in it together. Carriage has got two bench seats; facin’ each other. Rides real comfortable, too. The bays are makin’ good time, shoes tappin’ a nice steady clack against the hard roadway. Outside the window, I see buildings; row after row, brick mostly, soft light comin’ from some of the windows. The buggy is goin’ up a bit of a hill, and I can feel the team workin’ harder. Bigger buildings both sides of the streets, with a bit of space between ‘em. Still on brick -- cobblestone, maybe, the sound a bit different, kinda hollow -- and still movin’ at a good clip. I stick my head outta the window to take a better look.
Holy fuckin’ mother of God! Lights everywhere now; string of lamp posts, staggered, goin’ up both sides of a circular driveway, gas light again, like at the railroad sidin’. Enough light I can see grass spreadin’ out from the drive before it turns black beyond the light; some kind of trees cropped close, long trunks, leaves so thick they look like green balls atop a stick.
I can see the building good now. Jesus! It looks like the picture of old man Garrett’s house Scott showed me in one of them books he brought from Boston. More lights; lanterns this time, hangin’ from the ceiling of the biggest fuckin’ porch I’ve ever seen. White columns, stairway wide enough you could drive a fair sized herd of cows up and still have room for the horses. Done that a time or two, just for fun. And windows. Leaded glass, from the look of it; not like the windows at Lancer. Edges of the glass catchin’ the light from the overhead lanterns, makin’ little rainbows at the corners.
The rig comes to a stop, right at the front door step.
Scott and Porter step down from the buggy, and it shifts. I take a little time, climbin’ out the off side door, and work my way around the team; stoppin’ to give the bay on my side a pat. Other gelding makes a fuss, so I give him a pat when I pass him by.
Three stories, I make it; not countin’ what must be a basement. Barred windows there; smaller, the glass not so fancy. The building is red brick. One big door at the front; double, painted white.
Scott’s standin’ at the foot of the stairs waitin’. I take my time crossin’ the driveway; scopin’ out the rest of the layout. A blind man could smell money. “What’s this place called again, big brother?”
Porter laughs, and loops an arm around my shoulders. Bein’ a smart man, he reconsiders. When he answers me, he keeps his voice kinda soft, like he’s sharin’ a secret. “It’s called La Maison de Plaisir,” he whispers, talkin’ French like Scott does, kinda through his nose. “The House of Pleasure for those of us who are fortunate enough to be among the invited guests.”
I give him the eye. “Guests?”
“Invited guests,” he replies. He bows slightly, and gestures towards the door.
Gotta admit it. I think I’m gonna like this man. The three of us head up the stairs, Porter in the middle and me on his right. There’s a man waitin’ at the door. Colored, tricked out in some fancy get up; long coat with tails. He nods to Porter, and reaches out to open it. I see Porter flip him a gold piece.
Once inside, it’s kinda hard not to be impressed. Floor to ceilin’ mirrors, both sides of the halls. Get dizzy lookin’ in ‘em; me lookin’ in, my reflections starin’ back. I catch a quick look at Scott. His face ain’t tellin’ me nothin’. Instead, he’s takin’ off his hat, puttin’ it on the low bench beneath the mirrors. Looks like a fuckin’ rack in a hat store. I take off my Stetson, too.
And then I hear the voice.
I turn and look at the woman. Porter takes her hand, lifts it to his mouth, and kisses her finger tips. “Justice,” he greets. Straightening, he turns; first to Scott, then to me. “These are my friends, Scott Lancer,” he nods at big brother, “and his brother, Johnny. Gentleman, this is our hostess, Justice Duvalier.”
The word kinda rolls off his tongue. Du-val-yea. Miss Duvalier is the kind of woman where you can’t guess her age; not old, not young, but you can see livin’ in her eyes. I take a long look. I’m still lookin’. She’s got auburn hair, a bit of red showin’ in the light. Little bit shorter than me, with a waist I could wrap in both of my hands. I let my eyes drift, smilin’. She’s got green eyes, and she’s wearin’ a green dress, somethin’ kinda shiny. Off the shoulder a bit, with a neckline that plunges down in a “V”; skin like pink silk. Dress is kinda tight on top, and her tits look like they’re tryin’ to bust out.
