Summary: The Jessup Gang get a little more than they bargained for when they pick a fight with a certain stranger. A slight AU story that ties in with “Missing” and “A Father’s Gift”, but you don’t have to read them first to understand what’s going on.
A Chaps and Spurs tale.
Rating: K+ for a bit of violence
The Long Road Home Series:
A WELL DESERVED COMEUPPANCE
There were three of them, and when they strutted through the batwing doors and into my saloon, I knew that the day had just gone to hell in a handbasket.
“Give us some beer, Sammy,” Clive Jessup demanded, his straw-colored hair flopping into his blue eyes—hiding them from view. Irritation welled up inside of me, but I kept it at bay, knowing that bucking a stacked deck rarely ended well. So instead of acting on my feelings, I complied with the arrogant whelp’s orders. Without even a thank you, the trio grabbed their drinks and settled down at a table in the center of the room.
As if they could smell a fight brewing, the other patrons quickly paid their dues and headed out—unwilling to stick around and possibly catch some lead if things went south. One by one, they made their excuses to me and fled into the sweltering mid-July afternoon. All of them skedaddled, that is, save for one.
In the far corner of the saloon sat a lone figure, garbed in an expensive, black travel-suit—his cane leaned casually against the edge of the table within arm’s reach. His dark hair and well-trimmed beard were streaked with grey. The lines around his hazel eyes led me to believe that he was good tempered, but the scars on his knuckles and the six-shooter at his side spoke of a man who knew how to handle himself should a difficulty arise. Whatever else he might be, this man was no tenderfoot.
There was something about him that nagged at me, something familiar that I just couldn’t put my finger on and it had been bothering me ever since he limped into my establishment. I may be old, but I have a knack for remembering faces, and I knew in my bones that I had met him somewhere before. The problem was, my mind wasn’t in the mood to cooperate with me. Shrugging my shoulders, I pushed the matter aside and went back to what I did best: minding my own business.
“Hey, Sam, can I get a refill, please?” the man I had been contemplating called, effectively pulling me out of my thoughts. Grabbing a pitcher, I quickly made my way over to him and poured the amber liquid into his empty mug. “Thanks,” he said, and I gave him a small smile.
As I slid back behind the bar, I noticed that the stranger dressed in black had unfortunately gained the attention of the Jessups. The grins that they shared between themselves could only mean trouble, and as they stood and swaggered over towards the lone man, I reached for the stock of the sawed off shotgun I kept beneath the counter for just such a purpose.
“Hey, you, old timer!” said Clive, slamming his palms down on the tabletop in front of the stranger. The man didn’t so much as bat an eye at the antics of the eldest Jessup boy. Instead, he picked up his mug and took a long sip of beer before carefully setting it back down, paying no mind whatsoever to the bullies standing before him.
Clive’s face turned several shades of red as he realized that he was being ignored, so he decided to try a different tactic. Sweeping his arm across the table, he sent the half-empty glass flying across the room where it shattered when it came in contact with the rough hewed floorboards.
Looks like I’ll have to put in another order at Hoyt’s Mercantile, I mused, aggravated at the thought of having to shell out more money on glasses for the second time in two months.
“I presume that you are addressing me?” said the stranger, slowly raising his eyes until they met Clive’s.
“A’course he is,” grumbled Harvey Jessup, oblivious to the polite tone with which the older man had spoken.
“The boys an’ me wanna drink,” said Clive.
“The boys and I,” the stranger murmured just loud enough for me to hear, and had the situation been less life-threatening, I would have chuckled.
“That’s what I said.”
The man leaned back in his chair. “Well, in that case, why are you standing here talking to me about it? If you ask Sam over there, I’m sure he would be willing to serve you,” he said, dryly, knowing well what the miscreants were up to.
“Give us yer money an’ we’ll do juss that,” Harvey piped up again.
“No can do, boys.”
Duke Jessup slowly pulled out one of his knives and fingered the sharp point of the blade. “Mistuh, I don’t think ya know who yer talkin’ to,” he said, moving a bit closer to the stranger. “Ya see, me an’ my cousins here own this town, an’ if Clive tells ya he wants a drink, ya better pay up or get ready to bleed.”
The man arched one eyebrow and placed his hands on the edge of the table. “Apparently there is something wrong with your ears. I didn’t ask you who you were or why I should hand over my hard earned money to the likes of you no accounts. I said no, and when I say something, I mean it.”
