Pearson Cartwright lived his life like a cliche lifted straight from a noir detective novel.
He was a loner. The kinda guy you wanted to know, but he just wouldn’t let you in. He was handsome enough, but he carried mystery on his shoulders like a well-worn coat. That’s what drew people in. That’s what made everyone follow the man who wanted to be left alone.
It was what he became best at. Throwing people off his scent while he did his work. Dirty work. The kind of work it was best for most folks to know nothing about.
* * *
It was a warm autumn morning. They all were anymore. Pearson had wanted to wear a jacket when he got out of bed. He loved jackets. He hated sweating.
The broken safety on his handgun clicked every couple of seconds as he thumbed it. His mind had gone absent. The look in his eye far off toward nothing. The gun had been down at his side for the last half hour as he listened to the barkeep prattle on and on about nothing in particular. An overstuffed sausage of a man, he was struggling to talk Pearson out of killing him. It was boring, but Pearson had developed the habit of never shooting a man when they’re talking. He felt there was always something to learn. It was a new habit that no one else knew about yet. He understood if he didn’t break it, he’d end up dead.
The barkeep had resorted to talking through great, choking sobs now. It was an obvious act. Pearson sat on the damp ground. Off the road a ways, here among the trees, dead leaves made him a decent cushion. He sat with elbow on knee, chin in hand. The other hand rested the gun on his other knee. Only half pointed in the direction of the man.
Then he heard it.
“My wife was having an affair with the mayor,” the barkeep blurted out between his poorly acted sobs. He went silent. He knew what he’d done.
Pearson pulled the trigger.
He was happy when the mayor didn’t end up being much of a talker.