Many readers have asked just how Boon came to be a part of the crew. Well, ask no more. We give you the following tale to explain all.
The Loner, the Dandy and the Hudson Gang
By Tonia Brown
The barstool made his rump ache. It hit his muscles in all the wrong ways, pressing on those various nerves and leaving his left leg on the verge of numbness. There was little point in complaining about it though, because he couldn’t take one of the regular seats even if he wanted too. He was far too tall, too wide, and the effort it would take to fold his large frame into one of the small chairs was just too much. Maybe if he wasn’t so hungry, or so tired.
Or so disappointed with himself.
But he was hard pressed not to succumb to the dark den of depression that was his life. He left home with the best of intentions of making his way, of proving to his siblings that he was more than just the baby of the family. Yet everything had gone so terribly wrong. He blamed his size. Being such a big man spoke for him everywhere he went, even if he didn’t want to speak at all. No one wanted to hire him for anything but a bodyguard. And while he fell into the role of protector as easy as falling off a log, he didn’t want it as his lot in life. Washington Boon wanted to be something else. Something his entire family wasn’t.
He just didn’t know what that something could possibly be.
“More cider?” the innkeeper asked.
Boon pushed his empty glass across the bar with a nod.
“You certain you don’t want something harder?” the innkeeper said, filling the glass with more juice. “You look like you could use a stiff shot of whiskey.”
“No, thank you,” Boon said. He grabbed up the glass and downed it in two gulps.
The innkeeper waved a bottle of some obscure liquid at Boon. “You sure? It’s on the house.”
“No. I appreciate the offer, but I’ll pass.”
“If you change your mind.” The innkeeper sat the bottle in front of Boon.
It wasn’t that Boon completely avoided alcohol; he just never got the taste for abusing it like other men. He also never got the taste for abusing other well known vices, again not out of sheer dislike, but out of a deeply ingrained set of morals. Boon liked to live a clean, wholesome life, even if it brought him the occasional tease from a soul brave enough to poke fun at a man his size. Usually that brave soul was also a drunken soul.
The innkeeper added, “And if you change your mind about that job, the offer still stands.”
Boon sighed. Once again, he was in some rundown bar in some one horse town refusing a lousy job he didn’t want. Everywhere he went folks wanted his size on their side, be it good or bad. In the past he had offers to rob banks, escort stagecoaches, loot mines, and even join the local law. Yet Boon had been down that terrible road far too many times. He knew where it lead; embarrassment, humiliation and depression. While he loved keeping the peace, folks inevitably picked up on his ‘little problem,’ and then it was only a matter of time before they used it against him. Washington Boon had fists huge enough to leave grown men in tears at the thought of coming into contact with them, but those same ham fists left him deficient in an all important area when it came to the role of defender.
He couldn’t shoot worth a damn.
“What do you have in the manner of cordials?” someone asked from the other end of the bar.
Boon grinned. Poor feller. That was the kind of greenhorn question that got a man thrown out on his ear from a place like this.
“Excuse me?” the innkeeper asked.
“Cordials?” the man repeated in a crisp British accent. “Or liqueurs if you have them?”
“We have ale and whiskey. Take your pick.”
“And cider,” Boon added without looking up from his empty glass.
No need to lie to the man just because he was a dandy.
The innkeeper snorted. “And cider. What’ll it be?”
“Oh, yes please,” the dandy said.
The innkeeper poured a glass and slammed it down in front of the older man.
Thank you very much, young man,” the dandy said. He raised the glass to his nose and sniffed it, gently. “Full of appley goodness, no doubt.”
“That’s a dollar,” the innkeeper said.
Boon growled into his empty glass. Funny, he had been drinking the same thing himself, at but a few pennies a bottle. It was just like the innkeeper to overcharge a poor sucker.
The man paid without argument.
“Anything else?” the innkeeper asked.
“As a matter of fact, yes,” the dandy said. “A bottle of your cheapest, lowest excuse for alcohol. I mean the rock bottommost rotgut you can possibly dig up. I don’t care if you’ve filtered it through your filthy apron from the latrines and poured it back into an old bottle you dug up from a murder’s grave. I want the poorest quality stuff you have, if you please.”
This request forced Boon to look up at the speaker. What kind of man would request both a pansy drink of cordial and hardcore, rotgut whiskey?
Not the kind of man standing at the end of the bar.
