Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
- Sep 28, 2013
The problems started the day the mine closed.
It wasn’t so bad at first. The day it closed, The Dusky Belle was full of customers, and so long as they had money to spend, Victoria welcomed them. There were a couple fist fights, nothing so major. With more volume than her girls could handle on a typical night, impatient men argued over who’d get their turn, and threw punches to secure their place in line. Poker games were heated, volatile, and accusations of cheating were met with foul language and closed fists. Hell, everyone just seemed angry, and even she found herself itching to start a fight.
And things hadn’t gotten better since then. The mine was still closed, and the men out of work with too much time on their hands. Only now, they were running out of money too, but not out of their hungers. Shit, she had to pull her revolver on one man who slammed her against the bar, demanding satisfaction. He wasn’t gonna get much further than that, not with all the people around, but the fact that he was desperate enough to go that far was worrying.
Four damn days, and the Town of Onyx Landing was losing its mind. Victoria sighed, counting her stock of liquor, and then counting it again, wishing she were counting wrong. Usually running out of booze was a good sign, a sign she was making money. But it was a fat lot of good money could do her if the people around here went stir crazy without drink or women. That kind of violence was bad for business.
“If it keeps like this much longer, I might hafta ration the booze,” she joked, pouring a glass for Maria, one of the other girls of the Dusky Belle, “We might not make it to the next shipment.”
“Nah, Chica, you keep my glass full,” Maria muttered, tossing back her drink, “You cut off my whiskey and I am gonna strike.”
Noise from the bottom of the stairs drew both women’s attention. The new girl, Xia, kissed her latest client on the cheek, and whispered promises to wait for him, “longtime.” Vic just resisted the urge to snicker. The pidgin accent was a farce, she could tell, but Xia paid out her 15% cut after every lay, so Vic saw no need to spill her secrets. She joined them at the bar, passing over Vic’s cut and another dollar for a drink.
Vic finished off that bottle of whiskey and continued, “I can either keep you girls in drinks or the men, but I won’t be able to keep both. Still got three days until more comes in, and I only have half a case left.”
“So?” Maria snickered, “We need it a lot more then the men do, especially with how busy it’s been lately. Shit, I’m surprised I can even walk.”
“I dunno, the men pay more when they’re drunk. ‘Specially when they say fifteen, and I can reply ‘fifty? Oh, you so generous.’ If he’s drunk enough, he don’t argue much.” Xia laughed, and took a swig of her drink.
Vic joined her in a laugh, and shook her head, “What are you going to do when someone figures out you speak perfectly good English?”
“Skip town. I hear Silentwood’s nice.”
“Slientwood is a damn correct name.” Vic wiped down the bar, shaking her head. “They don’t got much but cattle up there.”
“Well hell, maybe I’ll head to Tombstone then.”
“Yeah, you and half the town if they don’t open that mine up soon.”
Glass thudded on wood as Xia slammed her empty drink on the bar, “What happened, anyway? I heard there was an explosion? Or maybe a cave in?”
“Yeah, something like that. I understand three guys are still stuck in there. Or they dead.” Maria stared out the window, eyes distant, as if she could see through the mountain and sighed, “Probably dead.”
“By now at least, if they weren’t yet.” Vic agreed, following the invisible line of her sight. The mountain cast long shadows over the town, blocking the orange rays of late afternoon sun. “God rest they soul.”