Death for Hire
The Tale of a Western Assassin
"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow
that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'."
Captain Bill McDonald - Texas Ranger
"Who the hell are you, mister?"
"Who wants ta know?"
"Cyrus McGinty. This is my bar. Now who in the hell are you?"
As the old man spun around on his stool, his eyes turned from that twinkling blue of a few minutes before to a steely blue, cold and hard as any metal could be. After a few seconds, McGinty began to recognize the old man, that recognition written all over his face, and his body reacted to it. He began to sweat, even though the bar was still cold from the overnight swing in the temperatures from moderate to icy. The fires in the two stoves hadn't even begun to cut through that cold.
"S-s-sorry, s-sir. I-I didn't know it was you. I was just going to ask about that little ruckus last night, but it's no problem. Welcome back to Chicago, and to Duffy's."
"What happened ta Duffy?"
"He got killed three years ago, shot in the back, s-sir."
"Know who done it?"
"Was he robbed?"
"Where did it happen?"
"Right out front, s-sir."
"An' how did ya come ta own the place now?"
"I'm married to Duffy's daughter, Maureen."
"So, this is really Duffy's wife an' daughter's bar then, an' you're just runnin' it, right?"
"Well, not really. Mrs. Duffy wanted nothing more to do with the place, and sold out her share to me and Maureen. She even moved back to Monaghan, Ireland to be near her family. Me and Maureen is going there in the spring to visit her. If I might ask, sir, what brings you to Chicago again? Are you here to settle something, like finding Duffy's murderer?"
"Well, if I didn't know the man was dead, how could I be here to settle that sort of score? I swear, McGinty, you ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer, are ya?"
"S-sorry, sir. I guess I wasn't thinking. You make me nervous, sir, and I don't mind telling you."
"Aw, go on with ya. Get the hell out o' my sight."
"Yes, sir. And just so you know, anything you need here in Duffy's in on the house, sir. For both you and your young friend, at least for as long as you're in town." After his little declaration, McGinty quickly disappeared into his backroom office, not to be seen again that day, at least by me anyway."
For the moment, the old man and I, I still didn't know his name, were sitting at the bar on the same stools as the night before. The difference was we were drinking coffee instead of moonshine whiskey and beer, or, in my case, Scotch.
"Well, a little, now that my stomach, and my head, are nearly recovered from last night."
"Used ta be a place a block over that served some pretty good grub. Ingrid's, as I recall, over on Forty-Third an' Emerald. Run by a big Swede woman an' her good lookin' daughters. Is it still there?"
"Yes, it is, but Ingrid is gone now. The daughters still run it, and the food is still some of the best in town for the price."
"Alrighty then, Shifty, let's go get us some grub." The old man slid gently off his stool, grimaced as his feet hit the floor, and looking like he might topple over he quickly righted himself with his cane. His stride was still one designed for walking long distances, and it was all I could do to keep up as we walked down Forty-Second Street from Union and turned south down Emerald toward Forty-Third, and Ingrid's."
I had no compulsions about visiting Ingrid's, as Lovisa, Ingrid's youngest and still unmarried daughter, was among the prettiest in the city, at least in my eyes. And she was apparently interested in me, or so the other men who ate there would tell me. Many tried to date her but were turned down flat, told that she had her man in her sights, and would soon become a wife. I wasn't quite ready for marriage, so I shied away from the café unless I was in the company of other men. I would soon learn that she wouldn't care about that strategy, her mind was definitely made up.
We walked in, finding the café somewhat quiet for a Saturday morning, and chose a table. As luck would have it, Lovisa brought her beautiful countenance along with coffee and menus, the latter of which neither the old man or I wanted or needed. I could feel the heat rising in my face as she brushed up close to me and whispered, "Good morning, Teddy. I've missed you lately. You're not avoiding me, are you? I have something special I'd like to give you, any time you want it, handsome."
I smiled back as politely as I could muster, and replied, "Thank you, Lovisa, but for now I'd settle for a steak and eggs with plenty of potatoes. Oh, and some of those biscuits you're so famous for."
"By golly, Shifty, that sounds good. Lovisa, I just believe I'll have the same. And keep that coffee comin', will ya?"
"I sure will, Mr. Goodfellow," Lovisa said as she again sexily brushed against my shoulder and back.
