Tombstone Silver

Cathy Scott

Cathy Scott couldn't shake that feeling that she had been a citizen of Tombstone sometime before, but the odd store that had just opened seemed to beckon her back to an earlier life.

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Cathy Scott had been to Tombstone several times over the past few years, but she felt like today's trip would be something special. She hadn't been out of her house for much of anything since her husband, Dave, had passed away six months earlier. However, she felt like her 60th birthday was the right time to get away from her house for an afternoon and Tombstone just seemed like a good idea.

She parked her car on Toughnut Street near the courthouse, where she had parked the last time that she came to town. She did not arrive until nearly sunset that Friday evening and most of the tourists had already returned to their hotel rooms or were in a restaurant having dinner. Cathy slowly ambled down a nearly deserted Allen Street, wandering from side to side, looking into closed stores, and thinking about an odd feeling that had come over her since she had arrived in town. She noticed a gathering monsoon thunderstorm and felt a cool breeze blow some loose paper down Allen Street ahead of her, a sure sign that the storm would be breaking soon.

An old man with a scruffy gray beard leaned on a cane as he slowly lumbered along the board walk in front of the Visitor's Center. He paused for a few moments to eyeball Cathy as if to invite her to come talk for a while, but she only briefly glanced in his direction and then continued along her original path. As she crossed Allen Street, a teenage boy on a skateboard passed uncomfortably close to her and then started pumping his foot against the street to try to gather a bit of speed as he hurried away.

She had crossed Fourth Street before she noticed the new building to her left. Well, she assumed that it was new since it filled a location that Cathy was certain was an empty lot just a few months before. She admired the building's designer, though, since it seemed to have been there for years. It was weatherbeaten with graying boards and a worn-out hole in the roof of the porch that covered the boardwalk. A large sign above the door read "Cosmopolitan Hotel." The inside of the building seemed to be alive. It was awash with light, and the sound of a piano, slightly out of tune, wafted onto the street. There were voices coming through the door, with an occasional sharp laugh.

As Cathy approached the front door, she also noticed a powerful scent. She seemed to smell the odor of people in need of a bath, covered over with a heavy floral perfume. Mixed in was the odor of stale cigar smoke and the general filth of too many beers spilled on the floor and not mopped up. Despite the unattractive stench, Cathy couldn't help but move toward the open front door of the building. She had never seen this building before and she wondered what sort of business had opened in this location.

As Cathy crossed the boardwalk she happened to pass two tourists who were engaged in a heavy conversation with each other. They did not notice Cathy and seemed oblivious to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It was almost as if they couldn't even see any of it. Cathy walked through the open front door of the Cosmopolitan. In a surreal moment, everything in the front lobby became deadly quiet almost instantly. The piano went silent and people stopped talking to each other. Everyone turned toward the door and stared at Cathy as she entered the lobby.

Cathy froze in her tracks for brief moment. The desk clerk, Samuel, to her right stared at her with dark eyes. He smiled a warm smile and said, "We've been expecting you, Catherine." Cathy had not been called that since she was a child, but it somehow seemed proper in this room. She crossed the room to the front desk and asked the clerk what he meant when he said that they had been expecting her. "How could that be? I just got to town a few moments ago, and had no idea that you were here when I left the house this morning." Samuel just smiled and said that all would become clear very soon.

Cathy turned her back to the front desk and looked around the lobby of the Cosmopolitan. She noticed a young couple who seemed to be celebrating their courtship in the corner near the piano. A woman carrying a baby was climbing the carpeted stairs headed for a room where she and her child could rest overnight. Near the front window two men were laughing over a mumbled joke while they dealt another hand of cards and chewed on unlit cigars. The flash of lightening from somewhere in the clouds above Tombstone momentarily lit a dusty streak across the floor of the hotel.

Cathy didn't understand why she would be expected in a hotel. She left the front desk and slowly crossed back to the door while trying desperately to understand what was happening. She paused briefly at the front door and breathed deeply of that 19th century atmosphere. Cathy stepped out onto the boardwalk and looked up and down Allen Street. She somehow realized that this would be the last time that she would see Tombstone. The old man with the cane across the street was shaking it at the teenager weaving back and forth on his skateboard.

Cathy wasn't exactly sure what was happening at the Cosmopolitan, but it couldn't be any worse than going back to the grief she was trying to escape. She took a deep breath and whispered, "Goodbye, Dave." Then, Catherine turned and quickly stepped back into the Cosmopolitan Hotel. She noticed for the first time a large mirror behind the registration counter and when she looked directly into that mirror she saw the front lobby behind a beautiful 20-year old woman dressed in a dark blue frock with frills around the collar. She stared into the eyes of that woman and saw herself. Catherine told herself that it was the low rumble of thunder from outside that shook the floor under her feet and not the excitement she felt as she stared into the eyes of her younger self.

Samuel held out a pen toward Catherine and said "We've got your room ready and Ben is already there waiting for you. Would you like to check in?" Catherine suddenly remembered Ben Scott, a teamster who had died in a wagon accident and had been buried at Boothill. Somehow the mention of that name had transported Catherine back more than 120 years to a sad day when she had buried Ben, her husband. She hesitated only a moment, looked out through the large front windows and saw an old man shaking a buggy whip toward a child pushing a hoop with a stick down the middle of Allen Street. The young couple in the corner of the lobby smiled at Catherine and held wine glasses toward her, as if they were toasting a great event. Catherine turned back toward Samuel and said, "Of course I'll register, where do I sign?" The piano started playing again and everyone in the lobby stood and moved toward Catherine to welcome her to the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Suddenly, a bright flash of lightening streaked down from the black clouds and cascaded like water over the top of the Cosmopolitan Hotel; and Catherine, Samuel, and all of the others vanished, leaving only an empty lot on Allen Street across from an old man leaning on a cane.