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what follows is true

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Hawkeye estimates that the iron bars in front of him are about three inches in diameter, meaning that it would be nearly impossible to saw through them with the equipment he has on hand. He rattles them with both arms: no give whatsoever. Beyond them lies a room empty except for a few chairs and a table, on which lies a nearly-full ashtray— what he guesses is the breakroom.

He takes a step back to appraise the side of the building. The three other windows are also barred and nearly 20 feet above the ground; the two in the center also have iron grilles on the inside. When he gives the wall an experimental kick, no plaster comes off. In the guise of rubbing his now-sore toes, he bends down to inspect the wall and finds that it's concrete, the expensive kind imported from back East. 

Hawkeye resigns himself to the possibility that this trip has been a total bust. He kicks up the dust at his feet as he strides around to the building’s front, not expecting to find anything else of value.

He finds another heavily barred window and squints. Inside: a door (thick, metal— steel?— no lock to shoot through). In front of the door: a teller (counting a wad of paper money, fingers moving quickly, well dressed, clean-shaven, in his late twenties, standing about 5'10", 140 pounds). In front of the teller's window: a guard (beefy, also uniformed, standing over six feet,180 pounds, holster at his side). 

A man in a suit strides behind the counter and whispers to the teller. The teller nods and lets him continue to the metal door, which the man opens to reveal a safe (also behind a magnificent set of iron bars, also imposingly thick, time-locked), and two more guards. When the door locks, even Hawkeye can hear the dull thud of the mechanism sliding home from his vantage point outside. 

Movement in the corner of his eye: a man in a guard’s uniform, carrying a brush and a can of paint. He nods at Hawkeye and touches the brim of his hat. 

“Hiya,” says Hawkeye. “Nice place you got here.”

“Eh-yup,” says the guy, cracking open the can with a loud ktop. “Pride and joy of the town.”

“What was the matter with the old bank this place used to have? It was a real piece of architecture."

"People kept robbing it," the guard replies without turning around from where he's touching up the paint on the doorframe. 

"Small price to pay for beauty," Hawkeye says lightly, as he steps into the street and heads down to the hitching rail at the corner, already opening his mouth to let a string of epithets loose— 

Except there's nobody waiting there. He steps a little closer: nobody hiding behind the horses either. He looks around, but the streets are empty.

He sighs heavily and leans his head against Flywheel's flank, who sighs in return as he pats her neck. He glances back at the bank, which manages to look even worse at a distance than it does up close, both hideous and hideously functional. Hawkeye tells himself that it would be immature and unbecoming to stick his tongue out at it, then remembers there's nobody around to see or care, and does it anyway. 

He wanders over to stand in the shade of Macon's Saloon and listens to the voices floating out the window as he fans himself with his hat.

"Hit me," says an unfamiliar, reedy voice. Hawkeye hears the sounds of cards being flipped. Over. Another flip. A beat, then the same man says,"Think you could give me credit, Mr. Macon?"

A deeper voice that must belong to Macon: "You know the rules, Tom." A sigh. Macon clears his throat and turns to address someone else: "You just about cleaned everyone out, fella. Don't think you've lost since you got the deal."

Silence.

Macon again: "What's your secret, stranger?"

BJ laughs, and Hawkeye's heart sinks. Shit. "No secret. Just luck."

"Let's just you and me play."

The flicking of the cards comes fast this time. "Hit me," says Macon. Flick. "Again." Flick. "Too much." The coins clink together as BJ scrapes them across the table.

"You're one hell of a cardplayer, fella. And I oughta know, because I'm one hell of a cardplayer, and even I can't spot how you're cheating."

The clinking stops. Hawkeye gets to his knees and peeks in the window: BJ sits at the table, stacking his winnings into even piles as a man who must be Macon looms over him. Macon is young, rugged, well-dressed; hands relaxed near his guns. BJ doesn't even look at him.

Macon points at the money. "That stays. You go." 

BJ's jaw twitches. "And if I stay?" Hawkeye barely resists the urge to slam his head into a wall. Idiot. Idiot, idiot, idiot. He really should have seen this one coming.

"You won't," says Macon calmly, and draws his gun.

Hawkeye scrambles to his feet and bursts through the door before things can get ugly. "I was just outside and couldn’t help but overhear, gentlemen; I know it isn't Philadelphia, but this place seems a little short of brotherly love around here—"

Macon gives Hawkeye a cool look and holsters his gun again. "Ain't my brother. He yours?"

"No, not that it matters, because we were just leaving." He goes around the table to yank at BJ's sleeve, but BJ doesn't budge. Hawkeye pulls at his sleeve a little harder and hisses, "That's your cue, come on." Still nothing.

Hawkeye drops down beside him to curse him out, but BJ beats him to it before he can open his mouth: "I wasn't cheating."