She smiles and extends her hand. First to Scott, and then to me. When I take her hand, I get a feeling in my legs -- between my legs -- like I’ve been standin’ right next to a tree that’s been hit by lightenin’, the fire spreadin’ up from my feet. “Ma’am.” I kiss those fingertips, just like Scott and Porter did.
A bigger smile now. “You may call me Justice, Johnny.”
I let out a breath. If this is justice, then I want it, and I want it fuckin’ now! Scott touches my arm, and I wonder if he felt the feels the fire, too. “Yeah?”
He nods to a man that’s just come into the room. Another Negro; this one built like a brick shit house; dressed like a businessman. I know from the tell-tale bulge just at his waist, to the left, he’s carryin’. He’s also carryin’ a silver tray.
Justice is talkin’ now. “You know the rules, Clay,” she says softly, but she’s lookin’ right at me. At the rig I got on my right hip. I shoot a look at Porter.
He’s got a smile playin’ at the corners of his mouth. “It’s nothing personal, Johnny,” he says. He reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a small Derringer and puts it on the tray. Then he opens his coat. The son-of-a-bitch is carryin’ a shoulder rig! Small barreled revolver, six-shot. Blued-steel, ivory grip. What kinda fuckin’ engineer wears a shoulder rig? He puts the piece on the tray along with the Derringer.
I give Scott my look. He sighs and digs into the right hand pocket of his jacket; the one with the inside flap. When he takes his hand out, he’s holdin’ that .41 caliber rimfire, two-barreled Remington derringer he’s so proud of. It dangles from his finger for a heartbeat, and he adds it to the collection on the plate.
I’m debatin’. Then I take another quick look at Justice. Before I know what they’re doin’, my hands start unbucklin’ my belt. I fold the belt around the holster, and plunk it down on the platter.
The woman nods, and turns; Porter followin’ after her; me taggin’ along after ‘em. Next thing I know, Scott’s fingers close around my arm.
Quick as a snake, he reaches around behind me and pulls the pistol I had stuck in my belt.
“Someday, little brother, that thing’s going to go off and shoot you in the derriere,” he breathes.
I nod toward Justice. “Which thing, Scott?” He smacks me on the ass.
Another door. This time a double; lots of brass. It opens. Don’t know how the fuck that happened. No one knocked on it.
We step into the main room; what I figure is the main room. Not quite so much light now; but plenty to see what’s inside. Guess this is what Scott means when he talks about ambiance. He tosses that word around a lot, sometimes just kiddin’ around, like at the Silver Dollar or the Red Dog. It’s about how a place feels.
This one feels just fine.
“A drink, gentlemen?” Justice again. She raises her arm slightly, pointin’.
Been in a lot of saloons in my time; seen lots of bars. Some nothin’ more than a couple of planks laid atop two sawhorses; some that was supposed to be fancy. But never nothin’ like this.
We step up. Brass foot rail, the full length. Brass spittoons every few feet. Mirrors on the walls; lots of mirrors. Some in oval frames, others just lengths of shinin’ silver.
Except for the painting. Smack dab in what I reckon to be the center of the wall behind the long bar. Porter don’t seem to notice, but Scott and me? Bet my last dollar -- which I’m gonna have to borrow from Scott -- ain’t no finer picture anywhere.
“Portrait,” Scott whispers. He’s got a look about him now; like he wishes this was an auction house where they sell such stuff and he could put in a bid.
I study the portrait. And then I study it some more. Ain’t no denyin’ it. What I’m seein’ is either Justice’s twin, or… Nope. No twin. It’s Justice, all right. She’s layin’ on some sort of couch; stretched out like a cat lazin’ in the sun, one arm stretched above her head; the other…
…the other kinda hidin’ beneath the blanket that’s covering her privates. All her privates. Tantalizin’, Scott would call it; the way she’s restin’ on that couch, the blanket draped over her tits and all. Musta been a really soft cover, the way it’s kinda crawlin’ across her skin. Her eyes are half closed -- she’s got really long eyelashes; I turn to look at the real her to make sure -- but it sure in hell don’t look like she’s got sleepin’ on her mind. Makes a man wonder; what she’s doin’ with that other hand. Scott told me once that women… Maybe he’s not so full of shit after all.
