As he watched Loren Bray swept off the wooden porch in front of Bray's Mercantile and Horace Bing march toward the telegraph; he realized he really didn't like most of his neighbors. Of course, there was his best friend, Jake Slicker. He owned the barber shop and was damn good at his job but Hank didn't trust him not to cut off his hair.
He watched as Dr. Micheala Quinn and her family rode past him toward the new clinic. He didn't not like the woman but he couldn't lie and say he didn't like her son Brian more.
"Hey there Hank," Jake said approaching the saloon.
"Morning," Hank said still watching the busy street.
"What are you doing?" Jake asked as he leaned against the railing.
"Nothing. Just realizing I hate these people," Hank muttered as he turned to enter into the saloon.
The dank room was dark and whiskey stained. The round tables sat around in no real order and the wood bar had more rings on the top than a jeweler. Hank lit a few of the lanterns around the room and a somber orange glow spilled into the room. Jake took to one of the wooden stools as Hank pour each of them their morning shot of whiskey. They threw the drink back and slammed the tiny glasses back onto the bar top.
"You ready to eat?" Jake questioned.
"Yeah," Hank said using a dingy rag to wipe down the counter top.
The two men exited the saloon and headed off toward Grace's Cafe. Everyone ate there before the day really started. It was a way for the townspeople to, Hank believed, make sure no one was shot in their sleep. He and Jake took to their regular table and waited.
"What can I getcha?" Grace asked standing beside their table.
"The usual," Jake said tucking his napkin into his shirt collar.
"What about for you, Hank?" she asked.
"Whatever he's having," Hank answered. She nodded and headed back toward the kitchen.
Hank lit a cigar while they waited. He watched as the cafe began to fill up. Grace floated around happily to each table; delivering plates of food and taking orders. He had never realized how balletic she was.While everyone was eating, two unknown horsemen dismounted and took an empty table. Grace approached them and Hank watched as her body went ridged.
When she turned from them, her face was stricken. He shifted in his chair.
"What's the matter with you?" Jake asked as he shoveled more biscuits and gravy into his mouth.
"What?" Hank asked. "Nothing," he said still cutting his eyes at the disheveled men.
Grace moved hurriedly to their table and placed their plate down. One of the men grabbed her and Hank turned.
"You gonna serve me tonight too, girl?" said the younger looking one of the two. The older unshaven man howled with laughter.
"Let me go," Grace snapped as she struggled to get free.
"Stop fighting it," the young one said gripping her wrists. Hank went to make a move but Byron Sully beat him.
"That's no way to talk to a lady," Sully said approaching their table.
"We don't see no lady," the older one said with a wicked grin that showed off his brown teeth.
"Just let her go," Sully said as he pulled Grace out of the clutches of the younger one. She thanked him silently and hurried back toward the kitchen. "Who are you?"
"Jared and John Crowfeld," the older on said pointing at himself then his brother.
"Well, Jared, we don't talk to women like that around here."
"Well she ain't no woman," John said. Sully took a step forward but stopped when Matthew Cooper, the sheriff put his hand on his shoulder.
"You're not in town to cause any problems, right?" Matthew asked being sure to flash his shiny badge.
"No sir, sheriff," Jared said.
"Good," Matthew said leading Sully back to their table.
Hank knew the Crowfelds were full of shit. They had a problem with Grace and whatever trouble they were going to cause, was just beginning.
In the days to follow, the Crowfeld brothers did nothing but cause problems. They harassed the women, vandalized property and threatened people.
"What's wrong with them?" Jake asked as he leaned against the bar, drink in hand.
He and Hank had been watching Jared and John Crowfeld be loud and annoying for twenty minutes now.
"I don't know but they're getting on my nerves," Hank said in a low tone.
"Come on girl," John Crowfeld hollowed at one of Hank's girls as she tried to get away from him.
"No!" she shouted still struggling. Hank took another shot before coming from behind the bar. "Let me go!"
"Is there a problem?" Hank asked. He noticed that Jared looked him up and down before he rolled his eyes.
"Damn right there is. Your girl here won't do what she's 'posed to," John said still struggling with the girl. Hank grabbed her by the shoulders and then sent her on her way. "Hey! That was my whore!"
"She works for me. She does what I say," Hank said grabbing John by his collar. "And this is my saloon and I say who drinks in here," he said as he grabbed Jared by his collar. He dragged them both to the door and threw then into the street. He stepped out onto the porch and looked down at the brothers. "Don't let me catch you in my bar again. And stay way from my girls. I don't want them anywhere near the likes of you."
Jared scrambled around on the dirt road but John held him. Hank rolled his eyes and went back inside.
The next morning Hank was waiting outside of the telegraph post for Horace. He found the man annoying and weak but he had to have interactions with him.
"Well, you're here early, Hank," Horace said unlocking the door.
"Mmhmm," Hank said following him inside. He watched as the other man's scrawny frame slip behind the counter.
"What can I help you with?" Horace asked.
"Whiskey," Hank said trying not to roll his eyes.
"Oh right," the thin man said as he began to search behind the counter for his package.
"Why don't you get this on the stage?"
"I need it more often than once a week," he explained to the man with the gaunt face.
"Ahh. Of course," Horace said placing the two wooden crates on the counter. "Here you go. Have a good day."
"Right. Thanks," Hank grumbled as he picked up his crates and started off toward the Gold Nugget. On his way, he spotted the Crowfelds standing outside of Grace's Cafe. He slowed his walk and listened.
"Come on out here girl!" John said loudly.
"Yeah!" Jared yelled. "We talkin' to you!" Hank saw her peek out from behind the door.
"What do y'all want?" Grace asked still hidden.
"We wanna talk to you," John said licking his chapped lips suggestively.
"I can't. I gotta get ready," she said going back inside. Hank watched as both of them grew angry and started to move toward the kitchen. He put the crates down and ran across the street.
"Where do you think you're going?" he asked grabbing them by the back of their shirts. Jared looked over his shoulder to see that it was that saloon owner. The annoyance overtook him and he swung on Hank. His fist landing on his jaw. Hank let the brothers go."What the hell are you doing?" Hank yelled, touching his jaw. John turned and swung as well but Hank ducked and struck him in the face and John crumbled to the ground.
"Don't you hit my brother!" Jared yelled as he charged the blonde man. Hank moved and Jared tripped and fell to the ground. He quickly got to his feet but before be could make a move Hank smashed his fist into his face and Jared fell beside his older brother with the glass jaw. He went back to his crates picked them up and went to the saloon. He was putting some ice in a towel and was placing it against his sore jaw when Jake walked in.
"What the hell happened to you?" Jake asked as he sat on a stool.
"Crowfelds," Hank muttered.
"They were harassing Grace and before they got to out of hand I stopped them."
"Grace is a big girl, Hank," Jake said throwing back the shot Hank had placed in front of him.
"There are two of them, Jake," Hank said as he took his own shot. "I left them in the road."
"Oh," Jake said examining his friend's face. He knew he wouldn't find any answers there. Hank kept all of his feelings and emotions inside; unless of course he was enjoying whatever pleasure he got from other peoples misfortune. "You ready to eat?"
"Yeah," the blonde said taking another shot before he followed Jake back down to Grace's.