After she had disappeared into the kitchen, the old man said, "I do believe you're 'bout ta settle down, Shifty, whether ya know it 'r not. That woman has sure set her cap for ya, an' I don' believe she is used ta not gettin' her way. Say, them girls got any brothers? I don't recall."
""Yes, two older brothers, both who work for Armour. Giants, too, much bigger than the two brothers you silenced last night, but gentle. Well, sort of. And the men the other two sisters married are also quite large."
"Then I reckon that'll seal the deal, Shifty. If ya don' ask that gal for her hand shortly, them brothers will be payin' ya a visit. Take that ta the bank. There's only one hitch I can see, at least for ever'body but her. An' that brings up another question I got for ya. How's come ya ain't in Synagogue this mornin'?"
"Now why would I do that?"
"'Cause ya sure ain't no Welshman, nor Mick 'r Scotsman. Ya don't drink like it, 'r talk like it. Ya look an' sound like a Boston Jew boy ta me. Now I see ya thinkin' about gettin' upset, but don't waste your time 'r energy, Shifty. Ya won't like what I'll do ta ya, even if I do like ya."
I sat there stunned, and for several reasons. The biggest was that no one had questioned my heritage the entire time I'd been here in Chicago, and I mean no one. Until now, that is. "Please don't speak of this in public, sir. I'm not embarrassed by it, just that it might cost me my job along with several other privileges I enjoy."
"Aw, hell, Shifty, it's just 'tween me an' you, but I'll wanna know the real story 'fore long. Understand?"
"Well, fair is fair, so I'll tell you once you tell me about you, starting with your name."
"Which one? The one I was born with? The ones McGinty an' some o' Chicago knows me by, 'r the one my Omaha banker calls me? I have my share of names, boy, a lot more'n you do, 'r likely ever will have. I see that grub comin'. Best get ready for some more woman teasin', 'cause she's smilin' real big."
The old man was right. Lovisa placed a plate of biscuits on the table, sat the old man's plate in front of him, and then turned to me. Walking behind me, she leaned over with her arms wrapping around my neck and her full breasts pressed firmly against my back as she placed my plate on the table. I could feel her warm, soft breathing against my neck as she stroked me gently when she leaned back again. As she leaned over again, I felt a tender nibble on my ear before she whispered, "Teddy, we're closing early today. I'll be ready to leave at three, and we can have all night and all day tomorrow before either of us has to go back to work."
Then came the flick of her tongue into my ear, and I knew then and there I'd be spending that entire time with her, and a whole lot more time. "I'll be here at three, Lovisa," I responded without even thinking. I could see out of the corner of my eye that the old man was smiling from ear to ear as she walked seductively away, stopping to make certain I was watching. Believe me, I was glued to her every movement.
"Shifty, I reckon I'd best start callin' ya Teddy, 'cause she's gonna make you use it that way. So, what's your real name? Teodoro? Naw, that's too Italian. I got it, Todros. That's it, ain't it?"
"Like I said, I need to know something about you before I consent to any more about me."
"I was born on the side of a mountain out in what's now Idaho 'r Oregon back some'eres 'round 1850 'r so. My mother was a Paiute woman, an' I never knowed nothin' about my father 'cept what she told me. Seems he was a trapper, got bunged up an' stayed with the Paiute one winter, with my mother." He paused for a few seconds, and I could see a deep sadness in his eyes, but nothing showed anywhere but those eyes.
"Anyway, he left out o' camp in the spring sayin' he'd be back by fall, but he never showed. That winter some Nez Perce came by tradin', an' one o' 'em was carryin' his rifle an' his knives 'long with his scalp on a string o' scalps. Mother told me the story that she demanded the return of his possessions, an' ta be able ta take some revenge. Course they weren' gonna pay no attention ta a squaw. That is 'til the rest o' the women got on the war dance. Anyway, she ended up with all the things they had taken off his body when they killed him, includin' some real fine beaver skins, an' the feller that did the killin' ended up bein' her slave 'til I was nigh onta five, when she killed him for tryin' ta beat me.
"Guess I'm carryin' on some, ain't I? Well, my name was Poohe Ebbooee, Green Eyes. That stuck 'til the damned Army set up posts an' the Army wives insisted on us kids goin' ta their white man's schools at the fort. They tagged me with the name Luke, from the Bible, an' Dickens after Charles Dickens. The soldiers called me Little Dickens, but I never did like them names so I picked one I liked for a time. Once I got tired o' that name, I changed again, 'bout a dozen 'r so times in my life so far."
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