He was in his fifties if he was a day, all wild gray hair poking out from under his bowler and bushy beard bordering his grin. The short man sported a tailor made suit, dark green and well fit to his healthy build. He carried a silver tipped cane and dared to wear bright yellow gloves with a matching silk neck tie. But the oddest thing about him was his eyes. Most old timers’ eyes were dull and dead, but this man’s peepers all but sparkled with mischief while he grinned wide and friendly, as if he had never seen heartache in all of his years. Still, something told Boon that behind the pleasant grin the man had weathered his fair share of trouble. He just knew how to hide it.
It was a shame he didn’t know how to hide his obvious wealth at the same time.
The innkeeper seemed floored by the unusual request. “I, uh, I, well, I got some local hooch in the back. But it’s only sold by the keg.”
“The keg?” the man asked. He tapped his chin with the handle of his cane in thought. “A whole keg? I don’t know if that jackass is worth a whole keg. Oh, what the Hades. It might be a bit before we get to stop again, and I would hate for him to dry out on me. What good would the walking corpse be then? A keg it is.”
“It’ll be ten dollars.”
Boon clenched his fist. He suspected the whole keg wasn’t worth the oak it rested in. It took everything he had not to speak up. Well, if the greenhorn agreed to the price, he was a bigger fool than the innkeeper took him for.
“Ten dollars?” the dandy asked. “I will give you two, and we shall both forget that I have grossly overpaid for my single glass of something akin to watered down apple juice. Do we have an accord?”
The innkeeper nodded, then shuffled off to fetch the requested keg in a daze.
Boon couldn’t fault him. The dandy was memorizing in his charm. He also drew far too much attention from the rest of the barroom. Specifically, Hudson and his gang. Boon had only been in town a few days, but he’d heard enough about Hudson and his wild boys to stay away from the whole lot. Big guys, every last one, they each stood a clear six foot and all were impressively burly.
Still, Boon had an easy hundred pounds or more in even the largest of the gang.
“Hey!” Hudson shouted from his usual table.
The dandy turned about and tipped his hat in greeting. “Hello there.”
Hudson’s goons chuckled at the man’s congeniality, mocking the action in loud boisterous voices and over the top motions. The dandy didn’t seem to care. He returned to his cider, which he sniffed once more before sipping, then wincing.
Meanwhile, Hudson rose from his throne and approached the dandy “What are you doing in my spot?”
The dandy looked about. “Is this your spot? I do apologize.” He tried to step away. Instead, he backed into one of Hudson’s men. He whipped about and tipped his hat again. “Oh, pardon me.”
“You trying to start something with my boys?” Hudson asked.
Boon watched the proceedings with interest. The dandy wasn’t in the least bit frightened by the burly men. He stood his ground, shaky as it was, and stared up into the broad face of Hudson.
“Certainly not,” the man said. “I am trying to get out of your way. But you seem to have me hemmed in to what you call your spot. Now which is it? Your spot or not?”
Hudson cracked his knuckles. “Grant? Did he just run into you on purpose?”
The man behind the dandy, Grant it would seem, nodded. “Sure did, boss.”
“My boy here says you ran into him. What are we going to do about that?”
“I have a suggestion,” the dandy said. “You could step out of my personal bubble for starters.”
Hudson sneered at the man. “Your personal what?”
“My bubble. Everyone is entitled to a three foot circumference in which no one should enter without permission. Now, I am willing to decrease this to a foot or even, Ganesha forbid, a half of a foot, should space require such a dilution. But in this case, considering the size of the facilities and sparseness of company, I believe we can all enjoy an easy six feet or more.”
Hudson blinked a few times, as if the dandy had cast some kind of spell on him.
“If you don’t mind,” the dandy continued, “I would like to drink my cider in peace. I have a lot on my mind and would appreciate a moment’s respite, alone. Shall you run along and leave me be? Or should I go over the three foot rule again?”
Now, there was a threat Hudson understood. He cracked his knuckles again, and growled down at the dandy, “I think you need to be taught a lesson.”
The dandy gazed up at Hudson and, as pretty as you please, said, “I doubt there is anything you can teach me that I don’t already know.”
Boon could’ve choked on his juice, if he had any to drink. The nerve of the poor sucker! One had to admire the moxy of the old timer. That anyone would speak that way to the local thugs, least of all an out of town rich man with nothing better to do with his time, well, the thought just boggled the mind.
It didn’t boggle Hudson’s weak brain. It incensed him. He reared back and took a swing at the dandy as hard as he could.
Boon knew just how hard, because he was already off of his stool and across the room before the strike could land against its intended target. He grabbed Hudson by the elbow, mid strike, and held onto the man’s arm.
