• The bar was dimly-lit by the blood-light of the setting sun and the light of lamps hanging throughout the room. A long mirror on the wall took the light and bent it back into the room, making patterns on the floor that were quickly fading with the disappearing light. Smoke and noise filled the air, mixing with the effects of several drinks to make the cards many men held even harder to see. Money clinked to the tables, barely audible to the people sitting at those same tables over the noise of the loud, slurred speech of the patrons. A large, dark set of saloon doors swung open yet again, letting a brief gust of fresh air sweep through the room and drawing the attention only of the men sitting closest to the entrance.

    A woman strode into the saloon, drawing only a few curious and generally unfocused eyes. She strode past them without returning the look, her dark eyes making only one sweep across the room as she approached the bar. The bartender glanced once at her and then returned his attention to the glass and rag in his hand, working steadily at cleaning the tiny thing. His rudeness had no apparent effect on the woman as she removed her hat and dropped it onto the counter, hooking a nearby stool with her foot and drawing it to her side so she could sit. Once she was settled, she withdrew her gun and held it as she propped her elbow on the counter and tucked one leg over the other, waiting.

    Within the next hour she had threatened thirteen different men and broken three of those men’s bones. Apparently they had found her more attractive than they found the gun threatening, and she imagined it had something to do with her skin – which was darker than any suntan – and dark hair pulled out of her face. Once the thirteenth man had hobbled away, the woman brushed irritably at her white shirt, resettling her duster on her shoulders and leaned once more on the counter. She hadn’t spoken – other than the word or two used to drive the men away – or had a single drink since she had first entered the saloon. By this point, most of the men had noticed her and would shoot occasional glances in her direction, sensing the unnamed trouble coming.

    Finally, she shifted as a voice drifted into the room, a shout from the street. “Hey, Boss! In there.”

    A small smile drew up the corners of the dark woman’s mouth and she lazily checked the ammo in her gun. It was full, just as she knew it would be, and she made a show of lounging more comfortably against the hard piece of wood behind her. It was a few minutes still until the doors swung open and two men strode through. They both bore themselves with the self-importance and confidence of men who are used to either getting their way immediately, or shooting people who stood in the way and then getting what they wanted anyway. Brown hair was slicked back on the head of the man in the lead, his face disconcertingly friendly, with a small smile hovering around his mouth. His companion had sandy hair, the color bleeding into the trimmed beard on his cheeks. The second man rested his hands on the butt of the pistol on each hip as he strode behind his boss toward the counter and the waiting woman.

    “Been a while, Ophelia.” The boss smiled easily at the woman, stopping half a dozen feet in front of her. The woman grunted and shifted again, letting her foot tap idly against the air.

    “Not long enough.” The boss laughed at Ophelia’s irritated tone and strode the rest of the way to the bar. A shot of whiskey was immediately set out for him and one for his partner, who still stood watchfully at his boss’ elbow.

    “Still bitter, huh?” Another unhelpful grunt. “Y’know, you won’t get far in life goin’ on like this.”

    “I don’t have to get much further.” Ophelia pulled her arm around so the pistol was leveled at the boss. He drained his shot glass in the silence that fell, and then chuckled.

    “So you’re going to kill me in a bar?”

    “You always said you wanted to die with a drink in your hand.”

    “I believe there was somethin’ I always wanted in my other hand.” The infuriating smile never dropped from the boss’ face and Ophelia couldn’t stop the small one that answered on her own face.

    “Yeah, well, don’t push your luck; I’m giving you one.”

    The boss held a drink up in a salute to Ophelia and her still menacing gun. “Then before we get to you shooting me, let me buy you a drink.” After a second’s consideration, Ophelia nodded and stood, holstering her gun. As soon as the weapon was away, the sandy-haired man shifted his position, one hand drifting lazily down to his own pistol. “Jack, leave her alone. We ain’t killin’ her here.”

    “How generous.” Ophelia took the glass that was offered to her by the reluctant bartender and sipped it. The sandy-haired man snorted quietly and drained his own glass, setting it down to be refilled. The three companions of sorts finished off each of their glasses – or refill, as it was for the two men – and Ophelia sighed. “So, now to me shooting you.”

    “I don’t suppose you’d just look the other way?”

    “No.” Ophelia stepped into the area that cleared, men pulling back to avoid being shot in the inevitable fight. “And he stays out. I remember last time.” She scratched absently at a pale line on her jaw and the sandy-haired Jack smiled cockily.

    “Alright.” The boss nodded to Jack, whose smile morphed into a scowl, and then stepped into his place across from the woman. They stood calculating each other for seconds that seemed to stretch for hours. Suddenly, without warning or preamble, two reports rang through the room and the boss stumbled back, blood blossoming in a crimson flower from his chest. The hollow thud of his knees hitting the floor sounded like the crack of thunder, and fingers drifted up, brushing at the stream of blood.

    “I’m sorry…” Ophelia holstered her gun, staring sadly down at the fallen man. She never saw the gun that was raised at her and only had time to feel a searing, blinding pain in her own shoulder once a report cried out. She collapsed onto her back, the pain refusing to relinquish its hold on her and leaving her writhing weakly instead. There were noises at her feet and she knew men were carrying the boss somewhere, probably to the doctor. She was left alone in her pain until; finally, it pulled her into the comforting darkness of oblivion.