Untitled Fiction, Part 1, critique / feedback requested!
This is the first half of a 3K word first chapter. I'm looking for a little feedback, I'm pretty sure I'm good on spelling and grammar (fragments are intentional if you find them). Sorry I can't be more specific, I'm really looking for any sort of feedback at all...
Colleen pulled the cigarette from its usual hiding spot, poked behind her ear under the tresses of thick red curls, struck a match against the pine support beam and touched the flame to the tapered tip. She drew the smoke in and held it in her chest for a moment. As she exhaled, she leaned her elbows onto the banister and watched its blue tendrils twist skyward, then shifted her focus to the floor of the room below her. As most nights in Sangue Sagrada, just after midnight, the bar was busy, full of miners in various states of drunken disorder, salty from the toil of coaxing silver from the jealous clutches of the mountains. They mixed with a few familiar locals and a handful of drifter types she didn’t recognize into a faceless wave of half-humans, ebbing and flowing at the long wooden bar. Colleen thought that from their vantage point, she must look like a weathered carving on the front of the ships she’d seen in books.
She hoped, futilely as usual, for a couple of hours peace, before another one of the beasts stumbling around below would avail himself of her services. Being one of only three available options never made for extended idleness, unfortunately. Six or eight months ago, this life was tolerable, but she felt like she’d aged thirty years in that time. Now, Colleen was getting tired of putting up with shit for half a dollar a throw. The smiles were getting more and more difficult to mold; she felt like she’d had all of the laughter fucked out of her eyes. Everything felt even more forced than usual in her line. Her customers could see it, she was sure, but they nobly soldiered on, never letting it affect their experiences. Now, whenever one of them was draped over her, doing his business, she tried to disappear to some place far away from here.
Terence Glynn burst from the door behind her and snapped her out of her fog. She didn’t have to turn, she’d seen it before. His britches hardly up all the way, as if he wasn’t leaving, but escaping. With Terence lurking there, stinking and stumbling like a bear just out of hibernation, the universe offered her a brief moment of balance: her eyes settled on the man huddled at the corner of the bar, furthest from the foot of the stairs. He stood still as a cigar store Indian, as if he’d materialized while she was in her room, rather than busted through the door like the rest of the din. For some reason, she’d imagined seeing him with a halo and wings, but now, in this moment of uncertainty, he was about as plain a fellow as could be. His face hid from her under his completely non-descript tan hat, speckled with water from the snow outside. His wet boots were caked with muck, and in front of him sat a clear drink he’d been sipping at. Colleen felt Glynn stalk toward her just before he slapped her hard on her rear and said “Already looking for more, red? Cost you a buck, but I think I can find the time before I go,” then laughed with tobacco and whiskey breath, teeth the color of spoiled butter, hanging in a mouth that had just slobbered all over her neck and chest in Terence’s version of seduction. She had given him enough satisfaction for one night, and so answered evenly.
“Fuck off, Terence. And take those two with you, I ain’t working for them tonight,” she nodded toward a pair of unsavory characters sitting at a table near the bottom of the stairs.
“Guess I didn’t quiet you down none, then,” he said half-joking. He moved next to her to try to follow her gaze. To him, the folks below were a strange sort of personal history: some were victims, some were part-time accomplices, others, future targets. As his vision, smudged by a little too much hooch, moved over the crowd, they caught on the very same water-speckled hat that Colleen had noted. “Holy shit,” he said, elongating the first word to figure out the back half of his swear. He hitched up his suspenders and covered a dirty cotton shirt with an old Confederate jacket. Colleen figured he’d either stolen it or taken it off of some poor veteran he’d shot in the back; Terence was more a vulture than a soldier. He put his hat on, buckled his weathered gun belt low off his hips, and made for the stairs. Colleen noticed a lighter step in his gait as he stepped down, and his eyes darting to and from the man at the bar, trying not to be noticed.
Across from the landing were Terence’s two buddies, Lawton and McLeod. They were pressed from the same mold, the same height and build, one with dirty blond hair, the other dirty black. They’d already spent most of their latest ill-gotten gains on ill-gotten pleasures. McLeod rose immediately when he noted the bizarre look darkening Glynn’s unshaven face, and his friend’s eyes scanning to the other side of the room. Lawton followed suit, and tried to shake free of the woman hanging on his arm, rudely interrupting her sales pitch. They were a pair of mongrels, reacting to their master on a hunt. As Terence arrived, they clumped together as casually as they could. “Boys see that?” Glynn whispered as he nodded only slightly in the direction of the figure at the far corner of the bar. “That’s Jonah fucking Pledge.”
Years of criminal activity had honed Lawton’s reactions, and he didn’t look right away. When he did, he simply glanced, then turned back toward his friends. “No shit,” he sneered. “Don’t look like I figured.”
“Then I guess you can stop working on that portrait you were painting, asshole.” Terence jabbed. He plodded across the floor like a slug, compelled to let Jonah know that he’d spotted him…he knew he’d already been seen. Terence tried to walk with the arrogance that served him so well when he was extorting money from merchants or holding up a stagecoach. He wanted to hide the feeling bubbling through his skin, the feeling he’d heard a snake’s rattle in the dark, and couldn’t see its author.
“No guns,” McLeod observed quietly. Pledge pretended not to notice when the three of them began their slither toward him, and when the trio congealed at the corner of the bar next to him, it was as if they were invisible, until Terence slapped a thick hand on the unsanded wood. Jonah still didn’t turn, didn’t even acknowledge them.
“Tulles!” Terence blurted in the general direction of the well dressed bartender. “Whiskeys here, and whatever this fella’s havin’,” he said before turning to Jonah. His voice hummed with nerves, even as he tried hard to keep it casual. “Jonah,” he said in forcibly friendly salutation.