Duke lunged forward, knife at the ready, but he was a hair too slow. The stranger suddenly flipped the table over, striking Harvey on the chin, knocking him to the floor in a senseless heap. Ducking under Duke’s blow, he snatched up his gold-tipped cane and struck the red-headed Jessup boy right where it hurts and the youth folded like a house of cards. Needless to say, he’d be singing soprano in church come Sunday.
Clive Jessup, who had managed to leap out of the way of the falling table, dropped his hand to his gun butt. He was too late; the man in black hit him across the side of the head with his walking stick and then twisted the boy’s right arm up behind him, effectively preventing him from doing any further mischief.
In that instant, I recognized him. He was a bit older than he was that last time I had seen him, but that had been nigh on eight years ago.
“I know exactly who you are. I’ve seen your kind before: men whose daddies forgot to teach them not to squat with their spurs on, or to treat those older than them with respect unless they prove themselves unworthy of it. Oh, yes, I’ve seen many a wet-behind-the-ears kid who thought he could run roughshod over folks, get gunned down under a hot, summer sun. Boot hill is full of men like you.
“Now, you listen to me, and you listen good! I’ve been on cattle drives and busted more broncos than you’re likely to see in your lifetime. I’ve fought Indians, chased rustlers, helped my pa raise my two younger brothers, and lost part of my leg serving my country, so don’t think that you can push me around. I’m a patient man, but if you feel like settling this argument with violence, then you can take that gun and we’ll see what kind of a man you truly are. So, what’s it going to be? Do you feel lucky enough to call me out?” the man asked, his voice deadly serious.
Clive said nothing.
A movement from the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I raised my shotgun and let blast. Duke’s knife flew out of his grasp and the boy howled in pain, holding his mangled right hand to his chest. He turned to look at me, eyes wide and full of disbelief.
“Y-ya shot me.”
I pointed the smoking barrel in his direction; there was no sympathy in my heart for a snake with the gall to stab a man while his back was turned. “There’s more where that came from if you feel like trying me,” I said.
“I think that you boys have outstayed your welcome, am I right, Sam?”
I nodded in agreement.
The man jerked Clive’s arm, puling it further back until a whimper of pain escaped the youth’s lips. “I’m going to let you go this time, but I’m planning on sticking around town for a while. If I hear one word from Sam or anyone else about you three stepping out of line like this again, I’ll tan your hides and send you off to the sheriff’s office. Do I make myself clear?”
He released Clive and pushed him forward. “Now, get your brother and cousin and get out of here.”
Clive nodded. He set the table upright, and scooped his dazed little brother up off of the floor where he lay, breathing heavily. Duke trudged after his cousins.
They were nearly to the door when the man called after them, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
They turned and looked at him, faces blank. He gestured with his head towards me and I heard Clive sigh. He passed Harvey over to Duke and made his way to me. Digging into his pockets, he dropped some coins onto the counter and turned to go, but the man in black cleared his throat. “Add a dollar to that for the damages you caused, boy.”
Clive looked as if he had just bitten into a sour pickle, but he complied. Once that was done, the trio couldn’t seem to leave the saloon fast enough. I chuckled as they stumbled over each other in their haste to get shut of my place.
“Thanks, you just did this town a big favor,” I said, turning to find that the man had stepped up to the bar.
He tilted his hat back on his head and grinned at me. “Well, you know me, Sam, I do like to deal out justice from time to time whenever I get the chance.” He winked at me and dropped a ten dollar bill on the counter. “That’s for destroying your table,” he said. “I better get on home before Pa sends the cavalry after me. As it is, I’m a day later than I told him I would be.”
I reached out and shook his hand. “It’s good to have you back, Adam.”
“It’s good to be back, Sam,” he said. Releasing my hand, he limped towards the door, leaning heavily on his cane. As he stepped out onto the boardwalk, I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face.
“Well, maybe things are starting to look up again in this town after all,” I muttered to myself before collecting my broom, and moving over to clean up the mess on the floor.
~ The End ~
This story is dedicated to: LuvAdam9 for encouraging me to finish it.
Updated notes: I changed the title from “Just Deserts” to “A Well Deserved Comeuppance” to save people from the spelling confusion. 😉 Also, as of December 1st, 2019, this piece has been edited for typos and incorrect grammar. Hopefully it will be a smoother read now.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
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- The Man in Black (by Annie K Cowgirl)