The stranger glanced over his shoulder. Facing Ernest again, he said, "I don't suppose there are beds available without company?"
Ernest shook his head. "Not in this hotel."
"Very well." The stranger nodded and raised his glass. "I'll finish my drink and be on my way, then."
Ernest walked away, but I may as well have been knee deep in mud. Just about the time I'd convinced myself I could and should leave this man alone with his drink, he looked at me. We held each other's gazes for a moment, but this time, when he pulled his away, something flickered across his expression, like I'd had the same effect on him as he'd had on me.
Heavy boots tromped across the planks just outside the door, and out of habit, I looked up. The stranger did as well, and when three men appeared--just as well-dressed as, but perhaps a little less dignified than, the newcomer--he turned back toward the bar, swearing under his breath.
The other three talked amongst themselves, their voices low and their eyes darting toward the man drinking in front of me. As they took seats at the other end of the bar and flagged Ernest down for drinks, my patron casually turned just enough to keep his back to them.
His eyes flicked up and met mine. Lowering his voice, he said, "Any accommodations you can recommend?" He held my gaze as he took a long swallow of the drink I'd poured.
I cleared my throat. "I wouldn't know. I'm staying--" I glanced up at the ceiling "--here."
His eyebrows rose. The glass clinked on the polished bar. "Is that right?"