Bullpen / Western Short Story
When Dale Eggers rode into Silver Creek to meet his brother Danny, he was surprised to learn that Danny was not at the hotel.
“Yes, sir, he was checked in here, but he’s gone.”
Dale stepped back, surprised. “Gone? Did he leave a message?”
“No, sir. But here’s a key to his room, it’s Room 207, if you’d like to wait.”
“I’ll do that, thank you.”
As Dale unlocked the door of Room 207, he wondered what the desk clerk had meant about Danny having left. But then again, Dale thought, the clerk gave me the key, so he must have meant that Danny was out at the saloon or something.
“That’s okay, I’ll wait,” Dale said to himself.
A few minutes stretched out on this bed would be a welcome diversion.
He had just settled in on the lumpy feather-bed when there was a knock on the door.
Irritated, Dale jumped to his feet.
The dark-suited, pale man at the door looked like an undertaker.
“Good evening, sir. I’m Abraham Cowdrey.”
“Howdy, Mr. Cowdrey. I’m Dale Eggers.”
“Yes,” Cowdrey said. “I’m here concerning your brother, Daniel. Clem, the desk clerk, informed me that you were inquiring about him.”
“Is Danny locked up in jail or something?”
“Or something,” Cowdrey intoned.
“Dammit, Danny. What have you done this time?”
“I’m afraid that there is no easy way to tell you this…”
Dale stepped back. “You’re starting to worry me now, Cowdrey.”
“Yes. It pains me to inform you, Mr. Eggers, but your brother Daniel is dead.”
“Dead? There must be some mistake…”
“I wish that was true,” the man said. “Your brother was shot dead about an hour ago by a local gambler by the name of Morgan Quirk.”
Dale half stumbled over to the bed.
He sat down heavily, his face in his hands.
“I’m sorry, son,” the pale man said.
Dale jumped back up. He could fall apart later, he told himself. Right now, there was family business to attend to.
“Are you the Town Marshal?” Dale asked.
“No. I’m the Justice of the Peace and a Notary Public. I’m also the… um… town undertaker. I have your brother Daniel in my funeral parlor if you’d like to come and identify him. Again, my sincerest apologies, regrets, and condolences.”
“Thank you, but shouldn’t somebody else, the local law maybe, have come to me about this?”
“There is no law in Silver Creek. I’m afraid our last Marshal was run out of town. I am, however, also the Justice of the Peace…
“And Notary Public.”
“So I reckon that makes you the Town Government, per se.”
“Yes, I suppose it does.”
Dale strapped on his gun belt, with his twin Remington six-guns worn butt-forward, Cavalry-style.
He followed the undertaker to his parlor. To his great sorrow, it was, indeed, his dear brother Danny who lay on the cooling boards in Cowdrey’s back room.
“He was shot dead at the Bucket Of Blood Saloon, by this gambler…”
“Where is this Quirk right now?”
“Still gambling at the Bucket.”
“The same game?”
“Yes, the same game. Witness said that Quirk was playing poker with your brother and five other men, and that your brother lost his temper over a pot that Quirk won with four-of-a-kind. All aces.”
“He thought he was cheating?”
“Yes. He claimed that Quirk was bottom-dealing.”
“So this feller shoots my brother and then nobody even so much as thinks to call the card game?”
“You would think that propriety would dictate the game being called. Quirk being asked to leave.”
“Like I said, no law here. It’s a wide-open mining camp, and I’m afraid that the sporting interests pretty much run this town. What else can we do?”
“No law.” Dale said. “Then I reckon I have no choice. I’m gonna have to play me some poker. This Quirk. He a gun slick?”
“The slickest I have ever seen.”
“Well, I ain’t no gunfighter. I’m a mining engineer, as was my brother Danny. But I can shoot these Remingtons well enough for tin cans and jackrabbits and such.”
“What will you do, then?”
“Well, we’re gonna bury my brother. But get another casket ready, ‘cause my next poker game’s liable to go all to hell.”
There were ten saloons on Silver Creek’s only street. The saloons had names like the Cosmopolitan, the Bon Ton, the Occidental, the Montana Club, and the last saloon on the street the Bucket Of Blood.
Dale walked up the boardwalk ‘til he reached the Bucket. He took a breath to steel himself before he pushed through the swinging doors.
There was a lone bartender at the ready, a faro table, a blackjack table, and a table with six men playing poker.
Dale pushed up to the bar.
“What have you,” the bartender said.
“Old Crow, if you have it. A double.”
“It ain’t ever easy,” Dale said.
He tossed back the double shot with a grimace, shuddering slightly.
The bartender chuckled. “Good for what ails ya, eh?”
“There’s a reason the Crow is Ulysses Grant’s favorite.”
“So they say.”
“Say there, you think they got room for a seventh player at that poker table?”
“There was a seventh player who… took ill. I’m sure they’d let you sit in. How much you need in chips?”
“Five hundred good?”
“Sure, buy-in’s only a hundred. Better ask Quirk first, though. He’s the dandy with the derby and the brocade vest.”
