Following in Twitter's footsteps, on Sundays I'm going to post extracts from my own and other authors' books to try and tempt you. You can read the rest of my mystery story "Midnight at the 11th Hour Cowboy Bar"––and dozens of other great tales––in the anthology Windchill, published by Level Best Books (www.levelbestbooks.com). Or, if you prefer, choose an erotic version of the same story, published by Ravenous Romance in The Green Love Anthology (www.ravenousromance.com). Enjoy!
Midnight at the 11th Hour Cowboy Bar
The rusty thermometer nailed to the wall outside the 11th Hour Cowboy Bar read 106 degrees when I strolled in. It wasn’t a whole lot cooler inside. Jolene McBride, the wizened bottle-blonde proprietor, glanced up from the romance novel she was reading and smiled at me. “Hey, hon,” she said.
Some things never change; the 11th Hour Cowboy Bar is one of them. The mounted deer heads with their sad glass eyes look like they’ve been here since LBJ was President. So does Jolene. She still teases her caution-sign yellow hair into a bouffant mound big enough for a quail to nest in and the last record she loaded into the joint’s juke box was Hank William’s “Cold, Cold Heart.”
She handed me a beer as I bellied up to the bar. When you weigh only a little more than the thermometer reads, “bellied up” is merely a figure of speech.
“You hear about that big game hunter?” she asked, wiping her hands on her too-tight jeans with the Lone Star stitched on the butt pockets.
For as long as I can remember Jolene and I have had this “one-ups-womanship” thing going to see who’s first with the latest news. I’m a reporter, so I’ve got a vested interest in staying on top of things. But the local paper only comes out once a week and the Cowboy Bar is open every day except Sunday, so Jolene has the advantage.
“I heard about Brisbee Cole, if that’s who you mean,” I volleyed back.
Just about every guy in Easy, Texas considers himself a hunter. Brisbee Cole, though, made the rest of them look like kids in a penny arcade. If you’d ever sat beside him at one of the local watering holes for more than fifteen minutes you’d have heard about the leopard he shot in Tanzania and the grizzly he bagged in Alaska. I attributed his Hemingway complex to his stature. I’m only average height for a woman, but even in his cowboy boots with their two-inch heels he barely came up to my chin.
“Dwight Moseley was down here at lunchtime,” Jolene went on, “telling me how he found Cole’s body on the doorstep of his taxidermy shop this morning with a note pinned on his shirt that said ‘Stuff This!’ ”
I chuckled. “What seems weird to me is he didn’t get shot.”