Their eyes met along the smoky bar and he tapped his black hat with two fingers by way of greeting.
She was drinking Holy Water; he ordered her another. She smiled to thank him and this he took as an invitation to join her.
There was no exchange of words as they sat there, silently watching the comings and goings of the other patrons in the mirror behind the liquor; a woodnymph here, a soldier there. Two ninjas were engaged in chess at one of the tables, and at another, a white-suited gentleman sat taking it all in, a knowing smile on his face, but with eyes only for one.
The cowboy drained his glass of the top-shelf whisky and asked if she wanted another.
‘I shouldn’t,’ she sighed. ‘But I will.’
‘Same again,’ said the cowboy and dropped gold coins onto the bar in payment. The barman turned for the drinks as the man in white placed a hand on the angel’s shoulder. She shuddered at the touch, her black wings twitching, sending the smoke in the air spinning in tiny tornados.
As the cowboy readied a protective response, the man in white met his eyes in the mirror with a warning stare, then spoke words of wisdom:
‘She is not yours,’ he said in a voice containing kindness and perhaps some menace.
The Angel’s shoulders dropped at the words; she seemed to shrink into herself, pulling what remained of her energies close in protection. The cowboy saw such sadness and hopelessness that he thought his heart would break.
‘She is not yours,’ the man in white repeated, and led the angel from the bar and out into the dark street beyond.
Left on the bar was a single, pristine, black feather. The cowboy picked it up and twisted it this way and that, considering his next move.
The drinks arrived but he was gone.