By the time we got back to town it was supper time. And all the holes that needed to be dug were dug. We relieved the men from their task, moved around the holes, and headed into town. The bricks were laid in the reserve, the widows looked confident with their rifles, Thelma had all the tables from the saloon laid out in the middle of town, and her girls were bringing the dishes out one by one.
Everybody met at the long dining table and the Man In black stood on the steps in front of Thelma’s and told us all congratulations and well done. He let everybody know where they were suppose to be and what needed to be done after dinner, and told us to enjoy the meal we so earnestly deserved.
Everybody did for the most part. Thelma and the girls prepared all the fixings as the Man In Black instructed them to, and everybody breathed a bit easier and appreciated the absence of Frank’s men for the first time since they originally arrived. I got to sit next to the Man In Black, and I did so with great pride. I wore the distinguishment well, and I looked across the table at my fellow townspeople as one of them, and as a complete man and whole person. I knew things would different from then on, however long that would be. Not once during dinner did the Man in Black look concerned about anybody looking to collect Frank’s bounty, or about anything at all. Some chatter about what we were going to do next surfaced toward the end, but neither the Man In Black nor I paid any any attention to it at all.
Supper and the last light of day seemed to wrap up together. Stars stretch across the night as far as I could see. I glanced upward, and saw this, and began listening to all the voices around the table. Thinking about earlier as well. Right as I was beginning to feel a sense that everything was going to be o.k., that maybe somewhere, somehow, it already was, the Man In Black leaned over and whispered in my ear and thanked me for my help earlier. Then he stood up and gave a toast thanking Thelma and the rest of the women. We set out glasses down and he expressed an apology for what had happened to the town and what we’d all been through, and told us to begin looking forward to better days ahead. After that thought though he reminded all of us that it wasn’t over, and there was still work to do. He asked the men to excuse themselves from dinner and finish the work from earlier by covering the holes with cloth and dirt so they couldn’t be seen. When they were done with that they were to meet him at the far end of town. He asked me to check up with the widows briefly and then send them to bed.
Maybe a couple hours so later, all the tables were cleared and brought back into Thelma’s. The widows were in bed. The holes were covered. All the townsmen including me gathered at the far end of town underneath what used to be the old cafe. …And the storm of the year howled and thrashed everything in sight. None the less, the townsmen were told they were going to be digging some more. Two trenches were going to be dug along the entrance at both ends of town where a plank of wood was going to be placed and covered like the holes dug earlier. It was going to act as a switch, and be connected by a line to the large entry signs that were on top of both of the shops that were there. After detaching the signs, they were going to be rigged so that if someone stepped where the trench had been dug out, they would fall and crush anyone standing there. It took a few hours for all the men to get this done at either end of town. The whole time I walked alongside with the Man In Black like I was his right hand man.
It was just past midnight. The storm was still as strong as it’d been the entire night, and all the townsmen were off to bed finally. As they departed, through the thick veil of rain falling in between them, I saw the Man In Black make eye contact with Mr. Fillmore. Nothing was spoke. Neither of them looked threatening. And neither looked threatened. Just a moment. Whatever that meant between the two of them, I know Mr. Fillmore was walking back to his home with something to think about.
The Man In Black tipped his hat to me and began walking back toward the center of town. I watched him from underneath Thelma’s. I knew he was going to keep watch that night, and I’d planned to take my rifle and stand a post as well. He took a seat underneath Lee Burell’s old barbershop and struck a match and lit a cigar. He sat there quietly by himself blowing smoke into the rain. When he was done he climbed up to the roof and would stay up there until he was called to something else. The whole time pacing back and forth in the rain looking out over the stretch that came in from the direction of Frank’s ranch.
By the time all the commotion started, I’d fallen asleep. My eyes jeered open after hearing a large thud. Right as they opened, like a firecracker or loud rippling thunder, four gun shots went off right in a row. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! And by the time I stood to my feet the only sound left to hear was the rain hitting the floor. I walked out from underneath the awning and the sound of rain drew more intimate in my ear as it started hitting my jacket and bouncing off my shoulders. I held the rifle close to my chest and made my way slowly toward the old barbershop. I could hardly see past ten yards. The closer I got, the more dark it seemed. I felt my hands holding onto the rifle as tight as they could, but slipping ’cause it was wet. I got a few feet from the stairs in front, and my neck followed my eyes upward to the top of the old barbershop.
“Hey Buck” The Man In Black’s head reared from behind the shop sign. “I’m gonna need your help with this,” he said before fading back and disappearing into the rain and the sky behind him.
I met him in back and there were four dead men and their accompanying horses. We cleaned it all up and took care of everything and went back into town. We headed to Thelma’s and I went to bed. He never came inside, and I’m not sure what he did the rest of the night.
…Things kept pretty quiet the next couple of days.
In the morning he had the widows practice until midday. The men collected rain water from the reservoir, and also from a few barrels Thelma had and a couple others that were laying around. Thelma’s girls cleaned it, and we had plenty of water to hold us for now. For the rest of the day into night fall, Thelma and the rest of the women prepared dinner_ nothing like the first night, but still everybody ate. He also had them paint some of the shops in the second portion of town. The townsmen made a short trip out close to the river. As expected, it was dry. All there was was a little dribble. Sad to see that, but per the instructions of the Man In Black, the townsmen spent the next couple days digging rows, one after the other. Each day they dug more and more. He had mentioned it, and we all kinda guessed it was for farming regardless how things were at the moment. Nobody questioned it. Everybody followed his instructions, glad to work. And that’s how things went for at least a couple days.