“You want to pick a fight?” Boon asked. “Then you can pick it with me.”
The fists started flying at once. Hudson let lose against Boon with a predictable one-two, both of which Boon easily dodged. Boon dropped Hudson with a single left hook to the nose—the bloody, spurting, broken kind of blow—then turned his right punch against another oncoming gang member. One to the gut and a knee to the groin had the man squirming at Boon’s feet in seconds.
During this he shouted to the dandy, “Get behind the bar, sir.”
“As you like,” the dandy said, and rather than round the end of the wooden barrier, he grabbed the edge of the bar and hoisted himself over it.
Boon laughed aloud at the sight before he returned to beating the ever living tar out of the rest of Hudson’s men. The whole thing was over in about ten disappointing seconds. Turned out the Hudson gang might have been ballsy enough to terrorize the local yokels and out of towners, but they were no match for a man born and raised into the life of a hired gun.
Once the dust settled, and Boon caught his breath, he leaned over the bar to look down at the dandy. The man glanced up at Boon, that mile wide smile still beaming.
“Is it over?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” Boon said. He offered the man a hand, helping him to his feet and around the end of the bar. “That was quite a feat to clear the bar in a single jump like that. I reckon you could’ve handled Hudson on your own if given half the chance.”
The dandy laughed, easy and free, and Boon couldn’t help but join in.
“You are quite the strong arm yourself, Mister?” the dandy asked, obviously fishing for a name.
“Washington Boon,” Boon said. He offered his hand in greeting.
The dandy snatched it up and pumped it with enthusiasm. “Professor Hieronymus J. Dittmeyer. Phd. MD. D.G.E. At your service, young man.” He tightened his grip on Boon’s hand and yanked the bigger man down to him before he added, “Though I rather think you were just at my service, if you will pardon the play on words.”
“Consider yourself pardoned,” Boon said. Because he didn’t know what else to say to that.
The professor released his grip and set to laughing again. Boon smiled, unsure what was so funny.
“Is this something you do regularly?” the professor asked. “Or am I just one of the lucky ones?”
“Do what?” Boon asked.
“Rescue hapless victims? Is that your day job or something you do on the side?”
Boon rubbed his neck in embarrassment. “I don’t really do anything. I’ve been looking for work but-”
“Then come work for me.”
“Doing what? If you don’t mind me asking.” Thought he was fairly sure what the answer would be already.
“I don’t mind.”
Boon waited, but the man said nothing else on the matter. “Don’t mind what?”
“I don’t mind you asking. Ask away.”
Groaning, Boon asked, “What would you like for me to come do for you?”
The professor waved his cane around the room excitedly. “This! I want you to do this for me. I am in dire need of a hired gun and I can make it well worth your … why are you wincing like that.”
Boon winced again, because he didn’t realize he was visibly wincing to begin with. “Because that’s what I thought you would say. Listen, sir, I am not in the market for this kind of work. I’m really no good at it.”
Glancing around the room, the professor tutted. “No, no, I’m afraid empirical evidence goes against you on that one. Try again.”
“Try another excuse as to why you can’t take the job. But be aware, I have heard them all. And I do ask, young man, that you be honest in your reasoning. I can’t abide by a liar, and boasting will get you nowhere with me. So, tell me why you can’t take the work. Come on then, I haven’t got all day. That succubus isn’t going to track down itself, you know.”
Cutting his eyes at the man, Boon wondered what that last bit was all about. He decided it was best not to think too much about the ramblings of a city man. “Well, if you would allow me to explain, sir, I am being perfectly honest. I am not cut out to be a hired gun.”
“I said fiddlesticks and I meant fiddlesticks. You certainly seem valiant enough. Strong enough. Quick witted enough. You seem ready to seize the day, as it were. I dare say you were born into this line of work.”
Boon almost gasped aloud, but somehow managed to repress it. “Thank for the compliments sir but-”
“Not intended as compliments. Merely observations. So, try again. Why not?”
Hanging his head, Boon mumbled his confession.
“What was that?” the professor asked.
He mumbled again, without looking up.
“I’m afraid I am growing a bit deaf in my old age,” the professor said. He wiggled the tip of a pinky in his left ear before he asked, “Can you repeat that?”
“He says he’s a piss poor shot,” the innkeeper said. The man rolled a waist high keg out from the room behind the bar, joining them amidst the post fight wreckage. “What happened here?”
“Hudson got out of hand,” Boon said. “Again.”