“Jesus, Scott,” I whisper, givin’ him a nudge.
“No, little brother,” he whispers back, givin’ me a quick smile. “Justice.”
Christ. I’ve never wanted justice so bad in my fuckin’ life.
I hear music now. At first I think it’s in my head; swimmin’ like it is. “I need a drink, Scott. I think I’m hearin’ things.”
He laughs; but he orders the drinks. Kentucky bourbon for himself; tequila for me. “What things, little brother?”
I toss the drink back in one swallow. “Music.” I’m still lookin’ at the paintin’.
Scott knocks back his drink, too. From the look on his face he wants something more than to be starin’ at a picture. He steps back a bit, puts both hands on me, one on each shoulder and together we turn around.
I see ‘em now. A bunch of fiddlers all dressed up in suits and ties. Only they ain’t exactly fiddlin’. “Lively bunch,” I snicker.
“Chamber music,” he declares.
“Fuckin’ torture chamber,” I shoot back.
“What else do you see, little brother?”
I can’t tell if he’s askin’ a serious question or not. What the hell. If its game playin’ he wants, I can roll the dice. I study the room. Not much different then what I do when I stumble into someplace I never been before. “A lot of men tryin’ to strut their stuff.” I catch a quick glance at Porter. He’s across the room, chattin’ up what must be some of the locals. “A hell of a lot of smoke.” True enough. You’d think Murdoch was here with his pipe and cigar smokin’ friends from the Cattle Growers Association. “Them fancy chandeliers.” I point to the ceiling, and then remember what Scott’s told me about bein’ obvious. “Tables, chairs.” I realize, then, that some of these fools are actually playing poker; the card kind.
And then it hits me. Women. Lots and lots of fan flutterin’ women. Tall. Short. Thin. Some with a little meat on their bones. All wearin’ those dresses that seem to shine under the light. Reds. Blues. Yellows. Violet. A fuckin’ female rainbow. “Women,” I finally spit out.
Scott’s nodding. “I was afraid you forgot what we were here for,” he grins.
“Learnin’,” I smile back. “So, uhh, these are the proper ladies you were tellin’ me about?”
Another nod. This time his face is serious. Sorta. “Yes, Johnny. Proper ladies to teach you the proper way to sheath your weapon.”
I scratch my neck. It ain’t exactly where I’m feelin’ the itch, but I’m not about to have big brother smack my hand away from where I’d like to be scratchin’. “So, how do I go about findin’ my proper lady?”
He points to the fiddlers; kinda subtle. He’s leanin’ back against the bar now, restin’ on his elbows. “What you do, Johnny, is wander around a bit. Then, when you see a lady you’d like to know better…” He smiles.
“You bow, just a little, and ask her,” his voice drops, and he’s talkin’ kinda slow, “‘wanna dance?’”
I hate it when he does that. He’s got this spooky way of soundin’ like me sometimes, like other times when he can sound just like the Old Man. “So I call her out?”
He’s shaking his head. “No, you really ask her to dance. It’s called waltzing, and I know Teresa has shown you how to do it.”
“Do what?” I ask, all innocent.
He smacks the back of my head, hard. “It’s how it’s done here, Johnny. A brief, civilized courtship.”
“Ain’t lookin’ to get married, Scott. Just fucked.”
Now he’s gettin’ annoyed. It’s always more fun when I get him riled. “Well, it’s like this, big brother. What if I wanna dance with more’n one of ‘em at the same time? I’ve done it before, ya know. Once, in Tijuana, I asked these two yahoos to dance and I …” Checkmate. His face is gettin’ red.
“Then I’ll just ask the musicians to play a fucking Virginian Reel, and you can take your pick!”
Whoa!! I raise my right hand, like an Indian makin’ the peace sign. “Any woman?” I ask.
“Any woman,” he answers.
“And what about you, big brother?”
