My house felt especially empty that night and the beer started to make me feel bloated as I arrived home. After Lawton started to weep in front of me in the saloon, I soon felt out of my depth and said my goodbyes. Before I left, he told me that he had rented a room in the saloon and he wanted me to visit him in the morning to further discuss his plan.
The night sky was perfectly clear outside my window and I felt a cool breeze creeping through the house. I lit a small blaze in my fireplace and sat down.
In an instant, Lawton had transformed himself from an entertaining distraction to a whole bunch of trouble. So far, his plan was to have me help him bury the gold and then lay low until he could safely take it to the claim office and strangely, divide it between him and myself. He had come into possession of an extremely valuable amount of gold and he told me that three men who killed his father for it, were now after him. That was enough for me.
The fire crackled at my feet and I reached for my pipe from the sidetable. As I packed the tobacco, my decision to never contact Lawton again came quickly. For almost two decades, I had run a semi-successful business in this little town. I had built friendships and valuable clients over the years and purchased a comfortable home from a friendly old woman named Marjorie. My years as a useless drunk were behind me and I had gradually adjusted to the loss of my wife.
I was not about to let Lawton's circumstances destroy any of it.
During my time here, I had seen enough horror and terrible acts to become aware of trouble when it comes. Lawton might be exaggerating about these men; it might be just be a story of make-believe simply created by a drunk. But if there was a kernel of truth to what he told me, then I wanted no part of it. I didn't care how closely I resembled his father. This town had presented me with enough sorrow for one life.
I crawled into bed and feel asleep watching the fire, happy in the knowledge I would friendly turn down Lawton's offer if I saw him tomorrow.
Scanlon the bartender was relieved to begin cleaning up the tables. His day had been long and the books weren't adding up as he planned. All he wanted now, was to retire upstairs with a nice bottle of scotch to fog his brain and ignore his debts.
As he started to pack away the beer glasses, the front doors creaked open and a short, chubby man stepped toward him. Scanlon looked up and was startled when the man started to speak. His voice had a strange, high-pitched tone.
"Is there a Norman Lawton staying here,?" he asked.