As he dug around for his wallet, she thought she saw the long black barrel of a pistol in with his things.

The man slowly lifted himself from the seat.  Angela could not peel her eyes from the bag.  That was a gun in there too, it surely was.  As he turned to follow her off the bus, he shouldered the gun tote.  Panic ran down her spine like icy water, aching and heavy, rooting her to the very spot. "You can leave that here, you know."

His cracked lips pulled back in a one-sided smile that hung from a scar on his left cheek, revealing a sharp canine that gleamed like a blade.  "How 'bout that beer."

Angela couldn't stomach more than a sip.  She felt her stomach twisting into knots and lurching for her throat - empty, demanding empty.  She held the bottle down on the bar as though it would slip away from her, or as if she might slip from the bar.  The condensation ran cold down her fingers, down the palms of her hands.  She was in El Paso, a town she didn't know hide nor tail of, buying beers for lonesome gunmen.  She squeezed her eyes tight, squeezing the stars out of them, praying for highway.

"What's waitin' for you in Austin?"  Startled from her prayers, Angela struggled to get hold of one of the words rushing past her tongue.  Her shirt was stuck to her back with sweat, sweat was running down her chin, sweat was dripping from her brow and yet this man was dry as that highway, dry as the desert, probably just as cold on moonless nights.  The man leaned over his beer, staring down the neck of the bottle.  "I asked you," he half whispered, sliding his cold stare up to her eyes, "what's waitin' for you down in Austin?" 

 

The End

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