Lud Maloon slouched against the bar, looking with contempt at the tall Lazy Y foreman sitting at a table playing cards.
Outside, the crack of a whip sounded as the stagecoach departed for Laramie.
Lud, whoʼd been drinking steadily and shedding his usual relaxed demeanor, had noticed when heʼd come in that Pierce Adlerʼs saddle was dusty, and scornfully confronted him with this fact.
“And Iʼll bet you havenʼt shaved for three days. Your shirt isnʼt even pressed. You need a haircut. Youʼre a disgrace to the Lazy Y brand.
“And I hear you have polka-dot curtains in the bunkhouse. That is so 1870s. Itʼs time you started showing some leadership. Thatʼs what youʼre getting paid for, ainʼt it?”
Lud was working himself up to a fighting mood.
His sidekick, Kyle Bolter, chimed in, “You need to walk careful, Adler. Weʼre watching you. Your boots are scuffed. Next time you come to town they better be polished so good theyʼre gleaming.”
Adler had taken enough. He was a man hard to rile, but when heʼd had his fill a deep rage gripped him so hard it scared him. He stood up slowly and looked with cold, gray eyes at the two cowhands.
“Youʼre throwing a mighty large loop, Maloon. And you, too, Bolter. The curtains at the Lazy Y are my business, not yours. And Iʼll have you know my shirt was ironed this very morning. And you two might have looked in the mirror there behind the bar before you started talking. The bands on both your hats are stained with sweat and dirt. Itʼs disgusting. Iʼm surprised they even let you in here.”
The tension in the saloon mounted. One of the card playerʼs at Adlerʼs table quietly got up and edged out the batwing doors.
One of the Lazy Y hands had been sitting with Adler and he too was getting riled. Varney “Bullwhip” Drago was a tough guy and he told it like it was.
“Youʼre asking for it, Maloon.”
As he spoke he turned sideways, his hand hanging tautly just above the butterfly design stitched on his holster.
Just as it seemed gunfire would erupt, Sheriff Lantry Hoyt pushed through the doors and announced in a deep voice, “Funʼs over boys. Clear out pronto if you donʼt want to spend the night in the hoosegow.”
The cattlemen got a horrified look on their faces and quickly trooped out to their horses.
None of them wanted to sleep in Hoytʼs jail. They knew from past experience that the pillowcases don’t match the sheets.