Fine drinking

Ben and I sat down opposite each other, a shabby wooden table that looked like it had been broken and repaired many times between us.  Two whiskeys were already waiting, the amber liquid hiding the worst of the grime on the glasses.  Neither Ben nor I said a word as we knocked our drinks back, and Ben tapped his glass on the table.  The 'tender appeared with the whiskey bottle and a grin on his face that said he was well accustomed to hard drinkers in his saloon.

"Cigars," said Ben, holding his glass steady for the 'tender to pour the whiskey into.

"I shall bring some directly," said the 'tender, switching to my glass.  Ben knocked his whiskey back and held his glass out again.

"A Monte Cristo would be nice," he said, and the 'tender switched back to his glass.

"I agree," he said, "but as you might imagine they rarely find their way out here.  I believe that old man Orson might have a few, but I have a feeling he would be unwilling to share.  That's not to say you couldn't ask him."  My glass had emptied while he was talking, so he had to refill that too.  This time Ben let him get away, but only to bring whatever rotten leaves he was calling cigars over to the table.

"What're we going to do then?"  Ben raised his glass to me in a silent toast.  I returned the gesture, sighed heavily, and laid the glass down on the table.

"Well," I said, "we got nothing from the train.  So far, by my reckoning, we've got ourselves a new grudge with the sheriff, a baby-sitting gig with his kid, and not one but two maps.  And despite all this, we still seem to be more out-of-pocket than when we started.  I'm pretty sure this isn't our fault. but--"

"It might be yours though."  Ben's eyes were like gimlets.  "You were the one who landed us with the kid, and that kid's father is the one that's causing us all these troubles."

I nodded slowly, Ben had a point for all I didn't like hearing it.  "I don't think we've made a mistake there," I said.  "I admit, I have my doubts still.  It's strange the way Jimmy's father was on the train, and mighty strange that it seems he's not the lush we thought he was.  We've met that man a lot, and this is a first.  Something's up, Ben, and I don't think Jimmy's in on it."

"So we keep the kid as a hostage?"

"It's a thought, Ben."

The bartender came over then, carrying a selection of three cigars.  Ben looked disgusted and took all three, patting his pockets for his matches and finding them on the second attempt.  The 'tender looked surprised we'd not finished our drinks again, and lingered until Ben's stare let him know he was unwelcome.

"So we keep the kid, and you get to be the wet-nurse."  Ben could be unpleasantly blunt at times.  "But where do we go from here, Henry?  Where's the money now?"

"We've got two maps, and both of them now seem a little suspect.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the one on the train is probably a trap.  That said, it was little Jimbo who brought us the map to the platinum mine, so there's no knowing if that wasn't prearranged with his daddy either."

"I'm no miner," said Ben, "but that's definitely the safe option now."

"Oh Christ," I said, trying and failing to suppress a groan.  "You want to go with the map from the train, don't you?  Ben, you're crazy like a fox.  No, I take that back.  You're crazier than Prickles himself, and he damn well founded Jack's Cactus in the middle of the infernal desert!"

"Keep your hat on, Henry," said Ben looking finely amused.  "I don't think I'm done with the Sheriff yet, and this map is surely a trap.  I say we follow the map and find out what trap the good Sheriff is laying for us, then we steal the cheese out from under his nose and show him up for the buffoon he surely is."

I grinned despite myself, and knocked my whiskey back now.  "And if I say no?"

"Would you really do that, Henry?"

And there it was, I wouldn't of course.  I had far too much fun with Ben to just walk away and leave him on his own, especially if he was planning something as mad as this.  "Well, you know what the map shows," I said.

"Oh yes," said Ben, "the floorplan and grounds of the biggest nunnery this side of the Grand Canyon."

The End

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