“Bourbon Nights: Losing a Brother”
Story by Gail Z. Martin
Dioramas by Catherine Curl
This story takes places after Supernatural 15:20 “Carry On” and Walker 3:15 “False Flag Part 2”. Spoiler warning for those seasons and episodes.
The Jackalope was exactly the kind of bar Cordell Walker needed tonight. Not the Side Step, where everyone knew him. More like the kind of place Duke would have gone, rougher around the edges. He wasn’t looking for a fight, but the Jackalope was the kind of place a fight might find him anyhow.
He needed space to clear his head after everything that had happened with Cooper and Kevin. The firefight, Coop’s tearful confession, the blood. Too many emotions to process. Grief, sharp as a well-honed knife. Anger at Coop and Kevin for what their ‘misunderstanding’ had cost so many people. Relief that he hadn’t ended up getting arrested by the FBI. And guilt that somehow he had been too slow picking up on the cues, that he could have prevented all those deaths, if only…
He walked into the Jackalope and took a seat at the bar. Late on a weeknight, the place wasn’t crowded. He ordered a shot of bourbon and knocked it back. He was about to order a second when he saw what the other guy at the bar was drinking. Yeah, this felt like a boilermaker kind of mood so he doubled down on the beer and bourbon combo. Worst case, he’d sleep in the truck.
“Another,” the man two seats over demanded, as he slammed his empty shot glass on the bar to be refilled.
“You sure?” The bartender asked, and Cordell figured the man had been there for a while.
“Yeah. Got nowhere better to be.”
Cordell surreptitiously sized up the stranger for potential threat. After everything today, he really didn’t want another fight. He glanced down at his bloodied knuckles and flexed his fingers through the pain, proof of life.
The fellow beside him at the bar was a big guy, probably about as tall as Cordell himself. Broad shouldered, dark-haired, looked like he could hold his own in a brawl. Flannel shirt, hard-worn Levis, work boots. Practical, a working man’s wardrobe. From his hands, it looked like he’d thrown his share of punches.
Cordell had changed out of his Ranger uniform into a collared shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots before making up an excuse to go out. Guilt gnawed at him for not being home with his family. They’d worried about him when he’d been the prime suspect, and feared the worst when he’d dropped out of sight.
He was being selfish again, running off, even if it was just for a few hours to get his head screwed on straight. But dammit, Cooper had turned his world upside-down with his betrayal and sudden turn-around. Kevin had insinuated himself into Cordell’s family, all the while planning to murder the people he loved. Just thinking about Kevin being at the ranch made Cordell want to hire an exorcist.
So here he was, bellying up to the bar. Needing a hot minute to pull himself together before he could be any good for anyone else. Desperate for a chance to mourn without having to be strong for others, just for a short time.
“Are you guys related? You look enough alike to be brothers,” the bartender commented.
The man in the flannel shirt looked up for the first time, and Cordell admitted there was a resemblance, maybe. “My brother’s dead,” the stranger said quietly, hazel eyes haunted. “And it’s a month before my birthday.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Cordell said, polite like his mama taught him. He wasn’t sure what the birthday comment had to do with anything, but it clearly meant something to the man at the bar
“Been almost three years now. Still not used to it,” the other man replied. “Hunting accident.” His voice took on a bitter tone Cordell knew meant there was a story behind the words.
Cordell figured the man wasn’t drunk—they were about the same build, and it took a lot more than a few shots for Cordell to rock a good buzz. But the fellow sure seemed like he was chasing an anesthetic instead of a good time.
“It’s hard losing a brother,” Cordell replied. Kevin’s vendetta nearly cost him Liam. It had taken the lives of the other men in his unit, guys who had been brothers-in-arms, men he’d trusted with his life. Cooper had betrayed their faith, back when he’d been part of the brotherhood, and his desertion had twisted his blood brother, Kevin, into a monster.
If I’d died in the army, or undercover, is that what would have happened to Liam?
Click *Next* for Part 2 of the story…