The dried adobe exterior needed much paint to quench its parched presence. (photo credit: Justin Jackson)

Secured at a public auction; it was bought for a song and back taxes. The stars in the clear Texas skies shone on his whimsy. Surely, he had heard all the sordid tales and stories of the manifestations that had taken place there. The “haunting” was more of booze than boos as far as Bill was concerned. He didn’t believe any of it.

The building sat vacant for all these thirty years; an eyesore to some. But, Elliot saw potential. A restaurant perhaps; a quaint cantina, a Tex-Mex haven for a resurgent area. The economic woes had run the village of Del Fuego nearly off of the map. Where others saw a dead thing, Bill Elliot saw life.

The sale closed quickly and he couldn’t wait to get into the property and plan his attack. The dried adobe exterior needed much paint to quench its parched presence. The apron in front and the parcel surrounding the restaurant had become the dumping ground for refuse and other peoples junk. Bill had inherited it all in his purchase.

Once inside the door, Elliot sensed something surreal about the atmosphere… he had been here before. He had never been to Del Fuego, but the inside of his new venture took on an air of familiarity. It appeared familiar, but also carried a distinctive odor with it. The bar was faded and dry-rotted in spots. The floor was a cobblestone aggregate adding to the southwestern charm. He had his work cut out for him.

Bill heard something to his right that sounded like the shuffle of feet across the hard floor. There was a slight jingle too, somewhat like a pair of spurs would intone, when they had been in fashion. He turned quickly to see nothing out of the ordinary. But, it did leave him with an eerie feeling like every move he made was scrutinized. Bill shrugged it off and walked toward the bar. Again the steps echoed along with his footsteps. And stopped with the quick ring of metal.

When Elliot stepped behind the bar, the clarity of the moment overtook his visionary dreams. The phantom boot steps approached the dried and cracked surface. When the jingle finally faded in the empty facility, Bill saw something.

A dark mist; a fog taking the shape of a person wearing a sombrero. He heard something hard hit the bar as if slapped onto the horizontal plane. Two old coins appeared where nothing but dust encrusted cobwebs existed only moments ago.

For no apparent reason, Bill Elliot found himself turning to the back bar and taking the empty and filthy bottle and equally disgusting shot glass to the front bar surface. He presumed to pour the former libation into the glass. To his amazement, a golden elixir filled the jigger. The glass raised off of the platform tilting back and slamming to the bar inverted over the coinage. Bill Elliot raced around to where the steps had cease and saw nothing disturbed. The dust on the floor was quite untouched. No liquid had been spilled. And then it hit him.

Bill Elliot HAD been here before. There was only one man he could recall downing a shot like that. Diego Del Fuego had been the magistrate of the small town that now bears his moniker… but that was over a hundred years ago.

Elliot recalled vividly the scene being played out many times before. Bill Elliot had previously owned the Long Branch Saloon in a past life. That was the only explanation that made sense to him. How else would he know about Diego or his drink of choice… or Del Fuego’s ritual for capping his pile of coins with the glass?

Bill Elliot wasted little time bringing the old cantina back to its former quaint appeal. And the patrons were always quite entertained by Elliot’s “disappearing drink” trick. The dusty bottle and shot glass sat at the far corner on the bar in a place of honor. And for Diego to keep his whistle whetted. Success flourished in this southwestern ‘burg. Now, Bill Elliot saw “dead things” every once in a while. Haunting had become good for business.


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