Dale stepped over to the table when the next hand ended.
He caught Morgan Quirk’s eye. “I hear that a seventh spot recently opened up. What’s the game?”
“Five Card Draw,” the cardsharp said. “$100 to play.”
“I got $500 to lose,” Dale said with a wink.
“Then by all means, have a seat over at that empty chair between Ben and Refugio.”
Dale turned back to the bartender. “Chips. $500.”
“Here you go,” the bartender said.
Introductions went all around, then. Quirk, Ben, Refugio, Smitty, and Lonnie and Donnie the Baker twins.
“Folks call me Edgar,” Dale said. It was a common mispronunciation of Eggers.
“Pleased to meet you, Ed.”
“All right, then. Let’s play.”
“Refugio, your deal.”
Refugio dealt five cards to each player. Dale’s first hand was Queen of Diamonds, Ace of Spades, 4 of Spades, Jack of Hearts, and 3 of Hearts.
When it was his turn, he held on to the Ace, Queen, and Jack, and drew an Ace of Hearts and a Jack of Diamonds. So he had two pair, Aces and Jacks.
Everybody else folded but Quirk.
Dale beat him with his two pair, raking in the pot.
“New player’s luck,” Dale said with a wink.
When it was Smitty’s deal, Dale drew a pair of Nines, an Eight, a Seven, and a Trey.
He held on to the Pair of Nines, and drew an Ace of Diamonds, an Ace of Clubs and a Deuce of Diamonds.
Four aces in two hands? Weird.
Everyone folded but Refugio.
Refugio’s three sevens beat him.
When it was Lonnie’s deal, Dale drew a Jack, ten, nine, Seven, and a Six.
He kept the Jack, then drew a Nine, a Seven, a Six, and a Five.
Dale folded. Ben beat Ronnie for the pot.
When it was Ronnie’s deal, Dale drew an Ace, a Queen, an Eight, A Seven, and a Trey.
He kept the Ace and the Queen, then drew a Nine, a Seven, and a Deuce.
Dale folded again.
Finally, it was Morgan Quirk’s turn to deal.
He dealt Dale a King, Jack, Ten, Five, and a Trey.
Dale held on to the King, and drew a Ten, Nine, Four, and a Trey.
He clearly saw Quirk deal himself three cards from the bottom of the deck. Dale couldn’t believe how easy it had been to spot the bottom dealing.
None of the other players seemed to notice.
Instead of folding, Dale decided to bluff.
Everybody folded but Dale and Quirk.
Dale went all-in with the rest of his chips.
Dale grinned when he showed his hand. “All I got is my high card. A King of Spades. Now if you just happen to have
Three-of-a-kind to beat me, I’m gonna call you a cheat since I just watched you deal yourself three cards from the bottom of the deck.”
“Three Queens takes the pot,” Quirk said, throwing down his hand. “But nobody calls me a cheat and lives.”
The two men stood up at the same time,
Morgan Quirk was quick with his nickel-plated Colt .45.
Dale Eggers rolled to his left, drawing his twin Remingtons, with a two-handed Cavalry-style twist draw that was butter smooth.
His right gun barked.
A red dot appeared in the middle of Quirk’s forehead.
Dale’s left gun covered the room ‘til he was sure that no one was going to shoot back at him.
The other players froze.
“My name is Dale Eggers and that was my brother Danny Eggers that this cheatin’ scumbag killed earlier tonight. Anybody here have a problem with what just happened here?”
The bartender spoke up, “It was a fair fight, I seen it. He pulled on you first.”
Abraham Cowdrey appeared in the back of the room. “I saw it as well, and, as Justice Of The Peace, I declare it justifiable homicide for the reason of self-defense.”
“That was some fancy shootin’,” Refugio said.
The Baker Twins agreed, patting Dale on the back.
“That cheatin’ S.O.B. has been bottom-dealing all night,” Lonnie Baker said. “Nobody else here had the sand to call him on it.”
Cowdrey flashed his undertaker’s grin, “We do need a Town Marshal to bring law and order to Silver Creek. Are you interested?”
“What’s the pay?”
“One Hundred per month, plus $10 per arrest.”
“Got a jail?”
“Yes, we do.”
“Okay, I’ll do it ‘til you can elect a new Marshal, but I’m only saying ‘Yes’ because of what happened to my brother. This town needs some law and order.”
The undertaker looked serious, then. “One more question, Marshal Eggers.”
“I thought you said that you were no gunfighter.”
Dale shrugged. “Like I said, I shoot well enough for tin cans and jackrabbits and such.”
“Are you calling Morgan Quirk a jackrabbit?”
Dale grinned. “If the cowboy boot fits…”
They buried Daniel Eggers on Boot Hill the next morning. His marker read: DANIEL RAY EGGERS, DEVOTED SON, BROTHER, UNCLE, AND FRIEND. GONE TOO SOON.
Morgan Quirk’s marker read: HERE LIES JACKRABBIT QUIRK.