Bullpen Story
K.A. Wobse

Bullpen Story

Eddy Vance did not believe in luck. Luck, as he would unapologetically say whenever the subject arose, was simply a fools game, a pure coincidence that was labeled. To believe in luck, in Eddys eyes, was similar to allowing women the right to vote, or permitting immigration from China; it was absurd. There was only destiny.

Destiny was the force that bound everything and everyone together. What has happened was as it should, and everything to be, will be. It was the constant… The inevitable.

Destiny, however, was also a very tricky thing. Sometimes events would unfold leading to joy, other times pain or disgust, but more often than not it was confusion.

Eddy was thirty-nine years of age. He had fought in the War, had witnessed people he considered brothers die before his eyes. He had watched his wife and son die of cholera, had lost everything, and had faced the hardships of traveling west alone. Yet despite everything he had faced, the agony and suffering, the trials and tribulations, he had never questioned destiny…

But as he stood with a blade to the Santiago Juarez, he thought upon the forces of destiny and their nature harder than he had in a very long time.

The peculiarity of the situation had not come to him immediately. In fact, Juárez had settled into the barber chair and requested a cut before Vance had recognized him for who he was.

Perhaps the identification came with the removal of his hat, but when it finally dawned on him, his gut dropped, and his head became light. He knew his face must have revealed his surprise, for in the mirror he had saw the notorious outlaw give him a smirk.

But the queerness of the predicament came not only from the presence of the man, but how he knew this wind lashed face was that of Mr. Santiago Juarez.

It was only yesterday that a bewildered man came lounging into the saloon, to the corner where Vances mini-shop was situated. Vance recognized the young man as Riley, a patron of his haircutting services, who prefer a shaved head over hair. But on this tedious Tuesday, Riley did not come for a shave.

“Mr. Vance, Mr. Vance! Your brother! Your brother is a wanted man!” Riley was a man of low intelligence, but high concern for others. More often than not, his fears were often exaggerated or misinformed, but he meant well, and even Vance recognized Rileys anxious behavior as pitifully admirable.

Vance did not have a blood brother, however, and to hear this revelation (as Riley likely considered it) was curious. But to humor the young man, and perhaps satisfy a slight interest in the matter, Vance followed the man out to the front of the jailhouse, to the bounty board.

There were three papers tacked to the wall, each brown and tearing.

“See!” Riley outstretched his bony finger at the center poster. Vance noticed the dirt in his nails, the wear of his young hands.

The poster displayed the name and illustration of Adam Vander, a petty criminal wanted for the theft. Riley stared at Vance, as if anticipating a sudden shock from the barber. None came.

“Illiterate bastard.” Vance turned from the young man and wiped his face, feeling ridiculous for actually concerning himself with this nonsense.

“Sir?” Rileys eyebrows were hitched.

“Nothing. Thank you, Riley.” With a nod, and a confused skratch of his bald head, Riley hobbled off.

Vance looked back up at the board once more before returning to his job. To the left of Vander was a witch-looking woman, and to its right, as destiny would have it, was the poster of Santiago Juarez. It was only a brief glance, one that, if not for the moment he was currently in, would mean nothing and would soon be forgotten.

Vance noted how inaccurate the artist's depiction of Juarez's ears were; in person they were enormous.

“I never was good at shaving.” Juarez broke Vances scattered thoughts with a chuckle. It was a genuine, light hearted laugh, as if he actually found amusement in his own handicap. “But why do it myself when a man of your profession can do it for me, eh?”

The outlaw's voice was heavily accented, but he spoke English very well. Returning to the moment only temporarily, Vance gave a hesitant laugh, and continued the downward shave.

How odd, he thought, for a notorious criminal to remain so calm, so composed with a blade to his neck. There was no sense of fear nor of panic as the outlaw continued with his small talk.

But Vance was not listening; how could he? Of course he gave the occasional nod, grunt or laugh, but his mind was elsewhere. If quick enough, he could easily give one good rip of his blade to Juarez's neck, back up, and watch the Mexican die of blood loss. Rather graphic, he imagined, but $2000 was quite a price...

Vance was not a natural born killer, however. That's not to say he was a man of high moral stature, but he knew life to be precious and to take one, or to even contemplate it for that matter, should never be taken lightly.

As if manifesting from thought to action, Vance stroked the razor harder then he should have, resulting in a small infliction on the Mexicans upper neck. To bring attention to this fact, Juarez grunted.

“You knicked me, Doc.” He grinned.

Vance snickered a panic stricken laugh.

Juearez was not upset however, or at least he appeared not to be. After a tension filled moment of silence, the desperado laughed suddenly and continued his random spiel, as if nothing had happened, as if he was not a wanted man trusting a stranger with a blade to his neck.

Vance was sweating. The outlaw knew that he knew, he had too. The looks, the dreadful silences followed by the jestful cackles...Juarez was toying with him, testing him. The tip of Vances right here began to itch, as it always did when nervous.

What was he thinking? It was foolish, pointless. To even attempt a strike at him would be suicide. No way in hell would a bandit stroll into town alone to simply get trimmed, Vance thought. His gang must be with him, and to not even consider the possibility of a posse accompanying him to begin with was witless.

Perhaps Vance did successfully cut the throat of the outlaw, then what? Would he carry the bloody corpse on to the boardwalk, down the way to the jailhouse to collect his reward as the gang looked on, mourning the loss of their deviant leader? Of course not, Vance thought, he would be shot dead!

If destiny had it that this was to be Eddy Vances last day on Earth, then who would he be to resist; but in his heart, his veins, and in his soul he knew, this was not that day. It couldn't be.

As fast as the hair session had begun, it had ended. Santiago Juarez rose from the chair and placed his brown hat back upon his head. With a nod and a “gracias” the Mexican was heading out of the saloon.

Vance stood for a moment. The threat was gone, yet he felt no relief; if anything he felt confusion. But destiny was known to be a strange thing…

After collecting himself, he looked at the counter where the pay was placed. He saw two coins, whereas his fee was only one; Santiago Juarez had paid double.