He laughs. “I already know what to do.” He waves me away. Next thing I know, he’s headin’ for the rainbow.
I watch awhile. Scott’s always tellin’ me about his technique. Seen it a time or two at the Silver Dollar, but that don’t require much more than layin’ a five dollar gold piece on the table in front of a gal, or tuckin’ it down the front of her dress. Not wastin’ any time, he picks out this little lady in the far corner. Red dress; soft brown hair piled up on her head, one curl danglin’ down across her left shoulder. A little bit of a thing. He bows, and she kinda floats into his arms. Big brother sure knows how to dance. Two or three turns around the dance floor, and their headin’ towards the stairs. Jesus, there are other yahoos here who look like they’ve been dancin’ ever since we first came in.
Justice’s voice; like honey. I turn to face her. “I tend to take my time,” I answer. It’s a lie, but she don’t know it.
She nods. “Perhaps something more to drink?” she asks.
Those green eyes sure can look at a man. I dip my head a bit, thinkin’. “Not yet,” I reply.
“The tequila not to your liking?”
Why do I get the feelin’ she’s playin’ with me? “Tequila’s fine.”
“Feeling a bit lost without your big brother?”
The smile kinda crawls across her face, the corners of her mouth liftin’; warmin’ her eyes. I look away from her, explorin’ the room. Porter’s headin’ up the stairs with a red head; his hand at the small of her back, like he’s guidin’ her. When I turn back to the woman, the smile is still there. What the hell; may as well go for broke. “Would you care to dance, ma’am?” I know as soon as I say the words, I’ve made a mistake.
“Justice,” she replies. “You’re a sweet boy, Johnny Lancer.”
I seen somethin’ in her eyes when I asked. A flash of fire. “Long way from bein’ a boy,” I shoot back. Who the hell does she think she is, callin’ me a boy?
She just shakes her head. Turning, she gestures toward the other women in the room. “Have you ever been with a virgin, Johnny?”
What the fuck kind of question is that!? And how the hell would I know? Now I do feel like a fuckin’ boy. Great. I pull out one of Scott’s fancy answers. “A gentleman don’t … doesn’t … talk about his conquests,” I whisper.
Surprised, she cants her head; lookin’ at me through those long eyelashes, same color as her hair. “That’s very admirable of you, Johnny.” She’s really lookin’ at me now. Through me. I can feel her eyes, movin’ from my face; movin’ down. Then she’s lookin’ up again, lookin’ me right in the eyes.
The smile again. “Do you like my portrait, Johnny?”
She’s lookin’ behind me now; at the picture, one eyebrow arched. “Yes.” No lie there.
She moves closer, raising up a bit on her tiptoes; her lips close to my right ear. Her breath is soft, but it’s pure fire. “Would you like to see what’s underneath that blanket?” she asks.
Jesus Fuckin’ H. Christ. I take a deep breath, hopin’ she don’t notice. “About that dance?”
The laughter is soft; and it whispers across my cheek. The next thing I know, she’s in my arms; like a feather. Gotta tell ya, dancin’ with Teresa sure ain’t nothin’ like this! Somehow, the music changes; softer now, and it’s a tune I remember. Somethin’ Scott played once, on the piano at the parson’s house, after the preacher’s wife got done massacrin’ somethin’ he said was Chopin. He told the old hag the title of the piece he played was Plaisir d’amour. The old bitch didn’t speak French. Scott said the song was called Joy of Love; and he’d heard it in a whore house in France. Had a hard time sittin’ still in church after that one.
But it’s a fine piece to dance to. Not gonna settle for a couple of turns around the dance floor with Justice. Second swing around the floor, and I let her lead. Before I know it, we’re the only two dancin’. When the music is over, I hear people clappin’. Justice is smiling, mostly with her eyes. She’s give a little curtsey; I keep hold of her hand and give her a little bow.
The music changes, and everybody starts dancin’, and me and Justice are headed for the stairs.