"I never said you were, now can you please get up and move—"

"Not until this jackass apologizes for making a false accusation—"

Macon sighs noisily. "If you gentlemen want to die together, there's a special on. Two for the price of one."

"Fantastic, did you hear that?" Hawkeye hisses. "Now said jackass is mad at me—"

"Look, if he invites us to stay, then we'll go."

"Stay with this homicidal Gila monster? We were leaving anyway—"

"And we will as soon as he invites us to stick around." BJ's speaking to Hawkeye, but his eyes are jumping around: the sun coming in through the window, Macon's hands hovering at his holster, the empty doorway, the rickety tables next to them.

"Look, this guy clearly doesn't intend to lose, he's ready to draw and you don't know how fast he is—"

"You really know how to make a guy feel good about himself."

"Well, I'm over the hill, and you could be too— every day you get a little older, that's how life works, you know."His impassioned plea has no effect: BJ is clearly not leaving. Hawkeye sighs and gets to his feet.

"What would you think about maybe inviting us to stick around?"

"What?"

"Well, you don't have to mean it or anything. I really don't want to stay, but my friend here has a very strong sense of pride, you know how it is— and the male ego is so fragile— so if you could please just ask, I promise we'll be out of what's left of your hair."

Macon takes his gun out again. Hawkeye sighs and turns around. "I tried, BJ." He doesn’t turn to see Macon’s reaction, but from the almost imperceptible twitch at the corner of BJ’s mouth, he knows it’s a good one. The silence stretches on; BJ’s expression doesn’t change. 

When Macon finally speaks, his voice shakes a little. "I didn't know you were BJ the Kid when I said you were cheating." BJ stretches lazily, like an overgrown housecat, and gets to his feet. His guns glint dully in the afternoon sunlight. 

"Easy mistake. I have one of those forgettable faces." He sweeps his winnings off the table and into his money bag.

The calmer BJ gets, the more panicked Macon becomes. "If I draw on you, you'll kill me."

"I could. I'd hate to leave a mess for your wife to clean up, though."

Macon glances between Hawkeye and BJ, evidently trying to figure out whether he's joking or not. Hawkeye senses the opportunity and moves in. "Look, we really don't want to make trouble for you. So why don't you invite us to stick around? Won't kill you to say it— sorry, that was a little on the nose. I try to be more subtle than that." He feels BJ’s steady presence at his shoulder, waiting for Macon to fuck up.

"Stick around," Macon gasps out. 

Hawkeye smiles. “Thanks, but we’ve got somewhere else to be.”

No sooner have they reached the doorway than they hear Macon again: “You coulda killed me, huh,” he whispers. “You’re that good?” BJ turns around and blinks at him, as though he’d forgotten he was there.

Hawkeye rolls his eyes and snags a handful of poker chips from the table. “Show the man, Beej.” BJ hasn’t even gotten a chance to scoff when Hawkeye tosses them into the air; they hang suspended for a moment, then two, then eternity-- then BJ lunges and the room rattles with gunfire and the chips come crashing down to earth as shards of clay. 

Macon stares as Hawkeye steps forward and retrieves a single intact chip from the mess on the floor, shaking his head as he holds it up to the light.

“I told you, Beej. Over the hill, over the dale.” 


*******

"Boy, I case a joint for ten minutes and you just have to get yourself shot at."

"He didn't shoot, I did. How'd it look?"

"Not good. Safe was time-locked."

"We could get around that."

Hawkeye shakes his head. "Not unless we got through the steel doors, arm-thick iron bars, shot the guards…" He watches as BJ counts the  paper money and puts it into a silver clip; tucks some remaining coins into the brim of his hat; fits his belt buckle back on. "What were you doing in there, a striptease?"

"Nah, I don't have the hips for it." BJ puts his silver ring back on. "I only had two half-eagles in my pocket and I had to show him I was worth playing with." From his jacket, he pulls out a very familiar set of sapphire cufflinks and carefully fastens them into his shirt.

"You bet the cufflinks? Those were a gift!"

"Just to show him I was serious," BJ assures. “I never would have lost 'em."

"Well, I don't think you should bet with things that other people gave you—"

"Hawk, not that I don't agree with you, but we really should get moving."

"Get moving? But we just got here! And we won that conversation!"

Suddenly, there's a howl from inside: "My wedding ring!" BJ winces. 

Hawkeye glares at BJ, though some of the effect is lost by his frantic scrambling to get astride his horse. "You stole his wedding ring? I thought you didn't cheat!"

"I wasn't! It just looked for a while like he might have had me in the first quarter— and I really didn't want to bet the cufflinks, just so you know— and I thought as an insurance policy—" BJ doesn't get to finish. A shot rings out just over their heads. 

"BJ the Kid, I swear on my life, if Macon doesn't kill you, I will." Hawkeye yanks the reins before he can actually fall off or get hit, and they're gone.