Well, it was settled.
Tommy Lillard sat at a table in the saloon, staring at the woodgrain of the table, nursing the whiskey he’d poured for himself. He was going back to San Francisco. The room around him buzzed with talk about tomorrows impending dance. He was pretty sanguine about not attending after all. Sarah Prescott had been one sweet angel, but an afternoon spent with her showed him he might be reaching much too far out of his league. They’d parted with kind words, but Tommy got the distinct feeling there’d be other suitors lining up to see her, and he wasn’t too interested in sticking around to play the game…even if it meant Morgan would swoop in for victory. He’d say howdy to her on the street, but they belonged on different paths.
There’d be plenty of girls in San Fran that he could look at settling down with, Tommy thought. That would please his best friend, Rabbi Avram and his bride more than anything. But for now, he still liked his freedom.
The Earp brothers and Cort had pretty much forgotten him, which was fine, but Tommy knew any move he made toward confronting the rustlers himself for his own justice would raise their hackles all over again. It was his word against theirs and they’d pretty much poisoned the well. Nope…sticking around here wasn’t in the cards for him. He’d get his gear together and slip out of town while the others played. Be best if no one noticed.
The usual hum of activity slowed somewhat when the double doors of the saloon swung open and two men sauntered in. Both were dressed as cowhands and walked like they’d spent their entire life in the saddle. One of them had a leonine face with a lot of grit in his expression, careful and watchful, but not looking for trouble. He and his companion sidled up to the bar and ordered whiskey in the lull, body language that of two cowboys just wanting to sit at the water hole. The bartender, a man named Seth, poured some and the place buzzed again.
Tommy, however, was staring at him. Where had he seen that man before? A feeling he had in his gut told him wherever it had been, he’d been pretty impressed.
Turns out, another customer recognized him, too.
“Renn Frayne!” he called out. “Why, it’s you! You two-bit bastard! You killed my brother!”
The place went silent. The man in question turned, whiskey glass still full and in hand, and gave the accuser the deadliest cold stare Tommy had ever seen on a man. Renn Frayne! Last he’d seen of him was in Kansas City. All hell had broken loose because of that man! Tommy leant back in his chair, his hand falling to the holster at his side. If the bullets started flying, he’d want a way to make an exit for himself.
“No gunfights in the saloon!” Seth called out, and everyone could see him with his rifle aimed at the man who now stood glaring at Renn. “People who come in here want a drink, not caterwauling about some dumb relative’s bad judgement. Take it elsewhere.”
Renn was as still as a rock. The aggrieved fellow hovered.
“My trigger finger is awful itchy today,” Seth continued. “You don’t want to be the reason I have to clean this thing again.”
The man turned and stormed out.
“A round for everyone,” Tommy heard Renn say, when Seth had put down his rifle. “And tell me if you’ve heard of the Talbot gang…”
It was the second time Lorraine had eaten at Frenchie’s this week. It felt nice to have men want to court her.
“I’m so glad you were able to meet me for lunch, Mrs. McGintry.” Aloysius Baumberger was a tall man with jet black hair and blue eyes. He wasn’t handsome in the way most women viewed it; but he had a very pleasant face with a beautiful smile.
“Please, call me Lorraine.”
“And you call me John,” he replied. Lorraine’s face must have looked relieved because he laughed. “No, you don’t have to call me ‘Aloysius’. My middle name is ‘John’ and that’s what my friends call me.”
“Thank you! I wasn’t sure how many ways I could mispronounce ‘Aloysius’, she said frankly. “But I was certain I could come up with some new ones.”
“I don’t know what my mother was thinking when she named me.”
“It must be a family name.”
“One that goes back to the dinosaur age! At least she gave me a usable middle name; it was my father’s.”
“I heard you’ve traveled a lot,” Lorraine said.
“I’ve been to a few places.”
“Italy, Paris, England. They are all filled with beauty and history.”
“Is that where you get all your books? From your travels?”
“Yes, some of them do come from different countries. Do you like to travel?” he asked.
“I haven’t done very much of it, but it certainly sounds wonderful.” They continued their conversation for some time, eventually ending up in a long walk to her carriage. John helped her aboard and promised to pick her up tomorrow at 5.