If the downstairs is grand; it ain’t nothin’ compared to Justice’s rooms on the third floor. Yeah, rooms. A sittin’ room, chairs so fine lookin’; delicate, almost. Like a man couldn’t risk sittin’ on ‘em without bustin’ them clean to the floor. Somethin’ she calls a dressin’ room. Got inside plumbin’, too. Gives me the guided tour, holdin’ my hand the whole time.
And then the bedroom. Boudoir, she calls it; another one of them French words Scott tosses around when he’s teasin’ Teresa. Pale blue walls; sky blue cover on a big bed. A four-poster; but not one of those tented do-dads Teresa’s always yammerin’ about. Only piece of furniture in the place that looks like it could handle a man sittin’ on it. Or layin’ in it. Heavy wood, bigger even then Murdoch’s bed. Posts carved, reachin’ damned near to the ceilin’. No cloth thing hanging; solid wood panels across the top, trimmed with four inch boards carved in the same pattern as the posts; acorns and leaves.
Justice turns down the lamp beside the bed. We’re not holdin’ hands anymore. I just stand there watchin’, not gawkin’, and she turns her back to me; waitin’ for me to undo her buttons. Tiny little things, covered with the same material as her dress. Funny how something so triflin’ can be so stubborn, but my fingers are workin’ well. She lets me undo ‘em ‘til I get to her waist; and then she steps away from me and turns around full.
Never seen a woman undress like this before. Slow, takin’ her time. Droppin’ one sleeve first, then the other; the dress sort of clingin’ to her breasts, then fallin’ ‘round her hips. All that green against her skin; against the white of her under clothes. It slips to the floor, and she steps out of it.
Sweet Jesus. She’s got legs like a two-year old filly; firm, strong. No silks stockings; just smooth skin. I take a step forward. She holds up her hand, then starts to unlace her -- fuck, what the hell do they call that thing?
Don’t matter. It’s on the floor now. She’s buck naked, and my pants feel like they’ve shrunk like dried rawhide.
She’s right in front of me. “Your turn,” she smiles.
Shuck my jacket like butterfly comin’ out of cocoon. I start to unbutton my shirt, but she beats me to it. I can feel her breath across my chest and close my eyes. She brushes her lips across my bare skin. Stand there still like a statue while she uses both hands to work the shirt away from my shoulders and down my arms. Then she’s workin’ the buckles at my waist; just loosenin’ them. I feel something fall from my waistband.
She takes my hand and leads me to the bed; my pants hangin’ from my hips but not goin’ anywhere. Yet. “Sit,” she croons.
I sit, but not for long. Gently, she pushes me back on the bed; standin’ up between my legs. I feel myself sinkin’ into the comforter. Won’t laugh anymore when Teresa tells me that’s what they call these things; comforters. Feelin’ pretty fuckin’ comfortable, thank you very much.
I look up into her face, and then a bit higher when I catch somethin’ up above me; a flash of light.
A mirror. A really big fuckin’ mirror! Right above me on the wooden canopy. Kinda hard to keep a straight face; Johnny Madrid starin’ back at Johnny Lancer. Gives me a good look at Justice’s back, too. I scoot farther back on the bed, and she moves with me. I keep lookin’ at the mirror, thinkin’ about the possibilities. Now, if I can just get her to stay on top… What’s the chance of a man watchin’ himself fucking? Getting’ fucked?
Somehow, she’s got my pants slipped down to my knees. Then to my ankles. I hear them slide to the floor.
Scott’s never goin’ fuckin’ believe this!!
Scott and Porter are at the bar when I come down the stairs; both of them lookin’ pretty satisfied. I see Scott catch my reflection in the mirror behind the bar; see the grin. He turns, leanin’ back against the bar like he always does when he’s relaxin’. I give him a little nod, and he nods back; and then taps Porter on the shoulder. “Hey, Scott,” I call.
He bobs his head again; reaches back and picks up a glass. It’s tequila. He hands it to me. “So, little brother?”
Porter’s turned around now, too; he’s got the same shit eatin’ grin on his face. “I hope the accommodations were to your liking, Johnny.”
I smile. “Almost enough to make a man think about movin’ to the city.”
Scott laughs. “Well, you could sell Barranca; maybe auction off your third of the ranch.”
