For your reading pleasure:

Mason strolled through a single red door into a place he never thought to see again.  The THIRSTY WORM, still a fitting name for a small time dive. It used to be Jessica’s bar.  Now from what he heard it was owned by man named Johnson. Jack Johnson to be precise. A used to be miner who’d run into some money.  Jessica mentioned the man a few times while they’d been hunting fugitives together.

A loud mix of twang and steel guitar greeted his entrance.  It was a brand of music he’d never heard. He loved it. Something in it seemed to coincide with a broken heart.  More than a few dust covered heads turned to see just who’d walked through the door. All it took was a single glance at the scowl lining Mason’s face to convince them their attention was needed elsewhere.  Only one didn’t look away. The tall dark green skinned man merely waved to get his attention.

“Mason!” said Durzak lifting a mug of beer with an off hand.

Mason didn’t respond.  Instead he slowly made his way across the near empty bar towards where the Oregoth sat.  Thoughts of Jessica still tore at his vulnerable heart. She was the one woman he didn’t want to let go of.  Yet she’d already decided their relationship was over. He needed a drink. Something far stronger than the local brew.  With an absent wave he called the bartender to Durzak’s table.

“I take it things didn’t go well?” said Durzak when Mason drew close enough for him not to shout.

Mason sat down.  His eyes locked on the table.  Discussing his pain wasn’t something he was accustomed too.  X-ray always seemed to know what he was feeling. The man on the other side of the table wasn’t an AI with a penchant for listening in to other folks conversations though.  

“Nope.  Didn’t go well,” said Mason risking a glance towards the bar.  So far the bartender hadn’t moved. Another minute then I go see the fool and get my drink.

“Such sizzling details.  Oh please, do go on,” said Durzak imitating a woman they crossed paths with on their way to Red Rock.

For the first time since leaving the mansion Mason cracked a smile.  It was a small one, but enough to send Durzak roaring in laughter. Mason shook his head.  Joy wasn’t exactly something he was looking for at the moment. Rising from the chair, he noticed his old friend become somber once more.  WIth downcast head he started towards the bartender. A new wave of tears threatened to erupt from already red eyes. Everywhere he looked brought back painful memories of the times he’d shared with Jessica.  From the first time he’d walked in just ahead of a storm, to the time he found her being nearly raped they flooded his tormented mind.

“Your friend there is kinda loud,” said a tattooed man in black leather before moving to block Mason’s path.

“So go talk to him about it,” said Mason using an arm to slide the man out of his way.

“I’m talking to you about it,” said the man waving an arm in what could only be a signal to his friends.

“I got better things to do than listen to ya.  So if ya don’t mind, I think I’ll go get a drink,” said Mason starting towards the bar once more.

A hand gripped tight to his shoulder.  Mason spun to face the obstinate stranger.  The man barely reached the middle of his chest yet still looked defiant.  He rolled his eyes as he tore from the man’s grasp. There was a drink he wanted to get too.  Men looking for trouble would have to wait until he was good and drunk.

“Don’t turn your back on me!” said the man so loud it brought the music to an end.

“He’s not going to serve scum like you.  Me and the boys made sure of that,” said the man confidently as seven more men in black leather joined him.

“You what?” said Mason turning with a scowl on his face and hands on the grips of twin revolvers.

“Mason, these boys giving you trouble?” said Durzak walking up to stand beside Mason with large bore scatterer in hand.

“Hey now we don’t have no guns,” said the man, face going pale.

“Not the smartest asshole are ya?” said Mason drawing the revolvers faster than the man could blink.

“Hold on.  I think what the idiot is trying to say is he wants beat up the old fashioned way,” said Durzak turning half a head to smile at Mason.

“His desires ain’t my concern.  I just want a drink,” said Mason in low rumbling drawl.

“Sorry fellas but you heard the man.  So as I see it you got two choices. Either die where you stand or get the man a drink.  Each… of you… get him a drink,” said Durzak levelling the scatterer on the chest of the two closest.

Without a word the men started towards the bar.  Behind them Durzak laughed. Mason merely holstered the revolvers before heading back to the table.  The music started once more followed by hushed conversations. All those who stood between Mason and the table were quick to make room until the large man passed.  Durzak stood fast, waiting as the black leather dressed men hurried to get shots of whiskey from a nervous looking bartender. One-by-one they walked by the table, each one depositing a shot on the table before heading back to continue harassing other patrons.  

After the last one made a hasty exit, Durzak sat down to join Mason.  The two friends sat in silence as shot after shot found its way down Mason’s throat.  Dark whiskey burned its way into his stomach. No matter how many he drank, images of Jessica still haunted his every thought.  

