She was new to town and easy to spot. Her hair was done-up, in a style of her own twist and originality. Her secret was the upkeep. Two hundred and twenty-five strokes. She counted this number first brushing front to back, then her left and last the right, every morning when she awoke, and every night before bed.
Her aroma was one to remember, registered into the olfactory, immediately distinguishable, so out of place, an aura, announcing her entrance. It’s hard to smell anything in a sweaty, smoke filled, dirty saloon, but each time she arrived, her aroma preceded her appearance; pushing aside the more vagrant, pungent smells of vomit and musk. She parted the waves of fragrance like a spear head; she smelled like freshwater and it was to die for.
After she departed the first evening, folks asked around. Most don’t happen West without work; most women, don’t happen West without marriage or familial ties. Hitchcock, the barkeep, said he heard she had come west on a vendetta to find someone, some said they heard, what seemed, tall tales of her adventures, feats men were known to back out of. Some supposed she lost a mighty bit of money to a mystery fellow and so to get herself West, she aligned with a few cattle runs earning her take and keep. This took her across the Midwest and into the big sky state. If the tales were true, then she had seen her fair share of action, was no stranger to, or hesitant around: gun, Indian, or man.
Tonight marked the ninth return since the first. She walked in and received a rye whiskey on the rocks, from the bottle under the counter, before she ordered it. It was her one and only.
She seemed collected and steady, but a keen eye could see her body language told a soft, mildly different story. Most new people, tend to get acquainted with the company they preside, but she stood astray in the same spot, eyes scanning; full-coverage of the saloon. She spoke a little, subtly nibbling the skin just inside of her lip between sips. Then, long after her ice had melted at the bottom of her glass, she looked disheveled, disheartened as her face fell the smallest perceivable bit.
She squared up with Hitchcock and was turning to leave when her body went stiff, and instead signaled Hitchcock for her first, second round. Hitchcock tripped over his confusion in her actions. He fumbled towards her and slid the bottle her way. Her hand on the bar opened to catch it, but her eyes never left Seven-Finger Steve after he entered and after he took a spot at the poker table. She finished filling her glass and set the bottle back down. Hitchcock walked over and stowed it back beneath the bar. He stood there a moment, behind her, drying off a glass with his towel, his eyes tracing her projected glance.
Aside from Seven-Finger Steve’s lack of fingers, he was an average, normal, plain looking man; one had to speak to him to understand his wit and candor. He had arrived with the railroad and had stayed behind after the work. His character wasn’t detestable, a few folks liked him pretty well; yet here she was, eyeing him from across the room.
She watched him play a few hands losing a few small ones before landing big, giving him a definitive lead over the rest. She was no longer staring right at him, instead she switched between glancing over her shoulder casually to observe the room and checking the reflection in the tiny strip of polished metal of the shelf behind the bar. She sat shaking with light tremors sipping her drink, she plotted her next move.
The next time she heard the deck shuffle she stood quickly and moved across the saloon towards the table; subtle as a spider traversing its web. Her plan was woven, she sat directly to Seven-Finger’s right, he smiled plainly, welcoming his newcomer. A cigar hung her way, he generously tapped out the ash and relocated it to the left of his mouth. He smirked; swooning with self-gratification over his gesture, she said nothing. She thrust her hands into her coat pocket and for a moment all eyes at the table lay heavily on her, never too sure, ready to anticipate anything. She tossed her money onto the table and everyone exhaled as Seven-Finger Steve dealt her in.
They played away the hours, during which she managed to take out one of the other players with pocket aces early, and between herself and Seven, they dwindled away all of the chips the fourth player had.
At last, the game held the two. The crowd itself had thinned as the night lurched towards dawn. They were evenly matched, winning and losing hands of various values but always balanced. He was smiling, figuring out a way to win given the stalemate. She held her cards confidently; the inside of her lips bled.
He placed his cards face down, then clutched his hands together exposing his seven fingers. “Care to know how I lost my three fingers?” he asked.
Eyes on her cards, she pushed her chips into the center.
Without picking his card back up, he grinned and sighing with a slight shake in his head, pushed his chips into the middle.
She stood up, his eyes followed and she threw her cards down towards the table and shot him while he watched them fall.
She left him dying with his cards still face down and the chips on the table; she already knew.