I had warned Ed that this was not the time or place to try out the ‘gimmick‘. Poker players in the West tend to shoot first and ask questions later, especially when they’re losing large amounts of money . Ed hadn’t listened . He told me that no one would spot the ‘gimmick‘, but I could see it lying on the floor by the side of him.
I decided that I had better look round , not looking round would seem suspicious as I was the only other stranger in the saloon . Yes, Ed was dead . Even though it was small the Derringer had made a big mess of Ed’s chest. There had only been one shot and I could see that it was a double barrel, I did not want to be the next target.
Ed had left me with several problems. If anyone in the saloon guessed that Ed and I knew each other I could be the next body on the floor . So, simply claiming his body and picking up the gimmick was not an option. I could go home without Ed, but not without the ‘gimmick‘. Mind you , turning up at home without him would raise a lot of questions, but perhaps not as many as turning up with him dead . Lots of people went missing in the West and it hadn’t caused any problems, yet.
I decided to take another slug of the rot gut whisky and have a think. It was unfortunate about Ed, but leaving him mouldering in a grave in this out of the way place should not have many significant consequences. No one knew his name, or more importantly where he was from, so any grave marker or town records could not surface at a later time to cause problems. That just left the big problem. How to get my hands on the ‘gimmick’ without getting killed myself.
Looking round the saloon I could see that things were calming down. The poker players were standing round the table, looking at the played hands and trying to figure out how to split the pot. Nobody was taking much notice of Ed, except the barkeep who had come over with some sawdust to scatter over the blood, well he would not want another nasty stain on the floorboards. I watched as his polished boots almost crushed the ’gimmick’. It did not look very valuable, just a small, plain looking, metal box. It could have been a cigar case, and a cheap one at that, nothing fancy about it. However for me it was all important. Without it I could not get home.
Ed and I had always travelled together, so we had not seen the need to have more than one ‘gimmick’. We took it in turns to use it and over the years we had found many ways to use it to our advantage. We should have been leaving in the morning and Ed decided that we should make a big night of it and once again sample the delights of Madam Caroline’s young ladies. That, however, took money and we had very little left, having already made the acquaintance of most of the girls there. That was why Ed decided that using the ‘gimmick’ to help him win a few hands of poker was a good idea. Now I no longer cared about the girls or the money, I just needed the ‘gimmick’.
The saloon doors swung open. Finally the deputy sheriff had arrived, at my guess, from Madam Caroline’s, as he did not look at all happy at being disturbed. I tried to think if the deputy had seen Ed and I there together, probably not, but I could not be sure as my attention had been entirely on the ladies when I was there. At least now I could move without too much risk of being shot.
The deputy asked the remaining poker players some questions, and got quite a few conflicting lies and then looked round the saloon and fastened his gaze on me. I presume he thought that as a stranger I might just give him some straight answers. I took this as my cue to stand up and walk over towards Ed’s cooling body. I looked down at the congealing mix of blood, sawdust and flies and saw my chance. I dry heaved, fell to my knees and grabbed for the spittoon with one hand. I was gambling now. While most hardened Westerners were immune to the sight of blood I hoped most would avert their eyes at the sight of a man being sick. Out of sight of everyone my other hand covered the ‘gimmick’ and in a second it was safe, in my pocket.
I pushed the spittoon away into the corner, wiped my mouth on my sleeve, and slowly stood up, looking ashamed of myself. The deputy looked at me with disgust and muttered something about weak stomached Easterners. I answered the deputies questions carefully, if not totally truthfully, as I recalled the player with the Derringer still had a shot left. The replies seemed to satisfy him that, in his view of the law, this was a justified killing. He told me not to leave town until the judge got back in the morning. I agreed, but knew inside he would never see me again. I walked back to the bar and finished the whisky, it burned as it went down, but it felt good, as did the weight of the ’gimmick’ in my pocket. I was going home, as soon as I could get out of the saloon.
Just outside the saloon was a small dark alley leading to the privies. As I stepped into the shadows I pulled the ‘gimmick’ out of my pocket. It’s surface shimmered as I held it showing distorted reflections of me and the alley, very dimly I could see what looked like Ed’s reflection standing next to me. That was one secret of the ‘gimmick’, the ability to see what ’might be’. The stronger the reflection the more certain it was, it made games of chance easy to win. Sadly Ed had not been looking closely enough.
I tapped the ’gimmick’ twice and the surface lit up with its menu. I pressed ’Return Home’ and I was back in the 22nd century, but Ed was dead in Morgan’s Saloon.