Michael “Irish Mike” Noonan ain’t a man to cross even if the old buzzard is past his three score and ten. That low growl and beady eye tells you all you need to know if you’re unlucky enough to kick over the spittoon on his foot as you edge past him in the saloon.
If I was you, my friend, I’d git to cleanin’ that there mess offa this here boot, and then I’d git to skedaddlin outta town afore someone gits real mad.
Oh, I’m tellin you, my friends, Y’all wouldn’t mess with Irish Mike Noonan, not never, not no-how, It don’t make no never-mind. That gun hand is still faster nor an angry rattlesnake and his eye is good. Some men swear they seen him pop a slug-sized hole in a high-spinnin dime from a fifty feet dead start, but no-one never lived to tell the the same if they was on the wrong of the toss, cause all them ones had was a slug-sized hole right between the eyes.
And still, Irish Mike is a peaceable man, jest so long as you don’t never fergit not to rile him.
That is, of course, less’n y’all happen to be Frenchie Trichet, the meanest gunslinger ever seen west of the Pecos. A man with a dead stare and twitchy fingers, he’d drill you right there on the spot jest for thinkin bad on him, specially if you jogged his drinkin elbow while he bellied up to the bar. They say he once blew up a whole bank jest cos he could.
One time, Irish Mike’s outfit got burned in a raw cattle deal, somethin they didn’t never have nothin to do with. They jest bought into a bad ranch when the slippery dry-gulchers who owned it skipped town, leavin the Bond and the Holder outfits with no cattle and no money neither. But it weren’t no concern of Mike nor his boys and the whole West done knew it.
I ain’t gonna pay no man for what’s not my debt. It jest ain’t right, and I ain’t gonna do it.
That’s how Irish Mike said it, and everyone in the saloon knowed he were right.
Everyone apart from Frenchie Trichet, that is.
Pardon me, friend, he said, pushin back his chair from the poker table, as the pee-ano player ducked behind the bar and the girls quit dancin. I couldn’t help overhearin.
Yeah? hissed Mike, as his eyes got squinty. What’s it to you?
Well, Frenchie shrugged. See, Holder and Bond is friends of mine. Real good friends. You might even call em kin. I done stood for Jake Holder’s firstborn, an’ my daughter married Jesse Bond’s boy, Ethan.
Mike cracked his knuckles and looked right back. Everyone was froze between wantin to git out and wantin to see the end.
Frenchie, he drawled, you and me goes back a long ways, an’ we ain’t never had no beef between us, ain’t that a fact?
Trichet nodded slowly as a bead of sweat ran down the stubble of his cheek. That’s a fact, Mike. We’s friends.
We is. An’ I’m a-gonna tell y’all here an’ now, this debt ain’t none of our makin’.
Is that a fact? Frenchie eased back his long coat, showin’ the pearl-handled Navy Colt .44 cross-draw style. Let me give you some advice, Mike. Speakin as one old friend to another old friend, if I was you, I wouldn’t be thinkin of stiffin Jake Holder and Jesse Bond. They’re good men. Good honest hardworkin men with families, but more than that, they’re friends of mine. Just like you, Mike. Comprende?
Crazy Mike Noonan stared back at Frenchie, an’ everyone could see his trigger-finger a-twitchin’, but in the end he laughed out loud an’ the pee-ano player started playin again. The girls went back to the dancin an’ the bartender lined up a shot of red-eye for everyone.
Dang me Frenchie if you ain’t one ornery ole rattler, Irish Mike chuckled. I ain’t never gonna do no wrong to your kin.
I’m mighty glad to hear it, Mike, said Frenchie. Mighty glad you took my advice.
So am I, Frenchie, said Irish Mike, with a lopsided grin. So am I.