The Owl Shadow Saloon cast an inviting yellow glow into the cold winter night, its grease paper windows flickering with lantern light and the silhouettes of dancing revelers.
Truth be told, the Owl Shadow wasn’t much more than a shack at one end of Crag Oak. But Tom Stearns had turned the place into a real gathering spot, courtesy of a little elbow grease, some leftover southern hospitality, and plenty of spirits.
Tom maintained a strict house, too, and more than one rabble-rouser had found himself staring down the barrel of the old man’s gun.
“I dare you to go in there,” Brian Graves said, his voice misting against the black sky as he peered through crack in the batwings.
“I don’t know,” his brother, Bruce, said. “Things didn’t go so well last time old Tom saw us.”
Brian waved a dismissive hand. “Water under the bridge. Besides … I dared you.”
Bruce hung his head, nodded. He pushed his way into the Owl Shadow.
Brian heard the ruckus right away …
“But you’re dead!”
“It’s a ghost!”
And then a shot, from the direction of the bar at the rear of the saloon.
That batwings swung open, and the Owl Shadow’s patrons ran shrieking into the night, passing right through Brian, who shimmered in the night.
He stepped into the saloon just in time to see old Tom Stearns hopping over the bar, gun in hand, taking aim at Bruce again. Instead, the tavern keeper pivoted and leveled his six-shooter at Brian … then fired.
The bullet whistled through his midsection and splintered a table behind him. Brian smiled and waved at Stearns, who clutched his chest.
“Guess you can only kill me once, Tom!” Brian said.