• The only things the customers in Johnson’s Parlor & Saloon cared for were threefold: that their mugs of beer were refilled; that the door remained shut to keep out the dusty wind; and that everyone behaved liked civilized men. Only their first concern was truly met, as new customers kept coming in and forgetting to shut the door right. And while a fight broke out now and then over a game of cards, it was rare that it would become a fatal affair. Stories were kicked around about how some bandit robbed a train or blew up a bank or got out of jail – this was their only real entertainment. Stories from other towns than their own.

    Off at one end of the bar, a man slumped over his glass of whiskey, his grody gray hair draping over parts of his ill-kept face, covered with beard and stubble and what appeared to be dye. No one really knew why he was wearing a beat-up Stetson indoors but they let him be, seeing as he may be one of those “ornery drunks.” His black shirt, canvas jacket, black jeans, obsidian boots and black-lensed glasses didn’t help his image much, either, but it was something they felt they could worry about at last call. However, one drunk Irishman didn’t quite know when to shut up with his stories, even at the pleading of other customers to just sit down. His attention was grabbed by two things about this man at the end of the bar. One was the fact that this man had rosaries wrapped around each wrist. The other was the strange black cane this man had at his side.

    “Y’know, I heard about some strange lawm’n in these parts.” The Irishman’s speech was rather slurred. “Well, I woo’n’t call him a lawm’n, but one of those ... viji … vi-ghi … oh hell with it, one of those people who take the law into their own hands. Whatever they are called.” He swerved into the seat next to the man with the cane and belched, the smell of warm beer and whiskey on his breath. “Guy finds bandits and takes care of ‘m. Doesn’t kill ‘m or anything – only … well … they say he call it ‘punishment.’ Me? I call it ‘beating the s**t out of ‘m.’” He looked at the man, still slumped over, apparently tired and travel-weary, as evidenced by scars in the skin (notably on his nose and face) and the scars in his clothing. The raven-head blinked, breathed a sigh, and asked the barkeep for a refill of whiskey. Meanwhile, the Irishman kept vomiting words and syllables in a vain attempt to keep company. “… This guy calls himself some funny word. Puh-lah-din or something like it. Something like a … like a knight? Well, it’s just that he doesn’t look it one bit.”

    Another belch.

    “He has this sickly look. Sunken eyes, silvery blue as the denim of a mine worker.” He looked to the right, as if reaching for inspiration from the other whiskey drinker. “Black hat, white coat just like that guy’s.” Pointing with his thumb, leaning to the side with drink. “In fact …” He slowly got up, his face scrunched as if to drunkenly accuse a man of murder. “He looks JUST like this guy.” He stood (if you could call it standing instead of slouching) beside the man in the corner. The Irishman stood as well as he could, almost looking the other in the face. The ashen-head blinked and said quietly: “What the ******** are you staring in my face for, Red? Something you don’t like?” The drunken man just spit in his face as if with disgust, the saliva landing on his forehead. “Yeah … YO-HURK!” He never got to finish, as the man in the corner jumped out of his seat, at the same time wrapping his rosary-encased left hand around the Irishman’s neck. His right hand wiped at the spit on his face and soon realized his mistake … the “tanned skin” was apparently wiped away enough for the Irishman to see but two things:

    Sickly pallor. Silvery blue eyes.

    “Put the idiot down, Asher.” The man with the death-grip on the Irishman’s neck turned his head toward the barkeep, the man who instructed “Asher” to stop. The barkeep was tired-looking, exaccerbated by his rather weak beard which was nothing more than splotches of brown. His hands were on the bar, solid and gripping as if trying to stand tall with his fists. “He’s new here and drunk. Leave him be.” His piercing stare chilled Asher to the point of shivers. The pallor-man let go of the Irishman with a drop, the drunkard hitting the ground with heels first, then a**, then back.

    “Many apologies to you, sir,” Asher said to the Irishman. “I don’t particularly care for confrontation. And to you, Jeb,” this time to the barkeep, “for making you speak.” He kept his eyes on the man now on the floor who was visibly paralyzed with fear. The Irishman looked close enough to shitting himself. Asher took his cane and pulled at the top, revealing steel. A sword. Engraved near the hilt was a fancy cruciform.

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    “This steel should scare you more. Sharpest in these parts and maybe all of the territories.” Asher smiled, his grin not helped at all by his eyes. The Irishman was wide-eyed. “Deadlier than even the Colt I carry sometimes. Now, I suggest you go home and …” sheathing the blade, “sober up. Learn the name of Asher Roland Davidson. And remember these words.” He helped the Irishman, now more sober than 20 mintues before, up off of the ground. “ ‘Do not anger the wolves.’ A simple lesson, I would say.” Asher smiled once again. The pallor still showed up on his forehead and the dye was now sweating off. All the Irishman could do was nod in a panic, eyes still shot open, and run out of the saloon.

    Both Jeb Johnson and Asher watched him leave and looked to each other – Jeb with contempt for Asher’s actions leading towards a lost source of income, Asher with immature glee mixed with righteousness. “What? I don’t care if he’s new here.” Jeb could only sigh and wipe down the bar. “Go take off that stupid dye, Asher,” he mumbled. “It looks fake on you.” Asher rolled his eyes and headed towards his room upstairs, equiped with a basin and pitcher of water, a bed and a tub for bathing. Thankfully he only put the dye on his hands and face and neck; his reasoning of not wanting to waste his disguise was logical enough, though ridiculous. The brown dye ran down into the water, his purplish tone finally revealing itself. The “bags” under his eyes looked like black streaks; one would guess his tears came from a blotter rather than his own body.