Davis pulled his truck into the lot of the Rumrunner pool hall. It was one of the other three bars besides Hal’s. He didn’t think revisiting the scene of the incident on the same day was a good idea. He walked into the bar. Men were holding pool cues, sitting at the bar and waitresses holding platters stared at him. He went to an empty stool at the bar and sat. Gradually, the people went back to their games and drinks, but they continued to steal looks in his direction. Davis ordered a beer. A rodeo was playing on the television behind the bar. He pretended to be interested in it. The bartender placed his drink on the counter and walked away. Davis was starting to regret stepping out of the motel now. The crowd seemed restless and almost hostile with a stranger in their midst.
Davis had a passive alertness as he watched the television. It was his cop instinct that he was paying attention to, not the rodeo. However, the sense seemed to be growing more anxiety filled and paranoid, instead of analytical.
The bartender was also watching the rodeo as he dried glasses. He came closer.
“What’d ya think of that?” he asked Davis, when a cowboy was pressed into the ground by a bull.
“Hm, they’re pretty tough,” Davis answered and took a drink.
“Yeah,” he kept wiping the glass, “Suppose you don’t watch a lot of this where you’re from?”
“No, I don’t,” Davis admitted.
“Well, you’re doing a great job,” the bartender said, “Watching rodeo… n rasslin’ up Red Talbot, I mean.” He spoke very low, “He deserves it for drivin’ a good woman into her grave. I knew her growin’ up and I’ve had a mind to rough him up for years. Don’ worry he don’t come in here.”
“Okay,” Davis nodded. Although he hadn’t really been worried that he’d see Red again that day.
“Name’s Pete,” the bartender held out his hand. Davis shook it and drank again. “Davis,” he said.
“Hells, I know, word gets around quick here,” Pete added, “You know if you’re hungry we got eats too. We got waffle fries n chicken or onion rings anything you could stick in a fryer, we probably do.”
“I guess I could eat,” Davis said, “Just bring me whatever your best is.”
Pete smiled and stepped into the back. Davis continued watching the rodeo on TV. He sensed close movement behind him so he peered over his shoulder. A rather large bearded man stood there in his overalls. Davis turned back to the television.
“Hey!” the man barked.
The deputy turned back around, “Excuse me?”
“What do you think yer doin’?” the man said, coming closer, “Big city boy! Walkin’ into town, thinkin’ yer big city ways an’ pushin’ folks around already!”
“You mean Red Talbot,” Davis replied.
“How about you get outta my bar and outta my town!” the man shoved Davis into the bar. He caught himself against a bar stool and pushed himself back. Davis faced the man again.
“I didn’t come in here for trouble,” he said.
“Well, you found it!” the man yelled and lunged forward.
Davis dodged the hulking man as he swung at him. Everyone in the bar had stopped to watch. Davis stepped back as the man kept pursuing him. The man pushed aside a table and a waitress to get at the deputy. Davis hesitated. He was not in the mood to fight again and have the Sheriff scold him or even suspend him again. However, the behemoth left him little choice. He ducked another of the man’s wild swings and grabbed a nearby pool cue. He struck the man across the back twice, sending him to the floor. The man rolled over, Davis pounced down on him and hit him in the face several times with his fist.
When he stopped, there was blood on his hands and Davis was looking into the face of his former partner, Officer Culver. Davis held onto the front of his partner’s shirt, but Culver was insensible and choking on his own blood. He gurgled and kicked his feet weakly.
The man in overalls whimpered only slightly. Davis looked around at the staring bar patrons.
“I said I didn’t want any trouble,” Davis said as he stood up. The man lifted his hands to cover his face. The deputy walked back towards the bar and sat back on his stool.
Pete came joyfully out of the back. He carried a heaping plate, “Hey, what’s all the commotion?” The smile came off his face as he saw Davis’s hands. He put the plate on the counter and grabbed a wet towel. He handed Davis the towel and looked over the deputy’s shoulder as the other man was helped up.
“Oh, nothin’ new I guess, except Luke gettin’ his own medicine,” Pete said under his breath. “Hey! That better be the last of that tonight! We don’t need anymore people trying to prove themselves!” he shouted across the bar, “You didn’t see nothing either!”
Luke walked up to the other side of the bar. A waitress helped him with his bloody nose. Davis wiped his hands clean. Pete brought up another beer and pointed at the plate.
“Well, take your pick,” he offered, “Don’t forget my homemade ranch.”
“Thanks,” Davis said quietly. He could feel the people still shifting restlessly behind him. Although, Pete tried to play everything off as fine Davis still had an eerie feeling left over from seeing Culver. He tried to keep himself occupied. He ate the plate of various fried things and watched the rodeo continue.
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