“I swear that is the last time he steps into my bar.” The innkeeper spit a huge wad of snot on one of the passed out men. “Good riddance too.”
“Here is your two dollars, good sir,” the professor said, handing off the money in question.
The innkeeper pocketed it, then turned to Boon. “Are you sure you don’t want the job, then? You seem awful good at the work.”
“I was just about to say the same thing,” the professor said.
“Oy, you trying to move in on my bouncer?”
“Certainly not. He said he wasn’t working for anyone.”
“Well, Boon? Who you gonna go with?”
Boon glanced to the professor and the barman. “Neither of you. I am telling you, I might be good at this,” Boon paused to rais his fists before he finished with, “but I can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a shotgun at point blank range. If anyone picks a gunfight, you’ll be out of luck.”
“Ah, yeah,” the innkeeper said. “I can see how that would be a problem in your line of work.”
“It’s not my line of anything,” Boon groaned.
“I don’t see a problem,” the professor said.
The innkeeper and Boon stared at the little man.
“I can see about twenty solutions, but no problem at all,” the professor said. “All I see is a man willing to help those in need. An honest man, who is polite and well dressed and doesn’t reek of booze or other awful vices. And those points, my fine friend, are hard to come by in a hired gun.”
“Twenty solutions?” Boon asked.
“Certainly. I can develop at least five weapons by the end of the day that will more than make up for your lack of aim. Five more by the end of tomorrow.”
“And the other ten?”
The man smiled again, and this time it was all wicked and scheming. “The other ten aren’t weapons. They’re riskier, and slightly experimental. At least two of them will require major surgery.”
Boon winced again. “I think I will pass on that, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all. Besides, hired gun is merely a turn of phrase. We can call you, oh, chief of security if that suits you better.” The professor inhaled and exhaled in a long, breath. “So, my friend, what will it be? Will you join me and my crew? We could use a man of your talents, all things considered.”
“All things considered,” Boon echoed. It almost seemed too good to be true. Did this dandy really want to hire Boon as a hired gun, regardless of his terrible aim?
And maybe the man would realize what a terrible mistake he had made the moment he watched Boon pick up a gun.
“I would love to but-” Boon started.
“Excellent!” the professor shouted. “I will start you on salary right away.” He removed a pocket watch from his vest, checking the time. “We will include the last ten minutes, since you were kind enough to protect me from those fiends.” He pushed the watch back into his vest as he asked, “What do you know about seventh level demons and the likes?”
Boon shrugged. “Almost nothing.”
“No worries. I will explain as we go.”
“But sir, I don’t want to-”
“Uncle!” a woman shouted from behind them.
Boon turned in place to find the owner of the voice standing in the saloon doorway. He blinked, trying to clear the vision of beauty from his clouded brain, because surely there wasn’t a woman on earth who was that exquisite. Full figured and gorgeous, the brunette dressed in the manner of a man, all pants and loose fitting shirt, but everything about her said womanly woman.
“Torque has tracked the succubus to within three miles of here,” she said. “We can catch her if we leave now.”
“Right ho,” the professor said. He tapped Boon on the elbow. “This is our new chief of security, Mr. Washington Boon. He has consented to joining our crew in our hour of need.”
“I never said I would,” Boon said. “I mean … I don’t know … I can’t tell if … I don’t think …”
The woman glanced to him with an irritated huff. Yet, the moment her eyes connected with his, an all but palpable spark touched the air. Her gruffness melted, leaving her with a soft smile. “Hello, Mr. Boon. It’s good to meet you.” The moment passed just as quick as it came, and she returned to her former authority. “Be quick, you two. We don’t have a moment to lose.” She pushed through the swinging doors and was gone.
“You were saying, Mr. Boon?” the professor asked.
“Does she come with the job?” Boon asked.
“Well, in a manner of speaking, I would say yes. She is aboard the crew. So she is, technically, part of the job. Why?”
“In that case, I’ll take it.”
“I don’t blame you,” the innkeeper said.
“Excellent!” the professor shouted and clapped with glee. “Let’s go then. As Lelanea said, we don’t have a moment to lose.”
“Lelanea,” Boon said softly, trying her name on his tongue for size. It fit, as if it were always meant to be there.
“Grab that keg, will you?” the professor said, then headed out of the door.
“Yes, sir.” Boon did as asked, hefting the barrel of drink over his shoulder and following the professor. Though, truth be told, he was really following Lelanea. He would follow her to the ends of the earth.
Anywhere she asked him to go, he would follow.
He reckoned he would follow her all the way to his death, too.