“I was just a cub when she walked into my life. I remember her golden locks splayed across my pillow,” Tiny stuffed the pistol into his waistband.

The years have not been kind. Tiny watched as Goldylocks span awkwardly around the pole. Her youthful suppleness nothing but a memory clouded by cigarette smoke and cheap gin. But he hadn’t come here for the ambience, he’d come here to settle an old score.

“Two bits for the whiskey, Tiny,” the barkeep swept the coins into his palm tossing them into the open till with a disinterested flourish.

Tiny drew a deep breath of the mundungus tobacco air spitting his thoughts on the floor as he strode purposefully toward the dance stage. Ahead of him a small crowd brayed like tethered donkeys hungry after a long day in the heat. A rag-taggle bunch of scum like any other bar in town. Three hecklers in particular caught his eye: a mean-eyed cuss with a prehensile tongue that could swat a gnat from a buffalo’s rear, lanky guy hooting and hollering like he’d never seen a broad before, and a bruiser at the back the size of a wagon looking like he’d bust your head just for the fun of it.

Goldylocks spun around and around and like a dog chasing its tail, only thing was she’d caught up with herself, ended her routine with her legs akimbo and her golden locks laying three feet from her head. The crowd fell silent, only the shuffling of feet disturbed the hallowed moment. In that instant Mean-eyes flashed out a hand faster than a rattler strike, perhaps Tiny had been the only one to see it.

Before the rest of the crowd could react Tiny held mean-eyes in one paw, his claws closing on the man’s scrawny throat. “The wig,” Tiny’s hot breath swept over Mean-eyes like a desert wind. A second later the man lay on the floor clutching at his damaged throat as Tiny pushed through the crowd.

Tiny held out the hair piece for all to see, the kind of gift horse you don’t look in the mouth. In that moment, as Goldylocks looked into the hate filled eyes of the eight foot bear a recognition flashed across her caterpillar rimmed eyes. “Cub?” Tiny said nothing. Conversation had not been part of his plan. Looking down at her once angelic face, her fraying hem and her worn out shoes, he felt pity rise to claim his heart.

“What you did was wrong; ain’t right to steal from the poor,” the crowd gasped as Goldylocks took back her crowning glory revealing the cold steel of Tiny’s gun. Screams aplenty filled the air. Tables and chairs tumbled amid the broken glasses and spilled drinks as the donkeys fled the stable. Tiny tucked the weapon slowly back into his waistband.

With one huge paw he lifted Goldilocks from the beer soaked stage. “You can’t take her!” Lanky guy yelled across the room. Like a thief running through the deep dark woods he crashed through the remaining drunks. With a last glance at the barkeep he grunted, holding Goldilocks tight against his chest, “Time to call the next act.”

The door swung closed behind them.

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