“Not funny, Scott.” ‘Specially the part about Barranca. I toss back the shot. Feels good; but not as good as what happened upstairs.
“You’ve been gone awhile, little brother,” Scott teases.
“Jobs worth doin’, it’s worth doin’ right,” I brag. I slap his belly with the back of my hand and put my glass back on the bar for a refill.
Porter’s hidin’ a grin behind his glass. “Spoken like a railroad man,” he snorts.
“Or a rancher,” Scott laughs. “So, little brother,” his voice lowers, “just who did you choose as your proper young lady? Collette, Veronica, Rose, Carmen…”
“Jeez, Scott, you know those ladies personally?” My turn to laugh. “I mean, I’m up there,” I give a little point toward the ceiling, “puttin’ in a whole night’s work and your up there doin’ inventory?”
“Clay’s friends,” he joshes. Porter laughs.
“Uh-huh.” I cock a brow. “I saw you two when you headed up the stairs.”
Scott turns back to the bar just long enough to pick up his glass. When he turns back to face me, he’s tryin’ hard not to smile. “So, Johnny, have you learned the proper way to sheath your weapon?”
Oh-oh. That somethin’ that fell outta my pants. I kinda remember it now, that little bit of tinfoil I saw on Justice’s bedroom floor. “Uh, Scott…” I lick my lips. “I kinda…forgot.”
I watch as Scott closes his eyes, rakes his hands across his head, and then covers his face a bit with his hand. “Excuse me? Would you care to repeat that, John?”
Jesus! The Murdoch voice again. “Forgot,” I growl. Porter’s movin’ farther down the bar.
“You forgot.” He throws up his hands. “The whole point of this trip, little brother, was for you to learn about being careful; being responsible.”
“Got busy,” I snap. I try the smile. It’s not workin’. “Look, big brother, it’s not like it’s my fault, ya know. You shoulda been there to remind me!” Like that’s ever goin’ happen! I can see Scott’s not buyin’ it.
“That might work with Teresa and Maria, little brother, but there is no way in Hell you’re going to make this my fault.”
“Wanna bet?” I challenge.
I decide to try something else, and move in closer. “I’ll tell you who it was, you buy me another drink.”
“I don’t care who it was,” he snarls.
“Okay,” I shrug. But I can see the itch. Even Porter is inchin’ back in our direction. I lean against the bar, restin’ my elbows on the edge, hands together; twiddlin’ my thumbs and whistlin’ a bit. Scott hates it when I do that; drives him plumb crazy. I drop my head just a bit. “Ya know, I could try again.”
Scott looks at me, his eyes all narrow. He holds out his hand. “Where is it?”
He closes his eyes; opens ‘em. “The condom,” he whispers.
I reach into my waist band. Fuck! “Left it in her room.” That’s a good one! It’s not a lie, and he’ll think I actually took it out, intendin’ to use it!
“Next thing,” he starts, “you’ll be trying to tell me you actually took it out, and you were going to use it.”
So help me God, if doesn’t stop crawlin’ around in my head, I’m gonna fuckin’ shoot him! “It’s in her room!” Porter’s laughin’. Somehow I get the feelin’ he’s got a younger brother, too. Scott’s not laughin’, but he is sorta grinnin’.
“You are not going to shoot me, Johnny,” he says. Giving up, he raises his hand. “Now, we’ve established you went looking for, and found, a proper young lady. Now what did you get?”
Kinda like the way he says ‘what did you get’ instead of who. I wiggle a finger at him, and he leans in closer. So does Porter. “What I got, Scott, was Justice.” Kind of fittin’, since we’re here because Scott felt bad about me getting’ a whuppin.
“Bullshit!” This from Porter, loud enough that some of the yahoos standin’ apart from us hear it. I see him lookin’ around the room.
Scott’s just shakin’ his head. “Look, I’ve been here before…”
Now it’s my turn to be pissed. “What!?”
His cheeks color. “Last month, when Murdoch sent me here to negotiate that contract with Conroy.”
“And ya didn’t think to tell me!?”
“No. A gentleman doesn’t discuss…”
“… his fuckin’ conquests,” I finish for him; keepin’ the words private. He ain’t getting’ off that easy.
