“Your road ahead is shadowed and perilous,” muttered the gypsy. He held Sam’s right hand clutched in his own, which were armored in fingerless black kidskin gloves, and peered closely at the creases in Sam’s flesh. Close enough, Sam thought, that the man could just as easily be smelling his future as seeing it. “Your future is one of failure, disaster and great sorrow. You should reconsider your course, sir. You should turn back.”
The gypsy fell silent and arched an eyebrow at Sam, as if underscoring the fearfulness of his message. The silence between the two men was filled with the babble of the saloon around them.
“That’s refreshing,” Sam quipped, chomping fiercely on his Cuban cigar. The air inside Bridger’s was heavy with smoke, but it was the smoke of cheap American tobacco rolled into cheap cigarettes, mixed with gas lamp emanations and the occasional ozone crackle of electricity. Sam filtered the stink, as well as the rancid smell of sour, sweaty human bodies and the drifting odors of horse and coal-fire, through a sweet, expensive cohiba. Nothing, he thought, beats a government expense account.
The gypsy stared at him. His gray-streaked black mustache hung asymmetrical under his bulbous nose, and was no match for Sam’s fine, manly soup-strainer. His jaw looked misshapen, too, sort of hunched sideways into the thick, mostly gray, beard that veiled it. Above all the facial hair and the badly-cast features, though, the man had dark, intense eyes, with baggy pouches under them, and those eyes stared at Sam in surprise. “Did you hear me right, sir? I told you that your future is bleak.”
“Yes,” Sam acknowledged. “Your honesty is marvelous. Most fortune-tellers would take my two bits and tell me what they thought I wanted to hear. Beautiful willing women, rivers of smooth whiskey and horses that run faster than the sun itself are in your future, sir! Come again soon.” He grinned, took another suck at the cigar and winked. “I respect your integrity.”