“So what was all that about?” said Jessica walking unseen to stand on the other side of the table from Mason.

“It’s good to see you again Lecroix,” said Valentine keeping pace with his daughter.

“A couple ruffians thought to cause him trouble.  Nothing he couldn’t handle mind you,” said Durzak nodding as he rose from the seat.

“I’ve no doubt of that,” said Jessica looking down and away from the man she’d once loved.

“Something I can do for ya?” said Mason letting the pain override his need to see her.

Mason looked up to see a shocked look on Jessica’s pained face.  Instantly he regretted what he’d said. He wanted to take it back.  To erase what caused her so much shock and pain. Beside her, Valentine’s once pudgy face turned a beet red.  Despite the man’s so called change of heart, he still didn’t much care for the sight of him. Without the weight he’d once worn, Valentine reminded him of a scarecrow left to rot in some forgotten corn field.  Thin or not the man was evil in a way Mason knew he’d never understand. Jessica loved him though. For Mason that was enough to at least tolerate the man’s presence.

“You could at least show a little civility,” said Valentine unable to hold his tongue.

“And you could mind your own damn business,” said Durzak turning to face the old Governor.

“I only came to tell you what I am sure you already know,” said Jessica crossing her arms over a heaving chest.

“I’m sorry,” said Mason struggling to hold back the flood seeing her brought to the surface.

“It’s too late for that Mason.  I only came to tell you in person.  It didn’t seem right for you to hear of me not wanting to be with you from the guards,” said Jessica grabbing her father’s arm before starting for the door.

Mason downed another shot.  Only one remained undrank on the table.  A shake of his head. All the pain and memories paled in comparison to actually seeing her walk away from what they’d once had.  Lips trembled as he opened tear filled eyes. Through blurry eyes he watched as she disappeared out of the bars lone door without so much as a glance back.  

“So what do we do now?” said Durzak.

“Mason Lecroix!” said a tall human in blue armor closing rapidly on the table where Mason and Durzak sat.

“Something I can do for ya?” said Mason rising to face the man and his partner.  

His hands dropped to the grips of twin revolvers.  The two men stopped in their tracks. With pistols still holstered, they were little threat to him and Durzak.  Between him and the men Durzak turned to glance at them before returning his attention to Mason with a raised eyebrow.

Mason merely nodded.

“You are to surrender yourself to us,” said the man stepping closer to the table.

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you are wanted for murder and we are the law in this city.  If you don’t then I guess we get to take you in the hard way,” said the man with a laugh as he slid a hand to the pistol on his hip.

“Idiots,” said Durzak taking the liberty of relieving Mason of the last shot of whiskey.

“Since I’m now out of drinks.  Ya just stepped on my last nerve.  One chance is all ya got. Turn around and leave or I show ya why folks in this town are afraid,” said Mason fingers tapping the side of dark stained holsters.

“See Frank, I told you this would be fun,” said the lawkeeper his nervous eyes contrasting the twitching smile on his lips.

Mason drew and fired into the floor at the lawkeeper’s feet.  One chance and they’d squandered it. His patience didn’t allow for more than that.  

“The next one won’t be to the floor,” said Mason a revolver aimed at each man’s chest.

“Hey you can’t do that.  We are the law here. No one fires at us and gets away with it,” said the lawkeeper with a growing wet spot appearing at the crotch of loose hanging pants.

“Leave… before I decide to just kill ya for annoying me,” said Mason the scowl on his face convincing them the truth of his words.

It took all Durzak had not to burst out laughing as the lawkeepers raised their hands before turning to nearly sprint out of the door.  Mason merely holstered the revolvers. They’d be back, and with back-up. He and Durzak needed to leave before that happened.

“So I take it we really do have to decide where to go now huh,” said Durzak stretching the last of the tension from his muscles.

“There’s a place I was wantin’ to visit anyhow.  Got some mighty good fishin’ if ya had a mind to relax for a bit,” said Mason letting the memory of a small clearing dash into his mind.

“There is such a thing as relaxing around you?” said Durzak smiling as he rose from the table, scatterer in hand.

“Don’t tell me this is all getting too much for a tough man like ya?”

“Hell, I think it’s just starting to get interesting.  But what kind of friend would I be if I let you have all the fun fishing,” said Durzak laughing as he shouldered the large bore gun.

Side-by-side the two men sauntered unhindered from the bar.  Every eye followed their progress until at last the door closed behind them.  

 

       

 

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