...I step out into the street, and start walking north. As I pass by a nearby store-front window, I check out my reflection. I'm still me... so the Sam Beckett theory is out. Shrugging, I push back the fedora, and get a face-full of dust.
I know it's happened again, because now I'm standing in the middle of some John Wayne movie set. The sidewalk is now a boardwalk, the brick-layed street now paved in nothing more than dust and the "exhaust" of the horses that now comprise the traffic of the small, old-west town I now seem to be in.
Turning back to my reflection, I see... me. The longcoat is still much the same, but my fedora is now a Stetson of magnificent quality, my holster is merely a belt hanging around my waist, and the handgun is now a Colt .45. I look like the Marlboro man. It figures. And again, it feels too damn... right.
I rifle through my pockets to find my notes from Venus. They're still there, along with a couple of skeleton keys and a handful of silver dollars that I could retire with in my own day and age. I find myself about to walk into something called the "Cattleman's Saloon", but decide to go against this new, familiar instinct for once. Instead, I (carefully) cross the street, avoiding the horses and the manure, and I walk into the barber shop.
I sit down in the chair, as a man walks in from a door in the back of the room. "Afternoon, Bart!" he drawls, and I cringe in the realization of just how easily the adjective "Black" could be tagged onto my name. Getting references to 1990's cartoon characters is bad enough...
"So, you want the usual trim t'day?" continues the barber, and I respond "yeah, and a shave too, Roy." Funny how the names of these strangers come to me. Then, on a whim, I ask "how much do you hear about Mrs. Levitt these days?"
"Mrs. Levitt? She's mighty fine... that John Levitt's a lucky man t'git that filly! But I been hearin' thing about her doin' John wrong."
"Really? Are they regular customers?" I get the feeling that I'm onto something here...
"Roy laughs and ties a striped apron around my neck. "'Course they're reg'lars! Ain't many strangers know so much about the locals around town... and less'n that come in fer even a quick gossip!"
"Well, who *have* you been talking to?" I'm beginning to suspect that Roy's just a good old boy... pardon the cliche.
Roy stops lathering my face long enough to thing aloud. "Hmm... a lot of guys have had something to say about it, but ol' Pete Wilson seems to be the expert. Talks as if he was in the same room as her and that French fella."
"French? Did he say any names?"
"If he did, I really couldn't tell ya. I have problems rememberin' that forrin' stuff."
I thank Roy, and let him finish cutting my hair. As we talk about the normal trivial inanities of life, such as the drought, the railroad, and the talk of gold in the mountains to the east, I ponder the ramifications of what he's told me. I now have a name for that third party, as well as a little dirt on the man Mrs. Levitt's supposedly mistressing for. Despite my current temporal displacement.
I pay Roy for his services (one silver dollar gets me seventy-five cents change... a steal for me, and some buffalo nickels to boot), and step back into the dusty street. I think to myself that it would be so simple to track down Wilson with a telephone book, then remember that telephones don't even exist yet.
Then I correct myself... I'm looking right *at* a telephone booth. Looking around, I seem to be on main street U.S.A... kids riding bikes, men driving by in their sedans and classic '57 Chevies and towncars, and teenagers swarming about a nearby malt shoppe, and buzzing around in ancient jalopies.
I sigh and make for the 'phone booth...