James turned his most obliging smile on the group of tourists.
"Now, this here is all that's left of the hostelry. Folks from all round these parts would walk in for a drink... but when they left here, they sure wasn't walkin' no more!"
For James this was the third time in 24 hours he'd shown a group of sightseers round and the third time in as long that he'd heard himself make that joke which he told over and over. For the group, however, it was their first taste of it and they laughed out loud. James, young professional that he was, would never let his own boredom with the tale show itself to his audience.
"An' now, folks, if yo' all wanna follow me..."
Keeping the show sounding as fresh as if it were his first time, young James showed them the last site on his 40-minute tour.
After the applause died down and the slaps on the back were over, James was about to slip away when one of the tourists came towards him. The man was at least six foot tall, white and had straggly blond hair, a straw hat, a monocle, striped yellow pants and a black vest with a solid gold watch around his stomach and patches of gold dust on his white shirt and black cravate. Kind of a strange-looking guy, James thought, but he didn't say anything.
"I hope you liked the tour, sir," he said.
"Oh, I liked it just fine," said the man looking around him.
He showed no sign of going away.
"I'm sorry, sir, the show's over," said James, "but I look forward to catchin' you next time at another W. J. Palmer Enterprises Inc event where we can offer you..."
"Oh, quit your baloney, will you?" asked the man rudely. He moved out of the designated tourist zone to a pile of wood and splinters outside the tourist zone.
"That looks like a pile of railroad ties," he said, kicking at them with his boot.
"Now, who in the world would wanna shoot up something like that, hmm?"
"I'm sorry, sir," said James, "but you're steppin' outta line here. Now, if you'd care to come back over the fence here..."
But the disobedient visitor wasn't listening.
"There's a pile just like them down in the valley yonder. I reckon we're looking at something from Republican times, hmm? A relic of the era no-one's supposed to talk about..."
James tried not to show his shock. This guy was treading on dangerous territory.
"Sir, I'm gonna ask you one more time..."
"Don't worry, son," chuckled the visitor, stepping back over the fence, "I don't mean to break your rules and all. If you like, I'll say nothing more about the old days, hmm?" He ruffled the boy's hair patronisingly. "Before the British took control back round here."
He tossed his young tour guide 50 cents.
"That's for your tour, boy," he said. "I look forward to hearing it all again next year. Perhaps there'll be a new section in it next time, hmm? One which mentions Bay D. Ray and the temporary postponement of the north-western branch of the AT&SF Railroad."
He started to march away.
James couldn't help himself.
"Who are you, sir?"
WIthout turning back the man shouted back, "Folks usually call me Gray, as that's my middle name. My name's Ray - Clay G. Ray. I believe you met my brother."
Gray stopped walking a moment and turned back.
"Like I said - thanks for the tour, James."