Cullen Bohannan shifted the sweaty hat on his head, pushing the strands of silvery black hair away from the ever-increasing stickiness of his face. The sun was especially hot that day; more than ten railroad workers had passed out momentarily from pure exhaustion of heat. A little water and shade had restored them, though Bohannan kept a keen watch to ensure the rest of the workers took frequent breaks. As Mr. Durant (the leader of this railroad rabble) would have noticed, short breaks were more productive than trying to revive a worker from utter unconsciousness.
The constant clang of metal upon metal filled the stagnant air as the workers struck the rails with their hammers in a harmony of sweaty swings.
Bohannan's eyes drifted a moment, back towards the camp, stretching past the make-shift church, the whorehouse, the bar, and finally, briefly, rested on the newly found tent of Lily Bell. His eyes couldn't find Mrs. Bell and he found himself disappointed though he pushed the notion aside and concentrated back on the workers before him.
As night drew near, a whistle blew, indicating the end of the work day and the men all simultaneously dropped their hammers or rails and shouted whoops and catcalls of joy as the slowly made their way back to town.
Bohannan removed his hat and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. Another day down and closer to finishing the railroad. He wanted a drink….badly.
Heading to the bar, he passed one of his workers, Elam, who was swiftly becoming the closest thing to a friend that Bohannan had had in a very long time.
Elam was heading in the direction of the whorehouse, where Bohannan knew he was going to see Eva, a whore who had become much more than that to Elam in the past few weeks.
"Now don't go getting yourself hanged or nuthin," Bohannon said sarcastically as he passed Elam, referencing an incident that had transpired a few weeks earlier.
Elam smiled widely. " Don't go getting yo'self too drunk case I need you to cut me down bossman."
Bohannan gave him a sly smile and turned in the direction of the bar.
Opening the flap to the bar tent, Bohannan's eyes immediately scanned the room, a habit he had become accustomed to during his time here at Hell on Wheels.
His eyes found the normal crowd, mostly workers and a few of the other townsfolk, sitting around laughing, booze in hand. His eyes found the bar and he momentarily faltered as he saw Lily Bell sitting gingerly on a barstool, her long flowing dress slightly muddied around the lower fringe. She had a shot of whiskey in her hand and her eyes found his and he slowly made his way over to her. He tipped his head in greeting to her and then averted his eyes towards the bartender claiming "whiskey". He did not sit next to her.
"Mr. Bohannan. A pleasure to see you," she said politely.
He nodded and responded, "Ma'am."
"Will you join me for a drink?"
He hesitated, a part of him wanting to say yes and a part of him wanting to say no.
"I suppose one drink can't hurt," he finally said.
The bartender poured his shot and Bohannan asked Lily how her new accommodations were holding up.
"Well, I'd say less than stellar to be honest, but I expected nothing less. I am having a bit of trouble with sleeping though I expect that will just take some getting used to."
"I 'spect so ma'am," he said before he knocked back his shot and rose to leave.
She frowned slightly. "Are you leaving so soon?"
"Yup. Long day today was. Need some shut eye 'fore another like it." He nodded to her once more before leaving, just barely daring to catch her eye. Her gaze was steady and seemingly wanted to hold his gaze though he would not.
He exited the tent and let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding.
To be continued….