“Who’re you accusing of cheating!?”
The gaming table flipped over and chairs flew. Wesley quickly ducked behind the bar. He was only seven, but previous experience had shown him that when a bar fight occurred, he needed to take cover. Unfortunately, fights occurred more often than not when Big Bill was drinking and gambling. That was most of the time Bill was awake. Wesley would come out if his assistance was needed. But Big Bill stood nearly 6’5 inches and weighed almost 300 pounds, earning his moniker. He rarely needed the child’s help, except when pick-pocketing the unfortunate men he managed to knock out cold.
Wesley peeked around the side of the bar. Cards and poker chips lay strewn about on the ground like a celebration of sin. Big Bill face was flush red, a sharp contrast to his usually pale, pallid skin. He was punching the accusing cowboy in the face. Blood splattered with every blow. From Wesley’s angle, he couldn’t tell if it was from the man’s face or Big Bill’s knuckles. If Wesley had to place a bet, it would certainly be on the cowboy’s face.
A greasy white skinned man with a deep tan and long black hair dashed into the fight, but was promptly stopped by Big Bill’s size fifteen foot. The kick sent the man flying over the bar, where he banged his head on the wood and landed, deathly still, next to Wesley. Briefly, Wesley wondered if he was dead. Then the young boy’s training kicked in and, dead or not, he promptly relieved the man of his money and pocket watch before scuttling to the other end of the bar.
The fight was over three minutes later.
“Wes!” Big Bill bellowed. The young boy emerged from his hiding spot and hurried to his master’s side.
“Get my winnings!”
“Yes, sir.” Wesley replied. He took off his small, beat up hat that had seen better years and picked money off the floor with swift ebony fingers. As the bar patrons began emerging from their hiding places, staring at the odd pair incredulously, Wesley stole money and jewelry from the other men Bill had sent to visit the sandman.
Big Bill took another long swig from the nearest jug and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He tucked the jug under his arm.
“Let’s go, boy!” He yelled.
Wesley stood and immediately followed Big Bill into the night.
Big Bill and Wesley were asleep in yet another nondescript boarding room when their door was almost kicked off its hinges. Wesley sat up but Big Bill didn’t stir. The young boy’s hands balled into fists and his heart pumped. He was prepared to fight.
“Give us our money!” A voice yelled from the hallway.
Big Bill rolled over and continued snoring.
Not getting a response, the men slowly entered and stood near the bed.
Wesley assessed the men from his pallet in the corner of the room. They hadn’t noticed him, his dark skin blended into the shadows. He quickly deduced that he was out muscled and outnumbered, especially with Big Bill passed out. He couldn’t make it to the door without getting caught. Now on defense, he stood up quietly, waiting.
“He’s passed out Bob!” said the first man.
“Where’s that boy he had with him?” said the second man. Wesley recognized him when he crossed into the moonlight. He was the greasy man Big Bill kicked over the bar. Wesley wished the man had died, after all.
“The hell if I care. The boy’s too small to do anything anyway,” said the first man Wesley guessed was Bob. Wesley couldn’t see the faces of the other man but assumed he’d been in the bar during the fight, too.
“Let’s find the goods and get the hell outta here,” said Bob.
“After I kick his ass!” said the greasy man.
“Don’t touch him!” said the third man. “He might wake up and kill all of us. Just get all the goods and go!”
Wesley was trapped. They began searching the room. The greasy man rifled through their sparse belongings. Wesley tried to melt into the darkness. The man accidentally knocked over a glass lamp and Wesley yelped as a large glass shard struck his leg. He was spotted. The man advanced and grabbed his arm with a vise grip.
“Where’s the money you stole?”
Wesley said nothing.
“He asked you a question!” yelled Bob.
Wesley kept silent.
“Disobedient turd!” the greasy man punched Wesley in the face. Wesley crumpled to the floor and felt blood rush out of his nose. The greasy man kicked him in the chest while he was down, then grabbed his arm to pull him back up again. Wesley, barely conscious, wobbled then sunk his lamp shard he'd grabbed while on the ground into man’s chest. The man yelled and let go of him. Wesley saw the man pull the makeshift shank out of his chest and lunge at him. The boy felt an intense sting of pain across his left eye before passing out.