It was High Noon
She stood there.
I could see she had the mandolin ready. It was loaded too.
I, of course, had the accordion within easy reach in my accordion holster.
Once, before the drink, before Gloria, I was the fastest accordion player in the West, feared from as far away as Bilston. Everyone in the West Midlands had heard of me. Back then I was called Hopalong, because of my… well, let’s just say I was well-blessed in a way that made the ladies smile….
Very well-blessed, which is why I had to walk with a limp.
These days, though, since Gloria, and especially since the drink, they know me more as Staggeralong. Staggeralong Then Walk Into Walls.
But my prime accordioning days were behind me. I knew I would be no match for a six-string mandolin, not in the hands of a youngster like her, one with such a keen eye. I could see from the look on her face she’d already seen why they used to call me Hopalong. Except now, I’d have trouble even hopping.
Even in my then well-refreshed state, I could see she was a very attractive woman.
‘I reckon, you might be pleased to see me,’ she said as three vultures came down out of a cloudless sky and attempted to perch on it. I waved my hat and shooed them away. I remembered the last time I’d been to the doctor with vulture claw marks in it. The receptionist had not been impressed, especially when I had to stand out in the middle of the waiting room while the doctor applied the ointment in his consulting room.
‘I’m too old for this,’ I said, tapping my trusty accordion.
She reached for her mandolin. ‘Careful. Old-timer. I do have a rather itchy mandolin finger. But I’m not her for a shootout.’
‘No,’ she said. ‘I’m what you might call the law around here, now.’
I laughed. ‘But this is the West Midlands….’ I spat into the dust. ‘We have no call for law and order, not in these parts. I remembered the last time a lawman had ridden into town on his bicycle, looking for a pork scratching rustling ring.’ They’d carried him out feet first only two days later. But that is Midlands beer for you.
‘So what brings you, a lawma… lawwoman to this one-tandem town?’
‘Yes, you Staggeralong Then Walk Into Walls … or should I call you Hopalong Hugewang?’
I shrugged. ‘I still don’t see what business it is of a lawwoman’s, even if that was once my name.’
‘I’ve come to take you in, Hopalong.’
‘Why?’ My hand hovered over my accordion.
‘Because of your library book.’
‘My library book? But….’
‘Yes, it’s overdue.’
‘Overd….’ My accordion fell into the dust as I raised my hands. I would take my chances with a lawman, even a lawwoman, but a librarian was another matter. ‘It’s a fair cop,’ I said. ‘I’ll come quietly.’
She looked down at the matter that had arisen between us. ‘Oh, no,’ she said. She reached out with her handcuffs in her hand. ‘I’m going to make sure you don’t come quietly for a very long time.’