Vin slumped dejectedly in his chair in the saloon, another early morning meal shared with his friends. Josiah, ever the early riser, had long since finished eating and was enjoying a cheroot, while Nathan, Ezra, and Vin shared the table with him, eating breakfast.
Anticipation seemed to hang in the air with the other three, but Vin was definitely morose.
Then Buck strolled cheerily up the boardwalk and through the batwing doors, twisting his moustache happily. He gave the other men a huge smile, then turned expectantly to Vin.
"Been up long, Vin?"
Vin drew a deep, thoughtful breath, and looked at Buck, struggling to maintain his composure. "Matter'a fact, been out ridin all night, Buck; ain't been to bed yet. You?"
Buck studied him a moment, his face clouding over with just a wisp of confusion.
"Uh . . . yeah. But . . . I seen Peso in the barn last night. Who'd ya ride?"
"I was ridin Peso. You musta seen Chris' horse. He left'im in my stall last night. You know them two are easy to confuse, though, in the dark." Vin was gaining ground now and felt more comfortable. He bluffed easily, as he appreciated more where this could lead.
Buck studied Vin, then his gaze drifted to the others. Nathan busied himself with his meal, Josiah with his cheroot, and Ezra . . . well, Ezra returned Buck's look with pleasure. "Is there something troubling you, Mr. Wilmington, because you look to be uncomfortable with the stifling humidity of the morning dew."
The tugging at his moustache became a near savage pull as his eyes swept the room and out towards the street. "Anybody seen Chris this mornin?" he asked quietly.
"Think I seen him headin toward the livery," Vin answered.
Buck's eyes grew large and filled with fear. For a moment, the others thought he might cry out in pain. He sucked in his breath though, pondered for a moment . . ."You ain't seen me," and he slipped through the bar into the back of the saloon. They heard the back door open and bang shut before they burst out laughing.
"JD shoulda been here for that," Nathan pointed out.
"He's too busy tryin' to find someplace to hide his horse," Vin answered sadly.
"Aw, it'll be alright, Vin," Josiah encouraged him. "And think of the bloodshed it'll save, when our sharpshooter rides up on some desperado, and the feller falls out of the saddle laughin at your horse, what with it havin no hair!" The others erupted with laughter. "Did he really cut it all off?"
"Ever last bit of it. Damn thing looks like a big ol' black rat. Gonna take a year fore he looks decent enough to ride again. And where am I gonna find another horse til then?" Vin shook his head in sorrow.
"There might be a grey come available, cause Buck's probably gonna die of fear 'fore he figures out he didn't really shave Chris' horse, and you're just funnin' him," Nathan pointed out helpfully.
Just then Chris peered around through the doors. "He been here yet?"
"Has been here and made his escape. It played rather well, and Buck is none the wiser as yet. You could perchance drag this out a bit longer," Ezra smiled happily.
"Well, I'd like to, but I gotta find me a sharpshooter," Chris returned.
"What the hell's that 'sposed to mean?"
Chris smiled at Vin, and it occurred to the others he should smile more often. "You sure as hell ain't ridin with me on that big old ugly bald horse! I got a reputation to uphold! " He cuffed Vin on the shoulder. "Serves ya right--and you're damned lucky he didn't really shave my horse or I'd be $500 richer 'bout now."
"And all over a horse the color of a fine autumn pumpkin!" Ezra commented.
"'Sposed to be red." Vin answered quietly. "'Spose to be red."
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