GUNSLINGERS

PROLOGUE

The sun was as always, a bit more than anyone could stand. Most of the quaint town of Devil's Fork was indoors, safe from the hellish weather that appeared an ironic play on the town's name. Why the town was named so however, remained a mystery as nowhere in sight was a devil or a fork of any kind.

Now, a building central to life in this often uneventful town was the 'Devil's Playground', a bar better known for its live entertainment than its drinks. The atmosphere inside was the usual rowdy environment fthat had come to be associated with the establishment, a stereotype the bartender, Riley Halliday, did not quite appreciate. Riley was a woman in her early twenties, the kind that would make any man's knees buckle in sheer knee-buckling awe. Her dark hair hung in locks, framing her delicate, young face. Her smile was to die for. Rumour has it that some people had actually died for it. Her voluptuous figure was subject of many a patron's drunken mumblings, as were her beautiful bright eyes, which many patrons agree were quite effective in forcing you to cough up your tab.

She ran the 'Devil's Playground' with her elder brother, Muskton Halliday, who was also the town's resident doctor. The locals had affectionately nicknamed him Doc Muskton Halliday, which was later shortened to Doc M. Halliday and subsequently Doc. Halliday after numerous complaints that greeting Muskton had become too difficult. A few weeks back, it looked like Muskton would have to change his nickname again after a certain Doc. Holiday from the nearby county of Tombstone took him to court. Muskton won the case however, and Doc. Holiday was forced to change his name to Doc. Vacation.

Muskton was a short man, though probably about the height of his sister. For a lady, this was perfectly alright; but a man of Muskton's pride and stature felt that the Lord had literally left him short-changed. This was a sensitive issue to the bearded man, who always tackled the issue of his lack of height by claiming that his sister was abnormally tall. He was a very desirable man however, and had constantly spurned advances from women whom in his own words were 'too goddamn stupid'. He was a doctor after all…you couldn't hold it against him for seeking intelligent conversation.

"There aren't any smart women around here are there?" asked Muskton, sitting over a glass of bourbon across the bar from his sister.

"I resent that," she said, cleaning a glass with a dish rag.

"No…no…I didn't mean that. It's just that, I wish I could find someone with substance…someone with more than just a pretty face…you know what I mean?"

"I guess. Well, you just gotta keep looking I suppose. If you continue hanging around here, the only girls who're gonna hit on you are those 'Idle Hands' bimbos," Riley replied. The 'Idle Hands' dancers were a group of girls who were known for a bit more than their dancing. They had become a vital part of the bar and their numerous romantic escapades were widespread. "If you ask me…people with their kinda reputation shouldn't be representing the 'Devil's Playground'," she continued, obviously annoyed by some of the glances her brother had been getting from the girls on stage.

"Are you joking?" her brother snapped. "The 'Idle Hands' ARE the 'Devil's Playground!'," he said, unaware of the pun. "We're having our best business because of them," he continued. He was right. The 'Devil's Playground' had never seen better business. This was largely due to their choice of entertainment in prior years, which included a Michael Jackson impersonator (a few dozen years ahead of time), a band that played unorthodox instruments like steel pipes and barrels while holding their breaths till their faces turned blue whilst propagating ideas of overthrowing the government (the 'Blue Man Coup' they were called), and a weatherman who predicted rain 20 minutes after it started raining (he was a hit for a while).

"Yeah. I guess you're right," Riley gave in. "But these are not the kind of girls for you. Why don't you talk to that Miss Perkins at the bank? She's seems nice."

"You know what? I just might do that," Muskton replied. "What about you? Any nice guys in mind?" he pried.

Riley giggled. "None just yet. But I've always wished that a tall, rugged, handsome man would someday walk in here and order a non-alcoholic beverage."

"That's precise" Muskton said.

Riley giggled again. "I don't know. It's silly…but that's the sorta guy I want."

Just then, the bar doors swung open. A man walked into the bar, his spurs clanging as his boots met the hardwood floor. The silhouette of his frame against the midday sun filled the doorway. He was tall, Riley could tell. Pushing back his hat till it rested on his back, held in place by two strings around his neck, the man revealed a crown of flowing, dark hair. Brushing his hair away from his stubbled face, the man approached the bar. As he drew closer, Riley noted his rugged, trimmed goatee. She made a mental checklist and crossed out 'rugged', 'handsome' and 'tall' from the list.

"Gin and tonic…hold the gin," the man said. Riley crossed out 'non-alcoholic beverage' from her mental checklist. "Stirred…not shaken."

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