Monday, 31 August 2015

Whiskey and preserves

As the Inspector lowered his gun I felt some of the tension go out of my chest, and some of the tension go out of the bar.  When he tried to holster it again, having forgotten to set the safety catch, the gun went off and he was luckier than he had any right to be that he didn't put a hole in his boot and his toes.  Instead he put a hole in the floor, and while he was jumping back afrighted half the bar had pulled their own weapons out and were pointing them at him.  I noticed, with just a little chagrin, that some of them were pointing at me as well.
"Nothing to do with me," I said, lifting my hands slowly, palms open wide.  "You all know I don't carry a gun.  Never have."  And while there might have been a few head shaking there, disbelieving me, most of the folks in there did know me and knew that I disliked guns and that it was more than a fancy. Most of the guns then were swung away and pointed at the Inspector, who was now sitting flat on the ground with a look on his face like a guy that's pissed himself and doesn't want the world to know.  The spreading puddle beneath his britches was giving him away something rotten though.
One gun stayed with me though; I could feel it in the small of my back.  Bobby Kinsome leaned forward and whispered in my ear, "Well Evan, looks like I'm mighty pleased to see you!"  He tittered, and I had to resist the urge to turn my head and spit in his face.  "What say we have a little drink, like you suggested, and why-hi, you can tell me all about these wretched rumours sullying the good name of my family."  His breath smelled sour, like pickle-juice.
"My legs are trembling," I said.  "Who knows what that Inspector is like to do next.  A table and a stiff drink would do me the world of good, Mr. Kinsome, so I'll thank-you heartily for the offer."
"No tricks," whispered Bobby.  "You said it yourself, Evan, this here's a Kinsome bar.  My bar."
"No tricks," I said, and felt the pressure of the gun's muzzle ease up on me.  "Table by the window?  I think it's going to get mighty pungent in this corner shortly."
The guns were mostly put away now, and Darnell had picked the Inspector up by putting his hands under the Inspector's arms and hoisting.  The Inspector turned crimson as his situation was made plainly visible to everyone, and then Rita was pointing out the back and I had a feeling that the Inspector would be ending up in the privies.  Those were vile, to my certain recollection; Rita might manage a decent bar but her idea of housekeeping was mostly that someone else should do it, and that was a view shared by her whole family.
Bobby Kinsome and I sat at a table by the window where the breeze of the afternoon brought in scents of mown hay and pushed other, less savoury ones, away from our table.  Rita appeared and set down jars of jam and chutney and a chipped china plate holding a miserly selection of water biscuits, and Bobby ordered whiskey chasers.  Rita rolled her eyes but said nothing, and Bobby never noticed.
"Why-hi," he said, leaning back in his chair, which creaked and groaned.  "So I'm the Coffin-Robber am I now?  Anyone saying what coffins I'd be robbin', or why I might be stooping so low?"  He tittered again, and I allowed a half-smile to my lips.  It wasn't as bad a joke as usually passed for humour with Bobby.
"The Inspector had the papers," I said.  "Though I've a feeling they might be a trifle damp now.  That man hasn't the brain he went to school with.  They're just saying that you're the Coffin-Robber and wanted Dead or Alive."
"And you thought to be bringing me in dead, Evan?"
I didn't like the way he said my name, and he kept using it like he'd just learned it and wanted to make sure he didn't forget it.
"I thought I might ask you why there are folks out there keen to meet you no matter what state you might be in," I said.  "Seems to me that it's mighty easy to post a bounty on a man, but telling if that man's deserving of it... well, that's another matter."
"I can't tell, why-hi, why it should matter to you though," said Bobby.  He pushed the jars of preserves towards me.  "You're just a bounty-hunter, a dog for the sheriff when he's tired of kicking those dead-beats he calls his men.  Why ain't you just sitting down and belling for back-up like a proper dog would?"
I made him wait while I unscrewed the lid from the pear chutney and spread a little on a water biscuit.  The biscuit was fresh and snapped brittly when I bit into it; I was expecting that Rita would have put out the stale ones.  Maybe she cared more for Bobby than she let on.  I pushed the jar back towards him.
"Heck no!  Never did like all the sugar these things have in them," said Bobby.  "Whiskey'll do me just fine, Evan."
On cue, Rita set down two tumblers of whiskey and looked Bobby dead in the eye.
"There's plenty of family that put the effort in, Bobby," she said.  "You could be one of them."  Then she was gone again, hinking her way through the bar like she thought she was on a catwalk.
"It don't matter to me, Mr. Kinsome," I said at last, while he was sipping his whiskey.  But when I'm telling the stories of my life to my grand-children I'd like to be able to answer their questions."
Bobby put his glass down on the table softly and looked me up and down.
"You're planning on having grand-kids?" he asked.

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