"I's sittin' in front o' the mercantile with Jeb and Lazy Sue when this gent comes walkin' inta town. Smart dressed. Nice suit, little bow tie, bowler hat... like one o' them eastern bankers." Leon leaned against the dry creek bed's angled wall, looking vacantly into the sky. "It was a day like this. Overcast, a few rays fallin' through holes in gray clouds. Humid."
The men around him had heard the story before, many times. Normally they sniggered behind Leon's back, either not believing or just weary of the story. But under the circumstances and because of Leon's unusually wistful demeanor, this retelling felt particularly poignant. He drew them in.
"The man stopped in front of us, as close to me as that scrub there," Leon indicated a leafless bush ten feet away. "He was taller than most men. Thin. I remember thinkin' how slow he likely was with his pearl handled Colt with such long fingers.
" ‘I'm looking for a man,' he says. He had an odd accent, but I figgered it was one o' them New Dutch ones I hadn't heard before.
" ‘Ain't we all?' Lazy Sue said back.
"Jeb and me chuckled some and Sue was grinning from ear t' ear. But the man didn' react; like he didn' get the joke."
Leon spit chaw in an empty area of the dry bed and peered over the top edge of the creek wall to the grassland beyond.
"The stranger said, ‘He's shorter than me and wearing the same clothes as I am.'
" ‘Ain't seen him,' Jeb said for the three of us. That's when Ethan stepped out onta the porch. Ethan used t' stock my chaw, even though I's the only one who chewed in the ‘tire town."
Some men were taken slightly aback by the last statement, for it was the first time in his many retellings Leon had mentioned the Ethan character. And the first time he'd put any emotion into the story other than vigor and sauce.
"Anyways," Leon continued, "That's when I saw a man ‘cross the street walkin' ‘tween the livery and the bank. He was dressed in the same kinda suit as the feller talkin' to us and chubbier, so I know right away it's the fella this one' alookin' fer. But I don't say nothin'. See, I ain't got a dog in this fight and I ain't no tattler. I ain't got no idea why he's lookin' or why the man ‘cross the street dodged inta the shadow of the livery as soon as he sees us. In my mind, if I says some'n', then the one ‘cross the street'll know it was me, and maybe he survives and comes wantin' revenge. If I don't say nothin' then this tall fella won't know I knew anythin', anyways. So I says nothin'. And ‘parently, no one else sees him, neither, or they thinkin' like me, ‘cause no one else says anythin' neither.
"And that's when I heard the first strange sound. It was a distant buzzin', or a hummin' maybe. Never heard it b'fore, though I know what it is now. And suddenly a hole ‘peared in the frontside o' the livery. Just like that. Like a drill'd gone through. ‘Cept it wadn't no drill, but this thin blue light. Wadn't any bigger than my fist, that hole.
"The tall one, he'd heard it too and he turned around. And the chubby one, he'd turned to look behind him, then scampered ‘nta the street in a big paniclike.