The Saloon was packed, like it had been every evening for the past fortnight, and Darla May was performing her burlesque act on the small stage. Old men in weathered leather boots and chaps hollard and cat-called, waving their dusty ten-gallon hats in the air, as she shook her scantily dressed body for them to drool over.
In the corner, four men sat around a small table playing a hand of cards. Each of them had a tankard of whisky next to him and at least one had an escort on his lap. The game was a leisurely past time for the gentlemen, they took turns betting and losing or winning, occasionally one was accused of being a rotten cheater and had a gun pulled on him. But when things got too out of hand, the barmaid Hannah would step in and calm them down.
Hannah was far from one of the nightly dancers or escorts. She would never let a man treat her the way they were treated day to day or while on stage. One time, a drunk rancher tried to get up her skirt and she turned and punched him right in the jaw. Of course in his drunken state, she barely felt it, but from then on he never touched her again.
Hannah's father ran the Saloon, a rotund fella with a proud handle bar mustache he kept neatly groomed. There was never a time he didn't have a smile on his bright red face; he was softer than his daughter, never thinking guns were the answer, but in the world they lived in, they always seemed to be for someone. When his wife died of consumption, he vowed he'd raise Hannah to be strong and kind, and that he'd protect her from any danger.
The night was still young when the gentlemen's card game began getting rough. Hubert, a gangly, snaggle toothed individual, stood up and pointed his pistol across the table.
"I know yer cheatin', show me them sleeves!" his words slurred from his drunken state.
The music stopped, as it usually did when someone began swinging a gun around and everyone stopped what they were doing to see the ordeal. It had become expected, people loved to watch as someone was made a fool of, then gossip about it once it was over.
Hannah came from behind the bar with a wet towel, she knew in his inebriated state that she could whip the gun out of his loose grip with ease. When she was in view of the table, she froze, Hubert's weapon was pointed at someone she'd never seen before, a tall man in a stark black suit, sleek leather chaps, and shiny silver spurs on his boots. This man was standing with a polished musket aimed right at the drunken man's head.
"Excuse me?" Hannah broke the silence; everyone turned to her and let out an audible sigh.
"This ain't your business." The stranger spoke with a deep voice.
"Like hell it's not! I own this Saloon, and I'm gonna ask you to put down your gun sir." Hands on her hips, she showed no fear.
Neither Hubert nor the stranger moved.
Hannah took a deep breath in, "I'm not gonna tell ya'll again, either sit back down and enjoy yourselves, or take it outside."
The man glared at Hannah and scanned the room, then slowly lowered his weapon.
The drunk lowered his gun and slouched into the wooden chair. The music started back and the crowed returned back to its rowdy state of cat calls and joviality.
"Who do you reckon that man is papa?"
"Don't know, probably a drifter, they come through every once in a while."
"Well he ain't gonna be coming through again if he don't behave himself." She kept watch of the table as she polished tankards and filled drinks. He didn't seem like a drifter, not with the fancy get-up.
About halfway through the night, Hubert stumbled to the bar and caught Hannah's attention.
She rolled her eyes, "What can I do you for?" He had a habit of flirting with her when he was on his 5th or 6th drink.
"See that fancy feller over... yonder?" he hiccupped as he pointed back to the table.
"What about him Hubert?"
"I... wannnna... I reckon... he needs a piece of your tasty sweeeeeet... brry pie."
She raised an eyebrow, "What makes you reckon such a thang?"
"He ain't taken his... eyes off you all night... been affecting his card playing."
"Is that so?" her gaze shifted to the stranger.
"Yes... mam it is... I just put down a large sum of money, and was woooonderin... if you could... indu- uuu-... indolge him fer meee?"
She couldn't believe what he was asking, he knew full well she wasn't that kind of lady, "Now Hubert, you know me better than that."
"Yup I do- I ossle know that if I win- I'll give you a bit o the winnings."
"Why would you do that?"
"Well Miss Hannah, you know my heart- belongs to you, just give me this one porfavore and I'll be in yer debt."
His wrong use of the foreign word hurt her ears, she sighed deeply. "Well, if you're sure you're gonna win; I guess I can deliver him a piece of my berry pie."
"Oooo-wee! I knew I could count on you!" He hurried back to the table with a snaggle toothed grin on his face.
The pie was thick with mull berries, which were picked fresh every morning. Hannah cut a large piece, plopped a thick dollop of cream on top and carried it to the table. She placed it in front of the stranger and winked.
"I didn't ask for this."
"Compliments of the house." she turned to return to the bar, but was suddenly pulled into the stranger's lap.
"How about you take the first bite..."
Her cheeks flushed, "No thank you." she attempted to release herself from his grasp, but he pulled her back down.
"I insist." His words were venomous. He took a bit of pie on the fork and raised it to her lips.
She craned her neck away, struggled in every way she knew to escape him.
"The la- lady said no!" Hubert had stood up and aimed his pistol at the stranger. He closed one eye and squinted the other as he attempted to hold the gun steady and aim.
"And I said I ins-"
Hannah was finally able to get into a position to elbow him in the jaw and jumped out of his grip. She got a good distance from the table before turning around. The music had stopped, and once again, the crowed looked on for something to gossip about.
The stranger rubbed his jaw, a spot of blood smeared on his wrist. He pulled out his gun and aimed it at Hannah, a deafening POW was heard. Women screamed and drunks dove under tables. Another POW immediately following the second was heard.
Hannah had initially closed her eyes, when she opened them again, she realized she was fine, but at her feet, her father lay in an expanding puddle of red. She dropped to her knees and draped her arms around him; he looked up at her and smiled before the light left his eyes.
"Stupid old man." The stranger picked the fork up and took a bite of the pie as if he hadn't just killed someone.
Hannah's blood was hot, she wouldn't stand for a stranger to come into HER establishment and do such a thing. Faster than she'd ever moved, in a white rage, she stood and grabbed the gun out of Hubert's limp grip; she aimed it at the stranger and pulled the trigger.