A heavy boot clopped on the wooden floor and scraped across the dust and grime.
The saloon grew tense like a hound who just caught a scent. Silence washed over the patrons, and they hung their heads or chanced a glance at the stranger swallowed in morning shadows.
The bat wing doors squeaked to an uneasy stop.
Somewhere outside, a horse huffed and whinnied softly.
Black Jack Sampson scanned the faces in the crowd. Filona wasn’t there. But that didn’t mean anything — she could be in the back room, down the street. Maybe come and gone, leaving nothing but the memory of her perfume and a string of broken hearts.
That’s just the sort of woman she was. Double-crossing, two-timing, thieving.
But Jack wasn’t like other men. He wasn’t about to let her tear apart his soul and then just roll out of town, never to be seen again. She had taken too much from him.
He was going to find her, if it was the last thing he did. And, well, it just might turn out that way, considering how long he’d been at it.
So many towns, so many saloons. And nothing.
Yet. He’d find her, though. Someday. Maybe today.
With his eyes adjusted to the dark interior of The Rusty Rail, Jack sauntered toward the bar at the back of the room. He could feel all eyes on him, and whispers peppered his ears.
Someone knew something. He could feel it.
He mounted a stool like it was a prized steed, took his hat off, set it on the polished mahogany of the bar. His thick, hard fingers brushed the long silver hair out of his face, and he reached into his jacket pocket.
“Say, barkeep,” he began, gently flicking the picture into the soft lantern light. “Have you seen …”
“Look, mac,” the old man said, frowning. “You been in here ten times in the last month, and nothing has changed. I still ain’t seen your ratty old mutt.”
Jack clenched his teeth but nodded. He looked at the picture of Cubby. The dog was a little rough, needed a bath, maybe … but he was no mutt.
And Filona had no right to take him with her.
Tomorrow was another day, though — maybe someone would remember then.