At first they tried to out cheat each other but it was clearly a draw. Then in a simple exchanged glance and shift of the eyes, a truce was drawn which spelled doom for the others at the table, and by three am it was all over.
And there seemed little point in Lil and Chet just playing each other, so they drank, and swapped stories til the only cards not played in this game were the Queen of England and the Duke of Windsor.
It's hard to tell who believed what or anything and in a moment of pause, Lil asked Chet if he knew the time. Chet pulled out his gold pocket watch and told her 4:20.
Lil gave a look of surprise and told Chet she really needed to be going. But before she did, she sat on his lap as she passed his chair, took off his hat and gave him a kiss on the cheek as she smiled and smoothed back his his thick black hair. Chet didn't seem to mind and her perfume lingered as she made her way to the door.
Chet watched her full hips pendulum up the three wooden steps and he thought she was adding a little
kick to it for his benefit.
Chet finished his smoke and looked around the saloon at the half dozen drunks that hadn't completely run out of balance and money.
Then Chet reached into his coat to again check the time but when he pulled the watch out he discovered it wasn't his gold watch he held but another watch made of sterling silver.
Chet smiled then broke out into full laughter as the bartender watched him curiously. Putting the watch back into his coat he stood and walked over to the bartender who was leaning back on a post with his arms crossed in defiance.
"Say, you there, barkeep," Chet paused, rubbed his stubble and squinted his eyes. "that lady I've been playing cards with-"
The bartender grabbed a dirty glass and wiped it on his dirty apron before placing it on the shelf with his back to Chet
"You mean Lil?"
Chet brushed his nose with his finger and his grin faded.
"Yeah, guess I do. You know where she lives?"
The bartender turned and placed his arms spread on the bar.
"Maybe, why you asking?"
Chet sized him up then leaned in close to the bartender's scowl.
"Maybe cuz I want to know."
The bartender seemed unfazed and Chet decided he wasn't worth messing with, so eased off some.
"She left something behind, I just want to return it"
The barkeep countered. "You can leave it with me, I'll see she gets it." But he knew full well Lil never leaves anything behind except the perfume.
Chet smiled easy, "No offense, but I don't know you. I'd like to return it myself."
The bartender looked down, then grinned and nodded towards the door.
"Down the street, oh, bout a quarter mile or so, maybe less. The Miller Hotel, second floor-you can't miss it. big sign out front."
Then after a deliberate pause he added, "But I wouldn't go down there if I were you."
Chet looked to the door then back to the bartender, his look growing curious.
"Oh yeah, and why's that?"
The bartender turned away, wiped his hands on his hips then started stacking glasses.
"Just wouldn't, that's all."
Chet threw some coins on the bar.
"Yeah? Well you're not me, are ya?"
Chet turned and made his way to the swingin doors not giving the barkeep a chance to respond and disappeared into the night
.Two drunk men scurried to the door to see which way he went.
"The damn fools goin down there."
The bartender chuckled then threw up his hands and smiled over his shoulder.
"Can't say I didn't warn him."
Chet lit another smoke then made his way down the dark empty street. Chet knew the feeling of being watched, of eyes on his back but he ignored it. This is the way things went for Chet, just mosey into town for a drink and the next thing you know, somethings happening and it usually wasn't good.
The bartender had been right, it was easy to find, but Chet also remembered the warning and how
Lil had suddenly needed to get on her way.
Chet paused in the street before the sign and the steps leading up. Then he went to the opposite side of the street and lit one more smoke as he leaned against a hitching rail and studied the hotel.
Something told him he should just walk away, go back to his horse and keep moving. He didn't give a shit about the watch as he had won it in a poker game and the one she replaced it with seemed to
work fine. It was her ability to do it that held him there, the style in which she not only took his, but teased him with the silver one. He should've listened to the voice, but that was the trouble-he never did.
He was pretty sure using the door would have much to do with the barkeep's warning, and he noticed the window on the side of the hotel and the overhang below it.
Chet smiled and flicked the smoke away as he pushed himself off the rail.
Lil had made it back into bed without Grandy waking and now she lay in bed listening to him snore as she fondled the gold watch and thought of the man she had taken it from.
Chet's plan was simple, he was going to sneak through the open window, take his watch that he figured he'd find on a dresser, leave the ace of spades, and sneak back out. Just a continuation of the game Lil had begun.
Chet left his boots on the street and made the easy climb on to the roof. he really could have had no way of knowing if this was even her room except once on the overhang, he could smell her perfume.
There were several problems with Chet's plan. Lil was not asleep, the watch was in her hand, and Grandy had taken to keeping a pistol under his pillow.
Lil was no slouch and heard Chet on the roof. She thought of waking Grandy but instead quietly made her way to the window. Just before she got there, Chet's head came through the window and Lil let out a shrill screech.
When Grandy woke, he saw the two figures close together in the shadows and he grabbed his pistol
and headed for the window. Chet had withdrawn at Lil's cry and Grandy pushed Lil aside roughly and
fired blindly into the dark. Considering he saw no target, he didn't do badly hitting Chet in the leg.
But Chet wore the twin pistols and knew how to use them. He fired back before Grandy could move
from where the flash had been. There would be no further shooting.
As Lil lay, looking at the curtains blow in the soft breeze, she listened to the sounds of Chet's breathing beside her. his left eye was open and the pistol beneath his pillow was loaded.