Porter taps Scott’s arm. “She isn’t down here,” he says. He nods toward the room; towards the people in the room.
“Left her upstairs,” I smirk.
Porter thumps his fist on the bar, and signals for the barkeep. “Champagne. Iced. Now.”
Man of a few words. I knew I liked him. I’m still grinnin’ when Scott looks at me. He shakes a finger in my face. “She’s not a working girl, Johnny.”
“Right.” I smile at him; feelin’ kinda cocky. “Trust me, brother. She works just fine.” I move a bit closer. The bartender is back with the bottle of champagne and the ice bucket, and three of those fancy glasses. “Hey, Clay?” I ask, still tryin’ to whisper. I pick up a glass. “Is it true the King of France used his mistress’s tits to make the mold for these kinda glasses?”
Porter’s already pulled the cork and has poured himself a measure. He’s in the middle of his first drink when I ask the question, and damned near chokes. When he quits coughing, he looks at me. “Yes, Johnny, it’s true.” He takes another drink, this time doin’ a better job. “By the way, Johnny, Justice isn’t a working girl. She owns this establishment.”
Now it’s my turn to choke on a drink. Ol’ Scott; he’s just sippin’ away; already on his second glass. One more drink of this vinegar, and he’s goin’ be well on his way to bein’ happy. That happens, I could call out this whole fuckin’ room, and he wouldn’t bat an eye. “No… fuckin’… way,” I whisper.
“Oh, yes,” Scott grins, pourin’ another drink. “Big…fuckin’…way.” He starts gigglin’ like some school girl. Big brother can be pretty funny when he’s this kinda drunk. Too bad it don’t happen more often.
Porter’s got his hand wrapped around the neck of the champagne bottle. “Scott.” He’s laughin’ too. “All those things I told you about my kid brother, Frank. He can’t hold a candle to Johnny!” He’s laughing really hard now. “I need to find a table and a chair,” he gasps. He waves at Scott to follow him.
I knew it! I knew the bastard had a kid brother!! I think I’d like to meet this Frank. Teach him a thing or three; give him some pointers. Maybe teach him to shoot. I grab Scott’s arm before he leaves. “Hey, brother, can ya spare a dime?”
He’s shakin’ his head, but he digs into his pocket and hands me a twenty dollar gold piece; follows that with a second one. When I start to follow him, he raises his hand and shakes his head. “No. You stay here. I need to talk to Clay about this big brother thing.”
Fine with me. I’ve had about all the hoverin’ I can stand for an evenin’. I signal the barkeep, and shove a gold piece across the bar. “Tequila. And keep ‘em comin’. And some lime and salt. Please.”
One thing about tequila. Good drink. Makes you all warm inside without muddlin’ the brain too much. The bartender pours me another; he reaches in with a stick to pull out the worm. I shake my head. I can remember too many times when that worm was all the fuckin’ meat I had. I drain the glass. The bartender and the guy standin’ next to me look like they’re goin’ puke.
The other thing about tequila. About the fifth shot, your noggin starts getting’ heavy while the rest of your body goes all loose. I rest my head on my arms a bit. Sure don’t wanna fall asleep, but it’s temptin’. I close my eyes; just for a minute.
I feel someone behind me. Scott; feeling guilty about leavin’ me all alone. Some big brother. I wait for the tap on my shoulder, but it doesn’t come. It will.
“I don’t suppose, young man, you’d care to tell me just what the Hell you are doing here!”
I laugh, but don’t open my eyes. Scott doin’ his Murdoch voice. “Real funny, Scott! Fuck off!”
No tap on the shoulder, just the feeling someone’s got my neck in a vice, and they’re tightenin’ the screw. I open one eye, and take a look at the mirror. Fuzzy. Someone should clean the fuckin’ thing off. I open the other eye; raise up my head, way more quick than I shoulda. The mirror’s not so fuzzy anymore; fact is, it’s a lot more shiny than it should be, crystal clear.
I turn around. Kinda hard to do with bear claws diggin’ into your skin. “Hey, Murdoch.”