This weeks flash is also a part of Write Anything’s Fiction Friday challenge.
The prompt was:
Set your story in the 1880s, in a mid west, tumbleweed town. The doors of the bar open, the piano stops playing and all eyes are drawn to the figure in the doorway…… Now keep going..
The characters used are from Annie Evett’s Choose your Online Adventure series two ‘Death and Dust’ , a collaborative writing project I have been working on. It offers a peek into the background of Joseph Slidell, a railroad baron and a character I worked with closely.
(PS As per the rules, this is my unedited first draft.)
Daniel Higgins battled to keep the disdain he felt from showing on his face as the shadowy figure of Joseph Slidell filled the open doorway. As the new Deputy Sherriff, it would do him no favours to make enemies. There was plenty of time for all that.
“Usual, Jake.” Joseph hollered across the busy saloon.
Jake Holt nodded his acknowledgment, filling a shot glass with whisky and sliding it across the bar to Mr Slidell.
Joseph emptied his glass, slamming it down on the polished bar, jerking his head as a signal to Jake for a refill.
Daniel stared at the purple feather peeking out from the brim of his hat. Did he know how ridiculous he looked?, Daniel wondered.
With his third drink, Joseph wobbled over to a seat, Daniel, watching his precarious movements, leaned over the bar.
“What’s with the ol’ feather?” he enquired of Jake.
Jake shrugged. “Nobody knows.” He carried on polishing the glasses with extreme care.
“The ol’ ‘Doved Wonder,’” laughed a man from the other side of the bar with a conspirational grin. “Ask him if yer dare.”
Daniel narrowed his eyes, his curiosoty piqued as his mind conjoured up tales of scandal and intrigue.
Charlotte Lowry, the Mayor’s wife snorted her dissaproval. Daniel surveyed her expression. Behind the facade of disgust, Daniel noticed something else. What was that? Fear? Worry?
Joseph’s drunken gaze caught Charlotte’s; she coloured, averting her eyes.
What was going on? Daniel thought.
Daniel was certain that Charlotte was hiding something and whatever that something was, it was something to do with Mr Slidell. Scenarios rushed through his head at a dizzying speed. He knew he should let it go, but like a dog with a rag, he couldn’t.
“There’s got to be a story behind it?” he continued.
“No need to start interrogatin’ Dept’y.” laughed Jake, topping up Daniel’s glass with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes Dept’y, it’s only a feather.” Charlotte sipped at her cordial with delicate, pursed lips.
“Surely, you wonder.” Daniel, unable to stop himself, increased the depth of his questioning.
“Some things are not worth wondering.” Charlotte’s eyes were stern against the smile which played her mouth.
Daniel knew that he was onto something. Whatever the story behind Joseph’s feather, Mrs Lowry knew more than she was letting on, a lot mor, and Daniel resolved to find out what.
Joseph downed whisky after whisky, his obnoxious voice and laughter getting louder with each shot. Struggling to his feet, he made a shaky exit. Draining his own glass, Daniel followed Mr Slidell into the black night. Bracing himself against the change in temperature, he quickened his pace until he caught up with the baron.
Hearing footsteps, Joseph spun around, his beady eyes struggling to focus on the Deputy.
“Ah, Dept’y.” he slurred.
“Mr. Slidell.” Daniel nodded his head.
Turning, Jospeh continued to walk with Daniel hot on his heels.
Daniel couldn’t bear more than a few moments small talk. With a sharp intake of breath, he broached the subject that had brought him out here.
“Can’t help notice that feather in yer hat.”
Jospeth grunted his response.
Sucking his cheeks, Daniel continued, “Sure theres a fascinatin’ story behind it.”
“Not really Dept’y, and if you dont mind my sayin’ I can’t see how its any of yer business.”
“Just curious is all.” Daniel shrugged. “I might go and chat to Miss Lowry. She seems to know-”
Joseph stopped in his tracks, his eyes wide and his ruddy cheeks burning.
“How did you know?”
“I’m not Deputy for nothin’, suh.” Daniel flashed him a smug smile.
Letting out a huge sigh, Joseph leaned closer to Daniel, the stench of the liquor on his breath forcing Daniel to take a step back.
“It’ll go no further.” Daniel assured him, his heart racing with anticipation of what was to come.
Joseph closed his eyes for a moment. “There was this showgirl back in Silver City, Delia Belle Donnely, beautiful she was. Hair as black as the night. Legs that went on for miles. I only saw her a handful of times, but I never forgot ‘er. That last night, she picked a feather from the top of her corset-” he stopped, his eyes glistening in the moonlight. “I’ll never forget.”
The purple feather balonged to a lost love? Not quite the wild tale Daniel had been expecting. Fighting with the feeling of disapointment that was building in his gut, he grimaced as Joseph began to cough, hacking up a mouthful of bile into a grubby handkerchief.
Tucking the handkerchief back into his pocket, Joseph regained his composure.
“If that’s all Dept’y.”
“G’night Mr. Slidell.” Daniel nodded.
Daniel was making his way back to the welcoming warmth of the saloon, when he realised he still didn’t know how Ms Lowry fit into Josephs story. He had only gotten half of the story. Maybe being Deputy was going to be a damn sight harder than he had thought.