New Year’s Eve, 2015
Thanks to Maddie and Margaret P.
Disclaimer: Fox owns Johnny, I own Toni.
Fifth in series, “It All Adds Up”.
The saloon was dirty and noisy with the sounds of men cussing and yelling, women laughing shrilly, and the sound of the tinny, slightly out of tune piano playing in the background. In his experience, these were the usual sounds of a saloon, but tonight… tonight it seemed something more. Maybe it was because it was New Year’s Eve, or maybe it was because no one had any other place to go. Whatever the reason, the sounds swirled around him urging him to become a part of the frantic attempts of the other men who were trying their damnedest to convince themselves they were having a good time.
Johnny shifted in his chair and toyed with the glass of tequila. Sitting alone, he wondered why he had even come into town. He’d just arrived at this new job and hadn’t seen anyone he knew. At the time, a trip to town had sounded better than twiddling his thumbs in an empty bunkhouse. Now, he wasn’t so sure.
One of the ladies came by and let her arm glide across his shoulders. Johnny shook his head no and picked up his glass, tossing the shot back quickly. The girl pouted her lips and sashayed to the next potential customer. Johnny knew that with this large of crowd, the woman would soon find company.
Johnny sighed and poured himself another drink. He was only sixteen, but he felt much older. He was finding that his chosen trade had certain drawbacks. People were beginning to take notice how fast he was with his Colt. It made it easier to get jobs, but it also made some unbelievers want proof. They usually got their proof a second too late to do anything about it.
That he was here, alone, without Toni was evidence of another drawback to his trade. Hard riding and scanty trail supplies had taken its toll. She’d gotten sick and he had to leave her to recover with Senora Inez in Cibuta. He’d stayed with her as long as he could, but money was running out.
He looked up as a new group of men swaggered to his table and asked if they could sit down with him and start a hand of poker. Johnny stared at them for a minute, then shook his head no. He’d seen them earlier at the ranch, practicing their draws. They were loud braggarts who weren’t very good with a gun, yet to hear them talk, they were the scourge of the West.
Unlike these men, Johnny had no false pride about his abilities with a gun.
He didn’t need a pack to bolster his ego. He shook his head no again and settled his hat on the back of his head so that the men could see from the look of his eyes that he was serious.
It worked. They left him alone.
It must have been getting close to midnight ‘cause the noise level in the saloon was reaching a fevered pitch. The sounds of each person and even the piano seemed to try to outdo one another to ring in the New Year.
Johnny heard footsteps that stopped at his table and he looked up from his glass of tequila to see a scruffy, older man by his table. He’d noticed the man earlier in the day. The man had been quiet while watching the other men shoot off their mouths and their guns. At one point during a particularly wild story, the man had glanced over at Johnny and had smiled and shrugged instead of joining in. He’d noticed also that the man hadn’t joined in the shooting demonstration. The man had watched for a while, then walked away. Johnny had seen him later getting on his big black horse and riding away. The man might be scruffy and trail-worn, but Johnny had noticed that his horse and rig was well taken care of.
“Mind if I sit down?” the man asked.
Johnny looked into the man’s eyes for a moment then nodded yes. He kicked out a chair next to him inviting the man to sit down.
The man set his bottle of tequila down and settled into the chair, pushing his hat back on his head. It was hard to hear yourself think as the other occupants in the saloon were beginning to count down the New Year.
The man leaned over and reached out a hand to shake. Johnny hesitated for a second, then took the man’s hand.