The Man in the Black Hat | Skillshare Projects



The Man in the Black Hat

Project 1: A Stranger Comes to Town

The Man in the Black Hat

You could smell the death on him as he walked through the door. Tattered shirt, cracked asphalt face, he looked like a man who welcomed the grave. He made his way to the far end of the bar, his pace was easy and his rhythm a beat slower than most.

Now, I’ve known just about every face that’s walked in here. They come from the mine at the end of town and talk little but drink much. The mine doesn’t pay all that much, and the folks here mostly take to seedier methods of financial security. You could call them misfits, criminals, heck, maybe even bad men, but such distinctions are above my pay grade, so I just stick to serving them liquor. I knew them all, but a man I ain’t never seen before? That’s a rare thing indeed.

“Swinging through?”

“I am. Be on my way shortly, but could use some whiskey.”

“Got plenty of that. What you prefer?”

“All work the same, don’t they?”

“That they do,” I said as I pulled a bottle from the shelf.

For the next hour, I cautiously watched the man in the black hat, his attention never waning from the bottle. There was an intensity in his concentration as if the heavy glares from the crowd didn’t even cast a shadow on his mind. He finished each sip with a tight grimace and a long exhale, the deep creases on his face contracting into caverns. After the bottle was dry, he nodded in my direction to pay up.

As I walked over, he looked up for the first time and took in the room. His head turned slowly and he seemed to pause on each face like he was taking a picture. He turned and handed me the cash along with a small, white envelope and placed his palm on my shoulder, paused, and left.

I read the note that was stuffed in the envelope as soon as he walked out, and as I did, I could feel the weight of my feet like my boots were caked in mud. Quickly, I grabbed my jacket, threw up the folding end of the bar, and darted for the door.

Outside, I started running. I ran two blocks, caught my breath, and ran some more, not allowing myself to stop and think about all those people in the bar about to meet their fate.


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