Dark Days Ahead, Part 1

The Genre stretch challenge for this month is Psycho-noir, with a bonus challenge of romance.  I’m not sure how well I’m keeping to the genre, but it is definitely giving me a workout.

Hey, look!  There are character names in this one!  (Alexander is the unnamed gambler in the previous story).

Alexander sat in the saloon, shuffling the cards through his hands.  It was a quiet day, but it was early yet.  He wasn’t expecting there to be much in the way of excitement until after the sun had set.

He began laying out the cards for a hand of solitaire when he heard someone calling his name.  Smiling, he looked towards the door as one of his companions strode into the room.  “Mr. Connelly,” he said, nodding politely.  “Could I interest you in a game of chance?”

Jamie shook his head.  “Not right now, Alex,” he said.  He held out an envelope and added, “I was just coming to give you this.  It came on the morning stage, but you weren’t awake yet.”

“Late nights make for late mornings, my young friend,” Alexander said, taking the envelope.  His brows furrowed as he broke the seal.  He didn’t recognize the address on the outside.  However, he knew the handwriting immediately.

Dropping into one of the empty seats, Jamie said, “Who’s it from?”

“My mother,” Alexander said.  His eyes scanned the page.  As usual, his mother had gotten herself into some sort of difficulty and needed her son to ride to her rescue.

“What’s she say?” Jamie asked.

Alexander tucked the letter into his jacket and smiled.  Jamie’s own mother had passed away earlier in the year.  Although Alexander only knew her through her son, he knew that the relationship that they had shared was entirely different from the one he had with his mother.

Lifting one shoulder in a shrug, Alexander said, “She was attempting to win the heart of a wealthy man, but she had reconsidered her position and thought better of the plan.  Now, she’d like me to come riding to her rescue.”

“What’ll you do?” Jamie asked.

Alexander knew what the young man would do: he’d ride out immediately.  Stifling the urge to sigh, Alexander began folding his cards back together.  “I’ll discuss the matter with our erstwhile leader,” he said.

Moving to his feet, he added, “I shouldn’t like to ride out if it would be an inconvenience to the rest of you.”  At the same time, he didn’t want to abandon his mother to her fate either.  He felt certain that Jacob would say that she had earned whatever happened.  However, she was still Alexander’s mother.  She was his only living relative and he couldn’t ignore her if she called on him for help.

He tucked the cards into his jacket pocket with the letter from his mother.  Then, he grabbed his hat off the table.  After settling it on his head, he touched the brim and nodded to Jamie.  Then, he turned on his heel and headed out of the saloon.

Mischief followed closely on his heels, chirping and trilling.  “When I leave, I will be certain to see that you are well cared for, my dear,” he told the cat.  “I would not ride to my mother’s rescue and abandon my dearest companion.”

A smile touched his face when Mischief purred loudly at his words.  He never knew if she could understand him or if she simply purred because she knew he was speaking to her.  However, in the end, it didn’t really matter.

He glanced around and then strode across the dusty street to the sheriff’s office, with his feline companion trotting alongside him.  He pushed opened the door and peered inside.

“Mr. Waverley,” he said, giving the man seated at the desk a politely nodded.  Mischief trilled as she ran and leaped up to the smooth wooden surface.

“Alex,” Sam said, nodding.  He reached out and smoothed the cat’s fur with his fingers.  “Hello, Missy.”

“What’s up, Alex?” Michael said, from the other side of the room.

Alexander glanced over at the quiet man who had become the leader of their strange, disparate group.  “A letter from my mother arrived on the morning stage,” he said, his voice soft.  When Michael nodded, he shrugged.  “She has requested my assistance.  With your permission, I’ll ride out in the morning?”

Michael nodded, silently giving the requested permission.  Then, he asked, “Would you like any company?”

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” Alexander said, a smile touching his lips.  “I’ll probably have to… creatively embroider the truth and I’d hate to drag anyone else into such difficulties.”

“He don’t want any of us around if’n he’s gotta lie,” Sam said, smiling.

Alexander chuckled.  “That is what I said, my friend,” he agreed.  Then he shrugged at Michael.  “Besides, I should hate to leave the town ill-prepared in the case of difficulties whilst I handle a small family matter.”

“Fair enough,” Michael said, nodding.

Lowering his chin briefly, Alexander accepted the words.  Then, he looked at Sam and bit his lip.  “I should hate to impose upon your kindness, Mr. Waverley, but… would you be so inclined as to look after Mischief in my absence?”

“Sure, Alex,” Sam said, nodding.  He twiddled his fingers along her spine, eliciting a throaty purr from the petite feline.  “She’s a sweet little thing.  It won’t be any trouble.”

“I am in your debt,” Alexander said.  Then, he touched the brim of his hat once again.  “I will return to the saloon, then, and prepare for my departure.”

He glanced over at Mischief and arched an eyebrow.  “Are you coming with me, my dear?” he asked.

Mischief chirped and sprawled on the desk.  Chuckling, Alexander tipped his hat and headed out, leaving the feline to Sam’s gentle ministrations.

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