It was early morning when the man rode into town from the east, the sun at his back, his long shadow before him. The street was deserted except for an old mongrel dog sniffing its way home after a long night’s prowl.
He proceeded on the main thoroughfare—the town’s only thoroughfare—until he came abreast of the Blue Moon Café with its “WE NEVER CLOSE” sign hanging from the ramada. Spurring his horse over to the hitching post outside the café, he dismounted and entered the establishment.
At that time in the morning, the chairs were on the tables, and the only occupants were a boy sweeping the floor and a disheveled, overweight man behind the bar wiping a glass with a dirty rag. The barkeep watched the stranger approach.
“How ’bout some whiskey?” said the stranger.
When the barman was slow in responding, the man grabbed his collar, pulled him down until he was bent over the bar — their eyes level.
“I said whiskey,” growled the stranger.
“Yes sir, right away,” was the barkeep’s quick response.
When released, and with a shaking hand, he placed the glass he had been wiping on the bar, grabbed a bottle from beneath the counter, and poured a liberal amount of an amber liquid into it.
As he started to re-cork the bottle, he was told to leave it on the bar.
Turning his back to the bar and placing his elbows thereon, he called to the youth doing the sweeping.
“Hey you, boy, come over here.”
Placing his broom against the nearest table, the boy did as he was bid.
“You got a name, son?”
“Yes sir. It’s Billy.”
“Well, Billy, do you know a man by the name of Jake Tapper?”
“Do you know where he lives?”
Reaching into his vest pocket, the man withdrew a silver dollar and flicked it in the boy’s direction. “You go tell Jake that Mac’s in town.”
Jake lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. It was much too early to be awake, but since she left, he’d found it hard to sleep. It had been a heady eight months. He had never loved a woman as he had loved Jeanie. Sure, it was taking a chance messing with Mac Conway’s woman, but it had been worth it. Now that she had run off with that piano player from the Blue Moon, he thought he’d just stop running from Mac. Might as well get it over with, thought Jake.
Then there was a knock at his door. “Yes, who is it?”
“It’s me, Mister Tapper. Billy Doyle.”
“Whatcha want, Billy?”
“A man down to the Blue Moon told me to tell you that Mac is in town. I think he wants to talk to you.”
“Alright, Billy. You tell him I’ll be right there.”
Jake packed his few belongings and left the room. Instead of going to the Blue Moon, he went to the livery stable and saddled his horse. Then he mounted and headed out of town as fast as the beast could carry him.
It is one thing to think brave thoughts in the seclusion of your room, but it’s another thing to face Mac Conway in a saloon. Hell, it ain’t healthy to face off with Mac anywhere. Now that Jeanie’s gone, there’s no reason to git myself killed.
The next day Mac caught up with Jake, and then he went looking for Jeanie.