Monday, July 27, 2020

The Case of the Bully Stalker

"We've drawn notice, Watson. I shall do the talking."

Kid Curry swaggered to their table in the crowded saloon, blew deprecatingly on his blond mustache. "You're those English gents I heard tell about. I'm not sure I want your kind in here." Holmes calmly sipped his brandy.

"See here," Watson blustered, "this is Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective!" The piano player stopped, but resumed at Holmes' bidding. There would be no trouble.

"Sherlock? What kinda stupid name is that, and what is he doing in Arizona?"

"Special assignment for Her Majesty," Holmes replied. "Rest assured it does not involve you."

"Hear that, boys? It does not involve me!" The required laughter sounded a little forced. As Holmes didn't appear to be armed, Curry lost interest when a barmaid called to him. Watson blotted his forehead.

"Relax," Holmes offered. "I intended to keep sidestepping his challenges. Small return on the investment and all that. Simple psychology."

"I fear I lack your icy confidence," Watson said. "Hello--what's this?"

A young dandy sauntered in, dressed so outlandishly that his ensemble practically screamed "yep--I'm a regular shoot-em-up cowpoke!"

Kid Curry couldn't resist sticking his foot out, sending the dude sprawling.

Oddly, the stranger smiled up at his tormentor. "You got big feet, cousin."

"Nobody calls me cousin!" Curry snapped. He watched the dude mosey up to the bar. "Hey--you got my boot dusty. I paid thirty dollars for these."

The stranger rested elbows behind him on the counter. "If you paid thirty dollars for those, somebody saw you comin'." Nervous laughter died under Curry's glare. To make matters worse, the dude turned his back and tended his drink.

"Begin, Watson," Holmes said, watching intently. "If this is our bully slayer, he's taken the bait." Watson reached nonchalantly inside his coat.

Curry was on his feet. "Turn around, farm boy." Chairs scraped out of the way, and the music stopped.

"Nope. You'll hafta shoot me in the back like the coward you are." When Curry stalked toward him in the awed silence, the stranger turned around, placing elbows on the counter. "You up for a game? Unless you're scared, that is." He actually made a kissing  motion.

"Outside," Curry snarled.

Carefully the dude removed his gun and unloaded bullets onto the counter. "You a chicken puke? Come on up here."

Curry guessed the game, and decided to unload. "I'll reload and shoot before you blink." Both men holstered their guns. Suddenly, Curry found the dude's gun pointed inches from his nose. His own gun hadn't even cleared leather.

"Sure he's fast," boasted the dude. "But can he shoot? Barkeep--set us up twelve glasses by the door." Each man reloaded while the displeased bartender did as ordered, lining up six glasses on two tables.

In a roar of fanned gunfire lasting one second, the dude blasted all six glasses. Curry wasn't nearly as fast, and missed one of his.

"I'm callin' ya," the dude said. "Outside."

Now Curry was no fool. "Easy, friend. Just a little misunderstanding." Regardless, he was obliged to crawl out the door to guffaws and backslapping of the new king of the hill.

Some minutes passed untill Watson spoke up. "Time, Holmes. It's been fourteen minutes."

Without fanfare, Holmes shouldered men aside and knocked off the stranger's hat. Rapidly the bystanders cleared a space, and the music froze once again.

"You aimin' to die?" the dude demanded.

"I'm calling you. Isn't that the quaint expression?" The dude made no move. "Come now. I have a Webley top-break revolver in 44 caliber. Surely it's no match for yours in range, accuracy, and stopping power." He drew from his pocket and pointed at the dude's head. "Have you over-tired yourself? Let's try again." He repeated the draw, again without challenge. "I'm arresting you under extradition treaty for Her Majesty's government. The charge is scientific espionage and theft." He marched the dude out after disarming him.

The barkeep scurried to catch up with Watson. "I don't get it--the kid was so fast."

"Only," Watson said, "after drinking a reflex-enhancer, and only for fourteen minutes. He's been trading on his ill-gotten reputation after stealing a supply of it from our military."

"Blimey," joked the barkeep.

"Yes, quite." Watson didn't find that at all amusing.

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