by Eddie Lando
Three Wild West men cross paths and egos run aflame
|Smokey Joe’s was an independent bank on the outskirts of Gold Rush country. Smokey’s was run by a tall, dark accountant named Joe Dollar. Smokey Joe’s was named for all the cigars Joe sucked down.
Joe managed money for cowboys, outlaws, and smiths in town. Folks were scared not to let Joe touch their green. He had a way about him that scared the security into his clients.
The only fella who openly ruffled feathers with Joe was Horace Robair, the barkeep. He had an equally intimidating demeanor about him, but after a conversation with Horace, folks felt uneasy about what their whiskey money went towards. He prided himself on being no cowboy. And he never wore a hat over his comb-over.
A horse runner came into town from a few states over. Horse runners delivered from one location to another. Wilson Neighbor had shown up with a horse for an outlaw. Wilson had grown up in a wealthy family that bred racers. His love for the animals and his manners while speaking had not left him. But he’d strayed from the breeder path and taken on the rugged lifestyle that only the Wild West could offer.
After a saloon trip to Horace’s and a few whiskeys, he discovered from the sobering barkeep that the outlaw had been dead for a few days. Now he he had product to unload and no money to pay for his whiskey. This was the impulsive, high blood pressure lifestyle the West was all about, Wilson thought. He pretended to go to the bathroom and snuck out the back door to find a way to pay for his drinks. Down the road he found a building with a cloud of smoke puffing out the door and a sign that read “$mokey Joe’$.” Dollar signs were what he needed. Wilson snuck inside.
Wilson found Joe counting stacks of dollar bills behind a cloud of smoke. Joe looked up.
“You should have knocked,” Joe said. He slid the money save one stack off the desk into a bucket on the floor.
“I beg your humblest of pardons but I was in a bit of a rush.” Wilson took his hat off and sat down in the chair across from Joe. He got his first look at those intimidating green eyes. Did anyone make you comfortable in this town? Joe waited for him to continue.
“I bet just from your sign that you’re the best, the absolute best, at moving assets around in this town. I need to implore your services to relieve me of a horse in exchange for cash.”
Joe looked back at his money bucket. “I do dollars as the sign suggests. I don’t do dogs, dummies, or horses.”
“I-I understand that, sir, but as you may be able to tell I am in dire straights. You see—”
Horace and two of thugs kicked through Joe’s door, interrupting Wilson’s plea. They each held a shotgun and a pistol. Wilson jumped and looked back, terrified that the man he owed money to was staring over him. Joe kicked his feet up on the desk and pulled on his cigar.
“You should have knocked,” Joe repeated. He felt only a little petty getting under Horace’s skin because he disliked him so much. Horace raised his chin and stared back at the accountant. Joe nodded towards the guns.
“I guess we town-folk are learning what you put all that bar money towards.” This made Horace smirk a little.
“Funny thing about that bar money, Dollar. Now I already knew this day was going well when I saw that horse ride in. But having this little maggot steal from me so I get to test out my investments in the same day? And on Joe Dollar, no less? The one cowboy who I’ve been just itching for an excuse to be rid of? Well, who do I have to thank for my fortune?”
“You know I’m not a cowboy anymore, Horace. Just as much as you. Hanging up your hat don’t fool me.”
Now Horace knew he had to kill Joe and Joe knew it.He reached for and lit up his cigar lighter. Wilson saw the move. He slid his hand towards his gun belt.
“You know what I don’t like about cigars, Horace?”
“They don’t burn as fast as money.” Joe took a long tug off of his cigar. Then he bit his lip and kicked out the desk in front of him.
Wilson gripped the side of the chair and shot one of the thugs over his shoulder. Horace and his remaining crony retreated towards the door. Wilson lept over the desk. Joe popped up and sniped the other thug with a six shooter in the back of the head. Horace blasted off a few shots at the desk before hightailing it back to his bar.
“Where’s that horse you brought in town?” Joe hastily asked Wilson.
“Parked right out front of Horace’s Bar.”
Joe winced. He grabbed his cigarette lighter, turned it up to full blast, and said, “We’re gonna have to move fast. Horace has a full army in this town.”
Wilson grimaced as Joe threw the lighter into the bucket of money and kicked it over.
“I’ve been done with this place anyway,” Joe said. “Come on!” He pulled Wilson out the back door.
Everyone in town had their money at Smokey Joe’s, including Horace's posse. So got everyone racing towards the bank when they saw flames rising out of the building. Joe and Wilson snuck around the back of the shops, grabbed the horses, and sped out of town. In the melee of people trying to get there money, Horace looked back to see Wilson and Joe riding away, his town aflame.
Wilson and Joe looked over the town from the top of the ridge, watching Smokey Joe’s burn to the ground. Wilson smiled.
“Smoking kills, it would appear.”